Announcing the final agenda for TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS 2021

TechCrunch Sessions is back!

On October 27, we’re taking on the ferociously competitive field of software as a service (SaaS), and we’re thrilled to announce our final packed agenda, overflowing with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the industry. And you’re in luck, because $75 early-bird tickets are still on sale — make sure you book yours so you can enjoy all the agenda has to offer and save $100 bucks before prices go up!

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from industry experts, and take part in discussions about the potential of new advances in data, open source, how to deal with the onslaught of security threats, investing in early-stage startups and plenty more.

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names and the smartest and most prescient people in the industry, including Javier Soltero at Google, Kathy Baxter at Salesforce, Jared Spataro at Microsoft, Jay Kreps at Confluent, Sarah Guo at Greylock and Daniel Dines at UiPath.

You’ll be able to find and engage with people from all around the world through world-class networking on our virtual platform — all for $75 and under for a limited time, with even deeper discounts for nonprofits and government agencies, students and up-and-coming founders!

Our agenda showcases some of the powerhouses in the space, but also plenty of smaller teams that are building and debunking fundamental technologies in the industry. Check it out!

Survival of the Fittest: Investing in Today’s SaaS Market
with Casey Aylward (Costanoa Ventures), Kobie Fuller (Upfront) and Sarah Guo (Greylock)

  • The venture capital world is faster and more competitive than ever. For investors hoping to get into the hottest SaaS deal, things are even crazier. With more nontraditional money pouring into the sector, remote dealmaking now the norm and an increasingly global market for software startups, venture capitalists are being forced to shake up their own operations — and expectations. TechCrunch sits down with three leading investors to discuss how they are fighting for allocation in hot deals, what they’ve changed in their own processes, and what today’s best founders are demanding.

Three Easy Steps to Capture Global Opportunities (Sponsored by KUDO)
with Fardad Zabetian (KUDO)

  • As our economy becomes increasingly global, is your business prepared to succeed? KUDO Co-Founder and CEO Fardad Zabetian shares his insights on how to capture global opportunities.

Data, Data Everywhere
with Ali Ghodsi (Databricks)

  • As companies struggle to manage and share increasingly large amounts of data, it’s no wonder that Databricks, whose primary product is a data lake, was valued at a whopping $28 billion for its most recent funding round. We’re going to talk to CEO Ali Ghodsi about why his startup is so hot, and what comes next.

SaaS Security, Today and Tomorrow
with Edna Conway (Microsoft), Wendy Nather (Cisco) and Olivia Rose (Amplitude)

  • Enterprises face a constant stream of threats, from nation states to cybercriminals and corporate insiders. After a year where billions worked from home and the cloud reigned supreme, startups and corporations alike can’t afford to stay off the security pulse. Find out what SaaS startups need to know about security now, and in the future.

Data Warehouse: The Foundation of the Modern Data Stack (Sponsored by RudderStack)
with Soumyadeb Mitra (RudderStack), Ben Gotfredson (Snowflake)

  • The modern data stack is changing rapidly, with new technology emerging everyday. Increasingly, though, architectures are being built around the data warehouse. In this panel discussion, experts will discuss why this new architecture has emerged, what specific technologies are driving the trend and what the data stack of the future looks like.

Automation’s Moment Is Now
with Daniel Dines (UiPath), Laela Sturdy (CapitalG) and Dave Wright (ServiceNow)

  • One thing we learned during the pandemic is the importance of automation, and that’s only likely to be more pronounced as we move forward. We’ll be talking to UiPath CEO Daniel Dines, Laela Sturdy, an investor at CapitalG and Dave Wright from ServiceNow about why this is automation’s moment.

How do High-Growth Companies use Technology to Inform Strategy and Drive Results? (Sponsored by SAP)

  • Fast-growing companies are in a constant state of transition, as high performance and growth can lead to ever-changing business priorities and challenges. Hear from a couple of SAP’s hypergrowth customers about how they use technology to inform their strategy and ultimately drive business results. SAP Managing Director, Midmarket and Ecosystem Greg Petraetis will share how businesses grow from being innovators to disruptors to category leaders and how the technology they choose can impact the future of their business productivity.

Was the Pandemic Cloud Productivity’s Spark?
with Javier Soltero (Google)

  • One big aspect of SaaS is productivity apps like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive. We’ll talk with executive Javier Soltero about the role Google Workspace plays in the Google cloud strategy.

