Meet Jennifer Tejada, the secret weapon of one of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing enterprise software startups

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

PagerDuty, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based company that sends companies information about their technology, doesn’t receive a fraction of the press that other fast-growing enterprise software companies receive. In fact, though it counts as customers heavyweight companies like Capital One, Spotify and Netflix; it employs 500 employees; and it has five offices around the world, it has largely operated out of the spotlight.

That’s changing. For one thing, the company is now a so-called unicorn, after raising $90 million in a September round led by Wellington and T. Rowe Price that brought its total funding to $173 million and its valuation to $1.3 billion. Crowded as the unicorn club may be these days, that number, and those backers, makes PagerDuty a startup of interest to a broader circle of industry watchers.

Another reason you’re likely to start hearing more about PagerDuty is its CEO of three years, Jennifer Tejada, who is rare in the world of enterprise startups because of her gender, but whose marketing background makes her even more of an anomaly — and an asset.

In a world that’s going digital fast, Tejada knows PagerDuty can appeal to a far wider array of customers by selling them a product they can understand.

It’s a trick she first learned at Proctor & Gamble, where she spent seven years after graduating from the University of Michigan with both a liberal arts and a business management degree. In fact, in her first tech job out of P&G, working for the bubble-era supply chain management startup I2 Technologies (it went public and was later acquired), Tejada says she became “director of dumb it down.”

Sitting in PagerDuty’s expansive second floor office space in San Francisco — space that the company will soon double by taking over the first floor — Tejada recalls acting “like a filter for very technical people who were very proud of the IP they’d created” but who couldn’t explain it to anyone without relying on jargon. “I was like, ‘How are you going to get someone to pay you $2 million for that?’”

Tejada found herself increasingly distilling the tech into plain English, so the businesspeople who have to sign big checks and “bet their careers on these investments” could understand what they were being pitched. She’s instilling that same ethos at PagerDuty, which was founded in 2009 to help businesses monitor their tech stacks, manage disruptions and alert engineers before things catch on fire but, under Tejada’s watch, is evolving into a service that flags opportunities for its customers, too.

As she tells it, the company’s technology doesn’t just give customers insights into their service ecosystem and their teams’ health, and it doesn’t just find other useful kernels, like about which operations teams are the most productive and why. PagerDuty is also helping its clients become proactive. The idea, she says, is that “if you see traffic spiking on a website, you can orchestrate a team of content marketers or growth hackers and get them in that traffic stream right then, instead of reading about it in a demand-gen report a week later, where you’re, like, ‘Great, we totally missed that opportunity.’”

The example is a bit analogous to what Tejada herself brings to the table, which includes strong people skills (she’s very funny) and a knack for understanding what consumers want to hear, but also a deep understanding of financing and enterprise software.

As corny as it sounds, Tejada seems to have been working toward her current career her whole life.

Not that, like the rest of us, she knew exactly what she was doing at all times. On the contrary, one part of her path started when, after spending four years as the VP of global marketing for I2 — four years during which the dot-com bubble expanded wildly, then popped — Tejada quit her job, went home for the holidays and, while her baffled family looked on, booked a round-trip ticket to Australia to get away and learn about yachts.

She left the experience not only with her skipper certification but in a relationship with her now-husband of 16 years, an Australian with whom she settled in Sydney for roughly 12 years.

There, she worked for a private equity firm, then joined Telecom New Zealand as its chief marketing officer for a couple of years, then landed soon after at an enterprise software company that catered to asset-intensive industries, including mining, as its chief strategy officer. When that private-equity backed company was sold, Tejada took a breath, then was recruited to lead, for the first time, another company: Keynote Systems, a publicly traded internet and mobile cloud testing and monitoring company that she steered to a sale to the private equity firm Thomas Bravo a couple of years later.

The move gave her an opportunity to spend time with her now teenage daughter and husband, but she also didn’t have a job for the first time in many years, and Tejada seems to like work. Indeed, within one year, after talking with investors who’d gotten to know her over the years, as well as eager recruiters, Tejada —  who says she is “not a founder but a great adoptive parent” — settled on the 50th of 51 companies she was asked to consider joining. It was PagerDuty.

She has been overseeing wild growth ever since. The company now counts more than half of the Fortune 50 as its customers. It has also doubled its headcount a couple of times since she joined roughly 28 months ago, and many of its employees (upwards of 43 percent) are now women, as well as engineers from more diverse backgrounds than you might see at a typical Silicon Valley startup.

