Tech’s $1 billion unicorn startups are ready to party

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This week: The hot unicorn summer is here

Once upon a time a startup that attained a $1 billion valuation was a rare feat – rare enough that those that achieved it were called unicorns. Today, unicorns are seemingly everywhere and new ones are being created all the time.

In the second quarter of 2021, there were 136 new unicorns created. That’s more than all the unicorns created in 2020. Is it the pent-up enthusiasm for re-opening? The ongoing result of low interest rates? A sign of trouble ahead? Check out the list of the 136 new unicorns and see if you can discern any pattern.


In other startup and VC news:

Garrett Camp’s VC fund is breaking all the rules with a new accelerator for fledging founders. Here’s how it’s different.

Tech startups can’t hire fast enough. Here are 25 important people to know if you want to land one of those jobs.

Meet Shift5, the 50-person security startup quietly hiring execs away from hot startups like Tanium and Armis and landing millions in military contracts

Money app Revolut’s valuation has jumped 500% to $33 billion after raising $800 million from SoftBank and Tiger Global

Deal Watch…

Here’s a wild deal to ponder: Amazon Web Services buys Salesforce.

Impossible, right? After all, Amazon is currently facing the most intense antitrust scrutiny in its nearly three decades of existence. And the FTC’s new chairwoman, Lina Khan, is an avowed Amazon skeptic (so much so that Amazon is trying to force her to sit out any proceedings involving the company).

But… If Amazon were to spin off its AWS cloud computing business, the latter could potentially acquire Salesforce, some analysts reckon.

Spinoffs and acquisitions are all just hypotheticals of course. Far less speculative is a stronger alliance between AWS and Salesforce, building on their 2016 partnership. That’s because each party provides something the other doesn’t currently have in their product offerings. Together (particularly once Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack closes) they can offer a more well-rounded alternative to their mutual enemy: Microsoft.

Read the full story here:

Why Salesforce and Amazon are becoming each other’s best allies in the battle against Microsoft – and how they could become even closer

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky
(L to R) Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky

In other Big Tech news:

Confessions of Google employees: the company is too big and needs to be broken up

Oracle insiders say a key cloud VP is out after about a year. Here are the details on the big changes at Oracle’s important cloud security business.

Facebook’s chief diversity officer reveals how she’s increasing BIPOC leadership at the tech giant

TikTok’s search algorithm has been auto-suggesting potentially harmful eating disorder content when users type the first few letters of banned keywords

The Big Read

Fort Lauderdale asked Elon Musk to build a commuter train tunnel. So how did it end up with a plan for a $30 million beach tunnel for Teslas instead?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk with a hardhat.JPG
Elon Musk

Insider obtained emails and other documents through freedom of information requests to piece together the makings of a curious deal that raised eyebrows when it was hastily announced this month.

The documents show how starstruck city officials turned to a tech-industry celebrity to solve a difficult problem and – for the moment at least – ended up instead agreeing to buy something they hadn’t been looking for, and may not really need.

Click here to read the full story

Snapshot: Ukraine Crypto Bust!

You might think that shelves crammed with PlayStation consoles belong to an electronics retailer.

According to the Ukraine police however, the picture below is an underground cryptocurrency mining operation.

Metal racks with Sony Playstation consoles in a Ukraine crypto mine
Gaming consoles in Ukraine.

Some 3,800 Sony PlayStations were discovered in the facility, located in a town about three hours outside the capital of Kyiv, along with 5,000 computers, 50 processors and an assortment of notebooks, phones and flash drives.

“Such illegal activity could lead to power surges and left people without electricity,” the Security Service of Ukraine declaimed in a press release announcing the big bust.

For their alleged theft of electricity, water and thermal energy, the crypto miners now face criminal proceedings. And investigations are underway to identify other conspirators.

Quote of the week:

Kelsey Hightower, principle engineer at Google and self-taught developer. His arms are crossed and he's wearing a grey shirt in front of a textured brown background.
Kelsey Hightower, principle engineer at Google and self-taught developer.

“There’s this idea that you need to be passionate about technology to be successful: That’s actually not true. It helps, but it is not a requirement.”

