Monthly Archives: March 2021

Microsoft updates Teams with new presentation features

Posted by on 2 March, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

It’s (virtual) Microsoft Ignite this week, Microsoft’s annual IT-centric conference and its largest, with more than 26,000 people attending the last in-person event in 2019. Given its focus, it’s no surprise that Microsoft Teams is taking center stage in the announcements this year. Teams, after all, is now core to Microsoft’s productivity suite. Today’s announcements span the gamut from new meeting features to conference room hardware.

At the core of Teams — or its competitors like Slack for that matter — is the ability to collaborate across teams, but increasingly, that also includes collaboration with others outside of your organization. Today, Microsoft is announcing the preview Teams Connect to allow users to share channels with anyone, internal or external. These channels will appear alongside other teams and channel and allow for all of the standard Teams use cases. Admins will keep full control over these channels to ensure that external users only get access to the data they need, for example. This feature will roll out widely later this year.

What’s maybe more important to individual users, though, is that Teams will get a new PowerPoint Live feature that will allow presenters to present as usual — but with the added benefit of seeing all their notes, slides and meeting chats in a single view. And for those suffering through yet another PowerPoint presentation while trying to look engaged, PowerPoint Live lets them scroll through the presentation at will — or use a screen reader to make the content more accessible. This new feature is now available in Teams.

Also new on the presentation side is a set of presentation modes that use some visual wizardry to make presentations more engaging. ‘Standout mode’ shows the speakers video feed in front of the content, for example, while ‘Reporter mode; shows the content above the speaker’s shoulder, just like in your local news show. And side-by-side view — well, you can guess it. This feature will launch in March, but it will only feature the Standout mode first. Reporter mode and side-by-side will launch “soon.”

Another new view meant to visually spice up your meetings is the ‘Dynamic view.’ With this, Teams will try to arrange all of the elements of a meeting “for an optimal viewing experience,” personalized for each viewer. “As people join, turn on video, start to speak, or begin to present in a meeting, Teams automatically adjusts and personalizes your layout,” Microsoft says. What’s maybe more useful, though, is that Teams will put a gallery of participants at the top of the screen to help you maintain a natural eye gaze (without any AI trickery).

As for large-scale meetings, Teams users can now hold interactive webinars with up to 1,000 people inside and outside of their organization. And for all of those occasions where your CEO just has to give a presentation to everybody, Teams supports broadcast-only meetings with up to 20,000 viewers. That’ll go down to 10,000 attendees after June 30, 2021, based on the idea that the pandemic will be mostly over then and the heightened demand for visual events will subside around that time. Good luck to us all.

For that time when we’ll go back to an office, Microsoft is building intelligent speakers for conference rooms that are able to differentiate between the voices of up to 10 speakers to provide more accurate transcripts. It’s also teaming up with Dell and others to launch new conference room monitors and speaker bars.

Posted Under: Tech News
Google updates Workspace

Posted by on 1 March, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Google Workspace, the company’s productivity platform you’ll forever refer to as G Suite (or even “Google Docs”), is launching a large update today that touches everything from your calendar to Google Meet and how you can use Workspace with Google Assistant.

Image Credits: Google

Indeed, the highlight here is probably that you can now use Assistant in combination with Google Workspace, allowing you to check your work calendar or send a message to your colleagues. Until now, this feature was available in beta and even after it goes live, your company’s admins will have to turn on the “Search and Assistant” service. And this is a bit of a slow rollout, too, with this capability now being generally available on mobile but still in beta for smart speakers and displays like Google’s own Nest Hub. Still, it’s been a long time coming, given that Google promised these features a very long time ago now.

The other new feature that will directly influence your day-to-day work is support for recurring out-of-office entries and segmentable working hours, as well as a new event type, Focus Time, to help you minimize distractions. Focus Time is a bit cleverer than the three-hour blocks of time you may block off on your calendar anyway in that it limits notifications during those event windows. Google is also launching a new analytics feature that tells you how much time you spend (waste) in meetings. This isn’t quite as fully featured (and potentially creepy) as Microsoft’s Productivity Score, since it only displays how much time you spend in meetings, but it’s a nice overview of how you spend your days (though you know that already). None of this data is shared with your managers.

For when you go back to an office, Google is also adding location indicators to Workspace so you can share when you will be working from there and when you’ll be working from home.

And talking about meetings, since most of these remain online for the time being, Google is adding a few new features that now allow those of you who use their Google Nest Hub Max to host meetings at home and to set up a laptop as their own second-screen experience. What’s far more important, though, is that when you join a meeting on mobile, Google will now implement a picture-in-picture mode so you can be in that Meet meeting on your phone and still browse the web, Gmail and get important work done during that brainstorming session.

