All posts by Richy George

Stonly lets you create interactive step-by-step guides to improve support

Posted by on 17 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

French startup Stonly wants to empower users so that they can solve their issues by themselves. Instead of relying on customer support agents, Stonly wants to surface relevant content so that you can understand and solve issues.

“I’m trying to take the opposite stance of chatbots,” founder and CEO Alexis Fogel told me. “The issue [with chatbots] is that technology is not good enough and you often end up searching through the help center.”

If you’re in charge of support for a big enough service, chances are your customers often face the same issues. Many companies have built help centers with lengthy articles. But most customers won’t scroll through those pages when they face an issue.

That’s why Stonly thinks you need to make this experience more interactive. The service lets you create scripted guides with multiple questions to make this process less intimidating. Some big companies have built question-based help centers, but Stonly wants to give tools to small companies so that they can build their own scenarios.

A Stonly module is basically a widget that you can embed on any page or blog. It works like a deck of slides with buttons to jump to the relevant slide. Companies can create guides in the back end without writing a single line of code. You can add an image, a video and some code to each slide.

At any time, you can see a flowchart of your guide to check that everything works as expected. You can translate your guides in multiple languages as well.

Once you’re done and the module is live, you can look back at your guides and see how you can improve them. Stonly lets you see if users spend more time on a step, close the tab and drop in the middle of the guide, test multiple versions of the same guide, etc.

But the startup goes one step further by integrating directly with popular support services, such as Zendesk and Intercom. For instance, if a user contacts customer support after checking a Stonly guide, you can see in Zendesk what they were looking at. Or you can integrate Stonly in your Intercom chat module.

Editor 01

As expected, a service like Stonly can help you save on customer support. If users can solve their own issues, you need a smaller customer support team. But that’s not all.

“It’s not just about saving money, it’s also about improving engagement and support,” Fogel said.

Password manager company Dashlane is a good example of that. Fogel previously co-founded Dashlane before starting Stonly. And it’s one of Stonly’s first clients.

“Dashlane is a very addictive product, but the main issue is that you want to help people get started,” he said. It’s true that it can be hard to grasp how you’re supposed to use a password manager if you’ve never used one in the past. So the onboarding experience is key with this kind of products.

Stonly is free if you want to play with the product and build public guides. But if you want to create private guides and access advanced features, the company has a Pro plan ($30 per month) and a Team plan (starting at $100 per month with bigger bills as you add more people to your team and use the product more extensively).

The company has tested its product with a handful of clients, such as Dashlane, Devialet, Happn and Malt. The startup has raised an undisclosed seed round from Eduardo Ronzano, Thibaud Elzière, Nicolas Steegmann, Renaud Visage and PeopleDoc co-founders. And Stonly is currently part of the Zendesk incubator at Station F.

Posted Under: Tech News
AlphaSense, a search engine for analysis and business intel, raises $50M led by Innovation Endeavors

Posted by on 17 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Google and its flagship search portal opened the door to the possibilities of how to build a business empire on the back of organising and navigating the world’s information, as found on the internet. Now, a startup that’s built a search engine tailored to the needs of enterprises and their own quests for information has raised a round of funding to see if it can do the same for the B2B world.

AlphaSense, which provides a way for companies to quickly amass market intelligence around specific trends, industries and more to help them make business decisions, has closed a $50 million round of funding, a Series B that it’s planning to use to continue enhancing its product and expanding to more verticals.

Today, the company today counts some 1,000 clients on its books, with a heavy emphasis on investment banks and related financial services companies. That’s in part because of how the company got its start: Finnish co-founder and CEO Jaakko (Jack) Kokko he had been an analyst at Morgan Stanley in a past life and understood the labor and time pain points of doing market research, and decided to build a platform to help shorted a good part of the information gathering process.

“My experience as an analyst on Wall Street showed me just how fragmented information really was,” he said in an interview, citing as one example how complex sites like those of the FDA are not easy to navigate to look for new information an updates — the kind of thing that a computer would be much more adept at monitoring and flagging. “Even with the best tools and services, it still was really hard to manually get the work done, in part because of market volatility and the many factors that cause it. We can now do that with orders of magnitude more efficiency. Firms can now gather information in minutes that would have taken an hour. AlphaSense does the work of the best single analyst, or even a team of them.”