– Google cloud expert Kelsey Hightower, who taught himself computer science and has become one of the most sought-after speakers in the enterprise tech field. According to Hightower, the key is optimizing your skills for the jobs that people are hiring for.

Not necessarily in tech:

We found Jeffrey Epstein’s other little black book from 1997. Search all 349 names in our exclusive database.

Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

– Alexei

Read the original article on Business Insider

Salesforce stock could jump 32% after ‘beat and raise’ quarter, Wedbush says

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce stock surged on Friday after the company beat analysts’ revenue and earnings estimates.
  • The firm also raised its guidance and now expects $26 billion of revenue for financial year 2022.
  • Dan Ives of Wedbush says Salesforce stock will jump 32% from Thursday’s closing price to $300.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Salesforce stock surged on Friday after the company posted a “beat and raise special” in its latest quarterly earnings report, according to Wedbush’s Dan Ives.

In a note to clients on Friday, Wedbush’s managing director of equity research, said that Salesforce revealed “the news the bulls wanted to hear” in its fiscal year 2022 first quarter earnings results.

Ives holds an “outperform” rating and $300 price target on shares of Salesforce.

That target represents a potential 32% jump from Thursday’s closing price.

Salesforce posted 23% year-over-year revenue growth to hit $5.96 billion in its latest earnings release, topping the Street’s $5.89 billion estimate.

Pro forma EPS came in above the Street’s $0.88 expectations as well at $1.21. Billings growth was “the star of the show” in the quarter, according to Ives, coming in at $4.51 billion, well above the Street’s $4.09 billion estimate.

Gross margins did fall to 78.1% from 78.3% in the year-ago period, but operating margins grew to 20.2% from 13.1% year-over-year.

“We had the best first quarter in our company’s history,” CEO Marc Benioff said after the release.”We believe our Customer 360 platform is proving to be the most relevant technology for companies accelerating out of the pandemic.”

Salesforce raised its guidance after the standout quarter, and now expects revenue of between $25.9 billion and $26 billion and earnings per share of between $3.79 and $3.81 for the fiscal year 2022.

“With incredible momentum throughout our core business, we’re raising our revenue guidance for this fiscal year by $250 million to approximately $26 billion and non-GAAP operating margin to 18 percent. We’re on our path to reach $50 billion in revenue in FY26,” Benioff said.

In his note to clients, Ives said that Salesforce has seen “accelerated growth prospects” due to the work from home trend and he expects the digital transformation for work to continue even as the pandemic comes to an end.

“Salesforce’s customer diversification, product portfolio breadth, and ratable SaaS model is continuing to gain significant momentum in the field as the digital transformation spending cycle kicks into its next gear of growth,” Ives wrote.

“Digital transformation projects are getting the green light within many enterprises and is a major tailwind for Salesforce given its stalwart positioning and expanded product footprint,” he added.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff slammed Facebook for asking its ‘Supreme Court’ to rule on Trump’s suspension: ‘This is your company’

marc benioff mark zuckerberg salesforce facebook
  • Benioff said Facebook’s board was right to pass the Trump case back to the company.
  • The executive also said CEOs shouldn’t delegate their core values to outsiders.
  • The board refused Facebook’s request to decide the duration of Trump’s suspension.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff called out Facebook over the company’s decision to delegate a significant content moderation issue to its “Supreme Court” of independent reviewers.

He made the comments a week after Facebook’s Oversight Board, which was created to review its moderation decisions, ruled that it would not decide how long former President Donald Trump would be suspended as the company asked it to do. Instead, that is Facebook’s responsibility to decide, the board said.

Benioff said the board members were “right to punt it back” during an interview with the Wall Street Journal as part of the publication’s “Future of Everything” event.

“They basically said, ‘This is your company. You are the leader. You have this position. And you have to know what is right in your heart to do,'” he added. “‘And if you cannot do that, then you probably should not be the CEO because that’s a CEO’s job.'”

Read more: Trump’s Facebook ban is just ‘a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,’ critics say – but no one can agree on the best way to wipe out the disinformation contagion

The Salesforce executive also said that CEOs should not delegate their core human values to outsiders but should instead embrace them as a leader.

