Salesforce reaches Net Zero energy usage, announces updates to Sustainability Cloud

Salesforce has often preached about responsible capitalism, and today at Dreamforce, the company’s annual customer extravaganza, it announced a notable achievement in the battle against global climate change. The company said that it has achieved effective Net Zero energy usage across its entire value chain with 100% renewable energy, while purchasing carbon offsets when that’s not possible.

At the same time, it announced updates to the Sustainability Cloud, a product that the company sells to other organizations to manage their climate initiatives, proving you can be responsible, and still be capitalists. Suzanne DiBianca, chief impact officer & EVP for corporate relations at Salesforce, speaking at yesterday’s Dreamforce press event says the company is proud to be an example of a large organization taking positive climate action.

“I’m very excited about our commitment to climate action around being a Net Zero company today. And this is not in 2030, not in 2040, not in some other future moment. We know we have to accelerate, and we have gotten to Net Zero today including our entire value chain, which is Scope 1, 2 and 3. Very few companies have gotten here,” she said.

There is a lot of sustainability jargon there, so we spoke to Ari Alexander, GM of Sustainability Cloud to break it down for us. Alexander explained that the sustainability community measures a company’s carbon footprint in three main areas known as Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3. “Scope 1 and 2 are what you own, what you operate, what you control and then what energy is procured in order to power your operation,” he said.

Scope 3 is everything else your company touches, which is referred to as ‘up and down the value chain’ in industry parlance. “The vast majority of the emissions that a company is responsible for are actually not in their direct operational control, but relate to their upstream suppliers that they procure goods and services from, or in the case of other industries the downstream use of the product or the life of a product,” he said. A downstream example might be what happens to your phone after you trade it in for a new one.

So when Salesforce says that it’s Net Zero up and down the value chain, it involves everything it controls and every company it interacts with in the act of doing business. Because there are so many variables here outside of Salesforce’s control, Alexander says when the company can’t ensure that a partner or vendor is in compliance with the standard set by the company, it buys what he calls “high quality carbon offsets.”

“Also for where we can’t do that immediately, we are purchasing high quality carbon offsets to make up the difference to be able to be fully Net Zero now, while we continue on that really important journey of reducing to absolute zero across the supply chain [over time],” he said.

In addition, the company announced updates to the Sustainability Cloud, the commercial tool it has developed to sell to other companies, using the same tools and technology that Salesforce is using in-house.

“Sustainability is undergoing a transformation in that it’s going from something that’s a nice to have to something that’s actually at the heart of business transformation itself. That it’s one of the mega trends of our time and growing exponentially every year, and part of what that means is that companies are moving significant resources in order to respond to the climate crisis and moving sustainability to the core of how they do business,” Alexander said.

At the same time, the company published a blueprint based on its own plans to be a more sustainable organization called the Salesforce Climate Action Plan (link to pdf) that it is making available for free online.

The company also announced plans to accelerate its tree planting goals to grow 30 million trees this year. This involves working with other organizations to plant, grow and restore 100 million trees in a 10 year period, a goal that they have been pushing to make happen much sooner.

Company president and COO Bret Taylor speaking at the Dreamforce press event said that the climate crisis has had an impact on everyone, and he believes Salesforce can have a meaningful impact based on its behavior while acting as an example for other organizations.

“We’re showing up at Dreamforce, […] really to recognize that we think business is the greatest platform for change and to paint a picture of this vision for inspiring every organization to become a trusted enterprise and address these crises [like climate],” Taylor said.

#bret-taylor, #cloud, #dreamforce-2021, #enterprise, #greentech, #saas, #salesforce, #sustainability

Slack releases Clips video tool, announces 16 Salesforce integrations

Slack has been talking about expanding beyond text-based messaging for some time. Today at Dreamforce, the Salesforce customer conference taking place this week, it announced Clips, a way to leave short video messages that people can watch at their leisure.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield sees Clips as a way to communicate with colleagues when a full 30 minutes meeting isn’t really required. Instead, you can let people know what’s going on through a brief video. “Clips are a way to record yourself on your screen. And the idea is that a lot of the meetings shouldn’t require us to be together in real time,” Butterfield said at a Dreamforce press event yesterday.

He added that these video clips provide more value because you can still get the point that would have been delivered in a full meeting without having to actually attend to get access to that information. What’s more, he says the videos create an audit trail of activity for archival purposes.

“It’s easily shareable with people who weren’t in attendance, but [still] get the update. It’s available in the archive, so you can go back and find the answers to questions you have or trace back the roots of a decision,” he said. It’s worth noting that Slack first introduced this idea last October, and announced an early customer beta last March, at which point they hadn’t even named it yet.

He admitted that this may require people to rethink how they work, and depending on the organization that may be harder in some places than others, but he believes that value proposition of freeing up employees to meet less and work more will eventually drive people and organizations to try it and then incorporate into the way that they work.

Clips builds on the Huddles tool released earlier this year, which is a way via audio to have serendipitous water cooler kinds of conversations, again as a way to reduce the need for a full-fledged meeting when people can get together for a few minutes, resolve an issue and get back to work. Butterfield says that Huddles has had the fastest adoption of any new capability since he first launched Slack.

In March, in a Clubhouse interview with SignalFire investor Josh Constine (who is also a former TechCrunch reporter), Butterfield said that the company was also working on a Clubhouse tool for business. The company did not announce any similar tool this week though.

The company also announced 16 integrations with Salesforce that span the entire Salesforce platform. These include the sales-focussed deal room and the customer support incident response called swarms announced earlier this month, as well as new connections to other tools in the Salesforce family of product including Mulesoft and Tableau and industry-specific integrations for banking, life sciences and philanthropy.

In case you had forgotten, Salesforce bought Slack at the end of last year in a mega deal worth almost $28 billion. Today, as part of the CRM giant, the company continues to build on the platform and product roadmap it had in place prior to the acquisition, while building in integrations all across the Salesforce platform.

#bret-taylor, #cloud, #collaboration, #enterprise, #ma, #messaging, #saas, #salesforce, #slack, #stewart-buttefield, #tc

Salesforce backs Indian payments startup Razorpay

Six-year-old Bangalore-based fintech Razorpay, which was valued at $3 billion in a financing round in April this year, has courted one more high-profile investor: Salesforce Ventures.

Razorpay said on Monday it has received a “strategic investment” from the venture arm of the American enterprise giant. The investment will help the startup “further strengthen its presence in the business banking space,” it said.

The two firms didn’t disclose the size of the investment, but Sequoia Capital India-backed startup said the deal will “make an impactful contribution to the industry and drive adoption and financial growth for underserved small businesses in the next twelve months.”

Razorpay accepts, processes and disburses money online for small businesses and enterprises — essentially everything Stripe does in the U.S. and several other developed markets. But the Indian startup’s offering goes much further than that: in recent years, Razorpay has launched a neobanking platform to issue corporate credit cards, and it also offers businesses working capital.

With the global giant Stripe still nowhere in the Indian picture, Razorpay has grown to become the clear market leader and has started to expand to the Southeast Asian market.

“At Razorpay, we want to make further strides on the idea of investing in India’s digital future and building an intelligent payment and banking infrastructure for the new- world. We are delighted to associate with Salesforce Ventures and Salesforce more broadly in India,” said Harshil Mathur, co-founder and chief executive of the fintech startup.

“I am certain that this investment, along with support from our existing investors will help build an ecosystem for a hassle-free, easy-to-integrate payments and banking experience. We also hope to expand, build new products and deliver this experience to businesses in South East Asian countries too.”

Monday’s deal is Salesforce Ventures’ second investment in the Indian startup ecosystem. The firm led a $15 million Series C financing round in Hyderabad-headquartered Darwinbox earlier this year.

“The journey towards a ‘less-cash’ economy has been accelerated with the pandemic. The rapid growth in digital payments over the last year has opened doors for technology innovation and Razorpay has been emerging as the company of choice for a lot of e-commerce businesses,” said Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson and chief executive of Salesforce India, in a statement.

“We are excited to support Razorpay in their journey to revolutionize digital finance not only in India, but globally as well,” added Bhattacharya, who joined the firm last year.

