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Cisco acquires Modcam to make Meraki smart camera portfolio even smarter

As the Internet of Things proliferates, security cameras are getting smarter. Today, these devices have machine learning capability that helps the camera automatically identify what it’s looking at — for instance, an animal or a human intruder? Today, Cisco announced that it has acquired Swedish startup Modcam and is making it part of its Meraki smart camera portfolio with the goal of incorporating Modcam computer vision technology into its portfolio.

The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Cisco tells us that the acquisition has closed.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Cisco Meraki’s Chris Stori says Modcam is going to up Meraki’s machine learning game, while giving it some key engineering talent, as well.

“In acquiring Modcam, Cisco is investing in a team of highly talented engineers who bring a wealth of expertise in machine learning, computer vision and cloud-managed cameras. Modcam has developed a solution that enables cameras to become even smarter,” he wrote.

What he means is that today, while Meraki has smart cameras that include motion detection and machine learning capabilities, this is limited to single camera operation. What Modcam brings is the added ability to gather information and apply machine learning across multiple cameras, greatly enhancing the camera’s capabilities.

“With Modcam’s technology, this micro-level information can be stitched together, enabling multiple cameras to provide a macro-level view of the real world,” Stori wrote. In practice, as an example, that could provide a more complete view of space availability for facilities management teams, an especially important scenario as businesses try to find safer ways to open during the pandemic. The other scenario Modcam was selling was giving a more complete picture of what was happening on the factory floor.

All of Modcams employees, which Cisco described only as “a small team,” have joined Cisco, and the Modcam technology will be folded into the Meraki product line, and will no longer be offered as a standalone product, a Cisco spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Modcam was founded in 2013 and has raised $7.6 million, according to Crunchbase data. Cisco acquired Meraki back in 2012 for $1.2 billion.

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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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With pandemic-era acquisitions, big tech is back in the antitrust crosshairs

With many major sectors totally frozen and reeling from losses, tech’s biggest players are proving themselves to be the exception to the rule yet again. On Friday, Facebook confirmed its plans to buy Giphy, a popular gif search engine, in a deal believed to be worth $400 million.

Facebook has indicated it wants to forge new developer and content relationships for Giphy, but what the world’s largest social network really wants with the popular gif platform might be more than meets the eye. As Bloomberg and other outlets have suggested, it’s possible that Facebook really wants the company as a lens into how users engage with its competitors’ social platforms. Giphy’s gif search tools are currently integrated into a number of messaging platforms, including TikTok, Twitter and Apple’s iMessage.

In 2018, Facebook famously got into hot water over its use of a mobile app called Onavo, which gave the company a peek into mobile usage beyond Facebook’s own suite of apps—and violated Apple’s policies around data collection in the process. After that loophole closed, Facebook was so desperate for this kind of insight on the competition that it paid people—including teens—to sideload an app granting the company root access and allowing Facebook to view all of their mobile activity, as TechCrunch revealed last year.

For lawmakers and other regulatory powers, the Giphy buy could ring two separate sets of alarm bells: one for the further evidence of anti-competitive behavior stacking the deck in the tech industry and another for the deal’s potential consumer privacy implications.

“The Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission must investigate this proposed deal,” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Many companies, including some of Facebook’s rivals, rely on Giphy’s library of sharable content and other services, so I am very concerned about this proposed acquisition.”

In proposed legislation late last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called for a freeze on big mergers, warning that huge companies might view the pandemic as a chance to consolidate power by buying smaller businesses at fire sale rates.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Sen. Warren called the Facebook news “yet another example of a giant company using the pandemic to further consolidate power,” noting the company’s “history of privacy violations.”

“We need Senator Warren’s plan for a moratorium on large mergers during this crisis, and we need enforcers who will break up Big Tech,” the spokesperson said.

News of Facebook’s latest moves come just days after a Wall Street Journal report revealed that Uber is looking at buying Grubhub, the food delivery service it competes with directly through Uber Eats.

That news also raised eyebrows among pro-regulation lawmakers who’ve been looking to break up big tech. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who chairs the House’s antitrust subcommittee, called that deal “a new low in pandemic profiteering.”

“This deal underscores the urgency for a merger moratorium, which I and several of my colleagues have been urging our caucus to support,” Cicilline said in a statement on the Grubhub acquisition.

The early days of the pandemic may have taken some of the antitrust attention off of tech’s biggest companies, but as the government and the American people fall into a rhythm during the coronavirus crisis, that’s unlikely to last. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice and a collection of state attorneys general are in the process of filing antitrust lawsuits against Google, with the case expected to hit in the summer months.

