Monthly Archives: April 2018

Emissary wants to make sales networking obsolete

Posted by on 28 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

There is nothing meritocratic about sales. A startup may have the best product, the best vision, and the most compelling presentation, only to discover that their sales team is talking to the wrong decision-maker or not making the right kind of small talk. Unfortunately, that critical information — that network intelligence — isn’t written down in a book somewhere or on an online forum, but generally is uncovered by extensive networking and gossip.

For David Hammer and his team at Emissary, that is a problem to solve. “I am not sure I want a world where the best networkers win,” he explained to me.

Emissary is a hybrid SaaS marketplace which connects sales teams on one side with people (called emissaries, naturally) who can guide them through the sales process at companies they are familiar with. The best emissaries are generally ex-executives and employees who have recently left the target company, and therefore understand the decision-making processes and the politics of the organization. “Our first mission is pretty simple: there should be an Emissary on every deal out there,” Hammer said.

Expert networks, such as GLG, have been around for years, but have traditionally focused on investors willing to shell out huge dollars to understand a company’s strategic thinking. Emissary’s goal is to be much more democratized, targeting a broader range of both decision-makers and customers. It’s product is designed to be intelligent, encouraging customers to ask for help before a sales process falters. The startup has raised $14 million to date according to Crunchbase, with Canaan leading the last series A round.

While Emissary is certainly a creative startup, its the questions spanning knowledge arbitrage, labor markets, and ethics it poses that I think are most interesting.

Sociologists of science generally distinguish between two forms of knowledge, concepts descended from the work of famed scholar Michael Polanyi. The first is explicit knowledge — the stuff you find in books and on TechCrunch. These are facts and figures — a funding round was this size, or the CEO of a company is this individual. The other form is tacit knowledge. The quintessential example is riding a bike — one has to learn by doing it, and no number of physics or mechanics textbooks are going to help a rider avoid falling down.

While org charts may be explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge is the core of all organizations. It’s the politics, the people, the interests, the culture. There is no handbook on these topics, but anyone who has worked in an organization long enough knows exactly the process for getting something done.

That knowledge is critical and rare, and thus ripe for monetization. That was the original inspiration for Hammer when he set out to build a new startup.“Why does Google ever make a bad decision?” Hammer asked at the time. Here you have the company with the most data in the world and the tools to search through it. “How do they not have the information they need?” The answer is that it has all the explicit knowledge in the world, but none of the implicit knowledge required.

That thinking eventually led into sales, where the information asymmetry between a customer and a salesperson was obvious. “The more I talked to sales people, the more I realized that they needed to understand how their account thinks,” Hammer said. Sales automation tools are great, but what message should someone be sending, and to who? That’s a much harder problem to solve, but ultimately the one that will lead to a signed deal. Hammer eventually realized that there were individuals who could arbitrage their valuable knowledge for a price.

That monetization creates a new labor market for these sorts of consultants. For employees at large companies, they can now leave, take a year off or even retire, and potentially get paid to talk about what they know about an organization. Hammer said that “people are fundamentally looking for ways to be helpful,” and while the pay is certainly a major highlight, a lot of people see an opportunity to just get engaged. Clearly that proposition is attractive, since the platform has more than 10,000 emissaries today.

What makes this market more fascinating long-term though is whether this can transition from a part-time, between-jobs gig into something more long-term and professional. Could people specialize in something like “how does Oracle purchase things,” much as how there is an infrastructure of people who support companies working through the government procurement system?

Hammer demurred a bit on this point, noting that “so much of that is being on the other side of those walls.” It’s not any easier for a potential consultant to learn the decision-making outside of a company than it is for a salesperson. Furthermore, the knowledge of an internal company’s processes degrades, albeit at different rates depending on the organization. Some companies experience rapid change and turnover, while knowledge of other companies may last a decade or more.

All that said, Hammer believes that there will come a tipping point when companies start to recommend emissaries to help salespeople through their own processes. Some companies who are self-aware and acknowledge their convoluted procurement procedures may eventually want salespeople to be advised by people who can smooth the process for all sides.

