NEW YORK, March 13, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Leading instructional content platform, Newsela, announced today a $50 million C investment from growth equity firm TCV, who has a history of backing successful content platforms, including Netflix and Spotify. Newsela will use these funds to accelerate its rapidly expanding footprint in schools across the country. With over 20M students and 1.8M teachers on the platform, Newsela is now being used in 90% of U.S. schools.
Newsela sources and curates rich, engaging digital content from hundreds of partners, making it accessible and personalized to student interests. Teachers rely on Newsela as a trusted source to help them move past lecturing and deliver a more modern social learning approach that fosters deeper connections with every student in the classroom, piques their curiosity, and enables discussion.
The investment from TCV will also fuel expansion of Newsela’s new Custom Collections offering, allowing districts to customize materials that match their unique curriculum standards.
“At TCV, we focus on finding transformative EdTech companies, and Newsela has proven to be a tool that boosts learning outcomes,” said Woody Marshall, General Partner at TCV. “Our investment will help extend the platform and make it more accessible and even more valuable to students, teachers, and administrators. We are especially excited by the great engagement and feedback that Newsela already has with their users.”
As part of the transaction, Woody Marshall, a General Partner at TCV, has joined Newsela’s Board of Directors.
“Today’s digital-savvy kids have unprecedented access to content they care about. But in the classroom, they’re often limited to textbooks and other outdated, inflexible materials that aren’t engaging. Most teachers resort to piecing together content found in web searches, which is not sustainable. This lack of relevant, safe, reliable and accessible materials has created a massive engagement gap in our schools. The future of education lies in closing this gap,” said Matthew Gross, CEO of Newsela.
“With high-speed broadband now ubiquitous and 1:1 computing (a non-shared laptop available to every student) the norm in classrooms, school districts are actively seeking solutions to this problem. They’re increasingly choosing Newsela to provide safe, trusted, accessible and engaging content and assessments, while giving teachers the freedom to personalize for their students’ interests and needs. With this investment from TCV, we will scale efforts to help districts turn their technology infrastructure into quantifiable results that improve learning outcomes.”
For more information about Newsela or to join the team, visit Newsela.com.
Newsela is an Instructional Content Platform that combines engaging, leveled content with integrated formative assessments and insights to supercharge engagement and learning in every subject. Students and teachers use Newsela to find digital content from 100+ of the best sources—from National Geographic to NASA, Biography.com to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Washington Post to the Wichita Eagle. Content is instructionalized to meet students where they are, with interactive tools and analytics to take them where they want to go. Newsela has become an essential solution for schools and districts, with a presence in over 90% of U.S. K-12 schools. Newsela is the content platform for the connected classroom. www.newsela.com
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $11 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Sportradar, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, WorldRemit and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.
McCarty and his partners built an innovative software company that transformed
the quality standards movement. Glenn recently sat down with TCV General
Venkatachalam to talk about the early days of the company and
deciding to sell it 25 years later. He also shares advice for founder CEOs of
technology companies looking to scale their business and what to expect if they
decide to go down the private equity path. Key topics include:
ETQ’s origins and early pivots
How to assess your buyout options and find the right partners
Preparing for success in the due diligence process
How to bring your team on board
The Early Days…
Kapil Venkatachalam: How would you describe
what ETQ does?
Glenn McCarty: Most people today know ETQ
as a provider of a quality management software platform that automates the
process of organizing operating data for managing compliance and quality
improvement across a variety of industries, including automotive, healthcare,
pharma, energy, food and beverage, and chemicals. It’s designed to layer onto a
company’s existing processes while opening up much better visibility into
opportunities for increasing quality and competitive advantage.
Kapil Venkatachalam:I’d love to hear more about the roots of
the company…the cocktail-napkin story. As I understand it, you were a consultant
rather than a technologist when you launched ETQ.
Glenn McCarty: Technically, I was an
auditor. In the 1980s the U.S. had gotten behind the curve for manufacturing
quality. The rest of the world was pushing ahead with ISO 9000, an
international standard for improving manufacturing processes, as a way to
improve product quality. It was becoming hard for U.S. companies to sell
products in Europe and Asia that didn’t come from factories with ISO 9000
Kapil Venkatachalam: How did this lead to
the formation of ETQ?
Glenn McCarty: I was working as a
quality engineer for Underwriters Laboratories in the U.S., and I was getting bored
with testing hairdryers. ISO 9000 was the big international trend in
manufacturing at the time. So I joined a group that was doing ISO 9000 audits.
giving failing grades to tons of manufacturers, because their processes just
didn’t measure up to the standard. We would get together with other auditors
after work and feel terrible. I was a 20-something quality auditor sitting in a
boardroom of a large company and telling the executive team all the quality issues
Kapil Venkatachalam: Did you see the vision for ETQ
given the demand and had it figured out from that point on?
even close. We started a consulting firm, because we saw that the big
accounting/consulting firms did not offer services to address ISO 9000. So we
pioneered that market. The thing is, we were able to help a lot of companies
achieve ISO 9000 certification, but then they struggled to maintain it. American
manufacturing was heavily oriented toward inspections and testing, while ISO
9000 focuses much more on process management with continuous improvement.
Pivoting to Software
Venkatachalam: What led you to
pivot from consulting to software?
McCarty: Two things. First, we knew from our auditing and
consulting experience that every company was different. They really valued the
processes they had developed to become successful, but there was so much
variation from company to company. While consulting was a great business that
filled a need, it was not scalable — we had to start over with every company
to learn their business. The other issue was that to maintain ISO 9000, U.S.
companies had to collect tons more information about their processes than they
were ever used to and capable of. It was a serious data management problem.
