Gloat raises $57M to reinvent the internal job board

A lot of the focus in recruitment these days has been on better technology to connect people to job opportunities at new organizations, but that also leaves a wide opening to focus on one of the other big funnels for finding work: internal transfers. Today, a startup that is building tools to improve that experience is announcing a big round of funding to expand its business.

Gloat, which has built an AI-based platform that it sells to organizations to power their internal job boards, has picked up $57 million in funding, money that it will be using both to continue both for business development, but also to continue adding more features to its own platform, for example to expand deeper into openings for contractors and to open up more opportunities for secondments at other businesses, and to extend into front-line positions alongside the knowledge worker roles for which the AI is currently optimized — in short, to improve career agility for people embedded at, and valued by, an organization, who may want to explore opportunities there instead of, or even alongside, looking elsewhere.

Accel is leading this Series C round, with previous backers Eight Roads (a part of Fidelity), Intel Capital, Magma Venture Partners, and PICO Partners also participating.

Gloat is not (ahem) gloating about its valuation, but we understand that it is in the region of around $400 million (but note, it’s a wide region so might be as low as $300 million or as high as $500 million: we’ll update when and if we learn more). The Tel Aviv-based startup has raised $92 million to date and counts big companies like Unilever, Pepsi, MetLife, HSBC and ADP among its customers.

Ben Reuveni, Gloat’s CEO who co-founded the business with Amichai Schreiber and Danny Shteinberg, said he got the idea for the company while working as an engineer focusing on storage at IBM after IBM acquired a smaller company where he was working. This was his first job after spending time in the Israel’s IDF, and so after six years of working first for the startup and then IBM in effectively a similar role, he had itchy feet and wanted to do more.

But the problem, he said, was that although IBM did have internal job boards, it was hard to see how his expertise mapped on to the opportunities that were available. And that is before you consider the interface or any of the other aspects of user experience of using these tools. On top of this, when you are considering large enterprises the size of IBM, chances are that they are not focusing too much on individualized career development or talent retention for most people at the lower end of the wider pay scale.

“I really had only two options available to me,” he said. “Look for new jobs outside the company, or try to look internally. The fact was that exploring outside was easier than looking internally.”

It turns out that his experience was not unique. Internal job boards, he said, typically have atrocious engagement, in the single-digit percentage of staff.

Reuveni eventually did move on from IBM, to start Gloat. The company’s central premise is to build a job board tool that it sells to bigger enterprises — the kind that employ thousands of people and already have job boards — so that they can better hold on to talent rather than losing it to others because they — the employee and the employer — haven’t found the right role for a particular person who wants to switch gears.

It does this first of all by way of making the barrier to using Gloat very low: it initially can be integrated with whatever recruiting software or tools that an organization might already be using to source and internally advertise their job openings, which it then channels through its system and algorithm.

Secondly, it starts to build profiles not just of jobs, but of people in the organization and the skills that they have to match with those jobs. That is to say, Gloat’s taken what has typically been a very one-sided, and one-directional effort and turned it into one that goes both ways. To source information on employees — who can signal to Gloat that they would like to look for new opportunities — it looks at employment records, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and perhaps a little input from the employee directly: all of this is ingested into its AI to help match a person to openings.

In cases where those skills are not quite right for what an employee wants to do, they get guidance on what they need to learn, and might also get options for “part-time” work within the organization where they can pick up experience they may still lack. (This is not unlike the career development tools that LinkedIn has built to bolster job hunting on its platform.)

Meanwhile, the department looking for a new person is getting sent referrals through the system, but it can also proactively use the Gloat database to find people to tap.

All of this is interesting but it leaves out a tricky variable, in the form of a manager.

What if you are working in a tense environment or simply don’t get along with the person to whom you directly report? Or what if the manager is possessive and doesn’t want to encourage you to leave? Considering that management is often evaluated not just on their own performance but on how well their teams do, it can be a risk to lose someone good.

Gloat’s system requires managers to endorse a worker as part of the process, so while some might be genuinely happy to see people they value continue to go upwards and onwards, couldn’t that also blow up this whole system in a bad way in those other cases?

Reuveni brushed that scenario aside when I brought it up, describing Gloat as a “win win situation” for managers, too, who will be motivated to help because the platform helps them find the right replacements. “Every manager can open a part-time project or internal job with their product,” he said.

I’m not fully convinced that may always be the case. But on the other hand, if you’re in a tough situation in your current placement, maybe looking at other organizations, or just using the more standard job board approach (which remains active, from what I understand), both would be better options anyway.

In the meantime, the company is looking to keep stretching the concept of “internal hires” into a much wider set of circumstances.

That will include providing openings to existing contractors looking for new contract roles when their current assignments end; or moving from a company to a similar role at another organization, as long as it’s non-competitive with your current employer (something that also comes up, Reuveni said, when a company is conducting a mass restructuring and is attempting to help affected employees find jobs elsewhere); or providing more analytics to HR teams, managers and other higher-ups who want a better look at the state of talent at their companies.

With talent retention and brain drain continuing to be big issues in a number of industries, it seems like a ripe time to address all of that.

“As companies are adapting their workforces to be more flexible and take advantage of remote workers, new tools are needed to optimise productivity and ensure equality of opportunities,” said Philippe Botteri, Partner at Accel, in a statement. “Gloat pioneered the Talent Marketplace to solve that, and it’s now becoming a strategic tool for global enterprises. Some of the world’s largest, most forward-looking companies are benefiting from the workforce agility enabled by Gloat’s AI-powered platform. The Accel team is looking forward to partnering with Gloat on the next stage of its journey, bringing this fundamentally new way of developing talent and managing work to every global enterprise.”

#funding, #gloat, #hiring, #jobs, #labor, #personnel, #recruitment

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As the economy reopens, startups are uniquely positioned to recruit talent

We are amidst a sprawling renegotiation between employers and employees as to the very nature of work, and no one has more leverage than skilled technologists — many of whom feel unmoored from their current jobs.

Our 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report — which in the second quarter polled technology professionals who mostly work at bigger organizations — shows 48% tech professionals expressed an interest in changing companies this year, up from 40% in the fourth quarter of 2020, and a big jump from 32% in the second quarter last year.

It’s a unique moment, one that creates an unusual opportunity for startup founders on the hunt for talent.

Fast growing upstarts have a lot of advantages. Bigger companies may be more likely to attempt to recreate the office environment of the past — especially if they have leased space and a built environment that will be difficult to unwind. Startups are often non-traditional and may be able to react to create the hybrid work environments many technologists crave as the economy reopens.

While all startups are certainly not focused on being disruptive, they often rely on cutting-edge technology and processes to give their customers something truly new. Many are trying to change the pattern in their particular industry. So, by definition, they generally have a really interesting mission or purpose that may be more appealing to tech professionals.

A migration of tech talent just as the economy is revving up would be disruptive and could also play to startup strengths. The market for tech talent is already strong: tech hiring has increased every month since November, according to our last tech jobs report released in May. Great data engineers, developers, business analysts and the like are in red-hot demand, and unemployment in tech is just above 2.4% percent, versus 5.5.% percent in the economy overall.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #entrepreneurship, #labor, #personnel, #recruiting, #recruitment, #startups, #tech-jobs, #tech-recruitment

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Apple confirms hiring of Ulrich Kranz, former CEO of EV company Canoo

Apple has hired the former co-founder and CEO of electric vehicle company Canoo to help with the development of the Apple Car, Bloomberg first reported, citing unnamed sources. Apple has confirmed to TechCrunch it has hired Kranz, but did not provide further details into his job responsibilities or title.

Kranz resigned his position at Canoo in April after steering the company toward public listing and a new leadership team, and he is reported to have been scooped up by Apple within weeks. The news comes a couple of months after Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped hints that the mysterious Apple Car would include autonomous vehicle technology as a key feature. Hiring an executive with decades of experience at the cutting edge of the auto industry is a clear sign that Apple is moving ahead with its vehicle manufacturing plans.

Apple is keeping a tight lip on its plans for its vehicle. According to a Reuters report from December, Apple intends to produce an electric passenger vehicle with “breakthrough battery technology” and automated vehicle technology by 2024. Other than that, no one knows what the car will look like or who, if anyone, will be the manufacturer, although it’s not outlandish to imagine Apple creating both the hardware and software.

#apple, #apple-car, #automotive, #canoo, #electric-vehicles, #personnel, #transportation, #ulrich-kranz

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ChartHop raises $35M for its internal org chart and people analytics platform

Human resources is generally a salient cornerstone of any organization, but digitization has democratized a lot of the work that goes into HR, and that’s meant more people in businesses interested in, and using, the kind of data that HR people build and typically manage. Today, a startup called ChartHop that’s built a platform to cater to that trend is announcing $35 million in funding on the heels of strong growth.

The Series B is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, a past backer, with Elad Gil and previous investors Cowboy Ventures and SemperVirens also participating. We understand from sources close to the company that the round values ChartHop at between $300 million and $400 million.

ChartHop was founded in New York by Ian White, now the CEO, who first started building the tools to fill what he felt were gaps in his own knowledge when he founded, ran and eventually sold his previous company, Sailthru (which was acquired by CampaignMonitor).

He said he realized the company could build “all the tech we wanted,” but when it came down to thinking about how to run and scale the business, that was at its heart actually a people question, and also understanding how departments, and the entire organization, looked and worked as a whole.

“It was not as important as hiring, structuring a ‘single you’ of the organization,” he said. (Ian’s pictured here to the right.) Similar to the great analytics tools that have been built for developers, sales teams and others, “What I wanted was people analytics,” he said. “I wanted to understand my team.”

That’s actually a very multifaceted question. It’s not just a matter of an org chart — a big enough task in its own right that the very day that ChartHop came out of stealth in early 2020, another org chart startup, The Org, launched, too. It’s also retention strategy, employee satisfaction, turnover statistics, diversity statistics, predictive visualizations on finances one area was compensated differently, or if hiring were frozen, etc. “All of those problems became mine and there was no great software out there to solve for it,” White said.

The ChartHop platform is built like all strong structures these days in the world of tech: tons of integrations to feed data into ChartHop to make it richer; tons of integrations also to export and use that data in more dedicated applications when needed; and an easy way for everyone to update data but also put in place easy and strong protections to keep confidential data as it should be.

And while HR still “owns” the platform, White said, it can be accessed and used by anyone in the organization, and it is.

It seems that others have found the talent management software market lacking for it, too. Since 2019 it went from a team of one — White himself — to 75, with 130 corporates now using its services. The list has a strong list of household company names with a heavy emphasis in tech, from what White showed me. Revenues in the last 12 months — a time when the spread-out nature of many of our workplaces has meant an even greater need for a platform to manage all the information has possibly reached a high water mark — have grown at a rate of 17% month-by-month.

“With HR and people functions so crucial to the growth and success of businesses, it’s unfortunate that most HR teams lack the critical people data to drive organizational decision making,” said David Ulevitch, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “ChartHop is the solution to this all-too-common problem, and is built by company leaders who have felt this pain personally. ChartHop’s visual approach to people analytics allows leaders to make organizational planning and strategy decisions with confidence. We’re thrilled to lead ChartHop’s Series B because of their impressive growth, the company’s vision, and the terrific, mission-oriented team they’ve assembled.” He also led the company’s seed round in February 2020.

