All posts in “Andreessen Horowitz”

Earnin raises $125M to help workers track and cash out wages in real time

Before Ram Palaniappan founded Earnin, he developed a system for employees at a payments company called UniRush, where he spent eight years as president. If you needed money before payday, he would write you a check from his checking account and when payday rolled around, employees would reimburse him.

Despite being paid what Palaniappan thought were fair wages, his workers often found themselves in a bind, needing access to wages they couldn’t expect to see in their own bank accounts for days.

“This is such a core pain point,” Palaniappan told TechCrunch. “Over three-fourths of the country live paycheck to paycheck … It’s an issue of fairness. We all have gotten used to getting paid every two weeks, but most employees would rather be paid before they work.”

Palaniappan decided to transform what he had been doing as a favor to employees into a real business with Earnin (formerly known as Activehours), a startup that helps hourly, gig and salary workers track their earnings and transfer them to their checking accounts in real time using a mobile application. Today, the company is announcing a $125 million Series C funding from top-tier investors DST Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, March Capital Partners, Coatue Management and Ribbit Capital. Palaniappan declined to disclose the valuation.

Earnin founder and chief executive officer Ram Palaniappan

Here’s how it works: An employee signs up on the Earnin app and connects their bank account. Earnin infers the person’s pay cycle and debits their account the amount they’ve borrowed on their payday. Earnin charges no fees or interest; instead, it operates on a pay it forward revenue model some would balk at. Earnin users have the option to “tip” the app after each transaction and that tip, in turn, is used to fund the next user’s withdrawal. If a user tips more than Earnin thinks is reasonable for the given withdrawal, it will notify the user and give them the option to dial back the tip amount.

What the company has found is that users are usually more than happy to contribute to the Earnin community of workers.

“So often, people are trying to help each other out,” Palaniappan said. “That’s the most powerful piece — how much support the community is providing to each other.”

Earnin was launched in 2014 and has previously raised $65 million in venture capital funding. With the latest investment, it will expand its engineering and product teams across its offices in Palo Alto — where it’s headquartered — as well as in Cincinnati and Vancouver.

The app, often among the App Store’s top 10 financial apps, has more than 1 million downloads, the company says, and is used by employees at more than 50,000 companies — many of which check the app every day. Palaniappan says its users are working more than 15 million hours per week. If each user works an estimated 40 hours per week, that means the app has roughly 375,000 weekly active users.

He added that the startup’s growth in the last four years has been “quite remarkable.” Given the investor support it’s received, it’s likely to step into “unicorn” territory soon. Ribbit Capital, for example, is a leading fintech investing firm with capital invested in Coinbase, Revolut, Gusto, Wealthfront, NuBank, Brex and more.

Fintech startup Plaid raises $250M at a $2.65B valuation

In the five years since its product was showcased onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York’s hackathon, Plaid has emerged as one of the most critical contributors to financial technology’s evolution — and one of the most under the radar.

That is, until now. The company is today announcing a $250 million Series C investment led by famed venture capitalist and the author of the Internet Trends report Mary Meeker, who will join its board of directors as part of the deal. The funds were raised at a valuation of $2.65 billion, according to sources close to the company. Capital from Meeker’s investment came from Kleiner Perkins’ growth fund — where Meeker has been a partner since 2010 — not from the reported billion-dollar-plus solo fund she’s in the process of raising.

New investors Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures also participated, as did existing investors Goldman Sachs, NEA and Spark Capital. The financing brings Plaid’s total raised to $310 million and provides a major boost to its valuation, which was just over $200 million with its 2016 Series B.

Making money easier for everyone

Plaid builds infrastructure that allows a consumer to interact with their bank account on the web through a number of third-party applications, like Venmo, Robinhood, Coinbase, Acorns and LendingClub. The San Francisco-based startup has integrated with 10,000 banks in the U.S. and Canada and says 25 percent of people living in those countries with bank accounts have linked with Plaid through at least one of the hundreds of apps that leverage Plaid’s application program interfaces (APIs) — an increase from 13 percent last year.

The platform allows companies to create financial services applications without having to hire their own team of engineers to build out a tool that connects apps to its users’ bank accounts, something Plaid’s founders themselves lacked when they set out to build a fintech startup years ago. Plaid was founded by a pair of former Bain consultants, William Hockey and Zach Perret, the chief technology officer and chief executive officer, respectively, in 2012.