Mobile support for background replace is also coming, as well as the addition of Q&As and polls on mobile. Currently, you can only blur your background on mobile.

Image Credits: Google

For frontline workers, Google is adding something it calls Google Workspace Frontline, with new features for this group of users, and it is also making it easier for users to build custom AppSheet apps from Google Sheets and Drive, “so that frontline workers can digitize and streamline their work, whether it’s collecting data in the field, reporting safety risks, or managing customer requests.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Martech company Zeta Global raises $222.5M in debt

Posted by on 1 March, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Zeta Global, the marketing technology company founded by David A. Steinberg and former Apple CEO John Sculley, is announcing an additional $222.5 million in new debt financing.

The company has gone down the debt route before — a Series F raised in 2017 combined $115 million funding with $25 million in debt. BofA Securities served as lead arranger and bookrunner for the new financing, with participation from Barclays, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding.

“For this round, we were able to both refinance our debt and add in a large amount of capacity for current operations and future initiatives,” Steinberg (Zeta’s CEO) told me via email. “We were able to work with our syndicate to capture a low interest-rate and take advantage of the strong credit markets.”

The company emphasizes its data-driven approach to marketing, combining companies’ first-party data with artificial intelligence and what it says are more than 2.4 billion customer identifiers. Steinberg said this approach has only become more crucial, with 2020 delivering “a five-year acceleration” as brands face the challenge of “digitally transforming their business structure to be data-centric.”

“Zeta’s capabilities are helping marketers engage customers across the entire digital ecosystem more intelligently and efficiently, with individualized messages, offers, and content by way of our identity-based data and predictive AI,” Steinberg continued. “Our challenge is to continue to keep up with our customers’ needs and maintain our competitive advantage around data and AI.”

The company’s funding announcement notes that previous loans have been used to finance acquisitions and integrations, including commenting platform Disqus and machine learning-powered marketing platform Boomtrain. Asked whether this new debt will also be used for acquisitions, Steinberg said the company continues to “organically innovate,” with a focus on its customer data platform and connected TV capabilities.

Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

Posted Under: Tech News
Twilio to become minority owner in Syniverse Technologies with $750M investment

Posted by on 1 March, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Syniverse Technologies, a company that helps mobile providers move communications across public and private networks, announced an extensive partnership with Twilio this morning. Under the agreement, Twilio is investing up to $750 million to become a minority owner in the company.

The idea behind the partnership is to combine Twilio’s API communications expertise with Syniverse’s mobile carrier contacts to create this end-to-end communications system. Twilio’s strength has always been its ability to deliver communications like texts without having a carrier relationship. This deal gives them access to that side of the equation.

James Attwood, executive chairman at Syniverse certainly saw the value of the two companies working together. “The partnership will provide Syniverse access to Twilio’s extensive enterprise and API services expertise, creating opportunities to continue to build on Syniverse’s highly innovative product portfolio that helps mobile network operators and enterprises make communications better for their customers,” Atwood said in a statement.

Today’s deal comes on the heels of the company’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Segment at the end of last year as it continues to look for ways to expand its markets. Will Townsend, an analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy who covers the network and carrier markets, sees this deal giving Twilio access to a broader set of technologies.

“Twilio [gets] access to Syniverse’s significant capabilities in massive industrial IoT and private 4G LTE and 5G cellular networking. Both are poised to ramp significantly given new found enterprise access to licensed spectrum via recent C-Band and CBRS auctions,” Townsend told me. He believes this will help Twilio reach parts of the enterprise not connected by WiFI or where the customers are dealing with “a mishmash of solutions that don’t scale or propagate well.”

As it turns out, it’s not a coincidence the two companies are coming together like this. In fact, Twilio has been a Syniverse customer for some time, according to Chee Chew, chief product officer at Twilio.

It’s a case of an old school company like Syniverse, which was founded in 1987 combining forces with a more modern approach to communications like Twilio, which provides developers with APIs to deliver communications services inside applications with just a couple of lines of code.

The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of this deal, is also reporting the company could go public via SPAC at a value of between $2 and $3 billion some time later this year. That would suggest that it has not gained much value since the 2010 deal.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says the SPAC provides an interesting additional component to the deal. “The high flying stock market creates all kind of new chickens, one of the, being a SPAC, and that’s the financial opportunity that Twilio is likely pursuing with the investment into Syniverse. The more immediate benefit is for Twilio to use the messaging vendor for its services. Call it a partnership with investment upside,” Mueller said.

According to Syniverse, “the company is one of the largest private IP Packet Exchange (IPX) providers in the world and offers a range of networking solutions, excelling in scenarios where seamless connections must cross over networks – either across multiple private networks or between public and private networks.”

