TripAdvisor: Elevating People Functions to Business Partnership

Part 1: Aligning HR with Business Strategy

When Beth Grous joined TripAdvisor as Chief People Officer, the popular travel platform was growing rapidly, with 40+ locations around the world. Beth quickly moved to develop Human Resources (HR) as a strategic partner for business functions, so that the team’s initiatives would more directly support company objectives. In this first part of a two-part conversation, Beth talks with TCV GP Nari Ansari about how she re-oriented her team for business partnership. She also explains how her team manages the employee journey within TripAdvisor as strategically as the company manages its customer journeys, so that recruiting and retaining talent is both systematic and flexible for an increasingly diverse workforce.

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Nari Ansari: First off Beth, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. It was great seeing you at TCV’s East Coast CHRO event in New York with portfolio company people and talent leaders. We had some great conversations and wanted to share a few topics with a broader audience.

Beth Grous: Absolutely. Great to speak again.

Nari Ansari: Let’s dive right in, starting with TripAdvisor. What does the company do?

Beth Grous: I think most people who have traveled, or know someone that’s traveled, are familiar with TripAdvisor. We are the world’s largest travel platform. We help about 490 million travelers every month plan, book, and get excited about having the best trip of their life. We’re a global website, and we also have a mobile app that helps travelers browse more than three-quarters of a billion reviews and opinions on over eight million restaurants, accommodations, experiences, airlines, cruises, and so on.

Nari Ansari: When did you join? What motivated you to jump onboard?

Beth Grous: I joined TripAdvisor in September of 2015. I’ve been a review writing member on the TripAdvisor platform since 2006 so I was a long-time consumer of the brand and loved it. When I got the call about the job, I thought that it would be a unique opportunity for me to take the HR skills, experience and capabilities that I had, and intersect them with a consumer brand that I have a lot of passion for.

Around the same time frame there was an increasing recognition at TripAdvisor that with 2,500 employees, and the company growing globally, we really needed to elevate the people function to work in partnership with the CEO to execute more strategically against our business and talent priorities. And so that was very exciting for me as well, thinking about the potential impact I could have.

Nari Ansari: Absolutely. You’re titled Chief People Officer, so what areas fall under your responsibility?

Beth Grous: That’s a great question, because my job description is perhaps a little different than most heads of HR.

As Chief People Officer, I have all the traditional HR domains:

  • HR business partners
  • Total rewards (compensation and benefits) and HR systems
  • Talent acquisition (our recruiting engine)
  • Learning and organizational development
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion

In addition to those more typical functions, I have a few other areas of responsibility, including our global real estate portfolio and office experience for our 40+ offices worldwide, and our social impact function, which is a combination of both our TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation and our employee volunteerism and giving activities.

Nari Ansari: Since you became Chief People Officer, how have you established the HR team as a business partner to the rest of the organization? What steps did you take, what lessons did you learn as you industrialized the function, and what advice would you have for other HR leaders of growing tech companies out there?

Beth Grous: When I joined, I looked around and I said, “There are some places where we have real strengths, and some places where we need to fill in some blanks.” Probably the biggest shift we made was to build out an HR business partner (HRBP) function – we wanted to shift a portion of our team from being more focused on tactical day-to-day priorities to taking a pro-active focus towards business objectives and working with their counterparts throughout the organization. That shift in focus meant that some people stepped up to develop their skills and to work differently. Other team members transitioned out of the organization and, also importantly, we had a few members join from the business side.  It was a significant shift to staff and organize this HR business partner team.

Nari Ansari: That’s an impressive shift. Tell us a bit more about the role and skill set of HR business partners.

Beth Grous: The members of our HRBP team are expected to have a deep understanding of the business—financials, strategy, and how each business function aligns and interacts to execute against those objectives. I encourage the HRBP team to frame their day-to-day work by asking the question: “How am I working with people at all levels of the organization to help drive the business forward?” Much of this learning happens on the job—and our business leaders are very supportive of sharing their expertise. It has been an important shift for us, because with this knowledge and understanding, they can then support the business most effectively: defining the right organizational structure to support strategy, ensuring that we are hiring and developing a diverse and talented group of employees across the organization, and aligning rewards, as some examples.

I am fortunate that I work for a CEO and with an executive team who greatly values the input of our people and human capital team on matters not just related to HR domain areas, but also matters related to the overall business. This has been exciting and fulfilling for me and my team.

