Monthly Archives: January 2021

Extra Crunch roundup: Edtech VC survey, 5 founder mistakes, fintech liquidity, more

Posted by on 29 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Edtech is so widespread, we already need more consumer-friendly nomenclature to describe the products, services and tools it encompasses.

I know someone who reads stories to their grandchildren on two continents via Zoom each weekend. Is that “edtech?”

Similarly, many Netflix subscribers sought out online chess instructors after watching “The Queen’s Gambit,” but I doubt if they all ran searches for “remote learning” first.

Edtech needs to reach beyond underfunded public school systems to become more sustainable, which is why more investors and founders are focusing on lifelong learning.

Besides serving traditional students with field trips and art classes, a maturing sector is now branching out to offer software tutors, cooking classes and singing lessons.

For our latest investor survey, Natasha Mascarenhas polled 13 edtech VCs to learn more about how “employer-led up-skilling and a renewed interest in self-improvement” is expanding the sector’s TAM.

Here’s who she spoke to:

  • Deborah Quazzo, managing partner, GSV Ventures
  • Ashley Bittner, founding partner, Firework Ventures (a future of work fund with portfolio companies LearnIn and TransfrVR)
  • Jomayra Herrera, principal, Cowboy Ventures (a generalist fund with portfolio companies Hone and Guild Education)
  • John Danner, managing partner, Dunce Capital (an edtech and future of work fund with portfolio companies Lambda School and Outschool)
  • Mercedes Bent and Bradley Twohig, partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners (a multistage generalist fund with investments including Forage, Clever and Outschool)
  • Ian Chiu, managing director, Owl Ventures (a large edtech-focused fund backing highly valued companies including Byju’s, Newsela and Masterclass)
  • Jan Lynn-Matern, founder and partner, Emerge Education (a leading edtech seed fund in Europe with portfolio companies like Aula, Unibuddy and BibliU)
  • Benoit Wirz, partner, Brighteye Ventures (an active edtech-focused venture capital fund in Europe that backs YouSchool, Lightneer and Aula)
  • Charles Birnbaum, partner, Bessemer Venture Partners (a generalist fund with portfolio companies including Guild Education and Brightwheel)
  • Daniel Pianko, co-founder and managing director, University Ventures (a higher ed and future of work fund that is backing Imbellus and Admithub)
  • Rebecca Kaden, managing partner, Union Square Ventures (a generalist fund with portfolio companies including TopHat, Quizlet, Duolingo)
  • Andreata Muforo, partner, TLCom Capital (a generalist fund backing uLesson)

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In other news: Extra Crunch Live, a series of interviews with leading investors and entrepreneurs, returns next month with a full slate of guests. This year, we’re adding a new feature: Our guests will analyze pitch decks submitted by members of the audience to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

If you’d like an expert eye on your deck, please sign up for Extra Crunch and join the conversation.

Thanks very much for reading! I hope you have a fantastic weekend — we’ve all earned it.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

13 investors say lifelong learning is taking edtech mainstream

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Rising African venture investment powers fintech, clean tech bets in 2020

After falling into yesterday’s wild news cycle, Alex Wilhelm returned to The Exchange this morning with a close look at venture capital activity across Africa in 2020.

“Comparing aggregate 2020 figures to 2019 results, it appears that last year was a somewhat robust year for African startups, albeit one with fewer large rounds,” he found.

For more context, he interviewed Dario Giuliani, the director of research firm Briter Bridges, which focuses on emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Talent and capital are shifting cybersecurity investors’ focus away from Silicon Valley

A road sign that says "Leaving California."

Image Credits: MCCAIG (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

New cybersecurity ecosystems are popping up in different parts of the world.

Some of of that growth has been fueled by an exodus from the Bay Area, but many early-stage security startups already have deep roots in East Coast cities like Boston and New York.

In the United Kingdom and Europe, government innovation programs have helped entrepreneurs close higher numbers of Series A and B rounds.

Investor interest and expertise is migrating out of Silicon Valley: This post will help you understand where it’s going.

Will Apple’s spectacular iPhone 12 sales figures boost the smartphone industry in 2021?

On Wednesday, 20 January, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Image Credits: NurPhoto (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Today’s smartphones are unfathomably feature-rich and durable, so it’s logical that sales have slowed.

A phone purchased 18 months ago is probably “good enough” for many consumers, especially in times of economic uncertainty.

