Afternoon Coffee: Coronavirus news updates; Appen on upswing; Upwork releases 2019 results; Avetta CEO interview

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President Donald Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to coronavirus outbreak that has spread through Europe, Asia and Latin America, TechCrunch reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the U.S. will likely not be able to escape the spread of the virus.

Companies around the world are reacting to the outbreak, advising their workers on company policy and precautions to take. Some, like Whirlpool, are encouraging more virtual meetings to limit personal contact and for people to not visit their plants.

Here’s a collection of headlines about the coronavirus outbreak:

Appen on upswing

Appen, the publicly traded, Australia-based AI-assisted data annotation platform, released its FY 2019 financial results this week. The company, which boasts a global crowd of over 1 million skilled contractors representing more than 180 languages, posted positive results across practically all measurements.

Appen’s shares are trading at about $15 U.S. dollars (compared to about $2 three years ago). The company’s market cap is about $1.7 billion.

Appen, which acquired San Francisco-based machine-learning training platform Figure Eight in early 2019, reported that its acquisition rebounded from the second quarter to post a good result in the second half and return to high growth.

According to Appen’s letter to shareholders:

  • Revenue grew to about $353 million U.S., an increase of 47% over 2018 (organic growth was reported to be 37%)
  • Underlying EBITDA was $66 million, up 42% over 2018
  • Underlying margin 18.8%, a slight decrease from 19.6% in 2018 (due to the impact of Figure Eight losses). The underlying margin without Figure Eight was 21.5%.
  • Underlying NPAT was about $43 million, up 32%

Appen also reported that “the size and breadth of our crowd workforce is a core differentiator. We continue to focus on the sustainability of our crowd workforce through our crowd code of ethics, setting our standard for fair pay, inclusion, feedback, privacy and confidentiality, communication and well-being.”

Upwork releases FY 2019 results

Upwork, the global online freelancer marketplace and managed solutions platform, has released its FY 2019 financial results. The company is known for being the largest self-service marketplace for online freelancers in terms of spend (over $2 billion annually of gross services volume, or GSV). But over the past few years, Upwork has been building a direct sales force to go after mid-size to large organizations with managed solutions, such as Upwork Enterprise. It also has entered into partnerships with Microsoft and Workforce Logiq, an MSP.

The company reported that, under ASC 606 rules, FY 2019:

  • Gross services volume (GSV) increased by 19% year-over-year to $2.087 billion
  • Revenue grew 19% to $300.6 million
  • Take rate remained unchanged from a year ago at 14.4%
  • Gross margin expanded approximately two percentage points year-over-year to 71%
  • Net loss was $16.7 million, or $(0.15) per share, compared to a net loss of $19.9 million, or $(0.38) per share, for full year 2018;
  • Adjusted EBITDA was $7.4 million compared to $3.8 million in the prior year

While Upwork has shown progress in reducing its net loss and increasing adjusted EBITDA, investors seem to be concerned about growth deceleration.

Upwork management expressed that in 2020 the company would seek to accelerate growth by focusing on three objectives: (1) attract more, bigger clients; (2) enable more spend per client; and (3) make more high quality matches, particularly in their technical categories of web, mobile and software development.

Avetta CEO interview

Spend Matters Europe’s Nancy Clinton has interviewed Avetta CEO Arshad Matin, who took the helm of the global supply chain risk management firm in the fall. Avetta has undergone quite a bit of change, acquiring Browz about a year ago. We caught up with him about Avetta’s plans for its products, network and services.

“We are in the business of making sure our clients and suppliers are as efficient and effective as possible in whatever they are trying to do, and part of that is done through the service we provide,” Matin said. “This is just as important to us as the product itself.”

Read the full posts here and here.

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