Google’s Anthos multi-cloud platform gets improved logging, Windows container support and more

Google today announced a sizable update to its Anthos multi-cloud platform that lets you build, deploy and manage containerized applications anywhere, including on Amazon’s AWS and (in preview) on Microsoft Azure.

Version 1.7 includes new features like improved metrics and logging for Anthos on AWS, a new Connect gateway to interact with any cluster right from Google Cloud and a preview of Google’s managed control plane for Anthos Service Mesh. Other new features include Windows container support for environments that use VMware’s vSphere platform and new tools for developers to make it easier for them to deploy their applications to any Anthos cluster.

Today’s update comes almost exactly two years after Google CEO Sundar Pichai originally announced Anthos at its Cloud Next event in 2019 (before that, Google called this project the ‘Google Cloud Services Platform,’ which launched three years ago). Hybrid- and multi-cloud, it’s fair to say, takes a key role in the Google Cloud roadmap — and maybe more so for Google than for any of its competitors. And recently, Google brought on industry veteran Jeff Reed to become the VP of Product Management in charge of Anthos.

Reed told me that he believes that there are a lot of factors right now that are putting Anthos in a good position. “The wind is at our back. We bet on Kubernetes, bet on containers — those were good decisions,” he said. Increasingly, customers are also now scaling out their use of Kubernetes and have to figure out how to best scale out their clusters and deploy them in different environments — and to do so, they need a consistent platform across these environments. He also noted that when it comes to bringing on new Anthos customers, it’s really those factors that determine whether a company will look into Anthos or not.

He acknowledged that there are other players in this market, but he argues that Google Cloud’s take on this is also quite different. “I think we’re pretty unique in the sense that we’re from the cloud, cloud-native is our core approach,” he said. “A lot of what we talk about in [Anthos] 1.7 is about how we leverage the power of the cloud and use what we call ‘an anchor in the cloud’ to make your life much easier. We’re more like a cloud vendor there, but because we support on-prem, we see some of those other folks.” Those other folks being IBM/Red Hat’s OpenShift and VMware’s Tanzu, for example. 

The addition of support for Windows containers in vSphere environments also points to the fact that a lot of Anthos customers are classical enterprises that are trying to modernize their infrastructure, yet still rely on a lot of legacy applications that they are now trying to bring to the cloud.

Looking ahead, one thing we’ll likely see is more integrations with a wider range of Google Cloud products into Anthos. And indeed, as Reed noted, inside of Google Cloud, more teams are now building their products on top of Anthos themselves. In turn, that then makes it easier to bring those services to an Anthos-managed environment anywhere. One of the first of these internal services that run on top of Anthos is Apigee. “Your Apigee deployment essentially has Anthos underneath the covers. So Apigee gets all the benefits of a container environment, scalability and all those pieces — and we’ve made it really simple for that whole environment to run kind of as a stack,” he said.

I guess we can expect to hear more about this in the near future — or at Google Cloud Next 2021.

 

#anthos, #apigee, #aws, #ceo, #chrome-os, #cisco, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #enterprise, #google, #google-cloud, #google-cloud-platform, #ibm, #kubernetes, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #red-hat, #sundar-pichai, #vmware

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As UiPath closes above its final private valuation, CFO Ashim Gupta discusses his company’s path to market

After an upward revision, UiPath priced its IPO last night at $56 per share, a few dollars above its raised target range. The above-range price meant that the unicorn put more capital into its books through its public offering.

For a company in a market as competitive as robotic process automation (RPA), the funds are welcome. In fact, RPA has been top of mind for startups and established companies alike over the last year or so. In that time frame, enterprise stalwarts like SAP, Microsoft, IBM and ServiceNow have been buying smaller RPA startups and building their own, all in an effort to muscle into an increasingly lucrative market.

In June 2019, Gartner reported that RPA was the fastest-growing area in enterprise software, and while the growth has slowed down since, the sector is still attracting attention. UIPath, which Gartner found was the market leader, has been riding that wave, and today’s capital influx should help the company maintain its market position.

It’s worth noting that when the company had its last private funding round in February, it brought home $750 million at an impressive valuation of $35 billion. But as TechCrunch noted over the course of its pivot to the public markets, that round valued the company above its final IPO price. As a result, this week’s $56-per-share public offer wound up being something of a modest down-round IPO to UiPath’s final private valuation.

Then, a broader set of public traders got hold of its stock and bid its shares higher. The former unicorn’s shares closed their first day’s trading at precisely $69, above the per-share price at which the company closed its final private round.

So despite a somewhat circuitous route, UiPath closed its first day as a public company worth more than it was in its Series F round — when it sold 12,043,202 shares sold at $62.27576 apiece, per SEC filings. More simply, UiPath closed today worth more per-share than it was in February.

How you might value the company, whether you prefer a simple or fully-diluted share count, is somewhat immaterial at this juncture. UiPath had a good day.

While it’s hard to know what the company might do with the proceeds, chances are it will continue to try to expand its platform beyond pure RPA, which could become market-limited over time as companies look at other, more modern approaches to automation. By adding additional automation capabilities — organically or via acquisitions — the company can begin covering broader parts of its market.

TechCrunch spoke with UiPath CFO Ashim Gupta today, curious about the company’s choice of a traditional IPO, its general avoidance of adjusted metrics in its SEC filings, and the IPO market’s current temperature. The final question was on our minds, as some companies have pulled their public listings in the wake of a market described as “challenging”.

Why did UiPath not direct list after its huge February raise?

#cloud, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-enterprise-applications, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #robotic-process-automation, #rpa, #saas, #startups, #uipath

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IBM breaks latest revenue losing streak as cloud revenue shows modest growth

For IBM, much of the last 8 years simply posting positive revenue growth was a challenge. In fact, the company had a period between 2013 and 2018 when it experienced an astonishing 22 straight quarters of negative revenue growth. So when Big Blue reported yesterday that revenue was up slightly, I’m sure the company took that as a win. Investors appear to be happy with the results with the stock up 4.73% this morning as of publication.

Consider that over the last 8 quarters encompassing FY2019 and FY2020, the company had only one positive revenue quarter when it was up 0.1% in Q42019. It had had five losing quarters prior to that one. When you look at yesterday’s report in that light, and combine it with growth in the Cloud and Cognitive Services group, it adds up to a decent quarter for IBM, one it badly needed after another negative report in the prior quarter.

Looking back at the January report, the company reported Cloud and Cognitive Services revenues down 4.5% at $6.8 billion, which was a big blow considering the company has been betting much of its future on those very areas, fueled in large part by the $34 billion Red Hat acquisition in 2018.

Its most recent quarterly report proved much better with the company reporting Cloud and Cognitive Services revenues of $5.4 billion, up 3.8% YoY. Interestingly quarter-on-quarter revenue for the segment was down, but rose on a year-over-year basis. Perhaps a year-end enterprise revenue push could account for the difference between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021.

At any rate, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna saw today’s report as a positive sign that his attempts to push the company toward a future focused on hybrid computing and AI were starting to take root. He also saw enough in the report to predict some growth this year.

“In our last call, we shared our financial expectations for the year, revenue growth and $11 billion to $12 billion of adjusted free cash flow. While it’s still early in the year and a lot remains to be done, we are confident enough to say that we are on track,” Krishna said in the earnings call with analysts yesterday.

The company has made a number of smaller acquisitions over the last year including a couple of consulting companies, which should help as they try to work with customers around the transition to hybrid computing and artificial intelligence, both of which tend to require a lot of hand-holding to get done.

At the same time of course, the company is continuing apace with its spin out of the legacy infrastructure services division, which it announced last year. The plan at this point is to rename the company Kyndryl (an unfortunate choice) and complete the spin out by year’s end.

CFO Jim Kavanaugh also sees the modestly positive quarter as something the company can build on. “…in fact we are even more confident in the position we put in place with regards to our two most important measures, one, revenue growth, and second, adjusted free cash flow, which is going to provide the fuel for the investments needed for us to capture that hybrid cloud $1 trillion TAM,” Kavanaugh said in the earnings call with analysts.

All of this is being pushed by Red Hat, which grew revenue 15% in the most recent quarter, something the company is banking will continue to advance it deeper into positive territory throughout the rest of 2021.

Krishna is not looking for booming growth by any means. He just wants growth, and even sustained single digit top line expansion will make him happy. “Our systems if I take a two-year to three-year view kind of flattish, but in any given year it might increase or decrease but not by a whole lot. It doesn’t impact the topline a lot and that’s how sort of we get to the mid-single-digit sustainably,” Krishna said in the call.

