Monthly Archives: October 2018

After its acquisition, Magento starts integrating Adobe’s personalization and analytics tools

Posted by on 9 October, 2018

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It’s been less than six months since Adobe acquired commerce platform Magento for $1.68 billion and today, at Magento’s annual conference, the company announced the first set of integrations that bring the analytics and personalization features of Adobe’s Experience Cloud to Magento’s Commerce Cloud.

In many ways, the acquisition of Magento helps Adobe close the loop in its marketing story by giving its customers a full spectrum of services that go from analytics, marketing and customer acquisition all the way to closing the transaction. It’s no surprise then that the Experience Cloud and Commerce Cloud are growing closer to, in Adobe’s words, “make every experience shoppable.”

“From the time that this company started to today, our focus has been pretty much exactly the same,” Adobe’s SVP of Strategic Marketing Aseem Chandra told me. “This is, how do we deliver better experiences across any channel in which our customers are interacting with a brand? If you think about the way that customers interact today, every experience is valuable and important. […] It’s no longer just about the product, it’s more about the experience that we deliver around that product that really counts.”

So with these new integrations, Magento Commerce Cloud users will get access to an integration with Adobe Target, for example, the company’s machine learning-based tool for personalizing shopping experiences. Similarly, they’ll get easy access to predictive analytics from Adobe Analytics to analyze their customers’ data and predict future churn and purchasing behavior, among other things.

These kinds of AI/ML capabilities were something Magento had long been thinking about, Magento’s former CEO and new Adobe SVP fo Commerce Mark Lavelle told me, but it took the acquisition by Adobe to really be able to push ahead with this. “Where the world’s going for Magento clients — and really for all of Adobe’s clients — is you can’t do this yourself,” he said. “you need to be associated with a platform that has not just technology and feature functionality, but actually has this living and breathing data environment that that learns and delivers intelligence back into the product so that your job is easier. That’s what Amazon and Google and all of the big companies that we’re all increasingly competing against or cooperating with have. They have that type of scale.” He also noted that at least part of this match-up of Adobe and Magento is to give their clients that kind of scale, even if they are small- or medium-sized merchants.

The other new Adobe-powered feature that’s now available is an integration with the Adobe Experience Manager. That’s Adobe’s content management tool that itself integrates many of these AI technologies for building personalized mobile and web content and shopping experiences.

“The goal here is really in unifying that profile, where we have a lot of behavioral information about our consumers,” said Aseem. “And what Magento allows us to do is bring in the transactional information and put those together so we get a much richer view of who the consumers are and how we personalize that experience with the next interaction that they have with a Magento-based commerce site.”

It’s worth noting that Magento is also launching a number of other new features to its Commerce Cloud that include a new drag-and-drop editing tool for site content, support for building Progressive Web Applications, a streamlined payment tool with improved risk management capabilities, as well as a new integration with the Amazon Sales Channel so Magento stores can sync their inventory with Amazon’s platform. Magneto is also announcing integrations with Google’s Merchant Center and Advertising Channels for Google Smart Shopping Campaigns.

Posted Under: Tech News
WeWork taps Lemonade to offer insurance to WeLive members

Posted by on 8 October, 2018

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WeWork has partnered with Lemonade to provide renters insurance to WeLive members.

WeLive is the residential offering from WeWork, offering members a fully-furnished apartment, complete with amenities like housekeeping, mailroom, and on-site laundry, on a flexible rental schedule. In other words, bicoastal workers or generally nomadic individuals can rent a short-term living space without worrying about all the extras.

As part of that package, WeLive is now offering Lemonade renters insurance to new and existing members.

WeLive currently has two locations — one in New York and one in D.C. — collectively representing more than 400 units. WeWork says that both units are nearly at capacity. The company has plans to open a third location in Seattle Washington by Spring 2020.

Lemonade, meanwhile, is an up-and-coming insurance startup that is rethinking the centuries-old industry. The company’s first big innovation was the digitization of getting insurance. The company uses a chatbot to lead prospective customers through the process in under a minute.