The Indian startup, which became a unicorn a year ago, said it has witnessed a 40-45% month-on-month growth in recent months. The startup is currently in the market to raise a new financing round and is negotiating a considerably larger valuation bump over the current value, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Scores of corporate giants including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have started to chase strategic investments in the world’s second largest internet market. Microsoft inked a strategic deal with Indian budget hotel chain Oyo, they confirmed this month.

India has produced a record 27 unicorns this year so far, up from 11 last year as many high-profile global investors including Tiger Global, Falcon Edge Capital, Temasek, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, and Coatue Management increase the pace of their investments in the South Asian market. And the list continues to grow: A16z is in advanced stages to back Indian crypto startup CoinSwitch Kuber, TechCrunch reported last week.

#asia, #funding, #india, #payments, #razorpay, #salesforce, #salesforce-ventures

Airwallex raises $200M at a $4B valuation to double down on business banking

Business, now more than ever before, is going digital, and today a startup that’s building a vertically integrated solution to meet business banking needs is announcing a big round of funding to tap into the opportunity. Airwallex — which provides business banking services both directly to businesses themselves, as well as via a set of APIs that power other companies’ fintech products — has raised $200 million, a Series E round of funding that values the Australian startup at $4 billion.

Lone Pine Capital is leading the round, with new backers G Squared and Vetamer Capital Management, and previous backers 1835i Ventures (formerly ANZi), DST Global, Salesforce Ventures and Sequoia Capital China, also participating.

The funding brings the total raised by Airwallex — which has head offices in Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia — to date to $700 million, including a $100 million injection that closed out its Series D just six months ago.

Airwallex will be using the funding both to continue investing in its product and technology, as well as to continue its geographical expansion and to focus on some larger business targets. The company has started to make some headway into Europe and the UK and that will be one big focus, along with the U.S.

The quick succession of funding, and that rising valuation, underscore Airwallex’s traction to date around what CEO and co-founder Jack Zhang describes as a vertically integrated strategy.

That involves two parts. First, Airwallex has built all the infrastructure for the business banking services that it provides directly to businesses with a focus on small and medium enterprise customers. Second, it has packaged up that infrastructure into a set of APIs that a variety of other companies use to provide financial services directly to their customers without needing to build those services themselves — the so-called “embedded finance” approach.

“We want to own the whole ecosystem,” Zhang said to me. “We want to be like the Apple of business finance.”

That seems to be working out so far for Airwallex. Revenues were up almost 150% for the first half of 2021 compared to a year before, with the company processing more than US$20 billion for a global client portfolio that has quadrupled in size. In addition to tens of thousands of SMEs, it also, via APIs, powers financial services for other companies like GOAT, Papaya Global and Stake.

Airwallex got its start like many of the strongest startups do: it was built to solve a problem that the founders encountered themselves. In the case of Airwallex, Zhang tells me he had actually been working on a previous start-up idea. He wanted to build the “Blue Bottle Coffee” of Asia out of Hong Kong, and it involved buying and importing a lot of different materials, packaging and of course coffee from all around the world.

“We found that making payments as a small business was slow and expensive,” he said, since it involved banks in different countries and different banking systems, manual efforts to transfer money between them and many days to clear the payments. “But that was also my background — payments and trading — and so I decided that it was a much more fascinating problem for me to work on and resolve.”

Eventually one of his co-founders in the coffee effort came along, with the four co-founders of Airwallex ultimately including Zhang, along with Xijing Dai, Lucy Liu and Max Li.

It was 2014, and Airwallex got attention from VCs early on in part for being in the right place at the right time. A wave of startups building financial services for SMBs were definitely gaining ground in North America and Europe, filling a long-neglected hole in the technology universe, but there was almost nothing of the sort in the Asia Pacific region, and in those earlier days solutions were highly regionalized.

From there it was a no-brainer that starting with cross-border payments, the first thing Airwallex tackled, would soon grow into a wider suite of banking services involving payments and other cross-border banking services.

“In last 6 years, we’ve built more than 50 bank integrations and now offer payments 95 countries payments through a partner network,” he added, with 43 of those offering real-time transactions. From that, it moved on the bank accounts and “other primitive stuff” with card issuance and more, he said, eventually building an end-to-end payment stack. 

Airwallex has tens of thousands of customers using its financial services directly, and they make up about 40% of its revenues today. The rest is the interesting turn the company decided to take to expand its business.

Airwallex had built all of its technology from the ground up itself, and it found that — given the wave of new companies looking for more ways to engage customers and become their one-stop shop — there was an opportunity to package that tech up in a set of APIs and sell that on to a different set of customers, those who also provided services for small businesses. That part of the business now accounts for 60% of Airwallex’s business, Zhang said, and is growing faster in terms of revenues. (The SMB business is growing faster in terms of customers, he said.)

A lot of embedded finance startups that base their business around building tech to power other businesses tend to stay arm’s length from offering financial services directly to consumers. The explanation I have heard is that they do not wish to compete against their customers. Zhang said that Airwallex takes a different approach, by being selective about the customers they partner with, so that the financial services they offer would never be the kind that would not be in direct competition. The GOAT marketplace for sneakers, or Papaya Global’s HR platform are classic examples of this.

However, as Airwallex continues to grow, you can’t help but wonder whether one of those partners might like to gobble up all of Airwallex and take on some of that service provision role itself. In that context, it’s very interesting to see Salesforce Ventures returning to invest even more in the company in this round, given how widely the company has expanded from its early roots in software for salespeople into a massive platform providing a huge range of cloud services to help people run their businesses.

For now, it’s been the combination of its unique roots in Asia Pacific, plus its vertical approach of building its tech from the ground up, plus its retail acumen that has impressed investors and may well see Airwallex stay independent and grow for some time to come.

“Airwallex has a clear competitive advantage in the digital payments market,” said David Craver, MD at Lone Pine Capital, in a statement. “Its unique Asia-Pacific roots, coupled with its innovative infrastructure, products and services, speak volumes about the business’ global growth opportunities and its impressive expansion in the competitive payment providers space. We are excited to invest in Airwallex at this dynamic time, and look forward to helping drive the company’s expansion and success worldwide.”

#airwallex, #articles, #asia, #asia-pacific, #australia, #bank, #banking, #blue-bottle-coffee, #cloud-services, #dst-global, #economy, #embedded-finance, #enterprise, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #goat, #hr, #lone-pine-capital, #melbourne, #north-america, #papaya-global, #salesforce, #salesforce-ventures, #sequoia-capital-china, #series-d, #startup-company, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #veem

Tyk raises $35M for its open-source, open-ended approach to enterprise API management

APIs are the grease turning the gears and wheels for many organizations’ IT systems today, but as APIs grow in number and use, tracking how they work (or don’t work) together can become complex and potentially critical if something goes awry. Now, a startup that has built an innovative way to help with this is announcing some funding after getting traction with big enterprises adopting its approach.

Tyk, which has built a way for users to access and manage multiple internal enterprise APIs through a universal interface by way of GraphQL, has picked up $35 million, an investment that it will be using both for hiring and to continue enhancing and expanding the tools that it provides to users. Tyk has coined a term describing its approach to managing APIs and the data they produce — “universal data graph” — and today its tools are being used to manage APIs by some 10,000 businesses, including large enterprises like Starbucks, Societe Generale, and Domino’s.

Scottish Equity Partners led the round, with participation also from MMC Ventures — its sole previous investor from a round in 2019 after boostrapping for its first five years. The startup is based out of London but works in a very distributed way — one of the co-founders is living in New Zealand currently — and it will be hiring and growing based on that principle, too. It has raised just over $40 million to date.

Tyk (pronounced like “tyke”, meaning small/lively child) got its start as an open source side project first for co-founder Martin Buhr, who is now the company’s CEO, while he was working elsewhere, as a “load testing thing,” in his words.

The shifts in IT towards service-oriented architectures, and building and using APIs to connect internal apps, led him to rethink the code and consider how it could be used to control APIs. Added to that was the fact that as far as Buhr could see, the API management platforms that were in the market at the time — some of the big names today include Kong, Apigee (now a part of Google), 3scale (now a part of RedHat and thus IBM), MuleSoft (now a part of Salesforce) — were not as flexible as his needs were. “So I built my own,” he said.

