Redis Labs Raises $100 Million from Bain Capital Ventures and TCV to Help Companies Win in the Data-Driven Economy

Mountain View, August 25, 2020—Redis Labs, the company behind Redis, the most popular open source database and the provider of Redis Enterprise, today announced it has closed $100 million in Series F financing at a company valuation of more than $1 billion. This investment was co-led by Bain Capital Ventures and TCV, with participation by the company’s existing investors Francisco PartnersGoldman Sachs GrowthViola Ventures, and Dell Technologies Capital. With this funding, Redis Labs has now raised over $246 million to-date. 

More than ever, enterprise data is distributed, siloed, and increasing in volume. In order for companies of every industry to maximize and leverage the power of this data, Redis Labs is delivering a real-time data platform that allows them to manage, process, analyze, and make predictions, that will improve their customer experiences and drive their business forward.

“This investment will enable us to meet the surge in demand from companies representing every market and geography, to scale their Redis deployments and to help them win in the data-driven economy,” said Ofer Bengal, Co-Founder and CEO at Redis Labs. “The unprecedented conditions brought on by COVID-19 have accelerated business investments in building applications that require real-time, intelligent data processing in the cloud. During this time, Redis has become even more critical to our customers, partners, and community. We will continue to invest in strengthening our community footprint, advancing the Redis technology, and helping our users to do more with Redis.”

“Redis has become the ideal database for companies to operate intelligently and win in the current economy,” said Enrique Salem, Partner at Bain Capital Ventures. “We’ve long believed in the market opportunity for a high-performance database in the cloud-era and Redis’ potential to lead this category. Since our initial Series A investment, the Redis team has done a remarkable job making Redis an essential tool for developers and being a trusted partner for global enterprises operating at scale. We’re thrilled to continue partnering to build a multi-billion dollar database company.”

“We, at TCV, are delighted to partner with Ofer, Yiftach, and the team at Redis Labs in their effort to revolutionize the high-performance database industry,” said Gopi Vaddi, General Partner at TCV. “The product leadership demonstrated by Redis Enterprise in low latency, distributed, and high availability use cases is particularly remarkable. We believe that applications demanding Redis Enterprise’s market-leading capabilities will continue to multiply in an increasingly real-time world.”

Redis Labs currently has more than 7,500 customers, including MasterCard, Dell, Fiserv, Home Depot, Microsoft, Costco, Gap, and Groupon. With this funding, Redis Labs will continue to grow the global Redis community, expand its go-to-market team and programs, and invest in the product and support services to deliver even more value for customers. In calendar 2020 Redis Labs has seen tremendous momentum to-date, including:

  • Signed a strategic alliance agreement with Microsoft Azure for making Redis Enterprise the top tier of Azure Cache for Redis, and launched it in Private Preview. Public Preview is expected in early fall.
  • Following the availability of Redis Enterprise Cloud as a native service on Google Cloud in October 2019, the service has experienced over 300% growth in just two quarters.
  • Achieved Advanced Technology Partner status with Amazon Web Services Partner Network.
  • Launched RedisAI, for inferencing artificial intelligence requests at the speed of Redis, and RedisGears, a programmable engine enabling data-processing options at milliseconds speed across any distributed Redis deployment.
  • Announced RedisRaft, which brings strong consistency to Redis, making it suitable to serve the most critical business applications on earth.  
  • Named “Most Loved Database” for a fourth consecutive year in Stack Overflow’s annual global developer survey.

About Redis Labs

Data is the lifeline of every business, and Redis Labs helps organizations reimagine how quickly they can process, analyze, make predictions with, and take action on the data they generate. As the home of Redis, the most popular open source database, we provide a competitive edge to global businesses with Redis Enterprise, which delivers superior performance, unmatched reliability, and the best total cost of ownership. Redis Enterprise allows teams to build performance, scalability, security, and growth into their applications. Designed for the cloud-native world, Redis Enterprise uniquely unifies data across hybrid, multi-cloud, and global applications, to maximize your business potential.

Learn how Redis Labs can give you this edge at redislabs.com.

Media Contact
Steve Naventi
Redis Labs
press@redislabs.com

Katja Gagen
TCV
kgagen@tcv.com


Toast Announces $400M in Series F Funding

OSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Toast, the fastest-growing restaurant management platform in the U.S., today announced a $400M Series F funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, TPG, Greenoaks Capital, and Tiger Global Management with participation from Durable Capital Partners LP, TCV, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, G Squared, Light Street Capital, Alta Park Capital, and others.

Focused on empowering restaurants of all sizes to compete on a level playing field with global brands, Toast has quickly become the go-to partner for the restaurant industry, from entrepreneurs opening their first restaurant to enterprise brands scaling across hundreds of locations. During the course of 2019, revenue increased 109 percent as tens of thousands of new restaurants joined the Toast community.

“As a result of our tremendous growth and commitment to the restaurant industry, we have continued to see a significant amount of demand from the investor community,” said Chris Comparato, CEO at Toast. “As the clear platform leader in the restaurant space, we are excited to use this investment to extend our capabilities and drive a bigger impact for the restaurant industry.”

Toast will invest proceeds from this fundraise into its technology platform to meet the evolving needs of the restaurant industry including:

  • New products designed to both deepen restaurateurs’ connections with guests and increase restaurant revenue;
  • Hardware and software investments to increase speed of service, streamline the guest experience, and reduce operational costs;
  • Capabilities to improve the restaurant employee experience, reduce employee turnover, and address the industry’s pressing labor challenges; and,
  • Financial products that provide quick and reliable access to funding to help restaurateurs grow their businesses.

“Just as the retail industry weathered disruption from e-commerce over the past two decades, restaurateurs now face shifting consumer expectations and a changing landscape of tech players who threaten to erode restaurant brands,” said Kent Bennett, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners. “Toast wants to partner with the restaurant community to level the playing field and strengthen this nearly trillion dollar industry. We’re thrilled to continue to support this incredible team in 2020 and beyond.”

Restaurant owners and operators can learn more about Toast and schedule a personalized demo here.

About Toast
Launched in 2013, Toast is democratizing technology for restaurants of all sizes. Built exclusively for restaurants and driven by a passion to enable their success, Toast connects employees, operations, and guests on an easy-to-use platform so restaurateurs can stay one step ahead of a rapidly evolving hospitality market. Tens of thousands of restaurants partner with Toast to increase revenue, streamline operations, retain great employees, and create raving fans. Toast was named to the 2019 Forbes Fintech 50, 2019 SXSW Interactive Innovation Finals, and 2019 Forbes Cloud 100. Learn more at www.pos.toasttab.com.

Contacts

Karen DeVincent-Reinbold
Sr. PR & communications manager
media@toasttab.com
857-301-6074

Katja Gagen
TCV, Marketing
kgagen@tcv.com
415-690-6689


FULL POTENTIAL SAAS

We believe that SaaS vendors, particularly vertical and SMB, that provide a “system of record” are seeing massive increases in TAM, competitive moats, and economic opportunity. By extending and leveraging their workflow, data, and account ownership, SaaS vendors are delighting end customers while creating platform and networks.

