Celonis announces significant partnership with IBM to sell its process mining software

Posted by on 1 April, 2021

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Before you can improve a workflow, you have to understand how work advances through a business, which is more complex than you might imagine inside a large enterprise. That’s where Celonis comes in. It uses software to identify how work moves through an organization and suggests more efficient ways of getting the same work done, also known as process mining

Today, the company announced a significant partnership with IBM where IBM Global Services will train 10,000 consultants worldwide on Celonis. The deal gives Celonis, a company with around 1200 employees access to the massive selling and consulting unit, while IBM gets a deep understanding of a piece of technology that is at the front end of the workflow automation trend.

Miguel Milano, chief revenue officer at Celonis says that digitizing processes has been a trend for several years. It has sped up due to COVID, and it’s partly why the two companies have decided to work together. “Intelligent workflows, or more broadly spoken workflows built to help companies execute better, are at the heart of this partnership and it’s at the heart of this trend now in the market,” Milano said.

The other part of this is that IBM now owns Red Hat, which it acquired in 2018 for $34 billion. The two companies believe that by combining the Celonis technology, which is cloud based, with Red Hat, which can span the hybrid world of on premises and cloud, the two together can provide a much more powerful solution to follow work wherever it happens.

“I do think that moving the [Celonis] software into the Red Hat OpenShift environment is hugely powerful because it does allow in what’s already a very powerful open solution to now operate across this hybrid cloud world, leveraging the power of OpenShift which can straddle the worlds of mainframe, private cloud and public cloud. And data straddle those worlds, and will continue to straddle those worlds,” Mark Foster, senior vice president at IBM Services explained.

You might think that IBM, which acquired robotic process automation vendor, WDG Automation last summer, would simply attempt to buy Celonis, but Foster says the partnership is consistent with the company’s attempt to partner with a broader ecosystem.

“I think that this is very much part of an overarching focus of IBM with key ecosystem partners. Some of them are going to be bigger, some of them are going to be smaller, and […] I think this is one where we see the opportunity to connect with an organization that’s taking a leading position in its category, and the opportunity for that to take advantage of the IBM Red Hat technologies…” he said.

The companies had already been working together for some time prior to this formal announcement, and this partnership is the culmination of that. As this firmer commitment to one another goes into effect, the two companies will be working more closely to train thousands of IBM consultants on the technology, while moving the Celonis solution into Red Hat OpenShift in the coming months.

It’s clearly a big deal with the feel of an acquisition, but Milano says that this is about executing his company’s strategy to work with more systems integrators (SIs), and while IBM is a significant partner it’s not the only one.

“We are becoming an SI consulting-driven organization. So we put consulting companies like IBM at the forefront of our strategy, and this [deal] is a big cornerstone of our strategy,” he said.

Posted Under: Tech News
PingPong is a video chat app for product teams working across multiple time zones

Posted by on 31 March, 2021

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From the earliest days of the pandemic, it was no secret that video chat was about to become a very hot space.

Over the past several months investors have bankrolled a handful of video startups with specific niches, ranging from always-on office surveillance to platforms that encouraged plenty of mini calls to avoid the need for more lengthy team-wide meetings. As the pandemic wanes and plenty of startups begin to look towards hybrid office models, there are others who have decided to lean into embracing a fully remote workforce, a strategy that may require new tools.

PingPong, a recent launch from Y Combinator’s latest batch, is building an asynchronous video chat app for the workplace. We selected PingPong as one of our favorite startups that debuted last week.

The company’s central sell is that for remote teams, there needs to be a better alternative to Slack or email for catching up with co-workers across time zones. While Zoom calls might be able to convey a company’s culture better than a post in a company-wide Slack channel, for fully remote teams operating on different continents, scheduling a company-wide meeting is often a non-starter.

