Monthly Archives: April 2021

4 ways martech will shift in 2021

Posted by on 21 April, 2021

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The tidal wave of growth is upon us — an unprecedented economic boom that will manifest later this year, bringing significant investments, acquisitions, and customer growth. But most tech companies and startups are not adequately prepared to capitalize on the opportunity that lies ahead.

Here’s how marketing in tech will shift — and what you need to know to reach more customers and accelerate growth in 2021.

First and foremost, differentiation is going to be imperative. It’s already hard enough to stand out and get noticed, and it’s about to get much more difficult as new companies emerge and investments and budgets balloon in the latter half of the year. Virtually all major companies are increasing budgets to pre-pandemic levels, but will delay those investments until the second half of the year. This will result in an increased intensity of competition that will drown out any undifferentiated players.

The second half of 2021 will bring incredible growth, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.

Additionally, tech companies need to be mindful not to ignore the most important part of the ecosystem: people. Technology will only take you so far, and it’s not going to be enough to survive the competition. Marketing is about people, including your customers, team, partners, investors, and the broader community.

Understanding who your people are and how you can use their help to build a strong foundation and drive exponential growth is essential.

Tactically, the most successful tech companies will embrace video and experimentation in their marketing — two components that will catapult them ahead of the competition.

Ignoring these predictions, backed by empirical evidence, will be detrimental and devastating. Fasten your seatbelts: 2021 is going to be a turbo-charged year of growth opportunities for marketing in tech.

Differentiation is crucial

The explosion of tech companies and startups seeking to be the next big thing isn’t over yet. However, many of them are indistinguishable from each other and lack a compelling value proposition. Just one look at the websites of new and existing tech companies will reveal a proliferation of buzzwords and conceptual illustrations, leaving them all looking and sounding alike.

The tech companies that succeed are those that embrace one of the fundamentals of effective marketing — positioning.

In the ’80s, Al Ries and Jack Trout published Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind and coined the term, which documented the best-known approach to standing out in a noisy marketplace. As the market heats up, companies will realize the need to sharpen their positioning and dial in their focus to break through the noise.

To get attention and build traction, companies need to establish a position they can own. The “mashup method: (Netflix but for coding lessons) is not real positioning; it’s simply a lazy gimmick.

It is imperative to identify who your ideal customer is and not just who could use your product. Focusing on a segment of the market rather than the whole is, perhaps counterintuitively, the most effective approach to capturing the larger market.

Posted Under: Tech News
AppOmni raises $40M for tools to secure enterprise SaaS apps

Posted by on 21 April, 2021

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Enterprises are adopting an ever-wider range of SaaS applications to work and interface with customers, and that is proving to be a major security concern: it’s not just the prospect of phishing, credential stuffing and other malicious tricks to get into systems that are a worry, but the fact that more applications mean more attack surfaces, and more integrations between apps mean more inadvertent holes that get exposed in the process.

And that is leading to surge of interest in security applications that can help. Today, a startup called AppOmni — which has built a platform to help monitor SaaS apps and their activity, provide guidance to warn or block when things might go wrong, and fix problems when they do occur — is announcing some funding to fuel its growth.

The startup has raised $40 million in a Series B round led by Scale Venture Partners, with Salesforce Ventures and ServiceNow Ventures, as well as previous backers ClearSky, Costanoa Ventures, Inner Loop Capital and Silicon Valley Data Capital also participating.

The funding is coming on the back of a huge year for AppOmni. The company grew 900%, co-founder and CEO Brendan O’Connor told TechCrunch, and it has managed to stay at 100% customer retention — that is, AppOmni has yet to lose a single customer since it was founded.

The company today integrates with over 100 connectors, platforms used by developers and IT teams at companies to manage the apps that their businesses use, tools Splunk and Sumo Logic. Through this, AppOmni is able to aggregate and normalize event data around those apps, in addition to deeper monitoring in cases where it can integrate with apps themselves (those integrations to date include some of the most popular apps that enterprises use today, including Salesforce and Slack, Zoom, Microsoft 365, Box and Github).

