Category Archives: Tech News

On balance, the cloud has been a huge boon to startups

Posted by on 5 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Today’s startups have a distinct advantage when it comes to launching a company because of the public cloud. You don’t have to build infrastructure or worry about what happens when you scale too quickly. The cloud vendors take care of all that for you.

But last month when Pinterest announced its IPO, the company’s cloud spend raised eyebrows. You see, the company is spending $750 million a year on cloud services, more specifically to AWS. When your business is primarily focused on photos and video, and needs to scale at a regular basis, that bill is going to be high.

That price tag prompted Erica Joy, a Microsoft engineer to publish this Tweet and start a little internal debate here at TechCrunch. Startups, after all, have a dog in this fight, and it’s worth exploring if the cloud is helping feed the startup ecosystem, or sending your bills soaring as they have with Pinterest.

For starters, it’s worth pointing out that Ms. Joy works for Microsoft, which just happens to be a primary competitor of Amazon’s in the cloud business. Regardless of her personal feelings on the matter, I’m sure Microsoft would be more than happy to take over that $750 million bill from Amazon. It’s a nice chunk of business, but all that aside, do startups benefit from having access to cloud vendors?

Peter Kraus dishes on the market

Posted by on 5 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

During my recent conversation with Peter Kraus, which was supposed to be focused on Aperture and its launch of the Aperture New World Opportunities Fund, I couldn’t help veering off into tangents about the market in general. Below is Kraus’ take on the availability of alpha generation, the Fed, inflation versus Amazon, housing, the cross-ownership of U.S. equities by a few huge funds and high-frequency trading.

Gregg Schoenberg: Will alpha be more available over the next five years than it has been over the last five?

To think that at some point equities won’t become more volatile and decline 20% to 30%… I think it’s crazy.

Peter Kraus: Do I think it’s more available in the next five years than it was in the last five years? No. Do I think people will pay more attention to it? Yes, because when markets are up to 30 percent, if you get another five, it doesn’t matter. When markets are down 30 percent and I save you five by being 25 percent down, you care.

GS: Is the Fed’s next move up or down?

PK: I think the Fed does zero, nothing. In terms of its next interest rate move, in my judgment, there’s a higher probability that it’s down versus up.

New Celonis tool moves process mining vendor into customer experience

Posted by on 5 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Celonis created the idea of process mining, the act of automating the understanding and improvement of internal processes. But understanding the process in and of itself only gets you so far. Ultimately, companies need to use that information to improve the customer experience and a new operational layer announced today could help them do that.

When we think about managing the customer experience, we tend to look at the consumer-facing app or the website. If that isn’t working right, or there is unnecessary friction in the buying process, then then you can lose the customer.

But Celonis co-CEO and co-founder Alexander Rinke says that eliminating friction at the front end of the process is only part of the equation. If there is a problem anywhere in the delivery system from the manufacturer or warehouse to back-end systems, then that kind of friction can be just as problematic he says.

“Where process mining really helps is it reveals where there’s friction. The biggest challenge companies face is that there’s a ton of operational friction. Things get stuck. Things get delivered late. Customer promises get broken,” he said.

Part of what makes Amazon work so well isn’t just that customers can easily place orders on a website or app, but also that Amazon has figured out how to pick the order and get it to the customer in the promised amount of time. If there were any delays in that process, people wouldn’t gravitate toward Amazon as much as they do.

But most companies don’t have the operational excellence of Amazon and that’s where Celonis thinks it can help — by identifying the bumps in the operational road and finding ways to smooth those out in an automated fashion. “Initially, we sold a product for discovery, laying the land, understanding what’s going on in complex companies. And now we see more and more companies moving into operationalizing these insights, so acting on them, fixing things that are broken, and wanting to automate these fixes,” Rinke explained.

The company’s answer to this is the Beta of Workflow Engine, a tool that is designed to help companies improve that operational flow. As it describes it, “The no-code, point-and-click workflow allows business analysts to arrange process steps and connect process flows across systems.” It includes templates out of the box for common tools like SAP, Oracle, Salesforce.com, ServiceNow, Jira, etc.

He says as an example, a company may have switched to electronic payments, but it’s finding customers aren’t moving with them. They can use the tool to identify those customers and offer a discount on their next order if they pay electronically without bothering the folks who are already doing it.

The company also announced a new tool to help connect easily to SAP systems. As Rinke points out, there are hundreds of these systems running the back-end (finance, inventory, HR, etc.) at companies all over the world. It’s not always easy to connect to them because of their age and complexity.