PingPong is selling its service as an addendum to Slack that helps remote product teams collaborate and convey what they’re working on. Users can capture a short video of themselves and share their screen in lieu of a standup presentation and then they can get caught up on each other’s progress on their own time. PingPong’s hope is that users find more value in brainstorming, conducting design reviews, reporting bugs and more inside while using asynchronous video than they would with text.

“We have a lot to do before we can replace Slack, so right now we kind of emphasize playing nice with Slack,” PingPong CEO Jeff Whitlock tells TechCrunch. “Our longer term vision is that what young people are doing in their consumer lives, they bring into the enterprise when they graduate into the workforce. You and I were using Instant Messenger all the time in the early 2000s and then we got to the workplace, that was the opportunity for Slack… We believe in the next five or so years, something that’s a richer, more asynchronous video-based Slack alternative will have a lot more interest.”

Building a chat app specifically designed for remote product teams operating in multiple time zones is a tight niche for now, but Whitlock believes that this will become a more common problem as companies embrace the benefits of remote teams post-pandemic. PingPong costs $100 per user per year.

Posted Under: Tech News
Hex lands $5.5M seed to help data scientists share data across the company

Posted by on 31 March, 2021

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As companies embrace the use of data, hiring more data scientists, a roadblock persists around sharing that data. It requires too much copying and pasting and manual work. Hex, a new startup, wants to change that by providing a way to dispense data across the company in a streamlined and elegant way.

Today, the company announced a $5.5 million seed investment, and also announced that it’s opening up the product from a limited beta to be more widely available. The round was led by Amplify Partners with help from Box Group, XYZ, Data Community Fund, Operator Collective and a variety of individual investors. The company closed the round last July, but is announcing it for the first time today.

Co-founder and CEO Barry McCardel says that it’s clear that companies are becoming more data-driven and hiring data scientists and analysts at a rapid pace, but there is an issue around data sharing, one that he and his co-founders experienced first-hand when they were working at Palantir.

They decided to develop a purpose-built tool for sharing data with other parts of the organization that are less analytically technical than the data science team working with these data sets. “What we do is we make it very easy for data scientists to connect to their data, analyze and explore it in notebooks. […] And then they can share their work as interactive data apps that anyone else can use,” McCardel explained.

Most data scientists work with their data in online notebooks like Jupyter where they can build SQL queries and enter Python code to organize it, chart it, and so forth. What Hex is doing is creating this super-charged notebook that lets you pull a data set from Snowflake or Amazon Redshift, work with and format the data in an easy way, then drag and drop components from the notebook page — maybe a chart or a data set — and very quickly build a kind of app that you can share with others.

Image Credits: Hex

The startup has 9 employees including co-founders McCardel, CTO Caitlin Colgrove and VP of architecture Glen Takahashi. “We’ve really focused on the team front from an early stage, making sure that we’re building a diverse team. And actually today our engineering team is majority female, which is definitely the first time that that’s ever happened to me,” Colgrove said.

She is also part of a small percentage of female founders. A report last year from Silicon Valley Bank, found that while the number was heading in the right direction, only 28% of US startups have at least one female founder. That was up from 22% in 2017.

The company was founded in late 2019 and the founders spent a good part of last year building the product and working with design partners. They have a small set of paying customers, and are looking to expand that starting today. While customers still need to work with the Hex team for now to get going, the plan is to make the product self-serve some time later this year.

Hex’s early customers include Glossier, imgur and Pave.

Posted Under: Tech News
Moveworks expands IT chatbot platform to encompass entire organization

Posted by on 31 March, 2021

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When investors gave Moveworks a hefty $75 million Series B at the end of 2019, they were investing in a chatbot startup that to that point had been tuned to answer IT help question in an automated way. Today, the company announced it had used that money to expand the platform to encompass employee questions across all lines of business.

At the time of that funding, nobody could have anticipated a pandemic either, but throughout last year as companies moved to work from home, having an automated systems in place like Moveworks became even more crucial, says CEO and company co-founder Bhavin Shah.