That’s no accident. Diversity breeds diversity, in Tejada’s view, and diversity is good for business.

“I wouldn’t say we market to women,” offers Tejada, who says diversity to her is not just about gender but also age and ethnic background and lifestyle choice and location and upbringing (and functional expertise).

“We’ve made a conscious effort to build an inclusive culture where all kinds of people want to work. And you send that message out into the market, there’s a lot of people who hear it and wonder if it could possibly be true. And then they come to a PagerDuty event, or they come into the office, and they see something different than they’ve seen before. They see people they can relate to.”

Why does it matter when it comes to writing code? For one thing, because a big part of coding is problem-solving, says Tejada. “When you have people from diverse backgrounds chunking through a big hairy problem together, those different perspectives will get you to a more insightful answer.” Tejada also believes there’s too much bias in application development and user experience. “There’s a lot of gobbledygook in our app that lots of developers totally understand but that isn’t accessible to everyone — men, women, different functional types of users, people of a different age. Like, how accessible is our mobile app to someone who’s not a native-first mobile user, who started out on an analog phone, moved to a giant desktop, then to a laptop and is now using a phone? You have to think about the accessibility of your design in that regard, too.”

What about the design of PagerDuty’s funding? We ask Tejada about the money PagerDuty raised a couple of months ago, and what it means for the company.

Unsurprisingly, as to whether the company plans to go public any time soon, her answers are variously, “I’m just building an enduring company,” and, “We’re still enjoying the benefits of being a private company.”

But Tejada also seems mindful of not raising more money for PagerDuty than it needs to scale, even while there’s an ocean of capital surrounding it.

“Going back to the early ’90s, in my career I have not seen a market where there has been more ready availability to capital, between tax reforms and sovereign cash and big corporates and low interest rates and huge venture funds, not to mention the increased willingness of big institutional investors to become LPs.” But even while the “underlying drivers and secular trends and leading indicators” suggest a healthy market for SaaS technology for a long time to come, that “doesn’t mean the labor markets are going to stay the same. It doesn’t mean the geopolitical environments are not going to change. When you let the scarcity issue in the market drive your valuation, you’re also responsible for growing into that valuation, no matter what happens in the macro environment.”

Where Tejada doesn’t necessarily want to be so measured is when it comes to PagerDuty’s place in its market. And that can be challenging as the company gains more traction — and more attention.

“If you do the right thing for your customers, and you do the right thing by your employees, all the rest will fall into place,” she says. “But the minute you take your eye off the ball, the minute you don’t earn the trust of your customer every day, the minute you stop innovating in service of them, you’re gonna start going backwards,” she says with a shrug.

Tejada recalls a conversation she had with her executive team last week, including with Alex Solomon, the company’s CTO and the one of three PagerDuty founders who remains actively engaged with the company. (Co-founder Andrew Miklas moved on to venture capital last year; Baskar Puvanathasan meanwhile left the company in March.) “They probably wanted to kill me,” she says laughing. “I told them I don’t think we’re disrupting ourselves enough. They’re like, ‘Jenn, let up.’ But that’s what happens to companies. They have their first success and they miss that second wave or third wave, and the next thing you know, you’re Kodak.”

PagerDuty, she says, “is not going to be Kodak.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Converscent wants to make it easier for companies to measure ethical behavior

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

It’s not always easy to do the right thing or to make ethical decisions in a complex business environment. People get lost inside large organizations and group think can overwhelm even normally ethical individuals. Converscent has created a platform to help, and today it announced a new benchmarking dashboard to allow companies to measure just how well they are doing from an ethical perspective.

In recent times, we’ve witnessed the impact it has when companies don’t behave ethically. Converscent CEO Patrick Quinlan says that there is real cost for behaving badly both in terms of dollars and reputation. He believes that it’s in a company’s best interest to stay on top of undesirable behavior before it spirals out of control.

Quinlan pointed out whether it’s the diesel scandal at Volkswagen or the sexual harassment revealed by Susan Fowler at Uber, it has changed the conversation about ethics. He says it’s no longer just about bottom line financial results, how you behave as a company matters too in the court of public opinion and in financial markets.

