Thoughts and news about investments
BitGo, which in April rolled out the first enterprise-grade “multi-sig” digital wallet to tackle widespread concerns about bitcoin theft, has attracted $12 million in fresh funding and signed to its board a pioneer in e-commerce security.
In a press release, the bitcoin security startup said the new Series A round investor was led by venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures and included contributions from Radar Partners, Founders Fund, Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. and Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments. Previous investors Bridgescale Partners, Jeff Skoll, Bill Lee, and Eric Hahn participated in the round.
Radar Partners’ Stratton Sclavos, a former CEO of Internet certificate authorityVerisign Inc.VRSN +0.26%, will join BitGo’s board along with Redpoint founding partner Jeff Brody. The involvement of Sclavos carries symbolic significance for BitGo, which in the words of its Chief Executive Will O’Brien, has “ambitions to secure the world’s bitcoins.” It’s also relevant to bitcoin more broadly, with the general public still wary of trusting a digital currency and payment technology that has been subject to massive losses and some troubling hacking attacks.
Early in Mr. Sclavos’s tenure at Verisign, the company used the Internet’s Secure Sockets Layer encryption tool, better known as SSL, to develop an authentication system for e-commerce web sites. This led Verisign to became the Internet’s leading certificate authority in the mid-1990s, its ubiquitous logo emerging as a de facto stamp of trust. Along with similar services by other firms, this encouraged people to start making payments over the Internet. Mr. Sclavos left the firm in 2007 and it was later sold to Symantec Corp.SYMC -0.32%
Mr. Sclavos says he was struck by the similarities between those early days of the Internet and bitcoin’s current development phase, as its backers try to build legitimacy and encourage mainstream adoption.
Back in mid-1990s, when Verisign was founded, “you had millions of browsers downloaded and tens of thousands of web sites but you really had no idea where you were going or who was behind the web sites,” Mr. Sclavos said in an interview.
“This seemed to us incredibly similar to bitcoin, which is still in the wild, wild west phase, still volatile, [people] not being sure exactly who to trust and what is happening with bitcoins in a wallet and where they are going if something goes wrong … to now having BitGo there to create a trusted infrastructure, using standard technology.”
In April, when the bitcoin community was still roiling from news that now defunct exchange Mt. Gox had lost 850,000 bitcoins, worth around $500 million at the time, BitGo rolled out BitGo Enterprise, the first digital wallet that uses “two-of-three” multi-signature technology as an added layer of protection.
Under this arrangement, digital coins cannot be released from a wallet unless two of three private keys — the unique alphanumeric codes used to digitally “sign” encrypted transactions — are applied to it. For each wallet, BitGo generates three different keys, one that’s attached to the live, online wallet and controlled by the owner, one that’s held in an encrypted format by BitGo, and a third that’s held offline in so-called “cold storage” by the owner. That way, if owners want to take complete charge of their bitcoins without requiring the engagement of a third-party institution, they can do so. But under all other circumstances, the engagement of the firm’s second online key helps ensure the speed, efficiency and security of transactions.
In an interview, Mr. O’Brien said in addition to marketing its BitGo Enterprise wallet, his firm is now reaching out to businesses that use bitcoin and offering them a chance to use its multi-sig platform in their own wallets and internal protections.
He sees this specialized service in keeping with where the bitcoin economy will head “in parallel to the way the Internet developed.”
“Now that the Internet has matured you don’t have everyone operating web servers, or operating systems or operating languages. There’s specialization that takes place along the way,” Mr. O’Brien said. “That way the entrepreneurial system can move faster, build on top of what other companies have developed and build on top of standards.”
Write to Michael J. Casey at email@example.com
Jasper has just raised $50 million in its latest funding round led by Temasek, which gives the company a valuation of more than $1.3 billion. Jasper is working on bringing the Internet of Things (IoT) to Coca-Cola’s new project, according to VentureBeat.
Jasper described itself in a statement: “Jasper deliver the real-time visibility and control that companies need to launch, manage, and monetize a successful service business, all in a single, turnkey, cloud-based solution.”
The Mountain View firm plans to use the new capital to fuel its growth. Jasper will also develop new products and solutions for its clients, the report added.
Founded in 2004, the California-based company provides cloud-based systems needed to power IoT initiatives. It now has more than 1,000 partners using its products to manage their connected devices. It has also teamed up with 19 mobile network companies including AT&T, SingTel, and America Movil. To date, Jasper has raised a total capital of $205 million, VentureBeat reported.
Bluecat Networks’ IP Address management and DNS networking solutions continues to dominate the market. The company experienced record revenue and profits for the June quarter.
