APIs are the next big SaaS wave – gpgmail


While the software revolution started out slowly, over the past few years it’s exploded and the fastest-growing segment to-date has been the shift towards software as a service or SaaS.

SaaS has dramatically lowered the intrinsic total cost of ownership for adopting software, solved scaling challenges and taken away the burden of issues with local hardware. In short, it has allowed a business to focus primarily on just that — its business — while simultaneously reducing the burden of IT operations.

Today, SaaS adoption is increasingly ubiquitous. According to IDG’s 2018 Cloud Computing Survey, 73% of organizations have at least one application or a portion of their computing infrastructure already in the cloud. While this software explosion has created a whole range of downstream impacts, it has also caused software developers to become more and more valuable.

The increasing value of developers has meant that, like traditional SaaS buyers before them, they also better intuit the value of their time and increasingly prefer businesses that can help alleviate the hassles of procurement, integration, management, and operations. Developer needs to address those hassles are specialized.

They are looking to deeply integrate products into their own applications and to do so, they need access to an Application Programming Interface, or API. Best practices for API onboarding include technical documentation, examples, and sandbox environments to test.

APIs tend to also offer metered billing upfront. For these and other reasons, APIs are a distinct subset of SaaS.

For fast-moving developers building on a global-scale, APIs are no longer a stop-gap to the future—they’re a critical part of their strategy. Why would you dedicate precious resources to recreating something in-house that’s done better elsewhere when you can instead focus your efforts on creating a differentiated product?

Thanks to this mindset shift, APIs are on track to create another SaaS-sized impact across all industries and at a much faster pace. By exposing often complex services as simplified code, API-first products are far more extensible, easier for customers to integrate into, and have the ability to foster a greater community around potential use cases.

Graphics courtesy of Accel

Billion-dollar businesses building APIs

Whether you realize it or not, chances are that your favorite consumer and enterprise apps—Uber, Airbnb, PayPal, and countless more—have a number of third-party APIs and developer services running in the background. Just like most modern enterprises have invested in SaaS technologies for all the above reasons, many of today’s multi-billion dollar companies have built their businesses on the backs of these scalable developer services that let them abstract everything from SMS and email to payments, location-based data, search and more.

Simultaneously, the entrepreneurs behind these API-first companies like Twilio, Segment, Scale and many others are building sustainable, independent—and big—businesses.

Valued today at over $22 billion, Stripe is the biggest independent API-first company. Stripe took off because of its initial laser-focus on the developer experience setting up and taking payments. It was even initially known as /dev/payments!

Stripe spent extra time building the right, idiomatic SDKs for each language platform and beautiful documentation. But it wasn’t just those things, they rebuilt an entire business process around being API-first.

Companies using Stripe didn’t need to fill out a PDF and set up a separate merchant account before getting started. Once sign-up was complete, users could immediately test the API with a sandbox and integrate it directly into their application. Even pricing was different.

Stripe chose to simplify pricing dramatically by starting with a single, simple price for all cards and not breaking out cards by type even though the costs for AmEx cards versus Visa can differ. Stripe also did away with a monthly minimum fee that competitors had.

Many competitors used the monthly minimum to offset the high cost of support for new customers who weren’t necessarily processing payments yet. Stripe flipped that on its head. Developers integrate Stripe earlier than they integrated payments before, and while it costs Stripe a lot in setup and support costs, it pays off in brand and loyalty.

Checkr is another excellent example of an API-first company vastly simplifying a massive yet slow-moving industry. Very little had changed over the last few decades in how businesses ran background checks on their employees and contractors, involving manual paperwork and the help of 3rd party services that spent days verifying an individual.

Checkr’s API gives companies immediate access to a variety of disparate verification sources and allows these companies to plug Checkr into their existing on-boarding and HR workflows. It’s used today by more than 10,000 businesses including Uber, Instacart, Zenefits and more.

Like Checkr and Stripe, Plaid provides a similar value prop to applications in need of banking data and connections, abstracting away banking relationships and complexities brought upon by a lack of tech in a category dominated by hundred-year-old banks. Plaid has shown an incredible ramp these past three years, from closing a $12 million Series A in 2015 to reaching a valuation over $2.5 billion this year.

