News & Views

 

Wicket Labs Raises More Cash To Build Out Audience Insight Platform For Online Video Providers

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Eventbase Raises $6.5M For Mobile Event Technology Platform Used By IBM, Microsoft, Cisco

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The Road to Cloud Nirvana: The Madrona Venture Group’s View on Serverless

S. Somasegar – Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group

The progression over the last 20 years from on-premise servers, to virtualization, to containerization, to microservices, to event-driven functions and now to serverless computing is allowing software development to become more and more abstracted from the underlying hardware and infrastructure. The combination of serverless computing, microservices, event-driven functions and containers truly form a distributed computing environment that enables developers to build and deploy at-scale distributed applications and services. This abstraction between applications and hardware allows companies and developers to focus on their applications and customers—not worrying about scaling, managing, and operating servers or runtimes.

In today’s cloud world, more and more companies are moving towards serverless products like AWS Lambda to run application backends, respond to voice and chatbot requests, and process streaming data because of the benefits of scaling, availability, cost, and most importantly, the ability to innovate faster because developers no longer need to manage servers. We believe that microservices and serverless functions will form the fabric of the intelligent applications of the future. The massive movement towards containers has validated the market demand for hardware abstraction and the ability to “write once, run anywhere,” and serverless computing is the next stage of this evolution.

Madrona’s Serverless Investing Thesis

 

Dan Li – Principal, Madrona Venture Group

Today, developers can use products like AWS Lambda, S3, and API Gateway in conjunction with services like Algorithmia, to assemble the right data sources, machine learning models, and business logic to quickly build prototypes and production-ready intelligent applications in a matter of hours. As more companies move towards this mode of application development, we expect to see a massive amount of innovation around AI and machine learning, application of AI to vertically-focused applications, and new applications for IOT devices driven by the ability for companies to build products faster than ever.

For all the above-mentioned reasons, Madrona has made several investments in companies building tools for microservices and serverless computing in the last year and we are continuing to look for opportunities in this space as the cloud infrastructure continues to evolve rapidly.Nevertheless, with the move towards containerization and serverless functions, it can be much harder to monitor application performance, debug applications, and ensure that applications have the correct security and policy settings. For example, SPIFFE (Secure Production Identity Framework for Everyone) provides some great context for the kinds of identity and trust-related work that needs to happen for people to be able to build, share, and consume micro-services in a safe and secure manner.

Below, you’ll hear from three of the startups in our portfolio and how they are building tools to enable developers and enterprises to adopt serverless approaches, or leveraging serverless technologies to innovate faster and better serve their customers.

Portfolio Company Use Cases

 

Algorithmia Logo

Algorithmia empowers every developer and company to deploy, manage, and share their AI/ML model portfolio with ease. Algorithmia began as the solution to co-founders Kenny Daniel and Diego Oppenheimer’s frustrations at how inaccessible AI/ML algorithms were. Kenny was tired of seeing his algorithms stuck in an unused portion of academia and Diego was tired of recreating algorithms he knew already existed for his work at Microsoft.

Kenny and Diego created Algorithmia as an open marketplace for algorithms in 2013 and today it services over 60,000 developers. From the beginning, Algorithmia has relied on serverless microservices, and this has allowed the company to quickly expand its offerings to include hosting AI/ML models and full enterprise AI Layer services.

AI/ML models are optimally deployed as serverless microservices, which allows them to quickly and effectively scale to handle any influx of data and usage. This is also the most cost-efficient method for consumers who only have to pay for the compute time they use. This empowers data scientists to consume and contribute algorithms at will. Every algorithm committed to the Algorithmia Marketplace is named, tagged, cataloged, and searchable by use case, keyword, or title. This has enabled Algorithmia to become an AWS Lambda Code Library Partner.

In addition to the Algorithm Marketplace, Algorithmia uses the serverless AI Layer to power two additional services: Hosting AI/ML Models and Enterprise Services where they work with government agencies, financial institutions, big pharma, and retail. The AI layer is cloud, stack, and language agnostic. It serves as a data connector, pulling data from any cloud or on-premises server. Developers can input their algorithms in any language (Python, Java, Scala, NodeJS, Rust, Ruby, and R), and a universal REST API will be automatically generated. This allows any consumer to call and chain algorithms in any combination of languages. Operating under a Kubernetes-orchestrated Docker system allows Algorithmia’s services to operate with the highest degree of efficiency.

As companies add AI/ML capabilities across their organizations, they have the opportunity to escape the complications that come with a monolithic application and begin to implement a serverless microservice architecture. Algorithmia provides the expertise and infrastructure to help them be successful.

