Give Your Brand a Boost This Holiday Season

The Holidays Are Coming! Businesses Pay Attention.

The winter holiday season is THE major shopping season of the year, there can be no doubt about that. Big brands will have had their holiday marketing planned out almost since the start of the year, but for small- to medium-sized brands, there’s still plenty of time to give your company an extra festive boost.

Let’s start with the easy bit—the look and feel of your site.

Give Your Site a Festive Makeover

Depending on your target market, your budget, and your own design skills, there are lots of ways you can spruce up your site to make it stand out over the holiday period. It can be as simple as adding some Christmas-related graphics to your header, or perhaps adding a festive touch to your logo. If it’s good enough for Google, after all, then why not?

The simple fact that your site reflects the imagery and excitement of the festive period will help to make a good impression on your customers.

Giving Gifts and Freebies

Whether it’s Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Winter solstice, or Hanukkah, the holiday season is a time when we like to give gifts to show our appreciation of others—so show some of that love to your loyal customers, too!

The festive period is the perfect time to run giveaways or to be more generous than normal with freebie downloads and offers. If you can get it organized in time, an ongoing promotion like an advent calendar is an excellent way to build brand awareness and loyalty. Offer your customers something for nothing each day (a recipe, a tip, a download, a mini game, a product sample, a discount coupon, etc.) to be revealed only on that day, with a bigger prize for one or a few lucky customers to be revealed on Christmas Eve.

Alternatively, this is a good time to run a festive email campaign offering customers discounts if they purchase before the holiday period ends. You know your own target market, but if you sell items that customers could reasonably expect to come down in price in the New Year’s sales, then getting as much revenue in before then is key.

While we’re on the topic of giving, it’s not only giving to your customers that you should think about. What better time of year could there be for supporting a charity of your choice? It’s been suggested that up to 90% of customers are willing to switch to a comparable brand if that brand is associated with a good cause and yours isn’t. While these figures will vary from industry to industry, being involved in supporting a charity is a win-win for you and a good cause. Consider donating a certain percentage of profits from each sale.

You can include a charitable element in any gifts you give to your own staff too—or perhaps work with a charity which makes disadvantaged children’s festive wishes come true, instead of spending on the usual Christmas staff gifts. Be sure to publicize your charitable efforts, too, especially on social media.

Goodwill and Gratitude

The holiday season is also about being thankful and showing gratitude. To this end, it’s a fabulous time to make a fuss of one particular employee who has gone the extra mile, or to invite nominations from your social media followers for customers who deserve something extra special.

Remember that 80% of your social media activity should be unrelated to sales—sharing who and what you are thankful for, and what you have done to say thank you is a great way to build brand awareness within the spirit of the season. Fort Lauderdale social media agency, Brandamos, wrote an interesting piece demonstrating 8 tips for website owners pertaining to the holiday buying season.

Tap Into the Fun Factor of the Holiday Season

Christmas in particular is the perfect excuse to showcase your brand’s fun side. From a series of Twitter jokes themed around your product or service (good fun for an office brainstorming session!) to simple-but-cute Christmas animations you can create, devise something funny, sweet, or nostalgic that you can share with your customers and followers.

Don’t be afraid to share pictures of your office decorations or parties, too, as this all helps to underline the fact that you are real people, not just a faceless company.

The holiday period is an absolute gift for companies who are skilled with social media and online marketing; let loose and have some fun with your ideas. The more memorable and unique you can be, the greater your chances of grabbing an extra slice of that huge festive pie.

Sequoia Capital Values Skyscanner at $800 Million in Mobile Travel Search Deal

The worldwide use of mobile devices to search for flights, hotels and other travel information is growing, and Sequoia Capital is betting on one mobile app maker to become the leader in the sector.

The Silicon Valley venture firm has made one of its largest equity investments ever, acquiring shares of Skyscanner Ltd. in a deal that values the Scotland-based company at $800 million.

Skyscanner Ltd.

Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz, whose investments include early bets on Google Inc., PayPal and LinkedIn Corp., called Skyscanner “one of the most attractive tech companies in Europe,” citing the expected growth in online travel search.

“We’re still quite early in the evolution of online travel,” said Mr. Moritz, who will join the company’s board. “Despite…[the] large number of existing online travel vendors, the market over the next decade will expand enormously, accelerated by a proliferation of mobile devices.”

Thirty-six percent of online travelers in the U.S. typically use travel metasearch when shopping for leisure travel, up from 28% in 2010, according to Douglas Quinby, vice president of research at PhoCusWright, a travel and hospitality market research firm.

Skyscanner faces a marketplace crowded with global competitors including U.S. businesses TripAdvisor, Hipmunk, Google Flight Search and Kayak, now part of Inc.; Trivago GmbH in Germany; WeGo Pte. Ltd. in Singapore; Qunar in China, which on Tuesday filed for an initial public offering in the U.S.; in France; and Venture Republic Group’s in Japan.