The CEO simply wants to bring some long-term stability back to the company it has been sadly lacking in recent years. Of course, it’s hard to know if this quarter was a temporary upward blip on IBM’s earnings chart, one of those fluctuations up or down he spoke of, or if it is the corner the company has been looking to turn for years. Only time will tell whether IBM can sustain the modest revenue goals Krishna has set for the organization, or if it will fall back into the revenue doldrums that have plagued the company for the last eight years.

#arvind-krishna, #cloud, #enterprise, #finance, #hybrid-cloud, #ibm, #tc

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Zoom launches $100M Zoom Apps investment fund

When Zoom launched Zoom Apps and the Marketplace as a place to sell them last year, it was a big signal that the company wanted to be more than just a popular video conferencing application. It wanted to be a platform, which developers could use to build applications on top of Zoom.

Today the company announced a $100 million investment fund to encourage the most promising startups using the Zoom toolset to launch a business by giving them funding, while using that as a springboard to encourage other developers to take advantage of the tooling on the platform.

“We’re looking for companies with a viable product and early market traction, and a commitment to developing on and investing in the Zoom ecosystem,” Zoom’s Colin Born wrote in a blog post announcing the new program.

The company’s corporate development team with heavy involvement from the Zoom executive team will be in charge of selecting and managing the portfolio companies. The company plans to invest between $250,000 and $2.5 million in each startup in the portfolio.

“A big part of this is helping facilitate those early companies and giving them the access to resources and connections within Zoom, so that they can grow and succeed,” Zoom CTO Brendan Ittelson told me.

While the company wants to invest successfully, a big part of this is using the fund to encourage developers to take advantage of the platform offerings from Zoom. “We feel we’ll help [these startups] build these valuable and engaging experiences and by having that and by investing, we’re helping bring solutions and further expand the ecosystem and our customers should benefit from that,” he said.

Zoom has a number of developer tools that budding entrepreneurs can use to build applications that take advantage of Zoom functionality. In March the company introduced an SDK (software development kit) designed to help programmers embed Zoom functionality inside other applications.

The company also provides tools for embedding an application inside of Zoom, such as one designed for a specific purpose like education or healthcare, and it has created a centralized place to learn about all of them at developer.zoom.us.

Zoom is not alone in investing in companies building applications on its platform. Firms like Sequoia, Maven Ventures and Emergence Capital have already started investing in startups building companies on top of Zoom including Mmhmm, Docket and ClassEdu.

The fund gives startup founders one more option to get some funding to get their idea off the ground. Ittelson says all of the investments will be seed level investments for starters and they will be providing developer and business resources to help the young startups build and distribute their products.

While he says that the company will be on the lookout for promising startups to bring into the portfolio, interested entrepreneurs can apply directly at zoom.com/fund.

#apis, #cloud, #corporate-investment-arms, #developer, #sdks, #startups, #tc, #video-conferencing, #zoom

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Once VMware is free from Dell, who might fancy buying it?

TechCrunch has spilled much digital ink tracking the fate of VMware since it was brought to Dell’s orbit thanks to the latter company’s epic purchase of EMC in 2016 for $58 billion. That transaction saddled the well-known Texas tech company with heavy debts. Because the deal left VMware a public company, albeit one controlled by Dell, how it might be used to pay down some of its parent company’s arrears was a constant question.

Dell made its move earlier this week, agreeing to spin out VMware in exchange for a huge one-time dividend, a five-year commercial partnership agreement, lots of stock for existing Dell shareholders and Michael Dell retaining his role as chairman of its board.

So, where does the deal leave VMware in terms of independence, and in terms of Dell influence? Dell no longer will hold formal control over VMware as part of the deal, though its shareholders will retain a large stake in the virtualization giant. And with Michael Dell staying on VMware’s board, it will retain influence.

Here’s how VMware described it to shareholders in a presentation this week. The graphic shows that under the new agreement, VMware is no longer a subsidiary of Dell and will now be an independent company.

Chart showing before and after structure of Dell spinning out VMware. In the after scenario, VMware is an independent company.

Image Credits: VMware

But with VMware tipped to become independent once again, it could become something of a takeover target. When Dell controlled VMware thanks to majority ownership, a hostile takeover felt out of the question. Now, VMware is a more possible target to the right company with the right offer — provided that the Dell spinout works as planned.

Buying VMware would be an expensive effort, however. It’s worth around $67 billion today. Presuming a large premium would be needed to take this particular technology chess piece off the competitive board, it could cost $100 billion or more to snag VMware from the public markets.

So VMware will soon be more free to pursue a transaction that might be favorable to its shareholders — which will still include every Dell shareholder, because they are receiving stock in VMware as part of its spinout — without worrying about its parent company simply saying no.

#cloud, #dell, #dell-vmware-spinout, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #finance, #tc, #vmware

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Should Dell have pursued a more aggressive debt-reduction move with VMware?

When Dell announced it was spinning out VMware yesterday, the move itself wasn’t surprising: there had been public speculation for some time. But Dell could have gone a number of ways in this deal, despite its choice to spin VMware out as a separate company with a constituent dividend instead of an outright sale.

The dividend route, which involves a payment to shareholders between $11.5 and $12 billion, has the advantage of being tax-free (or at least that’s what Dell hopes as it petitions the IRS). For Dell, which owns 81% of VMware, the dividend translates to somewhere between $9.3 and $9.7 billion in cash, which the company plans to use to pay down a portion of the huge debt it still holds from its $58 billion EMC purchase in 2016.

VMware was the crown jewel in that transaction, giving Dell an inroad to the cloud it had lacked prior to the deal. For context, VMware popularized the notion of the virtual machine, a concept that led to the development of cloud computing as we know it today. It has since expanded much more broadly beyond that, giving Dell a solid foothold in cloud native computing.

Dell hopes to have its cake and eat it too with this deal: it generates a large slug of cash to use for personal debt relief while securing a five-year commercial deal that should keep the two companies closely aligned. Dell CEO Michael Dell will remain chairman of the VMware board, which should help smooth the post-spinout relationship.

But could Dell have extracted more cash out of the deal?

Doing what’s best for everyone

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategies, says that beyond the cash transaction, the deal provides a way for the companies to continue working closely together with the least amount of disruption.

“In the end, this move is more about maximizing the Dell and VMware stock price [in a way that] doesn’t impact customers, ISVs or the channel. Wall Street wasn’t valuing the two companies together nearly as [strongly] as I believe it will as separate entities,” Moorhead said.

#cloud, #dell, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #finance, #tc, #vmware

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C2i, a genomics SaaS product to detect traces of cancer, raises $100M Series B

If you or a loved one has ever undergone a tumor removal as part of cancer treatment, you’re likely familiar with the period of uncertainty and fear that follows. Will the cancer return, and if so, will the doctors catch it at an early enough stage? C2i Genomics has developed software that’s 100x more sensitive in detecting residual disease, and investors are pouncing on the potential. Today, C2i announced a $100 million Series B led by Casdin Capital. 

“The biggest question in cancer treatment is, ‘Is it working?’ Some patients are getting treatment they don’t benefit from and they are suffering the side effects while other patients are not getting the treatment they need,” said Asaf Zviran, co-founder and CEO of C2i Genomics in an interview.

Historically, the main approach to cancer detection post-surgery has been through the use of MRI or X-ray, but neither of those methods gets super accurate until the cancer progresses to a certain point. As a result, a patient’s cancer may return, but it may be a while before doctors are able to catch it.

Using C2i’s technology, doctors can order a liquid biopsy, which is essentially a blood draw that looks for DNA. From there they can sequence the entire genome and upload it to the C2i platform. The software then looks at the sequence and identifies faint patterns that indicate the presence of cancer, and can inform if it’s growing or shrinking.

“C2i is basically providing the software that allows the detection and monitoring of cancer to a global scale. Every lab with a sequencing machine can process samples, upload to the C2i platform and provide detection and monitoring to the patient,” Zviran told TechCrunch.

C2i Genomics’ solution is based on research performed at the New York Genome Center (NYGC) and Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) by Dr. Zviran, along with Dr. Dan Landau, faculty member at the NYGC and assistant professor of medicine at WCM, who serves as scientific co-founder and member of C2i’s scientific advisory board. The research and findings have been published in the medical journal, Nature Medicine.

While the product is not FDA-approved yet, it’s already being used in clinical research and drug development research at NYU Langone Health, the National Cancer Center of Singapore, Aarhus University Hospital and Lausanne University Hospital.

When and if approved, New York-based C2i has the potential to drastically change cancer treatment, including in the areas of organ preservation. For example, some people have functional organs, such as the bladder or rectum, removed to prevent cancer from returning, leaving them disabled. But what if the unnecessary surgeries could be avoided? That’s one goal that Zviran and his team have their minds set on achieving.

For Zviran, this story is personal. 

