AI-powered knowledge sharing platform Guru raises $25 million Series B

Posted by on 12 December, 2018

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Guru, the enterprise-focused information sharing platform, has today announced the close of a $25 million Series B funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from existing investors Emergence Capital, FirstMark Capital, Slack Fund, and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital.

Guru came on to the scene in 2013 with the premise that organizations are not so great at building out informational databases, nor are they very good at using them. So Guru built a Chrome extension that simply sits as a layer on employees’ computers and surfaces the right information whenever asked.

Specifically, this comes in handy for customer service agents and sales people who need to answer questions from people outside of the organization quickly and accurately.

This summer, Guru revamped the platform to incorporate a new feature set called AI Suggest. The feature simply auto-surfaces relevant information as the employee goes about their business, with no searches or inquiries necessary. The company also unveiled two different versions of the feature, text and voice, so that it is still useful when employees are on the phone.

Companies that are sensitive about their information being shared with Guru can customize the level of access given to Guru, including or excluding certain third-party integrations etc., as well as how long information is stored on Guru. No personally identifying information about end-customers is ever stored on the Guru platform.

Over the past couple years, Guru has brought on big-name clients including BuzzFeed, Glossier, Intercom and Thumbtack.

Guru has signed on 200 new clients since the launch of AI Suggest in July, with a total of around 800 companies on the platform, representing thousands of users.

For now, the company is hyper focused on growth.

“We are not profitable yet,” said cofounder and CEO Rick Nucci .” But we’re intentionally focused on growth. What prompted us to raise this round right now is to continue to execute on the momentum of the business.”

Guru has now raised a total of $27.5 million.

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AtScale lands $50 million investment led by Morgan Stanley

Posted by on 12 December, 2018

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AtScale, the startup that helps companies move massive amounts of data into business intelligence and analytics tools, announced a $50 million Series D round today.

Morgan Stanley led the round with previous investors Storm Ventures and Atlantic Bridge joining in. New investor Wells Fargo also participated. The funding comes almost exactly a year after the company announced its $25 million Series C. Today’s funding brings the total amount raised to $120 million.

Bringing on an institutional investor like Morgan Stanley is often a signal that the company has reached the stage where it is at least beginning to think about the possibility of going public at some point in the future. AtScale CEO Chris Lynch acknowledged such a connection without making any broad commitment (as you would expect). “We are not close to being IPO-ready, but that was a future consideration in selecting Morgan Stanley,” Lynch told TechCrunch.

What the company does is help take big data and move it into tools where customers can make better use of it. AtScale co-founder Dave Mariani used to be at Yahoo where he helped pioneer the use of big data in the 2009/2010 timeframe. Unfortunately, systems at the time couldn’t deal with the volume of data and that is still a problem, one that AtScale says it is designed to solve. “We take a bunch of data silos and put a semantic layer across the data platforms and expose them in a consistent way,” Mariani told TechCrunch last year at the time of the Series C round. This allows company to get a big picture view of their data, rather than consuming it smaller chunks.

AtScale reported a banner year bringing on 50 new customers across their target verticals of retail, financial services, advertising and digital sales. These include Rakuten, Dell Technologies, TD Bank and Toyota. What’s more, the company stretched out this year, taking advantage of the last funding round to expand more into international markets in Europe and Asia.

The company was founded in 2013 and is based in San Mateo, California.

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Software marketplace G2 Crowd acquires Siftery to fold software usage into its dataset

Posted by on 12 December, 2018

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After raising $55 million in October at a $500 million valuation, business software marketplace G2 Crowd is making its first-ever acquisition to bring more features to its platform. It is acquiring Siftery, a startup that has built its own database of business software not on user reviews, but by providing a service to businesses where it identifies what is actually getting used and when across their networks.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, G2 Crowd’s CEO and founder Godard Abel said in an interview. Siftery had been around for a couple of years and had raised a seed round of $4.1 million from a group of notable investors, including Founders Fund, Felicis and Venrock. All 20 employees, including co-founders CEO Vamshi Mokshagundam and CTO Ayan Barua, are joining G2 Crowd.

G2 Crowd has been building a name for itself as a place where IT buyers can discover and buy software and services for solving specific issues; and if they already are already using or considering a product, a place where they can read other’s reviews and compare it against competitors.

