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How one VC firm wound up with no-code startups as part of its investing thesis

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. 

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

How one VC firm wound up with no-code startups as part of its investing thesis

Throughout all the chaos of 2020’s economic upheaval in the startup world, I’ve worked to pay more attention to low-code and no-code services. The short gist of chats I’ve had with investors and founders and public company execs in the past few weeks is that market awareness of no-code/low-code terminology is starting to spread more broadly.

Why? Again, summarizing aggressively, it seems that the gap between what different business units need (marketing, say) and what in-house or external engineering teams are capable of providing is widening. This means there is more total pain in the market, hunting for a solution, often with a tooling budget in hand.

Enter no-code and low-code startups, and even big-company services alike that can help non-developers do more without having to beg for engineering inputs.

I spoke with Arun Mathew this week. He’s a partner at Accel, a venture firm that has invested in all sorts of companies that you’ve heard of — including Webflow, which raised a $72 million Series A last August that Mathew led for his firm. (More on the round here, and notes from TechCrunch on Webflow’s early days here, and here, if you are curious.)

More interesting than that single round is how Accel wound up building a thesis around no-code startups. According to Mathew, Accel had made large investments into companies like Qualtrics, for example, when they were already pretty big and had found product-market fit. That same general approach led to the Webflow deal last year.

At the time, Webflow “wasn’t really defining what they were doing as n- code, they just said ‘we have a very simple drag and drop UI, to build websites, and soon full web applications, very simply,’ ” he told TechCrunch. But, according to Mathew, what Webflow was doing “lined up really well” with the “rising movement of no-code.”

From there, Accel “made a couple [more no-code] investments in Europe where [it has] an early-stage team and a growth team,” along with a few more in India. In the investor’s view, some of the investing activity was “thesis driven because we think [no-code is] a really interesting theme,” but some of the deals “happened opportunistically” where Accel had found “really talented founders in the space that we thought was interesting, executing on a vision that we found appealing.”

In the “span of a year, year-and-a-half,” Accel totted up “seven or eight companies in this no-code space,” which over the last five or six quarters became “a real thesis” for the firm, Mathew said. Accel now has “a global team” of around a dozen people “spending a lot of our time in and around no-code” he added.

Apologies for the length there, but what Mathew said makes me feel a bit less behind. After dipping a toe into learning more about no-code services and tooling (and, yes, low-code as well) it felt somewhat like I was playing catch-up. But as I covered that Webflow round and have since started paying more attention to no-code as well, perhaps you and I are right on time.

(We also recently ran an investor survey on the no-code topic, so hit it up if you want more VC scribbles on the topic.)

Market Notes

For Market Notes this week, we have four things. First, riffs from chats with two public company execs about the software market, some public market stuff and then some neat Airbnb spend data by which I am confounded:

  • I spoke with Apple MDM company Jamf’s CFO Jill Putman this week, after her company reported its first set of earnings as a public company. I wanted to know a bit more about the education market — a hot topic here at TechCrunch, given outsized rounds and huge market demand — and the medical world.
  • Regarding the software market for education, Putman noted that schools are buying lots of hardware, and that software sales should follow. Our read from that is that the boom in education software is not going to slow for some time as schools work on reopening.
  • Ditto the medical market, where Jamf has found uptake as hospitals roll out hardware to patients and families thereof to facilitate all sorts of demand that COVID has engendered. (Hardware needs software, enter Jamf!)
  • Chatting with the CFO our key takeaway was that there are still sectors that could generate a continued COVID tailwind, even if not all Jamf customers fit that bill. For startups that did catch a wave, this is probably good news.
  • And then there was Yext, a company that helps other companies’ customers find accurate information about them around the Web, and has recently gotten into the search game. Yext launched at a TechCrunch conference back in 2009, which is a neat bit of history. Anyway, Yext is public company now and we wanted to chat about which industries are driving growth for the former startup, and how the general climate for software is for the company, so we got on Zoom with its CEO, Howard Lerman.
  • So, which sectors are accelerating from Yext’s perspective? Government, education (again), insurance and financial services. Let that guide your take on the health of various startups.
  • Turning to the business climate, Lerman had some notes: “I will tell you in Q2,” he said, “things came back a bit from Q1.” In what sense? Retention rates, for one, according to the CEO. A return to form is welcome, but Lerman did caution that some companies were slower to “pull the trigger on big deals.”
  • Lerman also said that his perspective on the macro-climate has bounced back as well from a local-minima set around 30 days ago.