“I started my career very far from cancer and biology, and at the age of 28 I was diagnosed with cancer and I went for surgery and radiation. My father and then both of my in-laws were also diagnosed, and they didn’t survive,” he said.

Zviran, who today has a PhD in molecular biology, was previously an engineer with the Israeli Defense Force and some private companies. “As an engineer, looking into this experience, it was very alarming to me about the uncertainty on both the patients’ and physicians’ side,” he said.

This round of funding will be used to accelerate clinical development and commercialization of the company’s C2-Intelligence Platform. Other investors that participated in the round include NFX, Duquesne Family Office, Section 32 (Singapore), iGlobe Partners and Driehaus Capital.

#artificial-intelligence, #biotech, #blood-test, #c2i-genomics, #cancer, #cancer-screening, #cancer-treatment, #casdin-capital, #cloud, #cornell, #drug-development, #fda, #funding, #health, #imaging, #mri, #new-york-university, #radiation, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #surgery, #tc, #tumor, #x-ray

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Dell is spinning out VMware in a deal expected to generate over $9B for the company

Dell announced this afternoon that it’s spinning out VMware, a move that has been suspected for some time. Dell, acquired VMware as part of the massive $58 billion EMC acquisition (announced as $67 billion) in 2015.

The way that the deal work is that Dell plans to offer VMware shareholders a special dividend of between $11.5 and 12 billion. As Dell owns approximately 81% of those shares that would work out to somewhere between $9.3 and $9.7 billion coming into Dell’s coffers when the deal closes later this year.

Even when it was part of EMC, VMware had a special status in that it operates as a separate entity with its own executive team, board of directors and the stock has been sold separately as well.

“Both companies will remain important partners, providing Dell Technologies with a differentiated advantage in how we bring solutions to customers. At the same time, Dell Technologies will continue to modernize its core infrastructure and PC businesses and embrace new opportunities through an open ecosystem to grow in hybrid and private cloud, edge and telecom,” Dell CEO Michael Dell said in a statement.]

While there is a lot of CEO speak in that statement, it appears to mean that the move is mostly administrative as the companies will continue to work closely together, even after the spin off is official. Dell will remain as chairman of both companies. What’s more, the company plans to use the cash proceeds from the deal to help pay down the massive debt it still has left over from the EMC deal.

The deal is expected to close at the end of this year, but it has to clear a number of regulatory hurdles first. That includes garnering a favorable ruling from the IRS that the deal qualifies for a tax-free spin-off, which is seems to be a considerable hurdle for a deal like this.

This is a breaking story. We will have more soon.

#cloud, #dell, #enterprise, #finance, #tc, #vmware

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Risk startup LogicGate confirms data breach

Risk and compliance startup LogicGate has confirmed a data breach. But unless you’re a customer, you probably didn’t hear about it.

An email sent by LogicGate to customers earlier this month said on February 23 an unauthorized third-party obtained credentials to its Amazon Web Services-hosted cloud storage servers storing customer backup files for its flagship platform Risk Cloud, which helps companies to identify and manage their risk and compliance with data protection and security standards. LogicGate says its Risk Cloud can also help find security vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious hackers.

The credentials “appear to have been used by an unauthorized third party to decrypt particular files stored in AWS S3 buckets in the LogicGate Risk Cloud backup environment,” the email read.

“Only data uploaded to your Risk Cloud environment on or prior to February 23, 2021, would have been included in that backup file. Further, to the extent you have stored attachments in the Risk Cloud, we did not identify decrypt events associated with such attachments,” it added.

LogicGate did not say how the AWS credentials were compromised. An email update sent by LogicGate last Friday said the company anticipates finding the root cause of the incident by this week.

But LogicGate has not made any public statement about the breach. It’s also not clear if the company contacted all of its customers or only those whose data was accessed. LogicGate counts Capco, SoFi, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City as customers.

We sent a list of questions, including how many customers were affected and if the company has alerted U.S. state authorities as required by state data breach notification laws. When reached, LogicGate chief executive Matt Kunkel confirmed the breach but declined to comment citing an ongoing investigation. “We believe it’s best to communicate developments directly to our customers,” he said.

Kunkel would not say, when asked, if the attacker also exfiltrated the decrypted customer data from its servers.

Data breach notification laws vary by state, but companies that fail to report security incidents can face heavy fines. Under Europe’s GDPR rules, companies can face fines of up to 4% of their annual turnover for violations.

In December, LogicGate secured $8.75 million in fresh funding, totaling more than $40 million since it launched in 2015.


Are you a LogicGate customer? Send tips securely over Signal and WhatsApp to +1 646-755-8849. You can also send files or documents using our SecureDrop. Learn more

#amazon, #amazon-web-services, #blue-cross-blue-shield, #capco, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-storage, #computer-security, #computing, #data-breach, #data-security, #europe, #health-insurance, #securedrop, #security, #security-breaches, #sofi, #united-states

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Meroxa raises $15M Series A for its real-time data platform

Meroxa, a startup that makes it easier for businesses to build the data pipelines to power both their analytics and operational workflows, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Drive Capital. Existing investors Root, Amplify and Hustle Fund also participated in this round, which together with the company’s previously undisclosed $4.2 million seed round now brings total funding in the company to $19.2 million.

The promise of Meroxa is that can use a single platform for their various data needs and won’t need a team of experts to build their infrastructure and then manage it. At its core, Meroxa provides a single Software-as-a-Service solution that connects relational databases to data warehouses and then helps businesses operationalize that data.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“The interesting thing is that we are focusing squarely on relational and NoSQL databases into data warehouse,” Meroxa co-founder and CEO DeVaris Brown told me. “Honestly, people come to us as a real-time FiveTran or real-time data warehouse sink. Because, you know, the industry has moved to this [extract, load, transform] format. But the beautiful part about us is, because we do change data capture, we get that granular data as it happens.” And businesses want this very granular data to be reflected inside of their data warehouses, Brown noted, but he also stressed that Meroxa can expose this stream of data as an API endpoint or point it to a Webhook.

The company is able to do this because its core architecture is somewhat different from other data pipeline and integration services that, at first glance, seem to offer a similar solution. Because of this, users can use the service to connect different tools to their data warehouse but also build real-time tools on top of these data streams.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“We aren’t a point-to-point solution,” Meroxa co-founder and CTO Ali Hamidi explained. “When you set up the connection, you aren’t taking data from Postgres and only putting it into Snowflake. What’s really happening is that it’s going into our intermediate stream. Once it’s in that stream, you can then start hanging off connectors and say, ‘Okay, well, I also want to peek into the stream, I want to transfer my data, I want to filter out some things, I want to put it into S3.”

Because of this, users can use the service to connect different tools to their data warehouse but also build real-time tools to utilize the real-time data stream. With this flexibility, Hamidi noted, a lot of the company’s customers start with a pretty standard use case and then quickly expand into other areas as well.

Brown and Hamidi met during their time at Heroku, where Brown was a director of product management and Hamidi a lead software engineer. But while Heroku made it very easy for developers to publish their web apps, there wasn’t anything comparable in the highly fragmented database space. The team acknowledges that there are a lot of tools that aim to solve these data problems, but few of them focus on the user experience.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“When we talk to customers now, it’s still very much an unsolved problem,” Hamidi said. “It seems kind of insane to me that this is such a common thing and there is no ‘oh, of course you use this tool because it addresses all my problems.’ And so the angle that we’re taking is that we see user experience not as a nice-to-have, it’s really an enabler, it is something that enables a software engineer or someone who isn’t a data engineer with 10 years of experience in wrangling Kafka and Postgres and all these things. […] That’s a transformative kind of change.”

It’s worth noting that Meroxa uses a lot of open-source tools but the company has also committed to open-sourcing everything in its data plane as well. “This has multiple wins for us, but one of the biggest incentives is in terms of the customer, we’re really committed to having our agenda aligned. Because if we don’t do well, we don’t serve the customer. If we do a crappy job, they can just keep all of those components and run it themselves,” Hamidi explained.

Today, Meroxa, which the team founded in early 2020, has over 24 employees (and is 100% remote). “I really think we’re building one of the most talented and most inclusive teams possible,” Brown told me. “Inclusion and diversity are very, very high on our radar. Our team is 50% black and brown. Over 40% are women. Our management team is 90% underrepresented. So not only are we building a great product, we’re building a great company, we’re building a great business.”  

#api, #business-intelligence, #cloud, #computing, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #database, #developer, #drive-capital, #enterprise, #heroku, #hustle-fund, #information-technology, #nosql, #product-management, #recent-funding, #software-engineer, #startups, #web-apps

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Zoho launches new low code workflow automation product

Workflow automation has been one of the key trends this year so far, and Zoho, a company known for its suite of affordable business tools has joined the parade with a new low code workflow product called Qntrl (pronounced control).

