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Posted by Richy George on 7 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
If you’re a GitHub user, but you don’t pay, this is a good week. Historically, GitHub always offered free accounts but the caveat was that your code had to be public. To get private repositories, you had to pay. Starting tomorrow, that limitation is gone. Free GitHub users now get unlimited private projects with up to three collaborators.
The amount of collaborators is really the only limitation here and there’s no change to how the service handles public repositories, which can still have unlimited collaborators.
This feels like a sign of goodwill on behalf of Microsoft, which closed its acquisition of GitHub last October, with former Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman taking over as GitHub’s CEO. Some developers were rather nervous about the acquisition (though it feels like most have come to terms with it). It’s also a fair guess to assume that GitHub’s model for monetizing the service is a bit different from Microsoft’s. Microsoft doesn’t need to try to get money from small teams — that’s not where the bulk of its revenue comes from. Instead, the company is mostly interested in getting large enterprises to use the service.
Talking about teams, GitHub also today announced that it is changing the name of the GitHub Developer suite to ‘GitHub Pro.’ The company says it’s doing so in order to “help developers better identify the tools they need.”
But what’s maybe even more important is that GitHub Business Cloud and GitHub Enterprise (now called Enterprise Cloud and GitHub Enterprise) have become one and are now sold under the ‘GitHub Enterprise’ label and feature per-user pricing.
Note: this story was scheduled for tomorrow, but due to a broken embargo, we decided to publish today. The feature will go live tomorrow.
Posted by Richy George on 7 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
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Nvidia broke with tradition and put a new focus on gaming at CES. Last night the company unveiled the RTX 2060, a $349 low-end version of its new Turing-based desktop graphics cards. The RTX 2060 will be available on Jan. 15.
This spring SapceX intends to launch the next phase in its space exploration plans. The newly named Starship rocket, previously known as the BFR, intends to to be rocket to rule them all. And it’s going to look good doing it.
Far from its troubles in emerging markets like China, Apple is starting to face backlash from a European population that’s crying foul over the company’s perceived hypocrisy on data privacy. It’s become clear that Apple’s biggest success is now its biggest challenge in Europe.
In a recently recorded podcast Marc Andreesen gave some predictions on the future of the tech industry. Surprisingly, the all-start investor is continuing his support of the shaky VR industry saying that expanding the immersive world will require us to remove the head-mounted displays we’ve become accustomed to.
ClassPass, the five-year-old fitness marketplace, is in the midst of an expansion sprint. The company announced yesterday that it’s acquiring one it competitors, GuavaPass, for an undisclosed amount to expand into Asia. The move now puts ClassPass in more than 80 markets across the 11 countries, with plans to expand to 50 new cities in 2019.
Apple gave a snapshot of its future smart home ecosystem at CES. Looks like an array of smart light switches, door cameras, electrical outlets and more are on the way and will be configurable through the Home app and Siri.
Danby is showing off its newly launched smart mailbox called Parcel Guard at CES, which allows deliveries to be left securely at customers’ doorsteps. Turns out you won’t need a farting glitter bomb to protect your packages after all. The Parcel Guard starts at $399 and pre-orders are will be available this week.
Posted by Richy George on 5 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
As every software company knows, over time as code ages and workarounds build on work-arounds, the code base becomes bloated. It becomes ever more difficult to get around the technical debt that you’ve built up over time. It’s really impossible to avoid this phenomenon, but at some point, companies realize that the debt is so great that it’s limiting their ability to build new functionality. That’s precisely what Trulia faced in 2017 when it began a process of paying down that debt and modernizing its architecture.
Trulia is a real estate site founded way back in 2005, an eternity ago in terms of technology. The company went public in 2012 and was acquired by Zillow in 2014 for $3.5 billion, but has continued to operate as an independent brand under the Zillow umbrella. It understood that a lot had changed technologically in the 12 years since its inception when engineering began thinking about this. The team knew it had a humongous, monolithic code base that was inhibiting the ability to update the site.
While they tried to pull out some of the newer functions as services, it didn’t really make the site any more nimble because these services always had to tie back into that monolithic central code base. The development team knew if it was to escape this coding trap, it would take a complete overhaul.
