Friday, July 12, 2019

The rise of European SaaS: apply now to be included in the Accel Euroscape 2019


-This article was co-authored with my colleague Maxim Filippov and published initially on Tech.eu.
Nominations are now open for the 2019 Accel Euroscape, the annual list of the top 100 cloud companies originating from Europe & Israel. You can apply HERE – applications will be open until 6th September 2019.
The growth of the cloud ecosystem in Europe over the past few years has been explosive. We first started capturing the growing momentum in 2016 with our list of the top European SaaS companies emerging from Europe.
Fast forward three years – Europe has proven that it can produce amazing global software companies. For example, UiPath, the leading Robotic Process Automation company from Romania, valued at $7 billion, may well be one of the fastest-growing enterprise software companies of the decade, with revenues growing from $5 million to $200 million in around 30 months.
In just the past couple of years, companies from our 2017 Top 100 list have raised $4.6 billion, including several nine-figure rounds with UiPath ($568 million and $225 million both in 2019), Doctolib ($174 million in 2019) and Jfrog ($165 million in 2018). These financings have generated seven new unicorns, including UiPath, Darktrace, Doctolib, Intercom, TalkDesk, Celonis and WalkMe.
As researched by Tech.eu alongside Stripe, the SaaS category consistently ranks in the top 3 for funding in Europe, both for early-stage startups (more than €800 million invested from 2015 to Q2 2018) and growth-stage scale-ups (€2.5 billion+ invested from 2016 to 2018).
The strategic interest in European companies has also accelerated. Out of 100 companies from our 2017 list, 10 have been acquired, the largest acquisition being Datorama (acq. by Salesforce for $800 million), Demisto (acq. by Palo Alto Networks for $560 million), NewVoiceMedia (acq. by Vonage for $350 million) and Peopledoc (acq. by Ultimate for $300 million).
Accel has been on the ground in Europe backing the best founders and helping software companies go global for the past 20 years, believing strongly that the European software ecosystem would rise and reach the global stage. And this year, we can finally say that’s happened.
Calling the leaders
Applications for the 2019 Accel Euroscape, spotlighting the top 100 Cloud companies from Europe and Israel, are now open, and you can apply HERE.
To maximise exposure for the winning companies on the final list, they will be featured by Tech.eu on 15 or 16 October and announced live on stage at the 2019 edition of the SaaStock conference in Dublin.
Customer feedback will play a key role in our ranking this year. We will be working closely with G2 to include their ratings in our ranking. Winning companies will get mentions to their product profile on G2.
As the ecosystem is expanding, we will create two additional categories this year, next to the Top 100:
– The Champions League: list of pre-IPO companies close to or above the $100 million recurring revenue mark
– The Next Gen: list of 10 most-promising companies with recurring revenues run rate of less than $1 million
The core list of the Top 100 will have similar criteria as previous years. Any company with north of $1 million in recurring revenue run rate will be considered.
Our previous edition featured companies that have since gone on to re-define their categories. If you think your company deserves to be on the list, join us by applying HERE.

See you soon for more!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Fiverr rings the NYSE bell

Micha Kaufman, Fiverr's founder and CEO
What a great achievement for Micha Kaufman and the whole team at Fiverr, which made its debut on the NYSE today. They have built a company that is changing how the world works together, and which facilitate millions of transactions between buyers and sellers across over 200 categories.

We first invested in Fiverr and its team of 40 in May 2012. Today the team supports a global network in more than 160 countries, and the platform has facilitated over 50 million transactions – between 5.5 million buyers and 830,000 sellers – opening up a new universe of talent for companies, and potential clients for independent workers.

When Fiverr began in 2010, e-commerce platforms existed to sell products. Micha, along with co-founder Shai Wininger, had the vision to see that the same was possible in services – productizing them so that buyers could enjoy the speed and efficiency of an online retail experience when shopping for talent. 
 
As a repeat entrepreneur, and having previously run a start-up accelerator, Micha knew from experience the difficulty of sourcing contractors for a growing business, and the time it took to identify and manage independent workers through traditional channels. Fiverr was created as the solution to that problem. Its core innovation has been to package up services into product categories it calls Gigs – such as app development, logo design or video production – allowing buyers to browse for specific skills, just as they would search and shop on Amazon. They called it “Service as a Product” and their vision set them on a path to transform the traditional freelancer staffing model.
Fiverr started selling its Gigs for $5, giving its name to the company. The pricing model quickly evolved to multiples of that and today the platform is used by buyers of all sizes, from small companies to global brands such as Netflix and Google with prices in the thousands of dollars with gigs ranging from logo design to translations to branding services.
For its sellers, it has been a catalyst for growth, with numerous stories of people who have used the platform to successfully launch a freelance career, or rapidly grow their small business. From an SEO and web analytics expert in Spain relying exclusively on Fiverr to sell its services in 80 countries to a logo designer in Israel who increased her income about four times by selling her services on the platform, Fiverr has opened new horizons for the growing new generation of freelancers across the world.
 