Pulumi Logo

Pulumisaw an opportunity in 2017 to fundamentally reimagine how developers build and manage modern cloud systems, thanks in large part to the rise in serverless computing intersecting with advances in containers and managed cloud infrastructure in production. By using programming languages and tools that developers are already familiar with, rather than obscure DSLs and less capable, home-grown templating solutions, Pulumi’s customers are able to focus on application development and business logic rather than infrastructure.

As an example, one of Pulumi’s Enterprise customers was able to move from a dedicated team of DevOps Engineers to a combined Engineering organization—reducing their cloud infrastructure scripts to 1/100th the size in a language the entire team already knew and empowering their developers – and is now substantially more productive than ever before in building and continuously deploying new capabilities. The resulting system uses the best of what the modern cloud has to offer—dozens of AWS Lambdas for event-driven tasks, replacing a costly and complex queuing system, several containers that can run in either ECS or Kubernetes, and several managed AWS services like Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Elasticsearch Service, and Amazon ElastiCache—and now runs at a fraction of the cost before migrating to Pulumi. They have been able to spin up entirely new environments in minutes where it used to take weeks.

Before the recent culmination of serverless, containers, and hosted cloud infrastructure, such an approach simply would not have been possible. In fact, we at Pulumi believe that the real magic is in these approaches living in harmony with one another. Each has its own strengths: containers are great for complex stateful systems, often taking existing codebases and moving them to the cloud; serverless functions are perfect for ultra-low-cost event- and API-oriented systems; and hosted infrastructure lets you focus on your application-specific requirements, instead of reinventing the wheel by manually hosting something that your cloud provider can do better and cheaper. Arguably, each is “serverless” in its own way because infrastructure and servers fade into the background. This disruptive sea change has enabled Pulumi to build a single platform and management suite that fully realizes this entire spectrum of technologies.

The future is bright for serverless- and container-oriented cloud architectures, and Pulumi is excited to be right at the center of it helping customers to realize the incredible benefits.

IOpipe co-founders Erica Windisch and Adam Johnson went from virtualizing servers at companies like Docker, to going “all in” on serverless in 2016. Erica and Adam identified serverless as the next revolution in infrastructure, coming roughly 10 years after the launch of AWS EC2. With a shift in computing moving towards a serverless world, there are new challenges that emerge. From dozens of production Lambda user interviews, Erica and Adam identified that one of the major challenges in adopting serverless was a lack of visibility and instrumentation. In 2016, Erica and Adam co-founded IOpipe to focus on helping companies build, ship, and run serverless applications, faster.

IOpipe is an application operations platform built for serverless architectures running AWS Lambda. Through the collection of high fidelity telemetry within Lambda invocations, users can quickly correlate important data points to discover anomalies and identify issues. IOpipe is a cloud-based SaaS offering that offers tracing, profiling, metrics, logs, alerting, and debugging tools to power up operations and development teams.

IOpipe enables developers to debug code faster by providing real-time visibility into their functions as they develop them. Developers can dig deep into what’s really happening under the hood with tools such as profiling and tracing. Once they’re in production, IOpipe then provides a rich set of observability tools to help bubble up issues before they affect end-users. IOpipe saw customers who previously spent days debugging tough issues in production now able to find the root cause in minutes using IOpipe.

Since launching the IOpipe service in Q3 of 2017, the company has seen customers ranging from SaaS startups to large enterprises enabling their developers to build and ship Lambda functions into production at an incredibly rapid pace. What previously took one customer 18 months can now be done in just two months.

IOpipe works closely with AWS as an advanced tier partner, enabling AWS customers to embrace serverless architectures with power-tools such as IOpipe.

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Serverless Computing Could Unleash A New Startup Ecosystem

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Venture Capitalists ‘Love’ Microsoft’s Buy Of GitHub, Call It A ‘Super Smart’ Move To Win Developers And Compete Against AWS

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David vs. Goliath In The Cloud: Do Investors See An Opening For Startups To Take On AWS And Azure?

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Commercial IoT Provider Rigado Raises $15M To Roll Out ‘Edge-As-A-Service’ Tech

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Why Madrona Invested in Pulumi

Today I am very excited to announce our investment in Pulumi.

Pulumi aims to fundamentally improve the way people build, manage, and interact with cloud-native applications, services, and infrastructure.

There is a massive movement to the cloud among enterprise customers around the world. As that trend continues to gather and gain momentum, new and transformative techniques are required as customers truly begin to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. This transformation grows leaps and bounds with serverless computing starting to emerge as the next frontier to enable truly distributed applications and services that are powered by microservices and event-driven functions.

