India’s Darwinbox raises $15M to bring its HR tech platform to more Asian markets


An Indian SaaS startup, which is increasingly courting clients from outside of the country, just raised a significant amount of capital to expand its business.

Hyderabad-based Darwinbox, which operates a cloud-based human resource management platform, said on Thursday it has raised $15 million in a new financing round. The Series B round — which moves the firm’s total raise to $19.7 million — was led by Sequoia India and saw participation from existing investors Lightspeed India Partners, Endiya Partners, and 3one4 Capital.

More than 200 firms including giants such as adtech firm InMobi, fintech startup Paytm, drink conglomerate Bisleri, automobile maker Mahindra, Kotak group, and delivery firms Swiggy and Milkbasket use Darwinbox’s HR platform to serve half a million of their employees in 50 nations, Rohit Chennamaneni, cofounder of Darwinbox, told TechCrunch in an interview.

The startup, which competes with giants such as SAP and Oracle, said its platform enables high level of configurability, ease of use, and understands the needs of modern employees. “The employees today who have grown accustomed to using consumer-focused services such as Uber and Amazon are left disappointed in their experience with their own firm’s HR offerings,” said Gowthami Kanumuru, VP Marketing at Darwinbox, in an interview.

Darwinbox’s HR platform offers a range of features including the ability for firms to offer their employees insurance and early salary as loans. Its platform also features social networks for employees within a company to connect and talk, as well as an AI assistant that allows them to apply for a leave or set up meetings with quick voice commands from their phone.

“The AI system is not just looking for certain keywords. If an employee tells the system he or she is not feeling well today, it automatically applies for leave for them,” she said.

Darwinbox’s platform is built to handle onboarding new employees, keeping a tab on their performance, monitor attrition rate, and maintain an ongoing feedback loop. Or as Kanumuru puts it, the entire “hiring to retiring” cycle.

One of Darwinbox’s clients is L&T, which is tasked with setting up subway in many Indian cities. L&T is using geo-fencing feature of Darwin to log the attendance of employees. “They are not using biometric punch machine that is typically used by other firms. Instead, they just require their 1,200 employees check-in from the workplace using their phones,” said Kanumuru.

darwinbox event

Additionally, Darwinbox is largely focusing on serving companies based in Asia as it believes Western companies’ solutions are not a great fit for people here, said Kanumuru. The startup began courting clients in Southeast Asian markets last year.

“Our growth is a huge validation for our vision,” she said. “Within six months of operations, we had the delivery giant Delhivery with over 23,000 employees use our platform.”

In a statement to TechCrunch, Dev Khare, a partner at Lightspeed Venture, said, “there is a new trend of SaaS companies targeting the India/SE Asia markets. This trend is gathering steam and is disproving the conventional wisdom that Asia-focused SaaS companies cannot get to be big companies. We firmly believe that Asia-focused SaaS companies can get to large impact value and become large and profitable. Darwinbox is one of these companies.”

Darwinbox’s Chennamaneni said the startup will use the fresh capital to expand its footprints in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian markets. Darwinbox will also expand its product offerings to address more of employees’ needs. The startup is also looking to make its platform enable tasks such as booking of flights and hotels.

Chennamaneni, an alum of Google and McKinsey, said Darwinbox aims to double the number of clients it has in the next six to nine months.

from Startups – TechCrunch

Spanish startup Elma gets $3.2M for a digital-first health insurance play


Insurtech startup Elma has closed a €3 million (~$3.2M) Series A funding round led by Mangrove Capital partners to build out a digital-first health insurance business starting with Spain, its domestic market.

Also investing in the Series A are a number of unnamed local investors focused on the healthcare space, along with Barcelona-based investor and company builder Antai Venture Builder (AVB), Arroba Capital, and US VC Joyance Capital Partners. 

Elma’s co-founders — Miguel Ángel Antón (CEO), Albert Malagarriga (CPO), and Miguel Vicente and Gerard Olivé (also co-founders of its investor, AVB) — have a background in digital industries and startups, building “user centric experiences”, as Antón puts it.

Healthcare experience in the founding team comes via the COO who we’re told spent 12 years at a C-level position at one of the largest health insurers in Spain (now owned by Bupa). Elma also has a chief medical officer — who Antón touts as bringing a wealth of experience in “digital care”.