To that end, the company revealed it has bought Banyas, a tool designed to help automate workflow from SAP systems, and one that should fit in nicely with the company’s vision to automate and understand process flows across large organizations.

Celonis was founded in 2011. Today it has over 700 employees, and has raised almost $78 million.

WeWork acquires Managed By Q

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Managed By Q, the office management platform based out of New York, has today been acquired by The We Company, formerly known as WeWork.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The WSJ reports that it was a cash and stock deal. Managed By Q, which has 500 employees, will remain as a wholly owned separate entity and CEO Dan Teran will remain on following the acquisition to join WeWork leadership.

Upon its latest financing in January, Managed By Q was valued at $249 million, according to PitchBook.

Here’s what Teran had to say in a prepared statement:

We are excited for this incredible opportunity to deepen our commitment to realizing our ambitious vision of building an operating system for the built world. WeWork is uniquely positioned to invest in workplace technology and services, and I look forward to partnering with their team to build more robust products for our clients and create a global platform to help companies push the bounds on our collective potential.

Managed By Q was founded in 2014 with a plan to change the way that offices run. The platform allowed office managers and other decision-makers to handle supply stocking, cleaning, IT support and other non-work related tasks in the office by simply using the Managed By Q dashboard. Managed By Q serves the demand through a combination of in-house operators and third-party vendors and service providers.

Notably, Managed By Q took a different tack than most other logistics companies, employing their operators as W2 workers instead of 1099 contractors. Moreover, Managed By Q offered a stock option plan to operators that gives 5 percent of the company back to those employees.

The company has raised a total of $128.25 million since launch from investors such as GV, RRE and Kapor Capital. Managed By Q currently serves the markets of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Silicon Valley, with plans to aggressively expand following the acquisition, according to the WSJ.

Not only has Managed By Q swiftly matured into a big player in the NY tech scene and Future Of Work space, but it has also fostered interesting competition and consolidation within the space. Managed By Q has itself made several acquisitions, including the purchase of NVS (an office space planning and project management service) and Hivy (an internal comms tool to let employees tell office managers what they need).

Google Drive adds workflow integrations with DocuSign, K2 and Nintex

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Google today announced a few new workflow integrations for its Drive file storage service that’ll bring to the service support for some features from DocuSign and process automation platforms K2 and Nintex.

None of these new integrations are all that unusual, but if you use a combination of Drive and the newly supported tools, they will undoubtedly make your daily work a little bit easier.

For DocuSign, the new integration lets you prepare, sign and store your documents right in Google Drive, as well as trigger actions like billing, account activation and payments after an agreement has been signed.

The K2 integration is a bit different and focuses on that company’s machine learning tools. It’ll allow users to train models on a workflow (using Google machine learning tools) and then, for example, determine whether a loan should be automatically approved or denied, with all of the information about those requests and the approval process stored in a Google Sheet. The integration also supports more pedestrian use cases, though, including the ability to make lots of documents in Drive more easily discoverable.

“K2 is committed to simplifying the way in which our customers connect and manage their information, whether it resides on-premise or in the cloud,” said Eyal Inbar, vice president of Global Technology Alliances at K2. “By integrating with Google Drive, we are able to put the next-generation of content management services in the hands of our customers so they can build and implement powerful workflows into their applications.”

Nintex’s solution seems to be a bit more specialized, with a focus on contract management lifecycles for HR, legal and sales use cases. There’s nothing exciting about managing contracts, but that’s probably a good thing, and ideally, adding more automation will help to keep it that way.

Torch takes $10M to teach empathy to executives

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

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When everyone always tells you ‘yes’, you can become a monster. Leaders especially need honest feedback to grow. “If you look at rich people like Donald Trump and you neglect them, you get more Donald Trumps” says Torch co-founder and CEO Cameron Yarbrough about our gruff president. His app wants to make executive coaching (a polite word for therapy) part of even the busiest executive’s schedule. Torch conducts a 360 interview with a client and their employees to assess weaknesses, lays out improvement goals, and provides one-on-one video chat sessions with trained counselors.

“Essentially we’re trying to help that person develop the capacity to be a more loving human being in the workplace” Yarbrough explains. That’s crucial in the age of ‘hustle porn’ where everyone tries to pretend they’re working all the time and constantly ‘crushing it’. That can leave leaders facing challenges feeling alone and unworthy. Torch wants to provide a private place to reach out for a helping hand or shoulder to cry on.

