S|W: The SaaS Weekly – Why is Marc Benioff buying up Hawaiian land?

Plus: Certn’s new president targets growth over acquisitions.

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A tech billionaire is quietly buying up land in Hawaii. No one knows why

A mystery has been brewing in a small ranching town on Hawaii’s Big Island. Word has it that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff bought the land, stirring worries about what he plans to do with it.

Waimea is a tightknit community that has a large Native Hawaiian population, and the people here say they don’t want to lose that culture.

While the people of Waimea understand that Benioff is behind the recent land purchases, hardly anyone seems to know his plans.


With new president Sarah Miller Wright, Certn targets profitable growth over acquisitions

Victoria, BC-based background check technology provider Certn has brought on Sarah Miller Wright as its first president to lead global operations.

Miller Wright joins Certn as the company has set its sights on profitable growth following two rounds of previously unreported layoffs in 2023 that saw the company shed 12 percent of its workforce amid challenging market conditions.

In an exclusive interview with BetaKit, Miller Wright said Certn’s strategy going forward involves fewer acquisitions and more organic, product-led growth.


Cox Enterprises Strikes $1.8 Billion Deal for Government-Software Provider

Cox Enterprises is buying OpenGov in a deal that values the provider of software for cities and state agencies at $1.8 billion.

Closely held OpenGov, based in San Francisco, has built a software platform since its founding a dozen years ago that helps with budgeting, accounting, asset management and other local-government needs.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Elevated Signals raises $7.9 million CAD Series A to scale its manufacturing operations software

Vancouver-based Elevated Signals has raised $7.9 million CAD to fuel the expansion of its manufacturing operations software into new sectors.

Elevated Signals, which began as a resource monitoring tool for the cannabis industry, said that the capital will be used to diversify its customer base, incorporate artificial intelligence-powered predictive analytics into its platform, and add new leadership roles with experience in cleantech manufacturing and supply chain technology development.


Hopin’s UK business enters liquidation as it transfers HQ to the US

London-based event tech startup Hopin — which shot to a $5.65bn valuation in 2021 just a year after launching — is entering liquidation for its UK parent company as it moves its HQ to Delaware in the US.

When Hopin raised its $400m Series C at a $5.65bn valuation it became Europe’s fastest growing startup ever.

In its liquidations filings Hopin CEO Badri Rajasekar wrote that “the company will be able to pay off its debts in full.”


Bench IQ raises $2.8 million CAD in pre-seed funding with buy-in from Maple VC, Haystack

Legaltech startup Bench IQ raised $2.8 million CAD ($2.1 million USD) in pre-seed funding to scale its artificial intelligence software and gain market share in the United States.

In an exclusive interview with BetaKit, CEO Jimoh Ovbiagele said Bench IQ’s software currently uses large language models to build a dataset that hosts “100 percent” of US federal judges’ rulings and deploys AI to offer insights into those rulings.


OMERS Ventures’ Laura Lenz explains how startups can stand out when fundraising

VCs are paying more attention to company quality and pushing past what Laura Lenz, a partner at OMERS Ventures, called “ego-raising.” An investor for over 20 years, Lenz has prioritized in-depth diligence for companies regardless of economic cycle. And in her experience, one of the best ways a startup can stand out in the fundraising process is with a high-quality data room.

Speaking with BetaKit, Lenz explained the significance of a well-crafted data room and offered her three-step process for building one.


Salesforce Introduces Dividend, Reports Steady Revenue Growth

Salesforce will start paying a dividend, the latest tech firm to do so, after reporting 11 percent growth in revenue in the three months ending January. Free cash flow for the fiscal year rose 50 percent to $9.5 billion. Salesforce tempered expectations for the year ahead by projecting that full year revenue for 2024 will grow at a slightly lower rate of roughly 8.6 percent.

(The Information)

How money actually flows from VCs to startups

Speaking with BetaKit, Robert Rosen, Managing Director of Innovation Banking at CIBC, explained what capital call lines are, how they operate, and how liquidity instruments like these help keep Canada’s innovation economy moving.


Bumble to lay off 350 employees as tech industry job cuts mount

Bumble on Tuesday announced plans to lay off about 350 employees as part of a restructuring plan. A company spokesperson said the cuts amount to about 30 percent of Bumble’s workforce.

Bumble said the layoffs will help drive stronger operating leverage and align its operating model with “future strategic priorities,” according to its fourth-quarter report.


Four Canadian companies selected to Comcast SportsTech Accelerator

Four Canadian tech startups have been selected to join Comcast NBCUniversal’s 2024 SportsTech Accelerator.

Customer engagement platforms StellarAlgo and Fobi AI, as well as video streaming enhancing service Mobii Systems, make up some of the Canadian startups in the 10-company accelerator program.

The program gives companies access to mentors from sports brands such as the Premier League, PGA TOUR, NASCAR, and NBC Sports.


Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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