Since 2017 the team has been building a number of digital healthcare tools that can be accessed via an app. The idea is to entice subscribers to Elma’s healthcare cover with the promise of tech-enabled convenience and a shorter wait time vs Spain’s (free) public healthcare service for remote chats with doctors.

It’s also hoping to disrupt legacy health insurance giants by offering slicker digital tools and services.

“Few companies or entities have had the opportunity to think about patient journeys and build and articulate a product that optimizes healthcare outcomes while controlling costs,” argues Antón. “We believe insurers have a privileged position to do that, yet they seem to have little incentive to innovate and adopt digital tools to make it happen given their legacy. We want to build a digital health subscription to better healthier, that includes insurance and is (finally) user centric.”

Among the tools Elma will offer subscribers initially is a telehealth service that lets members talk to a doctor via video call and chat, providing remote primary care and digital prescription (it has a team of seven doctors to serve that from launch) — and a doctor search engine for finding a medical professional to deal with a specific condition (it has a pool of 23,000 doctors in Spain for in-person healthcare).

“We are currently working on a booking feature and integration with test providers to make getting blood tests, scans and so on much easier and interconnected,” adds Antón.

“We are one of the few insurers that provide a full online, comprehensive quoting system for people to understand our products and buy entirely online. These are just a few features that we are releasing with, but our vision is to pursue the digitalization of the industry to fulfil our mission. Prevention, promotion of good habits, digital therapies, are coming up next.” 

On the prevention front, this being an insurtech startup, Elma’s roadmap includes linking insurance premiums to healthier lifestyles — via some form of behavior tracking.

“Healthier people should benefit from their good habits and we are already testing tools that identify people’s habits,” Antón confirms, adding: “Other features in our roadmap for next year are integration with wearables, care plans, skin prevention plans, etc.”

The team will be launching its first health insurance product in Spain next month.

Its website already lists pricing for a range of plans “con copago” (which means there’s a monthly fee to pay for the insurance cover plus an additional fee when you access healthcare services).

“We will have a full “sin copago” product in two weeks but we are believers of insurance with copayment,” Antón tells TechCrunch. “Being healthy makes you reduce visits to the doctor so you can keep your premium low and pay per use which will be best for our customers. We really love copayments…. Best way to pay less.”

The Series A will be put towards scaling in Spain, which is the firm focus for Elma for the foreseeable future given a large addressable local market.

Some 10M+ people (~23% of the population) pay for healthcare, according to Antón, who says this is on account of long wait time for the free public service. A majority of those (60%) pay for health insurance via their employer — so Elma is focusing on selling in to corporates to provide cover for their staff.

“We have an agreement with [insurance broker] Willis Towers Watson who will allow us to quote the most relevant companies in Spain,” he says, adding that it’s already signed agreements with listed companies  (such as Masmovil, Red Electrica Española); startups (eCooltra); and state owned companies (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat).

“Healthcare is very country specific, that’s why its really hard to scale this type of company [to other markets]. So far we want to concentrate in Spain. The market here is huge, growing 5%-7% a year and needs a lot of digitalization,” he adds.

“We want to became leader in our market. In the future we will look for markets where our product fits the best, and it may be countries with or without a strong public health system. What we believe is true is if we make it here, where we are competing with an excellent service which is for free (Spanish public healthcare system), we can probably make it anywhere.”

In terms of app-focused competition, on Elma’s home turf there’s MediQuo, another Barcelona-based startup that promises to put a doctor in your pocket — via an app where users can chat to a medical “amigo”. While it’s not a fully fledged health insurance play pricing is low enough that users could combine it with legacy health insurance elsewhere — augmenting their usual cover with an up-to-date app supplement.

from Startups – TechCrunch

Social care startup Lifted raises £1.5M for end-to-end elderly care platform


The number of elderly adults requiring home care is set to grow at an alarming rate in most western countries as people live progressively longer. But underinvestment in technology and healthcare means society is at risk of vastly under-delivering. It’s very hard to scale these services and subsequently, no company has more than a low percentage market share. Few home care brands have much trust. In the U.K., 38% of people caring for a loved one (81% of whom are women) drop out of the workforce to have to deal with elderly relatives.

In the U.K., a few companies are trying to address this issue: Traditional incumbents like Bluebird Care and Home Instead, which are traditional home care agencies, which don’t scale; “Introductory agencies” like Supercarers and Elder, which do not train their carers directly with the associated problems; and so-called tech-enabled new players like Cera, which have limits to tech deployment as it is.

