LA-based Boulevard raises $27 million for its spa management software

Boulevard, a spa management and payment platform, has raised $27 million in a new round of funding despite a business slowdown caused by the COVID0-19 pandemic.

Founded four years ago by Matt Danna and Sean Stavropoulos, Boulevard was inspired by Stavropoulos’ inability to book a haircut and Danna’s hunch that the inability of salons and spas to cater to customers like the busy programmer could be indicative of a bigger problem.

The two spent months pounding the pavement in Los Angeles pretending to be college students doing research on the industry. They spoke with salon owners in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and other trendy neighborhoods trying to get a sense of where software and services were falling short.

Through those months of interviews the two developed the booking management and payment platform that would become Boulevard. The inspiration was one part Shopify and one part ServiceTitan, Danna said.

The idea was that the Boulevard could build a pretty large business catering to the needs of a niche industry that hadn’t traditionally been exposed to a purpose-built toolkit for its vertical.

Investors including Index Ventures, Toba Capital, VMG Partners, Bonfire Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and BoxGroup agreed.

That could be because of the size of the industry. There’s over $250 billion spent per year across roughly 3 million businesses in the salon and spa category, according to data provided by the company. By comparison, fitness attracts roughly $34 billion in annual spending from 150,000 businesses.

“With limited access to the professionals that help us look and feel our best, I think the world has realized something that our team has always recognized: salons and spas are more than a luxury, they are essential to our well-being,” said Danna, in a statement. “We are humbled that so many businesses are placing their trust in us during such a turbulent time. This new capital will help accelerate our mission and deliver value to salons and spas that they never imagined was possible from technology.”

According to data provided by the company, Boulevard is definitely giving businesses a boost. On average, businesses increase bookings by 16%, retail revenue jumps by 18%, and gratuity paid out to stylists jumps by 24% for businesses that use Boulevard, the company said. It also reduces no-shows and cancellations, and halves time spent on the phone.  

“Boulevard is revitalizing the salon and spa industry, as evidenced by the company’s sustained 300-400% revenue growth over the last three years,” said Damir Becirovic of Index Ventures, whose firm led the company’s Series A round and has doubled down with the new capital infusion. 

Customers using the company’s software include: Chris McMillan the Salon, Heyday, MèCHE Salon, Paintbox, Sassoon Salon, SEV Laser, Spoke & Weal, and TONI&GUY.

Boulevard now has 90 employees and will look to increase that number as it continues to expand across the country.

Investors have taken a run at the spa market in the past, with company’s like MindBody valued at over $1 billion for its software services. Indeed, that company was taken private two years ago in a $1.9 billion transaction by Vista Equity Partners.

As Boulevard expands, the company may look to get deeper into financial services for the salons and spas that it’s already working with. Given the company’s window into these businesses’ financing, it’s not impossible to image a new line of business providing small business loans to these companies.

It’s something that the founders would likely not rule out. And it’s a way to provide more tools to entrepreneurs that often fall outside of the traditional sweet spot for banks and other lenders, Danna said.

 

#articles, #bonfire-ventures, #boulevard, #boxgroup, #business, #business-software, #economy, #financial-services, #laser, #los-angeles, #ludlow-ventures, #mindbody, #shopify, #small-business, #tc, #toba-capital, #vista-equity-partners

0

Microsoft brings new shopping tools to its Edge browser

Microsoft announced a few updates to its Edge browser today that are all about shopping. In addition to expanding the price comparison feature the team announced last month, Edge can now also automatically find coupons for you. In addition, the company is launching a new shopping hub in its Bing search engine. The timing here is undoubtedly driven by the holiday shopping season — though this year, it feels like Black Friday-style deals already started weeks ago.

Image Credits: Microsoft

The potential usefulness of the price comparison tools is pretty obvious. I’ve found this always worked reasonably well in Edge Collections — though at times it could also be a frustrating experience because it just wouldn’t pull any data for items you saved from some sites. Now, with this price comparison running in the background all the time, you’ll see a new badge pop up in the URL bar that lets you open up the price comparison. And when you already found the best price, it’ll tell you that right away, too.

At least in the Edge Canary where this has been available for a little bit already, this was also hit and miss. It seems to work just fine when you shop on Amazon, for example, as long as there’s only one SKU of an item. If there are different colors, sizes or other options available, it doesn’t really seem to kick in, which is a bit frustrating.

Image Credits: Microsoft

The coupons feature, too, is a bit of a disappointment. It works more consistently and seems to pull data from most of the standard coupon sites (think RetailMeNot and Slickdeals), but all it does is show sitewide coupons. Since most coupons only apply to a limited set of items, clicking on the coupon badge quickly feels like a waste of time. To be fair, the team implemented a nifty feature where at checkout, Bing will try to apply all of the coupons it found. That could be a potential time- and money-saver. Given the close cooperation with the Bing team in other areas, this feels like an area of improvement, though. I turned it off.

Microsoft is also using today’s announcement to launch a new URL shortener in Edge. “Now, when you paste a link that you copied from the address bar, it will automatically convert from a long, nonsensical URL address to a short hyperlink with the website title. If you prefer the full URL, you can convert to plain text using the context menu,” Microsoft explains. I guess that makes sense in some scenarios. Most of the time, though, I just want the link (and no third-party in-between), so I hope this can easily be turned off, too.

#business, #coupon, #mass-media, #microsoft, #microsoft-bing, #retailmenot, #search-engine, #tc, #websites

0

Venture firm M13 names former Techstars LA managing director, Anna Barber, as its newest partner

The Los Angeles and New York-based venture firm M13 has managed to nab former Techstars LA managing director, Anna Barber, as its newest partner and the head of its internal venture studio, Launchpad.

Designed to be a collaborative startup company incubator alongside corporate partners, Launchpad focuses on developing new consumer tech businesses focused on M13’s main investment areas: health, food, transportation, and housing.

For Barber, the new position is the latest step in a professional career spent working both inside and outside of the tech industry.

Barber got her first taste of the startup world when she was poached from McKinsey to join one of the several online pet supply stores that cropped up in 1999. From her position as the vice president of product at Petstore.com, Barber got her taste of the startup world… and left it to become a talent manager and the co-founder of the National Air Guitar championships (no word if she managed air guitar talent).

Prior to launching the Techstars LA incubator program, Barber founded ScribblePress, a retail and digital publishing app, which was sold to Fingerprint Digital.

Anna Barber, partner, M13. Image Credit: Raif Strathmann

At M13, Barber will be working to recruit entrepreneurs to work collaboratively on developing startup consumer businesses that align with the strategic interests of M13’s corporate partners, like Procter & Gamble.

We will be bringing in founders in residence who will come in without an idea,” Barber said of the program. “We’re starting with a blank sheet of paper and building teams in partnership with entrepreneurs and in partnership with corporate partners who will bring their perspective and their IP. “

The EIRs will receive a small stipend and equity in the business, Barber said.

The starting gun for M13’s Launchpad  program was in 2019 and the program currently has managed to spin up three startups. There’s Rae, an developer of affordable women’s wellness products; and the beauty tech company OPTE; Kindra menopause products; and Bodewell for sensitive skin care, which were all developed alongside Procter & Gamble Ventures.

M13, for its part, is developing a strong team of women partners who are investing at the firm. Barber will join Lizzie Francis and Christine Choi on the investment team, something that Barber said was especially exciting.

“There is no better place for M13’s Launchpad than Los Angeles and no better person to lead it than Anna. M13 is home to a creative, diverse community of entrepreneurs and operators who want to make the world better by applying innovation in everything from media to biotech, prop tech to food,” said M13 co-founder Carter Reum. “We are excited for Anna to continue to lead LA’s center of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors with a rigorous Launchpad program and more exceptional partners and cohorts.”

#articles, #business, #business-incubators, #business-models, #co-founder, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #food, #head, #launchpad, #los-angeles, #m13, #mckinsey, #mentorships, #new-york, #procter-gamble, #rae, #startup-company, #tc, #techstars

0

Funded by Connect Ventures, Purple Dot plans to take on Klarna-style purchase debt

In recent times startups have appeared offering credit at an e-commerce basket checkout so that a customer can buy a product without needing to pay right away. Klarna or Clearpay are the two most notable in this field. But what if you flipped the model around so that consumers could buy the item at a lower price later on, and the retailer could reduce waste? This is the model of Purple Dot, which bills itself as a ‘worth-the-wait’ payment option for fashion brands.

It’s now raised a seed round of £1.35 million, led by Connect Ventures, with support from AI Seed, Moxxie Ventures, Andy Chung and Philipp Moehring from AngelList, Alex Roetter former SVP of Engineering at Twitter and the family office of Paul Forster, co-founder of Indeed.com.

Founded in August 2019 by senior Skyscanner employees Madeline Parra (CEO) and John Talbott (CTO), Purple Dot allows consumers to request a ‘worth-the-wait’ lower price. The advantage for retailers is that they can then decide whether or not to release a fashion product mid-season at a slightly reduced rate in order to secure the sale.

“Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

The customers still pays upfront and then waits to have the item confirmed, receiving a full refund if not. The Purple Dot payment method sits alongside ‘buy now, pay later’ finance options.

This ‘worth-the-wait’ price does not usually fall below a 10-20% reduction from the recommended retail price, thus reducing losses from end-of-season discounting, where discounts are much deeper. The advantage for the consumer is that they don’t then rack up debt on their purchases.

The startup says it’s already in talks with a number of major UK and US high street brands but has already secured menswear retailer Spoke, which will also use the tech for ‘pre-ordering’. This means they can test out new styles, designs and fabrics in a limited manner, thus reducing waste (and therefore carbon emissions) when they commit to a new line of clothing.

Madeline Parra, CEO of Purple Dot, commented: “When shopping online today, customers can either pay the retail price or walk away. When they do walk away, the item goes through the discounting process, becomes unprofitable for the merchant and is resigned to landfill. This binary system isn’t working for anyone – the customer loses out on the item, because it may go out of stock in their size before they attempt to purchase it again, and the merchant loses the sale. Purple Dot tackles this problem head-on by providing a new way to shop, taking on unsustainable, unrelenting consumerism, poor pricing tactics and profit-crunching sales at the same time.”

Speaking to TechCrunch she also added that “Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

Pietro Bezza, General Partner at Connect Ventures, commented:  “Purple Dot’s innovative proposition benefits retailers by creating a solution to their inventory problems. End of season ‘panic sales’ have long caused financial uncertainty for retailers and a negative impact on the environment in equal measure.”

#alex-roetter, #angellist, #articles, #business, #ceo, #co-founder, #connect-ventures, #cto, #economy, #europe, #general-partner, #klarna, #major, #moxxie-ventures, #online-shopping, #pietro-bezza, #spoke, #startup-company, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

0

Apple earnings show strong iPad and Mac sales can’t make up for the iPhone

An older man in a white polo shirt flashes a peace sign while walking outdoors.

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook. (credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Apple announced its fourth-quarter earnings today after the bell, and it was something of a strange quarter because, unlike some previous years (including last year), this quarter’s numbers did not include an iPhone launch. The iPhone 12’s various models ship in October and November instead of September this year.

CEO Tim Cook proudly announced double-digit YOY growth in all product categories besides iPhone on the call, but the iPhone is important: Apple’s total revenue was up only 1 percent year-over-year, with iPhone revenue down almost 21 percent.

While the iPhone didn’t help push up the bottom line, Apple did launch other products during the period, including the redesigned iPad Air and two Apple Watches: the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE. iPad revenue was up a substantial 46 percent YOY (it totaled $6.8 billion), and Mac revenue was also strong at $9 billion, or 28 percent more than the same quarter last year.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#apple, #apple-tv, #business, #earnings, #ipad-air, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-pro, #stocks, #tech, #ted-lasso, #tim-cook

0

Shopify stock is up in pre-market trading as earnings blow past estimates

Shopify stock jumped nearly 3% in pre-market trading today after announcing earnings that handily beat the estimates set by Wall Street.

The Ottawa-based provider of e-commerce services for retailers reported earnings of $133.2 million, or $1.13 per-share, for the third quarter after posting a loss of $33.6 million, or 29 cents per-share, in the same period last year. Analysts tracking the company had expected earnings per-share of 52 cents.

Pretty much everything about the company’s business looked good, partly driven by plummeting brick-and-mortar retail sales as health regulations to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus like occupancy constraints have slowed down foot traffic.

Shopify’s $767.4 million in revenue for the quarter was up 96% from a year ago and handily beat the expectations of analysts who were predicting for the company to bring in roughly $658 million. Operating income was also up from the year-ago period with Shopify calling about $50 million, or 7% of revenue, compared to a nearly $36 million loss for the year ago period. Adjusted operating income was nearly $131 million.

“The accelerated shift to digital commerce triggered by COVID-19 is continuing, as more consumers shop online and entrepreneurs step up to meet demand,” said Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s President, in a statement. “Entrepreneurs will be the force in rebuilding economies all over the world, which makes it even more important for Shopify to innovate and build the critical tools that merchants need to succeed in a low-touch retail environment.”

“Shopify’s tremendous third-quarter results reflect the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of our merchants,” said Amy Shapero, Shopify’s CFO . “More entrepreneurs are signing on to Shopify so they can quickly and easily put their ideas into action. We continue to evolve our global commerce operating system to make it easier for merchants to get online and start selling, get discovered, and get their goods to buyers, while providing a delightful shopping experience.”

Shopify is interesting not only for its own revenue, but what its revenues say about the health of direct-to-consumer retail businesses — some of which have raised significant investment from venture capitalists.

Looking at the company’s merchant solutions revenue, which grew by 132% to $522.1 million — the state of these direct-to-consumer companies’ bottom line must be pretty healthy. Gross merchandise volume, the figure from which Shopify derives its merchant solutions gains, was $30 billion. That figure is an increase of $16.1 billion over the year-ago period.

Shopify is sitting on a pretty hefty financial cushion with $6.12 billion in cash and equivalents, up from $2.46 billion at the start of the year.

Outside its financials, Shopify is making moves to expand its footprint in social commerce, through a recent partnership with TikTok, announced yesterday. The deal should enable more Shopify sellers to reach TikTok’s audience by marketing directly on the platform using a toolkit integrated with Shopify’s dashboard, the two companies said.

“More entrepreneurs are signing on to Shopify so they can quickly and easily put their ideas into action,” said Amy Shapero, Shopify’s chief financial officer. “We continue to evolve our global commerce operating system to make it easier for merchants to get online and start selling, get discovered, and get their goods to buyers, while providing a delightful shopping experience.”

#analyst, #business, #cfo, #chief-financial-officer, #e-commerce, #online-shopping, #operating-system, #president, #publishing, #shopify, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Chronicle’s ex-CSO is starting a new company he doesn’t want you to know much about

Mike Wiacek is back with a new company, a year after departing his role as chief security officer at Chronicle, Google’s moonshot cybersecurity company.

Wiacek spent 13 years at Google, founding the company’s Threat Analysis Group, a unit dedicated to countering government and state-backed hacking efforts, and also co-founding Chronicle, which was rolled into Google Cloud after a series of high-profile executive departures, including his own.

Armed with over a decade of experience, Wiacek is now steering the ship at Stairwell, his new cybersecurity startup. Stairwell is now out of stealth after almost a year and securing $4.5 million in seed funding, led by venture firm Accel, with participation from Sequoia Capital, Gradient Ventures, and Allen & Company.

In a press release, the company said it wants “to provide security teams with accessible, user-centric tools that help them understand the pivotal relationships between their external and internal data sources. With this intelligence, organizations will be in a much stronger position to proactively combat the most sophisticated and dangerous cyber attacks.” And, in a call with TechCrunch, Wiacek said his vision for the new company is to “empower any team to defend against every attacker.”

But the founder took the unusual step of declining to say how the company plans to get there. Wiacek confirmed that Stairwell is building at least one product, but declined to offer details of what it is, what it does, or when it will be out.

Admittedly, that made the ensuing conversation rather difficult.

Wiacek said Jan Kang, former chief legal officer at Chronicle, has joined the startup, and the seed round will go towards staffing his team. Stairwell has ten employees at launch, largely focused on engineering, and plans to also include designers, physicists, and applied mathematicians.

As for what the company is working on, “I think it’s one of those we just have to wait and see,” said Wiacek.

I guess we’ll have to.

#accel, #allen-company, #business, #california, #companies, #cybersecurity-startup, #google, #google-cloud, #recent-funding, #security, #startup-company, #startups

0

Panoply raises $10M for its cloud data platform

Panoply, a platform that makes it easier for businesses to set up a data warehouse and analyze that data with standard SQL queries, today announced that it has raised an additional $10 million in funding from Ibex Investors and C5 Capital. This brings the total funding in the San Francisco- and Tel Aviv-based company to $24 million.

The company, which launched back in 2015, has mostly stuck to its original vision, which was always about democratizing access to data warehousing and the analytics capabilities that go hand-in-hand with that. Over the last few years, it also built more code-free data integrations into the platform that make it easier for businesses to pull in data from a wide variety of sources, including the likes of Salesforce, HubSpot, NetSuite, Xero, Quickbooks, Freshworks and others. It also integrates with other data warehousing services like Google’s BigQuery and Amazon’s Redshift and all of the major BI and analytics tools.

The company says it will use the new funding to expand its sales and marketing efforts.

“We aspire to make analysts’ lives simpler and more productive by making it easier for them to sync, store, and access their data, and this funding will go a long way toward that mission,” says CEO and co-founder Yaniv Leven in today’s announcement.