As O’Connor describes it, the sheer number of apps that enterprise teams use and adopt has made managing security around them very complex. Partly because of how SaaS is set up for usage by as many people in and outside the organization as possible (to make the apps more useful), AppOmni estimates that some 95% of enterprises “overprovision” permissions for external users.

On top of that, some of the biggest problems occur indirectly, specifically when applications are linked up together, creating a flow of sensitive data. AppOmni says that some 55% of companies have sensitive data living in SaaS systems that has been inadvertently exposed to the anonymous internet, sitting there completely unguarded, in this way. (See Zack’s story here for a recent example of how this can play out.)

This is an issue, he said, that is unique to SaaS, which he describes different architecturally to any software that companies might have used in the past. “There is no operating system, no network that is exposed to customers,” he said.

The idea is that AppOmni provides a dashboard to make that monitoring much less murky. “One of our customers described using AppOmni as being akin to turning a light on in a dark room,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor and his co-founder, Brian Soby (the CTO), have first-hand knowledge of the challenges of securing SaaS applications: both spent years at Salesforce — with O’Connor the company’s SVP and “chief trust officer”, a role he left to join ServiceNow as its security CTO, before leaving there to co-found AppOmni with Soby.

It’s partly that track record, along with AppOmni’s own track record, that has given the startup the attention that it has from investors. Interestingly, Scale came to know AppOmni not over a coffee or a pitch deck, but as one of those satisfied customers, which eventually led the VC to offer to invest.

“Scale Venture Partners became an AppOmni customer in 2020. We know firsthand how powerful and differentiated the AppOmni product when it comes to protecting our sensitive SaaS data, and we’re excited to now be both a customer and an investor,” said Ariel Tseitlin, a partner at Scale Venture Partners, in a statement. “AppOmni’s 9x growth last year, driven by the acquisition of customers across a wide range of industries, proves that AppOmni is the market leader in the increasingly important SaaS Security Management market. We expect the momentum to continue in 2021 and beyond as companies accelerate their shift to cloud applications to support their larger remote workforces.”

The company has raised $53 million to date, and it is not disclosing valuation.

Posted Under: Tech News
ActiveCampaign raises $240M at a $3B valuation as marketing and sales automation come into focus for SMBs

Posted by on 21 April, 2021

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As businesses continue to adopt new digital tools to get their names out into the world, a startup that’s built a sales and marketing platform specifically for small and medium businesses is announcing a big round of funding. ActiveCampaign, which has built what it describes as a “customer experience automation” platform — providing a way not just to run digital campaigns but to follow up aspects of them automatically to make sales and marketing work more efficiently — has closed a $240 million round of funding. The Series C values the Chicago startup at over $3 billion.

The round is being led by a new, big-name investor, Tiger Global, with participation from another new backer Dragoneer, along with Susquehanna Growth Equity and Silversmith Capital Partners, which had both invested previously.

This funding round represents a huge leap for ActiveCampaign. It was only in January 2020 that it raised $100 million, and before that, the company, which was founded in 2003, had only raised $20 million.

But as we have seen in many other ways, the pandemic resulted in a surge of interest among businesses to do more — a lot more — online than ever before, not least because so many people were spending more time at home, carrying out their consumer lives over the internet. That led to ActiveCampaign growing to a customer base of 145,000 customers, up from 90,000 16 months ago.

That points not just to the company already growing at a decent clip before the pandemic, but how it capitalized on that at a time when companies were looking for more tools to run their businesses in the new world.

The growth was not about ActiveCampaign throwing more money into business development, founder and CEO Jason VandeBoom said in an interview. “It was the network effect of people finding success. Even today, organic word of mouth is our primary driver.”

The company’s tools fit into a wider overall trend in the world of business: automation, built on the back of new, cloud-based technology, is being adopted to carry out some of the less interesting and repetitive aspects of running a business.

In the case of sales, an example of what ActiveCampaign might provide is a way for an e-commerce business to identify when a logged-in customer (that is, a user who has an account already and is signed in) might have ‘abandoned’ a visit to a site before buying a product that had already been searched for, or clicked on, or even added to a cart. In these cases, it sends an email to customers reminding them of those items, with options for other follow-ups, in the event that the choice was due to being distracted or having second thoughts that might be persuaded otherwise.