There are some 550,000 reviews on the site today across nearly 60,000 products in 1,200 categories (those reviews are up by 50,000 in the last two months). Around 2 million business professionals visit and use the site each month, which they may go to because they are repeat users, or because G2 Crowd happens to have a very strong SEO game, with its links turning up at the top of the list when you do a search for a specific product or product category.

That economy of scale makes G2 Crowd a pretty logical home for Siftery, which had also provided a database of software for businesses, but at a much smaller scale and before it had been truly commercialised. Abel said that the startup had only around 1,500 customers, with most of them on a free version of the product.

“They were just getting to the point where there was a fork in the road,” he added. “What they hadn’t done yet is monetise and build a business, and we are product people at G2 Crowd.”

This also seems to be the stated logic for Siftery, too. “We’re excited to join the G2 Crowd team so we can more quickly realize our joint vision,” said Vamshi Mokshagundam, co-founder and CEO of Siftery, in a statement. “By becoming part of the G2 family, Siftery’s technology can reach millions more people, continue to develop rapidly, and have a bigger impact around the world in helping to eliminate wasted and inefficient software spend.”

Siftery’s additional functionality is interesting in terms of how G2 Crowd will develop going forward.

The smaller startup engaged with customers and their networks and provided insight into how much each product or service is actually getting used (not just enthused). That makes a handy way to determine whether money was being wasted on licenses for certain apps; or conversely whether companies are suffering from “shadow IT”: overpaying by not consolidating their purchasing and bargaining power. All that data subsequently also helped to provide insight to people searching its database to discover software.

The problem of overspending on software and apps happens to be a big one. G2 Crowd cites data from Netskope which estimates that the average enterprise now runs 1,246 cloud services, a figure that is growing over 10% each year. At the small business end, Siftery estimates that the average organization had 55 SaaS tools, more than doubling over the last three years.

And the challenge is still growing: across the range of company sizes, 35 percent more software gets trialled each year, with software budgets growing by 50 percent year-on-year for the past four. Some $1.4 trillion was spent on software and services last year, with waste in the UK and US collectively estimated at $34 billion, G2 Crowd said.

Abel said that for now the idea will be to keep Siftery’s product separate while it gets gradually integrated into G2 Crowd. There, it will potentially give the company another string in its bow in terms of the services it offers to businesses coming to its platform — and opting for paid usage tiers.

Interestingly, while G2 Crowd will likely continue to be popular as a marketplace to search for apps and services, this deal underscores how the company hopes to develop going forward. It has the opportunity to build a platform where organizations can manage their software, and potentially provide further tools to optimise how it is used, plan more deployments connected to it, and so on.

Abel has a long history building and selling startups focused around software productivity (most recently to Salesforce, but also to Oracle and before that CA), and that appears to be the direction he’s taking G2 Crowd, too. (Indeed, it seems to be part of a mini-wave of tech startups rethinking how businesses interact with software. Just earlier today, Nexthink out of Switzerland raised $85 million for its solution that helps enterprises monitor, triage and assist employees who encounter annoying software issues.)

Abel said that the engineering talent at Siftery was also a big attraction, and that could help shape other acquisitions going forward.

“I think we will look opportunistically,” he said. “It depends on finding a strong product and team.”

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Juniper Square lines up $25M for its real estate investment platform

Posted by on 12 December, 2018

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Juniper Square, a four-year-old startup at the intersection of enterprise software, real estate and financial technology, has brought in an additional $25 million in Series B funding to fuel the growth of its commercial real estate investment platform. Ribbit Capital led the round, with participation from Felicis Ventures.

Founded in 2014 by Alex Robinson, Yonas Fisseha and Adam Ginsburg, the startup’s chief executive officer, vice president of engineering and VP of product, respectively, Juniper has raised a total of $33 million to date.

The company operates a software platform for commercial real estate investment firms — an industry that has been slower to adopt the latest and greatest technology. Robinson tells TechCrunch those firms raise money from pension funds, endowments and elsewhere to purchase and then manage commercial real estate, using Juniper’s software as a tool throughout that process. Juniper supports fundraising and capital management with a suite of customer relationship management (CRM) and productivity tools for its users.