London-based Lifted plans to address some of these shortcomings with a full-blown end-to-end “Apple-like” solution.

It has now raised £1.5 million in seed funding after being founded by Rachael Crook and Sam Cohen. Crook is a former Cabinet Office and McKinsey Consultant, who started Lifted after a frustrating experience trying to arrange care for her mother after she was diagnosed with dementia at age 56.

The startup was incubated inside Zero 1, a new corporate venture builder.

The company is a CQC-regulated care provider, which gives families real-time updates on care and a set of wellness data about their loved one. The Care Management Platform is a way to schedule visits, keep a check on tasks that have been completed and receive notifications when care begins and ends.

The default rate is £19 an hour for hourly care and £950 a week for live-in care. Clients can choose to purchase this as an additional service for which they will charge a subscription fee.

Crook says: “There are few more important decisions than who to trust to look after your loved ones. Yet the current market is broken with a lack of transparency, poor quality care and poor working conditions for carers. Precious data languishes in paper files. Lifted is on a mission to change this by harnessing the power of technology and data to transform the quality of care and improve the lives of carers and families.”

Lifted’s future plans include broadening their service offering by combining professional care and in-home technology. This will bring together health alerts, in-home sensors and professional carers to transform what it means to care.

Lifted will develop AI-based analytics to predict and prevent health deterioration.

Unlike other startup care providers, Lifted directly employs its carers and pays the London Living Wage, which is 20% above the market average for hourly care and is enabled by operational savings achieved by using a technology platform.

Founded in 2018 by Finn MacCabe, Damian Cristian and Guy Conway, Zero 1 has built three new companies in insurance, cloud compute and healthcare, in partnership with FTSE 100 companies.

from Startups – TechCrunch

MaxAB raises $6M seed round to optimize Egypt’s B2B grocery markets


Cairo-based startup MaxAB looks to optimize the supply-chain network for Egypt’s food and grocery retailers.

The B2B e-commerce company raised a $6.2 million seed-investment co-led by Beco Capital and 4DX Ventures. Others co-leaders included 500 Startups, Endure Capital, and Outlierz Ventures.

Founded in 2018, MaxAB has built a digital platform to manage procurement and delivery of grocery products to shops in Egypt. The startup’s developer team created an app for store-owners to purchase goods, another logistics app for its delivery fleet, and one for its customer support team.

MaxAB’s target market is small-scale retailers in Egypt, who sell to the country’s 100 million population.

“The Wal-Mart’s and the Krogers and Walgreen’s of Egypt only represent 10% of the market; 90% of this $50 billion market gets transacted through small mom and pop shops,” MaxAB CEO Belal El-Megharbel told TechCrunch on a call from Cairo.

He developed the startup idea while working as a General Manager at Careem — the Middle Eastern ride-hail company acquired by Uber in 2019 — and co-founded MaxAB with Mohamed Ben Halim.

Both saw an opening to reduce cost and complication in Egypt’s B2B food and grocery markets.

MaxAB Belal El Megharbel CEO“It’s a very segmented supply-chain. Small shops in Cairo have to go through six or seven-layers in between — the shipping,  unboxing, determining product quality, and setting base prices — and that’s what we’re fixing for them,” said El-Megharbel.

MaxAB has a fleet of 60 trucks and a large warehouse that serves Cairo. The startup tailored a logistics practice for Egypt to make sure it can meet retail customer needs. “We’ve come up with our own model we call just-in-case inventory, where we keep three to four days additional inventory to accommodate for supplier unreliability,” explained El-Megharbel.

MaxAB has a staff of 270 and 9,000 retailers on its app, according to a company release. The venture generates revenue on margins it earns from the buy to sell price of the products it offers. Unsurprisingly, El-Megharbel names achieving scale as the path to profitability. “The bigger your scale the better the margins you gain on supply,” he said.

Drawing on its seed-round, MaxAB also aims to generate revenue by expanding its offerings to working-capital financing and data-analytics services to its retail clients. The startup will expand its operations to several different cities in Egypt and grow its tech team.

The company has no immediate plans to operate outside of Egypt, according to El-Megharbel, but could consider expansion in North Africa in the future.

Briter Bridges Map Logistics Africa CroppedMaxAB will raise another funding round in approximately a year’s time, he said. 4DX Ventures  Managing Partner Peter Orth confirmed the fund’s participation in the $6.2 million seed-financing. Orth will take a board seat with MaxAB.

