Why We’re Betting on DISQO

I have spent decades working with many of the CMOs of the world’s largest companies, and they all seem to want:

1) Data-Driven Decision Making,
2) Revenue and workflow automation linking their activities to revenue contribution,
3) An elevated consumer experience.

Technology has transformed the ways brands and consumers connect, it is the basis for the all-important and high-demand consumer experience. But how can a marketer know what consumers want, or think, or are considering when looking at a product or service? How do marketers balance this need for what makes consumers tick with the push for privacy?

Consumers want great experiences with brands – one-click buying, inventory availability across all stores and warehouses, and easy returns. But at the same time, they are demanding more privacy on the internet. Firefox, Apple’s Safari, and Google Chrome have all taken initiative to offer more privacy to their users, and their collective response to phase out third-party cookies means that the end of tracking consumer behavior through cookies is inevitable. Together, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome account for more than 70% of all global web traffic. Advertisers, marketers, and brands who rely on customer information to meet the growing demand for superior customer experiences are searching for new and better insights to replace the disappearance of this important technology. In the effort to meet these demands, promising start ups are taking center stage.

We’re betting on DISQO, a category leader in behavior-based consumer insights. DISQO’s comprehensive consumer insights platform holds extensive customer behavior and opinion data. DISQO offers access to this rich collection via API as well as data analysis to help brands better understand their customers.

DISQO’s strategy is threefold. The company has a consumer facing product called Survey Junkie that it uses as the “engine” to power its other core products, DISQO Research and DISQO Measure. DISQO Research connects the data gathered from the Survey Junkie application with enterprise customers via API. Enterprise customers can then directly query the consumer dataset. Because DISQO Research provides first party data, it offers a more complete dataset than what third-party cookies can offer and thus returns more accurate predictions and insights for customers. DISQO Research layers opt-in behavioral tracking, from roughly 60% of its Survey Junkie users, to its survey data to provide unparalleled insights. DISQO Measure then measures the attitudes and behavior of opt-in consumers after the ad exposure, further informing companies’ product positioning decisions based on ad performance across all platforms. What consumers are searching for, what ads they are exposed to ‘in the wild’, what they place in shopping baskets at Amazon, and what they actually purchase, is all captured across nearly 500,000 customers who have decided to monetize their data in the name of consumer insights.

Customers speak highly of the unique, effective, and accurate insights DISQO provides through its proprietary data sets. Not only are the insights unmatched, but DISQO’s investment in quality control and fraud management ensure that DISQO’s data is superior to other options in the market.

In addition to its survey and behavioral data that provide a holistic customer view, DISQO has a number of new and compelling software products coming out in the next few years:

DISQO’s products, Research and Measure, are on their way to becoming the gold standard for consumer insights. March Capital has been a long-time investor in data-led software companies. We believe DISQO is the answer to this fundamental shift in privacy expectations and consumer behavior.

Learn more about DISQO and how their customer intelligence platform is revolutionizing access to consumer insights here: https://www.disqo.com/.

March Capital Welcomes Jodi Yang!

I am pleased to share that Jodi Yang has joined March Capital as a Partner, where she will be leading capital formation.

With her background as Head of Investor Relations at Balderton and Partner at B Capital, Jodi brings both a global perspective and an extensive network to the team. We have been friends with Jodi since she was starting up her fund in Los Angeles over a decade ago, and we are excited to have her on the ground in London, close to our investors on the other half of the world. As a former entrepreneur, she was active at The Montgomery Summit and then became a member of our Selection Committee for participating companies, a true source of proprietary deal flow for March.

We are grounded in our desire to offer a world-class technology investment platform to investors around the globe. Jodi shares our vision to back ambitious enterprise software entrepreneurs who are tackling some of the most challenging problems at scale. From enabling e-commerce to cybersecurity and fintech, we strive to be the first call when our portfolio CEOs need support. It goes without saying that the Summit continues to be where we identify, engage, track, and back some of our most extraordinary founders.

As we grow our community of entrepreneurs who invest in March and each other through time and dedication, our commitment to scaling our long-term capital base remains the same. We pride ourselves in providing access for our investors to technology with candor and transparency, and this is one of the many reasons why we are so excited to have Jodi on board.  We now have over $1B of assets under management and anticipate growing our capital base with Jodi’s assistance.

