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Behind the Investment- Software Defined Automation: Bringing Industrial DevOps into the 21st Century

The explosive demand for developer operations (or “DevOps”) tooling stems from a logical sequence of events. The world’s savviest businesses know they need to wield software to win in their respective markets. This has led to a massive increase in demand for both internally built and externally-procured software solutions. This demand is effectively insatiable, which means a limited supply of technical talent craves increases in efficiency in how software is developed and deployed. Thus, infrastructure software to build software is in itself the most in-demand category of software there is.

So, DevOps has rapidly emerged to address this major imbalance, and has brought new levels of efficiency and efficacy to modern software engineering. This trend elevated the importance of developer-friendly solutions, particularly these developers are self-selecting which tools they use to build and deploy software. Insight Partners has been at the forefront of backing DevOps vendors born on the back of these trends, such as Postman for API creation and management, LaunchDarkly for feature flagging, JFrog for artifact management, and dozens of others.

And yet, not all software is created in the same way, and not all forms of developers have benefited from these trends. Take a walk through any manufacturing or assembly line, and you’ll be confronted with a very different reality of how software is built. Where Netflix engineers might leverage GitHub for code versioning and collaboration, industrial automation engineers carry around USB sticks loaded up with their code. Where Amazon engineers leverage CI:CD to continually deploy updates for cloud-hosted applications, their industrial counterparts have to pause production to directly deploy code onto hardware via LAN cables. The seemingly tablestakes concepts of developer collaboration, code security, code quality analysis, centralized push requests, etc. simply have not been propagated in the industrial context so far. Why is the industrial Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) so clearly lagging behind modern best practices?

While the answer to this question has many nuances, perhaps the most important obstacle has been the unique physical infrastructure powering production lines. Nearly all electromechanical movements on production lines are run on physical “programmable logic controllers,” or “PLCs.” These are highly specialized physical computers that push repetitive commands to machinery and dictate their every motion. These PLCs are extremely reliable despite relying on low-level compute power and functionality, and they are built to operate for decades without downtime or human intervention.

 

Allen Bradley programmable logic controller

These PLCs can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, and in the current market environment are backlogged for many months due to massive chip supply chain breakdowns. Code is written in one of several common programming languages unique to industrial software, and it then runs locally after being deployed directly on these devices via LAN cables. There is no industrial GitHub equivalent supporting these languages. And unlike with cloud-hosted software, there is no centralized way of deploying applications remotely onto the PLCs.

This hardware dependency precludes industrial automation engineers from self-procuring developer tooling. Layered on top of the hardware obstacle are immense risks around security (e.g., hacking of production lines) or operations disruptions (e.g., applications crashing and forcing a pause in production) which are top of mind for IT leadership.

Industrial automation is widely-recognized as broken for all these reasons, yet the fundamental problems have remained unsolved for decades. Certain point solutions have emerged over the years to help industrial engineers manage and collaborate on their code, but adoption is nascent and they don’t address the fundamental problem: the industry is reliant on physical, siloed PLCs.

Software Defined Automation is bringing a new paradigm to the industrial SDLC

Enter Software Defined Automation. When we first met Josef and Axel, it was clear that they were the right founders to bring modern DevOps to the industrial environment. With senior engineering leadership experience in the industrial-focused teams at Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, as well as a combined 15+ years at Siemens, they intimately understand the nuances of this challenging problem space from both the next-gen cloud and industrial experiences.

Josef and Axel, co-founders of Software Defined Automation

Josef and Axel recognized that the underlying infrastructure problem around PLC dependencies must be solved to bring agility and flexibility to factories, so they are pioneering the concept of virtualized PLCs. “vPLCs” are industrial real-time control software workloads running on virtual machines, enabling instant provisioning, real-time performance monitoring, remote code deployment, and much more.

Virtualizing the PLC is already a hard and meaningful challenge, but the vision of the team goes much further. The SDA team sees this virtualized infrastructure layer as the core platform upon which to build a whole suite of DevOps and TechOps tooling, including code versioning, developer collaboration and cloud-based management of conventional and virtual PLCs. By solving the fundamental “PLC dependency” problem, they are unlocking a huge TAM for DevOps and TechOps in one of the largest and most complex markets in the world. In essence, SDA is equipping factories with modern end-to-end PLC lifecycle management tools.

Ultimately, the winner in this market will be much more than an infrastructure product or developer tool. It will be a single end-to-end platform that marries both, enabling not only independence from physical PLCs, but also a broad suite of DevOps and TechOps tooling tailored specifically for industrial automation. It was clear when speaking with SDA customers and market experts that they are combining the right value prop and team at the right time. We are thrilled to be backing this future category leader on their journey to bring industrial DevOps into the 21st Century and beyond.