Transport-tech focused startups received the largest share of the $33 million in VC invested in Egypt in 2018, according to WeeTracker. Research by Briter Bridges tracks 120 logistics and supply-chain related startups in Africa.

In 2018, MaxAB investor 4DX ventures led a $2 million round in Kenya based B2B supply-chain startup Sokowatch, founded by Daniel Yu.

The companies share a similar retail logistics focus, but the founders don’t appear poised to enter each other’s markets or become competitors just yet. “Daniel’s a really smart-guy. We meet and talk quite often,” MaxAB CEO Belal El-Megharbel said.

from Startups – TechCrunch raises $37 million to expand cyber insurance coverage and access


Critical cyber attacks on both businesses and individuals have been grabbing headlines at an alarming rate. Cybersecurity has moved from a background risk for enterprises to a critical day-to-day threat to business operations, forcing executive teams to pour time and hundreds of billions in capital into monitoring and prevention efforts.

Yet even as investment in security ticks up, the frequency and cost of cybercrime to businesses continues to rapidly accelerate, with the World Economic Forum estimating the economic loss due to cybercrime could reach $3 trillion by 2020.

More companies are now turning to cyber insurance as a means of mitigating financial exposure. However, for traditional insurers, cybersecurity remains a relatively nascent and unfamiliar issue, requiring risk-assessment data points and methodologies largely different from those seen in traditional insurance products. As a result, businesses often struggle to get the scale of cybersecurity coverage they require. is hoping to expand the size and scope of the cyber insurance market for both insurers and companies, by providing insurers with effective real-time data, analytics and context, necessary for safely and efficiently underwrite cyber risk.

This morning, Arceo took a major step in achieving that goal, announcing the company has raised a $37 million round of funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Founders Fund with participation from CRV and  UL Ventures.

Using an expansive set of global sources across a customer’s digital footprint, Arceo.AI collects internal, external and macro cyber risk data which it uses to evaluate a company’s security and cyber risk management behavior. By automating the data collection process and connecting it with insurer underwriting processes, Arceo is able to keep its data and policy assessments up to date in real-time and enable faster, more efficient quotes.

A vital component of Arceo’s platform is its analytics offering. Using patented data science and cyber risk models, Arceo generates analytics-driven insights for insurance carriers, brokers and end-insured customers. For end-insured customers, Arceo helps companies understand whether they’re using the best mitigation strategies by providing policy recommendations and industry benchmarking to help contextualize day-to-day cyber behavior and hygiene. For underwriters, Arceo can provide specific insurance recommendations based on particular policy coverages.

Ultimately, Arceo looks to provide both insurers and the insured with actionable answers to key questions such as how one assesses cyber risk, how one determines what risks can be mitigated with technology alone, how one knows which systems are best and whether those systems are being used appropriately.

Raj Shah Chairman Raj Shah. Image via

In an interview with TechCrunch, Arceo Chairman Raj Shah explained that the company’s background expertise, proprietary data systems, and deep pedigree in both the security and insurance truly differentiate Arceo from competing solutions. For starters, both Shah and Arceo co-founder and CEO Vishaal Hariprasad have spent close to the entirety of their careers in national security and cybersecurity. Hariprasad started his career in the Airforce’s first cohort of cyber warfare officers, before teaming up with Shah to start Morta Security in 2012, a security startup the two sold to Palo Alto networks in just roughly two years.

After selling the company, Shah and Hariprasad remained in the security world before realizing that there was a natural intersection between security and insurance, and a real opportunity for risk transfer solutions.

“Having studied the market, we saw that people are spending more and more dollars on cybersecurity products… There are hundreds of thousands of new vendors every year… Spend is going up, but we don’t feel any safer!” Shah told TechCrunch.

“That’s when we said ‘Hey, we need to move beyond just thinking about technology points and products, and think about holistic cyber risk management.’ And this is where insurance has historically done a great job. Putting a price on behavior and making people think and letting them take risks… From life and death and health to buyers and property and casualty. And so cyber is that next class risk… So that’s really why we started the business. We wanted to provide a real way to manage the cyber stress that they’re facing and that will impact every single one of our digital lives.”

