Lightning strikes again as Electric hits unicorn status

Wherever we are in the journey of navigating a pandemic, remote work is still hot. Electric, one of the many companies making it easier for organizations to work remotely, has capitalized on this trend so much in the past couple years that it’s now a unicorn.

Founder and CEO Ryan Denehy told TechCrunch that the startup has raised $20 million in what it’s calling a Series D-1 from Harmonic Growth Partners, Bessemer, Greenspring and others.

This raise, which comes just five months after the raise of a $90 million Series D, was at a slightly higher price than the last one and brings the valuation to $1 billion post-money.

Electric provides IT infrastructure to SMBs to take care of most of the grunt work of the IT department, such as deploying new hardware, keeping all machines and licenses compliant, granting and revoking permissions, etc. This means that a company can theoretically have just one proper IT person, or contract it out, for any troubleshooting issues or non-administrative work.

Image Credits: Electric

Hard unicorn data

Denehy has been raising money aggressively for Electric as the pandemic fueled usage and adoption of its product. The result of the capital raises and favorable market conditions has been rapid growth. In 2021, Electric said that it doubled users and revenue, leading to annual recurring revenue (ARR) expansion from $17 million in 2020 to $38 million last year, or 124%.

Even more, the company said that it on track to roughly double again this year, bringing its ARR to $70 million or more in 2022, according to Denehy.

Because Electric was willing to share hard revenue numbers and targets, the company has provided is a clear window into the current state of unicorn valuations. At $38 million ARR and a $1 billion valuation, Electric is worth around 26x its present-day ARR. That’s lower than the multiple range that many startups raised at during 2021’s go-go fundraising climate.

But things get even more interesting if we consider that the company is likely well capitalized, and thus won’t need to raise again this year. That means that Electric may close out 2022 with, say, $70 million ARR and the same $1 billion price tag. At that revenue scale and valuation, Electric would be worth just over 14x its ARR, a multiple that given its loosely three-figure growth rates feels cheap, even at today’s more limited market prices.

Electric confirmed that it raised this capital at a higher price. Our read, then, is that it didn’t scale its value so richly in the process that it could find itself in a pickle when it looks for more capital in the future. Indeed, if the company can hit its 2022 growth targets, it’s going to look cheap heading into 2023, putting in a good place to raise more capital if it wants or needs to, and keep its growth humming.

Accelerating goals

“I wanted us to expand our goals beyond the initiatives that we based the Series D around,” said Denehy. “In this market, I want us to be as aggressive as we want to be without impacting runway.”

Denehy expanded on his plans, sharing a few product initiatives that are in the works for this year.

First, Electric is working on a lightweight version of the product that can be purchased and deployed through self sign-up. Building off of that, the company is also working on a self-service marketplace, allowing clients to purchase add-ons or other software (like anti-virus) from Electric.

The company would also like to get proactive with its product and deliver IT insights to customers, offering recommendations to help customers make decisions around security, new technology products and software updates.

Moreover, the extra $20 million will help Electric do more (and larger) M&A deals. Thus far, Electric has acquired Sinu and TechVera, according to CrunchBase.

Electric, the IT platform for SMBs, raises $90 million Series D

Electric, the IT infrastructure software for SMBs, has been on a tear lately. The company is today announcing the close of a $90 million Series D financing round. GGV, which is an existing investor, is leading the round, with participation from other existing investors Bessemer, Primary Venture Partners, Greenspring Associates, 01 Advisors, Atreides Management, Vintage Investment Partners and Slack.

Electric does for IT infrastructure what Justworks does for HR. Instead of an SMB hiring out a person or a department to handle the basics of IT, 90 percent of which is maintenance and compliance, Electric software handles distribution, maintenance and security for an organization.

Before Electric, there were two options for SMBs: build out your own IT department, or use one of the local IT providers. Electric came on the scene and allowed an admin within the company to make sure all devices were up to date, secure and compliant, as well as issue new equipment and revoke permissions.

In the COVID era, where remote work has become the default, the need for something like Electric has only grown, which is showing in the startup’s metrics.

