All posts by Richy George

Dropbox beefs up mobile collaboration in latest release

Posted by on 22 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Dropbox announced several enhancements today designed to beef up its mobile offering and help employees on the go keep up with changes to files stored in Dropbox .

In a typical team scenario, a Dropbox user shared a file with a team member for review or approval. If they wanted to check the progress of this process, the only way to do it up until now was to send an email or text message explicitly asking if the person looked at it yet — not a terribly efficient workflow.

Dropbox recognized this and has built in a fix in the latest mobile release. Now users can can simply see who has looked at or taken action on a file directly from the mobile application without having to leave the application.

In addition, those being asked to review files can see those notifications right at the top of the Home screen in the mobile app, making the whole feedback cycle much more organized.

Photo: Dropbox

Joey Loi, product manager at Dropbox says this is a much more streamlined way to understand activity inside of Dropbox. “With this feature, we think about the closing loop on collaboration. At its heart, collaboration is feedback flows. When I change something on a file, there are a few steps before [my co-worker] knows I’ve changed it,” Loi explained. With this feature that feedback loop can close much faster.

The company also changed the way it organizes and displays files putting the files that you opened most recently at the top of the Home screen, which is somewhat like Recents in Google Drive. It also provides a way to favorite a file and puts those files that are most important at the top of the list, making it easier to find the files that are likely most important to you more quickly when you access the mobile app.

Finally you can now drag and drop a file from an email into a Dropbox folder in a mobile context.

While none of these individual updates are earth shattering changes by any means, they do make it easier for users to access, share and work with files in Dropbox on a mobile device. “All the features are to help teams collaborate and be efficient on mobile,” Loi said.

Posted Under: Tech News
Parabola raises $2.2 million to simplify programming for employees stuck in Excel all day

Posted by on 22 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

While knowledge workers are handling increasingly difficult tasks — ones that may be much easier to handle with just a Python script — Alex Yaseen thinks that in the future not everyone will actually need to learn how to code.

Instead, he hopes that tools like the one he’s building, called Parabola, will bridge that gap between the complex technical problems and otherwise nontechnical employees. Instead of running through massive excel spreadsheets, Parabola is designed to make it easier for employees that might not be highly technical to piece together the kinds of processes that will help automate mundane tasks that run through each action. The company said it has raised a new $2.2 million financing round led by Matrix Partners.

“The logical version of the future doesn’t look like everyone coding by running Python or whatever language,” Yaseen said. “It’s a very valid opinion, but we talked a lot with various investors about that perspective of the future where all knowledge workers have to increasingly be more productive to compete. We thought about how we could bridge that gap by giving nontechnical people these tools to work like an engineering without being an engineer.”

At its core, Parabola is a more visually-oriented way of designing a workflow where users can piece together a complex work problem in a kind of flowchart, piece by piece. These are all functions that you might find built into Excel or other spreadsheet tools, like Google Sheets, but Parabola is a tool that is designed to make it easier to automate all those updates into new fields, as well as make the model pretty flexible and easy to manipulate.

Parabola is designed to take those account executives or salespeople that run through hundred-plus step processes in order to do their jobs through dozens of excel tabs. Users can figure out how to describe those steps in Parabola and then begin executing them without having to constantly tweak formulas and ensure that everything is operating properly. At the same time, Parabola is designed to ensure that the whole experience feels like a spreadsheet, where making small changes causes the whole data set to update — something that nontechnical users actually gravitate toward, Yaseen said.

“The reason people love using spreadsheets even though they’re not the right tool for most of these experiences, is that they can make a change and see things immediately,” Yaseen said. “Nontechnical people don’t adapt to [an engineering] mindset, they value the process of making a change and everything updating. That’s one of our hypotheses, and other tools don’t give you those options, and therefore are not really geared to a true nontechnical user.”

Still, the whole idea of trying to simplify programming down to something that’s more palatable for a nontechnical user is both a significant challenge and a very crowded market. There are many approaches to the problem, though Yaseen says they target different niches or use cases, like Airtable or Zapier — many of which have raised large sums of money. But some companies have different demands and users may gravitate toward different options, so those aren’t the direct competition. Instead, the competition is larger firms hiring engineers to handle all these processes in the back-end, as well as users just sitting in Excel all day.