Zoho’s Rodrigo Vaca, who is in charge of Qntrl’s marketing says that most of the solutions we’ve been seeing are built for larger enterprise customers. Zoho is aiming for the mid-market with a product that requires less technical expertise than traditional business process management tools.

“We enable customers to design their workflows visually without the need for any particular kind of prior knowledge of business process management notation or any kind of that esoteric modeling or discipline,” Vaca told me.

While Vaca says, Qntrl could require some technical help to connect a workflow to more complex backend systems like CRM or ERP, it allows a less technical end user to drag and drop the components and then get help to finish the rest.

“We certainly expect that when you need to connect to NetSuite or SAP you’re going to need a developer. If nothing else, the IT guys are going to ask questions, and they will need to provide access,” Vaca said.

He believes this product is putting this kind of tooling in reach of companies that may have been left out of workflow automation for the most part, or which have been using spreadsheets or other tools to create crude workflows. With Qntrl, you drag and drop components, and then select each component and configure what happens before, during and after each step.

What’s more, Qntrl provides a central place for processing and understanding what’s happening within each workflow at any given time, and who is responsible for completing it.

We’ve seen bigger companies like Microsoft, SAP, ServiceNow and others offering this type of functionality over the last year as low code workflow automation has taken center stage in business.

This has become a more pronounced need during the pandemic when so many workers could not be in the office. It made moving work in a more automated workflow more imperative, and we have seen companies moving to add more of this kind of functionality as a result.

Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that Zoho is attempting to remove some the complexity from this kind of tool.

“It handles the security pieces to make sure the right people have access to the data and processes used in the workflows in the background, so regular users can drag and drop to build their flows and processes without having to worry about that stuff,” Leary told me.

Zoho Qntrl is available starting today starting at just $7 per user month.

#cloud, #enterprise, #low-code, #tc, #workflow-automation, #zoho

0

Microsoft goes all in on healthcare with $19.7B Nuance acquisition

When Microsoft announced it was acquiring Nuance Communications this morning for $19.7 billion, you could be excused for doing a Monday morning double take at the hefty price tag.

That’s surely a lot of money for a company on a $1.4 billion run rate, but Microsoft, which has already partnered with the speech-to-text market leader on several products over the last couple of years, saw a company firmly embedded in healthcare and it decided to go all in.

And $20 billion is certainly all in, even for a company the size of Microsoft. But 2020 forced us to change the way we do business from restaurants to retailers to doctors. In fact, the pandemic in particular changed the way we interact with our medical providers. We learned very quickly that you don’t have to drive to an office, wait in waiting room, then in an exam room, all to see the doctor for a few minutes.

Instead, we can get on the line, have a quick chat and be on our way. It won’t work for every condition of course — there will always be times the physician needs to see you — but for many meetings such as reviewing test results or for talk therapy, telehealth could suffice.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that Nuance is at the center of this shift, especially with its use of cloud and artificial intelligence, and that’s why the company was willing to pay the amount it did to get it.

“AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application. Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud in Healthcare and Nuance,” Nadella said in a post announcing the deal.

Microsoft sees this deal doubling what was already a considerable total addressable market to nearly $500 billion. While TAMs always tend to run high, that is still a substantial number.

It also fits with Gartner data, which found that by 2022, 75% of healthcare organizations will have a formal cloud strategy in place. The AI component only adds to that number and Nuance brings 10,000 existing customers to Microsoft including some of the biggest healthcare organizations in the world.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says the deal could provide Microsoft with a ton of health data to help feed the underlying machine learning models and make them more accurate over time.

“There is going be a ton of health data being captured by the interactions coming through telemedicine interactions, and this could create a whole new level of health intelligence,” Leary told me.

That of course could drive a lot of privacy concerns where health data is involved, and it will be up to Microsoft, which just experienced a major breach on its Exchange email server products last month, to assure the public that their sensitive health data is being protected.

Leary says that ensuring data privacy is going to be absolutely key to the success of the deal. “The potential this move has is pretty powerful, but it will only be realized if the data and insights that could come from it are protected and secure — not only protected from hackers but also from unethical use. Either could derail what could be a game changing move,” he said.

Microsoft also seemed to recognize that when it wrote, “Nuance and Microsoft will deepen their existing commitments to the extended partner ecosystem, as well as the highest standards of data privacy, security and compliance.”

We are clearly on the edge of a sea change when it comes to how we interact with our medical providers in the future. COVID pushed medicine deeper into the digital realm in 2020 out of simple necessity. It wasn’t safe to go into the office unless absolutely necessary.

The Nuance acquisition, which is expected to close some time later this year, could help Microsoft shift deeper into the market. It could even bring Teams into it as a meeting tool, but it’s all going to depend on the trust level people have with this approach, and it will be up to the company to make sure that both healthcare providers and the people they serve have that.

#artificial-intelligence, #cloud, #enterprise, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #microsoft, #nuance-communications, #privacy, #tc, #telemedicine

0

Immersion cooling to offset data centers’ massive power demands gains a big booster in Microsoft

LiquidStack does it. So does Submer. They’re both dropping servers carrying sensitive data into goop in an effort to save the planet. Now they’re joined by one of the biggest tech companies in the world in their efforts to improve the energy efficiency of data centers, because Microsoft is getting into the liquid-immersion cooling market.

Microsoft is using a liquid it developed in-house that’s engineered to boil at 122 degrees Fahrenheit (lower than the boiling point of water) to act as a heat sink, reducing the temperature inside the servers so they can operate at full power without any risks from overheating.

The vapor from the boiling fluid is converted back into a liquid through contact with a cooled condenser in the lid of the tank that stores the servers.

“We are the first cloud provider that is running two-phase immersion cooling in a production environment,” said Husam Alissa, a principal hardware engineer on Microsoft’s team for datacenter advanced development in Redmond, Washington, in a statement on the company’s internal blog. 

While that claim may be true, liquid cooling is a well-known approach to dealing with moving heat around to keep systems working. Cars use liquid cooling to keep their motors humming as they head out on the highway.

As technology companies confront the physical limits of Moore’s Law, the demand for faster, higher performance processors mean designing new architectures that can handle more power, the company wrote in a blog post. Power flowing through central processing units has increased from 150 watts to more than 300 watts per chip and the GPUs responsible for much of Bitcoin mining, artificial intelligence applications and high end graphics each consume more than 700 watts per chip.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft isn’t the first tech company to apply liquid cooling to data centers and the distinction that the company uses of being the first “cloud provider” is doing a lot of work. That’s because bitcoin mining operations have been using the tech for years. Indeed, LiquidStack was spun out from a bitcoin miner to commercialize its liquid immersion cooling tech and bring it to the masses.

“Air cooling is not enough”

More power flowing through the processors means hotter chips, which means the need for better cooling or the chips will malfunction.

“Air cooling is not enough,” said Christian Belady, vice president of Microsoft’s datacenter advanced development group in Redmond, in an interview for the company’s internal blog. “That’s what’s driving us to immersion cooling, where we can directly boil off the surfaces of the chip.”

For Belady, the use of liquid cooling technology brings the density and compression of Moore’s Law up to the datacenter level

The results, from an energy consumption perspective, are impressive. The company found that using two-phase immersion cooling reduced power consumption for a server by anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent (every little bit helps).

Microsoft investigated liquid immersion as a cooling solution for high performance computing applications such as AI. Among other things, the investigation revealed that two-phase immersion cooling reduced power consumption for any given server by 5% to 15%. 

Meanwhile, companies like Submer claim they reduce energy consumption by 50%, water use by 99%, and take up 85% less space.

For cloud computing companies, the ability to keep these servers up and running even during spikes in demand, when they’d consume even more power, adds flexibility and ensures uptime even when servers are overtaxed, according to Microsoft.

“[We] know that with Teams when you get to 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock, there is a huge spike because people are joining meetings at the same time,” Marcus Fontoura, a vice president on Microsoft’s Azure team, said on the company’s internal blog. “Immersion cooling gives us more flexibility to deal with these burst-y workloads.”

At this point, data centers are a critical component of the internet infrastructure that much of the world relies on for… well… pretty much every tech-enabled service. That reliance however has come at a significant environmental cost.

“Data centers power human advancement. Their role as a core infrastructure has become more apparent than ever and emerging technologies such as AI and IoT will continue to drive computing needs. However, the environmental footprint of the industry is growing at an alarming rate,” Alexander Danielsson, an investment manager at Norrsken VC noted last year when discussing that firm’s investment in Submer.

Solutions under the sea

If submerging servers in experimental liquids offers one potential solution to the problem — then sinking them in the ocean is another way that companies are trying to cool data centers without expending too much power.

