Investors like Walmart and Microsoft back Team8’s cybersecurity venture studio with $85 million

The Israeli cybersecurity venture studio Team8 has raised $85 million in new financing from a clutch of new and returning strategic investors including Walmart, Airbus, SoftBank, and Microsoft’s investment arm, M-12. The studio’s plans to raise a larger fund were first reported by PEHub in May. Team8 has long believed that by combining the strengths and security […]

The Israeli cybersecurity venture studio Team8 has raised $85 million in new financing from a clutch of new and returning strategic investors including Walmart, Airbus, SoftBank, and Microsoft’s investment arm, M-12.

The studio’s plans to raise a larger fund were first reported by PEHub in May.

Team8 has long believed that by combining the strengths and security interests of strategic corporate partners it could develop better cybersecurity solutions (or companies) that would be attractive to its investors and clients.

Indeed, that was the thesis behind the $23 million that Team8 raised in 2016 when it was still proving out the model.

The company’s previous rounds of funding managed to bring Cisco Investments, Bessemer Venture Partners, Innovation Endeavors and Alcatel-Lucent into the fold. Now banks like Scotiabank and Barclays, ratings agencies like Moody’s, and insurers like Munich Re are coming on board to add their voices to the chorus of wants and needs that keep the crack cybersecurity experts from Team8 churning out new companies.

This model, of partnering with the corporate clients who will become the customers of the startups that Team8 creates isn’t confined to the security industry, but it’s where the idea has already created successful outcomes for all parties.

Earlier this month, Temasek (also a Team8 investor) acquired Sygnia, a company from the venture studio’s portfolio that had only emerged from stealth a year ago, for $250 million.

As we’d written at the time, Sygnia was typical of a Team8 investment. The company had only secured $4.3 million in funding and it was staffed by elite security specialists from Israel. Shachar Levy (who was the chief executive), Ariel Smoler, Arick Goomanovsky and Ami Kor, with its chairman Nadav Zafrir, the co-founder and CEO of Team8 and a former commander of Unit 8200.

Zafrir and Sachar are both full-time members of Team8 along with Israel Grimberg, Liran Grinberg, Assaf Mischari, a former technology leader in Unit 8200, and Lluís Pedragosa, former partner at Marker LLC.

The Tel Aviv-based company has invested in four companies that are currently selling their wares on the open market and has another four that are still operating in stealth mode. IN all, the group has raised $260 million to date, and employs 370 people around the world.

What is seemingly unprecedented is the level of cooperation among organizations with the Team8 organizations to identify threats and develop technologies that can respond to them.

According to a statement announcing the fund’s launch, companies investing into Team8 will be required to contribute insights from their Chief Information, Technology, Data and Security Officer to identify problems, develop solutions, and work on sales and marketing services for these new businesses.

“Rogue states, hackers, terrorists and criminals are intent on wreaking physical, financial and societal havoc and catastrophic damage on governments, corporations and individuals,” said Eric Schmidt, Founding Partner of Innovation Endeavors, a lead investor in Team8, in a statement. “As data continues to proliferate and our technical capabilities expand, cyber attacks and wars will increase in number and intensity.”

Vector of Internet Security Systems

Team8 investors are required to nominate a “senior champion” from their business unit in addition to the corporate venture capital or corporate development team, to guide the partnership and provide executive mindshare for the mutual work together.

As shared owners in Team8 companies, these investors are deeply invested in ensuring only the best ideas, technologies and companies are created. Besides meeting in person and as a group throughout the development process of new companies, strategic investors bring their chief executives to Israel as well as host Team8 and its portfolio companies for workshops at their headquarters for continuous knowledge-sharing and strategy building, according to a Team8 spokesperson.

And the company will be expanding its focus beyond just cyberdefense thanks to its latest funding and its new partners.

“Going forward, we will continue to focus on the enterprise, but not necessarily just defense,” a spokesperson for the company wrote in an email. “The indirect impact of cyber on the enterprises are the missed opportunities to experiment, integrate and onboard new technologies because of security, compliance and fear of exposure. We’re currently working on zero-trust networks for multi-cloud environments, secure on-ramping of blockchain, safe collaboration on sensitive data; and rethinking how machine learning can significantly impact the business. These are designed with built in security, data science, and intelligence, to allow companies to prosper and not be inhibited by security controls.”

