Monthly Archives: September 2020

Coralogix lands $25M Series B to rethink log analysis and monitoring

Posted by on 30 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Logging and monitoring tends to be an expensive endeavor because of the sheer amount of data involved. Companies are therefore forced to pick and choose what they monitor, limiting what they can see. Coralogix wants to change that by offering a more flexible pricing model, and today the company announced a $25 million Series B and a new real time analytics solution called Streama.

First the funding. The round was led by Red Dot Capital Partners and O.G. Tech Ventures with help from existing investors Aleph VC, StageOne Ventures, Janvest Capital Partners and 2B Angels. Today’s round, which comes after the startup’s $10 million Series A last November, brings the total to $41.2 million raised, according to the company.

When we spoke to Coralogix CEO and co-founder Ariel Assaraf last year regarding the A round, he described his company as more of an intelligent applications performance monitoring with some security logging analytics.

Today, the company announced Streama, which has been in Alpha since July. Assaraf says companies can pick and choose how they monitor and pay only for the features they use. That means if a particular log is only tangentially important, a customer can set it to low priority and save money, and direct the budget toward more important targets.

As the pandemic has taken hold, he says that companies are appreciating the ability to save money on their monitoring costs, and directing those resources elsewhere in the company. “We’re basically building out this full platform that is going to be inside centric and value centric instead of volume or machine count centric in its pricing model,” Assaraf said.

Assaraf differentiates his company from others out there like Splunk, Datadog and Sumo Logic saying his is a more modern approach to the problem that simplifies the operations. “All these complicated engineering things are being abstracted away in a simple way, so that any user can very quickly create savings and demonstrate that it’s [no longer] an engineering problem, it’s more of a business value question,” he explained.

Since the A round, the company has grown from 25 to 60 people spread out between Israel and the U.S. It plans to grow to 120 people in the next year with the new funding. When it comes to diversity in hiring, he says Israel is fairly homogeneous, so it involves gender parity there, something that he says he is working to achieve. The U.S. is still relatively small with just 12 employees now, but it will be expanding in the next year and it’s something he says that he will need to be thinking about that as he hires.

As part of that hiring spree, he wants to kick his sales and marketing operations into higher gear and start spending more on those areas as the company grows.

Posted Under: Tech News
Gusto is expanding from payroll into a full suite financial wellness platform

Posted by on 30 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

When we caught up with Gusto last year, the small business payroll startup had just raised $200 million and was launching a new office in New York City. Over the past few years though, Gusto has also been accruing new features outside of its original payroll product, features that redefine the borders between payroll and financial wellness, and in the process, are blurring the lines of the classic fintech market map.

Today, the company announced a slew of new offerings that it hopes will give employees better financial and health options through their employers.

The most interesting one here is a tool the company is calling Gusto Wallet. It’s an app and collection of products for employees paid through Gusto that basically acts as a mini bank and financial health monitor. It offers an interest-bearing cash account (called, appropriately enough, Cash Accounts) which can also divert a small slice of each paycheck into a user’s savings, similar to products like Acorns and Digit. Cash stored in the account earns 0.34% interest today, and you can also get a Gusto debit card to spend it.

Gusto’s app gives you access to financial services and wellness tools. Photo via Gusto

For employees, what’s interesting here is that these services are offered essentially for free: Gusto makes money on its payroll services from employers as a software subscription fee, and so it offers financial services like these as an inducement to keep employers and employees engaged. Gusto hopes that this can keep debt low for employees, and also offer them more financial stability, particularly as businesses open and close in the wake of COVID-19.

In addition, Gusto Wallet also offers “Cashout,” which can accelerate a payday ahead of time based on the pay history of an employee. Rather than securing a high-cost payday loan, the product is designed to help users smooth out a bit of their income if they need their paycheck a bit ahead of their actual direct deposit. It’s also free of fees.

Gusto CEO Joshua Reeves said that “One of the biggest problems is people are oftentimes living paycheck-to-paycheck — they’re either not saving money, or they’re getting stuck in debt accessing things like overdraft fees, or credit card debt, or payday loans.” The hope with Gusto Wallet is that its easy availability and low costs not only attract users, but leave them in much better financial shape than before.

What’s interesting to me is placing these new features in the wider scope of the fintech landscape. It seems that every week, there is another startup launching a consumer credit card, or a new debt product, or another savings app designed to help consumers with their finances. And then every week, we hear about the credit card startup launching a new savings account, or the savings app launching an insurance product.