With opportunity comes competition, both from within one’s category (e.g. application area) or from adjacent categories within one’s vertical (e.g. industry). As boards and management teams wake up to the opportunity, they realize that the race is on to capture the full potential of their vertical.

This post is a framework to help leaders of SaaS companies think through the strategic choices and hopefully increase the odds of reaching their full potential.Strategy is implemented by focused alignment of execution, talent, M&A, organizational structure, functional excellence, and financial and governance/board frameworks. I hope to write about these supporting pieces over time, but I wanted to start with strategy first.

Finally, I think it’s important to acknowledge that very few companies have reached “full potential,” and this framework is inherently aspirational. However, “most entrepreneurs aren’t building a house, they are putting bricks in the foundation of a skyscraper” (Naval Ravikant). Aspiration is important, so hopefully this is an articulation of what is possible.

Special thanks to my co-authors John Burke, Katja Gagen, and Payam Vadi from TCV as well as Tim Barash, Kevin Burke, Henrique Dubugras, Mike Ford, Marc Fredman, Noah Glass, Andrew Low Ah Kee, Ara Mahdessian, David McJannet, Aman Narang, Sankar Narayan, Githesh Ramamurthy, Jason Randall, Bob Solomon, Connor Theilmann, Dan Wernikoff, and Dai Williams for great insight and support in creating this framework to date. We’ve also learned a ton from working with great management teams in the TCV portfolio[1] as well as across a broad network of friends.

Lead the Category

This phase of the SaaS strategy is well understood so I won’t spend much time on it. A SaaS company aspires to:

  1. build a great product (and service)
  2. over time, build an efficient and repeatable go-to-market model (marketing -> sales -> onboarding)
  3. and then “add capital” and execution to press its advantage against sluggish incumbents or poorly capitalized competitors

This is the playbook that Omniture and our portfolio company ExactTarget pioneered a decade ago. Despite massive capital inflows into SaaS and deteriorating economics, this model generally still works today.

On the product side, scale in data + AI can create increasing differentiation. For example, when you start to have more data than anyone else, you can flip your product from being reactive to proactive — having the product tell users where to look and how to optimize the system. Both Xero and Shopify have done this well.

Five other things to think about in this early phase that don’t get enough attention:

  • Scalable onboarding: Onboarding friction can be unaccounted drivers of CAC and churn. A great onboarding process builds the trust and confidence that are the foundations of virality/word of mouth, future cross- as well as third party channel strategies. Carefully measure funnel metrics and be attentive to new customer NPS. Automate early as “throwing bodies at it” can create process debt that will be difficult to unwind later.
  • Expansion: Expansion drives net revenue retention and most of the strategies we are about to discuss. With all sales processes, it’s a lot easier to learn, iterate, and optimize with fewer bodies and less complexity.
  • UI and Architecture: Like onboarding, these can be long-lead time fixes that compound as your business scales and gets more complex. A specific call out is to plan for an API strategy. It can facilitate future partner strategies and increase the value and stickiness of your offering.
  • Pricing structure/strategy: You will constantly revisit tactics, but it’s important to have some sense of how your pricing structure might change over time.
  • Foundations for global, including a work culture that can support distributed executives and operations, and good product feedback loops that incorporate non-home market needs.

Hyperscale Locations, Feed the Beast

A lot of ink has been spilled on forward investing in sales and marketing, and arguably it’s part of a/the “lead the category” strategy. But, it’s worth a call out as it’s important you don’t take your eye off the ball too early. So much of winning and future monetization is getting location market share. When the wind is at your back, go get it done! Market structures have a nasty habit of shifting, future secular tailwinds may abate, or competitors may leapfrog your product or your go-to-market model. If your churn and sales economics are sound, keep “feeding the beast!”

One particularly powerful unlock is Channel. There are verticals and categories, where influencers in a channel are kingmakers and can help you engage with segments that are otherwise difficult or uneconomical to reach.  Furthermore, Channel partners’ engagement and contributions can enrich your products and increase overall customer value. A great example is in tax software, where Xero’s wooing of accountants proved to be an effective source of customers and a formidable competitive moat (thereby disrupting the incumbent provider). Xero went as far as offering free practice management tools to help accountants run and grow their business on Xero.

Win the Control Points: Own Your Vertical

This is where management teams are faced with a paradox of choice: “Where should we go next? How should we spend the next incremental dollar? On increasing ARPU, acquiring incremental locations, or expanding into new verticals, geos or segments?” At this juncture, it is my belief that you should focus on winning the control points. In vertical SaaS, there are typically one or two control points, “systems of record.” Usually one control point in the front office (e.g. Point of Sale, CRM, e-commerce) – “that drives sales, that grows the business, that serves as the cash register.” And one control point in the back office (e.g. general ledger) – “where everything else reconciles to.” Hopefully, you provide one of the systems of record, so go build or acquire the other system(s) of record and secure the high ground! 

Pragmatically, a system of record is the last software package a customer will “turn off” in a tough economic time.

I also like to think about the concept of “gravity”:

  • Workflow gravity – the system that all other systems integrate to – it’swhere the most users spend the most time. Not all workflows deliver the same value; in my experience the system of record workflow tends to deliver the most value.
  • Data gravity – the system that creates and holds the most critical information and is the hardest to migrate. That data can be critical to a client for a wide range of applications, from understanding their customers (e.g. CRM) to managing risk (e.g. compliance). Data also can be critical in two-level situations, such as loan underwriting (e.g. a bank underwriting a merchant’s risk via POS data) or supplier information management (e.g. a client managing risk by validating supplier capabilities and quality). Data depth and scope also create gravity where AI technologies can be highly productive.
  • Account gravity – the user/sponsor of the system is the highest-ranking individual in the customer organization; it’s the system that requires the biggest financial outlay, etc.

Winning the other system of record is not easy. By definition, a system of record is hard to displace and unless the market is greenfield pen and paper, competition can be challenging. You may be able to do it organically with product innovation, but M&A can be the more desirable path if “integration debt” is manageable. If M&A is not possible, a slow winnowing of your competitor may be the only approach available to you.

If you own multiple systems of record in a vertical, the benefits are enormous:

  • Customer delight: automation from integrated workflows and potentially unified data and data models allow efficiencies and offerings unavailable before
  • “SaaS as a Platform and SaaS as Network” opportunities
  • Stronger account ownership to capture incremental spend and drive more efficient growth
  • A new level of durability and stickiness

A good example is Veeva. The company started in 2007 with the launch of a CRM and a sales automation platform for pharma sales reps (e.g. record their activity, keep track of the doctors they meet with or drop off samples for, etc.). After becoming the dominant player in that category, Veeva saw an opportunity to move backward into research and development for their life science customers (developing new drugs, conducting clinical trials and bringing those drugs to market). In 2011 Veeva launched Vault, a suite of applications that first centered on the core content management needs for clinical trials, regulatory submissions, and quality documentation. The company then expanded to include a series of core data applications that help manage clinical trials, quality processes, safety processes, etc. Veeva is expected to finish 2019 with $1.1B in revenue (26% YoY Growth) and 37% EBIT margins. Vault represented 51% of total revenue and grew 38% YoY. Analysts also estimate Vault meaningfully expanded Veeva’s addressable market. 

