Silver Lake is buying a $500M stake in Credit Karma in a massive secondary round

Credit Karma, which once started as a simple credit report system and is now looking to expand into a true financial assistant, announced today it is getting a massive $500 million secondary investment from Silver Lake.

As part of the investment, Credit Karma says it is getting a 23% bump in the valuation from its last secondary round, which was around $3.25 billion. That means the company is now going to be worth roughly $4 billion altogether, while founder and CEO Kenneth Lin will remain the company’s largest shareholder. That, in the end, is likely important for investors and early employees even as they look to get some liquidity as many look to these founders to ensure that they intend to see the company all the way to the end. Silver Lake’s Mike Bingle is joining the company’s board of directors as part of this deal.

As companies stay private longer, those early employees that spend years at a startup before it hits that huge exit may have to wait longer for some kind of payout for their work. Investors, too, face the same dilemma, especially as the early bets are often just taken on a founder and an idea. And compensation packages early on also typically include equity as a significant portion as companies try to use the financing they raise for growth or other purposes. That makes these kinds of secondary rounds important as it shortens the window for at least some liquidation, which could help employees and investors be a little more patient.

Silver Lake is buying common stock in the company, which is now more than a decade old. But it does mean, with some kind of liquidation for shareholders, that it can likely hold off on an IPO for a little longer. It’s still building out it’s cachet as a financial advisory tool, so it may be that they sought to stay private and not be beholden to the quarterly pressures of a public company while they continue to build out that suite of tools.

Credit Karma is increasingly trying to build a suite of tools that will help it expand just beyond a simple credit score notifier. Late last year, Credit Karma rolled out a tool to be the hub for handling everything related to your cars. All of this sums up to its goal to be a financial assistant, and not just a credit report.

Spoke looks to create a simpler workplace requests management tool

When Jay Srinivasan’s last company got acquired by Google, he and his co-founders were ready to get going right away — but they couldn’t figure out how to get ramped up or where things were.

That’s sometimes a refrain you’ll hear from employees of companies that are acquired, or any employees really, who suddenly have to get used to a new system of doing things. It can go all the way down to just getting a new laptop with the right software on it. And it’s a pain point that convinced Srinivasan and his co-founders Pratyus Patnaik and David Kaneda to start Spoke, a new tool for trying to solve those workplace management and request tickets — and finally getting your laptop ready so you can get to work. Spoke is launching for general availability today, and the company says it has raised $28 million to date from investors like Accel, Greylock, and Felicis Ventures.

“Some internal ticketing systems you can use are searchable — as you imagine it finds all the answers, the problem is when you have all that many people you get 10,000 results,” Srinivasan said. “There’s too much to look at. In a larger company, the breaking point tends to be that there are probably a bunch of relevant answers, but there’s no way to find the needle in the haystack. So I really wanted to figure stuff out from scratch.”

With many companies switching to internal collaboration tools like Slack, the theory is that these kinds of requests should be made wherever the employee is. So part of Spoke is an actual bot that exists in Slack, looking to surface the right answers right away from a database of employee knowledge that’s built up over time. But Spoke’s aim, like many workplace tools that look to be simple, is to hide a lot of complex processes behind that chat window in terms of creating request tickets and other employee queries so they can pop in and pop out quickly enough.

The other side for Spoke is for the managers, which then need to handle all of these requests. Spoke converts all those requests made through Slack (and, theoretically, other platforms) and streams them into a feed of tickets which they can then tackle one-on-one. Rather than a complex interface, Spoke aims to create a simple array of buckets that managers can pop in and pop out in order to plow through those requests as quickly as possible. As Spoke gets more and more data about how those requests are initiated — and solved — it can over time get smarter about optimizing that ticketing flow.