“Since implementing ChartHop earlier this year, we’ve seen significant improvement in our engagement with talent routines as they’re managed via ChartHop,” said Sara Howe, vice president human resources at ZoomInfo, a customer of ChartHop, in a statement. “Our employees have found the simple user interface and the centralized view of their data as the most helpful features. Leaders across ZoomInfo have also leveraged ChartHop to ensure that their organizations are well structured to support our continued rapid growth.”

#charthop, #enterprise, #funding, #hr, #human-resources, #labor, #org-charts, #people-management, #personnel, #tc

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Google hires former SiriusXM CPO/CTO to lead its Maps team

Almost exactly a year ago, Google announced a couple of leadership changes that saw Prabhakar Raghavan, who joined the company back in 2012, take over the lead of Search, Assistant and Maps. Now, sources familiar with the hiring tell us, the company has hired Christopher Phillips, who was previously the chief product and technology officer at SiriusXM, to lead its geo team, which is responsible for products like Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Maps Platform, the company’s enterprise business around these products. Google has confirmed his hire but declined to share any additional information. Phillips will officially join the company later this month.

Christopher Phillips

Image Credits: Christopher Phillips/LinkedIn

Phillips came to SiriusXM after the company acquired music service Pandora last year. Before the acquisition, he spent six years as Pandora’s CPO and head of Technology, a role he took after leading product and design for Amazon Music from 2012 to 2014 and executive roles at Workspeed and Intuit before that.

In his new role at Google, Phillips will lead both product and engineering for the Geo team and report directly to Raghavan, who will continue to oversee Search, Assistant, Geo, Commerce and Ads. Before last year’s leadership shuffle, Jen Fitzpatrick essentially played a similar role for the Geo team.

According to Search Engine Land, Dane Glasgow and Liz Reid became the leads for the Geo team after her departure. Glasgow has since departed Google and is now at Facebook, while Reid recently took on a new role to lead Google’s search experiences. That obviously left a bit of a vacuum, which Phillips will now fill.

While Phillips doesn’t have any direct experience in building geo products, he does bring with him extensive experience in managing product-oriented engineering teams. His hiring also comes at an interesting time for Google Maps, which only recently announced a number of major updates and which is becoming an increasingly important part of Google’s product portfolio.

 

 

#amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #assistant, #christopher-phillips, #computing, #facebook, #google, #google-maps, #intuit, #pandora, #personnel, #prabhakar-raghavan, #sirius-xm, #software, #tc, #world-wide-web, #xm-satellite-radio

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HP outlines ambitious diversity goals

HP today announced a series of ambitious goals aimed at driving “a more diverse, equitable and inclusive” tech industry.

The tech giant, of course, is not the first company to have made strong claims about its intentions around diversity. As former TC reporter Megan Rose Dickey reported extensively, diversity and inclusion as an idea has been on the agenda of tech companies for years now. 

HP Chief Diversity Officer Lesley Slaton Brown says diversity and inclusion is something that the company has been focused on since its 1939 inception. Today, HP has roughly 50,000 employees globally with 31% of its leadership roles and 22% of its technical roles currently held by women – numbers that appear to be higher than most industry averages.

In order to further improve these numbers, HP announced three goals that Slaton Brown says the company is determined to achieve by 2030: 50/50 gender equality in HP leadership (defined as director level and up); greater than 30% technical women and women in engineering; and meet or exceed labor market representation for racial/ethnic minorities. 

I talked with Slaton Brown to get more details on the goals themselves, how the company plans to achieve them and what it plans to do to hold itself accountable. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


TC:  Tell me more about the genesis of these goals and what HP has done up until now to achieve more equality – whether it be with regard to gender, race or ethnicity – within the company?

Slaton Brown: It’s foundationally something that we’ve always been focused on. We’re now at a place where I think going into COVID and quarantine last year and the impact that the George Floyd murder had on us as a nation really allowed us to do the double click down into racial equality and the systemic and structural discrimination that exists. 

From that, we were able to then stand up our Racial Equality and Social Justice Task Force. One of our goals has been to increase the representation of Black and African Americans in particular at HP. And also look at what we would need to do to increase the opportunity of Black and African American suppliers and vendors who work with and partner with HP. And then ultimately, how can we impact the communities locally and nationally – whether it’s from policy and legislation to working with municipalities in order to provide bias training and things like that. So all of that was stood up, and now a year later, we’ve made some great progress. 

HP Chief Diversity Officer Lesley Slaton Brown / HP

We have also launched our Human Rights Initiative. We’re looking at standing up for equal and human rights. We’re really focused on how we go after climate action and human rights.

TC: It sounds like that you are committing to a variety of things in terms of more balance among leadership and technical talent in terms of gender, for one. So it’s not just about race. But I’d like to hear more specifics on these particular goals and what you have done historically to work toward greater diversity and inclusion.

Slaton Brown: When we separated in 2015 from HP Co. We were very intentional about creating a diverse board of directors, first and foremost. And so today when I think about our board composition, we’re made up of I think it’s about 45% women, 35% ethnic minorities and over 60% total minorities with just our board of directors alone. We’re one of the most diverse boards in the tech industry. Now why is that important? The importance of building or standing up a board of directors is because they help with the vision of the company and help guide the strategy for the company.

That was one of the first things we did, and when I came into this role at that time, my goal was to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into everything that we do. 

TC: How are you holding yourselves accountable?

Slaton Brown: We’re really talking about answering all the way up to the board of directors on what we’re doing – our dashboards, our matrices that we pulled together will go to our board of directors to say, ‘Here’s what we said we’re going to do, how are we tracking, and then ultimately what was the impact.’ And so that’s what we’re building today. I consider that the infrastructure. So from the board of directors down cascading to your executive leadership team, ensuring that we have a strong narrative built.

By having this goal, we can then drive the actions, the programs, and then the implementation through our infrastructure and an ecosystem to achieve those goals. That includes things like working with organizations like the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Asian Engineers. And not only working with them, but building and investing in them so that we build the partnership in order to get to that pipeline.

TC: Can you be more specific in terms of what you mean by meeting or exceeding labor market representation?

Slaton Brown: I can see where that would be confusing. First, what it doesn’t mean is trying to match the demographics of the overall population, but rather to the labor market in the tech industry. For example, we’re at nearly 4% of having African Americans in a leadership position. Our goal is to achieve hiring at or more than 6% by 2025.

TC: What if you’re not getting enough women or minorities to apply for these leadership and technical roles? Would you rule out qualified white males, for example?

Slaton Brown: We are standing up for equal human rights. What we’re focusing on is also accelerating our gender, racial equality and social justice efforts. Part of that is looking at how do we increase our pipeline? And, how do we increase the talent pool? 

I would submit there is not a shortage of talent. It’s about how do you get to the talent? It has traditionally been through top tier schools such as Stanford and MIT. But you know what? Smart people and great talent are everywhere. People are sometimes financially challenged and so they may go the community college route, and then they might move into some of the top tier schools. That’s one means in addition to HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities).

For example, we’ve stood up a very good program in the HBCU space to ensure that students that have not traditionally had the opportunity to compete for certain positions have that opportunity and not only have that opportunity, but have the ability to travel to HP sites to see where they would be likely interning. Our goal is to have a 100% conversion rate in terms of converting interns into full-time hires based off of performance, of course. And so it is a holistic or an end-to-end approach.

Okay, so now you’ve made these goals for women and for ethnic minorities and the white guy might say, ‘I’m left out.’ I think the interesting thing about that is that within the tech industry, the white male is the majority. What we’re doing at HP is building a powerful culture of inclusion and belonging. So we’re still getting white guys, but we’re also getting very talented women, and US ethnic minorities, as well, in addition to veterans and people with disabilities. 

It’s about where you go, how you show up as a brand of choice – which is a goal of ours: to be a destination of choice for the underrepresented group – and  then how you welcome them. It’s the attraction, the hiring, the retention, the investment you make in their learning and development, and then in promotion, as well. And so those are some of the things that we’re doing.

TC: What are other ways you are fighting for human rights?

Slaton Brown: This announcement is around how we’re doubling down on our workforce, workforce empowerment, and that is about how we do things is just as important as what we do. And that’s about respecting human rights, and making it a priority. Our commitment to our supply chain workers is to ensure that our vendors are not contributing to the modern day slavery, or bringing in people with degrees and education and then bringing them into a system that charges them charges them ginormous fees and takes their passport.

We want to ensure that we create an environment, and create visibility and a resilient supply chain to ensure that that doesn’t happen, that we respect human rights, and that our manufacturing suppliers are contributing to that, as well.

TC:  In press materials, the company claimed to be the first Fortune 100 tech company to commit to gender parity in leadership.” Hopefully you’ll be setting an example and others will follow.

Slaton Brown: Well, it’s a huge goal and so some of the strategies and best practices that we’ve put in place really is not just about bringing women in as a checkbox exercise for us, but to really establish a new standard.

Our goal and our vision is to become the most sustainable and just tech company in the world. And so we can’t just say that we have to do it. And that’s what I love about the culture of HP – it’s moving from the talk, and really showing the actions in which we’re going to get to that place of being sustainable and just by 2030.

#diversity, #hiring, #hp, #personnel, #talent, #tc

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New Relic’s business remodel will leave new CEO with work to do

For Bill Staples, the freshly appointed CEO at New Relic, who takes over on July 1, yesterday was a good day. After more than 20 years in the industry, he was given his own company to run. It’s quite an accomplishment, but now the hard work begins.

Lew Cirne, New Relic’s founder and CEO, who is stepping into the executive chairman role, spent the last several years rebuilding the company’s platform and changing its revenue model, aiming for what he hopes is long-term success.

“All the work we did in re-platforming our data tier and our user interface and the migration to consumption business model, that’s not so we can be a $1 billion New Relic — it’s so we can be a multibillion-dollar New Relic. And we are willing to forgo some short-term opportunity and take some short-term pain in order to set us up for long-term success,” Cirne told TechCrunch after yesterday’s announcement.

On the positive side of the equation, New Relic is one of the market leaders in the application performance monitoring space. Gartner has the company in third place behind Dynatrace and Cisco AppDynamics, and ahead of DataDog. While the Magic Quadrant might not be gospel, it does give you a sense of the relative market positions of each company in a given space.

New Relic competes in the application performance monitoring business, or APM for short. APM enables companies to keep tabs on the health of their applications. That allows them to cut off problems before they happen, or at least figure out why something is broken more quickly. In a world where users can grow frustrated quickly, APM is an important part of the customer experience infrastructure. If your application isn’t working well, customers won’t be happy with the experience and quickly find a rival service to use.

In addition to yesterday’s CEO announcement, New Relic reported earnings. TechCrunch decided to dig into the company’s financials to see just what challenges Staples may face as he moves into the corner office. The resulting picture is one that shows a company doing hard work for a more future-aligned product map and business model, albeit one that may not generate the sort of near-term growth that gives Staples ample breathing room with public investors.

Near-term growth, long-term hopes

Making long-term bets on a company’s product and business model future can be difficult for Wall Street to swallow in the near term. But such work can garner an incredibly lucrative result; Adobe is a good example of a company that went from license sales to subscription incomes. There are others in the midst of similar transitions, and they often take growth penalties as older revenues are recycled in favor of a new top line.

So when we observe New Relic’s recent result and guidance for the rest of the year, we’re more looking for future signs of life than quick gains.

Starting with the basics, New Relic had a better-than-anticipated quarter. An analysis showed the company’s profit and adjusted profit per share both beat expectations. And the company announced $173 million in total revenue, around $6 million more than the market expected.