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Over 1,000 deals announced globally during week ended April 26, showing 12.6% increase, says GlobalData

A total of 1,004 deals were announced globally during the week ended April, 26, 2020, which is an increase of 12.6% over 892 deals announced during the previous week, according to GlobalData’s deals database. However, deal volume remained below the Q1 2020 and March 2020 weekly average levels.

Aurojyoti Bose, Lead Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Though global deal activity remained inconsistent due to volatile market conditions since the COVID-19 outbreak, the increase in deals announced during the week may be a sign of revival and it will be interesting to see if this volume growth continues during the coming weeks.”

Deal activity increased in most of the key markets during the week ended April, 26, 2020 compared to the previous week. While the US witnessed an increase in deal volume by 7.9%, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia witnessed deal volume increasing by 2.7%, 9.4%, 65.8% and 62.1%, respectively.

Sectors such as healthcare (including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment), retail and travel & tourism also witnessed an improvement in deal activity during the week ended April, 26, 2020 compared to the previous week.

While mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals volume increased by 25.7% during the week ended April, 26, 2020 compared to the previous week, the number of partnerships and debt offerings deals increased by 76.6% and 35.7%, respectively. However, the number of private equity, venture financing, licensing agreement and equity offerings deals declined by 8.5%, 2.5%, 25.0% and 1.6%, respectively.

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Koch Industries closes nearly $13B Infor acquisition

Koch Industries announced today that it has closed on the acquisition of Infor, announced in February. The company never officially announced the purchase price, but sources indicated that it was close to $13 billion, putting it in line to be one of the top 10 enterprise acquisitions this year.
The company will …

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PepsiCo set to capitalise on $18.2bn US energy drink market through Rockstar Energy acquisition, says GlobalData

Following the recent news that PepsiCo is set to buy Rockstar Energy Beverages for $3.8bn, making it the third largest energy drink supplier in the US;

Allison Bamfield, Beverages Data Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“With an established energy drinks brand in their …

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Salesforce grabs Vlocity for $1.33B, a startup with $1B valuation

It’s been a big news day for Salesforce . It announced that co-CEO Keith Block would be stepping down, and that it had acquired Vlocity for $1.33 billion in an all-cash deal.

It’s no coincidence that Salesforce targeted this startup. It’s a firm that builds six industry-specific CRMs on top of Salesforce — communications, media and entertainment, insurance and financial services, health, energy and utilities and government and nonprofits — and Salesforce Ventures was also an investor. This would appear to have been a deal waiting to happen.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says Salesforce saw this as an important target to keep building the business. “Salesforce has been beefing up their abilities to provide industry-specific solutions by cultivating strategic ISV partnerships with companies like Vlocity and Veeva (which is focused on life sciences). But this move signals the importance of making these industry capabilities even more a part of the platform offerings,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, also liked the deal for Salesforce. “It’s a great deal. Vlocity gives them the industries platform they need. More importantly, it keeps Google from buying them and [could generate] $10 billion in additional industries revenue growth over next four years,” he said.

Vlocity had raised about $163 million on a valuation of around $1 billion as of its most recent round, a $60 million Series C last March. If $1.33 billion seems a little light, given what Vlocity is providing the company, Wang says it’s because Vlocity needed Salesforce more than the other way around.

“Vlocity on its own doesn’t have as big a future without Salesforce. They have to be together. So Salesforce doesn’t need to buy them. They could keep building out, but it’s better for them to buy them now,” Wang said.

Still, the company was valued at $1 billion just under a year ago, and sold for $1.33 billion after raising $163 million. That means it received 8.2x total invested capital ($1.33 billion/ $163 million invested capital), which isn’t a bad return.

In a blog post on the Vlocity website, founder and CEO David Schmaier put a positive spin on the deal. “Upon the close of the transaction, Vlocity — this wonderful company that we, as a team, have created, built, and grown into a transformational solution for six of the most important industries in the enterprise — will become part of Salesforce,” he wrote.

Per usual, the deal will be predicated on regulatory approval and close some time during Salesforce’s second quarter in fiscal 2021.

Source: TechCrunch

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Forescout to be acquired by a pair of private equity firms for $1.9B

Forescout, the network security company that has been publicly traded since 2017, announced today it was going private again. Private equity firms Advent International and Crosspoint Capital are acquiring the company in an all-cash purchase of $1.9 billion.

The two private equity firms will pay $33 per share, which represented a premium of 30% over the company’s closing price of $25.45 on October 19, 2019. The stock hit $39.87 on October 4th before starting a precipitous drop later that month, dropping to $24.57 on October 10th.