Then again, of the record $111.4 billion in revenue Apple earned last quarter, $65.68 billion came from phone sales, largely driven by the release of the iPhone 12.

Even though “Apple’s success this quarter was kind of a perfect storm,” writes Hardware Editor Brian Heater, “it’s safe to project a rebound for the industry at large in 2021.”

The 5 biggest mistakes I made as a first-time startup founder

Boy Standing with Dropped Ice Cream Cone

Image Credits: Randy Faris (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Finmark co-founder and CEO Rami Essaid wrote a post for Extra Crunch that candidly describes the traps he laid for himself that made him a less-effective entrepreneur.

As someone who’s worked closely with founders at several startups, each of the points he raised resonated deeply with me.

In my experience, many founders have a hard time delegating, which can quickly create cultural and operational problems. Rami’s experience bears this out:

“I became a human GPS: People could follow my directions, but they struggled to find the way themselves. Independent thinking suffered.”

Dear Sophie: How can I sponsor my mom and stepdad for green cards?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I just got my U.S. citizenship! My husband and I want to bring my mom and her husband to the U.S. to help us take care of our preschooler and toddler.

My biological dad passed away several years ago when I was an adult and my mom has since remarried.

Can they get green cards?

— Appreciative in Aptos

Check out the amazing speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live in February

Extra Crunch Live February Schedule: February 3 Gaurav Gupta Lightspeed Venture Partners Raj Dutt Grafana Labs February 10 Aydin Senkut Felicis Kevin Busque Guideline February 17 Steve Loughlin Accel Jason Boehmig Ironclad February 24 Matt Harris Bain Capital Isaac Oates Justworks

Next month, Extra Crunch Live returns with a lineup of guests who are extremely well-qualified to discuss early-stage startups.

Each Wednesday at noon PPST/3 p.m. EST, join a conversation with founders and the investors who backed their companies:

February 3:

Gaurav Gupta (Lightspeed Venture Partners) + Raj Dutt (Grafana Labs)

February 10:

Aydin Senkut (Felicis Ventures) + Kevin Busque (Guideline)

February 17:

Steve Loughlin (Accel) + Jason Boehmig (Ironclad)

February 24:

Matt Harris (Bain Capital) + Isaac Oates (Justworks)

Also, we’re adding a new feature to Extra Crunch Live — our guests will offer advice and feedback on pitch decks submitted by Extra Crunch members in the audience!

10 VCs say interactivity, regulation and independent creators will reshape digital media in 2021

Photo of a young woman watching TV in the bedroom of her apartment; eating sushi and enjoying her night at home alone.

Image Credits: Aleksandar Nakic (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Since the pandemic disrupted the social rhythms of work and school, many of us have compensated by changing our relationship to digital media.

For instance, I purchased a new sofa and thicker living room curtains several months ago when I realized we have no idea when movie theaters will reopen.

Last year, podcast sponsors spent almost $800 million to reach listeners, but ad revenue is estimated to surpass $1 billion this year. Clearly, I’m not the only person who used a discount code to buy a new product in 2020.

At this point, I can scarcely keep track of the multiple streaming platforms I’m subscribed to, but a new voice-activated remote control that comes with my basic cable plan makes it easier to browse my options.

Media reporter Anthony Ha spoke to10 VCs who invest in media startups to learn more about where they see digital media heading in the months ahead. For starters, how much longer can we expect traditional advertising models to persist?

And in a world with hundreds of channels, how are creators supposed to compete for our attention? What sort of discovery tools can we expect to help us navigate between a police procedural set in a Scandinavian village and a 90s sitcom reboot?

Here’s who Anthony interviewed:

  • Daniel Gulati, founding partner, Forecast Fund
  • Alex Gurevich, managing director, Javelin Venture Partners
  • Matthew Hartman, partner, Betaworks Ventures
  • Jerry Lu, senior associate, Maveron
  • Jana Messerschmidt, partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners
  • Michael Palank, general partner, MaC Venture Capital (with additional commentary from MaC’s Marlon Nichols)
  • Pär-Jörgen Pärson, general partner, Northzone
  • M.G. Siegler, general partner, GV
  • Laurel Touby, managing director, Supernode Ventures
  • Hans Tung, managing partner, GGV Capital

Normally, we list each investor’s responses separately, but for this survey, we grouped their responses by question. Some readers say they use our surveys to study up on an individual VC before pitching them, so let us know which format you prefer.