Posted Under: Tech News
Okera raises $12M to simplify data governance within companies

Posted by on 22 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

As companies start to gather more and more data on their users and customers, including a firehose of information from a nigh-endless flow of tests, managing and maintaining that data isn’t the only place companies are hitting a wall — and figuring out who can actually access it is becoming just as big of a problem.

That was the experience Amandeep Khurana had throughout his career and as he kept talking to more and more larger companies. So he and his co-founder decided to start Okera, which is looking to make it easier for stewards of various sets of data to ensure the right people have the right access. With data coming in from a myriad of sources — and hopefully ending up in the same database — it can be increasingly complex to track who has access to what, and the hope is that Okera can reduce that problem to flipping a few switches.

Okera is coming out of stealth mode and said it has raised a new $12 million financing round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with existing investors Felicis Ventures and Capital One Growth Ventures participating. Bessemer’s Ethan Kurzweil and Felicis’ Wesley Chan are joining the company’s board of directors, and Okera has raised $14.6 million to date.

“I was very underwhelmed by what other vendors were offering, there was pretty much nothing happening,” co-founder Khurana said. “There were not a lot of good solutions, and no vendor was incentivized to solve the problem. What we’d hear is, [employees] were spending so much time in data management and plumbing. We saw a trend — as more and more enterprises are moving into the cloud, so they can be agile, these problems amplified. There is a lot of friction around data management, and people spent a lot of time and resources and money making one-off solutions.”

Part of the problem stems from larger companies looking to move their operations into the cloud. Those companies can run into the problem of data coming in from various discrete locations, where everyone is handling something differently, and everyone has varying levels of access to that data. For example, an analyst might be trying to dig into some customer usage data in order to tweak a product, but they only have access to half of the records they need. To fix that, they would need to hunt down the people who are in control of the rest of the information they need and get the right copies or permissions to access it. All of this includes a robust audit trail for those handling security within the company.

it is going to be an increasingly crowded space just by virtue of the problem, especially as companies collect more and more data while they look to better train various machine learning models. There are startups like Collibra also looking to improve the data governance experience for companies, and Collibra raised an additional $58 million in January this year.

But streamlining all this, in theory, reduces the overhead of just how much time it takes for those employees to hunt down the right people, and also make sure it’s easier to access everything and get to work faster. For modern systems, it’s an all-or-nothing approach, Khurana said, and the goal is to try to make it easier for the right people to get access to the right data when they need it. That isn’t necessarily limited to analysts, as employees in sales, marketing, and other various roles might also need access to certain databases in their day-to-day jobs.

Posted Under: Tech News
Fiix raises $12M to smooth out the asset maintenance process

Posted by on 22 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

As sensors become cheaper and easier to install, the whole process of maintaining equipment and assets is starting to shift from just scrambling to fix problems to getting a hold of issues before they get out of control.

That’s opened the door for startups like Fiix, which are creating workflow software that helps companies manage equipment and assets. That software enables companies to keep a close eye on equipment and resolve issues quickly before they become more complex to the point of costing companies hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Every percentage point of efficiency, for some operations, can translate to revenue significant enough to the point that this kind of software is an easy sell. Fiix said today it has raised $12 million in a new financing round led by BuildGroup.

“It was one of the last bastions of enterprise software that’s yet to go through the same disruption that every other major software company [has gone through],” COO James Novak said. “If you look at human resource software, CRM software, accounting software, they’ve all gone through the same transition. This market was one of the last ones to go through that transition.”

Fiix takes the process of managing work orders, assets and inventories and throws it all into a set of software that’s designed to be easier to use when compared to existing complex asset management software. That includes making sure all of this is available on a phone, where managers and employees can monitor what kinds of work orders are in progress, approve them, or issue them. That’s designed to remove some of the time barriers that may keep managers from starting the maintenance process.

But because there’s a lot of money to be made here, there’s going to be an increasing amount of competition. Already, there are startups like UpKeep, which came out of Y Combinator’s winter class last year. By giving managers a way to prioritize and get work orders done quickly, employees and managers can have a more real-time level of communication — which means they can spot problems earlier and earlier, and keep things running smoothly.