Investors like Walmart and Microsoft back Team8’s cybersecurity venture studio with $85 million

The Israeli cybersecurity venture studio Team8 has raised $85 million in new financing from a clutch of new and returning strategic investors including Walmart, Airbus, SoftBank, and Microsoft’s investment arm, M-12. The studio’s plans to raise a larger fund were first reported by PEHub in May. Team8 has long believed that by combining the strengths and security […]

The Israeli cybersecurity venture studio Team8 has raised $85 million in new financing from a clutch of new and returning strategic investors including Walmart, Airbus, SoftBank, and Microsoft’s investment arm, M-12.

The studio’s plans to raise a larger fund were first reported by PEHub in May.

Team8 has long believed that by combining the strengths and security interests of strategic corporate partners it could develop better cybersecurity solutions (or companies) that would be attractive to its investors and clients.

Indeed, that was the thesis behind the $23 million that Team8 raised in 2016 when it was still proving out the model.

The company’s previous rounds of funding managed to bring Cisco Investments, Bessemer Venture Partners, Innovation Endeavors and Alcatel-Lucent into the fold. Now banks like Scotiabank and Barclays, ratings agencies like Moody’s, and insurers like Munich Re are coming on board to add their voices to the chorus of wants and needs that keep the crack cybersecurity experts from Team8 churning out new companies.

This model, of partnering with the corporate clients who will become the customers of the startups that Team8 creates isn’t confined to the security industry, but it’s where the idea has already created successful outcomes for all parties.

Earlier this month, Temasek (also a Team8 investor) acquired Sygnia, a company from the venture studio’s portfolio that had only emerged from stealth a year ago, for $250 million.

As we’d written at the time, Sygnia was typical of a Team8 investment. The company had only secured $4.3 million in funding and it was staffed by elite security specialists from Israel. Shachar Levy (who was the chief executive), Ariel Smoler, Arick Goomanovsky and Ami Kor, with its chairman Nadav Zafrir, the co-founder and CEO of Team8 and a former commander of Unit 8200.

Zafrir and Sachar are both full-time members of Team8 along with Israel Grimberg, Liran Grinberg, Assaf Mischari, a former technology leader in Unit 8200, and Lluís Pedragosa, former partner at Marker LLC.

The Tel Aviv-based company has invested in four companies that are currently selling their wares on the open market and has another four that are still operating in stealth mode. IN all, the group has raised $260 million to date, and employs 370 people around the world.

What is seemingly unprecedented is the level of cooperation among organizations with the Team8 organizations to identify threats and develop technologies that can respond to them.

According to a statement announcing the fund’s launch, companies investing into Team8 will be required to contribute insights from their Chief Information, Technology, Data and Security Officer to identify problems, develop solutions, and work on sales and marketing services for these new businesses.

“Rogue states, hackers, terrorists and criminals are intent on wreaking physical, financial and societal havoc and catastrophic damage on governments, corporations and individuals,” said Eric Schmidt, Founding Partner of Innovation Endeavors, a lead investor in Team8, in a statement. “As data continues to proliferate and our technical capabilities expand, cyber attacks and wars will increase in number and intensity.”

Vector of Internet Security Systems

Team8 investors are required to nominate a “senior champion” from their business unit in addition to the corporate venture capital or corporate development team, to guide the partnership and provide executive mindshare for the mutual work together.

As shared owners in Team8 companies, these investors are deeply invested in ensuring only the best ideas, technologies and companies are created. Besides meeting in person and as a group throughout the development process of new companies, strategic investors bring their chief executives to Israel as well as host Team8 and its portfolio companies for workshops at their headquarters for continuous knowledge-sharing and strategy building, according to a Team8 spokesperson.

And the company will be expanding its focus beyond just cyberdefense thanks to its latest funding and its new partners.

“Going forward, we will continue to focus on the enterprise, but not necessarily just defense,” a spokesperson for the company wrote in an email. “The indirect impact of cyber on the enterprises are the missed opportunities to experiment, integrate and onboard new technologies because of security, compliance and fear of exposure. We’re currently working on zero-trust networks for multi-cloud environments, secure on-ramping of blockchain, safe collaboration on sensitive data; and rethinking how machine learning can significantly impact the business. These are designed with built in security, data science, and intelligence, to allow companies to prosper and not be inhibited by security controls.”