In some ways, Panoply was maybe just a bit early to the market. Today, though, there can be little doubt that we’re in a booming market for data warehousing and analytics services. There’s nary a business left, after all, that isn’t looking to gain more insights from the copious amounts of data they gather every single day now. That market is now more competitive than ever, too, with incumbents like Snowflake, Databricks and others (including all of the hyper clouds) all aiming for their slice of the market. Panoply and its investors clearly believe that the company’s all-in-one platform gives it a competitive edge, though.

#accounting-software, #amazon, #business, #business-intelligence, #c5-capital, #computing, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #databricks, #hubspot, #information-technology, #netsuite, #quickbooks, #redshift, #salesforce, #san-francisco, #search-engine-optimization, #sql, #tc, #tel-aviv, #xero

0

Spying a pivot to ghost kitchens, Softbank’s second Vision Fund pours $120 million into Ordermark

“We’re building a decentralized ghost kitchen,” is a sentence that could launch a thousand investor calls, and Alex Canter, the chief executive officer behind Ordermark, knows it.

The 29 year-old CEO has, indeed, built a decentralized ghost kitchen — and managed to convince Softbank’s latest Vision Fund to invest in a $120 million round for that the company announced today.

“We have uncovered an opportunity to help drive more orders into restaurants through this offering we have called Nextbite,” Canter said. “Nextbite is a portfolio of delivery-only restaurant brands that exist only on UberEats, DoorDash, and Postmates.”

After hearing about Nextbite, Softbank actually didn’t take much convincing.

Investors from the latest Vision Fund first reached out to Canter shortly after the company announced its last round of funding in 2019. Canter had just begun experimenting with Nextbite at the time, but now the business is driving a huge chunk of the company’s revenues and could account for a large percentage of the company’s total business in the coming year.

“We believe Ordermark’s leading technology platform and innovative virtual restaurant concepts are transforming the restaurant industry,” said Jeff Housenbold, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Alex and the Ordermark team have a deep understanding of the challenges that independent restaurants face. We are excited to support their mission to help independent restaurants optimize online ordering and generate incremental revenue from under-utilized kitchens.”

It’s an interesting pivot for a company that began as a centralized hub for restaurants to manage all of the online delivery orders coming in through various delivery services like GrubHub, Postmates and Uber Eats .

Canter is no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owns one of Los Angeles’ most famous delicatessens, the eponymous Canters, and Ordermark apocryphally started as a way to manage the restaurant’s own back-of-the-house chaos caused by a profusion of delivery service orders.

Now, instead of becoming the proprietor of one restaurant brand, Canter is running 15 of them. Unlike Cloud Kitchens, Kitchen United or Reef, Ordermark isn’t building or operating new kitchens. Instead, the company relies on the unused kitchen capacity of restaurants that the company has vetted to act as its quasi-franchisees.

Ordermark logos for some of the company’s delivery-only restaurant concepts. Image Credit: Ordermark

While most of the restaurant concepts have been developed internally, Ordermark isn’t above the occasional celebrity sponsorship. Its Nextbite service has partnered with Wiz Khalifa on a delivery-only restaurant called HotBox by Wiz, featuring “stoner-friendly munchies”.

The first brand Canter launched was The Grilled Cheese Society, which took advantage of unused kitchens at places like a Los Angeles nightclub and mom-and-pop restaurants across the East Coast to build out a footprint that now covers 100 locations nationwide.

It’s perhaps the growth of the HotBox brand that shows what kind of growth Nextbite could promote. Since the brand’s launch in early October, it has grown to a footprint that will reach 50 cities by the end of the month, according to Canter.

In some ways, Nextbite couldn’t exist without Ordermark’s delivery aggregation technology. “The way that Ordermark’s technology is designed, not only can we aggregate online orders into the device, but we can aggregate multiple brands into the device.”

For restaurants that sign up to be fulfillment partners for the Nextbite brands, there are few additional upfront costs and a fair bit of upside, according to Canter. Restaurants are making 30% margin on every order they take for one of Ordermark’s brands, Canter said.

To become a part of Nextbite’s network of restaurants the business has to be vetted by Ordermark. The company takes cues on what kinds of restaurants are performing well in different regions and develops a menu that is suited to match those trends. For instance, Nextbite recently launched a hot chicken sandwich brand after seeing the item rise in popularity on different digital delivery services.

Restaurants are chosen that can match the menu style of the delivery-only brand that Ordermark’s Nextbite business creates.

Behind those menus is Guy Simsiman, a Denver-based chef who is in charge of developing new menus for the company.

“We’re building things that we know can scale and we do a lot of upfront vetting to find the right types of fulfillment partners,” said Canter. “When a restaurant signs up to become a fulfillment partner, we’re vetting them and training them on what they need to do to … We’re guiding them to become fulfillment partners for these concepts. There’s a whole bunch of training that happens. Then there’s secret shopping and review monitoring to monitor quality.”

While Nextbite may be the future of Ordermark’s business, its overall health looks solid. The company is about to cross $1 billion worth of orders processed through its system.

“We are laser focused right now on helping our restaurants survive COVID and the best way we can do that is by doubling down on the incremental revenues of the Nextbite business,” said Canter when asked where the company’s emphasis would be going forward.

Nextbite is something we’ve been developing for a while now. We took it to market at the end of last year prior to COVID. When COVID kicked in every restaurant in America needed to be more creative. People were looking for alternative ways to supplement the loss in foot traffic,” he said. Nextbite provided an answer.

#america, #business, #ceo, #chef, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #covid, #delivery-services, #denver, #doordash, #east-coast, #grubhub, #jeff-housenbold, #laser, #los-angeles, #managing-partner, #menu, #online-food-ordering, #ordermark, #postmates, #restaurant, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #vision-fund, #websites, #wiz

0

Freshworks (re-)launches its CRM service

Freshworks, the customer and employee engagement company that offers a range of products, from call center and customer support software to HR tools and marketing automation services, today announced the launch of its newest product: Freshworks CRM. The new service, which the company built on top of its new Freshworks Neo platform, is meant to give sales and marketing teams all of the tools they need to get a better view of their customers — with a bit of machine learning thrown in for better predictions.

Freshworks CRM is essentially a rebrand of the company’s Freshsales service, combined with the company’s capabilities of its Freshmarketer marketing automation tool.

“Freshworks CRM unites Freshsales and Freshmarketer capabilities into one solution, which leverages an embedded customer data platform for an unprecedented and 360-degree view of the customer throughout their entire journey,” a company spokesperson told me.

The promise here is that this improved CRM solution is able to provide teams with a more complete view of their (potential) customers thanks to the unified view — and aggregated data — that the company’s Neo platform provides.

The company argues that the majority of CRM users quickly become disillusioned with their CRM service of choice — and the reason for that is because the data is poor. That’s where Freshworks thinks it can make a difference.

Freshworks CRM delivers upon the original promise of CRM: a single solution that combines AI-driven data, insights and intelligence and puts the customer front and center of business goals,” said Prakash Ramamurthy, the company’s chief product officer. “We built Freshworks CRM to harness the power of data and create immediate value, challenging legacy CRM solutions that have failed sales teams with clunky interfaces and incomplete data.”

The idea here is to provide teams with all of their marketing and sales data in a single dashboard and provide AI-assisted insights to them to help drive their decision making, which in turn should lead to a better customer experience — and more sales. The service offers predictive lead scoring and qualification, based on a host of signals users can customize to their needs, as well as Slack and Teams integrations, built-in telephony with call recording to reach out to prospects and more. A lot of these features were already available in Freshsales, too.

“The challenge for online education is the ‘completion rate’. To increase this, we need to understand the ‘Why’ aspect for a student to attend a course and design ‘What’ & ‘How’ to meet the personalized needs of our students so they can achieve their individual goals,” said Mamnoon Hadi Khan, the chief analytics officer at Shaw Academy. “With Freshworks CRM, Shaw Academy can track the entire student customer journey to better engage with them through our dedicated Student Success Managers and leverage AI to personalize their learning experience — meeting their objectives.”

Pricing for Freshworks CRM starts at $29 per user/month and goes up to $125 per user/month for the full enterprise plan with more advanced features.

#artificial-intelligence, #business, #cloud-applications, #cloud-computing, #crm, #customer-relationship-management, #enterprise, #erp-software, #freshworks, #insideview, #machine-learning, #marketing, #marketing-automation, #online-education, #web-applications

0

Extra Crunch Partner Perk: Get 6 months free of Zendesk Support and Sales CRM

We’re excited to announce an update to the Extra Crunch Partner Perk from Zendesk. Starting today, annual and two-year Extra Crunch members that are new to Zendesk, and meet their startup qualifications, can now receive six months of free access to Zendesk’s Sales CRM, in addition to Zendesk Support Suite, Zendesk Explore and Zendesk Sunshine.

Here is an overview of the program.

Zendesk is a service-first CRM company with support, sales and customer engagement products designed to improve customer relationships. This offer is only available for startups that are new to Zendesk, have fewer than 100 employees and are funded but have not raised beyond a Series B.