The San Francisco-based company says it currently has hundreds of customers and manages half a trillion dollars in real estate.

“The private markets are just as big as the public markets … but the private markets have typically not been accessible to everyday investors, and that’s part of what we are trying to do with Juniper Square,” Robinson told TechCrunch. “It’s a tremendously large market that almost nobody knows anything about.”

Juniper will use its latest investment to double headcount from 60 to 120 in the year ahead, with plans to beef up its engineering, product and sales teams specifically as the company expects to continue experiencing massive growth. Robinson said it’s grown between 3x and 4x every year for the last three years.

Felicis Ventures managing director Sundeep Peechu said in a statement that Juniper “is one of the fastest growing real estate tech companies” the firm has ever seen: “They are building technology for an industry that touches nearly every human and every corner of the economy. It’s a hard problem that takes time to solve, but the benefits of making these huge markets work better are tremendous.”

Existing in a relatively niche intersection, Juniper’s job now is to prove itself more efficient and user-friendly than Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which, Robinson says, are still its biggest competitor.

“Our goal is to be the de facto platform for real estate investment and we are well on our way to becoming that.”

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Nexthink raises $85M to monitor and improve ’employee experience’ of apps

Posted by on 12 December, 2018

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As companies compete for talent, a startup that has built a platform to help ensure that the talent — once it’s working for you — doesn’t get bogged down by IT frustration, has raised a significant round of funding.

Lausanne, Switzerland-based Nexthink has nailed down $85 million in funding led by Index Ventures (which has a base in nearby Geneva), with participation also from Highland Europe, Forestay Capital, Galéo Capital and TOP Funds and Olivier Pomel (co-founder and CEO of Datadog).

Nexthink’s CEO Pedro Bados said in an interview that the company will be using this round to expand its business globally and specifically in the US.

It will be doing this from a healthy base. The company already has 900 enterprise customers, covering no less than 7 million endpoints, using its platform to improve employees’ interaction and satisfaction with the IT tools that they are required to use for work. Customers include Adobe, Advocate Healthcare, BlackRock, Commerzbank, Safran, Sega HARDlight, Tiffany & Co., Vitality, Wipro and Western Union.

Network monitoring is a big and established area in the world of IT, where tech companies provide a wide array of solutions to identify and potentially fix network glitches across on-premise, cloud and hybrid environments.

What is only becoming more apparent now to organizations is that problems with the dozens of apps and other software that employees need to use can be just as much, if not more, of an issue, when it comes to getting work done — for example, because something is not working in the app, the worker is unsure how to do something, or there is a configuration issue.

That is the issue that Nexthink is tackling. The company installs a widget — it calls it a Collector — on a worker’s phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or whatever device is being used. That Collector in turn monitors hundreds of metrics around how you are using your device, ranging from performance issues and policy breaches through to examining what software is being used, and what is not.

Nexthink’s algorithms both identify and even can anticipate when a problem is happening, and either provide a quick suggestion to fix it, or provide the right data to the IT team to help solve the problem.

In the “marketplace” created in an IT network, you might think of Nexthink as solving problems at two ends: for the IT team, reduces the number of calls it gets by helping solve problems and providing useful information in cases where they will really be needed. For the employees, it gives them a quick and hopefully helpful response so that they can get on with their work.

“Not only are employees happy and more productive, but costs go down on support,” Bados says.

Nexthink has actually been around for 14 years — Bados co-founded Patrick Hertzog and Vincent Bieri not long after he finished his graduate research work in artificial intelligence at the polytechnic in Lausanne — and this latest round is larger than all the funding that the company had raised up to now, which had been $69 million.

That in itself is a sign of how VCs and the industry are waking up to the opportunity to address the challenge of software usability and experience and how that might affect employee satisfaction and productivity.

“We’ve known the company for a while and have a lot of respect for Pedro as a CEO,” said Neil Rimer of Index Ventures in an interview. “We’ve been watching what they have been building focusing on user experience and management, and it’s an area that we find compelling.” Plus the customer caliber and loyalty helped, he said. “The retention and lack of churn are all very impressive.”