Nari Ansari: That’s great. I think what’s top of mind for many company leaders and talent leaders is retaining exceptional talent. You talked a bit at our recent TCV CHRO event that TripAdvisor very methodically thinks through, manages, and monitors the customer journey and that you and your team symmetrically are methodically thinking through, managing, and monitoring the employee journey as well. Can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like for your 3,600 plus TripAdvisor team members today spread across 40+ offices?

Beth Grous: I’m going to make an obvious statement here. If you retain and engage more of your workforce, you have less of a need to recruit people…

Nari Ansari: Right.

Beth Grous: We recognize that those two things sit in a very healthy and logical balance. We also recognize that turnover in and of itself is painful. You lose institutional knowledge. It’s disruptive to teams. It slows throughput. It slows innovation. We’re only as good as the people that we have working in the right teams and right configurations to execute against our business objective. We think a lot about how to make TripAdvisor a great place to work, to encourage not only retention, but also to drive engagement and satisfaction. Just like our sales team thinks about the “customer first”, we think about how we can put our employees first. That also means that we are taking their views into account, so it’s not just about delivering “HR services” to our employees but having a dialogue with them. This aligns with our brand, which is all about transparency and providing honest and constructive feedback. For example, we know that what makes a company a great place to work likely means different things to different people. To someone early in their career, that might mean, “I get to have a lot of different experiences and I’m promoted pretty rapidly.” To someone in a different phase of life or with different interests or needs, that might be that an individual wants a lot of flexibility in terms of the hours when they work or the places where they work. We encourage flexibility, and we also have office spaces with many different places where people can get away from their desks if that helps them work more effectively. We think about our workforce just like TripAdvisor (and many consumer-facing companies) think about their customers, recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. That does not mean that we can necessarily be all things to all people—but we try hard to listen, learn, and discern what’s most important to our workforce, and meet our employees’ needs, as long as it makes sense for the business. 

I believe that there are some things that transcend all employees, regardless of role, experience or tenure. Employees want to come to work at a place where they understand the business objectives, they understand the strategy, and they know their role, how their role ladders up to executing against that strategy. So as a company, we spend a ton of time being transparent about those elements – we do that through company town halls, through company meetings and through various forms of communication. Communication is so important, and I don’t think we can ever do enough of it internally! We’ve found it critical for our employees to understand the business context and importantly, how they fit into that context, so that they can be most successful—and therefore we can be most successful as a company.

Nari Ansari:  That makes a lot of sense. I do think that having a much more rigorous multi-faceted view of your employee base is becoming critical for companies of all sizes and in all industries.  And I also think open communication across the organization is important, particularly when it feels like change is the only constant these days.

Another trend – and transition – we are seeing is that HR is becoming more tech and data driven to deliver on human capital and business goals. We’ll talk more about this in a follow-up Q&A and address other topics that are top of mind for today’s HR professionals and tech companies, including HR’s role in successfully executing acquisitions. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, and I look forward to our next conversation.

Beth Grous: My pleasure!

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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/.


Nubank raises USD 400 million in a new investment round led by TCV

  • The funding marks the largest investment round raised to date by Nubank 
  • Since the last funding in 2018, the firm’s customer base has more than doubled, reaching over 12 million people in Brazil
  • Nubank’s product portfolio has evolved, now including personal loans, a digital account with debit function for consumers and SMEs in addition to existing credit cards and its Rewards program
  • The company started its international expansion this year, in Mexico and Argentina
  • Nubank continues to pursue and hire talent for its four offices worldwide 

São Paulo, 26 July 2019 — Nubank, the leader in financial technology in Latin America, today announced it has raised $ 400 million in its Series F investment round. The round was led by TCV, one of the largest growth equity firms based in the U.S., and marks TCV’s first significant investment in Latin America. Existing investors Tencent, DST Global, Sequoia Capital, Dragoneer, Ribbit Capital, and Thrive Capital also participated in the round. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

With this new round, Nubank has raised $820 million in seven investment rounds.

Nubank, currently Brazil’s sixth-largest financial institution by number of clients, started its international expansion in May of this year. The company has opened offices in Mexico and Argentina and is preparing to start operations and serve customers in both countries over the coming months.

The firm also expanded its product portfolio beyond its original app-controlled credit card and Rewards products, now including a personal loan product and digital savings accounts for consumers, as well as small and medium-sized businesses and microentrepreneurs.