The second piece of Lemoande’s strategy is rooted in the business model. Unlike incumbent insurance providers, Lemonade takes its profit up-front, raking away a percentage of customers’ monthly payments. The rest, however, is set aside to fulfill claims. Whatever goes unclaimed at the end of the year is donated to the charity of each customer’s choice.

To date, Lemonade has raised a total of $180 million. WeWork, on the other hand, has raised just over $9 billion, with a reported valuation as high as $35 billion.

Of course, part of the reason for that lofty valuation is the fact that WeWork is a real estate behemoth, with Re/Code reporting that the company is Manhattan’s second biggest private office tenant. But beyond sheer square footage, WeWork has spent the past few years filling its arsenal with various service providers for its services store.

With 175,000 members (as of end of 2017, so that number is likely much higher now), WeWork has a considerable userbase with which it can negotiate deals with service providers, from enterprise software makers to… well, insurance providers.

Lemonade is likely just the beginning of WeWork’s stretch into developing a suite of services and partnerships for its residential members.

Posted Under: Tech News
Facebook poaches leaders of Refdash interview prep to work on Jobs

Posted by on 7 October, 2018

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Facebook just snatched some talent to fuel its invasion of LinkedIn’s turf. A source tells TechCrunch that members of coding interview practice startup Refdash including at least some of its executives have been hired by Facebook. The social network confirmed to TechCrunch that members of Refdash’s leadership team are joining to work on Facebook’s Jobs feature that lets business promote employment openings that users can instantly apply for.

Facebook’s big opportunity here is that it’s a place people already browse naturally, so they can be exposed to Job listings even when they’re not actively looking for a company or career change. Since launching the feature in early 2017, Facebook has focused on blue-collar jobs like service and retail industry jobs that constantly need filling. But the Refdash team could give it more experience in recruiting for technical roles, connecting high-skilled workers like computer programmers to positions that need filling. These hirers might be willing to pay high prices to advertise their job listings on Facebook, siphoning revenue away from LinkedIn.

Facebook confirms that this is not an acquisition or technically a full acquihire, as there’s no overarching deal to buy assets or talent as a package. It’s so far unclear what exactly will happen to Refdash now that its team members are starting at Facebook this week, though it’s possible it will shut down now that its leaders have left for the tech giant’s cushy campuses and premium perks. Refdash’s website now says that “We’ve temporarily suspended interviews in order to make product changes that we believe will make your job search experience significantly better.”

Founded in 2016 in Mountain View with an undisclosed amount of funding from Founder Friendly Labs, Refdash gave programmers direct qualitative and scored feedback on their coding interviews. Users would do a mock interview, get graded, and then have their performance anonymously shared with potential employers to match them with the right companies and positions for their skills. This saved engineers from having to endure grueling interrogations with tons of different hirers. Refdash claimed to place users at startups like Coinbase, Cruise, Lyft, and Mixpanel.

A source tells us that Refdash focused on understanding people’s deep professional expertise and sending them to the perfect employer without having to judge by superficial resumes that can introduce bias to the process. It also touted allowing hirers to browse candidates without knowing their biographical details, which could also cut down on discrimination and helps ensure privacy in the job hunting process (especially if people are still working elsewhere and are trying to be discreet in their job hunt).

It’s easy to imagine Facebook building its own coding challenge and puzzles that programmers could take to then get paired with appropriate hirers through its Jobs product. Perhaps Facebook could even build a similar service to Refdash, though the one-on-one feedback sessions it’d conduct might not be scalable enough for Menlo Park’s liking. If Facebook can make it easier to not only apply for jobs but interview for them too, it could lure talent and advertisers away from LinkedIn to a product that’s already part of people’s daily lives.

The co-founders of Refdash have something of a track record in building companies that get acquihired to help add new features to existing services. Nicola Otasevic and Andrew Kearney were respectively the founder and tech lead for Room 77, which was picked up by Google in 2014 to help rebuild its travel search vertical. At the time it was described as a licensing deal although Refdash’s founders these days call it an acquisition.

