German mobility startup Wunder Mobility raises $30M Series B

Posted by on 5 September, 2018

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Wunder Mobility, the Hamburg-based startup that provides a range of mobility services, from carpooling to electric scooter rentals, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by KCK Group, with participation from previous backer Blumberg Capital and other non-disclosed investors.

The German company says the investment will be used to expand the company’s engineering team in its home country and to establish an international B2B sales organisation. Currently, Wunder Mobility has 70 employees working from four offices in Asia, Germany, and South America. The aim is to add another 100 employees over the next twelve months in the areas of product development and B2B sales.

Founded in Hamburg in 2014, but now with an international focus, including emerging markets, Wunder Mobility supplies software, hardware, and operational services for various “future-oriented” mobility concepts. These span smart shuttles, fleet management and carpooling, reaching more than two million users in a dozen countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, India, and the Philippines.

“We are enabling communities on four continents to address the global traffic challenge and to deploy more sustainable mobility options faster by hosting a full-stack urban mobility tech platform,” explains founder and CEO Gunnar Froh.

“Our three product lines either allow private people to share empty seats with people headed in the same direction (Wunder Carpool), match professional drivers with passengers in 6-10 seater vans (Wunder Shuttle), or give travellers the option to rent vehicles (electric scooters, cars) by the minute (Wunder Fleet)”.

In recent months, transport companies as well as customers from the automotive industry in Japan, Europe and America have committed to using Wunder technology. The company is already processing around one million trips per month worldwide.

To that end, Froh describes Wunder Mobility’s typical B2C customers as the emerging middle class in mega cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Manila or Dehli.

“Many of these customers commute to work every day for several hours, are often first-time car owners and are open to sharing empty seats in their cars in order save on gas and car expenses,” he says.

On the B2B side, the startup’s customers are large OEMs, and public transit companies or suppliers, such as the Japanese conglomerate Marubeni. “We are working with Marubeni on ambitious new mobility services worldwide,” adds Froh.

Meanwhile, Wunder Mobility’s competitors are cited as Via in New York on the shuttle side. In Europe it perhaps competes most directly with Berlin’s Door2Door, and Vulog in Paris.

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Thoma Bravo buys majority stake in Apttus in unexpected ending

Posted by on 4 September, 2018

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Apttus, a quote-to-cash vendor built on top of the Salesforce platform that looked to be heading toward an IPO in recent years has taken a different tack, instead being acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo today.

The company did not reveal the purchase price, but said it could be ready to share more details about the arrangement after the deal closes, probably next month. “What we can say is that Apttus views this development positively and believes Thoma Bravo can instill greater operational excellence, strengthen our market leadership and allow us to continue providing indispensable value to our customers,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

They are describing this not as a full on acquisition, but as ‘taking a majority stake’. However you describe it, it probably wasn’t the ending the company envisioned after taking $404 million in investment since launching in 2006, one of the earliest startups to build a business on top of the Salesforce platform.

If the company believed that Salesforce would eventually buy it, that never happened. In fact, that dream probably went out the window when Salesforce bought SteelBrick, a similar company also built on Salesforce, at the end of 2015 for $360 million.

In spite of this, in an interview in 2016, CEO Kirk Krappe still was confident that an exit was coming, either by IPO or a possibly a Salesforce acquisition.

“We will be IPOing this year. That may be a function to figure what Salesforce wants to do and they may think about that [after purchasing SteelBrick at the end of last year]. There’s no reason they can’t buy us too. For me, I have to run the business, and we’re growing 100 percent year on year. If Salesforce came to the table, that would be great if the numbers work. If not, we have an amazingly strong business,” he said at the time.

That never came to pass of course, and the company tried to separate itself from Salesforce in April of 2016 when it released a version of Apttus that would work on Microsoft Dynamics. Krappe saw this as a way to show investors he wasn’t completely married to the Salesforce platform.

While Salesforce provided a system of record around the customer information and all that involved, once the salesperson actually closed in on a sale, that’s when software like Apttus came into play, allowing the company to generate a detailed proposal, a contract once the deal was agreed upon and finally collecting and recording the money from the sale.