“We remain firm in our mission to fight complexity and give back to people the control of their finances. Even though the technological change has been transformational for most industries across the globe, most banked consumers continue to pay absurd interest rates and fees to receive very poor financial services in return. Additionally, over two billion people still do not have access to basic financial services. With this new investment by TCV and our existing investors, we expect to contribute to meaningfully change this situation by accelerating our growth in Brazil and supporting the launch of our new Latin American markets,” says David Vélez, founder and CEO of Nubank.

“We are proud of our shareholders and their continued support of our business. Since our early days, we have had the privilege of drawing from the experience of some of the most successful technology investors in the world, and this round led by TCV further strengthens our capital base”, continues Vélez. “TCV has supported some of the most remarkable disruptors of our time, including Netflix, Spotify, and Zillow, with capital, strategic guidance, and industry expertise, and we look forward to partnering with them as we grow the business.” 

“TCV has a long history of backing founder-run businesses that leverage technology to provide magical experiences to consumers,” says Woody Marshall, General Partner at TCV. “David Vélez and his team have built an impressive business at Nubank. We have been impressed by their market position, product-centric DNA and unrelenting focus on the consumer experience. We look forward to supporting their expansion into new markets and providing additional services to their consumers.” 

New products and internationalization

Nubank started offering debit and cash withdrawal functions to its digital savings account (“NuConta”) customers in late 2018, consolidating its digital account as a complete alternative to meet the basic financial needs of all Brazilians. Today, more than 8 million Brazilians are already customers of NuConta.

After completing the process to obtain its license as a financial institution, the company launched in early 2019 a personal loan product, which is now available to over 500,000 customers. Nubank reached 100% of the 5,570 Brazilian municipalities within 5 years of activity, a milestone in a country where only 60% of cities have bank branches.

In the second quarter of this year, the company also began its international expansion, announcing operations in Mexico and, less than two months later, in Argentina. The two countries will receive technology and innovation hubs to develop solutions focused on local financial problems.

In six years of existence, Nubank reached the mark of more than 12 million customers, becoming Brazil’s sixth-largest financial institution in number of customers, and the largest digital bank in the world. Recently, the company entered the corporate market with the announcement of a new digital account for SMEs, a market with more than 20 million companies in Brazil.

Search for talent

Nubank today has more than 1,700 employees in Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and Mexico. The company expects to significantly grow its employee base over the next few years. 

“We are always looking for the best talent in the world. We build strong and diverse teams with professionals from different cultures to jointly challenge the status quo and reduce complexity. We are a technology company by nature and, therefore, we want the best software engineers as part of our global team,” says Vélez.

Media contacts: 

Nubank

Rodrigo Barbosa

rodrigo.barbosa@nubank.com.br

+55 11 984 603 476

TCV

Katja Gagen

kgagen@tcv.com

+1 415 690 6689

About Nubank

Nubank is a leading financial technology company in Latin America. Its first product, launched in 2014, is a no-fee credit card that is fully managed by a mobile app. Almost 30 million people have requested the product since launch, and the company has passed the 12 million customer mark. In 2017, Nubank launched its proprietary loyalty rewards program (“Nubank Rewards”), as well as a digital account (“NuConta”) that is already used by 8 million people. This year, the company began testing its personal loan product and took its first steps in international expansion, opening offices in Mexico and Argentina. To date, Nubank has raised around US$ 820 million in seven equity investment rounds from TCV, Sequoia Capital, Kaszek Ventures, Tiger Global Management, QED, Founders Fund, DST Global, Redpoint Ventures, Ribbit Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, Thrive Capital and Tencent. Recently, Nubank was elected as the most innovative company in Latin America and ranked no. 36 on Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies ranking.

About TCV

Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since its inception, TCV has invested over $11 billion in leading technology companies, including more than $1.5 billion in fintech, and has helped guide CEOs through more than 120 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Payoneer, RELEX Solutions, Rent the Runway, Splunk, Spotify, Toast, WorldRemit, 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/.


Vectra raises $100 million led by TCV to secure the cloud using network threat detection and response

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Vectra, the leader in network threat detection and response (NDR), today closed a $100 million round of funding led by TCV, one of the largest growth equity firms backing private and public technology companies. Existing investors also participated in the funding round, bringing the company’s total funding to date to more than $200 million.