Building tools to improve the basic process of hiring via remote testing could help Facebook get an edge on technical recruiting, but it’s not the only one building such features. LinkedIn’s stablemate Skype (like LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft) last year unveiled Interviews to let recruiters test developers and others applying for technical jobs with a real-time code editor. LinkedIn has not (yet?) incorporated it into its platform.

Posted Under: Tech News
Former Formation 8 GP Shirish Sathaye joins Cervin Ventures

Posted by on 5 October, 2018

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Longtime venture capitalist Shirish Sathaye has quietly joined early-stage investor Cervin Ventures as a general partner.

Most recently, Sathaye was a general partner at Formation 8, the embattled venture firm co-founded by Palantir’s Joe Lonsdale, Brian Koo (a scion of the Koo family, owners of the electronics giant LG) and former Khosla GP Jim Kim. Formation 8 announced in 2015 that it would not raise a third fund and would begin winding down operations.

Sathaye, who’s been in the VC business since 2001 as a GP at Matrix Partners, then at Khosla Ventures, remains a partner in Formation 8’s sophomore fund. His previous investments include Nutanix, Samsung-acquired Grandis, McAfee-acquired Solidcore Systems, cybersecurity startup Vectra Networks and data storage provider Panzura.

He’d only been at Formation 8 for one year when the firm began to crumble. As we now know, conflict between the firm’s founding partners led to its demise. Lonsdale quickly raised $425 million for a spin-off fund called 8VC; Koo, in a similar fashion, brought in $357 million for Formation Group and Kim followed up with a $200 million fund called Builders.

Sathaye, for his part, had grown tired of the “bigger is better” mentality and opted to leave the business of big VC for good.

He began making angel investments and advising startups at Cervin Ventures, a pre-Series A VC fund focused on the enterprise. It closed a $56 million fund in 2017, its largest vehicle to date.

“Smaller funds, in general, make better decisions,” Sathaye told TechCrunch. “At a larger fund, there are more people around the table to make decisions. I think returns are better when there are fewer people making those decisions.”

Watching funds swell past the billion-dollar mark and investors deploy the “spray and pray” strategy was a turn-off, Sathaye said. Startups have more access to capital than ever before, yet most companies can get off the ground with very little funding, thanks to recent innovations like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services.

“With AWS, companies can bring products to market quickly and they can reach their customers with much less money,” Sathaye said. “If you look at it just from a returns profile, the smaller funds will get better cash-on-cash returns simply because companies don’t need that much money to be successful.”

Palo Alto-based Cervin is led by two other GPs, Preetish Nijhawan and Neeraj Gupta. It invests $1 million to $2 million in early-stage startups. Sathaye says he’ll be focused specifically on the security, mobile, cloud and data verticals.

Posted Under: Tech News
Salesforce acquires Rebel, maker of ‘interactive’ email services, to expand its Marketing Cloud

Posted by on 5 October, 2018

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Salesforce’s Marketing and Commerce Cloud is the company’s smallest division today, so to help beef it up, the company is making an acquisition to add in more features. Salesforce has acquired Rebel, a startup that develops interactive email services for businesses to enhance their direct marketing services: recipients of interactive emails can write reviews, shop and take other actions without leaving the messages to do so.

In an announcement on Rebel’s site, the startup said it will be joining Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud operation, which will integrate Rebel’s API-based services into its platform.

“With Rebel’s Mail and API solutions, brands, including Dollar Shave Club, L’Oreal and HelloFresh, turn emails into an extension of their website or app – collecting data, removing friction from the conversion process, and enhancing the customer experience. Rebel will enhance the power of Salesforce Marketing Clod and fundamentally change the way people interact with email,” the founders note. It sounds as if the company’s existing business will be wound down as part of the move.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed in the Rebel announcement. We have contacted both the startup and Salesforce for further comment and to ask about the price. To date, Rebel — co-founded originally as Rebelmail by Joe Teplow and Trever Faden — had raised only about $3 million, with investors including Lerer Hippeau, Sinai Ventures, David Tisch, Gary Vaynerchuk, and others, so if the deal size is equally small, Salesforce likely will not be disclosing it.