It was built as an open source tool, and some engineers at other companies started to use it. As it got more attention, some of the bigger companies interested in using it started to ask why he wasn’t charging for anything — a sure sign as any that there was probably a business to be built here, and more credibility to come if he charged for the it.

“So we made the gateway open source, and the management part went into a licensing model,” he said. And Tyk was born as a startup co-founded with James Hirst, who is now the COO, who worked with Buhr at a digital agency some years before.

The key motivation behind building Tyk has stayed as its unique selling point for customers working in increasingly complex environments.

“What sparked interest in Tyk was that companies were unhappy with API management as it exists today,” Buhr noted, citing architectures using multiple clouds and multiple containers, creating more complexity that needed better management. “It was just the right time when containerization, Kubernetes and microservices were on the rise… The way we approach the multi-data and multi-vendor cloud model is super flexible and resilient to partitions, in a way that others have not been able to do.”

“You engage developers and deliver real value and it’s up to them to make the choice,” added Hirst. “We are responding to a clear shift in the market.”

One of the next frontiers that Tyk will tackle will be what happens within the management layer, specifically when there are potential conflicts with APIs.

“When a team using a microservice makes a breaking change, we want to bring that up and report that to the system,” Buhr said. “The plan is to flag the issue and test against it, and be able to say that a schema won’t work, and to identify why.”

Even before that is rolled out, though, Tyk’s customer list and its grow speak to a business on the cusp of a lot more.

“Martin and James have built a world-class team and the addition of this new capital will enable Tyk to accelerate the growth of its API management platform, particularly around the GraphQL focused Universal Data Graph product that launched earlier this year,” said Martin Brennan, a director at SEP, in a statement. “We are pleased to be supporting the team to achieve their global ambitions.”

Keith Davidson, a partner at SEP, is joining the Tyk board as a non-executive director with this round.

#api, #api-gateway, #api-management, #apigee, #apis, #ceo, #cloud-computing, #co-founder, #computing, #coo, #developer, #enterprise, #europe, #funding, #google, #graphql, #ibm, #london, #microservices, #mmc-ventures, #mulesoft, #new-zealand, #salesforce, #scottish-equity-partners, #societe-generale, #starbucks, #technology, #tyk

Salesforce announces new Mulesoft RPA tool based on Servicetrace acquisition

When Salesforce announced it was buying German RPA vendor Servicetrace last month, it seemed that it might match up well with Mulesoft, the company the CRM giant bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion. Mulesoft, among other things, helps customers build APIs to legacy systems, while Servicetrace provides a way to add automation to legacy systems. Sure enough, the company announced today, that it’s planning a new Mulesoft-Servicetrace tool called Mulesoft RPA.

The Servicetrace deal closed on September 2nd and the company isn’t wasting any time putting it to work wherever it makes sense across the organization — and the Mulesoft integration is a primary use case. John Kucera, SVP of product management at Salesforce where he leads product automation, says that Mulesoft has API management and integration tooling already, but RPA will add another dimension to those existing capabilities.

“We found that many of our customers also need to automate and integrate with disconnected systems, with PDFs, with spreadsheets, but also these legacy systems that don’t have events or API’s. And so we wanted to make sure that we can meet our customers where they are, and that we could have this end-to-end, solution to automate these capabilities,” Kucera told me.

The company will be packaging ServiceTrace as a part of Mulesoft, while blending it with other parts of the Salesforce family of integration tools, as well as other parts of the platform. The Mulesoft RPA tool will live under the Einstein Automate umbrella, but Mulesoft will also sell it as a stand-alone service, so customers can take advantage of it, even if they aren’t using other parts of the Mulesoft platform or even the broader Salesforce platform. Einstein is the name of Salesforce’s artificial intelligence capabilities. Although RPA isn’t really AI, it can become integrated into an AI-fueled workflow like this.

The Mulesoft acquisition always seemed to be about giving Salesforce, a fully cloud company at its core, a way to access on-prem, legacy enterprise systems, allowing customers to reach data wherever it lives. Adding RPA to the mix takes that a step further, enabling companies to build connections to these systems inside their more modern Einstein Automate workflow tooling to systems that previously wouldn’t have been accessible to the Einstein Automate system.

This is often the case for many large companies, which typically use a mix of newer and often very old systems. Giving them a way to link the two and bring automation across the company could prove quite useful if it truly works as described.

The company is announcing all of these capabilities at the Dreamforce, its annual customer conference taking place next week. As with many announcements at the conference, this one is designed to let customers know what’s coming, rather than something that’s available now (or at least soon). Salesforce RPA is not expected to be ready for general availability until some time in the first half of next year.

#cloud, #einstein-automate, #enterprise, #mulesoft, #rpa, #saas, #salesforce, #servicetrace, #tc, #workflow-automation

Sendoso nabs $100M as its corporate gifting platform passes 20,000 customers

Corporate gift services have come into their own during the Covid-19 pandemic by standing in as a proxy for other kinds of relationship building activities — office meetings, lunches, and hosting at events — that have traditionally been part and parcel of how people do business, but were no longer feasible during lockdowns, social distancing and offices closing their doors.

Now, Sendoso — a popular “end-to-end” gifting platform offering access to 30,000 products including corporate swag, regular physical gifts, gift cards and more; and then providing services like logistics, packing and sending to get those gifts to the recipients — is announcing $100 million of funding to capitalize on this shift, led by a big new investor.

New backer SoftBank, via its Vision Fund 2, is leading this latest Series C round of funding. Oak HC/FT, Struck Capital, Stage 2 Capital, Craft Ventures, Signia Venture Partners and Felicis Ventures — all previous investors — are also participating.

The company has been on a strong growth trajectory for years now, but it specifically saw a surge of activity as the pandemic kicked off. It now has more than 20,000 businesses signed up and using its services, particularly for sales and marketing outreach, but also to help shore up morale among employees.

“Everyone was stuck at home by themselves, saturated with emails,” said Kris Rudeegraap, the CEO of Sendoso, in an interview. “Having a personal connection to sales prospects, employees and others just meant more.” It has now racked up some 3 million gifts sent since launching in 2016.

Sendoso is not disclosing its valuation, but Rudeegraap hinted that it was four times higher than the startup’s Series B valuation from 2020. PitchBook estimates that to be $160 million, which would make the current valuation $640 million. The company has now raised over $150 million.

Rudeegraap said Sendoso will be using the funds in part to invest in a couple of areas. First, to hire more talent: it has 500 employees now and plans to grow that by 30% by the end of this year. And second, international expansion: it is setting up a European HQ in Dublin, Ireland to complement its main office in San Francisco.

Comcast, Kimpton Hotels, Thomson Reuters, Nasdaq and eBay are among its current customers — so this is in part to serve those customers’ global user bases, as well as to sign up new gifters. He estimated that the bigger market for corporate gifting is about $100 billion annually, so there is a lot to play for here.

The company was co-founded by Rudeegraap and Braydan Young (who is its chief alliances officer) on the back of a specific need Rudeegraap identified while working as a sales executive. Gifting is a very standard practice in the world of sales and marketing, but he was finding a lot of traction with potential and current customers by taking a personalized approach to this act.

“I was manually packing boxes, grabbing swag, coming up with handwritten notes,” he recalled. “It was inefficient, but it worked so well. So I dreamed up an idea: why not be able to click a button in Salesforce to do this automatically? Sometimes the best company is one that solves a pain point of your own.”

And this is essentially what Sendoso does. The startup’s platform integrates with a company’s existing marketing, sales and management software — Salesforce, HubSpot, SalesLoft among them — and then lets users use this to organize and order gifts through these channels, for example as part of larger sales, marketing or HR strategies. The gifts are wide-ranging, covering corporate swag, other physical presents, gift cards and more, and there are also integrations you can include to share gifting across teams of salespeople, to analyze the campaigns and more.

The Sendoso platform itself, meanwhile, positions itself as having the “marketplace selection and logistics precision of Amazon.com.” But Sendoso also believes it’s better than someone simply using Amazon.com itself since it ultimately takes a more personalized approach in how it presents the gift.

“There are a lot of things we do uniquely in terms of what we have built throughout our software, gifting options and logistics centre. We really personalize our gifts at scale with handwritten notes, special boxing, and more,” something that Amazon cannot do, he added. “We have built a lot of unique technology and logistics software that would make it hard for Amazon to compete.” He said that one of Sendoso’s integrations is actually with Amazon, so Sendoso users can order through there, but then the gift is first routed to Sendoso to be repackaged in a nicer way before being sent out.