Obviously, with money and knowledge trading hands, there are significant concerns about ethics. “Ethics have to be at the center of what we do,” Hammer said. “They are not sharing deep confidential information, they’re sharing knowledge about the culture of the organization.” Emissary has put in place procedures to monitor ethics compliance. “Emissaries can not work with competitors at the same time,” he said. Furthermore, emissaries obviously have to have left their companies, so they can’t influence the buying decision itself.

Networking has been the millstone of every salesperson. It’s time consuming, and there is little data on what calls or coffees might improve a sale or not. If you take Emissary’s vision to its asymptote though, all that could potentially be replaced. Under the guidance of people in the know, the fits and starts of sales could be transformed into a smooth process with the right talking points at just the right time. Maybe the best products could win after all.

Posted Under: Tech News
DocuSign CEO: ‘we’re becoming a verb,’ company up 37% following public debut

Posted by on 27 April, 2018

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DocuSign CEO Dan Springer was all smiles at the Nasdaq on Friday, following the company’s public debut.

And he had a lot to be happy about. After pricing the IPO at a better-than-expected $29, the company raised $629 million. Then DocuSign finished its first day of trading at $39.73, up 37% in its debut.

Springer, who took over DocuSign just last year, spoke with TechCrunch in a video interview about the direction of the company. “We’ve figured out a way to help businesses really transform the way they operate,” he said about document-signing business. The goal is to “make their life more simple.”

But when asked about the competitive landscape which includes Adobe Sign and HelloSign, Springer was confident that DocuSign is well-positioned to remain the market leader. “We’re becoming a verb,” he said. Springer believes that DocuSign has convinced large enterprises that it is the most secure platform.

Yet the IPO was a long-time coming. The company was formed in 2003 and raised over $500 million over the years from Sigma Partners, Ignition Partners, Frazier Technology Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, amongst others. It is not uncommon for a venture-backed company to take a decade to go public, but 15 years is atypical, for those that ever reach this coveted milestone.

Dell Technologies Capital president Scott Darling, who sits on the board of DocuSign, said that now was the time to go public because he believes the company “is well positioned to continue aggressively pursuing the $25 billion e-signature market and further revolutionizing how business agreements are handled in the digital age.”

Sales are growing, but it is not yet profitable. DocuSign brought in $518.5 million in revenue for its fiscal year ending in 2018. This is an increase from $381.5 million last year and $250.5 million the year before. Losses for this year were $52.3 million, reduced from $115.4 million last year and, $122.6 million for 2016.

Springer says DocuSign won’t be in the red for much longer. The company is “on that fantastic path to GAAP profitability.” He believes that international expansion is a big opportunity for growth.

Posted Under: Tech News
DocuSign pops 30% and Smartsheet 23% in their debuts on Nasdaq and NYSE

Posted by on 27 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Enterprise tech IPOs continue to roar in 2018. Today, not one but two enterprise tech companies, DocuSign and Smartsheet, saw their share prices pop as they made their debuts on to the public markets.

As of 12:53 New York time, DocuSign is trading higher at $39.39, up 36 percent from its IPO price and giving the company a market cap of $6 billion. Smartsheet is at $18.55, giving it a market cap of $1.8 billion. We’ll continue to update these numbers during the day.

Smartsheet was first out of the gates. Trading on NYSE under the ticker SMAR, the company clocked an opening price of $18.40. This represented a pop of 22.7 percent on its IPO pricing of $15 yesterday evening — itself a higher figure than the expected range of $12-$14. The company, whose primary product is a workplace collaboration and project management platform (it competes with the likes of Basecamp, Wrike and Asana), raised $150 million in its IPO and is currently trading around $18.30/share.

Later in the day, DocuSign — a company that facilitates e-signatures and other features to speed up contractural negotiations online, competing against the likes of AdobeSign and HelloSign — also started to trade, and it saw an even bigger pop. Trading on Nasdaq under DOCU, the stock opened at $37.75, which worked out to a jump of 30 percent on its IPO price last night of $29. Like Smartsheet, DocuSign had priced its IPO higher than the expected range of $26-$28, raising $629 million in the process.

