Comments Off on Investing in Fiberplane and enabling the collaborative future of DevOps
Fiberplane is building the collaborative platform for DevOps and SRE teams to resolve incidents faster and create shared knowledge that lives on for the benefit of their future selves. Ultimately, it will become the workbench used every day by the teams who keep our everyday software up and running.
When Micha “Mies” pitched Fiberplane he had written 0 lines of code. But the vision for the company and the future of how engineering teams troubleshoot and resolve incidents was so clear you could touch it. Part of the vision stemmed from his own experiences and frustrations. Seeing these challenges first hand both in the startup world, building Wercker (the OG cloud-native CI/CD company), and in a large company at Oracle, after they acquired Wercker. Part of the vision stemmed from Mies taking a macro view on software development cycles and trends. Collaboration was already the norm when it came to several activities, from design tooling to notetaking and more – yet, when it came to resolving incidents, many different silos met with their different tools at a critical time.
There’s a plethora of DevOps/SRE tooling, from logging and metrics to monitoring and incident resolution. At Crane, we’ve seen countless companies trying to do a slightly better job at any one of these, but it is really hard to break through. Efforts to introduce collaboration in this space tend to include Slack bots, since that’s where people talk. But everyone still uses their own tools. And like everything else in Slack, what we learn just scrolls away into the past. Fiberplane creates a shared environment, a notebook, similar to collaborative content creation in Notion, where everyone can pipe in their own tools and not only resolve the problem faster together—but create a persistent record of how the problem was solved, what got looked at, who did what when, and what we should do when this happens again.
Long gone are the late-nights and $millions wasted trying to remember how the same incident that caused expensive downtime only a couple months ago was resolved.
Comments Off on Investing in the Post Pandemic Workplace
The very first time I (Scott) met Yodit Stanton, Founder and CEO of OpenSensors, I was coming out of one of the sunny upper floor meeting rooms at Seedcamp on Bonhill Street. She was standing there with a smile listening to something my cofounder Krishna was saying. After introducing myself to Yodit, she leaned in and said, “this is the first conversation I’ve had with an investor who actually understands what we’ve built.”
To be fair, we’re not sure we really understood at all. In fact, when we look at the list of companies that were using OpenSensors when we first invested, they ranged from wine makers on Martha’s Vineyard to industrial crane manufacturers to large architectural firms. What we did understand was that Yodit was a genius, that she had a natural ability to get you to say yes and was gritty. I don’t know if this came from spending time at sea with her family (her father captained a cargo vessel) or if she was just born that way.
We at Crane and Yodit both made the same mistake early on – trying to service ALL of the different types of customers that wanted to take advantage of her high performant and real time solution for managing sensor data. Being a natural entrepreneur, Yodit figured out the biggest ‘hair on fire’ problem that her product could solve for corporates with budget. So she bet the company on workplace monitoring – helping large companies make huge savings on space in their office buildings by providing them with real-time data on how it was used. While saving money is nice, she also helped them to reduce their environmental footprint. Buildings represent 36% of global energy usage and 39% of CO2 emissions.
But none of this mattered in early 2020 as COVID-19 started ravaging every city on the planet. Overnight, nobody was travelling into the office. Over at OpenSensor’s London HQ, Yodit moved into firefighting mode.
For months, OpenSensors worked tirelessly behind the scenes to enable companies to accelerate their move to flexible working once a vaccine was ready. A trend that they had spotted before the pandemic was that workplaces were already starting to provide more flexible schedules and work environments. Many employees (ourselves included) don’t want to go back to an office five days a week. But for people who work in large companies, how can they be assured it is possible to return safely?
Yodit and team have been working with all of the key stakeholders involved in getting people back to the office – facilities management, HR, IT and Finance along with employees to deliver safe, agile and cost-effective work environments. They have learned how occupancy, air quality and conditions can affect the transmission of the virus. OpenSensors tracks humidity, CO2 levels and other data points to guide employers on the optimal capacity to reduce transmission. This month they launched new features to their existing corporate customers enabling their employees to book a desk, have an internal track and trace system and monitor the health of their work environment.
As Yodit likes to say,
“We want every single one of our stakeholders to have the greatest confidence when making critical decisions about their workplace and their employees. We give them the power to make evidence-based decisions. This is no time for guessing, when people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.”