Users can opt-out of these, but they can be useful given the genuine distraction exercise that is browsing online — with all of the unrelated notifications, plus other options for considering a purchase. Tellingly, ActiveCampaign integrates with 850 different apps, a measure of just how fragmented the online landscape is, and also how many ways your attention might be distracted, or snagged depending on your perspective.

Abandoned carts can cost a company, in aggregate, a lot of lost revenue, yet chasing those down is not the kind of task that a company would typically assign to a valuable employee to carry out. And that’s where companies like ActiveCampaign come in.

This, plus some 500 other actions like it around sales and marketing campaigns — Vandenboom calls them “recipes” — some of which have been contributed by ActiveCampaign’s own users, form the basis of the company’s platform.

The marketing and sales automation market is estimated to be worth billions of dollars today, and, thanks to the rise of social media and simply more places to spend time online (and more time spent online) is expected to be worth more than $8 billion by 2027, so it’s going after a lucrative and much-used tool for doing business online. (And others are looking at it as well, of couse, including newer entrants like Shopify coming from a different angle to the same problem. Shopify today is a valued partner of the company, Vandeboom said when I asked him about it.)

That gives ActiveCampaign not just a big opportunity to continue targeting, but possibly also makes it a target itself, for an acquisition.

The other key aspect of ActiveCampaign’s growth that is worth watching is related to its customers. While the company has a client base that includes recognized names like the Museum of Science and Industry based out of ActiveCampaign’s hometown, it also has some 145,000 others across nearly 200 countries with a big emphasis on small and medium businesses.

SMBs form the vast majority of all businesses globally, collectively representing a huge win for tech companies that can capture them as customers. But traditionally, they have proven to be a challenging sector, given that they cover so many different verticals, are in many ways more price-sensitive than their enterprise-sized counterparts, among other factors.

So for ActiveCampaign to have found successful traction with SMBs — including with pricing that works for many of them (using it starts at $9 for accounts with less than 500 contacts) — is likely another reason why the startup has caught the eye of investors keen to back winning horses.

While the company did not need to raise money, Vandeboom said he “saw it as an opportunity to bring in more partners, saying that investors like how it purposely went after the idea of customer experience not on vertical or locale.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Laiye, China’s answer to UiPath, closes $50 million Series C+

Posted by on 21 April, 2021

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Robotic process automation has become buzzy in the last few months. New York-based UiPath is on course to launch an initial public offering after gaining an astounding valuation of $35 billion in February. Over in China, homegrown RPA startup Laiye is making waves as well.

Laiye, which develops software to mimic mundane workplace tasks like keyboard strokes and mouse clicks, announced it has raised $50 million in a Series C+ round. The proceeds came about a year after the Beijing-based company pulled in the first tranche of its Series C round.

Laiye, six years old and led by Baidu veterans, has raised over $130 million to date according to public information.

Leading investors in the Series C+ round were Ping An Global Voyager Fund, an early-stage strategic investment vehicle of Chinese financial conglomerate Ping An, and Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Industry Equity Investment Fund, a government-backed fund. Other participants included Lightspeed China Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia China and Wu Capital.

RPA tools are attracting companies looking for ways to automate workflows during COVID-19, which has disrupted office collaboration. But the enterprise tech was already gaining traction prior to the pandemic. As my colleague, Ron Miller wrote this month on the heels of UiPath’s S1 filing:

“The category was gaining in popularity by that point because it addressed automation in a legacy context. That meant companies with deep legacy technology — practically everyone not born in the cloud — could automate across older platforms without ripping and replacing, an expensive and risky undertaking that most CEOs would rather not take.”

In one case, Laiye’s RPA software helped the social security workers in the city of Lanzhou speed up their account reconciliation process by 75%; in the past, they would have to type in pensioners’ information and check manually whether the details were correct.

In another instance, Laiye’s chatbot helped automate the national population census in several southern Chinese cities, freeing census takers from visiting households door-to-door.

Laiye said its RPA enterprise business achieved positive cash flow and its chatbot business turned profitability in the fourth quarter of 2020. Its free-to-use edition has amassed over 400,000 developers, and the company also runs a bot marketplace connecting freelance developers to small-time businesses with automation needs.

