HouseMyDog and Gudog merge in European dog walking roll up

Two dog walking and sitting startups are merging: HouseMyDog, the U.K.-headquartered online community that enables dog owners to find and book local trusted dog walkers and sitters, has agreed to join forces with Gudog, a similar offering based in Spain.

I understand that HouseMyDog and Gudog will continue to operate under their existing brands for now, but will consolidate into a single brand in “early 2019.” The combined companies also say the roll up creates what they claim is the largest platform of its kind in Europe.

Specifically, the merger seeds the combined platform with more than 25,000 approved dog sitters and walkers in more than 70 cities across eight European countries, including the U.K., Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.

Gudog is said to be the market leader in Spain and “growing rapidly” in France and Germany, adding to HouseMyDog’s strong foothold in other parts of Europe (HouseMyDog has offices in London, Dublin and Berlin). I’m also told that Gudog founder’s Loly Garrido and Javier Cuevas are staying on, taking up the company-wide roles of CPO and CTO, respectively.

Meanwhile, the combined entity has a current headcount of 21, but expects to more than double revenue in 2019 and plans to grow the team to 35 to drive further European growth.

James McElroy, co-founder of HouseMyDog, comments: “We’ve had a close relationship with the Gudog team since we met in 2016. We admire what they have achieved and their passion for the community they have built. While today’s announcement makes strategic sense in combining our market share to accelerate our growth, we are also delighted to be working with a team that shares the same values and vision for the future of pet services in Europe.”

Ousted Flipkart founder Binny Bansal aims to help 10,000 Indian founders with new venture

Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal’s next act is aimed at helping the next generation of startup founders in India.

Bansal already etched his name into India’s startup history after U.S. retail giant Walmart paid $16 billion to take a majority stake in Flipkart’s e-commerce business to expand its rivalry with Amazon. Things turned sour, however, when he resigned months after the deal’s completion due to an investigation into “serious personal misconduct.”

In 2019, 37-year-old Bansal is focused on his newest endeavor, xto10x Technologies, a startup consultancy that he founded with former colleague Saikiran Krishnamurthy. The goal is to help startup founders on a larger scale than the executive could ever do on his own.

“Person to person, I can help 10 startups, but the ambition is to help 10,000 early and mid-stage entrepreneurs, not 10,” Bansal told Bloomberg in an interview.

Bansal, who started Flipkart in 2007 with Sachin Bansal (no relation) and still retains a four percent share, told Bloomberg that India-based founders are bereft of quality consultancy and software services to handle growth and company building.

“Today, software is built for large enterprises and not small startups,” he told the publication. “Think of it as solving for startups what Amazon Web Services has done for computing, helping enterprises go from zero to a thousand servers overnight with no hassle.”

“Instead of making a thousand mistakes, if we can help other startups make a hundred or even a few hundred, that would be worth it,” Bansal added.

Bansal served as Flipkart’s CEO from 2007 to 2016 before becoming CEO of the Flipkart Group. He declined to go into specifics of the complaint against him at Flipkart — which reports suggest came about from a consensual relationship with a female employee — and, of the breakdown of his relationship with Sachin Bansal, he said he’s moved on to new things.

It isn’t just xto10x Technologies that is keeping him busy. Bansal is involved in investment firm 021 Capital, where he is the lead backer following a $50 million injection. Neither role at the two companies involves day-to-day operations, Bloomberg reported, but, still, Bansal is seeding his money and experience to shape the Indian startup ecosystem.

Databricks raises $250M at a $2.75B valuation for its analytics platform

Databricks, the company founded by the original team behind the Apache Spark big data analytics engine, today announced that it has raised a $250 million Series E round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Coatue Management, Green Bay Ventures, Microsoft and NEA, also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $498.5 million. Microsoft’s involvement here is probably a bit of a surprise, but it’s worth noting that it also worked with Databricks on the launch of Azure Databricks as a first-party service on the platform, something that’s still a rarity in the Azure cloud.

As Databricks also today announced, its annual recurring revenue now exceeds $100 million. The company didn’t share whether it’s cash flow-positive at this point, but Databricks CEO and co-founder Ali Ghodsi shared that the company’s valuation is now $2.75 billion.

Current customers, which the company says number around 2,000, include the likes of Nielsen, Hotels.com, Overstock, Bechtel, Shell and HP.

“What Ali and the Databricks team have built is truly phenomenal,” Green Bay Ventures co-founder Anthony Schiller told me. “Their success is a testament to product innovation at the highest level. Databricks is without question best-in-class and their impact on the industry proves it. We were thrilled to participate in this round.”

While Databricks is obviously known for its contributions to Apache Spark, the company itself monetizes that work by offering its Unified Analytics platform on top of it. This platform allows enterprises to build their data pipelines across data storage systems and prepare data sets for data scientists and engineers. To do this, Databricks offers shared notebooks and tools for building, managing and monitoring data pipelines, and then uses that data to build machine learning models, for example. Indeed, training and deploying these models is one of the company’s focus areas these days, which makes sense, given that this is one of the main use cases for big data, after all.

