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December 10, 2018
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Salesforce Ventures

Contentful raises $33.5M for its headless CMS platform

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Contentful, a Berlin- and San Francisco-based startup that provides content management infrastructure for companies like Spotify, Nike, Lyft and others, today announced that it has raised a $33.5 million Series D funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from OMERS Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors General Catalyst, Benchmark, Balderton Capital and Hercules. In total, the company has now raised $78.3 million.

It’s only been less than a year since the company raised its Series C round and as Contentful co-founder and CEO Sascha Konietzke told me, the company didn’t really need to raise right now. “We had just raised our last round about a year ago. We still had plenty of cash in our bank account and we didn’t need to raise as of now,” said Konietzke. “But we saw a lot of economic uncertainty, so we thought it might be a good moment in time to recharge. And at the same time, we already had some interesting conversations ongoing with Sapphire [formeraly SAP Ventures] and Salesforce. So we saw the opportunity to add more funding and also start getting into a tight relationship with both of these players.”

The original plan for Contentful was to focus almost explicitly on mobile. As it turns out, though, the company’s customers also wanted to use the service to handle its web-based applications and these days, Contentful happily supports both. “What we’re seeing is that everything is becoming an application,” he told me. “We started with native mobile application, but even the websites nowadays are often an application.”

In its early days, Contentful also focuses only on developers. Now, however, that’s changing and having these connections to large enterprise players like SAP and Salesforce surely isn’t going to hurt the company as it looks to bring on larger enterprise accounts.

Currently, the company’s focus is very much on Europe and North America, which account for about 80% of its customers. For now, Contentful plans to continue to focus on these regions, though it obviously supports customers anywhere in the world.

Contentful only exists as a hosted platform. As of now, the company doesn’t have any plans for offering a self-hosted version, though Konietzke noted that he does occasionally get requests for this.

What the company is planning to do in the near future, though, is to enable more integrations with existing enterprise tools. “Customers are asking for deeper integrations into their enterprise stack,” Konietzke said. “And that’s what we’re beginning to focus on and where we’re building a lot of capabilities around that.” In addition, support for GraphQL and an expanded rich text editing experience is coming up. The company also recently launched a new editing experience.

News Source = techcrunch.com

In Canada’s cloud services market, venture investment opportunities abound

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Canada will be home to a new venture capital fund that will invest in enterprise cloud startups. Its backer? Salesforce Ventures, the global investment arm of Salesforce, a leading cloud-hosted business software provider.

According to a recent press release from Salesforce, the $100 million Canada Trailblazer Fund has already taken stakes in four Canadian startups building cloud-based tools for the enterprise, including Tier1CRM, Traction Guest, Tulip and OSF Commerce.

(Disclosure: Salesforce’s venture arm is an investor in Crunchbase News’s parent, Crunchbase. As with all investors in Crunchbase, Salesforce Ventures has zero input in the operation or coverage of the News team.)

The companies mentioned above join a handful of other Canadian enterprise cloud companies in Salesforce’s broader investment portfolio. In the years prior to announcing the new Canada Trailblazer Fund, Salesforce Ventures made investments in Aislelabs, Vidyard and LeadSift. And Salesforce itself participated in Fredericton, New Brunswick-based Introhive’s $7.3 million Series B round back in 2015.

Almost exactly one year ago, Crunchbase News profiled Salesforce Ventures and a new AI-focused fund it announced at the time. But instead of revisiting the firm and its investments, this time we’re going to take a look at the state of the market it’s jumping into. 

Investors’ growing appetite for Canada’s cloud companies

Specifically, using Crunchbase data, we’re going to take a quick peek at Canadian companies in the “enterprise cloud” sector. To do so, we’ve pulled together a list of more than 1,000 companies in a wide variety of categories in Crunchbase. We used the enterprise applications, enterprise software, SaaS, CRM, sales automation, ERP, billing, meeting software, marketing animation, contact management and scheduling categories as a rough proxy for the kinds of markets on which Salesforce’s new fund may be interested.