Not coincidentally, that was the day the company reported its earnings and had a bad revenue miss. Projections had revenue in the $98.8 million – $101.8 million range. Actual reported revenue was far less at $91.6 million, according to data from the company.

In the earnings call that followed on November 7th, Forescout president and CEO Michael DeCesare tried to blame the bad results on extended sales, but it didn’t really help as private equity firms swooped in to make the deal. “We experienced extended sales cycles across several of our customers that pushed out deals and which did not become apparent until we entered the final days of the quarter. We do not believe that any of these deals have been lost to competitors,” he told analysts.

In a statement today, DeCesare tried to put a positive spin on the acquisition. “This transaction represents an exciting new phase in the evolution of Forescout. We are excited to be partnering with Advent International and Crosspoint Capital, premier firms with security DNA and track records of success in strengthening companies and supporting them through transitionary times.”

Forescout is not a young company, having launched way back in 2000. It raised almost $290 million, according to PitchBook data. It went public on October 26, 2017.

The deal is not finalized as of yet. The company has a go-shop provision in place until March 8th in which it can try to find a better deal, but that seems unlikely. Should they fail to find a better suitor, the deal is expected to close in the second quarter, at which point the company will cease to be publicly traded.

Source: TechCrunch

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ServiceNow acquires conversational AI startup Passage AI

ServiceNow announced this morning that it has acquired Passage AI, a startup that helps customers build chatbots in multiple languages, something that should come in handy as ServiceNow continues to modernize its digital service platform. The companies did not share terms of the deal.

With Passage AI, ServiceNow gets a bushel of AI talent, which in itself has value, but it also gets AI technology, which should fit in nicely with ServiceNow’s mission. For starters, the company’s chatbot solutions gives ServiceNow an automated way to respond to customer/user inquiries.

Even more interesting for ServiceNow, Passage includes an IT automation component that uses ” a conversational interface to submit tickets, handle queries, and take direct action through APIs,” according to the company website. It also gets an HR automation piece, giving the company an intelligent tool it could incorporate across its Now Platform in tools like ServiceNow Virtual Agent and Service Portal, Workspaces in multiple languages.

The multilingual support was an aspect of the deal that appeals to Debu Chatterjee, senior director of AI Engineering at ServiceNow. “Building deep learning, conversational AI capabilities into the Now Platform will enable a work request initiated in German or a customer inquiry initiated in Japanese to be solved by Virtual Agent,” he said in a statement.

Companies are increasingly looking for ways to solve common customer problems using chatbots, while only bringing humans into the loop when the bot can’t answer the query. Passage AI gives ServiceNow much deeper knowledge in this growing area.

Passage AI, which launched in 2016, has raised $10.3 million, according to Crunchbase data. The company website lists a variety of large customers including MasterCard, Shell, Mercedes Benz and SoftBank. The acquisition comes less than a week after the company purchased another AI-focused startup, Loom Systems, one that concentrates on automating operations data.

The deal is expected to close this quarter. ServiceNow will be announcing earnings on Wednesday afternoon.

Source: TechCrunch

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Goldman Sachs leads GlobalData’s top 10 global M&A financial advisers league table in North America

Goldman Sachs has dominated the latest mergers and acquisitions (M&A) league table of the top 10 financial advisers in North America based on deal value in 2019, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The American investment bank advised on 204 deals worth US$748.4bn.

According to GlobalData, which tracks all M&A, private equity/venture capital and asset transaction activity around the world to compile the league tables, Morgan Stanley ranked second with 133 deals worth US$593.0bn.

Ravi Tokala, Financial Deals Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Despite a spike in North American targeted megadeals (>US$10b), the region saw a 7% decrease in total deals value in 2019 over 2018. Almost all top 10 legal and financial advisors participated in these megadeals, which were instrumental in deciding legal and financial advisor league table rankings in North America.”

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North America deals market in 2019

The deal volume in North America saw an increase of 17.97% from 22,313 in 2018 to 26,323 in 2019. Deal value declined by 7.03% from US$1812.9bn in 2018 to US$1685.5bn in 2019.

Goldman Sachs, which topped the league table of M&A financial advisers in North America, also claimed top position in GlobalData’s recently released global league table of top 20 M&A financial advisers.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz leads top 10 M&A legal advisers list

Law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz emerged as the lead player in the list of top 10 legal advisers, in terms of deal value. It advised on 72 deals worth a combined US$591.1bn. Kirkland & Ellis occupied second position in terms of value, advising on 492 deals worth US$450.6bn. In the global league table of top 20 M&A legal advisers, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz secured number one position.

Source: GlobalData