Unsurprisingly, there are a number of others also moving into the same space as Nexthink, including Microsoft, VMware and Riverbed, as well as others like New Relic around the same neighborhood of services. For now, Bados says he sees these more as potential partners than rivals.

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Dell’s long game is in hybrid and private clouds

Posted by on 11 December, 2018

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When Dell voted to buy back the VMware tracking stock and go public again this morning, you had to be wondering what exactly the strategy was behind these moves. While it’s clearly about gaining financial flexibility, the $67 billion EMC deal has always been about setting the company up for a hybrid and private cloud future.

The hybrid cloud involves managing workloads on premises and in the cloud, while private clouds are ones that companies run themselves, either in their own data centers or on dedicated hardware in the public cloud.

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy, says this approach takes a longer investment timeline, and that required the changes we saw this morning. “I believe Dell Technologies can better invest in its hybrid world with longer term investors as the investment will be longer term, at least five years,” he said. Part of that, he said, is due to the fact that many more on prem to public connectors services need to be built.

Dell could be the company that helps build some of those missing pieces. It has always been at its heart a hardware company, and as such either of these approaches could play to its strengths. When the company paid $67 billion for EMC in 2016, it had to have a long-term plan in mind. Michael Dell’s parents didn’t raise no fool and he saw an opportunity with that move to push his company in a new direction.

It was probably never about EMC’s core storage offerings, although a storage component was an essential ingredient in this vision. Dell and his investor’s eyes probably were more focused on other pieces inside the federation — the loosely coupled set of companies inside the broader EMC Corporation.

The VMware bridge

The crown jewel in that group was of course VMware, the company that introduced the enterprise to server virtualization. Today, it has taken residency in the hybrid world between the on premises data center and the cloud. Armed with broad agreements with AWS, VMware finagled its way to be a key bridge between on prem and the monstrously popular Amazon cloud. IT pros used to working with VMware would certainly be comfortable using it as cloud control panel as they shifted their workloads to AWS cloud virtual machines.

In fact, speaking at a press conference at AWS re:Invent earlier this month, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said the partnership with VMware has been really transformational for his company on a lot of different levels. “Most of the world is virtualized on top of VMware and VMware is at the core of most enterprises. When you start trying to solve people’s problems between being on premises and in the cloud, having the partnership we have with VMware allows us to find ways for customers to use the tools they’ve been using and be able to use them on top of our platform the way the they want,” Jassy told the press conference.

The two companies also announced an extension of the partnership with the new AWS Outposts servers, which bring the AWS cloud on prem where customers can choose between using VMware or AWS to manage the workloads, whether they live in the cloud or on-premises. It’s unclear whether AWS will extend this to other company’s hardware, but if they do you can be sure Dell would want to be a part of that.

Pivotal’s key role

But it’s not just VMware that Dell had its sights on when it bought EMC, it was Pivotal too. This is another company, much like VMware, that is publicly traded and operates independently of Dell, even while living inside of the Dell family of products. While VMware handles managing the server side of the house, Pivotal is about building software products.

When the company went public earlier this year, CEO Rob Mee told TechCrunch that Dell recognizes that Pivotal works better as an independent entity. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said at the time.

Virtustream could also be a key piece providing a link to run traditional enterprise applications on multi-tenant clouds. EMC bought this company in 2015 for $1.2 billion, then later spun it out as a jointly owned venture of EMC and VMware later that year. The company provides another link between applications like SAP that once only ran on prem.

Surely they had to take all the pieces to get the ones it wanted most. It might have been a big price to pay for transformation, especially since you could argue that some of the pieces were probably past their freshness dates (although even older products bring with them plenty of legacy licensing and maintenance revenue).

Even though the long-term trend is shifting toward moving to the cloud, there will be workloads that stay on premises for some time to come. It seems that Dell is trying to position itself as the hybrid/private cloud vendor and all that entails to serve those who won’t be all cloud, all the time. Whether this strategy will work long term remains to be seen, but Dell appears to be betting the house on this approach and today’s moves only solidified that.