Micha ringing the bell with top Fiverr sellers
 
Fiverr has made big strides towards its mission: to change how the world works together. This journey has been supported and driven by strong and distinctive values. These include ‘we are doers’, symbolising a culture which is all about execution, and enabling customers to get things done; ‘think simple’; and ‘stay awesome’, reflecting Fiverr’s commitment to help its employees and users be themselves and tap into their creativity. This open and diverse culture is immediately visible when you spend time at Fiverr’s Tel Aviv office, a free-flowing environment complete with a community space for buyers and sellers from the platform to meet. 
Congratulations Team Fiverr on this milestone, a testament to what clear vision, strong values and consistent execution can achieve. A Fiverr value I haven’t yet mentioned is ‘making impact’. In the fast-changing world of work, Micha and the team have lived up to that many times over.
 
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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Scaling tips from John Chambers: Part 2 – Spotlight on acquisitions and managing crises


At VivaTech this year, we were fortunate to be joined in conversation by former Cisco CEO and Executive Chairman John Chambers, who now invests in early-stage tech start-ups around the world. Alongside former Accel partner Joe Schoendorf, John offered insights on the realities of leading a fast-growing company and handling issues of talent, culture, strategy, and scale.

In this second extract from our roundtable, John and Joe share their playbooks for managing acquisitions as you scale and handling crises.

What is your advice on when and how to make acquisitions?

Joe:Marc Benioff at Salesforce is very good at this. He has a very clear strategy and never makes an acquisition that doesn’t fit with it. The strategy needs to come first and you then find companies to align with it, not the other way around. 

John: Having acquired 180 companies during my tenure at Cisco, I have developed a few rules when it comes to acquisition. The first thing to look for is a cultural match. Never acquire a company if you do not trust the CEO. You can normally tell within the first five minutes of talking to the CEO of a target whether there is a culture fit. If it turns out your cultures are not compatible, be willing to walk away no matter how strong the strategic fit is. 

I have walked away from two major deals in my career, both at an advanced stage when the leader of a target company lost my trust. Trust is everything in these negotiations, and if your counterpart has leaked information or tried to downplay a piece of bad news, you will never be able to re-establish that trust. 

The second rule is to always check with your customers before you acquire a business. Nothing beats customer references. You have to be extra careful with public companies, but still follow this step.

Third, be mindful of your management team and employees. Any acquisition creates uncertainty. Your people will quickly turn from thinking about what it means for the company to what it means for them personally. As a leader, you need to talk to people about the emotions they are likely to go through. Also, be transparent about the prospect of layoffs, either immediately or in the long-term.

Lastly, focus on acquisitions, not mergers. I believe mergers of equals almost never succeed in the tech industry. Rather, focus on acquiring companies that will create or accelerate your leadership in key markets.  

Sooner or later all companies face a crisis. What are your top tips for managing the response?

John: A PR crisis is something you can and should prepare for. At Cisco, we regularly conducted role-playing exercises in management meetings to familiarize ourselves with potential scenarios.

When a crisis does occur, there are five rules to follow.

The first rule is “do not hide”. Instead, stay calm, face the situation head on, and investigate what’s going on.

Rule number two is to differentiate an external crisis from internal problems. Your response strategy must be different when the damage is self-inflicted versus market-driven. 

Rule number three is to communicate with all stakeholders – customers, employees, regulators, suppliers, and social media followers. This process will help you understand the underlying cause of the situation and react accordingly. But remember that any statements you make, or actions you undertake in response, must be based on facts.

Rule number four is to determine a timeframe to address the issue. The nature of the situation may dictate the timing. For example, if something is already out on social media, you have 15 minutes before you need to go public and you need to make a quick judgment on whether the story is likely to be true or not. On the other hand, when the issue is related to a data breach or technical issue, it may take a bit longer to determine the cause and severity of the problem. But in all situations, be honest with your stakeholders. 

Rule number five is to provide regular updates on your progress in addressing the issue. A crisis may happen in a moment, but your response needs to be sustained to address the underlying issue and rebuild trust with your stakeholders.

For John and Joe’s insights on building culture and managing talent, check out Part 1 of the conversation.


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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Scaling tips from John Chambers: Part 1 - Spotlight on culture and talent


For the leader of any fast-growing company, every day brings a new challenge. A CEO has to manage issues of strategy, culture, talent, customer service and reputation – often all at once.