AI Ethics at Enterprise Scale
with Kathy Baxter (Salesforce) and Nashlie Sephus (AWS)

  • Keeping AI models fair and unbiased is a tough enough job in the lab or with a single product. How can it be accomplished at the scale of business being done by Amazon and Salesforce? Amazon AI Applied Science manager Nashlie Sephus and Principle Architect of AI Practice Kathy Baxter will discuss the responsibilities as opportunities of putting ethical practices to work in enterprise applications.

Optimizing SaaS Productivity: Why SaaS Sprawl Prohibits Growth? (Sponsored by LeanIX)
with André Christ (LeanIX)

  • SaaS represents an increasing share of the installed software estate – in cloud-born companies, often 100%. If not managed and optimized, an uncontrolled adoption leads to SaaS Sprawl, sometimes called “Shadow IT”. Sub-optimized usage of SaaS subscriptions, increased risk, and audit exposures will become a headache when scaling a business. This talk illustrates frequent pitfalls and proposes the needed processes, skills and capabilities of the emerging SaaS Management discipline for CEOs, CFOs and CIOs.

The Future Is Wide Open
with Abby Kearns (Puppet), Aghi Marietti (Kong) and Jason Warner (Redpoint)

  • Many startups today have an open-source component, and it’s no wonder. It builds an audience and helps drive sales. We’ll talk with Abby Kearns from Puppet, Augusto “Aghi” Marietti from Kong and Jason Warner, an investor at Redpoint, about why open source is such a popular way to build a business.

How Microsoft Shifted from On-Prem to the Cloud
with Jared Spataro (Microsoft)

  • Jared Spataro has been with Microsoft for over 15 years and he was a part of the shift from strictly on-prem software to that which is dominated by the cloud. Today he runs one of the most successful SaaS products out there, and we’ll talk to him about how Microsoft made that shift and what it’s meant to the company.

How Startups are Turning Data into Software Gold
with Jenn Knight (Agentsync), Barr Moses (Monte Carlo) and Dan Wright (DataRobot)

  • The era of big data is behind us. Today’s leading SaaS startups are working with data, instead of merely fighting to help customers collect information. We’ve collected three leaders from three data-focused startups that are forging new markets to get their insight on how today’s SaaS companies are leveraging data to build new companies, attack new problems and, of course, scale like mad.

Taking Your People from Startup to Scale (Sponsored by SAP)
with Max Wessel (SAP)

  • As your business grows, you need to help your people grow with you. And, in a world that is transforming faster than ever, the methods of developing your team don’t cut it. In this session you’ll hear from Max Wessel, Chief Learning Officer at SAP, about how to build a culture and workforce that is flexible, adaptable, and fit for a rocket ship.

Building a Hypergrowth SaaS Startup in a Remote World
with Deidre Paknad, Workboard

  • It’s hard to stand out in today’s startup market, given the sheer number of companies building, launching, and fundraising. But despite all the busyness, Workboard has made waves. Competing in a crowded niche, Deidre Paknad’s upstart tech company has posted huge growth despite COVID-19’s disruptions. We’ll sit down with the CEO to dig into how she managed to scale her company in both revenue, and human terms, despite the global pandemic. Founders, expect to learn something!

What Happens After Your Startup Is Acquired?
with Jyoti Bansal (Harness), Nick Mehta (GainSight) and Monica Sarbu (

  • We’ll speak to three founders about the emotional upheaval of being acquired and what happens after the check clears and the sale closes. Our panel includes Jyoti Bansal who founded AppDynamics, Nick Mehta from GainSight and Monica Sarbu who founded Elastic.

Setting Data in Motion
with Jay Kreps (Confluent)

  • Confluent, the streaming platform built on top of Apache Kafka, was born out of a project at LinkedIn, and rode that from startup to IPO. We’ll speak to co-founder and CEO Jay Kreps to learn about what that journey was like.

Future Forward: How Machine Learning and Human-in-the-Loop Approaches Are Expanding the Capabilities of Automation (sponsored by Akasa)
with Varun Ganapathi (Akasa)

  • Digital transformation efforts in a number of industries have driven massive adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) over the past decade. The hard truth is that RPA is a decades-old technology that is brittle with real limits to its capabilities. It will always have some value in automating work that is simple, discrete, and linear. However, the reason automation efforts often fall short of their aspirations is because so much of life is complex and constantly evolving – too much work falls outside of the capabilities of RPA. In this talk, Varun Ganapathi, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of AKASA will discuss how exceptions and outliers can actually make automation stronger and how emerging machine-learning-based technology platforms combined with human-in-the-loop approaches are already expanding what it is possible to automate across a number of industries.

Pro tip: Keep your finger on the pulse of TC Sessions: SaaS. Get updates when we announce new speakers, add events and offer ticket discounts.