Posted Under: Tech News
Uizard raises funds for its AI that turns design mockups into source code

Posted by on 21 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

When you’re trying to build apps, there is a very tedious point where you have to stare at a wireframe and then laboriously turn it into code. Actually, the process itself is highly repetitive and ought to be much easier. The traditional software development from front-end design to front-end html/css development to working code is expensive, time-consuming, tedious and repetitive.

But most approaches to solving this problem have been more complex than they need to be. What if you could just turn wireframes straight into code and then devote your time to the more complex aspects of a build?

That’s the idea behind a Copenhagen-based startup called Uizard.

Uizard’s computer vision and AI platform claims to be able to automatically turn design mockups — and this could be on the back of napkin — into source code that developers can plug into their backend code.

It’s now raised an $800,000 pre-seed round led by New York-based LDV Capital with co-investors ByFounders, The Nordic Web Ventures, 7percent Ventures, New York Venture Partners, entrepreneur Peter Stern (co-founder of Datek) and Philipp Moehring and Andy Chung from AngelList . This fundraising will be used to grow the team and launch the beta product.

The company received interest in June 2017 when they released their first research milestone dubbed “pix2code” and implementation on GitHub was the second-mosttrending project of June 2017 ahead of Facebook Prepack and Google TensorFlow.

Posted Under: Tech News
OpenStack spins out its Zuul open source CI/CD platform

Posted by on 21 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

There are few open-source projects as complex as OpenStack, which essentially provides large companies with all the tools to run the equivalent of the core AWS services in their own data centers. To build OpenStack’s various systems the team also had to develop some of its own DevOps tools, and, in 2012, that meant developing Zuul, an open-source continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) platform. Now, with the release of Zuul v3, the team decided to decouple Zuul from OpenStack and run it as an independent project. It’s not quite leaving the OpenStack ecosystem, though, as it will still be hosted by the OpenStack Foundation.

Now all of that may seem a bit complicated, but at this point, the OpenStack Foundation is simply the home of OpenStack and other related infrastructure projects. The first one of those was obviously OpenStack itself, followed by the Kata Containers project late last year. Zuul is simply the third of these projects.

The general concept behind Zuul is to provide developers with a system for automatically merging, building and testing new changes to a project. It’s extensible and supports a number of different development platforms, including GitHub and the Gerrit code review and project management tool.

Current contributors include BMW, GitHub, GoDaddy, Huawei, Red Hat and SUSE. “The wide adoption of CI/CD in our software projects is the foundation to deliver high-quality software in time by automating every integral part of the development cycle from simple commit checks to full release processes,” said BMW software engineer Tobias Henkel. “Our CI/CD development team at BMW is proud to be part of the Zuul community and will continue to be active contributors of the Zuul OSS project.”

The spin-off of Zuul comes at an interesting time in the CI/CD community, which is currently spoiled for choice. Spinnaker, Google and Netflix are betting on an open source CD platform that solves some of the same problems as Zuul, for example, while Jenkins and similar projects continue to go strong, too. The Zuul project notes that its focus is more strongly on multi-repo gating, which makes it ideal handling very large and complex projects. A number of representatives of all of these open-source projects are meeting at the OpenDev conference in Vancouver, Canada that’s running in parallel with the semi-annual OpenStack Summit there, and my guess is that we’ll hear quite a bit more about all of these projects in the coming days and weeks.

Posted Under: Tech News
Rackspace acquires Salesforce specialist RelationEdge

Posted by on 17 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Rackspace today announced that it has acquired RelationEdge, a Salesforce implementation partner and digital agency. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition.

At first, this may sound like an odd acquisition. Rackspace is still best known for its hosting and managed cloud and infrastructure services, after all, and RelationEdge is all about helping businesses manage their Salesforce SaaS implementations. The company clearly wants to expand its portfolio, though, and add managed services for SaaS applications to its lineup. It made the first step in this direction with the acquisition of TriCore last year, another company in the enterprise application management space. Today’s acquisition builds upon this theme.

