An IPO With a Nice Ring to It

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Smartphones have redefined people’s expectations for how and where they work. These days, you can respond to an email from an airplane and update a website from the beach. 

But don’t you dare get a glass of water when you’re expecting an important call on your office line.  

RingCentral is going public today in no small part because it’s managed to fuse office communications with today’s anytime-anywhere reality. Unlike traditional office phone systems that are fixed to a single device and a single location, RingCentral allows employees to send and receive calls, voicemails, texts and other communications on any device from any place. That means no more being tethered to the desk waiting for that client to call. 

Real-World Shopping Gets More Interactive

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The modern shopper looks very different from the consumer of just a decade ago. Not only can she buy just about anything she wants from any number of online stores, but now that she has a smartphone, she can buy those things from anywhere and at any time she chooses.

U.S. consumers spent over $4 trillion at retail last year, 95% of it at traditional brick and mortar stores. But each year, consumers shift more and more of their spending online. 

The proliferation of smartphones has so far contributed to that shift, most notably with the rise of showrooming, when people find an item they like in a store and order it at a discount from an online retailer.

But smartphones can also fuse the online and real-world experiences in a way that makes in-store shopping better. There’s a large opportunity to help retailers influence shoppers as they’re considering purchases.  

Shopular has a unique vision for how to enhance the in-store shopping experience and we’re pleased to announce today that we’ve partnered with them to build a company around it.

FireEye: A Story of Vision and Conviction

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In September 2004, Ashar Aziz took up residence at Sequoia, working by himself out of a windowless office that’s since become a server closet.

He had recently shared with us his vision for how computer attacks were likely to evolve and an innovative way for detecting them that took advantage of virtualization—the first time we’d heard anyone consider the technology for something other than simulation or efficiency gains. It made a lot of sense to us, so we provided him with seed funding and invited him to work out of our office in Menlo Park. He stayed here for nine months.

Every startup has ups and downs, but FireEye’s story stands out. That the company is now a publicly-traded one with a bright future ahead of it is a testament to Ashar’s and his team’s foresight, conviction and perseverance.

Making Sense of the App Economy

People are buying an ever-growing number of things through app stores, including music, games and productivity tools.  This has given rise to a new digital economy that has emerged over the last several years with app stores at the epicenter.

There are whole companies that only sell through app stores and these days one would be hard pressed to find a large business that isn’t trying to reach customers that way, too. Airlines, banks, media companies and retailers all have their own mobile apps.

But it’s still hard getting any sort of meaningful information about how this new economy really works. App Annie is the first company we’ve found that offers meaningful market data and an analytics platform that allows people to see how mobile apps are faring. More than 300,000 apps are being tracked by their creators using App Annie, providing them with analytics on downloads, revenue, and rankings across several app stores. So far, the company has tracked over 25 billion downloads and $6 billion in app-store revenue. 

The Rise of the Personal Revolution

The way people work is changing in profound ways, as a new class of company - the data factory - makes powerful tools accessible to the masses for the first time. The changes wrought by these data factories may come to exceed the changes and dislocations produced by the companies that sprung up during the industrial revolution.

We are at the dawn of the “Personal Revolution”. While the epicenter of the Personal Revolution has been California’s Silicon Valley – its shocks are being felt around the world. The Personal Revolution is changing the way people work, live and play.  For the educated, skilled and enterprising, it promises much.  For many others it means great hardship.

We spelled out our thoughts about the Personal Revolution at TechCrunch Disrupt this week.

 

Whispering as Loud as We Can

imageSo much of our lives are public these days. We share updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and, in the age of smartphone cameras and 4G networks, every interaction we have could end up online somewhere.

One byproduct of this digital life is that we’re always on, making sure we present the versions of ourselves we most want people to see. That creates a lot of pressure, especially for students and recent college graduates who spend so much of their lives in the presence of friends and roommates.

That’s why Whisper makes so much sense. Whisper is a mobile social network where people share secrets anonymously. You choose a picture, write a short confession and post it. Others respond with their own whispers or send direct messages, which are also anonymous.

Girls Who Pitch

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A lot of high-school students spend their summers lifeguarding, scooping ice cream or mowing lawns.

Twenty young women in the San Francisco Bay Area spent the last eight weeks learning how to write code, design games and build mobile apps. More than 300 hours of training culminated last week in one of our conference rooms on Sand Hill Road where the girls pitched their ideas. 

One of the girls was Lexi Grubman, a 16 year old from San Jose, who’s on her school’s robotics team.

But when her vice principal approached her about the summer program, run by the non-profit organization Girls Who Code, she hesitated. “I wasn’t sure about coding,” she says. She didn’t want to be a programmer.

Comprehend and the Rise of Industry SaaS Apps

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It costs about $1.8 billion to bring a new drug to market, with more than 90% of that spend on clinical trials. It’s a huge process, made all the more complicated by the myriad databases and software programs researchers use to track and analyze the results.

Today, we’re partnering with a company with big plans to make it easier to run trials.

Comprehend, which has innovative reporting, analytics and collaboration software, has been on our radar screen since 2010, when we met Rick and Jud at YC. We were re-introduced earlier this year and since then we’ve watched leads turn into pilots and pilots turn into purchase orders.

Drew and Bryan on Leadership, Hiring and the Future of Dropbox

We met Drew and Arash from Dropbox six years ago in a small apartment in San Francisco. The product hadn’t launched yet and they were the only employees. 

Today, the company has more than 100 million users. 

Recently, Drew and Bryan Schreier, who represents Sequoia on the Dropbox board, sat down for a joint interview with Leena Rao of TechCrunch. It was published last week in three parts, which we’ve included here.  

Part one. Drew reveals how he learned what to expect from top executives and how the company’s momentum helps attract talent. Bryan describes how hiring has changed since Google’s early days. 

Part two.  Drew discusses why he likes to stay on the edge of his comfort zone and the importance of  anticipating the new skills he’ll need at least six months in advance. Bryan discloses Dropbox’s original code name. View on TechCrunch.

Part three. Bryan and Drew talk about companies that seem to be focused solely on consumers and why they are often the ones best positioned to target businesses. View on TechCrunch.

Cloud Security Goes Skyhigh

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Walk into any Starbucks during business hours and you are likely to find smartly-dressed people on their phones or iPads, reviewing documents in Dropbox, looking up accounts in Salesforce.com, or pounding out messages in Gmail. It’s the kind of everyday activity that makes people much more productive – but it also gives IT departments heartburn. That, in a nutshell, is why we are thrilled to partner with Skyhigh Networks.