HERNDON, Va. and RALEIGH, N.C., July 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) and NeoNova Holdings (NeoNova) today announced that NRTC has acquired 100% ownership of NeoNova; the price and terms of the transaction were not announced. NeoNova will remain headquartered in Raleigh and will lead the operation, expansion and further development of ISP and related businesses for NeoNova and NRTC.
All NeoNova and NRTC customers will continue to receive their current services with no interruption and there will be no changes to current platforms or billing relationships. NeoNova’s management team, led by Ray Carey, will remain and continue to deliver the outstanding value and service that is the hallmark of both NeoNova’s and NRTC’s service solutions. Using the combined NRTC and NeoNova platforms, NeoNova expects to invest in an expanded set of residential, commercial, and enterprise services for rural and regional broadband providers, technology partners and small businesses.
Ray Carey, NeoNova’s CEO said, “We believe that this transaction brings two great service businesses together and marries NeoNova’s focused management with NRTC’s long-standing relationships in the rural telephone and electric communities. Our entire team looks forward to working with NRTC’s Alana Pilkington and all of our new partners at NRTC to continue to deliver first-class solutions to our collective customers.”
Tim Bryan, NRTC’s CEO, remarked, “Ray and Alana have each demonstrated a history of continued success with our member companies, and we are confident that combining their efforts will yield even better products and even higher customer satisfaction than today. We are pleased to deploy our cooperative capital in a way that directly serves our members.”
NRTC and NeoNova provide a wide variety of ISP services, including email, hosting, network management, circuit management, help desk and support, and enterprise services.
The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) represents the advanced telecommunications and information technology interests of more than 1,500 rural utilities and affiliates in 48 states (who collectively serve 20 million homes and 50 million residents). Founded in 1986, NRTC provides products and services developed specifically to meet the needs of rural utilities and their customers, such as high-speed Internet access via satellite, full service Internet access and support, advanced metering infrastructure, wireless technologies, power quality products, long distance programs, mobile phone service, IP backbone services, and programming distribution rights for video providers. For more information, visit www.nrtc.coop.
About NeoNova Network Services
NeoNova empowers rural and regional broadband providers, technology partners and small businesses with 21st century cloud-based technologies. We help service providers and businesses grow by delivering a wide array of subscriber, network management, and professional services leveraged by a powerful service delivery platform and backed by the industry’s top professionals. NeoNova also is an authorized premier reseller of the Google Apps™ suite of communication tools. Visitwww.neonova.net, Facebook or Google+, and follow @NeoNova_NNS.
SOURCE The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC)
Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) today announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Plum Organics, a leading provider of premium, organic foods and snacks that serve the nutritional needs of babies, toddlers and children. The company is based in Emeryville, Calif. “Plum” is the No. 2 brand of organic baby food in the U.S. and is currently the No. 4 baby food brand overall.
Baby food is an approximately $2 billion category in the United States. From 2010 to 2012, the premium and organic segments grew at an average annual rate of 43 percent.
The acquisition of Plum will provide Campbell with an attractive platform to extend its core categories of simple meals, snacks and beverages and enhance its access to a new generation of consumers. Plum’s products have strong distribution in key customer channels, including online, natural and baby specialty outlets. With the addition of Plum Organics’ products, Campbell’s portfolio of kids-focused soups, beverages and snacks will have annual sales of more than $1 billion.
Denise Morrison, Campbell’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “Plum Organics’ nutritious, on-trend products are a great addition to our North American portfolio of leading brands. The acquisition will help deliver on our dual mandate to strengthen our core businesses and to expand into faster-growing categories and adjacencies. It represents another step toward our long-term goal of shifting Campbell’s center of gravity.”
Plum, started in 2007 by co-founder Neil Grimmer, has used rapid innovation to launch over 150 products for babies, toddlers and kids in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Grimmer said, “Plum was founded by a group of parents on a mission to give the very best food to our little ones. To date, we’ve made a huge impact serving over 200 million organic meals and snacks. Joining the Campbell family will allow us to amplify our mission to reach even more little ones on a global scale. We look forward to building an exciting future together.”
Top Plum products include organic baby food in convenient squeezable pouches; “Super Puffs,” a line of bite-sized nutritious puffed snacks; “Plum Mighty Four,” a new line of nutritious toddler snack pouches; and “Plum Kids” “Mashups,” a line of fun squeezable fruit, veggies and Greek yogurt.
Campbell plans to operate Plum as a standalone business within its Campbell North America division. Senior members of Plum Organics’ management team, including Grimmer, will join Campbell, and continue to lead Plum and its mission-driven culture from Emeryville. As President of Plum, Grimmer will report to Mark Alexander, President-Campbell North America.
Alexander said, “Plum Organics has deep connections and strong appeal with young parents. We believe that the combination of Plum’s brands and unique products with Campbell’s brand-building capabilities, consumer insights expertise and supply chain resources will help accelerate the brand’s growth.”