As you would expect, a process like this doesn’t happen overnight, taking months to plan and implement. It all started back in 2017 when the company held what they called an “Innovation Week” with the entire engineering team. Groups of engineers came up with ideas about how to solve this problem, but the one that got the most attention was one called Project Islands, which involved breaking out the different pieces of the site as individual coding islands that could operate independently of one another.
It sounds simple, but in practice it involved breaking down the entire code base into services. They would use Next.js and React to rebuild the front end and GraphQL, an open source graph database technology to rebuild the back end.
Deep Varma, Trulia’s VP of engineering, pointed out that as a company founded in 2005, the site was built on PHP and MySQL, two popular development technologies from that time. Varma says that whenever his engineers made a change to any part of the site, they needed to do a complete system release. This caused a major bottleneck.
What they really needed to do was move to a completely modern microservices architecture that allowed engineering teams to work independently in a continuous delivery approach without breaking any other team’s code. That’s where the concept of islands came into play.
The islands were actually microservices. Each one could communicate to a set of central common services like authentication, A/B testing, the navigation bar, the footer — all of the pieces that every mini code base would need, while allowing the teams building these islands to work independently and not require a huge rebuild every time they added a new element or changed something.
The harsh reality of this kind of overhaul came into focus as the teams realized they had to be writing the new pieces while the old system was still in place and running. In a video the company made describing the effort, one engineer likened it to changing the engine of a 747 in the middle of a flight.
Varma says he didn’t try to do everything at once, as he needed to see if the islands approach would work in practice first. In November 2017, he pulled the first engineering team together, and by January it had built the app shell (the common services piece) and one microservice island. When the proof of concept succeeded, Varma knew they were in business.
It’s one thing to build a single island, but it’s another matter to build a chain of them and that would be the next step. By last April, engineering had shown enough progress that they were able to present the entire idea to senior management and get the go-ahead to move forward with a more complex project.
First, it took some work with the Next.js development team to get the development framework to work the way they wanted. Varma said he brought in the Next.js team to work with his engineers. He said that they needed to figure out how to stitch the various islands together and resolve dependencies among the different services. The Next.js team actually changed its development roadmap for Trulia, speeding up delivery of these requirements, understanding that other companies would have similar issues.
By last July, the company released Neighborhoods, the first fully independent island functionality on the site. Recently, it moved off-market properties to islands. Off-market properties, as the name implies, are pages with information about properties that are no longer on the market. Varma says that these pages actually make up a significant portion of the company’s traffic.
While Varma would not say just how much of the site has been moved to islands at this point, he said the goal is to move the majority to the new platform in 2019. All of this shows that a complete overhaul of a complex site doesn’t happen overnight, but Trulia is taking steps to move off the original system it created in 2005 and move to a more modern and flexible architecture it has created with islands. It may not have paid down its technical debt in full in 2018, but it went a long way on laying the foundation to do so.
Posted by Richy George on 3 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
Cloudera and Hortonworks, two of the biggest players in the Hadoop big data space, today announced that they have finalized their all-stock merger. The new company will use the Cloudera brand and will continue to trade under the CLDR symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Today, we start an exciting new chapter for Cloudera as we become the leading enterprise data cloud provider,” said Tom Reilly, chief executive officer of Cloudera, in today’s announcement. “This combined team and technology portfolio establish the new Cloudera as a clear market leader with the scale and resources to drive continued innovation and growth. We will provide customers a comprehensive solution-set to bring the right data analytics to data anywhere the enterprise needs to work, from the Edge to AI, with the industry’s first Enterprise Data Cloud.”
The companies describe the deal as a “merger of equals,” though Cloudera stockholders will own about 60 percent of the equity in the company.
The combined company expects to generate over $720 million in revenue from its 2,500 customers who rely on it to help them manage the complexities of processing their data. While Hadoop itself is open source and freely available, Cloudera and Hortonworks abstract away most of the infrastructure. Both focused on slightly different markets, though, with Hortonworks going after a more technical user and a pure open source approach, while Cloudera also offered some proprietary tools.
“Together, we are well positioned to continue growing and competing in the streaming and IoT, data management, data warehousing, machine learning/AI and hybrid cloud markets,” said Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden back when the deal was first announced. “Importantly, we will be able to offer a broader set of offerings that will enable our customers to capitalize on the value of their data.”