Behind the Investment: Banked – Re-Imagining Payments for the Modern Global Economy

In 1958 Visa was founded as a bank consortium with an ambitious mission: create a network so extensive and holistic that merchants could accept card payments from any individual bank. Visa would pave the way for card transactions to replace cash, and in 2007 Visa spun out of the banks that created it to become an independent company. Today Visa is one of the most valuable FinTechs in the world (worth more than many of the banks that founded it). Together with Mastercard, it represents well north of half a trillion dollars in market cap, with almost every card transaction flowing through its network.

While card payments offer merchants massive convenience, they come with a price – every time you swipe your card, a network of intermediaries take a portion of the transaction. Globally, governments and private corporations have noted this, and we’ve seen the rise of government-enforced open banking through regulations like PSD2 and real-time payment networks like FedNow in the US, Faster Payments in the UK, UPI in India, and PIX in Brazil. These alternative payment networks allow merchants and consumers to transfer money between bank accounts in real time while bypassing the expensive traditional card networks.

Even with this massive cost savings for merchants, one challenge still exists – merchants today are global. They need to support customers using different banks and real-time payment networks, and merchants don’t want to manage the complexity of hundreds of integrations across countries, private bank networks, and legacy payment methods.

Enter: Banked. When we met Brad, Neil, and the team at Banked, the value proposition of their product was immediately apparent. Banked offers merchants a single integration to accept real-time payments at checkout, via a payment link, or through an API. Instead of losing the 2-3% on each transaction that merchants typically lose on interchange, Banked allows merchants to leverage open banking regulation and access government-issued payments rails to accept instant account-to-account payments. The payment flow is simple – biometric verification happens in the consumer’s banking app, offering a safe and inexpensive alternative to cards while still encompassing the speed and convenience of a card.

Banked is attacking the market head on – partnering with some of the largest financial institutions in the world to offer this to their merchants, and we are excited to be investing alongside many of these institutions. The coverage offered by strategic partners will enable Banked to leverage their robust network from day one – allowing their customers to accept real time payments globally.

Since being founded in 2018, Banked has hit the ground running with deep integrations and global partnerships with marquee financial services firms and payments companies, creating an unparalleled partner network of the world’s largest merchants. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Brad and the team at Banked on their vision of making real-time payments accessible to all merchants, and we are excited to lead a $15M investment alongside Citi, NAB, and Rapyd.

Behind the Investment- AIVF

IVF is a challenging process from start to finish. Embryologists must make pivotal decisions at each step in the process – sperm, egg, and embryo selection, incubation timing, when and for how long to freeze embryos, and many more. Each of these steps represents a potential point of failure in the process, and those choices, combined with other uncontrollable human and external factors, result in an estimated aggregate failure rate for each IVF cycle of about 70%.

Then there are the families. Patients lack visibility and ask at each step, “What exactly is happening?” only to receive vague answers. They feel left in the dark during one of the most important events in their lives. On top of this uncertainty, IVF is expensive. Each cycle costs thousands of dollars or more, creating a huge financial burden on patients, who sometimes must go through 3 or more cycles before achieving a successful pregnancy.

That is today.

Enter AiVF – a special company and founding team pioneering the concept of “computational embryology” to create the next generation operating system for IVF. AiVF is first to market, combining AI with clinical workflow software to create an end-to-end platform that: 1) improves IVF outcomes by supporting embryologists at critical decision points, 2) enables better, faster workflow and collaboration across the clinic, and 3) enables management to monitor clinic performance and implement improvements more effectively, all while providing patients with greater visibility throughout the process. They are starting with AI decision support for two of the highest-impact parts of the IVF cycle – embryo evaluation and preimplantation genetic testing – with plans to continue adding new algorithms over time.

Uncertainty throughout the healthcare ecosystem has led to an explosion of similar vertically applied AI products in recent years, driven by advancements in computer vision and healthcare data tracking that have enabled better and more robust model training than previously possible. This innovation is occurring across healthcare sectors, and we’ve partnered with companies building AI solutions for brain scans, gastrointestinal screening, dental care, mammograms, and others as part of our Computational Care thesis. Today’s low per-cycle success rate suggests that the IVF market is similarly ripe for these emerging technologies.

These solutions drive substantial clinical ROI from not only time and resource savings, but also, most importantly, meaningfully improved outcomes and experiences for patients. 