In the case of both companies, they are coming to the market with net losses on their balance sheets, but evidence of strong revenue growth. And in a period that seems to be a generally strong market for IPOs at the moment, combined with the generally positive climate for cloud-based enterprise services (with both Microsoft and Amazon crediting their cloud businesses for their own strong earnings), that rising tide appears to be lifting these two boats.

DocuSign reported $518.5 million in revenue for its fiscal year ending in 2018 in its IPO filings, up from $381.5 million last year and $250.5 million in 2016. Losses were $52.3 million, but that figure was halved over 2017, when it posted a net loss of $115.4 million. DocuSign’s customers include T-Mobile, Salesforce, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

Smartsheet reported 3.6 million users in its IPO filings, with business customers including Cisco and Starbucks. The company brought in $111.3 million in revenue for its fiscal 2018 year, but as with many SaaS companies, it’s going public with a loss. Specifically in 2018 it reported a loss of $49.1 million for 2018, up from a net loss of $15.2 million and $14.3 million in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Other strong enterprise tech public offerings this year have included Dropbox, Zscaler, Cardlytics, Zuora and Pivotal. All of them closed above their opening prices, in what is shaping up to be a huge year for tech IPOs overall.

We’ll update the pricing as the day progresses.

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft makes managing and updating Windows 10 easier for its business users

Posted by on 27 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

With the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, Microsoft is launching a number of new features for its desktop operating system today. Most of those apply to all users, but in addition to all the regular feature updates, the company also today announced a couple of new features and tools specifically designed for its business users with Microsoft 365 subscriptions that combine a license for Windows 10 with an Office 365 subscription and device management tools.

According to Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s corporate VP for its enterprise and mobility services, the overall thinking behind all of these new features is make it easier for businesses to give their employees access to a “modern desktop.” In Microsoft’s parlance, that’s basically a desktop that’s part of a Microsoft 365 subscription. But in many ways, this so much about the employees but the IT departments that support them. For them, these updates will likely simplify their day-to-day lives.

The most headline-grabbing feature of today’s update is probably the addition of an S-mode to Windows 10. As the name implies, this allows admins to switch a Windows 10 Enterprise device into the more restricted and secure Windows 10 S mode, where users can only install applications from a centrally managed Microsoft Store. Until now, the only way to do this was to buy a Windows 10 S device, but now, admins can automatically configure any device that run Windows 10 Enterprise to go into S mode.

It’s no secret that Windows 10 S as a stand-alone operating system wasn’t exactly a hit (and launching itat an education-focused event with the Surface Laptop probably didn’t help). The overall idea is sound, though, and probably quite attractive to many an IT department.

“We built S mode as a way to enable IT to ensure what’s installed on a device,” Anderson told me. “It’s the most secure way to provision Windows.”

The main surprise here is actually that S mode is already available now, since it was only in March that Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore said that it would launch next year.

Another part of this update is what Microsoft calls ‘delivery optimization” for updates. With this, a single device can download an update and the distribute it to other Windows 10 devices over the local network. Downloads take a while and eat up a lot of bandwidth, after all. And to monitor those deployments, the Windows Analytics dashboard now includes a tab for keeping tabs on them.

Another new deployment feature Microsoft is launching today is an improvement to the AutoPilot service. AutoPilot allows IT to distribute laptops to employees without first setting them up to a company’s specifications. Once a user logs in, the system will check what needs to be done and then applies those settings, provisions policies and installs apps as necessary. With this update, AutoPilot now includes an enrollment status page that does all of this before the user ever gets to the desktop. That way, users can’t get in the way of the set-up process and IT knows that everything is up to spec.

A number of PC vendors are now also supporting AutoPilot out of the box, including Lenovo and Dell, with HP, Toshiba and Fujitsu planning to launch their AutoPilot-enabled PCs later this year.

To manage all of this, Microsoft is also launching a new Microsoft 365 admin center today that brings all the previously disparate configurations and monitoring tools of Office 365 and Microsoft 365 under a single roof.