Vectra will use the investment to accelerate global market expansion and R&D innovation, solidifying its Cognito platform as the market-leading solution for artificial intelligence (AI)-driven cloud security using NDR.

The cloud has critical security gaps that leave organizations vulnerable. Cyberattackers take advantage of these gaps without leaving a trail of evidence. Underscoring this risk, a recent survey by the SANS Institute found that one in five businesses had serious unauthorized access to their cloud environments this past year alone, and many more were unknowingly breached.

The Cognito platform addresses these security gaps by providing 360-degree visibility into cloud, data center, user and internet-of-things (IoT) infrastructure, leaving attackers with nowhere to hide.

“TCV has an extensive track record of partnering with enterprise security companies, including Rapid7 and Splunk, from growth stage to public,” said Tim McAdam, general partner at TCV and a member of the Vectra board of directors. “In our research on the category, it became clear to us that Vectra was rapidly gaining momentum with customers by rethinking the way enterprises view both network and cloud security. The Vectra Cognito platform is poised to become requisite in the security infrastructure of multinational enterprises and midsize businesses alike.”

“The cloud has inherent security blind spots, making it imperative to eliminate cyber-risks as enterprises move their business to the cloud,” said Hitesh Sheth, president and chief executive officer at Vectra. “The Cognito platform enables them to stop hidden cyberattacks in the cloud. We look forward to partnering with TCV and our existing investors as we continue our rapid growth.”

Vectra experienced 104% growth in annual recurring revenue in 2018 compared to 2017. The company will continue to ramp up initiatives aimed at addressing the global deficit in cloud security, innovating on its existing platform and expanding its global customer base.

Cloud Security Solutions Forecast, 2018 to 2023” by Forrester Research, Inc.

About Vectra
Vectra® is the leader in network detection and response – from cloud and data center workloads to user and IoT devices. Its Cognito® platform accelerates threat detection and investigation using AI to enrich network metadata it collects and stores with the right context to detect, hunt and investigate known and unknown threats in real time. Vectra offers three applications on the Cognito platform to address high-priority use cases. Cognito Stream sends security-enriched metadata to data lakes and SIEMs. Cognito Recall is a cloud-based application to store and investigate threats in enriched metadata. And Cognito Detect uses AI to reveal and prioritize hidden and unknown attackers at speed. For more information, visit vectra.ai.

About TCV
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has raised over $15 billion in capital and has helped guide CEOs through more than 120 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, Rapid7, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, Webroot, 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.

Media contacts
John Kreuzer
Lumina Communications for Vectra
vectra@luminapr.com

Katja Gagen
TCV
kgagen@tcv.com 
415 690 6689

SOURCE Vectra

Related Links

https://www.vectra.ai

Modsy is Transforming the Future of Home Design and Furniture Shopping with $37M in Series C Funding Led by TCV

SAN FRANCISCO (PRWEB) MAY 21, 2019

Modsy, a leading online interior design service that leverages its proprietary 3D visualization technology to disrupt the way consumers design and shop for their home, announced today the closure of a $37M series C fundraising round led by TCV, with participation from existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Advance Venture Partners (AVP), Comcast Ventures and others.

This round comes at a time when home design inspiration is plentiful and home furnishings is the fastest growing e-commerce category, but helping consumers bring their ideas to life is still a big pain point. Modsy has been building a transformative consumer experience to solve this market challenge and has scaled rapidly, expanding its customer base 450% since its previous funding round and creating over 2 million shoppable lifestyle renders since it launched. Modsy’s groundbreaking 3D technology offers the fastest way for consumers to receive affordable home design expertise by combining its AI-powered recommendation platform to curate items based on layout, style, color, and price. Additionally, 100% of the personalized product recommendations in each design are completely shoppable, which alleviates the burden of parsing through hundreds of furniture items online and in-store. The new funding from TCV will enable Modsy to continue to rapidly scale while further investing in 3D automation, expanding its retail marketplace and enhancing its design and concierge shopping services.

Shanna Tellerman, Founder and CEO of Modsy, said: “Modsy is the future of furniture shopping and we are thrilled to partner with such a forward-thinking and customer-centric firm like TCV to help us fulfill our vision. I founded Modsy on the premise that in the future we would all be shopping from a personalized catalog-like experience within a virtual version of our real homes. This new round of funding will bring us even closer to this reality. We are excited about partnering with TCV to build Modsy into a household name and furthering our mission of enabling our customers to create the home of their dreams!”