(Indeed, the “alpha” of AlphaSense appears to be a reference to finance: it’s a term that refers to the ability of a trader or portfolio manager to beat the typical market return.)

The lead investor in this round is very notable and says something about the company’s ambitions. It’s Innovation Endeavors, the VC firm backed by Eric Schmidt, who had been the CEO of none other than Google (the pace-setter and pioneer of the search-as-business model) for a decade, and then stayed on as chairman and ultimately board member of Google and then Alphabet (its later holding company) until just last June.

Schmidt presided over Google at what you could argue was its most important time, gaining speed and scale and transitioning from an academic idea into full-fledged, huge public business whose flagship product has now entered the lexicon as a verb and (through search and other services like Android and YouTube) is a mainstay of how the vast majority of the world uses the web today. As such he is good at spotting opportunities and gaps in the market, and while enterprise-based needs will never be as prominent as those of mass-market consumers, they can be just as lucrative.

“Information is the currency of business today, but data is overwhelming and fragmented, making it difficult for business professionals to find the right insights to drive key business decisions,” he said in a statement. “We were impressed by the way AlphaSense solves this with its AI and search technology, allowing businesses to proceed with the confidence that they have the right information driving their strategy.”

This brings the total raised by AlphaSense to $90 million, with other investors in this round including Soros Fund Management LLC and other unnamed existing investors. Previous backers had included Tom Glocer (the former Reuters CEO who himself is working on his own fintech startup, a security firm called BlueVoyant), the MassChallenge incubator, Tribeca Venture Partners and others. Kokko said AlphaSense is not disclosing its valuation at this point. (I’m guessing though that it’s definitely on the up.)

There have been others that have worked to try to tackle the idea of providing more targeted, and business focused search portals, from the likes of Wolfram Alpha (another alpha!) through to Lexis Nexis and others like Bloomberg’s terminals, FactSet, Business Quant and many more.

One interesting aspect of AlphaSense is how it’s both focused on pulling in requests as well as set up to push information to its users based on previous search parameters. Currently these are set up to only provide information, but over time, there is a clear opportunity to build services to let the engines take on some of the actions based on that information, such as adjusting asking prices for sales and other transactions.

“There are all kinds of things we could do,” said Kokko. “This is a massive untapped opportunity. But we’re not taking the human out of the loop, ever. Humans are the right ones to be making final decisions, and we’re just about helping them make those faster.”

Posted Under: Tech News
ContractPodAi scores $55M for its ‘AI-powered’ contract management software

Posted by on 17 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

ContractPodAi, a London-based startup that has developed what it describes as AI-powered contract lifecycle management software, is disclosing $55 million in Series B funding. The round is led by U.S.-based Insight Partners, with participation from earlier backer Eagle Investment.

Founded in 2012, ContractPodAi offers an “end-to-end” solution spanning the three main aspects of contract management: contract generation, contract repository, and third-party review. Its AI offering, which uses IBM’s Watson, claims to streamline the contract management process and reduce the burden on corporate in-house legal teams.

“The legal profession has been historically behind the curve in technology adoption and our objective here is to support to digital transformation of legal departments via our contract management platform,” ContractPodAi co-founder and CEO Sarvarth Misra tells TechCrunch.

“Our business focusses on providing in-house counsel of corporations across the world with an easy to use, out of the box and scalable end to end contract management platform at a fixed fee SaaS licence model”.

With regards to ContractPodAi’s target customer, Misra says its solution is industry agnostic but is typically sold to large international businesses, including FTSE 500 and Fortune 2000 corporations. Customers include Bosch Siemens, Braskem, EDF Energy, Total Petroleum, Benjamin Moore and Freeview.

Armed with new capital, ContractPodAi says it plans to “significantly” scale up its product development, sales, and customer success teams globally. The company already has offices in San Francisco, New York, Glasgow and Mumbai, in addition to its London HQ.