“If I’m the IT manager, I don’t want you to have to log into a ticketing system,” Srinivasan said. “We allow you to make a request through Slack. You’re in slack and talk to Spoke and say, hey, I need a new laptop. I want you to stay in slack or teams. And a lot of time is spent on a specialized tool like a ticketing tool — it’s the same thing as a salesperson spending time in a CRM. Slack is a good way to get an input to that tool, but I still need a specialized standalone tool.”

You could consider Spoke as one interpretation of a couple of approaches to make data about the workplace more accessible. While Spoke is going after the bot-ish, come-to-me results route, there are others looking to create more of a centralized Wiki that’s easy to find and search. At the end of the day, both of these are trying to compress the amount of time it takes for employees to find answers to the information that they need, in addition to making it less frustrating. For the latter, there are some startups like Slab that have also raised venture financing.

For Spoke, the more challenging parts may actually come from the platforms where it lives. Slack, for example, is working on tools to make information much more searchable and accessible. It’s investing in tools to, for example, help users find the right person to ask a question in order to get information as fast as possible. As Slack — and other platforms — get more and more data, they can tune those tools themselves and potentially create something in-house that could be more robust. Srinivasan said the goal is to target the whole process of the workplace request in addition to just the search problem that he hopes will make Spoke something more defensible.

“You’re not looking for knowledge, you’re looking for services,” he said. “Let’s say I need a new laptop — by all means you can search Slack to get the answer of who you need to contact. But you still need to follow up and essentially create a request with them. Slack sometimes could solve the information access to knowledge access problem, but even then it doesn’t solve the service issue. Ticketing and request management consists of requests and responses with accountability. You have to make sure nothing falls through the cracks”

GoDaddy to move most of its infrastructure to AWS, not including domain management for its 75M domains

It really is Go Time for GoDaddy . Amazon’s cloud services provider AWS and GoDaddy, the domain registration and management giant, may have competed in the past when it comes to working with small businesses to provide them with web services, but today the two took a step closer together. AWS said that GoDaddy is now migrating “the majority” of its infrastructure to AWS in a multi-year deal that will also see AWS becoming a partner in selling on some products of GoDaddy’s — namely Managed WordPress and GoCentral for managing domains and building and running websites.

The deal — financial terms of which are not being disclosed — is wide-ranging, but it will not include taking on domain management for GoDaddy’s 75 million domains currently under management, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to me.

“GoDaddy is not migrating the domains it manages to AWS,” said Dan Race, GoDaddy’s VP of communications. “GoDaddy will continue to manage all customer domains. Domain management is obviously a core business for GoDaddy.”

The move underscores Amazon’s continuing expansion as a powerhouse in cloud hosting and related services, providing a one-stop shop for customers who come for one product and stay for everything else (not unlike its retail strategy in that regard). Also, it is a reminder of how the economies of scale in the cloud business make it financially challenging to compete if you are not already one of the big players, or lack deep pockets to sustain your business as you look to grow. GoDaddy has been a direct victim of those economics: just last summer, GoDaddy killed off Cloud Servers, its AWS-style business for building, testing and scaling cloud services on GoDaddy infrastructure. It also already was hosting some services on AWS prior to this: its enterprise-grade Managed WordPress service was already being hosted there, for example.

The AWS deal also highlights how GoDaddy is trimming operational costs to improve its overall balance sheet under Scott Wagner, the COO who took over as CEO from Blake Irving at the beginning of this year. 

“As a technology provider with more than 17 million customers, it was very important for GoDaddy to select a cloud provider with deep experience in delivering a highly reliable global infrastructure, as well as an unmatched track record of technology innovation, to support our rapidly expanding business,” said Charles Beadnall, CTO at GoDaddy, in a statement.

AWS provides a superior global footprint and set of cloud capabilities which is why we selected them to meet our needs today and into the future. By operating on AWS, we’ll be able to innovate at the speed and scale we need to deliver powerful new tools that will help our customers run their own ventures and be successful online,” he continued.

