Sherman Oaks-based SaaS company FloQast has closed a Series D round of $110 million led by Meritech Capital, bringing the company's valuation to $1.2 billion and officially marking it a unicorn. General Partner at Meritech George Bischof will also join the company's board of directors.
FloQast, which opened their U.K. headquarters in London last month, will use the funds to expand globally and add more accounting functions.
A screenshot of Floqast's accounting dashboard.
But Whitmire, FloQast's co-founder and CEO, said he is particularly excited to have Meritech Capital leading their Series D, as the VC firm has invested in many companies that have gone public, something that has been a goal of his for a long time.
"Honestly, it's more important than the valuation; the funds we got involved is the headliner from my perspective," said Whitmire. "I get that valuations sell, but the funds are so good that we got involved."
The cloud-based software tackles the niche market of corporate accounting departments and works to improve their workflow and automate the process of closing the books at the end of each month. Currently, there are more than 1,400 departments globally that use FloQast.
Whitmire got the idea for FloQast when he worked as a senior accountant for talent management software company Cornerstone OnDemand. As the company was in the process of going public, Whitmire noticed some issues with the month-end close process; it was unorganized and more stressful than it needed to be.
"Imagine having a sales team without a [customer relationship management] solution. That's effectively how accounting has been operating," said Whitmire.
In what he called a "classic entrepreneur moment," Whitmire realized there must be a better way to do this. Soon after, he left Cornerstone and started FloQast.
Floqast co-founder and CEO Michael Whitmire.
The company's minimum viable product was enough to get them into the Amplify accelerator in 2013. The accelerator was specifically looking for SaaS companies at the time, something Whitmire now sees as a stroke of luck.
Since then, much of what has contributed to the company's success is the perception of a pressing need for software like this. Many of the investors, while not accountants themselves, have experienced the struggles of not getting their numbers from accounting in time and thus saw the company's appeal.
The customers, however, are accountants, and the company's tagline, "By accountants for accountants," encapsulates what appeals to the customer base. This refers not only to the fact that two accountants co-founded the company, but that around 40% of the company's staff has a background in accounting.
"That shows through in our culture, our customer service, the product, the brand," said Whitmire. "People want to work with us because we're one of them. We're accountants, we get it, we've been there, we've been in the trenches."
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Despite — or in many cases because of — the raging pandemic, 2020 was a great year for many tech startups. It turned out to be an ideal time to be in the video game business, developing a streaming ecommerce platform for Gen Z, or helping restaurants with their online ordering.
But which companies in Southern California had the best year? That is highly subjective of course. But in an attempt to highlight who's hot, we asked dozens of the region's top VCs to weigh in.
We wanted to know what companies they wish they would have invested in if they could go back and do it all over again.
Startups were ranked by how many votes each received. In the case of a tie, companies were listed in order of capital raised. The list illustrates how rapidly things move in startup land. One of the hottest startups had not even started when 2020 began. A number doubled or even 16x'd their valuation in the span of a few short months.
To divvy things up, we delineated between companies that have raised Series A funding or later and younger pre-seed or seed startups.
Not surprisingly, many of the hottest companies have been big beneficiaries of the stay-at-home economy.
PopShop Live, a red-hot QVC for Gen Z headquartered out of a WeWork on San Vicente Boulevard, got the most votes. Interestingly, the streaming ecommerce platform barely made it onto the Series A list because it raised its Series A only last month. Top Sand Hill Road firms Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Venture Partners reportedly competed ferociously for who would lead the round but lost out to Benchmark, which was an early investor in eBay and Uber. The round valued PopShop Live at $100 million, way up from the $6 million valuation it raised at only five months prior.
Scopely, now one of the most valuable tech companies in Los Angeles, was also a top vote getter.
The Culver City mobile gaming unicorn raised $340 million in Series E funding in October at a $3.3 billion valuation, which nearly doubled the company's $1.7 billion post-money valuation from March. It is no coincidence that that was the same month stay-at-home orders began as Scopely has benefited from bored consumers staying on their couch and playing ScrabbleGo or Marvel Strike Force.
The company's success is especially welcome news to seed investors Greycroft, The Chernin Group and TenOneTen ventures, who got in at a $40 million post valuation in 2012. Upfront Ventures, BAM Ventures and M13 joined the 2018 Series C at a $710 post-money valuation.
Softbank-backed Ordermark, which flew more under the radar, also topped the list. The company's online ordering platform became a necessity for restaurants forced to close their dining rooms during the pandemic and raised $120 million in Series C funding in October.
On the seed side, two very different startups stood out. There was Pipe, which enables companies with recurring revenues to tap into their deferred cash flows with an instant cash advance, and Clash App, Inc., a TikTok alternative launched by a former employee of the social network in August.
