All posts by Richy George

Firebolt raises $127M more for its new approach to cheaper and more efficient big data analytics

Posted by on 24 June, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Snowflake changed the conversation for many companies when it comes to the potentials of data warehousing. Now one of the startups that’s hoping to disrupt the disruptor is announcing a big round of funding to expand its own business.

Firebolt, which has built a new kind of cloud data warehouse that promises much more efficient, and cheaper, analytics around whatever is stored within it, is announcing a major Series B of $127 million on the heels of huge demand for its services.

The company, which only came out of stealth mode in December, is not disclosing its valuation with this round, which brings the total raised by the Israeli company to $164 million. New backers Dawn Capital and K5 Global are in this round, alongside previous backers Zeev Ventures, TLV Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Angular Ventures.

Nor is it disclosing many details about its customers at the moment. CEO and co-founder Eldad Farkash told me in an interview that most of them are US-based, and that the numbers have grown from the dozen or so that were using Firebolt when it was still in stealth mode (it worked quietly for a couple of years building its product and onboarding customers before finally launching six months ago). They are all migrating from existing data warehousing solutions like Snowflake or BigQuery. In other words, its customers are already cloud-native, big-data companies: it’s not trying to proselytize on the basic concept but work with those who are already in a specific place as a business.

“If you’re not using Snowflake or BigQuery already, we prefer you come back to us later,” he said. Judging by the size and quick succession of the round, that focus is paying off.

The challenge that Firebolt set out to tackle is that while data warehousing has become a key way for enterprises to analyze, update and manage their big data stores — after all, your data is only as good as the tools you have to parse it and keep it secure — typically data warehousing solutions are not efficient, and they can cost a lot of money to maintain.

The challenge was seen first-hand by the three founders of Firebolt, Farkash (CEO), Saar Bitner (COO) and Ariel Yaroshevich (CTO) when they were at a previous company, the business intelligence powerhouse Sisense, where respectively they were one of its co-founders and two members of its founding team. At Sisense, the company continually came up against an issue: When you are dealing in terabytes of data, cloud data warehouses were straining to deliver good performance to power its analytics and other tools, and the only way to potentially continue to mitigate that was by piling on more cloud capacity. And that started to become very expensive.

Firebolt set out to fix that by taking a different approach, re-architecting the concept. As Farkash sees it, while data warehousing has indeed been a big breakthrough in big data, it has started to feel like a dated solution as data troves have grown.

“Data warehouses are solving yesterday’s problem, which was, ‘How do I migrate to the cloud and deal with scale?’ ” he told me back in December. Google’s BigQuery, Amazon’s RedShift and Snowflake as fitting answers for that issue, believes, but “we see Firebolt as the new entrant in that space, with a new take on design on technology. We change the discussion from one of scale to one of speed and efficiency.”

The startup claims that its performance is up to 182 times faster than that of other data warehouses with a SQL-based system that works on academic research that had yet to be applied anywhere, around how to handle data in a lighter way, using new techniques in compression and how data is parsed. Data lakes in turn can be connected with a wider data ecosystem, and what it translates to is a much smaller requirement for cloud capacity. And lower costs.

Fast forward to today, and the company says the concept is gaining a lot of traction with engineers and developers in industries like business intelligence, customer-facing services that need to parse a lot of information to serve information to users in real-time, and back-end data applications. That is proving out what investors suspected would be a shift before the startup even launched, stealthily or otherwise.

“I’ve been an investor at Firebolt since their Series A round and before they had any paying customers,” said Oren Zeev of Zeev Ventures. “What had me invest in Firebolt is mostly the team. A group of highly experienced executives mostly from the big data space who understand the market very well, and the pain organizations are experiencing. In addition, after speaking to a few of my portfolio companies and Firebolt’s initial design partners, it was clear that Firebolt is solving a major pain, so all in all, it was a fairly easy decision. The market in which Firebolt operates is huge if you consider the valuations of Snowflake and Databricks. Even more importantly, it is growing rapidly as the migration from on-premise data warehouse platforms to the cloud is gaining momentum, and as more and more companies rely on data for their operations and are building data applications.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Salesforce, AWS announce extended partnership with further two-way integration

Posted by on 23 June, 2021

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Salesforce and AWS represent the two most successful cloud companies in their respective categories. Over the last few years the two cloud giants have had an evolving partnership. Today they announced plans for a new set of integration capabilities to make it easier to share data and build applications that cross the two platforms.

