A few months ago, Crunchbase News reported that a longstanding period of SaaS investment stagnation had come to an end.
However, the investment boom times didn’t necessarily carry over to the seed and early-stage end of the subscription software businesses.
The chart below displays deal and dollar volume of seed and early-stage venture investments1 made into companies from around the world in Crunchbase’s SaaS category. Note that it is subject to historically documented reporting delays, which are most pronounced in seed and early-stage deals.
As can be plainly seen that Q3 2018 took quite a turn in terms of investment into SaaS. And it’s a bit bewildering as to why.
Overall, the venture market in Q3 hit record heights, and nearly every stage of investment saw more dollars and more rounds. Yet, as shown above, SaaS startups don’t appear to be beneficiaries of this influx of cash.
The public comparison
The picture becomes even more distorted when we account for public market SaaS comps, which set the benchmark for private companies. And that benchmark hasn’t been suffering. Public cloud companies have enjoyed a steep run up in asset value over the past several years.
The newly revamped BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index (formerly known as the Bessemer Cloud Index) tracks a basket of publicly traded SaaS stocks, including the likes of Salesforce, Adobe and more recent debuts like Dropbox, DocuSign and Okta, among others.
Public cloud stocks soar
Public companies in the Bessemer Cloud Index grew their public valuations much faster than more broad-based indices like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. Carried by the high and still-growing value of recurring revenue, warm reception of SaaS companies new to public markets and (with the exception of the past couple of weeks) generally stable markets overall, public SaaS companies have done well. Despite a pretty absurd rate of growth on the public side, no such consistent growth could be found on the early-stage, private end of the market.
However, rather than viewing Q3 2018 as a disappointment for the early-stage SaaS investment market, it’s more like a reversion to the mean. It’s the first half of the year that’s the outlier, not Q3.
Big deals, slowing pace
The first half of 2018 had some truly huge early-stage deals cross the wires. In March, Robotic process automation software company UiPath raised $153 million in its Series B. (UiPath just raised another $225 million in a Series C round in September.) Collaborative email inbox Front App raised $66 million in its January Series B. Rival Chicago logistics software companies FourKites and project44 each raised $35 million Series B rounds earlier in the year. On a one-off basis, these are big rounds, but collectively they add up to a huge pile of money.
The conclusion we’re drawn to here is that we were perhaps premature in declaring the long-time downtrend snapped to the upside.
Amazon Sidewalk is coming – and not everyone will be happy
Amazon is preparing to launch Amazon Sidewalk, its localized networks for Echo, Ring, and other devices, and it looks likely to be one of the most controversial products from retail behemoth so far. Echo owners have begun being notified by Amazon that Sidewalk shared networks are launching later in the year, along with apparent confirmation that it will be turned on by default.
Sidewalk basically creates a special, separate network, hosted by so-called Sidewalk Bridge devices. That includes certain Echo and Ring models. What distinguishes them from your regular WiFi connection is that proximate Sidewalk devices can collaborate, even if they’re not necessarily your own.
Your neighbors’ Ring camera, for example, could join a local Sidewalk network. The advantage, Amazon says, is that even if your internet connection goes down, things like your Ring security system may still potentially be able to get online using a neighbor’s bandwidth. It also improves range, since Sidewalk devices can in theory fill in gaps in WiFi coverage.
Of course, to do that, Amazon needs to grab some of your internet bandwidth to share. What’s likely to prove divisive is that Amazon will turn Sidewalk on by default, its email to registered users confirmed today. If they don’t want to have their internet connection shared in part, they’ll have to manually turn it off.
“The maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, which is about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high definition video,” Amazon says. “Today, when you share your Bridge’s connection with Sidewalk, total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is capped at 500MB, which is equivalent to streaming about 10 minutes of high definition video.”
While Sidewalk isn’t active as a feature yet, you can already turn it off in the Amazon Alexa app. That switch is found at More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk.