Another recent example might be front office player Shopify’s $450M acquisition of 6 River Systems to move into back office fulfillment and warehouse management. Some financial analysts estimate that merchants spend up to ~10-15% of their GMV on logistics which could potentially provide multiples of Shopify’s current take rate.

Expand Headroom

With category leadership comes high market share and potentially high saturation. Long-term growth is driven by location growth, as there’s generally a finite share of wallet you can access. It’s important to invest in the S-curves of geos, segments, and adjacent verticals that can unlock new location TAM. This can take a couple of tries before you’re successful, so start this during your growth phase when there’s less pressure on maximizing profitability.

Extend Through the Value Chain

This stage of growth can be transformative. By leveraging the strengths of your core customers, you can expand into a new market with a new set of customers. Typical patterns include moving from front office software to extend to your customer’s customers, or from back office software and extending to suppliers. These can be riskier bets, but success can pay out big here:

  • Increased TAM
  • Workflow that spans multiple parties and creates increased customer value and vendor stickiness
  • Two-level network effects

Supplier

Extension seems to work best by “following the money” and leveraging purchasing power. TCV portfolio company Ariba articulated the “golden rule”— He with the gold rules! By using their leadership in procurement software at large corporate buyers, Ariba extended to build a robust suppliers software business for merchants that serviced those corporate buyers. More recently, Avetta has followed a similar path in the supplier information space by building a strong two-level network effect. We believe corporate clients want to be on Avetta because it has the largest network of suppliers, and suppliers want to be on Avetta because it has the most corporate clients. Avetta’s advantage gets stronger as it scales. Moreover, Avetta has an opportunity to help suppliers do more than just manage compliance information. As a result, Avetta sees growth in helping suppliers grow and operate their business.  

CCC is on the third generation of this approach. They started by serving large auto insurance carriers and then extended into autobody repair shops that serve the carriers. CCC is now in the process of expanding to parts suppliers. By getting all the key constituents on its software platform, CCC is able to leverage AI and automation to massively reduce friction and provide a great customer experience across all steps of the auto insurance process.

Employee

The employee opportunity is similar to the supplier opportunity in terms of “following the money.” Companies can use integrated payroll or time & attendance offerings to establish a relationship with the employee. Employees are also consumers who represent significant B2C opportunities such as consumer lending, insurance, etc. There are big dollars here, but perhaps less opportunity to build significant network effects.

Consumer

The consumer/demand opportunity is the white whale. We believe that SaaS companies tend to capture ~ 50-100bps of GMV for software subscription, whereas online demand channels can take 15-20% of GMV in categories such as hotels and restaurants. In addition to the massive revenue opportunity, Consumer also represents a strategic flank worth monitoring carefully. Online marketplaces have large competing salesforces that engage with your merchant customers and have strategic interests encroach on the software layer to try to control supply.  Booking.com bought Buuteeq and Hotel Ninjas to vertically integrate into hotel supply. Uber is rapidly expanding its driver offering to over-draft protection, a debit card, and likely lending over time to manage driver churn. This is another example of increasing marketplace + SaaS convergence.

That said, success stories of extending SaaS to Consumer are rare. Few SaaS companies have consumer product DNA, the funds, or the skills to build a consumer brand. While a SaaS provider can have a high market share of merchants in a vertical, it’s rare that it has the supply ubiquity that an online marketplace would require. Eventbrite is one of the few companies that has landed as a software tool for creators, built liquidity, and created a marketplace.

Some derivative Consumer monetization models include:

  • Consumer pay: FareHarbor approaches tour and activity operators with a free to merchant, consumer pay model: “We’ll build your website and booking engine for free, with no work on your part; you just pay us for payment processing and the customer will pay us a booking fee.”  
  • Channel management: SiteMinder offers channel management to help hotels manage existing channels in real time. SiteMinder has extended that value proposition to “Demand Plus,” an offering that helps hotels easily expand into new channels to scale demand.
  • Existing customers: While 15-20% marketplace take rates may be sensible for new customer acquisition/discovery, companies such as Olo are looking to move existing customers to lower cost channels through their dispatch offering while taking a much lower percentage of GMV.
  • Customer Co-opt: By seeing consumer data pass through their systems, some SaaS vendors are building consumer profile databases that they might monetize over time. In the recruiting market, we’ve seen players leverage job distribution tools to build a candidate database. Shopify similarly has built a large shopper profile database across all their merchants. While Shopify hasn’t monetized directly, the uplift in conversion rate is likely significant. This model is the most capital efficient but can create conflicts with the vendor’s core merchant customers.

The biggest benefit of extending through the value chain is that it gives you a beachhead and a right to win in a new vertical to start the “full potential” growth cycle again. As you do this, it’s important to reconsider your end market and focus. When Ariba transitioned from procurement software to supply network, they started to represent a front office “system of record” for their suppliers. In doing so, Ariba was both a large enterprise “procurement company” and an SMB “supplier enablement company.” The question was: “Which priority should dominate?” When extension leads to conflicts, there are no easy answers. As such, it is important to acknowledge that this growth strategy is ever-evolving.

Deepen Functionality/ Monetization

Deepen Functionality/Monetization doesn’t literally mean waiting to pursue this step until all other strategies have been completed. It’s more a reflection of priorities. Acquire as many customers as you can, win the control points, and you will likely have many of these profit pools locked up to pursue in the future.

In winning the key control points, for the same reason a single system of record has a lot of “gravity,” you now have an even stronger opportunity to turn your product into a channel. This enables entry into adjacencies with data, workflow, and account ownership advantages for you as well as for the end customer. The most extreme example is the “platform/ecosystem” play, where you monetize third party vendors that want access to the channel your product has become (e.g. Salesforce, Intuit, Shopify). However, most commonly a SaaS vendor will pursue additional monetization with in-house or white-labeled products.

Another key consideration in prioritizing adjacent function/monetization is consistency with your core go-to-market channel and proximity to key decision makers. Go-to-market will determine the financial leverage of the cross-sell and often the overall success. The core advantage of SMB software here is that often the decision-making is relatively consistent and concentrated across software purchases.

Every vertical is different, but there are some common functionality/monetization patterns emerging. Each of these patterns deserves its own write-up, but for the sake of brevity here are some highlights:

  • “Integrated payments -> integrated banking”: The attachment of payments to SaaS has been well covered. That trend is expanding to the attachment of integrated banking. I had an opportunity to interview two of the smartest people in the business, Tim Barash and Jackie Reses. Square is out front here with broad based merchant and consumer plays. To understand the magnitude of the opportunity, Square’s Subscription & Services (most of which are financial services) are expected to reach $1.3B in 2020. This represents 23% of 2020 total GAAP revenue and 47% of 2020 Total Gross Profit (incremental gross profit is ~90%). Brex is earlier in its progression, but we’re excited to see how the company leverages its initial corporate card and expense management offerings to extend into broader financial services.

