Category Archives: Tech News

Berlin’s Bryter raises $66M to take its no-code tools for enterprises to the US

Posted by on 7 April, 2021

This post was originally published on this site

No-code startups continue to see a lot of traction among enterprises, where employees — strictly speaking, non-technical, but still using software every day — are getting hands-on and building apps to take on some of the more repetitive aspects of their jobs, the so-called “citizen coders” of the working world.

And in one of the latest developments, a Bryter — an AI-based no-code startup that has built a platforms used by some 100 global enterprises to date across some 2,000 business applications and workflows — is announcing a new round of funding to double down on that opportunity. The Berlin-based company has closed a Series B of $66 million, money that it will be investing into its platform and expanding in the U.S. out of a New York office it opened last year. The funding comes on the heels of seeing a lot of demand for its tools, CEO and co-founder Michael Grupp said in an interview.

“It was a great year for low-code and no-code platforms,” said Grupp, who co-founded the company with Micha-Manuel Bues and Michael Hübl. “What everyone has realized is that most people don’t actually care about the tech. They only care about the use cases. They want to get things done.” Customers using the service include the likes of McDonald’s, Telefónica, and PwC, KPMG and Deloitte in Europe, as well as banks, healthcare and industrial enterprises.

Tiger Global is leading this round, with previous backers Accel, Dawn Capital, Notion Capital and Cavalry Ventures all also participating, along with a number of individual backers (they include Amit Agharwal, CPO of DataDog; Lars Björk, former CEO of Qlik; Ulf Zetterberg, founder and CEO of Seal Software; and former ServiceNow global SVP James Fitzgerald). The valuation is not being disclosed; Bryter has raised around $90 million to date.

Accel and Dawn co-led Bryter’s Series A of $16 million less than a year ago, in June 2020, a rapid funding pace that underscores both interest in the no-code/low-code space — Bryter’s enterprise customer base has doubled from 50 since then — and the fact that startups in it are striking while the iron is hot.

Bryter’s not the only one: Airtable, Genesis, Rows, Creatio, and Ushur are among the many startups building ‘hands-on tech creation for non-techie people’ that have raised money in the last several months.

Automation has been the bigger trend that has propelled a lot of this activity. Knowledge workers today spend most of their time these days in apps — a state of affairs that pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic, but has definitely been furthered throughout it. While some of that work still requires manual involvement and evaluation from those workers, software has automated large swathes of those jobs.

RPA — robotic process automation, where companies like UiPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism have taken a big lead — has accounted for a significant chunk of that activity, especially when it comes to reading forms and lots of data entry. But there remains a lot of other transactions and activities within specific apps where RPA is typically not used (not yet at least!). And this is where non-tech workers are finding that no-code tools like Bryter, which use artificial intelligence to deliver more personalised, yet scalable, automation, can play a very useful role.

“We sit on top of RPA in many cases,” said Grupp.

The company says that business functions where its platform has been implemented include compliance, legal, tax, privacy and security, procurement, administration, and HR, and the kinds of features that are being built include virtual assistants, chatbots, interactive self-service tools, and more.

These don’t replace people as such but cut down the time they need to spend in specific tasks to process and handle information within them, and could in theory also be used to build tools for customers to interact with services more easily, cutting down on the amount of time that agents are getting details and handling engagements.

That scalability, and the rapid customer up-take from a pool of users that extends beyond tech early-adopters, are part of what attracted the funding.

“Bryter has all the characteristics of a top-tier software company: high quality product that solves a real customer pain point, a large market opportunity and a world-class founding team,” said John Curtius, a partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “The feedback from Bryter’s customers was resoundingly positive in our research, and we are excited to see the company reach new heights over the coming years.”

“Bryter has seen explosive growth over the last year, signing landmark customers across a large number of sectors and use cases. This does not come as a surprise. In the pandemic-affected world, digitalisation is no longer a nice to have, it is an imperative,” added Evgenia Plotnikova, a partner at Dawn Capital.

Esri brings its flagship ArcGIS platform to Kubernetes

Posted by on 6 April, 2021

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Esri, the geographic information system (GIS), mapping and spatial analytics company, is hosting its (virtual) developer summit today. Unsurprisingly, it is making a couple of major announcements at the event that range from a new design system and improved JavaScript APIs to support for running ArcGIS Enterprise in containers on Kubernetes.