In addition to transforming the furniture industry and developing breakthrough technology, Modsy is working to level the playing field of securing funding for female founders. In 2018, 2.2% of women-led companies received venture capital funding, so TCV’s investment in Modsy is significant in helping to further support the growth of female-owned and operated companies. With this round, TCV’s Executive Vice President Tina Hoang-To has joined Modsy’s [female-majority] board alongside Shanna Tellerman, Modsy CEO, Courtney Robinson, Partner at Advance Venture Partners and Jeff Crowe, Managing Partner at Norwest Venture Partners.

Tina Hoang-To, Executive Vice President at TCV, said: “The U.S. home furnishing market is a massive, multi-billion dollar industry and we are seeing a very clear secular shift online. Modsy is redefining the way consumers can buy furniture by leveraging technology and machine learning to introduce efficiency, transparency, and affordability to an antiquated home design industry. We are excited to partner with Modsy and believe the company is well positioned to transform this industry in a significant way.”

Since its previous funding round, the company hired three key executives: Sam MacDonnell, Chief Technology Officer (formerly HotelTonight), Meredith Dunn, Chief Operating Officer (formerly StitchFix) and Mustafa Nafar, VP of Finance (formerly DoorDash, Best Buy). It also launched innovative features that enrich the Modsy journey including Live Swap, an industry-first feature that allows customers to quickly swap furniture and its 3D Style Editor, a groundbreaking tool that enables customers to edit their designs in real-time. Modsy most recently announced its first line of custom sofas and chairs designed completely from customer data to fill a gap in the market when it comes to price, fabrics and style. Modsy’s data-based innovations continue to position the company as a market leader and fast-moving disruptor in 3D technology, design and furniture commerce.    

About Modsy 
Modsy is a leading online interior design service that delivers highly realistic 3D designs of your exact room filled with shoppable pieces of furniture from top brands you can virtually “try on” products and designs before you buy–starting at just $69. At a breakthrough price point, Modsy is providing visualization and design services that were once inaccessible to the masses and making it a no brainer purchase for any consumer on the market for furniture. Modsy provides unlimited revisions to your designs through its groundbreaking tools or by working directly with Modsy Designers. After finalizing a design, Modsy makes the check out process easy and gives customers access to exclusive discounts on their aggregated cart that easily pay back the initial design fee. Modsy’s name even comes from a combination of “modern design” and “easy”! Modsy’s mission is to change the way consumers imagine, design and shop for their homes.

Modsy has raised a total of $70.75M in venture capital funding. In addition to Modsy’s series C round of $37M led by TCV, previous investors include Advance Venture Partners (AVP) who led Modsy’s Series B round of $23M, Norwest Venture Partners who led Modsy’s Series A round of $8M and participated in Series B, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, Comcast Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Birchmere Ventures, and BBG.

About TCV 
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. TCV has invested over $11 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 120 IPOs and strategic acquisitions.

TCV’s internet and software investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe Digital, Dollar Shave Club, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Minted, 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, please visit http://www.tcv.com.

Media Contacts: 
Allie Rosenberg 
Modsy 
allie@modsy.com 
modsy@smallgirlspr.com

Katja Gagen 
TCV 
415 690 6689 
kgagen@tcv.com


Banking Evolution & Revolution—Fireside Chat with Jacqueline (Jackie) Reses, Head of Square Capital, and David Yuan, GP at TCV

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 expanding the SaaS model dramatically. 

We recently brought the pioneers of these new SaaS models together and were fortunate to have Jackie Reses share her thoughts on the emerging lending opportunity for SaaS. Witty, wise, and incredibly insightful, Jackie is a total superwoman. In addition to running Square Capital, Jackie serves on the board of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank and is a former board member of Alibaba. She also worked in private equity for 20 years.

Dave: Great to talk to you, Jackie! Is it true you started your career on the dark side, as an investor?

Jackie: Yes, I worked in private equity for 20 years. I just kept going forward. I had a mid-life crisis without the crisis, as I like to call it. I ran parts of a large private equity firm, but I much prefer being on the operating side. I still invest and that’s my fun side project. But I love working at Square. It’s a really fun place to be.

Dave: Square is certainly on a tear. Maybe we could start and just talk a little bit about that. Very few companies reach your scale, and then accelerate. But that’s what you’ve done at Square.