Apttus took its last funding rounds in Sept 2017 for $55 million and later a debt financing round for another $75 million in February this year, according to data on Crunchbase.

Thoma Bravo has bought a number of enterprise software products over the years including Qlik, Sailpoint, Dynatrace, Solar Winds and others. Apttus should fit in well with that family of companies.

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Atlassian launches Jira Ops for managing incidents

Posted by on 4 September, 2018

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Atlassian today announced the first beta of a new edition of its flagship Jira project and issue tracking tool that is meant to help ops teams handle incidents faster and more efficiently.

Jira Ops integrates with tools like OpsGenie, PagerDuty, xMatters, Statuspage, Slack and others. Many teams already use these tools when their services go down, but Atlassian argues that most companies currently use a rather ad hoc approach to working with them. Jira Ops aims to be the glue that keeps everybody on the same page and provides visibility into ongoing incidents.

This is obviously not the first time Atlassian is using Jira to branch out from its core developer audience. Jira Service Desk and Jira Core, for example, aim at a far broader audience. Ops, however, goes after a very specific vertical.

“Service Desk was the first step,” Jens Schumacher, Head of Software Teams at Atlassian, told me. And we were looking at what are the other verticals that we can attack with Jira.” Schumacher also noted that Atlassian built a lot of tools for its internal ops teams over the years to glue together all the different pieces that are necessary to track and manage incidents. With Jira Ops, the company is essentially turning its own playbook into a product.

In a way, though, using Jira Ops adds yet another piece to the puzzle. Schumacher, however, argues that the idea here is to have a single place to manage the process. “The is that when an incident happens, you have a central place where you can go, where you can find out everything about the incident,” he said. “You can see who has been paged and alerted; you can alert more people if you need to right from there; you know what Slack channel the incident is being discussed in.”

Unlike some of Atlassian’s other products, the company doesn’t currently have any plans to launch a self-hosted version of Jira Ops. The argument here is pretty straightforward: if your infrastructure goes down, then Jira Opes could also go do down — and then you don’t have a tool for managing that downtime.

Jira Ops is now available for free for early access beta users. The company expects to launch version 1.0 in early 2019. By then Atlassian will surely also have figured out a pricing plan, something it didn’t announce today.

Posted Under: Tech News
Encrypted cloud storage and collaboration company Tresorit secures €11.5M Series B

Posted by on 4 September, 2018

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Tresorit, the Swiss-Hungarian company that provides end-to-end encrypted “file sync and sharing” for businesses, has closed €11.5 million in Series B financing. The round is led by European growth capital investor 3TS Capital Partners, alongside PortfoLion, a Central European venture capital.

A number of existing investors also participated, such as Andreas Kemi, an early investor in LogMeIn and co-founder of Scala Business Solutions, and Márton Anka, founder of LogMeIn. I also understand the round included some secondary funding, meaning not all of the cash has entered Tresorit’s balance sheet.

Operating in the enterprise cloud storage and collaboration market, Tresorit provides what it describes as zero-knowledge encryption technology and unique encryption key management. The high level pitch is that the company is able to offer on-premise equivalent security for businesses while offering the type of simple user experience we have come to expect in consumer apps. It serves more than 17,000 customers and says it has grown recurring revenue by an average of 3x every year in the last three years.

Meanwhile, Tresorit will use the new Series B funding to further accelerate this growth by tapping into what it says is rising demand for secure cloud solutions, in light of a plethora of high profiles security breaches seen at major enterprises in recent years. This will include beefing up its management team with the aim of scaling up marketing and sales, and establishing new channel partners.

“We are at an inflection point with our business as awareness regarding data protection and cybersecurity threats is getting stronger and demand is set to grow exponentially for our service in and outside of Europe,” says Tresorit founder and CEO Istvan Lam.

He also says there is large market potential in channeling traditional IT expenditure into the cloud, citing a recent Deloitte survey indicating that traditional IT expenditure still accounts for two-thirds of all IT spending, while only one-third goes towards IT-as-a-service.