Posted by Richy George on 3 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
While Facebook continues to repair its image with consumers disenchanted with the social network’s role in disseminating misleading or false information and mishandling their personal data, it’s ironically been finding some traction for its enterprise-focused service, Workplace. Today, the company announced that it has added another huge company to its books today: Nestle, the coffee, chocolate and FMCG giant with 2,000 brands and 240,000 employees, has signed up as its latest customer.
Facebook’s enterprise service competes against the likes of Microsoft Teams, Slack and smaller players like Crew and Zinc, among many others in a crowded market of mobile and desktop apps built to address a growing interest among organizations to have more user-friendly, modern ways for their employees to communicate.
Workplace positions itself as different from its competitors in a couple of different ways: it says its communications platform is designed for all different employment demographics, covering so-called knowledge workers (the traditional IT customer) as well as waged and front-line employees; but it also claims to be the most democratic of the pack, by virtue of being a Facebook product, designed for mass market use from the ground up.
In the workplace, that translates to apps that do not require company email addresses or company devices to use; a strong proportion of employees at Workplace’s bigger customers, such as Walmart (2.2 million employees) and Starbucks (nearly 240,000 employees) do not sit at desks and, until relatively recently, would not have been using any kind of PC or phone on a regular basis on any average day.
But as smartphones have become as ubiquitous as having your keys and wallet, acceptance of having them and utilising them to communicate workplace-related information has changed, and that is the wave that services like Workplace are hoping to ride.
But despite the strong engine that is Facebook behind it, Workplace has a lot of challenges up ahead.
The company has not updated its total number of customers in over a year at this point — its last milestone was 30,000 customers, back in November 2017 — and today Facebook VP Julien Codorniou said that the company might put out a more updated number later this year.
“We’re not using that metric to communicate our success,” he said, “but we have to communicate growth, I feel the demand from the market.” Slack claims 500,000 organizations, over 70,000 of which pay; Teams from Microsoft has some 329,000 customers, the company says.
There is also the issue of how a customer win is actually translating to usage. Last month, a much smaller competitor, Crew, with 25,000 customers, noted that at least some of them were in fact those that Workplace was claiming to have secured.
“Starbucks is theoretically using Workplace, but it’s been deployed only to managers,” Crew CEO Danny Leffel told me. “We have almost 1,000 Starbucks locations using Crew. We knew we had a huge presence there, and we were worried when Facebook won them, but we haven’t seen even a dent in our business so far.”
Codorniou said that this also doesn’t tell the full story. He describes the approach that Crew and others take as “shadow IT” in that the companies don’t talk to central HQ when winning the business. “You can’t give a voice to everyone by going in through the back,” he said. He also contends that it just takes time to deploy something across a massive business. “Workplace only works if you get 100 percent of the company using it,” he added. Notably, today Facebook announced that Nestle has already onboarded 210,000 customers to Workplace.
There is also the bigger question of how these products will develop technically to further differentiate from the pack. For now, it feels like Slack still reigns supreme when it comes to desktop knowledge worker functionality — even without usefully threaded comments — because of the fact that you can integrate virtually any other app you might want to into its platform.
Crew, meanwhile, has differentiated by focusing on providing handy tools to help businesses managing scheduling for shift workers, who comprise the majority of its user base.
While others like Teams, and yes, Workplace, have also added in integrations and their own functionality — Workplace’s most interesting features, I think, are how it has translated consumer-Facebook features like Live into the Workplace environment. But there is still a lot of space for apps to consider what other features and functionality will be most useful and stick for the most employees and for the business customer at large.
It will be interesting to see how and if this is affected by way of a key leadership appointment. Last month, Facebook appointed a new “head” of Workplace, Karandeep Anand, who came to Facebook three years ago from Microsoft (and thus has a close understanding of enterprise software). Codorniou said Anand be relocating to London, where Workplace is developed, and will focus on the technical development of the product while Codorniou focuses on sales, client relations and business development.
Technical leadership for Workplace had previously come straight from CTO Mike Schroepfer, Codorniou said. “We decided that we needed someone full time, here in London,” he said.
It’s not clear if Workplace’s win at Nestle is replacing another product: it seems, however, that it is more likely a trend of how more businesses are making an investment in company-wide communications platforms where they may never have had one before, in hopes of it helping keep employees switched on, linked up, and generally more happy and feeling less like expendable cogs.