We are excited to announce a further investment in OpenSensors who are transitioning to their next phase as a technology company delivering data-powered workplace transformation solutions. Their technology works seamlessly behind the scenes, to reveal workplace and workforce patterns and conditions that generate the insight required for confident, evidence based decision-making. We are proud of and humbled by the entire OpenSensors team, whose mission is to make human, social, economic and environmental sustainability a reality for every workplace in the world and grateful that we’ve been able to be a small part of their journey.
Comments Off on OpenSensors secures $4M for air-monitoring platform which allows offices to be more COVID-safe
Today, the acute asthma attack of a primary school-aged girl in February 2013 was ruled by a U.K. court to be due to air pollution. It is thought to be the first ruling of its kind in the world. Only a year after Ella Kissi-Debrah died, another mother also became concerned about the effects of air quality on her daughter’s asthma and decided to do something about it.
Today, Yodit Stanton has secured $4 million in seed funding for her air-monitoring startup OpenSensors, in a seed round led by Crane Venture Partners and other unnamed investors. The startup previously bootstrapped the company, supported by customer revenues.
It’s been a busy 5 months since our last newsletter, with several new deals coupled with the 4th edition of Flight, our annual Enterprise Seed Summit. We and 100+ enterprise founders from across Europe who attended Flight were fortunate to be joined by leading GTM experts David Sacks (Craft Ventures, Yammer), Marten Mickos (HackerOne CEO), Jen Bers (VP Sales Onfido) and numerous others. Please check out what we all learned this year.
2020 has continued to be a year of building at Crane. We welcomed two new members to the Crane team. We’re excited to announce that software marketing veteran Aneel Lakhani has joined Crane as an Advisory Partner to support our portfolio. Check out his slides and talk from Flight 2020 on The Uncomfortable Truths to Bringing Products to Market. Lucy Illidge also joined as our first GTM Intern. She has been busy working across our portfolio and working on a few top secret projects which we will be launching in the New Year.
With new investments over the past few months, we now have enterprise and deep tech startups HQ’d in 7 European countries. We’re still passionate about redefining the enterprise work experience alongside our founders, so if you or anyone you know are starting a new company, building a new product and launching a new (open source) project – please feel free to reach out.
All the best,
The Crane Team
From the German seaside in Kiel, Gitpod raised $3m to scale the first open source developer platform to automate the provisioning of ready-to-code development environments. They recently announced a partnership and native integration with Gitlab providing the “last missing piece” in the GitLab DevOps pipeline.
An all-star payments team of Adyen alums, Dutch headquartered Silverflow raised $3m to upgrade the 30 to 40-year-old global payments technology stack. They’re building the first cloud-native card payments platform that connects directly to card networks.
Procurement automation pioneer Paid raised $2.9m to continue their mission to create equal opportunity for businesses of all sizes, all over the world, by streamlining and automating the procurement and supplier management process of large enterprises.
Oxford-based PQShield raised $7m to continue building cryptographic solutions for a future when quantum computers may render many current cybersecurity approaches useless. They’ve assembled a world-class team with the world’s highest concentration of quantum cryptography PhDs outside academia and classified agencies. Excited to co-invest with old friends Kindred Capital and OSI.
7Bridges has been busy helping large healthcare and retail companies keep their critical logistics operations running smoothly. For you logistics nerds they have just released a Whtie Paper on the major threats to business arising from logistics disruption during the current pandemic https://content.the7bridges.com/download-resilience-whitepaper
Crane Co-Founder Krishna Visvanathan was invited by the European Startup Podcast to share our enterprise seed thesis, why we built a GTM team and deep tech GTM vs enterprise GTM. Listen here.
Hiring for roles outside of their area of expertise is one of the biggest challenges start-up founders face.
The early phase of a software start-up is usually characterised by rapid product experimentation, selling to “friends and family” and a lack of formal structure or processes. During this phase, hiring enthusiastic generalists typically works very well for founders.
Once the business starts scaling however, the pace of everything increases, including the volume and complexity of paying customers.
It is at this stage thatorganisational gaps, a lack of specific skills and process shortcomings can start to negatively impact paying customers, with things like slow deployments, product quality issues or low user adoption generating negative customer sentiment and even a loss of existing revenue.
A founder’s natural instinct when faced with these kinds of issues is to fill the organisational gaps by creating a Customer Success function and to bring in the domain expertise they lack by hiring the most tenured Customer executive they can find.
This instinct to hire in a tenured executive makes total sense, but it is not always the right one (and can be costly to the business and its culture).