He believes this can be measured and the Converscent Ethics Dashboard is designed to provide metrics about how well your company is complying with a set of internal guidelines. The Conversent platform includes components to enable employees to safely report bad practices going on in a company such as bribery, corruption, sexual harassment and more. A more automated API driven system pulls in data from a variety of internal systems and analyzes that for ethical gaps.

Much like companies audit their financial systems, you can start to audit how ethical the organizational structure is and how negative behavior is being handled. The company not only looks at internal data, it can help customers benchmark against others in their industries. Quinlan says that it’s possible to spot a trend even before someone reports it.

“Sometimes you have this interactive code of conduct, where there’s a new vice president in a region and suddenly page views on the sexual harassment section of the Code of Conduct have increased 200% in the 90 days after he started. That’s easy, right? There’s a reason that’s happening, and our system will actually tell you what’s happening,” Quinlan explained.

He says trend reporting like this can help a company spot a problem before it spirals out of their control. In other cases, it may be more subtle, but Converscent can pick up less obvious trends as well.

Conversent, which launched in 2013, has raised almost $72 million. They have 630 customers with 6.4 million employees accessing the Converscent platform. Customers include Kimberly Clark, Microsoft, Capgemini and Under Armour.

Posted Under: Tech News
ServiceTitan raises $165M for its home services software, now valued at $1.65B

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

ServiceTitan, a startup out of Glendale, CA that has built a software platform for home services businesses — in areas like air conditioning, plumbing and electrical repairs — to manage their work, has raised $165 million in what it claims is the “largest software raise in Southern California history.”

(That distinction might be specifically for B2B software, since Snap, as one example, raised billions before it went public, when it was still known as the app startup Snapchat.)

The company has confirmed that its valuation is now at $1.65 billion — making it the newest unicorn out of the region (and fulfilling a prediction we made earlier this year).

This latest round, a Series D, was led by Index Ventures. New backers Dragoneer and T. Rowe Price also participated, along with existing investors Battery Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and ICONIQ Capital.

It’s coming just 7 months after ServiceTitan raised its last round: rapid funding rounds of large sums of money, raised within months of each other, seems to be a trend at the moment, underscoring the current state of the market where VCs have themselves raised huge funds and are looking for safe harbours and fast-growing companies in which to invest them. (As two examples, just earlier today, UiPath announced another huge round, its third fundraising this year; and Nikola Trucking also raised its second round of the year.)

The funding will be used for bringing on more talent — it’s already hired from Google, Netflix, Adobe and Accel — as well as business development and to build more software to fill out a vision of becoming “the operating system for home services.” It’s also been making acquisitions, and this could help with that, too.

This is potentially a huge market, with some $400 billion spent on home service repairs annually in the US alone.

ServiceTitan was co-founded by two Armenian Americans, Ara Mahdessian and Vahe Kuzoyan, in 2012, after they met on a ski trip organized by the Armenian student associations at Stanford and the University of Southern California when they were still were in college. The startup was borne out of work both were doing after college to build software to help their fathers, who worked in air conditioning contracting, run their businesses. 

Small businesses often are some of the most overlooked when it comes to tech innovations, even more so when they come from relatively unsexy industries like air conditioning repair, but they need solutions as much as larger organizations. ServiceTitan’s rise has come from filling that gap in the market.

It says it is on track to double subscription revenues this year, with some 2,500 customers on board covering some 50,000 technicians and $10 billion of services in areas like plumbing, air conditioning, electrical and garage door repair, working out to nearly 20 percent of homes across the US and Canada.

“The ServiceTitan mission has always been personal to us,” said Ara Mahdessian, co-founder and CEO of ServiceTitan, in a statement. “Our software powers the tireless men and women of home services who ensure the world has the basic necessities of life: running water, relief from the scorching heat and biting cold, power and electricity, and more. We take it for granted today, until our toilets back up, our air conditioning goes out during the heat of summer, or our lights go out in the middle of the night. These are the heroes that come to our rescue, and we’re here to help them be more efficient and successful.”

ServiceTitan is not the only company eyeing up the space, of course: aggregators like Amazon and Angi Homeservices (formerly Angie’s List) are providing a way for independent contractors and small franchises to connect with customers, and they will inevitably also look to provide the accounting and other software to help these companies run their businesses in their two-sided marketplaces.