Local venture capital fund formation is on the rise in Africa, led by Nigeria

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor E-moto startup Alta Motors reportedly powers down African financial technology startups move beyond payment services Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds […]

Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to data from Crunchbase.

The study also tracked the emergence of homegrown corporate venture arms and more Africans in top positions at outside funds. These results derived from a year-long project to boost Crunchbase’s Africa data capture and increase awareness of its platform across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 “viable” Africa-focused VC funds globally—defining viable as formally established entities with 7-10 investments or more in African startups, from seed to series stage.

Those who made the list with 7 investments indicated they would reach 10 by early 2019.  

Of the 51 funds investing in African startups, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans.

Of the 22 African managed and located funds, 9 (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and 9 are Nigerian.

Four of the 9 Nigeria located funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta Ventures, and CcHub’s Growth Capital fund.

The research prioritized organizational viability and number of investments over fund and round size. Therefore, the range in typical investment values across the group was wide, with some offering $25K seed investments, and others doing $1 to $10 million rounds at the series A and B stage.

In the group of 51 total funds, TPG’s Growth Fund led the largest round on the continent in 2018 (so far):  $47.5 million to Kenyan fintech startup Cellulant.

This has only been topped by the $52 million round to South Africa’s Jumo, but that was led by Goldman Sachs—which (by the information we have) hasn’t invested significantly in African startups, aside from Jumia.   

The Nigerian funds with the most investments were EchoVC (20) and Ventures Platform (23).

Notably active funds in the group of 51 included Singularity Investments (18 African startup investments) Ghana’s Golden Palm Investments (17) and Musha Ventures (36).

At least one corporate venture arm—Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund—made Crunchbase’s list of 51. The research also tracked a rise in corporate venture funding and acquisition activity. MTN has invested in African startups and Standard Bank added $1 million to Founders Factory’s new African accelerator. Fintech firm Interswitch has been in the acquisition market and established its E-growth Fund to invest in startups.

Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge indicated recently his company will likely go acquisition shopping for local startups in the near future.

During the course of Crunchbase’s research sources speaking on background flagged the pending launch of three new African corporate venture arms within the next 12 to 16 months.

In addition to tracking more funds on the continent, another emerging trend point was Africans in senior positions at those located elsewhere—including the three that raised the most capital over the last 24 months.

Former Nigerian ICT minister Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital’s $40 million fund. Yemi Lalude is Managing Partner of TPG Growth’s Africa fund, which announced $2 billion in its coffers last year. And at French firm Partech—which raised $70 million for its Africa fund—Tidjane Deme is General Partner.

Crunchbase’s overall findings come as a several recent articles (and a heap of Twitter debate) have expressed concern about possible outsized influence of external actors in Africa’s tech ecosystem — primarily East Africa — and bias among VC investors toward non-African founders.

More accurate data on Sub-Saharan Africa’s VC could help better inform these discussions.

Pinning down solid stats on the region’s nascent startup scene is a budding exercise. The core growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s tech sector has occurred over the last 5-7 years so there’s less accompanying infrastructure—i.e., analyst reporting, long-term databases, and robust media coverage—than other markets

Some VC firms have taken stabs at quantifying the value of VC investment over select timeframes. In 2017, Village Capital did a report tracking fintech funding in East Africa.

The last two years, Partech and media firm Disrupt Africa have done reports on Africa’s annual VC values. Their diverging numbers demonstrate the continued challenges to producing confident stats. Partech’s study tallied 2017 funding to African startups at $560 million, while Disrupt Africa came up with $195 million for the same year.

For its part, Crunchbase aims to create as accurate a VC representation for Africa as it does for other global markets. In addition to tracking stats on African funds, the platform has extended its  Venture Program—which allows partners to directly update their Crunchbase data and investments.

To date, Crunchbase has added 33 African focused Venture Program partners including Greenhouse Capital, TLcom Capital, Draper Darkflow, Silvertree Internet Holdings, Naspers, Orange Digital Ventures, and Accion Venture Lab.

Local venture capital fund formation is on the rise in Africa, led by Nigeria

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor E-moto startup Alta Motors reportedly powers down African financial technology startups move beyond payment services Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds […]

Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to data from Crunchbase.

The study also tracked the emergence of homegrown corporate venture arms and more Africans in top positions at outside funds. These results derived from a year-long project to boost Crunchbase’s Africa data capture and increase awareness of its platform across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 “viable” Africa-focused VC funds globally—defining viable as formally established entities with 7-10 investments or more in African startups, from seed to series stage.