“Nestlé is a people-first environment,” said EVP Chris Johnson, in a statement. “We really rely on our talented teams to manage more than 2,000 Nestlé brands worldwide. We help our employees develop and we give them the right tools, so Workplace is a perfect fit.”
Posted by Richy George on 3 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
Social media has become a primary conduit for getting the word out, in some cases proving to be an even stronger force for publicity than more traditional media outlets and paid advertising, and so today, a company that has grown its business around public relations services has acquired a social media management company to make sure it has a foothold in the medium. Cision, which provides press release distribution, media monitoring and other PR services to businesses and the media industry, has acquired Falcon.io, a startup founded in Denmark that lets companies post, manage and analyse their presence on social media platforms.
Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, the companies tell me, but the whole of the Falcon team, including CEO/founder Ulrik Bo Larsen, are joining the company, where they will continue to operate its existing product set as well as integrate it into Cision’s wider business. The last valuation noted in April 2017 at the Danish Companies House was about $52 million (€45 million), but they have been growing very rapidly, and one source tells us that the price paid was around $200-$225 million, while Danish publication Borsen says it’s 800 million Danish kroner, or around $122 million. I’m still trying to get more detail.
Falcon had raised around $25 million according to PitchBook, and it has never disclosed its valuation. Cision — well-known to many journalists — is publicly traded and currently has a market cap of just under $1.6 billion. For some context, two other prominent social media management firms that compete with Falcon, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, are respectively valued at $800 million and anywhere between $750 million and $1 billion (depending on who you ask).
The latter two are bigger firms — Falcon has around 1,500 businesses as customers that use it to manage their social profiles and read social sentiment across platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while Sprout says it has around 25,000 and Hootsuite counts millions of individual users — and both have raised significantly more capital, but their valuations underscore the demand that we’re seeing for platforms and user-friendly tools to target the world’s social media users — estimated to number at upwards of 2.5 billion people globally.
Kevin Akeroyd, who came on as Cision’s CEO after long stints at both Oracle and Salesforce, among other places, describes Falcon as a “top five” social media marketing and analytics firm, and in an interview he said that the new acquisition will form a key part of the “communications cloud” that Cision has been building.
As with Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe (which also use similar cloud-themed terminology to describe their product suites), Cision’s strategy is to build a one-stop shop for customers to manage all their communications needs from one platform. Falcon itself may be smaller than its competitors, but the idea is that it will be cross-sold to Cision’s customers, which currently number 75,000 businesses.
“We’re seeing too many of our customers using one application for content, another for something else, and so on. There are too many apps,” Akeroyd said. “We have always believed in earned media” — that is, media mentions that are not in the form of paid advertising — “and the role of influencers alongside paid and owned marketing. We believe we could provide the first solution for businesses across earned, communications services and public relations, helping to build a better data stack to measure and attribute what you are doing in comms.”
As social networking companies like Facebook and Twitter build more of their own tools in-house to serve the social media needs of organizations that want to better manage their profiles and interactions on these platforms, this has led to some consolidation and shifts among social media management companies. Some are merging or getting acquired, and some are shopping themselves around.
And in that wider trend, it’s not too surprising to see public relations firms get in on the action. Social media has completely changed the landscape for how information is disseminated today, sometimes complementing what traditional media organizations do — there are many examples of how newspapers and other news outlets leverage, for example, Facebook to grow and communicate with their audiences — and often replacing traditional media altogether. (Pew last month said that social media outpaced newspapers for the first time as a news source in the U.S., although TV and radio are still bigger than social… for now.)
Given that public relations management has long been the connecting link between organisations and media outlets, they have had to take a bigger step into social media in order to provide to their clients a more complete picture of the media landscape. Cision is not the first to have done this: Last year, Meltwater, another media monitoring firm, acquired DataSift to add social signals and traffic to its platform mix.
“This consolidation has to come because there is just too much value for the user,” Akeroyd said. “CMOs and CCOs do not want their own islands, they want something bigger.”
Posted by Richy George on 2 January, 2019This post was originally published on this site
Thunderbird, Mozilla’s desktop email client, doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of mindshare of the organization’s Firefox browser, yet even in this age of web-based email services, it still has a sizable user community. For 2019, those users can look forward to a faster and more beautiful application, Thunderbird community manager Ryan Sipes announced today.