Gerard Brossard, the executive VP and general manager of Rackspace Application Services, told me that the company is still in the early days of its application management practice, but that it’s seeing good momentum as it’s gaining both new customers thanks to these offerings and as existing customers look to Rackspace for managing more than their infrastructure. “This allows us to jump into that SaaS management practice, starting with the leaders in the market,” he told me.

Why sell RelationEdge, a company that has gained some good traction and now has about 125 employees? “At the end of the day, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount organically with very little funding,” RelationEdge founder and CEO Matt Stoyka told me. “But there is a huge opportunity in the space that we can take advantage of. But to do that, we needed more than was available to us, but we needed to find the right home for our people and our company.” He also noted that the two companies seem to have a similar culture and mission, which focuses more on the business outcomes than the technology itself.

For the time being, the RelationEdge brand will remain and Rackspace plans to run the business “with considerable independence under its current leadership.” Brossard noted that the reason for this is RelationEdge’s existing brand recognition.

Posted Under: Tech News
Contentstack doubles down on its headless CMS

Posted by on 17 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

It’s been about two years since Build.io launched Contentstack, a headless content management system for the enterprise. Contentstack was always a bit of an odd product at Build.io, which mostly focuses on providing integration tools like Flow for large companies (think IFTTT, but for enterprise workflows). Contentstack is pretty successful in its own right, though, with customers ranging from the Miami Heat to Cisco and Best Buy. Because of this, Build.io decided to spin out the service into its own business at the beginning of this year, and now it’s doubling down on serving modern enterprises that want to bring their CMS strategy into the 21st century.

As Build.io COO Matthew Baier told me, the last few years were quite good to Contentstack . The company doubled its deal sizes since January, for example, and it’s now seeing hockey-stick growth. Contentstack now has about 40 employees and a dedicated support team and sales staff. Why spin it out as its own company? “This has been a red-hot space for us,” Baier said. “What we decided to do last year was to do both opportunities justice and really double down on Contentstack as a separate business.”

Back when Contentstack launched, the service positioned itself as an alternative to Drupal and WordPress. Now, the team is looking at it more in terms of Adobe’s CMS tools.

And these days, it’s all about headless CMS, which essentially decouples the backend from the front-end presentation. That’s a relatively new trend in the world of CMS, but one that enables companies to bring their content (be that text, images or video and audio) to not just the web but also mobile apps and new platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Using this model, the CMS essentially becomes another API the front-end developers can use. Contentstack likes to call this “Content-as-a-Service,” but I’m tired of X-as-a-Service monikers, so I won’t do that. It is worth noting that in this context, “content” can be anything from blog posts to the descriptions and images that go with a product on an e-commerce site.

“Headless CMS is exciting because it is modernizing the space,” explained Baier. “It’s probably the most exciting thing to happen in this space in 25 years. […] We are doing for CMS what Salesforce did for CRM.”

Not every company needs this kind of system that’s ready for an omni-channel strategy, of course, but even for companies that still mostly focus on the web — or whose website is the main product — a service like Contentstack makes sense because it allows them to quickly iterate on the front end without having to worry about the backend service that powers it.

The latest version of Contentstack introduces a number of new features for content editors, including a better workflow management system that streamlines the creating, review and deployment of content in the system, as well as support for publishing rules that ensure only approved content makes it into the official channels (it wouldn’t be an enterprise product if it didn’t have some role-based controls, right?). Also new in today’s update is the ability to bundle content together and then release it en masse, maybe to coincide with a major release, promotional campaign or other event.

Looking ahead, Baier tells me that the team wants to delve a bit deeper into how it can integrate with more third-party services. Given that this is Build.io’s bread and butter, that’s probably no major surprise, but in the CMS world, integrations are often a major paint point. It’s those integrations, though, that users really need as they now rely on more third-party services than ever to run their businesses. “We believe the future is in these composable stacks,” Baier noted.

The team is also looking at how it can best use AI and machine learning, especially in the context of SEO.

One thing Contentstack and Build.io have never done is take outside money. Baier says “never say never,” but it doesn’t look like the company is likely to look for outside funding anytime soon.