Patrick Stokes, EVP and GM for Platform at Salesforce, points out that the companies have worked together in the past to provide features like secure sharing between the two services, but they were hearing from customers that they wanted to take it further and today’s announcement is the first step towards making that happen.

“[The initial phases of the partnership] have really been massively successful. We’re learning a lot from each other and from our mutual customers about the types of things that they want to try to accomplish, both within the Salesforce portfolio of products, as well as all the Amazon products, so that the two solutions complement each other really nicely. And customers are asking us for more, and so we’re excited to enter into this next phase of our partnership,” Stokes explained.

He added, “The goal really is to unify our platforms, so bring [together] all the power of the Amazon services with all of the power of the of the Salesforce platform.” These capabilities could be the next step in accomplishing that.

This involves a couple of new features the companies are working on to help developers on both the platform and application side of the equation. For starters that includes enabling developers to virtualize Amazon data inside Salesforce without having to do all the coding to make that happen manually.

“More specifically, we’re going to virtualize Amazon data within the Salesforce platform, so whether you’re working with an S3 bucket, Amazon RDS or whatever it is we’re going to make it so that that the data is virtualized and just appears just like it’s native data on the Salesforce platform,” he said.

Similarly, developers building applications on Amazon will be able to access Salesforce data and have it appear natively in Amazon. This involves providing connectors between the two systems to make the data flow smoothly without a lot of coding to make that happen.

The companies are also announcing event sharing capabilities, which makes it easier for both Amazon and Salesforce customers to build microservices-based applications that cross both platforms.

“You can build microservices-oriented architecture that spans the services of Salesforce and Amazon platforms, again without having to write any code. To do that, [we’re developing] out of the box connectors so you can click and drag the events that you want.”

The companies are also announcing plans to make it easier from an identity and access management perspective to access the platforms with a guided setup. Finally, the companies are working on applications to build Amazon Chime communications tooling into Service Cloud and other Salesforce services to build things like virtual call centers using AWS machine learning technology.

Amazon VP of Global Marketing Rachel Thorton says that having the two cloud giants work together in this way should make it easier for developers to create solutions that span the two platforms. “I just think it unlocks such possibilities for developers, and the faster and more innovative developers can be, it just unlocks opportunities for businesses, and creates better customer experiences,” Thornton said.

It’s worth noting that Salesforce also has extensive partnerships with other cloud providers including Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

As is typically the case with Salesforce announcements, while all of these capabilities are being announced today, they are still in the development stage and won’t go into beta testing until later this year with GA expected sometime next year. The companies are expected to release more details about the partnership at Dreamforce and re:Invent, their respective customer conferences later this year.

Posted Under: Tech News
Pequity, a compensation platform designed for more equitable pay, raises $19M

Posted by on 23 June, 2021

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Diversity and inclusion have become central topics in the world of work. In the best considerations, improving them is a holistic effort, involving not just conceiving of products with this in mind, but hiring and managing talent in a diverse and inclusive way, too. A new startup called Pequity that has built a product to help with the latter of these areas, specifically in equitable compensation, has now raised some funding — a sign of the demand in the market, as well as how tech is being harnessed in aid of helping it.

The San Francisco-based startup has raised $19 million in a Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners. First Round Capital, Designer Fund, and Scribble Ventures also participated in the fundraise, which will be used to continue investing in product and also hiring: the company has 20 on its own books now and will aim to double that by the end of this year, on the heels of positive reception in the market.

Since launching officially last year, Pequity has picked up over 100 customers, with an initial focus on fast-scaling companies in its own backyard, a mark of how D&I have come into focus in the tech industry in particular. Those using Pequity to compare and figure out compensation include Instacart, Scale.ai and ClearCo, and the company said that in the last four months, the platform’s been used to make more then 5,000 job offers.

Kaitlyn Knopp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Warren Lebovics (both pictured, right), came up for the idea for Pequity in much the same way that many innovations in the world of enterprise IT come to market: through her own first-hand experience.

She spent a decade working in employment compensation in the Bay Area, with previous roles at Google, Instacart, and Cruise. In that time, she found the tools that many companies used were lacking and simply “clunky” when it came to compensation analysis.

“The way the market has worked so far is that platforms had compensation as an element but not the focus,” she said. “It was the end of the tagline, the final part of a ‘CRM for candidates.’ But you still have to fill in all the gaps, you have to set the architecture the right way. And with compensation, you have to bake in your own analytics, which implies that you have to have some expertise.”