Since the company’s founding, Raj and Vishaal have been joined by a deep network of cyber and insurance experts. Today, Arceo also announced that Hemant Shah, founder and former CEO of catastrophe risk modeling company RMS has joined Arceo’s Board of Directors. Additionally, earlier this month, the company announced that Mario Vitale, the former CEO of publically-traded insurance companies Willis Towers Watson and Zurich Insurance Group, would be joining the Arceo team as the company’s President.

The company noted that participation from high-profile industry vets like Hemant and Mario not only further advance Arceo’s competitive advantage but also acts as another major validation of the company’s future and work to date.

According to Arceo Chairman Raj Shah, after years of investing in R&D, the latest funds will be used towards expansion efforts and scaling Arceo to the broader ecosystem of insurance and brokers. Longer-term, the company hopes to offer the most complete combined cybersecurity and risk transfer solution to insurers and the insured, easing the stress around cyber threats for both enterprises and individuals and ultimately improving broader cyber resiliency.

If you’d like to hear more from Arceo’s Raj Shah, Raj will also be joining us this year on the Extra Crunch stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, where he’ll discuss how founders and companies should think about potential US government investment. Grab tickets here and we hope to see you there!

from Startups – TechCrunch

Groww, an investment app for millennials in India, raises $21.4M


Of the 1.3 billion people who live in India, more than 100 million of whom are using digital payment apps each day, only about 20 million today invest in mutual funds and stocks. An Indian startup that is betting on changing that figure by courting millennials has just received a big backing.

Groww, a Bangalore-based startup, said today it has raised $21.4 million in a Series B financing round that was led by US-based VC firm Ribbit Capital. Existing investors Sequoia India and Y Combinator also participated in the round, said the two-year-old startup that has raised about $29 million to date.

Groww allows users to invest in mutual funds, including systematic investment planning (SIP) and equity-linked savings. The app, which maintains a very simplified user interface to make it easier for its largely millennial customer base to comprehend the investment world, offers every fund that is currently available in India.

Lalit Keshre, co-founder and CEO of Groww, told TechCrunch in an interview earlier this week that the market of mutual funds is increasingly widening in India and the startup is hoping to accelerate its growth with the fresh capital. Other than that, he plans to double Groww’s headcount to 200 in the coming months.

Groww has amassed about 2.5 million registered users, two-thirds of which are first-time investors, Keshre said. Groww is currently free to use and does not charge any commission on transactions. The startup eventually plans to offer a paid service as it looks to monetize its user base, but Keshre declined to share a timeline on how soon that would happen.

Groww will also soon begin to offer the ability to purchase stocks from its eponymous app, said Keshre, a former executive at Flipkart who co-founded Groww with three other Flipkart colleagues (Harsh Jain, Neeraj Singh and Ishan Bansal).

In a statement, Micky Malka, founder of Ribbit Capital, said, “We backed the Groww team because we believe in their mission. They have built the most trusted product in this space and are on the path to create a category-defining product.”

Ribbit Capital has made a number of investments in India in recent months. Last month, it invested in Cred, a startup that is trying to improve the financial behavior of credit card holders, and BharatPe, a payments solution for businesses.

In recent years, a number of startups such as INDWealth and Cube Wealth have emerged in India to offer wealth management platforms to country’s growing internet population. Many established financial firms such as Paytm have also expanded their offerings to include investments in mutual funds.

Ashish Agarwal, a principal partner at Sequoia Capital India, said, “Investment products such as mutual funds and stocks were traditionally sold offline through financial advisors, who were mis-incentivized to sell high commission products. Groww is taking a refreshing approach with a zero-commission mobile first model, enabling investors to make their own investment choices through a slick and easy user interface.”

from Startups – TechCrunch

Built Robotics raises $33M for its self-driving construction equipment


Built Robotics, a company aiming to make construction equipment autonomous, is announcing a $33M Series B round this morning.

With the construction industry facing a global labor shortage, Built’s aim is to allow one equipment operator to oversee a fleet of vehicles working autonomously in parallel, hopping in the cab only for tasks the machine can’t handle.

Rather than building its own vehicles, Built focuses on converting the popular construction equipment that’s already out there. They sell a kit that straps to the top of things like excavators, bull dozers, and skid steers, taking tech like lidar, GPS, and Wi-Fi and meshing them into the machine’s innards to give it autonomous smarts. They sell the conversion boxes to other companies, help them get installed, then charge a usage fee whenever the machines are in autonomous mode.