Venkatachalam: And this was decades before what we now call the “digital
McCarty: Exactly. No one was offering software focused
in this area.
Kapil Venkatachalam: What did you initially
envision for the product?
Glenn McCarty: We knew there was a need
for something more versatile than the document management systems of the time,
which had some nascent workflow capabilities. Companies needed real
workflow-based systems to lead their operating personnel through the process, track/capture
their process data, to capture their decisions. So we decided to develop
technology to track everything: all the
training records, audit findings, document approvals and revisions, different
corrective actions or non-conformances that went on in a factory.
When we made
the software, the first epiphany was that we had to develop software that could
be configurable, not customizable. And it all came from our auditing/consulting
days, knowing that companies have distinct processes. They had to be able to
layer the software over their own processes.
Assessing the Private Equity Route
Kapil Venkatachalam: When did you start
thinking about an exit? What drove that decision?
Glenn McCarty: Things were going well
for us, growth was high, and the profits were great relatively speaking to
where we came from – we started in a basement. And we said, “Let’s
continue growing this, we can do this.” We kept our heads down and kept
hitting our targets. As a founder, you think there are no limits to growth. And
while I still believe that’s true, I began to realize that home-grown leadership
had its limitations. That’s simply reality. I began to wonder what was out
Kapil Venkatachalam: How did you put that realization into action?
Glenn McCarty: The truth is, we used to get letters from
various companies saying they were interested in investing in us or acquiring
us. We didn’t even respond to them. Then one of our competitors was bought by a
large company. I called that company up and said, “Hey, why did you buy our
competitor? We’re stronger than them, we’re bigger than them, we’re better than
them.” They said, “Well, you wouldn’t talk to us.” That’s when we
started to explore our options to bring on a partner.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Did you have a framework to evaluate
Glenn McCarty: We didn’t have much of a
framework, but we did have some goals. The main goal was to maximize the value
and the potential of the business. That, for us, meant we wanted two things in
our partner. One was keeping ETQ intact as a business. We had seen scenarios where
competitors were bought by a platform company and integrated into another model.
We didn’t want that. The other key aspect for the partner was to bring a lot
more than money. To maximize the value and potential of the business, we needed
a partner with domain expertise, someone who could understand what we built and
take it to the next level.
Kapil Venkatachalam:What about a good fit in terms of culture?
Glenn McCarty: Really important.
Working with like-minded people, who see things the way you do, makes
everything easier. That realization came quickly, after we began meeting with
potential investors. A lot of them had their standard approach, and we were
supposed to just fit into it. For example, there were the folks that said,
“When we buy you, we’ll keep you folks as the executive management team.
We want to come to board meetings and have you report to us on how great you’re
Kapil Venkatachalam:Was that appealing?
Glenn McCarty: When we asked, “How are you going to help
us with our products, with sales and marketing?” they said, “Well, we know
people.” And I said, “No, that’s not going to work.” Then we had other
people say, “We’re going to send you back to “school.” You’re going to
have to do this our way.”
engineer and went to many years of school before I graduated. The last thing I
wanted was to change everything we had built and stood for. What we were
hearing was either status quo or a reeducation program, but our main goal was
to maximize value and potential. We
recognized that we needed a partner who offered value creation via a true
partnership. Once that came into focus
our next steps became clear. I would
advise founders to seek a partner who can think about your business and your
goals the way you do and bring in improvement and new sources of value. Because
you’re going to be talking about that value, and working on that, side by side,
for months to come.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Once you knew what type of partner could offer
the right fit in terms of your objectives and culture, you headed into the
private equity journey. In hindsight, what lessons would you offer to other
people who are thinking about taking this journey?
Glenn McCarty: In retrospect, the most
important thing is to prepare. Like everything else in life, luck favors the
people who are ready for it. You have to think ahead about what buyers want, so
you don’t wind up doing fire drills down the line because you weren’t prepared.
You want to show them a smooth-running business with a ton of potential.
Kapil Venkatachalam:What are the keys to good preparation?
Glenn McCarty: I would say there are two things. First,
surround yourself with good advisors. You are not in the business of selling companies,
so get people who are experienced. Your cousin, your sole proprietary
accountant or lawyer, the people on your softball team might say he or she can
advise you, but it’s unlikely. The reason it’s unlikely is, if they were
experts in buying and selling companies then they would be doing that for a
living. You don’t ask your CFO to write code, because that’s not what she/he
Kapil Venkatachalam:Also, no one expert or firm is going to
be the best at everything.
Glenn McCarty: That’s right, you want experts in each area of
financials, taxes, legal, and so on. And this gets us to the other big thing
about preparation: you have to get your management team ready. In most cases,
they are going to be the ones working with your expert advisors, and then with
the experts from the acquiring company. As the CEO you are relying on your
management team to raise the bar to meet the due diligence level. You need to
make sure that the right people on your team are aware of what’s coming their
way and connect them with the right coaches, so they can be prepared in terms
of their time, their systems, and whatever information they are going to have
Kapil Venkatachalam:What are some of the points you might
use to differentiate buyers?
Glenn McCarty: You want to know how many founder-owned
companies the potential partner has acquired in the past. How many of those
companies did the buyer scale up successfully? What is their expertise in sales
and marketing or product development? How many other companies in their
portfolio could become customers or business partners for you? You want to know
all these things, because the potential buyers are doing exactly the same
analysis of your company.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Let’s dig a little deeper here and talk
through the different areas of preparation for the due diligence process.
