Fear, Loathing and Gifts – Gadgets Price - Gadgets Price
Fear, Loathing and Gifts – Gadgets Price

Welcome to The Gadgets Price Exchange, a weekly newsletter about startups and markets. It is inspired by the daily Gadgets Price+ column from which it gets its name. Every Saturday in your inbox? Register here.

Three themes this weekend, dear friends. The first is fear, namely concerns in the market. The second is disgust, or my instinctive reaction to a certain piece of company news. And finally, corporate gifts, a dive into a fascinating startup war. Let’s go!

Fear

DocuSign took a big boost this week, with the electronic signature company’s stock price falling more than 40% on Friday as I write to you. That’s one of the worst post-profit price moves I’ve ever seen, barring cases of fraud or other corporate shenanigans.

What happened? DocuSign beat revenue expectations in the most recent quarter (Q3 fiscal 2022). But the company’s billing – an indication of future earnings – came in well below expectations. And the company’s CEO, Dan Springer, said this in his investor letter:

After six quarters of accelerated growth, we saw customers return to more normalized buying patterns, resulting in 28% year-over-year growth.

Springer believes the market is overreacting and plans to buy DocuSign stock next week. Are the markets making too much of what appears to be a return to more regular growth at DocuSign?

Maybe not? I’ve been talking to people about this since it happened – including my dear friend Ron Miller, which keeps me sane at work – trying to figure out if we’re seeing Wall Street impatience or something else. I’m leaning towards the latter.

According to data from Yahoo Finance, DocuSign is worth about $27 billion after the massive declines. Or about 12.4x the current run rate. Who among us will stand up and say that’s too low for an already public tech company giving strong hints about future revenue slowdown?

Lots of people, but that’s because the general climate for SaaS multiples has been so hot for so long. Not at long ago, DocuSign at 12.4x its current run rate after posting a 28% growth in invoices would have been fine if not good. So a return to previous standards could be in the air?

Fear. That’s what I expect to taste when we see multiple compressions at software companies. So a lot of bets have been placed on the private market in the expectation that public valuations for compositions would remain high. But after a few horrific days for technology stocks more broadly this week, the tech climate could finally shift from a 100% risk weight to something more balanced.

disgust

Better.com pulled out three-quarters of a billion dollars from its SPAC debut, giving it access to adequate funding for its operations. It subsequently laid off some of its staff. The CEO said 15% during a conversation with the fired staffers. Better insists that the number is actually 9%. The discrepancy is wild, as the CEO was reading and claimed he had called to make the layoffs. If he made the decision, how did he get the number wrong?

Anyway, here’s a masterclass on how not to lay off a huge pile of your workers:

(We’ve kept a copy of the video, of course, in case that version gets ripped off.)

Remember, you are not related to your pitch. You are an asset that it wants to use and profit from!

Promotional gifts

Turn the clock back to early 2020. In February of that year, just before the start of the pandemic, I covered Sendoso’s $40 million Series B. The company is in the corporate gift business and has since raised a $100 million Series C. .

Separately, an investor I know has linked me with another player in the Sendoso market, Postal.io, or just Postal. The two compete for market share in the send things to current and potential customers market, which, it turns out, is huge.

Ordinary Exchange readers will already be wondering if we haven’t touched on this recently. We did! Back in September, taking a look at Postal and its progress just before Disrupt.

But since then I’ve pulled some growth metrics from Postal and Sendoso that I wanted to add to our continued coverage of the space. Why do we care? Because, as with the OKR software or the instant grocery delivery market, there is an interesting startup cluster to follow.

Sendoso and Postal compete with Alyce and Reachdesk, among others. That’s a lot of startup activity for the online-to-offline market channel. And the market is big enough — Sendoso told The Exchange that the “U.S. corporate gifts market is expected to reach $242 billion by the end of this year,” citing Coresight — to grow multiple players simultaneously.

Postal was the most free with stats, reporting that it has seen a 70% growth in subscription revenue for the past five consecutive quarters. The startup has also seen GMV scale 3.765% from Q3 2020 to Q3 2021 as clients rose from 35 to 286. That’s why it managed to raise capital in September, we think.

Sendoso was more reserved with numbers about his recent performance. The startup grew 330% in 2019, you remember, but in regards to its recent results, it didn’t deign to share an updated figure. Instead, Sendoso said it has 900 customers (north of 20,000 seats at those companies, for detail), and those are warehouses “in North America, Europe and Asia.” [have] processed more than 3 million shipments in more than 165 countries.”

We didn’t get new numbers from Alyce or Reachdesk in time for release, but if they share results, we’ll get them to you next week.

Like the OKR startup market, there is variation within the larger theme. In the case of corporate gifts, Postal is building a more digital offering, connecting commodity companies with buyers, while Sendoso has a larger IRL footprint, including its own physical item aggregation points. We love having business cases battled out in real time.

However, remember that fierce competition does not leave all parties unscathed. In the OKR market, Koan failed to reach the next fundraising milestone, and Microsoft picked up one of the startup cohorts. In the instant retail space, 1520 just broke down. Not that Sendoso or Postal are at risk of running out of money, but if and when their market finds a point of consolidation will be interesting to see.

Alex

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