While clinical AI can be extremely valuable, there are limitations. Pure-play AI platforms are not always defensible in the long run, because their competitive advantage is primarily linked to the size and quality of the datasets used to train them. We believe that the most impactful businesses will create much more than algorithms, and instead will weave next generation technology into essential workflows to create a true support system for users every step of the way. We see a world in which AI will never replace clinical experts, but rather will augment their capabilities and extend their reach, enabling them to deliver care more efficiently and effectively to more patients than ever before. This is what made AiVF stand out in the market.

In an industry where demand far outweighs supply and access, AiVF is empowering more successful outcomes while also enabling greater patient throughput. In addition to their clinically validated AI, AiVF has also created workflow tooling that connects directly to EMRs and time-lapse incubation systems to automatically capture data, update patient records, and measure clinic and embryologist performance KPIs. Their end goal is to equip every embryologist with the tools to perform at par with the best in the industry, and a platform that enables even the world’s top clinics to operate with unprecedented efficiency.

This vision to bring together AI and clinical workflow software, combined with an outstanding founding team capable of bringing the vision to life, gave us strong conviction to partner with AiVF as the IVF technology platform of the future. Founders Daniella Gilboa and Professor Daniel Seidman each have over 15 years of industry experience, and they bring the right values paired with a deep understanding of the challenges IVF clinics face at every stage of the clinical process. We’re thrilled to be partnering with them and the entire AiVF team early in their journey as they aim to solve these challenges and create a world where software and compute, plus empathy with the use case and the family, enable IVF to be more successful and accessible for all. 

Behind the Investment: Canary Technologies – Bringing Hotels into the 21st Century

Every day our lives are becoming more efficient and seamless through technology – we can tap a few buttons and meals & groceries appear magically on our doorsteps, we can summon a car to take us to and from wherever we please, we can control the lighting, temperature, etc. of our homes from the palm of our hands thanks to “smart home” IoT devices. Wherever we look, everything is becoming more connected and automated in our personal lives. As a result, businesses are scrambling to keep up with the pace of innovation, leading to the “consumerization of B2B software” – simply put, we expect the simplicity and superior UI/UX of our consumer applications in our place of work or wherever we interact with businesses.

In contrast, the hotel industry has been dominated by legacy software called PMS systems (“Property Management Systems”) and payment processors to manage back-office/day-to-day operations and to facilitate payments, respectively. Many of the “leading” solutions in the PMS space were built 20+ years ago(!) and have primarily focused on backend functionality for hotels. The “frontend” of hotels has historically been overlooked as purpose-built solutions to manage, enhance, and automate the guest experience simply weren’t prioritized, and that’s where Canary comes in.

From the start, Canary has taken an integration-first approach, connecting deeply into the PMS systems and payment processors to minimize disruption for their customers’ workflows, while tackling a major problem for hotels and their end users – digital authorizations & contracting. With Canary, customers no longer need to present a physical card or sign physical stacks of paper to authorize payments or contract with a hotel for their stay, and hotels don’t have to fax/email around authorizations in a non-compliant way or risk an employee leaving sensitive PII (“Personal Identifiable Information”) laying around that could be stolen. With their Digital Auth solution, Canary validates credit cards for hoteliers, helping drive down fraud and chargebacks while unlocking a digital experience for guests:

  • We did offer the service, but it was a fax or an email. Anyone could fill out that form – there was no guarantee that someone didn’t steal the card. The nice thing about Canary is that you don’t have to be in front of a computer and they can sign with their finger. Canary was protecting us as a business – making sure that the card wasn’t stolen” – International Hotel Franchise
  • “The major return on investment is the secure validation of the cardholder…it protects us (being the hotel) to make sure that the payment is secure” – International Hotel Franchise

Next, Canary empowered hotels with a seamless end-to-end guest experience through their Guest Management Suite, enabling contactless check-in, guest messaging, dynamic upsells, digital tipping, and contactless checkout while unlocking significant time-savings, cost-savings, and revenue acceleration ROI:

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  • “It pays for itself in terms of the add-ons that we’re able to push to the customers and allow them to opt in for…[We get] 1.5-2x as much in transactions as what we pay for Canary.” – Boutique Hotel Franchise
  • “The price of Canary is less than what we would have had in chargebacks in a year, even if it was a low year, not to mention the time saving as well and the availability to take reservations that we wouldn’t normally be able to because people don’t have access to a printer …I’d say what we pay for Canary, we save probably double that.” – International Hotel Franchise

As for the genesis of the partnership between Insight Partners & Canary Technologies, the company first came on our radar way back in September 2018 after participating in Y-Combinator. In the years following, we consistently reached out to Harman & SJ to start building the relationship but they were heads down building; we didn’t give up and kept knocking. Ultimately, our friends at F-Prime (Gaurav Tuli) ended up leading a $15M Series A announced in February 2022, and shortly thereafter introduced us to Harman in March 2022 – nearly 3.5 years after our initial outreach (and after a global pandemic rattled the entire travel industry!).