Does a $27 billion or $29 billion valuation make sense for Databricks?

Data analytics platform Databricks is reportedly raising new capital that could value the company between $27 billion and $29 billion.

By the end of Q3 2020, Databricks had surpassed a $350 million run rate — a $150 million YoY increase, reports Alex Wilhelm.

At the time, he described the company as “an obvious IPO candidate” with “broad private-market options.”

Which begs the question: “Can we come up with a set of numbers that help make sense of Databricks at $27 billion?”

End-to-end operators are the next generation of consumer business

Tourist route to the top of the mountain. Rope bridge in the clouds. Crimea. Ai-Petri

Image Credits: Natalia Timchenko (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Rapid shifts in the way we buy goods and services disrupted old-school marketplaces like local newspapers and the Yellow Pages.

Today, I can use my phone to summon a plumber, a week’s worth of groceries or a ride to a doctor’s office.

End-to-end operators like Netflix, Peloton and Lemonade take a lot of time and energy to reach scale, but “the additional capital required is often outweighed by the value captured from owning the entire experience.”

Unpacking Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC deals for Latch and Sunlight Financial

On January 25, Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya tweeted that he was making two blank-check deals.

Enterprise SaaS company Latch makes keyless entry systems; Sunlight Financial helps consumers finance residential solar power installations.

“There are nearly 300 SPACs in the market today looking for deals,” noted Alex Wilhelm, who unpacked both transactions.

“There’s no escaping SPACs for a bit, so if you are tired of watching blind pools rip private companies into the public markets, you are not going to have a very good next few months.”

Fintechs could see $100 billion of liquidity in 2021

Long exposure spillway shines water and light. Copy space.

Image Credits: dan tarradellas (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

On Monday, we published the Matrix Fintech Index, a three-part study that weighs liquidity, public markets and e-commerce trends to create a snapshot of an industry in perpetual flux.

For four years running, the S&P 500 and incumbent financial services companies have been outperformed by companies like Afterpay, Square and Bill.com.

In light of steady VC investment, increasing consumer adoption and a crowded IPO pipeline, “fintech represents one of the most exciting major innovation cycles of this decade.”

Drupal’s journey from dorm-room project to billion-dollar exit

Dries Buytaert, co-founder and CTO at Acquia

Image Credits: Acquia

On January 15, 2001, then-college student Dries Buytaert released Drupal 1.0.0, an open-source content-management platform. At the time, about 7% of the world’s population was online.

After raising more than $180 million, Buytaert exited to Vista Equity Partners for $1 billion in 2019.

Enterprise reporter Ron Miller interviewed Buytaert to learn more about his 18-year journey.

“His story is compelling, but it also offers lessons for startup founders who also want to build something big,” says Ron.

Posted Under: Tech News
Subscription-based pricing is dead: Smart SaaS companies are shifting to usage-based models

Posted by on 29 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Software buying has evolved. The days of executives choosing software for their employees based on IT compatibility or KPIs are gone. Employees now tell their boss what to buy. This is why we’re seeing more and more SaaS companies — Datadog, Twilio, AWS, Snowflake and Stripe, to name a few — find success with a usage-based pricing model.

The usage-based model allows a customer to start at a low cost, while still preserving the ability to monetize a customer over time.

The usage-based model allows a customer to start at a low cost, minimizing friction to getting started while still preserving the ability to monetize a customer over time because the price is directly tied with the value a customer receives. Not limiting the number of users who can access the software, customers are able to find new use cases — which leads to more long-term success and higher lifetime value.

While we aren’t going 100% usage-based overnight, looking at some of the megatrends in software —  automation, AI and APIs — the value of a product normally doesn’t scale with more logins. Usage-based pricing will be the key to successful monetization in the future. Here are four top tips to help companies scale to $100+ million ARR with this model.

1. Land-and-expand is real

Usage-based pricing is in all layers of the tech stack. Though it was pioneered in the infrastructure layer (think: AWS and Azure), it’s becoming increasingly popular for API-based products and application software — across infrastructure, middleware and applications.

Image Credits: Kyle Povar / OpenView

Some fear that investors will hate usage-based pricing because customers aren’t locked into a subscription. But, investors actually see it as a sign that customers are seeing value from a product and there’s no shelf-ware.

In fact, investors are increasingly rewarding usage-based companies in the market. Usage-based companies are trading at a 50% revenue multiple premium over their peers.