ServiceTitan believes it has an edge. “Our software helps our customers with nearly every workflow in their business, including CRM, scheduling, dispatch, mobile invoicing, payments, inventory, and more,” said Vahe Kuzoyan, co-founder and President of ServiceTitan, in a statement. “We’re now integrating with large partners to enable the future of home services, including real-time appointment booking integrations with partners like Yelp and others, as well as supply-chain integration with partners like Lennox and others.”

With this round, Index’s Nina Achadjian is joining the board. “Ara and Vahe started ServiceTitan because they wanted to solve the pain point they felt first hand running their fathers’ businesses,” she said. “Since then, the company has revolutionized how plumbers, electricians, air conditioning technicians and thousands of others in other trades run their businesses. The best part is that ServiceTitan is just getting started. We could not be more excited to be a part of their journey to transform the $400 billion home services market.”

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft to acquire Xoxco as focus on AI and bot developers continues

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Microsoft has been all in on AI this year, and in the build versus buy equation, the company has been leaning heavily toward buying. This morning, the company announced its intent to acquire Xoxco, an Austin-based software developer with a focus on bot design, making it the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year.

“Today, we are announcing we have signed an agreement to acquire Xoxco, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities,” Lili Cheng, corporate VP for conversational AI at Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Xoxco, which was founded in 2009 long before most of us were thinking about conversational bots, has raised $1.5 million. It began working on bots in 2013, and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack to help schedule meetings. The companies did not reveal the price, but it fits nicely with Microsoft’s overall acquisition strategy this year, and an announcement today involving a new bot building tool to help companies build conversational bots more easily.

When you call into a call center these days, or even interact on chat, chances are your initial interaction is with a conversational bot, rather than a human. Microsoft is trying to make it easier for developers without AI experience to tap into Microsoft’s expertise on the Azure platform (or by downloading the bot framework from its newly acquired GitHub).

“With this acquisition, we are continuing to realize our approach of democratizing AI
development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate,” Cheng wrote.

The new Virtual Assistant Accelerator solution announced today also aligns with the Xoxco purchase. Eric Boyd, corporate VP for AI at Microsoft says the Virtual Assistant Accelerator pulls together some AI tools such as speech-to-text, natural language processing and an action engine into a single place to simplify bot creation.

“It’s a tool that makes it much easier for you to go and create a virtual assistant. It orchestrates a number of components that we offer, but we didn’t make them easy to use [together]. And so it’s really simplifying the creation of a virtual assistant,” he explained.

Today’s acquisition comes on the heels of a number of AI-related acquisitions. The company bought Semantic Machines in May to give users a more life-like conversation with bots. It snagged Bonsai in June to help simplify AI development and it grabbed Lobe in September, another tool for making it easier for developers to incorporate AI in their applications.

Posted Under: Tech News
‘Software robot’ startup UiPath expands Series C to $265M at a $3B valuation

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

UiPath, a startup that works in the growing area of RPA, or robotic process automation — where AI-based software is used to help businesses run repetitive or mundane back-office tasks, to free up humans to tackle more sophisticated work — has raised money for the third time this year. The company is today announcing that it has closed out its Series C at $265 million — $40 million higher than the amount it said it was aiming for two months ago.

UiPath is now disclosing new investors in the round — namely, IVP, Madrona Venture Group and Meritech Capital — plus secondary sales for employees to give them liquidity, which made up the difference. The company has confirmed to me that the transactions were done at the same valuation as the rest of the Series C, at $3 billion. The Series C is still led by CapitalG and Sequoia Capital as before.

For some context, earlier this year, the company also raised a Series B of $153 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

UiPath’s strong valuation hike and the rapid pace of its funding come at a time when both the company and its rivals are all growing quickly, as enterprises rush to capitalise on the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace. In the case of RPA, the promise is that it will help bring down the cost of doing business and improve organizations’ efficiency. UiPath’s mantra is to provide “one robot for every person,” essentially doubling a company’s workforce without the need to hire more people.

UiPath says that its current annual run rate is now $150 million, up from a $100 million ARR figure it put out just two months ago, with customers now numbering at 2,100 and including the US Army, Defense Logistics Agency, GSA, IRS, NASA, Navy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. One source at the company tells me that it’s getting approached “almost daily” for more funding at the moment.

At the same time, the competitive landscape is most definitely heating up. We’ve heard that Automation Anywhere, which also just raised money — $250 million — earlier this year, may also be looking to raise more (we’re looking into it). And just earlier this week, we reported that another RPA player, Kofax, acquired a division of Nuance for $400 million to ramp up its image processing business.