Posted Under: Tech News
Sprinklr hires former fed CIO Vivek Kundra as COO

Posted by on 17 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Sprinklr, the unicorn startup best known for helping customers interpret social signals has been moving into the broader customer experience market in the last year. Today it announced is was hiring a heavy hitter as Chief Operating Officer, bringing in former federal CIO and Salesforce executive Vivek Kundra. He began working at his new position just this week.

Kundra says that he sees a company that is in a good position and poised for growth. It will be part of his job to work with CEO Ragy Thomas to make sure that happens. “When I look at the 1200 customers we have today, I see a massive opportunity to provide technology to change the way [our users] interact with customers,” Kundra told TechCrunch.

He says that, with his background, whether working under President Obama or with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the focus has always been on the customer, however you defined that, whether in the context of delivering government services or selling cloud software.

He said that to achieve that you have to be ruthlessly focused on execution. “Ideas are cheap, but how do you bring them to life in a way that inspires and motivates? I think that’s really important,” he said.

It’s worth noting that Kundra is not the first COO, however. The company hired Tim Page, who was a founder and COO at VCE before joining Sprinklr in 2016. That was apparently not a good fit.

Thomas says that landing Kundra was part of an extensive 9-month executive search where they looked at people who had worked at SaaS companies that had scaled over a billion dollars in revenue, concentrating on Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow. “If you look at people in the driver’s seat at those companies, there is a finite number of people. Salesforce is a great company and a great partner. That experience is relevant and unique,” Thomas said.

Kundra pointed out that as part of his responsibilities at Salesforce he built a business unit from scratch that included driving adoption for the company’s Government Cloud and other verticals. “Now I have ability to draw on those experiences,” he said.

Firming up the COO position, much like the CFO, is crucial ahead of going public. With the company valued at $1.8 billion in 2016, they would seem to be of sufficient size to make that move, but Thomas wasn’t ready to commit to anything definitive (much as you would expect).

Instead, he talked of building a strong foundation as preparation to become a public company at some point. “It’s a question of when, not if [we go public], but for a company of our size and scale, it’s logical for us to go public. We aren’t talking about when and how, and we are trying to pour a strong foundation [before we do]” he said. Bringing in Kundra appears to be part of that.

Posted Under: Tech News
Pluralsight prices its IPO at $15 per share, raising over $300M

Posted by on 16 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Pluralsight priced the shares in its IPO at $15 this afternoon, above its previously set target range of between $12 and $14, and will raise as much as $357 million ahead of its public debut tomorrow morning.

Pluralsight offers software development courses, specifically ones targeting employees that are looking to advance in their careers by acquiring new skills in order to transition to higher-level roles. As knowledge workers become increasingly valuable, especially in larger enterprises with sprawling workforces, companies like Pluralsight have found a sweet spot in building tools that enable companies to help identify talent in their own workforce and train them, rather than have to aggressively search outside the company to satisfy their needs. The company has raised $310.5 million in its IPO, with underwriters having the option to purchase an additional 3.1 million shares and bring that up to $357 million.

The company is one of a continuing wave of enterprise IPOs this year, including multiple successful ones like zScalar and Dropbox — the latter of which was more of a flagship as both a hotly-anticipated one and as a company that possesses a unique business model. But nonetheless, it’s shown that there’s an appetite for enterprise startups looking to go public, which offers those companies a way to raise capital in addition to offering their employees liquidity.

Pluralsight will be another of an increasing pack of unicorns in the Utah tech scene that are on their way to going public. Founded in 2004, Pluralsight was largely bootstrapped until its first financing round in 2013 where it raised $27.5 million from Insight Venture Partners. That firm is the company’s largest shareholder, and since then Pluralsight has raised nearly $200 million in financing.

Its The company’s IPO tomorrow will once again test the appetite for fresh IPOs among public investors. Enterprise companies generally offer a more stable batch for venture portfolios, with predictable and reliable growth that eventually carries it to an IPO with varying levels of success. They’re smaller than blockbuster consumer-ish IPOs, but they are the ones that can provide a stable return for funds like IVP.

Posted Under: Tech News
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