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Tag Archives: Warner-Music-Group

Sisense, an enterprise startup that has built a business analytics business out of the premise of making big data as accessible as possible to users — whether it be through graphics on mobile or desktop apps, or spoken through Alexa — is announcing a big round of funding today and a large jump in valuation to underscore its traction. The company has picked up $100 million in a growth round of funding that catapults Sisense’s valuation to over $1 billion, funding that it plans to use to continue building out its tech, as well as for sales, marketing and development efforts.

For context, this is a huge jump: The company was valued at only around $325 million in 2016 when it raised a Series E, according to PitchBook. (It did not disclose valuation in 2018, when it raised a venture round of $80 million.) It now has some 2,000 customers, including Tinder, Philips, Nasdaq and the Salvation Army.

This latest round is being led by the high-profile enterprise investor Insight Venture Partners, with Access Industries, Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, DFJ Growth and others also participating. The Access investment was made via Claltech in Israel, where some details of the round leaked out as rumors in recent days. Insight is in the news today for another big deal: Wearing its private equity hat, the firm acquired Veeam for $5 billion. (And that speaks to a particular kind of trajectory for enterprise companies that the firm backs: Veeam had already been a part of Insight’s venture portfolio.)

Mature enterprise startups have proven their business cases are going to be an ongoing theme in this year’s fundraising stories, and Sisense is part of that theme, with annual recurring revenues of over $100 million speaking to its stability and current strength. The company has also made some key acquisitions to boost its business, such as the acquisition of Periscope Data last year (coincidentally, also for $100 million, I understand).

Its rise also speaks to a different kind of trend in the market: In the wider world of business intelligence, there is an increasing demand for more digestible data in order to better tap advances in data analytics to use it across organizations. This was also one of the big reasons why Salesforce gobbled up Tableau last year for a slightly higher price: $15.7 billion.

Sisense CEO Amir Orad explains why he raised $100M

Mature enterprise startups have proven their business cases are going to be an ongoing theme in this year’s fundraising stories, and Sisense is part of that theme, with annual recurring revenues of over $100 million speaking to its stability and current strength. The company has also made some key acquisitions to boost its business, such as the acquisition of Periscope Data last year (coincidentally, also for $100 million, I understand).

Sisense, bringing in both sleek end user products but also a strong theme of harnessing the latest developments in areas like machine learning and AI to crunch the data and order it in the first place, represents a smaller and more fleet of foot alternative for its customers. “We found a way to make accessing data extremely simple, mashing it together in a logical way and embedding it in every logical place,” explained CEO Amir Orad to us in 2018.

“We have enjoyed watching the Sisense momentum in the past 12 months, the traction from its customers as well as from industry leading analysts for the company’s cloud native platform and new AI capabilities. That coupled with seeing more traction and success with leading companies in our portfolio and outside, led us to want to continue and grow our relationship with the company and lead this funding round,” said Jeff Horing, managing director at Insight Venture Partners, in a statement.

To note, Access Industries is an interesting backer which might also potentially shape up to be strategic, given its ownership of Warner Music Group, Alibaba, Facebook, Square, Spotify, Deezer, Snap and Zalando.

“Given our investments in market leading companies across diverse industries, we realize the value in analytics and machine learning and we could not be more excited about Sisense’s trajectory and traction in the market,” added Claltech’s Daniel Shinar in a statement.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2020/01/09/sisense-nabs-another-100m-at-a-1b-valuation-for-its-big-data-business-analytics-solutions/

Kobalt Music Group is driving the music industry to provide more transparency and faster royalty payments to musicians and challenging the traditional record labels and publishers with its own alternative service offerings that don’t take ownership of copyrights. Competition and market size are headwinds in its future growth, however, and the incumbents are thriving not dying. As I’ll outline in this final post of the Kobalt EC-1, its competitive edge rests in its administrative infrastructure and services for songwriters built on top of it.

This is Part IV of the Kobalt Music Group EC-1. Catch up on the prior posts in the series: Part I (founding story and overview), Part II (an operating system for the music industry), and Part III (music’s middle class and DIY stars).

Kobalt’s alternative to a record label, AWAL, is targeting a small but growing “middle class” of recording artists earning tens of thousands of dollars per year in royalties. But as I outlined in my last article, this business is sandwiched between the countless artists who make very little money, and the global superstars who are all owned by the big three labels. Revenue growth may be slow.

Kobalt’s publishing division, Kobalt Music Publishing, is in a stronger competitive position by comparison. Unlike recording artists, songwriters aren’t concerned with building fan followings and marketing themselves to consumers. Since the high end of the earning spectrum is lower for songwriters and the dynamics of fame on social media aren’t relevant to their careers, professional songwriters can be categorized in just the two camps of middle class and stars.

In each case, their core needs are:

  1. Administration of their royalties
  2. Matchmaking to find the right co-writers and to find the right recording artist to actually record (or “cut”) their song
  3. Pitching their songs for use in films, commercials, games, etc. (called sync licensing).

Here’s a closer look at this market opportunity — perhaps one of the most interesting areas of growth in the music industry today.

Songwriting’s middle class

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Image via Getty Images / NoSystem images

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/26/kobalts-edge-in-changing-the-music-industry/

You may not have heard of Kobalt before, but you probably engage with the music it oversees every day, if not almost every hour. Combining a technology platform to better track ownership rights and royalties of songs with a new approach to representing musicians in their careers, Kobalt has risen from the ashes of the 2000 dot-com bubble to become a major player in the streaming music era. It is the leading alternative to incumbent music publishers (who represent songwriters) and is building a new model record label for the growing “middle class’ of musicians around the world who are stars within niche audiences.