“I am honored to have IVP, Madrona Venture Group and Meritech Capital as new investors in UiPath. Their leadership and guidance will no doubt help us continue to define and lead the Automation First era for customers everywhere. UiPath has had many funding options and I believe we have selected the investors that align best with our culture and beliefs. I am humbled as the syndicate of unquestionably top-tier venture capital firms who believe in UiPath and support our future,” said UiPath CEO and co- founder Daniel Dines said in a statement. “Additionally, it is a core UiPath principle to share the success of the company in a meaningful way with our hard-working and long-time employees and we were excited to be able to extend the opportunity, at their personal choice, to realize partial liquidity in this round.”

Updated with clarification about the employee liquidity sales and new investor names.

Posted Under: Tech News
SAM nabs $12M for cybersecurity aimed at home routers and devices connected to them

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

A wave of security startups have built solutions for enterprises that are meeting the challenges of “consumerization”, where IT organizations are tasked with securing a range of devices and apps — some brought in by employees, not issued by IT — that are on the organization’s networks. Today, a startup based out of Israel that is taking a similar approach, but aimed at consumers and the plethora of devices now connected to their home networks, is announcing a round of funding. SAM — which provides a system administered by way of a home or small office/home office internet router to monitor connected devices for suspicious activity — has raised a $12 million in funding.

The Series A includes interesting strategic investors. Led by Intel Capital, the round also includes participation from home security giant ADT, NightDragon (a cybersecurity-focused VC founded by Dave DeWalt, the former CEO of FireEye and McAfee) and Blumberg Capital.

Intel is already integrating SAM’s tech into its hardware, and ADT is evaluating how it can do so right now, said Sivan Rauscher, the CEO who first cut her teeth working on cybersecurity in the Israeli army before co-founding SAM with CTO Eilon Lotem and Vice Chairman Shmuel Chafets.

Prior to this round, SAM first emerged from stealth in February 2018 with $4 million from backers that included Team8, the well-supported VC-company incubator, whose co-founders Nadav Zafir, Israel Grimberg, and Liran Grinberg now also serve as advisors to the startup.

One of the reasons for following that up relatively quickly with more funding is because SAM has already signed some deals and it’s making its way into the market. Rauscher said that the first services using the startup’s tech will go live in Germany, Belgium and UK soon. (She declined to name the telcos that will roll it out, since “they want to keep the element of surprise,” she said.) It’s also already deployed across some 4 million devices by way of Israeli carrier Bezeq.

The company is notable because in the world of cybersecurity, many of the most talented people and companies are focused on targeting the enterprise market. In a way, that is not a surprise, since these typically are larger and more complex networks, and a larger amount of data is more immediately at stake.

(And you could argue that in fact this is also an enterprise play, since SAM is working with telcos to provide services to consumers: “We have an agenda to protect the end user but also the carrier as well,” Rauscher said.)

SAM is coming into the market at a key time.

Home networks are increasingly including a range of devices — not just phones, laptops and tablets; but set-top boxes, home security systems, lighting and fire detection, home ‘hubs’, connected appliances and more. Gartner estimates more than 7 billion connected devices in the consumer market for this year, with that number rising to 12.9 billion by 2020.

But perhaps an even bigger urgency is that home routers — which Rauscher describes as “low-hanging fruit” — have increasingly become a target for malicious hackers. A report from Akamai earlier this year estimated that 65,000 home routers have been accessed by hackers; the US and UK governments have further issued warnings that Russian hackers are lying in wait, using compromised routers to lay out long-term cyber warfare operations.

In that context, while the concept of securing a home router might not sound like as lucrative a target on its own compared to multi-million-dollar enterprise contracts (and the billions of dollars and thousands of data points that are at stake), the wider problem is clearly one that is ripe for addressing.

In a nutshell, Rauscher — also, I should add, notable for being one of a handful of female founders in the world of cybersecurity — says that what SAM does is operate by way of the router, but by identifying and providing security wrappers for every device that connects with the router.

“Our software is agnostic to any home router,” she said, adding that once you secure the router, “you secure everything in the network.” The essence of what SAM does is search out suspicious links into and coming out of these devices, and when it detects them, they are blocked, essentially taking the role of an IT department or presenting an enterprise-style deployment designed to work in the home.

