Monthly Archives: June 2020

Canva design platform partners with FedEx Office as it pushes further into the U.S.

Posted by on 16 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Canva, the design platform for non-designers, has recently inked a partnership with FedEx Office to help businesses reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic with a design-to-print integration.

Canva declined to disclose the financial terms of the partnership.

With the new partnership, Canva and FedEx customers alike will be able to use Canva’s extensive libraries of templates, images and illustrations to design print materials for their businesses, like disposable restaurant menus, new hours of operation, information around new safety policies in the wake of the pandemic and more.

These customers can send their designs directly to FedEx for printing and pick up from over 2,000 FedEx Office locations across the U.S.

Canva’s target demographic is not hardcore, professional designers but rather non-designers, with a mission of democratizing design across professional organizations and more broadly to amateur designers.

As of October 2019, the Australia-based company was valued at $3.2 billion. At the time, Canva introduced enterprise collaboration software that allows sales teams, HR teams and other non-design teams to build out their own decks and materials with a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Since, Canva has complemented its design product with video editing software, as well.

The partnership with FedEx Office marks a big push into the U.S. market with increased brand awareness and distribution via the established print and shipping giant.

Pricing around FedEx Office printing of Canva designs remains the same as FedEx’s usual pricing structure, but FedEx is offering a 25 percent discount on orders of more than $50 through August 31.

Posted Under: Tech News
New Box tools should help ease creation of digitally driven workflows

Posted by on 16 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

As COVID-19 has forced companies to move employees from office to home, cloud services have seen a burst in business. Box has been speeding up its product roadmap to help companies who are in the midst of this transition. Today, the company announced the Box Relay template library, which includes a series of workflow templates to help customers build digital workflows faster.

Box CEO Aaron Levie says that the rapid shift to work from home has been a massive accelerant to digital transformation, in some cases driving years of digital transformation into a matter of weeks and months. He says that has made the need to digitize business processes more urgent than ever.

In fact, when he appeared on Extra Crunch Live last month, he indicated that businesses still have way too many manual processes:

We think we’re [in] an environment that anything that can be digitized probably will be. Certainly as this pandemic has reinforced, we have way too many manual processes in businesses. We have way too slow ways of working together and collaborating. And we know that we’re going to move more and more of that to digital platforms.

Box Relay is the company’s workflow tool, and while it has had the ability to create workflows, it required a certain level of knowledge and way of thinking to make that happen. Levie says that they wanted to make it as simple as possible for customers to build workflows to digitize manual processes.

“We are announcing an all new set of Box Relay templates, which are going straight to the heart of how do you automate and digitize business processes across the entire enterprise and make it really simple to do that,” he explained.

This could include things like a contract review, change order process or budget review to name a few examples. The template includes the pieces to get going, but the customer can customize the process to meet the needs of the individual organization’s requirements.

Image Credits: Box

While this is confined to Box-built templates for now, Levie says that down the road this could include the ability for customers to deploy templates of their own, or even for third parties like systems integrators to build industry or client-specific templates. But for today, it’s just about the ones you get out of the box from Box.

At the same time, the company is announcing the File Request feature, a name Levie admits doesn’t really do the feature justice. The idea is that in a workflow such as a paperless bank loan process, the individual has to submit multiple documents without having a Box account. After the company receives the documents, it can kick off a workflow automatically based on receiving the set of documents.

He says the combination of these two new capabilities will give customers the ability to digitize more and more of their processes and bring in a level of automation that wasn’t previously possible in Relay. “The combination of these two features is about driving automation across the entire enterprise and digitizing many more paper-based and manual processes in the enterprise,” Levie said.

Box will not be charging additional fees for these new features to customers using Box Relay. File Request should be available at the end of this month, while the template library should be available by the end of July, according to the company.

Posted Under: Tech News
Extra Crunch Live: Join Superhuman’s Rahul Vohra for a live discussion of email, SaaS and buzzy businesses

Posted by on 16 June, 2020

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An email app with a waitlist? No, this isn’t 2004 and I’m not talking about Gmail. Superhuman has managed to attract and maintain constant interest for its subscription email product, with a wait list at over 275,000 people long at last count – all while asking users to pay $30 per month to gain access to the service. Founder and CEO Rahul Vohra will join us on Tuesday, June 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT for an Extra Crunch Live Q&A.