Glenn McCarty: The first thing to realize is that it’s going
to be time-consuming. It’s easy to think that you already have your house in
order, because your business is humming along. But the buyers have a completely
different perspective. They will require you to participate in a due diligence
process to demonstrate your companies past and future potential.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Explain why financial systems matter,
along with the numbers.
Glenn McCarty: In hindsight, while you might think the world
of your business and its strategic value, at the end of the day the objective
measures of success are financial. If you think you are headed for private
equity, you may want to invest in better financial systems first. If you do not
have a CFO, you might want to seriously consider bringing one on even though
you only have one to three years to go before exiting. One of the benefits is that your financial
advisors won’t have to work so hard to explain your financials. They are going
to spend some time at this no matter what, but better systems speed it up.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Many founders are aware of the need for
strong financials, but they are surprised by the amount of purely legal work
that also has to get done.
Glenn McCarty: We had not realized that our contracts with
customers and suppliers would be scrutinized. You have to prepare an amazing
number of documents for a transaction. So yes, you need good legal advice and
some leverage for document creation, and it should be from a firm that
specializes in the type of transaction you are doing. Even with support from an
outside legal firm, your General Counsel will be spending a huge amount of time
on a transaction, so you have to make plans for them to continue with the
business operations while the transaction process is in play.
Kapil Venkatachalam:So now you have your advisors lined up.
They’re all experts. But the people on your team may not be experienced in the
process ahead. What do you tell them? How do you prepare them?
Glenn McCarty: First, it’s important to understand the
implications of what you are asking. In our case, we had a lot of long-term
employees who had worked their way into senior management, so they had never
seen this process somewhere else. In that situation, you have to ease them into
the whole idea, bring them into your thinking, and get them aligned before you
start explaining what they’re going to have to do.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Is this an area where you can get
Glenn McCarty: I think you have to get them involved, because
they know the drill and probably most of your team doesn’t. They can provide
education about the process before it starts and coaching all the way through
it. You need this because the same employees you are asking to help you sell
the company are also running it. No matter how you look at it, this is an ask
that is an additional task to their day job. The danger of distraction is
there. You need your team to be on top of the due diligence process, while also
making sure the ship doesn’t lose speed or direction.
Kapil Venkatachalam:That’s great, thanks, Glenn. My final
question is about the takeaways for founders who may be looking at these
options. What’s your advice in a nutshell?
Glenn McCarty: Private equity firms provide an interesting
alternative to help you maximize the potential of what you have already built.
That said, you have to take the time to find the right firm for you – whose
values, experience, and vision are aligned with yours. As we discussed earlier,
you have to prepare your team for the journey before you lead them on it. And
finally, recognize the value of good advisors. They are worth the money because
they bring you the right partners and prepare you for a successful partnership.
Selling your business is both exhausting and exhilarating, and I am grateful
for all the support I received.
Kapil Venkatachalam:Thanks so much, Glenn.
The views and opinions
expressed in the transcript above are those of the speakers and do not
necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This
transcript 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. TCV has not verified the accuracy of
any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility
therefor. 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
HELSINKI & MENLO PARK, Calif.–RELEX Solutions, a leading provider of unified retail planning solutions, today announced that TCV has made a $200 million minority investment in the company. TCV is one of the largest providers of capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry and has backed industry-leading companies, including Airbnb, Facebook, Netflix, Splunk, Spotify, WorldRemit and Zillow.
RELEX provides an end-to-end retail planning solution enabling companies to improve their competitiveness through accurate forecasting and replenishment, localized assortments, profitable use of space and optimized workforce planning. RELEX has consistently achieved 50 percent year on year growth and attracted leading brands across the globe including Coop Denmark, Franprix, MediaMarkt, Morrisons, PartyCity, Rossmann and WHSmith.
RELEX will use the funding to continue to fuel its successful growth. The company’s three founders, Mikko Kärkkäinen, Johanna Småros and Michael Falck, see the additional funding as a means of fulfilling their vision of changing the world of retail planning. The founders will stay in their senior management roles, remain significant shareholders and will continue to set the strategy and direction for the Company. RELEX’s existing investor Summit Partners will retain an equity stake in the business and will continue to hold a seat on the RELEX board of directors.
“The development of retail and supply chain planning has been held back by siloed organizations and limitations in how technologies integrate,” comments RELEX’s CEO Mikko Kärkkäinen. “Our vision is to change how the field works by driving a more responsive unified planning process. We are already off to a good start — now we will increase our speed by accelerating our product development ambitions, hiring more tech talent and investing further into the development of our organization as well as further expanding our retail-specific machine learning and AI capabilities that complement our core data processing platform.”
TCV’s General Partner John Doran says: “We seek to partner with businesses and management teams that are poised to grow to dominate global markets in their sectors. We are impressed by RELEX’s modern, highly flexible and cloud-based software, as well as its exceptional data processing performance. RELEX has very high customer satisfaction with customers benefitting from inventory and waste reduction, improved stock availability, more efficient goods handling and less time spent on ordering. We are aligned with the founders’ vision for RELEX and look forward to supporting the management team.”
“With a robust product and a keen focus on delivering ROI to customers, RELEX has built a significant customer base across numerous retail segments and geographies. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with RELEX and delighted to welcome TCV,” adds Han Sikkens, a Managing Director with Summit Partners.