Jackie: Yeah, it’s exciting. We have driven strong revenue growth at scale since we went public.  It’s interesting to think back to when Square was starting with payments and building on that. That really was the catalyst for what we should build in an ecosystem in a very different way. Since then, we have built ancillary products around payments like point of sale, loyalty, employee engagement, lending, and payroll around an ecosystem.

Dave: You mentioned that every one of your products is an onboarding product. You don’t think of “land and then expand,” it’s all onboarding, it’s all “land”?

Jackie: Like lending we consider it to be a product that will onboard into Square. We have two parts of our lending business. One is the business lending, and that’s something we launched with Square sellers, and we extended it outside of Square in the United States.

And then we also have an Installments product which has been incredible. Installments is a consumer lending product that can have a customer pay for large purchases with installments, which provides the buyer with payment flexibility.

That said, I think about Square Capital first. My job is to grow Square Capital. That should stand on its own. The product itself has to be remarkable.

When we launch a new Square Capital product, we launch it because I think about all inbound customers into Square for lending and then create a cycle throughout our ecosystem to evolve as they learn about other products.

Dave: You talked about Square and the multiple product lines and high rate of self-onboarding. How core is self-serve to Square?

Jackie: It’s the way we start on every product. They have to be self-serve, elegant and fast as a means to make them remarkable. Driving your thought process around self-serve forces you to create simplicity and ease of use. 

Dave: You’ve described several different businesses that have arguably very different DNA. SMB, point of sale, consumer cash, credit, etc. How does that work in the same organization?

Jackie: I think lending is the one that everyone has the hardest time with. If anyone thinks that payments are regulated, lending is like 10x that.

Managing risk and the dynamics of a high-growth company are very different disciplines. I think that’s probably the hardest thing I deal with as an executive at Square. The dynamics of credit risk can really hurt sellers, and they can hurt us, and they can hurt our ecosystem of investors.

And so top line growth on a lending business is not the goal. I think you have to have a very different level of responsibility and a discipline that is almost the inverse to payments, where topline revenue growth can be the goal.  

You need to remain focused on what’s good for the end merchant. There are some lenders out there that have a goal of maximizing loan size. I think that’s irresponsible. We try to maximize a loan that helps sellers grow. That’s a very different mindset. We are also very fortunate that we don’t have channel or customer acquisition costs which helps us take a pretty responsible approach.

Dave:  Right. There is a real trade-off between growth, risk, and merchant health. How do you measure your success, what are the metrics you report on?

Jackie: It’s originations and different views of defaults. We could double our loans if we wanted to tomorrow. Yet, you double it at the loss of small businesses who can’t afford the debt that you’re giving up. The one limitation of credit is that there is a natural debt capacity of what these companies can afford based on their cash flows. And you’ve got to make sure you’re really good at how to predict that and then manage it so you’re not putting companies at risk.

Dave: Let’s talk about the risk side. Companies in an earlier phase want to learn. They want to train their algorithms. So in some ways having defaults is actually a data point to trigger. How do you get through that initial learning period?

Jackie: We do the same thing. Although I have to say that many refer to models which really aren’t machine learning models – the data set is too small to be driven off of machine learning. 

It’s hard to train models when you have a really narrow data set. Many lenders use basic heuristics to limit who they lend to.  That is not a machine learning model – its addition and subtraction in a ton of excel. 

Loan losses also can be instructive for model training, so you need to be willing to invest in your weakest credits in order to learn.  If you look at the public fintech lending companies, very few of them have actually been successful at long term customer acquisition and default profiling. It’s a hard, capital intense business and takes years to do. We think of lending as a platform to help our sellers grow.  The regulatory environment and the amount of capital required to do this is just really high.

Dave: What about payments data?

Jackie: The payments data is super useful but you have the fidelity of moment to moment transactional changes.  Matching risk, credit, behavioral and bank data together with payments is very powerful!

Additionally, for model training, its instructive to look at why sellers de-activate off of our system. Insights around business failure and fraud can also be a helpful part of the equation. 

Dave: You mentioned just how different being a lender is than the rest of Square and orientation around growth, versus risk management. How did you actually set it up so that it was able to perform this task culturally? Did you wall it off?

Jackie Reses: I thought about it every day. To be honest I think we’re very unique and lucky at Square because the way we are owned and run is with a long-term orientation, which most public companies are not.