One other aspect of this launch is an addition to Microsoft 365 for firstline workers. Windows 10 in S mode is one part of this, but the company is also updating the Office mobile apps licensing terms to add the company’s iOS and Android apps to the Office 365 E1, F1 and Business Essential licenses. For now, though, only access to Outlook for iOS and Android is available under these licenses. Support for Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote will launch in the next few months.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
DocuSign raises $629 million after pricing IPO

Posted by on 27 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

DocuSign priced its IPO Thursday evening at $29 per share, netting the company $629 million.

It was a better price than the e-signature company had been expecting. The initially proposed price range was $24 to $26 and then that was raised to $26 to $28.

The price gives the company a valuation of $4.4 billion on the eve of its public debut, above the $3 billion the company had raised for its last private round.

The IPO has been a long-time coming. Founded in 2003, DocuSign had raised over $500 million over the course of 15 years.

The company brought in $518.5 million in revenue for its fiscal year ending in 2018. This is up from $381.5 million last year and $250.5 million the year before. Losses for this year were $52.3 million, down from $115.4 million last year and, $122.6 million for 2016.

“We have a history of operating losses and may not achieve or sustain profitability in the future,” the company warned in the requisite “risk factors” section of the prospectus.

The filing reveals that Sigma Partners is the largest shareholder, owning 12.9% of the company. Ignition Partners owns 11.7% and Frazier Technology Ventures owns 7.2%.

DocuSign, competes HelloSign and Adobe Sign, among others, but has managed to sign up many of the largest enterprises. T-Mobile, Salesforce, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are amongst its clients. It has a tiered business model, with companies paying more for added services.

HelloSign COO Whitney Bouck said that “this space is changing the way business is done at its foundation — we are finally realizing the future of digital business and exactly how much more profitable it can be by removing the friction caused by outdated technology and processes.” But she said that DocuSign should be wary of competitive “more nimble vendors that can provide more innovative, faster, and more user-friendly solutions at a cheaper price.”

DocuSign has gone through several management changes over the years.  Dan Springer took over as CEO in early 2017, after running Responsys, which went public and then was later bought by Oracle for $1.5 billion. Chairman Keith Krach had been running the company since 2011. He was previously CEO of Ariba, which was acquired by SAP for $4.3 billion.

Posted Under: Tech News
Dropbox rolls out a templates tool for its Paper online document service

Posted by on 26 April, 2018

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As Dropbox looks to woo larger and larger businesses with its strategy of building simpler collaboration tools than what’s on the market, it’s making some moves in its online document tool Paper to further reduce that friction today.

Dropbox said it was rolling out a new tool for Dropbox Paper that allows users to get a paper document up and running through a set of templates. It may seem like something that would be table stakes for a company looking to create an online document tool like Google Docs, but figuring out what Paper’s core use cases look like can take a lot of thinking and user research before finally pulling the trigger. Dropbox at its heart hopes to have a consumer feel for its products, so preserving that as it looks to build more robust tools presents a bigger challenge for the freshly-public company.

The templates tool behaves pretty much like other tools out there: you open Dropbox Paper, and you’ll get the option to create a document from a number of templates. Some common use cases for Dropbox Paper include continuous product development timelines and design specs, but it seems the company hopes to broaden that by continuing to integrate new features like document previews. Dropbox Paper started off as a blank slate, but given the number of options out there, it has to figure out a way to differentiate itself eventually.

The company said it’s also rolling out a number of other small features. That includes a way to pin documents, launch presentations, format text and insert docs and stickers. There’s also a new meeting widget and increased formatting options in the comments section in Paper. Finally, it’s adding a number of small quality-of-life updates like viewing recent Paper docs by alphabetical order and the ability to unsubscribe to comment notifications and archive docs on iOS, as well as aggregating to-do lists across docs.

Dropbox went public earlier this year to dramatic success, immediately getting that desired “pop” and more or less holding it throughout the past month or so as one of the first blockbuster IPOs of 2018. There have been a wave that have followed since, including DocuSign, and it’s one of a batch of several enterprise companies looking to get out the door now that it appears the window is open for investor demand for fresh IPOs.