“It was a tragic year on a variety of fronts, but what it did was it coalesced a lot of energy around people’s need for support, people’s need for speed and help,” Shah said. It helps that employees typically access the Moveworks chatbot inside collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and people have been spending more time in these tools while working at home.

“We definitely saw a lot more interest in the market, and part of that was fueled by the large scale adoption of collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams by enterprises around the world,” he said.

The company is working with 100 large enterprise customers today, and those customers were looking for a more automated way for employees to ask questions about a variety of tooling from HR to finance and facilities management. While Shah says expanding the platform to move beyond IT into other parts of an organization had been on the roadmap, the pandemic definitely underscored the need to expand even more.

While the company spent its first several years tuning the underlying artificial intelligence technology for IT language, they had built it with expansion in mind. “We learned how to build a conversational system so that it can be dynamic and not be predicated on some person’s forethought around [what the question and answer will be] — that approach doesn’t scale. So there were a lot of things around dealing with all these enterprise resources and so forth that really prepared us to be an enterprise-wide partner,” Shah said.

The company also announced a new communications tool that enables companies to use the Moveworks bot to communicate directly with employees to get them to take some action. Shah says companies usually send out an email that for example, employees have to update their password. The bot tells you it’s time to do that and provides a link to walk you through the process. He says that beta testers have seen a 70% increase in responses using the bot to communicate about an action instead of email.

Shah recognizes that a technology that understands language is going to have a lot of cultural variances and nuances and that requires a diverse team to build a tool like this. He says that his HR team has a set of mandates to make sure they are interviewing people in under-represented roles to build a team that reflects the needs of the customer base and the world at large.

The company has been working with about a dozen customers over the last 9 months on the platform expansion, iterating with these customers to improve the quality of the responses, regardless of the type of question or which department it involves. Today, these tools are generally available.

Posted Under: Tech News
6sense raises $125M at a $2.1B valuation for its ‘ID graph’, an AI-based predictive sales and marketing platform

Posted by on 30 March, 2021

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AI has become a fundamental cornerstone of how tech companies are building tools for salespeople: they are useful for supercharging (and complementing) the abilities of talented humans, or helping them keep themselves significantly more organised; even if in some cases — as with chatbots — they are replacing them altogether. In the latest development, 6sense, one of the pioneers in using AI to boost the sales and marketing experience, is announcing a major round of funding that underscores the traction AI tools are seeing in the sales realm.

The startup has raised $125 million at a valuation of $2.1 billion, a Series D being led by D1 Capital Partners, with Sapphire Ventures, Tiger Global and previous backer Insight Partners also participating.

The company plans to use the funding to expand its platform and its predictive capabilities across a wider range of sources.

For some context, this is a huge jump for the company compared to its last fundraise: at the end of 2019, when it raised $40 million, it was valued at a mere $300 million, according to data from PitchBook.

But it’s not a big surprise: at a time when a lot of companies are going through “digital transformation” and investing in better tools for their employees to work more efficiently remotely (especially important for sales people who might have previously worked together in physical teams), 6sense is on track for its fourth year of more than 100% growth, adding 100 new customers in the fourth quarter alone. It caters to small, medium, and large businesses, and some of its customers include Dell, Mediafly, Sage and SocialChorus.

The company’s approach speaks to a classic problem that AI tools are often tasked with solving: the data that sales people need to use and keep up to date on customer accounts, and critically targets, lives in a number of different silos — they can include CRM systems, or large databases outside of the company, or signals on social media.

While some tools are being built to handle all of that from the ground up, 6sense takes a different approach, providing a way of ingesting and utilizing all of it to get a complete picture of a company and the individuals a salesperson might want to target within it. It takes into account some of the harder nuts to crack in the market, such as how to track “anonymous buying behavior” to a more concrete customer name; how to prioritizes accounts according to those most likely to buy; and planning for multi-channel campaigns.