AWS said that GoDaddy will be using AWS’s Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes and Elastic Compute Cloud P3 instances, as well as machine learning, analytics, and other database-related and container technology. Race told TechCrunch that the infrastructure components that the company is migrating to AWS currently run at GoDaddy but will be gradually moved away as part of its multi-year migration.

“As a large, high-growth business, GoDaddy will be able to leverage AWS to innovate for its customers around the world,” said Mike Clayville, VP, worldwide commercial sales at AWS, in a statement. “Our industry-leading services will enable GoDaddy to leverage emerging technologies like machine learning, quickly test ideas, and deliver new tools and solutions to their customers with greater frequency. We look forward to collaborating with GoDaddy as they build anew in the cloud and innovate new solutions to help people turn their ideas into reality online.”

Microsoft can ban you for using offensive language

A report by CSOOnline presented the possibility that Microsoft would be able to ban “offensive language” from Skype, Xbox, and, inexplicably, Office. The post, which cites Microsoft’s new terms of use, said that the company would not allow users to “publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity)” and that you could lose your Xbox Live Membership if you curse out a kid Overwatch.

“We are committed to providing our customers with safe and secure experiences while using our services. The recent changes to the Microsoft Service Agreement’s Code of Conduct provide transparency on how we respond to customer reports of inappropriate public content,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. The company notes that “Microsoft Agents” do not watch Skype calls and that they can only respond to complaints with clear evidence of abuse. The changes, which go into effect May 1, allows Microsoft to ban you from it services if you’re found passing “inappropriate content” or using “offensive language.”

These new rules give Microsoft more power over abusive users and it seems like Microsoft is cracking down on bad behavior on its platforms. This is good news for victims of abuse in private communications channels on Microsoft products and may give trolls pause before they yell something about your mother on Xbox. We can only dare to dream.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise to move HQ to San Jose

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is moving north from Palo Alto to San Jose. The company will relocate 1,000 employees to a 220,000-square-foot space in late 2018. HPE was spun-off from Hewlett-Packard in 2015 and is focused on servers and storage.

This news comes months after HPE announced a different plan in which the company was moving to Santa Clara, where Aruba Networks, a company it previously acquired, is headquartered.

HPE is going to occupy six floors in San Jose’s America Center, which is located near a forthcoming Berryessa BART station.

This move is the latest win for San Jose. Google recently announced it would move in the coming years. According to a report in The Mercury News, the city of San Jose did not offer HPE any financial incentives.

Adobe wants to be your customer experience record keeping system

For years, the goal of marketers was to understand the customer so well, they could respond to their every need, while creating content specifically geared to their wishes. Adobe Cloud Platform has long acted as a vehicle to collect and understand customer data inside the Adobe toolset, but today Adobe took that a step further.

The company hopes to transform Adobe Cloud Platform into a company’s experience record keeping system, a central place to collect all the data you may have about a customer from both the Adobe Cloud Platform and external data sources.

Suresh Vittal, vice president of platform and product at Adobe Experience Cloud says tools like CRM were intended to provide a record keeping system for the times, and they were fine in a period when entering and retrieving data was state of the art, but he thinks there needs to be something more.

“A lot of investments for past generations of software evolution have been around batch-based operational systems. While they were necessary back then, they are not sufficient where these brands are going today,” he told TechCrunch.

Adobe Systems world headquarters in San Jose, California USA Photo: Getty Images Lisa Werner / Contributor

Over time, as companies gather more and data, Adobe believes they need something that centers around the dynamic interactions brands are having with customers. “We believe every customer needs an experience system of record, a central [place to record] where the brand brings together experience data, content and a unified profile to power the next generation of experience,” he said.

To achieve this goal, the company is doing more than creating a new construct, it has built a new data model along with tools for data scientists to build custom data models.

Of course where there is data, there needs to be some machine learning and artificial intelligence to help process it, especially in a case where the goal is to pull disparate data into a central record. Adobe’s particular flavor of AI is called Sensei and the company is giving developers access to the some of the same AI algorithms it uses in-house to build its platform.