Laiye is expanding its services globally and boasts that its footprint now spams Asia, the United States and Europe.

“Laiye aims to foster the world’s largest developer community for software robots and built the world’s largest bot marketplace in the next three years, and we plan to certify at least one million software robot developers by 2025,” said Wang Guanchun, chair and CEO of Laiye.

“We believe that digital workforce and intelligent automation will reach all walks of life as long as more human workers can be up-skilled with knowledge in RPA and AI”.

Posted Under: Tech News
Announcing our TC Sessions: SaaS virtual event happening October 27

Posted by on 20 April, 2021

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Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is now the default business model for most B2B and B2C software startups. And while it’s been around for a while now, its momentum keeps accelerating and the ecosystem continues to expand as technologists and marketers are getting more sophisticated about how to build and sell SaaS products. For all of them, we’re pleased to announced TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS 2021, a one-day virtual event that will examine the state of SaaS to help startup founders, developers and investors understand the state of play and what’s next.

The single-day event will take place 100% virtually on October 27 and will feature actionable advice, Q&A with some of SaaS’s biggest names, and plenty of networking opportunities. $75 Early Bird Passes are now on sale. Book your passes today to save $100 before prices go up.

We’re not quite ready to disclose our agenda yet, but you can expect a mix of superstars from across the industry, ranging from some of the largest tech companies to up-and-coming startups that are pushing the limits of SaaS.

The plan is to look at a broad spectrum of what’s happening in with B2B startups and give you actionable insights into how to build and/or improve your own product. If you’re just getting started, we want you to come away with new ideas for how to start your company and if you’re already on your way, then our sessions on scaling both your technology and marketing organization will help you to get to that $100 million annual run rate faster.

In addition to other founders, you’ll also hear from enterprise leaders who decide what to buy — and the mistakes they see startups make when they try to sell to them.

But SaaS isn’t only about managing growth — though ideally, that’s a problem founders will face sooner or later. Some of the other specific topics we will look at are how to keep your services safe in an ever-growing threat environment, how to use open source to your advantage and how to smartly raise funding for your company.

We will also highlight how B2B and B2C companies can handle the glut of data they now produce and use it to build machine learning models in the process. We’ll talk about how SaaS startups can both do so themselves and help others in the process. There’s nary a startup that doesn’t want to use some form of AI these days, after all.

And because this is 2021, chances are we’ll also talk about building remote companies and the lessons SaaS startups can learn from the last year of working through the pandemic.

Don’t miss out. Book your $75 Early Bird pass today and save $100.

Posted Under: Tech News
IBM breaks latest revenue losing streak as cloud revenue shows modest growth

Posted by on 20 April, 2021

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For IBM, much of the last 8 years simply posting positive revenue growth was a challenge. In fact, the company had a period between 2013 and 2018 when it experienced an astonishing 22 straight quarters of negative revenue growth. So when Big Blue reported yesterday that revenue was up slightly, I’m sure the company took that as a win. Investors appear to be happy with the results with the stock up 4.73% this morning as of publication.

Consider that over the last 8 quarters encompassing FY2019 and FY2020, the company had only one positive revenue quarter when it was up 0.1% in Q42019. It had had five losing quarters prior to that one. When you look at yesterday’s report in that light, and combine it with growth in the Cloud and Cognitive Services group, it adds up to a decent quarter for IBM, one it badly needed after another negative report in the prior quarter.

Looking back at the January report, the company reported Cloud and Cognitive Services revenues down 4.5% at $6.8 billion, which was a big blow considering the company has been betting much of its future on those very areas, fueled in large part by the $34 billion Red Hat acquisition in 2018.

Its most recent quarterly report proved much better with the company reporting Cloud and Cognitive Services revenues of $5.4 billion, up 3.8% YoY. Interestingly quarter-on-quarter revenue for the segment was down, but rose on a year-over-year basis. Perhaps a year-end enterprise revenue push could account for the difference between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021.

At any rate, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna saw today’s report as a positive sign that his attempts to push the company toward a future focused on hybrid computing and AI were starting to take root. He also saw enough in the report to predict some growth this year.

