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Fear, loathing and corporate gifting

·6-min read

Welcome to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Three themes this weekend, my dear friends. The first is fear, namely market concern. The second is loathing, or my gut reaction to a particular bit of corporate news. And, finally, corporate gifting, a dive into a fascinating startup war. Let’s go!

Fear

DocuSign took a gut punch this week, with the e-signature company’s stock price dropping by more than 40% on Friday as I write to you. That’s among the worst post-earnings share-price movements I have ever seen, aside from cases of fraud or other corporate shenanigans.

What happened? DocuSign beat revenue expectations in its most recent quarter (Q3 fiscal 2022). But the company’s billings — a proxy for future revenue — came in sharply under expectations. And the company’s CEO, Dan Springer, said this in its investor letter:

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

Springer thinks the market is overreacting and intends to buy DocuSign shares 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 folks about this since it happened — including my dear friend Ron Miller, who keeps me sane at work — trying to work out if we’re seeing Wall Street impatience or something else. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Per Yahoo Finance data, DocuSign is worth around $27 billion after its huge declines. Or about 12.4x its current run rate. For an already-public tech company showing strong hints at future revenue deceleration, who among us will stand up and say that that is too low?

A lot of folks, but that’s because the general climate for SaaS multiples has been so hot for so long. Not too long ago, DocuSign at 12.4x its present-day run rate after posting billings growth of 28% would have been fine, if not good. So, a return to prior norms could be in the air?

Fear. That’s what I expect to taste if we are seeing multiple compressions among software companies. So very many private-market bets have been placed on the expectation that public valuations for comps would stay high. But after a few awful days for tech stocks more generally this week, the climate in tech could finally be shifting away from a 100% risk weighting toward something more balanced.

Loathing

Better.com pulled three-quarters of a billion dollars from its SPAC debut forward, giving it access to ample funding for its operations. Then it fired a chunk of its staff. The CEO said 15% during a call with the laid-off staffers. Better insists that the number is actually 9%. The discrepancy is wild, given that the CEO was reading from notes and claimed that he had made the call to execute the layoffs. If he made the decision, how did he get the number wrong?

Regardless, here’s a master class in how not to fire a huge stack of your workers:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7GVklRqHRY?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent&w=640&h=360]

(We’ve preserved a copy of the video, of course, in case that version gets yanked.)

Don’t forget: You are not family at your place of employment. You are an asset that it wants to leverage and derive profit from!

Corporate gifting

Turn the clock back to early 2020. In February of that year, right before the turn of the pandemic, I covered Sendoso’s $40 million Series B. The company is in the corporate gifting space and has since gone on to raise a $100 million Series C.

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

Regular Exchange readers will already be wondering if we didn’t touch on this recently. We did! Back in September, taking a look at Postal and its progress right before Disrupt.

But I’ve since extracted some growth metrics from Postal and Sendoso that I wanted to append to our continuing coverage of the space. Why do we care? Because akin to the OKR software space, or the instant grocery delivery market, there’s an interesting startup cluster to track.

Sendoso and Postal compete with Alyce and Reachdesk, for example, 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 gifting market is projected to reach $242 billion by the end of this year,” citing Coresight — for several players to grow at once.

Postal was the most free with metrics, sharing that it has seen 70% subscription revenue growth for the last five consecutive quarters. The startup has also seen GMV scale 3,765% from Q3 2020 to Q3 2021, as customers rose from 35 to 286. That’s why it managed to raise capital in September, we figure.

Sendoso was more coy with numbers regarding its recent performance. The startup grew 330% in 2019, recall, but regarding its recent results did not deign to share an updated figure. Instead, Sendoso said that it has 900 customers (north of 20,000 seats at those companies, for detail), and that its warehouses “in North America, Europe and Asia [have] handled upward of 3 million sends in over 165 countries.”

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

Also like the OKR startup market, there’s variation within the larger theme. In the case of corporate gifting, Postal is building a more digital offering, connecting goods companies to buyers, while Sendoso has a larger IRL footprint including its own physical item aggregation points. We do love to have business cases battle it out in real time.

Don’t forget, however, that intense competition doesn’t leave all parties unscathed. In the OKR market Koan failed to make it to its next fundraising milestone, and Microsoft scooped up one of the startup cohort. In the instant grocery space, 1520 just went kaput. Not that Sendoso or Postal are in danger of running out of cash, but if and when their market does find a point of consolidation will be interesting to see.

Alex

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