The Zendesk Partner Perk from Extra Crunch is inclusive of subscription fees, free for six months, after which you will be responsible for payment. Any downgrades to your Zendesk subscription will result in the forfeiture of the promotion, so please check with Zendesk first regarding any changes (startups@zendesk.com). Some add-ons such as Zendesk Talk and Zendesk Sell minutes are not included. Complete details of what’s included can be found here.

#business, #crm, #customer-relationship-management, #enterprise, #extra-crunch, #industries, #marketing, #zendesk

0

Psykhe secures Seed funding to match consumer personalities to fashion products

In an overcrowded market of online fashion brands, consumers are spoilt for choice on what site to visit. They are generally forced to visit each brand one by one, manually filtering down to what they like. Most of the experience is not that great, and past purchase history and cookies aren’t much to go on to tailor user experience. If someone has bought an army-green military jacket, the e-commerce site is on a hiding to nothing if all it suggests is more army-green military jackets…

Instead, Psycke ( it’s brand name is ‘PSYKHE’) is an e-commerce startup that uses AI and psychology to make product recommendations based both on the user’s personality profile and the ‘personality’ of the products. Admittedly, a number of startups have come and gone claiming this, but it claims to have taken a unique approach to make the process of buying fashion easier by acting as an aggregator that pulls products from all leading fashion retailers. Each user sees a different storefront that, says the company, becomes increasingly personalized.

It has now raised $1.7 million in seed funding from a range of investors and is announcing new plans to scale its technology to other consumer verticals in the future in the B2B space.

The investors are Carmen Busquets – the largest founding investor in Net-a-Porter; SLS Journey – the new investment arm of the MadaLuxe Group, the North American distributor of luxury fashion; John Skipper – DAZN Chairman and former Co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of ESPN; and Lara Vanjak – Chief Operating Officer at Aser Ventures, formerly at MP & Silva and FC Inter-Milan.

So what does it do? As a B2C aggregator, it pools inventory from leading retailers. The platform then applies machine learning and personality-trait science, and tailors product recommendations to users based on a personality test taken on sign-up. The company says it has international patents pending and has secured affiliate partnerships with leading retailers that include Moda Operandi, MyTheresa, LVMH’s platform 24S, and 11 Honoré.

The business model is based around an affiliate partnership model, where it makes between 5-25% of each sale. It also plans to expand into B2B for other consumer verticals in the future, providing a plug-in product that allows users to sort items by their personality.

How does this personality test help? Well, Psykhe has assigned an overall psychological profile to the actual products themselves: over 1 million products from commerce partners, using machine learning (based on training data).

So for example, if a leather boot had metal studs on it (thus looking more ‘rebellious’), it would get a moderate-low rating on the trait of ‘Agreeableness’. A pink floral dress would get a higher score on that trait. A conservative tweed blazer would get a lower score tag on the trait of ‘Openness’, as tweed blazers tend to indicate a more conservative style and thus nature.

So far, Psykhe’s retail partnerships include Moda Operandi, MyTheresa, LVMH’s platform 24S, Outdoor Voices, Jimmy Choo, Coach, and size-inclusive platform 11 Honoré.

It’s competitors include The Yes and Lyst. However, Psykhe’s main point of differentiation is this personality scoring. Furthermore, The Yes is app-only, US-only, and only partners with monobrands, while Lyst is an aggregator with 1,000s of brands, but used as more of a search platform.

Psykhe is in a good position to take advantage of the ongoing effects of COVID-19, which continue to give a major boost to global ecommerce as people flood online amid lockdowns.

The startup is the brainchild of Anabel Maldonado, CEO & founder, (along with founding team CTO Will Palmer and Lead Data Scientist, Rene-Jean Corneille, pictured above), who studied psychology in her hometown of Toronto, but ended up working at in the UK’s NHS in a specialist team that made developmental diagnoses for children under 5.

She made a pivot into fashion after winning a competition for an editorial mentorship at British Marie Claire. She later went to the press department of Christian Louboutin, followed by internships at the Mail on Sunday and Marie Claire, then spending several years in magazine publishing before moving into e-commerce at CoutureLab. Going freelance, she worked with a number of luxury brands and platforms as an editorial consultant. As a fashion journalist, she’s contributed industry op-eds to publications such as The Business of Fashion, T The New York Times Style, and Marie Claire.

As part of the fashion industry for 10 years, she says she became frustrated with the narratives which “made fashion seem more frivolous than it really is. I thought, this is a trillion-dollar industry, we all have such emotional, visceral reactions to an aesthetic based on who we are, but all we keep talking about is the ‘hot new color for fall and so-called blanket “must-haves’.”

But, she says, “there was no inquiry into individual differences. This world was really missing the level of depth it deserved, and I sought to demonstrate that we’re all sensitive to aesthetic in one way or another and that our clothing choices have a great psychological pay-off effect on us, based on our unique internal needs.” So she set about creating a startup to address this ‘fashion psychology’ – or, as she says “why we wear what we wear”.

#artificial-intelligence, #business, #ceo, #chairman, #chief-operating-officer, #coach, #companies, #e-commerce, #espn, #europe, #fashion, #lvmh, #lyst, #machine-learning, #milan, #moda-operandi, #nhs, #outdoor-voices, #president, #tc, #toronto, #united-kingdom, #united-states

0

FloorFound is bringing online return and resale to direct to consumer furniture businesses

Over the next five years consumers will return an estimated 40 million to 50 million pieces of furniture that more than likely will end up in landfills, creating tons of unnecessary waste, according to Chris Richter, the founder of a new Austin-based furniture startup, FloorFound.

To reduce that waste, and give retailers another option for their used goods, Richter has launched FloorFound. The company is designed to manage furniture returns and resale for online merchants. So far, companies like Floyd Home, Inside Weather, Outer and Feather (the furniture rental company) are using FloorFound’s services.

“We have a very large pipeline and we’ve been operating since April first,” said Richter. “We can pick up in any major metro locally and inspect it locally. We have a platform layer where we can run inspections against those items.”

As consumers look to reduce their environmental footprint, an easy place to start is by buying used items, Richter said, and he expects that most brands will start to incorporate used and new products in their virtual and real showrooms. “Every brand will commingle new items with resale items,” he said. “We are trying to put retailers in the resale business with their own return inventory.” To prove his point, Richter pointed to companies like REI and The Gap, which have partnered with ThredUp to sell used clothes.

To compliment its returns business and give online sellers a way to work more seamlessly with local vendors the company has logistics partnerships with providers including Pilot Freight Services, Metropolitan Warehouse and Delivery and J.B. Hunt Transport.

Working with co-founder Ryan Matthews, the former director of technology for the Austin-based high end retailer Kendra Scott, Richter has set up a business that can tap into both the demand for better customer service for the return of large items and the growing call for greater sustainability in the furniture industry.

It was an attractive enough proposition to attract a pre-seed investment from Schematic Ventures, a venture fund focused exclusively on technological innovations for supply chain management.

“The broken experience of oversized e-commerce has kept a multi-billion dollar category offline. It’s not a simple problem: oversized items require coordination of a hyper-fragmented micro carrier network, complex physical processing, and then re-injection into an e-commerce channel that aligns with the brand,” said Julian Counihan, a general partner at Schematic Ventures. “UPS and FedEx just aren’t going to cut it. FloorFound is tackling this challenge with a team tailor-made for the task: Chris Richter, Ryan Matthews and Shannon Hardt have backgrounds spanning supply chain, delivery, e-commerce and enterprise software. FloorFound will be the final push that moves the remaining offline categories, online.” 

#articles, #austin, #business, #co-founder, #delivery, #e-commerce, #enterprise-software, #fedex, #general-partner, #marketing, #online-shopping, #supply-chain, #tc, #the-gap, #thredup, #ups

0

Join Sean Gallagher and guests on October 15 for an IT roundtable talk

Join Sean Gallagher and guests on October 15 for an IT roundtable talk

Enlarge

Working in IT often means finding creative ways to make the best of a situation you’ve been handed. Whether it’s fixing problems you didn’t cause or adapting to changes that leadership failed to account for, it’s all about figuring out how to keep repairing the proverbial airplane while it’s flying—and 2020 hasn’t really made things any easier for anyone.

To provide a bit of a respite for weary IT decision makers—and also because we’re geeks who will take any excuse to talk shop!—Ars is organizing a livestreamed roundtable discussion next week starring Ars IT/infosec Editor Emeritus Sean Gallagher, where he’ll sit down with our hand-picked panel of experts to discuss the ways in which businesses (and the ITDMs within them) are adapting their processes and strategies around the new reality of remote work, plague, and whatever the hell else is happening in the world right now.

