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Sofia-based VC LAUNCHub Ventures with a new company exit

Image credit: Cleanshelf's CEO Dusan Omercevic (on the left) and LeanIX's CEO André Christ (on the right)
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Whether it is Slack, Zoom, or Teams, IT companies are trying to reduce their fixed costs and boost employee productivity by increasing the number of subscriptions to various SaaS applications with the goal to better navigate the uncertainty that 2020 brought. However, left without central oversight, the proliferation of such SaaS enterprise products leads to wasted costs, unmanaged contracts, and duplicating licenses. Addressing the increasing demand for enterprise SaaS management solutions, Cleanshelf just announced its acquisition by the German enterprise architecture company LeanIX. Headquartered in San Francisco, the startup was founded by the Slovenian Dusan Omercevic in 2017 and is operating from two additional subsidiaries in Ljubljana and Denver.

“We have a strong enterprise focus with our fully SOC2- compliant technology. This vision is a perfect fit for LeanIX – the Google Maps for IT. And, we can deliver immediate value to the entire LeanIX customer base,” explains Omercevic. Having currently more than 3 000 integrations and managing around $700M in SaaS subscriptions, Cleanshelf will complement LeanIX’s services for application portfolio management. This will drive the competitive advantage of its parent company by making it the first one in its industry offering enterprise SaaS management solutions with such functionality.

The startup exit playbook

In 2018, Cleanshelf was backed by the Sofia-based VC fund LAUNCHub Ventures and participated actively in the fund’s Series A Academy, an internal program designed to help founders on their journey from Seed to Series A investment. It was during that program when Cleanshelf met with partners from Dawn Capital, which led to the closing of their $8M funding round in March 2020. 

While Dawn Capital becomes a new shareholder in LeanIX, this acquisition marks one of the biggest exits of a startup in LAUNCHub’s portfolio so far, Stanislav Sirakov shared with The Recursive and highlighted: “It’s another proof of our strategy to invest in the best companies coming out of our region and building commercial teams in the most developed markets.” This is the fifth exit for LAUNCHub Ventures and it surpasses their previous biggest exit of Cloudpipes, which got acquired by QuickBase back in 2019. The other three exits of the Bulgarian venture firm are the Greek DevOps platform Codebender, the food delivery service BGMENU, which got acquired by Takeaway for $10.5M in 2018, and the Croatian cinema ticket booking platform Cinexio, which became part of the German cinema app MT Mobile Ticketing.  

A natural fit for more transparency and less decentralization in the SaaS enterprise portfolio

Normally, medium-sized US enterprises use around 140 SaaS applications, which means that CIOs are basically incapable to detect all of the company’s SaaS exposure and security threats and CFOs struggle to gain insight into which subscriptions bring extra value and which applications only cause extra costs. Cleanshelf takes care of the smart management of the SaaS library of companies by using AI to track all licenses and automatically optimize them based on data-driven insight about who is using what and how much value do SaaS costs bring to the enterprise. By using AI to find out which subscriptions are underused, the platform of Cleanshelf tracks enterprise subscriptions, controls them by making automatic rightsize, and benchmarks them by providing CIOs and CFOs with more visibility, data, and actionable insights. 

Founded in 2012, the German LeanIX, on the other hand, provides corporate IT and product IT teams with solutions that help them optimize the organization of their multi-cloud environments. According to the CEO of LeanIX Andre Christ, there is a natural and logical fit between the solution of Cleanshelf and his company’s Application Portfolio Management. He highlights that the significance of the acquisition for small companies is that they will be able to manage their SaaS portfolio better and faster while large enterprises will benefit from the accelerated automation and the increased data quality that they will receive about their application portfolios. LeanIX’ customer base includes more than 400 enterprises among which are well-known brands such as Adidas, DHL, Volkswagen and technology providers such as Atlassian, Dropbox, and Workday. The acquisition of Cleantech comes nine months after LeanIX raised $80M in Series D in a round led by Goldman Sachs with the participation of Insight Partners and DTCP (Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners).

What comes next

This acquisition is seen as the next step in Cleanshelf’s growth, but also as a significant success for the whole startup ecosystem in CEE. Most of the current R&D team of Cleanshelf will continue operating from their office in Ljubljana. Cleanshelf’s founder Dusan Omercevic will still be in charge of product development as the VP Product SaaS Intelligence and Managing Director of LeanIX in Slovenia. 

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.