“Great leaders throughout history are great leaders because they have encompassed and they have operationalized their values,” Benioff told The Journal. “And that’s what these CEOs need to do, and in no case can you say some board is going to tell me what my values are.”

Benioff told the outlet that he’d advise Zuckerberg to prioritize trust and truth and hold his company and its leaders accountable.

At the same conference, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer was later interviewed and pushed back on Benioff’s comments.

“That advice runs counter to what I think most people think, which is that things that are important in the world require oversight,” Schroepfer told the Journal. “This is why you have regulatory bodies, this is why you have elected governments.”

Facebook poured $130 million into its Oversight Board, which stood up in October. The group’s members are not a part of the company’s workforce and include individuals like Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.

Facebook indefinitely suspended Trump on January 7 after his supporters stormed the US Capitol to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. The case was appealed to the board, which was asked to decide the duration of Trump’s suspension.

And while it ruled that Facebook was right to de-platform Trump, it refused to name the time period for the indefinite expulsion, which was not a penalty that the company normally doled out. The board criticized Facebook for even asking it to do so.

“In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the Board wrote. “The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Salesforce invests $40 million in text-marketing startup Community

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce is investing $40 million in a text-marketing startup called Community.
  • Community, which started as a tool for celebrities to message fans, is now pitching to businesses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Salesforce is investing $40 million in the text-marketing startup, Community, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new funding, which comes through the company’s investment division, Salesforce Ventures, brings Community’s total amount raised to around $90 million.

Community first launched in 2019, raising tens of millions of dollars from investors like Ashton Kutcher to build an app where celebrities and influencers could send texts directly to their fans. Early users included Paul McCartney, Jake Paul, Ellen Degeneres, and Jennifer Lopez. In January, the company told Insider that it had begun targeting business customers in addition to celebrities.

“We’ve started moving into small businesses, streetwear brands, big brands, and we have over 6,000 leaders using our platform,” Josh Rosenheck, the company’s co-founder and chief product officer, said.

Community customers can use its platform to send out mass texts, one-to-one messages to followers, or custom texts to a select group of customers based on their location or demographic info. Users who opt into receiving messages can also text back.

Joshua Weissman, a YouTube star who began using Community last year while it was still invite-only, told Insider that the app had proven to be an effective way to keep in touch with his fans.

“I’ve only been promoting it a little bit, and I’ve got around 10,000 people on my text platform,” Weissman said. “I sent out a text message and it went out to 9,900 [people]. It had a 98% open rate.”

“I would compare it to Mailchimp, but the text version,” Weissman added. “It’s very similar in that fashion, but it’s run through an app on your phone.”

Interest in text marketing has been on the rise this year as media brands, digital creators, and advertisers look for new ways to reach audiences outside of email. Email platform Mailchimp acquired the text-marketing startup Chatitive in January.

“Over time, everyone’s going to want to have a more real connection with the things that they care about,” Rosenheck told Insider. “We wanted that to become adopted and understood as a new social paradigm, like, ‘Oh wow, I can actually have a personal engaging relationship with people I love like the sports teams, the brands, the businesses that I love.'”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Ford paves the way as the first automaker to allow 86,000 employees to work from home permanently

Ford logo
Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July.

  • Ford has become the first auto company to announce employees can work from home in the long-term.
  • The company will explore flexible arrangements from July, depending on individual responsibilities.
  • A survey showed 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and felt more productive at home.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ford has become the first automobile company to shift towards remote working on a permanent basis, according to CNBC, with around 86,000 employees being allowed to work at least partially from home.

The policy is aimed at office workers rather than factory workers, who number around 100,000 and have largely returned to work.

Hybrid work plans and remote working will depend on individual and managerial responsibilities.

“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” chief people and employee experiences officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”

Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July when most employees are expected to make at least a partial return to the office after more than a year.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent – you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, David Dubensky, told The Washington Post.

“Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful,” Dubensky added. “It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Remote work coronavirus
95% of Ford employees wanted a hybrid form of working.

According to a survey conducted at Ford in June 2020, 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and a number of them felt more productive at home.