The Kubernetes project was a major undertaking for the company, Esri Product Managers Trevor Seaton and Philip Heede told me. Traditionally, like so many similar products, ArcGIS was architected to be installed on physical boxes, virtual machines or cloud-hosted VMs. And while it doesn’t really matter to end-users where the software runs, containerizing the application means that it is far easier for businesses to scale their systems up or down as needed.

Esri ArcGIS Enterprise on Kubernetes deployment

“We have a lot of customers — especially some of the larger customers — that run very complex questions,” Seaton explained. “And sometimes it’s unpredictable. They might be responding to seasonal events or business events or economic events, and they need to understand not only what’s going on in the world, but also respond to their many users from outside the organization coming in and asking questions of the systems that they put in place using ArcGIS. And that unpredictable demand is one of the key benefits of Kubernetes.”

Deploying Esri ArcGIS Enterprise on Kubernetes

Deploying Esri ArcGIS Enterprise on Kubernetes

The team could have chosen to go the easy route and put a wrapper around its existing tools to containerize them and call it a day, but as Seaton noted, Esri used this opportunity to re-architect its tools and break it down into microservices.

“It’s taken us a while because we took three or four big applications that together make up [ArcGIS] Enterprise,” he said. “And we broke those apart into a much larger set of microservices. That allows us to containerize specific services and add a lot of high availability and resilience to the system without adding a lot of complexity for the administrators — in fact, we’re reducing the complexity as we do that and all of that gets installed in one single deployment script.”

While Kubernetes simplifies a lot of the management experience, a lot of companies that use ArcGIS aren’t yet familiar with it. And as Seaton and Heede noted, the company isn’t forcing anyone onto this platform. It will continue to support Windows and Linux just like before. Heede also stressed that it’s still unusual — especially in this industry — to see a complex, fully integrated system like ArcGIS being delivered in the form of microservices and multiple containers that its customers then run on their own infrastructure.

Image Credits: Esri

In addition to the Kubernetes announcement, Esri also today announced new JavaScript APIs that make it easier for developers to create applications that bring together Esri’s server-side technology and the scalability of doing much of the analysis on the client-side. Back in the day, Esri would support tools like Microsoft’s Silverlight and Adobe/Apache Flex for building rich web-based applications. “Now, we’re really focusing on a single web development technology and the toolset around that,” Esri product manager Julie Powell told me.

A bit later this month, Esri also plans to launch its new design system to make it easier and faster for developers to create clean and consistent user interfaces. This design system will launch April 22, but the company already provided a bit of a teaser today. As Powell noted, the challenge for Esri is that its design system has to help the company’s partners to put their own style and branding on top of the maps and data they get from the ArcGIS ecosystem.

 

Aporia raises $5M for its AI observability platform

Posted by on 6 April, 2021

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Machine learning (ML) models are only as good as the data you feed them. That’s true during training, but also once a model is put in production. In the real world, the data itself can change as new events occur and even small changes to how databases and APIs report and store data could have implications on how the models react. Since ML models will simply give you wrong predictions and not throw an error, it’s imperative that businesses monitor their data pipelines for these systems.

That’s where tools like Aporia come in. The Tel Aviv-based company today announced that it has raised a $5 million seed round for its monitoring platform for ML models. The investors are Vertex Ventures and TLV Partners.

Image Credits: Aporia

Aporia co-founder and CEO Liran Hason, after five years with the Israel Defense Forces, previously worked on the data science team at Adallom, a security company that was acquired by Microsoft in 2015. After the sale, he joined venture firm Vertex Ventures before starting Aporia in late 2019. But it was during his time at Adallom where he first encountered the problems that Aporio is now trying to solve.

“I was responsible for the production architecture of the machine learning models,” he said of his time at the company. “So that’s actually where, for the first time, I got to experience the challenges of getting models to production and all the surprises that you get there.”

The idea behind Aporia, Hason explained, is to make it easier for enterprises to implement machine learning models and leverage the power of AI in a responsible manner.

“AI is a super powerful technology,” he said. “But unlike traditional software, it highly relies on the data. Another unique characteristic of AI, which is very interesting, is that when it fails, it fails silently. You get no exceptions, no errors. That becomes really, really tricky, especially when getting to production, because in training, the data scientists have full control of the data.”