RELEX Solutions is dedicated to helping retail businesses improve their competitiveness through localized assortments, profitable use of retail space, accurate forecasting and replenishment, and optimized workforce planning. Our SaaS solutions deliver quick return on investment and can be used independently or jointly for unified retail planning, enabling cross-functional optimization of retail’s core processes: merchandising, supply chain and store operations. RELEX Solutions is trusted by leading brands including WHSmith, Morrisons, AO.com, Coop Denmark and Rossmann, and has offices across North America and Europe. For more information go to: www.relexsolutions.com
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Sportradar, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, WorldRemit and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.
Category-creating companies typically tackle a problem people didn’t know they had, or a problem considered too big to solve. Under CEO Jeff Hudson, Venafi has taken on one of the largest unrecognized problems imaginable: managing the encrypted communications between the machines that run in every organization and the internet. As result, Venafi is defining a new category called Machine Identity Protection.
At TCV, we’ve been watching the number of machines grow exponentially. It’s not just that IoT (Internet of Things) is connecting physical devices to the internet. It’s the software machines – virtual servers, containers, microservices – that are proliferating even faster due to cloud computing and the shift to mobile apps. These software machines are now creating machines on their own. Everything we do online involves machines identifying each other before granting access, delivering data, or conducting transactions. If those encrypted connections are not secure, nothing is.
But surprisingly few companies are trying to crack this problem at the necessary scale. Instead, the world poured billions of dollars into securing human identities, while the number of machine identities grew exponentially behind the scenes. When Jeff Hudson came to Venafi in 2010, driving the company’s evolution toward machine identity protection, we saw a great fit with our core investment thesis that continued growth in the digital economy depends on security. Creating the Machine Identity Protection category positions Venafi at the intersection of multiple major tech trends including cybersecurity, the cloud, IoT, SaaS, and DevOps. So we are truly excited to invest in the company and partner with Jeff’s team in scaling Venafi to its full potential.
The company has plenty of momentum, with more than 300 customers, and with its portfolio of 30 patents, Venafi has lifted machine identity out of the fragmented, nuts-and-bolts phase and elevated it to full solution status. The Venafi platform gives enterprises global visibility into their machine identity risks, generates actionable intelligence for managing them, and automates the processes for addressing them. Early adopters have learned that the Venafi platform transcends and unifies many of the security point solutions out there, from inventorying and policy enforcement to analytics and threat detection. And once customers discover what Venafi can do for them, they want more.
None of this comes as a surprise, because Jeff has a rare combination of strategic vision and disciplined execution. He plays the long game and that’s why he increased Venafi’s R&D efforts to address a problem most people didn’t see coming: the need to secure encrypted communication not just between people and machines, but between the machines themselves. At TCV, we also witnessed Jeff’s skill in recruiting world-class talent at a time when the supply of engineering talent is getting tight, particularly in the cybersecurity sector.
Jeff and his team recognize the critical role security plays in the digital economy. It’s not just about selling product, it’s about securing connections, data, and commerce. It works with anyone’s cloud and any type of machine. The open, public key infrastructure (PKI) system that underlies internet security has created a horde of “Certificate Authorities” (CAs), to the point that many large companies don’t know how many different CAs they are dependent upon. We believe Venafi dissolves these complexities, giving enterprises a unified, vendor-agnostic, dashboard-driven view of machine identity.
Given the growing risks that all companies and consumers face from cybercriminals, it’s essential that the fragmented security industry find more cohesive solutions, and Venafi is showing a way forward. TCV is excited to come onboard and contribute to the journey.
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 are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. Certain information contained herein has been obtained from third-party sources, including any portfolio companies described above. Such information has not been independently verified by TCV, and TCV does not assume responsibility for the accuracy of such information.
Salt Lake City–November 29, 2018–Venafi®, the leading provider of machine identity protection, today announced the closing of a $100 million round of financing, led by TCV with additional participation from existing investors, QuestMark Partners and NextEquity Partners. TCV is one of the largest and most respected providers of capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry and has backed industry-leading companies, including Airbnb, Alarm.com, Cradlepoint, Genesys, Netflix, Rapid7, Silver Peak, Splunk, Spotify and Zillow. As part of the transaction, TCV general partner, Jake Reynolds, joins Venafi’s board of directors.
The funding will be used to accelerate Venafi’s growth and to cement the firm’s growing market leadership. In addition to fueling growth, $12.5 million of the investment will be made available to third-party developers in the first tranche of the new Machine Identity Protection Development Fund. Venafi created the fund to accelerate the integration of machine identity intelligence into a wide range of machines in the enterprise and further enhance and expand the machine identity ecosystem. The fund will allow developers, including consultancies, systems integrators, fast-moving startups, open source developers and cybersecurity vendors to apply for sponsorship. This sponsorship will allow recipients to build integrations that deliver greater visibility, intelligence and automation for Venafi customers across any technology that creates or consumes machine identities.
“Identity is the foundation of security,” said Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi. “The cyber world is made up of machines, and all machines require identities for the cyber world to be secure. As a society, we understand the risks associated with human identity theft very well, and we spend over $8 billion per year protecting human identities. However, most organizations don’t yet understand the risks associated with machine identities and, as a result, spend almost nothing to protect them. This leaves our global digital economy at risk. TCV has a long history of partnering with the world’s leading technology firms, so we’re very excited about the opportunity to work with them. Their investment and expertise will help us ensure that the world’s machines, including hardware and software from smart machines, virtual servers, applications, containers, and more, are connected, safe and secure.”