Being focused on the long term, you can set up the ethos of what you need it to be. Because it’s the right answer for that kind of business long term. But we talk about it every day because it’s really easy to lend money, and it’s really hard to get it back.

And then the compliance is huge. I have everything documented in a way that’s profoundly non-tech. And that’s in a product that’s highly automated. We practically have a lean lending team. And then I have to have all these policies and reviews and committees. It’s the only product at Square that has a board committee.

We’re growing fast, but you got to be really strict about it and stand up if you see issues.

Dave: Let’s switch gears a little bit. I’d love to take advantage of your experience with Alibaba. The dynamics in China seem totally different.

Jackie: Totally different. QR code based, facial recognition based, sound based.

Dave: Do you think there’s a future state in China where you do have to worry about some sort of disaggregation or actually consolidation of the payment infrastructure?

Jackie: The dynamics in China are really different because there was an escrow system that existed 10 years ago in China because there were no logistics, and there was no trust. If you were going to order a package in China, you never knew whether you were going to get it, how you were going to get it, because neither system existed around credit and shipping. They just didn’t exist. And so the idea of an escrow system was the genesis of how Alipay got started. It really became a predominant payment rail. And it did so in an environment where it matched its sister company which controls 60 percent of the eCommerce in China. So those dynamics are really different than the dynamics that exist in the United States today, where the proliferation of credit options is extraordinary. In the U.S., there is no logistics issue with the way we think about freight and the multiple players. You can trust that if you send a package by FedEx it will actually show up.

All these dynamics of eCommerce that we take for granted in the United States are really the reason why there’s such a tight band of competition in China. I think WeChat is interesting. WeChat evolved after QQ started. Tencent built an unbelievable business and their second version of it has just been extraordinary because it’s become like a full utility app for everyone in China.

So now you have these two non-bank players in China competing with one another. Neither have really been able to get into the United States. I don’t know whether you noticed, but you’ll start to see Alipay showing up at a register. Go ask how many transactions have actually happened at that counter. There’s the notion of these Chinese tourists that are coming here but they use UnionPay.

That said, there’s not a lot of demand for it at this point in the United States. I think they’ll have a better time in Southeast Asia where they’re more connected and Japan, because they’ve got the Softbank connectivity that still owns a huge portion of Alibaba and Alipay. I just think it will be much harder in the United States.

David Yuan: Well Jackie, that was incredible! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your views.

###

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/.


Newsela Secures $50 Million Series C from TCV for Growth and Expanded Content

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.

A classroom utilizes Newsela's instructional content platform. With over 20M students and 1.8M teachers on the platform, Newsela is now being used in 90% of U.S. schools.
A classroom utilizes Newsela’s instructional content platform. 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.”

As a company, Newsela has grown significantly, increasing staff 50% in the past 12 months. It was in the top 50 (#35) recipients of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™ of 2018, and was named to Fast Company’s list of World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2017 and 2018.

For more information about Newsela or to join the team, visit Newsela.com.

About Newsela

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

About TCV

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/.

Media Contact:
Newsela
Kristen Marion 
623-308-2638 
210900@email4pr.com 

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

SOURCE Newsela

Related Links

http://www.newsela.com

A Founder’s Perspective: The Journey on the Private Equity Highway

Glenn McCarty and his partners built an innovative software company that transformed the quality standards movement. Glenn recently sat down with TCV General Partner Kapil 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 certification.

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.

We were 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 they faced.

Kapil Venkatachalam: Did you see the vision for ETQ given the demand and had it figured out from that point on?

Glenn McCarty: Not 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

Kapil Venkatachalam:  What led you to pivot from consulting to software?

Glenn 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.

Kapil Venkatachalam: And this was decades before what we now call the “digital factory.”

Glenn 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 there.

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 partners?

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 doing.”

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.”

I’m an 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 does.

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 to present.

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 advisors involved?

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.

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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 the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/


TCV Makes $200 Million Investment in Unified Retail Planning Pioneer RELEX Solutions

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.

About RELEX

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

About TCV

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/.

Contacts

Alexandra Sevelius
Head of Marketing and Communications, RELEX Solutions
Phone: +358 45 674 4949
Email: alexandra.sevelius@relexsolutions.com

Katja Gagen
Head of Marketing, TCV
Phone: +1415 690 6689
Email: kgagen@tcv.com


TCV Invests in Machine Identity Protection Provider Venafi – A Pioneer of a Vital New Category in Cybersecurity

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.

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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.

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/.