“We were always really infatuated with the concept of financial services,” Hockey told TechCrunch. “We thought it had so much power to impact and improve people’s lives but at the time it really wasn’t … We quickly realized building financial services was almost impossible to do because there wasn’t the tooling or the infrastructure, so we turned around and started building that infrastructure.”

Plaid closed a $44 million Series B in mid-2016 and has since seen its valuation increase more than tenfold. On top of that, it doubled its customer base this year, launched in Canada — its first market outside the U.S. — opened its third office, expanded its overall headcount to 175 employees and debuted a digital mortgage product called Assets.

Hockey and Perret say the new funding will be used to continue expanding the team in San Francisco, Salt Lake City and New York. Plaid, given how essential its tools are to any technology companies that deals with payments in any fashion, which these days is the vast majority of businesses, is a company to watch going into 2019.

“When we think about our long-term goals, we want to make money easier for everyone,” Perret told TechCrunch. “We want everyone to lives these simple, straightforward digitally enabled financial lives and for us, that means supporting these tech innovators in the space and these large incumbents. We want to be able to help them create great consumer financial experiences so consumers can live simpler financial lives.”

Meet Jennifer Tejada, the secret weapon of one of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing enterprise software startups

PagerDuty, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based company that sends companies information about their technology, doesn’t receive a fraction of the press that other fast-growing enterprise software companies receive. In fact, though it counts as customers heavyweight companies like Capital One, Spotify and Netflix; it employs 500 employees; and it has five offices around the world, it has largely operated out of the spotlight.

That’s changing. For one thing, the company is now a so-called unicorn, after raising $90 million in a September round led by Wellington and T. Rowe Price that brought its total funding to $173 million and its valuation to $1.3 billion. Crowded as the unicorn club may be these days, that number, and those backers, makes PagerDuty a startup of interest to a broader circle of industry watchers.

Another reason you’re likely to start hearing more about PagerDuty is its CEO of three years, Jennifer Tejada, who is rare in the world of enterprise startups because of her gender, but whose marketing background makes her even more of an anomaly — and an asset.

In a world that’s going digital fast, Tejada knows PagerDuty can appeal to a far wider array of customers by selling them a product they can understand.

It’s a trick she first learned at Proctor & Gamble, where she spent seven years after graduating from the University of Michigan with both a liberal arts and a business management degree. In fact, in her first tech job out of P&G, working for the bubble-era supply chain management startup I2 Technologies (it went public and was later acquired), Tejada says she became “director of dumb it down.”

Sitting in PagerDuty’s expansive second floor office space in San Francisco — space that the company will soon double by taking over the first floor — Tejada recalls acting “like a filter for very technical people who were very proud of the IP they’d created” but who couldn’t explain it to anyone without relying on jargon. “I was like, ‘How are you going to get someone to pay you $2 million for that?’”

Tejada found herself increasingly distilling the tech into plain English, so the businesspeople who have to sign big checks and “bet their careers on these investments” could understand what they were being pitched. She’s instilling that same ethos at PagerDuty, which was founded in 2009 to help businesses monitor their tech stacks, manage disruptions and alert engineers before things catch on fire but, under Tejada’s watch, is evolving into a service that flags opportunities for its customers, too.

As she tells it, the company’s technology doesn’t just give customers insights into their service ecosystem and their teams’ health, and it doesn’t just find other useful kernels, like about which operations teams are the most productive and why. PagerDuty is also helping its clients become proactive. The idea, she says, is that “if you see traffic spiking on a website, you can orchestrate a team of content marketers or growth hackers and get them in that traffic stream right then, instead of reading about it in a demand-gen report a week later, where you’re, like, ‘Great, we totally missed that opportunity.’”

The example is a bit analogous to what Tejada herself brings to the table, which includes strong people skills (she’s very funny) and a knack for understanding what consumers want to hear, but also a deep understanding of financing and enterprise software.

As corny as it sounds, Tejada seems to have been working toward her current career her whole life.

Not that, like the rest of us, she knew exactly what she was doing at all times. On the contrary, one part of her path started when, after spending four years as the VP of global marketing for I2 — four years during which the dot-com bubble expanded wildly, then popped — Tejada quit her job, went home for the holidays and, while her baffled family looked on, booked a round-trip ticket to Australia to get away and learn about yachts.

She left the experience not only with her skipper certification but in a relationship with her now-husband of 16 years, an Australian with whom she settled in Sydney for roughly 12 years.