We have plenty of questions of our own, but we bet you do, too! Extra Crunch members can ask their own questions directly to Vohra during the chat.

We’re thrilled to be able to sit down with Vohra for a discussion about email, why it was in need of change, and what’s bringing so much attention and interest to Superhuman on a sustained basis. We’ll talk about the current prevailing market climate and what that’s meant for the business, as well as how you manage to create not one, but two companies (Vohra previously founded and sold Rapportive) that have adapted email to more modern needs – and struck a chord with users as a result.

Meanwhile, SaaS seems to be one of the bright spots in an otherwise fairly gloomy global economic situation, and Superhuman’s $30 per month subscription model definitely qualifies. We’ll ask Vohra what it means to build a successful SaaS startup in 2020, and how there might be plenty of opportunity even in so-called ‘solved’ problems like email and other aspects of our digital lives that have become virtually invisible thanks to habit.

Audience members can also ask their own questions, so come prepared with yours if you’re already an Extra Crunch member. And if you aren’t yet – now’s a great time to sign up.

We hope to see you there!

Posted Under: Tech News
How Liberty Mutual shifted 44,000 workers from office to home

Posted by on 15 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

In a typical month, an IT department might deal with a small percentage of employees working remotely, but tracking a few thousand employees is one thing — moving an entire company offsite requires next-level planning.

To learn more about how large organizations are adapting to the rapid shift to working from home, we spoke to Liberty Mutual CIO James McGlennon, who helped orchestrate his company’s move about the challenges he faced as he shifted more than 44,000 employees in a variety of jobs, locations, cultures and living situations from office to home in short order.

Laying the groundwork

Insurance company Liberty Mutual is headquartered in the heart of Boston, but the company has offices in 29 countries. While some staffers in parts of Asia and Europe were sent home earlier in the year, by mid-March the company had closed all of its offices in the U.S. and Canada, eventually sending every employee home.

McGlennon said he never imagined such a situation, but the company saw certain networking issues in recent years that gave them an inkling of what it might look like. That included an unexpected incident in which two points on a network ring around one of its main data centers went down in quick succession, first because a backhoe hit a line, and then at another point because someone stole the fiber-optic cable.

That got the CIO and his team thinking about how to respond to worst cases. “We certainly hadn’t contemplated needing to get 44,000 people working from home or working remotely so quickly, but there have been a few things that have happened over the last few years that made me think,” he said.

Posted Under: Tech News
VESoft raises $8M to meet China’s growing need for graph databases

Posted by on 15 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Sherman Ye founded VESoft in 2018 when he saw a growing demand for graph databases in China. Its predecessors like Neo4j and TigerGraph had already been growing aggressively in the West for a few years, while China was just getting to know the technology that leverages graph structures to store data sets and depict their relationships, such as those used for social media analysis, e-commerce recommendations, and financial risk management.

VESoft is ready for further growth after closing an $8 million funding round led by Redpoint China Ventures, an investment firm launched by Silicon Valley-based Redpoint Ventures in 2005. Existing investor Matrix Partners China also participated in the Series pre-A round. The new capital will allow the startup to develop products and expand to markets in North America, Europe, and other parts of Asia.

The 30-people team is comprised of former employees from Alibaba, Facebook, Huawei, and IBM. It’s based in Hangzhou, a scenic city known for its rich history and housing Alibaba and its financial affiliate Ant Financial, where Ye previously worked as a senior engineer after his four-year stint with Facebook in California. From 2017 to 2018, the entrepreneur noticed that Ant Financial’s customers were increasingly interested in adopting graph databases as an alternative to relational databases, a model that had been popular since the 80s and normally organizes data into tables.

“While relational databases are capable of achieving many functions carried out by graph databases… they deteriorate in performance as the quantity of data grows,” Yu told TechCrunch during an interview. “We didn’t use to have so much data.”

Information explosion is one reason why Chinese companies are turning to graph databases, which can handle millions of transactions to discover patterns within scattered data. The technology’s rise is also a response to new forms of online businesses that depend more on relationships.