The company is currently owned by the Carlyle Group private equity firm, which bought it in 2010 for $2.6 billion. Twilio launched in 2008 and raised over $236 million before going public in 2016 at $15 per share. The stock was up 3.82% in early trading, suggesting that Wall Street approves of the deal.

Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

Posted Under: Tech News
Axonius nabs $100M at a $1.2B valuation for its asset management cybersecurity platform

Posted by on 1 March, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Remote work has become the norm for many businesses in the last year, and today a startup that has built a cybersecurity platform to help manage all the devices connecting to organizations’ wide-ranging networks — while also providing a way for those organizations to take advantage of all the best that the quite fragmented security market has to offer — is announcing a major round of funding and a big boost to its valuation after seeing its annual recurring revenues grow ten-fold over 15 months.

Axonius, which lets organizations manage and track computing-based assets that are connecting to their networks — and then plug that data into some 300 different cybersecurity tools to analyse it — has closed a round of $100 million, a Series D that values the company at over $1 billion ($1.2 billion, to be exact).

“We like to call ourselves the Toyota Camry of cybersecurity,” Axonius co-founder and CEO Dean Sysman told me in an interview last year. “It’s nothing exotic in a world of cutting-edge AI and advanced tech. However it’s a fundamental thing that people are struggling with, and it is what everyone needs. Just like the Camry.” It will be using the funding to continue scaling the company, it said, amid surging demand, with ARR growing to $10 million last year.

This latest round — led by Stripes, with past investors Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP), OpenView, Lightspeed, and Vertex also participating — represents a huge jump for the startup.

Not only is this the company’s biggest round to date, but last year’s $58 million Series C — which closed just as the Covid-19 pandemic was kicking off and remote working, to better enforce social distancing, was starting to take off with it — valued the company at just over $302 million, according to PitchBook data. Axonius has now raised around $195 million in funding.

Last week BVP announced a new pair of funds totaling $3.3 billion, with one dedicated to later stage growth rounds: this indicates that this money is already getting put to work. Amit Karp, the BVP partner who sits on Axonius’ board, describes the startup as one of the “fastest-growing companies in BVP history.”

When I last covered Axonius, one of the details that really struck me is that its platform is especially useful in today’s market, not just because of its focus on identifying devices on networks may well — and today genuinely do — extend outside of a traditional “office”, but also because of how it views the cybersecurity industry.

It’s a very fragmented market today, with hundreds of companies all providing useful tools and techniques to safeguard against one threat or another. Axonius essentially accepts that fragmentation and works within it, and it has its job cut out for it. Last year when I covered the company’s funding, it integrated with and ran network assets through 100 different cybersecurity tools; now that number is 300.

The crux of what Axonius provides starts with a very basic but critical issue, which is being able to identify how many devices are actually on a network, where they are, and what they do there. The idea for the company came when Dean Sysman, the CEO who co-founded Axonius with Ofri Shur and Avidor Bartov, was previously working at another firm, the Integrity Project (now a part of Mellanox, which means now it’s a part of Nvidia).

“Every CIO I met I would ask, do you know how many devices you have on your network? And the answer was either ‘I don’t know,’ or big range, which is just another way of saying, ‘I don’t know,’” Sysman told me last year. “It’s not because they’re not doing their jobs but because it’s just a tough problem.”

He said part of the reason is because IP addresses are not precise enough, and de-duplicating and correlating numbers is a gargantuan task, especially in the current climate of people using not just a multitude of work-provided devices, but a number of their own.

Axonius’s algorithms — “a deterministic algorithm that knows and builds a unique set of identifiers that can be based on anything, including timestamp, or cloud information. We try to use every piece of data we can,” said Sysman — are built to bypass some of this.

The resulting information then can used across a number of other pieces of security software to search for inconsistencies in use (bringing in the behavioural aspect of cybersecurity) or other indicators of malicious activity.

The fact of that platform play — and how it can grow with both the range of devices that are added, as well as technology built to counteract increasingly sophisticated threats — is what attracted investors. 

“It’s always exciting to invest in fast-growing, innovative, category-creating companies, but what Axonius has accomplished in such a short time is remarkable,” said Stripes founding partner Ken Fox in a statement. “With its commitment to solving a fundamental challenge with a simple, powerful platform that collects and correlates data from hundreds of products its customers already use, Axonius has built one of the most beloved products in security. We look forward to partnering with the Axonius team as they continue to invest in technical innovation and grow to meet global demand in 2021 and beyond.” Fox will join the Axonius board of directors with this round.

It seems that some of this news leaked out over the weekend. A spokesperson has confirmed it all to us but the “official” announcement will be coming out later today.

Posted Under: Tech News
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