Only a few years ago, Mozilla’s relationship with Thunderbird looked rather rocky. Back in 2015, the organization decided to decouple Thunderbird’s technical infrastructure from Firefox’s and to look for other organizations that would like to invest in it. In the end, though, Mozilla decided to keep Thunderbird in-house and not move it to another organization and continue to support the project. That gave Thunderbird some much-needed stability and as Sipes announced today, there are now eight full-time staffers who work on the project, with plans for hiring six more soon.
For 2019, the expanded team promises to make the application run faster and address performance issues — and to rewrite some parts of the client in an effort to build a multi-process version that can make better use of modern processors (it’s worth noting that Firefox went through a similar rewrite).
At the same time, Thunderbird will also get a few user interface updates, better notifications and, maybe even more importantly, better Gmail support. The current Gmail setup procedure isn’t actually all that complicated, but once you do have Thunderbird set up to work with your Gmail account, you don’t get access to many of Gmail’s proprietary features. To work around some of this, the Thunderbird team will soon offer better label support, for example.
Posted by Richy George on 24 December, 2018This post was originally published on this site
The good times kept on rolling this year for Salesforce with all of the requisite ingredients of a highly successful cloud company — the steady revenue growth, the expanding product set and the splashy acquisitions. The company also opened the doors of its shiny new headquarters, Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, a testament to its sheer economic power in the city.
Salesforce, which set a revenue goal of $10 billion a few years ago is already on its way to $20 billion. Yet Salesforce is also proof you can be ruthlessly good at what you do, while trying to do the right thing as an organization.
Make no mistake, Marc Benioff and Keith Block, the company’s co-CEOs, want to make obscene amounts of money, going so far as to tell a group of analysts earlier this year that their goal by 2034 is to be a $60 billion company. Salesforce just wants to do it with a hint of compassion as it rakes in those big bucks and keeps well-heeled competitors like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP at bay.
In the end, a publicly traded company like Salesforce is going to be judged by how much money it makes, and Salesforce it turns out is pretty good at this, as it showed once again this year. The company grew every quarter by over 24 percent YoY and ended up the year with $12.53 billion in revenue. Based on its last quarter of $3.39 billion, the company finished the year on a $13.56 billion run rate.
This compares with $9.92 billion in total revenue for 2017 with a closing run rate of $10.72 billion.
Even with this steady growth trajectory, it might be some time before it hits the $5 billion-a-quarter mark and checks off the $20 billion goal. Keep in mind that it took the company three years to get from $1.51 billion in Q12016 to $3.1 billion in Q12019.
As for the stock market, it has been highly volatile this year, but Salesforce is still up. Starting the year at $102.41, it was sitting at $124.06 as of publication, after peaking on October 1 at $159.86. The market has been on a wild ride since then and cloud stocks have taken a big hit, warranted or not. On one particularly bad day last month, Salesforce had its worst day since 2016 losing 8.7 percent in value,
When you make a lot of money you can afford to spend generously, and the company invested some of those big bucks when it bought Mulesoft for $6.5 billion in March, making it the most expensive acquisition it has ever made. With Mulesoft, the company had a missing link between data sitting on-prem in private data centers and Salesforce data in the cloud.
Mulesoft helps customers build access to data wherever it lives via APIs. That includes legacy data sitting in ancient data repositories. As Salesforce turns its eyes toward artificial intelligence and machine learning, it requires oodles of data and Mulesoft was worth opening up the wallet to provide the company with that kind of access to a variety of enterprise data.
But Mulesoft wasn’t the only thing Salesforce bought this year. It made five acquisitions in all. The other significant one came in July when it scooped up Dataorama for a cool $800 million, giving it a market intelligence platform.
What could be on board for 2019? If Salesforce sticks to its recent pattern of spending big one year, then regrouping the next, 2019 could be a slower one for acquisitions. Consider that it bought just one company last year after buying a dozen in 2016.
One other way to keep revenue rolling in comes from high-profile partnerships. In the past, Salesforce has partnered with Microsoft and Google, and this year it announced that it was teaming up with Apple. Salesforce also announced another high-profile arrangement with AWS to share data between the two platforms more easily. The hope with these types of cross pollination is that the companies can both increase their business. For Salesforce, that means using these partnerships as a platform to move the revenue needle faster.