The math is simple: it’s very, very hard to acquire a customer in financial services, and it’s so competitive that the cost per acquired customer is extremely high (think hundreds of dollars or more per customer). For most of these startups, once you have a customer using one financial product, much like traditional banks, they want you to use all of their other products as well to maximize customer value and amortize those high CAC costs.

Gusto is an interesting play here precisely since it starts at the payroll layer. Banks and other savings apps often try to get you to send your paycheck to their service, since if your money resides there, you are much more likely to use that service’s features. Gusto intercepts that transaction and owns it itself. Plus, because it ultimately is selling subscriptions to payroll and not financial services, it can offer many of these features outright for free.

Reeves said that “This is a future that just seems inevitable, like all this information right now is sitting in silos. How do we give the employee more of that ownership and access through one location?” By combining payroll, 401K planning, savings accounts, debit cards, and more in one place, Gusto is hoping to become the key financial health tool for its employee end users.

That’s the financial side. In addition, Gusto announced today that it is now helping small businesses setup health reimbursement accounts. Under a provision passed by Congress a few years ago, small businesses have a unique mechanism (called QSHERA) to offer health reimbursement to their employees. That program is riven with technicalities and administrivia though. Gusto believes its new offering will help more small businesses create these kinds of programs.

Given Gusto’s small business focus, this year has seen huge changes thanks to the global pandemic. “It’s been an inspiring, challenging, motivating, [and] galvanizing time for the company,” Reeves said. “Normally, I would say [we have] three home bases: New York, SF, [and] Denver. Now we have 1,400 home bases.” That hasn’t stopped the company’s mission, and if anything, has brought many of its employees closer to the small businesses they ultimately serve.

Gusto team, with CEO Joshua Reeves on the left of the second row. Photo via Gusto

Posted Under: Tech News
VTEX raises $225M at a $1.7B valuation for e-commerce solutions aimed at retailers and brands

Posted by on 30 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Retailers and consumer brands are focused more than ever in their histories on using e-commerce channels to connect with customers: the global health pandemic has disrupted much of their traditional business in places like physical stores, event venues and restaurants, and vending machines, and accelerated the hunt for newer ways to sell goods and services. Today, a startup that’s been helping them build those bridges, specifically to expand into newer markets, is announcing a huge round of funding, underscoring the demand.

VTEX, which builds e-commerce solutions and strategies for retailers like Walmart and huge consumer names like AB InBev, Motorola, Stanley Black & Decker, Sony, Walmart, Whirlpool, Coca-Cola and Nestlé, has raised $225 million in new funding, valuing the company at $1.7 billion post-money.

The funding is being co-led by two investors, Tiger Global and Lone Pine Capital, with Constellation, Endeavour Catalyst and SoftBank also participating. It’s a mix of investors, with two leads, that offers a “signal” of what might come next for the startup, sad Amit Shah, the company’s chief strategy officer and general manager for North America.

“We’ve seen them invest in big rounds right before companies go public,” he said. “Now, that’s not necessarily happening here right now, but it’s a signal.” The company has been profitable and plans to continue to be, Shah said (making it one example of a SoftBank investment that hasn’t gone sour). Revenues this year are up 114% with $8 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) processed over platforms it’s built.

Given that VTEX last raised money less than a year ago — a $140 million round led by SoftBank’s Latin American Innovation Fund — the valuation jump for the startup is huge. Shah confirmed to us that it represents a 4x increase on its previous valuation (which would have been $425 million).

The interest back in November from SoftBank’s Latin American fund stemmed from VTEX’s beginnings. The company got its start building e-commerce storefronts and strategies for businesses that were hoping to break into Brazil — the B of the world’s biggest emerging “BRIC” markets — and the rest of Latin America. It made its name building Walmart in the region, and has continued to help run and develop that operation even after Walmart divested the asset, and it’s working with Walmart now in other regions outside the US, too, he added.

But since then, while the Latin American arm of the business has continued to thrive, the company has capitalized both on the funding it had picked up, and the current global climate for e-commerce solutions, to expand its business into more markets, specifically North America, EMEA and most recently Asia.

Revenues were growing at a rate of 50% a year before the pandemic ahead of it’s more recent growth this year of 114%, Shah said. “Of course, we would prefer Covid-19 not to be here, but it has had a good effect on our business. The arc of e-commerce has grown has impacted revenues and created that additional level of investor interest.”