“Take recommendations for example. The old model recommends content based purely on user profiles, but the problem of relying on personal browsing history is it fails to recommend new things. That was fine for a long time as the Chinese [internet] market was big enough to accommodate many players. But as the industry becomes saturated and crowded… companies need to ponder how to retain existing users, lengthen their time spent, and win users from rivals.”

The key lies in serving people content and products they find appealing. Graph databases come in handy, suggested Yu, when services try to predict users’ interest or behavior as the model uncovers what their friends or people within their social circles like. “That’s a lot more effective than feeding them what’s trending.”

Neo4j compares relational and graph databases (Link)

The company has made its software open source, which the founder believed can help cultivate a community of graph database users and educate the market in China. It will also allow VESoft to reach more engineers in the English-speaking world who are well-acquainted with the open-source culture.

“There is no such thing as being ‘international’ or ‘domestic’ for a technology-driven company. There are no boundaries between countries in the open-source world,” reckoned Yu.

When it comes to generating income, the startup plans to launch a paid version for enterprises, which will come with customized plug-ins and host services.

The Nebula Graph, the brand of VESoft’s database product, is now serving 20 enterprise clients from areas across social media, e-commerce, and finance including big names like food delivery giant Meituan, popular social commerce app Xiaohongshu, and e-commerce leader JD.com. A number of overseas companies are also trialing Nebula.

The time is ripe for enterprise-facing startups with a technological moat in China as the market for consumers has been divided by incumbents like Tencent and Alibaba. This makes fundraising relatively easy for VESoft. The founder is confident that Chinese companies are rapidly catching up with their Western counterparts in the space, for the gargantuan amount of data and the myriad of ways data is used in the country “will propel the technology forward.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Gauging growth in the most challenging environment in decades

Posted by on 11 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Traditionally, measuring business success requires a greater understanding of your company’s go-to-market lifecycle, how customers engage with your product and the macro-dynamics of your market. But in the most challenging environment in decades, those metrics are out the window.

Enterprise application and SaaS companies are changing their approach to measuring performance and preparing to grow when the economy begins to recover. While there are no blanket rules or guidance that applies to every business, company leaders need to focus on a few critical metrics to understand their performance and maximize their opportunities. This includes understanding their burn rate, the overall real market opportunity, how much cash they have on hand and their access to capital. Analyzing the health of the company through these lenses will help leaders make the right decisions on how to move forward.

Play the game with the hand you were dealt. Earlier this year, our company closed a $40 million Series C round of funding, which left us in a strong cash position as we entered the market slowdown in March. Nonetheless, as the impact of COVID-19 became apparent, one of our board members suggested that we quickly develop a business plan that assumed we were running out of money. This would enable us to get on top of the tough decisions we might need to make on our resource allocation and the size of our staff.

While I understood the logic of his exercise, it is important that companies develop and execute against plans that reflect their actual situation. The reality is, we did raise the money, so we revised our plan to balance ultra-conservative forecasting (and as a trained accountant, this is no stretch for me!) with new ideas for how to best utilize our resources based on the market situation.

Burn rate matters, but not at the expense of your culture and your talent. For most companies, talent is both their most important resource and their largest expense. Therefore, it’s usually the first area that goes under the knife in order to reduce the monthly spend and optimize efficiency. Fortunately, heading into the pandemic, we had not yet ramped up hiring to support our rapid growth, so were spared from having to make enormously difficult decisions. We knew, however, that we would not hit our 2020 forecast, which required us to make new projections and reevaluate how we were deploying our talent.

Posted Under: Tech News
OpenStack adds the StarlinkX edge computing stack to its top-level projects

Posted by on 11 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

The OpenStack Foundation today announced that StarlingX, a container-based system for running edge deployments, is now a top-level project. With this, it joins the main OpenStack private and public cloud infrastructure project, the Airship lifecycle management system, Kata Containers and the Zuul CI/CD platform.

What makes StarlingX a bit different from some of these other projects is that it is a full stack for edge deployments — and in that respect, it’s maybe more akin to OpenStack than the other projects in the foundation’s stable. It uses open-source components from the Ceph storage platform, the KVM virtualization solution, Kubernetes and, of course, OpenStack and Linux. The promise here is that StarlingX can provide users with an easy way to deploy container and VM workloads to the edge, all while being scalable, lightweight and providing low-latency access to the services hosted on the platform.