Indeed, as with other aspects of enterprise software, she added that the very biggest tech companies sometimes worked on their own tools, but not only does that leave smaller or otherwise other-focused businesses out of having better calculation tools, but it also means that those tools are siloed and miss out on being shaped by a bigger picture of the world of work. “We wanted to take that process and own it.”

The Pequity product essentially works by plugging into all of the other tools that an HR professional might be using — HRIS, ATS, and payroll products — to manage salaries across the whole of the organization in order to analyse and compare how compensation could look for existing and prospective employees. It combines a company’s own data and then compares it to data from the wider market, including typical industry ranges and market trends, to provide insights to HR teams.

All of this means that HR teams are able to make more informed decisions, which is step number one in being more transparent and equitable, but is also something that Pequity is optimized to cover specifically in how it measures compensation across a team.

And in line with that, there is another aspect of the compensation mindset that Knopp also wanted to address in a standalone product, and that is the idea of building a tool with a mission, one of providing a platform that can bring in data to make transparent and equitable decisions.

“A lot of the comp tools that I’ve interacted with are reactive,” she said. “You may have to do, say, a pay equity test, you do your promotion and merit cycles, and then you find all these issues that you have to solve. We’re flagging those things proactively with our analytics, because we’re plugging into those systems, which will give you those alerts before the decisions need to be made.”

As an added step in that direction, Knopp said that ultimately she believes the tool should be something that those outside of HR, such as managers and emploiyees themselves, should be able to access to better understand the logic of their own compensation and have more information going into any kind of negotiation.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see whether modernized products like Pequity, which are tackling old problems with a new approach and point of view, find traction in the wider market. If one purpose in HR is to address diversity and inclusion, and part of the problem has been that the tools are just not fit for that purpose, then it seems a no-brainer that we’ll see more organizations trying out new things to see if they can help them in their own race to secure talent.

“Compensation reflects a company’s values, affects its ability to hire talent, and is the biggest expense on its P&L. And yet, most comp teams run on spreadsheets and emails,” said Parker Barrile, Partner at Norwest, in a statement. “Pequity empowers comp teams to design and manage equitable compensation programs with modern software designed by comp professionals, for comp professionals.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Vantage raises $4M to help businesses understand their AWS costs

Posted by on 22 June, 2021

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Vantage, a service that helps businesses analyze and reduce their AWS costs, today announced that it has raised a $4 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz. A number of angel investors, including Brianne Kimmel, Julia Lipton, Stephanie Friedman, Calvin French Owen, Ben and Moisey Uretsky, Mitch Wainer and Justin Gage, also participated in this round

Vantage started out with a focus on making the AWS console a bit easier to use — and help businesses figure out what they are spending their cloud infrastructure budgets on in the process. But as Vantage co-founder and CEO Ben Schaechter told me, it was the cost transparency features that really caught on with users.

“We were advertising ourselves as being an alternative AWS console with a focus on developer experience and cost transparency,” he said.”What was interesting is — even in the early days of early access before the formal GA launch in January — I would say more than 95% of the feedback that we were getting from customers was entirely around the cost features that we had in Vantage.”

Image Credits: Vantage

Like any good startup, the Vantage team looked at this and decided to double down on these features and highlight them in its marketing, though it kept the existing AWS Console-related tools as well. The reason the other tools didn’t quite take off, Schaechter believes, is because more and more, AWS users have become accustomed to infrastructure-as-code to do their own automatic provisioning. And with that, they spend a lot less time in the AWS Console anyway.

“But one consistent thing — across the board — was that people were having a really, really hard time twelve times a year, where they would get a shock AWS bill and had to figure out what happened. What Vantage is doing today is providing a lot of value on the transparency front there,” he said.

Over the course of the last few months, the team added a number of new features to its cost transparency tools, including machine learning-driven predictions (both on the overall account level and service level) and the ability to share reports across teams.

Image Credits: Vantage

While Vantage expects to add support for other clouds in the future, likely starting with Azure and then GCP, that’s actually not what the team is focused on right now. Instead, Schaechter noted, the team plans to add support for bringing in data from third-party cloud services instead.

“The number one line item for companies tends to be AWS, GCP, Azure,” he said. “But then, after that, it’s Datadog Cloudflare Sumo Logic, things along those lines. Right now, there’s no way to see, P&L or an ROI from a cloud usage-based perspective. Vantage can be the tool where that’s showing you essentially, all of your cloud costs in one space.”