Just as usernames and passwords are used to identify and authenticate humans, machine identities enable the trusted relationships between machines that control the flow of sensitive data. Because machine identities are poorly understood and often unprotected, they are subject to being exploited by cybercriminals. The Venafi platform protects the machine identities whose underlying technology is cryptographic keys and digital certificates by providing unparalleled visibility, intelligence and automation.
“The team at TCV is excited about our partnership with Venafi,” said Jake Reynolds, general partner at TCV. “DevOps and IoT are driving growth in the number of machines thanks to cloud computing, virtualization, and the proliferation of connected devices. Venafi is well-positioned to provide the machine identity protection for enterprise machines, and we look forward to supporting the Venafi team as they continue to scale in this rapidly expanding market.”
With over 30 patents, Venafi delivers innovative machine identity protection solutions for the world’s most demanding, security-conscious Global 5000 organizations, including the top five U.S. health insurers; the top five U.S. airlines; four of the top five U.S. retailers; and four of the top five banks in each of the following countries: U.S., U.K., Australia and South Africa.
Venafi is the inventor and cybersecurity market leader in machine identity protection, securing connections and communications between machines. Venafi protects machine identity types by orchestrating cryptographic keys and digital certificates for SSL/TLS, IoT, mobile and SSH. Venafi provides global visibility of machine identities and the risks associated with them for the extended enterprise—on premises, mobile, virtual, cloud and IoT—at machine speed and scale. Venafi puts this intelligence into action with automated remediation that reduces the security and availability risks connected with weak or compromised machine identities while safeguarding the flow of information to trusted machines and preventing communication with untrusted machines.
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.
A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.
What separates companies that move quickly towards a common goal from those that struggle to find unity? Why is it that some teams can routinely find a second, third, or fourth gear of execution? How do people who start with divergent objectives find common ground? Perhaps most importantly, why are some leaders successfully plug-and-play no matter what technical problem, cultural issue, or market challenge they are tasked with addressing?
In my last post on “Hiring for Leaders”, I talked about how you can both screen for and cultivate leadership qualities as your company scales. These qualities include taking positions, creating environments where multiple perspectives are acknowledged, and being adaptable. In this post I’ll build on that framework to discuss narrative – a critically important concept that is talked about often but still remains confusing for many people in business.
Why Is Narrative So Important?
During my time at Facebook and Pinterest, I noticed one element that drove successful outcomes: the connection between people and company objectives. This connection can take different forms: intuitively understanding the why of what people were tasked with, linking personal goals with company goals, creating less friction with other teams, and being resilient in the face of obstacles. The differentiator in all of this was the construction and delivery of a narrative.
Narrative creates the ability to connect people to your company and your company mission and drive collective action. The corollary to this deceptively simple statement is that narrative is not one thing – it’s not just a story. Narrative binds individuals to a living set of company attributes.
The following tenets are core to creating a compelling narrative.
Establish Clear Mission and Vision Statements
You can think about the mission and vision as the why and the how. Both are critical to any organization, large or small, because they become the scaffolding for how teams construct their roadmaps and how leadership talks about them.
At Pinterest, the mission was to help people discover and do the things that they love. As our technology advanced and our customers engaged with it more fully, our vision of how Pinterest could change the world also changed. This taught me that while the vision of a future outcome may not stay the same, the mission – the why – should remain stable. It’s the foundation for how people and teams answer the “Why are we doing this?” questions that naturally arise. Changing the mission can create confusion about priorities.
Make sure every team creates a mission and vision statement for the work that they do. You may call it a scope doc, a PRD, MRD, or something else entirely. But if the mission doesn’t answer why people are working on something, and the vision doesn’t show how that work changes things for customers and the company, it’s difficult for people to understand why and how their work is helping the company achieve its objectives.
Develop Long-Term Roadmaps
A roadmap is a narrative about where you’re going and what happens along the way. Push your teams to create three-year roadmaps. Acknowledge that the value in the exercise is not the accuracy with which teams can predict the future, but rather the exercise itself.
Teams with a roadmap for the future end up moving faster because they have already envisioned a journey in the process of creating the roadmap. They’re not disoriented when the real road turns or twists, because they already foresaw and prepared for some of them – and anticipated that there might be a few surprises along the way. That in turn alleviates the level of oversight and explanation that leaders need to provide, because their teams are advancing within a larger, more longitudinal comfort zone.
In creating the roadmap, aim to resolve it to a vision statement. This should be a 1+1=3 exercise where individual functions intersect and combine to create an even more powerful outcome. The company vision should be a leading indicator of what teams should strive to accomplish.
A good way of thinking about this at the team level or even division level is to break out into thematic areas and assign varying levels of confidence in the work. Those confidence levels will decrease the further you get out into the future.
Even if the technology you envision doesn’t exist, writing down the roadmap is a helpful exercise to plotting out an initial path.
Everything is measurable, but not everything can be measured in the same way. Create space for teams to define their metrics so that their output can be measured in ways that are meaningful. These metrics naturally generate narratives about how to meet or exceed them. They become a source of ongoing conversation within teams and between teams: Do we have the right metrics for meeting company objectives? Should we adjust them for technology or customer behavior? Do our metrics mesh with our mission and vision?
When these conversations take place, people feel naturally connected to the company and its goals. This process is so powerful that it’s essential to make sure that all the team-level metrics ladder up to company-level objectives. You don’t want people embracing their metrics (and their roadmap) and then arriving someplace the company did not want them to go.
You also need to ensure that team roadmaps do not collide and create conflict. If they do, reflect on each team independently and try to assess how it moves the company forward towards its top-level goals. If one team comes out on top, talk to the other team in the conflict about how they could adjust their roadmap and still achieve their goals and the company’s goals.