In 2020, the company saw more than 100 percent revenue growth. Interestingly, Electric set very aggressive growth targets for 2020 and beat all of them, despite the fact that they went two months at the beginning of lockdown without selling a single thing.

This led to the company’s Series C funding, closed in February, clocking just shy of $20 million ARR and 400 customers at the time. The growth continued through this year, now boasting 700 customers and 40,000 total end users, with 111 percent ARR growth on the year.

Investors came a knockin’ to raise yet again, and Denehy thought about the long-term trajectory of the company.

“We started to realize that we could double the business again next year, we can double it probably the year after that, and all of a sudden we could have a company that could be ready to go public in two to three years,” said Denehy. “That’s a really compelling opportunity but it’s going to take more capital to really prepare ourselves and the team and the product to be on a true pre-IPO trajectory.”

Right now, the company is tracking at just under $40 million ARR for 2021.

As with most scaling SaaS businesses, focus is the greatest challenge.

“We don’t have the same competitive pressures as most B2B SaaS companies and we’ve got an operationally complex business,” said Denehy. “So on any given day, there are so many economically compelling opportunities and so many things that we could do to flip a. switch and get a new line of business generating millions of dollars in revenue. But at the same time, we have to respect that the reason we don’t have any venture-backed direct competitors is because this is a super hard problem to solve. So if we start to get distracted by running in too many different directions, we’re going to dilute the quality of everything else that we do and potentially get taking off track.”

Lamborghini’s vision for an alternative-fuel future

Car enthusiasts have a history of electric-car hesitancy. While some are fully on board with electrification and hybridization, there are still some petrol holdouts, especially at the rarified and pointy end-of-the-price spectrum like Lamborghini.

The push for electrification and hybrid powertrains poses a significant challenge to the carmaker known for creating striking, bespoke containers for some of the most powerful gasoline engines in the world, and there’s a small sense of reluctance about it from Lamborghini’s top brass.

Lamborghini has said it will shift all models to hybrid powertrains by 2024 and already announced one hybrid model, the exceedingly limited run Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 and the Countach LPI 800-4. By next year, the first production (i.e., not limited run) vehicle with a hybridized powertrain will be released, though Lamborghini is still mum on what exactly that will look like. While other supercar makers like Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche continue to make both production and limited run vehicles with hybrid powertrains, Lamborghini is one of the last supercar companies to get into the game.

Lamborghini hopes to leverage its loyal customers to innovate around the future of their iconic super sports cars.

The future of fuel for Lamborghini

“On the one hand, we are super niche — and make up a very small part of the CO2 equation. But we want to do our part,” Andrea Baldi, the new North American CEO of Lamborghini said at a recent launch event for one of the last gas-powered Huracáns that Lamborghini will release, the Huracán STO. “The shift to hybrid, electric and alternative powertrains is forcing us to rethink performance and we’re not sure that electrification is the long-term direction to move in.”

“Whether we release a fourth model with a hybrid or electric powertrain or find a solution for internal combustion that uses a different kind of fuel, we’re still learning. We need to deliver on a common target: Emotion and the authentic Lamborghini experience,” Baldi says.

He wouldn’t elaborate on specifics around the kind of fuel or technology the company might employ but Lamborghini CTO Maurizio Reggiani did allude to some interesting research that could point to a fully electrified Lamborghini in the future.

“Hybrid powertrains are the next frontier where we are sure we can innovate,” Reggiani said separately. “We exist because we have unique DNA. We are engineering emotion and there is some research we’re doing with the Polytechnic University in Milan on how physical events like vibration, for example, can impact the flow of emotion.” It’s possible to see a world where the physical effects of an ICE engine are simulated by gyroscopes and audio tracks.

Technically, Lamborghini’s factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese has been carbon neutral since 2015, Baldi says, but the 1,800-person company is part of the much larger, and much more carbon-emitting VW Group. Yet, despite its low volume of vehicles and a concerted push from the Italian government to exempt automakers like Lamborghini and Ferrari from the coming combustion engine ban, Lamborghini is being forced to move toward an alternative-fuel future.