Paper, to that end, appears to be a key piece of the puzzle for Dropbox. The company has always sought to be a company centered around simple collaboration tools, coming from its roots as a consumer company to start. It’s an approach that has served it — and others, like Slack — well as the company looks to expand more and more into larger enterprises. While it’s been able to snap up users thanks to its simpler approach, those enterprise deals are always more lucrative and serve as a stronger business line for Dropbox.

Dropbox will have to continue to not only differentiate itself from Google Docs and other tools, but also an emerging class of startups that’s looking to figure out ways to snap up some of the core use cases of online document tools. Slite, for example, hopes to capture the internal wiki and note-taking portion of an online doc system like Google Docs. That startup raised $4.4 million earlier this month. There’s also Coda, a startup that’s looking to rethink what a document looks altogether, which raised $60 million. Templates are one way of reducing that friction and keeping it feeling like a simple document tool and hopefully getting larger businesses excited about its products.

Posted Under: Tech News
IBM introduces a blockchain to verify the jewelry supply chain

Posted by on 26 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Every time I talk to someone about the viability of blockchain, I get challenged to show a real project beyond the obvious bitcoin use case. IBM has been working to build large enterprise projects blockchain and today they offered an irrefutable example that they have dubbed TrustChain, a blockchain that proves the provenance of jewelry by following the supply chain from mine to store.

As you might expect the TrustChain is built on IBM blockchain technology and includes a consortium of companies involved in every step of the supply chain: Asahi Refining, the precious metals refiner; Helzberg Diamonds, a U.S. jewelry retailer; LeachGarner, a precious metals supplier and The Richline Group, a global jewelry manufacturer. It even includes some third-party verification with UL Labs for the skeptical among you.

“What we are announcing and bringing forward has been in the works for some time. It’s the first end-to-end industry capability on blockchain that has its core in trust,” Jason Kelley, the GM of blockchain services at IBM told TechCrunch.

While there are trust mechanisms in place to ensure the authenticity of jewelry, they tend to be more piecemeal and this one is designed to be more comprehensive. One of the primary benefits of using blockchain in this instance is that it’s so much more efficient. Instead shuffling paper, the process becomes much more digital and reduces a lot (although not all) of the manual paper-pushing along the way.

Photo: IBM

Of course, just because it’s on the blockchain doesn’t mean there won’t be attempts to circumvent the system, but the TrustChain has a mechanism for participants to check the validity of each transaction, each step of the way. “If there is a dispute, instead of calling and following back through the process in a more manual way, you can click on a trusted chain, and you’re able to see what happened immediately. That reduces the number of steps in the process, and speeds up what has been a paper-laden and manual effort,” Kelley explained.

He fully recognizes the hype surrounding blockchain and that it’s the latest shiny tech thing, but he says if you set aside the name, the capability is really what’s important here. “Now we can share this [data] in a permissioned network and we can be sure it’s accurate,” he said.

The notion of the permissioned blockchain is an important one here. It means that you have to be allowed on the blockchain to participate, and everyone on the blockchain has to agree to let any members on. “That’s what exciting with TrustChain. Each point in the supply chain has bought into the consortium,” he said.

He acknowledges that errors could be introduced in any system, whether intentional or not, but he says the beauty of this system is that blockchain is a team sport and many, many eyeballs are acting as a check for each step along the way. If a problem is found, it can be fixed through the same level of consensus.

Blockchain network Photo: Zapp2Photo

Kelley says this level of trust is increasingly essential because consumers are demanding transparency in the jewelry they buy. They want to be sure the diamond or precious metal in the jewelry was not mined by exploited labor and in a sustainable way. Research has found consumers are willing to pay more for such proof.

By next year, you could be able to pull out your smart phone, scan a QR code on the diamond you want to by and see a visual of the entire supply chain right on your smartphone. Kelley such an interface is in the works for the consumer side.

The blockchain is clearly still in early days, and it can’t solve every problem, but systems like this could help prove that there are actual viable scalable use cases for it.