Any time you start pulling data together from a variety of sources to create a central record keeping system about a customer, there are huge privacy implications, and even more so with GDPR coming on line at the beginning of May in the EU. Vittal says the company has built in a governance and compliance layer into the toolset to help companies comply with various regulations around sharing data.

“You cannot turn all of this data into something useful without safeguards— semantics and control.” He says this involves creating a data catalogue, labeling data in the record and associating rules with each type. That way, data emanating from the EU will need to be handled a certain way, just as any personally identifiable information needs to be safeguarded.

This is where the machine learning comes in. “When you create data across the experience system of record, the data catalog recognizes [certain types of] data and recommends labels based on types of data using machine learning.”

All of this is very likely an attempt to compete with Salesforce, which provides sales, marketing and customer service stitched together with their own artificial intelligence layer, Einstein. The recent $6.5 billion MuleSoft purchase will also help in terms of pulling data of disparate enterprise systems and into the various Salesforce tools.

The tools and services announced today give Adobe a fully intelligent, machine learning-driven solution of their own. The whole notion of a customer experience record, while a bit of marketing speak, also serves to help differentiate Adobe from the pack.

Kloudless raises $6M for its integrations solution

Kloudless makes it easier for developers to connect their applications to a variety of third-party tools for file storage, customer management, calendaring and other services through a unified API. It’s a bit like an IFTTT for developers. Today, the company announced that it has raised a $6 million Series A round led by Aspect Ventures, with participation by Bow Capital, Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund, Heavybit, and Ajay Shah. These new investors join existing investors David Sacks and Tim Draper.

The company says that it saw a 200 percent revenue growth over the course of the last year and that its platform now has over 15,000 registered developers who are making more than 15 million API calls every day. Kloudless’s monetization plan mostly focuses on providing developers with different degrees of service, SLAs and features like single-sign on support and rules. Interestingly, the company doesn’t charge based on API calls and offers a generous 50GB of free transfer volume, even for free accounts, with additional transfer charges costing $20 per 100GB.

“Our mission at Kloudless is to tie together the business software stack,” said Eliot Sun, CEO and co-founder of Kloudless. “While we’re starting with a solution for software vendors, this is just a small piece of an enormous opportunity to help all businesses make the most of the data and functionalities from their software investments.”

The company plans to use the new funding to expand its connector ecosystem to support a wider variety of third-party services and to launch new tools to enable automation and custom integration capabilities.

“In the past year, Kloudless has seen accelerating traction across all key developer metrics, as developers have increasingly realized the efficiencies of a ‘build once, integrate many’ approach to meeting customer demand for integrations,” said Mark Kraynak of Aspect Ventures, who will be joining the board as a part of the financing. “We’re excited to support Kloudless and their efforts to capture what figures to be a multi-billion opportunity in connecting businesses to the cloud.”

MariaDB acquires big analytics company MammothDB

MariaDB is best known as a drop-in replacement for the popular MySQL database. But the MariaDB Corporation, which was founded by MySQL founder Monty Widenius and which offers all of its software under an open source license, clearly has its sights set on a bigger market and is looking to expand and better challenge the likes of Oracle, the company today announced that it has acquired MammothDB, a big data business analytics service based in Bulgaria.

With MariaDB AX, MariaDB already offers an analytics and data warehousing system. The service launched in 2017 and, unsurprisingly, the company plans to bring the MammothDB’s expertise in this area to bear on MariaDB AX.

“The MammothDB team joins MariaDB at a critical point in our growth, bringing with them an impressive track record of delivering big data solutions,” said MariaDB CEO Michael Howard. “Over the past year, we’ve seen a major increase in demand for MariaDB AX as organizations seek to fill an open source analytics gap left by proprietary offerings such as Oracle and Teradata. The addition of MammothDB’s deep analytics expertise will be invaluable to helping MariaDB meet this growing need and continue to innovate our analytic products.”

The companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. MammothDB raised a $1.8 million seed round led by 3TS Capital Partners and Empower Capital in 2015 but it doesn’t look like the company ever raised any additional funding. MariaDB, on the other hand, closed a $54 million Series C round led by Alibaba Group and the European Investment Bank in late 2017, which was surely a factor in being able to make today’s acquisition.

Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, hits general availability

Last September, Atlassian launched Stride, its take on a Slack-like real-time communications platform for text, audio and video chats, into beta. Six months later, Stride is now generally available to any and all teams that want to give it a try.

While Atlassian is a bit cagey about providing exact user numbers, so the numbers it actually shared aren’t all the useful to gauge the service’s success. What the company was willing to say is that its users have now spent a quarter of a million hours in Stride’s Focus Mode, which is meant to allow worked to reclaim a bit of sanity in today’s notification-driven world by allowing you to turn off all incoming messages and notifications. As Atlassian’s head of communications products Steve Goldsmith told me, the company is happy with the state of Stride and that it’s growing quickly.

Since the closed beta launch, Atlassian has added about 50 new features and improvements to the service that include better ways to organize chat lists, better search and a number of improvements to the service’s video meetings features. Indeed, it’s these video chat features that the team is maybe the most proud of. “Small impromptu meetings don’t just happen when you have to switch context,” Goldsmith told me but declined to give us any numbers for how much time users spend in these chats beyond that “it’s a lot.”

Goldsmith also stressed that this is far from the final version of Stride. The team still has quite a roadmap of features that it wants to implement. But taking away the beta label, though, the company is signalling that it has worked out most of the kinks and that Stride is now ready for full enterprise deployments.

About a month ago, the Stride team also opened up its API to outside developers. Goldsmith was pretty open about the fact that he’s very happy with the final result but that he would’ve liked to see that happen a bit earlier. Stride’s API is the first product that sites on top of Atlassian’s new API platform. That probably made building the API a bit harder, but Goldsmith noted that that now makes integrating with Stride easier for other Atlassian teams.

Rackspace may reportedly go public again after a $4.3B deal took it private in 2016

Rackspace, which was taken private in a $4.3 billion deal in August 2016 by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, is reportedly in consideration for an IPO by the firm, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The company could have an enterprise value of up to $10 billion, according to the report. Rackspace opted to go private in an increasingly challenging climate that faced competition on all sides from much more well capitalized companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Despite getting an early start in the cloud hosting space, Rackspace found itself quickly focusing on services in order to continue to gain traction. But under scrutiny from Wall Street as a public company, it’s harder to make that kind of a pivot.

Bloomberg reports that the firm has held early talks with advisers and may seek to begin the process by the end of the year, and these processes can always change over time. Rackspace offers managed services, including data migration, architecture to support on-boarding, and ongoing operational support for companies looking to work with cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud and Azure. Since going private, Rackspace acquired Datapipe, and in July said it would begin working with Pivotal to continue to expand its managed services business.

Rackspace isn’t alone in companies that have found themselves opting to go private, such as Dell going private in 2013 in a $24.4 billion deal, in order to resolve issues with its business model without the quarter-to-quarter fiduciary obligations to public investors. Former Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs, too, expressed some interest in buying out Qualcomm in a process that would take the company private. There are different motivations for all these operations, but each has the same underlying principle: make some agile moves under the purview of a public owner rather than release financial statements every three months or so and watch the stock continue to tumble.

Should Rackspace actually end up going public, it would both catch a wave of successful IPOs like Zscalar and Dropbox — though things could definitely change by the end of the year — as well as an increased need by companies to manage their services in cloud environments. So, it makes sense that the private equity firm would consider taking it public to capitalize on Wall Street’s interest at this time in the latter half.

A spokesperson for Rackspace said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation. We also reached out to Apollo Global Management and will update the post when we hear back.