Look who’s talking

We’ve pulled in three panelists to converse with Sean:

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#ars-technica-videos, #biz-it, #business, #dell-tech, #it-uncertainty, #live, #live-event, #livestream

0

IBM to split into two companies by the end of 2021

IBM announced this morning that the company would be spinning off some of its lower-margin lines of business into a new company and focusing on higher-margin cloud services. During an investor call, CEO Arvind Krishna acknowledged that the move was a “significant shift” in how IBM will work, but he positioned it as the latest in a decades-long series of strategic divestments.

“We divested networking back in the ’90s, we divested PCs back in the 2000s, we divested semiconductors about five years ago because all of them didn’t necessarily play into the integrated value proposition,” he said. Krishna became CEO in April 2020, replacing former CEO Ginni Rometty (who is now IBM’s executive chairman), but the spin-off is the capstone of a multi-year effort to apply some kind of focus to the company’s sprawling business model.

Cloudy with a chance of hitting the quarterly guidance

The new spin-off doesn’t have a formal name yet and is referred to as “NewCo” in IBM’s marketing and investor relations material. Under the spin-off plan, the press release claims IBM “will focus on its open hybrid cloud platform, which represents a $1 trillion market opportunity,” while NewCo “will immediately be the world’s leading managed infrastructure services provider.” (This is because NewCo will start life owning the entirety of IBM Global Technology Services’ existing managed infrastructure clients, which means about 4,600 accounts, including about 75 percent of the Fortune 100.)

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biz-it, #break-up, #business, #business-things, #company-breakup, #ibm, #it

0

Strike Graph raises $3.9M to help automate security audits

Compliance automation isn’t exactly the most exciting topic, but security audits are big business and companies that aim to get a SOC 2, ISO 207001 or FedRamp certification can often spend six figures to get through the process with the help of an auditing service. Seattle-based Strike Graph, which is launching today and announcing a $3.9 million seed funding round, wants to automate as much of this process as possible.

The company’s funding round was led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Amplify.LA, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and Green D Ventures.

Strike Graph co-founder and CEO Justin Beals tells me that the idea for the company came to him during his time as CTO at machine learning startup Koru (which had a bit of an odd exit last year). To get enterprise adoption for that service, the company had to get a SOC 2 security certification. “It was a real challenge, especially for a small company. In talking to my colleagues, I just recognized how much of a challenge it was across the board. And so when it was time for the next startup, I was just really curious,” he told me.

Image Credits: Strike Graph

Together with his co-founder Brian Bero, he incubated the idea at Madrona Venture Labs, where he spent some time as Entrepreneur in Residence after  Koru.

Beals argues that today’s process tends to be slow, inefficient and expensive. The idea behind Strike Graph, unsurprisingly, is to remove as many of these inefficiencies as is currently possible. The company itself, it is worth noting, doesn’t provide the actual audit service. Businesses will still need to hire an auditing service for that. But Beals also argues that the bulk of what companies are paying for today is pre-audit preparation.

“We do all that preparation work and preparing you and then, after your first audit, you have to go and renew every year. So there’s an important maintenance of that information.”

Image Credits: Strike Graph

When customers come to Strike Graph, they fill out a risk assessment. The company takes that and can then provide them with controls for how to improve their security posture — both to pass the audit and to secure their data. Beals also noted that soon, Strike Graph will be able to help businesses automate the collection of evidence for the audit (say your encryption settings) and can pull that in regularly. Certifications like SOC 2, after all, require companies to have ongoing security practices in place and get re-audited every 12 months. Automated evidence collection will launch in early 2021, once the team has built out the first set of its integrations to collect that data.

That’s also where the company, which mostly targets mid-size businesses, plans to spend a lot of its new funding. In addition, the company plans to focus on its marketing efforts, mostly around content marketing and educating its potential customers.

“Every company, big or small, that sells a software solution must address a broad set of compliance requirements in regards to security and privacy.  Obtaining the certifications can be a burdensome, opaque and expensive process.  Strike Graph is applying intelligent technology to this problem – they help the company identify the appropriate risks, enable the audit to run smoothly, and then automate the compliance and testing going forward,” said Hope Cochran, Managing Director at Madrona Venture Group. “These audits were a necessary pain when I was a CFO, and Strike Graph’s elegant solution brings together teams across the company to move the business forward faster.”

#amplify, #audit, #auditing, #business, #cfo, #co-founder, #cto, #economy, #encryption, #enterprise, #entrepreneur, #finance, #hope-cochran, #koru, #machine-learning, #madrona-venture-group, #recent-funding, #seattle, #seed-fund, #startup-company, #startups, #tc

0

Indianapolis-based Malomo raises $2.8 million to turn order tracking into a branded customer experience

Yaw Aning, named Malomo, the service he launched for small businesses to turn their order-tracking services into branded customer experiences, as a tribute to his mother, who was a small business owner herself.

“Malomo” means flowers in Swahili and it was the name of Aning’s mother’s small soap making business which she built over the years — even as she was battling the cancer to which she would eventually succumb.

The small Indianapolis startup has just raised $2.8 million to expand its services providing a new marketing channel for the Shopify retailers of the world who can always use more ways to reach new customers, Aning said.

The financing came from the San Francisco-based firm, Base 10, and New York’s Harlem Capital, along with commitments from previous investors Hyde Park and High Alpha.

Aning came to entrepreneurship as an Orr Fellow, an Indiana program that takes ten graduates and places them in high growth companies. While Aning worked in corporate finance, he was always interested in the startup world and started is first company, Pocket Tales, an online reading game for children.

That business was followed by a Sticks and Leaves, a web design agency that gave Aning his first view into the opportunity that order tracking presented as a space for a better customer experience.

Along with co-founder Anthony Smith, Aning built a service that connects with a single click to the Shopify platform and creates custom, branded tracking pages for each brand. “It’s a landing page for a brand. They use it like they would use any marketing asset,” Aning said. “The strategy is to build up integrations to the other tools merchants use to create rich experiences leveraging those tools.”

 

#brand, #business, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #customer-experience, #indiana, #indianapolis, #marketing, #pocket-tales, #product-management, #san-francisco, #shopify, #tc

0

The Spectrum Equity-backed video education platform Kajabi has already hit $60 million in ARR

Kajabi may not be an American household name, but users of the web hosting and video tech platform are now being seen in a lot of American households.

The company, initially bootstrapped and profitable since its launch, raised a minority investment from Spectrum Equity Partners last November, but that was merely icing on the cake for a business that had seen its user adoption surge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed that adoption even higher as work-from-home gigs yield to work-from-home side hustles and anyone and everyone decides to get in on on the online education and training action, the company said.

In the past year alone, the company has seen its run rate cross $60 million in August and the company hit over $1 billion in recorded transactions milestone in March, according to chief marketing officer Orlando Baeza, who previously served as a marketing executive at Buzzfeed and Paramount Pictures .

Last November, the company took a minority equity investment from Spectrum Equity Partners, the first outside capital the company raised since its inception a bit over a decade ago.

Founded by a former commodities trader, Kenny Rueter, Kajabi is like Thinkific or Patreon primarily for online learning and video-based entrepreneurs.

“It’s not just a way  to sell your content,” said Kajabi President, Jonathan Cronstedt. “It does do your webpage, blog, email marketing, marketing automation, digital delivery. It does the  webinar aspect and the marketing you’d need to build up a list of prospects… It’s a platform from start to finish for an online business.”

If the best way to make money during a gold rush is to sell picks and shovels, then think of Kajabi as the pick and shovel purveyor for the self-help, startup guide, guru advice set.

The company touts its enabling of self-help legends like Brendon Burchard, Danielle Leslie, and Amy Porterfield, and, most recently, Sophia Amoruso, who joined the platform in August.

“We want  to empower entrepreneurs, experts and influencers  who are serious about their business to have success  online,” said Cronstedt in a November interview when the company took its minority investment from Spectrum Equity. 

The company’s toolkit basically serves as an integration of the various bundle of software a business would need to get itself off the ground. Instead of integrating Shopify, Wix, and other platforms to create a full stack of tools, Kajabi does it for a business.

“There’s endless ways you can use duct tape and bailing wire to get all of these solutions together,” said Cronstedt. “[Businesses are] not going to have the chance to get it out there  because they’re too busy trying to be a platform integrator… they never get into creating anything.”

With over 100 employees, the company sees itself on a pandemic-driven trajectory that should set the company up for massive growth.

Indeed, online learning is now a $220 billion global market, and the self-help market alone is $11 billion (people need a lot of help). The company also cites statistics that put the number of Americans pursuing a “side hustle” at roughly 35% with an estimated 40 million “solopreneurs” in the U.S. workforce.

“Since inception, we have helped 41 million users access great educational content and our customers have generated over 1 billion in sales,” said Rueter, in a November statement. “We feel fortunate to partner with incredible entrepreneurs who are sharing their expertise with the world and are excited to help so many more.”