“Many enterprises are holding back from migrating to the cloud due to security and privacy concerns. With security guaranteed by end-to-end encryption, more businesses can and will choose Tresorit’s cloud solution,” adds Lam.

To that end, Tresorit recently launched a Beta version of “Tresorit Send,” a standalone file sharing product that offers a secure and encrypted alternative to unreliable file transfer sites and email attachments. The idea, presumably, is for the product to act as a shop window for the Tresorit user experience and the company’s broader end-to-end encryption offering.

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Dropbox drops some enhancements to Paper collaboration layer

Posted by on 3 September, 2018

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When you’re primarily a storage company with enterprise aspirations, as Dropbox is, you need a layer to to help people use the content in your system beyond simple file sharing. That’s why Dropbox created Paper, to act as that missing collaboration layer. They announced some enhancements to Paper to keep people working in their collaboration tool without having to switch programs.

“Paper is Dropbox’s collaborative workspace for teams. It includes features where users can work together, assign owners to tasks with due dates and embed rich content like video, sound, photos from Youtube, SoundCloud, Pinterest and others,” a Dropbox spokesperson told TechCrunch.

With today’s enhancements you can paste a number of elements into Paper and get live previews. For starters, they are letting you link to a Dropbox folder in Paper, where you can view the files inside the folder, even navigating any sub-folders. When the documents in the folder change, Paper updates the preview automatically because the folder is actually a live link to the Dropbox folder. This one seems like a table stakes feature for a company like Dropbox.

Gif: Dropbox

In addition, Dropbox now supports Airtables, a kind of souped up spreadsheet. With the new enhancement, you just grab an Airtable embed code and drop it into Paper. From there, you can see a preview in whatever Airtable view you’ve saved the table.

Finally, Paper now supports LucidCharts. As with Airtables and folders, you simply paste the link and you can see a live preview inside Paper. If the original chart changes, updates are reflected automatically in the Paper preview.

By now, it’s clear that workers want to maintain focus and not be constantly switching between programs. It’s why Box created the recently announced Activity Stream and Recommended Apps. It’s why Slack has become so popular inside enterprises. These tools provide a way to share content from different enterprise apps without having to open a bunch of tabs or separate apps.

Dropbox Paper is also about giving workers a central place to do their work where you can pull live content previews from different apps without having to work in a bunch of content silos. Dropbox is trying to push that idea along for its enterprise customers with today’s enhancements.

Posted Under: Tech News
Amazon is quietly doubling down on cryptographic security

Posted by on 30 August, 2018

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The growth of cloud services — with on-demand access to IT services over the Internet — has become one of the biggest evolutions in enterprise technology, but with it, so has the threat of security breaches and other cybercriminal activity. Now it appears that one of the leading companies in cloud services is looking for more ways to double down and fight the latter. Amazon’s AWS has been working on a range of new cryptographic and AI-based tools to help manage the security around cloud-based enterprise services, and it currently has over 130 vacancies for engineers with cryptography skills to help build and run it all.

One significant part of the work has been within a division of AWS called the Automated Reasoning Group, which focuses on identifying security issues and developing new tools to fix them for AWS and its customers based on automated reasoning, a branch of artificial intelligence that covers both computer science and mathematical logic and is aimed at helping computers automatically reason completely or nearly completely.

In recent times, Amazon has registered two new trademarks, Quivela and SideTrail, both of which have connections to ARG.

Classified in its patent application as “computer software for cryptographic protocol specification and verification,” Quivela also has a Github repository within AWS Labs’ profile that describes it as a “prototype tool for proving the security of cryptographic protocols,” developed by the AWS Automated Reasoning Group. (The ARG also has as part of its mission to share code and ideas with the community.)

SideTrail is not on Github, but Byron Cook, an academic who is the founder and director of the AWS Automated Reasoning Group, has co-authored a research paper called “SideTrail: Verifying the Time Balancing of Cryptosystems.” However, the link to the paper, describing what this is about, is no longer working.