Adds Misra: “We believe that market for contract management solutions is fragmented with providers focussing one or two aspects of contract management functionality. ContractPodAi’s objective has been to provide one contract management ecosystem which covers all aspects of contract management functionality… This, along with our fixed, transparent pricing and ability to provide full implementation as part of the annual SaaS, differentiates us the from the rest of the providers”.

Posted Under: Tech News
Qualtrics’ Julie Larson-Green will talk customer experience at TC Sessions: Enterprise

Posted by on 16 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

We’re less than two months out from our first TC Sessions: Enterprise event, which is happening in San Francisco on September 5, and did you know our buy 1 get 1 free sale ends today too! Among the many enterprise and startup executives that’ll join us for the event is Qualtrics’ Julie Larson-Green. If that name sounds familiar to you, that’s most likely because you remember her from her 25 years at Microsoft. After a successful career in Redmond, Larson-Green left Microsoft in 2017 to become the Chief Experience Officer at SAP’s Qualtrics .

In that role, she’s perfect for our panel about — you guessed it — experience management.

Larson-Green joined Microsoft as a program manager for Visual C++ back in 1993. After moving up the ladder inside the company, she oversaw the launch of Windows 7 and became the co-lead of Microsoft’s hardware, games, music and entertainment division in 2013. At the time, she was seen as a potential replacement for then-CEO Steve Ballmer .

Later, during a period of reshuffling at the company in the wake of the Nokia acquisition, became the Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft’s My Life and Work group.

Larson-Green joined Qualtrics before it was acquired by SAP for $8 billion in cash. Qualtrics offers a number of products that range from customer experience tools to brand tracking and ad testing services, as well as employee research products for gathering feedback about managers, for example. At the core of its product is an analytics engine that helps businesses make sense of their employee and customer data, which in turn should help them optimize their customer experience scores and reduce employee attrition rates.


Our buy one get one free ticket deal ends today! Book a ticket for just $249 and you can bring a buddy for free. Book here before this deal ends.

We’re still selling startup demo tables, and each package comes with 4 tickets. Learn more here.

Posted Under: Tech News
Workplace, Facebook’s service for business teams, is raising its prices for the first time since launch

Posted by on 16 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Three years into its life with 2 million paying users signed up, Workplace — Facebook’s platform for businesses and and other organizations to build internal communities and communications — is about to make a significant business shift of its own. Come September 2, Workplace is changing its pricing tiers, how it charges its users, and the services that it provides customers.

Up to now, Facebook has taken a very simple approach to how it charges for Workplace, unique not just because of it being a paid service (unlike Facebook itself, which is free), but for how it modelled its pricing on the basic building block of Facebook-the-consumer product: a basic version was free, with an enhanced premium edition costing a flat $3 per active user, per month.

In September, that will change. The standard (basic) tier is getting rebranded as Workplace Essential, and will still be free to use. Meanwhile, the premium tier is being renamed Workplace Advanced and getting charged $4 per person, per month. And Facebook is introducing a new tier, Workplace Enterprise, which will be charged at $8 per person, per month, and will come with a new set of services specifically around guaranteed, quicker support and first-look access at new features. (Those who are already customers have the option of being grandfathered for a year, the company said, before switching to a new plan.)

Screenshot 2019 07 16 at 14.16.02

Those are not the only changes. Two other notable shifts are getting introduced with these new tiers. First, these prices will be for all users, regardless of whether they are active in the month.

And second, they are specifically prices for people who access Workplace as general “knowledge workers” — marked by having email addresses and specific job functions. Frontline workers — for example cashiers or baristas or others mostly on their feet all day helping customers — will be an add-on at $1.50 per person per month, also regardless of whether they are active or not.

For now, the rest of the features in the different tiers are remaining the same:

Screenshot 2019 07 16 at 14.16.33

The changes at Workplace come amid a number of other developments among workforce collaboration and communication platforms.