Recent cloud infrastructure breakthroughs include serverless, containers and hosted cloud infrastructure. Containers are great for complex stateful systems, often taking existing codebases and moving them to the cloud. Serverless functions are perfect for ultra-low-cost event- and API-oriented systems. Hosted infrastructure lets you focus on your application-specific requirements, instead of reinventing the wheel by manually hosting something that your cloud provider can do better and cheaper. Arguably, each is “serverless” in its own way because infrastructure and servers fade into the background.

“This disruptive sea change is enabling Pulumi to deliver a single platform and tools suite that allow developers to build and ship code to the cloud in the easiest and fastest way.”

 

Eric Rudder, Joe Duffy and Luke Hoban are a world-class team to deliver such transformative experiences in a cloud-native world. They have decades of experience in platforms, tools, and programming models. Eric Rudder was one of the most senior executives at Microsoft, including running the $10B+ Server and Tools business, serving as a Technical Advisor to Bill Gates, and most recently as the EVP for Advanced Technology before leaving Microsoft. Joe Duffy was a senior technical engineering leader at Microsoft and was a critical part of the early team that built .NET and C#. Most recently, he was Director of Engineering and Developer Tools Strategy and, in that role, was instrumental in open sourcing .NET and taking it cross-platform to Linux and Mac. Luke has held a variety of product and engineering roles at Amazon and Microsoft. While at Microsoft, Luke co-founded TypeScript and developed Go support for Visual Studio Code.

I have had the privilege and the fortune to have worked with Eric, Joe and Luke closely over the years, and their passion to solve hard problems for developers and enterprise customers is unparalleled. I am personally very excited for the opportunity to work with this very talented group of people. We are confident that this kind of a world-class team is what is going to help drive a breakthrough as cloud-native becomes fundamental to enterprise software today and in the future.

We are doubly excited to partner with Pulumi given it is a Seattle-based early-stage start-up focused on native-cloud environment with a world-class founding team.

Please join me in welcoming Eric, Joe, Luke and the Pulumi team to the Madrona family!

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Crowd Cow, Offering Ranch To Table Meats, Picks Up $8 Million From Madrona, Ashton Kutcher

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Celebs Join NFL Star Russell Wilson As He Launches New Video Series About Success On TraceMe

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Once A Startup Runt, Rover Laps Up $155 Million For Tech-fueled Pet Care Marketplace

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Announcing our Investment in Crowd Cow

I am excited to announce our Series A investment in Crowd Cow, a curated online marketplace for high quality craft meats sourced from independent farmers. This is our third collaboration with Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry, the co-founders of Crowd Cow. Both Joe and Ethan worked on Poppy, their 3D camera startup, as entrepreneurs in residence at Madrona, after which Joe co-led Madrona Venture Labs. We have always respected and admired Joe and Ethan as entrepreneurs, tinkerers and company-builders, and finally found an opportunity to invest in one of their companies.

Crowd Cow was inspired by an engineer’s passion for farm-sourced meat, and Joe and Ethan’s realization that: 1.) farm-sourced meat is significantly better and more flavorful than the meat available at your local grocery store, and 2.) buying a 1/4 ‘cowshare’, the principal way people buy meat directly from the farm, is not a mainstream buying activity (in part because a 1/4 share is about 125 pounds of meat). Instead of selling 1/4 shares, Crowd Cow lets customers pick and choose the cuts they want in any quantity, with orders delivered directly to their front door.

It became clear from early on that consumers love the quality and flavor of meat sourced directly from farms, and that they care where their meat comes from and how the animals are raised, cared for, and fed. As the Crowd Cow team searched the nation (and later the globe) for the best farmers producing the best product, they learned that the diversity of ‘breeds and feeds’ from these independent farms produced a wonderful diversity of textures and flavors; and they found that this is as true with chicken, turkey, and pork, as it is with beef. This great diversity is documented in Craft Beef, Joe and Ethan’s #1 bestselling book on Amazon.

The Crowd Cow team is now on a mission to bring the great quality and diversity of farm-sourced meat, from across the country and the globe, directly to consumers. In doing so, Crowd Cow has become an invaluable resource to independent farmers, enabling them to share their craft and build their brand with consumers through the Crowd Cow platform. In a market controlled by a small number of corporate conglomerates, giving independent producers a more direct path to their customers is a very good thing.

We could not be more enthusiastic about Joe and Ethan’s vision for where they plan to take Crowd Cow, and we welcome the Crowd Cow team to the Madrona family. Whether grass-finished or grain-finished is your cup of tea, or you have a hankering for pasture-raised chicken or heritage pork, Crowd Cow has something for everyone; including super premium A5 Wagyu from Kagoshima, Japan, and the ultra-rare Olive Beef. We look forward to partnering with Joe, Ethan and team to bring the best craft meats sourced from independent producers to consumers across the country and the globe.