6sense has patented the technology it uses to achieve this and calls its approach building an “ID graph.” (Which you can think of as the sales equivalent of the social graph of Facebook, or the knowledge graph that LinkedIn has aimed to build mapping skills and jobs globally.) The key with 6sense is that it is building a set of tools that not just sales people can use, but marketers too — useful since the two sit much closer together at companies these days.

Jason Zintak, the company’s CEO (who worked for many years as a salesperson himself, so gets the pain points very well), referred to the approach and concept behind 6sense as “revtech”: aimed at organizations in the business whose work generates revenue for the company.

“Our AI is focused on signal, identifying companies that are in the market to buy something,” said Zintak in an interview. “Once you have that you can sell to them.”

That focus and traction with customers is one reason investors are interested.

“Customer conversations are a critical part of our due diligence process, and the feedback from 6sense customers is among the best we’ve heard,” said Dan Sundheim, founder and chief investment officer at D1 Capital Partners, in a statement. “Improving revenue results is a goal for every business, but it’s easier said than done. The way 6sense consistently creates value for customers made it clear that they deliver a unique, must-have solution for B2B revenue teams.”

Teddie Wardi at Insight highlights that AI and the predictive elements of 6sense’s technology — which have been a consistent part of the product since it was founded — are what help it stand out.

“AI generally is a buzzword, but here it is a key part of the solution, the brand behind the platform,” he said in an interview. “Instead of having massive funnels, 6sense switches the whole thing around. Catching the right person at the right time and in the right context make sales and marketing more effective. And the AI piece is what really powers it. It uses signals to construct the buyer journey and tell the sales person when it is the right time to engage.”

Posted Under: Tech News
HYCU raises $87.5M to take on Rubrik and the rest in multi-cloud data backup and recovery

Posted by on 30 March, 2021

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As more companies become ever more reliant on digital infrastructure for everyday work, the more they become major targets for malicious hackers — both trends accelerated by the pandemic — and that is leading to an ever-greater need for IT and security departments to find ways of protecting data should it become compromised. Today, one of the companies that has emerged as a strong player in data backup and recovery is announcing its first major round of funding.

HYCU, which provides multi-cloud backup and recovery services for mid-market and enterprise customers, has raised $87.5 million, a Series A that it the Boston-based startup will be using to invest in building out its platform further, to bring its services into more markets, and to hire 100 more people.

HYCU’s premise and ambition, CEO and founder Simon Taylor said in an interview, is to provide backup and storage services that are as simple to use “as backing up in iCloud for consumers.”

“If you look at primary storage, it’s become very SaaS-ifed, with no professional services required,” he continued. “But backup has stayed very legacy. It’s still mostly focused on one specific environment and can’t perform well when multi-cloud is being used.”

And HYCU’s name fits with that ethos. It is pronounced “haiku”, which Taylor told me refers not just to that Japanese poetic form that looks simple but hides a lot of meaning, but also “hybrid cloud uptime.”

The company is probably known best for its integration with Nutanix, but has over time expanded to serve enterprises building and operating IT and apps over VMware, Google Cloud, Azure and AWS. The company also has built a tool to help migrate data for enterprises, HYCU Protégé, which will also be expanded.

The funding is being led by Bain Capital Ventures, with participation also from Acrew Capital (which was also in the news last week as an investor in the $118 million round for Pie Insurance). The valuation is not being disclosed.

This is the first major outside funding that the company has announced since being founded in 2018, but in that time it has grown into a sizeable competitor against others like Rubrik, Veeam, Veritas and CommVault. The Rubrik comparison is interesting, given that it is also backed by Bain (which led a $261 million round in Rubrik in 2019). HYCU now has more than 2,000 customers in 75 countries. Taylor says that not taking funding while growing into what it has become meant that it was “listening and closer to the needs of our customers,” rather than spending more time paying attention to what investors says.

Now that it’s reached a certain scale, though, things appear to be shifting and there will probably be more money down the line. “This is just round one for us,” Taylor said.