But as Hason noted, a production system may depend on data from a third-party vendor and that vendor may one day change the data schema without telling anybody about it. At that point, a model — say for predicting whether a bank’s customer may default on a loan — can’t be trusted anymore, but it may take weeks or months before anybody notices.

Aporia constantly tracks the statistical behavior of the incoming data and when that drifts too far away from the training set, it will alert its users.

One thing that makes Aporio unique is that it gives its users an almost IFTTT or Zapier-like graphical tool for setting up the logic of these monitors. It comes pre-configured with more than 50 combinations of monitors and provides full visibility in how they work behind the scenes. That, in turn, allows businesses to fine-tune the behavior of these monitors for their own specific business case and model.

Initially, the team thought it could build generic monitoring solutions. But the team realized that this wouldn’t only be a very complex undertaking, but that the data scientists who build the models also know exactly how those models should work and what they need from a monitoring solution.

“Monitoring production workloads is a well-established software engineering practice, and it’s past time for machine learning to be monitored at the same level,” said Rona Segev, founding partner at  TLV Partners. “Aporia‘s team has strong production-engineering experience, which makes their solution stand out as simple, secure and robust.”

 

Okta launches a new free developer plan

Posted by on 6 April, 2021

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At its Octane21 conference, Okta, the popular authentication and identity platform, today announced a new — and free — developer edition that features fewer limitations and support for significantly more monthly active users than its current free plan.

The new ‘Okta Starter Developer Edition,’ as it’s called, allows developers to scale up to 15,000 monthly active users — up from only 1,000 on its existing free plan. In addition, the company is also launching enhanced documentation, a set of sample apps and new SDKs, which now cover languages and frameworks like Go, Java, JavaScript, Python, Vue.js, React Native and Spring Boot.

“Our overall philosophy isn’t, ‘we want to just provide […] a set of authentication and authorization services.’ The way we’re looking at this is, ‘hey, app developer, how do we provide you the foundation you need to get up and running quickly with authorization and authentication as one part of it,’ ” Diya Jolly, Okta’s chief product officer, told me. And she believes that Okta is in a unique position to do so, because it doesn’t only offer tools to manage authorization and access, but also systems for securing microservices and providing applications with access to privileged resources.

Image Credits: Okta

It’s also worth noting that, while the deal hasn’t closed yet, Okta’s intent to acquire Auth0 significantly extends its developer strategy, given Auth0’s developer-first approach.

As for the expanded free account, Jolly noted that the company found that developers wanted to be able to access more of the service’s features during their prototyping phases. That means the new free Developer Edition comes with support for multi-factor authentication, machine-to-machine tokens and B2B integrations, for example, in addition to expanded support for integrations into toolchains. As is so often the case with enterprise tools, the free edition doesn’t come with the usual enterprise support options and has lower rate limits than the paid plans.

Still, and Jolly acknowledged this, a small to medium-sized business may be able to build applications and take them into production based on this new free plan.

“15K [monthly active users] is is a lot, but if you look at our customer base, it’s about the right amount for the smaller business applications, the real SMBs, and that was the goal. In a developer motion, you want people to try out things and then upgrade. I think that’s the key. No developer is going to come and build with you if you don’t have a free offering that they can tinker around and play with.”

Image Credits: Okta

She noted that the company has spent a lot of time thinking about how to support developers through the application development lifecycle overall. That includes better CLI tools for developers who would rather bypass Okta’s web-based console, for example, and additional integrations with tools like Terraform, Kong and Heroku. “Today, [developers] have to stitch together identity and Okta into those experiences — or they use some other identity — we’ve pre-stitched all of this for them,” Jolly said.

The new Okta Starter Developer Edition, as well as the new documentation, sample applications and integrations, are now available at developer.okta.com.

OneStream raises $200M, now valued at $6B after its enterprise-focused financial software sees a surge of use

Posted by on 6 April, 2021

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Digital transformation is the name of the game these days, and companies that are enabling businesses to take a leap into the future, by helping them tackle their most complex operations, are reaping the rewards. In the latest development, OneStream, a startup that provides a toolkit of services to enterprises to help them run financial operations (for example, reporting, planning, tax and more), has raised $200 million in primary equity. The funding values OneStream at $6 billion.