Why should you carve a day out of your hectic schedule to attend TC Sessions: SaaS? This may be the first year we’ve focused on SaaS, but this ain’t our first rodeo. Here’s what other attendees have to say about their TC Sessions experience.

“TC Sessions: Mobility offers several big benefits. First, networking opportunities that result in concrete partnerships. Second, the chance to learn the latest trends and how mobility will evolve. Third, the opportunity for unknown startups to connect with other mobility companies and build brand awareness.” — Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking.

“People want to be around what’s interesting and learn what trends and issues they need to pay attention to. Even large companies like GM and Ford were there, because they’re starting to see the trend move toward mobility. They want to learn from the experts, and TC Sessions: Mobility has all the experts.” — Melika Jahangiri, vice president at Wunder Mobility.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Grab your team, join your community and create opportunity. Don’t wait — jump on the early bird ticket sale right now.

Elastic acquires for security policy definition and enforcement

Less than a year after raising its $6 million seed funding round, Tel Aviv and Sunnyvale-based startup is being acquired by Elastic. Financial terms of the deal are not being publicly disclosed at this time. The deal is expected to close in Elastic’s Q2 FY22, ending Oct. 31, 2021.

In an email to TechCrunch, Ash Kulkarni, chief product officer at Elastic, said that once the acquisition closes, the technical team will continue as a unit in the Elastic Security organization. Kulkarni added that the acquisition will also become the foundation for a growing Elastic presence in Israel, with Amit Kanfer, co-founder and CEO of set to become the site lead for the region. is focused on security policy management for applications. A core element of the company’s technology approach is the Open Policy Agent (OPA) open source project, which is part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which is also home to Kubernetes. OPA was originally started by startup Styra, which itself has raised $40 million in funding to help build out policy management and authorization technology. Part of OPA is the Rego query language which is used to structure security and authorization configuration policies.

“We see policy as a fundamental cornerstone of security,” Kulkarni said. “OPA and Rego provide an open, standards-based way to define, manage, and enforce policies everywhere.”

Kulkarni noted that security policy technology is complementary to Elastic’s efforts in security and observability. He added that Elastic sees potential for using OPA and the technology that has built on top of OPA to power deployment time, and in the future, build-time security for cloud-native environments. 

YL Venture partner John Brennan who helped to lead the seed round of sees the acquisition as being a good fit for both companies, as they are both creating solutions for developers that are based on open source technologies.

“This move by a market leader like Elastic validates the need for transformation in the authorization space,” Brennan said. “This partnership will accelerate’s shift left vision of efficiently embedding access protection from the start, rather than trying to bolt it on after the fact or, worse, ignoring it completely.”

Elastic is known for its Elastic Stack, which provides Elasticsearch search capability, Logstash log monitoring and Kibana data visualization. In recent years the company has expanded into the security space, acquiring Endgame Security in 2019 for $234 million. On Aug. 3, Elastic announced its Limitless XDR capabilities which brings together endpoint security with security information and event management (SIEM).

With its new acquisition, Kulkarni said the goal is to go even deeper into security moving toward cloud security enforcement. He explained that after the acquisition closes and as the technology is integrated, users will be able to leverage the Elastic Stack to visualize and manage compliance policies and policy decisions at scale. An initial use-case for the technology will be developing a Kubernetes security and compliance product based on OPA.


Meet the anti-antitrust startup club

When Congress called in tech CEOs to testify a few weeks ago, it felt like a defining moment. Hundreds of startups have become unicorns, with the largest worth more than $1 trillion (or perhaps $2 trillion). Indeed, modern tech companies have become so entrenched, Facebook is the only one of the Big Five American tech shops worth less than 13 figures.

The titanic valuations of many companies are predicated on current performance, cash on hand and lofty expectations for future growth. The pandemic has done little to stem Big Tech’s forward march and many startups have seen growth rates accelerate as other sectors rushed to support a suddenly remote workforce.

But inside tech’s current moment in the sun is a concern that Congress worked to highlight: are these firms behaving anti-competitively?

By now you’ve heard the arguments concerning why Big Tech may be too big, but there’s a neat second story that we, the Equity crew, have been chatting about: some startups are racing into the big kill zone.

They have to be a bit foolhardy to take on Google Gmail and Search, Amazon’s e-commerce platform or Apple’s App Store. Yet, there are startups targeting all of these categories and more, some flush with VC funding from investors who are eager to take a swing at tech’s biggest players

If the little companies manage to carve material market share for themselves, arguments that Big Tech was just too big to kill — let alone fail — will dissolve. But today, their incumbency is a reality and these startups are merely bold.