VTEX’s success has hinged not just on catering to companies that have up to now not prioritized their online channels, but in doing so in a way that is more unified.

Consumer packaged goods have been in a multi-faceted bind because of the fragmented way in which they have grown. A drinks brand will not only manufacture on a local level (and sometimes, as in the case of, say, Coca-Cola, use different ingredient formulations), but they will often have products that are only sold in select markets, and because the audiences are different, they’ve devise marketing and distribution strategies on a local level, too. On top of all that, products like these have long relied on channels like retailers, restaurants, vending machines and more to get their products into the hands of consumers.

These days, of course, all of that has been disrupted: all the traditional channels they would have used to sell things are now either closed or seeing greatly reduced custom. And as for marketing: the rise of social networks has led to a globalization in messaging, where something can go viral all over the world and marketing therefore knows no regional boundaries.

So, all of this means that brands have to rethink everything around how they sell their products, and that’s where a company like VTEX steps in, building strategies and solutions that can be used in multiple regions. Among typical deals, it’s been working with AB InBev to develop a global commerce platform covering 50 countries (replacing multiple products from other vendors, typically competitors to VTEX include SAP, Shopify and Magento).

“CPG companies are seeking to standardize and make their businesses and lives a little easier,” Shah said. Typical work that it does includes building marketplaces for retailers, or new e-commerce interfaces so that brands can better supply online and offline retailers, or sell directly to customers — for example, with new ways of ordering products to get delivered by others. Shah said that some 200 marketplaces have now been built by VTEX for its customers.

(Shah himself, it’s worth pointing out, has a pedigree in startups and in e-commerce. He founded an e-commerce analytics company called Jirafe, which was acquired by SAP, where he then became the chief revenue officer of SAP Hybris.)

“We are excited to grow quickly in new and existing markets, and offer even more brands a platform that embraces the future of commerce, which is about being collaborative, leveraging marketplaces, and delivering customer experiences that are second-to-none,” said Mariano Gomide de Faria, VTEX co-founder and co-CEO, in a statement. “This injection of funding will undoubtedly support us in achieving our mission to accelerate digital commerce transformation around the world.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Papaya Global raises $40M for a payroll and HR platform aimed at global workforces

Posted by on 30 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Workforces are getting more global, and people who work day in, day out for organizations don’t always sit day in, day out in a single office, in a single country, to get a job done. Today, one of the startups building HR to help companies provision services for and manage those global workers better is announcing a funding round to capitalise on a surge in business that it has seen in the last year — spurred in no small part by the global health pandemic, the impact it’s had on travel and the way it has focused the minds of companies to get their cloud services and workforce management in order.

Papaya Global, an Israeli startup that provides cloud-based payroll, as well as hiring, onboarding and compliance services for organizations that employ full-time, part-time, or contractors outside of their home country, has raised $40 million in a Series B round of funding led by Scale Venture Partners. Workday Ventures — the corporate investment arm of the HR company — Access Industries (via its Israeli vehicle Claltech), and previous investors Insight Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, New Era Ventures, Group 11, and Dynamic Loop also participated

The money comes less than a year after its Series A of $45 million, following the company growing 300% year-over-year annually since 2016. It’s now raised $95 million and is not disclosing valuation. But Eynat Guez, the CEO who co-founded the company in that year with Ruben Drong and Ofer Herman, said in an interview that it’s 5x the valuation it had in its round last year.

Its customers include fast-growing startups (precisely the kind of customer that not only has global workforces, but is expanding its employee base quickly) like OneTrust, nCino and Hopin, as well as major corporates like Toyota, Microsoft, Wix, and General Dynamics.

Guez said Papaya Global was partly born out of the frustrations she herself had with HR solutions — she’s worked in the field for years. Different countries have different employment regulations, varied banking rules, completely different norms in terms of how people get paid, and so on. While there have been some really modern tools built for local workforces — Rippling, Gusto, Zenefits now going head to head with incumbents like ADP — they weren’t built to address these issues.

Other HR people who have dealt with international workers would understand her pain, those who control the purse strings might have been less aware of the fragmentation. All that changed in the last eight months (and for the foreseeable future), a period when companies have had to reassess everything about how they work to make sure that they can get through the current period without collapsing.