Microsoft has already been operating an undersea data center for the past two years. The company actually trotted out the tech as part of a push from the tech company to aid in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine last year.

These pre-packed, shipping container-sized data centers can be spun up on demand and run deep under the ocean’s surface for sustainable, high-efficiency and powerful compute operations, the company said.

The liquid cooling project shares most similarity with Microsoft’s Project Natick, which is exploring the potential of underwater datacenters that are quick to deploy and can operate for years on the seabed sealed inside submarine-like tubes without any onsite maintenance by people. 

In those data centers nitrogen air replaces an engineered fluid and the servers are cooled with fans and a heat exchanger that pumps seawater through a sealed tube.

Startups are also staking claims to cool data centers out on the ocean (the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake).

Nautilus Data Technologies, for instance, has raised over $100 million (according to Crunchbase) to develop data centers dotting the surface of Davey Jones’ Locker. The company is currently developing a data center project co-located with a sustainable energy project in a tributary near Stockton, Calif.

With the double-immersion cooling tech Microsoft is hoping to bring the benefits of ocean-cooling tech onto the shore. “We brought the sea to the servers rather than put the datacenter under the sea,” Microsoft’s Alissa said in a company statement.

Ioannis Manousakis, a principal software engineer with Azure (left), and Husam Alissa, a principal hardware engineer on Microsoft’s team for datacenter advanced development (right), walk past a container at a Microsoft datacenter where computer servers in a two-phase immersion cooling tank are processing workloads. Photo by Gene Twedt for Microsoft.

#artificial-intelligence, #bitcoin, #cloud, #computing, #data-center, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #enterprise, #liquid-cooling, #microsoft, #saas, #tc

0

Industry experts bullish on $500M KKR investment in Box, but stock market remains skeptical

When Box announced it was getting a $500 million investment from private equity firm KKR this morning, it was hard not to see it as a positive move for the company. It has been operating under the shadow of Starboard Value, and this influx of cash could give it a way forward independent of the activist investors.

Industry experts we spoke to were all optimistic about the deal, seeing it as a way for the company to regain control, while giving it a bushel of cash to make some moves. However, early returns from the stock market were not as upbeat as the stock price was plunging this morning.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, principal analyst at Deep Analysis, a firm that follows the content management market closely, says that it’s a significant move for Box and opens up a path to expanding through acquisition.

“The KKR move is probably the most important strategic move Box has made since it IPO’d. KKR doesn’t just bring a lot of money to the deal, it gives Box the ability to shake off some naysayers and invest in further acquisitions,” Pelz-Sharpe told me, adding “Box is no longer a startup its a rapidly maturing company and organic growth will only take you so far. Inorganic growth is what will take Box to the next level.”

Dion Hinchcliffe, an analyst at Constellation Research, who covers the work from home trend and the digital workplace, sees it similarly, saying the investment allows the company to focus longer term again.

“Box very much needs to expand in new markets beyond its increasingly commoditized core business. The KKR investment will give them the opportunity to realize loftier ambitions long term so they can turn their established market presence into a growth story,” he said.

Pelz-Sharpe says that it also changes the power dynamic after a couple of years of having Starboard pushing the direction of the company.

“In short, as a public company there are investors who want a quick flip and others that want to grow this company substantially before an exit. This move with KKR potentially changes the dynamic at Box and may well put Aaron Levie back in the driver’s seat.”

Josh Stein, a partner at DFJ and early investor in Box, who was a long time board member, says that it shows that Box is moving in the right direction.

“I think it makes a ton of sense. Management has done a great job growing the business and taking it to profitability. With KKR’s new investment, you have two of the top technology investors in the world putting significant capital into going long on Box,” Stein said.

Perhaps Stein’s optimism is warranted. In its most recent earnings report from last month, the company announced revenue of $198.9 million, up 8% year-over-year with FY2021 revenue closing at $771 million up 11%. What’s more, the company is cash-flow positive, and has predicted an optimistic future outlook.

“As previously announced, Box is committed to achieving a revenue growth rate between 12-16%, with operating margins of between 23-27%, by fiscal 2024,” the company reiterated in a statement this morning.

Investors remains skeptical, however, with the company stock price getting hammered this morning. As of publication the share price was down over 9%. At this point, market investors may be waiting for the next earnings report to see if the company is headed in the right direction. For now, the $500 million certainly gives the company options, regardless of what Wall Street thinks in the short term.

#box, #cloud, #cloud-content-management, #enterprise, #kkr, #private-equity, #tc

0

KKR hands Box a $500M lifeline

Box announced this morning that private equity firm KKR is investing $500 million in the company, a move that could help the struggling cloud content management vendor get out from under pressure from activist investor Starboard Value.

The company plans to use the proceeds in what’s called a “dutch auction” style sale to buy back shares from certain investors for the price determined by the auction, an activity that should take place after the company announces its next earnings report in May. This would presumably involve buying out Starboard, which took a 7.5% stake in the company in 2019.

Last month Reuters reported that Starboard could be looking to take over a majority of the board seats when the company board meets in June. That could have set them up to take some action, most likely forcing a sale.

While it’s not clear what will happen now, it seems likely that with this cash, they will be able to stave off action from Starboard, and with KKR in the picture be able to take a longer term view. Box CEO Aaron Levie sees the move as a vote of confidence from KKR in Box’s approach.

“KKR is one of the world’s leading technology investors with a deep understanding of our market and a proven track record of partnering successfully with companies to create value and drive growth. With their support, we will be even better positioned to build on Box’s leadership in cloud content management as we continue to deliver value for our customers around the world,” Levie said in a statement.

Under the terms of the deal, John Park, Head of Americas Technology Private Equity at KKR, will be joining the Box board of directors. The company also announced that independent board member Bethany Mayer will be appointed chairman of the board, effective on May 1st.

Earlier this year, the company bought e-signature startup SignRequest, which could help open up a new set of workflows for the company as it tries to expand its market. With KKR’s backing, it’s not unreasonable to expect that Box, which is cash flow positive, could be taking additional steps to expand the platform in the future.

Box stock was down over 8% premarket, a signal that perhaps Wall Street isn’t thrilled with the announcement, but the cash influx should give Box some breathing room to reset and push forward.

#aaron-levie, #box, #cloud, #cloud-content-management, #enterprise, #kkr, #private-equity, #tc

0

EHR startup Canvas Medical raises $17M and partners with insurance heavyweight Anthem

Canvas Medical, an electronic health records (EHR) startup, today announced their $17 million Series A and a new partnership with Anthem, one of the biggest health insurance companies in the country.

The round was co-led by Inspired Capital and IA Ventures, with participation from Upfront Ventures. This round brings the company’s total funding to date to $20 million. 

The San Francisco-based company, which launched in 2015, aims to help doctors experience a more efficient — and painless — approach to delivering value-based care by offering an EHR platform that promises “80% fewer clicks, 3x faster workflows, and the ability to truly work on one screen,” said Andrew Hines, the company’s CEO and founder.

Andrew Hines

Andrew Hines. Image Credits: Canvas Medical

Value-based care is a delivery model where providers are paid based on patient health outcomes as opposed to the traditional pay-per-service model where doctors are reimbursed per visit.

We’ve seen a transition in the U.S. toward value-based care over the last several years, and that shift is also being reflected in how doctors are getting reimbursed. As a result, existing EHR companies find themselves having to add bells and whistles to their platforms, which in turn has compromised the doctor’s workflow experience.

“What has happened over time is we have asked our clinicians to become sophisticated coders. They are clicking through screens that are cluttered, that are not designed with human factors in mind,” said Steve Strongwater in Catalyst, a journal on innovation in care delivery published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Strongwater is a physician and the CEO of Atrius Health in Boston.

“Current EHRs are a workplace hazard from an ergonomics perspective,” said Hines. “It’s like if you sit in the wrong chair day in and day out, your back is going to hurt.” 

While technology has made many people’s jobs easier, that’s not the case for doctors. Studies have shown that EHRs are actually a source of physician burnout in the U.S., which is in and of itself a problem of national concern. 

The EHR market is extremely fragmented (there are several hundred EHR companies in the U.S.) which makes sharing medical records between physicians a challenge. Because health insurance claims contain significant medical information, insurance companies are a reliable alternative source for a lot of the important data about their members. But if a doctor needs to access that information for treatment purposes – which they have to do regularly – they have to log into a different portal or access a different report depending on each patient’s insurance. That’s one of the problems Canvas aims to solve, and their partnership with Anthem is just the beginning.

While there’s often a major amount of inertia — and associated cost — with changing EHRs, Hines, a data scientist-turned-entrepreneur, says the company assuages these concerns by leading its sale efforts with its numbers.