Now Torch is ready to lead the way to better management for more companies, as it’s just raised  $10 million Series A round led by Norwest Ventures along with Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, and West Ventures. It already has 100 clients including Reddit and Atrium, but the new cash will fuel its go-to market strategy. Rather than trying to democratize access to coaching, Torch is doubling-down on teaching founders, C-suites, and other senior executives how to care…or not care too much.

“I came out of a tough family myself and I had to do a ton of therapy and a ton of meditation to emerge and be an effective leader myself” Yarbrough recalls. “Philosophically, I care about personal growth. It’s just true all the way down to birth for me. What I’m selling is authentic to who I am.”

Torch’s co-founders met when they were in grad school for counseling psychology degrees, practicing group therapy sessions together. Yarbrough went on to practice clinically and start Well Clinic in the Bay Area while Keegan Walden got his PhD. Yarbrough worked with married couples to resolve troubles, and “the next thing i know I was working with high profile startup founders, who like anybody have their fair share of conflicts.”

Torch co-founders (from left): Cameron Yarbrough and Keegan Walden

Coaching romantic partners to be upfront about expectations and kind during arguments translated seamlessly to keep co-founders from buckling under stress. Yarbrough outlines how “I was noticing that they were consistently having problems with 5 different things:

1. Communication – Surfacing problems early with kindness

2. Healthy workplace boundaries – Making sure people don’t step on each other’s toes

3. How to manage conflict in a healthy way – Staying calm and avoiding finger-pointing

4. How to be positively influential – Being motivational without being annoying or pushy

5. How to manage one’s ego, whether that’s insecurity or narcissism – Seeing the team’s win as the first priority

To address those, companies hire Torch to coach one or more of their executives. Torch conducts extensive 360 interviews with the exec, as well as their reports, employees, and peers. It seeks to score them on empathy, visionary thinking, communication, conflict, management and collaboration, Torch then structures goals and improvement timelines that it tracks with follow-up interviews the team and quantifiable metrics that can all be tracked by HR through a software dashboard.

To make progress on these fronts, execs do video chat sessions through Torch’s app with coaches trained in these skills. “These are all working people with by nature very tight schedules. They don’t have time to come in for a live session so we come to them in the form of video” Yarbough tells me. Rates vary from $500 per month to $1500 per month for a senior coach in the US, Europe, APAC, or EMEA with Torch scoring a significant margin. “We’re B2B only. We’re not focused on being the most affordable solution. We’re focused on being the most effective. And we find that there’s less price sensitivity for senior leaders where the cost of their underperformance is incredibly high to the organization.” Torch’s top source of churn is clients’ going out of business, not ceasing to want its services.

Here are two examples of how big-wigs get better with Torch. “Let’s say we have a client who really just wants to be liked all the time, so much so that they have a hard time getting things done. The feedback from the 360 would come back like ‘I find that Cameron is continually telling me what I want to hear but I don’t know what the expectations are of me and I need him to be more direct.’” Yarbrough explains. “The problem is those leaders will eventually fire those people who are failing, but they’ll say they had no idea they weren’t performing because he never told them.” Torch’s coaches can teach them to practice tough-love when necessary and be more transparent. Meanwhile, a boss who storms around the office and “is super direct and unkind” could be instructed on how to “develop more empathic attunement.”

Yarbrough specifically designed Torch’s software to not be too prescriptive and leave room for the relationship between the coach and client to unfold. And for privacy, coaches don’t record notes and HR only sees the performance goals and progress, not the content of the video chats. It wants execs to feel comfortable getting real without the worry their personal or trade secrets could leak. “And if someone is bringing in something about trauma or that’s super sensitive about their personal life, their coach will refer them out to psychotherapists” Yarbrough assures me.

Torch’s direct competition comes from boutique executive coaching firms around the world, while on the tech side BetterUp is trying to make coaching scale to every type of employee. But its biggest foe is the stubborn status quo of stiff upper lipping it.

The startup world has been plagued by too many tragic suicides, deep depression, and paralyzing burnout. It’s easy for founders to judge their own worth not by self-confidence or even the absolute value of their accomplishments, but by their status relative to yesterday. That means one blown deal, employee quitting, or product delay can make an executive feel awful. But if they turn to their peers or investors, it could hurt their partnership and fundraising prospects. To keep putting in the work, they need an emotional outlet.