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The Cloud Native Computing Foundation adds etcd to its open-source stable

Posted by on 11 December, 2018

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The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the open-source home of projects like Kubernetes and Vitess, today announced that its technical committee has voted to bring a new project on board. That project is etcd, the distributed key-value store that was first developed by CoreOS (now owned by Red Hat, which in turn will soon be owned by IBM). Red Hat has now contributed this project to the CNCF.

Etcd, which is written in Go, is already a major component of many Kubernetes deployments, where it functions as a source of truth for coordinating clusters and managing the state of the system. Other open-source projects that use etcd include Cloud Foundry, and companies that use it in production include Alibaba, ING, Pinterest, Uber, The New York Times and Nordstrom.

“Kubernetes and many other projects like Cloud Foundry depend on etcd for reliable data storage. We’re excited to have etcd join CNCF as an incubation project and look forward to cultivating its community by improving its technical documentation, governance and more,” said Chris Aniszczyk, COO of CNCF, in today’s announcement. “Etcd is a fantastic addition to our community of projects.”

Today, etcd has well over 450 contributors and nine maintainers from eight different companies. The fact that it ended up at the CNCF is only logical, given that the foundation is also the host of Kubernetes. With this, the CNCF now plays host to 17 projects that fall under its “incubated technologies” umbrella. In addition to etcd, these include OpenTracing, Fluentd, Linkerd, gRPC, CoreDNS, containerd, rkt, CNI, Jaeger, Notary, TUF, Vitess, NATS Helm, Rook and Harbor. Kubernetes, Prometheus and Envoy have already graduated from this incubation stage.

That’s a lot of projects for one foundation to manage, but the CNCF community is also extraordinarily large. This week alone about 8,000 developers are converging on Seattle for KubeCon/CloudNativeCon, the organization’s biggest event yet, to talk all things containers. It surely helps that the CNCF has managed to bring competitors like AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle under a single roof to collaboratively work on building these new technologies. There is a risk of losing focus here, though, something that happened to the OpenStack project when it went through a similar growth and hype phase. It’ll be interesting to see how the CNCF will manage this as it brings on more projects (with Istio, the increasingly popular service mesh, being a likely candidate for coming over to the CNCF as well).

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Dell votes to buy back VMware tracking stock and will likely go public

Posted by on 11 December, 2018

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Dell just announced that it has agreed to buy back the VMware tracking stock from the EMC acquisition. The company confirmed the buy-back price of $23.9 billion. With today’s move, the company will likely go public.

Sixty-one percent of shareholders voted in favor of the deal. It’s unclear how Wall Street will deal with the $50 billion debt load the company is carrying as a result of that $67 billion EMC acquisition from two years ago, but chairman and CEO Michael Dell got the results he wanted.

“With this vote, we are simplifying Dell Technologies’ capital structure and aligning the interests of our investors,” Dell said in a statement.

When asked if this means the company is going public again, a company spokesperson added, “Portions of Dell Technologies have been publicly traded through, for example, VMware and the tracker stock. The NYSE:DELL Class C shares will enable investors to invest in the full breadth of Dell Technologies company.”

Part of the EMC deal was a payout to shareholders based on VMware tracking stock. VMware was a key part of the deal in that it was one of the more valuable pieces in the EMC federation of companies. It still runs as a separate company with separate stock listing.

There was much drama prior to this vote with activist investor Carl Icahn suing the company last month after Dell had announced a price of $21.7 billion for the tracking stock last July. The move did get Dell to move the needle on the price a bit, although not as much as Icahn had hoped.

With today’s vote, Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says that the company is looking to move away from activist investors like Icahn and Elliott Management to more traditional institutional investors. “Dell is attempting to rid his short term activist shareholders for more mid- to long-term institutional types as he goes public again,” Wang explained.

As the company returns to the public markets, it means it is in the fairly unique position of going from from public to private to public again. Dell originally went public in 1988 before taking the company private again in 2013 in a $24.4 billion buy-back.

At least one other company, Deltek, took a similar path over a decade ago. It was eventually was sold to private equity firm Thoma Bravo for $1.1 billion in 2012 before being sold again in 2016 for $2.8 billion.

 

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TechSee nabs $16M for its customer support solution built on computer vision and AR

Posted by on 11 December, 2018

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Chatbots and other AI-based tools have firmly found footing in the world of customer service, used either to augment or completely replace the role of a human responding to questions and complaints, or (sometimes, annoyingly, at the same time as the previous two functions) sell more products to users.

