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Madrona Venture Labs raises $11M to build companies from the ground up

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in alpha, Amazon, Artificial Intelligence, blake irving, eBay, economy, entrepreneurship, erik blachford, Facebook, Finance, GoDaddy, madrona venture group, Microsoft, money, Private Equity, Seattle, spencer rascoff, Startup company, TC, Trinity Ventures, Venture Capital, venture capital Firms, venture capital funds, Zillow | 0 comments

In regions where would-be entrepreneurs need a little more support and encouragement before they’ll quit their day job, the startup studio model is taking off.

In Seattle, Madrona Venture Labs (MVL), a studio founded within one the city’s oldest and most-celebrated venture capital firms, Madrona Venture Group, has raised $11.3 million. The investment brings the studio’s total funding to $20 million.

Traditional venture capital funds invite founders to pitch their business idea to a line-up of partners. Sometimes that’s a founder with an idea looking for seed capital, other times it’s a more mature company looking to scale. When it comes to startup studios, the partners themselves craft startup ideas internally, recruiting entrepreneurs to lead the projects, then building them from the ground up within their own safe, protective walls. After a project passes the studio’s litmus test, i.e. shows proof of traction, product-market fit and more, it’s spun out with funding from Madrona and other VCs within its large and growing investor network.

For aspiring entrepreneurs deterred by the risk factors inherent to building venture-backed startups, it’s a highly desirable route. In the Pacific Northwest, where MVL focuses its efforts, it’s a chance to lure Microsoft and Amazon employees into the world of entrepreneurship.

“We want to be an onboard for founders in our market,” MVL managing director Mike Fridgen, who previously led the eBay-acquired business Decide.com, tells TechCrunch. “In Seattle, everyone isn’t a co-founder or an angel investor. Not everyone has been at a startup. A lot of people coming here are coming to work at Amazon, Microsoft or one of the larger satellite offices like Facebook. We want to help them fast-track learning, fundraising and everything else that comes with launching a successful company.”

Fridgen, MVL managing director Ben Elowitz, who co-founded the online jewelry marketplace Blue Nile and chief technology officer Jay Bartot, the co-founder of Hulu-acquired Vhoto, lead Madrona’s studio effort.

The investment in MVL comes in part from its parent company, Madrona, and for the first time, outside investors have acquired stakes in the practice. Alpha Edison, West River Group, Founder’s Co-op partner Rudy Gadre, Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff, former GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving, Trinity Ventures venture partner Gus Tai, TCV venture partner Erik Blachford and others participated.

With $1.6 billion in assets under management, Madrona is known for investments in Seattle bigwigs like Smartsheet, Rover and Redfin. The firm, which recently closed on another $100 million for an acceleration fund that will expand its geographic reach beyond the Pacific Northwest, launched its startup studio in 2014. Since then, it’s spun-out seven companies with an aggregate valuation of $140 million.

“There are some 85 VCs that have $300 million-plus funds,” Fridgen said. “In Seattle, we have two of the most valuable companies in the world and we have just one [big fund], Madrona; it’s the center of gravity for Seattle technology innovation.”

Companies created within MVL include Spruce Up, an AI-powered personal shopping platform, and Domicile, a luxury apartment rental service geared toward business travelers. Domicile was co-founded by Ross Saario, who spent the three years ahead of launching the startup as a general manager at Amazon. The company recently raised a $5 million round, while Spruce Up, co-founded by serial founder Mia Lewin, closed a $3 million round in May.

Other spin-outs include MightyAI, which was valued at $71 million in 2017; Nordstrom-acquired MessageYes, Chatitive and Rep the Squad. The latter, a jersey rental business, was a failure, shutting down in 2018 after failing to land necessary investment, according to GeekWire.

MVL’s latest fundraise will be used to invest in operations. Though MVL does provide its spin-outs with some capital, between $100,000 to $200,000 Fridgen said, it takes a back seat when it comes time to raise outside capital and doesn’t serve as the lead investor in deals.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Alpha, the geek-friendly streaming service from Nerdist and Geek & Sundry, is shutting down

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in alpha, geek, internet television, Media, nerdist, Nerdist Industries, streaming, streaming service | 0 comments

Another overly niche streaming service is closing up shop. On Friday, Alpha – a geek-friendly streaming service that focused on TV, pop-culture, sci-fi, comics, video games and more – announced it was shutting down. The subscription-based streaming service had been a joint venture between Nerdist and Geek & Sundry, and offered $4.99-per-month access to a mix of exclusive original content and other fan favorites from both brands.