So, did its shares rise? Yes, but just 5%, leaving them far under their 52-week high. Why such a modest bump after so strong a report? The company’s guidance, we reckon. Per New Relic, it expects its current quarter to bring 6% to 7% growth compared to the year-ago period. And it anticipates roughly 6% growth for its current fiscal year (its fiscal 2022, which will conclude at the end of calendar Q1 2022).

#application-performance-monitoring, #cloud, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #enterprise, #finance, #lew-cirne, #new-relic, #personnel, #tc

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New Relic is bringing in a new CEO as founder Lew Cirne moves to executive chairman role

At the market close this afternoon ahead of its earnings report, New Relic, an applications performance monitoring company, announced that founder Lew Cirne would be stepping down as CEO and moving into the executive chairman role.

At the same time, the company announced that Bill Staples, a software industry vet, would be taking over as CEO. Staples joined the company last year as chief product officer before being quickly promoted to president and chief product officer in January. Today’s promotion marks a rapid rise through the ranks to lead the company.

Cirne said when he began thinking about stepping into that executive chairman role, he was looking for a trusted partner to take his place as CEO, and he found that in Staples. “Every founder’s dream is for the company to have a long lasting impact, and then when the time is right for them to step into a different role. To do that, you need a trusted partner that will lead with the right core values and bring to the table what the company needs as an active partner. And so I’m really excited to move to the executive chairman role [and to have Bill be that person],” Cirne told me.

For Staples, who has worked at large organizations throughout his career, this opportunity to lead the company as CEO is the pinnacle of his long career arc. He called the promotion humbling, but one he believes he is ready to take on.

“This is a new chapter for me, a new experience to be a CEO of a public company with a billion dollar plus value valuation, but I think the experience I have in the seat of our customers, as well as the experience I’ve had at Microsoft and Adobe, very large companies with very large stakes running large organizations has really prepared me well for this next phase,” Staples said.

Cirne says he plans to take some time off this summer to give Staples the space to grow as the leader of the company without being in the shadow of the founder and long-time CEO, but he plans to come back and work with him as the executive chairman moving forward come the fall.

As he step into this new role, Staples will be taking over. “Certainly I have a lot to learn about what it takes to be a great CEO, but I also come in with a lot of confidence that I’ve managed organizations at scale. You know I’ve been part of P&Ls that were many times larger than New Relic, and I have confidence that I can help New Relic grow as a company.”

Hope Cochran, managing director at Madrona Ventures, who is also the chairman of the New Relic Board said that the board fully backs of the decision to pass the CEO torch from Cirne to Staples. “With the foundation that Lew built and Bill’s leadership, New Relic has a very bright future ahead and a clear path to accelerate growth as the leader in observability,” she said in a statement.

The official transition is scheduled to take place on July 1st.

#ceo-appointment, #cloud, #enterprise, #hope-cochran, #lew-cirne, #new-relic, #personnel, #tc

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Busy day at VMware ended yesterday with Ragurham as CEO and COO Poonen exiting

They say for every door that opens another closes and the executive shuffle at VMware is certainly proving that old chestnut true. Four months after Pat Gelsinger stepped down as CEO to return to run Intel, the virtual machine pioneer announced yesterday that long-time exec Raghu Raghuram was taking over that role.

That set in motion another change when COO Sanjay Poonen, whom some had speculated might get the CEO job, announced yesterday afternoon on Twitter that he was leaving the company after 7 years.

Coincidence? We think not.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says that he was surprised that Poonen didn’t get the job, but perhaps the VMware board valued Raghuram’s product focus more highly. “At 50, he [would have been] a long term solution, and he did a great job on the End User Computing (EUC) side of the product before becoming COO. I guess that it is still not VMware’s core business,” he said.

Regardless, Mueller still liked the choice of Raghuram as CEO, saying that he brought stability and reliability to the position, but he sees him likely as a solid interim solution for several years as the company spins out from Dell and becomes an fully independent organization again.

“Obviously the board wanted to have someone who knows product, and has been there a long time, and is associated with the VMware core success — so that creates relatability [and stability].” He added, “At 57 he is the transitional candidate, and a good choice, a veteran who is happy to run this 2-3 or maybe 5 years and won’t go anywhere [in the interim]. And the board has time to find a long-term solution,” Mueller told me.

Mark Lockwood, lead analyst on VMware at Gartner sees Raghuram as the right man for the job with no reservations, one who will continue to implement the current strategy while putting his own stamp on the position.

“That the VMware board chose someone in Raghu Raghuram who has been the technical strategy executive inside the company for years speaks volumes about the board’s comfort level with the existing strategy trajectory of the company. Mr. Raghuram will most certainly steer the company slightly differently than Mr. Gelsinger did, but at least from the outside, the CEO appointment appears to be a stamp of approval on the company’s broad portfolio,” Lockwood said.

As for Poonen, he says that the writing was on the wall when he didn’t get the promotion. “Although Sanjay Poonen has indeed been a valuable executive for VMware, it was always unlikely that he would remain if not chosen for the CEO role,” Lockwood said.

Stephen Elliot, an analyst at IDC, was also bullish on the Raghuram appointment, saying he brings a broad understanding of the company, and that’s important to VMware right now. “He understands VMware customers, the technologies, M&A, and the importance of execution and its impact on profitable growth. He has been central to almost every successful strategy the company has created, and been a leader for product strategy and execution. He has a very good balance of making tactical and strategic moves to anticipate the value VMware can deliver for customers in a 1-3 year horizon,” Elliot said.

Elliot thinks Poonen will be just fine and will find a landing spot pretty quickly. “He is another very talented executive; he will become a CEO elsewhere, and another company will be very lucky,” he said. He says that it will take time to see if there is any impact from that, but he believes that VMware shouldn’t have trouble attracting other executive talent to fill in any gaps.

For every every executive move, there are choices for replacements, and subsequent fall-out from those choices. We saw a full-fledged example of that yesterday on display at VMware. If these industry experts are right, the company chose stability and reliability and a deep understanding of product. That would seem to be solid enough reasoning on the part of the board, even though Poonen leaving seems to be collateral damage from the decision, and a big loss for the company.

#ceo-appointment, #drama, #enterprise, #personnel, #raghu-raghuram, #sanjay-poonen, #tc, #vmware

0

Worksome pulls $13M into its high skill freelancer talent platform

More money for the now very buzzy business of reshaping how people work: Worksome is announcing it recently closed a $13 million Series A funding round for its “freelance talent platform” — after racking up 10x growth in revenue since January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a remote working boom.

The 2017 founded startup, which has a couple of ex-Googlers in its leadership team, has built a platform to connect freelancers looking for professional roles with employers needing tools to find and manage freelancer talent.

It says it’s seeing traction with large enterprise customers that have traditionally used Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to manage and pay external workforces — and views employment agency giants like Randstad, Adecco and Manpower as ripe targets for disruption.

“Most multinational enterprises manage flexible workers using legacy MSPs,” says CEO and co-founder Morten Petersen (one of the Xooglers). “These largely analogue businesses manage complex compliance and processes around hiring and managing freelance workforces with handheld processes and outdated technology that is not built for managing fluid workforces. Worksome tackles this industry head on with a better, faster and simpler solution to manage large freelancer and contractor workforces.”

Worksome focuses on helping medium/large companies — who are working with at least 20+ freelancers at a time — fill vacancies within teams rather than helping companies outsource projects, per Petersen, who suggests the latter is the focus for the majority of freelancer platforms.

“Worksome helps [companies] onboard people who will provide necessary skills and will be integral to longer-term business operations. It makes matches between companies and skilled freelancers, which the businesses go on to trust, form relationships with and come back to time and time again,” he goes on.

“When companies hire dozens or hundreds of freelancers at one time, processes can get very complicated,” he adds, arguing that on compliance and payments Worksome “takes on a much greater responsibility than other freelancing platforms to make big hires easier”.

The startup also says it’s concerned with looking out for (and looking after) its freelancer talent pool — saying it wants to create “a world of meaningful work” on its platform, and ensure freelancers are paid fairly and competitively. (And also that they are paid faster than they otherwise might be, given it takes care of their payroll so they don’t have to chase payments from employers.)

The business started life in Copenhagen — and its Series A has a distinctly Nordic flavor, with investment coming from the Danish business angel and investor on the local version of the Dragons’ Den TV program Løvens Hule; the former Minister for Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers; and family home manufacturer Lind & Risør.

It had raised just under $6M prior to thus round, per Crunchbase, and also counts some (unnamed) Google executives among its earlier investors.

Freelancer platforms (and marketplaces) aren’t new, of course. There are also an increasing number of players in this space — buoyed by a new flush of VC dollars chasing the ‘future of work’, whatever hybrid home-office flexible shape that might take. So Worksome is by no means alone in offering tech tools to streamline the interface between freelancers and businesses.

A few others that spring to mind include Lystable (now Kalo), Malt, Fiverr — or, for techie job matching specifically, the likes of HackerRank — plus, on the blue collar work side, Jobandtalent. There’s also a growing number of startups focusing on helping freelancer teams specifically (e.g. Collective), so there’s a trend towards increasing specialism.

Worksome says it differentiates vs other players (legacy and startups) by combining services like tax compliance, background and ID checks and handling payroll and other admin with an AI powered platform that matches talent to projects.

Although it’s not the only startup offering to do the back-office admin/payroll piece, either, nor the only one using AI to match skilled professionals to projects. But it claims it’s going further than rival ‘freelancer-as-a-service’ platforms — saying it wants to “address the entire value chain” (aka: “everything from the hiring of freelance talent to onboarding and payment”).

Worksome has 550 active clients (i.e. employers in the market for freelancer talent) at this stage; and has accepted 30,000 freelancers into its marketplace so far.

Its current talent pool can take on work across 12 categories, and collectively offers more than 39,000 unique skills, per Petersen.

The biggest categories of freelancer talent on the platform are in Software and IT; Design and Creative Work; Finance and Management Consulting; plus “a long tail of niche skills” within engineering and pharmaceuticals.

While its largest customers are found in the creative industries, tech and IT, pharma and consumer goods. And its biggest markets are the U.K. and U.S.

“We are currently trailing at +20,000 yearly placements,” says Petersen, adding: “The average yearly spend per client is $300,000.”

Worksome says the Series A funding will go on stoking growth by investing in marketing. It also plans to spend on product dev and on building out its team globally (it also has offices in London and New York).

Over the past 12 months the startup doubled the size of its team to 50 — and wants to do so again within 12 months so it can ramp up its enterprise client base in the U.S., U.K. and euro-zone.

“Yes, there are a lot of freelancer platforms out there but a lot of these don’t appreciate that hiring is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing the friction in working with freelancers,” argues Petersen. “Of the time that goes into hiring, managing and paying freelancers, 75% is currently spent on admin such as timesheet approvals, invoicing and compliance checks, leaving only a tiny fraction of time to actually finding talent.”

Worksome woos employers with a “one-click-hire” offer — touting its ability to find and hire freelancers “within seconds”.

If hiring a stranger in seconds sounds ill-advised, Worksome greases this external employment transaction by taking care of vetting the freelancers itself (including carrying out background checks; and using proprietary technology to asses freelancers’ skills and suitability for its marketplace).

“We have a two-step vetting process to ensure that we only allow the best freelance talent onto the Worksome platform,” Petersen tells TechCrunch. “For step one, an inhouse-built robot assesses our freelancer applicants. It analyses their skillset, social media profiles, profile completeness and hourly or daily rate, as well as their CV and work history, to decide whether each person is a good fit for Worksome.