“In our last call, we shared our financial expectations for the year, revenue growth and $11 billion to $12 billion of adjusted free cash flow. While it’s still early in the year and a lot remains to be done, we are confident enough to say that we are on track,” Krishna said in the earnings call with analysts yesterday.

The company has made a number of smaller acquisitions over the last year including a couple of consulting companies, which should help as they try to work with customers around the transition to hybrid computing and artificial intelligence, both of which tend to require a lot of hand-holding to get done.

At the same time of course, the company is continuing apace with its spin out of the legacy infrastructure services division, which it announced last year. The plan at this point is to rename the company Kyndryl (an unfortunate choice) and complete the spin out by year’s end.

CFO Jim Kavanaugh also sees the modestly positive quarter as something the company can build on. “…in fact we are even more confident in the position we put in place with regards to our two most important measures, one, revenue growth, and second, adjusted free cash flow, which is going to provide the fuel for the investments needed for us to capture that hybrid cloud $1 trillion TAM,” Kavanaugh said in the earnings call with analysts.

All of this is being pushed by Red Hat, which grew revenue 15% in the most recent quarter, something the company is banking will continue to advance it deeper into positive territory throughout the rest of 2021.

Krishna is not looking for booming growth by any means. He just wants growth, and even sustained single digit top line expansion will make him happy. “Our systems if I take a two-year to three-year view kind of flattish, but in any given year it might increase or decrease but not by a whole lot. It doesn’t impact the topline a lot and that’s how sort of we get to the mid-single-digit sustainably,” Krishna said in the call.

The CEO simply wants to bring some long-term stability back to the company it has been sadly lacking in recent years. Of course, it’s hard to know if this quarter was a temporary upward blip on IBM’s earnings chart, one of those fluctuations up or down he spoke of, or if it is the corner the company has been looking to turn for years. Only time will tell whether IBM can sustain the modest revenue goals Krishna has set for the organization, or if it will fall back into the revenue doldrums that have plagued the company for the last eight years.

Posted Under: Tech News
Synthesia’s AI video generation platform hooks $12.5 million Series A led by FirstMark

Posted by on 20 April, 2021

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As AI gets stronger, the possibilities of what we can do with it grow exponentially (for better or worse). Synthesia, an AI video generation platform, is looking to make video content creation as simple and efficient as possible, and FirstMark is taking a bet on it.

The company has just announced the close of a $12.5 million Series A funding round led by FirstMark Capital, with participation from angels Christian Bach (CEO, Netlify) and Michael Buckley (VP Communications, Twilio), as well as existing investors LDV Capital, MMC Ventures, Seedcamp, Mark Cuban, Taavet Hinrikus, Martin Varsavsky, and TinyVC.

Though Synthesia’s technology could be applied to dozens of use cases, the startup is focused initially on educational content for organizations and enterprises. Think training videos and company- or department-wide video updates.

Here’s how it works:

Users can choose from a library of existing actors (who get paid per video they appear in) or upload their own video to create their own avatar. To use their own voice and avatar, Synthesia walks them through instructions on what type of video and audio they should send in.

Users can then type in a script, add other components like text, images, shapes, etc. and ultimately generate the video without any video creation or editing skills whatsoever. It’s also super easy to update or edit the video without having to do any traditional video editing.

The startup is well aware of how this platform could be used nefariously, and has built in multiple layers of security and authentication to ensure that users are aware of how their avatar is being used in videos, with the ability to check the script or the video before it’s generated or published.

Not only can this platform be used for the dozen or so training and educational videos that a company deploys each year, but it can be used in new and creative ways. The general principle is that video content is more compelling and engaging than text or other content. So imagine, say, that the weekly emails that come from your manager or CEO with updates on the business came in the form of video. With Synthesia, it’s super easy and low-cost to create that video quickly.

Synthesia has an entry-level plan, which is $30/month/seat, and offers 10 minutes of video per month. The startup also has an enterprise level plan that starts at $500/month and comes with many more minutes and extra feature functionality. 

The company plans on using the funding to fuel customer growth and product development.