“The major impact of Covid-19 for us has been changing attitudes,” said Guez. “People usually think that payroll works by itself, but it’s one of the more complex parts of the organization, covering major areas like labor, accounting, tax. Eight months ago, a lot of clients thought, it just happens. But now they realize they didn’t have control of the data, some don’t even have a handle on who is being paid.”

As people moved into and out of jobs, and out of offices into working from home, as the pandemic kicked off, some operations fell apart as a result, she said. “Payroll continuity is like IT continuity, and so all of a sudden when Covid started its march, we had prospects calling us saying they didn’t have data on, for example, their Italian employees, and the office they were using wasn’t answering the phone.”

Guez herself is walking the walk on the remote working front. Papaya Global itself has offices around the world, and Guez herself is normally based in Tel Aviv. But our interview was conducted with her in the Maldives. She said she and her family decided to decamp elsewhere before Israel went into a second lockdown, which was very tough to handle in a small flat with small children. Working anywhere, as we have found out, can work.

The company is not the only one that has identified and is building to help organizations handle global workforces. In fact, just when you think the unemployment, furlough and layoff crunch is affecting an inordinate number of people and the job market is in a slump, a rush of them, along with other HR companies, have all been announcing significant funding rounds this year on the back of surges in business.

Others that have raised money during the pandemic include Deel, which like Papaya Global is also addressing the complexities of running global workforces; Turing, which helps with sourcing and then managing international teams; Factorial with its platform targeting specifically SMBs; Lattice focused on the bigger challenges of people management; and Rippling, the second act from Zenefits’ Parker Conrad.

“Papaya Global’s accelerating growth is a testament to their top-notch executive leadership as well as their ability to streamline international payroll management, a first for many enterprises that have learned to live with highly manual payroll processes,” said Rory O’Driscoll, a partner at Scale Venture Partners, in a statement. “The complexity and cost of managing multi-region workforces cannot be understated. Eynat and her team are uniquely serving their customers’ needs, bringing an advanced SaaS platform into a market long-starved for more effective software solutions.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Salesforce creates for profit platform to help governments distribute COVID vaccine when it’s ready

Posted by on 30 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

For more than 20 years, Salesforce has been selling cloud business software, but it has also used the same platform to build ways to track other elements besides sales, marketing and service information including Work.com, the platform it created earlier this year to help companies develop and organize a safe way to begin returning to work during the pandemic.

Today, the company announced it was putting that same platform to work to help distribute and track a vaccine whenever it becomes available along with related materials like syringes that will be needed to administer it. The plan is to use Salesforce tools to solve logistical problems around distributing the vaccine, as well as data to understand where it could be needed most and the efficacy of the drug, according to Bill Patterson, EVP and general manager for CRM applications at Salesforce.

“The next wave of the virus phasing, if you will, will be [when] a vaccine is on the horizon, and we begin planning the logistics. Can we plan the orchestration? Can we measure the inventory? Can we track the outcomes of the vaccine once it reaches the public’s hands,” Patterson asked.

Salesforce has put together a new product called Work.com for Vaccines to put its platform to work to help answer these questions, which Patterson says ultimately involves logistics and data, two areas that are strengths for Salesforce.

The platform includes the core Work.com command center along with additional components for inventory management, appointment management, clinical administration, outcome monitoring and public outreach.

While this all sounds good, what Salesforce lacks of course is expertise in drug distribution or public health administration, but the company believes that by creating a flexible platform with open data that government entities can share that data with other software products outside of the Salesforce family.

“That’s why it’s important to use an open data platform that allows for aggregate data to be quickly summarized and abstracted for public use,” he said. He points to the fact that some states are using Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought last year for a tidy $15.7 billion, to track other types of COVID data.

“Many states today are running all their COVID testing and positive case reporting through the Tableau platform. We want to do the same kind of exchange of data with things like inventory management [for a vaccine],” he said.

While this sounds like a public service kind of activity, Salesforce intends to sell this product to governments to manage vaccines. Patterson says that to run a system like this at what they envision will be enormous scale, it will be a service that governments have to pay for to access.

This isn’t the first time that Salesforce has created a product that falls somewhat outside of the standard kind of business realm, but which takes advantage of the Salesforce platform. Last year it developed a tool to help companies measure how sustainable they are being. While the end goal is positive, just like Work.com for Vaccines and the broader Work.com platform, it is a tool that they charge for to help companies implement and measure these kinds of initiatives.