That is likely the vision the investors bought in as well and even though Vantage is now going up against enterprise tools like Apptio’s Cloudability and VMware’s CloudHealth, Schaechter doesn’t seem to be all that worried about the competition. He argues that these are tools that were born in a time when AWS had only a handful of services and only a few ways of interacting with those. He believes that Vantage, as a modern self-service platform, will have quite a few advantages over these older services.

“You can get up and running in a few clicks. You don’t have to talk to a sales team. We’re helping a large number of startups at this stage all the way up to the enterprise, whereas Cloudability and Cloud Health are, in my mind, kind of antiquated enterprise offerings. No startup is choosing to use those at this point, as far as I know,” he said.

The team, which until now mostly consisted of Schaechter and his co-founder and CTO Brooke McKim, bootstrapped to company up to this point. Now they plan to use the new capital to build out its team (and the company is actively hiring right now), both on the development and go-to-market side.

The company offers a free starter plan for businesses that track up to $2,500 in monthly AWS cost, with paid plans starting at $30 per month for those who need to track larger accounts.

Posted Under: Tech News
Memory.ai, the startup behind time-tracking app Timely, raises $14M to build more AI-based productivity apps

Posted by on 22 June, 2021

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Time is your most valuable asset — as the saying goes — and today a startup called Memory.ai, which is building AI-based productivity tools to help you with your own time management, is announcing some funding to double down on its ambitions: it wants not only to help manage your time, but to, essentially, provide ways to use it better in the future.

The startup, based out of Oslo, Norway, initially made its name with an app called Timely, a tool for people to track time spent doing different tasks. aimed not just at people who are quantified self geeks, but those who need to track time for practical reasons, such as consultants or others who work on the concept of billable hours. Timely has racked up 500,000 users since 2014, including more than 5,000 paying businesses in 160 countries.

Now, Memory.ai has raised $14 million as it gears up to launch its next apps, Dewo (pronounced “De-Voh”), an app that is meant to help people do more “deep work” by learning about what they are working on and filtering out distractions to focus better; and Glue, described as a knowledge hub to help in the creative process. Both are due to be released later in the year.

The funding is being led by local investors Melesio and Sanden, with participation from Investinor, Concentric and SNÖ Ventures, who backed Memory.ai previously.

“Productivity apps” has always been something of a nebulous category in the world of connected work. They can variously cover any kind of collaboration management software ranging from Asana and Jira through to Slack and Notion; or software that makes doing an existing work task more efficiently than you did it before (eg Microsoft has described all of what goes into Microsoft 365 — Excel, Word, Powerpoint, etc. — as “productivity apps”); or, yes, apps like those from Memory.ai that aim to improve your concentration or time management.

These days, however, it feels like the worlds of AI and advances in mobile computing are increasingly coming together to evolve that concept once again.

If the first wave of smartphone communications and the apps that are run on smartphone devices — social, gaming, productivity, media, information, etc. — have led to us getting pinged by a huge amount of data from lots of different places, all of the time, then could it be that the second wave is quite possibly going to usher in a newer wave of tools to handle all that better, built on the premise that not everything is of equal importance? No-mo FOMO? We’ll see.

In any case, some bigger platform players also helping to push the agenda of what productivity means in this day and age.

For example, in Apple’s recent preview of iOS 15 (due to come out later this year) the company gave a supercharge to its existing “do not disturb” feature on its phones, where it showed off a new Focus mode, letting users customize how and when they want to receive notifications from which apps, and even which apps they want to have displayed, all organized by different times of day (eg work time), place, calendar items, and so on.

Today, iPhone plays so many roles in our lives. It’s where we get information, how people reach us, and where we get things done. This is great, but it means our attention is being pulled in so many different directions and finding that balance between work and life can be tricky,” said Apple’s Craig Federighi in the WWDC keynote earlier this month. “We want to free up space to focus and help you be in the moment.” How well that gets used, and how much other platforms like Google follow suit, will be interesting to see play out. It feels, in any case, like it could be the start of something.

And, serendipitously — or maybe because this is some kind of zeitgeist — this is also playing into what Memory.ai has built and is building. 

Mathias Mikkelsen, the Oslo-based founder of Memory.ai, first came up for his idea for Timely (which had also been the original name of the whole startup) when he was working as a designer in the ad industry, one of those jobs that needed to track what he was working on, and for how long, in order to get paid.

He said he knew the whole system as it existed was inefficient: “I just thought it was insane how cumbersome and old it was. But at the same time how important it was for the task,” he said.