  •  “Follow the workflow”: At times SaaS companies have actually observed customers at work or mapped out the physical sites to understand all the areas their workflow touches as areas of expansion.
  • “TAM shark”: HashiCorp CEO David McJannet describes expansion as “TAM Shark,” constantly circling the biggest, fastest growing (most change/opportunity) markets. He requires product managers to report on market size and growth of all adjacent categories to make sure they are focused on the biggest opportunities. Generally, over a 2-3 year period companies have one, maybe two opportunities to build distinct add-on businesses. Make sure you’re picking the biggest markets and therefore the biggest payoffs.

Summary

If the typical SaaS playbook is “Lead the Category” and “Hyperscale Locations,” clearly the full potential for vertical SaaS players is dramatically larger than conventional SaaS wisdom would suggest. We’re excited to work with — and hopefully invest in —the frontier players as they explore the “Full Potential of SaaS.”  

If you found this useful, let me know, and we’ll continue to publish and explore the topic. I look forward to hearing your adds, edits, and challenges.

Caveats

  • There’s a tension between aggregating as big a profit pool as quickly as possible vs. “winning the market.”
  • This framework is characterized as a sequential strategy. In reality, most companies are pursuing multiple steps concurrently, and the sequence is more a reflection of prioritization.
  • Time horizon: this approach is a long-term strategy to winning, which may often be at odds with short-term maximization of valuation multiple and financial performance.
  • This approach is informed by a U.S./western/mature approach. In emerging/more greenfield markets, less focus and value chain expansion earlier in company development may make sense.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the authors and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.

[1] See TCV’s SMB and Vertical SaaS investments at the end of the document.


TCV Welcomes Gopi Vaddi as General Partner

TCV is delighted to announce that Gopi Vaddi, a seasoned investor with broad international experience, has joined the firm as a General Partner. Founded in 1995, TCV has invested over $13 billion in more than 350 consumer and enterprise technology companies, including $2 billion in Europe, where Gopi will be focused. TCV investments in Europe include Believe, FlixMobility, Brillen.de, RELEX Solutions, RMS, Sitecore, Sportradar, Spotify, The Pracuj Group, and WorldRemit.          

Gopi is an excellent fit with TCV’s long-term strategy and focus of investing across geographies and domains, often far from major technology and financial hubs. He was born and raised in India, took degrees in business administration and electrical engineering in the U.S. and India, and has experience investing in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Most recently, he was a partner at Providence Equity’s growth fund, where he worked on growth buyouts and minority investments in software and payments. At TCV, Gopi will focus on software and software-enabled businesses covering business applications, vertical software, digital marketplaces, and infrastructure software.

“We take as much care in adding a new partner as we do in making a new investment,” said Jake Reynolds, General Partner at TCV. “Gopi’s success springs from the same qualities that have driven TCV for nearly a quarter-century: deep domain knowledge, keen market insight, and a passionate commitment to helping entrepreneurs achieve category leadership. He also complements the firm’s broad growth-biased investment approach with expertise in software buyouts and buy-and-build investing.”

Gopi understands TCV’s approach, just as we recognize the value he has brought to his investments, including a willingness to roll up his sleeves and work side by side with management. As a citizen of the world who started his career as an engineer and data modeler, he has an innate ability to identify and partner with the next generation of category leaders and the entrepreneurs steering them.

We are thrilled to welcome Gopi to the team.

The General Partners of TCV

***

The companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/portfolio-list/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website.                                                                                                 


Making the Mundane Sexy: How Intuit Turned SMB Bookkeeping and DIY taxes into Massive Business Lines

Dan Wernikoff rose to become an EVP at Intuit and general manager of its small business unit and consumer tax group. In both cases he scaled the business-within-a-business from small groups of early adopters to huge hordes of happy SMBs and consumers, by relentlessly measuring early indicators, leveraging core strengths, and focusing on long-term growth goals.

In this conversation with TCV General Partner Tim McAdam, he shares:

  • Lessons about how selling into SMB markets differs from enterprise
  • The best metrics for tracking success, and
  • Why empathy and understanding matter more than slick ads and sales techniques.

He also explains how to infuse human expertise into SaaS models in a way that fits the SMB/consumer mindset.

For these insights and more, settle back and press play.

***

Dan Wernikoff is a former Venture Partner at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Webinar: Evolving from SaaS to Marketplace: Key Lessons for Tech Leaders in Making the Jump

The opportunity set for SaaS is on the rise. The original SaaS model that revolutionized software is now enabling SMB and vertical SaaS companies to evolve from tool companies to market makers. Pioneers of these new SaaS models not only provide a tech platform to service providers, but also strengthen their position by extending into marketplaces. When these providers aggregate enough supply, they leverage their data and mindshare advantages to create two-sided marketplaces that enjoy powerful network effects. The result is a much stronger financial profile, deeper moats, and a significantly larger TAM.

TCV recently hosted an offsite focused on emerging trends that we believe are dramatically expanding the opportunity set and economic strength of vertical and SMB SaaS companies. 

We were fortunate to have Brian Rothenberg as a speaker. Before joining a leading new early stage venture firm Defy as a Partner, Brian was on the leadership team that took Eventbrite from startup through IPO – while evolving the company from a SaaS platform for event venues to a marketplace for live experiences.

In this conversation with John Burke, EVP at TCV, Brian explains the steps and structures necessary to accomplish this strategic transformation and reach scale. He also offers priceless tips on timing and managing relationships with original SaaS clients that leaders can apply as they focus on dramatically expanding their addressable markets.

To talk about SaaS opportunities and get a copy of the presentation, please contact John Burke or Katja Gagen at TCV.

The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit https://www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at https://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Toast: Building a System of Record for the Restaurant Industry

We believe that many SMB and vertical SaaS companies are starting to exhibit platform characteristics. Some of these companies are beginning to build consumer and supplier networks that are dramatically expanding the SaaS model.

Toast is a pioneer in the space, powering restaurants of all sizes with a technology platform that helps them streamline operations, increase revenue and deliver amazing guest experiences. No one lights up a room on these topics more than Tim Barash, Chief Business Officer and CFO at Toast. I’m also excited to welcome Tim as an Executive Advisor to TCV, where he will be working with TCV portfolio companies and helping us to assess new opportunities.

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Dave: Tim, welcome to TCV, and thanks so much for spending time to share your thoughts with us!

Tim: I am excited to be a part of the team — it’s been great to meet with some of the founders of this incredible new class of companies, changing the rules of what has traditionally been considered SaaS.

Dave: Tell us about Toast. What is the company today, what’s its mission, and where is it going?

Tim: Toast is a company that is transforming the hospitality industry with an end-to-end platform, extending from a core commerce engine into guest experience, employee engagement, and financial services. Our mission is to empower the restaurant community to delight guests, do what they love, and thrive. We as Toasters are very passionate about bringing this mission to life for our customers. We launched our core offering in 2013 to the first few restaurants and today are serving tens of thousands of customers while still growing over 100%, with over 1,600 employees globally. It’s been a wild ride these past five years and it’s a really fun space with a creative and diverse customer set.