“For step two, our team of talent specialists manually review and decline or approve the freelancers that pass through step one with a score of 85% or more. We have just approved our 30,000th freelancer and will be able to both scale and improve our vetting procedure as we grow.”

A majority of freelancer applicants fail Worksome’s proprietary vetting processes. This is clear because it says it has received 80,000 applicants so far — but only approved 30,000.

That raises interesting questions about how it’s making decisions on who is (and isn’t) an ‘appropriate fit’ for its talent marketplace.

It says its candidate assessing “robot” looks at “whether freelancers can demonstrate the skillset, matching work history, industry experience and profile depth” deemed necessary to meet its quality criteria — giving the example that it would not accept a freelancer who says they can lead complex IT infrastructure projects if they do not have evidence of relevant work, education and skills.

On the AI freelancer-to-project matching side, Worksome says its technology aims to match freelancers “who have the highest likelihood of completing a job with high satisfaction, based on their work-history, and performance and skills used on previous jobs”.

“This creates a feedback loop that… ensure that both clients and freelancers are matched with great people and great work,” is its circular suggestion when we ask about this.

But it also emphasizes that its AI is not making hiring decisions on its own — and is only ever supporting humans in making a choice. (An interesting caveat since existing EU data protection rules, under Article 22 of the GDPR, provide for a right for individuals to object to automated decision making if significant decisions are being taken without meaningful human interaction.) 

Using automation technologies (like AI) to make assessments that determine whether a person gains access to employment opportunities or doesn’t can certainly risk scaled discrimination. So the devil really is in the detail of how these algorithmic assessments are done.

That’s why such uses of technology are set to face close regulatory scrutiny in the European Union — under incoming rules on ‘high risk’ users of artificial intelligence — including the use of AI to match candidates to jobs.

The EU’s current legislative proposals in this area specifically categorize “employment, workers management and access to self-employment” as a high risk use of AI, meaning applications like Worksome are likely to face some of the highest levels of regulatory supervision in the future.

Nonetheless, Worksome is bullish when we ask about the risks associated with using AI as an intermediary for employment opportunities.

“We utilise fairly advanced matching algorithms to very effectively shortlist candidates for a role based solely on objective criteria, rinsed from human bias,” claims Petersen. “Our algorithms don’t take into account gender, ethnicity, name of educational institutions or other aspects that are usually connected to human bias.”

“AI has immense potential in solving major industry challenges such as recruitment bias, low worker mobility and low access to digital skills among small to medium sized businesses. We are firm believers that technology should be utilized to remove human bias’ from any hiring process,” he goes on, adding: “Our tech was built to this very purpose from the beginning, and the new proposed legislation has the potential to serve as a validator for the hard work we’ve put into this.

“The obvious potential downside would be if new legislation would limit innovation by making it harder for startups to experiment with new technologies. As always, legislation like this will impact the Davids more than the Goliaths, even though the intentions may have been the opposite.”

Zooming back out to consider the pandemic-fuelled remote working boom, Worksome confirms that most of the projects for which it supplied freelancers last year were conducted remotely.

“We are currently seeing a slow shift back towards a combination of remote and onsite work and expect this combination to stick amongst most of our clients,” Petersen goes on. “Whenever we are in uncertain economic times, we see a rise in the number of freelancers that companies are using. However, this trend is dwarfed by a much larger overall trend towards flexible work, which drives the real shift in the market. This shift has been accelerated by COVID-19 but has been underway for many years.

“While remote work has unlocked an enormous potential for accessing talent everywhere, 70% of the executives expect to use more temporary workers and contractors onsite than they did before COVID-19, according to a recent McKinsey study. This shows that businesses really value the flexibility in using an on-demand workforce of highly skilled specialists that can interact directly with their own teams.”

Asked whether it’s expecting growth in freelancing to sustain even after we (hopefully) move beyond the pandemic — including if there’s a return to physical offices — Petersen suggests the underlying trend is for businesses to need increased flexibility, regardless of the exact blend of full-time and freelancer staff. So platforms like Worksome are confidently poised to keep growing.

“When you ask business leaders, 90% believe that shifting their talent model to a blend of full-time and freelancers can give a future competitive advantage (Source: BCG),” he says. “We see two major trends driving this sentiment; access to talent, and building an agile and flexible organization. This has become all the more true during the pandemic — a high degree of flexibility is allowing organisations to better navigate both the initial phase of the pandemic as well the current pick up of business activity.

“With the amount of change that we’re currently seeing in the world, and with businesses are constantly re-inventing themselves, the access to highly skilled and flexible talent is absolutely essential — now, in the next 5 years, and beyond.”

#adecco, #artificial-intelligence, #copenhagen, #covid-19, #employment, #enterprise, #europe, #european-union, #fiverr, #flexible-work, #freelance-marketplace, #freelancer, #fundings-exits, #kalo, #labor, #london, #new-york, #personnel, #remote-work, #saas, #telecommuting, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #upwork, #work, #worksome

0

Ahead of Dell’s spin out, VMware appoints longtime exec Raghu Raghuram as its new CEO

Five months after it was announced that Pal Gelsinger would be stepping down as CEO of VMware to take the top job at Intel, the virtualization giant has finally appointed a permanent successor. Raghu Raghuram — a longtime employee of the company — has been appointed the new CEO. He will be taking on the new role on June 1. Until then, CFO Zane Rowe will continue in the role in the interim.

Raghuram has been with the company for 17 years in a variety of roles, most recently COO of products and cloud services. He’s also held positions at the company overseeing areas like datacenters and VMware’s server business. Putting a veteran in at the helm sends a clear message that VMware has picked someone clearly dedicated to the company and its culture. No drama here.

Indeed, the move is coming at a time when there is already a lot of other change underway and speaks to the company looking for stability and continuity to lead it through that. About a month ago, Dell confirmed long-anticipated news that it would be spinning out its stake in VMware in a deal that’s expected to bring Dell at least $9 billion — putting to an end a financial partnership that initially kicked off with an eye-watering acquisition of EMC in 2016. That partnership will not end the strategic relationship, however, which is set to continue and now Raghuram will be in charge of building and leading.

For that reason, you might look at this as a deal nodded through significantly by Dell.

“I am thrilled to have Raghu step into the role of CEO at VMware. Throughout his career, he has led with integrity and conviction, playing an instrumental role in the success of VMware,” said Michael Dell, chairman of the VMware Board of Directors, in a statement. “Raghu is now in position to architect VMware’s future, helping customers and partners accelerate their digital businesses in this multi-cloud world.”

Raghuram has not only been the person overseeing some of VMware’s biggest divisions and newer areas like software-defined networking and cloud computing, but he’s had a central role in building and driving strategy for the company’s core virtualization business, been involved with M&A and, as VMware points out, “key in driving partnerships with Dell Technologies,” among other partners.

“VMware is uniquely poised to lead the multi-cloud computing era with an end-to-end software platform spanning clouds, the data center and the edge, helping to accelerate our customers’ digital transformations,” said Raghuram in a statement. “I am honored, humbled and excited to have been chosen to lead this company to a new phase of growth. We have enormous opportunity, we have the right solutions, the right team, and we will continue to execute with focus, passion, and agility.”

The company also took the moment to update on guidance for its Q1 results, which will be coming out on May 27. Revenues are expected to come in at $2.994 billion, up 9.5% versus the same quarter a year ago. Subscription and SaaS and license revenue, meanwhile, is expected to be $1.387 billion, up 12.5%. GAAP net income per diluted share is expected to be $1.01 per diluted share, and non-GAAP net income per diluted share is expected to be $1.76 per diluted share, it said.

#dell, #enterprise, #personnel, #talent, #tc, #virtualization, #vmware

0

Knotel co-founder leaves company, describes investor Newmark as ‘a stalking horse’

Earlier this year, we covered the demise of flexible workspace operator Knotel.

The once high-flying startup had just announced it had filed for bankruptcy and that its assets were being acquired by investor and commercial real estate brokerage Newmark for a reported $70 million.

It was a hard fall for a company that just one year prior had been valued at $1.6 billion.

It was hard to pinpoint exactly the beginning of the end for Knotel, which had raised about $560 million in funding. Some said the pandemic was the nail in Knotel’s coffin, while others pointed out the proptech was already in trouble before the pandemic hit, facing a number of lawsuits and evictions.

Then this past weekend, Knotel co-founder Amol Sarva shed some more light on the situation — essentially publicly trashing Newmark, which had co-led the startup’s $70 million Series B in 2018.

In a letter that he emailed to an unspecified group of people, Sarva points out that the company had reached “nearly $400mm of run rate in early 2020, posted gross profit, and even kept more than 2/3 of revenue intact while doing everything we could to support customer continuity and work with landlord partners amicably.”

He went on to describe Newmark as “a stalking horse” that used bankruptcy to take control of Knotel with around $100 million of new capital. That process, he said, undermined important relationships and “hurt lots of customers and partners.”

“I’m so disappointed that this was the direction pressed. The process made clear to me that I would not choose to be part of the new owners’ way of moving forward,” Sarva continued.

He further criticized Newmark, saying the brokerage has hired “a group of Adam Neuman-era (sic) WeWork bros to lead the company forward.”

Newmark had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of writing. While it’s safe to say that Sarva is bitter about the way things turned out, it would be interesting to know exactly at what point he came to this conclusion.

He did say that he’s heading back to the lab where Knotel was invented originally, as co-founder/CEO of Knote.

#amol-sarva, #knotel, #newmark, #personnel, #proptech, #real-estate, #tc

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EQT Ventures promotes Laura Yao to partner; hires Anne Raimondi as operating partner

EQT Ventures, an investment firm based in Europe, which has raised over €1.2 billion ($1.4B USD) announced that it has promoted Laura Yao to partner. At the same time, the firm announced it recently hired Anne Raimondi, former SVP of Operations at Zendesk as operating partner.

The company is based in Stockholm with offices in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Luxembourg. Yao is based in the U.S. office in San Francisco, where she has been working for three years prior to her recent promotion to partner. She says that the company tends to hire people with operator experience because they relate well to the founders of startups they invest in.

“Our goal is to partner with the most ambitious and boldest founders in Europe and the US and kind of be the investors that we all wish we’d had when we were on the other side of the table,” Yao told me.

Yao’s background includes co-founding a startup called The PhenomList in 2011. While she is responsible for looking for new investments, Raimondi works with the existing portfolio of companies, particularly B2B SaaS companies, helping them with practical aspects of building a startup like go-to-market strategy, organizational design, hiring executives and other components of company building.

“I joined earlier this year as an operating partner, so I’m not on the investing side but actually focused on working with existing portfolio company founders as they grow and scale,” Raimondi said.

Unfortunately, female partners like Yao and Raimondi remain a rarity in most venture firms with a Crunchbase report from last April finding that just 3% of investors are women, and that over two-thirds of firms don’t have a single woman as a partner.

EQT has a 50/50 male to female employee ratio, although the partners were all male until Yao was promoted and Raimondi hired. That makes two of 6 as the company attempts to make the investment team reflect the rest of the company and the population at large.

Part of Raimondi’s job is talking to startups about building diverse and equitable organizations and she and Yao know the company needs to model that. She says that thriving startups understand on the product side that to build a successful product, they start with a hypothesis, then develop targets and metrics to test, learn, and then iterate.

She says that they need to do the same thing to build a diverse and inclusive company. That starts with defining what diversity and inclusion looks like and setting up metrics to measure their progress.