The guy had an entrepreneurial itch that he was keen to scratch, and this idea would become the salve to help him. Mikkelsen was so taken with building a startup around time management, that he sold his apartment in Oslo and moved himself to San Francisco to be where he believed was the epicenter of startup innovation. He tells me he lived off the proceeds of his flat for two years “in a closet” in a hacker house, bootstrapping Timely, until eventually getting into an accelerator (500 Startups) and subsequently starting to raise money. He eventually moved back to Oslo after two years to continue growing the business, as well as to live somewhere a little more spacious.

The startup’s big technical breakthrough with Timely was to figure out an efficient way of tracking time for different tasks, not just time worked on anything, without people having to go through a lot of data entry.

The solution: to integrate with a person’s computer, plus a basic to-do schedule for a day or week, and then match up which files are open when to determine how long one works for one client or another. Phone or messaging conversations, for the moment, are not included, and neither are the contents of documents — just the titles of them. Nor is data coming from wearable devices, although you could see how that, too, might prove useful.

The basic premise is to be personalised, so managers and others cannot use Timely to track exactly what people are doing, although they can track and bill for those billable hours. All this is important, as it also will feed into how DeWo and Glue will work.

The startup’s big conceptual breakthrough came around the same time: Getting time tracking or any productivity right “has never been a UI problem,” Mikkelsen said. “It’s a human nature problem.” This is where the AI comes in, to nudge people towards something they identify as important, and nudge them away from work that might not contribute to that. Tackling bigger issues beyond time are essential to improving productivity overall, which is why Memory.ai now wants to extend to apps for carving out time for deep thinking and creative thinking.

While it might seem to be a threat that a company like Apple has identified the same time management predicament that Memory.ai has, and is looking to solve that itself, Mikkelsen is not fazed. He said he thinks of Focus as not unlike Apple’s work on Health: there will be ways of feeding information into Apple’s tool to make it work better for the user, and so that will be Memory.ai’s opportunity to hopefully grow, not cannibalize, its own audience with Timely and its two new apps. It is, in a sense, a timely disruption.

“Memory’s proven software is already redefining how businesses around the world track, plan and manage their time. We look forward to working with the team to help new markets profit from the efficiencies, insights and transparency of a Memory-enabled workforce,” said Arild Engh, a partner at Melesio, in a statement.

Kjartan Rist,  a partner at Concentric, added: “We continue to be impressed with Memory’s vision to build and launch best-in-class products for the global marketplace. The company is well on its way to becoming a world leader in workplace productivity and collaboration, particularly in light of the remote and hybrid working revolution of the last 12 months. We look forward to supporting Mathias and the team in this exciting new chapter.”

Posted Under: Tech News
What does Red Hat’s sale to IBM tell us about Couchbase’s valuation?

Posted by on 21 June, 2021

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The IPO rush of 2021 continued this week with a fresh filing from NoSQL provider Couchbase. The company raised hundreds of millions while private, making its impending debut an important moment for a number of private investors, including venture capitalists.

According to PitchBook data, Couchbase was last valued at a post-money valuation of $580 million when it raised $105 million in May 2020. The company — despite its expansive fundraising history — is not a unicorn heading into its debut to the best of our knowledge.

We’d like to uncover whether it will be one when it prices and starts to trade, so we dug into Couchbase’s business model and its financial performance, hoping to better understand the company and its market comps.

The Couchbase S-1

The Couchbase S-1 filing details a company that sells database tech. More specifically, Couchbase offers customers database technology that includes what NoSQL can offer (“schema flexibility,” in the company’s phrasing), as well as the ability to ask questions of their data with SQL queries.

Couchbase’s software can be deployed on clouds, including public clouds, in hybrid environments, and even on-prem setups. The company sells to large companies, attracting 541 customers by the end of its fiscal 2021 that generated $107.8 million in annual recurring revenue, or ARR, by the close of last year.

Couchbase breaks its revenue into two main buckets. The first, subscription, includes software license income and what the company calls “support and other” revenues, which it defines as “post-contract support,” or PCS, which is a package of offerings, including “support, bug fixes and the right to receive unspecified software updates and upgrades” for the length of the contract.

The company’s second revenue bucket is services, which is self-explanatory and lower-margin than its subscription products.

