Our favorite companies from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day: Part 2

We’ve reached the end of Y Combinator’s biggest Demo Day, which saw more than 300 companies pitching back-to-back over eight hours.

Earlier, we highlighted some of the companies that caught our eye in the first half of the day. Now we’re back with our favorite companies from the second half. From a marketplace to help you resell formalwear to a startup that offers self-driving street cleaners, it’s quite the mix.

If you’d like to browse all of the companies from this batch YC has a catalog of publicly-launched W21 companies here.

Terra

Heading into this particular demo day, I had my eyes peeled for startups focused on delivering services via an API instead of offering managed software. Happily, there have been a number to dig into, including Pitbit.ai, Bimaplan, Enode and Terra.

Terra stood out to me because it solves a problem I care deeply about, namely fitness data siloization. My running data is stuck in one app, biking data in another, and my weight-lifting data is stuck in my head, though I doubt Terra has an API for that interface quite yet.

What Terra does is permit fitness app developers to better connect their services, which permits the sharing of data back and forth. Presenters likened their startup to Plaid — a popular thing to do in recent quarters — saying that what the fintech startup did for banking data, Terra would do for fitness and health information.

Getting developers to sign on will be tricky, as I presume all of the apps I use in an exercise context would prefer to be my main workout home. But I don’t want that, so here’s hoping Terra realizes its vision.

— Alex

AgendaPro

Calling itself “Shopify for beauty and wellness” in Latin America, AgendaPro wants to help small businesses in the region book customers online and collect payments. 

The company’s idea isn’t as radical as some companies that we heard from today — Carbon capture! Faster drug discovery! — but the company did share several metrics that made us sit up. First, AgendaPro has reached $152,000 in MRR, or just over $1.8 million in ARR. And representatives shared that its gross margins are 89%. As far as software margins goes, that’s pretty damn good.

The startup has more than 3,000 merchants using its service at the moment, and it claims that there are more than four million businesses that it could service. If AgendaPro can get software and payments revenues from even a respectable fraction of those companies, it will be a big, big business. And who doesn’t love vertical SaaS?

— Alex

Atom Bioworks

One of the holy grails of biochemistry is a programmable DNA machine. These tools can essentially “code” a molecule so that it reliably sticks to a specific substance or cell type, which allows a variety of follow-up actions to be taken.

For instance, a DNA machine could lock onto COVID-19 viruses and then release a chemical signal indicating infection before killing the virus. The same principle applies to a cancer cell. Or a bacterium. You get the picture — and it looks like Atom Bioworks has something a lot like this.

Our favorite companies from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day: Part 1

It’s that time again! Today is Demo Day for Y Combinator’s latest accelerator batch — its largest to date, with more than 300 teams getting a minute each to pitch their companies to an audience of investors.

This is the third time YC has held its Demo Day via a Zoom livestream and the second time the entire program was entirely virtual. YC president Geoff Ralston outlined their thinking for this latest batch — and how/why they’ve expanded the program to over 300 companies — in a post this morning.

Want to see all of the companies? YC has a catalog of the entire Winter 2021 batch here (minus those that haven’t publicly launched), filterable by industry and region.

If you don’t have time to skim through it all, we’ve aggregated some of the companies that really managed to catch our eye. This is part one of two, covering our favorites from the companies that launched in the first half of the day.

As Alex Wilhelm put it last time we did one of these, “we’re not investors, so we’re not pretending to sort the unicorns from the goats.” But we do spend a lot of time talking with startups, hearing pitches and telling their stories; if you’re curious about which companies stood out, read on.

Prospa

Prospa is building a neobank for small companies in Nigeria. The startup charges customers $7 per month and has reached $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue. That’s some pretty darn good traction. We found Prospa notable because Nigeria’s economy and population are rapidly growing, neobanks have succeeded in a number of markets thus far, and the company’s clear business model and early traction stood out.

And Prospa isn’t targeting a small market. It said during its presentation that there are 37 million so-called “microbusinesses” in its target country. That’s a lot of scale to grow into, and it’s really nice to hear from a neobank that isn’t going to merely pray that interchange revenues will eventually stack to the moon.