Those who made the list with 7 investments indicated they would reach 10 by early 2019.  

Of the 51 funds investing in African startups, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans.

Of the 22 African managed and located funds, 9 (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and 9 are Nigerian.

Four of the 9 Nigeria located funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta Ventures, and CcHub’s Growth Capital fund.

The research prioritized organizational viability and number of investments over fund and round size. Therefore, the range in typical investment values across the group was wide, with some offering $25K seed investments, and others doing $1 to $10 million rounds at the series A and B stage.

In the group of 51 total funds, TPG’s Growth Fund led the largest round on the continent in 2018 (so far):  $47.5 million to Kenyan fintech startup Cellulant.

This has only been topped by the $52 million round to South Africa’s Jumo, but that was led by Goldman Sachs—which (by the information we have) hasn’t invested significantly in African startups, aside from Jumia.   

The Nigerian funds with the most investments were EchoVC (20) and Ventures Platform (23).

Notably active funds in the group of 51 included Singularity Investments (18 African startup investments) Ghana’s Golden Palm Investments (17) and Musha Ventures (36).

At least one corporate venture arm—Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund—made Crunchbase’s list of 51. The research also tracked a rise in corporate venture funding and acquisition activity. MTN has invested in African startups and Standard Bank added $1 million to Founders Factory’s new African accelerator. Fintech firm Interswitch has been in the acquisition market and established its E-growth Fund to invest in startups.

Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge indicated recently his company will likely go acquisition shopping for local startups in the near future.

During the course of Crunchbase’s research sources speaking on background flagged the pending launch of three new African corporate venture arms within the next 12 to 16 months.

In addition to tracking more funds on the continent, another emerging trend point was Africans in senior positions at those located elsewhere—including the three that raised the most capital over the last 24 months.

Former Nigerian ICT minister Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital’s $40 million fund. Yemi Lalude is Managing Partner of TPG Growth’s Africa fund, which announced $2 billion in its coffers last year. And at French firm Partech—which raised $70 million for its Africa fund—Tidjane Deme is General Partner.

Crunchbase’s overall findings come as a several recent articles (and a heap of Twitter debate) have expressed concern about possible outsized influence of external actors in Africa’s tech ecosystem — primarily East Africa — and bias among VC investors toward non-African founders.

More accurate data on Sub-Saharan Africa’s VC could help better inform these discussions.

Pinning down solid stats on the region’s nascent startup scene is a budding exercise. The core growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s tech sector has occurred over the last 5-7 years so there’s less accompanying infrastructure—i.e., analyst reporting, long-term databases, and robust media coverage—than other markets

Some VC firms have taken stabs at quantifying the value of VC investment over select timeframes. In 2017, Village Capital did a report tracking fintech funding in East Africa.

The last two years, Partech and media firm Disrupt Africa have done reports on Africa’s annual VC values. Their diverging numbers demonstrate the continued challenges to producing confident stats. Partech’s study tallied 2017 funding to African startups at $560 million, while Disrupt Africa came up with $195 million for the same year.

For its part, Crunchbase aims to create as accurate a VC representation for Africa as it does for other global markets. In addition to tracking stats on African funds, the platform has extended its  Venture Program—which allows partners to directly update their Crunchbase data and investments.

To date, Crunchbase has added 33 African focused Venture Program partners including Greenhouse Capital, TLcom Capital, Draper Darkflow, Silvertree Internet Holdings, Naspers, Orange Digital Ventures, and Accion Venture Lab.

Lessons from building Brex into a billion-dollar startup

Henrique Dubugras Contributor Share on Twitter Henrique Dubugras is the founder Brex, the billion-dollar corporate credit provider for startups. When I think about my experience as an immigrant and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, I remember growing up in Brazil and how we saw tech founders and CEOs as kings. We imagined what it would be […]

When I think about my experience as an immigrant and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, I remember growing up in Brazil and how we saw tech founders and CEOs as kings. We imagined what it would be like to assume the throne.

But these weren’t just any kings. Silicon Valley was the kingdom of nerds and underdogs. We identified with these guys, they were just like us. We were fed the myth of a Silicon Valley meritocracy, and the illusion that all you needed was ambition, determination, and a good idea to meet the right person and get funded.