Know that there will always be trade-offs to make, and that your job as a leader is to create the narrative that keeps teams informed, aligned, and excited.
Create Cross-Functional Narrative Forums
Often as companies grow quickly, the first thing to go out the window is inter-team communication on strategy and goals. This can lead to misalignments, political posturing regarding resources, and management attrition. A great way to prevent this is to create regular forums for your leadership team to sit together and explain to one another what they are doing and why. You’re not asking them to justify their existence or run their numbers. You’re asking them to tell everyone else a narrative about their mission, vision and roadmap, and how the journey is progressing.
Smart leaders will bring a narrative that is tightly aligned with what they hear from their teams. It also gives the narrative “legs” for traveling across the entire enterprise – something that is otherwise rare.
Getting team-level narratives elevated to the leadership level, across functions, accomplishes a number of positive outcomes. First, it creates empathy among and within the leadership team about other team members’ goals, challenges and objectives. During resourcing conflicts, you want leadership team members to be able to advocate just as empathically for another team as they would for their own.
Second, it forces understanding. Anytime you have to tell a good story, you have to understand that story far better than the people you are delivering it to. The requirement to share your team’s story with other leaders forces you to master that narrative. Detailed work has to be distilled down to essentials. Technical complexity has to become clarity. Acronyms disappear, replaced by meaningful, memorable terms. Just the process of preparing a narrative about your team can help you spot work that is not truly aligned with company objectives.
Third, delivering cross-function narratives establishes trust at the inter-team level. Putting leaders in a position to explain to their teams why other teams are doing what they are, or why a trade-off decision went against them, establishes an authentic authority.
The most successful teams have leaders that can weave a story using the foundations described above and connect it at various altitudes throughout the company. Driving board alignment around a strategic shift isn’t that different than getting your ops teams to the same place. It’s about creating shared understanding that drives people’s internal connection to the company’s goals.
Metrics, technologies and quantitative goals are important for any business to succeed. But without a narrative that makes people own them, they’re just components of a machine without a soul.
HONG KONG, Aug. 7, 2018 — Klook, a world-leading full-service in-destination booking platform, today announced it has closed US$200 million in Series D funding, bringing its total financing to date to US$300 million. This makes Klook the most-funded company in the tours and activities sector globally. Investors in this round include Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs, Boyu Capital, TCV, an Asia-based sovereign wealth fund, OurCrowd, and some family offices. Sequoia China, Matrix Partners and Goldman Sachs also led the Series C in October 2017. The investment further strengthens Klook’s position as a global player in the travel sector, and accelerates its expansion in the US and Europe, including product growth and technology innovation.
Founded in 2014, Klook is one of the world’s fastest-growing booking platforms, covering attractions, tours, and local experiences as well as local transport and railway services around the globe. It offers travelers more than 50,000 activities and services provided by over 5,000 industry partners in 200+ destinations worldwide. Since closing its US$60 million Series C fund last year, the company has opened offices in London and Amsterdam, and now employs more than 600 people across 16 offices around the world. Its robust growth is driven by the rise of independent travelers and an increasing consumer appreciation for travel experiences. The company is on track to achieve US$1 billion annual bookings in 2018.
Klook will continue to expand its global footprint, with plans to open an office in the US by the end of 2018. The company will also be adding more US and Europe-based curated activities and services onto the platform to fulfill an increasing demand from Asian travelers for diverse and unique in-destination experiences . Simultaneously, Klook will look to bring more US and European travelers to Asia, supporting the company’s long-term vision of serving travelers worldwide to easily discover destinations that are both popular and unique.
Klook has been a pioneer in driving travel innovation, developing travel operator solutions such as the Merchant App and QR-code based e-voucher redemption. Klook’s technology solutions have been widely recognized and adopted by its merchant partners including world-renowned attractions, mass railway transit and other offline service operators. Klook will continue to collaborate with its merchant partners to further provide frictionless, real-time booking experiences for modern travelers.
“Our mission is to empower travelers to build their own unique journey,” said Ethan Lin, CEO and Co-Founder of Klook, “This round of funding marks an important milestone for us. The funding and extensive experience from our new investors will let us to further solidify our merchant portfolio and provide travelers with even more activities and destinations to explore around the world.”
“We are committed to using innovative technologies to help digitize the tours and activities industry,” said Eric Gnock Fah, COO and Co-Founder of Klook. “The new funding will help us deepen our partnership with merchants through more technological solutions that bring new sources of customers and optimize operational efficiencies.”
“By leveraging their strength in digitally transforming their suppliers of tours and activities and tapping into the new generation of mobile-first travelers, Klook is emerging as the clear leader in the online tours and activities sector,” said Neil Shen, Founding and Managing Partner of Sequoia China. “We look forward to seeing Klook help more and more travelers connect to suppliers, and become a key source of inbound demand for Asia and beyond.”
“TCV seeks to invest in companies with exceptional management teams that drive technological innovation,” said David Yuan, General Partner at TCV. “Klook is at the forefront of transforming the travel industry and we’ve been impressed with the team and the company’s growth. We are excited to help them advance their global strategy and expansion.”
Founded in 2014, Klook is one of the world’s leading travel activities and services booking platforms. Klook gives travelers a seamless way to discover and book popular attractions, tours, local transportation, best foods and must-eats, and unique experiences around the world on its website and award-winning app (‘Best of 2015’ & ‘Best of 2017’ by Google Play and Apple App Store). With Klook’s innovative technologies, travelers can book after arriving in their destinations and redeem the services by using QR codes or e-vouchers. Each day, Klook empowers countless travelers to indulge in their wanderlust and spontaneity through over 50,000 offerings in more than 200 destinations.