At VivaTech last week, we got an insight into the first-hand experience of John Chambers who was CEO and Chairman of Cisco from 1995-2017, and who now invests in early-stage tech start-ups around the world, with a particular focus on mentoring emerging leaders. John was joined in a roundtable discussion by Joe Schoendorf, a former Accel partner who has held senior roles at companies from Hewlett Packard to Apple, and who served on the board of the World Economic Forum.

In this first extract from our roundtable, they share their experiences in shaping company culture and handling negotiations with top talent. 

What is the secret to building a robust company culture?

Joe: A leader plays such an important role in setting the culture of a company and communicating it. Jack Welch used to say, “culture is nothing more than the length of the shadow of the CEO”.
In my time at HP, new recruits had a week’s training that concluded with a speech from David Packard. He would always say that, if your business gets into trouble financially, we will give you eight quarters to fix it. If you have people problems, we will give you eight seconds. That is culture from the top.   
John: As a CEO (and/or founder), you have four areas of responsibility; Strategy and vision, management team, culture and the communication of all of the above. Culture is the one area the CEO must own in its entirety and constantly drive through the entire organization. The CEO also needs to manage the evolution of culture as the company scales. With a small team, culture happens naturally and is mutually understood. But at scale, it gets diluted and you have to codify it, writing down what matters and making it memorable.
If you’re unconvinced of the merits of this, try testing your management team. Without any advance warning, ask each member to summarise the company’s culture and values at your next management meeting. I can guarantee you the results will not be tight. But it needs to be super tight to be effective. And if your management team is struggling to express the culture and values, so will every other employee.
Tech talent is always on the move. What do you do when an important employee says they have received a better offer and want to leave? Can you change someone’s mind at this point?
John: The first thing is to be magnanimous. Congratulate them on having received a great offer. Then it is time to collect your thoughts, get some water, and think carefully about what to say next.
The first thing I always do is to try to understand the reasons. There are usually several, and they will likely go deeper than money and title. Ask what they are. Most often it is their manager not making them feel appreciated enough but it may be something more fundamental as them not liking the direction the company is going in, or it could be as simple as the person having been in the job for too long.
Then, buy more time. I might say something like: “You’ve been with me for three years, give me three weeks to talk you out of it.”  You should treat a significant leaver as you would a recruitment prospect. Make sure you have the time to run a proper process, leveraging all the resources at your disposal.
Finally, engage the troops. You need to use your team, getting a core group of people to work on the potential leaver and advocate the upsides of staying. This is something you should script carefully – for instance have one person to talk about the company’s future, another about how valued that person is in the company, and someone else to stress career and financial opportunities.
If all that fails, and it becomes clear that it’s right for someone to leave, treat them fairly and with respect. Equally, only expend your energy on this sort of process with talent you really value. If someone wants to leave after a week in the job, then let them go. They were likely not the right hire, and you should both move on quickly.
What do you mean by people being in the job for too long?
John: The point about people being in a job for too long is important. As a leader, you should be proactive about moving talent around the organization so that people can learn new skills from different sets of people. It is important never to demote someone title-wise but being flexible and finding new opportunities for people to grow is an important way of helping people to reinvent themselves. During my time, I reinvented myself dozens of times, while also reinventing the company several times to stay ahead of changing market transitions. I also had eight different CFOs, who over time all took on different roles in the business. 
Joe: When it comes to headquarters, sometimes it’s right for people to move on. At a start-up, speed of execution is your biggest advantage, and if someone has lost that appetite to constantly push forward, then it’s time for them to go. But work hard to retain your sales people, because they are expensive to replace and can take half their pipeline with them out of the door.
In Part 2, we get insights from John and Joe on approaching M&A and handling crisis situations.
 
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Thursday, May 02, 2019

Spotlight on Engineering Team Building: Lessons learned from Algolia


Team building is top of mind for any start-up founder or exec. Recruiting and retaining top talent is even more challenging for software engineers.

To get an insight into how successful start-ups approach team building, we spoke to Sylvain Utard, employee number 1 and VP of Engineering at Algolia, an Accel portfolio company. Algolia is transforming the search and discovery experience that businesses can offer their users online, managing over 50+ billion search queries a month for enterprise customers including WeWork, Zendesk, Twitch and Stripe. Algolia has been doubling YoY since we invested in 2015 and has now more than 300 people, including 90 engineers.

We asked Sylvain to share his secret tips with us.

How do you attract talent as an enterprise start-up?

Sylvain: Because we don’t have the visibility of a consumer brand or a well-established enterprise company, we focus on what differentiates us. The first is culture. From the very beginning, our founders Nicolas and Julien talked about building a culture-first company, and for us it provides a way to both attract and assess candidates. 

The second is to demonstrate the reach of the product. Almost all of the tools, especially technical ones, that engineers use are customers of Algolia. That is a very powerful statement.