And what did we find? 

For one, there’s been a general uptick in venture investment activity in Canadian cloud companies, but that growth has come in fits and starts. Below, you’ll find a chart displaying aggregated annual venture investment data for Canadian cloud companies.

The above chart is based on reported data in Crunchbase, which, especially for seed and early-stage rounds, carries some reporting delays. These may not affect dollar volume figures (fledgling companies don’t raise all that much money), but reported deal volumes will undershoot reality for up to two years.

Regardless, between 2012 and 2017, reported venture dollar volume grew by approximately 124 percent.

2018: Off to a strong start on the investment side

Although it’s not pictured in the chart, so far in 2018 there have been more than 20 reported venture funding rounds in Canada for cloud companies in the categories we searched above. Here are some of the highlights so far:

With help of the PointClickCare round, Canada’s enterprise-focused cloud service startups may be on track to raise more capital in 2018 than they did in the prior year.

Where do Canada’s cloud companies reside?

As for where the hot spots are for Canadian cloud companies, you shouldn’t be surprised that they’re based in the country’s major population centers. Below is a chart showing the distribution of headquarters for our list of cloud companies founded in the past decade.

This being said, it may make sense for Salesforce and other investors interested in Canadian cloud companies to start looking outside these major metro areas. The proportion of cloud companies founded elsewhere in Canada is on the rise. In our data set, around one-fifth of the cloud companies founded in 2008 were located outside the five major metro areas cited above. For companies founded in 2015 and 2017, half are headquartered in other Canadian metro areas.

It goes without saying that there are seemingly endless market niches in the enterprise cloud services market, and as such we just barely scratched the surface here. There are countless data points and anecdotes we didn’t cover here, like this fun fact: Slack, the seemingly ubiquitous workplace chat platform, was originally founded in Vancouver. (It’s since relocated HQ to San Francisco.) Another: Shopify, which is based in Ottawa, went public in May 2015 and raised nearly $131 million in the offering, making it one of Canada’s biggest-ever tech IPOs.

In its statement, Salesforce cited IDC research findings, which say that Canada’s public cloud software market will grow six times faster than on-premise deployments, reaching CA$4.1 billion by 2019. No doubt, there will be stiff competition among investors for an increasing number of Canadian companies seeking capital in years to come.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Salesforce Ventures launches $50 m fund to encourage AI development on Salesforce platform

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Salesforce Einstein, the AI toolset for Salesforce.com, turned one today and to celebrate Salesforce Ventures announced a $50 million fund to encourage startups to build AI-fueled applications on top of Salesforce.

Over the years many successful companies have been built on top of Salesforce including FinancialForce.com, Apttus and Veeva. The purpose of this fund is to coax a new generation of companies to build their own applications while taking advantage of the intelligence that Einstein APIs can give them.

“The goal of the Salesforce AI Fund is to accelerate the development of transformative AI solutions on Salesforce,” Matt Garratt, VP at Salesforce Ventures told TechCrunch. “There is an incredible opportunity for companies and entrepreneurs to create next-generation AI solutions and our goal is to fuel that opportunity,” he added.

The company is already seeing more than 7,000 developers building AI apps with Einstein, and they hope to prime the pump further by investing in some of the better ideas.

While $50 million might not seem like a huge amount of money in venture capital terms (although it is to most of us), Garratt says the intent is to be a secondary investor, writing many smaller checks, rather than several huge ones. What’s more, he says they are viewing this as an initial commitment to AI, and they’ll see where it goes and if it warrants additional investment.

When it comes to what they look for in a company, Garrett says they are primarily trying to be sure there is strategic alignment between Salesforce and the start-up with the goal of extending Salesforce in some way. The startup gets more than a check. It also gets access to the massive Salesforce customer base (and in some cases the Salesforce worldwide marketing and sales team).

The first three companies being funded include AI start-ups Highspot, Squirro and TalkIQ along with All Turtles, an AI startup studio that works with young companies trying to build AI-centric products.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

News Source = techcrunch.com

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