Public company execs are pretty guarded in how they talk because they have to be. But what Putman and Lerman seemed to intimate is that economic damage — provided you are selling to business, and not individuals — seems more contained on a per-sector basis than I would have anticipated. And that there are some good things ahead, at least in a handful of hot sectors.

Opening our aperture a bit, some SaaS companies struggled this week to meet investor expectations, even as more companies added themselves to the IPO queue. It’s going to be very busy for a few quarters. (Speaking of which, you can find the good and bad from the new Sumo IPO filing here.)

The economy is still garbage for many, but at least for companies it’s improving. And on that note, some data regarding Airbnb. According to the folks over at Edison Trends, things are going better for the home-booking site than I would have guessed. Per the group:

  • Airbnb’s bookings recovery outstripped its traditional rivals, growing “32% week-over-week” from late April into early June.
  • And, most critically: “Airbnb spending in July was up 22% over the previous July, and spending the week of August 17 was 75% higher than the equivalent week in 2019.”

Wild, right? Perhaps that’s why Airbnb has filed to go public.

Various and Sundry

We’re a tiny bit short on space, so I’ll keep our V&S dose short this week to respect your time. Here’s what I couldn’t not share:

And with that, we are out of room. Hugs, fist bumps and good vibes, and thank you so much for reading this little newsletter on the weekends. It’s a treat to write, and I hope you like it.

Hit me up with notes at alex.wilhelm@techcrunch.com. (I don’t know if you reply to this email if I will get the response. But try it so that we can find out?)

Alex

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Jamf ups its IPO range, now targets a valuation of up to $2.7B

Today Jamf, a software company that helps other firms manage their Apple devices, raised its IPO price range.

The company had previously targeted a $17 to $19 per-share range. A new SEC filing from the firm today details a far higher $21 to $23 per-share IPO price interval.

Jamf still intends to sell up to 18.4 million shares in its debut, including 13.5 million in primary stock, 2.5 million shares from existing shareholders and an underwriter option worth 2.4 million shares. The whole whack at $21 to $23 per share would tally between $386.4 million and $423.2 million, though not all those funds would flow to the company.

At the low and high-end of its new IPO range, Jamf is worth between $2.44 billion and $2.68 billion, steep upgrades from its prior valuation range of $1.98 billion to $2.21 billion.

Jamf follows in the footsteps of recent IPOs like nCino, Vroom and others in seeing demand for its public offering allow its pricing to track higher the closer it gets to its public offering. Such demand from public-market investors indicates there is ample demand for debut shares in mid-2020, a fact that could spur other companies to the exit market.

Coinbase, Airbnb and DoorDash are three such companies that are expected to debut in the next year’s time, give or take a quarter or two.

Results, multiples

In anticipation of the Jamf debut that should come this week, let’s chat about the company’s recent performance.

Observe the following table from the most-recent Jamf S-1/A:

From even a quick glance we can learn much from this data. We can see that Jamf is growing, has improving gross margins and has managed to swing from an operating loss to operating profit in Q2 2020, compared to Q2 2019. And, for you fans out there of adjusted metrics, that Jamf managed to generate more non-GAAP operating income in its most recent period than the year-ago quarter.

In more precise terms:

  • Jamf grew from 26.5% to 29.0% on a year-over-year basis in Q2 2020
  • Its gross margin grew by 6% in gross terms, and 8.3% in relative terms
  • Its non-GAAP operating income grew 123.4%, to 150.9% in Q2 2020 compared to the year-ago quarter

Profits! Growth! Software! Improving margins! It’s not a huge surprise that Jamf managed to bolster its IPO price range.