Even while his company has made big bucks, Benioff has been preaching compassionate capitalism using Twitter and the media as his soap box.
He went on record throughout this year supporting Prop C, a referendum question designed to help battle San Francisco’s massive homeless problem by taxing companies with greater than $50 million in revenue — companies like Salesforce. Benioff was a vocal proponent of the idea, and it won. He did not find kindred spirits among some of his fellow San Francisco tech CEOs, openly debating Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Twitter.
Speaking about Prop C in an interview with Kara Swisher of Recode in November, Benioff talked in lofty terms about why he believed in the measure even though it would cost his company money.
“You’ve got to really be mindful and think about what it is that you want your company to be for and what you’re doing with your business and here at Salesforce, that’s very important to us,” he told Swisher in the interview.
He also talked about how employees at other tech companies were driving their CEOs to change their tune around social issues, including supporting Prop C, but Benioff had to deal with his own internal insurrection this year when 650 employees signed a petition asking him to rethink Salesforce’s contract with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in light of the current administration’s border policies. Benioff defended the contract, stating that that Salesforce tools were being used internally at CBP for staff recruiting and communication and not to enforce border policy.
Regardless, Salesforce has never lost its focus on meeting lofty revenue goals, and as we approach the new year, there is no reason to think that will change. The company will continue to look for new ways to expand markets and keep their revenue moving ever closer to that $20 billion goal, even as it continues to meld its unique form of compassion and capitalism.
Posted by Richy George on 20 December, 2018This post was originally published on this site
One of the biggest providers of domain names and web hosting in Europe is changing hands today. One.com, which has around 1.5 million customers mainly across the north of the region, has been sold by private equity firm Accel-KKR to Cinven, another PE player that focuses on investments in Europe.
Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but as a rough guide, Cinven once owned and sold another European hosting provider of comparable size: it acquired Host Europe Group in 2013 for $668 million and then sold it in 2016 for $1.8 billion to GoDaddy two years ago almost to the day. At the time of the sale, Host Europe Group also had about 1.5 million customers.
One.com and its business segment represent a significant, if not wildly evolving, part of the tech landscape: for as long as businesses and consumers continue to use the web, there will be a need for companies who sell and host domain names and provide services around that.
With a catchy domain name of its own, One.com has been riding the wave of that solidity of purpose for several years already. KKR-Accel says that organic growth at the company has been accelerating at a rate of 20 percent and that revenues under its four-year ownership doubled to €60 million ($69 million) with profitability growing 50x on a marketing pitch in which it positions itself as the ‘budget’ option to businesses.
“The vision of One.com since its founding has been to deliver value-added and easy-to-use solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses and prosumers,” said Jacob Jensen, Founder and CEO of One.com, in a statement. He is staying on to continue leading the company.
Cinven says it is interested in growth the business by way of acquisition, specifically: “There are opportunities to accelerate the growth of the business organically and through acquisition.”
In other words, expect some consolidation moves in the future where some of the smaller providers in Europe potentially get gobbled up to create a bigger entity with better economies of scale. That’s needed not just because GoDaddy has ramped up its presence here, but because the likes of Amazon has only grown in stature and provides a number of other services to users to make its offerings more sticky.
“We are very excited to invest in One.com alongside Jacob. It is a high quality business with an attractive brand and scalable technology platform, operating in a market with structural growth drivers,” said Thomas Railhac, Partner at Cinven, in a statement. “This is a subsector we know well through Cinven’s successful investment in HEG in Fund 5, continuing to invest in both the organic growth story and targeted acquisitions.”
Posted by Richy George on 19 December, 2018This post was originally published on this site
When it comes to shift workers communicating with each other in the workplace when they are not face-to-face, gone are the days of cork announcement boards. Now, the messaging app is the medium, and today one of the startups tackling that opportunity in a unique way has raised a round of funding to get to the next stage of growth.
Crew, a chat app that specifically targets businesses that employ shift workers who do not typically sit at computers all day, has now raised $35 million in Series C funding from DAG Ventures, Tenaya Capital, and previous backers Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Harrison Metal Capital and Aspect Ventures. With the funding news, it’s also announcing the launch of a new feature called Crew Enterprise, which helps businesses better manage messaging across large groups of these workers.
