G2 raises $157M for its software review service

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This morning G2, a company that provides an online software review and information database, announced that it has raised a $157 million Series D. Per a release the company shared with TechCrunch in advance of its news, G2 is now worth more than $1 billion, making it a unicorn in modern parlance.

Permira led the round via its growth fund, while prior venture capital firms IVP, Emergence, and Accel also contributed. The investment also included capital from LinkedIn, which previously invested, and corporate venture dollars from both HubSpot and Salesforce.

The round caught our eye not due to its scale — nine-figure rounds are a daily occurrence in today’s super-heated venture capital market — but due to the interesting position that G2 and its rivals occupy in the technology space. They provide a guide of sorts to various software niches, not only exposing a number of competing services in a single space, but also some signal about what service might be a good pick.

For the immensely deep and immensely wide software market, offering potential buying entities — all companies, in other words — directions when it comes to software buying decisions is a position of power. And one that comes with a unique set of challenges.

G2 cannot simply provide lists of competing software products and user reviews. It needs to command a position of trust; if its users are worried that commercial interests are clouding its ratings and lists, the company’s core product could be compromised.

So, that’s what TechCrunch asked G2 CEO Godard Abel to discuss.

In response to our question regarding balancing G2’s commercial interests and review purity, Abel said that “whether a software vendor pays G2 or not has no impact on their rating on G2 and their placement in our category rankings which are 100% algorithmic and data-driven.” That’s a good start.

Abel went on to say that G2 verifies all reviews, checks the “business identity” of reviewers via their online profiles, and uses “NLP and AI to score and validate all reviews including preventing any reviews by competitors or employees of a vendor.” And, the CEO added, G2 has humans in the loop for verification as well.

The process seems reasonable, but the company and its rivals like Capterra will need to manage market trust as they continue to scale.

On that front, the CEO expanded a bit on the growth metrics that it disclosed as part of its release. In that document the company said that it added “700 paying customers for its Marketing Solutions in the past 12 months.” TechCrunch wanted to know what percent growth that number represented, and what portion of G2’s revenues come from that particular business line.

Per Abel, the customer number represented a 45% growth rate, and that that “piece of [its] business represents the bulk of [its] current revenue.”

Parsing that a little, seeing 45% customer growth in a majority revenue line implies healthy growth. We lack several data points that we’d need to convert that customer growth figure into revenue expansion itself, sadly.

With lots of new cash in the bank, G2 has plenty of space to keep growing. Its CEO highlighted international investment as a place where he intends to invest, citing “exceptionally strong growth across Europe and Asia as our international software buyer traffic and revenue have been nearly doubling.” And Abel said that his company will also “accelerate” its coverage of the software market with its new capital, along with investments into data work to improve G2’s recommendation engine.

G2 itself is now valued like a company that’s on an IPO path, which means that the standards we’ll hold it to have reached their zenith.

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