Data Sheet—Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11, 2014, 1:42 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. British collaboration software company Huddle has scored another $51 million in funding, while its rival Box has updated the financial statement for its initial public offering. Plus, Microsoft is embracing Bitcoin as a payment option for its mobile apps and other “digital goods.”

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Big layoffs coming for eBay? Executives are considering various job cut scenarios for the marketplace division that could play out in early 2015 as it prepares to separate from PayPal. Although the unit is still profitable, revenue growth has slowed while operating costs have grown 14% this year to reach almost half of total revenue. Meanwhile, it looks like eBay CEO John Donahoe will serve just on PayPal's board after the split to give his post-split successor Devin Wenig more management latitude. Wall Street Journal, Re/code

Apple-IBM relationship bears fruit. The five-month-old corporate alliance has cultivated its first 10 iPad and iPhone apps—ranging from troubleshooting tools for field-service technicians to software that lets airline flight attendants rebook passengers mid-flight. Earlier customers include Sprint and Citi. Fortune

Arista Networks CEO dismisses Cisco suits as "smear campaign." In remarks made to financial analysts, Jayshree Ullal says her company will aggressively fight patent and copyright complaints filed against her networking technology company last week. She apologized for user manual plagiarism referenced in the papers, saying the matter would be "taken care of in personnel." New York Times

Box freshens up IPO filing. Its latest financial statement reflect slower growth in both revenue and spending. For the third quarter, sales were $57 million. There's still no date for its stock debut, but the market's reaction to pending Hortonworks and New Relic offerings could help determine timing (possibly this week). WSJ

Intuit buys payroll service provider. Its acquisition of U.K. company Acrede deepens its global footprint in cloud services. The deal also improves Intuit's competitive story against companies like ZenPayroll and Zenefits. TechCrunch, San Francisco Business Times

Drone greenlights. Four more companies were approved by the Federal Aviation Agency for commercial tests of applications including oil field inspections, construction surveys, and mapping applications. Meanwhile, a House subcommittee Wednesday met to debate safety implications. Formal regulations probably won't fall into place until 2017, despite fast-growing interest in the technology. Reuters



Backup companies combine forces. Datto is buying Backupify. While terms of the transaction weren't disclosed, both companies focus on protecting files, documents and other data created within other cloud services, such as Google Apps, Salesforce or Box. Their best-known competition is Spanning, bought by EMC in late December. TechCrunch

Open source company fuels up. You may never have heard of Nginx, but it sells server software behind 20% of the Internet's busiest websites—just raised another $20 million in venture capital. Both Amazon and Microsoft are key partners (although the latter is also a big rival). eWeek

Gambling on capacity. Server hosting company Digital Ocean is borrowing $50 million from Fortress Investment Group to build new data centers all over the world, starting in Germany. Its part of a play to win more share among startups, as Google and Amazon expand their own footprints. WSJ


Huddle raises another $51 million for business collaboration

British-born collaboration software company Huddle has secured $51 million in Series D financing. The deal more than doubles its previous backing and will be split between expansion efforts for its sales, marketing and engineering teams, according to co-founder Andy McLoughlin.

The new investors are led by Zouk Capital, along with Hermes GPE Environmental Innovation Fund. It also includes Matrix Partners, Jafco Ventures, DAG Ventures, and Eden Ventures, which previously contributed $35 million over three rounds.

Huddle's unique value proposition in the increasingly crowded collaboration software space is its focus on making its simpler for internal corporate teams to work on projects with consultants and business partners securely "across the firewall," said McLoughlin, Huddle's executive vice president of strategy.

"We provide virtual workspaces that give them a private place to collaborate, comment on work, or push things forward, not just share files," he said.

That message appears to be resonating. Huddle now counts more than 100,000 customers, including 80% of the Fortune 500 through deals with the likes of Procter & Gamble and Unilever. The company also has found a following with government agencies, signing four federal U.S. agencies since reaching into that market last year. During the first three quarters of 2014, Huddle tripled its deals with big companies and signed seven of its 10 biggest contracts since launching its software in 2007. Many of its largest customers hail from the professional services, advertising, consulting, accounting and technology sectors, McLoughlin said.

Technically speaking, Huddle's biggest competition comes from Microsoft, with its combination of SharePoint and Office365, and disruptors like Box, which is trying to turn its cloud storage service into platform for industry-specific document workflows—such as approving an insurance claim.

The new funding will "allow us to continue with the plan we already have," McLoughlin noted. That includes doubling the company's product development team. Huddle currently employs about 170 people, split between offices in San Francisco, New York, London and Washington, D.C. Most of the engineers are still in Great Britain.

One particular focus will be Huddle's mobile technology, where the intent is to streamline and prioritize features with particular relevance to on-the-go workers and executives. "We made a mistake when we first went mobile. We tried to cram everything from the Huddle experience into the app," McLoughlin acknowledged. "What's important is what actions you're going to take. It's not creating a file, it's revising, reviewing, and then signing off."


Meet Uber's hedge-fund-like Bermuda-based insurer By Stephen Gandel

Why it's always ok to disagree with your boss By Pontish Yeramyan

Will Silicon Valley go cuckoo for this new social club? JP Mangalindan

Why Mark Zuckerberg should call Rupert Murdoch for advice on China By Minxin Pei

A solution to bad online-daters: expel them By Daniel Roberts


Next best thing to being there? If you've ever held a streaming event webcast for a conference or all-hands meeting, you've been frustrated by the relatively one-way nature of the "interactive" Q&A session—which usually requires some sort of mysterious moderator. The new Primetime service from video collaboration company Blue Jeans erases that barrier by letting presenters directly control who participates. One early customer events company TEDx, which will start using the technology in early 2015.

Get rid of that business card stack. Be honest: when you need to make a phone call, where do you look first for the number? Yet, one of the first things we usually do when meeting a new work contact is swap paper calling cards.

Companies like Evernote and FullContact sell conversion technologies that help get this info into digital address books more quickly. And now Microsoft had made this capability part of its Office Lens app for Windows Phone. Incidentally, Connect—a company working on a way to centralize all your contacts from the real world and social networks—just raised $10.3 million from investors including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Time, Re/code


Microsoft bites into Bitcoin, albeit quietly. I haven't seen an official announcement, but the digital payment alternative is now listed as an option for "digital goods" in its app marketplace, such as games and video content. (At least it is as I gather today's newsletter's items!) CoinDesk


IBM Interconnect 2015: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26, 2015; Las Vegas)

Microsoft Convergence 2015: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19, 2015; Atlanta)

Knowledge15: Automate enterprise IT services. (April 19-24, 2015; Las Vegas)

MicrosoftIgnite: Enterprise tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8, 2015; Chicago)

NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7, 2015; San Jose, Calif.)

SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7, 2015; Orlando, Fla.)