D1 Capital Partners led the financing, with participation from Tiger Global and Investment Group of Santa Barbara (IGSB), the company said. Tiger Global and D1 appear to share at least one common backer, Tiger Management, which may be one reason why you see them together in many big deals.

The company plans to use the funding to continue building out the tools that it provides to customers, and to keep up with demand for its services as more customers replace legacy applications and very basic, spreadsheet-based operations.

“We remain sharply focused on delivering innovative planning, reporting and analysis solutions designed to help our customers succeed for today’s fast-paced and increasingly complex business environment,” said Tom Shea, CEO of OneStream Software, in a statement. “The valuation we received is great recognition of the value our employees and stakeholders have helped to create, as well as the exciting opportunities ahead for OneStream.”

To put these large numbers into some context, OneStream was valued at $1 billion only two years ago, when KKR took a majority stake in the company worth more than $500 million. The company’s CFO Bill Koefoed has confirmed to us that KKR will continue to be “substantially OneStream’s largest shareholder and remains a very supportive investor”. The company meanwhile appears to be holding off any plans for going public for the time being — despite some possible hints that it was considering that move.

“OneStream is currently focused on delivering 100% customer access, continuing to grow the business and creating value for stakeholders,” Koefoed said. “IPO is a potential exit and OneStream is preparing to be a public company. However, there is no specific timeline.”

The growth in valuation, meanwhile, reflects the surge of business that OneStream has seen in the last two years, and in particular in the last 12 months, as companies have been compelled to update their systems to work more efficiently and flexibly amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it has had around in-person interactions. OneStream said annual recurring revenue grew 85% in 2020, with customers growing by 40% to 650 enterprises.

The company’s focus is specifically in the area commonly called corporate performance management (CPM), which includes a number of the financial corporate operations that a company runs behind the scenes to keep its business ticking.

Some of these would have fallen to a range of software providers, and much of the work would have been carried out by way of on-premise solutions, with companies like SAP, Oracle Hyperion, IBM dominating the space with all-in solutions, and others like Anaplan and Blackline providing point solutions addressing specific aspects of those functions.

But as with other areas of enterprise services, the advances of technology and software have created opportunities to take a lot of that functionality into the cloud and to run the processes across a single system to improve analytics and efficiency, and that has provided an opportunity to the likes of OneStream.

The impact of the pandemic should not be underestimated in this trend, and it was one that OneStream was able to nail because its software can be used across disparate teams and can draw a direct line to helping companies manage their finances better. And unlike a lot of tech companies that raise venture funding, one interesting detail with OneStream is that it has extended its customer base well outside the realm of technology companies and other early adopters. Those using its software include the likes of Fruit of the Loom, McCain (the frozen fries king), and AAA, but also Takeaway.com, the Carlyle Group and many others.

“The pandemic accelerated OneStream’s business given that it was a wake-up call for many companies that had not digitally transformed their key finance processes,” said Koefoed. “As a result, we have seen increased demand from companies who were using spreadsheets or legacy CPM applications to manage their financial close, consolidation, reporting, planning and forecasting processes… They are better able to keep their finance teams connected and collaborating while physically dispersed. In addition, we have seen many organizations increasing the frequency of their forecasting and scenario modeling from quarterly or monthly to weekly and daily in some cases, especially during the early days of the pandemic when modeling revenue and cash flow was critical.”

For investors, the interest more specifically was how OneStream managed to add more customers away from competitors in the last year.

OneStream’s platform delivers exceptional customer value,” said Andrew Wynne, a principal at D1 Capital Partners, in a statement. “Management’s intense focus on customer success has enabled OneStream to capture significant market share from incumbents, while posting strong growth in both revenue and customer acquisition. We believe OneStream has both the vision and product required to be a dominant force in its industry.”

Going forward, it sounds like the company will continue to build on what it has already established. That will include more business into Asia Pacific alongside its current operations in North America and Europe, Koefoed said. It will also use its foothold in finance and providing services to the finance department to make inroads into other areas that link closely to money management: money spending and revenue generation, with tools to plan and operate in areas like HR, IT, sales, marketing, supply chain management “and other areas to ensure alignment and optimal resource allocations,” he added.

Google Cloud joins the FinOps Foundation

Posted by on 6 April, 2021

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Google Cloud today announced that it is joining the FinOps Foundation as a Premier Member.