Today, an Israeli startup called TechSee is announcing $16 million in funding to help build out its own twist on that innovation: an AI-based video service, which uses computer vision, augmented reality and a customer’s own smartphone camera to provide tech support to customers, either alongside assistance from live agents, or as part of a standalone customer service ‘bot.’

Led by Scale Venture Partners — the storied investor that has been behind some of the bigger enterprise plays of the last several years (including Box, Chef, Cloudhealth, DataStax, Demandbase, DocuSign, ExactTarget, HubSpot, JFrog, and fellow Israeli AI assistance startup WalkMe) the Series B also includes participation from Planven Investments, OurCrowd, Comdata Group and Salesforce Ventures. (Salesforce was actually announced as a backer in October.)

The funding will be used both to expand the company’s current business as well as move into new product areas like sales.

Eitan Cohen, the CEO and co-founder, said that the company today provides tools to some 15,000 customer service agents and counts companies like Samsung and Vodafone among its customers across verticals like financial services, tech, telecoms and insurance.

The potential opportunity is big: Cohen estimates that there are about 2 million customer service agents in the US, and about 14 million globally.

TechSee is not disclosing its valuation. It has raised around $23 million to date.

While TechSee provides support for software and apps, its sweet spot up to now has been providing video-based assistance to customers calling with questions about the long tail of hardware out in the world, used for example in a broadband home WiFi service.

In fact, Cohen said he came up with the idea for the service when his parents phoned him up to help them get their cable service back up, and he found himself challenged to do it without being able to see the set top box to talk them through what to do.

So he thought about all the how-to videos that are on platforms like YouTube and decided that there was an opportunity to harness that in a more organised way for the companies providing an increasing array of kit that may never get the vlogger treatment.

“We are trying to bring that YouTube experience for all hardware,” he said in an interview.

The thinking is that this will become a bigger opportunity over time as more services get digitised, the cost of components continues to come down and everything becomes “hardware.”

“Tech may become more of a commodity, but customer service does not,” he added. “Solutions like ours allow companies to provide low-cost technology without having to hire more people to solve issues [that might arise with it.]”

The product today is sold along two main trajectories: assisting customer reps; and providing unmanned video assistance to replace some of the easier and more common questions that get asked.

In cases where live video support is provided, the customer opts in for the service, similar to how she or he might for a support service that “takes over” the device in question to diagnose and try to fix an issue. Here, the camera for the service becomes a customer’s own phone.

Over time, that live assistance is used in two ways that are directly linked to TechSee’s artificial intelligence play. First, it helps to build up TechSee’s larger back catalogue of videos, where all identifying characteristics removed with the focus solely on the device or problem in question. Second, the experience in the video is also used to build TechSee’s algorithms for future interactions. Cohen said that there are now “millions” of media files — images and videos — now in the company’s catalogue.

The effectiveness of its system so far has been pretty impressive. TechSee’s customers — the companies running the customer support — say they have on average seen a 40 percent increase in customer satisfaction (NPS scores), a 17 percent decrease in technician dispatches, between 20 and 30 percent increase in first call resolutions, depending on the industry.

TechSee is not the only company that has built a video-based customer engagement platform: others include Stryng, CallVU and Vee24. And you could image companies like Amazon — which is already dabbling in providing advice to customers based on what its Echo Look can see — might be interested in providing such services to users across the millions of products that it sells, as well as provide that as a service to third parties.

According to Cohen, What TechSee has going for it compared to those startups, and also the potential entry of companies like Microsoft or Amazon into the mix, is a headstart on raw data and a vision of how it will be used by the startup’s AI to build the business.

“We believe that anyone who wants to build this would have a challenge making it from scratch,” he said. “This is where we have strong content, millions of images, down to specific model numbers, where we can provide assistance and instructions on the spot.”

Salesforce’s interest in the company, he said, is a natural progression of where that data and customer relationship can take a business beyond responsive support into areas like quick warranty verification (for all those times people have neglected to do a product registration), snapping fender benders for insurance claims, and of course upselling to other products and services.

“Salesforce sees the synergies between the sales cloud and the service cloud,” Cohen said.