Still, when we look at the work being done, there are enough companies staring down the most valuable companies in American history (on an unadjusted basis) that we had to shout them out. Say hello to the “anti-antitrust club.”

Hey and Superhuman are coming after Gmail

Gmail has been the undisputed leader in consumer email for years (if not enterprise email, where Microsoft has massive inroads due to Exchange and Outlook). Startups have contested that market, including Mailbox, which sold to Dropbox for about $100 million back in 2013, but whenever a new feature came along that might entice users, Gmail managed to suck it up into its app.

Amid shift to remote work, application performance monitoring is IT’s big moment

In recent weeks, millions have started working from home, putting unheard-of pressure on services like video conferencing, online learning, food delivery and e-commerce platforms. While some verticals have seen a marked reduction in traffic, others are being asked to scale to new heights.

Services that were previously nice to have are now necessities, but how do organizations track pressure points that can add up to a critical failure? There is actually a whole class of software to help in this regard.

Monitoring tools like Datadog, New Relic and Elastic are designed to help companies understand what’s happening inside their key systems and warn them when things may be going sideways. That’s absolutely essential as these services are being asked to handle unprecedented levels of activity.

At a time when performance is critical, application performance monitoring (APM) tools are helping companies stay up and running. They also help track root causes should the worst case happen and they go down, with the goal of getting going again as quickly as possible.

We spoke to a few monitoring vendor CEOs to understand better how they are helping customers navigate this demand and keep systems up and running when we need them most.

IT’s big moment

Elastic adds endpoint security to its expanding toolset

Elastic acquired Endgame Security in June for $234 million, and as a result of that deal, today the company announced Elastic Endpoint security to help customers secure laptops and servers. It also announced the acquisition has officially closed.

Elastic CEO and co-founder Shay Banon says that the company has already been helping threat hunters inside organizations find security events via its security information and event management (SIEM) tool. With Endgame, the company it wanted to extend its security coverage to laptops and servers. It’s probably not a coincidence that Endpoint is built on top of Elastic technology.

The company announced that it’s going to offer an unusual pricing model for this tool. Banon says that instead of charging by the machine as is the industry norm, it’s going to charge based on the amount of data stored. He says it’s an essential change to carry the security and coverage across the range of tools.

“We deeply believe in order to converge segments like SIEM and endpoint, you not only want to have the same technology stack, but you also want to provide customers with the same packaging and pricing. This is a first in the endpoint market, and we think it’s a big deal when it comes to security users and CISOs and CIOs out there,” Banon told TechCrunch.

Elastic is at its heart a search tool, but it has been expanding what that search tool covers over the years beyond web and enterprise search to other areas like applications performance management, log management and security.

Today’s announcement is about expanding that security component to enable the company to offer more comprehensive coverage across an organization. Endpoint’s 150 employees, which are mostly engineers and data scientists, have joined Elastic and will be providing the company with a machine learning knowledge boost to help make sense of the growing amounts of data across the Elastic toolset.

Endgame is based in Arlington, Virginia and will keep its offices there. It raised over $111 million (according to Crunchbase data) before being acquired. launches its managed Elasticsearch service

Setting up Elasticsearch, the open-source system that many companies large and small use to power their distributed search and analytics engines, isn’t the hardest thing. What is very hard, though, is to provision the right amount of resources to run the service, especially when your users’ demand comes in spikes, without overpaying for unused capacity.’s new Elasticsearch Service does away with all of this by essentially offering Elasticsearch as a service and only charging its customers for the infrastructure they use.

Vizion’s service automatically scales up and down as needed. It’s a managed service and delivered as a SaaS platform that can support deployments on both private and public clouds, with full API compatibility with the standard Elastic stack that typically includes tools like Kibana for visualizing data, Beats for sending data to the service and Logstash for transforming the incoming data and setting up data pipelines. Users can easily create several stacks for testing and development, too, for example. GM and VP Geoff Tudor

“When you go into the AWS Elasticsearch service, you’re going to be looking at dozens or hundreds of permutations for trying to build your own cluster,”’s VP and GM Geoff Tudor told me. “Which instance size? How many instances? Do I want geographical redundancy? What’s my networking? What’s my security? And if you choose wrong, then that’s going to impact the overall performance. […] We do balancing dynamically behind that infrastructure layer.” To do this, the service looks at the utilization patterns of a given user and then allocates resources to optimize for the specific use case.