The FinOps Foundation is a relatively new open-source foundation, hosted by the Linux Foundation, that launched last year. It aims to bring together companies in the ‘cloud financial management’ space to establish best practices and standards. As the term implies, ‘cloud financial management,’ is about the tools and practices that help businesses manage and budget their cloud spend. There’s a reason, after all, that there are a number of successful startups that do nothing else but help businesses optimize their cloud spend (and ideally lower it).

Maybe it’s no surprise that the FinOps Foundation was born out of Cloudability’s quarterly Customer Advisory Board meetings. Until now, CloudHealth by VMware was the Foundation’s only Premiere Member among its vendor members. Other members include Cloudability, Densify, Kubecost and SoftwareOne. With Google Cloud, the Foundation has now signed up its first major cloud provider.

“FinOps best practices are essential for companies to monitor, analyze, and optimize cloud spend across tens to hundreds of projects that are critical to their business success,” said Yanbing Li, Vice President of Engineering and Product at Google Cloud. “More visibility, efficiency, and tools will enable our customers to improve their cloud deployments and drive greater business value. We are excited to join FinOps Foundation, and together with like-minded organizations, we will shepherd behavioral change throughout the industry.”

Google Cloud has already committed to sending members to some of the Foundation’s various Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Working Groups to “help drive open source standards for cloud financial management.”

“The practitioners in the FinOps Foundation greatly benefit when market leaders like Google Cloud invest resources and align their product offerings to FinOps principles and standards,” said J.R. Storment, Executive Director of the FinOps Foundation. “We are thrilled to see Google Cloud increase its commitment to the FinOps Foundation, joining VMware as the 2nd of 3 dedicated Premier Member Technical Advisory Council seats.”

Sendbird raises $100M at a $1B+ valuation, says 150M+ users now interact using its chat and video APIs

Posted by on 6 April, 2021

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Messaging is the medium these days, and today a startup that has built an API to help others build text and video interactivity into their services is announcing a big round to continue scaling its business. Sendbird, a popular provider of chat, video and other interactive services to the likes of Reddit, Hinge, Paytm, Delivery Hero and hundreds of others by way of a few lines of code, has closed a round of $100 million, money that it plans to use to continue expanding the functionalities of its platform to meet our changing interactive times. Sendbird has confirmed that the funding values the company at $1.05 billion.

Today, customers collectively channel some 150 million users through Sendbird’s APIs to chat with each other and large groups of users over text and video, a figure that has seen a lot of growth in particular in the last year, where people were spending so much more time in front of screens as their primary interface to communicate with the world.

Sendbird already provides some services around that core functionality such as moderation and text search. John Kim, Sendbird’s CEO and founder, said that additional developments like moderation has seen a huge take-up, and services it plans to add into the mix include payments and logistics features, and that it is looking at adding in group audio conversations for customers to build their own Clubhouse clones.

“We are getting enquiries,” said Kim. “We will be setting it up in a personalized way. Voice chat has certainly picked up due to Clubhouse.”

The funding — oversubscribed, the company says — is being led by Steadfast Financial, with Softbank’s Vision Fund 2 also participating, along with previous backers ICONIQ Capital, Tiger Global Management, and Meritech Capital. It comes about two years after Sendbird closed its Series B at $102 million, and the startup appears to have nearly doubled its valuation since then: PitchBook estimates it was around $550 million in 2019.

That growth, in a sense, is not a surprise, given not just the climate right now for virtual interaction, but the fact that Sendbird itself has tripled the number of customers using its tools since 2019. The company, co-headquartered in Seoul, Korea and San Mateo, has now raised around $221 million.

The market that Sendbird has been pecking away at since being founded in 2013 is a hefty one.

Messaging apps have become a major digital force, with a small handful of companies overtaking (and taking on) the primary features found on the most basic of phones and finding traction with people by making them easier to use and full of more interesting features to use alongside the basic functionality. That in turn has led a wave of other companies to build in their own communications features, a way both to provide more community for their users, and to keep people on their own platforms in the process.

“It’s an arms race going on between messaging and payment apps,” Sid Suri, Sendbird’s marketing head, said to me in describing the competitive landscape. “There is a high degree of urgency among all businesses to say we don’t have to lose users to any of them. White label services like ours are powering the ability to keep up.”