Dave: You and I recently hosted an offsite on “SaaS as a Platform.” Why is Toast a platform to its restaurant customers?  If you’re the CEO of a SaaS company, how do you know that you are or could be a platform?

Tim: Toast really extends all the way from the front of house to the back of the house, bringing restaurants into the 21st century with a cloud and mobility-first operating system, including hardware such as self-ordering kiosks and handhelds for order & pay-at-the-table and guest feedback. We’ve evolved from this core system of record into other high-value offerings, including payment processing, payroll & employee management software, credit and consumer-facing apps, and we’ve had great feedback from our customer base that they want us to continue to solve more problems for them between our first-party offerings and our deep partner network.

I think being the Platform or System of Record generally means you have the most mindshare and time spent on your system relative to others the same user may have. As important is where the data resides; in the restaurant vertical, the core data sets are menus, orders, guest data, and employee data, whereas other verticals like doctor’s offices might be more around scheduling, billing/invoicing, and insurance connectors. If the key personas are logging in multiple times per day and using your tool as the system of record for their most important data, it’s likely there are multiple platform opportunities to exploit to make their lives even easier.

Dave: Let’s first talk about payments. Generically the opportunity in payments is for SaaS companies to start monetizing flow through GMV. Why is this good for your customers, the end merchant, and your customer’s customer, the merchant’s consumer?

Tim: A lot of companies are starting to integrate payments mostly because it creates a much smoother, simpler experience for the merchant. It starts with onboarding and spans ongoing support and easy reconciliation of transactions and payments through the same software. Small businesses generally do not like having to deal with multiple vendors when they can use one holistic solution for what they are trying to get done.

What’s really compelling is what you can do for the merchant and the end user once you have payments integrated by capturing more data. An example is identifying the end user and better understand buying patterns and be able to help small businesses market to their customers in a more targeted and automated way.

There’s also very significant margin enhancement if you can get payments right, which can fuel higher investment levels in areas like Customer Success and R&D to deliver even more customer value by displacing a horizontal payments vendor.

Dave: I know you could hold a master class on just payments, but quickly what are three tips for getting started? Should you make them mandatory, or an option?

Tim: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a team here is important — you can get started with a referral partnership or go full bore and become a payment facilitator and handle all the risk, underwriting, and merchant-facing tech. It really depends on the available talent, domain knowledge, and capital access to get something off the ground. Once you’ve decided what to go with, here are three tips:

  1. Build a dedicated team that understands your payments space at a deep level — there can be a lot of new complexity across product, tech, risk/underwriting, pricing, go-to-market strategy, and customer success that may look and feel different from your existing business. Make sure at least 1-2 people are coming in with real payments or fintech experience. Card-present vs. eCommerce experience will likely be something to think about here.
  2. Resist the urge to over-monetize or make pricing overly complex — traditionally there have been some bad actors in the payments world and, as a result, a lot of these companies have low NPS and very high churn — great SaaS companies have the opposite, so don’t tempt fate for a few extra basis points.
  3. If you are doing anything other than an arms-length referral partnership, you should be taking payments-specific risk, fraud, and security very seriously.

Dave: Ok, so once you’ve launched payments, how would you extend next? I know it depends, so maybe talk about where you would go if you were a front office offering and a back-office offering. Or better yet, what is the prioritization framework for the different offerings?

Tim: I think the prioritization framework begins with mission — why does your company exist and what are the biggest problems in your industry that you have an unfair right to help solve? As an example, Toast is the source of lots of employee data and we kept hearing from our customers that, in the current macro environment, labor was their biggest concern, so we had both the market need and the natural entry point to get deeper into payroll and employee engagement.

On back-of-office solutions it’s likely things like payments, credit, payroll, insurance, and B2B/vendor marketplaces can be interesting depending on the platform and vertical. For front-of-house it’s likely more about CRM, marketing tools, loyalty programs, other commerce touchpoints, and the holy grail of leveraging supply of SMB’s to create a two-sided consumer marketplace. That said, there aren’t many companies that have made the B2B2C transition, yet it can be a tremendous value creator.

Dave: Credit is a big step change because it involves a balance sheet and underwriting to risk. What is your take?

Tim: I think this really depends on the execution muscle of your company — if you’ve already gone deep on something like payments, you may have some experience on the fraud and underwriting side, but getting into credit ups the ante in a big way. You need to feel confident you have some really strong players on data science, finance, and risk to go after this yourself. Starting with a partnership with a Kabbage, Fundbox, or OnDeck could be a way to dip the toe in the water before putting your capital at risk or trying to attract outside investors to supply the capital for a credit offering.

If you are going after this yourself, you will almost definitely want to find outside capital to offload most of the risk and balance sheet implications of a credit business, both for optics reasons with investors and because your capital is better put to use hiring engineering, sales, etc. than lending to your customers.

Dave: How about payroll? Big dollars given the per employee model. How do you know there’s real demand for payroll? Given the 50-state nature, would you do this in-house, partner, or buy?

Tim: If I think about this space, the only software business that didn’t have HCM/HRIS at its core that’s done this really well is Intuit, though Square is also starting to gain traction in their new offerings. Payroll/HCM is its own beast with its own ecosystem of products from worker’s comp and healthcare to newer technology offerings like same-day pay and employee management solutions. Similar to payments, capital, marketplaces, and other platform plays, the decision on whether to extend is all about whether you have a natural right to play. For Toast, we have restaurant employees clocking in and out every day on our platform, and managers/owners running staffing reports and approving hours before downloading the data and uploading to a payroll/HCM solution. This made it a pretty natural move to solve this disjointed experience for our customers.

If you’ve got the natural right to play, demand is probably dependent on the complexity in your vertical — if your customers only have 1-5 employees and not a lot of complexity around time and attendance, they may be using an offering from Intuit through their accounting package, or Gusto, or some other inexpensive and easy solution, making it more difficult to displace.

In terms of build/partner/buy, this could be a long slog to build, because of all the regulatory/compliance elements. Depending on your scale, partnering is likely the best way to enter into the space and learn this side of the business. Just be careful as one of the reasons to get into payroll/HCM is that it’s a fairly sticky product.

Dave: Ok, let’s get into the next-level network effects for SaaS companies. Most two-level networks tend to be “Big B to small B” in a buyer/supplier relationship. TCV invested in three of them over the years. To give the theme a plug — Ariba in procurement, CCC in the auto industry, and Avetta  in supplier information management and compliance. You sell into large company buyers and help them connect more efficiently to smaller/SMB consumers. Winning into the big buyers gives you a strong value proposition to small suppliers and gaining more suppliers in your network makes you even more attractive to the big buyers. It’s a virtuous cycle.

But every SaaS company, particularly vertical and SMB providers, can look to leverage consumer, employee, and supplier networks. What’s your take?

Tim: It’s a really exciting play that is starting to develop in SaaS. If done correctly, it can be a game changer in helping SMBs get the scale advantages of larger enterprises and change their businesses for the better.

Dave: Let’s take supplier networks first. Who is doing a good job getting into the supplier marketplace?