On top of that, Databricks also offers a fully managed service for hosting all of these tools.

“Databricks is the clear winner in the big data platform race,” said Ben Horowitz, co-founder and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in today’s announcement. “In addition, they have created a new category atop their world-beating Apache Spark platform called Unified Analytics that is growing even faster. As a result, we are thrilled to invest in this round.”

Ghodsi told me that Horowitz was also instrumental in getting the company to re-focus on growth. The company was already growing fast, of course, but Horowitz asked him why Databricks wasn’t growing faster. Unsurprisingly, given that it’s an enterprise company, that means aggressively hiring a larger sales force — and that’s costly. Hence the company’s need to raise at this point.

As Ghodsi told me, one of the areas the company wants to focus on is the Asia Pacific region, where overall cloud usage is growing fast. The other area the company is focusing on is support for more verticals like mass media and entertainment, federal agencies and fintech firms, which also comes with its own cost, given that the experts there don’t come cheap.

Ghodsi likes to call this “boring AI,” since it’s not as exciting as self-driving cars. In his view, though, the enterprise companies that don’t start using machine learning now will inevitably be left behind in the long run. “If you don’t get there, there’ll be no place for you in the next 20 years,” he said.

Engineering, of course, will also get a chunk of this new funding, with an emphasis on relatively new products like MLFlow and Delta, two tools Databricks recently developed and that make it easier to manage the life cycle of machine learning models and build the necessary data pipelines to feed them.

Coda’s programmable document editor comes out of beta, launches iOS app

Coda, which is coming out of its limited beta today, wants to reinvent how you think about documents and spreadsheets. That’s about as tough a challenge as you can set yourself, given how ingrained tools like Word, Excel and their equivalents from the likes of Google, Zoho and others are. Coda’s secret weapon is that it combines text and spreadsheet functionality into a single document, with the ability to build some basic programming into them and add features from third-party services as a bonus.

In addition to opening up the service to anyone, Coda also today launched its new mobile app for iOS (with Android following at some point in the future).

“It’s the best of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, applications — all brought into one new surface,” Coda founder and CEO (and former head of product for YouTube Shishir Mehrotra told me. “But the phrase we like to use is that Coda allows anyone to make a doc as powerful as an app.”

You’re not going to use Coda, which was founded in 2017 and received funding from VC heavyweights like Greylock, Khosla Ventures and NEA, as a full-blown low code/no code service. It’s still a bit too limited for that. But you can use it to build your own custom inventory system, for example, or to build a basic CRM or to-do app that fits your specific needs. Or you could just use it as an online text editor and then slowly add features like third-party integrations with the likes of Slack or Figma as needed. All of that is easy enough for anybody who has ever used a function in Excel or Google Sheets.

So far, tens of thousands of people have used the service during its private beta. Mehrotra tells me that about 15 percent of them are from the Bay Area and that a good amount of them simply use the service as a basic document editor.

The new iOS app, unsurprisingly, mostly focuses on consuming content and using the functions that you have built in the web app. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to build a whole new experience on your phone, after all. In the demos I’ve seen, Coda nicely transforms cells and their functions into usable tables and cards on the iPhone.

Festicket, the festival booking platform, picks up $4.6M backing from creative investor Edge Investments

Festicket, the U.K.-headquartered festival booking platform, has picked up another $4.6 million in funding, an extension of the startup’s $10.5 million Series D late last year. The new backing comes from Edge Investments, the creative industries investor that counts music industry veteran Harvey Goldsmith as a director.

Edge joins an existing roster of Series D investors that includes venture capital firm Beringea, Jaguar Land Rover’s venture capital fund InMotion Ventures, Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund, Lepe Partners, U-Start and ex Spinnin’ Records CEO Eelko Van Kooten. The company was previously backed by Lepe Partners, Wellington Partners, PROfounders and Playfair Capital, among others.

Founded in 2012, Festicket set out to make booking various festival experiences across Europe as easy as booking a package holiday. The platform — or marketplace — lets you discover and book festival tickets and the related travel itinerary. Fast-forward to today, the company works with more than 1,200 festivals and 4,500 suppliers across 50 countries, serving more than 2.5 million customers worldwide.

Most recently, Festicket integrated with Spotify to help you discover music festivals based on the music you listen to. Dubbed “Festival Finder,” the new feature requires you to connect your Spotify account to Festicket using Spotify login. After doing so, the platform pulls in data on your favourite artists and displays 10 upcoming festivals that it deems will match your music tastes.

Meanwhile, Festicket says the additional capital will be used to support Festicket’s entrance into new markets, primarily North America and Asia. The company is also planning to invest in its underlying tech platform and grow its “community” of passionate festival fans around the world. Notably, this will include building an exclusive membership tier with added benefits in 2019.