#articles, #business, #buzzfeed, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #online, #online-education, #online-learning, #paramount-pictures, #president, #shopify, #sophia-amoruso, #tc, #trader, #united-states

0

Combining machine learning tools for medical imaging with genetic sequencing nets Sophia Genetics $110M

SOPHiA GENETICS, the shoutily and poorly capitalized named startup that’s combining machine learning tools for medical imaging and genetic sequencing to come up with a more holistic view of diseases for better patient care, has raised $110 million in new funding.

The Series F round for the company was led by aMoon an Israeli healthcare and life sciences investment fund, and HItachi Ventures, the investment arm of the Hitachi Group.

Financial services firms like Credit Suisse and the PIctet Group, along with previous investors including Swisscom Ventures, Endeavour Vision, Generation Investment Management, and Eurazeo Growth also participated in the financing.

The company’s technology uses multiple sources of medical data to come up with potentially novel insights about how diseases spread in the body and offer better ways to coordinate care among different . The Boston and Lausanne, Switzerland-based company’s tech is currently used by over 1,000 healthcare institutions and has analyzed 600,000 genomic profiles, according to a statement.

The goal, the company said, is better patient care.

According to a statement, the new funding will be used to expand the company’s footprint in the US and Asian markets.

It also appears that the company may be gearing up for a public offering. It’s added Didier Hirsch, the former chief financial officer of Agilent, to its board of directors and has created an audit committee (usually a stepping stone on the way to a dive into public market waters).

“We believe that SOPHIA’s decentralized model will play a pivotal role in empowering health organizations to offer better patient care,” said Dr. Tomer Berkovitz, Partner & CFO of aMoon, in a statement.

#amoon, #boston, #business, #cfo, #chief-financial-officer, #companies, #credit-suisse, #endeavour-vision, #eurazeo, #eurazeo-growth, #generation-investment-management, #healthcare, #hitachi, #industries, #machine-learning, #medical-imaging, #sophia, #swisscom-ventures, #switzerland, #tc, #united-states

0

Skydio partners with EagleView for autonomous residential roof inspections via drone

Skydio only just recently announced its expansion into the enterprise and commercial market with hardware and software tools for its autonomous drone technology, and now it’s taking the lid off a brand new big partnership with one commercial partner. Skydio will work with EagleView to deploy automated residential roof inspection using Skydio drones, with service initially provide via EagleView’s Assess product, launching first in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas.

The plan is to expand coverage to additional metro areas starting next year, and then broaden to rural customers as well. The partners will use AI-based analysis, paired with Skydio’s high-resolution, precision imaging to provide roofing status information to insurance companies, claims adjustment companies and government agencies, providing a new level of quality and accuracy for property inspections that don’t even require an in-person roof inspection component.

Skydio announced its enterprise product expansion in July, alongside a new $100 million funding round. The startup, which has already delivered two generations of its groundbreaking fully autonomous consumer drone, also debuted the X2, a commercial drone that includes additional features like a thermal imaging camera. It’s also offering a suite of “enterprise skills,” software features that can provide its partners with automated workflows and AI analysis and processing, including a House Scan feature for residential roof inspection, which is core to this new partnership.

#articles, #business, #dallas, #drones, #emerging-technologies, #enterprise, #hardware, #inspection, #insurance, #robotics, #skydio, #tc, #texas, #workflow

0

Calling Helsinki VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Helsinki will capture how the city is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

We’d like to know how Helsinki’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey.

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Helsinki, but would like to take part? European VC investors can STILL fill out the survey, as we will be putting a call out to your city next anyway!

The survey is covering almost every European country on the continent of Europe (not just EU members, btw), so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

#articles, #business, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-union, #helsinki, #london, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek pledges $1Bn of his wealth to back deeptech startups from Europe

At an online event today, Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, said he would invest 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of his personal fortune in deeptech “moonshot projects”, spread across the next 10 years.

Ek indicated that he was referring to machine learning, biotechnology, materials sciences and energy as the sectors he’d like to invest in.

“I want to do my part; we all know that one of the greatest challenges is access to capital,” Ek said, adding he wanted to achieve a “new European dream”.

“I get really frustrated when I see European entrepreneurs giving up on their amazing visions selling early on to non-European companies, or when some of the most promising tech talent in Europe leaves because they don’t feel valued here,” Ek said. “We need more super companies that raise the bar and can act as an inspiration.”

According to Forbes, Ek is worth $3.6 billion, which would suggest he’s putting aside roughly a third of his own wealth for the investments.

And it would appear his personal cash will be deployed with the help of a close confidant of Ek’s. He retweeted a post by Shakhil Khan, one of the first investors in Spotify, who said “it’s time to come out of retirement then.”

During a fireside chat held by the Slush conference, he said: “We all know that one of the greatest challenges is access to capital. And that is why I’m sharing today that I will devote €1bn of my personal resources to enable the ecosystem of builders.” He said he would do this by “funding so-called moonshots focusing on the deep technology necessary to make a significant positive dent, and work with scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and governments to do so.”

He expressed his desire to level-up Europe against the US I terms of tech unicorns: “Europe needs more super companies, both for the ecosystem to develop and thrive. But I think more importantly if we’re going to have any chance to tackle the infinitely complex problems that our societies are dealing with at the moment, we need different stakeholders, including companies, governments, academic institutions, non-profits and investors of all kinds to work together.”

He also expressed his frustration at seeing “European entrepreneurs, giving up on their amazing visions by selling very early in the process… We need more super companies to raise the bar and can act as an inspiration… There’s lots and lots of really exciting areas where there are tons of scientists and entrepreneurs right now around Europe.”

Ek said he will work with scientists, investors, and governments to deploy his funds. A $1.2 billion fund would see him competing with other large European VCs such as Atomico, Balderton Capital, Accel, Index Ventures and Northzone.

Ek has been previously known for his interest in deeptech. He has invested in €16m in Swedish telemedicine startup Kry. He’s also put €3m into HJN Sverige, an artificial intelligence company in the health tech arena.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #balderton-capital, #biotechnology, #business, #daniel-ek, #economy, #energy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #forbes, #founder, #kry, #machine-learning, #northzone, #private-equity, #spotify, #startup-company, #tc, #telemedicine, #united-states

0

Atlanta gets a billion dollar startup business as Greenlight’s family-focused fintech nabs $215 million

Greenlight Financial Technology, the fintech company that pitches parents on kid-friendly bank accounts, has raised $215 million in a new round of funding.

The round gives the Atlanta-based startup a $1.2 billion valuation thanks to backing from Canapi Ventures, TTV  Capital, BOND, DST Global, Goodwater Capital and Fin VC.

It’s a huge win for the Canadian-based venture investor Relay Ventures .

Since it launched its debit cards for kids in 2017, the company has managed to set up accounts for more than 2 million parents and children, who have saved more than $50 million through the app.

“Greenlight’s rapid growth is a testament to the value they bring to millions of parents and kids every day. My wife and I trust Greenlight to give us the modern tools to teach our children how to manage money,” said Gardiner Garrard, Founding Partner at TTV Capital, in a statement. “TTV Capital is thrilled to provide continued investment to help the company empower more parents.”

The company pitches itself as more than just a debit card, with apps that give parents the ability to deposit money in accounts and pay for allowance, manage chores and set flexible controls on how much kids can spend.

It’s a potentially massive business that can lock in a whole generation to a financial services platform, which is likely one reason why a whole slew of companies have launched with a similar thesis. There’s Kard, Step, and Current which are pitching similar businesses in the U.S. and Mozper recently launched from Y Combinator to bring the model to Latin America.

“Greenlight’s smart debit card is transforming the way parents teach their kids about responsible money management and financial literacy,” said Noah Knauf, general partner at BOND. “Having achieved phenomenal growth year-over-year, this is a company on the fast-track to becoming a household name. We look forward to working alongside the Greenlight team to support their continued growth.”

#atlanta, #bank, #business, #debit-cards, #dst-global, #economy, #financial-services, #goodwater-capital, #kard, #latin-america, #noah-knauf, #partner, #relay-ventures, #tc, #united-states, #y-combinator

0

Fundraising lessons from David Rogier of MasterClass

Conventional wisdom says your company should be up and running and have some traction before you raise. But MasterClass co-founder David Rogier says entrepreneurs should try to raise funds before launching.

Before going live, David raised $6.4 million — $1.9 million in a seed round and $4.5 million in a Series A — for what would become MasterClass. To date, the company has raised six funding rounds and secured almost $240 million.

MasterClass’s first investment actually came from Michael Dearing, the founder of VC firm Harrison Metal and one of David’s business school professors. After graduating from Stanford University Graduate School of Business, David started working for Michael at the firm. About a year in, he quit to start his own company.

When David gave his notice, Michael told him he would invest just under $500,000, even though David didn’t have an idea yet.

“I was honored, I was thrilled and I was terrified, all within the span of 10 seconds,” David says. “It was an amazing gift, but I also felt an immense amount of pressure. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I didn’t want to mess it up.”

He drew a blank for a year, but finally got inspiration from a story his grandmother told him when he was in second grade. In it, she stressed the importance of education, the one thing no one can ever take away from you. Upon remembering that lesson, David knew he wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to learn from the best, and MasterClass was born.