Comments Off on Harbr raises $38.5M to help enterprises exchange and share big data troves securely
Today, a new London startup called Harbr, which has built a secure platform to enable big data exchange, is announcing a big round of funding to tap into that demand. The company has raised $38.5 million in a Series A round of funding, just six months since emerging from stealth mode. It plans to use the money to hire more people to meet the demand of serving more enterprise customers, and for R&D.
Led jointly by new backers Dawn Capital and Tiger Global Management, the round also had participation from past investors Mike Chalfen, Boldstart Ventures, Crane Venture Partners, Backed and Seedcamp, alongside UiPath’s founder and CEO Daniel Dines and head of strategy Brandon Deer. Harbr has now raised over $50 million, and it’s not disclosing its valuation.
Comments Off on Paid – the next generation Procurement Automation Platform
“The contract is with procurement”
… the nightmare phrase for any supplier trying to close a large enterprise customer. Something that as enterprise software investors we experience vicariously through our portfolio companies. Dealing with a large corporation is painstakingly “slow, frustrating, manual and opaque” no matter who you are, whether you are selling a product or service, physical or software, large or small. Tom Howsam (Founder & CEO at Paid), lived through this when running his last company and felt like there had to be a better way – so he built Paid.
On the flipside, what is less obvious is how expensive a problem supplier management is for large enterprises. A company can easily onboard 5,000+ new suppliers a year – and at an average cost of $7,000 per supplier (Gartner), that’s a cool $35m just to get suppliers onto their ERP! Add to that the cost of processing a single purchase order at an average of $300, the cost of approvals, contracting, invoicing, accounts payables… 🤯
Paid’s mission is to create equal opportunity for businesses of all sizes, all over the world, by streamlining and automating the procurement and supplier management process, specifically focusing on the small and midsized supplier relationships of large enterprises. From supplier onboarding, POs and approvals, all the way to getting paid on time. With Paid, the time to onboard a new supplier is shortened from several months to hours. The cost and manual effort of processing 10,000’s of POs and invoices a year is reduced from $millions to the cost of software. The platform offers the added advantage of instant or faster settlement for suppliers, through financing partners, while enterprises keep their standard payment terms. The net result is enterprises experience massive cost savings and improved speed of doing business while suppliers grow revenues, speed up cash collection and increase happiness. Textbook win-win.
Paid’s value proposition immediately resonated when we met with Tom and Natasha Foster (Co-founder & COO). At the height of Covid-19 lockdown this spring, they certainly did not pick the easiest time to fundraise, but we were more than impressed by their unique insights into modernising procurement. As was Jeremy Roche (Founder & former CEO at Financial Force), who is joining Paid as Chairman, adding exceptional enterprise software and leadership experience to the team.
We are excited and proud to announce our partnership with Paid, leading their £2.2m Seed round alongside our good friends at Seedcamp, Jeremy and several incredible new angel investors and existing investors, including Techstars.
Comments Off on Paid raises £2.2m to disrupt procurement and set SMEs free
Could Paid, a British digital procurement start-up, finally enable smaller firms to win more business from the largest buyers? The company’s founders believe their digital procurement platform offers much-needed relief for small suppliers fed up with having to jump through hoops in order to work with larger customers – and that it will appeal to those larger businesses too, which are now actively pursuing agility and diversity in their supply chains.
Comments Off on Q&A on Bringing Enterprise Products to Market with Aneel Lakhani
Following Aneel’s presentation to founders of enterprise startups at Flight 2020, we sat down to discuss what he’s learned being the first marketing hire at 5 enterprise software startups.
Note: edited for length. [Scott tried. He really did.]
Scott: Aneel, you have helped to bring dozens of products to market in your career. What’s the most important lesson you have learned to date that you think every founder should be aware of?
Aneel: I wish there was just one. But if I had to choose, maybe it’s this: care deeply about all the experiences your users or customers have with you. Not just the product experience or the website experience or the sales experience. Every single experience.
Scott: In your presentation you talk about going to the right market. For startups that only have a handful of paying customers and a limited pipeline, at what stage do the Founders need to decide which market to tackle? What evidence should they be looking for before making this tough decision?
Aneel: The ideal case, the hopeful case, is that whoever you solved the problem for in the first place–there are mountains of them and they have money to spend and this problem is a real epic pain.
Then you just need to figure out the mechanics of getting in front of them and executing the sale.
Often though, the reality is what you pointed out: the real market today might not be big enough.