Mr. Moritz, who stepped back from an active role in managing Sequoia in 2012 for health reasons but still makes new investments, said the Edinburgh-based company’s global approach made it an attractive deal.

“From inception they were forced to look beyond their home borders to grow their business,” he said. “U.S. companies, because the market is so large, take time before they expand beyond their borders.”

Skyscanner recently set up an office in Miami to bolster its business in the Americas. In addition to its Edinburgh headquarters, it has satellite offices in Singapore and Beijing. The profitable company was founded in 2001 and released its first mobile app in 2011.

In 2007, the company raised a $5.1 million Series A round from Scottish Equity Partners. Sequoia did not disclose further details of its new investment.

The company’s service helps travelers find flights, hotel rooms or cars online and makes the results readable on the small screens of mobile devices. Users can also access Skyscanner through its website.

The company’s mobile apps, available for iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry devices, have been installed by 25 million users. Skyscanner attracts more than 24 million monthly unique visitors to its sites and apps, according to Gareth Williams, Skyscanner’s chief executive and co-founder.

One of the ways the company sets itself apart from the many other travel search companies is by showing prices that include fees and taxes, Mr.  Williams said. The idea is to make sure users don’t encounter “a headline fee that swings up once [they] go through checkout,” he said.

The 320-employee company translates information into 30 different languages and local currencies.

In 2012 Skyscanner generated $3.5 billion of flight ticket sales for its partners, including airlines, hotels and online travel agencies, the company said. The company makes money through referral fees from its partners and advertising sales to those that want their offerings to be highlighted prominently.

Sequoia Capital Teardown

Sequoia Capital is one of the original venture capital firms, active before Silicon Valley was Silicon Valley. In recent months it has maintained its reputation for investing early in Unicorn companies. But WhatsApp is only the most recent example of Sequoia’s incredible success.

Below is CB Insights’ teardown of Sequoia Capital.


  1. Where’s the data & viz from? 100% of the visualizations and data you see in this teardown are directly from the CB Insights platform’s Investor Analytics tool.
  2. What’s a Teardown?  A product teardown is the act of disassembling a product to understand its parts, functionality, etc. An investor teardown is analogous in that we’re trying to understand a firm by analyzing data around their financing strategy, investment thesis, key people, exit history, investment syndicates and more.

Specifically, we’ll cover:

Sequoia Leads $40 Million Round for Docker As App Platform Takes Off

Wowed by developer enthusiasm for Docker Inc., Sequoia Capital has led a pre-emptive $40 million round to help the startup scale its technology, which creates and runs distributed applications.

Docker Chief Executive Ben Golub said the startup just this month began spending the $15 million it raised in January, and did not need the fresh funding. The San Francisco-based company, formerly known as Dotcloud Inc., pivoted more than a year ago from providing its platform as a service to app developers to providing a way to deliver applications in a standardized “container” method that reduces both complexity and deployment time.

Developers swarmed the open source platform this summer, with downloads spiking from three million in June to more than 21 million today, according to the company.

“We started to see valuation numbers that were so high, we thought it made sense to do something now,” Mr. Golub said. “We are really pleased that among our options was Sequoia. “

Valuation for the two-year-old startup was around $400 million, VentureWire learned.

Although a number of enterprises, including Gilt Groupe Inc., New Relic Inc. and Yelp Inc. are using the platform, that doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue for Docker. Mr. Golub said Docker has been experimenting with revenue models for a few months. It charges for commercial-level support for services like sending patches, and for a set of enhanced developer tools, along with hosting, storage and on-premise management and monitoring.

Sequoia Capital Partner Bill Coughran said he began talking with Docker a few months ago. He said the team and the technology, which standardizes the way applications are delivered across multiple infrastructures and devices, impressed him.

“We wanted to bring our expertise to Docker and make sure they got enough capital to play this out,” Mr. Coughran said

Although developer enthusiasm for the technology is a great sign, he said it also comes with the risk of those developers overselling it to their chief information officers, he said.

“I’m worried that CIOs think it’s the solution for everything,” he said. “The company needs to continue to build out what they have.”

To that end, the funding will be used for engineering, partner-driven sales and marketing, and continuing to build out both the open source community and commercial offerings.

Existing investors Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Insight Ventures, Trinity Ventures and Jerry Yangalso participated in the Series C round.

The 55-person company previously raised $25.8 million.

credits to: @zettewil

MobileIron: Bringing Mobile Magic to the MOBL Workforce

It’s hard to imagine now, but when Bob Tinker, Suresh Batchu and Ajay Mishra first walked through the doors at Sequoia in January 2008, building a business around enterprise mobility seemed like a pipe dream. Blackberry’s position looked unassailable. The iPhone, which had shipped a few months earlier, was dismissed by everyone in corporate IT as a toy for consumers. The iPad and AppStore did not exist, and the letters “BYO” (“Bring Your Own”) were more likely to be followed by a “B” for “Bottle” than a “D”  for “Device”.