We are a hands-on firm that is actively involved in the companies we invest in. This dedication to our companies is why investors trust us with their capital. With experience raising money for fellow entrepreneurs and fund managers alike, Jodi is a trusted advisor to many investors in the innovation economy, and we’re thrilled to have Jodi join us!

Why We Invested in Morty

U.S. culture views homeownership as a tangible manifestation of the “American Dream.” At its core, home ownership provides both an investment opportunity and a sense of identity and belonging. I purchased my first home at 25—a row house in an up-and-coming area of Baltimore City. I quickly learned, as millions of Americans had before me, that the home buying process is far more difficult than its glamorized depiction on popular television shows such as House Hunters, Selling Sunset, and Million Dollar Listing. I had no idea where to start in obtaining a mortgage, so I embarked on a tedious process of calling different lenders, supplying the same information over and over, and writing down quotes for comparison. This process was time consuming, stressful, and, at times, overwhelming.

Morty is transforming the home buying experience through its digitally native mortgage marketplace. The company’s proprietary pricing engine and relationships with leading lenders mean that homebuyers receive the mortgage option that is right for them without an arduous search. Morty’s automated platform then allows homebuyers to go through a streamlined origination process that eliminates stressful back-and-forth.

At March, we are excited by businesses that are combining the efficiency of technology with the powerful growth accelerant of a marketplace model to drive transformation across industries. Additionally, we love to back founders who have larger visions for how their companies will contribute to society. In Morty and Co-Founder and CEO Nora Apsel, we found both elements. I first connected with Nora to invite her to speak on a next-generation marketplaces panel at this year’s Montgomery Summit. Hearing her outline Morty’s goal of democratizing home financing by acting as the homebuyer’s advocate resonated deeply. This mission-driven approach, combined with Morty’s strategy, execution, and team inspired us to lead the company’s Series B.

Morty is digitizing a business – mortgage lending – that has historically been analog. The importance of this transformation has been magnified ten-fold by the pandemic, as homebuyers were prevented from interacting in-person with agents, brokers, and lenders. We expect the digital mortgage option to become the norm. This digitization represents an enormous market opportunity, as fewer than 10% of the $1.4T of purchase mortgages today are performed by online lenders. Morty has built a platform for the emerging digitally native mortgage customer, with a vision to become the one-stop-shop for home financing.

Morty is doing more, however, than simply moving a process online. The company is also improving on that process for all parties involved through a combination of proprietary technology and a unique marketplace model. Morty provides homebuyers with easy access to more mortgage options, instant analysis of which mortgage is best for them, and a streamlined origination process. For lenders, Morty offers economies of scale in customer acquisition, as well as cheaper, technology-enabled origination.  We anticipate further network effects will arise as other participants such as realtors, insurance companies, and settlement service providers join the platform. This multi-stakeholder value proposition creates Morty’s second unique element – a powerful flywheel effect that will make Morty a dominant force in the mortgage industry.

A third critical piece of the puzzle is the company’s exceptional team. Nora brings extensive experience as a software and front-end engineer working for venture-backed startups to Morty. She and Co-Founder and CTO, Adam Rothblatt drive a technology-first approach that creates value for both customers and lending partners, accelerating the flywheel outlined above.

We are incredibly excited to partner with Morty’s team as they transform the mortgage industry and eliminate barriers to home ownership in the US. To learn more about Morty, visit www.morty.com.

Immuta - Democratizing Data Access

Today, we welcomed Immuta to the March Capital portfolio, as part of their $90M Series D.  Immuta is the universal platform for cloud data access, and a leader in the burgeoning field of DataOps.  The power of Immuta is its ability to unlock the value of data, without compromising on security or privacy.  That is why Immuta recorded 115% YoY bookings growth and has become an essential component of the data stack for organizations such as Atlassian, Credit Suisse, Aon, Daimler, and the US Army.

We first met Immuta soon after its founding in 2015.  CEO Matt Carroll had played an important role in the intelligence operations in Iraq and came highly referenced by the US army generals who commanded our forces for his innovative and important contributions.  Matt joined us annually for The Montgomery Summit, as we tracked his progress and tried to be helpful along the way.  We are excited that Immuta’s evolution and our investment focus have now converged!