In an episode of How I Raised It, David shares some of his secrets to raising capital.

First money, then metrics

Securing funding before you even launch your company definitely isn’t a common practice. But David is adamant that you should attempt it.

“Your metrics out of the gate are never going to be great,” David says. “You need enough funds to have the time to actually improve them.” At the beginning, instead of relying on data, you should sell investors on your vision.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Many investors don’t want to give you a dime until you’ve proven your concept works. To overcome this barrier, David figured out what he could do to help minimize risk for investors.

#business, #co-founder, #column, #crunchbase, #david-rogier, #entrepreneurship, #founder, #funding, #harrison-metal, #masterclass, #michael-dearing, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Mailchimp launches new AI tools as it continues its transformation to marketing platform

Mailchimp may have started out as an easy to use newsletter tool, but that was almost 20 years ago. Today’s company still does email, but at its core, it is now a marketing automation platform for small businesses that also offers a website builder, basic online stores, digital ad support and analytics to make sense of it all. Like before, though, the company’s main goal is to make all these features easy to use for small business users.

Image Credits: Mailchimp

Today, Mailchimp, which has never taken outside funding, is taking the next step in its own transformation with the launch of a set of AI-based tools that give small businesses easy access to the same kind of capabilities that their larger competitors now use. That includes personalized product recommendations for shoppers and forecasting tools for behavioral targeting to see which users are most likely to buy something, for example. But there’s now also a new AI-backed tool to help business owners design their own visual asset (based in part on its acquisition of Sawa), as well as a tool to help them write better email subject lines.

There’s also a new tool that helps businesses choose the next best action. It looks at all of the data the service aggregates and gives users actionable recommendations for how to improve their email campaign performance.

Image Credits: Mailchimp

“The journey to get here started about four years ago,” Mailchimp’s founding CEO Ben Chestnut told me. “We were riding high. Email was doing amazing for us. And things look so good. And I had a choice, I felt I could sell the business and make a lot of money. I had some offers. Or I could just coast, honestly. I could just be a hero in email and keep it simple and just keep raking in the money. Or I could take on another really tough challenge, which would be act two of  Mailchimp. And I honestly didn’t know what that would be. To be honest with you, that was four years ago, it could have been anything really.”

But after talking to the team, including John Foreman, the head of data analytics at the time and now Mailchimp’s CPO, Chestnut put the company on this new path to go after the marketing automation space. In part, he told me, he did so because he noted that the email space was getting increasingly crowded. “You know how that ends. I mean, you can’t stay there forever with this many competitors. So I knew that we had to up our game,” he said.

And that meant going well beyond email and building numerous new products.

Image Credits: Mailchimp

“It was a huge transformation for us,” Chestnut acknowledged. “We had to get good at building for other customer segments at the time, like e-commerce customers and others. And that was new for us, too. It’s all kinds of new disciplines for us. To inflict that kind of change on your employees is very, very rough. I just can’t help but look back with gratitude that my employees were willing to go on this journey with me. And they actually had faith in me and this release — this fall release — is really the culmination of everything we’ve been working on for four years to me.”

One thing that helped was that Mailchimp already had e-commerce customers — and as Chestnut noted, they were pushing the system to its limit. Only a few years ago, the culture at Mailchimp looked at them as somewhat annoying, though, Chestnut admitted, because they were quite demanding. They didn’t even make the company a lot of money either. At the time, non-profits were Mailchimp’s best customers, but they weren’t pushing the technology to its limits.

Despite this transformation, Mailchimp hasn’t made a lot of acquisitions to accelerate this process. Chestnut argues that a lot of what it is doing — say adding direct mail — is something that was more or less and extension of what it was already good at. But it did make some small AI and ML acquisitions to bring the right expertise in-house, as well as two e-commerce acquisitions, including Lemonstand. Most recently, Mailchimp acquired Courier, a British magazine, newsletter and podcast, marking its first move into the print business.

With this new set of products and services, Mailchimp is now aiming to give small businesses access to the same capabilities the larger e-commerce players have long had, but without the complexity.

To build tools based on machine learning, one needs data — and that’s something Mailchimp already had.

“We’ve been doing marketing for decades,” Mailchimp CPO Foreman said. “And we have millions of small businesses on the platform. And so not only do we build all these tools ourselves, which allows us to integrate them from a visual design perspective — they’re not necessarily acquisitions — but we have this common data set from years and years of doing marketing across millions of businesses, billions of customers we’re talking to, and so we thought, how can we use intelligence — artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. — to also sand down how all of these tools connect.”

Chestnut says he isn’t likely to put the company on a similar transformation anytime soon. “I really believe you can only take on one major transformation per decade,” he said. “And so you better pick the right one and you better invest it. We’re all in on this all-in-one marketing platform that’s e-commerce enabled. That is unique enough. And now what I’m trying to get my company to do is go deep.”

#advertising-tech, #analytics, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #ben-chestnut, #business, #cloud-applications, #computing, #email, #mailchimp, #marketing-automation, #startups, #tc, #website-builder

0

Microsoft brings new robotic process automation features to its Power Platform

Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired Softomotive, a player in the low-code robotic process automation space with a focus on Windows. Today, at its Ignite conference, the company is launching Power Automate Desktop, a new application based on Softomotive’s technology that lets anyone automate desktop workflows without needing to program.

“The big idea of Power Platform is that we want to go make it so development is accessible to everybody,” Charles Lamanna, Microsoft’s corporate VP for its low-code platform, told me. “And development includes understanding and reporting on your data with Power BI, building web and mobile applications with Power Apps, automating your tasks — whether it’s through robotic process automation or workflow automation — with Power Automate, or building chatbots and chat-based experiences with Power Virtual Agent.”

Power Automate already allowed users to connect web-based applications, similar to Zapier and IFTTT, but the company also launched a browser extension earlier late last year to help users connect native system components to Power Automate. Now, with the integration of the Softomotive technology and the launch of this new low-code Windows application, it’s taking this integration into the native Windows user interface one step further.

“Everything still runs in the cloud and still connects to the cloud, but you now have a rich desktop application to author and record your UI automations,” Lamanna explained. He likened it to an ‘ultimate connector,’ noting that the “ultimate API is just the UI.”

He also stressed that the new app feels like any other modern Office app like Outlook (which is getting a new Mac version today, by the way) or Word. And like the modern versions of those apps, Power Automate Desktop derives a lot of its power from being connected to the cloud.

It’s also worth noting that Power Automate isn’t just a platform for automating simple two- or three-step processes (like sending you a text message when your boss emails you), but also for multistep, business-critical workflows. T-Mobile, for example, is using the platform to automate some of the integration processes between its systems and Sprint.

Lamanna noted that for some large enterprises, adopting these kinds of low-code services necessitates a bit of a culture shift. IT still needs to have some insights into how these tools are used, after all, to ensure that data is kept safe, for example.

Another new feature the company announced today is an integration between the Power Platform and GitHub, which is now in public preview. The idea here is to give developers the ability to create their own software lifecycle workflows. “One of the core ideas of Power Platform is that it’s low code,” Lamanna said. “So it’s built first for business users, business analysts, not the classical developers. But pro devs are welcome. The saying I have is: we’re throwing a party for business users, but pro devs are also invited to the party.” But to get them onto the platform, the team wants to meet them where they are and let them use the tools they already use — and that’s GitHub (and Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code).

#articles, #author, #automation, #business, #business-process-automation, #business-process-management, #business-software, #economy, #ifttt, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #player, #softomotive, #tc, #windows, #zapier

0

Facebook launches Facebook Business Suite, an app for managing business accounts across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger

Facebook this morning launched a new app designed to make it easier for businesses to manage their pages and profiles across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger in a single place. The app, Facebook Business Suite, combines access to the business’s key updates and priorities, and offers a way to draft and schedule feed posts for both Facebook and Instagram, view insights and create ads.

To use the new app, business will first need to link their Facebook and Instagram business accounts, if they hadn’t already.

Once logged into Facebook, the Business Suite can be accessed on the desktop at business.facebook.com. On mobile, users of the existing Pages Manager App will see an option to join Business Suite instead. The app will also become available as a standalone download for both iOS and Android.

Image Credits: Facebook

Inside Business Suite, business owners will be able to see critical alerts, messages, comments and other activity taking place across Facebook and Instagram right in the new app’s homescreen. They can also set up personalized saved replies here, in order to respond to common customer inquiries.

The app offers tools for creating feed posts for Facebook and Instagram, scheduling posts, and provides insights on what’s working. Here, businesses can view their posts’ reach, engagement and performance across both Facebook and Instagram. They can also choose to create an ad to help boost that engagement and grow their audience, if needed.