Salesforce has made a number of acquisitions to build and expand its marketing services to compete with Adobe and others. Perhaps most notable of these was buying ExactTarget, one of its biggest-ever acquisitions, for $2.5 billion in 2013. (And according to some, it even wanted to buy Adobe at one point.) Competition has been heating up between the two, with Adobe most recently snapping up Marketo for $4.75 billion.

But on the other hand, marketing is currently Saleforce’s smallest division. It pulled in $452 million in revenues last quarter, putting it behind revenues for Sales Cloud ($1 billion), Service Cloud ($892 million) and Salesforce Platform ($712 million). Adding in interactive email functionality isn’t likely to float Marketing and Commerce Cloud to the top of that list, but it does show that Salesforce is trying to improve its products with more functionality for would-be and current customers.

Those customers have a lot of options these days, though, in targeting their own customers with rich email services. Microsoft and Google have both started to add in a lot more features into their own email products, with Outlook and Gmail supporting things like in-email payments and more. There are ways of building such solutions through your current direct marketing providers, or now directly using other avenues.

What will be interesting to see is whether Rebel continues to integrate with the plethora of email service providers it currently works with, or if Salesforce will keep the functionality for itself. Today Rebel’s partners include Oracle, SendGrid, Adobe, IBM, SailThru and, yes, Salesforce.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

Posted Under: Tech News
BlackBerry races ahead of security curve with quantum-resistant solution

Posted by on 4 October, 2018

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Quantum computing represents tremendous promise to completely alter technology as we’ve known it, allowing operations that weren’t previously possible with traditional computing. The downside of these powerful machines is that they could be strong enough to break conventional cryptography schemes. Today, BlackBerry announced a new quantum-resistant code signing service to help battle that possibility.

The service is meant to anticipate a problem that doesn’t exist yet. Perhaps that’s why BlackBerry hedged its bets in the announcement saying,”The new solution will allow software to be digitally signed using a scheme that will be hard to break with a quantum computer.” Until we have fully functioning quantum computers capable of breaking current encryption, we probably won’t know for sure if this works.

But give BlackBerry credit for getting ahead of the curve and trying to solve a problem that has concerned technologists as quantum computers begin to evolve. The solution, which will be available next month, is actually the product a partnership between BlackBerry and Isara Corporation, a company whose mission is to build quantum-safe security solutions. BlackBerry is using Isara’s cryptographic libraries to help sign and protect code as security evolves.

“By adding the quantum-resistant code signing server to our cybersecurity tools, we will be able to address a major security concern for industries that rely on assets that will be in use for a long time. If your product, whether it’s a car or critical piece of infrastructure, needs to be functional 10-15 years from now, you need to be concerned about quantum computing attacks,” Charles Eagan BlackBerry’s Chief Technology Officer said in a statement.

While experts argue how long it could take to build a fully-functioning quantum computer, most agree that it will take between 50 and 100 qubit computers to begin realizing that vision. IBM released a 20 Qubit computer last year and introduced a 50 Qubit prototype. A Qubit represents a single unit of quantum information.

At TechCrunch Disrupt last month, Dario Gil, IBM’s vice president of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and Chad Rigetti, a former IBM researcher who is founder and CEO at Rigetti Computing, predicted we could be just three years away from the point where a quantum computer surpasses traditional computing.

IBM Quantum Computer

IBM Quantum Computer. Photo: IBM

Whether it happens that quickly or not remains to be seen, but experts have been expressing security concerns around quantum computing as they grow more powerful, and BlackBerry is addressing that concern by coming up with a solution today, arguing that if you are creating critical infrastructure you need to future-proof your security.