Today the company is fueling an entire generation of financial applications, all on the back of their well-built API.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 10.41.02 AM

Graphics courtesy of Accel

Then and now

Accel’s first API investment was in Braintree, a mobile and web payment systems for e-commerce companies, in 2011. Braintree eventually sold to, and became an integral part of, PayPal as it spun out from eBay and grew to be worth more than $100 billion. Unsurprisingly, it was shortly thereafter that our team decided to it was time to go big on the category. By the end of 2014 we had led the Series As in Segment and Checkr and followed those investments with our first APX conference in 2015.

Plaid, Segment, Auth0, and Checkr had only raised Seed or Series A financings! And we are even more excited and bullish on the space. To convey just how much API-first businesses have grown in such a short period of time, we thought it would be useful perspective to share some metrics over the past five years, which we’ve broken out in the two visuals included above in this article.

While SaaS may have pioneered the idea that the best way to do business isn’t to actually build everything in-house, today we’re seeing APIs amplify this theme. At Accel, we firmly believe that APIs are the next big SaaS wave — having as much if not more impact as its predecessor thanks to developers at today’s fastest-growing startups and their preference for API-first products. We’ve actively continued to invest in the space (in companies like, Scale, mentioned above).

And much like how a robust ecosystem developed around SaaS, we believe that one will continue to develop around APIs. Given the amount of progress that has happened in just a few short years, Accel is hosting our second APX conference to once again bring together this remarkable community and continue to facilitate discussion and innovation.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 10.41.10 AM

Graphics courtesy of Accel


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Could Peloton be the next Apple? – gpgmail


Hello and welcome back to Equity, gpgmail’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we were back in the SF studio, with Kate and Alex on hand to chat venture, business, startups, and IPOs with Iris Choi. Choi is a partner at Floodgate, and one of the very few folks who have ever been invited back on the show.

Despite Floodgate being an early-stage firm, Choi was more than willing to dig into the week’s later-stage topics, starting with the Peloton IPO filing. Kate was stoked about the offering (her piece here, Alex’s notes here). Peloton, a fitness, media, hardware (and more) company, is a lot different than your run-of-the-mill enterprise SaaS exits.

Next Alex ran the team through a list of impending IPOs that we care about. There are a number of venture-backed companies looking to go public before the stock market falls apart. More on each when they price.

After the S-1 march, we turned to personnel news, namely that Instacart’s CFO is leaving the firm after about four years with the companyRavi Gupta is joining Sequoia Capital. We’ll tell you why.

Next, we touched on two rounds. First, a Kleiner deal into Consider, an app that brings power-tooling to email. And then we chatted about Inkitt, another Kleiner deal. Why the pair of early-stage rounds? Because Alex recently went to Kleiner to chat with its new partner team about where they’ll deploy capital in the future.

And that took us comfortably overtime. A big thanks to Choi for joining us, again, and you for sticking with the show. More next week!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.




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Instacart CFO Ravi Gupta to exit for Sequoia Capital – gpgmail


Instacart‘s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, Ravi Gupta, will exit the on-demand grocery delivery company at the end of the year to “return to his investing roots,” the company told gpgmail this morning. The executive will join Sequoia Capital as a partner on the growth team beginning in January.

The company’s vice president of finance and strategy, Sagar Sanghvi, has been promoted to CFO, a critical role as the company gears up for an initial public offering as soon as next year. Instacart is actively searching for a COO replacement.

Valued at nearly $8 billion, Instacart has raised a total of $1.9 billion in venture capital funding since it was founded in 2012. Co-founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta has remained mum on any details surrounding the company’s IPO plans, telling gpgmail last fall that a float “will be on the horizon.”

Instacart’s vice president of finance and strategy, Sagar Sanghvi, has been promoted to CFO.

After a decade at the investment firm KKR, Gupta joined Instacart in 2015 to manage both the company’s finances and operations as its first CFO and COO. He’s worked closely with Sequoia for some time; the firm first invested in Instacart prior to Gupta’s hiring, leading an $8.5 million Series A financing in 2013. Sequoia’s outspoken partner Michael Moritz sits on the company’s board of directors.