Posted Under: Tech News
Allegro.AI nabs $11M for a platform that helps businesses build computer vision-based services

Posted by on 25 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Artificial intelligence and the application of it across nearly every aspect of our lives is shaping up to be one of the major step changes of our modern society. Today, a startup that wants to help other companies capitalise on AI’s advances is announcing funding and emerging from stealth mode.

Allegro.AI, which has built a deep learning platform that companies can use to build and train computer-vision-based technologies — from self-driving car systems through to security, medical and any other services that require a system to read and parse visual data — is today announcing that it has raised $11 million in funding, as it prepares for a full-scale launch of its commercial services later this year after running pilots and working with early users in a closed beta.

The round may not be huge by today’s startup standards, but the presence of strategic investors speaks to the interest that the startup has sparked and the gap in the market for what it is offering. It includes MizMaa Ventures — a Chinese fund that is focused on investing in Israeli startups, along with participation from Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC), Samsung Catalyst Fund and Israeli fund Dynamic Loop Capital. Other investors (the $11 million actually covers more than one round) are not being disclosed.

Nir Bar-Lev, the CEO and cofounder (Moses Guttmann, another cofounder, is the company’s CTO), started Allegro.AI first as Seematics in 2016 after he left Google, where he had worked in various senior roles for over 10 years. It was partly that experience that led him to the idea that with the rise of AI, there would be an opportunity for companies that could build a platform to help other less AI-savvy companies build AI-based products.

“We’re addressing a gap in the industry,” he said in an interview. Although there are a number of services, for example Rekognition from Amazon’s AWS, which allow a developer to ping a database by way of an API to provide analytics and some identification of a video or image, these are relatively basic and couldn’t be used to build and “teach” full-scale navigation systems, for example.

“An ecosystem doesn’t exist for anything deep-learning based.” Every company that wants to build something would have to invest 80-90 percent of their total R&D resources on infrastructure, before getting to the many other apsects of building a product, he said, which might also include the hardware and applications themselves. “We’re providing this so that the companies don’t need to build it.”

Instead, the research scientists that will buy in the Allegro.AI platform — it’s not intended for non-technical users (not now at least) — can concentrate on overseeing projects and considering strategic applications and other aspects of the projects. He says that currently, its direct target customers are tech companies and others that rely heavily on tech, “but are not the Googles and Amazons of the world.”

Indeed, companies like Google, AWS, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook have all made major inroads into AI, and in one way or another each has a strong interest in enterprise services and may already be hosting a lot of data in their clouds. But Bar-Lev believes that companies ultimately will be wary to work with them on large-scale AI projects:

“A lot of the data that’s already on their cloud is data from before the AI revolution, before companies realized that the asset today is data,” he said. “If it’s there, it’s there and a lot of it is transactional and relational data.

“But what’s not there is all the signal-based data, all of the data coming from computer vision. That is not on these clouds. We haven’t spoken to a single automotive who is sharing that with these cloud providers. They are not even sharing it with their OEMs. I’ve worked at Google, and I know how companies are afraid of them. These companies are terrified of tech companies like Amazon and so on eating them up, so if they can now stop and control their assets they will do that.”

Customers have the option of working with Allegro either as a cloud or on-premise product, or a combination of the two, and this brings up the third reason that Allegro believes it has a strong opportunity. The quantity of data that is collected for image-based neural networks is massive, and in some regards it’s not practical to rely on cloud systems to process that. Allegro’s emphasis is on building computing at the edge to work with the data more efficiently, which is one of the reasons investors were also interested.

“AI and machine learning will transform the way we interact with all the devices in our lives, by enabling them to process what they’re seeing in real time,” said David Goldschmidt, VP and MD at Samsung Catalyst Fund, in a statement. “By advancing deep learning at the edge, Allegro.AI will help companies in a diverse range of fields—from robotics to mobility—develop devices that are more intelligent, robust, and responsive to their environment. We’re particularly excited about this investment because, like Samsung, Allegro.AI is committed not just to developing this foundational technology, but also to building the open, collaborative ecosystem that is necessary to bring it to consumers in a meaningful way.”