There, she worked for a private equity firm, then joined Telecom New Zealand as its chief marketing officer for a couple of years, then landed soon after at an enterprise software company that catered to asset-intensive industries, including mining, as its chief strategy officer. When that private-equity backed company was sold, Tejada took a breath, then was recruited to lead, for the first time, another company: Keynote Systems, a publicly traded internet and mobile cloud testing and monitoring company that she steered to a sale to the private equity firm Thomas Bravo a couple of years later.

The move gave her an opportunity to spend time with her now teenage daughter and husband, but she also didn’t have a job for the first time in many years, and Tejada seems to like work. Indeed, within one year, after talking with investors who’d gotten to know her over the years, as well as eager recruiters, Tejada —  who says she is “not a founder but a great adoptive parent” — settled on the 50th of 51 companies she was asked to consider joining. It was PagerDuty.

She has been overseeing wild growth ever since. The company now counts more than half of the Fortune 50 as its customers. It has also doubled its headcount a couple of times since she joined roughly 28 months ago, and many of its employees (upwards of 43 percent) are now women, as well as engineers from more diverse backgrounds than you might see at a typical Silicon Valley startup.

That’s no accident. Diversity breeds diversity, in Tejada’s view, and diversity is good for business.

“I wouldn’t say we market to women,” offers Tejada, who says diversity to her is not just about gender but also age and ethnic background and lifestyle choice and location and upbringing (and functional expertise).

“We’ve made a conscious effort to build an inclusive culture where all kinds of people want to work. And you send that message out into the market, there’s a lot of people who hear it and wonder if it could possibly be true. And then they come to a PagerDuty event, or they come into the office, and they see something different than they’ve seen before. They see people they can relate to.”

Why does it matter when it comes to writing code? For one thing, because a big part of coding is problem-solving, says Tejada. “When you have people from diverse backgrounds chunking through a big hairy problem together, those different perspectives will get you to a more insightful answer.” Tejada also believes there’s too much bias in application development and user experience. “There’s a lot of gobbledygook in our app that lots of developers totally understand but that isn’t accessible to everyone — men, women, different functional types of users, people of a different age. Like, how accessible is our mobile app to someone who’s not a native-first mobile user, who started out on an analog phone, moved to a giant desktop, then to a laptop and is now using a phone? You have to think about the accessibility of your design in that regard, too.”

What about the design of PagerDuty’s funding? We ask Tejada about the money PagerDuty raised a couple of months ago, and what it means for the company.

Unsurprisingly, as to whether the company plans to go public any time soon, her answers are variously, “I’m just building an enduring company,” and, “We’re still enjoying the benefits of being a private company.”

But Tejada also seems mindful of not raising more money for PagerDuty than it needs to scale, even while there’s an ocean of capital surrounding it.

“Going back to the early ’90s, in my career I have not seen a market where there has been more ready availability to capital, between tax reforms and sovereign cash and big corporates and low interest rates and huge venture funds, not to mention the increased willingness of big institutional investors to become LPs.” But even while the “underlying drivers and secular trends and leading indicators” suggest a healthy market for SaaS technology for a long time to come, that “doesn’t mean the labor markets are going to stay the same. It doesn’t mean the geopolitical environments are not going to change. When you let the scarcity issue in the market drive your valuation, you’re also responsible for growing into that valuation, no matter what happens in the macro environment.”

Where Tejada doesn’t necessarily want to be so measured is when it comes to PagerDuty’s place in its market. And that can be challenging as the company gains more traction — and more attention.

“If you do the right thing for your customers, and you do the right thing by your employees, all the rest will fall into place,” she says. “But the minute you take your eye off the ball, the minute you don’t earn the trust of your customer every day, the minute you stop innovating in service of them, you’re gonna start going backwards,” she says with a shrug.

Tejada recalls a conversation she had with her executive team last week, including with Alex Solomon, the company’s CTO and the one of three PagerDuty founders who remains actively engaged with the company. (Co-founder Andrew Miklas moved on to venture capital last year; Baskar Puvanathasan meanwhile left the company in March.) “They probably wanted to kill me,” she says laughing. “I told them I don’t think we’re disrupting ourselves enough. They’re like, ‘Jenn, let up.’ But that’s what happens to companies. They have their first success and they miss that second wave or third wave, and the next thing you know, you’re Kodak.”

PagerDuty, she says, “is not going to be Kodak.”