Yet the founders’ conviction was unshakeable. Bob, Suresh and Ajay had spent the prior six months talking to customers. They saw the emerging gap between an employee’s desire to work efficiently on a device of her choice, and a company’s need to secure corporate data. They realized iOS and Android would inevitably make their way into the workplace, creating a new and complex world for corporate IT to manage — and the opportunity for a new kind of company to help them. It was hard not to be impressed by the combination of Bob’s vision, Ajay’s product instincts, and Suresh’s technical depth. We quickly decided to partner with them, and joined Storm Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners as MobileIron’s first investors.

As often happens with the most visionary companies, MobileIron initially struggled to find its footing. The financial crisis was at its height; purchase orders were sparse and, the few that did materialize were smaller than expected. In retrospect, this was a blessing. Those challenging early days helped Bob shape the culture around his values of frugality and resourcefulness. They gave him time to build out the management team, and allowed the technology to mature.

It was not until 2011 that the world started to catch up with MobileIron’s vision. That’s when smartphone shipments surpassed feature phones, and mobile devices out-shipped PCs.  More importantly, apps and devices available to people at home overtook what was provided to them at work. Employees’ expectations changed and everyone from the CEO on down started using their personal iPads and storing files in “consumer applications” like Dropbox. IT departments could not keep up, and suddenly mobility became the number one priority for almost every CIO.

In the space of several years, MobileIron had sold to over six thousand customers, grew revenue to over $100m in 2013, and built a team of more than 500 people. Looking back over the company’s remarkable journey, two key things stand out:

First, Bob and team got the big decisions right.  In our very first investment memo about the company in January 2008, MobileIron describes its business as “enterprise mobility management”. That’s exactly the same term as Gartner uses today for its Magic Quadrant. From the beginning, Bob and team saw the bigger opportunity beyond Mobile Device Management (MDM), and built a platform for applications and content. As the space has evolved, and customer needs grown more sophisticated, MobileIron has moved with it, maintaining its leadership position in a very dynamic and competitive market.

MobileIron’s second standout quality is its unassailable belief in its own destiny. Bob and team have always focused on the long term, and were never distracted by the acquisitions of competitors, or the technical fad of the day (anyone remember “telecom expense management”?). All the founders have stayed with the company, and are as energized today about the future opportunity as they have ever been. Today’s milestone is just the latest in a series of events that demonstrate the company’s long-term commitment to building a lasting company.

We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to partner with Bob and team as they build such a transformational business. We are also thankful to have shared the journey with Tae Hae Nam at Storm Ventures, Matt Howard at Norwest Venture Partners, Frank Marshall, Tim Danford, and Paul Holland at Foundation Capital. Finally, we owe a particular debt of gratitude to Gaurav Garg, our former partner and now founder of Wing Ventures, who led Sequoia’s initial investment and remains intimately involved with the company today.

Huge congratulations to Bob and the entire team at MOBL. We could not be happier for you.

– Aaref Hilaly, on behalf of Sequoia Capital

Sequoia And Nexus Invest $12 Million In Laptop Backup Startup Druva

Druva, the creator of data protection solutions for SMEs, announced this morning that it has raised $12 million in series B funding. The round was led by Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from existing investor, Sequoia Capital. Jishnu Bhattacharjee of Nexus Venture Partners will be joining Druva’s board of directors as a result of this investment, joining Sequoia Capital Managing Director Shailendra Singh, Ramani Kothandaraman, Co-founder and COO of Druva, and and Yoram Novick, CEO and founder of Topio.

The series B round adds to the $5 million Druva raised in April of 2010, bringing total investment to just north of $17 million. The startup’s new infusion of capital will be used to expand sales across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Founded in 2007, the Mountain View-based enterprise company now has more than 800 customers, protecting more than 300,000 laptops and devices across the globe, and is beginning to thrive in a market in which it faces competition from the likes of EMC Avamar, Symantec, and Autonomy.

Druva’s inSync software (its flagship product) allows companies to take advantage of automated backups of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, protecting corporate data for both in-office and remote users. The software also allows enterprises to retrieve data and make one-click restores of any file or “backup volume from a browser or iOS and Android devices”, according to the Druva team.

The startup’s value proposition is that it offers backups over LAN, WAN, and VPN networks and makes backups more efficient by de-duplicating data — in other words, storing only a single copy of files and data uploaded by a network’s users. This de-duplication allows Druva’s backups to rank at speeds ten times those of its competitors, and enables companies to save 90 percent on bandwidth and storage, while maintaining high rates of accuracy for both Outlook and Office applications. Druva’s software also gives enterprises the option to store their data on location, in the cloud, or via web-connected data centers.

According to Sheila Childs, Vice President of Research at Gartner, enterprise organizations are beginning to become aware of the inadequate protection of important data on corporate laptops and mobile devices. As mobile workers are integral to the success of many businesses and carry data that would be nearly impossible to reconstruct if their corporate device were damaged or stolen, she said, solutions like that offered by Druva are becoming essential to SMEs looking to secure their sensitive data.