Beyond the enterprise video platform, Synthesia is also working on an API that would allow organizations to hook the Synthesia tech into their own systems and distribute that video. Cofounder and CEO Victor Riparbelli showed an example where users could choose a stock and plug in a phone number that would automatically create a video with a daily stock price update and distribute that video to the specified phone number.

The enterprise product, called STUDIO, launched into public beta in the summer of 2020 and has since amassed more than 1000 companies as users.

Posted Under: Tech News
Cape Privacy announces $20M Series A to help companies securely share data

Posted by on 20 April, 2021

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Cape Privacy, the early stage startup that wants to make it easier for companies to share sensitive data in a secure and encrypted way, announced a $20 million Series A today.

Evolution Equity Partners led the round with participation from new investors Tiger Global Management, Ridgeline Partners and Downing Lane. Existing investors Boldstart Ventures, Version One Ventures, Haystack, Radical Ventures and a slew of individual investors also participated. The company has now raised approximately $25 million including a $5 million seed investment we covered last June..

Cape Privacy CEO Ché Wijesinghe says that the product has evolved quite a bit since we last spoke. “We have really focused our efforts on encrypted learning, which is really the core technology, which was fundamental to allowing the multi-party compute capabilities between two organizations or two departments to work and build machine learning models on encrypted data,” Wijesinghe told me.

Wijesinghe says that a key business case involves a retail company owned by a private equity firm sharing data with a large financial services company, which is using the data to feed its machine learning models. In this case, sharing customer data, it’s essential to do it in a secure way and that is what Cape Privacy claims is its primary value prop.

He said that while the data sharing piece is the main focus of the company, it has data governance and compliance components to be sure that entities sharing data are doing so in a way that complies with internal and external rules and regulations related to the type of data.

While the company is concentrating on financial services for now because Wijesinghe has been working with these companies for years, he sees uses cases far beyond a single vertical including pharmaceuticals, government, healthcare telco and manufacturing.

“Every single industry needs this and so we look at the value of what Cape’s encrypted learning can provide as really being something that can be as transformative and be as impactful as what SSL was for the adoption of the web browser,” he said.

Richard Seewald, founding and managing partner at lead investor Evolution Equity Partners likes that ability to expand the product’s markets. “The application in Financial Services is only the beginning. Cape has big plans in life sciences and government where machine learning will help make incredible advances in clinical trials and counter-terrorism for example. We anticipate wide adoption of Cape’s technology across many use cases and industries,” he said.

The company has recently expanded to 20 people and Wijesinghe, who is half Asian, takes DEI seriously. “We’ve been very, very deliberate about our DEI efforts, and I think one of the things that we pride ourselves in is that we do foster a culture of acceptance, that it’s not just about diversity in terms of color, race, gender, but we just hired our first non binary employee,” he said,

Part of making people feel comfortable and included involves training so that fellow employees have a deeper understanding of the cultural differences. The company certainly has diversity across geographies with employees in 10 different time zones.

The company is obviously remote with a spread like that, but once the pandemic is over, Wijesinghe sees bringing people together on occasion with New York City as the hub for the company where people from all over the world can fly in and get together.

Posted Under: Tech News
FintechOS nabs $60M for a low-code approach to modernizing legacy banking and insurance services

Posted by on 20 April, 2021

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“Challenger” startups in banking and insurance have upended their industries, and picked up significant business, by building more customer-friendly tools and services — more personalized, easier to access, and usually competitively priced — than those typically provided their bigger, incumbent rivals. Now, a startup out of Romania that is building tools to help the incumbents respond with better services of their own is announcing a significant round of funding as its business grows.

FintechOS, which has built a low-code platform aimed at larger (older) banking and insurance companies to help them build new services and analytics on top of and around their existing infrastructure, has raised €51 million ($61.5 million at today’s rates, but $60 million at the time of the deal closing) in a Series B round of funding.

FintechOS’s opportunity has been to target wave of incumbents in the insurance and banking industries that have been slowly watching as newer players like Lemonade (in insurance) and a huge plethora of challenger banks (Revolut, N26, Monzo and many others) are swooping in and picking up customers, especially among younger demographics, while they have been unable to respond mostly because their infrastructure is too old and big. Turning a huge ship around, as we have seen, is no small task — a situation that has become only more apparent in the last year of pandemic living and the big shift to digital interactions that resulted from it.