BlackBerry, once known for highly secure phones, and one of the earliest popular, business smart phones, has pivoted to be more of a security company in recent years. This announcement, made at the BlackBerry Security Summit, is part of the company’s focus on keeping enterprises secure.

Posted Under: Tech News
GitHub gets a new and improved Jira Software Cloud integration

Posted by on 4 October, 2018

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Atlassian’s Jira has become a standard for managing large software projects in many companies. Many of those same companies also use GitHub as their source code repository and, unsurprisingly, there has long been an official way to integrate the two. That old way, however, was often slow, limited in its capabilities and unable to cope with the large code bases that many enterprises now manage on GitHub .

Almost as if to prove that GitHub remains committed to an open ecosystem, even after the Microsoft acquisition, the company today announced a new and improved integration between the two products.

“Working with Atlassian on the Jira integration was really important for us,” GitHub’s director of ecosystem engineering Kyle Daigle told me ahead of the announcement. “Because we want to make sure that our developer customers are getting the best experience of our open platform that they can have, regardless of what tools they use.”

So a couple of months ago, the team decided to build its own Jira integration from the ground up, and it’s committed to maintaining and improving it over time. As Daigle noted, the improvements here include better performance and a better user experience.

The new integration now also makes it easier to view all the pull requests, commits and branches from GitHub that are associated with a Jira issue, search for issues based on information from GitHub and see the status of the development work right in Jira, too. And because changes in GitHub trigger an update to Jira, too, that data should remain up to date at all times.

The old Jira integration over the so-called Jira DVCS connector will be deprecated and GitHub will start prompting existing users to do the upgrade over the next few weeks. The new integration is now a GitHub app, so that also comes with all of the security features the platform has to offer.

Posted Under: Tech News
Palo Alto Networks to acquire RedLock for $173 M to beef up cloud security

Posted by on 3 October, 2018

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Palo Alto Networks launched in 2005 in the age of firewalls. As we all know by now, the enterprise expanded beyond the cozy confines of a firewall long ago and vendors like Palo Alto have moved to securing data in the cloud now too. To that end, the company announced its intent to pay $173 million for RedLock today, an early-stage startup that helps companies make sure their cloud instances are locked down and secure.

The cloud vendors take responsibility for securing their own infrastructure, and for the most part the major vendors have done a decent job. What they can’t do is save their customers from themselves and that’s where a company like RedLock comes in.

As we’ve seen time and again, data has been exposed in cloud storage services like Amazon S3, not through any fault of Amazon itself, but because a faulty configuration has left the data exposed to the open internet. RedLock watches configurations like this and warns companies when something looks amiss.

When the company emerged from stealth just a year ago, Varun Badhwar, company founder and CEO told TechCrunch that this is part of Amazon’s shared responsibility model. “They have diagrams where they have responsibility to secure physical infrastructure, but ultimately it’s the customer’s responsibility to secure the content, applications and firewall settings,” Badhwar told TechCrunch last year.

Badhwar speaking in a video interview about the acquisition says they have been focused on helping developers build cloud applications safely and securely, whether that’s Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. “We think about [RedLock] as guardrails or as bumper lanes in a bowling alley and just not letting somebody get that gutter ball and from a security standpoint, just making sure we don’t deviate from the best practices,” he explained.

“We built a technology platform that’s entirely cloud-based and very quick time to value since customers can just turn it on through API’s, and we love to shine the light and show our customers how to safely move into public cloud,” he added.

He believes that customers will benefit from RedLock’s compliance capabilities being combined with Palo Alto’s analytics capabilities to provide a more complete cloud security solution. It will also fit nicely with Evident.io, a cloud infrastructure security startup, the company acquired in March for $300 million.

RedLock launched in 2015 and has raised $12 million. The $173 million purchase would appear to be a great return for the investors who put their faith in the startup.

Posted Under: Tech News
Foursquare picks up $33 million Series F investment

Posted by on 2 October, 2018

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Foursquare has today announced the partial close of a $33 million Series F financing, with $25 million already closed out and another $8 million inbound, according to the blog post.