Plum Organics generated $93 million in gross sales for the year ended Dec. 31, 2012. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The acquisition will not affect Campbell’s previously-announced fiscal 2013 guidance.
Campbell will fund the acquisition through available credit. The closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions and is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013.
Davis Polk & Wardwell served as Campbell’s legal counsel. Plum was advised by Houlihan Lokey, and Jones Day acted as legal counsel.
About Campbell Soup Company
Campbell Soup Company is a manufacturer and marketer of high-quality foods and simple meals, including soup and sauces, baked snacks and healthy beverages. Founded in 1869, the company has a portfolio of market-leading brands, including “Campbell’s,” “Pepperidge Farm,” “Arnott’s,” “V8″ and “Bolthouse Farms.” Through its corporate social responsibility program, the company strives to make a positive impact in the workplace, in the marketplace and in the communities in which it operates. Campbell is a member of the Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. For more information, visit www.campbellsoupcompany.com and https://twitter.com/CampbellSoupCo.
About Plum Organics
Plum Organics® is a pioneer and a leading provider of premium, nutritious organic baby food, toddler and kid snack food products. Recognized for their unique, culinary-inspired recipes and a modern approach to family nutrition, Plum offers a complete line of organic products that ensure healthy eating from the highchair to the lunchbox?. Plum has dedicated its social mission to delivering nutrient rich, organic food into the hands of little ones in need across America. Forbes magazine named Plum #19 on its 2013 list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” For more information about Plum please visit: http://www.plumorganics.com.
This release contains “forward-looking statements.” Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as “anticipates,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates,” “expects” and similar references to future periods. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements we make on the expected impact of the Plum, Inc. acquisition. Forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and assumptions regarding our business, our industry and other future conditions. Forward-looking statements are subject to inherent uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict. Our actual results may differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements include our ability to realize the anticipated benefits from the Plum, Inc. acquisition and the other factors described in the company’s most recent Form 10-K and subsequent SEC filings. We undertake no obligation to update these statements to reflect new information or future events.
Campbell Soup Company
Carla Burigatto (Media)
Jennifer Driscoll (Analysts / Investors)
EMERYVILLE, Calif., Jan. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Plum Organics® a leading organic, kids nutrition company in the US, announced the start of their international expansion with the acquisition of London-based Plum UK, a key player in the organic baby food category in the United Kingdom. This partnership positions Plum as a leading kids nutrition brand and the first to offer premium products catered to the unique needs of infants, toddlers and school-aged children on an international scale. The combined Plum product portfolio will consist of over 150 products with distribution in over 13,000 stores internationally. The company will now have retail sales in excess of $120M USD.
These sister companies share more than a coincidental common name; both were founded by passionate parents with a shared vision of making organic nutrition more appealing and more accessible. Collectively, they hope to impart the modern philosophy that the path to long-term health begins with the very first bite.
In the US, Plum Organics has built a strong connection with parents and drove over 50% of the baby food category growth last year. The company’s first-to-market launch of the squeezable pouch transformed the baby food category and allowed Plum to successfully expand into organic snack products geared towards the nutritional needs of school-aged children. Plum UK is best known for their innovative product formats as well as their premium, culinary-driven assortment. Most recently, the company experienced a 24% increase in distribution with the launch of their Taste Adventures line focused on globally inspired cuisine.
“From the beginning, both companies were inspired by love to improve the health of our little ones by making great tasting organic food a part of a family’s busy lifestyle,” said Neil Grimmer , CEO and Co-founder of Plum Organics. “Like Plum Organics, Plum UK is a ‘David versus Goliath’ brand filled with passionate people that are inspired to use the power of business to make a difference in the world. We’re excited to continue this mission together.”
“Plum Organics is known in the US as a game-changing innovation hothouse,” said Scott Wotherspoon CEO of Plum UK. “The success of their expansion into the toddler and kids categories proves the strength of the Plum brand. We can’t wait to capture some of that momentum by bringing their products to little ones in the UK and beyond.”
With this partnership, Neil Grimmer will maintain his role as CEO for the new entity doing business as Plum Inc., and Scott Wotherspoon will continue to lead the UK business. The company headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area will employ 88 people including offices in London and New York. For more information about each company please visit: Plum Organicswww.plumorganics.com and Plum UK www.plum-baby.co.uk
About Plum Organics:
Plum Organics® is a pioneer and leading provider of premium, nutritious organic baby food, toddler and kid snack food products. Recognized for their unique culinary-inspired recipes and a modern approach to family nutrition, Plum Organics is the only brand that offers a complete line of organic products that ensure healthy eating from the highchair to the lunchbox™. Inc. Magazine recently ranked Plum Organics #63 on their 2012 Inc. 500 list of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. In addition, the San Francisco Business Times named Neil Grimmer the Most-admired CEO in the Emerging Growth category for 2012.