I think you have to be looking for signs of this constantly from the very beginning. As good counterfactual hygiene, looking for holes in your own thesis. Or have someone who does this for you. As soon as you have any indications to that effect, immediately shift all your attention to expanding the market or pivoting to a bigger one.
That’s the simple version, anyway. 🙂 There’s always nuance.
For instance, if there are two appealing market segments where one is hard to do business in and has long sales cycles with large ACVs and another that is easy to do business in with shorter sales cycles and small ACVs–you have to decide what business you want to build and which you’re going to be better at. Which is more about asking yourself what you and your team are better suited for.
Or maybe your product boxes you into a particular market. It might be so frictional, so much work to implement and support, and need to be so highly priced–that you have no choice but to pursue the large-ACV market.
Scott: You always talk about making stories awesome, but in your presentation you flipped it to make it about the customer’s story. Can you talk about what you mean and how you can achieve this?
Aneel: This is a cliche that marketing people like me love to trot out. But it also happens to be true.
Someone might find your product interesting. But the reason they spend time and money on it is because it makes their life better in some way. They don’t buy it because it’s a great product. They buy it because it solves their problem, makes them look better, advances their goals. That’s what makes it a great product.
If you build something truly innovative, you’ll find that people have a hard time seeing how much better things will be because of it. That’s not their problem. That’s your problem. You need to figure out how to show them that their story is going to get better. Your story, self-centered and about you, will not do that unless they can see themselves in it.
Scott: It’s well understood that Founders should map the customer journey as soon as they have any data. How can Founders begin to understand where they should be spending their limited resources to take friction out of the customer journey?
Aneel: I don’t think it’s well understood. Cause they don’t do it.
Getting together with your team and drafting out the whole journey from the first time someone hears about you and then every step they go through in becoming a customer and then getting onboarded and then growing instead of churning–is so illuminating, that for most teams, it becomes self-evident where to focus. You know when and where you’re losing people. It becomes pretty straightforward to determine whether you’ll get the most out of increasing top of funnel leads vs creating an easier free trial onboarding vs intentionally introducing friction to filter out poorly qualified leads before they consume your team’s time.
On the flip side, if you don’t have that journey mapped out, you’re making decisions based on a partial model of the system. Which only works if you get lucky.
Scott: As you know, there are very few product marketers in Europe.High level, what does a product marketer do and is it possible to train someone to succeed in this job?
Aneel: The exact composition of what the role does can be completely different company to company. But what’s always true is that product marketers bridge the storytelling gap between product capabilities and value to the customer.
At base, that means messaging and positioning. But often it’s also customer marketing, technical marketing, product launches, content for demand gen campaigns, competitive positioning, content used by sales, analyst relations, pricing, packaging, and much more.
Like with any skill, not everyone is interested in or well suited to it. But I absolutely think it can be trained. I didn’t start out being good at it. Arguably, I’m not that good at it now. It’s just that the bar is not very high in the world for communicating across disciplines.
Scott: How do you measure the success of product marketing?
Aneel: This is something I repeat a lot: product marketing is essentially a service function.
So a lot of it is: how well is product marketing supporting other functions. Did product marketing materially add to sales velocity, increase ACVs, get good coverage on a launch, position the company well with analysts, etc?
Even if things like messaging are qualitative in nature, you can measure their impact quantitatively. Like a contribution margin.
Scott: What are the persistent themes that you’ve seen arise once a company reaches PMF and starts to invest more into building out sales and marketing teams?
Aneel: Hiring too much, too fast, too early.
Thinking you have PMF when you don’t
Hiring too senior, like someone to scale a playbook when what you need to do is discover the playbook
Building a large sales team without any marketing support
Under leveraging marketing
Hiring too little, too slow, too late.
Expecting the product to market and sell itself
Waiting until you have a “perfect” product before you test it against the market
Not hiring someone to help you figure out the playbook faster
Hiring too junior, like someone to execute drip campaigns when what you need to do is figure out whether an inbound strategy is feasible
Not caring about execution.
Abdicating responsibility for the business instead of delegating and managing goal achievement
Not transferring and adapting what’s in the founders’ brains to the go to market team
Losing customers because they have bad experiences in marketing and sales touchpoints
Letting your teams waste loads of time on things that aren’t working
Scott: Thank you so much for sitting down to share your thoughts on one of our favorite topics!
Here are Aneel’s Slides on Uncomfortable Truths on the Path to Market and full 15 minute presentation from FLIGHT 2020.