What we didn’t understand was that this myth was not completely rooted in reality. Not everyone has access to the American Dream, and those who do have a track record of success before they’re given their moment to prove, or in our case, pitch ourselves.

Part of this disconnect was cultural. In Brazil, when I began my first startup, Pagar.me, a payment processing company, my co-founder Pedro Franceschi and I were two 16 year-old kids who learned how to code before we were ten. While it was hard for people to take us seriously initially—I mean, would you quit your job to work for two 16 year- olds? Being so young also worked to our advantage; it revealed that we were passionate, driven, and invested in tech at an age that we didn’t need to be.

Once we got our start-up off the ground, our employees were as invested in us as we were invested in them and the company. That’s because in Brazil, most of us grew up with parents that stayed their whole lives at the same company. You grew with the company, and that’s the approach we took when it came to hiring for our first company: who did we see sharing our same vision and growing with us?

Coming to the United States was almost a completely opposite experience. The barrier of entry was much higher. You have to go to the right college, graduate from right incubator programs, develop relationships with the right VCs, and have at least one successful startup under your belt before anyone would even consider booking a meeting with you.

Pedro and I had to carefully position ourselves before we even got to the Valley. When we finally did get to the U.S., we had already launched a successful startup and we were accepted to Stanford. Soon after, we were accepted by Y-Combinator, and that’s where we built relationships with the key players that would open up the doors for future meetings.

With our current startup, Brex,  we found that there weren’t just cultural differences at play, but different approaches we needed to take in order for our business to be successful. For example, in Brazil, we bootstrapped our first startup, and as a result, we had to find our product-market fit immediately. When you are so cash-constrained, it also limits how much you can build your company, and you think in terms of short-term wins instead of sustained growth. Your growth strategy is confined and you’re constantly reacting to your immediate client demands.

In the U.S., VCs and angel-investors aren’t interested in the short-term. They’re interested in long-term growth and how you are going to deliver 10x profits over a ten year period. Our strategy could no longer be: plan as we go and grow with our customer. Instead, we needed to deliver a roadmap, and when that roadmap changed or evolved, communicate those changes and adopt a culture of transparency.   

Additionally, we learned how difficult it is to find and retain  talent in the U.S.; it can feel like a Sisyphean task. Millennials for example, spend less than two years on average at a job, and if you spend six years or more at the same company, recruiters will actually ask you: “why?” So how can you build a company for the long-term in an environment where employees are not personally invested in the growth of your company?

We also learned that many successful tech startups offer stock options to their early employees, but as the company evolves and changes over time, those same stock options are not offered to future employees. This creates the exact opposite of a meritocracy. Why would a new employee work harder, longer, and bring more to the table if you are not going to be compensated for it?

Instead of using this broken model, we have invested in paying our team higher wages upfront, and based on performance, we award our team members with stock options. We want to be a company that people are proud of working at longterm, and we want to create a culture that is merit-based.

While some of the myths that we first believed in about Silicon Valley are now laughable looking back, they were also really instructional as to how we wanted to build our company and what pitfalls we wanted to avoid.

Even though nearly half of tech startups are founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, we have a cultural learning curve in order to have the opportunity to be “the next unicorn.” And maybe that’s the point, we’re experiencing a moment in time during which myths and unicorns no longer serve us, and what we need instead is the background, experience, and vision to create a company that is worth the hype.

Jane.VC, a new fund for female entrepreneurs, wants founders to cold email them

Want to pitch a venture capitalist? You’ll need a “warm introduction” first. At least that’s what most in the business will advise. Find a person, typically a man, who made the VC you’re interested in pitching a whole bunch of money at some point and have them introduce you. Why? Because VCs love people who’ve […]

Want to pitch a venture capitalist? You’ll need a “warm introduction” first. At least that’s what most in the business will advise.

Find a person, typically a man, who made the VC you’re interested in pitching a whole bunch of money at some point and have them introduce you. Why? Because VCs love people who’ve made them money; naturally, they’ll be willing to hear you out if you’ve got at least one money maker on your side.

There’s a big problem with that cycle. Not all entrepreneurs are friendly with millionaires and not all entrepreneurs, especially those based outside Silicon Valley or from underrepresented backgrounds, have anyone in their network to provide them that coveted intro.