“We ultimately have to create this great software that super-powers human beings. People are not robots yet. They will be someday, but not yet” Yarbrough concludes with a laugh. IQ alone doesn’t make people succeed. Torch can help them develop the EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient, they need to become a boss that’s looked up to.

Rippling raises $45M at $270M to be the biz app identity layer

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Parker Conrad’s last startup Zenefits drowned in busy work. Now with Rippling, he wants to boil that ocean. Instead of trying to nail one thing then expand, “very counter to conventional wisdom, we took on something that’s a lot broader and more ambitious.” That meant spending 2 years with 40 engineers working in stealth to build integrations with nearly every popular business tool to combine HR, IT, and single-sign on services. The result is that when you hire an employee, Rippling onboards them to all those services in a single click. Goodbye, busy work. Hello, gateway to the enterprise app ecosystem.

The past few years have seen a Cambrian explosion of startups building specialty software for office productivity and collaboration. But that’s left customers struggling to get their teams set up on all these fragmented tools. As such, Rippling had a very good first year on the market with rapidly growing revenue. So when Rippling went out to raise money, Conrad was signing terms sheets in just over a week.

$45 million. “I know that rounds are bigger these days but still, for a Series A that’s pretty substantial” Conrad tells me with a wide grin over coffee at San Francisco’s Four Barrel. “We We want to keep doubling down on the engineering, investing and putting more money into R&D, so we have a real product advantages and technology advantages over other players in our space even though a lot of them have been around a lot longer than we have.” The Information‘s Zoe Bernard had reported Rippling was raising at least $30 million.

Rippling’s round was led by Kleiner Perkins and its enterprise guru Mamoon Hamid. Conrad tells me “Many of the metrics you use to evaluate SAAS companies were invented by Mamoon. He really knows his stuff. He’s also just a really great person.” Kleiner was his dream partner for Rippling. “I remember when I was in high school, Kleiner Perkins was the only VC firm I’d ever heard of. When I was a little kid, I thought ‘Oh that’d be cool some day.’” The round was joined by Initialized Capital, Threshold Ventures (formerly DFJ), and Y Combinator.

A source confirms the round was a stunning $270 million valuation. Hamid was also skeptical about Rippling trying to integrate with everyone before launch. But he says “What was a concern a few years ago is now something we like about the company.” After getting pitched so many piecemeal enterprise solutions, it suddenly clicked for Hamid why customers would want “one stop for everything. You need an independent party to be that glue layer.” 

Typically, enterprise software is an unglued mess. Apps don’t talk to each other, so when you hire a new employee, you have to manually add them, their role, their team, their manager, their permissions and more to every single tool your team uses. There’s HR systems that control payroll and benefits, IT systems that determine what equipment you’re issued, productivity and collaboration apps like Slack and Dropbox, and department-specific tools like Salesforce or Github. Conrad believes manually updating these with each hire, fire, or promotion is the source of almost all administrative work at a company.

The willingness to slog through office chores rather than strategically nullify them is why Zenefits grew so fast, then suddenly hit a wall. What can be begrudgingly brute forced at 50 employees becomes impossible to manage at 500 employees. That’s why “We don’t want to have anything that’s not software end to end in the product.” If it requires a client to call Rippling’s operations team for help, it could be built better. That maniacal focus actually allowed Conrad to temporarily hold Rippling’s only role responding to user complaints, which he also credits with propelling rapid iteration. The CEO wants to remain in that mindset, so he still lists his job title on LinkedIn as “Customer Support”.

Conrad seems to have convinced investors that though he was pushed out of his $4.5 billion valuation HR startup Zenefits, he was more responsible for its rise than its fall. Conrad had built a script that made it easier for Zenefits’ staffers to get certifications to sell insurance, leading to a scandal and his departure. The desire to speed things up was another symptom of busy work draining the company’s time.

Rippling only truly began hiring more than engineers when it came out of stealth a year ago. Now the startup has established two lucrative business models. First, it earns reseller fees from other enterprise tool makers when people buy them through the Rippling gateway. Any developer with a well-established brand becomes an integrated Rippling partner. It’s not going to try to out-build Zoom or Mailchimp. “As Rippling is successful, what I think it can do is bring a lot of customers to these other businesses.

Meanwhile, Rippling develops its own in-house versions of undifferentiated parts of the HR and IT stacks like PTO management or commuter benefits. Customers aren’t loyal to a brand in these areas yet, so it’s easy for Rippling to swoop in. And it can charge a similar rate, but beat competitors on convenience because its homegrown systems integrate directly with Rippling’s source of truth on employee details.