— Alex

Blushh

Image Credits: Blushh

Blushh, built by a team of ex-Google, Amazon, Harvard and BCG professionals, is creating a directory of short, sensual audio stories for women in Asia. The startup believes that there is a massive unmet need for adult content created for women, instead of men, signing up 100 paying subscribers within its first month on the market.

During their pitch, co-founder Soy Hwang said Blushh wants to do for sexual wellness what “Spotify and Audible did for music and audio books.” This startup stands out because it is taking on an untapped market ridden with stigma and lack of innovation. It’s a risk on several levels, and considering the fact that many venture capitalists today still have a “vice” clause that prevents them from investing in sex tech, it will be key to see how Blushh funds itself to keep growing.

— Natasha

BrioHR

TechCrunch caught up with BrioHR a few weeks ago when the startup announced that it had closed a $1.3 million round. During its presentation, the company announced that it had reached $13,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR), or $156,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

The company is building human resources software for companies in Southeast Asia, a market it considers fraught with old software and outdated business processes. The company is doing two things. First, building software to help manage and pay workers. The latter part of its work requires lots of localization, so it’s rolling out more slowly than the rest of its software.

If Southeast Asia is as fertile ground for modern HR software as the United States has been shown to be, BrioHR could find more than enough room to grow. I’m excited to see how far the company can scale its ARR with the round that we recently covered.

— Alex

Charge Running

Strava walked so Charge Running could, well, run. The startup, founded by a former Navy SEAL, app connoisseur and kinesiology specialist, is an app that offers live virtual running classes. The consumer play is being framed by the team as a “Peloton for running” with motivation and social engagement during the run.

Snowflake gave up its dual-class shares. Should you?

Snowflake announced earlier this month that it would give up its dual-class shareholder structure, a corporate governance setup that often gives founders and executives superior voting rights, typically involving 10 times as many votes for their own shares as others receive. The mechanism can enable founders to maintain control despite later dilution and may sometimes even grant ironclad control to an individual in perpetuity.

For many companies, these supervoting shares represent a highly powerful tool, allowing founders to have their cake and eat it, too — to go public and receive the advantages of being a public company while limiting the power of external shareholders to influence how they run the company once it floats.

Some founders and their investors argue that these preferred shares protect them from the short-term whims of the market, but the perspective isn’t universally accepted. Dual-class shares are a controversial governance structure, and some wonder if they are setting up an unfair playing field by allowing a cabal to wield outsized power.

Why would Snowflake give up such a powerful tool a mere six months after it went public? We decided to look at the notion of dual-class shares and why Snowflake may have been willing to let them go.

Snowflake’s decision

If one of the primary purposes of dual-class shares is to consolidate CEO power, then perhaps Snowflake felt they weren’t necessary, given the history of CEO-shuffling at the company. While Snowflake’s founders are still part of the organization, they hired Sutter Hill investor Mike Speiser to be their first CEO, followed by former Microsoft exec Bob Muglia before finally bringing in veteran CEO Frank Slootman to take their company public.

Without an all-powerful CEO founder in place, perhaps the company felt that supervoting shares weren’t necessary. Regardless, Snowflake CFO Mike Scarpelli framed the move as a decision that works for all parties when he announced that his company would abandon the special shares during its earnings call earlier this month.

“Today, we announced that on March 1st, 2021, our Class B shareholders in accordance with our governing documents converted all of our Class B common stock to Class A common stock, eliminating the dual-class structure of our common stock and ensuring that each share has an equal vote. We view this as operationally beneficial to the company and our shareholders,” Scarpelli said during the call.

A crypto company’s journey to Data 3.0

Data is a gold mine for a company.

If managed well, it provides the clarity and insights that lead to better decision-making at scale, in addition to an important tool to hold everyone accountable.