He added that this funding came in the wake of a lot of inbound interest that included not just the usual range of VCs and private equity firms that are getting more involved in VC, but also, it turns out, SPACs, which as they grow in number, seem to be exploring what kinds and stages of companies they tap with their quick finance-and-go-public model.

And although HYCU hadn’t been proactively pitching investors for funding, it would have been on their radars. In fact, Bain is a major backer of Nutanix, putting some $750 million into the company last August. There is some strategic sense in supporting businesses that figure strongly in the infrastructure of your other portfolio companies.

There is another important reason for HYCU raising capital to expand beyond what its balance sheet could provide to fuel growth: HYCU’s would-be competition is itself going through a moment of investment and expansion. For example, Veeam, which was acquired by Insight last January for $5 billion, then proceeded to acquire Kasten to move into serving enterprises that used Kubernetes-native workloads across on-premises and cloud environments. And Rubrik last year acquired Igneous to bring management of unstructured data into its purview. And it’s not a given that just because this is a sector seeing a lot of demand, that it’s all smooth sailing. Igneous was on the rocks at the time of its deal, and Rubrik itself had a data leak in 2019, highlighting that even those who are expert in protecting data can run up against problems.

Taylor notes that ransomware indeed remains a very persistent problem for its customers — reflecting what others in the security world have observed — and its approach for now is to remain focused on how it delivers services in an agent-less environment. “We integrate into the platform,” he said. “That is incredibly important. It means that you can be up and running immediately, with no need for professional services to do the integrating, and we also make it a lot harder for criminals because of this.”

Longer term, it will keep its focus on backup and recovery with no immediate plans to move into adjacent areas though such as more security services or other tools. “We’re not trying to be a Veritas and own the entire business end-to-end,” Taylor said. “The goal is to make sure the IT department has visibility and the cloud journey is protected.”

Enrique Salem, a partner at Bain Capital Ventures and the former CEO of Symantec, is joining HYCU’s board with this round and sees the opportunity in the market for a product like HYCU’s.

“We are in the early days of a multi-decade shift to the public cloud, but existing on-premises backup vendors are poorly equipped to enable this transition, creating tremendous opportunity for a new category of cloud-native backup providers,” he said in a statement. “As one of the early players in multi-cloud backup as a service bringing true SaaS to both on-premises and cloud-native environments, HYCU is a clear leader in a space that will continue to create large multi-billion dollar companies.”

Stefan Cohen, a principal at Bain Capital Ventures, will also be joining the board.

Posted Under: Tech News
MessageBird acquires 24sessions to bring video to its ‘omnichannel’ platform

Posted by on 30 March, 2021

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MessageBird, the omnichannel cloud communications platform recently valued at $3 billion, is continuing to ramp up its M&A activity. Following last year’s acquisition of Pusher, a company that provides real-time web technologies, it is announcing that it has acquired “video-first” customer engagement platform 24sessions, and customer data platform Hull.

Terms of the two new deals aren’t being disclosed, although MessageBird founder and CEO Robert Vis tells me the three acquisitions add up to about $100 million in total, and we alreadly know that Pusher’s acquisition price was $35 million. I also understand that the 24sessions and Hull acquisitions saw both companies’ investors exit entirely.

Originally seen as a European or “rest of the world” competitor to U.S.-based Twilio — offering a cloud communications platform that supports voice, video and text capabilities all wrapped up in an API — MessageBird has since repositioned itself as an “Omnichannel Platform-as-a-Service” (OPaaS). The idea is to easily enable enterprises and medium and smaller-sized companies to communicate with customers on any channel of their choosing.

Out of the box, this includes support for WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Twitter, Line, Telegram, SMS, email and voice. Customers can start online and then move their support request or query over to a more convenient channel, such as their favourite mobile messaging app, which, of course, can go with them. It’s all part of MessageBird Vis’ big bet that the future of customer interactions is omni-channel.