“Doctors who use Canvas experience 30% more productivity in the first month and are able to save 1-2 hours a day charting — which allows them to see more patients or go home early,” he added.

 

#anthem, #apps, #canvas-medical, #cloud, #electronic-health-records, #enterprise, #funding, #health, #ia-ventures, #inspired-capital, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Okta expands into privileged access management and identity governance reporting

Okta today announced it was expanding its platform into a couple of new areas. Up to this point, the company has been known for its identity access management product, giving companies the ability to sign onto multiple cloud products with a single sign on. Today, the company is moving into two new areas: privileged access and identity governance

Privileged access gives companies the ability to provide access on an as-needed basis to a limited number of people to key administrative services inside a company. This could be your database or your servers or any part of your technology stack that is highly sensitive and where you want to tightly control who can access these systems.

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon says that Okta has always been good at locking down the general user population access to cloud services like Salesforce, Office 365 and Gmail. What these cloud services have in common is you access them via a web interface.

Administrators access the speciality accounts using different protocols. “It’s something like secure shell, or you’re using a terminal on your computer to connect to a server in the cloud, or it’s a database connection where you’re actually logging in with a SQL connection, or you’re connecting to a container which is the Kubernetes protocol to actually manage the container,” McKinnon explained.

Privileged access offers a couple of key features including the ability to limit access to a given time window and to record a video of the session so there is an audit trail of exactly what happened while someone was accessing the system. McKinnon says that these features provide additional layers of protection for these sensitive accounts.

He says that it will be fairly trivial to carve out these accounts because Okta already has divided users into groups and can give these special privileges to only those people in the administrative access group. The challenge was figuring out how to get access to these other kinds of protocols.

The governance piece provides a way for security operations teams to run detailed reports and look for issues related to identity. “Governance provides exception reporting so you can give that to your auditors, and more importantly you can give that to your security team to make sure that you figure out what’s going on and why there is this deviation from your stated policy,” he said.

All of this when combined with the $6.5 billion acquisition of Auth0 last month is part of a larger plan by the company to be what McKinnon calls the identity cloud. He sees a market with several strategic clouds and he believes identity is going to be one of them.

“Because identity is so strategic for everything, it’s unlocking your customer, access, it’s unlocking your employee access, it’s keeping everything secure. And so this expansion, whether it’s customer identity with zero trust or whether it’s doing more on the workforce identity with not just access, but privileged access and identity governance. It’s about identity evolving in this primary cloud,” he said.

While both of these new products were announced today at the company’s virtual Oktane customer conference, they won’t be generally available until the first quarter of next year.

#cloud, #enterprise, #identity, #okta, #security, #tc, #todd-mckinnon

0

Google Cloud joins the FinOps Foundation

Google Cloud today announced that it is joining the FinOps Foundation as a Premier Member.

The FinOps Foundation is a relatively new open-source foundation, hosted by the Linux Foundation, that launched last year. It aims to bring together companies in the ‘cloud financial management’ space to establish best practices and standards. As the term implies, ‘cloud financial management,’ is about the tools and practices that help businesses manage and budget their cloud spend. There’s a reason, after all, that there are a number of successful startups that do nothing else but help businesses optimize their cloud spend (and ideally lower it).

Maybe it’s no surprise that the FinOps Foundation was born out of Cloudability’s quarterly Customer Advisory Board meetings. Until now, CloudHealth by VMware was the Foundation’s only Premiere Member among its vendor members. Other members include Cloudability, Densify, Kubecost and SoftwareOne. With Google Cloud, the Foundation has now signed up its first major cloud provider.

“FinOps best practices are essential for companies to monitor, analyze, and optimize cloud spend across tens to hundreds of projects that are critical to their business success,” said Yanbing Li, Vice President of Engineering and Product at Google Cloud. “More visibility, efficiency, and tools will enable our customers to improve their cloud deployments and drive greater business value. We are excited to join FinOps Foundation, and together with like-minded organizations, we will shepherd behavioral change throughout the industry.”

Google Cloud has already committed to sending members to some of the Foundation’s various Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Working Groups to “help drive open source standards for cloud financial management.”

“The practitioners in the FinOps Foundation greatly benefit when market leaders like Google Cloud invest resources and align their product offerings to FinOps principles and standards,” said J.R. Storment, Executive Director of the FinOps Foundation. “We are thrilled to see Google Cloud increase its commitment to the FinOps Foundation, joining VMware as the 2nd of 3 dedicated Premier Member Technical Advisory Council seats.”

#cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloudability, #computing, #densify, #enterprise, #google, #google-cloud, #linux, #linux-foundation, #vmware

0

ConductorOne raises $5M in seed round led by Accel to automate your access requests

Over the course of their careers, Alex Bovee and Paul Querna realized that while the use of SaaS apps and cloud infrastructure was exploding, the process to give employees permission to use them was not keeping up.

The pair led Zero Trust strategies and products at Okta, and could see the problem firsthand. For the unacquainted, Zero Trust is a security concept based on the premise that organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its perimeters and, instead must verify anything and everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access.

Bovee and Querna realized that while more organizations were adopting Zero Trust strategies, they were not enacting privilege controls. This was resulting in delayed employee access to apps, or to the over-permissioning employees from day one.

Last summer, Bovee left Okta to be the first virtual entrepreneur-in-residence at VC firm Accel. There, he and Accel partner Ping Li got to talking and realized they both had an interest in addressing the challenge of granting permissions to users of cloud apps quicker and more securely.

Recalls Li: “It was actually kind of fortuitous. We were looking at this problem and I was like ‘Who can we talk to about the space? And we realized we had an expert in Alex.”

At that point, Bovee told Li he was actually thinking of starting a company to solve the problem. And so he did. Months later, Querna left Okta to join him in getting the startup off the ground. And today, ConductorOne announced that it raised $5 million in seed funding in a round led by Accel, with participation from Fuel Capital, Fathom Capital and Active Capital. 

ConductorOne plans to use its new capital to build what the company describes as “the first-ever identity orchestration and automation platform.” Its goal is to give IT and identity admins the ability to automate and delegate employee access to cloud apps and infrastructure, while preserving least privilege permissions. 

“The crux of the problem is that you’ve got these identities — you’ve got employees and contractors on one side and then on the other side you’ve got all this SaaS infrastructure and they all have sort of infinite permutations of roles and permissions and what people can do within the context of those infrastructure environments,” Bovee said.

Companies of all sizes often have hundreds of apps and infrastructure providers they’re managing. It’s not unusual for an IT helpdesk queue to be more than 20% access requests, with people needing urgent access to resources like Salesforce, AWS, or GitHub, according to Bovee. Yet each request is manually reviewed to make sure people get the right level of permissions. 

“But that access is never revoked, even if it’s unused,” Bovee said. “Without a central layer to orchestrate and automate authorization, it’s impossible to handle all the permissions, entitlements, and on- and off-boarding, not to mention auditing and analytics.”

ConductorOne aims to build “the world’s best access request experience,” with automation at its core.

“Automation that solves privilege management and governance is the next major pillar of cloud identity,” Accel’s Li said.

Bovee and Querna have deep expertise in the space. Prior to Okta, Bovee led enterprise mobile security product development at Lookout. Querna was the co-founder and CTO of ScaleFT, which was acquired by Okta in 2018. He also led technology and strategy teams at Rackspace and Cloudkick, and is a vocal and active open source software advocate.   

While the company’s headquarters are in Portland, Oregon, ConductorOne is a remote-first company with 10 employees.

“We’re deep in building the product right now, and just doing a lot of customer development to understand the problems deeply,” Bovee said. “Then we’ll focus on getting early customers.”

#accel, #alex-bovee, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #funding, #fundings-exits, #paul-querna, #ping-li, #recent-funding, #saas, #security, #startups, #venture-capital

0

Microsoft outage knocks sites and services offline

Microsoft is experiencing a major outage, so that’s why you can’t get any work done.

Besides its homepage, Microsoft services are down, log-in pages aren’t loading, and even the company’s status pages were kaput. Worse, Microsoft’s cloud service Azure appeared to also be offline, causing outages to any sites and services that rely on it.

It’s looking like a networking issue, according to the status page — when it loaded. Microsoft also tweeted that it was related to DNS, the internet system that translates web addresses to computer-readable internet numbers. It’s an important function of how the internet works, so not ideal when it suddenly breaks.

We’ve reached out for comment, and we’ll follow up when we know more.

#cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #microsoft, #microsoft-azure, #security, #technology

0

Hex lands $5.5M seed to help data scientists share data across the company

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

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

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

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

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

Hex app example with data elements at the top and live graph below it.