However, most companies are stuck in Data 1.0, which means they are leveraging data as a manual and reactive service. Some have started moving to Data 2.0, which employs simple automation to improve team productivity. The complexity of crypto data has opened up new opportunities in data, namely to move to the new frontier of Data 3.0, where you can scale value creation through systematic intelligence and automation. This is our journey to Data 3.0.

The complexity of crypto data has opened up new opportunities in data, namely to move to the new frontier of Data 3.0, where you can scale value creation through systematic intelligence and automation.

Coinbase is neither a finance company nor a tech company — it’s a crypto company. This distinction has big implications for how we work with data. As a crypto company, we work with three major types of data (instead of the usual one or two types of data), each of which is complex and varied:

  1. Blockchain: decentralized and publicly available.
  2. Product: large and real-time.
  3. Financial: high-precision and subject to many financial/legal/compliance regulations.

Image Credits: Michael Li/Coinbase

Our focus has been on how we can scale value creation by making this varied data work together, eliminating data silos, solving issues before they start and creating opportunities for Coinbase that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Having worked at tech companies like LinkedIn and eBay, and also those in the finance sector, including Capital One, I’ve observed firsthand the evolution from Data 1.0 to Data 3.0. In Data 1.0, data is seen as a reactive function providing ad-hoc manual services or firefighting in urgent situations.

Olo raises IPO range as DigitalOcean sees possible $5B debut valuation

It’s a busy day in IPO-land: Olo has raised its IPO range and DigitalOcean is giving us a first look at what it may be worth when it debuts.

That Olo raised its IPO price is not a huge surprise, given the software company’s rapid growth and profits. In the case of DigitalOcean, we have a bit more work to do as its approach to growth is a bit different.

Let’s explore both companies’ pricing intervals through our usual lens of revenue multiples, market comps and general SaaS sass. We’ll do this in alphabetical order, which puts the cloud infra company up first.

DigitalOcean’s IPO price range

According to its S-1/A filing, DigitalOcean expects its IPO to price between $44 and $47 per share. The price range is a coup for the company’s private investors, who as recently as the company’s 2020 Series C paid about $10.59 each for the company’s shares. Andreessen Horowitz is going to do very well, having led the company’s Series A at a per-share price of just more than $2. IA Ventures, which led DigitalOcean’s seed round, according to Crunchbase, paid just $0.26 per share back in the 2012-2013 time frame. That’s going to convert well.

In valuation terms, the company’s simple share count post-IPO will be 105,303,340, or 107,778,340 if its underwriters purchase their option. At $44 to $47 per share, DigitalOcean is worth $4.72 billion to $5.07 billion, including shares designated for its underwriters.

The company’s fully diluted valuation is higher. At midpoint, Renaissance Capital estimates DigitalOcean’s diluted valuation is $5.6 billion. That works out to a little under $5.8 billion at $47 per share.

Taking a look at DigitalOcean’s Q4 2020 revenue of $87.5 million, the company closed last year on a run rate of $350 million. Or a revenue multiple of 14.5x at the upper end of its nondiluted valuation, and around 16.5x at the upper bound of its diluted worth.

Making sense of the $6.5B Okta-Auth0 deal

When Okta announced that it was acquiring Auth0 yesterday for $6.5 billion, the deal raised eyebrows. After all, it’s a substantial amount of money for one identity and access management (IAM) company to pay to buy another, similar entity. But the deal ultimately brings together two companies that come at identity from different sides of the market — and as such could be the beginning of a beautiful identity friendship.

The deal ultimately brings together two companies that come at identity from different sides of the market — and as such could be the beginning of a beautiful identity friendship.

On a simple level, Okta delivers identity and access management (IAM) to companies who use the service to provide single-sign-on access for employees to a variety of cloud services — think Gmail, Salesforce, Slack and Workday.

Meanwhile, Auth0 is a developer tool providing coders with easy API access to single-sign-on functionality. With just a couple of lines of code, the developer can deliver IAM tooling without having to build it themselves. It’s a similar value proposition to what Twilio offers for communications or Stripe for payments.