Now with its business revving up and plenty of cash to fuel the engine, Conrad tells me his biggest concern is hiring the right people. “The really challenging thing in a company is when the headcount grows too quickly. I’m making sure we don’t do things like more than double headcount in a 12 month period” he tells me. While Zenefits was a mad blitz for scale, Conrad has tried to bias Rippling towards action without being so impulsive that the company makes mistakes. “It’s never easy, but we’re not yet at the scale where things become really scary. We have a little bit more time to hit milestones” he explains about trying to run a business at a more liveable pace while being an active dad too.

Luckily, Zenfits taught him how to avoid many of the pitfalls of entrepreneurship. Conrad concludes that he’s happy to have gone from “playing video games on impossible mode vs medium mode.”

Okta unveils $50M in-house venture capital fund

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Identity management software provider Okta, which went public two years ago in what was one of the first pure-cloud subscription-based company IPOs, wants to fund the next generation of identity, security and privacy startups.

At its big customer conference Oktane, where the company has also announced a new level of identity protection at the server level, chief operating officer Frederic Kerrest (pictured above, right, with chief executive officer Todd McKinnon) will unveil a $50 million investment fund meant to back early-stage startups leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain technology.

“We view this as a natural extension of what we are doing today,” Okta senior vice president Monty Gray told TechCrunch. Gray was hired last year to oversee corporate development, i.e. beef up Okta’s M&A strategy.

Gray and Kerrest tell TechCrunch that Okta Ventures will invest capital in existing Okta partners, as well as other companies in the burgeoning identity management ecosystem. The team managing the fund will look to Okta’s former backers, Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock, for support in the deal sourcing process.

Okta Ventures will write checks sized between $250,000 and $2 million to eight to 10 early-stage businesses per year.

“It’s just a way of making sure we are aligning all our work and support with the right companies who have the right vision and values because there’s a lot of noise around identity, ML and AI,” Kerrest said. “It’s about formalizing the support strategy we’ve had for years and making sure people are clear of the fact we are helping these organizations build because it’s helpful to our customers.”

Okta Ventures’ first bet is Trusted Key, a blockchain-based digital identity platform that previously raised $3 million from Founders Co-Op. Okta’s investment in the startup, founded by former Microsoft, Oracle and Symantec executives, represents its expanding interest in the blockchain.

“Blockchain as a backdrop for identity is cutting edge if not bleeding edge,” Gray said.

Okta, founded in 2009, had raised precisely $231 million from Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, Khosla Ventures, Floodgate and others prior to its exit. The company’s stock has fared well since its IPO, debuting at $17 per share in 2017 and climbing to more than $85 apiece with a market cap of $9.6 billion as of Tuesday closing.

Enterprise blockchain startup Offchain Labs scores $3.7M seed round

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Two of the issues limiting blockchain adoption in the enterprise has been lack of scalability and privacy. Offchain Labs, a startup that spun out of research at Princeton, wants to help create more scalable smart contracts while shifting part of the process off of the public blockchain to increase privacy. Today, the company announced a $3.7M seed round led by Pantera Capital.

Compound VC, Raphael Ouzan of Blocknation, Jake Seid, managing director at Stone Bridge Ventures and other unnamed investors also participated.

The startup has created a protocol called Arbitrum that helps developers scale smart contracts in a way that’s difficult to do right now, says company co-founder Ed Felten. “We’re working to build a platform for smart contract development that provides what we think developers want, a combination of scalability so that you can scale to more transactions per second, more users, and to contracts that have more code and still have more data in them,” he explained.

In addition to scalability, the company believes that companies want a way to business without sharing everything they are doing, as is required on a public chain. “The second thing we think people want is privacy, meaning control over who gets to see what’s happening in their contract. So you don’t have to publish everything about your contracts, your code and everything it does on a public chain in order to get your work done.”

The last piece related to that is trust. “Our platform offers what we call the ‘Any Trust Guarantee’, which means that when you launch or deploy your contract, you specify a set of validators for it. And the guarantee we give you is that as long as at least one validator is acting honestly, your contract will execute correctly, no matter how evil or inattentive the other validators are,” Felten said.

The company was born out of research at Princeton University and began with what Felten called an academic prototype created in their labs. Felten is a computer science professor at Princeton, and also served as Deputy CTO to the White House under President Obama,

Those credentials and the prototype showed enough to attract investors. Today, the company is hoping to use the money to complete a Beta version of Arbitrum. He wouldn’t commit to a timeline, but said the product is close.