Baldi says that one in 11,000 vehicles in the world is a Lamborghini, which is tiny compared to a massive automaker like Toyota or Honda. “Hybridization and electrification offer the opportunity to expand the future of emotion for the Lamborghini owner. You’re buying a dream. The majority of customers are looking for a car that expresses their success,” Baldi says. Yet, no matter how much Lamborghini customers want their combustion engines to continue well into the future, the time for those engines is coming to a close.

Building a direct customer connection

Meeting customer demands has always been at the heart of the Lamborghini brand and the company is leveraging its loyal owners to determine the future model direction as it works toward a 50% reduction in CO2 starting in 2025. The recent launch of the already sold out Countach LPI 800-4 at Pebble Beach is an example of how Lamborghini is using its customer base to create a new, high-demand product with a hybrid powertrain.

“We can’t just create vehicles in a vacuum. The whole customer experience has enriched the bonds we have with our customers,” Baldi said. “The special project we did with the Countach — that was an exercise of trust directly between the company and the customer. We had 1-to-1 meetings as if they were friends and that helped inform what we did with Countach. Building that vehicle was an emotional decision and it was a good business case.”

With the advent of COVID and resulting limits on travel, factory visits were largely halted during 2020, but Lamborghini was ahead of the game having launched a digital platform called Unica, back in 2018, that allowed them to deliver the specialized customer contact and service that owners expect. The app can be downloaded to a smartphone and owners gain access to exclusive events, launches and social media. In order to sign up, you have to provide the VIN of your Lamborghini and your certificate of ownership.

The app has opened up the possibility of direct sales between the company and consumers, as a result. “Direct sales is where we need to explore. We are in an age of acceleration, and we want to have a direct relationship with customers. The question is how much can we expand the direct touch with customers?” Baldi said. “To ensure a sense that the value of the car will be preserved means we have to have high-touch customer relationships. The average wait for a car is currently more than a year, right now. The wait time is selling these cars and the value is preserved because we have direct contact with customers.”

The latest Lamborghini model, the Huracán STO, a street homologated race car, is currently sold out until 2022 and comes with added connectivity via the Unica app and the vehicle. The system allows owners to record lap times, throttle and brake input, steering angle and video of laps on a track and upload the data to the app. There, owners can share their information with other Lamborghini owners, their friends, the company or their race coaches to continue to improve their performance. It becomes a sort of elite social network for Lamborghini owners and offers the company a way to connect in more direct ways.

“Customers demand the right context to experience a Lamborghini,” Baldi said. “Supersport cars are expanding. If we can offer these experiences in auto lifestyle and motorsport, and expand to more high touch, customers will stay within the brand.”

Electric gets another $7 million in funding from 01 Advisors and the Slack Fund

Electric, the platform that puts the IT department in the cloud, has today announced new funding following a continuation of its Series B earlier this year.

Dick Costolo and Adam Bain (01 Advisors) and the Slack Fund participated in the $7 million capital infusion.

01 Advisors put up the majority of the financing ($6 million) with the Slack Fund putting up a little under $1 million and other insiders covering the rest, according to Electric founder and CEO Ryan Denehy.

The funding situation with Electric is a bit unique. Electric raised a $25 million Series B round led by GGV in January of 2019. In March of this year, just before the lockdown, the company reopened the Series B at a higher valuation to make room for Dick Costolo and Adam Bain, raising an additional $14.5 million.

Then the coronavirus pandemic rocked the globe. On Monday March 9, the stock market felt it, triggering a temporary halt on trading. The following week was total financial chaos.

That’s when Adam Bain called up Denehy again. They ‘rapped out’ about the potential for Electric during this turbulent time.

“The increase in remote work is going to be dramatic,” said Denehy, relaying his conversation with Bain. “Larger companies are going to get smarter about budgeting and there is a lot of urgency for them to find ways to spend money around back office tasks like IT more efficiently. Electric becomes more appealing because, dollar for dollar, it’s a lot more efficient than building a big IT department.”

The first week of April, Bain called Denehy again, this time saying that 01 Advisors want to put in more money and be aggressive investing in Electric.

