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Ford, Microsoft pour $253 million into start-up Pivotal

Pivotal Software office
Aidan Crawley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Enterprise software company Pivotal will close a $253 million funding round led by new investor Ford and joined by Microsoft, GE, EMC and VMWare, the companies announced Thursday.

It marks the second-biggest start-up investment this year, behind augmented reality company Magic Leap.

Fortune 100 companies like Ford are betting big that Pivotal can keep scaling its platform, which lets clients build and update cloud-based software more quickly. By giving developers the power to roll out continuous updates across any cloud platform, like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, the firm hopes to be the brains behind projects like personalized health care, connected cars and even space travel.

"We're deeply involved in a lot of pretty big things," said Rob Mee, CEO of Pivotal. "It's all going according to plan. A quite ambitious plan."

Pivotal is behind projects like FordPass, an app that lets users find parking, track fuel levels and find Ford dealers, and promises to sync with new connected cars like the 2017 Ford Escape. Pivotal said it helped reduce the project delivery time from months to weeks at Ford.

It comes at a time when well-heeled legacy companies like Ford and GE are finding they need to also be world-class software developers, Mee said.

Indeed, Pivotal addresses a pain point consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers have called the "Goldilocks syndrome" — changing regulations, productivity pressures and complex customer engagement models that have left businesses unsure how much to customize their software. Too much leaves a system expensive to maintain, while generic versions force businesses to cram their business model into the software's functions.

The new funding is more than double Pivotal's last $105 million round from GE and dwarfs the biggest funding round of MongoDB, a similar company. It leaves Pivotal valued at about $2.8 billion by some estimates, even as many venture capitalists report doling out less cash than last year.

"It's pretty exciting to have that kind of validation from a company that's been around for 100 years, like Ford," Mee said.