Investors especially love how the usage-based pricing model pairs with the land-and-expand business model. And of the IPOs over the last three years, seven of the nine that had the best net dollar retention all have a usage-based model. Snowflake in particular is off the charts with a 158% net dollar retention.

Posted Under: Tech News
Okta SaaS report finds Office 365 wins the cloud — sort of

Posted by on 29 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Each year Okta processes millions of SaaS logons via its authentication system. It kindly aggregates that data to find the most popular apps and publishes an annual report. This year it found that the most popular tool by far was Microsoft Office 365.

It’s worth noting that while app usage popularity varied by region, Office 365 was number one with a bullet across the board, whether globally or when the report broke it down by geographic area. That wasn’t true of any other product in this report, so Office 365 has extensive usage across the world (at least among companies that use Okta).

But as with everything cloud, it’s not a simple matter to say that because lots of people signed onto Office 365, Microsoft is the clear winner in a broader sense. In reality, the cloud is a complex marketplace, and just because people use one tool doesn’t preclude them from using tools that compete directly with it.

As a case in point, consider that the report found that 36% of Microsoft 365 customers were also using Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite), which offers a similar set of office productivity tools. Further, Okta found that 42% of Office 365 customers were using Zoom and 32% were using Slack.

This is pretty remarkable when you consider that Office 365 bundles Teams with similar functionality for free. What’s more, so does Google with Google Hangouts, so people use the tool they want when they want, and sometimes it seems they use competing versions of the same tool. The report also found that of those Office 365 users, 44% are using Salesforce, 41% AWS, 15% Smartsheet and 14% Tableau (which is owned by Salesforce). Microsoft has products in all those categories.

Microsoft is clearly a big company with a lot of products, but the report blows a hole in the idea that because people like Office 365, they are going to be big fans of other Microsoft products, or that they can count on any kind of brand loyalty across the range of products or even exclusivity within the same product category.

All of this, and much of the other data in this report makes tremendously interesting reading as far as it goes. It’s not a definitive window on the state of SaaS. It’s a definitive reading on the state of Okta customers’ use of SaaS, on the Okta Integration Network (OIN), a point the company readily acknowledges in the report’s methodology section.

“As you read this report, keep in mind that this data is representative of Okta’s customers, the applications and integrations we connect to through the OIN, and the ways in which users access these tools through our service,” the report stated.

But it is a way to look at the state of SaaS taking advantage of the 9400 Okta customers using the network and the 6,500 integrations to the world’s most popular SaaS tools. That gives the company a unique view into the world of SaaS. What you can conclude is that the cloud is complicated, and it’s not a zero-sum game by any means. In fact, being a winner in one area is not a guarantee of winning across the board.

Posted Under: Tech News
Hong Kong startup ICW eyes supply chain diversification demand amid trade war

Posted by on 28 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

For American importers, finding suppliers these days can be challenging not only due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The U.S. government’s entity list designations, human rights-related sanctions, among other trade blacklists targeting Chinese firms have also rattled U.S. supply chains.

One young company called International Compliance Workshop, or ICW, is determined to make sourcing easier for companies around the world as it completed a fresh round of funding. The Hong Kong-based startup has just raised $5.75 million as part of its Series A round, boosting its total funding to around $10 million, co-founder and CEO Garry Lam told TechCrunch.

ICW works like a matchmaker for suppliers and buyers, but unlike existing options like Alibaba’s B2B platform or international trade shows, ICW also vets suppliers over compliance, product quality, and accreditation. It gathers all that information into its growing database of over 40,000 suppliers — 80% of which are currently in China — and recommends them to customers based on individual needs.

Founded in 2016, ICW’s current client base includes some of the world’s largest retailers, including Ralph Lauren, Prenatal Retail Group, Blokker, Kmart, and a major American pharmacy chain that declined to be named.

ICW’s latest funding round was led by Infinity Ventures Partners with participation from Integrated Capital and existing investors MindWorks Capital and the Hong Kong government’s $2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund.

Supply chain shift

In line with the ongoing shift of sourcing outside China, in part due to the U.S.-China trade war and China’s growing labor costs, ICW has seen more customers diversifying their supply chains. But the transition has limitations in the short run.

“It’s still very difficult to find suppliers of certain product categories, for example, Bluetooth devices and power banks, in other countries,” observed Lam. “But for garment and textile, the transition already began to happen a decade ago.”