Roelof Botha, another Sequoia partner, says the venture capital firm helped San Francisco-based Instacart recruit Gupta to the C-suite years ago: “With Ravi now returning to his passion of investing, he can help other visionaries – like Apoorva – turn their dreams into reality,” Botha said in an emailed statement. “Ravi’s operational and investing experience, along with his strong work ethic and humility, will make him an invaluable partner to founders and our team.”

When Gupta joined Instacart to oversee finance, corporate development and strategic business initiatives in what was a newly created role, the business, a newly minted “unicorn,” had only 300 employees. Today, Instacart has roughly 1,000 full-time employees and another 100,000 “shoppers,” or contract workers who fulfill the online grocery orders.

“In 2015, I met Apoorva and he shared his vision for Instacart with me,” Gupta said in an emailed statement. “I was truly inspired and knew this was a team I wanted to join and a company I wanted to help build.”

Following his departure, Gupta will continue to advise Instacart on a variety of matters, the company said.

Instacart is announcing another two high-level hires this morning. Jakii Chu has joined the company as its chief marketing officer after nearly five years at sports merchandising business Fanatics, where she was senior vice president of e-commerce.

Chris Rogers, the former managing director of Apple Canada, has been hired as its vice president of retail. Rogers will be based in Instacart’s Toronto office, which Instacart opened earlier this year, reporting to chief business officer Nilam Ganenthiran.

Instacart delivers groceries to 5,500 cities across the U.S. and Canada, making deliveries from some 20,000 stores. Earlier this year, Instacart began its expansion into alcohol delivery. The service is now available in 20 states.

A graduate of Y Combinator, Instacart is also backed by D1 Capital Partners, Coatue Management, Thrive Capital, Canaan Partners, Andreessen Horowitz and several others.


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The 11 best startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 1 – gpgmail


Y Combinator, the genesis for many of the companies that have shaped Silicon Valley including Airbnb, PagerDuty and Stripe, has minted another 200 some graduates. Half of those companies made their pitch to investors today during Day 1 of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 Demo Day event and we’re here to tell you which startups are on the fast-track to the unicorn club.

Eighty-four startups presented (read the full run-through of every company plus some early analysis here) and after chatting with investors, batch founders and of course, debating amongst ourselves, we’ve nailed down the 11 most promising startups to present during Day 1. We’ll be back Tuesday with our second round of top picks.



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Walmart Canada rolls out nationwide grocery delivery through Instacart – gpgmail


Walmart’s relationship with Instacart deepened today with an expansion of their partnership across Canada for grocery delivery. Walmart Canada had previously run a 17-store pilot program with Instacart, starting last September, in both the Greater Toronto area and Winnipeg. With the expansion, Walmart Canada will offer same-day grocery delivery from nearly 200 Walmart stores nationwide.

Canadian Walmart shoppers can now shop online via Instacart’s website or mobile app, select their city and store, then add items to a grocery cart, check out and choose their delivery window. The delivery can arrive in as fast as one hour, or it can be scheduled as much as five days in advance.

The service is currently live in cities and communities throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the retailer says.

Walmart Canada isn’t the only Walmart arm to have a relationship with the same-day delivery service. Last year, Walmart’s Sam’s Club also began working with Instacart to offer same-day delivery from its warehouse stores in parts of the U.S. That partnership expanded last fall, and recently began to power Sam’s Club’s new alcohol delivery service, as well.

Walmart in the U.S. also offers an online grocery service, but has chosen to work with other delivery providers, including Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire, Roadie and Postmates, after ending relationships with Uber, Lyft and Deliv. According to reports, Walmart didn’t want to work with Instacart in the U.S. because it only wants to use the provider for last-mile deliveries — and Instacart wanted to list Walmart inventory in its app.

In Canada, however, that arrangement seems to be working out.

With the expansion, Instacart delivery is now available to more than 70% of Canadian households, up from 60% in January of this year. By comparison, Instacart is available in more than 80% of U.S. households.

It’s not the only option for Walmart’s online grocery in Canada, though.