To that end, the acquisition of 24sessions adds another channel: video. This, Vis tells me, is a particularly important channel where in-person interactions are being replicated digitally. However, he says it’s not just enough to have a video option — you need one that is compliant and secure. This is especially true for regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare. In addition, 24sessions is web-based, meaning that end-users aren’t required to install an app.

“Bringing a safe, secure and customizable video platform into the MessageBird family is the next step in our strategic journey,” said Vis in a statement. “Our portfolio of owned services already includes SMS, voice, email, OTT, social, live chat and push. The addition of 24sessions’ video platform gives us one of the world’s most comprehensive and powerful omnichannel offerings, and is consistent with our having end-to-end control of the stack in order to create magical experiences for our customers”.

“By joining forces with MessageBird, we’re making a leap forward in our mission to improve personal customer contact and turn it into a smooth digital experience, without losing the human touch,” adds Rutger Teunissen, CEO of 24sessions. “Video has become a more embedded, instant, intelligent, and integrated part of the omnichannel customer experience”.

However, communicating with customers more efficiently doesn’t just mean interacting with them on the channels of their choosing and building backend workflows to support this, it also requires a better understanding of the customer and the context of their query. That’s where the acquisition of Hull, based in France and the U.S., comes into play.

Described as a customer data platform (CDP), Hull’s team and technology will be deployed to create an “in-depth analytics layer” between MessageBird’s omnichannel offering and the workflow solutions it provides to customers.

“We want to empower clients to have easy, frictionless conversations with customers, so it’s crucial that we understand where those customers are and how they like to communicate,” said Vis. “To do that, it’s crucial that our platform is able to collect, unify and enrich product, marketing, and sales data and synchronize it across the workflow.”

In total, 45 staff will join from 24sessions, and 14 will join from Hull. The combined M&A brings MessageBird’s total headcount to almost 500 people across its nine hubs globally.

Posted Under: Tech News
Testing platform Tricentis acquires performance testing service Neotys

Posted by on 30 March, 2021

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If you develop software for a large enterprise company, chances are you’ve heard of Tricentis. If you don’t develop software for a large enterprise company, chances are you haven’t. The software testing company with a focus on modern cloud and enterprise applications was founded in Austria in 2007 and grew from a small consulting firm to a major player in this field, with customers like Allianz, BMW, Starbucks, Deutsche Bank, Toyota and UBS. In 2017, the company raised a $165 million Series B round led by Insight Venture Partners.

Today, Tricentis announced that it has acquired Neotys, a popular performance testing service with a focus on modern enterprise applications and a tests-as-code philosophy. The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. France-based Neotys launched in 2005 and raised about €3 million before the acquisition. Today, it has about 600 customers for its NeoLoad platform. These include BNP Paribas, Dell, Lufthansa, McKesson and TechCrunch’s own corporate parent, Verizon.

As Tricentis CEO Sandeep Johri noted, testing tools were traditionally script-based, which also meant they were very fragile whenever an application changed. Early on, Tricentis introduced a low-code tool that made the automation process both easier and resilient. Now, as even traditional enterprises move to DevOps and release code at a faster speed than ever before, testing is becoming both more important and harder for these companies to implement.

“You have to have automation and you cannot have it be fragile, where it breaks, because then you spend as much time fixing the automation as you do testing the software,” Johri said. “Our core differentiator was the fact that we were a low-code, model-based automation engine. That’s what allowed us to go from $6 million in recurring revenue eight years ago to $200 million this year.”

Tricentis, he added, wants to be the testing platform of choice for large enterprises. “We want to make sure we do everything that a customer would need, from a testing perspective, end to end. Automation, test management, test data, test case design,” he said.

The acquisition of Neotys allows the company to expand this portfolio by adding load and performance testing as well. It’s one thing to do the standard kind of functional testing that Tricentis already did before launching an update, but once an application goes into production, load and performance testing becomes critical as well.