Launched in 2016 by Legendary Digital Networks, the company had claimed a year ago it had a “six-figure” subscriber base that had grown by 200 percent over the past year. But even then, its potential reach would have remained small – Nerdist and Geek & Sundry combined had 8 million monthly uniques. Only a fraction of that audience would have likely converted to paying customers.

The company says today Alpha customers watched a cumulative 600 million minutes.

In an announcement to subscribers, the company said Alpha will no longer be active as of March 31, 2019. As of today, it will no longer accept subscriptions and renewals. However, existing subscribers can continue to watch until the end.

Some of the service’s content will move to Twitch, while others will become VOD (video on demand.)

“This is the end of an era that we will remember fondly, but it’s also the beginning of a future where more of the premium Nerdist and Geek & Sundry content featured on Alpha will be available to more viewers than ever,” the company wrote in an email to subscribers.

The decision to close up Alpha appears to have been fairly recent. In August 2018, the company acquired a sci-fi drama “Sona” starring Ashley Clements for the service, and commissioned a new sci-fi series “Orbital Redux” which was to be streamed live, as a twist to get viewers to watch.

But at the end of the day, there’s a lot of competition for consumers’ dollars on the wider streaming market, and plenty of bingeable sci-fi and pop culture content to be found elsewhere.

The full email to subscribers is below:

Dear Valued Alpha Member,

We regret to announce that effective March 31, 2019, we will be closing Alpha. All of us at Nerdist and Geek & Sundry are so thankful to you for being a part of this amazing community. Since Alpha launched in November of 2016, we have watched over 600 million minutes of content together. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve GIFed. And we’ve cherished the friendships we’ve made. And while Alpha is going away, we have some exciting news to share.

First things first, starting today, new subscriptions/renewals will no longer be accepted, however all accounts that are active on March 1, 2019, will continue to be active until the service closes. If you have remaining months on an annual subscription after March 31, 2019, we will refund any prepaid amounts on a prorate basis to your payment method on file.

But here’s the good news! As part of an ongoing partnership with Twitch, the library of Alpha content will be streamed to the Twitch platform effective immediately. Some titles are already being shown on the Geek & Sundry Twitch Channel, and episodes that have been streamed will remain viewable as VODs to subscribers. We would love for you to come join us on Twitch, so we can continue entertaining each other. Don’t worry. If you’re not already a Twitch account-holder, signing up is a breeze!

This is the end of an era that we will remember fondly, but it’s also the beginning of a future where more of the premium Nerdist and Geek & Sundry content featured on Alpha will be available to more viewers than ever.

Thanks for coming along with us on this continuing adventure.

Your Friends at Alpha

 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Putting the band back together, ExactTarget execs reunite to launch MetaCX

Posted by on Dec 6, 2018 in alpha, api, business software, chief technology officer, cloud applications, cloud computing, computing, customer relationship management, exacttarget, indianapolis, Kobie Fuller, Los Angeles, Marketing, pilot, president, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, salesforce.com, scott dorsey, software as a service, TC, upfront ventures | 0 comments

Scott McCorkle has spent most of his professional career thinking about business to business software and how to improve it for a company’s customers.

The former President of ExactTarget and later chief executive of Salesforce Marketing Cloud has made billions of dollars building products to help support customer service and now he’s back at it again with his latest venture MetaCX.

Alongside Jake Miller, the former chief engineering lead at Salesforce Marketing Cloud and chief technology officer at ExactTarget, and David Duke, the chief customer officer and another ExactTarget alumnus, McCorkle has raised $14 million to build a white-labeled service that offers a toolkit for monitoring, managing and supporting customers as they use new software tools.

If customers are doing the things i want them to be doing through my product. What is it that they want to achieve and why did they buy my product.