In Southeast Asia, which has been replacing a great deal of Chinese manufacturing activity, each country has its slight specialization. Whereas Vietnam abounds with wooden furniture suppliers, Thailand is known for plastic goods and Malaysia is a good source for medical supplies, said Lam.

When it comes to trickier compliance burdens, such as human rights sanctions, ICW relies on third-party certification institutes to screen and verify suppliers.

“There is a [type of] qualification standard that verifies whether a supplier has fulfilled its corporate social responsibility… like whether the factory fulfills the labor law, the minimum labor rights, or the payroll, everything,” Lam explained.

ICW plans to use the fresh proceeds to further develop its products, including its compliance management system, product testing platform, and B2B sourcing site.

Posted Under: Tech News
After soaring above $23B, Qualtrics’ founder and CEO reflect on a stellar debut

Posted by on 28 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Amidst all of the the sturm und drang of l’affaire GameStop, Qualtrics went public today.

After pricing its stock above its raised IPO range, the company received a warm welcome from public investors. After starting its trading life worth $41.85, Qualtrics closed the day worth $45.50, up some 51.67%.

Qualtrics did everything that it said it was going to.

The software company’s debut comes after a lengthy path to the public markets; Qualtrics sold to SAP on the eve of its first run at a public listing back in 2018. Now, SAP has completed spinning the company out, though the software giant remains the Utah unicorn’s largest shareholder.

That Qualtrics’ IPO might perform well was presaged in its pricing run, having prices far above its initial valuation estimates; there was evidence of strong demand even before its shares started to trade.

But did Qualtrics misprice, given its strong first-day performance? TechCrunch spoke with Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin, and its founder and current executive chairman Ryan Smith about its public offering, hoping to learn a bit about what is next for the company.

Pricing, plans

Having spoken to myriad folks on IPO days, I’ve learned the best way to kick off is to ask about emotions. Most CEOs and other execs are tied up in what they can (and cannot) say. And they are well-trained by communications experts regarding what to repeat and emphasize. You can sometimes loosen them up a little, however, by asking them how they feel.

In response to that question, Serafin described a feeling of gratitude and Smith brought up the long game. Qualtrics, he said, had been told that it couldn’t bootstrap, that it couldn’t build in Utah, that SAP had overpaid, that SAP had messed up and so forth.

Posted Under: Tech News
Workday nabs employee feedback platform Peakon for $700M

Posted by on 28 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Workday started the work day with some big news today. It’s acquiring employee feedback platform Peakon for $700 million in cash.

One thing we have learned during the pandemic is that organizations need to find new ways to build stronger connections with their employees, and that’s precisely what Peakon provides. “Bringing Peakon into the Workday family will be very compelling to our customers — especially following an extraordinary past year that has magnified the importance of having a constant pulse on employee sentiment in order to keep people engaged and productive,” Workday co-founder and co-CEO Aneel Bhusri, said in a statement.

Without the ability to have face-to-face meetings with employees, managers have struggled throughout 2020 to understand how COVID, working from home and all the trials and tribulations of the last year have affected the workforce.

But this ability to check the pulse of employees goes beyond this crisis period. Managers of large organizations know that the bigger and more spread out your firm becomes, the more challenging it is to understand what’s happening across the company. The company uses weekly surveys to ask specific questions about the organization. For them it’s all about getting good data, and so far customers have used the platform to ask over 153 million questions since inception six years ago.

Peakon CEO and co-founder Phil Chambers sees Workday as a logical partner. “Workday excels at helping enable customers to leverage their data. Together, we’ll be able to help drive greater productivity, talent development and employee retention for our customers — and unify how employees interact with their organizations,” he said in a Workday blog post announcing the deal.

Peakon was founded in Copenhagen in 2014 and has raised $68 million along the way, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent round was a $35 million Series B in March 2019. The deal is expected to close by the end of this quarter subject to typical regulatory review.

Posted Under: Tech News
SAP is buying Berlin business process automation startup Signavio

Posted by on 27 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Rumors have been flying this week that SAP was going to buy Berlin business process automation startup Signavio, and sure enough the company made it official today. The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the deal could be worth $1.2 billion.

With Signavio SAP gets a cloud-native business process management tool. SAP CFO Luka Mucic sees a world where understanding and automating businesses processes has become a key part of a company’s digital transformation efforts.

“I cannot overstress the importance for companies to be able to design, benchmark, improve and transform business processes across the enterprise to support new capabilities and business models,” he said in a statement.