“You evaluate [your diversity goals] and hold [the company] accountable to what you’ve signed up for. If you don’t meet them, [you look at] what can you do to improve them. Then you look at how you keep iterating, and then constantly measuring the employee experience across many dimensions, including not only diversity, but the important part of belonging,” Raimondi said.

Both women say their company does a good job at this, and their hiring/promotion proves that. Yao says that the organization as a whole has created a comfortable and inclusive culture. “It’s very collaborative and egalitarian. Anyone can say whatever’s on their mind. It’s very non-hierarchical and a comfortable place for a woman to work. I felt immediately welcomed and that my ideas were welcome immediately,” she said.

The company portfolio includes startups in the US and Europe and the firm sees itself as a bridge between the two locations. Among the companies EQT has invested in include bug bounty startup HackerOne, website building technology Netlify, and quantum computing startup Seeqc.

Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product-market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE” at checkout to get 20% off tickets right here.

#anne-raimondi, #diversity, #enterprise, #eqt-ventures, #laura-yao, #personnel, #tc

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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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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

0

Google Cloud hires Intel veteran to head its custom chip efforts

There has been a growing industry trend in recent years for large scale companies to build their own chips. As part of that, Google announced today that it has hired long-time Intel executive Uri Frank as Vice President to run its custom chip division.

“The future of cloud infrastructure is bright, and it’s changing fast. As we continue to work to meet computing demands from around the world, today we are thrilled to welcome Uri Frank as our VP of Engineering for server chip design,” Amin Vahdat, Google Fellow and VP of systems infrastructure wrote in a blog post announcing the hire.

With Frank, Google gets an experienced chip industry executive, who spent more than two decades at Intel rising from engineering roles to Corporate Vice President at the Design Engineering Group, his final role before leaving the company earlier this month.

Frank will lead the custom chip division in Israel as part of Google. As he said in his announcement on LinkedIn, this was a big step to join a company with a long history of building custom silicon.

“Google has designed and built some of the world’s largest and most efficient computing systems. For a long time, custom chips have been an important part of this strategy. I look forward to growing a team here in Israel while accelerating Google Cloud’s innovations in compute infrastructure,” Frank wrote.

Google’s history of building its own chips dates back to 2015 when it launched the first TensorFlow chips. It moved into video processing chips in 2018 and added OpenTitan , an open source chip with a security angle in 2019.

Frank’s job will be to continue to build on this previous experience to work with customers and partners to build new custom chip architectures. The company wants to move away from buying motherboard components from different vendors to building its own “system on a chip” or SoC, which it says will be drastically more efficient.

“Instead of integrating components on a motherboard where they are separated by inches of wires, we are turning to “Systems on Chip” (SoC) designs where multiple functions sit on the same chip, or on multiple chips inside one package. In other words, the SoC is the new motherboard,” Vahdat wrote.

While Google was early to the ‘Build Your Own Chip’ movement, we’ve seen other large scale companies like Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft begin building their own custom chips in recent years to meet each company’s unique needs, and give more precise control over the relationship between the hardware and software.

It will be Frank’s job to lead Google’s custom chip unit and help bring it to the next level.

#chips, #cloud, #enterprise, #google, #google-cloud-platform, #hardware, #intel, #personnel, #tc

0

Assembled, an operating system for support teams, raises $16.6M

From the point of view of a consumer, customer service sometimes feels like a monolith, but behind the scenes it can be a very fragmented business, with dozens of companies providing various different tools to help agents do their jobs.

Today, a startup founded by three Stripe alums that has set out to build a platform that helps organizations manage that spaghetti of customer service IT, and use it more efficiently, is announcing a round of funding to continue growing its business.

Assembled, which has built a platform that it describes as the “operating system” for support teams, has raised $16.6 million, a Series A that it plans to use to continue expanding its team and platform, and to bring on more customers.

The round is being led by Emergence Capital, the VC that specializes in enterprise startups, backing other communications-centric companies in its time like Salesforce, Zoom, Yammer, ServiceMax, SalesLoft and Lithium. Stripe, Basis Set Ventures and Felicis Ventures also participated. Stripe has a strong connection to Assembled. It is a customer. It led Assembled’s $3.1 million seed round a year ago.

And, it was the company where the three co-founders met and built the earliest version of the product it offers today. CEO Brian Sze was one of the first employees, overseeing business operations, where he built the customer support platform that inspired him to eventually leave to found Assembled. His two co-founders, brothers Ryan and John Wang, were engineers at the payments and financial services behemoth.

Assembled’s current platform is priced in tiers starting at $15 per agent per month. Integrating with Salesforce, Zendesk, Intercom, Kustomer, Gladly and other services by way of API integrations, it provides not just a way to manage and view customer support data from different sources in one place, but alongside that it provides tools focused on the support teams themselves. This includes tools to manage and roster teams, analyze team performance, and forecast demand depending on different factors in order to be better prepared.

As with all other aspects of how organizations work, customer service and people management are being digitally transformed. Typically, Sze said that many companies still use spreadsheets to manage and plan customer support rosters. That is now gradually shifting into what he describes as “support ops” where a strategic person is tasked not just with handling what is happening with incoming customer support right now, but also needs to figure out what will happen in the next year, and the tools that might help cope with that. “That is our emergent buyer,” Sze said.

“The sheer number of channels being supported is much bigger, when you consider email, messaging, phone lines, social media and more,” said Sze, adding that the pandemic had a particularly strong effect on Assembled’s business. It saw a big bump in especially in Q3 of last year, when its customer base doubled. “I think it came down to support being one of the most critical teams at the organization.”

Assembled today has a number of tech companies, and tech-first consumer companies as customers, including Stripe, GoFundMe, challenger bank Monzo, Google-owned Looker, D2C clothing brand Everlane and Harrys. It has grown customers five-fold in the last year, said Sze, while revenues have grown 300% (absolute numbers for both were not disclosed).

The concept of an “operating system” for customer support makes a lot of sense when you think about how the role has evolved over the years.

In the decades before the internet and digital interactions became the norm, support either focused on in-person visits, or phone-based interactions where you might find yourself calling toll-free numbers, sitting on hold for a long time, maybe being shuffled from one person to another depending on the nature of your issue.

Over time, those systems picked up some automated responses and companies started getting better systems in place to triage those calls. Then, as marketing became “marketing tech” and sales took on a software life of its own, those customer support people started to pick up more responsibilities, not just listening to customers but turning around and offering to sell them things, too, or take stock of customer satisfaction and overall sentiment. Then more channels for connecting came with the internet. Then came more efficient tools, cloud-based services, mobile services, and more to handle all of the above, and so on.

All of these iterations often came with different pieces of software, and while some companies have set out to build one-stop shops to take everything on, Assembled takes a Slack-like approach, making it easy to bring in data and manage different tools from one place, providing a place to bring them all together to help them work more harmoniously. At the same time, it provides a way to manage the teams of people who are there to work with those pieces of software. This is because, when it comes to customer support, it’s always as much about the teams running it as it is the software they are using (hence: “assmebled”).

The company’s approach has been especially relevant in the last year. Not only have teams — including customer service teams — been forced to work remotely, but they have generally seen a surge of traffic from customers who are going online for all of their services, and using digital tools when they need to get in touch with organizations. Still, the opportunity for Assembled is that by and large, there are still a large proportion of businesses that are still playing catch up here.

“Today’s customer support teams operate in a dynamic, increasingly remote environment vastly different from that of a decade ago,” said Jake Saper, Emergence General Partner, in a statement. “But it’s shocking to learn how many support teams are still operating out of spreadsheets. At Emergence, we believe that Support Ops will become a critical complement to support teams, much like DevOps has become for developers. Having initially built their product to manage Stripe’s support function, we believe the Assembled team is the world’s best to build the core operating platform for Support Ops.”

Valuation is not being disclosed.

#assembled, #customer-support, #enterprise, #funding, #personnel, #stripe, #support-ops, #tc

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Could Marc Benioff be the next CEO to move to executive chairman?

Last month Jeff Bezos announced he would step down as CEO of Amazon later this year, moving into the executive chairman role, while passing the baton to AWS CEO Andy Jassy. Could Marc Benioff, co-founder, chairman and CEO at Salesforce be the next big-name executive to make a similar move?

A Reuter’s story published on Monday suggested that could be the case. Citing unnamed sources, the story indicated that Benioff’s CEO exit could happen this year. Further those same sources suggested that current Salesforce president and COO Bret Taylor is the likely heir apparent.

We wrote a story at the end of last year speculating on possible successors to Benioff, were he to step away from the CEO role. There were a number of worthy candidates, several of whom, like Taylor, came to the company via an acquisition. All the same, we thought that Taylor seemed to be the most likely candidate to replace Benioff.

We asked Salesforce for a comment on the Reuter’s story. A company spokesperson told us that the company doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.

While the entire scenario fits firmly in the rumor and speculation column, it is not entirely unlikely either. What would it mean if Benioff stepped away and what if Taylor was truly the next in line? And how would that swap compare with the Bezos decision were it to happen?

Similar yet different

Salesforce and Amazon are both companies founded in the 1990s, each looking to shake up its industry.

For Amazon, it was changing the way goods (starting with books) were bought and sold. And for Benioff the goal was changing the way software was sold. Bezos famously founded his company in his garage. Benioff built his in a rented apartment. From these humble beginnings both have built iconic companies and accumulated enormous wealth. You could understand why either could be ready to step away from the daily grind of running a company after all these years.

Bezos announced that veteran executive Andy Jassy, who runs the company’s cloud arm, would be his replacement when the handoff comes. Jassy knows the organization’s priority mix as he’s been working at the company for more than two decades. He’s locked into the culture and helped take AWS from idea to $50 billion juggernaut.

While Benioff hasn’t made any actual firm pronouncement, we have seen Bret Taylor — who joined the company in 2016 when Salesforce purchased his startup Quip for $750 million — move quickly up the ladder.

Laurie McCabe, co-founder and analyst at SMB Group, who has been following Salesforce since its earliest days, says that if Benioff were to leave, he would obviously leave big shoes to fill. But she agreed that everything seems to point to Taylor as his successor should that happen.

“Salesforce has been grooming Taylor for awhile. He has some stellar credentials both at Salesforce, his own start-up, Quip, that Salesforce acquired, and at Facebook. There’s no doubt in my mind he can lead Salesforce forward, but he’ll bring a different more low-key style to the role. And I’m sure Benioff will stay very involved […],” McCabe said.

Two different situations

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that while he believes Taylor could be chosen as Benioff’s successor, and would be qualified to lead the company, he’s taken a very different path from Jassy.

“I think Benioff moving on could be different from Bezos in the sense that Jassy has been at Amazon for over 20 years and was there to basically see and be part of most of the story. […] But if Taylor were to succeed Benioff there’s not as much [history] at Salesforce with him not being on board until the Quip acquisition in 2016,” Leary said.

Leary wonders if this relatively short history with the company could create some political friction in the organization if he were chosen to succeed Benioff. “I’m not saying that this would happen, but choosing one of the many possible heirs that have come via a number of high profile acquisitions could possibly lead to high level turnover from those not picked to succeed Benioff,” he said.

But Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says that if you look at the range of candidates available, he believes that Taylor would be the best choice. “I don’t expect any issue because there is no one with a similar or even better background, which is when there are problems — that or when people are in an open competition as it used to be at GE,” he said.