Sendbird is indeed one of a wave of companies that have identified both that trend and the opportunity of building that functionality out as a commodity of sorts that can be embedded anywhere a developer chooses to place it by way of an API. It’s not the only one: others in the same space include publicly-listed Twilio, the similarly-named competitor MessageBird (which is also highly capitalised and has positioned itself as a consolidator in the space), PubNub, Sinch, Stream, Firebase and many more.

That competition is one reason why Sendbird has raised money. It gives it more capital to bring on more users, and critically to invest in building out more functionality alongside its core features, to address the needs of its existing users, and to discover new opportunities to provide them with features they perhaps didn’t know they needed in their messaging channels to keep users’ attention.

“We are doing a lot around transactions and payments, as well as logistics,” Kim said in an interview. “We are really building out the end to end experience [since that] really ties into engagement. A couple of new features will be heavily around transactions, and others will be around more engagement.”

Karan Mehandru, a partner at Steadfast, is joining the board with this round, and he believes that there remains a huge opportunity especially when you consider the many verticals that have yet to adopt solid and useful communications channels within their services, such as healthcare.

“The channel that Sendbird is leveraging is the next channel we have come to expect from all brands,” he said in an interview. “Sendbird may look the same as others but if you peel the onion, providing a scalable chat experience that is highly customized is a real problem to solve. Large customers think this is critical but not a core competence and then zoom back to Sendbird because they can’t do it. Sendbird is a clear leader. Sendbird is permeating many verticals and types of companies now. This is one of those rare companies that has been at the right place at the right time.”

RPA market surges as investors, vendors capitalize on pandemic-driven tech shift

Posted by on 2 April, 2021

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When UIPath filed its S-1 last week, it was a watershed moment for the robotic process automation (RPA) market. The company, which first appeared on our radar for a $30 million Series A in 2017, has so far raised an astonishing $2 billion while still private. In February, it was valued at $35 billion when it raised $750 million in its latest round.

RPA and process automation came to the fore during the pandemic as companies took steps to digitally transform. When employees couldn’t be in the same office together, it became crucial to cobble together more automated workflows that required fewer people in the loop.

RPA has enabled executives to provide a level of workflow automation that essentially buys them time to update systems to more modern approaches while reducing the large number of mundane manual tasks that are part of every industry’s workflow.

When UIPath raised money in 2017, RPA was not well known in enterprise software circles even though it had already been around for several years. The category was gaining in popularity by that point because it addressed automation in a legacy context. That meant companies with deep legacy technology — practically everyone not born in the cloud — could automate across older platforms without ripping and replacing, an expensive and risky undertaking that most CEOs would rather not take.

RPA has enabled executives to provide a level of workflow automation, a taste of the modern. It essentially buys them time to update systems to more modern approaches while reducing the large number of mundane manual tasks that are part of just about every industry’s workflow.

While some people point to RPA as job-elimination software, it also provides a way to liberate people from some of the most mind-numbing and mundane chores in the organization. The argument goes that this frees up employees for higher level tasks.

As an example, RPA could take advantage of older workflow technologies like OCR (optical character recognition) to read a number from a form, enter the data in a spreadsheet, generate an invoice, send it for printing and mailing, and generate a Slack message to the accounting department that the task has been completed.

We’re going to take a deep dive into RPA and the larger process automation space — explore the market size and dynamics, look at the key players and the biggest investors, and finally, try to chart out where this market might go in the future.

Meet the vendors

UIPath is clearly an RPA star with a significant market share lead of 27.1%, according to IDC. Automation Anywhere is in second place with 19.4%, and Blue Prism is third with 10.3%, based on data from IDC’s July 2020 report, the last time the firm reported on the market.

Two other players with significant market share worth mentioning are WorkFusion with 6.8%, and NTT with 5%.

Kintent nabs $4M seed to automate compliance questionnaire process

Posted by on 1 April, 2021

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Every tech vendor has to pass security muster with customers, typically a tedious activity involving answering long questionnaires. Kintent, a new startup that wants to automate this process, announced a $4 million seed today led by Tola Capital with help from a bunch of tech industry angel investors.

After company co-founder and CEO Sravish Sridhar sold his previous startup Kinvey, which provided Backend as a Service to mobile app developers, he took a couple of years off while he decided what to do next. The sale to Progress Software in 2017 gave him that luxury.