No one wants a 20-ton piece of machinery blasting around a construction site without a care for those around it, so the autonomous machines try to keep a constant eye on their surroundings. As I wrote back in April:

Cameras on and around the vehicles are constantly checking for anyone who might stray too close. If something goes wrong and the machine starts to tip too much, or if on-board sensors detect that something is in the way underground? Power gets cut. And there’s a big red emergency stop button on the back of each machine (and a wireless button meant to stay on the operator’s desk) for good measure.

We also took a look at some of Built’s gear a few months back:

The round is lead by Next47 (the investment arm of the European mega company Siemens), along with Building Ventures and previous investors Founders Fund, Presidio Ventures, Lemnos, and NEA. As part of the deal, Next47’s T.J. Rylander will be joining Built’s board of directors.

The company had previously disclosed a $15M Series A it raised in 2017, bringing its total funding up to $48M. Built co-founder Noah Ready-Campbell tells me that the company has roughly doubled in headcount over the past few months, with the team now sitting at roughly 40 people.

from Startups – TechCrunch

How Automattic wants to build the operating system of the web


Automattic, the company behind, WooCommerce, Longreads, Simplenote and soon Tumblr, is now worth $3 billion. But its founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg has a bigger goal. He wants to make the web better, more open and diverse.

With the rise of social networks and closed platforms, Automattic’s mission statement has never sounded so important. Automattic doesn’t want to be the hot new startup. It wants to build a strong foundation to empower content creators for decades to come.

In an interview this week, Matt Mullenweg discussed why he raised $300 million from Salesforce Ventures, what he thinks of the current state of the web and how Automattic has a shot at building the open-source operating system of the web. The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

Romain Dillet: Tell me more about how much money you’ve raised, who you’ve raised from.

Matt Mullenweg: What we’re announcing is that we’ve raised $300 million from Salesforce . They took the entire round. Basically Salesforce is buying 10% of the company.

Dillet: I looked at past funding stories. And the last round for Automattic was in 2014. What has changed over the past five years, and why do you want more money right now because it feels you’ve been doing fine over the past five years?

Mullenweg: It is true that we raise money when it’s right, not every year. In 2014, we were somewhere between 200 and 300 people. We’re now close to 1,000 people, we’ll be close to 1,200 when the Tumblr [acquisition] closes at the end of the month. The business has grown tremendously, pretty much on every metric.

We rewrote the whole admin to Javascript and APIs — we use React for that. We released Gutenberg, which is the next-generation of posting. I think WooCommerce was bought in that time, so we moved into e-commerce and that’s grown to be our fastest-growing business.

Really, Automattic then and now is almost a completely different company in every single regard. Like you said, I think it’s going well-meaning that the one thing that hasn’t changed is our respect for our users and doing our best to try to maintain their trust.

Dillet: You talked about WooCommerce. What’s the business breakdown today? What product is the biggest revenue maker for the company? Is it WordPress .com, VIP, WooCommerce?

Mullenweg: The best way to think of it is that and Jetpack are the largest. The second would be WooCommerce. And third is actually going to be [] VIP, so our enterprise business.

Dillet: Do you expect some kind of integration with Salesforce or is it purely a financial move on Salesforce’s side?

Mullenweg: Nothing to announce today, sorry about that. This is a purely financial investment but we’ve been a long-time customer of Salesforce, we’re a big fan of the platform. And definitely, you could imagine, given a lot of thoughts, how WordPress could complement their products.

Dillet: So there will be some synergies in the future…

Mullenweg: I certainly hope so.

Dillet: Do you think there will be synergies the other way round as well for Automattic? Could you leverage some of Salesforce’s technologies and products?

Mullenweg: Definitely, especially as WordPress starts being adopted more and more in the enterprise. [] VIP customers are already Salesforce customers. It’s just a matter of figuring out what are their biggest needs and how we can serve them. As you know, Salesforce has a million products. So it’s really hard to nail it down and choose where to begin.

Image via Takamorry / Flickr

Dillet: Usually, when you have big news about Automattic, you share some metrics saying ‘x% of the web runs on WordPress’, do you have an update on this front?

Mullenweg: 34%.

Dillet: Do you think this is too low and there’s still a lot of room to grow?

Mullenweg: I think there’s potential to get to a similar market share as Android, which I believe now has 85% of all handsets. When you think about it, open source has a virtuous cycle of adoption, people building on the platform and more adoption.