“Before you put it into production — or before you deploy it — you need to make sure that your application not only works as you expect it, you need to make sure that it can handle the workload and that it has acceptable performance,” Johri noted. “That’s where load and performance testing comes in and that’s why we acquired Neotys. We have some capability there, but that was primarily focused on the developers. But we needed something that would allow us to do end-to-end performance testing and load testing.”

The two companies already had an existing partnership and had integrated their tools before the acquisition — and many of its customers were already using both tools, too.

“We are looking forward to joining Tricentis, the industry leader in continuous testing,” said Thibaud Bussière, president and co-founder at Neotys. “Today’s Agile and DevOps teams are looking for ways to be more strategic and eliminate manual tasks and implement automated solutions to work more efficiently and effectively. As part of Tricentis, we’ll be able to eliminate laborious testing tasks to allow teams to focus on high-value analysis and performance engineering.”

NeoLoad will continue to exist as a stand-alone product, but users will likely see deeper integrations with Tricentis’ existing tools over time, include Tricentis Analytics, for example.

Johri tells me that he considers Tricentis one of the “best kept secrets in Silicon Valley” because the company not only started out in Europe (even though its headquarters is now in Silicon Valley) but also because it hasn’t raised a lot of venture rounds over the years. But that’s very much in line with Johri’s philosophy of building a company.

“A lot of Silicon Valley tends to pay attention only when you raise money,” he told me. “I actually think every time you raise money, you’re diluting yourself and everybody else. So if you can succeed without raising too much money, that’s the best thing. We feel pretty good that we have been very capital efficient and now we’re recognized as a leader in the category — which is a huge category with $30 billion spend in the category. So we’re feeling pretty good about it.”

Posted Under: Tech News
EQT Ventures promotes Laura Yao to partner; hires Anne Raimondi as operating partner

Posted by on 29 March, 2021

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EQT Ventures, an investment firm based in Europe, which has raised over €1.2 billion ($1.4B USD) announced that it has promoted Laura Yao to partner. At the same time, the firm announced it recently hired Anne Raimondi, former SVP of Operations at Zendesk as operating partner.

The company is based in Stockholm with offices in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Luxembourg. Yao is based in the U.S. office in San Francisco, where she has been working for three years prior to her recent promotion to partner. She says that the company tends to hire people with operator experience because they relate well to the founders of startups they invest in.

“Our goal is to partner with the most ambitious and boldest founders in Europe and the US and kind of be the investors that we all wish we’d had when we were on the other side of the table,” Yao told me.

Yao’s background includes co-founding a startup called The PhenomList in 2011. While she is responsible for looking for new investments, Raimondi works with the existing portfolio of companies, particularly B2B SaaS companies, helping them with practical aspects of building a startup like go-to-market strategy, organizational design, hiring executives and other components of company building.

“I joined earlier this year as an operating partner, so I’m not on the investing side but actually focused on working with existing portfolio company founders as they grow and scale,” Raimondi said.

Unfortunately, female partners like Yao and Raimondi remain a rarity in most venture firms with a Crunchbase report from last April finding that just 3% of investors are women, and that over two-thirds of firms don’t have a single woman as a partner.

EQT has a 50/50 male to female employee ratio, although the partners were all male until Yao was promoted and Raimondi hired. That makes two of 6 as the company attempts to make the investment team reflect the rest of the company and the population at large.

Part of Raimondi’s job is talking to startups about building diverse and equitable organizations and she and Yao know the company needs to model that. She says that thriving startups understand on the product side that to build a successful product, they start with a hypothesis, then develop targets and metrics to test, learn, and then iterate.

She says that they need to do the same thing to build a diverse and inclusive company. That starts with defining what diversity and inclusion looks like and setting up metrics to measure their progress.

“You evaluate [your diversity goals] and hold [the company] accountable to what you’ve signed up for. If you don’t meet them, [you look at] what can you do to improve them. Then you look at how you keep iterating, and then constantly measuring the employee experience across many dimensions, including not only diversity, but the important part of belonging,” Raimondi said.