“MetaCX sits above any digital product,” McCorkle says. And its software monitors and manages the full spectrum of the customer relationship with that product. “It is API embeddable and we have a full user experience layer.”

For the company’s customers, MetaCX provides a dashboard that includes outcomes, the collaboration, metrics tracked as part of the relationship and all the metrics around that are part of that engagement layer,” says McCorkle.

The first offerings will be launching in the beginning of 2019, but the company has dozens of customers already using its pilot, McCorkle said.

The Indianapolis -based company is one of the latest spinouts from High Alpha Studio, an accelerator and venture capital studio formed by Scott Dorsey, the former chief executive officer of ExactTarget. As one of a crop of venture investment firms and studios cropping up in the Midwest, High Alpha is something of a bellwether for the viability of the venture model in emerging ecosystems. And, from that respect, the success of the MetaCX round speaks volumes. Especially since the round was led by the Los Angeles-based venture firm Upfront Ventures.

“Our founding team includes world-class engineers, designers and architects who have been building billion-dollar SaaS products for two decades,” said McCorkle, in a statement. “We understand that enterprises often struggle to achieve the business outcomes they expect from SaaS, and the renewal process for SaaS suppliers is often an ambiguous guessing game. Our industry is shifting from a subscription economy to a performance economy, where suppliers and buyers of digital products need to transparently collaborate to achieve outcomes.”

As a result of the investment, Upfront partner Kobie Fuller will be taking a seat on the MetaCX board of directors alongside McCorkle and Dorsey.

“The MetaCX team is building a truly disruptive platform that will inject data-driven transparency, commitment and accountability against promised outcomes between SaaS buyers and vendors,” said Fuller, in a statement. “Having been on the journey with much of this team while shaping the martech industry with ExactTarget, I’m incredibly excited to partner again in building another category-defining business with Scott and his team in Indianapolis.”

 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Storage provider Cloudian raises $94M

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in alpha, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, cloud computing, cloud storage, Cloudian, computing, data management, Enterprise, funding, Goldman Sachs, healthcare, information, machine learning, medical imaging, NTT Docomo Ventures, petabyte, Storage | 0 comments

Cloudian, a company that specializes in helping businesses store petabytes of data, today announced that it has raised a $94 million Series E funding round. Investors in this round, which is one of the largest we have seen for a storage vendor, include Digital Alpha, Fidelity Eight Roads, Goldman Sachs, INCJ, JPIC (Japan Post Investment Corporation), NTT DOCOMO Ventures and WS Investments. This round includes a $25 million investment from Digital Alpha, which was first announced earlier this year.

With this, the seven-year-old company has now raised a total of $174 million.

As the company told me, it now has about 160 employees and 240 enterprise customers. Cloudian has found its sweet spot in managing the large video archives of entertainment companies, but its customers also include healthcare companies, automobile manufacturers and Formula One teams.

What’s important to stress here is that Cloudian’s focus is on on-premise storage, not cloud storage, though it does offer support for multi-cloud data management, as well. “Data tends to be most effectively used close to where it is created and close to where it’s being used,” Cloudian VP of worldwide sales Jon Ash told me. “That’s because of latency, because of network traffic. You can almost always get better performance, better control over your data if it is being stored close to where it’s being used.” He also noted that it’s often costly and complex to move that data elsewhere, especially when you’re talking about the large amounts of information that Cloudian’s customers need to manage.

Unsurprisingly, companies that have this much data now want to use it for machine learning, too, so Cloudian is starting to get into this space, as well. As Cloudian CEO and co-founder Michael Tso also told me, companies are now aware that the data they pull in, no matter whether that’s from IoT sensors, cameras or medical imaging devices, will only become more valuable over time as they try to train their models. If they decide to throw the data away, they run the risk of having nothing with which to train their models.

Cloudian plans to use the new funding to expand its global sales and marketing efforts and increase its engineering team. “We have to invest in engineering and our core technology, as well,” Tso noted. “We have to innovate in new areas like AI.”

As Ash also stressed, Cloudian’s business is really data management — not just storage. “Data is coming from everywhere and it’s going everywhere,” he said. “The old-school storage platforms that were siloed just don’t work anywhere.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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