At its heart, the startup has built a way of knitting together disparate work practices — some codified in software, and some based on human interactions and significantly more infused with randomness, emotion and ad hoc approaches — and built it all into a technology platform. The ability to scale what feels like an otherwise bespoke level of service is what has helped Sendoso gain traction not just with users, but investors, too:

“We believe Sendoso offers the most comprehensive end-to-end gifting platform in the market,” said Priya Saiprasad, a partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “Their platform includes a global marketplace of curated vendors, seamless integration with existing tools, global logistics, and deep analytics. As a result, Sendoso serves as the backbone to enterprises’ engagement programs with prospective customers, existing customers, employees and other key stakeholders. We’re excited to lead this Series C round to help Sendoso accelerate its vision.”

#amazon, #amazon-com, #business, #ceo, #comcast, #companies, #craft-ventures, #dublin, #ebay, #economy, #enterprise, #felicis-ventures, #funding, #gift, #gift-card, #giving, #hubspot, #ireland, #marketing, #partner, #salesforce, #salesloft, #san-francisco, #sendoso, #signia-venture-partners, #softbank, #softbank-group, #stage-2-capital, #struck-capital, #vision-fund

3 keys to pricing early-stage SaaS products

I’ve met hundreds of founders over the years, and most, particularly early-stage founders, share one common go-to-market gripe: Pricing.

For enterprise software, traditional pricing methods like per-seat models are often easier to figure out for products that are hyper-specific, especially those used by people in essentially the same way, such as Zoom or Slack. However, it’s a different ball game for startups that offer services or products that are more complex.

Most startups struggle with a per-seat model because their products, unlike Zoom and Slack, are used in a litany of ways. Salesforce, for example, employs regular seat licenses and admin licenses — customers can opt for lower pricing for solutions that have low-usage parts — while other products are priced based on negotiation as part of annual renewals.

You may have a strong champion in a CIO you’re selling to or a very friendly person handling procurement, but it won’t matter if the pricing can’t be easily explained and understood. Complicated or unclear pricing adds more friction.

Early pricing discussions should center around the buyer’s perspective and the value the product creates for them. It’s important for founders to think about the output and the outcome, and a number they can reasonably defend to customers moving forward. Of course, self-evaluation is hard, especially when you’re asking someone else to pay you for something you’ve created.

This process will take time, so here are three tips to smoothen the ride.

Pricing is a journey

Pricing is not a fixed exercise. The enterprise software business involves a lot of intangible aspects, and a software product’s perceived value, quality, and user experience can be highly variable.

The pricing journey is long and, despite what some founders might think, jumping head-first into customer acquisition isn’t the first stop. Instead, step one is making sure you have a fully fledged product.

If you’re a late-seed or Series A company, you’re focused on landing those first 10-20 customers and racking up some wins to showcase in your investor and board deck. But when you grow your organization to the point where the CEO isn’t the only person selling, you’ll want to have your go-to-market position figured out.

Many startups fall into the trap of thinking: “We need to figure out what pricing looks like, so let’s ask 50 hypothetical customers how much they would pay for a solution like ours.” I don’t agree with this approach, because the product hasn’t been finalized yet. You haven’t figured out product-market fit or product messaging and you want to spend a lot of time and energy on pricing? Sure, revenue is important, but you should focus on finding the path to accruing revenue versus finding a strict pricing model.

#artificial-intelligence, #aws, #column, #ec-column, #ec-enterprise-applications, #ec-how-to, #enterprise, #enterprise-software, #product, #saas, #salesforce, #startups, #tc

Freshworks aims for nearly $9 billion valuation in US IPO

Freshworks disclosed on Monday that it is aiming for a valuation of up to $9 billion in its US initial public offering in which it is hoping to raise over $800 million.

The California-based firm, which started its journey in India and rivals Salesforce, said it plans to sell 28.5 million shares at a price range of $28 to $32. If the firm is able to sell its shares at the top range, it will raise $912 million. Freshworks had originally filed paperworks for its IPO in late August, but hadn’t disclosed several figures.

The 11-year-old firm was last valued at $3.5 billion in a financing round in November 2019. The startup considered raising a pre-IPO round earlier this year at a valuation of over $5 billion but decided against it, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

Freshworks, which counts Accel, Sequoia Capital India, Tiger Global, and CapitalG among its existing investors, develops and offers a variety of business software tools, from CRM to help-desk software. In recent years, it has built enterprise SaaS platform to give customers a set of integrated business tools and aggressively pursued expansion in broadening its products offering.

The startup, which has applied to list its shares on Nasdaq under the symbol FRSH, serves over 50,000 customers and its revenue in the six months of the year grew to $169 million, up from $11 million during the same period last year. At the same time, its net loss dropped to $9.8 million from $57 million a year ago.

“First, based on industry research from International Data Corporation (IDC), we believe we have a large addressable market of approximately $120 billion,” the firm said in an updated S-1 filing on Monday.

“Second, based on our internal data and analysis, we estimate the annual potential market opportunity for our products to be $77 billion. […] We expect our estimated market opportunity will continue to expand as customers onboard more or expand usage of our products, increasing the weighted average ARR per customer for use of our products.”

TechCrunch recently spoke with Freshworks co-founder and chief executive Girish Mathrubootham about the business. Mathrubootham is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in India. Along with three friends, Mathrubootham launched an $85 million venture fund in late July this year to back early-stage SaaS startups.

#accel, #capitalg, #freshworks, #fundings-exits, #salesforce, #sequoia-capital-india, #tc, #tiger-global

Check out who’s coming to TC Sessions: SaaS 2021

On October 27, less than two fast-moving months away, we’re hosting TC Sessions: SaaS 2021, our first event focused exclusively on the software-as-a-service ecosystem. SaaS — the de facto business model for B2B and B2C startups and enterprises alike — shows no sign of slowing down.

This is a prime opportunity to hear and learn from the industry’s major players, thought leaders and, frankly, some of the coolest creators around the globe. It’s more than just listening — it’s engaging with speakers during Q&As and networking with founders, CEOs and investors from major companies.

Pro Ka-ching Tip: Want to save $100 on the price of admission? Yeah, you do. Simply buy an early-bird SaaS pass before the prices go up on October 1 at 11:59 pm (PT).

So, let’s get to it. here are just some of the leading voices and companies coming to TC Sessions: SaaS to share their insight, actionable tips and hard-won advice.

Kathy Baxter is the principal architect for the ethical AI practice at Salesforce. She also has more than 20 years under her belt as a software architect. We’re going to tap into her deep expertise for a panel discussion on AI’s growing role in software today, as well as the implications of using AI in your software service as it becomes a mainstream part of the SaaS development process.

Javier Soltero is the VP and GM in charge of Google Workspace, which has significantly more than 2 billion users. Productivity apps like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive are a big part of SaaS, and Soltero joins us for an interview about the role Google Workspace plays in the Google cloud strategy.

Jared Spataro is the corporate VP in charge of Microsoft 365 — arguably one of the most successful SaaS products ever. He was part of the great shift from on prem to the cloud, and he’ll join us to talk about how Microsoft made that move and what it’s done for the company.

Casey Aylward, a principal at Costanoa Ventures, concentrates on early-stage enterprise startups. Kobie Fuller, a partner at Upfront Ventures, focuses on SaaS, AR and VR. Sarah Guo, a partner at Greylock, concentrates on AI, cybersecurity, infrastructure and the future of work. This group of prestigious VCs will panel-up to discuss what they look for when they invest in SaaS startups.

Be sure to check out the TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 agenda — we’ll add more exciting panels, interviews, speaker Q&As and breakout sessions over the next few weeks. Register here to receive updates with the latest additions to the day’s events.

TC Sessions: SaaS is a ripe networking opportunity. Consider this list of just some of the major companies that will be in the house. Whether you’re looking for potential customers, investors, partnerships or some other creative collaboration, you’ll have ample time to network with leaders from the foremost SaaS players.