We could not be more thrilled to be leading Canary’s $30M Series B with participation from F-Prime, Y-Combinator, Thayer Ventures, and Commerce Ventures. Now, post-investment we remain eager to scale up Canary’s durable business & accelerating commercialization, and to double down on Harman and SJ’s vision to build a cloud-native, full suite of purpose-built software for hoteliers.

Behind the Investment – Fermyon

Sixteen years since AWS launched EC2, the cloud has become a complex ecosystem that can be daunting to developers trying to deploy applications. WebAssembly (Wasm), a binary executable format, offers a glimmer of hope for a simpler new world where developers can “ship once, run anywhere” with many security, performance, and cost benefits. With recent advances in the WebAssembly community, there is an opportunity to use this new technology to simplify application delivery — and we believe the team at Fermyon can do just that.

Now, we are excited to announce that we are partnering with Fermyon on this journey by leading their $20M Series A.

What’s WebAssembly?

WebAssembly is a binary instruction format that allows you to convert code from various programming languages (e.g., Rust, Swift, Python) into a format that can be run on any browser or virtual machine.

Wasm was developed by Mozilla engineers to run inside the browser because it efficiently ran computationally intensive tasks like running video games, streaming television shows, and using complex design tools such as Figma in a browser.

Enthusiasm for Wasm is now shifting to server-side applications — i.e., Wasm as a highly portable mechanism to run code directly on VMs or bare metal. Similar to how containers did not replace VMs but found a space where they were better suited, we believe WebAssembly modules live side by side with containers — offering a more compelling solution than containers in many scenarios.

What’s Fermyon?

Fermyon is a new company that develops open source and commercial products for WebAssembly and helps steer the Bytecode Alliance aimed at creating open standards for the Wasm ecosystem. Their first open-source product, Spin, launched in March to make building Wasm microservices easier for developers. This week at Kubecon, the Fermyon team launched Fermyon Cloud.

Fermyon Cloud is a PaaS for WebAssembly micro services. Their team eloquently defines a PaaS as a “cloud-based hosting environment into which a developer can deploy their own application, and have the platform manage configuration, deployments, releases, logging, and other operational concerns.” By building a PaaS around Wasm, Fermyon can provide unprecedented performance, cost, security, and most importantly, simplicity for developers. This approach is especially exciting today at a time when the cloud has become complicated, and there is a newfound desire to simplify operations.

We have been so impressed by Matt, Radu, and the entire Fermyon team who have become key thought leaders and community advocates in the WebAssembly world. Congratulations to the team on launching Fermyon Cloud. We’re thrilled to welcome Fermyon into the Insight family!

Behind the Investment: Relevize – The Future of Channel Activation

With escalating competition at the global stage and increasingly demanding revenue targets, enterprise software vendors must innovate to continue to accelerate topline growth at scale. As a result, channel-led GTM and digital-first marketing strategies are becoming need-to-have for enterprise companies to hit revenue targets. Historically, channel partners were specialized to execute technical implementations and/or provide services on behalf of their partners for their end customers, but now it is critical that channel partners transition from strictly implementation partners to revenue generators.

  • “The market is expanding and we can’t hire fast enough to meet the demand. The company has realized that the value the partners bring are beyond services and delivery but are also critical to support our success and our goals to now become a $15B company and beyond. There’s no way we can keep up with the growth without a channel model.” – Public Relevize Customer

The challenge in executing on this transition, however, is twofold: 1) Channel partners lack the digital GTM expertise to help accelerate their partner vendors’ GTM through digital channels 2) Legacy PRM (“Partner Relationship Management”) systems are designed as central repositories for channel partner contacts & content, and weren’t designed to seamlessly accelerate channel GTM functions; they are cumbersome, unintuitive, and require expertise to extract significant ROI. This ultimately leaves a massive gap in the market and creates a significant opportunity.

Enter Relevize, the premier Channel Activation Platform, with their initial product providing purpose-built co-marketing automation for the channel. With Relevize, a partner is guided through a templatized platform where they can easily select campaigns / specific content, edit copy, co-brand, select target buyer persona / prospect segment, and launch comarketing campaigns directly on social mediums to drive net new lead generation & acceleration.