Tim: I think you just hit a few of the strong players earlier. What CCC has done with the auto parts marketplace is really exciting and a playbook that could be run by a lot of SaaS platforms in other verticals, especially something like construction or home services. I’ve seen a lot of startups try to create the supplier marketplaces in industries such as dental offices, restaurants, and others, but the standalone model can be difficult because they aren’t starting with one side of the marketplace already built up — that’s what’s so exciting about these platform opportunities for existing SaaS companies.

Dave: How about employees?

Tim: There are lot of interesting companies out there. For example, SnagAjob and ZipRecruiter are working on building out the marketplace. I think ZipRecruiter has been a really interesting story as they did leverage existing relationship with employers to create their marketplace. Over time, I think we will see a lot more of these models. There have been a few entrants into the “LinkedIn of hourly workers” space, and time will tell if something like that will be created or if more mindshare will go to vertical-specific SaaS/Employee Network plays. It’s interesting to think about the marginal utility of a horizontal employee network, certainly there are some generalists in this employee population but also a lot of specialization in specific trades and industries.

Dave: Consumers is probably where the big dollars are. Marketplaces regularly capture 10-40% of GMV to deliver consumers.  How can SaaS companies partake of the consumer opportunity?

Tim: I think it heavily depends on how valuable the supply side of the marketplace is. There are verticals including food, certain home services, hotels, etc. where quality and user-specific preference is going to really matter. If you have really compelling supply (especially if it is hard to access online), you can get real leverage in building out a consumer marketplace. If it’s something like transportation, it may be harder to have any real edge against a standalone marketplace startup.

If you are in a position to capitalize on a consumer network, I think creating a separate team to go after that opportunity in a big way is likely the right way to go as so many parts of the business will be different than your core SaaS team is used to working on. You want the unfair advantage of owning supply without a handicap of having a team that hasn’t built a consumer business before.

Dave: Well Tim, I know we could go on for hours on this topic. Thanks so much for taking the time today, and great to have you as part of the TCV team. I’m excited to work with you.

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Tim Barash is an Executive Advisor at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


The Consumer Opportunity — Fireside Chat with Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, and David Yuan, GP at TCV

TCV recently hosted an offsite on companies extending into consumer, supplier, and employee networks.

ZipRecruiter is one of the few companies that have been able to extend into consumer demand. We were fortunate to have Co-Founder and CEO Ian Siegel join us and share his thoughts on ZipRecruiter’s journey.

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Dave: So maybe to kick us off, tell us a little bit about yourself and ZipRecruiter.

Ian: Sure. ZipRecruiter is an online employment marketplace that I co-founded in 2010. Based in LA, we use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to actively connect people to their next great opportunity.  We’ve helped over 1.8 million businesses of all sizes (from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies) with their hiring needs. Tens of thousands of businesses use us every month to find their next great hires and millions of job seekers search for jobs on ZipRecruiter on a monthly basis.  

Dave: We’ve been talking to each other for a while, and your first demand side offering was allowing employers to use your distribution software application. And if they weren’t getting applicants fast enough, they could push a “boost” button and get more applicant flow. That was a recruiting facing experience. Explain what’s going on in the background.

Ian: We distribute job postings to more than 1,200 sources. That includes job boards, aggregators, talent communities, social networks, etc. We send jobs to online destinations where talent may be congregating and then we pay those sources on a per-click basis for the traffic they can deliver to us. And then there’s TrafficBoost, our own job promotion product. Employers can buy a “Boost” and get more quality candidates faster.

Dave: Great. So, you have this distribution software, and then the “boost button” which is like performance media buying for lack of a better description. And then you started your own candidate profiles. How does that work?

Ian: Good question. The tricky thing about our category is that it represents a point-in-time need. One of the things you need to contemplate when you have consumers, for example, in restaurant reservations or looking for a job, is that they need you for a moment, and then they’re theoretically going to go away. You have to start thinking about what you can do to get a data lock. What are the things you could add to your service? That means they don’t just use you this time but there’s an advantage to using you in subsequent visits or a subsequent need for that service.

We started moving from résumés to profiles. Imagine you are a nurse: You come to our site and upload a résumé. We’ve become very good at enriching résumés and identifying the single skills that employers are really looking for—for example, a nursing license number turns out to be the only thing you need in your profile to be inundated with interest from hospitals and healthcare providers. As a result, you are persistently being found by new employers who can give you subsequent offers.

Our theory is that job seekers never want to miss a great opportunity that’s coming through. There’s this misnomer about the job search category which is that there’s an active and a passive job seeker profile. The reality is that a person who is eagerly full-time searching for work represents only about 12% of the total job-seeking population. The other 88% are people who are somewhere between dissatisfied and happy at their current job but are willing to learn more about new opportunities. 

Dave: So, basically, you’ve gotten the consumer applicant to engage with you, which is quite different, right? You’re running essentially a SaaS business, and then you have to build a consumer business on top of it?

Ian: After two years in, we realized that, no matter how many cool features we put into our product, employers were (and are still) using us for one thing: access to job seekers. The more people we have on ZipRecruiter, the more employers we attract, the more new jobs we have, and the more people we get.  

It’s a virtuous circle.

And so suddenly, we’re not just in the employer business: We’re also in the job seeker business. 

Dave: So how did you go and do this? 

Ian: When our aided brand awareness peaked in the U.S., it became much more important to make sure that job seekers also knew about us. Which is why most of our engineers are now working on some form of search algorithm or search interface. We are deeply thoughtful about focusing on job seekers because, fundamentally, we sell to them.

Dave: Okay. You made the switch, which was tricky since you recognized that you potentially competed with some of your suppliers, and you had to go all in on brand. Or not just brand, but a switch from a business to a consumer business brand.

Ian: It’s always harder to get the buyer than the seller. If you have the buyers, the sellers will come to you. To get to that next level in our category, it’s important to be first and top of mind. When someone decides they’re ready to look for a job, you want to be synonymous with job seeking so they go straight to ZipRecruiter to look for work. 

Dave: How do you balance ongoing management of your product teams and the focus of the organization between both customer groups? Because in reality, you still need to maintain some amount of excitement and engagement around the recruiters while you’re sort of shifting to job seekers. How are you thinking about that?

Ian: It’s such a good question. Let me take you through an exercise that was a real-world problem we had in our business. All of you are hiring managers, right? Would you like it if someone submitted a résumé to you, and ZipRecruiter corrected the grammar? The underlying question is “Do you consider spelling errors and grammatical errors a signal that tells you something’s up?”

Dave: Massive signal.

Ian: Right, signal. If I ask that question to the job seekers, they really don’t like typos. That’s a real-world problem I’m faced with. Who is our customer? The answer is nuanced and depends on the situation. How did we decide who that customer was? In that particular example, we did not correct their spelling and grammar.

Another example: We are the number one-rated job search app on both iOS and Android. How did we become number one? With one simple feature: We tell job seekers when an employer looks at their application. That’s it. The number one thing job seekers hate more than anything is what they call the “résumé black hole”, i.e. when they apply to a job and never hear anything back. In this case, we made the choice for the benefit of the job seeker.