Posted Under: Tech News
DataRails books $25M more to build better financial reporting tools for SMBs

Posted by on 21 June, 2021

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As enterprise startups continue to target interesting gaps in the market, we’re seeing increasingly sophisticated tools getting built for small and medium businesses — traditionally a tricky segment to sell to, too small for large enterprise tools, and too advanced in their needs for consumer products. In the latest development of that trend, an Israeli startup called DataRails has raised $25 million to continue building out a platform that lets SMBs using Excel to run financial planning and analytics like their larger counterparts.

The funding closes out the company’s Series A at $43.5 million, after the company initially raised $18.5 million in April (some at the time reported this as its Series A, but it seems the round had yet to be completed). The full round includes Zeev Ventures, Vertex Ventures Israel, and Innovation Endeavors, with Vintage Investment Partners added in this most recent tranche. DataRails is not disclosing its valuation, except to note that it has doubled in the last four months, with hundreds of customers and on target to cross 1,000 this year, with a focus on the North American market. It has raised $55 million in total. 

The challenge that DataRails has identified is that on one hand, SMBs have started to adopt a lot more apps, including software delivered as a service, to help them manage their businesses — a trend that has been accelerated in the last year with the pandemic and the knock-on effect that has had for remote working and bringing more virtual elements to replace face-to-face interactions. Those apps can include Salesforce, NetSuite, Sage, SAP, QuickBooks, Zuora, Xero, ADP and more.

But on the other hand, those in the business who manage its finances and financial reporting are lacking the tools to look at the data from these different apps in a holistic way. While Excel is a default application for many of them, they are simply reading lots of individual spreadsheets rather than integrated data analytics based on the numbers.

DataRails has built a platform that can read the reported information, which typically already lives in Excel spreadsheets, and automatically translate it into a bigger picture view of the company.

For SMEs, Excel is such a central piece of software, yet such a pain point for its lack of extensibility and function, that this predicament was actually the germination of starting DataRails in the first place,

Didi Gurfinkel, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eyal Cohen (the CPO) said that DataRails’ initially set out to create a more general purpose product that could help analyze and visualize anything from Excel.

“We started the company with a vision to save the world from Excel spreadsheets,” he said, by taking them and helping to connect the data contained within them to a structured database. “The core of our technology knows how to take unstructured data and map that to a central database.” Before 2020, DataRails (which was founded in 2015) applied this to a variety of areas with a focus on banks, insurance companies, compliance and data integrity.

Over time, it could see a very specific application emerging, specifically for SMEs: providing a platform for FP&A (financial planning and analytics), which didn’t really have a solution to address it at the time. “So we enabled that to beat the market.”

“They’re already investing so much time and money in their software, but they still don’t have analytics and insight,” said Gurfinkel.

That turned out to be fortunate timing, since “digital transformation” and getting more out of one’s data was really starting to get traction in the world of business, specifically in the world of SMEs, and CFOs and other people who oversaw finances were already looking for something like this.

The typical DataRails customer might be as small as a business of 50 people, or as big as 1,000 employees, a size of business that is too small for enterprise solutions, “which can cost tens of thousands of dollars to implement and use,” added Cohen, among other challenges. But as with so many of the apps that are being built today to address those using Excel, the idea with DataRails is low-code or even more specifically no-code, which means “no IT in the loop,” he said.

“That’s why we are so successful,” he said. “We are crossing the barrier and making our solution easy to use.”

The company doesn’t have a huge number of competitors today, either, although companies like Cube (which also recently raised some money) are among them. And others like Stripe, while currently not focussing on FP&A, have most definitely been expanding the tools that it is providing to businesses as part of their bigger play to manage payments and subsequently other processes related to financial activity, so perhaps it, or others like it, might at some point become competitors in this space as well.

In the meantime, Gurfinkel said that other areas that DataRails is likely to expand to cover alongside FP&A are likely to include HR, inventory, and “planning for anything,” any process that you have running in Excel. Another interesting turn would be how and if DataRails decides to look beyond Excel at other spreadsheets, or bypass spreadsheets altogether.

The scope of the opportunity — in the U.S. alone there are more than 30 million small businesses — is what’s attracting the investment here.

“We’re thrilled to reinvest in DataRails and continue working with the team to help them navigate their recent explosive and rapid growth,” said Yanai Oron, General Partner at Vertex Ventures, in a statement. “With innovative yet accessible technology and a tremendous untapped market opportunity, DataRails is primed to scale and become the leading FP&A solution for SMEs everywhere.”

“Businesses are constantly about to start, in the midst of, or have just finished a round of financial reporting—it’s a never-ending cycle,” added Oren Zeev, founding partner at Zeev Ventures. “But with DataRails, FP&A can be simple, streamlined, and effective, and that’s a vision we’ll back again and again.”