Sidewalk is designed so that users don’t actually know what other devices are connected to the network, or indeed what network their own devices are linked with. “Information transferred over Sidewalk Bridges is encrypted and Bridge customers are not able to see that Sidewalk-enabled devices are connected to their Bridge,” Amazon explains. “Customers who own Sidewalk-enabled devices will know they are connected to Sidewalk but will not be able to identify which Bridge they are connected to.”
Of course, for Sidewalk to fully work as Amazon hopes – with the potential down the line, when the networks are sufficiently established, to do things like localized device-finding and more – it needs as many Echo and Ring owners to opt-in as possible.
Nonetheless, it’s likely to raise concerns among both users and security advocates alike. Having a second network running, which has access to your home internet, and which you have only marginal control over seems like a recipe for potential disaster. Even if all works as planned, it requires trusting Amazon to do all the management and security necessary. That may well be a bigger ask than even Echo and Ring owners can stomach.
Moto E7 serves up a 48MP camera and a solid battery on a budget
Motorola today revealed the Moto E7, which is the latest in its line of budget devices. Like many of the budget phones Motorola has released throughout the years, the main focus here seems to be on the camera. In fact, Motorola says in its announcement today that smartphone users deserve “an incredible camera system that delivers gorgeous results,” regardless of their budget.
So, does the camera array on the back of the Moto E7 deliver that? That’s ultimately for users to decide, but the phone does come equipped with a 48MP main shooter which has been paired with a 2MP macro lens. Motorola says that the camera has been outfitted with its Quad Pixel tech for better low-light shooting, which is bolstered further by Night Vision mode.
In looking at the specifications that Motorola shared today, the Moto E7 doesn’t seem all that different from the Moto E7 Plus we saw earlier in the year. The Android 10-based Moto E7 is equipped with a 6.5-inch Max Vision HD+ display with a 20:9 aspect ratio, which is nothing to write home about but will get the job done for a budget handset.
One major draw might be the battery, which clocks in at 4,000mAh. Since the Moto E7 uses an octa-core MediaTek Helio G25 CPU and a low-resolution display, that battery can probably last a long time. Motorola, for its part, says that the battery can go for 36 hours on a full charge, so budget-minded customers looking to get a lot of mileage out of their phone’s battery might find a lot to love here.
Obviously, though, this is a budget device by pretty much every definition of the phrase, so we’re not expecting a whole lot. Those expectations extend to price as well, with the Motorola giving the E7 a price tag of €119.99. We’ll see the Moto E7 launch first in “select European countries” before spreading to select countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia in the weeks to come. We’ll let you know if the E7 eventually makes its way stateside, so stay tuned for more.
Xiaomi foldable smartphone could comes with a pop up camera
Xiaomi has been working hard on folding smartphone prototypes filing patents that show off potential designs for folding devices coming in the future. A new Xiaomi folding smartphone design has turned up that ditches the thick bezels or notches on the screen featured on smartphones for sensors and cameras. Instead, this folding device uses a pop-up camera.
Xiaomi’s design is neither the first to fold nor the first to have a pop-up camera, but it’s interesting to see the two features combined in a single device. The design patent was filed with The Hague International Design System on September 25, 2020. The application was published on November 20, 2020. Like most other folding smartphones, it folds in half to create a smaller and more pocketable device.
In the renderings, the front screen is small at 4.6-inches and has thick bezels. When the phone is opened, it has a large screen of unspecified size. Considering the smaller front screen is said to be 4.6-inches, the assumption would be that the large main screen is somewhere in the 7 to 8-inch realm, but again that is unclear. Unlike other folding smartphone designs from the company, this new design ditches the band located to the screen’s side for sensors and cameras seen in past designs.
The pop-up camera design allows it to act as the front selfie camera with two lenses, and there are three cameras on the back of the device. Specifications for the camera system are unknown at this time. On the right side of the smartphone are a pair of buttons with one for volume and another on-off button.
The left side has the SIM card slot with a microphone on the top and bottom. The USB-C port and speaker are on the bottom of the phone. We hope this design makes it to production in the future.
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