Jane.VC, a new venture fund based out of Cleveland and London wants entrepreneurs to cold email them. Send them your pitch, no wealthy or successful intermediary necessary. The fund, which has so far raised $2 million to invest between $25,000 and $150,000 in early-stage female-founded companies across industries, is scrapping the opaque, inaccessible model of VC that’s been less than favorable toward women.

“We like to say that Jane.VC is venture for every woman,” the firm’s co-founder Jennifer Neundorfer told TechCrunch.

Neundorfer, who previously founded and led an accelerator for Midwest startups called Flashstarts after stints at 21st Century Fox and YouTube, partnered with her former Stanford business school classmate Maren Bannon, the former chief executive officer and co-founder of LittleLane. So far, they’ve backed insurtech company Proformex and Hatch Apps, an enterprise software startup that makes it easier for companies to create and distribute mobile and web apps.

“We are going to shoot them straight”

Jane.VC, like many members of the next generation of venture capital funds, is bucking the idea that the best founders can only be found in Silicon Valley. Instead, the firm is going global and operating under the philosophy that a system of radical transparency and honesty will pay off.

“Let’s be efficient with an entrepreneur’s time and say no if it’s not a hit,” Neundorfer said. “I’ve been on the opposite end of that coaching. So many entrepreneurs think a VC is interested and they aren’t. An entrepreneur’s time is so valuable and we want to protect that. We are going to shoot them straight.”

Though Jane.VC plans to invest across the globe, the firm isn’t turning its back on Bay Area founders. Neundorfer and Bannon will leverage their Silicon Valley network and work with an investment committee of nine women based throughout the U.S. to source deals. 

“We are women that have raised money and have been through the ups and downs of raising money in what is a very male-dominated world,” Neundorfer added. “We believe that investing in women is not only the right thing to do but that you can make a lot of money doing it.”

Atlassian launches the new Jira Software Cloud

Atlassian previewed the next generation of its hosted Jira Software project tracking tool earlier this year. Today, it’s available to all Jira users. To build the new Jira, Atlassian redesigned both the back-end stack and rethought the user experience from the ground up. That’s not an easy change, given how important Jira has become for […]

Atlassian previewed the next generation of its hosted Jira Software project tracking tool earlier this year. Today, it’s available to all Jira users. To build the new Jira, Atlassian redesigned both the back-end stack and rethought the user experience from the ground up. That’s not an easy change, given how important Jira has become for virtually every company that develops software — and given that it is Atlassian’s flagship product. And with this launch, Atlassian is now focusing on its hosted version of Jira (which is hosted on AWS) and prioritizing that over the self-hosted server version.

So the new version of Jira that’s launching to all users today doesn’t just have a new, cleaner look, but more importantly, new functionality that allows for a more flexible workflow that’s less dependent on admins and gives more autonomy to teams (assuming the admins don’t turn those features off).

Because changes to such a popular tool are always going to upset at least some users, it’s worth noting at the outset that the old classic view isn’t going away. “It’s important to note that the next-gen experience will not replace our classic experience, which millions of users are happily using,” Jake Brereton, head of marketing for Jira Software Cloud, told me. “The next-gen experience and the associated project type will be available in addition to the classic projects that users have always had access to. We have no plans to remove or sunset any of the classic functionality in Jira Cloud.”

The core tenet of the redesign is that software development in 2018 is very different from the way developers worked in 2002, when Jira first launched. Interestingly enough, the acquisition of Trello also helped guide the overall design of the new Jira.

“One of the key things that guided our strategy is really bringing the simplicity of Trello and the power of Jira together,” Sean Regan, Atlassian’s head of growth for Software Teams, told me. “One of the reasons for that is that modern software development teams aren’t just developers down the hall taking requirements. In the best companies, they’re embedded with the business, where you have analysts, marketing, designers, product developers, product managers — all working together as a squad or a triad. So JIRA, it has to be simple enough for those teams to function but it has to be powerful enough to run a complex software development process.”

Unsurprisingly, the influence of Trello is most apparent in the Jira boards, where you can now drag and drop cards, add new columns with a few clicks and easily filter cards based on your current needs (without having to learn Jira’s powerful but arcane query language). Gone are the days where you had to dig into the configuration to make even the simplest of changes to a board.

As Regan noted, when Jira was first built, it was built with a single team in mind. Today, there’s a mix of teams from different departments that use it. So while a singular permissions model for all of Jira worked for one team, it doesn’t make sense anymore when the whole company uses the product. In the new Jira then, the permissions model is project-based. “So if we wanted to start a team right now and build a product, we could design our board, customize our own issues, build our own workflows — and we could do it without having to find the IT guy down the hall,” he noted.