“When we launched FintechOS in 2017, we could already see existing solutions to digital transformation would struggle to deliver tangible results. By contrast, our unique approach has quickly inspired a sea-change in how financial institutions address digitization and engage with their customers,” said Teodor Blidarus, co-founder and CEO at FintechOS, in a statement. “Events over the last year have only increased pressure on our industry to evolve and as a result we’re seeing growing demand for our powerful platforms. Our latest round of funding will help us grow at the pace needed to improve outcomes for financial institutions and their customers globally.”

(It is not the only one. Others out of Europe in the space of bringing new tools to incumbent banks to help them make more modern and competitive products include 10x, Thought Machine, Temenos, Mambu and many more.)

The Series B round of funding is being led by Draper-Esprit, with Earlybird, Gapminder Ventures, Launchub, and OTB Ventures (which all participated in its Series A in December 2019) also participating. There are other backers in the round that are not being disclosed at this time, the startup added. FintechOS is also not disclosing its valuation. The company, based out of Bucharest, has raised just under $80 million to date.

FintechOS is active today in the UK and Europe — where it has been growing at a CAGR of 200% and says its services touch “millions” of people, with some of its key customers including the likes of banking giants Societe Generale and IdeaBank and international insurance brokers Howden. The plan will be to continue investing in those markets, as well as expanding internationally.

And it will be adding in more services. Today, the banking platform is designed to help banks launch more retail services for consumers and small and medium business customers, and for insurance companies to build new health, life and general insurance products (there are a lot of synergies in how insurance and financial services companies have been built over the years, and so it’s a natural couplet when it comes to building tools for those industries).

In the financial sector, FintechOS lets banks build in new digital onboarding flows, credit cards and loan products, savings and mortgage products. Insurance products include new approaches to generating and handling quotes, customer onboarding and management and claims automation — which may well bring FintechOS into closer contact and collaboration with the most successful startup to come out of its home country to date, the RPA juggernaut UiPath. In all cases, it helps stitch together data from a bank’s own systems with more modern tooling, and to link that up with yet more modern tools to help process that data more easily.

This is “low code” but it typically means that the company needs to work with third parties to enable all of this. Partners include the likes of integrators and other global services technicians, such as Microsoft, Deloitte, CapGemini, KPMG, and so on. (And the founders of the startup themselves come from consulting backgrounds so they well understand the role these companies play in the process of bringing technology into big businesses.)

FintechOS is tapping into a couple of very big trends that have arguably been the biggest in the financial and related insurance industries.

The first of these is the fact that core services around things like credit/loans, current deposits and savings are not just very complex to build but actually have largely become commoditized — similar to digital payments — and so packaging them up and turning them into services that can be integrated by way of an API makes them more easily accessed without the heavy lifting needed to build them from scratch. This lets companies focus instead on customer service or building more interesting tools around those basic services to customise them (for example AI based personalization). Disintermediating basic functions from the services built around them is arguably a bigger trend but it has been especially prevalent in enterprise, which has long been a slow-moving space when it comes to innovation in the back-end, and the front-end.

The second of these is the big swing towards using no-code and low-code tools to empower more people within organizations to get stuck in when they can see something not working as efficiently as it could, and building the workflows themselves to improve that. This also applies to trying out and testing new products — again something that typically has not been done in financial and insurance services but can now be possible with low-code and no-code tools.

“Not only is our technology helping financial institutions become customer centric, but it’s also helping them provide products and services to more people and businesses,” said Sergiu Negut, the other co-founder who is FintechOS’s CFO and COO, said in a separate statement. “With so many markets still underserved, the ability to tailor offerings to a segment of one offers the opportunity to increase financial inclusion and adheres to our ideal that easy access to financial services is essential. We’re delighted to be working with investors who share our views on how fintech should be transforming the financial services industry.”

Notably, Draper Esprit also has backed Thought Machine, another big player in the world of fintech that is taking some of the learnings and models that have helped new entrants disrupt incumbents, and is packaging them up as services for incumbents, too. It takes a different approach to doing this, not using low-code but smart contracts, which could be one reason why the VC doesn’t see the investments as conflict of interest. They are also tackling an enormous market, and so at least for now there is room for them, and many others in the space, such as 10x, Temenos, Mambu, Rapyd and many others.