While Felten recognizes he is competing with giants like IBM and SAP in the enterprise blockchain space, he believes that the startup has come up with a solution to a persistent problem for blockchain developers, and they are releasing the protocol as open source to make it even more attractive.

Onfido, which verifies IDs using AI, nabs $50M from SoftBank, Salesforce, Microsoft and more

Posted by on 3 April, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Security breaches, where malicious hackers obtain snippets of information that then get used to impersonate individuals in order to gain access to individuals’ and businesses’ sensitive financial and other private information, have become par for the course in the world of digital services. More than 2.7 billion records were  breached in a single incident this year in the US, and overall the damage from incidents like these potentially runs into the trillions of dollars globally.

Today, a startup called Onfido, which uses AI techniques combined with human verifiers to efficiently verify people are who they say they are when using digital services — is today announcing $50 million in funding to help address that ongoing — and growing — problem.

The funding comes on the heels of some very strong growth for the startup, which was founded in London but now operates most of its business out of San Francisco. In an interview, co-founder and CEO Husayn Kassai said that more than half of its customers, and most of its new growth, is coming out of the US.

Onfido uses computer vision and a number of other AI-based technologies to verify against some 4,500 different types of identity documents, using techniques like “facial liveness testing,” to see patterns invisible to the human eye, now has 1,500 businesses as customers, primarily in categories like marketplaces and communities, gaming and financial services, including companies like Remitly, Zipcar and Europcar; and in the last year, it had sales growth of 342 percent. Kassai said that it has to date verified “tens of millions” of IDs.

The money — a Series C2, technically — is coming from a group that includes top strategic tech investors. The round is being co-led by SoftBank Investment (SBI) and Salesforce Ventures, with M12Capital (the new name for Microsoft Ventures), FinVC and other unnamed new and previous investors are also participating. That’s a signal not just of how the biggest companies in that sector today are grappling with this problem, but also what approach they are using to solve it.

For SoftBank, the investment is separate from the Vision fund, founder and CEO Husayn Kassai noted, but it’s notable that a lot of the businesses that have been backed out of that fund — companies like Didi, Uber, Oyo, Lemonade, and others — fundamentally rely on people trusting that they are handling personal details securely while also carefully vetting suppliers on the platform (meaning, they need and use services like Onfido’s).

Meanwhile, both Microsoft and Salesforce have extensive enterprise businesses that could see multiple benefits from working with an identity verification provider, not just for their own purposes, but as a service that is sold on to its customers as part of a larger identity management and security offering.

The company is not revealing its valuation but has raised around $100 million to date and Kassai confirmed that it was an upround, with “a lot of happy investors.”

“We have strong metrics, and we have a long way to go in our growth,” he added.

There are a lot of companies today offering services to help offer secure services to authenticate users, for example, to help them log on to their work accounts or to access their online banking services. Onfido’s business focuses on the first step in all of this — customer onboarding — specifically around services geared towards consumers.

The opportunity that has opened up for it has been the result of more than just a rise in breaches. There’s also been a growing realization that a lot of the existing services that had been used for verification are simply not fit for purpose: either they too have been breached — as in the case of some of the bigger credit agencies like Equifax — or are not realistically efficient enough for how many online services run today, such as in the case of in-person verifications. (Onfido claims that its system can make a verification in as little as 15 seconds.)

Or, they are part of the new guard that has shifted its approach to the business of ID verificiation, either by choice or force. One would-be competitor from the past, Checkr, is now a partner of Onfido’s, Kassai noted. Others like Jumio — which is still grappling with the fallout from major illegal missteps from previous management — seem to still be trying to find their feet as standalone businesses.

“Fraud is rising and not going anywhere,” Kassai — who co-founded the company with Ruhul Amin and Eamon Jubbawy — said. “And the problem is that there are a dozen other companies that have not done a good enough job to detect it so far.” While no service is perfect — Onfido says that its “risk exposure” is 0.195 percent — he says that the advantage of building its service on top of AI means that the algorithms use every experience to continue honing its accuracy. “What we learn from one client gets applied everywhere,” he notes.

“There has never been a more important time for companies to build trust with their customers by showing they are one step ahead of fraudsters,” said Frank van Veenendaal, the ex-vice chairman of Salesforce, who is joining the board with this round. “I believe Onfido has the unique opportunity to transform the digital identity market and deliver robust and scalable authentication-as-a-service, similar to how Salesforce transformed customer relationship management.”

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