Comments Off on Welcoming GTM Therapist, Aneel Lakhani to Crane
You may know Aneel Lakhani, a long-time startup marketing executive, from his daily ritual of posting his morning coffee on Twitter. Often it’s from his Brooklyn apartment, but now that he’s not tied to a desk he’s often posting from remote locations. The morning coffee ritual is to get him prepared for his new job. He’s a Go-to-Market therapist for founders.
Aneel is a computer scientist by training and spent the first part of his career as an engineer and product manager. Somewhere along the line, he recognized that he had a talent for transforming the complex into the simple. He then naturally gravitated towards the marketing side and became the first marketing hire for five different enterprise startups, including SignalFx which sold to Splunk for $1bn and more recently at Honeycomb.io.
Aneel recently took some time off to advise a handful of friends who were all battling with the same startup problem: the inability to clearly share the right message with the right user and close more deals. They lacked any kind of sales repeatability and were stuck in what David Sacks calls the Wilderness Period (which for top down enterprise sales can be much longer than bottom up SaaS sales).
Tell Me About your Childhood
Aneel is sitting on one of his daily Zoom calls from his apartment in Brooklyn (they span from Tokyo to Berlin on a typical day).
Aneel: “How can I help?”
Founder: “We have 5 killer use cases across 3 verticals and sort of 2 GTM strategies right now.”
Aneel: “And how’s that working out?”
Founder: “We’ve been stuck at $1m ARR for a year. Even though we’re adding a ton of value to our existing customers, VCs don’t want to invest as they say they want to see more velocity.”
Aneel: “Well of course, you’re selling into the largest companies in the world. Let’s think about what doing less would mean for your focus and for your team. In my experience, 1 use case and 1 persona equals a 10x story improvement and more clarity on the GTM focus.”
Failure is a result of not creating a product that customers are desperate for. The vast majority of our investments at Crane are in complex technical products that often take 6-18 months to sell into large organizations. So these companies often need a slightly longer runway (and patient investors who understand this).
Many founders (and investors!) worry about execution and metrics way too early. The most important thing to focus on is figuring out what your unique value is to customers and which customers need this problem solved today.
This is precisely where Aneel’s expertise around product marketing, positioning and storytelling come in.
The Uncomfortable Truths on the Path to Market
If building a product for large and demanding enterprise customers is a science, designing the go-to-market strategy is an art. Aneel recently shared his experiences bringing enterprise software products to market with the Crane community at our annual Flight Summit.
As Aneel often tells founders, “the customer story is more important than your story. Where is the pain in their story? What is the new story they’re going to live? How does your story transform their story?”
If we had to sum up the magic of what Aneel helps founders with, it’s narrowing their focus to the one thing that makes customers need them and then how to simply tell that story to the right end user.
We are beyond excited to welcome Aneel onto the Crane team as our newest Advisor.
Comments Off on Adyen alumni raise €2.6M seed to launch Silverflow, a ‘cloud-native’ card payments processor
Silverflow, a Dutch startup founded by Adyen alumni, is breaking cover and announcing seed funding.
The pre-launch company has spent the last two years building what it describes as a “cloud-native” online card processor that directly connects to card networks. The aim is to offer a modern replacement for the 20 to 40-year-old payments card processing tech that is mostly in use today.
Backing Silverflow’s €2.6 million seed round is U.K.-based VC Crane Venture Partners, with participation from Inkef Capital and unnamed angel investors and industry leaders from Pay.On, First Data, Booking.com and Adyen. It brings the fintech startup’s total funding to date to ~€3 million.
Comments Off on Flight 2020: Takeaways from hosting a virtual summit for founders
2020 has been an avalanche of Zoom events. So, as we were planning the fourth annual Flight, our early stage GTM focused event for enterprise founders, we had a debate about whether we should still go ahead or not. Do we really need one more Zoom event? Will it be valuable even when people will not be able to meet each other? Can the learnings still be as valuable virtually? In the end, the decision to go ahead was clear and the reason for that was simple: there is no other event like it in Europe.
The first steps of go-to-market for an enterprise software company are extremely hard. At Flight, we bring together world-class enterprise software founders and executives to share very concrete lessons and learnings on how to navigate finding and closing the first customers, bringing on the first commercial hires, and scaling to product-market fit and beyond – all while avoiding some pitfalls they have experienced themselves. In order to make sure the content hyper-relevant for every attendee, we keep the event invite-only for founders of early stage enterprise software and deep tech companies. By doing so, both the speakers and the attendees get the most out of the event.