Image Credits: Hex

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

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

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

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

#amplify-partners, #cloud, #data-science-tools, #enterprise, #funding, #hex, #startups, #tc

0

Moveworks expands IT chatbot platform to encompass entire organization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#artificial-intelligence, #chatbots, #cloud, #collaboration-tools, #enterprise, #moveworks, #tc

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HYCU raises $87.5M to take on Rubrik and the rest in multi-cloud data backup and recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#cloud, #data-backup, #data-recovery, #enterprise, #funding, #hycu, #multi-cloud

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Slack wants to be more than a text-based messaging platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#cloud, #enterprise, #enterprise-social, #salesforce, #slack, #social, #stewart-butterfield, #tc, #video-messaging

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UIPath’s meteoric rise from unknown startup to $35B RPA juggernaut

When TechCrunch covered UIPath’s Series A in 2017, it was a small startup out of Romania working in a little known area of enterprise software called robotic process automation (RPA).

Then the company took off with increasingly large multi-billion dollar valuations. It progressed through its investment rounds, culminating with a $750 million round on an eye-popping $35 billion valuation last month.

This morning, the company took the next step on its rapid-fire evolutionary path when it filed its S-1 to go public. To illustrate just how fast the company’s rise has been, take a look at its funding history:

Chart illustrating rapid rise of UIPath through its funding rounds from 2017-2021

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

RPA is much better understood these days with larger enterprise software companies like SAP, Microsoft, IBM and ServiceNow getting involved. With RPA, companies can automate a mundane process like processing an insurance claim, moving work automatically, while bringing in humans only when absolutely necessary. For example, instead of having a person enter a number in a spreadsheet from an email, that can happen automatically.

In June 2019, Gartner reported that RPA was the fastest growing area in enterprise software, growing at over 60% per year, and attracting investors and larger enterprise software vendors to the space. While RPA’s growth has slowed as it matures, a September 2020 Gartner report found it expanding at a more modest 19.5% with total revenue expected to reach $2 billion in 2021. Gartner found that stand-alone RPA vendors UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere are the market leaders.

UIPath's rapid rise

Although the market feels rather small given the size of the company’s valuation, it’s still a nascent space. In its S-1 filing this morning, the company painted a rosy picture, projecting a $60 billion addressable market. While TAM estimates tend to trend large, UIPath points out that the number encompasses far more than pure RPA into what they call ‘Intelligent Process Automation.’ That could include not only RPA, but also process discovery, workflow, no code development and other forms of automation.

Indeed, as we wrote earlier today on the soaring process automation market, the company is probably going to need to expand into these other areas to really grow, especially now that it’s competing with much bigger companies for enterprise automation dollars.

While UIPath is in the midst of its quiet period, it came up for air this week to announce that it had bought Cloud Elements, a company that gives it access to API integration, an important component of automation in the enterprise. Daniel Dines, the company co-founder and CEO said the acquisition was about building a larger platform of automation tools.

“The acquisition of Cloud Elements is just one example of how we are building a flexible and scalable enterprise-ready platform that helps customers become fully automated enterprises,” he said in a statement.

While there is a lot of CEO speak in that statement, there is also an element of truth in that the company is looking at the larger automation story. It can use some of the cash from its prodigious fundraising to begin expanding on its original vision with smaller acquisitions that can fill in missing pieces in the product road map.

The company will need to do that and more to compete in a rapidly moving market, where many vendors are fighting for different parts of the business. As it continues its journey to becoming a public company, it will need to continue finding new ways to increase revenue by tapping into different parts of the wider automation stack.

#cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #process-automation, #rpa, #startups, #tc, #uipath

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No code, workflow, and RPA line up for their automation moment

We’ve seen a lot of trend lines moving throughout 2020 and into 2021 around automation, workflow, robotic process automation (RPA) and the movement to low-code and no-code application building. While all of these technologies can work on their own, they are deeply connected and we are starting to see some movement towards bringing them together.

While the definition of process automation is open to interpretation, and could include things like industrial automation, Statista estimates that the process automation market could be worth $74 billion in 2021. Those are numbers that are going to get the attention of both investors and enterprise software executives.

Just this week, Berlin-based Camunda announced a $98 million Series B to help act as a layer to orchestrate the flow of data between RPA bots, microservices and human employees. Meanwhile UIPath, the pure-play RPA startup that’s going to IPO any minute now, acquired Cloud Elements, giving it a way to move beyond RPA into API automation.

Not enough proof for you? How about ServiceNow announcing this week that it is buying Indian startup Intellibot to give it — you guessed it — RPA capabilities. That acquisition is part of a broader strategy by the company to move into full-scale workflow and automation, which it discussed just a couple of weeks ago.

Meanwhile at the end of last year, SAP bought a different Berlin process automation startup, Signavio, for $1.2 billion after announcing new automated workflow tools and an RPA tool at the beginning of December. Microsoft is in on it too, having acquired process automation startup Softmotive last May, which it then combined with its own automation tool PowerAutomate.

What we have here is a frothy mix of startups and large companies racing to provide a comprehensive spectrum of workflow automation tools to empower companies to spin up workflows quickly and move work involving both human and machine labor through an organization.

The result is hot startups getting prodigious funding, while other startups are exiting via acquisition to these larger companies looking to buy instead of build to gain a quick foothold in this market.

Cathy Tornbohm, Distinguished Research Vice President at Gartner, says part of the reason for the rapidly growing interest is that these companies have stayed on the sidelines up until now, but they see an opportunity and are using their checkbooks to play catch up.

“IBM, SAP, Pega, Appian, Microsoft, ServiceNow all bought into the RPA market because for years they didn’t focus on how data got into their systems when operating between organizations or without a human. [Instead] they focused more on what happens inside the client’s organization. The drive to be digitally more efficient necessitates optimizing data ingestion and data flows,” Tornbohm told me.

For all the bluster from the big vendors, they do not control the pure-play RPA market. In fact, Gartner found that the top three players in this space are UIPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism.

But Tornbohm says that, even as the traditional enterprise vendors try to push their way into the space, these pure-play companies are not sitting still. They are expanding beyond their RPA roots into the broader automation space, which could explain why UIPath came up from its pre-IPO quiet period to make the Cloud Elements announcement this week.

Dharmesh Thakker, managing partner at Battery Ventures, agrees with Tornbohm, saying that the shift to the cloud, accelerated by COVID-19, has led to an expansion of what RPA vendors are doing.

“RPA has traditionally focused on automation-UI flow and user steps, but we believe a full automation suite requires that ability to automate processes across the stack. For larger companies, we see their interest in the category as a way to take action on data within their systems. And for standalone RPA vendors, we see this as validation of the category and an invitation to expand their offerings to other pillars of automation,” Thakker said.

The activity we have seen across the automation and workflow space over the last year could be just the beginning of what Thakker and Tornbohm are describing, as companies of all sizes fight to become the automation stack of choice in the coming years.


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#automation, #cloud, #dharmesh-thakker, #enterprise, #no-code, #rpa, #sap, #tc, #uipath, #workflow

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Why Adam Selipsky was the logical choice to run AWS

When AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced in an email to employees yesterday that Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky was returning to run AWS, it was probably not the choice most considered. But to the industry watchers we spoke to over the last couple of days, it was a move that made absolute sense once you thought about it.

Gartner analyst Ed Anderson says that the cultural fit was probably too good for Jassy to pass up. Selipsky spent 11 years helping build the division. It was someone he knew well and had worked side by side with for over a decade. He could slide into the new role and be trusted to continue building the lucrative division.

Anderson says that even though the size and scope of AWS has changed dramatically since Selipsky left in 2016 when the company closed the year on $16 billion run rate, he says that the organization’s cultural dynamics haven’t changed all that much.

“Success in this role requires a deep understanding of the Amazon/AWS culture in addition to a vision for AWS’s future growth. Adam already knows the AWS culture from his previous time at AWS. Yes, AWS was a smaller business when he left, but the fundamental structure and strategy was in place and the culture hasn’t notably evolved since then,” Anderson told me.

Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group says the experience Selipsky had after he left AWS will prove invaluable when he returns.

“Adam transformed Tableau from a desktop, licensed software company to a cloud, subscription software company that thrived. As the leader of AWS, Adam is returning to a culture he helped grow as the sales and marketing leader that brought AWS to prominence and broke through from startup customers to become the leading enterprise solution for public cloud,” he said.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research says that Selipsky’s business experience gave him the edge over other candidates. “His business acumen won out over [internal candidates] Matt Garmin and Peter DeSantis. Insight on how Salesforce works may be helpful and valued as well,” Mueller pointed out.