  • “So far we’re at a 38x return on our investment. These leads are larger than our normal deal size. The Relevize leads are $25K and are normally $5.5K. This was the best thing that we have ever run!”– Relevize Customer with >500 FTEs
  • “A partner doing an event would be lucky to get half the lead count that we’re getting from our investment for one campaign in Relevize. The ROI for us with Relevize has been better and more visible than everything we did with events. Not only have we been able to tie back pipeline, but also closed business.” – Public Relevize Customer

As for the genesis of the partnership between Insight & Relevize, the company first came onto our radar via another member of the Insight Partners family – Fairmarkit. Fairmarkit informed us about Relevize’s vision to build purpose-built GTM technology for the channel, and given our track record of partnering with and scaling enterprise software companies, we knew Relevize was tackling a massive pain point. We quickly arranged an intro call with the CEO, Mike Nardella, in February 2021 and immediately confirmed that Relevize would be extremely strategic for our portfolio and that there would be a strong pull from the broader B2B SaaS market for their offering. We stayed in close contact and come summer 2022 Relevize had commercialized rapidly with leading enterprise vendors, which today include New Relic, Zscaler, Chili Piper, and many more. Relevize had matured to the scale where Insight could lean in heavily with our value-add resources and further accelerate their growth to take the business to the next level!

We could not be more thrilled to be leading Relevize’s $6M Seed with participation from Hyperplane, Newfund, 1984.vc, and Weekend Fund, and I personally could not be more grateful to serve as Board Director on behalf of Insight Partners. Now, post-investment we remain eager to double down on Relevize’s enterprise velocity & prolific land-and-expand motion as they create the new category of Channel Activation.

Behind the Investment: Jasper

If you’re not familiar with generative AI, it’s time to get acquainted. Generative AI is a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with creating content – content that can take any form: code, music, videos, and text. Underpinning generative AI are large language models (LLMs), perhaps the most heralded ad-vancement in AI’s history. LLMs can train neural networks to recognize increasingly intricate patterns in data and can be embedded seamlessly within software applications to help reduce the human capital required to produce content. They’ve changed the perception of a technology that people once thought was siloed to automating repetitive, simple tasks to one that can now augment and even exceed human creativity.

Recently, there have been several advancements in LLMs, including Google’s BERT, Microsoft and Nvid-ia’s Megatron-Turing NLG, and OpenAI’s GPT-3 and DALL-E 2. After decades of research and mass amounts of training, these models have surpassed our initial expectations to finally deliver (super)human results. However, accessibility and use of such models has been reserved for those with strong machine learning (ML) knowledge and technical experience.

Enter Jasper.

Seizing the opportunity to democratize access to such powerful AI based tools, Jasper built a community-driven platform that makes it easy for anyone to write original and personalized copy by abstracting away the underlying complexities so that the creator can simply focus on producing quality content. As expert marketers, Jasper’s founders Dave Rogenmoser, JP Morgan, and Chris Hull saw the potential generative AI could have when creating marketing collateral, saving valuable time and resources for their users. With Jasper, individual creators and businesses alike can quickly break through writer’s block to take on all as-pects of the job, from drafting blog posts and ad copy to even creating original art.

Jasper attacked the market from the ground up by building a world-class user community and creating 50+ intuitive, workflow-specific templates for a variety of use cases supported in 25+ languages. The team continues to put the customer first by listening to their needs and responding with product releases to streamline their workflows, such as the new Chrome browser extension that lets users take Jasper with them across the full range of websites and content platforms they already use. This customer centric, PLG approach ignited the business to say the least. Within 18 months, Jasper experienced unprecedented and astounding growth, scaling to over 70,000 paying subscribers that range from individual creatives to large teams at content-forward companies. It’s clear that AI will continue to transform the way enterprises de-velop content and convey ideas, and Jasper is the best platform to help businesses take part in it.

With a shared vision and passion for redefining accessibility to generative AI, Insight is honored to be lead-ing Jasper’s $125M Series A with participation from Bessemer, IVP, Foundational Capital, Founders Circle Capital, Coatue, and HubSpot. With Jasper, we’ve come closer than ever to passing the Turing Test…can you tell who wrote this?

The Importance of Partner Ecosystem Management- Behind The Investment: WorkSpan

Behind the Investment: Idoven – Improving Cardiovascular Care With AI

Behind the Investment: Privado