  • Adobe
  • CBRE
  • FedEx
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Moody’s Analytics
  • SAP
  • Shell Ventures
  • SONY
  • Verizon Ventures

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021, takes place on October 27, and this is your chance to learn from and network with the seriously successful movers, shakers and unicorn makers of the SaaS world. Grab your early bird pass before October 1 at 11:59 pm (PT), and you’ll save $100.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#artificial-intelligence, #as-a-service, #b2c, #business-models, #casey-aylward, #cloud-applications, #cloud-computing, #computing, #costanoa-ventures, #google, #greylock, #jared-spataro, #javier-soltero, #kathy-baxter, #kobie-fuller, #major, #microsoft, #partner, #salesforce, #sarah-guo, #software, #software-as-a-service, #speaker, #tc, #tc-sessions-saas-2021, #upfront-ventures, #vp

Stewart Butterfield and Bret Taylor are coming to Disrupt

When Salesforce acquired Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, the deal seemed on its face to make sense, given that the coronavirus pandemic accelerated already growing demand for tools that enable people to work remotely and that roughly 90% of Slack’s enterprise customers already used Salesforce.

Today, the question is: How well are things going?

Salesforce just last week announced some initial integrations with Slack, including introducing so-called account and deal Slack rooms to its “Sales Cloud,” which Salesforce says will allow sales teams to interact around a customer deal cycle. Rob Seaman, SVP for Slack at Salesforce, told TechCrunch last week that, more broadly, “We really want Slack to be the primary engagement surface for our users, their communications, their work, their workflows and the processes and the apps they support.”

But these kinds of public pronouncements don’t get to the heart of what’s happening inside the company. That’s where TechCrunch steps in. At TechCrunch Disrupt happening September 21-23, we are thrilled to be sitting down with both Bret Taylor — the entrepreneur and former Facebook executive who is now the No. 2 executive at Salesforce — and famed Slack founder Stewart Butterfield, to learn far more about their collective mission to take on Microsoft, and what, if anything, the market doesn’t understand about the tie-up between Salesforce and Slack. (Saleforces’s shares are only up slightly from a year ago and priced 16% higher than they were at the start of this year, compared to the S&P 500, which is up 35%.)

Who reports to whom? How independently is Slack being run? How will the two judge the success of the merger, and by when? These are just a few of the many questions we have for these two iconic executives, whose candid conversation with TC is one you won’t want to miss.

To participate in this year’s virtual show, check out the handful of pass options with discounts now available for founders, students and nonprofitsGet your ticket soon, though; prices more than double on September 20. We hope to see you online.

#bret-taylor, #events, #salesforce, #slack, #stewart-buttefield, #tc, #tc-disrupt-2021

Announcing the agenda for TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS

TechCrunch Sessions is back!

On October 27, we’re taking on the ferociously competitive field of software as a service (SaaS), and we’re thrilled to announce our packed agenda, overflowing with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the industry. And you’re in luck, because $75 early-bird tickets are still on sale — make sure you book yours so you can enjoy all the agenda has to offer and save $100 bucks before prices go up!

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from industry experts, and take part in discussions about the potential of new advances in data, open source, how to deal with the onslaught of security threats, investing in early-stage startups and plenty more.

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names and the smartest and most prescient people in the industry, including Javier Soltero at Google, Kathy Baxter at Salesforce, Jared Spataro at Microsoft, Jay Kreps at Confluent, Sarah Guo at Greylock and Daniel Dines at UiPath.

You’ll be able to find and engage with people from all around the world through world-class networking on our virtual platform — all for $75 and under for a limited time with even deeper discounts for nonprofits and government agencies, students and up-and-coming founders!

Our agenda showcases some of the powerhouses in the space, but also plenty of smaller teams that are building and debunking fundamental technologies in the industry. We still have a few tricks up our sleeves and will be adding some new names to the agenda over the next month, so keep your eyes open.

In the meantime, check out these agenda highlights:

Survival of the Fittest: Investing in Today’s SaaS Market
with Casey Aylward (Costanoa Ventures), Kobie Fuller (Upfront) and Sarah Guo (Greylock)

  • The venture capital world is faster, and more competitive than ever. For investors hoping to get into the hottest SaaS deal, things are even crazier. With more non-traditional money pouring into the sector, remote dealmaking now the norm, and an increasingly global market for software startups, venture capitalists are being forced to shake up their own operations, and expectations. TechCrunch sits down with three leading investors to discuss how they are fighting for allocation in hot deals, what they’ve changed in their own processes, and what today’s best founders are demanding.

Data, Data Everywhere
with Ali Ghodsi (Databricks)

  • As companies struggle to manage and share increasingly large amounts of data, it’s no wonder that Databricks, whose primary product is a data lake, was valued at a whopping $28 billion for its most recent funding round. We’re going to talk to CEO Ali Ghodsi about why his startup is so hot and what comes next.

SaaS Security, Today and Tomorrow
with Edna Conway (Microsoft), Olivia Rose (Amplitude)

  • Enterprises face a constant stream of threats, from nation states to cybercriminals and corporate insiders. After a year where billions worked from home and the cloud reigned supreme, startups and corporations alike can’t afford to stay off the security pulse. Find out what SaaS startups need to know about security now, and in the future.

Automation’s Moment Is Now
with Daniel Dines (UiPath), Laela Sturdy (CapitalG), and Dave Wright (ServiceNow)

  • One thing we learned during the pandemic is the importance of automation, and that’s only likely to be more pronounced as we move forward. We’ll be talking to UiPath CEO Daniel Dines, Laela Sturdy, an investor at CapitalG and Dave Wright from ServiceNow about why this is automation’s moment.

Was the Pandemic Cloud Productivity’s Spark
with Javier Soltero (Google)

  • One big aspect of SaaS is productivity apps like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive. We’ll talk with executive Javier Soltero about the role Google Workspace plays in the Google cloud strategy.

The Future is Wide Open
with Abby Kearns (Puppet), Aghi Marietti (Kong), and Jason Warner (Redpoint)

  • Many startups today have an open source component, and it’s no wonder. It builds an audience and helps drive sales. We’ll talk with Abby Kearns from Puppet, Augusto “Aghi” Marietti from Kong and Jason Warner an investor at Redpoint about why open source is such a popular way to build a business.

How Microsoft Shifted from on Prem to the Cloud
with Jared Spataro (Microsoft)

  • Jared Spataro has been with Microsoft for over 15 years and he was a part of the shift from strictly on prem software to one that is dominated by the cloud. Today he runs one of the most successful SaaS products out there, and we’ll talk to him about how Microsoft made that shift and what it’s meant to the company.

How Startups are Turning Data into Software Gold
with Jenn Knight (Agentsync), Barr Moses (Monte Carlo), and Dan Wright (DataRobot)

  • The era of big data is behind us. Today’s leading SaaS startups are working with data, instead of merely fighting to help customers collect information. We’ve collected three leaders from three data-focused startups that are forging new markets to get their insight on how today’s SaaS companies are leveraging data to build new companies, attack new problems, and, of course, scale like mad.

What Happens After Your Startup is Acquired
with Jyoti Bansal (Harness), Nick Mehta (GainSight)

  • We’ll speak to three founders about the emotional upheaval of being acquired and what happens after the check clears and the sale closes. Our panel includes Jyoti Bansal who founded AppDynamics, Jewel Burkes Solomon, who founded Partpic and Nick Mehta from GainSight.

How Confluent Rode the Open Source Wave to IPO
with Jay Kreps (Confluent)

  • Confluent, the streaming platform built on top of Apache Kafka, was born out of a project at LinkedIn and rode that from startup to IPO. We’ll speak to co-founder and CEO Jay Kreps to learn about what that journey was like.

We’ll have more sessions and names shortly, so stay tuned. But get excited in the meantime, we certainly are.

Pro tip: Keep your finger on the pulse of TC Sessions: SaaS. Get updates when we announce new speakers, add events and offer ticket discounts.

Why should you carve a day out of your hectic schedule to attend TC Sessions: SaaS? This may be the first year we’ve focused on SaaS, but this ain’t our first rodeo. Here’s what other attendees have to say about their TC Sessions experience.