First and foremost, Slack has how gone public, subjecting it and its ups and downs to a lot more public scrutiny, but also putting it on the map as a business of some standing, helping it make a bigger move into brokering more deals with the larger enterprises that Workplace has been winning over. The latter’s customers include the likes of Walmart, the worlds biggest employer; as well as Nestle, Vodafone, GSK, Telefonica, AstraZeneca and Delta Airlines, and Facebook says that there are more than 150 companies signed up with more than 10,000 employees each.

Teams, meanwhile, has now passed Slack in user numbers, and in a way is a more direct competitor: it has positioned itself (like Workplace) as a tool for both knowledge and frontline workers, helping with actual back-office collaboration, as well as a way to broadcast communications to a wider group of employees.

Julien Codorniou, the VP of Workplace, said that the changes in pricing tiers was not a reaction to competition, but rather a reaction to customers. Although the pricing for Workplace was an interesting twist on how enterprises tend to procure IT, it turned out to be too novel by half: it turned out that most actually like the predictability of paying the same amount for a service upfront, rather than having the pricing change each month depending on usage.

“Today, customers’ bills change every month, for example when a coworker goes on vacation or whatever,” he said. “It’s a nightmare for the accounting department, who needs to know how much to pay two years out.”

He added that this doesn’t mean you can’t change how much you pay: you could change the pricing each month if necessary.

So far,  no one has made the shift to the new tiers, so it will be interesting to see how and if they have much of an impact. I do know that from retail theory, customers in stores are more likely to select a middle-priced product if they are given an option of something cheap and something expensive at either end, and so this could be an interesting way to drive more users to Workplace’s paid tier.

What is more clear is that this is also a way for Facebook to raise its prices for the first time since the service launched, and lays the groundwork for more differentiation between different kinds of offerings.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
Amazon adds Hindi to the Alexa Skills Kit

Posted by on 16 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Users of Amazon’s voice assistant will soon be able to talk to Alexa in Hindi. Amazon announced today that it has added a Hindi voice model to its Alexa Skills Kit for developers. Alexa developers can also update their existing published skills in India for Hindi.

Amazon first revealed that it would add fluent Hindi to Alexa last month during its re: MARS machine learning and artificial intelligence conference. Before, Alexa was only able to understand a few Hinglish (a portmanteau of Hindi and English) commands. Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Alexa, told Indian news agency IANS that adding Hindi to Alexa posed a “contextual, cultural as well as content-related challenge” because of the wide variety of dialects, accents and slang used in India.

Along with English, Hindi is one of India’s official languages (Google Voice Assistant also offers Hindi support). According to Citi Research, Amazon holds about a 30 percent market share, about the same as its main competitor, Walmart-backed Flipkart.

Posted Under: Tech News
48-hour, buy-one-get-one free — TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

Posted by on 15 July, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Every startupper we’ve ever met loves a great deal, and so do we. That’s why we’re celebrating Prime day with a 48-hour flash sale on tickets to TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019, which takes place September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

We’re talking a classic BOGO — buy-one-get-one — deal that starts today and ends tomorrow, July 16, at 11:59 p.m. (PT). Buy one early-bird ticket ($249) and you get a second ticket for free. But this BOGO goes bye-bye in just 48 hours, so don’t wait. Buy your TC Sessions: Enterprise tickets now and save.

Get ready to join more than 1,000 attendees for a day-long, intensive experience exploring the enterprise colossus — a tech category that generates hundreds of new startups, along with a steady stream of multibillion-dollar acquisitions, every year.

What can you expect at TC Sessions: Enterprise? For starters, you’ll hear TechCrunch editors interview enterprise software leaders, including tech titans, rising founders and boundary-breaking VCs.

One such titan, George Brady — Capital One’s executive VP in charge of tech operations — will join us to discuss how the financial institution left legacy hardware and software behind to embrace the cloud. Quite a journey in such a highly regulated industry.

Our growing speaker roster features other enterprise heavy-hitters, including Aaron Levie, Box co-founder and CEO; Aparna Sinha, Google’s director of product management for Kubernetes and Anthos; Jim Clarke, Intel’s director of quantum hardware; and Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian.