“We were impressed with SAM’s technology and level of security for the home network, which is a critical part of building out the future of 5G,” said Dave Flanagan, vice president of Intel Corp. and group managing director of Intel Capital. “Unlike existing solutions, which necessitate buying a new gateway or replacing it with a secure gateway, SAM’s solution provides end-users security, without them needing to do anything. And for telecommunications companies and ISPs, its AI and machine learning capabilities monitor behavior on the network to detect unusual activity and prevent attacks. With the global market for smart home technology predicted to hit $100 billion by 2020, Intel and its partners know security is essential.”

Posted Under: Tech News
This startup got $2.3M to identify physical objects using diamond dust

Posted by on 14 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Imagine coating an expensive part with a layer of diamond dust the width of a human hair, capturing its light pattern as a unique identifier, then storing that identifier in a traditional database or on the blockchain. That’s precisely what Dust Identity, a Boston-based startup is trying to do, and today it got $2.3 million in seed money led by Kleiner Perkins with participation from New Science Ventures, Angular Ventures, and Castle Island Ventures.

The science behind Dust Identity was nurtured inside MIT, but the company has been at work for two years trying to build a solution based on that idea after receiving early support from DARPA. What these folks do is manufacture extremely tiny diamonds. They dust an object such as a circuit board with a coating of this and capture the diamonds in a polymer, company CEO and co-founder Ophir Gaathon explained.

“Once the diamonds fall on the surface of a polymer epoxy, and that polymer cures, the diamonds are fixed in their position, fixed in their orientation, and it’s actually the orientation of those diamonds that we developed a technology that allows us to read those angles very quickly,” Gaathon told TechCrunch.

For all the advanced technology at play here, Dust Identity is truly an identity company, but instead of identifying an individual, its purpose is to provide a trusted identity for an object using a physical anchor — in this case, diamond dust. You may be thinking that diamonds are kind of an expensive way to achieve this, but as it turns out, the company is actually creating the coating materials from low-cost diamond industrial waste.

“We start with diamond waste (for example, [from] the abrasive industry), but we developed a proprietary process (that’s of course highly scalable and economical) to purify and engineer the diamond waste into dust,” a company spokesperson explained.

The idea behind all of this is to prove that an object is valid and hasn’t been tampered with. The dust is applied at some point during the manufacturing process. The unique identifier is captured with some kind of commercial scanner and stored in the database. It provides a physical anchor for blockchain supply chain solutions that’s currently lacking. When the part makes its way to the buyer, they can run the part under a scanner and make sure it matches. If the dust pattern has been disturbed, there’s a good chance the piece was tampered with.

Finding a way to create uncopyable tags for physical objects is a kind of supply chain holy grail. Ilya Fushman, a partner at Kleiner Perkins says his firm recognized the potential of this solution. “We have a pretty strong hard tech practice. We understand the value of supply chain and supply chain integrity,” he said.

The company is not alone in trying to find a way to attach a physical anchor to items in the supply chain. In fact, you can go back to RFID tags and QR codes, but Gaathon says the security of these approaches has degraded over time as hackers figure out how to copy them. IBM and others are working on tiny chips to attach to objects, but the diamond dust approach could be the most secure if it can scale because it works with an entirely random light pattern that can never be reproduced.

The startup intends to take the money and try to prove this idea can be commercialized for government and manufacturing use cases. It certainly gets points for creativity here and it could be onto something that could transform how we track the integrity of items as they move through a supply chain.

Posted Under: Tech News
Zendesk shifts to platform play with Zendesk Sunshine launch

Posted by on 13 November, 2018

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Zendesk has always been strongly focused on customer service in the cloud. They began to look at this more broadly in September when they purchased Base to move into sales automation and CRM. Today, the company announced Zendesk Sunshine, a new platform for creating customer-focused applications on top of Zendesk’s toolset.

All of this appears to be with an eye toward shifting Zendesk from its core customer service mission to a broader customer management business. Mikkel Svane, founder and CEO at Zendesk, says Sunshine is about moving his company toward a platform play, something that many cloud companies have aspired to. “Sunshine is a platform for building your own apps, and also for managing and storing and connecting all your customer data,” Svane told TechCrunch.