The tool set is available starting today. Pricing will vary depending on the requirements and components of each government entity.

The real question here is should this kind of distribution platform be created by a private company like Salesforce for profit, or perhaps would be better suited to an open source project, where a community of developers could create the software and distribute it for free.

Posted Under: Tech News
How Twilio built its own conference platform

Posted by on 29 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Twilio’s annual customer conference was supposed to happen in May, but like everyone else who had live events scheduled for this year, it ran smack-dab into COVID-19 and was forced to cancel. That left the company wondering how to reimagine the event online. It began an RFP process to find a vendor to help, but eventually concluded it could use its own APIs and built a platform on its own.

That’s a pretty bold move, but one of the key issues facing Twilio was how to recreate the in-person experience of the show floor where people could chat with specific API experts. After much internal deliberation, they realized that was what their communication API products were designed to do.

Once they committed to going their own way, they began a long process that involved figuring out must-have features, building consensus in the company, a development and testing cycle and finding third-party partnerships to help them when they ran into the limitations of their own products.

All that work culminates this week when Twilio holds its annual Signal Conference online Wednesday and Thursday. We spoke to In-Young Chang, director of experience at Twilio, to learn how this project came together.

Chang said once the decision was made to go virtual, the biggest issue for them (and for anyone putting on a virtual conference) was how to recreate that human connection that is a natural part of the in-person conference experience.

The company’s first step was to put out a request for proposals with event software vendors. She said that the problem was that these platforms hadn’t been designed for the most part to be fully virtual. At best, they had a hybrid approach where some people attended virtually, but most were there in person.

“We met with a lot of different vendors, vendors that a lot of big tech companies were using, but there were pros to some of them, and then cons to others, and none of them truly fit everything that we needed, which was connecting our customers to product experts [like we do at our in-person conferences],” Chang told TechCrunch.

Even though they had winnowed the proposals down to a manageable few, they weren’t truly satisfied with what the event software vendors were offering, and they came to a realization.

“Either we find a vendor who can do this fully custom in three months time, or [we do it ourselves]. This is what we do. This is in our DNA, so we can make this happen. The hard part became how do you prioritize because once we made the conference fully software-based, the possibilities were endless,” she said.

All of this happened pretty quickly. The team interviewed the vendors in May, and by June made the decision to build it themselves. They began the process of designing the event software they would be using, taking advantage of their own communications capabilities, first and foremost.

The first thing they needed to do was meet with various stakeholders inside the company and figure out the must-have features in their custom platform. She said that reeling in people’s ambitions for version 1.0 of the platform was part of the challenge that they faced trying to pull this together.

“We only had three months. It wasn’t going to be totally perfect. There had to be some prioritization and compromises, but with our APIs we [felt that we] could totally make this happen,” Chang said.

They started meeting with different groups across the company to find out their must-haves. They knew that they wanted to recreate this personal contact experience. Other needs included typical conference activities like being able to collect leads and build agendas and the kinds of things you would expect to do at any conference, whether in-person or virtual.

As the team met with the various constituencies across the company, they began to get a sense of what they needed to build and they created a priorities document, which they reviewed with the Signal leadership team. “There were some hard conversations and some debates, but everyone really had goodwill toward each other knowing that we only had a few months,” she said.

Signal Concierge Agent helps attendees navigate the online conference. Image Credits: Twilio

The team believed it could build a platform that met the company’s needs, but with only 10 developers working on it, they had a huge challenge to get it done in three months.

With one of the major priorities putting customers together with the right Twilio personnel, they decided to put their customer service platform, Twilio Flex, to work on the problem. Flex combines voice, messaging, video and chat in one interface. While the conference wasn’t a pure customer service issue, they believed that they could leverage the platform to direct requests to people with the right expertise and recreate the experience of walking up to the booth and asking questions of a Twilio employee with a particular skill set.

“Twilio Flex has Taskrouter, which allows us to assign agents unique skills-based characteristics like you’re a video expert, so I’m going to tag you as a video expert. If anyone has a question around video, I know that we can route it directly to you,” Chang explained.

They also built a bot companion, called Signal Concierge, that moves through the online experience with each attendee and helps them find what they need, applying their customer service approach to the conference experience.