Data is a key focus area for us at March Capital, with investments such as ThoughtSpot in the analytics space, as well as companies such as CrowdStrike and Forter that have strong network data effects enabled by machine learning.  We are excited about DataOps solutions that are indispensable across verticals, have a platform architecture, and thus have the potential to become multi-billion dollar companies.

When we looked at leading indicators, we saw that Immuta already has widespread adoption, overwhelmingly positive customer ratings, and an A+ team with the passion and expertise necessary to be successful.  In our mind, Immuta does three things exceptionally well:

  1. Universal Architecture – the Immuta solution works on any data source, in any environment, across any type of infrastructure. It is the single control plane around data, regardless if a customer uses Snowflake, Databricks, AWS, Azure, or other platforms.
  2. Ease of Use – Immuta allows quick time to business value, while operating seamlessly behind the scenes after implementation. For one, data does not have to move.  In addition, Immuta can dynamically redact or anonymize data, enabling data scientists to build AI models without privacy concerns.  Finally, Immuta automatically manages compliance with regulations like HIPAA and GDPR.
  3. Team and Community – The founding team spent over a decade working in the U.S. Intelligence Community, tackling some of the most complex and sensitive data governance challenges. Supporting them is a team with intellectual curiosity and operational excellence, which was obvious to us whether speaking to an employee, customer, or partner.

The winners in this space will be those companies which can harness data easily and effectively, without compromising on security, compliance, or performance.  When we think about the mission of a Chief Data Officer (CDO), it is to capture business value from data – which is incredibly onerous to do today, especially with the deluge of data coming online and an increasing number of consumers of that data.

The market is moving towards an end state of data democratization, with self-service analytics and citizen data scientists, along with robust sharing of data both inside and outside an organization.  Any solutions adopted by data-driven enterprises must be real-time, secure, and operate at scale.

To get there, we need multi-cloud architectures, automated discovery, attention to quality and monitoring, and we need rock-solid security and compliance.  Immuta is well positioned in this landscape, as the single layer of control for data access, and thus, a key hub in the data supply chain.

We’re proud to have Immuta join the March Capital family and look forward to supporting the company’s continued growth!

Marrying Marketing and Customer Experience into a Unified Strategy

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two- basic functions: marketing and innovation.”
          -Peter Drucker

Marketing, one of the most critical components of revenue generation and value creation, has always been a distinguishing function of a business. Today the focus of marketing has shifted from advertising and sales enablement to the entire customer experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the importance of digitizing the customer experience. Today, businesses have to be listening and responding in real-time with customers. Gone are the days of old-school campaign-based, calendar-based schedules for marketing. Today’s state-of-art CMOs have built a technology stack that allows for them to be “always-on” and always responding with analytics-driven solutions to customers’ needs.

Though many businesses are still in the initial phases of creating automation within their marketing campaigns, 25% of CMOs in U.S. are already expanding their areas of responsibility to include the full customer journey. These CMOs own both marketing and customer experience, including customer care, social media monitoring, customer service and the like. They are bringing together AI, technology, marketing, and product services to deliver a better solution to their customers, with a comprehensive response. With both areas under the CMO, these companies can be more agile and nimble when dealing with customers across all channels and touch points.

The technology underlying customer experience is fundamental. It starts with an enterprise-grade Customer Data Platform (CDP) – a single, comprehensive, and connected platform for total visibility into the customer journey. As our fast-growing portfolio company, ActionIQ, puts it, “Winning on customer experience (CX) requires leaders to take decisive action on creating a new CX-centric operating model.”

The best companies run on CDPs that, like ActionIQ’s, capture all interactions consumers have with your brand including marketing messages, calls to a call center, visits to a retail store, mobile app usage, sales transaction data, etc. Simply put, in order to provide the most frictionless customer experience and meet the rising expectations of every customer, companies need to gather, measure, and optimize customer data.

This technology stack enables customer journey orchestration and optimization – what may be the best combination of products / services from a company for you is most likely going to be different for me, or the next person. Tailoring solutions that fit specific needs is at the heart of great customer care and marketing, yet many companies still lag behind on these best practices.