As for leaving Tableau and with it Salesforce, the company that purchased it for $15.7 billion in 2019, Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials believes that it was only a matter of time before some of these acquired company CEOs left to do other things. In fact, he’s surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

“Given Salesforce’s growing stable of top notch CEOs accumulated by way of a slew of high profile acquisitions, you really can’t expect them all to stay forever, and given Adam Selipsky’s tenure at AWS before becoming Tableau’s CEO, this move makes a whole lot of sense. Amazon brings back one of their own, and he is also a wildly successful CEO in his own right,” Leary said.

While the consensus is that Selipsky is a good choice, he is going to have awfully big shoes to fill.  The fact is that division is continuing to grow like a large company currently on a run rate of over $50 billion. With a track record like that to follow, and Jassy still close at hand, Selipsky has to simply continue letting the unit do its thing while putting his own unique stamp on it.

Any kind of change is disconcerting though, and it will be up to him to put customers and employees at ease and plow ahead into the future. Same mission. New boss.

#adam-selipsky, #andy-jassy, #aws, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #enterprise, #personnel, #salesforce, #tableau, #tc

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Salesforce updates includes sales info overlay for Zoom meetings

The pandemic has clearly had an impact on the way we work, and this is especially true for salespeople. Salesforce introduced a number updates to Sales Cloud this morning including Salesforce Meetings, a smart overlay for Zoom meetings that gives information and advice to the sales team as they interact with potential customers in online meetings.

Bill Patterson, EVP and General Manager of CRM applications at Salesforce says that the company wanted to help sales teams manage these types of interactions better and take advantage of the fact they are digital.

“There’s a broad recognition, not just from Salesforce, but really from every sales organization that selling is forever changed, and I think that there’s been a broad understanding, and maybe a surprise in learning how effective we can be in the from anywhere kind of times, whether that’s in office or not in office or whatever,” Patterson explained.

Salesforce Meetings gives that overlay of information, whether it’s advice to slow down the pace of your speech or information about the person speaking. It can also compile action items and present a To Do list to participants at the end of each meeting to make sure that tasks don’t fall through the cracks.

This is made possible in part through the Einstein intelligence layer that is built across the entire Salesforce platform. In this case, it takes advantage of a new tool called Einstein Intelligent Insights, which the company is also exposing as a feature for developers to build their own solutions using this tool.

For sales people who might find the tool a bit too invasive, you can dial the confidence level of the information up or down on an individual basis, so that you can get a lot of information or a little depending on your needs.

For now, it works with Zoom and the company has been working closely with the Zoom development team to provide the API and SDK tooling it needs to pull something like this off, according to Patterson. He notes that plans are in the works to make it compatible with WebEx and Microsoft Teams in the future.

While the idea was in the works prior to the pandemic, COVID created a sense of urgency for this kind of feature, as well as other features announced today like Pipeline Inspection, which uses AI to analyze the sales pipeline. It searches for changes to deals over time with the goal of finding the ones that could benefit most from coaching or managerial support to get them over the finish line.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that this ability to capture information in online meetings is changing the way we think about CRM.

“The thing the caught my attention is how tightly integrated video meetings/collaboration is now into sales process. This is really compelling because meeting interactions that may not find their way into the CRM system are now automatically captured,” Leary told me.

Salesforce Meetings is available today, while Pipeline Inspection is expected to be available this summer.

#cloud, #crm, #enterprise, #saas, #sales-tools, #salesforce, #tc, #zoom

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Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky is returning to AWS to replace Andy Jassy as CEO

When Amazon announced last month that Jeff Bezos was moving into the executive chairman role, and AWS CEO Andy Jassy would be taking over the entire Amazon operation, speculation began about who would replace Jassy.

People considered a number of internal candidates such as Peter DeSantis, vice president of global infrastructure at AWS and Matt Garman, who is vice president of sales and marketing. Not many would have chosen Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky, but sure enough he is returning home to run the division he left in 2016.

In an email to employees, Jassy wasted no time getting to the point that Selipsky was his choice, saying that the former employee who helped launch the division when they hired him 2005, spent 11 years helping Jassy build the unit before taking the job at Tableau. Through that lens, the the choice makes perfect sense.

“Adam brings strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team. And, having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, he knows our culture and business well,” Jassy wrote in the email.

Jassy has run the AWS since its earliest days taking it from humble beginnings as a kind of internal experiment on running a storage web service to building a mega division currently on a $51 billion run rate. It is that juggernaut that will be Selipsky to run, but he seems well suited for the job.

 

 

This is a breaking story. We will be adding to it.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #aws, #cloud, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #personnel, #salesforce, #tableau

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Trace announces $8M seed to help companies coordinate budgets

Trace, an early startup that wants to bring a taste of SaaS to the budgeting side of the house, announced an $8 million seed round today led by Greylock and Uncork Capital with participation from Nyca Partners, Redpoint Ventures and various individual angels.

Mike Gonzalez, co-founder and CEO at the company describes Trace as the first service designed specifically for finance teams to deal with budgeting. “What Trace is really building is an all-in-one platform where financial decisions are made, and people can work with finance to get work done,” he explained

Trace handles all the core interactions between finance and everyone they need to work with in the business, focusing on budget owners. “In our platform, budget owners are given visibility into their financial targets, so they know what they’re working towards,” he said.

The idea is to build a more coordinated workflow between all the stakeholders in the budget process including finance, the department head, legal, security operations and so forth. Instead of cobbling together a bunch of different tools, Trace is attempting to bring this process into a single service.

Gonzalez has a deep background in this area having spent several years building custom financial systems as a consultant, and later working at Zenefits to build an internal system to track this kind of financial information. He took that knowledge, and along with his co-founders built Trace.

The company launched in 2018, spent the next year building the product and debuted the service in 2019. Although the pandemic has been challenging on a personal and company-building level, it did expose how important having a grip on the financial side of the business was when every penny counts.

For now the startup is taking aim at companies with between 200 and 1500 employees with hopes of ramping up to larger companies over time. Trace currently works with Sage Intacct, Netsuite and QuickBooks ERP financial systems.

It has a dozen employees, mostly in R&D with plans to add to that number as the business grows. As a Hispanic, who co-founded the company with his brother, he says that D&I is a cornerstone of his company building plans.

“We’re both Hispanics, and we grew up in rough neighborhoods without privilege. And so promoting an environment of equal opportunity and inclusion is something that I care deeply about,” he said. He says that they have already begun to invest to drive diversity and it’s a huge priority for the company moving forward.

The company has been distributed from the beginning, so the pandemic didn’t really change that, but as it grows, Gonzalez envisions having an office where people can come together for more collaborative work as needed.

#budgeting, #cloud, #finance, #financial-planning, #funding, #greylock, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #tc, #trace

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ServiceNow takes RPA plunge by acquiring India-based startup Intellibot

ServiceNow became the latest company to take the robotic process automation (RPA) plunge when it announced it was acquiring Intellibot, an RPA startup based in Hyderabad, India. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

The purchase comes at a time where companies are looking to automate workflows across the organization. RPA provides a way to automate a set of legacy processes, which often involve humans dealing with mundane repetitive work.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s no-code workflow announcements earlier this month and is part of the company’s broader workflow strategy, according to Josh Kahn, SVP of Creator Workflow Products at ServiceNow.

“RPA enhances ServiceNow’s current automation capabilities including low code tools, workflow, playbooks, integrations with over 150 out of the box connectors, machine learning, process mining and predictive analytics,” Khan explained. He says that the company can now bring RPA natively to the platform with this acquisition, yet still use RPA bots from other vendors if that’s what the customer requires.

“ServiceNow customers can build workflows that incorporate bots from the pure play RPA vendors such as Automation Anywhere, UiPath and Blue Prism, and we will continue to partner with those companies. There will be many instances where customers want to use our native RPA capabilities alongside those from our partners as they build intelligent, end-to-end automation workflows on the Now Platform,” Khan explained.

The company is making this purchase as other enterprise vendors enter the RPA market. SAP announced a new RPA tool at the end of December and acquired process automation startup Signavio in January. Meanwhile Microsoft announced a free RPA tool earlier this month, as the space is clearly getting the attention of these larger vendors.

ServiceNow has been on a buying spree over the last year or so buying five companies including Element AI, Loom Systems, Passage AI and Sweagle. Khan says the acquisitions are all in the service of helping companies create automation across the organization.

“As we bring all of these technologies into the Now Platform, we will accelerate our ability to automate more and more sophisticated use cases. Things like better handling of unstructured data from documents such as written forms, emails and PDFs, and more resilient automations such as larger data sets and non-routine tasks,” Khan said.

Intellibot was founded in 2015 and will provide the added bonus of giving ServiceNow a stronger foothold in India. The companies expect to close the deal no later than June.

 

#automation, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #rpa, #servicenow, #startups, #tc

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