Finally, for the SaaS-heads out there, the following:

This data lets us have a little fun. Recall that we have seen possible valuations for Jamf at IPO that started at $1.98 billion to $2.21 billion, and now include $2.44 billion and $2.68 billion? With our two ARR ranges for the end of Q2, we can now come up with eight ARR multiples for Jamf, from the low-end of its initial IPO price estimate, to the top-end of its new range.

Here they are:

  • Multiple at $1.98 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 8.3x
  • Multiple at $1.98 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 8.2x
  • Multiple at $2.21 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 9.3x
  • Multiple at $2.21 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 9.2x
  • Multiple at $2.44 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 10.3x
  • Multiple at $2.44 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 10.1x
  • Multiple at $2.68 billion valuation and $238 million ARR: 11.3x
  • Multiple at $2.68 billion valuation and $241 million ARR: 11.2x

From that perspective, the pricing changes feel a bit more modest, even if they work out to a huge spread on a valuation basis.

Regardless, this is the current state of the Jamf IPO. Rackspace also filed a new S-1/A today, but we can’t find anything useful in it. A bit like the Jamf S-1/A from Friday. Perhaps we’ll get a new Rackspace document soon with pricing notes.

And, of course, like the rest of the world we await the Palantir S-1 with bated breath. Consider that our white whale.

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The IPO market stays hot, as nCino prices above range and Jamf targets a ~$2B valuation

Despite some market chop, the U.S. IPO market is still active, with fresh debut nCino pricing above its elevated price range, and Jamf moving to start its pricing process after filing to go public at the end of June. In addition to the pricing news, yesterday evening saw e-commerce software company BigCommerce commence its own IPO journey.

For the banking software company, its final IPO price of $31 per share means that it raised more capital than expected, filling its coffers and providing nCino with more operational flexibility. Pricing above a raised range is a strong result for any company in any market.

Let’s first examine the nCino news — TechCrunch is speaking to its CEO later today — and follow it with notes on the Jamf IPO price range to better understand where the Apple-focused IT shop is aiming to price its equity in its own public offering. Both data points should help us understand the current IPO climate of today, a key market to track as unicorns like Coinbase, Airbnb, DoorDash and others have either filed or are reported to be eyeing a public debut.

nCino’s strong pricing run

When nCino first set a price range for its IPO, the $22 to $24 per-share interval felt modest. TechCrunch wrote at the time that it would “not be a shock [if] nCino targets a higher price interval for its shares before it formally prices.” We did not expect that the company would be able to do even better than that, however.

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Apple has acquired Fleetsmith, a startup that helps IT manage Apple devices remotely

At a time where IT has to help employees set up and manage devices remotely, a service that simplifies those processes could certainly come in handy. Apple recognized that, and acquired Fleetsmith today, a startup that helps companies do precisely that with Apple devices.

While Apple didn’t publicize the acquisition, it has confirmed the deal with TechCrunch, while Fleetsmith announced the deal in a company blog post. Neither company was sharing the purchase price.

The startup has built technology that takes advantage of the Apple’s Device Enrollment Program allowing IT departments to bring devices online as soon as the employee takes it out of the box and powers it up.

At the time of its $30 million Series B funding last year, CEO Zack Blum explained the company’s core value proposition: “From a customer perspective, they can ship devices directly to their employees. The employee unwraps it, connects to Wi-Fi and the device is enrolled automatically in Fleetsmith,” Blum explained at that time.

Over time, the company has layered on other useful pieces beyond automating device registration like updating devices automatically with OS and security updates, while letting IT see a dashboard of the status of all devices under management, all in a pretty slick interface.

While Apple will in all likelihood continue to work with Jamf, the leader in the Apple device management space, this acquisition gives the company a remote management option at a time where it’s essential with so many employees working from home.

Fleetsmith, which has raised over $40 million from investors like Menlo Ventures, Tiger Global Management, Upfront Ventures and Harrison Metal will continue to sell the product through the company website, according to the blog post.

The founders put a happy on the face on the deal, as founders tend to do. “We’re thrilled to join Apple. Our shared values of putting the customer at the center of everything we do without sacrificing privacy and security, means we can truly meet our mission, delivering Fleetsmith to businesses and institutions of all sizes, around the world,” they wrote.

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