“TC Sessions: Mobility offers several big benefits. First, networking opportunities that result in concrete partnerships. Second, the chance to learn the latest trends and how mhttps://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/databricks-co-founder-and-ceo-ali-ghodsi-is-coming-to-tc-sessions-saas/obility will evolve. Third, the opportunity for unknown startups to connect with other mobility companies and build brand awareness.” — Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking.

“People want to be around what’s interesting and learn what trends and issues they need to pay attention to. Even large companies like GM and Ford were there, because they’re starting to see the trend move toward mobility. They want to learn from the experts, and TC Sessions: Mobility has all the experts.” — Melika Jahangiri, vice president at Wunder Mobility.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Grab your team, join your community and create opportunity. Don’t wait — jump on the early bird ticket sale right now.

#abby-kearns, #ali-ghodsi, #appdynamics, #artificial-intelligence, #capitalg, #casey-aylward, #ceo, #cloud-computing, #companies, #computing, #costanoa-ventures, #daniel-dines, #databricks, #datarobot, #dave-wright, #firewall, #fundings-exits, #google, #greylock, #jared-spataro, #javier-soltero, #jay-kreps, #jenn-knight, #jyoti-bansal, #kathy-baxter, #kobie-fuller, #laela-sturdy, #microsoft, #nick-mehta, #salesforce, #sarah-guo, #servicenow, #software, #software-as-a-service, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #uipath

UIPath CEO Daniel Dines is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS to talk RPA and automation

UIPath came seemingly out of nowhere in the last several years, going public last year in a successful IPO during which it raised over $527 million. It raised $2 billion in private money prior to that with its final private valuation coming in at an amazing $35 billion. UIPath CEO Daniel Dines will be joining us on a panel on automation at TC Sessions: Saas on October 27th.

The company has been able capture all this investor attention doing something called Robotic Process Automation, which provides a way to automate a series of highly mundane tasks. It has become quite popular, especially to help bring a level of automation to legacy systems that might not be able to handle more modern approaches to automation involving artificial intelligence and machine learning. In 2019 Gartner found that RPA was the fastest growing category in enterprise software.

In point of fact,  UIPath didn’t actually come out of nowhere. It was founded in 2005 as a consulting company and transitioned to software over the years. The company took its first VC funding, a modest $1.5 million seed round in 2015, according to Crunchbase data.

As RPA found its market, the startup began to take off, raising gobs of money including a $568 million round in April 2019 and $750 million in its final private raise in February 2021.

Dines will be appearing on a panel discussing the role of automation in the enterprise. Certainly, the pandemic drove home the need for increased automation as masses of office workers moved to work from home, a trend that is likely to continue even after the pandemic slows.

As the RPA market leader, he is uniquely positioned to discuss how this software and other similar types will evolve in the coming years and how it could combine with related trends like no-code and process mapping. Dines will be joined on the panel by investor Laela Sturdy from Capital G and ServiceNow’s Dave Wright where they will discuss the state of the automation market, why it’s so hot and where the next opportunities could be.

In addition to our discussion with Dines, the conference will also include Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, Salesforce’s Kathy Baxter and Puppet’s Abby Kearns, as well as investors Casey Aylward and Sarah Guo, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a stimulating day.

Buy your pass now to save up to $100. We can’t wait to see you in October!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#abby-kearns, #ali-ghodsi, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #business-process-automation, #business-process-management, #business-software, #casey-aylward, #ceo, #daniel-dines, #databricks, #dave-wright, #enterprise, #kathy-baxter, #laela-sturdy, #machine-learning, #robotic-process-automation, #rpa, #salesforce, #sarah-guo, #servicenow, #software, #tc, #tc-sessions-saas-2021, #technology, #uipath

API platform Postman valued at $5.6 billion in $225 million fundraise

San Francisco-based Postman, which operates a collaborative platform for developers to help them build, design, test and iterate their APIs, said on Wednesday it has raised $225 million in a new financing round that values it at $5.6 billion, up from $2 billion a year ago.

The startup’s new financing round — a Series D — was led by existing investor New York-headquartered Insight Partners. New investors including Coatue, Battery Ventures, and BOND also participated in the new round, which brings total raise across rounds to over $430 million. Existing investors Nexus Venture Partners and CRV also participated in the new round.

APIs provide a way for developers to connect their applications to other internal and external applications. But it’s a space that until the past decade not many firms have attempted to streamline. (Developers relied on — and many continue to do so — open source CLI tools such as curl and HTTPie. That said, Postman now has a number of competitors including Stoplight, and A16z and Tiger Global-backed Kong.)

Abhinav Asthana, a former intern at Yahoo, faced this frustration first hand and built a Chrome extension for himself and friends.

Little did he know just how many developers and firms needed it, too.

The six-year-old startup’s product, which began its journey in India, is today used by over 17 million developers and over 500,000 organizations including Microsoft, Salesforce, Stripe, Shopify, Cisco, and PayPal.

The list is big: Postman co-founder and chief executive Asthana told TechCrunch that 98% of the Fortune 500 companies are customers of Postman.

“We are solving a fundamental problem for the technology landscape. Big companies tend to be slower as they have many other things on their plate,” he told me two years ago.

Postman API Platform’s offerings

“Every company in every industry in the world today uses APIs and needs an API platform. This trend is only growing with the move to cloud and digital experiences,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch Tuesday.

The startup today leads the market and doesn’t compete with many players. Which would explain the investors’ excitement. The startup, which declined to share its revenue, raised the new round at over 100 multiple of its revenue, according to an investor with knowledge of the matter.

Postman’s platform is crucial for developers, but it was only recently that the startup expanded to create a public marketplace for developers and firms to find ready-made APIs to use.

“The Postman Public API Network connects millions of developers around the world and provides them with a space dedicated to discovering, exploring, and sharing of APIs. This was ultimately driven by our creation of public workspaces, which allows users to connect across different organizations,” Asthana said.

“With the emergence of APIs, we believe that this will usher in the next generation of no-code and ‘citizen developers.’ We encourage a world filled with innovation for everyone with different backgrounds and varying levels of technical experience. More and more, we’re seeing people in sales, marketing, and finance become more comfortable with APIs and become the champions of this technology,” he said.

The startup, which employs over 425 people, plans to deploy the fresh funding to hire more employees across sales, marketing, product, and engineering divisions.

Postman will also “heavily” invest in broadening its product roadmap. “We are expanding the Postman platform across areas that technical users need along with supporting the needs of business users. At a high level, we are investing in supporting workflows for all kinds of APIs — whether they are private APIs, partner APIs, or public APIs,” he said.

Some upcoming items on the roadmap include a new version of the Postman API, support for protocols like gRPC, ProtoBuf, and more extensive capabilities for GraphQL. “We are also focusing heavily on integrations with other vendors in the software development lifecycle like AWS, Git hosting providers like GitHub and GitLab. We are also releasing our Flow Runner tool, a no-code API composition tool to enable anyone to build API driven programs.”

The startup also plans to invest in supporting students through API literacy programs and contribute toward open source projects.

“APIs have quickly become the fundamental building blocks of software used by developers in every industry, in every country across the globe—and Postman has firmly established itself as the preferred platform for developers,” said Insight Partners Managing Director Jeff Horing in a statement.

“Postman has the opportunity to become a key pillar of how enterprises build, deliver products, and seamlessly enable partnerships across the ecosystem. Their continued, rapid expansion and strong management team point to a future for Postman with virtually unlimited possibilities.”

#battery-ventures, #bond, #cisco, #coatue, #crv, #funding, #insight-partners, #kong, #microsoft, #nexus-venture-partners, #paypal, #postman, #saas, #salesforce, #shopify, #stripe

Extra Crunch roundup: The Nuro EC-1, early-stage growth tactics, understanding Salesforce+

In 2010, Google’s autonomous vehicle project placed self-driving cars on Bay Area streets and freeways, but practical applications were thought to be at least a decade away.

The futurists were right on schedule: In 2020, Mountain View-based Nuro was testing its second-generation R2 robotic vehicle, the first to earn a federal exemption to operate an autonomous vehicle.

But before Nuro could even consider reaching product-market fit, its founders had to overcome technological challenges, win over regulators and strike partnerships with a range of consumer-facing companies.