With a team of over 600 across 16 offices worldwide, Klook’s services are available in eight languages and 36 currencies. It has raised a total of US$300 million investment from world-renowned investors including Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs, Boyu Capital, and TCV. Get inspired by Klook at www.klook.com or the company blog.
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, SiteMinder, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.
NEW YORK, Aug. 3, 2018 — Peloton, the global fitness technology company, today announced a $550 million Series F financing round; capital that will enable it to continue to innovate aggressively and to expand into more international markets. The round is led by TCV, one of the world’s largest technology growth equity firms. Nearly all of Peloton’s existing institutional investors, including Tiger Global, True Ventures, Wellington Management, Fidelity (FMRCo), NBCUniversal, Kleiner Perkins and Balyasny participated in this round, joined by new investors, including Felix Capital, Winslow Capital and other mutual fund partners.
Jay Hoag, Founding General Partner of TCV, who also serves on the board of Netflix, Electronic Arts, Zillow, and other prominent technology companies, will join the Peloton Board of Directors. He joins TCV Venture Partner Erik Blachford, who has been on Peloton’s board since 2015.
“We are truly honored to partner with TCV and with Jay Hoag personally,” said John Foley, founder and CEO of Peloton. “TCV’s reputation, experience, and involvement in businesses like Netflix, Spotify and Facebook will be invaluable as we build Peloton into one of the most unique and influential global consumer product and media companies of our day.”
“We look for companies that offer their consumers a great value proposition, have engaged and delighted customers, and are led by visionary CEOs who have built a world-class management team,” said TCV’s Founding General Partner Jay Hoag. “We found all of these characteristics in Peloton and look forward to working with John and the entire team on their journey to revolutionize the home fitness category.”
The $550M Series F round brings the total equity raised by Peloton to nearly $1B since its inception, and positions Peloton to take full advantage of the growing global trend of instructor-led fitness classes moving into the home.
Since its last round of funding, Peloton has seen rapid growth across several key areas and is preparing to launch several new initiatives, including the following:
Global Expansion: This fall, the Peloton Bike will launch in the UK and Canada, marking the brand’s first new markets outside the US.
Retail Presence: Peloton plans to open at least 20 new retail showrooms in the US, UK and Canada by early 2019, bringing its total number of locations to more than 60 worldwide.
Peloton Tread: The company will launch its highly-anticipated second product, the Peloton Tread, this fall. Hundreds of running, walking, bootcamp and strength classes have already been produced in Peloton’s Tread Studio, which opened in New York’s West Village in May 2018.
Peloton Digital: Peloton recently introduced a new digital membership that offers over 10,000 live and on-demand, instructor-led classes across several fitness categories, such as cycling, running, walking, bootcamp, strength, stretching and yoga, for under $20/month.
Real Estate Footprint: Peloton announced plans to open a 25,000+ square foot campus in Plano, TX, which will serve as its member support hub, and Peloton Studios, a 35,000+ square foot, state-of-the-art flagship studio complex at Brookfield’s Manhattan West development in New York City. This new fitness facility will house Peloton’s broadcast and production operations and multiple studios from which thousands of group fitness classes will be hosted and live streamed for the Peloton Bike, Peloton Tread and Peloton Digital.
J.P. Morgan served as the sole placement agent to Peloton on the transaction.
The financing will be used for general corporate purposes, including providing liquidity to certain existing shareholders, and is scheduled to close in the third calendar quarter, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
Founded in 2012, Peloton is reinventing fitness by bringing live and on-demand boutique-style studio classes to the convenience and comfort of your own home. Our immersive fitness content, taught by Peloton’s roster of elite instructors, features real-time motivation and curated playlists of your favorite artists. The Peloton experience can be accessed through the Peloton Bike, the Peloton Tread, or Peloton Digital, an iOS app that offers an all-access pass to a full slate of fitness offerings, anytime, anywhere. Peloton is changing the way people get fit through a comprehensive and socially connected experience that makes every workout both efficient and addictive. The company has a growing number of retail showrooms across the US and, starting this fall, will launch in the UK and Canada. For more information, visit www.onepeloton.com.
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. Investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe Digital, Dollar Shave Club, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit www.tcv.com.
NEW YORK, July 18, 2018 — Today Watermark announced that EvaluationKIT, the leading provider of enterprise online course evaluation and survey software for educational institutions, has joined the Watermark family. EvaluationKIT had been recognized this past June by SIIA as an Education Technology CODiE Award Winner for the 2018 Best Higher Education Enterprise Solution. With this addition, Watermark becomes the market leader in outcomes assessment, course evaluation, and faculty activity reporting solutions to help colleges and universities streamline core institutional processes while capturing and using better data to drive improvements at all levels of the institution.
Founded by Kevin Hoffman and Matt Rahdar in 2007, EvaluationKIT has been driven by a mission to empower institutions with robust and easy-to-use technology to support course evaluation and institutional survey needs. A two-time SIIA CODiE Award winner and integrated with all leading higher education learning management systems, EvaluationKIT provides a complete online solution for administrators to create and distribute surveys across the entire campus and automate information-rich reporting for faculty. Today, millions of users, including students, instructors, department chairs, IT and LMS administrators, deans, and provosts at over 400 educational institutions around the world are using EvaluationKIT to generate actionable insights and improve teaching and learning.