One feature the team seems to be especially proud of is roadmaps. That’s a new feature in Jira that makes it easier for teams to see the big picture. Like with boards, it’s easy enough to change the roadmap by just dragging the different larger chunks of work (or “epics,” in Agile parlance) to a new date.

“It’s a really simple roadmap,” Brereton explained. “It’s that way by design. But the problem we’re really trying to solve here is, is to bring in any stakeholder in the business and give them one view where they can come in at any time and know that what they’re looking at is up to date. Because it’s tied to your real work, you know that what we’re looking at is up to date, which seems like a small thing, but it’s a huge thing in terms of changing the way these teams work for the positive.

The Atlassian team also redesigned what’s maybe the most-viewed page of the service: the Jira issue. Now, issues can have attachments of any file type, for example, making it easier to work with screenshots or files from designers.

Jira now also features a number of new APIs for integrations with Bitbucket and GitHub (which launched earlier this month), as well as InVision, Slack, Gmail and Facebook for Work.

With this update, Atlassian is also increasing the user limit to 5,000 seats, and Jira now features compliance with three different ISO certifications and SOC 2 Type II.

Building a great startup requires more than genius and a great invention

Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Here, the examples of the 19th and 20th century inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are instructive. Even as aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors lionize Edison for his myriad inventions and business acumen, they conveniently fail to recognize Tesla, despite having far greater contributions to how we generate, move, and harness power. Edison is the exception, with the legendary penniless Tesla as the norm.

Universities are the epicenter of pure innovation research. But the reality is that academic research is supported by tax dollars. The zero-sum game of attracting government funding is mastered by selling two concepts: Technical merit, and and broader impact toward benefiting society as a whole. These concepts are usually at odds with building a company, which succeeds only by generating and maintaining competitive advantage through barriers to entry.

In rare cases, the transition from intellectual merit to barrier to entry is successful. In most cases, the technology, though cool, doesn’t give the a fledgling company the competitive advantage it needs to exist among incumbents, and inevitable copycats. Academics, having emphasized technical merit and broader impact to attract support for their research, often fail to solve for competitive advantage, thereby creating great technology in search for a business application.

Of course there are exceptions: Time and time again, whether it’s driven by hype or perceived existential threat, big incumbents will be quick to buy companies purely for technology.  Cruise/GM (autonomous cars), DeepMind/Google (AI), and Nervana/Intel (AI chips). But as we move from 0-1 to 1-N in a given field, success is determined by winning talent over winning technology. Technology becomes less interesting; the onus on the startup to build a real business.

If a startup chooses to take venture capital, it not only needs to build a real business, but one that will be valued in the billions. the question becomes how a startup can create durable, attractive business, with a transient, short-lived technological advantage.

Most investors understand this stark reality. Unfortunately, while dabbling in technologies which appeared like magic to them during the cleantech boom, many investors were lured back into the innovation fallacy, believing that pure technological advancement would equal value creation. Many of them re-learned this lesson the hard way. As frontier technologies are attracting broader attention, I believe many are falling back into the innovation trap.

So what should aspiring frontier inventors solve for as they seek to invest capital to translate pure discovery to building billion-dollar companies?  How can the technology be cast into an unfair advantage that will yield big margins and growth that underpin billion-dollar businesses?

Talent productivity: In this age of automation, human talent is scarce, and there is incredible value attributed to retaining and maximizing human creativity.  Leading companies seek to gain an advantage by attracting the very best talent. If your technology can help you make more scarce talent more productive, or help your customers become more productive, then you are creating an unfair advantage internally, while establishing yourself as the de facto product for your customers.

Great companies such as Tesla and Google have built tools for their own scarce talent, and build products their customers, in their own ways, can’t do without. Microsoft mastered this with its Office products in the 90s, through innovation and acquisition, Autodesk with its creativity tools, and Amazon with its AWS Suite. Supercharging talent yields one of the most valuable sources of competitive advantage: switchover cost.  When teams are empowered with tools they love, they will loathe the notion of migrating to shiny new objects, and stick to what helps them achieve their maximum potential.