Inevitably, every company and consumer will encounter technical and other product issues. Businesses are now expected to not only offer exceptional products and services, but also to provide consistently flawless experiences for their customers at every touch point. That’s why companies need to turn every service glitch into an opportunity for a positive customer experience.

For instance, a customer may encounter difficulties while completing a loan application on a provider app. When the bank’s call center rep is contacted by the customer, the rep should be immediately equipped with the identity and history of the caller, understand why they are calling, where the customer got stuck in the app, and be prepared to resolve the problem. Seamless, across all touch points.

The role of AI will be paramount in bringing agility and efficient decision-making to the customer experience. AI is the next layer of investment that will activate the data and allow for fast, predictive responsiveness and engagement with consumers. Software companies like Uniphore and ASAPP are designed to do just this, leading companies to increased revenue, higher NPS scores and greater overall customer (and employee) satisfaction.

Read more about modern marketing, technology-enabled decision-making, and the explosive trend of data-driven customer experience in various posts and articles by Wes Nichols at https://medium.com/@wesnichols or on the March Capital Media & Thought Leadership page.

KnowBe4 IPO: The Next Layer of Cybersecurity Arrives on Wall Street

KnowBe4, the leading platform for security awareness training, made its successful public markets debut today when it began trading on the NASDAQ under ticker KNBE. The company has achieved impressive growth leading up its IPO. With ARR of ~$200 million (40% YoY), over 37,000 customers globally in markets worth over $15 billion, we believe the company is well positioned and well prepared to achieve its long-term vision of becoming the go-to security solution for the human layer.

KnowBe4, backed by Goldman Sachs, KKR, and March Capital, among others, utilizes proprietary content coupled with intelligent analytics and personalization to provide a robust security platform. What Okta did for identity, Zscaler did for web, and CrowdStrike did for endpoint – all public companies with over $25B market cap – KnowBe4 seeks to do for the human layer. 

Security Training and Awareness is a large underserved market. While nearly 70% of data breaches are attributable to attacks on the human layer, today only 3% of cybersecurity spend is actually allocated to training and awareness. KnowBe4 offers a solution that addresses low hanging fruit for companies of all sizes, across industries. The solution is not only built for global scale but also built to provide an intuitive, user-friendly platform for any busy professional.

The company is targeting —and quickly approaching— complete market dominance as it expands its consumer base. It plans to rapidly invest in its international operations post-IPO, which made up nearly 12% of revenue in FY2020. KnowBe4 has demonstrated incredible efficiency in its go-to-market. The company has achieved nearly $200M ARR, with minimal capital investment. Growth has been steady, gross profits consistently strong (mid 80% range), and cash flows are positive. The March Capital team has a high degree of confidence in management’s ability to execute in this next phase of growth.

We believe we are still in the early chapters of the KnowBe4 growth story and look forward to observing its continued success. To learn more about KnowBe4, please click here.

The Medium is the Message: The Future of AI-Enabled Text

You open your inbox each morning and look through your messages. You spy a marketing email from a company that you have purchased from before. What do you do?

If you’re like me, you delete it. Or, there is a good chance you never saw it at all because you use an email client that segregates marketing messages into a separate folder.

As consumers, we are faced with an interesting paradox. We are inundated with messages from companies via multiple channels yet, when we need to communicate with those companies, we’re often told to email a general account and wait a day or more to get a generic response or call a customer service number and wait on hold.

Customers are beginning to demand more of the businesses with which they interact. They want meaningful communications, and they want them via the mediums that are most convenient. In fact, 89% of customers want to communicate with businesses via text, with those between the ages of 18-44 preferring it over any other medium.  While customer support is a core use case for text, it is not the only one. Customers are also open to using text to reply to order confirmations, give product or service feedback, reply to delivery status, learn about new products, and receive coupons or promotions. As the spending power of these cohorts increases over the next 5-10 years, businesses seeking to differentiate on customer experience will need to invest in messaging solutions. The gap between customer desires and business capabilities – 52% of businesses are not equipped to text – indicates that the messaging software segment is poised for an explosion, one that has already begun. The diagram below outlines some of the players in the messaging software market.