We don’t know for sure what the final outcome will be, but if Benioff does decide to join Bezos and takes the executive chairman mantle at the company, it makes sense that the person to replace him will be Taylor. But for now, it remains in the realm of speculation, and we’ll just to wait and see if that’s what comes to pass.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #bret-taylor, #cloud, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #marc-benioff, #personnel, #salesforce

0

Meet SeekOut, a profitable diverse hiring startup that just raised $65M

Most companies claim they want a diverse staff but at the same time, complain they don’t know how to go about recruiting more diverse candidates.

Enter SeekOut — a startup that is out to give companies no excuses with its AI-powered platform.

A group of former Microsoft executives and engineers —  Anoop Gupta, Aravind Bala, John Tippett, Vikas Manocha — founded SeekOut in 2016. The team started out building a messaging platform that provided a deep level of information about people that others might be emailing. When they realized that what customers really were after was the information they were uncovering, and not so much the messaging capability, the company pivoted in 2017.

Today, SeekOut’s goal is to help talent acquisition teams to recruit “hard-to-find and diverse talent.” The startup wouldn’t name names but said it is working with 6 out of the 10 “most highly valued companies” by market cap in the U.S. Overall, it had about 500 customers as of January across a range of industries from technology to pharmaceutical to aerospace and defense to banking.

Over the years, SeekOut has built out a database with hundreds of millions of profiles using its AI-powered talent search engine and “deep interactive analytics.” It finds talent by scouring public data and using natural-language and machine-learning technologies to understand the expertise of each candidate and build a complete 360-degree view of each potential employee. Specifically, it blends info from public profiles, GitHub, papers and patents, employee referrals, company alumni, candidates in ATS systems.

While SeekOut initially focused strictly on technical talent, it has since broadened its base to helping recruiters and sources find more diverse candidates in general as well as people with simply “hard-to-find” skill sets. And it claims to do it with “unprecedented speed and precision” via a blind hiring method designed to reduce bias. SeekOut then gives recruiters a way to engage with candidates instantly by getting access to the right contact information in a “single click.”

SeekOut co-founders (left to right) Anoop Gupta, Aravind Bala, Vikas Manocha and John Tippett. Image courtesy of SeekOut

The startup is hitting such a sweet spot that it attracted the attention of Tiger Global Management, the global investment firm that just led a $65 million Series B that values SeekOut at around $500 million.

Existing backers Madrona Venture Group and Mayfield also participated in the financing, which brings SeekOut’s total funding since inception to $73 million.

In a world where so many startups have yet to turn a profit, SeekOut is a refreshing exception. Since its $6 million Series A raise in May 2019, the SaaS company says it has grown its subscription revenue (ARR) by “more than 10-fold” (although it declined to reveal hard revenue figures). And it’s been profitable, or cash-flow positive, each of the last two years.

Gupta, who serves as the company’s CEO, said its platform (dubbed Talent-360) helps companies not only find diverse talent, but helps them improve retention by finding the “right” candidate to begin with.

While there was a pause almost across the board in hiring when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the emergence of remote work as a new normal has forced companies to think more creatively about hiring — especially since they are not constricted by geography as in the past — according to Gupta.

“This freedom also means their need for tools like SeekOut increased and we have seen our business take off as a result,” he told TechCrunch. “The focus on diversity hiring and our unique approach to finding the talent and offering blind hiring features has super charged the adoption.”

SeekOut’s Insights dashboard. Image courtesy of SeekOut

Mario Linares, head of talent acquisition at Aviatrix, acknowledges that competition for talent among software companies is fiercer than ever

“SeekOut’s innovative AI-powered search, global power filters, diversity filters, and talent pool insight have been critical components of Aviatrix’s global growth plan,” he said in a written statement.

For Tiger Global Partner John Curtius, SeekOut’s platform has the potential “to transform the world of HR.”

“We are impressed by the customer love and traction SeekOut is experiencing,” he said in a written statement.

Looking ahead, SeekOut plans to use its new capital to speed up the development and expansion of its platform and build customer success, engineering, sales and marketing teams in Seattle. And it plans to use its own platform to do it.

The company also plans to double its headcount of 50 over the next year.

#diversity, #funding, #fundings-exits, #labor, #personnel, #recent-funding, #saas, #seekout, #startups, #tiger-global-management, #venture-capital

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Inside Workvivo’s plans to take on Microsoft in the employee experience space

Maintaining company culture when the majority of staff is working remotely is a challenge for every organization — big and small.

This was an issue, even before COVID. But it’s become an even bigger problem with so many employees working from home. Employers have to be careful that workers don’t feel disconnected and isolated from the rest of the company and that morale stays high.

Enter Workvivo, a Cork, Ireland-based employee experience startup that is backed by Zoom founder Eric Yuan and Tiger Global that has steadily grown over 200% over the past year.

The company works with organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000 and boasts more than 500,000 users. According to CEO and co-founder John Goulding, it’s had 100% retention since it launched. Customers include Telus International, Kentech, A+E Networks and Seneca Gaming Corp., among others.

Founded by Goulding and Joe Lennon in 2017, Workvivo launched its employee communication platform in mid-2018 with the goal of helping companies create “an engaging virtual workplace” and replace the outdated intranet.

“We’re not about real time, we’re more asynchronous communication,” Goulding explained. “We have a lot of transactional tools, and typically carry the bigger message about what’s going on in a company and what positive things are happening. We’re more focused on human connection.”

Using Workvivo, companies can provide information like CEO updates, recognition for employees via a social style — “more things that shape the culture so workers can get a real sense of what’s happening in an organization.” It launched podcasts in the second quarter and livestreaming in Q4.

In 2019, Workvivo showed its product to Zoom’s Yuan, who ended up becoming one of the company’s first investors. Then in May of 2020, the company raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Tiger Global, which is best known for large growth-oriented rounds.

Workvivo, which was built out long before the COVID-19 pandemic, found itself in an opportune place last year. And demand for its offering has reflected that. 

“Since COVID hit, growth has accelerated,” Goulding told TechCrunch. “We grew three times in size over where we were before the pandemic started, in terms of revenue, users, customers and employees.”

The SaaS operator’s deals range from $50,000 to close to $1 million a year, he said. Workvivo is Europe-based and operates in 82 countries. But the majority of its customers are located in the U.S. with 80% of its growth coming from the country.

The startup opened an office in San Francisco in early 2020, which it is expanding. Thirty percent of its 65-person team is currently U.S.-based, with some working remotely from other states.

While Workvivo would not reveal hard revenue figures, Goulding only said it’s not seeking additional funding anytime soon considering the company is “in a very strong capital position.”

To tackle the same problem, Microsoft last month launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. With the move, Microsoft is taking on the likes of Facebook’s Workplace platform and Jive in addition to Workvivo.

Despite the increasingly crowded space, Workvivo believes it has an advantage over competitors in that it integrates well with Slack and Zoom.

“We’re sitting alongside Slack and Zoom in the ecosystem,” Goulding said. “There’s Zoom, Slack and us.”

Slack is real-time messaging and what’s happening in the immediate future, and Zoom is real-time video and “about the moment,” he said.

To Goulding, Microsoft’s new offering is unproven yet and a reactionary move.

“It’s obvious there’s a battle to be won for the center of the digital workplace,” he said. “We’re here to capture the heartbeat of an organization, not pulses.”

#eric-yuan, #labor, #personnel, #saas, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #tiger-global-management, #workvivo

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Papaya Global raises $100M more at a $1B+ valuation for tools to hire, pay and manage distributed workforces

Remote working — hiring people further afield and letting people work outside of a central physical office — is looking like it will be here to stay, and today one of the startups building tools for that environment is announcing a big fundraise in response to the opportunity.

Papaya Global, an Israeli startup that provides cloud-based payroll and hiring, onboarding and compliance services across 140 countries for organizations that employ full-time, part-time, and contract workers outside of their home country, has picked up $100 million in funding and has confirmed that its valuation is now over $1 billion.

The company targets organizations that not only have global workforces, but are expanding their employee bases quickly. They include fast-growing startups like OneTrust, nCino and Hopin (which today announced a monster $400 million round), as well as major corporates like Toyota, Microsoft, Wix and General Dynamics. Papaya is not disclosing revenue numbers but said that sales have grown 300% year-over-year for each of the last three years.

Led by GreenOaks Capital Partners, this Series C also includes significant participation from IVP Ventures and Alkeon Capital. Previous backers Insight Venture Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Dynamic Loop, New Era and Workday Ventures, Access Ventures and Group 11 also chipped in. The new investment brings Papaya’s total funding to $190 million.

Papaya has been on a fundraising tear in the last 18 months. Today’s news comes less than six months after it raised a $40 million Series B. And that round came less than a year after a $45 million Series A.

Why so much, so quickly? Partly because of the demands on the business, but possibly also to capitalize on an opportunity at a time when so many others are also going after it at the same time.

The opportunity is that companies and other organizations are finding themselves needing tools to address the current state of play: workforce growth today doesn’t look like it did in 2019, and so incumbent solutions like ADP, or cobbled together solutions covering multiple geographies, either don’t cut it, or are too costly to maintain. Papaya Global, in contrast, says it has built an AI-based platform that automates a lot of work and removes much of the manual activity comes out of trying to right-size a lot of legacy payroll products to work in new paradigms.

“The major impact of COVID-19 for us has been changing attitudes,” CEO Eynat Guez, who co-founded the company with Ruben Drong and Ofer Herman, told me in an interview last September. “People usually think that payroll works by itself, but it’s one of the more complex parts of the organization, covering major areas like labor, accounting, tax. Eight months ago, a lot of clients thought, it just happens. But now they realize they didn’t have control of the data, some don’t even have a handle on who is being paid.”

One challenge, however, is that many others are also chasing these customers in hopes of becoming the ADP distributed work. Last month, a startup called Oyster, also aimed at distributed workforces, raised $20 million. Others in the same area that have raised lots of capital include Turing,  DeelRemoteHibob, PersonioFactorialLatticeTuring and Rippling. And as we have pointed out before, these are just some of the HR startups that have raised money in the last year. There are many, many more.

“Papaya Global has built a best in class solution to onboard new employees, automate payroll, and manage a global workforce through a single pane of glass. Both growing and established companies have dramatically changed their working practices in recent years, and Papaya has seen impressive growth as a result. We’re excited to continue supporting them as they seek to simplify an increasingly complex challenge for some of the world’s biggest companies,” said Patrick Backhouse, Partner at Greenoaks Capital, in a statement.

#distributed-work, #enterprise, #funding, #papaya-global, #personnel, #remote-work, #talent, #tc

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Storm Ventures promotes Pascale Diaine and Frederik Groce to partners

Storm Ventures, a venture firm that focuses on early stage B2B enterprise startups, announced this week that it has promoted Pascale Diaine and Frederik Groce to partners at the firm.

The two new partners have worked their way up over the last several years. Groce joined Storm in 2016 and has invested in enterprise SaaS startups like Workato, Splashtop, NextRequest and Camino. Diaine joined a year later and has invested in firms like Sendoso, German Bionic, InEvent and Talkdesk.

Groce, who is also a founder at BLCK VC and helped organize the Black Venture Institute to create a network of Black investors, says that these promotions show that venture needs to be more diverse, and Storm recognizes this.  “If you think about the way our team works, that’s the way I think venture teams will need to work to be able to be successful in the next 40 years. And so the hope is that over time everyone does this and we’re just early to it,” Groce told me.

Unfortunately, right now that’s not the case, not even close. According to research by Crunchbase, just 12% of venture capitalists are women and two-thirds of firms don’t have any female investors. Meanwhile, only about 4% of ventures investors are Black.