Early StarlingX adopters include China UnionPay, China Unicom and T-Systems. The original codebase was contributed to the foundation by Intel and Wind River System in 2018. Since then, the project has seen 7,108 commits from 211 authors.

“The StarlingX community has made great progress in the last two years, not only in building great open source software but also in building a productive and diverse community of contributors,” said Ildiko Vancsa, ecosystem technical lead at the OpenStack Foundation. “The core platform for low-latency and high-performance applications has been enhanced with a container-based, distributed cloud architecture, secure booting, TPM device enablement, certificate management and container isolation. StarlingX 4.0, slated for release later this year, will feature enhancements such as support for Kata Containers as a container runtime, integration of the Ussuri version of OpenStack, and containerization of the remaining platform services.”

It’s worth remembering that the OpenStack Foundation has gone through a few changes in recent years. The most important of these is that it is now taking on other open-source infrastructure projects that are not part of the core OpenStack project but are strategically aligned with the organization’s mission. The first of these to graduate out of the pilot project phase and become top-level projects were Kata Containers and Zuul in April 2019, with Airship joining them in October.

Currently, the only pilot project for the OpenStack Foundation is its OpenInfra Labs project, a community of commercial vendors and academic institutions, including the likes of Boston University, Harvard, MIT, Intel and Red Hat, that are looking at how to better test open-source code in production-like environments.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Quolum announces $2.75M seed investment to track SaaS spending

Posted by on 11 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

As companies struggle to find ways to control costs in today’s economy, understanding what you are spending on SaaS tools is paramount. That’s precisely what early stage startup Quolum is attempting to do, and today it announced a $2.75 million seed round.

Surge Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners led the round with help from a dozen unnamed angel investors.

Company founder Indus Khatian says that he launched the company last summer pre-COVID, when he recognized that companies were spending tons of money on SaaS subscriptions and he wanted to build a product to give greater visibility into that spending.

This tool is aimed at finance, who might not know about the utility of a specific SaaS tool like PagerDuty, but who looks at the bills every month. The idea is to give them data about usage as well as cost to make sure they aren’t paying for something they aren’t using.

“Our goal is to give finance a better set of tools, not just to put a dollar amount on [the subscription costs], but also the utilization, as in who’s using it, how much are they using it and is it effective? Do I need to know more about it? Those are the questions that we are helping finance answer,” Khatian explained.

Eventually, he says he also wants to give that data directly to lines of business, but for starters he is focusing on finance. The product works by connecting to the billing or expense software to give insight into the costs of the services. It takes that data and combines it with usage data in a dashboard to give a single view of the SaaS spending in one place.

While Khatian acknowledges there are other similar tools in the marketplace such as Blissfully, Intello and others, he believes the problem is big enough for multiple vendors to do well. “Our differentiator is being end-to-end. We are not just looking at the dollars, or stopping at how many times you’ve logged in, but we’re going deep into consumption. So for every dollar that you’ve spent, how many units of that software you have consumed,” he said.

He says that he raised the money last fall and admits that it probably would have been tougher today, and he would have likely raised on a lower valuation.

Today the company consists of a 6 person development team in Bangalore in India and Khatian in the U.S. After the company generates some revenue he will be hiring a few people to help with marketing, sales and engineering.

When it comes to building a diverse company, he points out that he himself is an immigrant founder, and he sees the ability to work from anywhere, an idea amplified by COVID-19, helping result in a more diverse workforce. As he builds his company, and adds employees,  he can hire people across the world, regardless of location.

Posted Under: Tech News
InVision adds new features to Freehand, a virtual whiteboard tool, as user demand surges

Posted by on 11 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

No business is immune to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen Airbnb — a company particularly susceptible to this Black Swan event — go through an insane design sprint. Even enterprise collaboration tools have felt it, with Box readjusting its product road map to focus on how the tool worked for remote employees.

InVision has also seen the change in its users behavior and adapted accordingly. Freehand, the company’s collaborative white boarding tool has seen a huge surge in users and the startup has added a handful of new features to the product.

The company says that Freehand is seeing 130 percent growth in weekly active users since March.