Messaging Software Market map

 

 

When many think about messaging software, they think about an alternative channel to email for push marketing. Several sizable companies have been built on this functionality – the largest, Attentive is now worth ~$7B. However, the risk of channel saturation with push marketing as well as its limited scope has encouraged messaging to evolve beyond this use case.

Customer service software incumbents are recognizing the importance of messaging as a channel and adding their own solutions through in-house builds or acquisitions. Salesforce purchased mobile messaging focused HeyWire in 2016, customer experience management software provider Medallia acquired multi-channel mobile messaging company Zingle in 2019, and Zendesk bought omnichannel messaging company, Smooch (now rebranded as Zendesk Sunshine) in 2019.

While messaging is a critical component of a customer service suite, I believe the true potential in the category is in two-way, AI-enabled business communication with customers.

Customers want conversations to be authentic, interactive experiences. Fully autonomous chatbots are not yet able to deliver on the authenticity element, while human solutions are costly and time-consuming. Therefore, I predict the next big winner in the messaging space will be an AI-enabled two-way offering, with humans in the loop. Applications of such technology are broad and include digital sales (an area that has exploded with COVID), marketing, and operations. The extent to which a solution enables companies to provide individualized attention to customers, augment revenue through customer insights, and generate a positive ROI on technology investment will determine who emerges as a winner in the space. Delivering on these key value propositions will enable a company to gain traction in a crowded market and succeed as a large standalone player, rather than a tuck-in acquisition.

Two companies to watch in the space are Boston-based, seed-stage Tone and LA-based, Series B stage Emotive. In the future, instead of waking up to a generic email in our “Promotions” inbox, we may be asking questions, resolving concerns, and receiving personalized deals from our favorite companies all via real-time text.

Moore’s Law Applied to Cloud Software Will Result in a Seismic Shift

Data driven cloud software is an enormous opportunity in the next decade.

The cloud software companies have not only thrived during this past year, reaching a collective market capitalization of over $2 trillion, but have also largely surpassed the FAANG companies as the fastest growing segment of technology.

There are a series of high performing cloud-based software companies that pioneered the category of Software-as-a-Service. Though many companies in the Bessemer Cloud Index will become long-term market leaders, the clear category kings have been Salesforce, Workday, and ServiceNow. These are the cloud native companies that disrupted legacy on premise infrastructure with easy to use, scalable platform solutions.

They have opened a larger addressable market of smaller customers who can build upon, and integrate with their platforms. These cloud native SaaS companies are transforming the landscape, and as they evolve, the best-in-class SaaS metrics evolve alongside them to capture their path to success. “New” metrics like the popularized “Magic Number”, helping companies determine the impact of sales and marking spend on ARR growth, and “Net Retention”, a measure of your customer churn which includes upsell and expansion opportunities, have materialized to complement the more standard metrics related to growth rates and gross margins.

A new class of software companies is emerging that combine the attractive elements of a SaaS company: scalability, high margins, recurring revenue and visibility into revenue, with the key attributes of Moore’s Law: increasing efficiency at scale.

The new paradigm of data driven software companies became clear to me while listening to the CrowdStrike (Nasdaq: CRWD) earnings call on March 16th. This was an impressive earnings call with a clarity of strategy and excellence of execution.

These software companies achieve efficiency of scale by utilizing their massive data stores for machine learning. Data is being generated and becoming available at historic rates and as companies make the transition to the cloud, they are able to access their data and take advantage of the powerful flywheel of intelligence and insights it offers. Simply put, the bigger the database and the better the data, the better and more plentiful the insights. 

CrowdStrike initially aspired to be the Salesforce of cybersecurity. It has become so much more.

At the time of the IPO of CrowdStrike in 2019, the company was capturing just above 2 trillion events per week (where events correspond to potential security breaches). Today, CrowdStrike logs 5+ trillion events per week. These events inform CRWD’s Threat Graph and create a reinforcing loop that drives increased accuracy. The scale of the data is monumental, and without cloud-scale AI, analyzing this amount of data with such efficiency would be impossible.

No other cyber security company has anywhere near this level of data or resulting insights. CrowdStrike has an unprecedented competitive advantage that will continue to accelerate.

The buy side on The Street has repeatedly underestimated the growth potential of CRWD, in part because they don’t understand the nature of the company, but the data speaks for itself. A Goldman Sachs research report published last week noted that CRWD is the fastest growing company within their universe of cloud software companies – now trading at EV/Revenues FY 2022e of 28x and growing 45% faster than pre-COVID estimates.