In addition, Walmart Canada offers grocery pickup at 175 stores, expanding to 190 by the end of January 2020. It also offers pickup at nine PenguinPickUp locations in the Toronto area and next-day delivery in the Toronto area through Walmart.ca.

“Canadian families are busy. By introducing more online shopping options at Walmart, we’re helping make life easier and more convenient for them,” said Lee Tappenden, president and CEO of Walmart Canada, in a statement released today. “Expanding our relationship with Instacart provides our customers with even more time-saving ways to shop at Walmart in their community.”

To kick off the deal, the code WMTCOAST2COAST can be used at checkout for $10 off a first-time customer’s order of $35 or more.


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Walmart tops U.S. online grocery market, with 62% more customers than next nearest rival – gpgmail


Walmart is dominating the U.S. online grocery market, according to new research out this week from the analysts at Second Measure. The nationwide retailer today offers grocery pickup and delivery in nearly every U.S. state, and had 62% more customers in June than its next nearest rival. And no, in this case, that rival is not Amazon — it’s Instacart.

Like Walmart, Instacart also operates across the U.S., offering both pickup and delivery services.

The same is true for Amazon Prime Now and Peapod, while other competitors are limited to delivery only — like Target-owned Shipt and FreshDirect. Meanwhile, AmazonFresh offers delivery, plus pickup in Seattle.

While Walmart has been steadily capitalizing on its existing brick-and-mortar footprint and proximity to its customer base, Amazon’s strategy in the online grocery space appears to be one of confusion. The retailer is competing against itself by offering two services — Amazon Prime Now and AmazonFresh. The latter, an older service operated before Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition, is actually one of the few online grocery businesses in decline, the report discovered. Founded over a decade ago, AmazonFresh has only grown to 15 U.S. cities and shut down in others.

This June, AmazonFresh sales were down by 19% year-over-year — the worst sales change in the new research report, the analysts noted.

Prime Now, on the other hand, is booming. Year-over-year sales nearly tripled in June. This is not only due to Whole Foods, whose assortment was added in February 2018, and is now a big driver for orders. Consumers also likely opt for Prime Now because it’s offered as part of their annual Amazon Prime subscription, while AmazonFresh is an additional $14.99 per month.

Prime Now has also been expanding to more U.S. markets, and is on track to reach even more as Amazon invests in building additional Whole Foods locations and possibly other non-Whole Foods stores. 

The new research also notes that Target’s Shipt could be doing better than its estimates indicate.

Since Shipt’s acquisition by Target in December 2017, Shipt’s customer base has grown by 69%. While a membership is required to shop the various grocers and stores offered in the app, Target deliveries don’t require a subscription.

In June, Target launched a dedicated online grocery shopping site on Target.com, powered by Shipt. Second Measure says it cannot distinguish any grocery orders that originate in the Target app or website, so Shipt’s customer counts may be higher than it’s able to determine.

Another question the report answers is to what extent Instacart has been impacted by the loss of Whole Foods.

Following its 2017 acquisition by Amazon, Whole Foods ended its relationship with its first and older delivery partner last year. The company recently claimed, however, that Whole Foods was only 5% of sales. Second Measure seems to back this up, finding that Instacart had 23% more customers in June than it had when the partnership ended in December 2018.  

GroceryDelivery chart2png 1024x631

Meanwhile, one exception to Walmart’s dominance in online grocery is in the unique urban metro that is New York. Here, locally headquartered FreshDirect has 31% of the NYC customer base for online grocery. (Note that Second Measure counts customers at each company they use — so customers who shop from more than one are counted twice.) Walmart only has 2% of the NYC metro, by comparison.

It also has small percentages in several other big metros, including San Francisco (2%), Boston (8%) and Los Angeles (9%). Walmart is huge in both Dallas and Phoenix, on the other hand — but both have been early markets for online grocery.

GroceryDelivery chart3 v2

The report additionally found there’s strong loyalty among online grocery shoppers. Unlike with meal delivery services, no grocery delivery company shared more than 9% of another company’s customer base in the second quarter of 2019.

The market still has room to grow, as well. Only 12% of U.S. consumers have tried at least one of the grocery services the report analyzed, up from 9% in June 2018.


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