New features include sticky notes that come in multiple color, size and text options, as well as templates to give teams a jumping off point for their whiteboarding exercise. Freehand has six new templates to start — brainstorming, wireframing, retrospectives, standups, diagrams, and ice breakers &madsh; and has plans to add more soon.

InVision has also added a ‘presenting’ mode to Freehand.

Because this virtual whiteboard has no space constraints, it can literally zoom out to infinity and is restricted only by the imagination of the team working on it. In ‘presenting’ mode, a team leader can take over the view of the virtual whiteboard to guide their team through one part of the content at a time.

Freehand has an integration with Microsoft Teams and Slack, and also has a new shortcut where users can type ‘freehand.new’ into any browser to start on a fresh whiteboard.

Interestingly, the user growth around Freehand doesn’t just come from the usual suspects of design, product and engineering teams. Departments across organizations, including HR, Marketing and IT teams, are coming to Freehand to collaborate on projects and tasks. More than 60 percent of Freehand users are not coming from the design team.

InVision has also added some fine-tuning features, such as a brand new toolbar to allow for easier drawing of shapes, alignment, color and opacity features, and better controls for turning lines into precise arrows or end-points for diagrams.

One of the most interesting things about Freehand is that it allows for democratized access to the whiteboard itself. With no restraints on time or space, and with no one gatekeeping up at the front of the room holding the marker, all members of a team can go in and add their thoughts and ideas to the whiteboard before, during or after a meeting.

“One of the nice things about a whiteboard or a virtual whiteboard like this one is it removes it removes the aspects of the restrictions of time and space, so teams can have more efficient meetings where they get the benefit of democratic input without the cost of having only one person at a time being able to speak or add,” said David Fraga, InVision President. “It offers a synchronous collision of collaboration.”

InVision has raised a total of $350 million from investors like FirstMark, Spark, Battery, Accel and Tiger Global Management. The company now boasts more than 7 million total registered users, with 100 of the Fortune 100 companies using the product. InVision is also part of the $100 million ARR club.

Posted Under: Tech News
API platform Postman delivers $150M Series C on $2B valuation

Posted by on 11 June, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

APIs provide a way to build connections to a set of disparate applications and data sources, and can help simplify a lot of the complex integration issues companies face. Postman has built an enterprise API platform and today it got rewarded with a $150 million Series C investment on a whopping $2 billion valuation — all during a pandemic.

Insight Partners led the round with help from existing investors CRV and Nexus Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $207 million, according to the company. That includes a $50 million Series B from a year ago, making it $200 million raised in just a year. That’s a lot of cash.

Abhinav Asthana, CEO and co-founder at Postman, says that what’s attracting all that dough is an end-to-end platform for building APIs. “We help developers, QA, DevOps — anybody who is in the business of building APIs — work on the same platform. They can use our tools for designing, documentation, testing and monitoring to build high quality APIs, and they do that faster.” Asthana told TechCrunch.

He says that he was not actively looking for funding before this round came together. In fact, he says that investors approached him after the pandemic shut everything down in California in March, and he sees it as a form of validation for the startup.

“We think it shows the strength of the company. We have phenomenal adoption across developers and enterprises and the pandemic has [not had much of an impact on us]. The company has been receiving crazy inbound interest [from investors],” he said.

He didn’t want to touch the question of going public just yet, but he feels the hefty valuation sends a message to the market that this is a solid company that is going to be around for the long term.

Jeff Horing, co-founder and managing director at lead investor Insight Partners certainly sees it that way. “The combination of the market opportunity, the management team and Postman’s proven track record of success shows that they are ready to become the software industry’s next great success,” he said in a statement.

Today the company has around 250 employees divided between the US and Bangalore in India, and he sees doubling that number in the next year. One thing the pandemic has shown him is that his employees can work from anywhere and he intends to hire people across the world to take advantage of the most diverse talent pool possible.

“Looking for diverse talent as part of our large community as we build this workforce up is going to be a key way in which we want to solve this. Along with that, we are bringing people from diverse communities into our events and making sure that we are constantly in touch with those communities, which should help us build up a very strong diverse kind of hiring function,” he said.

He added, “We want to be deliberate about that, and over the coming months we will also shed more light on what specifically we are doing.”

Posted Under: Tech News
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