“For more than 20 years, Kevin Hoffman has been working to support and improve student feedback processes in education. He is recognized as one of the leading authorities in online course evaluation, from his early work in this area launching the first large-scale adoptions in U.S. higher education to building EvaluationKIT as the leader in this product category. I greatly respect the contributions Kevin and his group continue to make in this space,” said Kevin Michielsen, CEO of Watermark.
Michielsen continued, “That kind of experience aligns well with our mission to help institutions engage in meaningful feedback practices in order to gather, organize, and use data to improve student and institutional outcomes. In combining our experience with that of EvaluationKIT, we’re working hard to bring together a more comprehensive set of solutions that better support the higher ed community.”
Kevin Hoffman, EvaluationKIT’s CEO and Co-founder, commented, “We are excited to be joining the Watermark family and plan to continue our mission to provide the leading software solution for institutions to collect and report on student feedback for course evaluation and institutional survey needs. At the same time, we recognize the value of merging this process with other streams of institutional data to provide even more powerful insights and efficiencies for institutions. This is what is truly thrilling about becoming a part of Watermark and the vision for an integrated educational intelligence system that empowers administrators, faculty, and students with better-connected data to make evidence-based decisions and drive improvements.”
Watermark Now the Largest Educational Intelligence Provider in the Industry.
In 2017, the three largest providers of ePortfolio and assessment management solutions for higher education – Taskstream, Tk20, and LiveText – joined forces to become what is now Watermark. Last month, Digital Measures, the leading provider of web-based faculty activity reporting software, joined Watermark. Now with EvaluationKIT, the leading provider of course evaluation and institutional survey software, Watermark can better serve higher education institutions with an expanded set of solutions.
Watermark has over 75 years of combined experience serving higher education and more than 1,600 unique partner institutions worldwide. This increase in size, resources, and expertise allows Watermark to provide institutions with more extensive data and meaningful insights to drive improvements at all levels.
“Like Watermark, EvaluationKIT is focused on helping their partner institutions optimize outcomes and effect positive changes through the use of feedback and data,” said Nari Ansari, Principal at TCV – Watermark’s chief majority investor. “Together, Watermark will work toward a comprehensive, integrated educational intelligence system that provides a more holistic view of learning and institutional quality to enable continuous improvement initiatives at colleges and universities.”
Watermark’s mission is to put better data into the hands of administrators, faculty, and learners everywhere in order to empower them to connect information and gain insights into learning which will drive meaningful improvements. Through its innovative educational intelligence platform, Watermark supports institutions in developing an intentional approach to learning and development based on data they can trust. For more information, visit www.watermarkinsights.com.
EvaluationKIT is the leading provider of enterprise online course evaluation and survey software to over 400 educational institutions. Easy to implement and straightforward to manage, EvaluationKIT includes a variety of features proven to drive response rates, with turnkey integrations for learning management systems and a robust suite of reporting functionality. For more information, visit www.EvaluationKIT.com.
CHICAGO — tastytrade, Inc., the award-winning, innovative financial media company and parent to financial subsidiaries, announced today $20 million in new funding from TCV. The funding will be used to continue to challenge the traditional financial models and products currently offered to retail, self-directed investors.
The funding follows the company’s 2017 expansion of launching tastyworks, a high-speed technology brokerage firm with low fees and capped commissions. In 2018, the team created an investment advisory initiative called Quiet Foundation based on data-driven research, which provides unique risk analysis of any investment portfolio held at any firm. tastytrade continues to level the playing field by formulating new trading vehicles appropriately sized for retail investors.
“tastytrade remains focused on fighting for and empowering the everyday investor, providing free and engaging video content that empowers investors with actionable information they can apply every day,” said Kristi Ross, co-CEO and President of tastytrade, Inc. “Research-based content, trading technology, and the tastyworks’ brokerage are just the base for what we’re building. The overall tastytrade vision encompasses an offering that goes much deeper than most large institutions are willing to go.”
Tom Sosnoff, co-CEO and Chairman of tastytrade, Inc. added, “If you’re going to change the world, it starts with changing the way people think about strategic active investing. TCV has been a long-term supporter of our vision and our mission, initially with thinkorswim in May 2004, and now with their continued investment in tastytrade.”
TCV is a leading, Silicon Valley-based provider of growth capital to private and public technology companies, that has deployed over $1.5 billion in the fintech sector. “TCV’s mission is to invest in exceptional management teams who are reshaping industries and are innovators willing to disrupt even their own business models,” said Jake Reynolds, general partner at TCV. “We’re supporting a team that we believe has and can continue to transform the way self-directed investors interact with trading technology, financial media and new products.”
tastytrade is one of the most-watched online financial networks, engaging investors and traders across 165 countries with 8 hours of daily, live, cost-free and commercial free programming with almost 100 million hours viewed. tastytrade offers over 50 original segments for new and seasoned veteran traders. tastytrade’s research-based content teaches a logical, mechanical approach to investing and identifying opportunities based on probability and volatility. Investors are continually challenged with financial math, humor and new market perspectives. tastytrade is also the parent company to tastyworks, a brokerage firm creating and leading a financial revolution for the do-it-yourself investor and to Quiet Foundation, a data science-driven, fee-free investment advisory service. tastytrade and its companies focus on empowering the individual investor through content, technology and know-how.
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Avalara, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, Envestnet, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, FinancialForce, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, MarketAxess, Netflix, OSIsoft, Payoneer, RiskMetrics, Sitecore, Spotify, thinkorswim, Webroot, Xero, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.