What Vizion has done here is take some of the work from its parent company Panzura, a multi-cloud storage service for enterprises that has plenty of patents around data caching, and applied it to this new Elasticsearch service.

There are obviously other companies that offer commercial Elasticsearch platforms already. Tudor acknowledges this, but argues that his company’s platform is different. With other products, he argues, you have to decide on the size of your block storage for your metadata upfront, for example, and you typically want SSDs for better performance, which can quickly get expensive. Thanks to Panzura’s IP, is able to bring down the cost by caching recent data on SSDs and keeping the rest in cheaper object storage pools.

He also noted that the company is positioning the overall service, with the Elasticsearch service as one of the earliest components, as a platform for running AI and ML workloads. Support for TensorFlow, PredictionIO (which plays nicely with Elasticsearch) and other tools is also in the works. “We want to make this an easy serverless ML/AI consumption in a multi-cloud fashion, where not only can you leverage the compute, but you can also have your storage of record at a very cost-effective price point.”

Benchmark and Tiger double down on going public

In an ecosystem enthralled with private capital and delayed public debuts, Bill Gurley has been something of a maverick. The former dot-com equity analyst and long-time partner at Benchmark has pushed hard for companies to go public and “grow up,” including at his portfolio company Uber, where he was formerly a board member.

Earlier this year, he noted that “it’s cool to go public again,” and now we are starting to see the fruits of Benchmark’s labors. Over the past 24 hours, two companies – Elastic and Upwork – have submitted their S-1 registration statements to the SEC, and Benchmark is the largest shareholder in both. That follows last year’s IPO for Stitch Fix, where Gurley was the lead investor.

The story of these two public aspirants are certainly divergent. Upwork is the rebranded merger of two companies, Elance and oDesk, which merged in 2013. Benchmark got involved through oDesk, leading a Series B round of investment in the company in 2006, with founding partner Kevin Harvey joining the board. Considering oDesk was founded in 2003, and Elance in 1999, it has certainly been a circuitous route to the public markets for the company.

Elastic, on the other hand, is a relatively rare case of a company going public quite early in its evolution. The startup was founded just a few years ago in 2012 according to Crunchbase, and Benchmark’s Peter Fenton led a $10m series A into the company that same year. Only six years later, the company is heading to the public markets, with a projected unicorn valuation.

While Upwork has certainly been a journey, it’s Elastic that best exemplifies the startup trajectory that I think Gurley has been advocating for the past few years. Given its rapid revenue growth and key ownership of the search engine market, it is doubtful the company would have struggled to raise additional capital from the private markets. Indeed, six years from founding to IPO is more reminiscent of the 1990s, when the IPO was a key early milestone in the development of a startup since private investment was just not available.

The other interesting dynamic here is around capital efficiency. Elastic raised just $162 million in venture capital according to Crunchbase, a surprisingly low number considering its revenues, growth, and valuation. Enterprise startups have been raising more capital over time as sales and marketing costs have soared and the standards required to publicly debut have become more exacting. That capital efficiency is mirrored on the consumer side by Stitch Fix, which had raised just $42 million in venture capital before its IPO.

These are early data points, but it is clear that Gurley’s and Benchmark’s words around capital efficiency and public markets are influencing their advice to their startup boards and leading to very different actions from these founders. It’s a contrast to companies like Palantir and SpaceX, which have seemed to have committed to staying private for as long as possible.

Tiger Global and other crossover hedge funds are also pushing IPOs

Benchmark is not the only company that has had some good S-1 news this week. The lead investor in the other two prominent tech IPOs so far this season — Eventbrite and SurveyMonkey — is Tiger Global, the quiet but prolific crossover hedge fund. The fund owns 21.3% of Eventbrite and 29.3% of SurveyMonkey.

The rise of these crossover funds is driving renewed interest in early public liquidity. Unlike traditional venture firms, which typically have a decade investment horizon (plus frequent multi-year extensions), these hedge funds face greater pressure to get returns on a compressed timeline.

That’s indicative here with Tiger Global. It’s investments in Eventbrite and SurveyMonkey took place in 2013, so it is just roughly five years from investment to IPO. Certainly, the hedge fund targets growth-stage opportunities which have shorter liquidity times in general, yet, the speed of liquidity is still notable even for growth investors.

For an ecosystem that has in many ways avoided the public markets, these changing norms will not just increase the pressure to go public, but may also present challenges for boards where discordant voices may be simultaneously pushing the exec team to stay private or go public. It’s a dynamic that founders are going to have to increasingly think through as they select investors through each of their venture rounds, in order to ensure that every investor is on the same page regarding the timeline for the public markets.