Electric is a platform designed to support the existing IT department of an organization, or in some cases, replace the outsourced IT department. Most of IT’s responsibilities focus on administration, distribution and maintenance of software programs. Electric allows IT to install its software on every corporate machine, giving the IT department a bird’s-eye view of the organization’s IT situation. It also gives IT departments more time to focus on real problem-solving and troubleshooting tasks.

From their own machine, lead IT professionals can grant and revoke permissions, assign roles and ensure all employees’ software is up to date.

Electric is also integrated with the APIs of top software programs, like Dropbox and G-suite, letting IT handle most of their day-to-day tasks through the Electric dashboard. Moreover, Electric is also integrated with Slack, letting folks within the organization flag an issue or ask a question from the platform where they spend the most time.

“The biggest challenge for Electric is keeping up with demand,” said Jason Spinell from the Slack Fund, who also mentioned that he passed on investing in Electric’s seed round and is “excited to sort of rectify [his] mistake.”

Electric also added a new self-service product that can live in the dock, letting employees look at all the software applications provided by the organization from their remote office.

“There are so many stretched IT departments now that have to do a lot more with a lot less,” said Denehy. “There are also companies who were working with an outsourced IT provider and relied on them showing up to the office a few times a week, and all of a sudden that doesn’t work anymore.”

With the current ecosystem, Electric is continuing to spend on marketing but with 180 percent increase in interest from potential clients in the pipeline, according to Denehy.

Ford goes drag racing with 1,400 HP electric Mustang Cobra Jet

Ford today took the wraps off an electric Mustang prototype. Called Mustang Cobra Jet 1,400, it carries Ford’s long tradition of drag racing the Mustang. But for the first time, a quiet electric power plant is spinning the slicks instead of a roaring V8.

This one-off prototype is said to hit mid-eight second quarter-mile times thanks to 1,400 HP and 1,100 ft.-lbs of torque. That’s on par with numbers put up by Ford’s 2018 Cobra Jet equipped with a supercharged 5.2L engine.

Ford has yet to reveal any technical information about the electric Cobra Jet’s motors, batteries, tires, or range.

Such prototypes are critical to Ford’s electric strategy that includes producing an electric SUV under the Mustang brand. Many have criticized Ford for expanding the Mustang family to include the Mach-E electric SUV as the Mustang has always been a two-door sports car. With this electric Mustang drag racer, Ford is seemingly telling the automotive world that it sees electric motors and batteries as a viable future for the Mustang brand.

This electric Cobra Jet could be a shot across the bow of Tesla and Porsche. The original 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet is widely considered the most powerful muscle car of the era, outclassing everything from General Motors and Chrysler. Right now, in 2020, Tesla and Porsche offer the most powerful and fastest electric cars outside of electric exotics, and this prototype is seemingly telling them to check their rearview mirrors because Detroit is serious about electric cars.

The original Cobra Jet debuted in 1968 and dominated drag strips across the United States. A person could walk into a Ford dealership and leave with a vehicle capable of besting most modified Cameros, GTOs, and Road Runners. Ford revived the Cobra Jet in 2008 and has since released limited-run versions every few years. Most are not road legal. These are cars designed to do one thing: go fast in a straight line. And now, with the 1,400 HP electric Mustang Cobra Jet, it’s designed to do two things: Go fast and show the world batteries can be fun, too.

UPS introduces hybrid, long-range trucks that change modes based on where they are

UPS is introducing 15 new vehicles to its U.K. fleet that offer extended driving range versus traditional EVs, but that are also capable of operating in fully electric mode when required to do so, as in emission-free zones and dense city cores. The trucks, developed in partnership with commercial electric vehicle tech startup Tevva, can switch between hybrid and fully electric modes for a total range of up to 400km (~250 miles), with the same cargo carrying capacity of same-sized, diesel-powered trucks.

The trucks can operate at a much longer range than fully electric delivery trucks, which typically top out at around 60 miles of range. They can also switch between modes to stay fair of local transportation bylaws. This is especially helpful where they’re rolling out in Birmingham and Southampton in the UK, since Birmingham will introduce a clean air zone to block non-electric commercial vehicles in its city center by sometime next year.