“I think there’s potential to get to a similar market share as Android, which I believe now has 85% of all handsets” Matt Mullenweg

And WordPress has been in this cycle for a few years now. The most interesting is that it’s actually accelerating. Even though there’s more competition than ever, that percentage is growing faster than it used to. Surely faster than the last time we raised money.

Do you remember where it was in 2014?

Dillet: I think it was 20 or 25%, something like that. [It was 22%.]

Mullenweg: What we want to do is to become the operating system for the open web. We want every website, whether it’s e-commerce or anything to be powered by WordPress. And by doing so, we’ll make sure that the web can go back to being more open, more integrated and more user-centric than it would be if proprietary platforms become dominant.

Dillet: You talked about the number of websites running on WordPress. But when it comes to usage, people spend a lot of time on social networks and closed platforms. How do you feel about most people spending most of their time on Facebook, YouTube and Medium?

Mullenweg: I don’t think they actually do. I think it’s just easier to account the time they spend there because it’s on one domain. If you added up all the time that everyone spends on the rest of the web, it would dwarf Facebook, etc. Even though these are impressive platforms and we’re moving into the social network side of things ourselves with Tumblr.

Dillet: Do you think it comes in waves and we’ve gone too far in one direction and we’re going to go back to a more open web?

Mullenweg: I like to think about it in terms of user experience. What Twitter, Facebook, etc. have done is actually create an amazing user experience. No one should deny that. It’s really nice to have all your friends in one place. And it’s just easier.

It’s now up to the technologists to figure out how to make an experience, which is just as good but puts more control back in the hands of users.

Dillet: How do you feel about the fragmentation of the open web? It feels like we had an okay solution with RSS feeds but not many people are using RSS feeds anymore. Do you think you should also work on a way to integrate the diversity of the open web in a central interface of some sort?

Mullenweg: Yes, and the good news is that Tumblr’s dashboard is incredibly compelling. They built a fantastic way to follow and enjoy things. I think that there’s a way to bring more of the open web back into people’s daily habits.

The social networks as we’ve seen optimize for engagement in ways that sometimes are detrimental to people’s mental health and happiness.

Dillet: Will you be optimizing for engagement with the acquisition of Tumblr?

Mullenweg: I think we’re trying to optimize for fun and a better world. I apologize if that sounds a bit cheesy but we’re going to try.

GettyImages 1158411075

(Photo: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Dillet: With so much funding on your hands now, do you have some moonshot projects that you’ve been putting on the back-burner and that you can now tackle?

Mullenweg: We’re trying to show that we invest for the long term wherever possible. We can make our funding go a really long way. Even though we’re 15 years old, this is only our fourth round. Things like Calypso, Gutenberg, Tumblr, WooCommerce… are big bets. And with each one of those, we have a long way to go.

“The problem we’re trying to solve is likely multigenerational” Matt Mullenweg

The problem we’re trying to solve is likely multigenerational. It can take the rest of our lives and we need to pass it on to the generation that comes after to continue to work on it. Hopefully for the rest of humanity because I can’t imagine a time when humanity cannot benefit from an open, free, connected web.

Dillet: How do you feel about Progressive Web Apps?

Mullenweg: I think it’s very exciting. We’re definitely in a weird area where the app stores are… When you think about the amount of the tech economy that goes through them, it’s shocking how much power they have and how little oversight or accountability they have.

“We shouldn’t be surprised when a closed marketplace favors itself. And I think we should be mad at them.” Matt Mullenweg

And the web allows you… It’s a kind of exit hatch. It’s a way to really be in control of your destiny as a business in a way that isn’t reliant on the judgment calls of largely Google and Apple. I think overall they are great companies. They have made some decisions on their app stores that benefit them sometimes over their users or folks in their stores.

We shouldn’t be surprised when a closed marketplace favors itself. That’s just a natural thing to happen. And I think we should be mad at them. We should be mad at ourselves for not demanding on relying on something more open.

Dillet: Do you think people are not mad enough?

Mullenweg: When I say mad at ourselves, I’m not talking about the general population. I’m talking about us as people building things on these platforms. Like this story that Amazon favors its own products, that’s ‘dog bites man’. It’s not that interesting, we should have expected that to happen.

Dillet: When you look at the roadmap before raising from Salesforce, and the roadmap after. Is the roadmap that you defined, let’s say, three years ago for the next ten years going to be the same?

Mullenweg: The roadmap is the same. I just think we might be able to do it in five years instead of ten.

from Startups – TechCrunch