Dave: What about the team? Was it a separate build? Was there significant change since this is a very different business?

Ian: Our product team members were all revenue-focused, which is to say employer-focused. So, we decided to split the team and have one subteam focusing on job seekers and the other subteam focusing on employers. We made a significant investment to support the job seeker subteam and, in some areas, we have multi-year timelines because you can either play to make money or you can play to win. And to win in our category, you need liquidity. You can’t have a marketplace without some form of elite brand recognition and differentiation. 

Dave: Absolutely, great point to end with. Thanks so much Ian!

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


This is the biggest trend in hotel tech that you’ve never heard of


Originally published at https://hoteltechreport.com on May 2, 2019.

Creating revolutionary technology for hotels has historically been a slog but lately we’re seeing a change in fate for hotel software companies due to increased investment in the space. One of the biggest investors in hospitality tech is Menlo Park based TCV, the growth equity firm that has invested in breakout companies like Sojern and SiteMinder within hotel tech. TCV has also made major investments in the broader hospitality and travel space such as: Airbnb, TripAdvisor, HomeAway, Expedia, Orbitz, SeatGeek and Toast.

TCV is one of the largest names in the world of technology investing with a successful track record in the massive hospitality and travel vertical. Vertical market software is an extremely hot investment theme right now.

“The easy opportunities for disrupting old-line industries are drying up. Now, many of the up-and-coming start-ups that may become the next unicorns have names like Benchling and Blend. And they largely focus on software for specific industries.” New York Times

Long time TCV investor and former SiteMinder CFO John Burke is excited about the opportunities within the vertical market software. John and his team have identified a trend within a sub investment theme that they’ve coined: “SaaS as a Network”. Here’s how they describe the concept.

“When a SaaS provider starts serving a high enough density of merchants, they can leverage that strength to build two-sided marketplaces with the merchant’s customers, suppliers, and employees.”

David Yuan, TCV General Partner

The general hypothesis is that once vertical market software companies achieve scale with regards to their core products they can always bolt on new point solution functionality but would be wise to focus on a much bigger opportunity. Specifically, TCV believes that these software companies can create two-sided marketplaces that connect their users to new channels of customers, suppliers and employees. Back in February, Hotel Tech Report identified the explosion of marketplaces as one of the 5 biggest tech trends at ITB Berlin, a trend that mirror’s TCV’s investment thesis. Of all the software companies creating marketplaces in hospitality, TCV’s portfolio company SiteMinder has the largest scale to date.

Image from David Yuan’s article SaaS as a Platform, SaaS as a Network

Last year SiteMinder threw its hat in the ring with the launch of SiteMinder Exchange aimed at “breaking down the industry’s notorious integration barriers, connecting hotel systems and applications through smart and simple connectivity.”

“The reality is that few industries are as fragmented as hospitality particularly at the PMS level. There has always been demand for many of the new applications, but innovation has been stifled by lack of connectivity and the sales model makes the economics challenging. Some of these barriers are starting to be broken down by SiteMinder and others which I think can unlock a lot of innovation for the industry. But this is a hard problem and it’s a complicated space with lots of moving pieces so that makes it challenging.”

John Burke, TCV Executive Vice President

SiteMinder’s Exchange marketplace is aimed at allowing other applications to access the firm’s broad user base consisting of more than 30,000 hotels worldwide. Most of those hotels are using SiteMinder’s highly popular channel manager which connects hotel inventory to 3rd party distribution channels as well as other products within the firm’s broader guest acquisition platform such as a rate intelligence tool and an online booking engine. The firm is betting that it can add value for users by allowing them to try more hotel tech applications with ease and in turn create new business opportunities for those suppliers.

We sat down with Burke to discuss his views on hotel tech, the future for platforms like SiteMinder Exchange and highlight the most cutting edge developments happening right now within the hotel space.

How did you get into venture investing?

I’ve been in and around venture since 2011. I started my career with EY in their audit and transaction advisory teams. Getting into venture was a bit of good timing and persistence. The TCV team were looking for an immediate hire and decided to take a chance. I was with TCV from 2011 to 2014 as part of the B2B software team. As I thought about what was next for me, I was drawn to the experiences and mentorship of the TCV Venture Partners (e.g. former senior operating executives such as Erik Blachford). The tech market at that time had been heating up with a few high-profile IPOs. It was my belief that the next wave of great investors was not going to be able to rely on multiple expansion or financial engineering. I believed the best investors over the next 10 years would need to be partners driving actual business growth.

That brought me to SiteMinder down in Sydney, Australia. TCV had just led the Series B investment in the company, and the fundamentals of the business were remarkable. On top of that, they were ramping up for aggressive growth across Europe, SE Asia and were about to launch in the U.S. which I thought would be great experience. I was also excited to work with Mike Ford and the entire SiteMinder team. Mike is a special entrepreneur who is not only very smart and a product visionary, but also authentic and humble. I joined SiteMinder initially in an analytics role and then for the next 3.5 years as CFO. For family reasons, we decided to move back to the U.S. last year, where I reconnected with TCV and rejoined the team. I continue to spend a lot of time in the hospitality and vertical software space and TCV just led an investment in Toast, an exciting next-generation restaurant platform.

Tell us about TCV.

TCV was founded in 1995 as a $100M venture fund and today has raised over $15 billion across 10 funds, focusing exclusively on technology companies. We recently began investing out of TCV X, a $3 billion fund. TCV looks to partner with companies that have potential for a sustained category leadership position and are looking to succeed at an even greater scale. This typically means that a company has been growing for several years — with a history of customer trust and engagement and a business model that is reflective of the value they provide. We are flexible on transaction type with experience in public and private markets and are comfortable in minority or majority positions. Over the past 24 years, we’ve had more than 60 IPOs in our portfolio and have worked with some of the largest franchises in technology including ExactTarget, Facebook, Netflix, GoDaddy and Spotify.

At this point, I’ve talked with many investors in the space which helps me appreciate how the various funds are different. For TCV, I think it’s the depth of industry knowledge and a growth mindset. We have close to 100 team members now and our investment team focuses every day on technology and goes deep in verticals and sub-verticals. When we identify a compelling technology trend, we take the time to thoroughly understand the underlying drivers, business model, and competitive environment. Having a developed perspective means we can have much more meaningful conversations about a company’s business and growth opportunities and are positioned to be a better thought partner for the executive teams as they drive towards expansion and category leadership. We’re not afraid to make bold bets especially when we have conviction on category leadership and to do whatever it takes to help companies reshape industries.

Can you talk about TCV’s view on hotel tech and its SiteMinder investment?

Travel and Hospitality has been a core focus of TCV for well over a decade. In addition to SiteMinder, the active portfolio companies we are working with include Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Sojern, Tour Radar, and Klook. Previously we were investors in Expedia, HomeAway, Orbitz, and Travelport, among others.

For SiteMinder, TCV led the Series B round and we have continued to stay active with the company as the lead director since then. Two of my partners David Yuan (General Partner) and Erik Blachford (Venture Partner) continue to serve on the Board of Directors.

SiteMinder has an incredible history, where is the company today?