Those numbers have an impact on the number of Black and female founders because as Groce points out the lack of founders in underrepresented groups is in part a networking problem. “In a business that’s predicated on networks if you don’t have diversity in the network, or the teams that are driving those networks, you just can’t make sure you’re seeing great talent across all ecosystems,” he said.

Diaine, who is French and started her career by founding Orange Fab, the corporate accelerator of the European Telco Orange, has brought her international business background to Storm where they helped her tune that experience to an investor focus and supported her as she learned the nuances of the investment side of the business.

“I don’t come from the VC world. I come from the innovative corporate world. So they had to train me and spend time getting me up to date. And they did spend so much time making sure I understood everything to make sure I got to this level,” she said.

Both partners bring their own unique views looking beyond Silicon Valley for investment opportunities. Diaine’s investment include a German, Brazilian and Portuguese company, while Groce’s investments include companies in Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.

The two partners have also developed an algorithm to help find investments based on a number of online signals, something that has become more important during the pandemic when they couldn’t network in person.

“Frederik and I have been working on [an algorithm to find] what are the signals that you can identify online that will tell you this company’s doing well, this company growing.You have to have a nice set of startup search tracking [signals], but what do you track if you can’t just get the revenue in real time, which is impossible. So we’ve developed an algorithm that helps us identify some of these signals and create alerts on which startups we should pay attention to,” Diaine explained.

She says this data-driven approach should be helpful and augment their in-person efforts even after the pandemic is over and increase their overall efficiency in finding and tracking companies in their portfolios.

 

#blck-vc, #diversity, #enterprise, #frederik-groce, #pascale-diaine, #personnel, #storm-ventures, #tc

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Contra wants to be the community that independent workers are missing

Whether you’re working on something new according to your Twitter bio, or self-employed, according to your LinkedIn bio, founder Ben Huffman thinks his platform, Contra, will be the best way for independent workers to explain and monetize what they are working on.

Contra is a platform that wants professionals to create profiles that show project-based identities, versus a role-based identity that one would show on LinkedIn. It’s been built for what Huffman thinks is the future: digital knowledge workers, a term he uses to describe independent tech workers who freelance for different companies or gigs.

The early adopters are independent workers who want to work or advise for a product team.

“So you can think about any type of modern-day product team consisting of like a designer, an engineer, a PM, maybe a writer, or maybe someone else distributing content. There’s a high degree of variability amongst these user types,” he said.

Users would showcase the tools they use, projects they’ve led and initiatives they’ve pushed instead of simply writing “Former Stripe Engineer” and calling it a day.

“What you don’t know is what problems they solved at Stripe,” Huffman explained, and Contra wants to give users space to explain that.

A Contra profile looks like a storefront for an independent creators’ business. The first thing you will see is project experience, with the option to toggle between services currently available for sale, recommendations from the referral network and, finally, the About page.

A goal of Contra’s, per Huffman, is to help independent workers create high-signal referral networks so they can land new opportunities and gigs. Whenever a user posts a new project experience to their resume, they can add who they worked with as a collaborator.

It’s different from LinkedIn, where you can add anyone you meet and they become a “connection.” Contra requires you to have work experience with your network, making the referral network high-signal. Contra positions referrals high-up on profiles, reminiscent of the MySpace Top 10.

Referrals as a core mechanism to get jobs could disproportionately hurt Black and brown founders, who have been left out of networks. But Huffman says that Contra doesn’t only rely on referrals, it also helps position someone as more than their resume.

“Most resumes are filtered out by AI today and have historically disadvantaged BPOC candidates,” he said. “With a project focus instead of roles and education credential-focus on the identity, we help undiscovered talent get ahead.”

Huffman, who experienced resume bias first-hand as a college dropout with no-credentials from a rural area, thinks that his tool can combat bias in an effective way. The best-case scenario would be if Contra could help a talented designer based in Minneapolis get an opportunity in a city like San Francisco or New York by showcasing their work.

But Contra has ambition to be more than just the latest startup to aim at LinkedIn, Huffman tells TechCrunch. Beyond being a professional network, it wants to also be a place where independent workers can make money for their services and get inbound customers. He describes Contra as a LinkedIn meets Shopify for independent workers.

In other words, Contra is a profile that independent workers can build and then monetize off of, as well as track engagement on how certain services of theirs might be in more demand than others.

“We’re trying to enable people to monetize the value they create, versus the time they spend in places,” says Huffman. The goal here is to “enable people to build these identities, and give them infrastructure to be successful as an independent worker. Contra integrates with Stripe to bring on payments infrastructure, letting workers actually sell their services on the platform.

From an independent worker’s perspective, the internal view offers analytics to understand what the public is looking at on their profile, from what services are most in demand to what projects get the most attention. The analytics, which are private to everyone except the user, also helps workers understand what the conversion rate is once people come to their platform.

It is free to make money and a profile on Contra, which differentiates it from freelance marketplaces like UpWork and Fiverr, which take a percent cut of earnings. Since Contra doesn’t charge a commission on earnings, it monetizes through a SaaS subscription, $29 a month, that includes benefits such as same-day payouts and higher visibility in the platform to eventually get better opportunities.

A potentially large new competitor might be from LinkedIn itself, which is developing a new service called Marketplaces to help freelancers find and book work. Facebook is also working on a tool related to freelancers. Huffman sees Contra’s focus on professional identity as a competitive advantage, and the fact that the tool might be taking commissions.

“It makes what we are doing that much more relevant,” he said.

Luckily, the startup has raised a $14.5 million Series A round to meet its competition head on. The financing event was led by Unusual Ventures, with participation from Cowboy Ventures and Li Jin’s recently announced Atelier Ventures.

Contra wouldn’t disclose the number of users it currently has but did confirm that the total is “in the six-figure range.”

The cash will be used to increase the speed in which it can ship features, as well as build out an ambassador program, in which it will pay users $1,000 a month to test out the product and support the shift to independent work.

#contra, #cowboy-ventures, #freelancing, #future-of-work, #personnel, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #unusual-ventures

0

Anthony Lin named permanent managing director and head of Intel Capital

When Wendell Brooks stepped down as managing partner and head of Intel Capital last August, Anthony Lin was named to replace him on an interim basis. At the time, it wasn’t clear if he would be given the role permanently, but today, six months later, the answer is known.

In a letter to the firm’s portfolio CEOs published on the company website, Lin mentioned, almost casually that he had taken on the two roles on a permanent basis. “Personally, I want to share that I have been appointed to managing partner and head of Intel Capital. I have been a member of the investment committee for the past several years and am humbly awed by the talent of our entrepreneurs and our team,” he wrote.

Lin takes over in a time of turmoil for Intel as the company struggles to regain its place in the semiconductor business that it dominated for decades. Meanwhile, Intel itself has a new CEO with Pat Gelsinger returning in January from VMware to lead the organization.

As the corporate investment arm of Intel, it looks for companies that can help the parent company understand where to invest resources in the future. If that is its goal, perhaps it hasn’t done a great job as Intel has lost some of its edge when it comes to innovation.

Lin, who was formerly head of mergers and acquisitions and international investing at the firm, can use the power of the firm’s investment dollars to try help point the parent company in the right direction and help find new ways to build innovative solutions on the Intel platform.

Lin acknowledged how challenging 2020 was for everyone, and his company was no exception, but the firm invested in 75 startups including 35 new deals and 40 deals involving companies it had previously invested in. It  has also made a commitment to invest in companies with more diverse founders. To that end, 30% of new venture stage dollars went to startups led by diverse leaders, according to Lin.

What’s more, the company made a five year commitment that 15% of all of its deals would go to companies with Black founders. It made some progress towards that goal, but there is still a ways to go. “At the end of 2020, 9% of our new venture deals and 15% of our venture dollars committed were in companies led by Black founders. We know there is more progress to be made and we will continue to encourage, foster and invest in diverse and inclusive teams,” he wrote.

Lin faces a big challenge ahead as he takes over a role that had the same leader for the first 28 years in Arvind Sodhani. His predecessor, Brooks, was there for five years. Now it passes to Lin and he needs to use the firm’s investment might to help Gelsinger advance the goals of the broader firm, while making sound investments.

#anthony-lin, #corporate-investment-arms, #enterprise, #intel, #intel-capital, #pat-gelsinger, #personnel, #tc

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Ember names former Dyson head as consumer CEO, as the startup looks beyond the smart mug

Ember today announced that founder Clay Alexander will transition to Group CEO effective February 16. In his place, the Los Angeles-based smart mug company is bringing on Jim Rowan as Consumer CEO. The executive served as CEO of Dyson from 2017 to 2020, after five years as COO.

It’s a big get for a relatively small company like Ember, which is best known for its smart, heated mugs. Founded in 2012, the hardware startup most recently raised a $20 million Series D in early 2019, bringing its total funding up to just shy of $50 million.

Alexander’s continued role at the company points to additional categories for Ember beyond consumer. “When I founded Ember, I knew there were endless applications for our temperature control technology and with Jim joining our team, we’ll be able to focus on our emerging healthcare vertical and use our technology to help improve and even save lives,” the exec said in a statement.

Courtesy of clever technology and smart design, the company has built a pretty sizable footprint for what might otherwise be a fairly niche product, expanding retail sales to Target, Costco, Best Buy and Starbucks, among others. The startup has done so while maintaining a low headcount of around 100 staffers.

“They have great IP, great design and great innovation, all around precise temperature control,” Rowan said in an interview with TechCrunch. “Obviously that started with the temperature control mugs and flasks, but that IP lends itself to so many other application. For me, that golden thread of being able to use that in myriad of different industries and markets is really, really exciting. One of them, of course, is the cold chain, which has become a lot more important since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s a good indication of how you can disrupt and innovate in new markets.

Rowan has previously served as the COO of BlackBerry and as a senior exec at Flextronics. After exiting Dyson, he joined both PCH International and KKR as an advisor. It’s Dyson, however, that provides the most direct analogy for what the executive hoping to do at Ember. At its core, Dyson is a company that moves air. That translates to vacuums, fans, hairdryers and myriad other product categories.

The underlying question is how Ember’s proprietary heating and cooling tech can translate to other fields. On an industrial level, it means, potentially, helping keep foodstuff and medicine at a predetermined temperate while shipping in the international cold chain. It also means additional consumer products built around the same underlying tech.

“There will be a lot more products that come out, beyond the current mugs and travel mugs,” Rowan says. “There’s a whole bunch of new products which are in the consumer pipeline and will launch in the next year or couple of years. And then you have the expansion into new geographies with existing products.”

That largely means Asia (Rowan will remain based in Singapore) and Europe. Thus far Ember’s footprint has been U.S.-centric, though a push toward online commerce amid the pandemic has helped expand it some. There does, however, remain a question of how high the ceiling is on adoption for a $130 electric smart mug. Ember has yet to release any actual numbers, and Rowan, whose experience at Dyson has more than familiarized him with selling premium products at a premium price point, isn’t ready to commit to a lower price point or less premium take on the space.

It’s worth noting, of course, that low end of the mug category is ready available at your local 99 cent store, and that’s not likely a space Ember is raring to compete in. And certainly those products — unlike its current lineup — likely wouldn’t end up in Apple Stores. Instead, it seems likely the company will continue a play as a premium consumer brand into additional categories at a more rapid pace. “The actual technology can expand into a whole bunch of new areas beyond just beverages because of the temperature control technology,” Rowan said.

#dyson, #ember, #hardware, #health, #personnel

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Is overseeing cloud operations the new career path to CEO?