The trademark application for SideTrail includes a long list of potential applications (as trademark applications often do). The general idea is cryptography-based security services. Among them: “Computer software, namely, software for monitoring, identifying, tracking, logging, analyzing, verifying, and profiling the health and security of cryptosystems; network encryption software; computer network security software,” “Providing access to hosted operating systems and computer applications through the Internet,” and a smattering of consulting potential: “Consultation in the field of cloud computing; research and development in the field of security and encryption for cryptosystems; research and development in the field of software; research and development in the field of information technology; computer systems analysis.”

Added to this, in July, a customer of AWS started testing out two other new cryptographic tools developed by the ARG also for improving an organization’s cybersecurity. Tiros and Zelkova, as the two tools are called, are math-based techniques that variously evaluate access control schemes, security configurations and feedback based on different setups to help troubleshoot and prove the effectiveness of security systems across storage (S3) buckets.

Amazon has not trademarked Tiros and Zelkova. A Zelkova trademark, for financial services, appears to be registered as an LLC called “Zelkova Acquisition” in Las Vegas, while there is no active trademark listed for Tiros.

Amazon declined to respond to our questions about the trademarks. A selection of people we contacted associated with the projects did not respond to requests for comment.

More generally, cryptography is a central part of how IT services are secured: Amazon’s Automated Reasoning Group has been around since 2014 working in this area. But Amazon appears to be doing more now both to ramp up the tools it produces and consider how it can be applied across the wider business. A quick look on open vacancies at the company shows that there are currently 132 openings at Amazon for people with cryptography skills.

“Cloud is the new computer, the Earth is the motherboard and data centers are the cards,” Cook said in a lecture he delivered recently describing AWS and the work that the ARG is doing to help AWS grow. “The challenge is that as [AWS] scales it needs to be ever more secure… How does AWS continue to scale quickly and securely?

“AWS has made a big bet on our community,” he continued, as one answer to that question. That’s led to an expansion of the group’s activities in areas like formal verification and beyond, as a way of working with customers and encouraging them to move more data to the cloud.

Amazon is also making some key acquisitions also to build up its cloud security footprint, such as Sqrrl and Harvest.ai, two AI-based security startups whose founding teams both happen to have worked at the NSA.

Amazon’s AWS division pulled in over $6 billion in revenues last quarter with $1.6 billion in operating income, a healthy margin that underscores the shift that businesses and other organizations are making to cloud-based services.

Security is an essential component of how that business will continue to grow for Amazon and the wider industry: more trust in the infrastructure, and more proofs that cloud architectures can work better than using and scaling the legacy systems that businesses use today, will bolster the business. And it’s also essential, given the rise of breaches and ever more sophisticated cyber crimes. Gartner estimates that cloud-based security services will be a $6.9 billion market this year, rising to nearly $9 billion by 2020.

Automated tools that help human security specialists do their jobs better is an area that others like Microsoft are also eyeing up. Last year, it acquired Israeli security firm Hexadite, which offers remediation services to complement and bolster the work done by enterprise security specialists.

Posted Under: Tech News
OpenStack’s latest release focuses on bare metal clouds and easier upgrades

Posted by on 30 August, 2018

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The OpenStack Foundation today released the 18th version of its namesake open-source cloud infrastructure software. The project has had its ups and downs, but it remains the de facto standard for running and managing large private clouds.

What’s been interesting to watch over the years is how the project’s releases have mirrored what’s been happening in the wider world of enterprise software. The core features of the platform (compute, storage, networking) are very much in place at this point, allowing the project to look forward and to add new features that enterprises are now requesting.

The new release, dubbed Rocky, puts an emphasis on bare metal clouds, for example. While the majority of enterprises still run their workloads in virtual machines, a lot of them are now looking at containers as an alternative with less overhead and the promise of faster development cycles. Many of these enterprises want to run those containers on bare metal clouds and the project is reacting to this with its “Ironic” project that offers all of the management and automation features necessary to run these kinds of deployments.

“There’s a couple of big features that landed in Ironic in the Rocky release cycle that we think really set it up well for OpenStack bare clouds to be the foundation for both running VMs and containers,” OpenStack Foundation VP of marketing and community Lauren Sell told me. 