SiteMinder is a hotel guest acquisition platform that connects hotels to future guests, so hoteliers can go back to doing what they love. It’s trusted by more than 30,000 hotels of all sizes, across 160 countries and has helped generate more than 87 million reservations worth over US$28 billion in revenue for hotels each year.

SiteMinder is based in Australia, how did you come across the investment?

It was a team effort. Back in 2011 to 2013 we spent a bunch of time mapping out the ecosystem for online travel and hospitality attending industry shows like HITEC and Phocuswright. Ultimately, we identified the channel management sector as promising albeit a lesser known segment in the category. Our view at the time was that online travel was increasingly complicated and in flux with new players vying for hotel distribution. Independent hotels were harder to aggregate but would also allow these same middlemen an ability to offer differentiated supply that was higher margin. Channel management became interesting because it aggregated and provided connectivity to this supply. We thought this was a hard problem particularly to do in a cost-effective way but when executed it could be highly strategic given the long-tail nature of both hotel supply and PMS. From there we focused on the best product and category leader which led us to SiteMinder. One of my colleagues got us an introduction to Mike Ford through an employee. We then got on the 14-hour flight over to Sydney and created a deal.

What’s one piece of advice you have for hotel tech entrepreneurs when raising capital?

Test the investors. Anyone can look at metrics, but make sure you push them on the nuances of your positioning and make sure they understand the depth of your industry and strategic implications of the various alternatives. Mike did this to us in a big way when we pursued SiteMinder and it always stuck with me.

One pitfall I’ve seen is entrepreneurs who get ahead of themselves with regards to the amount of capital raised or valuation and focus on those items vs. choosing the right partner. This can have implications down the road. I would say to raise what you need and what strategically makes sense given your market and opportunity. And focus as much time and energy as you can on the partner. In addition to the strategic perspective which is table stakes, I tend to think entrepreneurs should focus on investors with candor (to drive constructive feedback delivered in the right way) and humility (it’s all about the team and this also makes it more fun).

How do you think the hotel technology space will change over the next 5-years?

It’s a great time to be in hotel technology given how dynamic this market is. I think we are still early in the growth journey for hotel software. In my mind, there is no doubt that software will continue to play a larger and larger role in the next 5 years and continue to reshape the industry and guest and operator experience. We have also been spending a bunch of time on a thesis we are excited about, called “SaaS as a Platform and SaaS as a Network,” which is around the continued extension of the SaaS business model and platform companies leveraging their position in creating marketplaces with employees, suppliers, or customers. I think this trend has many opportunities in travel.

For hotels specifically, I think data, connectivity, and personalization will only increase in importance. Tools like SiteMinder Exchange, which is a data layer connecting PMS with applications and demand channels, can be a big part of this and drive innovation.

I also think there will continue to be more dominant global players with companies like Ctrip continuing global expansion and Google, Facebook/Instagram, and TripAdvisor starting to see momentum on their new models. The lines in the accommodation industry will continue to blur as Airbnb ramps up their investment and focus on hotels as well.

I also feel labor management will matter more, and there will be new innovative ways to tackle this challenge. This is something we’ve seen in the retail vertical which I think will also make its way to the travel industry.

People often say that the hotel industry is a bit slow to adopt technology. Do you agree?

I agree. But I don’t think it’s been driven by the lack of interest or desire. Hoteliers care deeply about guest experiences and the ones that I’ve spent time with often always go above and beyond what’s expected. The reality is that few industries are as fragmented as hospitality particularly at the PMS level. There has always been demand for many of the new applications, but innovation has been stifled by lack of connectivity and the sales model makes the economics challenging. Some of these barriers are starting to be broken down by SiteMinder and others which I think can unlock a lot of innovation for the industry. But this is a hard problem and it’s a complicated space with lots of moving pieces so that makes it challenging.R

If you were leaving venture capital tomorrow and forced to start a hotel technology company — what would it be?

That’s a tough one. Part of working in an operator role at SiteMinder helped me realize how hard it is to be an entrepreneur and scale a company. This only deepened my respect for what they do. I’m a big believer that you need to follow your heart, so I’d want to align it to something I am passionate about. Maybe I’d do something connecting hotels/travel and yoga which is something I’ve come to enjoy. And being a CFO and travelling a lot, I also think the opportunities in corporate travel remain significant.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing that you’ve learned from investing in hotel tech?

Not too much is surprising me at this point. It feels like there is never a dull day in hotel tech! One thing I did notice about some of the larger players in the space is that they serve hospitality, but at their core they are surprisingly not hospitable. One of my partners recently did a podcast with the former CMO at Airbnb and Coca-Cola and he talked about authenticity as an enduring and compounding competitive advantage. I think this is something that will matter more and more. I think it will eventually catch up with those companies who forget that, especially in hospitality tech.

What is the best book you’ve read lately and why?

“The Outsiders” by Will Thorndike. I read it a couple of years ago and it continues to stand out to me. The book profiles eight understated CEOs who took a different approach to corporate management. These “outsider” CEOs often didn’t have the charisma that society has conditioned us to expect and were often in their position for the first time. Humble, unassuming and often frugal, they shied away from advisors and the hottest new management trends, instead focusing on a pragmatic and a disciplined approach to capital allocation which drove extraordinary returns. I found myself getting lost in each of their stories and admiring their independent thinking and patience to wait for the right opportunity. “Shoe Dog” and “Limping on Water” are two others I enjoyed.

What is your favorite podcast?

The top 3 for me right now are Farnam Street, Invest Like the Best, and Acquired. All the them have caused me to think differently and continually expand my curiosity.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I love yoga and meditation.

For all the startups that might want to pitch in TCV’s office, what can you tell them about your investment criteria?

We recently began investing out of TCV X, a $3 billion fund, so the opportunities we pursue are typically between $30–300M. We tend to be flexible on all other aspects of a transaction type and focus on category leadership potential and growth. I really enjoy spending time with entrepreneurs and would love for folks to reach out even if they are a bit early. Companies can scale quickly so we would love to start a relationship well in advance.


Originally published at https://hoteltechreport.com on May 2, 2019.

The views and opinions expressed in the post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. This post is intended solely for prospective portfolio companies and their agents regarding TCV’s potential financing capabilities. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


The Xero Story: Building a Global Platform Out of New Zealand

We believe innovation and great entrepreneurs are everywhere. We’ve been fortunate to back some important technology franchises that were built outside of Silicon Valley. In particular, there’s a strong emerging software ecosystem coming out of Australia and New Zealand. We count two category leaders — SiteMinder in hotel management and Xero, a global leader in accounting software — in the TCV portfolio.

TCV GP David Yuan recently had a chance to chat with Rod Drury, Founder of Xero, about his take on building a business from the region. Rod and his team have created and scaled a massive SaaS platform for small businesses around the world that’s made Xero the largest tech company coming out of New Zealand.

Rod really packs in the lessons for growing companies, including:

  • The advantages of a small home market
  • How to build a global team and business from day one
  • Why Xero IPO’ed first and then scaled the business worldwide
  • How to make the journey its own reward

For this and a lot more, settle back and click play.

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.