UPS has already made use of electric delivery vehicles, but the range of its existing trucks meant they couldn’t make the trip from central depots to in-city drop-off points in every case. Plus, this hybridized solution will be able to carry a lot more packages than the fully electric trucks, which should lead to fewer cars on the road overall and less congestion, according to UPS.

The crucial difference between these trucks and standard hybrid vehicles is that they’re capable of fully autonomously switching between purely electric motors and their diesel hybrid powertrains – and can do so with geofencing whenever they cross into and out of a clean air or reduced emissions regulated zone.

UPS has taken delivery of 15 of these vans already, serving customers in both Tamworth and Southampton in the UK. They’re just one part of UPS’s overall effort to decrease their emissions footprint and environmental impact.

SeaBubbles shows off its ‘flying’ all-electric boat in Miami

We were promised flying cars but, as it turns out, flying boats were easier to build.

SeaBubbles, a “flying” boat startup that uses electric power instead of gas, hit Miami this weekend to show off one of its five prototype boats — or six, if you count an early, windowless white boat they’ve lovingly dubbed the “soapdish.” This innovative boat design combines technology from nautical industries, aviation, and intelligent software to raise the hull of the boat out of the water using foils, which helps it to consume less energy by allowing it to travel on rougher waters with reduced drag, while also keeping the passenger cabin relatively comfortable.

When raised, the boat is “flying” above the water, so to speak.

Founded only three years ago in Paris, the idea for SeaBubbles was dreamed up by Alain Thébault, a sailor who previously designed and piloted the Hydroptère, an experimental hydrofoil trimaran, using a similar system that lifts the boat up in order to reduce drag. That boat went on to break the world record for sailing speed twice, at 50.17 knots. Meanwhile, SeaBubbles co-founder, Anders Bringdal, is a four-times windsurf world champion, who also set a windsurfing world record, at 51.45 knots.

Together, the two have envisioned SeaBubbles as a way for cities to reduce traffic congestion and help the environment by taking advantage of the area’s waterways to move people around in fast water taxis.

“The cities today have one thing in common: pollution and congestion,” explains Bringdal. “Every city has waterways — ones that are fairly unused. Think about having a giant freeway that goes straight down the center of the city, and no one uses it… why is that?,” Bringdal continues.

“You could do this with a normal boat,” he admits. “But with a normal boat with a normal combustion engine, the fuel price you’re paying is between $70 and $130 per hour. With us, it’s $2 dollars,” he says.

The cost savings come from an all-electric design, which means the boat charges at a power station — preferably one that’s solar charged, of course, instead of guzzling gas.

The company has experimented with all sorts of designs and models before settling on its first-to-market SeaBubbles water taxi: a smaller, 4.5-meter version that seats four in addition to the pilot. However, the technology itself is scalable to larger boats or even ferries.

According to SeaBubbles’ U.S. partner, Daniel Berrebi, whose company Baja Ferries has made a “small” investment in SeaBubbles, even larger boats like his could eventually benefit from the technology.

Beyond his obvious business interest on that front, Berrebi is also working with SeaBubbles to help the company make its first U.S. sales. He says he’s sold four boats to private individuals in the area — yes, sold as in “checks in hand, and signed on the dotted line.” These buyers don’t want to be named, but may include well-known names in music and sports. (Of course one has to wonder how much anonymity they will really have when tooling about Miami waterways in one of only a handful of these flying boats currently in existence?)

SeaBubbles has been able to come to market with its technology so soon because it’s not building everything in-house.

The boats’ engines are from Torqeedo, for example, while the fly-by-wire software to control the boat comes from foiling and flight control systems engineer Ricardo Bencatel’s company, 4DC Tech. His software solution also powered America’s Cup teams’ boats, like those from Artemis Racing and Oracle. But the version running on SeaBubbles has customized components to control the boat’s unique features.

“The [SeaBubbles] boat has three main sensors — it has two high altitude sensors to measure the height of the water, then it has a gyroscope — like the one in cell phones,” explains Bencatel.