The round was co-led by Simon Ventures and Naver Corp, with participation from Union Square Ventures, an existing investor.

Over the past four years, Foursquare has pivoted from a consumer-facing social application to an enterprise platform, giving brands, retailers and ad platforms a way to get accurate, location-based data about their customers and their conversion rates.

Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told TechCrunch that more than 90 percent of Foursquare’s revenue comes from the enterprise side of the business. Two of the company’s most popular products are Attribution and the Pilgrim SDK.

With Attribution, Foursquare allows retailers and publishers to effectively track the impact their media has on conversion at offline locations. Using a panel of 25 million, non-incentivized users, these brands and retailers can track their own impact, as well as make more informed campaign decisions using insights around foot traffic and visit history of certain demographics.

The Pilgrim SDK, on the other hand, allows brands and partners to deliver highly relevant notifications and other experiences to their own users by leveraging Foursquare’s troves of location data.

Foursquare customers include Tinder, AccuWeather, Spotify, Hilton and iHeartMedia, and that doesn’t include the long list of brands — Uber, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Twitter — whose platforms are powered by Foursquare location.

According to Glueck, one of Foursquare’s greatest advantages is that they can offer the same high-level capabilities as their competitors, such as Facebook and Google, while focusing solely on the value they’re delivering to partners.

“The success of Google or Facebook or Amazon makes them great companies but unreliable partners,” said Glueck. “The truth about these walled gardens is that they can change their terms and conditions on a whim. They’re not partner-oriented. They’re seeking domination. It’s important for an independent developer community to be able to partner with a company that has the same capabilities.”

Foursquare currently includes more than 100 million places in more than 150 countries on their platform, which powers apps that collectively serve more than 1 billion consumers.

This latest round, which increased the company’s valuation, brings Foursquare’s total funding to $240 million.

Posted Under: Tech News
Apple expands Business Chat with new businesses and additional countries

Posted by on 2 October, 2018

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Apple Business Chat launched earlier this year as a way for consumers to communicate directly with businesses on Apple’s messaging platform. Today the company announced it was expanding the program to add new businesses and support for additional countries.

When it launched in January, business partners included Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. Today’s announcement includes the likes of Burberry, West Elm, Kimpton Hotels, and Vodafone Germany.

The program, which remains in Beta, added 15 new companies today in the US and 15 internationally including in the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Italy, Australia and France.

Since the launch, companies have been coming up with creative ways to interact directly with customers in a chat setting that many users prefer over telephone trees and staticy wait music (I know I do).

For instance, Four Seasons, which launched Business Chat in July, is expanding usage to 88 properties across the globe with the ability to chat in more than 100 languages with reported average response times of around 90 seconds.

Apple previously added features like Apple Pay to iMessage to make it easy for consumers to transact directly with business in a fully digital way. If for instance, your customer service rep helps you find the perfect item, you can purchase it right then and there with Apple Pay in a fully digital payment system without having to supply a credit card in the chat interface.

Photo: Apple

What’s more, the CSR could share a link, photo or video to let you see more information on the item you’re interested in or to help you fix a problem with an item you already own. All of this can take place in iMessage, a tool millions of iPhone and iPad owners are comfortable using with friends and family.

To interact with Business Chat, customers are given messaging as a choice in contact information. If they touch this option, the interaction opens in iMessage and customers can conduct a conversation with the brand’s CSR, just as they would with friends.

Touch Message to move to iMessage conversation. Photo: Apple

This link to customer service and sales through a chat interface also fits well with the partnership with Salesforce announced last week and with the company’s overall push to the enterprise. Salesforce president and chief product officer, Bret Taylor described how Apple Business Chat could integrate with Salesforce’s Service Bot platform, which was introduced in 2017 to allow companies to build integrated automated and human response systems.

The bots could provide a first level of service and if the customer required more personal support, there could be an option to switch to Apple Business Chat.

Apple Business Chat requires iOS 11.3 or higher.

Posted Under: Tech News
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