For starters, Zendesk is partnering with AWS to act as the infrastructure services backend for the applications built on the Sunshine platform. “You can build apps on top of Sunshine, typically customer experience or customer relationship apps, and it’s built natively on AWS, so that you have access to all the AWS services. And of course, all of the applications rely on the Sunshine platform for information sharing, etc,” he explained.

He says they deliberately chose the public cloud because they believe that is where developers want to operate today. “We believe that businesses and developers should take advantage of the public cloud paradigms and use frameworks such as Sunshine to build these applications,” he said.

Svane says for starters, this approach is aimed at helping Zendesk customers build applications to take advantage of the data they are collecting inside of Zendesk as a natural byproduct of doing work with the service, but over time independent developers could begin working on the platform too.

He sees today’s announcement as a first step toward expanding the company’s set of products and services, and it’s something they plan to build on in the coming years. “You’re going to see a lot more on our roadmap over the next couple of years to truly embrace our platform mission and our ultimate goal is to be a ubiquitous CRM platform where anyone who wants to can build any kind of customer-facing application, and really benefit from the public cloud and from the Sunshine framework and have data flow seamlessly between services, vendors and applications,” he said.

We saw customer experience take center stage this week when SAP bought Qualtrics for $8 billion. Understanding the customer has clearly become increasingly important and Zendesk has access to a lot of customer data, which developers can take advantage of to build customized customer-centric applications. The only thing that’s truly surprising about this announcement is that Zendesk didn’t make a platform play sooner.

But perhaps as a more mature vendor, and with Base in the fold, they feel they are more prepared to make this type of move now than they were in the past. Whatever the reason, every enterprise cloud company worth its salt has tried to be a developer platform, and with today’s announcement, it’s Zendesk’s turn.

Posted Under: Tech News
WeWork picks up ANOTHER $3B from SoftBank

Posted by on 13 November, 2018

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WeWork has picked up another $3 billion in financing from SoftBank Corp, not to be confused with SoftBank Vision Fund. The deal comes in the form of a warrant, allowing SoftBank to pay $3 billion for the opportunity to buy shares before September 2019 at a price of $110 or higher, ultimately valuing WeWork at $42 billion minimum.

In August, SoftBank Corp invested $1 billion in WeWork in the form of a convertible note.

According to the Financial Times, SoftBank will pay WeWork $1.5 billion on January 15, 2019 and another $1.5 billion on April 15.

SoftBank is far and away WeWork’s biggest investor, with SoftBank Vision Fund having poured $4.4 billion into the company just last year.

The real estate play out of WeWork is just one facet of the company’s strategy.

More than physical land, WeWork wants to be the central connective tissue for work in general. The company often strikes deals with major service providers at ‘whole sale’ prices by negotiating on behalf of its 300,000 members. Plus, WeWork has developed enterprise products for large corporations, such as Microsoft, who tend to sign longer, more lucrative leases. In fact, these types of deals make up 29 percent of WeWork’s revenue.

The biggest issue is whether or not WeWork can sustain its outrageous growth, which seems to have been the key to its soaring valuation. After all, WeWork hasn’t yet achieved profitability.

Can the vision become a reality? SoftBank seems willing to bet on it.

Posted Under: Tech News
Cognigo raises $8.5M for its AI-driven data protection platform

Posted by on 13 November, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Cognigo, a startup that aims to use AI and machine learning to help enterprises protect their data and stay in compliance with regulations like GDPR, today announced that it has raised an $8.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, with participation from privacy company Prosegur and State of Mind Ventures.

The company promises that it can help businesses protect their critical data assets and prevent personally identifiable information from leaking outside of the company’s network. And it says it can do so without the kind of hands-on management that’s often required in setting these kinds of systems up and managing them over time. Indeed, Cognigo says that it can help businesses achieve GDPR compliance in days instead of months.

To do this, the company tells me, it’s using pre-trained language models for data classification. That model has been trained to detect common categories like payslips, patents, NDAs and contracts. Organizations can also provide their own data samples to further train the model and customize it for their own needs. “The only human intervention required is during the systems configuration process which would take no longer than a single day’s work,” a company spokesperson told me. “Apart from that, the system is completely human-free.”

The company tells me that it plans to use the new funding to expand its R&D, marketing and sales teams, all with the goal of expanding its market presence and enhancing awareness of its product. “Our vision is to ensure our customers can use their data to make smart businesses decisions while making sure that the data is continuously protected and in compliance,” the company tells me.

Posted Under: Tech News
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