While traditional enterprise BPA tools have existed for years, having a cloud-native tool gives SAP a much more modern approach to attacking this problem, and being able to automate business processes via the cloud has become more important during the pandemic when many employees are working entirely from home.

SAP also sees Signavio as a key missing piece in the company’s business process intelligence unit. “The combination of business process intelligence from SAP and Signavio creates a leading end-to-end business process transformation suite to help our customers achieve the requirements needed to gain a competitive edge,” he said.

SAP has been making moves into process automation of late. In fact at SAP TechEd in December, the company announced SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, its foray into the RPA space. This should fit in nicely alongside it.

Dr. Gero Decker, Savigno co-founder and CEO, sees SAP resources helping push the company beyond what it could have done on its own. “Considering the positioning of SAP, its geographical coverage and financial muscle, SAP is the biggest and best platform to bring process intelligence to every organization,” he said in a statement.

The increased resources and reach argument is one that just about every acquired company CEO makes, but being pulled into a company the size of SAP can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it has vast resources, but it also can be hard for an acquired company to find its place in such a large pond. How well they fit in and make that transition from startup to big company cog, will go a long way in determining the success of this transaction in the long run.

Signavio launched in 2009 in Berlin and has raised almost $230 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors include Apax Digital and Summit Partners. The most recent investment was a July 2019 Series C for $177 million, which came in at a $400 million valuation.

Customers include Comcast, Bosch, Liberty Mutual and yes SAP. Perhaps it will be getting a discount now.

Posted Under: Tech News
Pinecone lands $10M seed for purpose-built machine learning database

Posted by on 27 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Pinecone, a new startup from the folks who helped launch Amazon SageMaker, has built a vector database that generates data in a specialized format to help build machine learning applications faster, something that was previously only accessible to the largest organizations. Today the company came out of stealth with a new product and announced a $10 million seed investment led by Wing Venture Capital.

Company co-founder Edo Liberty says that he started the company because of this fundamental belief that the industry was being held back by the lack of wider access to this type of database. “The data that a machine learning model expects isn’t a JSON record, it’s a high dimensional vector that is either a list of features or what’s called an embedding that’s a numerical representation of the items or the objects in the world. This [format] is much more semantically rich and actionable for machine learning,” he explained.

He says that this is a concept that is widely understood by data scientists, and supported by research, but up until now only the biggest and technically superior companies like Google or Pinterest could take advantage of this difference. Liberty and his team created Pinecone to put that kind of technology in reach of any company.

The startup spent the last couple of years building the solution, which consists of three main components. The main piece is a vector engine to convert the data into this machine-learning ingestible format. Liberty says that this is the piece of technology that contains all the data structures and algorithms that allow them to index very large amounts of high dimensional vector data, and search through it in an efficient and accurate way.

The second is a cloud hosted system to apply all of that converted data to the machine learning model, while handling things like index lookups along with the pre- and post-processing — everything a data science team needs to run a machine learning project at scale with very large workloads and throughputs. Finally, there is a management layer to track all of this and manage data transfer between source locations.

One classic example Liberty uses is an eCommerce recommendation engine. While this has been a standard part of online selling for years, he believes using a vectorized data approach will result in much more accurate recommendations and he says the data science research data bears him out.

“It used to be that deploying [something like a recommendation engine] was actually incredibly complex, and […] if you have access to a production grade database, 90% of the difficulty and heavy lifting in creating those solutions goes away, and that’s why we’re building this. We believe it’s the new standard,” he said.

The company currently has 10 people including the founders, but the plan is to double or even triple that number, depending on how the year goes. As he builds his company as an immigrant founder — Liberty is from Israel — he says that diversity is top of mind. He adds that it’s something he worked hard on at his previous positions at Yahoo and Amazon as he was building his teams at those two organizations. One way he is doing that is in the recruitment process. “We have instructed our recruiters to be proactive [in finding more diverse applicants], making sure they don’t miss out on great candidates, and that they bring us a diverse set of candidates,” he said.

Looking ahead to post-pandemic, Liberty says he is a bit more traditional in terms of office versus home, and that he hopes to have more in-person interactions. “Maybe I’m old fashioned but I like offices and I like people and I like to see who I work with and hang out with them and laugh and enjoy each other’s company, and so I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of ‘let’s all be remote and work from home’.”