The move from Ford comes after major companies including Google, Spotify, and Salesforce all announced that they were offering their employees the option to work from home permanently.

A survey conducted in January by the National Association for Business Economics suggested just one in 10 companies expected employees to return to the office after the pandemic.

“These companies are all looking at each other,” associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Angela Hall, told The Detroit News. “And especially someone like Ford, who is a large, respected employer – people are going to model that behavior.”

The Washington Post also reported that General Motors and Toyota were looking at flexible options for a return to the office, although they are both yet to announce new policies.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Salesforce reportedly scrapped plans for additional office space in San Francisco following its decision that most employees will only come into the office a few days per week

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce is said to be canceling a lease for new office space in San Francisco.
  • Salesforce had inked a deal in 2018 for 325,000 square feet in a new building near Salesforce Tower.
  • The company said last month that most employees will work in the office one to three days a week.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Salesforce has reportedly dropped plans to lease 325,000 square feet of office space in San Francisco.

The cloud computing giant, which is headquartered in the tallest tower in San Francisco and is the city’s largest employer, had previously signed a deal in 2018 for additional office space in the new Transbay Tower development, an unbuilt tower about a block away.

The company planned to house 1,500 workers at the new tower, a portion of the 10,000 employees it has spread throughout its urban campus.

But according to the San Francisco Business Times’ Laura Waxmann and San Francisco Chronicle’s Roland Li, the lease is “is no longer in hand.”

A spokesperson for Salesforce did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: Salesforce’s AI ethics chief shares 3 ways to use tech when planning a safe return to the office

The decision follows Salesforce’s announcement last month that it would adopt three new ways of working going forward. The new guidelines, which Salesforce is calling “Work From Anywhere,” offer employees options for how they’ll work in the future: flex, fully remote, and office-based.

Salesforce said most of its employees worldwide would have a flex schedule, which means they’ll report to the office between one and three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, such as team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.

The company has shared few details about what this will mean for its physical office spaces – in a blog post announcing the change, Brent Hyder, the president and chief people office of Salesforce, shared only that the offices would be redesigned as “community hubs” with collaboration and breakout spaces instead of rows of desks.

Salesforce’s decision follows two other major San Francisco-based tech companies scaling back their physical office space. In August, Pinterest scrapped plans to build a massive, 490,000-square-foot-office in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, paying a $89.5 million fee to cancel the project. And in September, Twitter said it would sublease more than 100,000 square feet of space at its San Francisco headquarters after telling employees they could work from home forever.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How Salesforce COO and star exec Bret Taylor has steered the cloud giant through a tumultuous year to help companies adapt to an ‘all-digital, work-anywhere economy’

Bret Taylor Salesforce
Bret Taylor, Salesforce COO

Salesforce chief operating officer Bret Taylor played a key role in the firm’s $27.7 billion deal to buy Slack, putting the exec in the spotlight near the end of a tumultuous year in which he’s leaned on his experience and expertise to help guide the firm. 

Taylor acted as the main Lisson to Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, and Salesforce CEO Benioff publicly praised him on an analyst call following the announcement:

“I couldn’t be more excited about what Bret and Stewart put together,” he said. 

Taylor has risen rapidly through the ranks at Salesforce since he joined the company four years ago via the acquisition of his collaboration tool Quip and is widely believed to be the next in line to Benioff thanks to his prominence and vision within the company. 

For example, he leaned on his experience as an entrepreneur who built a collaboration tool to extol the benefits Salesforce could gain from Slack.

“Slack is really one of the few companies in the history of software that set out to change the way people work and actually succeeded,” he said at the company’s annual investor day. “We truly believe this is the next generation of the way companies work together.”

His role at Salesforce this year earned him a spot on Business Insider’s annual list of the 10 leaders transforming enterprise tech.

Salesforce went through executive upheaval at the beginning of the year, and then needed to shift gears as the coronavirus pandemic began raging through the world.

“Every single industry overnight went digital,” Taylor told Business Insider in a July interview. As the needs of Salesforce’s customers adjusted, so did the company. 