Marketing and Distribution Efficiency: Companies are worth the markets they serve.  They are valued for their audience and reach.  Even if their products in of themselves don’t unlock the entire value of the market they serve, they will be valued for their potential to, at some point in the future, be able to sell to the customers that have been tee’d up with their brands. AOL leveraged cheap CD-ROMs and the postal system to get families online, and on email.

Dollar Shave Club leveraged social media and an otherwise abandoned demographic to lock down a sales channel that was ultimately valued at a billion dollars. The inventions in these examples were in how efficiently these companies built and accessed markets, which ultimately made them incredibly valuable.

Network effects: Its power has ultimately led to its abuse in startup fundraising pitches. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram generate their network effects through Internet and Mobile. Most marketplace companies need to undergo the arduous, expensive process of attracting vendors and customers.  Uber identified macro trends (e.g., urban living) and leveraged technology (GPS in cheap smartphones) to yield massive growth in building up supply (drivers) and demand (riders).

Our portfolio company Zoox will benefit from every car benefitting from edge cases every vehicle encounters: akin to the driving population immediately learning from special situations any individual driver encounters. Startups should think about how their inventions can enable network effects where none existed, so that they are able to achieve massive scale and barriers by the time competitors inevitably get access to the same technology.

Offering an end-to-end solution: There isn’t intrinsic value in a piece of technology; it’s offering a complete solution that delivers on an unmet need deep-pocketed customers are begging for. Does your invention, when coupled to a few other products, yield a solution that’s worth far more than the sum of its parts? For example, are you selling a chip, along with design environments, sample neural network frameworks, and datasets, that will empower your customers to deliver magical products? Or, in contrast, does it make more sense to offer standard chips, licensing software, or tag data?

If the answer is to offer components of the solution, then prepare to enter a commodity, margin-eroding, race-to-the-bottom business. The former, “vertical” approach is characteristic of more nascent technologies, such as operating robots-taxis, quantum computing, and launching small payloads into space. As the technology matures and becomes more modular, vendors can sell standard components into standard supply chains, but face the pressure of commoditization.

A simple example is Personal Computers, where Intel and Microsoft attracted outsized margins while other vendors of disk drives, motherboards, printers, and memory faced crushing downward pricing pressure.  As technology matures, the earlier vertical players must differentiate with their brands, reach to customers, and differentiated product, while leveraging what’s likely going to be an endless number of vendors providing technology into their supply chains.

A magical new technology does not go far beyond the resumes of the founding team.

What gets me excited is how the team will leverage the innovation, and attract more amazing people to establish a dominant position in a market that doesn’t yet exist. Is this team and technology the kernel of a virtuous cycle that will punch above its weight to attract more money, more talent, and be recognized for more than it’s product?

SpankChain spanked

SpankChain, a cryptocurrency aimed at decentralized sex cams, has announced that a hacker stole about $38,000 from their payment channel thanks to a broken smart contract. They wrote: At 6pm PST Saturday, an unknown attacker drained 165.38 ETH (~$38,000) from our payment channel smart contract which also resulted in $4,000 worth of BOOTY on the […]

SpankChain, a cryptocurrency aimed at decentralized sex cams, has announced that a hacker stole about $38,000 from their payment channel thanks to a broken smart contract. They wrote:

At 6pm PST Saturday, an unknown attacker drained 165.38 ETH (~$38,000) from our payment channel smart contract which also resulted in $4,000 worth of BOOTY on the contract becoming immobilized. Of the stolen/immobilized ETH/BOOTY, 34.99 ETH (~$8,000) and 1271.88 BOOTY belongs to users (~$9,300 total), and the rest belonged to SpankChain.

Our immediate priority has been to provide complete reimbursements to all users who lost funds. We are preparing an ETH airdrop to cover all $9,300 worth of ETH and BOOTY that belonged to users. Funds will be sent directly to users’ SpankPay accounts, and will be available as soon as we reboot Spank.Live.

The hacker used a ‘reentrancy’ bug in which the user calls the same transfer multiple times, draining a little Ethereum each time. The bug is the same one that previously affected the DAO.

The company pointed out that a security audit on their smart contract would have cost $50,000, a bit more than the amount lost. “As we move forward and grow, we will be stepping up our security practices, and making sure to get multiple internal audits for any smart contract code we publish, as well as at least one professional external audit,” they wrote.

I’ve reached out to the company for clarification but in short it seems the spanker has become the spankee.