“Signal Concierge is your conference companion, so that if you ever have a question about what session you should go to next or [you want to talk to an expert], there’s just one place that you have to go to get an answer to your question, and we’ll be there to help you with it,” she said.

The company couldn’t do everything with Twilio’s tools, so it turned to third parties in those cases. “We continued our partnership with Klik, a conference data and badging platform all available via API. And Perficient, a Twilio SI partner we hired to augment the internal team to more quickly implement the custom Twilio Flex experience in the tight timeframe we had. And Plexus, who provided streaming capabilities that we could use in an open source video player,” she said.

They spent September testing what they built, making sure the Signal Concierge was routing requests correctly and all the moving parts were working. They open the virtual doors on Wednesday morning and get to see how well they pulled it off.

Chang says she is proud of what her team pulled off, but recognizes this is a first pass and future versions will have additional features that they didn’t have time to build.

“This is V1 of the platform. It’s not by any means exactly what we want, but we’re really proud of what we were able to accomplish from scoping the content to actually building the platform within three months’ time,” she said.

Posted Under: Tech News
Datasaur snags $3.9M investment to build intelligent machine learning labeling platform

Posted by on 29 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

As machine learning has grown, one of the major bottlenecks remains labeling things so the machine learning application understands the data it’s working with. Datasaur, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch, announced a $3.9 million investment today to help solve that problem with a platform designed for machine learning labeling teams.

The funding announcement, which includes a pre-seed amount of $1.1 million from last year and $2.8 million seed right after it graduated from Y Combinator in March, included investments from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman.

Company founder Ivan Lee says that he has been working in various capacities involving AI for seven years. First when his mobile gaming startup, Loki Studios was acquired by Yahoo! in 2013, and Lee was eventually moved to the AI team, and most recently at Apple. Regardless of the company, he consistently saw a problem around organizing machine learning labeling teams, one that he felt he was uniquely situated to solve because of his experience.

“I have spent millions of dollars [in budget over the years] and spent countless hours gathering labeled data for my engineers. I came to recognize that this was something that was a problem across all the companies that I’ve been at. And they were just consistently reinventing the wheel and the process. So instead of reinventing that for the third time at Apple, my most recent company, I decided to solve it once and for all for the industry. And that’s why we started Datasaur last year,” Lee told TechCrunch.

He built a platform to speed up human data labeling with a dose of AI, while keeping humans involved. The platform consists of three parts: a labeling interface, the intelligence component, which can recognize basic things, so the labeler isn’t identifying the same thing over and over, and finally a team organizing component.

He says the area is hot, but to this point has mostly involved labeling consulting solutions, which farm out labeling to contractors. He points to the sale of Figure Eight in March 2019 and to Scale, which snagged $100 million last year as examples of other startups trying to solve this problem in this way, but he believes his company is doing something different by building a fully software-based solution

The company currently offers a cloud and on-prem solution, depending on the customer’s requirements. It has 10 employees with plans to hire in the next year, although he didn’t share an exact number. As he does that, he says he has been working with a partner at investor Initialized on creating a positive and inclusive culture inside the organization, and that includes conversations about hiring a diverse workforce as he builds the company.

“I feel like this is just standard CEO speak but that is something that we absolutely value in our top of funnel for the hiring process,” he said.

As Lee builds out his platform, he has also worried about built-in bias in AI systems and the detrimental impact that could have on society. He says that he has spoken to clients about the role of labeling in bias and ways of combatting that.

“When I speak with our clients, I talk to them about the potential for bias from their labelers and built into our product itself is the ability to assign multiple people to the same project. And I explain to my clients that this can be more costly, but from personal experience I know that it can improve results dramatically to get multiple perspectives on the exact same data,” he said.

Lee believes humans will continue to be involved in the labeling process in some way, even as parts of the process become more automated. “The very nature of our existence [as a company] will always require humans in the loop, […] and moving forward I do think it’s really important that as we get into more and more of the long tail use cases of AI, we will need humans to continue to educate and inform AI, and that’s going to be a critical part of how this technology develops.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Axis Security raises $32M to help companies stay secure while working from home

Posted by on 29 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Axis Security launched last year with the idea of helping customers to enable contractors and third parties to remotely access a company’s systems in a safe way, but when the pandemic hit, they saw another use case, one which had been on their road map: helping keep systems secure when employees were working from home.