“The computer combines those measurements from the sensors, then it knows the angles of the boat, the height and the speed,” he says. The software then uses this information to control the flaps on the boat to make adjustments. “For example, the lift — if you want to go higher,” Bencatel says. “Or if it’s rolling to one of the sides, it uses the flaps to turn it to the other side. Or if it’s pitching — bow down or bow up — it uses the front or the rear flaps,” he adds.

And all of these adjusts are being made automatically, by way of software, meaning the boat operator only really has to turn the wheel and drive. They don’t have to think about when to raise or lower the boat — it just happens when the boat reaches a certain speed. Under six knots, the boat is experiencing 100 percent drag, while above eight knots, the boat is ‘flying’ and the drag is reduced to 60 percent. This makes the ride less bumpy, too.

The lithium-ion batteries used by SeaBubbles are IP67 waterproof, and, over time, the boat could make up for its high sticker price — $200,000 at its suggested retail price — with savings on gasoline and reduced maintenance costs.

The prototype version of the SeaBubbles boat has only 1.5 hours autonomy and a five hour battery recharge to show off the technology. But the company claims the versions going into production have 2.5 hours autonomy and a 35 minute recharge. These are the ones they expect to ship this summer to the first purchasers.

In addition to Miami, SeaBubbles also has customers in Russia — a luxury hotel in Moscow and a deal in St. Petersburg — as well as in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. It plans to start building boats for these markets, and hopes to reach Paris by this summer or the next. In Paris, the prototype boats run slower — takeoff speed is six knots, and cruising speed tops out at 15 knots. The production version is faster due to bigger engines, with an average cruising speed of 16 knots and a top speed of 20 knots.

The company is in Miami this week to show off its boat to more buyers, and take meeting with local officials.

Bringdal admits that some of the company’s earlier statements may have been overly ambitious — like having boats in 50 cities by 2024. ”I think, in reality, it’s step by step,” he says  “We’re very happy to be seeing something here in the U.S.”

SeaBubbles, which has seven staff full-time and 25 people including contractors, has raised $14 million to date from investors including the founder of drone maker Parrot, Henri Seydoux; Partech Ventures; the French government-backed BPI fund; MAIF, a French insurance group; as well as friends, family and other angels.

The company is preparing to raise a Series A.

(Photo credits: Alain Thébault and Sarah Perez)

Electric, the startup that automates IT, raises $25 million from GGV, the NY-based startup that offers chat-based IT support, has announced the close of a $25 million Series B round led by GGV. As part of the deal, partner Jeff Richards will be joining the board.

Founder Ryan Denehy launched Electric in 2016. Previously, he’d run two startups which were sold to USA Today Sports and Groupon respectively, where he realized that all of the simplicity that came with using a service like Zenefits simply didn’t exist in the IT world.

“It was all local service providers, and they all charge way too much money,” said Denehy. “I thought ‘this is so nuts!’ Companies are using more and more technology every day.”

With his second startup, Swarm, he saw even more clearly how big of a problem this was as the company sold a product that required hardware installation at retailers.

“We were building a company on top of local IT providers, and I saw up close and personal how difficult it was and how fragmented the industry was.”

And so, Electric was born.

The premise is relatively simple. Most of IT’s tasks focus on administration, distribution and maintenance of software programs, meaning that the individual IT specialist doesn’t necessarily need to be desk side troubleshooting a hardware issue.

Companies using Electric simply install its software on every corporate laptop, giving the top IT employee or the org’s decision-maker a bird’s eye view of the lay of the land. They can grant and revoke permissions, assign roles, and make sure everyone’s software is up to date. By integrating with the APIs of the top office software programs, like Dropbox and G-Suite, most of the day-to-day tasks of IT can be handled through Electric’s dashboard.

This leaves IT professionals time to focus on actual troubleshooting, hardware installation, etc.

For startups that haven’t yet hired an IT person, Electric connects startups who need help with installation or in-person troubleshooting with local vendors.

Electric says it has automated around 40 percent of IT tasks, with plans to automate 80 percent of IT tasks over 2019.

The company currently has around 300 customers, which rounds out to about 10,000 total users, and serves 10 U.S. markets including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Austin, among others.

The new funding brings Electric’s total funding amount to $37.3 million.