Both women say their company does a good job at this, and their hiring/promotion proves that. Yao says that the organization as a whole has created a comfortable and inclusive culture. “It’s very collaborative and egalitarian. Anyone can say whatever’s on their mind. It’s very non-hierarchical and a comfortable place for a woman to work. I felt immediately welcomed and that my ideas were welcome immediately,” she said.

The company portfolio includes startups in the US and Europe and the firm sees itself as a bridge between the two locations. Among the companies EQT has invested in include bug bounty startup HackerOne, website building technology Netlify, and quantum computing startup Seeqc.

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Posted Under: Tech News
Slack wants to be more than a text-based messaging platform

Posted by on 26 March, 2021

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Last October as Slack was preparing for its virtual Frontiers conference, the company began thinking about different ways people could communicate on the platform. While it had built its name on being able to integrate a lot of services in a single place to alleviate the dreaded task-switching phenomenon, it has been largely text-based up until now.

More recently, Slack has started developing a few new features that could bring different ways of interacting to the platform. CEO Stewart Butterfield discussed them on Thursday with former TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine, now a SignalFire investor, in a Clubhouse interview.

The talk was about the future of work, and Slack believes these new ways of communicating could help employees better connect online as we shift to a hybrid work world — one which has been hastened by the pandemic over the last year. There is a general consensus that many companies will continue to work in a hybrid fashion, even when the pandemic is over.

For starters, Slack aims to add a way to communicate by video. But instead of trying to compete with Zoom or Microsoft Teams, Slack is envisioning an experience that’s more like Instagram Stories.

Think about the CEO sharing an important announcement with the company, or the kind of information that might have gone out in a companywide email. Instead, you can skip the inbox and deliver the message directly by video. It’s taking a page from the consumer approach to social and trying to move it into the enterprise.

Writing in a company blog post earlier this week, Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua was clear this was going to be an asynchronous approach, rather than a meeting kind of experience.

“To help with this, we are piloting ways to shift meetings toward an asynchronous video experience that feels native in Slack. It allows us to express nuance and enthusiasm without a meeting,” she wrote.

While it was at it, Slack decided to create a way of just chatting by voice. As Butterfield told Constine in his Clubhouse interview, this is essentially Clubhouse (or Twitter Spaces) being built for Slack.

Yeah, I’ve always believed the ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ thing, so we’re just building Clubhouse into Slack, essentially. Like that idea that you can drop in, the conversation’s happening whether you’re there or not, you can enter and leave when you want, as opposed to a call that starts and stops, is an amazing model for encouraging that spontaneity and that serendipity and conversations that only need to be three minutes, but the only option for you to schedule them is 30 minutes. So look out for Clubhouse built into Slack.

Again, it’s taking a consumer social idea and applying it to a business setting with the idea of finding other ways to keep you in Slack when you could be using other tools to achieve the same thing, whether it be Zoom meetings, email or your phone.

Butterfield also hinted that another feature — asynchronous audio, allowing you to leave the equivalent of a voicemail — could be coming some time in the future. A Slack spokesperson confirmed that it was in the works, but wasn’t ready to share details yet.

It’s impossible to look at these features without thinking about them in the context of the $27 billion Salesforce acquisition of Slack at the end of last year. When you put them all together, you have this set of tools that let you communicate in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

When you combine that Slack Connect DM, a new feature to communicate outside the organization that was released this week to some controversy, as people wanted assurances that they could control spam and harassment, it takes the concept one step further — outside the organization itself.

As part of a larger entity like Salesforce, these tools could be useful across sales, service and even marketing as a way to communicate in a variety of ways inside and outside the organization. And they greatly expand the value prop of Slack as it becomes part of Salesforce sometime later this year.

While it began talking about the new audio and video features last fall, the company has been piloting them since the beginning of this year. So far Slack is not saying when the new features will be generally available.

Posted Under: Tech News
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