“TechSee recognized the great potential for combining computer vision AI with augmented reality in customer engagement,” said Andy Vitus, Partner at Scale Venture Partners, who joins the board with this round. “Electronic devices become more complex with every generation, making their adoption a perennial challenge. TechSee is solving a massive problem for brands with a technology solution that simplifies the customer experience via visual and interactive guidance.”

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InVision, valued at $1.9 billion, picks up $115 million Series F

Posted by on 11 December, 2018

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“The screen is becoming the most important place in the world,” says InVision CEO and founder Clark Valberg . In fact, it’s hard to get through a conversation with him without hearing it. And, considering that his company has grown to $100 million in annual recurring revenue, he has reason to believe his own affirmation.

InVision, the startup looking to be the Salesforce of design, has officially achieved unicorn status with the close of a $115 million Series F round, bringing the company’s total funding to $350 million. This deal values InVision at $1.9 billion, which is nearly double its valuation as of mid-2017 on the heels of its $100 million Series E financing.

Spark Capital led the round with participation from Goldman Sachs, as well as existing investors Battery Ventures, ICONIQ Capital, Tiger Global Management, FirstMark and Geodesic Capital. Atlassian also participated in the round. Earlier this year, Atlassian and InVision built out much deeper integrations, allowing Jira, Confluence and Trello users to instantly collaborate via InVision.

As part of the deal, Spark Capital’s Megan Quinn will be joining the board alongside existing board members, Amish Jani, Vas Natarajan, Simon Nebel, Lee Fixel, and Mark Hastings.

InVision started out back in 2011 as a simple prototyping tool. It let designers build out their experience without asking the engineering/dev team to actually build it, to then send to the engineering and product and marketing and executive teams for collaboration and/or approval.

Over the years, the company has stretched its efforts both up and downstream in the process, building out a full collaboration suite called InVision Cloud (so that every member of the organization can be involved in the design process), Studio, a design platform meant to take on the likes of Adobe and Sketch, and InVision Design System Manager, where design teams can manage their assets and best practices from one place.

But perhaps more impressive than InVision’s ability to build design products for designers is its ability to attract users that aren’t designers.

“Originally, I don’t think we appreciated how much the freemium model acted as a fly wheel internally within an organization,” said Megan Quinn. “Those designers weren’t just inviting designers from their own team or other teams, but PMs and Marketing and Customer Service and executives to collaborate and approve the designs. From the outside, InVision looks like a design company. But really, they start with the designer as a core customer and spread virally within an organization to serve a multitude.”

InVision has simply dominated prototyping and collaboration, today announcing it has surpassed 5 million users. What’s more, InVision has a wide variety of customers. The startup has a long and impressive list of digital first customers — including Netflix, Uber, Airbnb and Twitter — but also serves 97 percent of the Fortune 100, with customers like Adidas, General Electric, NASA, IKEA, Starbucks, and Toyota.

Part of that can be attributed to the quality of the products, but the fundamental shift to digital (as predicted by Valberg) is most certainly under way. Whether brands like it or not, customers are interacting with them more and more from behind a screen, and digital customer experience is becoming more and more important to all companies.

In fact, a McKinsey study showed that companies that are in the top quartile scores of the McKinsey Design Index outperformed their counterparts in both revenues and total returns to shareholders by as much as a factor of two.

But as with any transition, some folks are adverse to change. Valberg identifies industry education and evangelism as two big challenges for InVision.

“Organizations are not quick to change on things like design, which is why we’ve built out a Design Transformation Team,” said Valberg. “The team goes in and gets hands on with brands to help them with new practices and to achieve design maturity within the organization.”

With a fresh $115 million and 5 million users, InVision has just about everything it needs to step into a new tier of competition. Even amongst behemoths like Adobe, which pulled in $2.29 billion in revenue in Q3 alone, InVision has provided products that can both compliment and compete.

But Quinn believes that the future of InVision rests on execution.

“As with most companies, the biggest challenge will be continued excellence in execution,” said Quinn. “InVision has all the right tail winds with the right team, a great product, and excellent customers. It’s all about building and executing ahead of where the pack is going.”

Posted Under: Tech News
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