Posted Under: Tech News
SAP launches ‘RISE with SAP,’ a concierge service for digital transformation

Posted by on 27 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

SAP today announced a new offering it calls ‘RISE with SAP,’ a solution that is meant to help the company’s customers go through their respective digital transformations and become what SAP calls ‘intelligent enterprises.’ RISE is a subscription service that combines a set of services and product offerings.

SAP’s head of product success Sven Denecken (and its COO for S/4Hana) described it as “the best concierge service you can get for your digital transformation” when I talked to him earlier this week. “We need to help our clients to embrace that change that they see currently,” he said. “Transformation is a journey. Every client wants to become that smarter, faster and that nimbler business, but they, of course, also see that they are faced with challenges today and in the future. This continuous transformation is what is happening to businesses. And we do know from working together with them, that actually they agree with those fundamentals. They want to be an intelligent enterprise. They want to adapt and change. But the key question is how to get there? And the key question they ask us is, please help us to get there.”

With RISE for SAP, businesses will get a single contact at SAP to help guide them through their journey, but also access to the SAP partner ecosystem.

The first step in this process, Denecken stressed, isn’t necessarily to bring in new technology, though that is also part of it, but to help businesses redesign and optimize their business processes and implement the best practices in their verticals — and then measure the outcome. “Business process redesign means that you analyze how your business processes perform. How can you get tailored recommendations? How can you benchmark against industry standards? And this helps you to set the tone and also to motivate your people — your IT, your business people — to adapt,” Denecken described. He also noted that in order for a digital transformation project to succeed, IT and business leaders and employees have to work together.

In part, that includes technology offerings and adopting robotic process automation (RPA), for example. As Denecken stressed, all of this builds on top of the work SAP has done with its customers over the years to define business processes and KPIs.

On the technical side, SAP is obviously offering its own services, including its Business Technology Platform, and cloud infrastructure, but it will also support customers on all of the large cloud providers. Also included in RISE is support for more than 2,200 APIs to integrate various on-premises, cloud and non-SAP systems, access to SAP’s low-code and no-code capabilities and, of course, its database and analytics offerings.

“Geopolitical tensions, environmental challenges and the ongoing pandemic are forcing businesses to deal with change faster than ever before,” said Christian Klein, SAP’s CEO, in today’s announcement. “Companies that can adapt their business processes quickly will thrive – and SAP can help them achieve this. This is what RISE with SAP is all about: It helps customers continuously unlock new ways of running businesses in the cloud to stay ahead of their industry.”

With this new offering, SAP is now providing its customers with a number of solutions that were previously available through its partner ecosystem. Denecken doesn’t see this as SAP competing with its own partners, though. Instead, he argues that this is very much a partner play and that this new solution will likely only bring more customers to its partners as well.

“Needless to say, this has been a negotiation with those partners,” he said. “Because yes, it’s sometimes topics that we now take over they [previously] did. But we are looking for scale here. The need in the market for digital transformation has just started. And this is where we see that this is definitely a big offering, together with partners. “

Posted Under: Tech News
Following acquisition, Episerver rebrands as Optimizely

Posted by on 27 January, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

After acquiring Optimizely last fall, content management company Episerver is adopting the Optimizely name for the entire organization.

CEO Alex Atzberger told me that the company will be rolling out new branding in the next coming months, as well as renaming its entire product suite to reflect the Optimizely brand.

“We believe it’s no longer just about personalizing the experience or driving recommendations,” Atzberger said. “The brand and word Optimizely really signifies optimal performance. Companies today of any size, any scale [need to be] much more sophisticated in terms of how they digitally connect with their customers. It’s a never-ending story.”

At the same time, he emphasized that Episerver is making the change from “a position of strength,” with the combined company seeing double-digit revenue growth last year and going live with more than 250 new customers.

Asked whether adopting the Optimizely name was always part of the post-acquisition plan, Atzberger replied, “When we acquired Optimizely, we knew that we would be acquiring not just a great product, not just a great customer base, but also acquiring a very well-known brand. We had not yet decided on [rebranding], but it was certainly something that, for me, was part of the consideration.”

In addition to announcing the new company name, Episerver/Optimizely is also announcing a new platform that it’s calling Optimization-as-a-Service, which integrates aspects of Optimizely and Episerver products to offer web targeting, testing and recommendations. As Atzberger put it, this new platform allows customers to determine “who to show something to, what content to show and how to actually show this content.”

Posted Under: Tech News
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