He knew first-hand from his experience at Kinvey, that companies like his had to adhere to a lot of compliance standards and the idea for the next company began to form in his head. He wanted to create a new startup that could make it easier to figure out how to become compliant with a given standard, measure the current state of compliance and get recommendations on how to improve. He created Kintent to achieve that goal.

“So the big picture idea is can we build a system of record for trust and our first use case is information security and data privacy compliance, specifically if you’re a company that is building a SaaS business and you’re storing customer data or PHI, which is health information,” Sridhar explained.

The company’s product is called Trust Cloud. He says that they begin by looking at the lay of your technology land in terms of systems and the types of information you are storing, looking at how compliant each system is with whatever standard you are trying to adhere to.

Then based on how you classify your data, the Trust Cloud generates a list of best practices to stay in compliance with your desired standard, and finally it provides the means to keep testing to validate what you’ve done and that you are remaining in compliance.

The company launched in 2019, spent the first part of 2020 developing the product, and began selling it last October. Today, it has 35 paying customers. “We’re in the high six figures in revenue. We’ve been growing at about 20-30% month-over-month consistently since we launched in October, and the customers are across 11 verticals already,” he said.

With 14 employees and some money in the bank from this funding round, he is thinking ahead to adding people. He says that diversity has to be more than something you just talk about, and he has made it one of the core founding values of the company, and one he takes very seriously.

“I’m very conscious with every hire that we make that we’re really pushing to extend ourselves to [find] people from different walks of life, different statuses and so on,” he said.

The company is also working on a DEI component for the Trust Cloud, which it will be offering for free, which enables companies to provide a set of diversity metrics to measure against and then report on how well you are doing, and how you can improve your numbers.

mmhmm introduces usage-based enterprise accounts and a beta for Windows

Posted by on 1 April, 2021

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mmhmm, the software that allows folks to personalize their appearance on video chat, has today announced that its introducing usage-based enterprise accounts.

In a conversation with TechCrunch, founder and CEO Phil Libin said this is a natural evolution, remarking that mmhmm has had hundreds of registrations from users all at the same company.

“It was clear that there was a big demand for enterprise accounts,” said Libin. “Not only for central management, to keep it as easy as possible, but also for getting everything on brand. Companies and organizations of all kinds are realizing video is a permanent part of how we’re going to do business and it needs to be on brand.”

The enterprise accounts are priced the same as individual Pro accounts, at $10/month or $100/year. However, when an organization signs up with an enterprise account, they only pay for the number of users who were active on mmhmm each month, rather than worrying about seats.

Enterprise accounts can also share design system assets built specifically for mmhmm to ‘stay on brand’ as Libin said. Folks who opt in to enterprise can also control employee accounts under one umbrella, invite via link, claim an email domain and enjoy a single bill.

Libin also gave us a glimpse into the financials of the business, explaining that while it’s too early to tell, the conversion rate to Pro accounts is outpacing that of Evernote, one of Libin’s earlier ventures.

He said that, with freemium tools like both mmhmm and Evernote, the likelihood of a user upgrading to premium grows with every month they’re on the platform. At Evernote, it was half a percent after the first month, and then five percent by the end of the first year, and after two years it would jump to 12 percent.

Obviously, mmhmm doesn’t have 24 months worth of data. That said, the product is doing 10x better than Evernote did.

But revenue is not the focus, according to Libin. The company is far more concerned with ensuring the onboarding process is easy for casual users and that they really understand what they can do with the platform. In the spirit of that, mmhmm is launching new interactive tutorial videos on the platform to ensure people are fully aware of the features.

mmhmm first came on the scene in the summer of last year in a closed beta, and eventually opened up to everyone who has a Mac in November 2020. Alongside the launch of enterprise, mmhmm is also launching a Windows version of the app in open beta.

Libin said that mmhmm is in a growth stage, and that after starting five different companies, he knows the biggest challenge is people.

“I’ve been in some startups now that have been through this hyper growth stage,” said Libin. “The toughest thing at this stage is getting people, keeping people from burning out, and doing career development. This is my fifth startup, so I’m trying to demonstrate some learning behavior and apply lessons learned from previous mistakes. We’ll see how it goes.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that mmhmm was introducing Windows in a closed beta. It has been updated for accuracy. 

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