Corporate travel startup TripActions raises $154M at $1B valuation

TripActions, one of the most well-capitalized travel startups in Silicon Valley, has raised yet another round of capital valuing the corporate travel manager at more than $1 billion.

Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz will join TripActions’ board of directors as part of the startup’s $154 million in Series C funding. Lightspeed Venture Partners, Zeev Ventures and SGVC also participated in the round.

Co-founders Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig said TripActions’ $236 million raised to date, as well as its new “unicorn” valuation, is justified by its 700 percent annual growth rate and more than 1,000 customers.

“We mean it when we say our solution is so good we want to make sure we are bringing it to as many companies, as many employees as possible,” TripActions’ CEO Cohen told TechCrunch. “The main reason to raise more money is just to continue to go for that as fast as we can.”

Cohen and Twig previously co-founded StreamOnce, business collaboration software that was acquired by Jive Software for an estimated $10 million in 2013. They founded TripActions in 2015.

The Palo Alto-based company provides a corporate travel platform that integrates with company HR and expense systems. Using TripActions, business travelers can arrange flights, hotels and transportation, with 24/7 global support from the startup’s staff. Dropbox, Lyft, Twilio, Allbirds and Tuft & Needle are among its customers.

The company has expanded its platform by adding TripActions Luxe, a VIP program for executive travelers; TripActions’ in-house Meetings & Event solution for group travel; and TripActions’ Guest Invite Portal, designed for HR and recruiting teams. It also recently opened its European headquarters, an engineering and data science hub in Amsterdam, and plans to double down on R&D, AI and machine learning with the fresh investment.

Travel companies have been raking in capital this year in what Cohen sees as a big moment for tech startups in the space. The global travel and tourism industry is, after all, one of the most valuable industries, worth some $7 trillion. The online travel market, in particular, is expected to grow to $817 billion by 2020.

“Something is really happening in the industry; something bigger than us,” Cohen said. “Different startups are identifying the opportunity here and the fact that companies want to make sure their employees are happy while they are on the go, that’s why you see investments in companies like Brex and like TripActions.”

“It’s about time that employees really feel great while they are booking their trip, while they are on the go and while they are doing their expenses at the end.”

With $300M in new funding, Devoted Health launches its Medicare Advantage plan in Florida

Devoted Health, a Waltham, Mass.-based insurance startup, has raised a $300 million Series B and began enrolling members in eight Florida counties to its Medicare Advantage plan.

The company, which helps Medicare beneficiaries access care through its network of physicians and tech-enabled healthcare platform, has raised the funds from lead investor Andreessen Horowitz, Premji Invest and Uprising.

The company declined to disclose its valuation.

Devoted’s founders are brothers Todd and Ed Park — the company’s executive chairman and chief executive officer, respectively. Todd co-founded a pair of now publicly-traded companies, Athenahealth, a provider of electronic health record systems, and health benefits platform Castlight Health. He also served as the U.S. chief technology officer during the Obama Administration. Ed, for his part, was the chief operating officer of Athenahealth until 2016 and a member of Castlight’s board of directors for several years.

Venrock partners Bryan Roberts — Devoted’s founding investor — and Bob Kucker — its chief medical officer — are also part of the company’s founding team.

The Park brothers have tapped Jeremy Delinsky, the former CTO at Wayfair and Athenahealth, as COO; DJ Patil, a former data scientist at the White House, as its head of technology; and Adam Thackery, the former CFO of Universal American, as its chief financial officer.

Its board includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. As part of the latest round, A16z’s Vijay Pande will join its board, too.

The company says it’s committed to treating its customers as if they were members of its employees’ own families. For Patil, the startup’s head of tech, that’s made the entire process of building Devoted a very emotional one.

“I’ve cried a lot at this company,” Patil told TechCrunch. “You meet these seniors and they’ve done everything right. They’ve worked so incredibly hard their entire lives. They’ve given it their all for the American dream. They’ve paid into this model of healthcare and they deserve better.”

Devoted, which previously raised $69 million across two financing rounds in 2017 from Oak HC/FT, Venrock, F-Prime Capital Partners, Maverick Ventures and Obvious Ventures, has begun enrolling seniors located in Broward, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk and Seminole counties to its Medicare Advantage plan. It will begin providing care Jan. 1, 2019.

Its long-term goal is to offer insurance plans to seniors nationwide.

“We are responsible for these people’s healthcare so we need to get it right,” Patil said.