We are thrilled by the results and continued potential of CrowdStrike, but our optimism expands well beyond this single portfolio company of ours. When you add cloud-scale to SaaS, you get record growth. This crossover is where we focus, and where we expect to see the biggest opportunities of the next decade.

To follow our portfolio companies and investment strategy, take a look at our website and follow me on LinkedIn.

Cybersecurity: 10 Insights from Top Entrepreneurs

At The Montgomery Summit 2021 presented by March Capital, a dozen cybersecurity leaders shared the ground truth of how enterprises are responding to the evolving threat landscape.

CEOs and founders of companies such as Snyk, Netskope, Dragos, Orca, and Very Good Security also forecast “what’s next” for cybersecurity.  Here’s what we heard:

Top 10 Insights

  1. Security is shifting from a tax, to a business enabler; security wins the trust of the consumer.
  2. Perimeters are ephemeral. New architectures mean that applications are smaller and more transient than ever before.
  3. Every real-world operation will want to adopt Zero Trust. Distributed workforces will remain the norm, providing a tailwind to network security and access management companies.
  4. Privacy solutions will become ubiquitous within 5 years, regardless of whether the driver is regulatory, compliance, or the customer himself/herself.
  5. Third-party vendors and partners are now an essential part of any businesses. Thus, supply chain transparency and resiliency will become increasingly important.
  6. Any enterprise with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Governance, Risk, & Compliance (GRC) system will need a Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM).
  7. Industrial security is becoming necessary across sectors, not just for Energy or Government.
  8. Startups are seeing a shift in buyer profiles. What used to be CSO sales, is now increasingly decided by a BSO (business unit security officer) or a functional security lead (e.g., threat management lead).  Soon, developers will be the most important influencer and user of security solutions.  Any selling process that ignores the developer will lose out.
  9. Security companies are slowing moving towards consumption-based pricing models, which is now commonplace for infrastructure and allows enterprises to match value and cost.
  10. The cloud will create dramatically more secure ecosystems. Startups with multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud solutions will be best positioned to succeed, and avoid being subsumed into the core offerings of cloud providers.

All told, it should not be surprising that the startups who presented are innovating relentlessly to match increasingly sophisticated adversaries, such as those seen in the Solarwinds/Sunburst and Microsoft Exchange attacks.

In 2020, $10.7B was invested in Cybersecurity across 539 transactions, and $20B spent on M&A across 178 transactions. There has been a clear focus on Cyber as organizations recalibrate to new threats and surface area.  Will 2021 be another big year for Cyber?  We think so.

 

APPENDIX – MONTGOMERY SUMMIT 2021 SPEAKERS

Spotlight Presenters: Snyk, Netskope, Forter

Securing the Cloud Economy Panelists: Very Good Security, Orca, Valtix, Styra

Moderator: Jed Leidheiser

Frontiers of Innovation in Cybersecurity Panelists: Xage, Dragos, Enveil, Prevalion, Panaseer

Moderator: Bob Ackerman

Accessing Global Capital Markets for Leading Indian Companies

At The Montgomery Summit 2021, I had a discussion about Accessing Global Capital Markets for Leading Indian Companies with Sonjoy Chatterjee, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs India, Bob McCooey, Senior Vice President of Listing Services at Nasdaq, and Umesh Sachdev, the Co-Founder and CEO of Uniphore.

In case you missed it, here are some of the most significant takeaways from our conversation:

  • First and foremost, there has never been a better funding environment for an Indian company with global ambitions. Not only are the Indian public and private markets more active than ever, but Indian companies are also better positioned than ever before to dual-list in the US.
  • The number of ambitious Indian companies in question has increased dramatically, with companies such as Uniphore successfully redomiciling from India to the US, carving a path for many founders who aim to follow. To their great benefit, Nasdaq is a willing and eager partner to Indian companies for whom it makes sense to dual-list in the US.

Sonjoy, Bob, and Umesh contributed to this conversation from three very different and unique vantage points. I recommend you give the full session a watch on YouTube or on MontyTV for more insights from these thought-provoking global leaders.