Ironic itself isn’t new, but in today’s update, Ironic gets use-managed BIOS settings (to configure power management, for example) and RAM disk support for high-performance computing workloads. Magnum, OpenStack’s service for using container engines like Docker Swarm, Apache Mesos and Kubernetes, is now also a Kubernetes certified installer, meaning that users can be confident that OpenStack and Kubernetes work together just like a user would expect.

Another trend that’s becoming quite apparent is that many enterprises that build their own private clouds do so because they have very specific hardware needs. Often, that includes GPUs and FPGAs, for example, for machine learning workloads. To make it easier for these businesses to use OpenStack, the project now includes a lifecycle management service for these kinds of accelerators.

“Specialized hardware is getting a lot of traction right now,” OpenStack CTO Mark Collier noted. “And what’s interesting is that FPGAs have been around for a long time but people are finding out that they are really useful for certain types of AI, because they’re really good at doing the relatively simple math that you need to repeat over and over again millions of times. It’s kind of interesting to see this kind of resurgence of certain types of hardware that maybe was seen as going to be disrupted by cloud and now it’s making a roaring comeback.”

With this update, the OpenStack project is also enabling easier upgrades, something that was long a daunting process for enterprises. Because it was so hard, many chose to simply not update to the latest releases and often stayed a few releases behind. Now, the so-called Fast Forward Upgrade feature allows these users to get on new releases faster, even if they are well behind the project’s own cycle. Oath, which owns TechCrunch, runs a massive OpenStack cloud, for example, and the team recently upgraded a 20,000-core deployment from Juno (the 10th OpenStack release) to Ocata (the 15th release).

The fact that Vexxhost, a Canadian cloud provider, is already offering support for the Rocky release in its new Silicon Valley cloud today is yet another sign that updates are getting a bit easier (and the whole public cloud side of OpenStack, too, often gets overlooked, but continues to grow).

Posted Under: Tech News
InVision deepens integrations with Atlassian

Posted by on 30 August, 2018

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InVision today announced a newly expanded integration and strategic partnership with Atlassian that will let users of Confluence, Trello and Jira see and share InVision prototypes from within those programs.

Atlassian’s product suite is built around making product teams faster and more efficient. These tools streamline and organize communication so developers and designers can focus on getting the job done. Meanwhile, InVision’s collaboration platform has caught on to the idea that design is now a team sport, letting designers, engineers, executives and other shareholders be involved in the design process right from the get-go.

Specifically, the expanded integration allows designers to share InVision Studio designs and prototypes right within Jira, Trello and Confluence . InVision Studio was unveiled late last year, offering designers an alternative to Sketch and Adobe.

Given the way design and development teams use both product suites, it only makes sense to let these product suites communicate with one another.

As part of the partnership, Atlassian has also made a strategic financial investment in InVision, though the companies declined to share the amount.

Here’s what InVision CEO Clark Valberg had to say about it in a prepared statement:

In today’s digital world creating delightful, highly effective customer experiences has become a central business imperative for every company in the world. InVision and Atlassian represent the essential platforms for organizations looking to unleash the potential of their design and development teams. We’re looking forward to all the opportunities to deepen our relationship on both a product and strategic basis, and build toward a more cohesive digital product operating system that enables every organization to build better products, faster.

InVision has been working to position itself as the Salesforce of the design world. Alongside InVision and InVision Studio, the company has also built out an asset and app store, as well as launched a small fund to invest in design startups. In short, InVision wants the design ecosystem to revolve around it.

Considering that InVision has raised more than $200 million, and serves 4 million users, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500, it would seem that the strategy is paying off.

Posted Under: Tech News
Google steps back from running the Kubernetes infrastructure

Posted by on 29 August, 2018

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Google today announced that it is providing the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) with $9 million in Google Cloud credits to help further its work on the Kubernetes container orchestrator and that it is handing over operational control of the project to the community. These credits will be split over three years and are meant to cover the infrastructure costs of building, testing and distributing the Kubernetes software.

Why does this matter? Until now, Google hosted virtually all the cloud resources that supported the project like its CI/CD testing infrastructure, container downloads and DNS services on its cloud. But Google is now taking a step back. With the Kubernetes community reaching a state of maturity, Google is transferring all of this to the community.