We will have the list of Southern California's top seed startups out tomorrow.
The live-streaming shopping channel created by Danielle Lin reportedly found itself in the middle of a venture capital bidding war this year. Benchmark eventually won out leading a Series A round, vaulting the app at a $100 million valuation. The Los Angeles-based platform has been likened to QVC for Gen Z and it's part of a new wave of ecommerce that has found broader appeal during the pandemic. Google, Amazon and YouTube have launched live shopping features and other venture-backed startups like Los Angeles-based NTWRK have popped up.
One of the most valuable Southern California tech startups with a $3.3 billion valuation, the Culver City mobile game unicorn has benefitted from a booming gaming market that has flourished in this stay-at-home economy. Scopely offers free mobile games and its roster includes "Marvel Strike Force," "Star Trek Fleet Command" and "Yahtzee with Buddies." In October the company raised a $340 million Series E round backed by Wellington Management, NewView Capital and TSG Consumer Partners, among others fueling speculation that it was on its road to an IPO. Co-CEO Walter Driver has said that he doesn't have immediate plans to go public.
The coronavirus has forced the closure of many dining rooms, making Ordermark all the more sought after by restaurants needing a way to handle online orders. Co-founder and CEO Alex Canter started the business in 2017, which recently rang in more than $1 billion in sales. Ordermark secured $120 million in Series C funding by Softbank Vision Fund 2 in October that it will use to bring more restaurants online. The company's Nextbite, a virtual restaurant business that allows kitchens to add delivery-only brands such as HotBox from rapper Wiz Khalifa to their existing space through Ordermark, is also gaining traction.
Cameo, which launched three years ago, had its breakout year in 2020 as C-list celebrities like Brian Baumgartner banked over a million dollars from creating customized videos for fans. In the sincerest form of flattery, Facebook is reportedly launching a feature that sounds a lot like Cameo. Even though the company is still technically headquartered in Chicago, we included Cameo because CEO Steven Galanis and much of the senior team moved to L.A. during the pandemic and say they plan to continue running the company from here for the foreseeable future.
Co-founded by CEO Aaron Peck, Mothership provides freight forwarding services intended to streamline the shipping experience. The company's tracking technologies connect shippers with nearby truck drivers to speed up the delivery process. It raised $16 million in Series A venture funding last year, driving the platform to a $48 million pre-money valuation.
Founded in 2019, Nacelle's ecommerce platform helps retailers improve conversion rates and decrease loading speeds for their sites. The software integrates with Shopify and other services, offering payment platforms and analytics integration, among dozens of services. Nacelle raised about $4.8 million earlier this year with angel investors that included Shopify's Jamie Sutton, Klaviyo CEO Andrew Bialecki and Attentive CEO Brian Long.
Matt Danna and Sean Stavropoulos came up with Boulevard when an impatient Stavropoulos was frustrated wasting hours to book a hair appointment. Their four-year-old salon booking and payment service is now used by some of Los Angeles' best-known hairdressers. Last month, the two secured a $27 million Series B round co-led by Index Ventures and Toba Capital. Other investors include VMG Partners, Bonfire Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and BoxGroup.
Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick CloudKitchens rents out commissary space to prepare food for delivery. And as the pandemic has fueled at-home delivery, the company has been gobbling up real estate. The commissaries operate akin to WeWork for the culinary world and allow drivers to easily park and pick-up orders as the delivery market has soared during pandemic. Last year, it raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia's colossal sovereign wealth fund.
Founded by college buddies five years ago, GOAT tapped into the massive sneaker resale market with a platform that "authenticates" shoes. The Culver City-based company has since expanded into apparel and accessories and states that it has 20 million members. Last year, Foot Locker sunk a $100 million minority investment into 1661 Inc., better known as Goat. And this fall it landed another $100 million Series E round bankrolled by Dan Sundeheim's D1 Capital Partners.
The lingerie company co-founded by pop singer Rihanna in 2018 is noted for its inclusivity of body shapes and sizes. It has raised over $70 million, but The New York Times' DealBook newsletter recently reported that it's been on the hunt for $100 million in funds to expand into active wear. The company generates about $150 million in revenue, but is not yet profitable, according to the report. It became the focus of a consumer watchdog investigation after being accused of "deceptive marketing" for a monthly membership program.
The lifestyle company provides customized personal subscription box services every three months with full size products. Started in 2010 by Daniel Broukhim, Michael Broukhim, Sam Teller and Katie Rosen Kitchens, it now boasts more than one million members. Last year, the company raised $80 million in a Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins last year and appears to be preparing for an eventual IPO as it slims down costs and refocuses on its high value products.