When Amazon announced last week that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos planned to step back from overseeing operations and shift into an executive chairman role, it also revealed that AWS CEO Andy Jassy, head of the company’s profitable cloud division, would replace him.

As Bessemer partner Byron Deeter pointed out on Twitter, Jassy’s promotion was similar to Satya Nadella’s ascent at Microsoft: in 2014, he moved from executive VP in charge of Azure to the chief exec’s office. Similarly, Arvind Krishna, who was promoted to replace Ginni Rometti as IBM CEO last year, also was formerly head of the company’s cloud business.

Could Nadella’s successful rise serve as a blueprint for Amazon as it makes a similar transition? While there are major differences in the missions of these companies, it’s inevitable that we will compare these two executives based on their former jobs. It’s true that they have an awful lot in common, but there are some stark differences, too.

Replacing a legend

For starters, Jassy is taking over for someone who founded one of the world’s biggest corporations. Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer, who had taken over for the company’s face, Bill Gates. Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says this notable difference could have a huge impact for Jassy with his founder boss still looking over his shoulder.

“There’s a lot of similarity in the two situations, but Satya was a little removed from the founder Gates. Bezos will always hover and be there, whereas Gates (and Ballmer) had retired for good. [ … ] It was clear [they] would not be coming back. [ … ] For Jassy, the owner could [conceivably] come back anytime,” Mueller said.

But Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Forrester Research, says it’s not a coincidence that both leaders were plucked from the cloud divisions of their respective companies, even if it was seven years apart.

“In both cases, these hyperscale business units of Microsoft and Amazon were the fastest-growing and best-performing units of the companies. [ … ] In both cases, cloud infrastructure was seen as a platform on top of which and around which other cloud offerings could be developed,” Bartels said. The companies both believe that the leaders of these two growth engines were best suited to lead the company into the future.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #aws, #azure, #cloud, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #microsoft, #personnel, #satya-nadella, #tc

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What Andy Jassy’s promotion to Amazon CEO could mean for AWS

Blockbuster news struck late this afternoon when Amazon announced that Jeff Bezos would be stepping back as CEO of Amazon, the company he built from a business in his garage to worldwide behemoth. As he takes on the role of executive chairman, his replacement will be none other than AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

With Jassy moving into his new role at the company, the immediate question is who replaces him to run AWS. Let the games begin. Among the names being tossed about in the rumor mill are Peter DeSantis, vice president of global infrastructure at AWS and Matt Garman, who is Vice President of sales and marketing. Both are members of Bezos’ elite executive team known as the S-team and either would make sense as Jassy’s successor. Nobody knows for sure though, and it could be any number of people inside the organization, or even someone from outside. (We have asked Amazon PR to provide clarity on the successor, but as of publication we had not heard from them.)

Holger Mueller, a senior analyst at Constellation Research, says that Jassy is being rewarded for doing a stellar job raising AWS from a tiny side business to one on a $50 billion run rate. “On the finance side it makes sense to appoint an executive who intimately knows Amazon’s most profitable business, that operates in more competitive markets. [Appointing Jassy] ensures that the new Amazon CEO does not break the ‘golden goose’,” Mueller told me.

Alex Smith, VP of channels, who covers the cloud infrastructure market at analyst firm Canalys, says the writing has been on the wall that a transition was in the works. “This move has been coming for some time. Jassy is the second most public-facing figure at Amazon and has lead one of its most successful business units. Bezos can go out on a high and focus on his many other ventures,” Smith said.

Smith adds that this move should enhance AWS’s place in the organization. “I think this is more of an AWS gain, in terms of its increasing strategic importance to Amazon going forwards, rather than loss in terms of losing Andy as direct lead. I expect he’ll remain close to that organization.”

Ed Anderson, a Gartner analyst also sees Jassy as the obvious choice to take over for Bezos. “Amazon is a company driven by technology innovation, something Andy has been doing at AWS for many years now. Also, it’s worth noting that Andy Jassy has an impressive track record of building and running a very large business. Under Andy’s leadership, AWS has grown to be one of the biggest technology companies in the world and one of the most impactful in defining what the future of computing will be,” Anderson said.

In the company earnings report released today, AWS came in at $12.74 billion for the quarter up 28% YoY from $9.60 billion a year ago. That puts the company on an elite $50 billion run rate. No other cloud infrastructure vendor, even the mighty Microsoft, is even close in this category. Microsoft stands at around 20% marketshare compared to AWS’s approximately 33% market share.

It’s unclear what impact the executive shuffle will have on the company at large or AWS in particular. In some ways it feels like when Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO of Oracle in 2014 to take on the exact same executive chairman role. While Safra Catz and Mark Hurd took over at co-CEOs in that situation, Ellison has remained intimately involved with the company he helped found. It’s reasonable to assume that Bezos will do the same.

With Jassy, the company is getting a man who has risen through the ranks since joining the company in 1997 after getting an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Harvard. In 2002 he became VP/ technical assistant, working directly under Bezos. It was in this role that he began to see the need for a set of common web services for Amazon developers to use. This idea grew into AWS and Jassy became a VP at the fledgling division working his way up until he was appointed CEO in 2016.

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

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Oyster snaps up $20M for its HR platform aimed at distributed workforces

The growth of remote working and managing workforces that are distributed well beyond the confines of a centralized physical office — or even a single country — have put a spotlight on the human resources technology that organizations use to help manage those people. Today, one of the HR startups that’s been seeing a surge of growth is announcing a round of funding to double down on its business.

Oyster, a startup and platform that helps companies through the process of hiring, onboarding and then providing contractors and full-time employees in the area  of “knowledge work” with HR services like payroll, benefits and salary management, has closed a Series A round of $20 million.

The company is already working in 100 countries, and CEO and Tony Jamous (who co-founded the company with Jack Mardack) said in an interview that the plan is to expand that list of markets, and also bring in new services, particularly to address the opportunity in emerging markets to hire more people.

Currently, Oyster does not cover candidate sourcing or any of the interviewing and evaluation process: those could be areas where it might build its own tech or partner to provide them as part of its one-stop shop. It has dabbled in virtual job fairs, as a pointer to one potential product that it might explore.

“There 1.5 billion knowledge workers coming into the workforce in next 10 years, mostly from emerging economies, while in developed economies there are some 90 million jobs unfilled,” Jamous said. “There are super powers you can gain from being globally distributed, but it poses a major challenge around HR and payroll.”

Emergence Capital, the B2B VC that has backed the likes of Zoom, Salesforce, Bill.com and our former sister site Crunchbase, is leading the funding. The Slack Fund (Slack’s strategic investment vehicle), and London firm Connect Ventures (which has previously backed the company at seed stage) are also participating.  The investment will accelerate Oyster’s rapid growth, and support its mission of enabling people to work from anywhere.

Oyster’s valuation is not being disclosed. The startup has raised about $24 million to date.

One of the great ironies of the global health pandemic is that while our worlds have become much smaller — travel and even local activities have been drastically curtailed and many of us spend day in, day out at home — the employment opportunity and scope of how organizations are expected to operate has become significantly bigger.

Public health-enforced remote working has led to companies de-coupling workers from offices, and that has opened the door to seeking out and working with the best talent, regardless of location.

This predicament may have become more acute in the last year, but it’s been one that has been gradually coming into focus for years, helped by trends in cloud computing and globalization. Jamous said that the idea for Oyster came to him was something that he’s been thinking about for years, but became more apparent when he was still at his previous startup, Nexmo — the cloud communications provider that was acquired by Vonage for $230 million in in 2016. 

At Nexmo we wanted to be a great local employer. We were headquartered in two countries but wanted to have people everywhere,” he said. “We spent millions building employment infrastructure to do that, becoming knowledgable about local laws in France, Korea and more countries.” He realized quickly that this was a highly inefficient way to work. “We weren’t ready for the complexity and diversity of issues that would come up.”

After he moved on from Nexmo and did some angel investing (he backs other distributed work juggernauts like Hopin, among others), he decided that he would try to tackle the workforce challenge as the focus of his next venture.

That was in mid-2019, pre-pandemic. It turned out that the timing was spot on, with every organization looking in the next year at ways to address their own distributed workforce challenges.

The emerging market focus, meanwhile, also has a direct link to Jamous himself: he left his home country of Lebanon to study in France when he was 17, and has essentially lived abroad since then. But as with many people who move into developed from emerging markets, he knew that the base of technical talent in his home country was something that was worth tapping and nurturing to help residents and the countries themselves improve their lots in life; and he thought he could use tech to help there, too.

Related to that wider social mission, Oyster has a pending application to become a B-Corporation.

Jamous is not the only one that has founded an HR company based on his personal experience: Turing’s founders have cited their own backgrounds growing up in India and working with people remotely from there as part of their own impetus for building Turing; and Remote’s founder hails from Europe but built Gitlab (where he had been head of product) based on a similar premise of tapping into the talent he knew existed all around the world.

And indeed, Oyster is not alone in tackling this opportunity. The list of HR startups looking to be the ADP’s of the world of distributed work include Deel, Remote, Hibob, Papaya Global, Personio, Factorial, Lattice, Turing and Rippling. And these are just some of the HR startups that have raised money in the last year; there are many, many more.

The attraction of Oyster seems to come in the simplicity of how the services are provided — you have options for contractors, and full-timers, and full, larger staff deployments in other countries. You have options to add on benefits for employees if you choose. And you have some tools to work out how hires fit into your bigger budgets, and also to guide you on remuneration in each local market. Pricing starts at $29 per person, per month for contractors, to $399 for working with full employees, to other packages for larger deployments.

Oyster works with local partners to provide some aspects of these services, but it has built the technology to make the process seamless for the customer. As with other services, it essentially handles the employment and payroll as a local provider on behalf of its customers, but can do so under contract terms that reconcile both a company’s own policies and those of the local jurisdictions (which can differ widely between each other in areas like vacation time, redundancy terms, maternity leave and more).

“It has a few well funded competitors, but that’s usually a good signal,” said Jason Green, the Emergence partner who led on its investment. “But you want to bet on the horse that will lead the race, and that comes down to execution. Here, we are betting on a team that’s done it before, an entrepreneur experienced in building a company and selling it. Tony’s made money and knows how to build a business. But more than that, he’s mission driven and that will matter in the space, and to employees.”

#contractors, #distributed-workforce, #enterprise, #europe, #hiring, #hr, #oyster, #oyster-hr, #personnel, #remote-working, #tc

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Salesforce promotes former Vlocity CEO David Schmaier to president and CPO

Last year I penned a post positing that Salesforce’s propensity to purchase mature enterprise companies not only provided new technology, but was also helping to produce a profusion of executive talent.. As though to prove my point, the company announced today that it was promoting former Vlocity CEO, David Schmaier to president and chief product officer.

Schmaier came to the organization last year when Salesforce acquired his company for $1.33 billion. It seemed like a good match given that Vlocity sold Salesforce solutions designed for certain niches like financial services, health, energy and utilities and government and nonprofits.

As a result, Schmaier knew the product set and the company well. Last June, he was named CEO of the Salesforce Industries division, which was created after the Vlocity acquisition. The connection was clear to Schmaier as he told me at the time of his promotion last year:

“I’ve been involved in various mergers and acquisitions over my 30-year career, and this is the most unique one I’ve ever seen because the products are already 100% integrated because we built our six vertical applications on top of the Salesforce platform. So they’re already 100% Salesforce, which is really kind of amazing. So that’s going to make this that much simpler,” he said.