Posted Under: Tech News
CEO Shishir Mehrotra and investor S. Somasegar reveal what sings in Coda’s pitch doc

Posted by on 17 June, 2021

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Coda entered the market with an ambitious, but simple, mission. Since launching in 2014, it has seemingly forged a path to realizing its vision with $140 million in funding and 25,000 teams across the globe using the platform.

Coda is simple in that its focus is on the document, one of the oldest content formats/tools on the internet, and indeed in the history of software. Its ambition lies in the fact that there are massive incumbents in this space, like Google and Microsoft.

Co-founder and CEO Shishir Mehrotra told TechCrunch that that level of competition wasn’t a hindrance, mainly because the company was very good at communicating its value and building highly effective flywheels for growth.

Mehrotra was generous enough to let us take a look through his pitch doc (not deck!) on a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, diving not only into the factors that have made Coda successful, but how he communicated those factors to investors.

A screenshot from Coda’s pitch doc.

Extra Crunch Live also features the ECL Pitch-off, where founders in the audience come “onstage” to pitch their products to our guests. Mehrotra and his investor, Madrona partner S. Somasegar, gave their live feedback on pitches from the audience, which you can check out in the video (full conversation and pitch-off) below.

As a reminder, Extra Crunch Live takes place every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT/noon PDT. Anyone can hang out during the episode (which includes networking with other attendees), but access to past episodes is reserved exclusively for Extra Crunch members. Join here.

The soft circle

Like many investors and founders, Mehrotra and Somasegar met well before Mehrotra was working on his own project. They met when both of them worked at Microsoft and maintained a relationship while Mehrotra was at Google.

In their earliest time together, the conversations centered around advice on the Seattle tech ecosystem or on working with a particular team at Microsoft.

“Many people will tell you building relationships with investors … you want to do it outside of a fundraise as much as possible,” said Mehrotra.

Eventually, Mehrotra got to work on Coda and kept in touch with Somasegar. He even pitched him for Series B fundraising — and ultimately got a no. But the relationship persisted.

Posted Under: Tech News
How to launch a successful RPA initiative

Posted by on 17 June, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

Robotic process automation (RPA) is rapidly moving beyond the early adoption phase across verticals. Automating just basic workflow processes has resulted in such tremendous efficiency improvements and cost savings that businesses are adapting automation at scale and across the enterprise.

While there is a technical component to robotic automation, RPA is not a traditional IT-driven solution. It is, however, still important to align the business and IT processes around RPA. Adapting business automation for the enterprise should be approached as a business solution that happens to require some technical support.

A strong working relationship between the CFO and CIO will go a long way in getting IT behind, and in support of, the initiative rather than in front of it.

A strong working relationship between the CFO and CIO will go a long way in getting IT behind, and in support of, the initiative rather than in front of it.

More important to the success of a large-scale RPA initiative is support from senior business executives across all lines of business and at every step of the project, with clear communications and an advocacy plan all the way down to LOB managers and employees.

As we’ve seen in real-world examples, successful campaigns for deploying automation at scale require a systematic approach to developing a vision, gathering stakeholder and employee buy-in, identifying use cases, building a center of excellence (CoE) and establishing a governance model.

Create an overarching vision

Your strategy should include defining measurable, strategic objectives. Identify strategic areas that benefit most from automation, such as the supply chain, call centers, AP or revenue cycle, and start with obvious areas where business sees delays due to manual workflow processes. Remember, the goal is not to replace employees; you’re aiming to speed up processes, reduce errors, increase efficiencies and let your employees focus on higher value tasks.

Posted Under: Tech News
Transform launches with $24.5M in funding for a tool to query and build metrics out of data troves

Posted by on 17 June, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

The biggest tech companies have put a lot of time and money into building tools and platforms for their data science teams and those who work with them to glean insights and metrics out of the masses of data that their companies produce: how a company is performing, how a new feature is working, when something is broken, or when something might be selling well (and why) are all things you can figure out if you know how to read the data.

Now, three alums that worked with data in the world of big tech have founded a startup that aims to build a “metrics store” so that the rest of the enterprise world — much of which lacks the resources to build tools like this from scratch — can easily use metrics to figure things out like this, too.

Transform, as the startup is called, is coming out of stealth today, and it’s doing so with an impressive amount of early backing — a sign not just of investor confidence in these particular founders, but also the recognition that there is a gap in the market for, as the company describes it, a “single source of truth for business data” that could be usefully filled.