Looking for in-depth information on technical enterprise topics? You’ll find them in our workshops and breakout sessions. Check out the exhibiting early-stage enterprise startups focused on disrupting, well, everything. Enjoy receptions and world-class networking with other founders, investors and technologists actively building the next generation of enterprise services.

TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 takes place September 5, and we pack a lot of value into a single day. Double your ROI and take advantage of our 48-hour BOGO sale. Buy your ticket before July 16 at 11:59 p.m. (PT) and get another ticket free. That’s two tickets for one early-bird price. And if that’s not enough value, get this: we’ll register you for a free Expo-only pass to Disrupt SF 2019 for every TC Sessions: Enterprise ticket you purchase (mic drop).

Interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Enterprise? Fill out this form and a member of our sales team will contact you.

Posted Under: Tech News
7 Reasons to Consider Refurbished IT Hardware

Posted by on 26 January, 2015

IT hardware procurement process can be a challenging one for any organization.  If you are an IT professional or a business owner, there are various options available that must be sorted through to meet key priorities and requirements.  When it comes to buying IT hardware, refurbished equipment is a viable option to consider seriously. It provides an array of undeniable benefits including performance, quality and flexibility at great price points.  Following are seven notable benefits your organization can rely on when opting for refurbished IT equipment.

Cost

Companies can procure refurbished IT equipment at a mere fraction of OEMs’ pricing. Opting for refurbished IT hardware can help stretch budget, afford larger projects, and even have extra hardware on hand in case of disaster recovery or if any backup is necessary.

The latest and highest end technology is not always an affordable option for small businesses, schools, and nonprofits. However, by choosing refurbished IT hardware, one can gain access to the latest technology regardless of their budget.

Refurbished hardware is an excellent way for organizations to increase buying power while benefiting substantial cost savings.

Quality

IT refurbishers go above and beyond when it comes to quality control. Experienced, trained and certified technicians rigorously test, diagnose and refurbish all IT hardware to ensure that its performance – both functionally and cosmetically – rivals that of any brand-new computer.

Microsoft registered refurbishers (MRR) are an elite group of refurbishers who take quality to whole new level by following Microsoft’s certified refurbishing processes. The MRR certification enables refurbishers to load and authenticate Windows OS legally on any Windows-based machine.

Sustainability

Refurbished IT hardware is very eco-friendly. If “going green” is a priority in your technology choices, buying refurbished IT hardware is an ideal decision. Refurbishing and reusing not only prevents electronics from ending up in landfills, but also eliminates the need to manufacture new electronics.

Buying and using refurbished equipment is a form of electronic recycling that offers numerous benefits to both the organization using it and the environment.

Flexibility

IT hardware refurbishers will work within and according to a customer’s needs and requirements as well as their limitations. Typically, this much flexibility is not available when buying directly from traditional retailers.

Refurbishers can customize specs to meet exact technology hardware requirements and offer a variety of prices to meet virtually any budget. They also offer flexible warranty, extended coverage options, payment options and terms, such as PayPal, net terms and more.

Warranty

IT refurbishers can offer among the best warranties available today. In many cases, they provide hassle-free advance replacements, which mean replacement product will be shipped out before receiving the product being returned. This system offers a level of convenience and customer service that simply cannot be found when buying directly from OEMs. IT refurbishers offer flexible warranty options and extended warranty coverages as well.

Obtain Hard to Find or Obsolete Equipment

Sometimes, finding legacy equipment can be very challenging. Refurbishers are well-equipped sources of OEM discontinued hardware, which is helpful for companies running proprietary software and hardware that sometimes requires older hardware.

Selection

When compared to OEMs, you’ll find many IT hardware refurbishers offer a much larger inventory pool, including brands such as Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo and more.

Clearly, these advantages point to one undeniable conclusion: refurbished IT hardware can provide customers with substantial flexibility, service and savings. Whether you are a small business, educational institution, nonprofit or part of any organization that requires IT equipment to function, an IT refurbisher can provide one-stop-shopping for all of your IT needs.

Posted Under: Refurbished IT Hardware
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