Today, the company announced a $32 million Series B investment led by Canaan Partners with participation from existing investors Ten Eleven Ventures and Cyberstarts. Today’s round brings the total raised to $49 million, according to Axis.

Gil Azrielant, co-founder and CTO says that the company was able to make the shift to a work from home security scenario so quickly because it had built the product from the ground up to support this vision eventually. The pandemic just accelerated that approach.

“We decided to focus on third parties and contractors at first, but we saw where the puck was going and definitely [designed] the infrastructure to become a full-blown, secure access product. So the infrastructure was there, and we just had to add a few things that were planned for later,” Azrielant told TechCrunch.

He says that the company’s product uses the notion of Zero Trust, which as the name suggests assumes you can’t trust anyone on your system, and work from there. Using a rules-based engine, customers can create a secure environment based on your role.

“What you can see, or what you can do, or what you can download or get to is fully controlled by our Application Access Cloud. This is based on what device you’re using, where you are, who you are, what role you’re in, and what you usually do and don’t do to determine the level of access you are going to get,” he said.

As the startup emerged from stealth last March just three days after the pandemic shut down began in California, it had two main customers — a hotel chain and a pharmaceutical company — and CEO Dor Knafo says that as COVID took hold, “necessity became the mother of adoption.”

He added, “Both accounts came to us and asked us to start pursuing all these employee access use cases, and to us that was incredible because that gave them the push they needed to see the [remote access] vision just as vividly as we do,” he said. Today it has added to that initial pair and while it wouldn’t share it an exact number, it reports it has tens of customers.

Today, the startup has 38 employees almost evenly split between San Mateo, California and Tel Aviv in Israel with plans to accelerate hiring to reach 100 people next year. As the company scales, Knafo says that he is trying to build a more diverse group as it moves to hire more people in the coming year.

“Today, we have incentive internally to help us hire in a more diverse way. We invest heavily in that, and we continue to [keep that at top of mind] for everyone in the company,” Knafo said.

Azrielant added that the pandemic has shown employees don’t have to be located near the offices, which have been closed for much of this year, and that opens up more possibilities to build a more diverse workforce because they can hire from anywhere.

With a product that has much utility right now, the company will be using the new influx of cash to help build out its sales and marketing operations and expand sales outside of North America.

“With COVID accelerating and with a shift to work from anywhere, we’ll definitely focus on bringing our products to more enterprises, which are facing this urgent challenge of working from home,” Knafo said.

Posted Under: Tech News
PayCargo raises $35M from Insight for its cloud-based platform targeting the freight industry

Posted by on 29 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Shipping has long been one of the more antiquated, and least technological, segments in the world of commerce, with its physical aspects — rooted in massive cargo tankers, giant fleets of aircraft and trucks, and trains of linked-up containers — underscoring some of the more obvious analogue attributes of the business.

That has also made it a ripe opportunity for startups, and today, one called PayCargo, which has built a suite of cloud-based payment and financing services for the cargo industry, is announcing $35 million in funding to expand its business in the wake of Covid-19.

The investment is coming from a single, high-profile investor, Insight Partners, which back in April announced a monster $9.5 billon fund that it planned to use not just to support portfolio companies through the global health pandemic, but to seek out new opportunities emerging in the wake of it.

PayCargo appears to be one of the latter. Eduardo del Riego, the CEO (PayCargo was co-founded by COO Juan Carlos Dieppa and chairman Sergio Lemme), said that while the cargo industry has faced a lot of turmoil with the pandemic — production in some places grinded to a halt, social distancing rules created new challenges for how shippers could work and move physical goods — it also highlighted how solutions like PayCargo’s were essential in getting things working properly again.

“With COVID, there was tremendous uncertainty about the impact of the global supply chain,” he said in an interview, “and like many other industries, the pandemic accelerated the need and demand for a paperless and contactless solution, which in turn accelerated PayCargo’s business.”

And while many of us brace ourselves for more fallout about how the world economy is contracting, PayCargo is profitable and has been from its start, the company said, and it has been growing — which in itself could be a positive signal about how production is indeed picking up again.

PayCargo provides a platform that offers tools for payers to send payments, vendors to receive them, APIs to integrate the tools into an existing IT, and financing services for those who do not want to pay for the shipments up front. All of these, for the majority of those working in this area, still are fixed in paperwork and can take weeks to resolve, making it a prime area to tackle with electronic services.