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For Madrona Venture Group, Four IPOs In 20 Months And A Brand-new Fund

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Madrona Raises $300M Venture Fund, Reveals Strategy For Investing In Pacific Northwest Startups

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Food Safety Monitoring Tech Startup Wins First Place At Madrona Machine Learning Hackathon

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XNOR.ai Raises $12M And Unveils Self-service Platform To Help Developers Bring AI To Devices

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Innovate.AI – Announcing Our Investment in Envisagenics

Pictured S. Somasegar and Nagraj Kashyap

Today, in partnership with M12 (the newly renamed Microsoft Ventures), we are excited to announce the N. American winner of the Innovate.AI competition, a global startup competition to find the next generation of companies building intelligent applications.

The winning company, Envisagenics, has been awarded a $1M investment from Madrona Venture Group and M12, and we look forward to joining them on their journey to help solve some of the toughest problems in healthcare and biotechnology today.

Envisagenics Team.

We first explored the idea of an AI-focused startup competition with M12 in early 2017. Both Madrona and M12  have made large investments in AI, and we thought M12 would be the best partner to take this idea and help us reach a larger base of startups across North America. M12 was excited to partner with us on this and in addition took it global.

We received 250+ applications from companies in North America.  Startups needed to have built products, achieved some level of customer progress and have raised limited capital to enter.

Working together with the team at M12, we pared this list of 250+ down to 9 finalists, who were working on intelligent applications in the fields of healthcare, financial services, cybersecurity, software development, enterprise sales, computer vision and manufacturing automation.

Each of the final teams were then invited to spend two days in Seattle at the Madrona and Microsoft offices to get to know one another and pitch to a team of VCs from both firms. The final presentations typically involved a presentation, Q&A, and live demo of the products, and we were very impressed with the quality of products that these teams have built.

Envisagenics, our winning company, is in the business of applying AI to RNA splicing. Founded by Maria Pineda and Martin Akerman, the company is using their proprietary data and machine learning models to build a drug discovery platform targeted at the large number of diseases caused by RNA splicing defects.

This is a big problem and an impactful solution. Approximately 15% of all diseases are caused by disrupted splicing, including 50% of rare genetic disorders. Healthcare companies can drastically accelerate their drug discovery processes by using Envisagenics’s data and machine learning models to prioritize drug targets and biomarkers.

We believe there is massive potential in the future of intelligent applications, and we are thrilled to be investing in a company that is applying the power of ML and AI to a key pain point in the world of healthcare.

Please join us in welcoming Envisagenics to the Madrona and M12 families!

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Marketo Buys Techstars Seattle Alum Bizible, Adding New Business Marketing Software Tools

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Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader Just Completed a $150M IPO: Here Are The Things He Won’t Be Doing

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Introducing Madrona’s Newest Strategic Director: Betsy Sutter

We are thrilled to have Betsy Sutter, Chief People Officer of VMware, join Madrona as a Strategic Director.

What is a “Strategic Director” at Madrona? Madrona is fortunate to have a select group of senior operational leaders who mentor talented founders and senior executives of Madrona portfolio companies, advise our rapidly growing companies, and help Madrona navigate key strategic decisions. Our Strategic Directors include Madrona founders, Jerry Grinstein and Bill Ruckelshaus, as well as successful technology company CEOs Steve Singh, Sujal Patel and John McAdam.

Betsy Sutter was VMware’s first HR leader, and she helped the company scale from under 150 employees when she joined to over 21,000 today (not to mention FY18 revenue of just under $8B). As Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, she has worked with and advised VMware CEOs Diane Greene, Paul Maritz and Pat Gelsinger – three iconic technology leaders. She brings a unique perspective to Madrona and this role, as she has a keen insight and appreciation for building a strong culture, recruiting and retaining top talent and, critically, how this enables and aligns with business strategy and execution. She additionally plays a role as an industry thought leader and has spoken broadly about inclusion, diversity and building high-performance organizations.

We have already been fortunate to engage with Betsy in a number of different ways. She spoke at our CFO Conference in 2017 and has met with many of our portfolio company CEOs and senior leaders. In every case, our own team as well as our portfolio companies have been impressed with Betsy’s business insight, wisdom, infectious enthusiasm, practical advice, and bias for action. These insights will be incredibly helpful to portfolio companies, whether they are already at scale or at the formation stage.

Betsy has this to say on becoming a Strategic Director at Madrona:

A key element to successfully building the next generation of best-in-class companies is to, at the start, set the key culture and value tenants that will enable innovation. I am delighted to be part of Madrona’s incredible team, and I look forward to sharing my passion for helping companies develop strategies that empower their people, build communities, and ultimately thrive and scale.

Betsy, welcome to the Madrona family! We look forward to working and learning together and to helping to build the next generation of technology company success stories in the Pacific NW!

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