The company is announcing that it has closed, while in stealth, a Series A of $20 million, and an earlier seed round of $4.5 million — both led by Index Ventures and Redpoint Ventures. The seed, the company said, also had dozens of angel investors, with the list including Elad Gil of Color Genomics, Lenny Rachitsky of Airbnb and Cristina Cordova of Notion.

The big breakthrough that Transform has made is that it’s built a metrics engine that a company can apply to its structured data — a tool similar to what big tech companies have built for their own use, but that hasn’t really been created (at least until now) for others who are not those big tech companies to use, too.

Transform can work with vast troves of data from the warehouse, or data that is being tracked in real time, to generate insights and analytics about different actions around a company’s products. Transform can be used and queried by non-technical people who still have to deal with data, Handel said.

The impetus for building the product came to Nick Handel, James Mayfield and Paul Yang — respectively Transform’s CEO, COO and software engineer — when they all worked together at Airbnb (previously Mayfield and Yang were also at Facebook together) in a mix of roles that included product management and engineering.

There, they could see first-hand both the promise that data held for helping make decisions around a product, or for measuring how something is used, or to plan future features, but also the demands of harnessing it to work, and getting everyone on the same page to do so.

“There is a growing trend among tech companies to test every single feature, every single iteration of whatever. And so as a part of that, we built this tool [at Airbnb] that basically allowed you to define the various metrics that you wanted to track to understand your experiment,” Handel recalled in an interview. “But you also want to understand so many other things like, how many people are searching for listings in certain areas? How many people are instantly booking those listings? Are they contacting customer service, are they having trust and safety issues?” The tool Airbnb built was Minerva, optimised specifically for the kinds of questions Airbnb might typically have for its own data.

“By locking down all of the definitions for the metrics, you could basically have a data engineering team, a centralized data infrastructure team, do all the calculation for these metrics, and then serve those to the data scientists to then go in and do kind of deeper, more interesting work, because they weren’t bogged down in calculating those metrics over and over,” he continued. This platform evolved within Airbnb. “We were we were really inspired by some of the early work that we saw happen on this tool.”

The issue is that not every company is built to, well, build tools like these tailored to whatever their own business interests might be.

“There’s a handful of companies who do similar things in the metrics space,” Mayfield said, “really top flight companies like LinkedIn, Airbnb and Uber. They have really started to invest in metrics. But it’s only those companies that can devote teams of eight or 10, engineers, designers who can build those things in house. And I think that was probably, you know, a big part of the impetus for wanting to start this company was to say, not every organization is going to be able to devote eight or 10 engineers to building this metrics tool.”

And the other issue is that metrics have become an increasingly important — maybe the most important — lever for decision making in the world of product design and wider business strategy for a tech (and maybe by default, any) company.

We have moved away from “move fast and break things.” Instead, we now embrace — as Mayfield put it — “If you can’t measure it, you can’t move it.”

Transform is built around three basic priorities, Handel said.

The first of these has to do with collective ownership of metrics: by building a single framework for measuring these and identifying them, their theory is that it’s easier for a company to all get on the same page with using them. The second of these is to use Transform to simply make the work of the data team more efficient and easier, by turning the most repetitive parts of extracting insights into automated scripts that can be used and reused, giving the data team the ability to spend more time analyzing the data rather than just building datasets. And third of all, to provide customers with APIs that they can use to embed the metric-extracting tools into other applications, whether in business intelligence or elsewhere.

The three products it’s introducing today, called Metrics Framework, Metrics Catalog and Metrics API follow from these principles.

Transform is only really launching publicly today, but Handel said that it’s already working with a small handful of customers (unnamed) in a small beta, enough to be confident that what it’s built works as it was intended. The funding will be used to continue building out the product as well as bring on more talent and hopefully onboard more businesses to using it.

Hopefully might be less a tenuous word than its investors would use, convinced that it’s filling a strong need in the market.

“Transform is filling a critical gap within the industry. Just as we invested in Looker early on for its innovative approach to business intelligence, Transform takes it one step further by providing a powerful yet streamlined single source of truth for metrics,” said Tomasz Tungis, MD, Redpoint Ventures, in a statement.

“We’ve seen companies across the globe struggle to make sense of endless data sources or turn them into actionable, trusted metrics. We invested in Transform because they’ve developed an elegant solution to this problem that will change how companies think about their data,” added Shardul Shah, a partner at Index Ventures.

Posted Under: Tech News
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