“Neither JZ nor I think of ourselves as classic entrepreneurs or that starting a company is something we had to do in our lives,” says co-founder Dave Ferguson. “It was much more the result of soul searching and trying to figure out what is the biggest possible impact that we could have.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


Across four articles, reporter Mark Harris (The Guardian, Wired, MIT Technology Review) explores Nuro’s origins and operations, including the founders’ decision to focus on creating autonomous delivery vehicles instead of entering the passenger EV market.

I’ve lived inside the San Francisco Bay Area bubble for most of my adult life, so it’s interesting to see how people in Houston’s Woodland Heights neighborhood react to seeing Nuro’s R2 delivering pizza and prescriptions on a limited basis.

As one Redditor recently posted in r/houston: “With these self-driving cars, it’s only a matter of time before a country song is written about a guy’s truck leaving him.”

Part 1: How Google’s self-driving car project accidentally spawned its robotic delivery rival

Part 2: Why regulators love Nuro’s self-driving delivery vehicles

Part 3: How Nuro became the robotic face of Domino’s

Part 4: Here’s what the inevitable friendly neighborhood robot invasion looks like

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Why fintechs are buying up legacy financial services companies

Image of a bank vault.

Image Credits: Peter Dazeley (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Why bother to beat the competition when you can buy them outright?

“It used to be that if you were a fintech startup or, for lack of a better term, a digitally native financial services business, you might be eyeing an acquisition from an incumbent in the industry,” Ryan Lawler writes.

“But lately, fintech upstarts are the ones doing the acquiring.”

Growth tactics that will jump-start your customer base

Image of a megaphone on a pink background with colorful balls in the air to represent marketing.

Image Credits: Jasmin Merdan (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“With audiences spread out over so many platforms, reaching cult status requires some level of hacking,” Jenny Wang, a principal investor at Neo, writes in a guest column.

Covering everything from collecting user-generated content to launching splashy guerrilla marketing strategies that can take advantage of someone else’s events, she shares several growth tactics for startups, plus the metrics required to track their success.

There could be more to the Salesforce+ video streaming service than meets the eye

Behind the scenes of video recording or filming online movie by 8K high definition digital camera and professional monitor. And flare lighting set up with film crew team in the studio production.

Image Credits: ppengcreative / Getty Images

Salesforce announced last week that it plans to launch a video streaming service.

The industry analysts who enterprise reporter Ron Miller interviewed said the initiative has tremendous potential, but one noted that Salesforce will have to dig deep to compete in today’s crowded media landscape.

Salesforce hasn’t released details on the type of programming it plans to offer, but given its vast and diverse customer base, its options are many. Said Brent Leary of CRM Essentials:

“A customer could sponsor a show, advertise a show or possibly collaborate on a show. And have leads generated from the show [which could be] directly tied to the activity from those options and track ROI. And it’s all done on one platform. And the content lives on with ads living on with them.”

More companies should shift to a work-from-home model

An orange tabby kitten rests his paw on a hand as a person works from home

Image Credits: Ann Schwede (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Karl Laughton, president and COO of Insightly, offers best practices for companies looking to make the move to a remote model.

“Employers are at a crucial crossroads when it comes to deciding where and how to let employers do their jobs,” he writes in a guest column. “There are those who will adopt the work-from-anywhere model and those who resist it.

“Those who resist it will likely struggle to keep employees.”

Early-stage benchmarks for young cybersecurity companies

3D illustration of a conceptual maze.

Image Credits: Getty Images under a Olivier Le Moal (opens in a new window) license.

YL Ventures’ Yoav Leitersdorf and Michael Cortez lay out a roadmap for founders of early-stage cybersecurity companies that are heading toward unicorn status.

“The early days of any young startup decide how successful it can be, which is why we’ve developed a focused, value-add program to support cybersecurity founders during this most critical stage and maximize their potential in building market-leading companies,” they write in a guest column.

“It’s never too early to think big, and, with the right support, launch the next industry titan.”

The hyperactive late-stage market should keep the startup investing game afoot

Alex Wilhelm considers last week’s funding news from Carta, Chime and Discord and noodles on what the recent rounds mean for startups.

“Understanding why investors are so willing to buy minute stakes in dozens of private companies worth billions of dollars is key to grokking the crush of investment we see among younger technology startups.”

#alex-wilhelm, #chime, #ec-roundup, #extra-crunch-roundup, #finance, #nuro, #ron-miller, #ryan-lawler, #salesforce, #security, #self-driving-cars, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #venture-capital, #yl-ventures, #yoav-leitersdorf

Reserve your demo table at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 today

One of the most important goals for any early-stage startup venture is gaining exposure for your company and product. As much as we love the mantra, “if you build it, they will come,” it’s gonna take more than that to make your Field of Dreams come true.

Are you a founder of an early-stage SaaS startup? Then grab this opportunity to showcase your innovative tech and talent to the major movers, shakers, investors and makers around the world at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 on October 27. Talk about a targeted audience.

Buy a Startup Exhibitor Package and spend a full day exhibiting to your exact target audience. Whether you’re searching for media coverage, investors, customers, engineers or collaborators, hang your virtual shingle to promote your brand and make the connections that can move you closer to achieving your business goals.

Your SaaS Startup Exhibitor Package costs $299 and includes a virtual booth, complete with lead-gen capabilities, four full-access event passes, breakout sessions, CrunchMatch — our AI-powered networking platform — and videos-on-demand. That last one comes in handy if you miss any of the live-stream presentations.

Sweet bonus: The four passes that come with your Exhibitor Package include a free, one-month subscription to Extra Crunch, our members-only program featuring exclusive daily articles for founders and startup teams.

You’ll receive access to the event attendee list — including media outlets —about a week before TC Sessions: SaaS begins. Fire up CrunchMatch, send out meeting invitations and get those RSVPs lined up in advance. Schedule 1:1 product demos, pitch investors, interview prospective employees or come up with your own creative ways to promote your startup.

Exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS might help you connect with someone like Rachael Wilcox, a creative producer at Volvo Cars. Wilcox makes it her practice to attend as many TechCrunch events in a year as she can. In 2020 alone, she attended TC Sessions: Mobility, TC Sessions: Robotics/AI and Disrupt.

“I’m never disappointed when I attend TechCrunch events. Whether from the smallest startup all the way up to a Google, I always find someone or something surprising that makes me say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about that.’”

Our event agenda isn’t quite ready for prime time, but here are just a few of the SaaS leaders who will grace our interactive stage to share insights, actionable advice and answers to your most pressing questions.

We’re talking folks like Kathy Baxter, principal architect for the ethical AI practice at Salesforce, Monte Carlo co-founder and CEO, Barr Moses and Javier Soltero, Google’s VP and GM in charge of Workspace.

Do you know — or are you — someone who wants to share their SaaS expertise? TechCrunch editorial is accepting speaker/ demo recommendations. Submit your application here.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Buy a Startup Exhibitor Package and promote your Field of Dreams to the people who can help make them come true.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#artificial-intelligence, #business-models, #cloud-applications, #computing, #crunchmatch, #google, #javier-soltero, #kathy-baxter, #saas, #salesforce, #software, #software-as-a-service, #speaker, #startup-company, #tc, #tc-sessions-saas-2021, #volvo-cars, #vp

Salesforce announces first integrations with Slack after closing $28B sale

When Salesforce acquired Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, you had to figure that they had some big plans for the company, and today the CRM giant announced some initial integrations that should prove useful for Salesforce customers.

Rob Seaman, SVP for Slack at Salesforce sees Slack as the communications platform for Salesforce moving forward. “We really want Slack to be the primary engagement surface for our users, their communications, their work, their workflows and the processes and the apps they support,” he said.

“What we’re announcing are these new capabilities to support that Slack vision for sales, service, marketing and analytics. And for each of those areas what we’re doing is a combination of articulating, both in best practices and codifying, how you can and should model your sales, service and marketing organizations in this new world,” he said.

The hope is that by taking advantage of Slack’s ability to integrate external enterprise apps inside the application, working together they can find ways to speed up and automate various Salesforce tasks, making it faster and easier to use without switching context to make it happen.

For starters, the Sales Cloud gets dedicated deal rooms, where all of the parties involved in a complex sale, whether internal departments like finance and product people or external partners, can come together in Slack throughout the sales cycle and stay on top of the ebb and flow of all the sales activity.