Between the testing infrastructure and hosting container downloads, the Kubernetes project regularly runs over 150,000 containers on 5,000 virtual machines, so the cost of running these systems quickly adds up. The Kubernetes container registry served almost 130 million downloads since the launch of the project.

It’s also worth noting that the CNCF now includes a wide range of members that typically compete with each other. We’re talking Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle, SAP and VMware, for example. All of these profit from the work of the CNCF and the Kubernetes community. Google doesn’t say so outright, but it’s fair to assume that it wanted others to shoulder some of the burdens of running the Kubernetes infrastructure, too. Similarly, some of the members of the community surely didn’t want to be so closely tied to Google’s infrastructure either.

“By sharing the operational responsibilities for Kubernetes with contributors to the project, we look forward to seeing the new ideas and efficiencies that all Kubernetes contributors bring to the project operations,” Google Kubernetes Engine product manager William Deniss writes in today’s announcement. He also notes that a number of Google’s will still be involved in running the Kubernetes infrastructure.

“Google’s significant financial donation to the Kubernetes community will help ensure that the project’s constant pace of innovation and broad adoption continue unabated,” said Dan Kohn, the executive director of the CNCF. “We’re thrilled to see Google Cloud transfer management of the Kubernetes testing and infrastructure projects into contributors’ hands – making the project not just open source, but openly managed, by an open community.”

It’s unclear whether the project plans to take some of the Google-hosted infrastructure and move it to another cloud, but it could definitely do so — and other cloud providers could step up and offer similar credits, too.

Posted Under: Tech News
Box builds a digital hub to help fight content fragmentation

Posted by on 29 August, 2018

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The interconnectedness of the cloud has allowed us to share content widely with people inside and outside the organization and across different applications, but that ability has created a problem of its own, a kind of digital fragmentation. How do you track how that piece of content is being used across a range of cloud services? It’s a problem Box wants to solve with its latest features, Activity Stream and Recommended Apps.

The company made the announcements at BoxWorks, its annual customer conference being held this week in San Francisco,

Activity Stream provides a way to track your content in real time as it moves through the organization, including who touches it and what applications it’s used in, acting as a kind of digital audit trail. One of the big problems with content in the cloud age is understanding what happened to it after you created it. Did it get used in Salesforce or ServiceNow or Slack? You can now follow the path of your content and see how people have shared it, and this could help remove some of the disconnect people feel in the digital world.

As Jeetu Patel, Box’s Chief Product and Chief Strategy Officer points out, an average large company could have more than a thousand apps and there is no good way to connect the dots when it comes to tracking unstructured content and getting a unified view of the digital trail.

“We integrate with over 1400 applications, and as we integrate with those applications, we thought if we could surface those events, it would be insanely useful to our users,” he said. Patel sees this as the beginning of an important construct, the notion of a content hub where you can see the entire transaction record associated with a piece of content.

Activity Stream sidebar inside Box. Photo: Box

But Box didn’t want to stop with just a laundry list of the connections. It also created deep links into the applications being used, so a user can click a link, open the application and view the content in the context of that other application. “It seems like Box was a logical place to get a bird’s eye view of how content is being used,” Patel said, explaining Box’s thinking in creating this feature.

A related feature is a list of Recommended Apps. Based the Box Graph, and what Box knows about the user, the content they use, and how it’s interconnected with other cloud apps, it also displays a list of recommended apps right in the Box interface. This lets users access those applications in the context of their work, so for instance, they could share the content in Slack right from the document.

Recommended Apps bar inside Box. Photo: Box

For starters, Recommended Apps integrations include G Suite apps, Slack, Salesforce, DocuSign and Netsuite, but Patel says anyone who is integrated with the web app via the API will start showing up in Activity Stream.

While the products were announced today, Box is still working out the kinks in terms of how this will work. They expect these features to be available early next year. If they can pull this off, it will go a long way toward solving the digital fragmentation problem and making Box the content center for organizations.

Posted Under: Tech News
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