Here’s how Taylor is leading the firm as it adjusts to what he describes as an “all-digital, work-anywhere economy”: 

Rising through the ranks at Salesforce

From the moment Taylor started working at Salesforce, he was reporting directly to Benioff, who had said it was his “dream to work more closely” with the young “rising star.” 

A year later, he made the leap to the C-Suite, becoming president and chief product officer – a role he held until December 2019 when he became the company’s chief operating officer. He now oversees global product vision, engineering, security, marketing, and communications, taking on a greater leadership role with more influence over the future of Salesforce.  

Taylor’s background is much more product-focused, rather than sales focused like Keith Block or Benioff. Before co-founding Quip, Taylor was Facebook’s chief technology officer. He gets credit for creating its “Like” button an helped lead the company through its IPO in 2012. Before that, he was at Google, where he helped found Google Maps.

“What we see with Brett is, bringing that deep product knowledge, the understanding of how dev teams work,” said Valoir analyst Rebecca Wettemann.

Quip’s office suite tools are now embedded directly into Salesforce tools like Sales and Service Cloud. Earlier this year Salesforce also took the infrastructure and technology it acquired from Quip and added built in chat features to its customer relationship management tools.

How Salesforce is pursuing its product vision during a pandemic 

Since Taylor joined Salesforce, the firm has been building its platform with the goal of offering clients a “360 degree” view of their customers across sales, service, marketing, commerce, and other customer touchpoints. The goal is to make the customers of Salesforce’s clients feel like they’re interacting with the same brand or company no matter what their needs are. 

That got even more difficult as the entire customer experience changed. 

“Across our portfolio – across sales, customer service, marketing, e-commerce – we’ve really tried to work on digital technologies that are relevant in an era where a huge percentage of your customer and employee interactions are digital,” Taylor said in July.

Part of that 360-degree approach is “speaking the language of our customers,” which has increased Salesforce’s focus on building industry specific tools, like its Health Cloud and Financial Services Cloud. 

Taylor is also behind Salesforce’s new tools to help companies and public agencies reopen their facilities safely. Thirty-five state and federal agencies are now using Salesforce’s tools for contract tracing, as are countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The pandemic has shown businesses that it needs software to help it deal with all types of crises, and Salesforce wants to be the one to provide those important tools. 

The tools were developed because Salesforce executives asked, “How can we have a culture of action to help every community and every business reopen safely?” Taylor said. “But behind that is actually a robust platform that really will endure.”

It’s relied on partnerships with companies like Amazon, Zoom, and Workday for this initiative. 

The Slack deal is also a big part of that goal, Taylor said at the company’s investor day, because “Slack amplifies the value proposition of this entire platform.”

Over the last six months, under Taylor’s leadership, Salesforce has displayed “much faster development and time to market,” according to Valoir’s Wettemann.

Embracing remote work across the company, customers, and products

Embracing distributed and remote work didn’t come naturally to Salesforce, but it has managed to adapt, Taylor said. “We’re famous for having towers in every major city in the world,” he said in July. “We weren’t exactly a company that was oriented towards distributed work, and now we’ve proven to ourselves we can do it.” 

A few months later in November, Taylor told Business Insider that Salesforce execs are now asking themselves what practices they want to continue doing even after the pandemic ends.  

“Our answer is likely a hybrid model that optimizes for distributed and in-office work,” he said. “It’s an exciting opportunity because it opens up recruiting in a big way and gives employees a lot more flexibility if we do it right.”

On the company’s earnings call earlier this month, the company said it plans to scale back its multi-million square foot office footprint and expects to write down between $80 million and $100 million for offices it will offer for sublease during its fiscal fourth quarter.

To influence the company’s thinking and product direction, Taylor has also spent time this talking to executives who are “trailblazers” of distributed work. That’s long been part of Salesforce’s culture: Rather than just selling software, it aims to act as a partner and advisor to its customers as they undertake massive digital change, which allows it to learn from them in turn. 

“I think we’re unique in technology because we really lead with our values,” Taylor said, “and we really try to sell to not just technology leaders, but to business leaders, who aren’t necessarily looking at technology for technology’s sake, but looking at it to achieve an end.”

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