Launched in 2016, the finance management tool helps consumers to avoid overdrafts, provides paycheck advances and assists in budgeting. Last year, it began to roll out a digital bank account that was so popular that two million users signed up for a spot on the waitlist. The company, run by co-founder Jason Wilk, has raised $186 million in venture capital and counts billionaire Mark Cuban as an early investor and board member. Other backers include Playa Vista-based Chernin Group.
SURE offers multiple technology products to major insurance brands — its platform can host everything from renter's insurance to covering baggage, so customers never have to leave an agency's website. It also offers its platform to ecommerce marketplaces, embedding third-party insurance protections for customers to purchase all on the same webpage. Founded in 2014, the Santa Monica-based startup last raised an $8 million Series A round led by IA Capital in 2017.
Founded in 2009 by former Google CIO Douglas Merrill and ex-Sears executive Shawn Budde, Zest AI provides AI-powered credit underwriting. It helps banks and other lenders identify borrowers looking beyond traditional credit scores. It claims to improve approval rates while decreasing chargeoffs. The company uses models that aim to make the lending more transparent and less biased. This fall the company raised $15 million from Insight Partners, MicroVentures and other undisclosed investors, putting its pre-money valuation at $75 million, according to PItchbook.
Santa Monica-based PlayVS provides the technological and organizational infrastructure for high school esports leagues. The pandemic has helped the company further raise its profile as traditional sports teams have been benched. Founded in early 2018, PlayVS employs 46 people and has raised over $100 million. In addition to partnering with key educational institutions, it also has partnerships with major game publishers such as Riot and Epic Games.
A SaaS platform helps Shopify brands create mobile shopping apps. The marketing software saw shopping activity jump 50% over 90 days as the pandemic walloped traditional retailers. Founded by Eric Netsch and Sina Mobasser, the company raised a $10 million Series A round led by SignalFire, bringing the total raise to $15 million.
Papaya lets customers pay any bill from their mobile devices just by taking a picture of it. The mobile app touts the app's ease-of-use as a way to cut down on inbound bill calls and increase customer payments. Founded by Patrick Kann and Jason Metzler, the company has raised $25 million, most recently a S10 million round of convertible debt financing from Fika Ventures, Idealab and F-Prime Capital Partners.
FloQast is a management software that integrates enterprise resource planning software with checklists and Excel to manage bookkeeping. The cloud-based software company claims its system helps close the books up to three days faster. It is used by accounting departments at Lyft, Twilio, Zoom and The Golden State Warriors. In January, it raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Norwest Venture Partners to bring the total raise to $92.8 million.
The company's rights management platform expedites licensing payments and tracks partnership and sponsorship agreements. It counts BuzzFeed, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum and Sanrio (of Hello Kitty and friends fame) among its clients. In May it announced $8 million in Series A financing led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Nosara Capital, bringing the total raised to $12 million.
The Los Angeles-based company provides a touchless entry system that uses individuals cell phones to help with identification instead of a key card. The company offers a subscription for the cloud-enabled software that allows companies to help implement safety measures and it said demand has grown amid the pandemic. Founded by James Segil and Alex Kazerani the company raised $36 million led by Greycroft earlier this year, bringing its total funding to $63 million.
FightCamp is an interactive home workout system that turns your space into a boxing ring with a free standing bag, boxing gloves and punch trackers. The company is riding the wave of at-home fitness offerings including Peloton, Mirror and Zwift that have taken off during the pandemic as gyms closed. The company has raised $4.3 million to date.
The Santa Monica-based company provides video and interactive content for education in math, science, economics and standardized test prep. Founded in 2018 by Nhon Ma and Alex Lee, who previously founded Tutorcast, an online tutoring service, the company gathers post-graduate educated instructors to create video lessons for online learning.
The creator of a pan with a cult following on social media, this Los Angeles-based startup designs and retails cookware and dinnerware. Founded by Amir Tehrani, Zach Rosner and Shiza Shahid, the company completed its Series A funding earlier this year, bringing its total raised to date to $10 million.
For customers that have no formal credit or banking history, this company's application promises more financial access, choice and control. It gathers data to create a credit score that can be used to instantly underwrite and disburse loans ranging from $10 to $500. Co-founded by Shivani Siroya and Jonathan Blackwell, Tala has raised $217.2 million to date. Its investors include PayPal Ventures, Lowercase Capital and Data Collective.
Founded in 2007 by chief executive Ara Mahdessian and president Vahe Kuzoyan, ServiceTitan operates software that helps residential home contractors grow their businesses. It provides businesses tools like customer relationship management and accounting integration to streamline operations. The company closed a $73.82 million Series E funding round from undisclosed investors earlier this year.