“When we met Teo and Sergiu, we were immediately convinced of their vision: a data led, end-to-end platform, facilitated with a low-code/no-code infrastructure,” Vinoth Jayakumar, partner at Draper Esprit, said in a statement. “Incumbent financial services firms have cost-to-income ratios up to 90%, so we see a huge and increasing need for infrastructure software that allows digitisation at speed, ease and lower cost. Draper Esprit builds enduring partnerships; with the team at FintechOS we hope to build an enduring fintech company that will dramatically change financial services experiences for people all over the world.”

 

 

Posted Under: Tech News
The Klaviyo EC-1

Posted by on 19 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

E-commerce is booming as retailers race to transform their brick-and-mortar footprints into online storefronts. By some counts, the market grew an astonishing 42% in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and estimates show that online spending in the U.S. will surpass $1 trillion by 2022. It’s a bonanza, and everyone is figuring out this new terrain.

Consumers are likely familiar with the front-end brands for these storefronts — with companies like Amazon, Shopify, Square, and Stripe owning attention — but it’s the tooling behind the curtain that is increasingly determining the competitiveness of individual stores.

Klaviyo may not be a household name to consumers (at least, not yet), but in many ways, this startup has become the standard by which email marketers are judged today, triangulating against veterans Mailchimp and Constant Contact and riding the e-commerce wave to new heights.

Founded in 2012, this Boston-based company helps marketers personalize and automate their email messaging to customers. By now, most people are intimately familiar with these kinds of emails; if you’ve ever given your email address to an online store, the entreaties to come back to your abandoned cart or browse the latest sale are Klaviyo’s bread and butter.

It may seem obvious in retrospect that email would grow to become a premier platform for marketing, but this wasn’t the case even a few years ago when social ads and search engine marketing were the dominant paradigm. Today, owned marketing and customer experience management are white-hot trends, and Klaviyo has surged from a lifestyle business to a multi-billion dollar behemoth in just a few short years. Its story is at the heart of the internet economy today, and the future.

TechCrunch’s writer and analyst for this EC-1 is Chris Morrison. Morrison, who previously wrote our EC-1 on Roblox, has been a writer and independent game developer covering the video game industry and the marketing challenges that come with publishing. As an analyst and a potential user, he’s in a unique position to explain the Klaviyo story. The lead editor for this package was Danny Crichton, the assistant editor was Ram Iyer, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto and illustrations were created by Nigel Sussman.

Klaviyo had no say in the content of this analysis and did not get advance access to it. Morrison has no financial ties to Klaviyo or other conflicts of interest to disclose.

The Klaviyo EC-1 comprises four main articles numbering 9,700 words and a reading time of 43 minutes. Let’s take a look:

  • Part 1: Origin storyHow Klaviyo transformed from a lifestyle business into a $4.15B email titan” (2,600 words/10 minutes) — Explores the rise of Klaviyo from a database for e-commerce data into a modern email powerhouse as it successively learned from customers and bootstrapped in the absence of funding from accelerators and early VCs.
  • Part 2: Business and growthHow Klaviyo used data and no-code to transform owned marketing” (3,000 words/12 minutes) — Analyzes Klaviyo’s recent growth and how marketers increasingly focus on owned marketing channels and customer experience management.
  • Part 3: Dynamics of e-commerce marketingMarketing in 2021 is emotional and not just transactional” (2,200 words/9 minutes) — To fully understand Klaviyo and this new world of martech, this article contextualizes how and why marketers are increasingly trying to personalize and build deeper emotional bonds with their customers outside of social media channels.
  • Part 4: Lessons on startup growthDrama and quirk aren’t necessary for startup success” (1,900 words/8 minutes) — Founders shouldn’t have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again. Klaviyo offers a number of tried-and-true tutorials to understand how to build a competitive startup and not get bogged down in finding product-market fit and scaling.

We’re always iterating on the EC-1 format. If you have questions, comments or ideas, please send an email to TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at danny@techcrunch.com.

Posted Under: Tech News
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