Allegro.AI is not the first company with hopes of providing AI and deep learning as a service to the enterprise world: Element.AI out of Canada is another startup that is being built on the premise that most companies know they will need to consider how to use AI in their businesses, but lack the in-house expertise or budget (or both) to do that. Until the wider field matures and AI know-how becomes something anyone can buy off-the-shelf, it’s going to present an interesting opportunity for the likes of Allegro and others to step in.

 

 

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Rocketrip raises $15 million to reward cost-saving employees

Posted by on 25 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

If your company lets you expense the nicest hotel when you travel, why wouldn’t you?

But what if you got to split the savings with your employer by selecting a less expensive hotel?

A New York-based startup called Rocketrip believes most employees will opt to save companies money if they are incentivized to do so. It’s built an enterprise platform that rewards employees with gift cards if they go under budget on travel and transportation.

After five years of signing up business clients like Twitter and Pandora, Rocketrip is raising $15 million in Series C funding led by GV (Google Ventures) to keep expanding. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Canaan Partners are also in the round.

Inspired by Google’s internal travel system, Rocketrip CEO Dan Ruch calls his solution a “behavioral change platform.” Employees “always optimize for self-preservation, self-interest,” and are likely to book a cheaper flight if it means a gift card at a place like Amazon, Bloomingdale’s or Home Depot, Ruch claims. He said that the average business trip booked by Rocketrip saves companies $208.

Ruch believes that Rocketrip has built a currency that motivates teams. He says some employees even gift Rocketrip points to congratulate colleagues on birthdays and promotions.

When it comes to enterprise platforms, Rocketrip is “one of those unique situations where everyone is really excited to use it,” said Canaan Partners’ Michael Gilroy, who holds a board seat.

Yet Rocketrip is not the only startup looking to help employees make money by cutting on costs. TripActions and TravelBank have also created similar businesses. 

Gilroy insists that “Rocketrip was first” and that he views the others a “validation of the model.”

Rocketrip hopes to someday expand beyond travel to incentivize healthcare choices, like quitting smoking. It also thinks companies will use Rocketrip points to reward employees for community service. “Any time we can motivate an employee,” there’s an opportunity for Rocketrip, Ruch believes.

Posted Under: Tech News
Google Cloud expands its bet on managed database services

Posted by on 25 April, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Google announced a number of updates to its cloud-based database services today. For the most part, we’re not talking about any groundbreaking new products here, but all of these updates address specific pain points that enterprises suffer when they move to the cloud.

As Google Director of Product Management Dominic Preuss told me ahead of today’s announcements, Google long saw itself as a thought leader in the database space. For the longest time, though, that thought leadership was all about things like the Bigtable paper and didn’t really manifest itself in the form of products. Projects like the globally distributed Cloud Spanner database are now allowing Google Cloud to put its stamp on this market.

Preuss also noted that many of Google’s enterprise users often start with lifting and shifting their existing workloads to the cloud. Once they have done that, though, they are also looking to launch new applications in the cloud — and at that point, they typically want managed services that free them from having to do the grunt work of managing their own infrastructure.

Today’s announcements mostly fit into this mold of offering enterprises the kind of managed database services they are asking for.

The first of these is the beta launch of Cloud Memorystore for Redis, a fully managed in-memory data store for users who need in-memory caching for capacity buffering and similar use cases.

Google is also launching a new feature for Cloud Bigtable, the company’s NoSQL database service for big data workloads. Bigtable now features regional replication (or at least it will, once this has rolled out to all users within the next week or so). The general idea here is to give enterprises that previously used Cassandra for their on-premises workloads an alternative in the Google Cloud portfolio, and these cross-zone replications increase the availability and durability of the data they store in the service.

With this update, Google is also making Cloud SQL for PostgreSQL generally available with a 99.95 percent SLA, and it’s adding commit timestamps to Cloud Spanner.

What’s next for Google’s database portfolio? Unsurprisingly, Preuss wouldn’t say, but he did note that the company wants to help enterprises move as many of their workloads to the cloud as they can — and for the most part, that means managed services.

Posted Under: Tech News
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