The funding and new product come on the heels of the company hitting 25,000 organizations using its service — many of them multi-store retailers with an emphasis in the food industry, household names like Domino’s Pizza and Burger King — with some strong engagement. Its users are together sending some 25 million messages or responses to other messages each week, on average six times per day per user, with more than 55 percent of its whole user base logging in on an average day.
There are quite a lot of messaging apps out in the market today, but the majority of them are aimed at so-called knowledge workers, people who might be using a number of apps throughout their day, who often sit at desks and use computers alongside their phones and tablets. Crew takes a different approach in that it targets the vast swathe of other workers in the job market and their priorities.
As it turns out, co-founder and CEO Danny Leffel tells me that those priorities are focused around a few specific things that are not the same as those for the other employment sector. One is to get the latest shift schedules for work, especially when they are not at work; another is to be able to swap those shifts when they need to; and a third, largely coming from the management end, is to make sure that everything gets communicated to the staff even when they are not in for work to attend a staff meeting.
“Some of the older practices feel like versions of a Rube Goldberg machine,” he said. “The stories we hear are quite insane.” Shift schedules, he said, are an example. “Lots of workplaces have rules, where you can’t call in to check the schedule because it causes employees to come off the floor. One hotel manager told us he couldn’t hold staff meetings with everyone there because he runs a 24/7 workplace so some people would have to come in especially. One store GM from a supermarket chain told us that the whole store has only one email address, so when an announcement goes out, the GM prints that and hands it to everyone. And the problems just compound when you talk to them.”
Crew is by no means the only business internal messaging service that is aiming to provide a product specifically for shift workers. Workplace, Facebook’s own take on enterprise communications, has also positioned itself as a platform for “every worker,” and has snagged a clutch of huge clients such as Walmart (2.2 million employees globally) and Starbucks (254,000) to fill out that vision.
Leffel, however, paints a sightly different picture of how this is playing out, since in many cases even when a company has been “won” as a global customer that hasn’t translated to a global roll out.
“Starbucks is theoretically using Workplace, but it’s been deployed only to managers,” he said. “We have almost 1,000 Starbucks locations using Crew. We knew we had a huge presence there, and we were worried when Facebook won them, but we haven’t seen even a dent in our business so far.”
Leffel has had previous some experience of getting into the ring with Facebook — although it hasn’t ended with him the winner. His previous startup, Yardsellr, positioned itself as the “eBay of Facebook,” working as a layer on top of the big social network for people to sell items. It died a death in 2013, when Facebook took a less friendly turn to Yardsellr using Facebook’s social graph to grow its own business (it was a time when it was cutting off apps from Zynga for similar reasons). Today, Facebook itself owns the experience of selling on its platform via Marketplace.
Crew seems to have found a strong foothold among enterprises in terms of its usefulness, not just use, which is one sign of how it might have more staying power.
A survey it conducted among 50,000 of its users found that 63 percent of leaders who use Crew report fewer missed shifts and 70 percent see increased motivation on their team. Crew worked out that among respondents, it is generating time savings of four or more hours per week for 93 percent of surveyed managers. And because of better communication, people are working faster when handing off things to each other on the front line, with a Domino’s Pizza franchisee sped up delivery punctuality by 23 percent as one example. (The company offers services on three tiers, ranging from free for small teams, Pro at $10 per month per location, to Enterprise priced on negotiation.)
Crew’s new enterprise tier is aiming to take the company to the next step. Today, Leffel says that a lot of its customers are buying on a location-by-location basis. The idea with Crew Enterprise is that larger organizations will be able to provide a more unified experience across all of those locations (not to mention pay more for the functionality). Managers can use the service to message out details about promotions, and they have a better ability to manage conversations across the platform and also get more feedback from people who are directly interacting with customers. Meanwhile, admins also gain better ability to manage compliance.
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s not just because Workplace is the only one who is also targeting the same users. Dynamic Signal and Zinc (formerly Cotap) are two other startups that are also trying to provide better messaging-based communications to more than just white-collar knowledge workers. Crew will have its work cut out for it, but there is a lot of room for now for multiple players.
“We are seeing a shift in the marketplace, going from absolutely don’t use your phone at work to don’t use it when customers are present,” Leffel said of the opportunity. “Some have started to change the rules to allow workers to use their own phones to perform price checks. We are solving for this evolving workflow.”
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