Facebook says it’s initially building Facebook Business Suite with the needs of small businesses first, as so many have been forced by the pandemic to find new ways to reach customers and sell online. However, the long-term plan is to build out a set of tools that can be used by all businesses, including larger ones. The company aims to address that market sometime next year. Business Suite will also expand to include WhatsApp in the future.

Related to the news, Facebook published two surveys offering insights on small business trends. One, the monthly Global State of Small Business Report, produced in partnership with the World Bank and OECD, found that businesses that make more than 25% of sales online are more likely to be reporting higher sales this year, and are less likely to have laid off employees.

A second study details the impact of COVID-19 on consumer purchasing patterns and use of digital tools. Nearly half of respondents said they spent more money online overall since the outbreak, and 40% increased their use of social media and online messaging for product and business recommendations, Facebook says.

Of course, these fairly upbeat reports on the state of small businesses in the midst of the pandemic don’t provide the full picture. In the U.S., for example, Yelp is reporting that 60% of the U.S. businesses that closed due to COVID-19 won’t be re-opening. As of August, 163,735 of U.S. businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic, the report said, up 23% since mid-July.

These closures could impact Facebook as well, as the majority of Facebook’s advertisers are small and medium-sized businesses. But Facebook’s global nature protects it. Even if the U.S. loses more small businesses due to its mishandling of the pandemic, there are far more advertisers are outside the U.S. that Facebook taps into.

Facebook says the Business Suite will gradually roll out during the month of September. The app joins several others Facebook offers today for its business customers, including Facebook Pages Manager, Facebook Analytics, and Facebook Ads Manager. However, Facebook notes that its new Business Suite isn’t currently designed to serve those who use Ads Manager.

#advertising, #apps, #business, #businesses, #facebook, #marketing, #small-business, #social, #social-media

0

ServiceNow updates its workflow automation platform

ServiceNow today announced the latest release of its workflow automation platform. With this, the company is emphasizing a number of new solutions for specific verticals, including for telcos and financial services organizations. This focus on verticals extends the company’s previous efforts to branch out beyond the core IT management capabilities that defined its business during its early years. The company is also adding new features for making companies more resilient in the face of crises, as well as new machine learning-based tools.

Dubbed the ‘Paris’ release, this update also marks one of the first major releases for the company since former SAP CEO Bill McDermott became its president and CEO last November.

“We are in the business of operating on purpose,” McDermott said “And that purpose is to make the world of work work better for people. And frankly, it’s all about people. That’s all CEOs talk about all around the world. This COVID environment has put the focus on people. In today’s world, how do you get people to achieve missions across the enterprise? […] Businesses are changing how they run to drive customer loyalty and employee engagement.”

He argues that at this point, “technology is no longer supporting the business, technology is the business,” but at the same time, the majority of companies aren’t prepared to meet whatever digital disruption comes their way. ServiceNow, of course, wants to position itself as the platform that can help these businesses.

“We are very fortunate at ServiceNow,” CJ Desai, ServiceNow’s Chief Product Officer, said. “We are the critical platform for digital transformation, as our customers are thinking about transforming their companies.”

As far as the actual product updates, ServiceNow is launching a total of six new products. These include new business continuity management features with automated business impact analysis and tools for continuity plan development, as well as new hardware asset management for IT teams and legal service delivery for legal operations teams.

Image Credits: ServiceNow

With specialized solutions for financial services and telco users, the company is also now bringing together some of its existing solutions with more specialized services for these customers. As ServiceNow’s Dave Wright noted, this goes well beyond just putting together existing blocks.

“The first element is actually getting familiar with the business,” he explained. “So the technology, actually building the product, isn’t that hard. That’s relatively quick. But the uniqueness when you look at all of these workflows, it’s the connection of the operations to the customer service side. Telco is a great example. You’ve got the telco network operations side, making sure that all the operational equipment is active. And then you’ve got the business service side with customer service management, looking at how the customers are getting service. Now, the interesting thing is, because we’ve got both things sitting on one platform, we can link those together really easily.”

Image Credits: ServiceNow

On the machine learning side, ServiceNow made six acquisitions in the area in the last four years, Wright noted — and that is now starting to pay off. Specifically, the company is launching its new predictive intelligence workbench with this release. This new service makes it easier for process owners to detect issues, while also suggesting relevant tasks and content to agents, for example, and prioritizing incoming requests automatically. Using unsupervised learning, the system can also identify other kinds of patterns and with a number of pre-built templates, users can build their own solutions, too.

“The ServiceNow advantage has always been one architecture, one data model and one born-in-the-cloud platform that delivers workflows companies need and great experiences employees and customers expect,” said Desai. “The Now Platform Paris release provides smart experiences powered by AI, resilient operations, and the ability to optimize spend. Together, they will provide businesses with the agility they need to help them thrive in the COVID economy.”

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #bill-mcdermott, #business, #ceo, #enterprise, #machine-learning, #paris, #sap, #servicenow, #tc, #workflow

0

How to get the most branding bang out of your B2B IPO

There’s definitely a lot of talk about SPACs these days. But the tried-and-true IPO is still the long-term liquidity goal for most tech startups. CEOs dream of ringing the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, or seeing their face splashed across Nasdaq’s giant video screen in Times Square. Late last month, five high-profile tech companies filed on the same day to go public through traditional IPOs, presumably gunning to get out before the November election.

There is obviously a ton of operational, financial and regulatory preparation that goes into a successful initial public offering. But one aspect of IPO planning that often gets short shrift, particularly at B2B-focused companies chasing relatively niche buyer audiences, is branding and communications. As the head of marketing and communications for a big investment firm, I see this all the time. I believe companies who skimp here are throwing away significant equity value.

Simply put, a highly public financing event like an IPO is an enormous branding opportunity for most companies. It’s a free pass for companies to tell their stories to a huge, global audience and rack up high-level press coverage — both at the time of the IPO and in the future, since many publications (like my former employer, the Wall Street Journal) often focus on coverage of larger, publicly traded companies.

Why do so many companies fall down in this area? I think a lot of it has to do with the broader shift toward data-driven, online marketing and away from branding at many companies. Because highly technical companies in areas like hybrid-cloud computing or DevSecOps (yes, that’s a thing) often struggle in their early days to get journalists interested in their stories, they never make communications a priority inside the company. This comes back to haunt them when, all of the sudden, they’ve filed an S-1 and their exec team has zero experience explaining the company’s story in clear, persuasive terms to a general audience.

But smart companies can avoid this trap. Here are five ways you can get the most branding bang out of your tech IPO, no matter how arcane your company’s business is.

Don’t procrastinate

This is honestly the most important point to take away here. Successful PR and communications around an IPO are a result of long-term planning that starts at least 12 to 18 months before you file your offering document with the SEC. Once you think an IPO is in the offing, take a hard look at both your (1) marketing/communications staffing and (2) your existing digital footprint.

#b2b, #business, #column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #initial-public-offering, #marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

0

ZenHub’s new automation tools improve developer hand-offs in GitHub

ZenHub, the popular project management solution for GitHub users, today announced the launch of its new features for automating hand-offs between teams. The idea behind Automated Workflows, as it is called, is to remove some of the manual busywork of updating multiple boards across teams when a new patch is ready to go to testing, for example (or when it fails those tests and the development team has to fix it).

As ZenHub founder and CEO Aaron Upright told me, Automated Workflows are only the first step in the company’s journey from not just being the most integrated service on GitHub but also the most automated.

Image Credits: ZenHub

Teams still struggle with the mechanics of agile project management, he noted. “Things like what frameworks to choose. How to organize their projects. You talk to small companies and teams, you talk to large companies — it’s a problem for everyone, where people don’t know if they should be Scrum, or Kanban or how to organize Sprint planning meetings.” What ZenHub wants to do is remove as many of these friction points as possible and automate them for teams.

It’s starting with the hand-off between teams because that’s one of the pain points its customers are struggling with all the time. And since teams tend to have their own projects and workspaces, the ZenHub team had to build a solution that worked across a company’s various boards.

The result is a new tool that is pretty much a drag-and-drop service that automatically creates notifications and moves items between workplaces as they move from QA to production, for example.

“It’s a way to automate work between different workspaces,” explained Upright. “And we’re really excited about this being kind of the first step in our automation journey.”

Over time, Upright expects, the team will be able to use machine learning to understand more about the connections that its users are making between teams. Using that data, its systems may be able to also recommend workflows as well.

The next part of ZenHub’s focus on automation will be a tool for managing the Sprint planning process.

“Already today’s, ZenHub is capturing things like velocity. We’re measuring that on a team by team basis. We understand the priority of issues in our workflow. What we want to be able to do is allow teams to automatically set a Sprint schedule, say, for example, every two weeks. Then, based on the velocity that we know about your team, maybe your team can accomplish 50 story points every two weeks — we want to auto-build that Sprint for you.”

#agile-software-development, #articles, #business, #business-process-management, #ceo, #developer, #economy, #github, #groupware, #kanban, #machine-learning, #scrum, #workflow, #zenhub

0