About Plum UK:
Plum UK is a leading creator of nutritious organic baby food in the UK. Founded in 2006 by Savoy trained Chef and Mum, Susie Willis , Plum changed the face of baby food in the UK by offering “real food for babies not just baby food.” Initially crafted in the cookery school she ran, Plum is now available in all the major supermarket chains in the UK and Ireland offering over 40 products including convenient pouches, little pots, snacks and refrigerated dairy items. Junior Magazine recently named Plum the Best Children’s Food Brand for 2012. In addition, Plum was a recipient of the 2012 Mother & Baby Awards.
SOURCE Plum Organics
Axonify wants to make dull corporate training more effective — and possibly save lives.
FORTUNE — The problem with corporate training is obvious: almost no one pays attention. Perhaps worse, often-important company policies and security procedures are typically presented once during a new worker’s training and seldom seriously revisited. In a workplace where manual labor is involved, that can mean serious injury or worse.
Carol Leaman, CEO of startup Axonify, argues that sitting workers down in half-hour-long sessions or making them watch mind-numbing training videos are poor ways to go about it. Case in point: it’s not uncommon to hear workers brag that they completed training in the background, while they did something more interesting or important at the same time. By some estimates, employees forget 90% of what they’ve learned just days after. That matters because it can cost some companies millions of dollars compensating workplace injuries that could have been avoided. “The way our brains work is we remember the first thing and the last thing,” says Leaman, “but very little in the middle.”
Enter Axonify. Founded in 2011 and funded by the Menlo Park-based growth equity group Bridgescale, Toronto’s Investment Accelerator Fund, and Leaman herself, the company aims to transform the way employers train workers. The Waterloo, Ontario-based startup with 16 employees offers cloud-based software built around a behavioral-learning technique called “spaced repetition.” Here’s how it works: Instead of packing training into one long, mostly-ignored session, Axonify breaks things up. It serves up trivia-style questions, bits of data, and games on computers, smartphones, point-of-sale, and security terminals that take up 90 seconds a day or less to complete. Leaman argues workers better remember information in the long run without taking a large chunk of time out of their shifts. Each employee’s experience is personalized, so a company can target that individual’s so-called “knowledge gap.”
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Six retailers are quietly testing the software. One, Pep Boys, an auto company with over 700 stores and nearly 19,000 workers, rewards employees with cash and merchandise for playing. In return, some employees have reported back that the culture in their workplace has improved. The software boosts worker confidence, increases their efficiency, and puts them in the good graces of their employer says Axonify.
Axonify can measure how much money they’ll save by reducing workplace injuries over time. One unnamed large retailer approached Leaman about reducing the number of incidents reportable to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — an injury or illness requiring more than simple first aid — by 5%. After workers trained with Axonify, incidents dropped by as much as 25% in some facilities. “They were shocked,” says Leaman.
Leaman, 46, says startups are her raison d’etre, having advised more than 50 ventures over the years, including as a mentor at the Waterloo-based startup incubator Accelerator Centre. Axonify also isn’t the first startup she’s helmed. Her previous venture, PostRank, was a well-liked service that ranked posts in an RSS feed based on a number of social media metrics. When it was acquired by Google (GOOG) last summer for an unspecified amount, Leaman found her next opportunity in Axonify, turning it from a struggling brick-and-mortar-bound HR business into the e-learning service.
Leaman predicts 2013 will be Axonify’s big year. While the company may only have 6 clients now, it’s in talks with 75 retailers interested in deploying its software. And beyond human resources, they’re exploring ways to expand into other areas — hospitality, entertainment, healthcare, even oil and gas — wherever “lack of following procedure creates big loss.”
Congratulations to Proofpoint for successfully completing its IPO this morning. It’s priced above the range and up 30% at the opening.
It’s nice to see that public investors recognize the market opportunity for Proofpoint’s SaaS based secure messaging platform for the corporate enterprise. Investing in this company from incubation at MDV to follow-on investing at Bridgescale has been a wonderful experience. Congratulations to the founders, management team and all investors.
Today we announced that Bridgescale invested in next generation teaching software company, Axonify. Axonify, formerly 17muscles, is pioneering the use of social media and gamification to corporate training. The e-learning market is a $30 billion market and it is ripe for innovation. Currently, 40 million users log into social gaming every day. We believe a good number of these gamers are employed by some of the world’s largest corporate organizations and that they could greatly benefit from Axonify’s training.
Axonify has already penetrated some of the largest US retailers who are currently using their technology to train employees in a fun and productive way. Axonify uses some of the most recognized research on this subject matter to focus on retention, not just training.
Bridgescale’s deep expertise in understanding next generation human resource management software makes Axonify a great fit for our investment thesis.