Founded in 2017 by former professional "Call of Duty" player Matthew Haag, 100 Thieves manages esports competitions in major titles including "Counter Strike Global Offensive" and "League of Legends." The company also produces apparel and merchandise, opening a physical store and training ground called the "Cash App Compound" in collaboration with Fortnite earlier this year. The company has raised $60 million to date, from investors including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Aubrey Graham, better known as the rapper Drake.
This AI-powered customer service platform automates text conversations between customers and businesses to increase sales. Emotive uses their sales team to verify questions, distinguishing it from other bot-driven marketing services, according to the company. The company was founded in 2018 by Brian Zatulove and Zachary Wise, who serve as the chief executive and the chief operating officer, respectively. It has raised $6.65 million to date, from Floodgate Fund and TenOneTen Ventures.
Created by former hedge fund trader Sam Polk, the Los Angeles-based startup wants to be a healthy fast food chain. It prices its healthy pre-packaged meals around $5 in underserved communities while costing more in other neighborhoods with the goal of reducing so-called food deserts in low-income neighborhoods. It also offers a subscription delivery service. The company recently closed a $16 million Series B round led by Creadev along with Kaiser Permanente Ventures.
Lead art by Candice Navi.
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Los Angeles in general — and the San Fernando Valley specifically — are not exactly known for being hotbeds of enterprise software competition, but two of the world's leading providers of a niche type of accounting software are duking it out for market share and the competition is escalating during the coronavirus pandemic.
One is a startup that has raised $90 million in venture funding and the other is a publicly traded corporation with a market capitalization of $3.4 billion. Their headquarters are about five miles apart, the incumbent in Woodland Hills and the startup in Sherman Oaks.
"This is nuts to me," said Mike Whitmire, co-founder and CEO of FloQast. "It's the weirdest battle that you would never expect L.A. to have, with just the 405 between us."
FloQast, with 150 employees, closed a $40 million Series C round led by Norwest Venture Partners earlier this year at a $250 million valuation, according to Pitchbook. It is trying to nip away market share from Blackline, which was founded in 2001, and has 1,005 employees. They compete in an esoteric realm only accountants would know about: close management software. It helps companies automate the normally tedious process of closing their books every month to be able to generate more timely and accurate financial statements.
Blackline declined to make anyone available for this story.
A screencast of FloQast close management software's interface.
While many companies are hunkering down just trying to make it through to the other side of the pandemic, FloQast is using the crisis as an opportunity to raise the stakes against Blackline. Starting Wednesday, FloQast is giving the implementation of its software away for free to any Blackline customer through July, promising that once they sample FloQast they will never go back to Blackline.
"It's definitely an opportunity that has presented itself because of COVID-19," said Whitmire. "During good times people are happy to reimplement and will spend more money. Now that budgets are getting tighter people are looking more closely at what better options are being deployed."
Whitmire started FloQast in 2015 with $50,000 in pre-seed funding from the Amplify.LA accelerator after seeing the limitations of accounting software when he was an early employee at Cornerstone OnDemand, joining a year before it went public in 2011. He spoke to dot.LA this week on Zoom call with a virtual background of Kirk Gibson celebrating after his famous walk-off homerun the last time the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in 1988. Whitmire loves sports and relishes playing a scrappy David to Blackline's slow-footed Goliath.
"I'm super competitive," he said. "We poach clients from them, we've taken 25 to date."
FloQast has had considerable success selling its services to sports teams, who he says often have relatively complicated accounting practices. An early contract with the Golden State Warriors led to deals with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Chicago Cubs.
The company also has deals with around 900 other companies, including well-known names like Zoom, Yelp, Zillow, Grubhub, and Lyft.
A screenshot of Blackline's enterprise software.
FloQast charges anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 a year for a subscription, not an insignificant amount for companies trying to trim expenses in an uncertain environment. Whitmire makes the argument that his software saves substantial amounts of money in the long run. If that is not enough of a selling point, he is willing to offer struggling clients discounts or deferred payment until the crisis is over, which he says he can afford to do thanks to January's $40 million cash infusion.
"At times like these you need to be accommodating," said Whitmire. "We're in a position to do that. If a client needs a break in their billing, we can make that happen because of our balance sheet."
Of course, Blackline has a much bigger balance sheet, with $607 million cash on hand at the end of last year, but if Whitmire is nervous about so aggressively taking on such a bigger foe, he does not show it.
"It's been a lot of fun competing with them." said Whitmire. "They have a bullseye on us internally and I don't expect much to change."
Whitmire hopes that the competitor across the 405 will decide to set its sights more on big companies who employ hundreds or even thousands of accountants. "We are good at mid market," he said. "They are good at enterprise. They have bigger fish to fry."
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