Growing pains at venture-backed Moogsoft lead to layoffs

Eight months after bringing in a $40 million Series D, Moogsoft‘s co-founder and chief executive officer Phil Tee confirmed to TechCrunch that the IT incident management startup had shed 18 percent of its workforce, or just over 30 employees.

The layoffs took place at the end of October; shortly after, Moogsoft announced two executive hires. Among the additions was Amer Deeba, who recently resigned from Qualys after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with insider trading.

Founded in 2012, San Francisco-based Moogsoft provides artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) to help teams work more efficiently and avoid outages. The startup has raised $90 million in equity funding to date, garnering a $220 million valuation with its latest round, according to PitchBook. It’s backed by Goldman Sachs, Wing Venture Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Dell’s corporate venture capital arm, Singtel Innov8, Northgate Capital and others. Wing VC founder and long-time Accel managing partner Peter Wagner and Redpoint partner John Walecka are among the investors currently sitting on Moogsoft’s board of directors.

Tee, the founder of two public companies (Micromuse and Riversoft) admitted the layoffs affected several teams across the company. The cuts, however, are not a sign of a struggling business, he said, but rather a right of passage for a startup seeking venture scale.

“We are a classic VC-backed startup that has sort of grown up,” Tee told TechCrunch earlier today. “In pretty much every successful company, there is a point in time where there’s an adjustment in strategy … Unfortunately, when you do that, it becomes a question of do we have the right people?”

Moogsoft doubled revenue last year and added 50 Fortune 200 companies as customers, according to a statement announcing its latest capital infusion. Tee said he’s “extremely chipper” about the road ahead and the company’s recent C-suite hires.

Moogsoft’s newest hires, CFO Raman Kapur (left) and COO Amer Deeba (right).

Moogsoft announced its latest executive hires on November 2, only one week after completing the round of layoffs, a common strategy for companies looking to cast a shadow on less-than-stellar news, like major staff cuts. Those hires include former Splunk vice president of finance Raman Kapur as Moogsoft’s first-ever chief financial officer and Amer Deeba, a long-time Qualys executive, as its chief operating officer.

Deeba spent the last 17 years at Qualys, a publicly traded provider of cloud-based security and compliance solutions. In August, he resigned amid allegations of insider trading. The SEC announced its charges against Deeba on August 30, claiming he had notified his two brothers of Qualys’ missed revenue targets before the company publicly announced its financial results in the spring of 2015.

“Deeba informed his two brothers about the miss and contacted his brothers’ brokerage firm to coordinate the sale of all of his brothers’ Qualys stock,” the SEC wrote in a statement. “When Qualys publicly announced its financial results, it reported that it had missed its previously-announced first-quarter revenue guidance and that it was revising its full-year 2015 revenue guidance downward. On the same day, Deeba sent a message to one of his brothers saying, ‘We announced the bad news today.’ The next day, Qualys’s stock price dropped 25%. Although Deeba made no profits from his conduct, Deeba’s brothers collectively avoided losses of $581,170 by selling their Qualys stock.”

Under the terms of Deeba’s settlement, he is ineligible to serve as an officer or director of any SEC-reporting company for two years and has been ordered to pay a $581,170 penalty.

Tee, for his part, said there was never any admission of guilt from Deeba and that he’s already had a positive impact on Moogsoft.

“[Deeba] is a tremendously impressive individual and he has the full confidence of myself and the board,” Tee said.


Can the startup building a Fortnite for VR become the Fortnite of VR?

Virtual reality hasn’t proven itself to be the lucrative escape of the every-man, but the medium has done a fairly good job enticing the gaming community and keeping that niche (mostly) happy. While a couple of big titles have gotten some halfway-decent ports to VR, for the most part VR users are confined to whatever indies can build or whatever Oculus can fund.

BigBox VR has been trying to capture attention in the space by not building solo adventures that lead users to find themselves, but instead by trying to match VR’s physicality and immersion with social gameplay that leads users to gain greater appreciation for the medium’s scale.

The company just closed a $5 million funding round led by Shasta Ventures with participation from GSR Ventures and Pioneer Square Labs Ventures. As part of the round, Shasta partner Jacob Mullins will be getting a seat on the board.

Venture cash for VR content hasn’t exactly been free-flowing in 2018, more so for startups that aren’t caught up in building out a “platform play.” Co-founders Chia Chin Lee and Gabe Brown are more interested in just building out titles and hopefully creating one so successful that they don’t have to stop evolving it. The team at BigBox VR got its start with a cartoonish shooter title called Smashbox Arena; the small team has been really interested in finding what VR enables when it comes to competitive online play.

The BigBox VR team

Funding rounds aren’t often about the achievements of the past; however, the company is currently going full-steam ahead with its next ambitious title, a battle royale title called “POPULATION: ONE.”

I had a chance to suit up in VR and dive-in with Jacob and the founding team. I got my ass kicked a couple times, but then they let me win at some point, which I admit I was pretty okay with.

To say the game shares some similarities with Fortnite is an understatement. Not only is it a battle royale title with a shrinking environment, but certain mechanics like gliding in at the beginning to scrounge for weapons and even Fortnite’s building feature are central to the gameplay. That being said, battle royale titles have exploded in the wake of PUBG and they seem to all share a lot among each other. For BigBox, VR is the distinguishing feature, with motion controls and the general feeling that everything is life-sized and in your control.

To be honest, a lot of it really does work. Every surface in the game is climbable (by physically grabbing surfaces with the controllers and then doing the arm-work to scale) but more central movements like turning and moving are left to buttons, a technique that ultimately isn’t for the faint of stomach but is a lot more fluid than teleporting around. There are certainly mechanics which could have felt smoother, but this is a private beta game with a lot of room to finesse.

One of the really powerful things about the game was what happened after I was repeatedly sniped and killed off early on in the first couple rounds. The spectator mode is great and it’s interesting how much the precise controls of VR lend to allowing you to get more actively enveloped in matches that you aren’t even competing in. There are companies in the VR space working exclusively on this, but for a gaming audience obsessed with streamers, adapting traditional games with a VR spectating workflow or doing so natively seems like a huge opportunity.

Battle royale games remain white-hot, and VR game studios have been trying to find the right way to get a slice of the pie. Perhaps the key is knowing where to innovate while also realizing that the multi-platform grandiose of Fortnite has yet to find its way to VR, so maybe finding a title that scratches that itch is the best place to start.

Pure Bit, a South Korean exchange, pulls a $2.8 million exit scam

Another day, another exit scam. This time it comes to us from South Korea, where an exchange, Pure Bit, has completely shut down after raising $2.8 million in Ethereum from investors.

The exchange, which promised to deliver something call Pure Coin, was live yesterday and today is completely shut down after posting “Sorry” and “Thanks” to their communications channels.

According to a Reddit thread, the team was anonymous and that the process of building and pumping exchange tokens is a “popular trend in Korea.”

“They have gotten rid of every evidence,” wrote one reader. “Website hosted by fake name / out of Korea host / messenger / contacts were all fake too. Now their only hope is to keep on track with that ether and hope for the best.”

There is no proof yet that the team has pulled a full exit scam — there are examples of founders pretending to scam their investors to “teach them a lesson” — but given the abrupt movement of 13,000 ETH out of the collection wallet we can assume that the story ends here.

Even their chat room, hosted on their own site, is shut down.

It should be noted that South Korea has banned ICOs, giving scammers the perfect cover for absolute anonymity.