The thing about IAM is that it’s not exciting, but it is essential. That could explain why such a large number of dollars are exchanging hands. As Auth0 co-founder and CEO Eugenio Pace told TechCrunch’s Zack Whittacker in 2019, “Nobody cares about authentication, but everybody needs it.”

Putting the two companies together generates a fairly comprehensive approach to IAM covering back end to front end. We’re going to look at why this deal matters from an identity market perspective, and if it was worth the substantial price Okta paid to get Auth0.

Halt! Who goes there?

When you think about identity and access management, it’s about making sure you are who you say you are, and that you have the right to enter and access a set of applications. That’s why it’s a key part of any company’s security strategy.

Gartner found that IAM was a $12 billion business last year with projected growth to over $13.5 billion in 2021. To give you a sense of where Okta and Auth0 fit, Okta just closed FY2021 with over $800 million in revenue. Meanwhile Auth0 is projected to close this year with $200 million in annual recurring revenue.

Identity and access management market numbers from Gartner.

Image Credits: Gartner

Among the top players in this market according to Gartner’s November 2020 Magic Quadrant market analysis are Ping Identity, Microsoft and Okta in that order. Meanwhile Gartner listed Auth0 as a key challenger in their market grid.

Michael Kelly, a Gartner analyst, told TechCrunch that Okta and Auth0 are both gaining something from the deal.

“For Okta, while they have a very good product, they have marketing muscle and adoption rates that are not available to smaller vendors like Auth0. When having [IAM] conversations with clients, Okta is almost always on the short list. Auth0 will immediately benefit from being associated with the larger Okta brand, and Okta will likewise now have credibility in the deals that involve a heavy developer focused buyer,” Kelly told me.

Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon said he was enthusiastic about the deal precisely because of the complementary nature of the two companies’ approaches to identity. “How a developer interacts with the service, and the flexibility they need is different from how the CIO wants to work with [identity]. So by giving customers this choice and support, it’s really compelling,” McKinnon explained.

As activist investors loom, what’s next for Box?

Box could be facing troubled times if a Reuters story from last week is accurate. Activist investor Starboard Value took a 7.9% stake in the storage company in September 2019, and a year ago took three board seats as its involvement in the cloud company deepened. It seemed only a matter of time before another shoe dropped.

Activist investor Starboard Value is reportedly after three additional board seats.

That thunk you just heard could be said shoe as Starboard is reportedly after three additional board seats. Those include current CEO Aaron Levie’s and two independent board members, all of whom have their seats coming up for election in June. If the firm were to obtain three additional seats, it would control six of nine votes and could have its way with Box.

What could the future hold for the company given this development (assuming it’s true)? It seems changes are coming for Box.

Below, we’ll explore how Box got to this point. And if an acquisition is in Box’s future, just who might be in the market for a cloud-native content management company built to scale in the enterprise? There would very likely be multiple suitors.

Box’s fickle financial fate

Starboard may have reason to be frustrated by Box’s performance. The cloud company’s stock price and market cap remain stubbornly low. Its share price is mired around $18 a share, not much higher than the price it went public at in 2015 when it was valued at $14 per share. Its market cap today is $3 billion, which is lacking in comparison to fellow cloud stalwarts like Dropbox at $9 billion, Slack at $23 billion or Okta at $34 billion.

Remember back in March 2014 when Box announced it was going public? It then did something highly unusual, delaying the deed 10 months until January 2015. One thing or another kept the company from pulling the trigger and just doing it. Perhaps it was a sign.

Instead, Box raised $150 million more after its S-1 filing received a lackluster response from the market. Looking back, you could argue that the SaaS model was simply less well known in 2014 than it is today. Certainly public investors are more sympathetic to software companies that run deficits in the name of growth than they were back then.

But when Box did file again, finally pricing at $14 per share in 2015, it received a strong welcome. The company had priced above its $11 to $13 per-share IPO range as TechCrunch reported at the time and instantly shot higher. We wrote on its IPO day that the cloud company quickly “surged to over $20 a share and [was then] trading at $23.67.”

A year later, our continuing coverage had flipped with the share price stuck at $10 in January 2016.

When growth won’t come