Having predicted music’s digital upheaval early, Kobalt has taken off as streaming music has gone mainstream across the US, Europe, and East Asia. In the final quarter of last year, it represented the artists behind 38 of the top 100 songs on U.S. radio.

Along the way, it has secured more than $200 million in venture funding from investors like GV, Balderton, and Michael Dell, and its valuation was last pegged at $800 million. It confirmed in April that it is raising another $100 million to boot. Kobalt Music Group now employs over 700 people in 14 offices, and GV partner Avid Larizadeh Duggan even left her firm to become Kobalt’s COO.

How did a Swedish saxophonist from the 1980s transform into a leading entrepreneur in music’s digital transformation? Why are top technology VCs pouring money into a company that represents a roster of musicians? And how has the rise of music streaming created an opening for Kobalt to architect a new approach to the way the industry works?

Gaining an understanding of Kobalt and its future prospects is a vehicle for understanding the massive change underway across the global music industry right now and the opportunities that is and isn’t creating for entrepreneurs.

This article is Part 1 of the Kobalt EC-1, focused on the company’s origin story and growth. Part 2 will look at the company’s journey to create a new model for representing songwriters and tracking their ownership interests through the complex world of music royalties. Part 3 will look at Kobalt’s thesis about the rise of a massive new middle class of popular musicians and the record label alternative it is scaling to serve them.

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Early lessons on the tough road of entrepreneurship

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Image via Kobalt Music

It’s tough to imagine a worse year to launch a music company than 2000. Willard Ahdritz, a Swede living in London, left his corporate consulting job and sold his home for £200,000 to fully commit to his idea of a startup collecting royalties for musicians. In hindsight, his timing was less than impeccable: he launched Kobalt just as Napster and music piracy exploded onto the mainstream and mere months before the dot-com crash would wipe out much of the technology industry.

The situation was dire, and even his main seed investor told him he was doomed once the market crashed. “Eating an egg and ham sandwich…have you heard this saying? The chicken is contributing but the pig is committed,” Ahdritz said when we first spoke this past April (he has an endless supply of sayings). “I believe in that — to lose is not an option.”

Entrepreneurial hardship though is something that Ahdritz had early experience with. Born in Örebro, a city of 100,000 people in the middle of Sweden, Ahdritz spent a lot of time as a kid playing in the woods, which also holding dual interests in music and engineering. The intersection of those two converged in the synthesizer revolution of early electronic music, and he was fascinated by bands like Kraftwerk.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/09/how-a-swedish-saxophonist-built-kobalt-the-worlds-next-music-unicorn/

Artiphon, the startup behind the electronic instrument that it’s dubbed the Instrument 1, has raised $2 million in seed funding.

We previously described the Instrument 1 as a symphony, rock band and DJ that you can hold in your hand. It’s a device that allows you to create the sounds of a guitar, violin, bass, piano or drum machine without any real training.

Back in 2015, Artiphon raised $1.3 million for the Instrument 1 on Kickstarter, blowing past its goal of $75,000. The new funding is a more traditional investment, led by Warner Music Group — in fact, it’s the first publicly announced investment from WMG Boost, Warner’s seed investment fund for music-related startups.

“As true innovators in music creativity, Artiphon is a strong example of the types of companies and products we seek to support,” said WMG’s head of innovation and emergin technology Jeff Bronikowski in a statement. “They’ve already expanded the concept of the musical instrument as a smart, connected device and we’re excited to help them drive the future of interactive music.”

Artiphon co-founder and CEO Mike Butera told me that his goal for the Instrument 1 is to remove skill as a barrier to entry for creating music. In fact, he recalled receiving responses to the Kickstarter campaign that said, “How dare you let anyone sound good? I worked so hard to sound good, and now you’re making that accessible to anyone.”

Butera’s response? “Welcome to the future.”

To be clear, he isn’t trying to replace traditional instruments — he said he still plays his classical violin. Nor does he think the product is just for beginners. Instead, he says the Instrument 1 (with pricing currently starting at $399) can also augment the skills of trained musicians, allowing them to make sounds they never could with a regular instrument.

While I spent more than a decade playing classical piano, it was basically half a lifetime ago — I think it’s fair to say that I fall closer to the beginner side of the spectrum.

So it was a real delight for me to try out the Instrument 1. With just a few pointers from Butera, I quickly found myself noodling around and making different instrument sounds. In some ways, it reminded me of playing Guitar Hero, but with far more expressiveness.

Butera, by the way, fully embraces that comparison. He told me, “We’re interested in making music as fun, or more fun, than playing games.”

Founder

Artiphon Founder and CEO Mike Butera

While the product is called the Instrument 1, Butera told me the name is meant to emphasize the idea of many instruments in one — it doesn’t mean Artiphon is already working on an Instrument 2. The startup may release more hardware in the future, but he said he wants to move away from “a consumer electronics mindset” where you convince someone to buy a new gadget every year or two, and instead create an instrument “that could last for years.”

“We are committed to the quality of the Instrument 1,” Butera said.

So the next steps for Artiphon include exploring more distribution channels, as well as building more software.

Artiphon has already created its own app for the Instrument 1, and the device is also compatible with a wide range of music software like Garage Band, but he said, “Okay, what can we do to help people actually play a song? It starts with the instrument … This is the foundation, now we’re getting to design experiences for people around the instrument that are in software.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/27/artiphon-seed-funding/