How do we get these messages across? We make sure the hiring managers are involved in the entire recruitment process, from sourcing candidates and selling the company. Not only does it ensure that we get across what the company is about in an authentic way, it also gives our teams visibility and input into the process.

In parallel, it is essential to tap into the widest possible talent pool. Many prevalent recruitment tools, including LinkedIn, tend to produce a pipeline of mostly male candidates - our experience is that the response rate is 40-60% among men, compared to 10% with women. We work to broaden our reach, through initiatives including meetups for female developers at our offices and pro-active reach-out to women. We also over-hauled the language used in job specs and other communication to remove typical male tech stereotype words such as free beer and a desire to hire “ninja’s”.

What are your top tips for assessing technical competence?

Sylvain: For entry level engineers this is quite straightforward and includes both technical interviews and home assignments. We’ll also want to look at someone’s previous work, and what they’ve been posting on GitHub (or Dribble for designers).

With manager level candidates, it’s important to recognise that they may have become one step removed from development work. To compensate, we ask them to conduct a mock interview, as if they are themselves interviewing a prospective new member of the team. This gives us a good impression of both their own technical knowledge, and how they would assess and coach that of others.

Retention is a big challenge for every growth company. What’s your approach to extending the life-cycle of your engineering team?

Sylvain: Onboarding is a crucial part of turning a good hire into a great team member. At Algolia, it includes sales call shadowing (because engineers need to understand how to sell the product, as well as build it) and a specific project that will be completed in the first 2-3 weeks, giving new hires an early opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

You also need to show people how they can grow their career at your company. This is best achieved by pushing decision-making power down the hierarchy, to keep your rising stars challenged and motivated.

Today’s talent expect flexibility and as a company you need to be responsive. In developing our remote working policy, we have spent a lot of time thinking about everything from the communications tools we use (no more whiteboards!) to the question of how client data will be accessed. Because our product is reasonably complex and requiring a good level of support, we find it beneficial to have people working closely together at least some of the time.

There has to be acceptance that retention is never total, however; People will eventually leave, and that doesn’t necessarily mean your system is at fault.

Finally, what’s your approach to team structure and management?  

Sylvain: Your teams need to change as your company does. We now operate a squad model, where our engineers are grouped into smaller teams dedicated to one specific task. There are currently over 20 squads, across products and focus areas from APIs to analytics. This model gives you focus, but you also need to work on connectivity between squads, for times when you want to make horizontal improvements across the entire product range.

Over time we’ve also come to recognise the importance of having enough management layers in place. At one point, I was line-managing 25 engineers and it became clear we needed an engineering manager to help the teams prioritise tasks and maximise productivity. At this stage, your role as the manager’s manager becomes important, offering a sounding board and helping them to learn and evolve in their role.

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Thank you, Sylvain, for sharing your wisdom. Building a great team is something that requires care and precision at every stage, but it is worth every minute invested. It is one of the most important success factors for a start-up. 


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Meet Chainalysis, the startup that brought down the biggest dark web marketplace


This post was written with my colleague Amit Kumar. We worked closely together on this exciting new investment.
 
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While still very much in its infancy when it comes to development and adoption, a decentralized financial system has the ability to be massively disruptive and important for decades to come. However, in order for cryptocurrency to achieve this potential and for the industry to mature, there is a growing need for foundational infrastructure and regulatory frameworks to drive compliance and transparency between all stakeholders.
 
This is why we’re so excited to announce our investment in Chainalysis, a company that uniquely leverages deep analytics and machine learning to help law enforcement agencies track illicit crypto transactions and financial institutions comply with anti-money laundering rules — important pillars towards the inevitable maturation of the cryptocurrency space.

Chainalysis is the clear market leader in their vertical and sits at the nexus between crypto exchanges, financial institutions, regulatory bodies, and law enforcement agencies. They’ve earned this position by their incredible work and track record over the last few years helping law enforcement agencies cope with the rise of this new technology.

While there’s been a number of highly publicized examples including their role in helping creditors of Mt. Gox track down hundreds of thousands of Bitcoins to the Dutch police crediting the company with helping them find Hansa, one of the world’s biggest dark web drug marketplaces, to the company’s more recent Crypto Crime Series published earlier this year, much of the work that they do remains behind-the-scenes, but is no less critical.

Technology innovation outpacing governments’ and regulatory bodies’ ability to adapt isn’t a new tale; we’ve seen it play out across many different industries in Silicon Valley. And it requires an exceptionally thoughtful, committed team working diligently to close this gap. Michael, Jonathan and Jan have done just that and have quietly assembled one of the very best teams in the space across their offices in Copenhagen, London and New York . We believe deeply in Chainalysis’s mission and couldn’t be more thrilled to help accelerate the deeply critical work that they are doing to bring cryptocurrencies closer to mainstream.