These days, PayCargo is processing some $4 billion in payments annually from some 12,000 shippers and carriers and a network of 4,000 vendors — customers span land, sea and air and include Kuehne + Nagel, DHL, DB Schenker, BDP, Seko Logistics, UPS, YUSEN Logistics and vendors like Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, Ocean Network Express, Alliance Ground, Swissport, and AirFrance — with transaction volume up 80% over last year. By way of its APIs, PayCargo also works with a number of partners to serve customers, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Cargo Network Services (CNS), CHAMP Cargosystems, IBS, Accelya, Unisys and Kale Logistics.

We have written before about the very fragmented and analogue freight industry, which still bases a lot of transactions around faxes, actual paperwork physically exchanged between parties, people transferring not just goods but documents hand to hand. The same goes for the payments infrastructure that underpins it all.

That has spawned a number of other startups looking to tackle the market with tech. Emerge has been building a digital marketplace specifically for the trucking industry, while Cargo.com is targeting air freight; Europe’s Zencargo, FreightHub and Sennder are focusing on bringing cloud-based infrastructure into freight-forwarding (and Sennder is positioning itself as a consolidator in this market, recently acquiring Uber’s European business in this area); and Flexport has positioned itself has one to watch in its own take on shipping SaaS.

PayCargo itself also has a number of competitors, which might include those building bigger suites of services, of which payments is just one. In addition to all of the ones we’ve covered, there is GlobalTranz, CloudTrade and others. (Del Riego refused to name any competitors directly. “PayCargo is the premier and most robust solution in the marketplace,” he said flatly.)

Overall CrunchBase estimates that some $5.5 billion has been invested in shipping-related tech companies looking to bring more updated processes to what is, at the end of the day, ultimately a very physical business.

But with the industry significantly bigger than that — one estimate forecasts that the shipping logistics market in the US alone will be worth $1.3 trillion by 2023 — you can see how building and addressing that would be a lucrative opportunity.

“As the cargo industry rapidly shifts to electronic payments, PayCargo has established itself as the market leading platform for doing business by successfully automating the payments process and ensuring efficiency for both payers and vendors,” said Ryan Hinkle, MD at Insight Partners, in a statement. “We are excited to work with PayCargo to continue to scale its global payments network and through our Insight Onsite team of ScaleUp and operational experts, help bring additional resources to its impressive list of customers.” Hinkle is joining the board with this round.

Posted Under: Tech News
Adobe beefs up developer tools to make it easer to build apps on Experience Cloud

Posted by on 28 September, 2020

This post was originally published on this site

Adobe has had a developer program for years called Adobe.io, but today at the Adobe Developers Live virtual conference, the company announced some new tools with a fresh emphasis on helping developers build custom apps on the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Jason Woosley, VP of developer experience and commerce at Adobe says that the pandemic has forced companies to build enhanced digital experiences much more quickly than they might have, and the new tools being announced today are at least partly related to helping speed up the development of better online experiences.

“Our focus is very specifically on making the experience generation business something that’s very attractive to developers and very accessible to developers so we’re announcing a number of tools,” Woosley told TechCrunch.

The idea is to build a more complete framework over time to make it easier to build applications and connect to data sources that take advantage of the Experience Cloud tooling. For starters, Project Firefly is designed to help developers build applications more quickly by providing a higher level of automation than was previously available.

“Project Firefly creates an extensibility framework that reduces the boilerplate that a developer would need to get started working with the Experience Cloud, and extends that into the customizations that we know every implementation eventually needs to differentiate the storefront experience, the website experience or whatever customer touch point as these things become increasingly digital,” he said.

In order to make those new experiences open to all, the company is also announcing React Spectrum, an open source set of libraries and tools designed to help members of the Adobe developer community build more accessible applications and websites.

“It comes with all of the accessibility features that often get forgotten when you’re in a race to market, so it’s nice to make sure that you will be very inclusive with your design, making sure that you’re bringing on all aspects of your audiences,” Woosley said.

Finally, a big part of interacting with Experience Cloud is taking advantage of all of the data that’s available to help build those more customized interactions with customers that having that data enables. To that end, the company is announcing some new web and mobile software development kits (SDKs) designed to help make it simpler to link to Experience Cloud data sources as you build your applications.

Project Firefly is generally available starting today as are several React Spectrum components and some data connection SDKs. The company intends to keep adding to these various pieces in the coming months.

Posted Under: Tech News
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