“I think the deal room is an expression of an opportunity from Salesforce into Slack in a way that makes it very simple to connect with everybody to effectively get a deal done, including customers and partners,” Seaman explained. “That’s where Slack Connect is extremely powerful [to connect with external partners]. We think we should be able to dramatically reduce sales cycle lengths as a result of this…” he said. Slack Connect is the service introduced last year that enables Slack users to connect with people outside of a company.

In addition, through integrations members of the sales team involved in a more complex deal can get daily updates, which are automatically pulled together in Slack and include personalized daily task lists, meetings and priority deals.

Service teams can meet together in a room Salesforce is calling a swarm, a place for the team to help one another with specific questions or problems they may be having. In a company with a large product catalogue this could be particularly helpful to get an answer quickly. While Einstein recommendations helps with related content, a swarm can come in handy when there is a more specific question involved and a human with that knowledge may be just the ticket. Service team members will also be able to search for experts to invite to the swarm, who may be able to help answer the question or solve the problem more quickly.

Not to be left out, marketing gets intelligent insights delivered with the help of Datorama, the company Salesforce bought in 2018. Marketers also get regular updates inside of Slack when a change is made to a marketing campaign.

Finally there are integrations with Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion — Salesforce is a highly acquisitive company. In a similar way that marketers get updates to campaigns, other users can get Slack updates whenever data they consider important gets updated in Tableau, and they can also get daily digests of key metrics that matter to them right in Slack.

Seaman promised that these announcements were just the start, and we will be hearing about more integrations with Slack at the Dreamforce customer conference next month — and in the coming months. “This is just the beginning, and so you’ll continue to see expansion of the integrations between Salesforce and Slack for the four areas that we’re announcing today around sales, service, marketing and analytics, but also every single cloud and industry solution in [the] Salesforce [family of products] is working on this,” he said.

#cloud, #enterprise, #saas, #salesforce, #salesforce-slack-deal, #slack

Growth roundup: Storytelling for startups, early-stage influencers, retail media spend

“I like to think of successful brand-building as creating a company that customers would be upset to separate from their identity,” growth marketing expert Julian Shapiro told us earlier this week. “For example, they’d cease to be the man with Slack stickers all over his laptop. Or the woman who no longer wears Nike shoes every day. And that bugs them.”

Shapiro comes from a technical background, as a repeat startup founder and open-source web developer. But these days, as the co-founder of growth education company Demand Curve and startup growth agency Bell Curve, he advocates telling your story by speaking from the heart. We interviewed him earlier this week to hear more about how he sees marketing in 2021.

Elsewhere on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch this week, we published guest columns about using influencers in early-stage brands, the global retail media spending trend and talked to Growth Folks, a growth marketing organization in India.

But first, here are a couple of the most recent recommendations from founders in our startup growth marketer survey. (If there’s a growth marketer that you’ve enjoyed working with, please tell us here.)

Marketer: Bili Sule, alGROWithm
Recommended by: Femi Aiki, Foodlocker
Testimonial: “Bili has a proven track record of driving growth, as the former vice president of Growth Marketing at Jumia Nigeria and as a senior growth consultant for Founders Factory Africa. She’s able to cut through the jargon/vanity metrics and has found a way to consistently and reliably engineer growth for us. What’s unique about Bili’s approach is that her strategy moves beyond just marketing. She is data driven and takes an iterative experimental approach to unlocking growth across various business pillars, from marketing to product and operations.”

Marketer: Jack Abramowitz
Recommended by: Marwen Refaat, GameFi
Testimonial: “Jack is incredibly talented at both growth hacking as well as building an automated growth engine. He has been tremendously helpful to our team.”

Building a growth community in India with Ayush Srivastava of Growth Folks: India is producing a huge, well-funded new generation of startups and increasing sophistication in growth marketing is one reason why. “Companies have started realizing the true importance of having a fully functional growth team and they have started acknowledging their one metric that matters as well,” Srivastava told us in a recent interview. “The growth marketers have also started setting up a lot of experiments and have taken a data-driven approach to solving a problem. Now, I see many startups going out of the box and putting in efforts to find new ways of acquisition. They haven’t restricted them to acquiring users via the traditional ways and that’s why you see so many ideas going viral so easily.”

(Extra Crunch) Early-stage brands should also unlock the power of influencers: Jonathan Martinez, an experienced growth marketer, breaks down influencer marketing. Martinez notes, “When reaching out to influencers, it’s a sheer numbers game in capturing their attention and pitching your brand, but there are myriad ways to increase response conversion.”

(Extra Crunch) What’s driving the global surge in retail media spending? Cynthia Luo, head of marketing at Epsilo, discusses what modern marketing is in 2021. Luo also talks about how businesses have had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luo says, “As e-commerce turns into a dream marketing channel, reaping the benefits of retail marketing is only possible if the marketplace equips brands with the right tools and data sets.”

The art of startup storytelling with Julian Shapiro: Eric Eldon, Extra Crunch managing editor, spoke with Julian Shapiro, about how companies communicate with the public. Shapiro offered insights from his experience as an angel investor, “I’m interested in businesses with product-led growth, brand affinity moats and who get harder to compete with the larger they get.”

(Extra Crunch) Growth tactics that will jump-start your customer base: Jenny Wang, principal investor at Neo, gives insights on the challenges startups now face to launch their customer base and provides some tactics to help them do so. In this article, Wang discusses what the playbook was like five years ago and says, “ … it’s never been harder to corral eyeballs and hit a breakout adoption trajectory.”

Salesforce State of Marketing: Salesforce published a marketing report that uses data from a double-blind survey they conducted. The survey has five main chapters, “Marketers Embrace Change with Optimism,” “As Customers Go Digital, Marketing Steps Up,” “Collaboration Drives the Market-from-Anywhere Era,” “Marketing Is Spelled D-A-T-A” and “Metrics and KPIs Continue to Evolve.” When looking at digital channels, they mentioned that, “Even those digital channels that may have been classified as emerging in recent years are seeing mass adoption. Mobile messaging, for instance, is used by 69% of marketers, and nearly two-thirds of organizations use audio media like podcasts and streaming ads.” The report lists out the five “Most Valuable Marketing Metrics/KPIs” and looks ahead at “Digital Marketing Tactics.”

Is there a startup growth marketing expert that you want us to know about? Let us know by filling out our survey.

#ec-growth-marketing, #experts, #growth-marketing, #growth-roundup, #influencer-marketing, #julian-shapiro, #salesforce, #tc

There could be more to the Salesforce+ video streaming service than meets the eye

When Salesforce announced its new business video streaming service called Salesforce+ this week, everyone had a reaction. While not all of it was positive, some company watchers also wondered if there was more to this announcement than meets the eye.

If you look closely, the new initiative suggests that Salesforce wants to take a bite out of LinkedIn and other SaaS content platforms and publishers. The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The company has, after all, done exactly this sort of thing with its online marketplaces and industry events to great success. Salesforce generated almost $6 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report. That mostly comes from selling its sales, marketing and service software, not any kind of content production, but it has lots of experience putting on Dreamforce, its massive annual customer event, as well as smaller events throughout the year around the world.

On its face, Salesforce+ is a giant, ambitious and quite expensive content marketing play. The company reportedly has hired a large professional staff to produce and manage the content, and built a broadcasting and production studio designed to produce quality shows in-house. It believes that by launching with content from Dreamforce, its highly successful customer conference, attended by tens of thousands people every year pre-pandemic, it can prime the viewing pump and build audience momentum that way, perhaps even using celebrities as it often does at its events to drive audience. It is less clear about the long-term business goals.

#cloud, #crm, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-media, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #saas, #salesforce, #streaming-video-service, #tc, #video

Don’t give your weed dealer all your data

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Our beloved Danny was back, joining Natasha and Alex and Grace and Chris to chat through yet another incredibly busy week. As a window into our process, every week we tell one another that the next week we’ll cut the show down to size. Then the week is so interesting that we end up cutting a lot of news, but also keeping a lot of news. The chaotic process is a work in progress, but it means that the end result is always what we decided we can’t not talk about.

Here’s what we got into:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#climate-change, #cloud-100, #data, #disaster-tech, #dreamforce, #edtech, #equity, #equity-podcast, #felt, #figma, #fundings-exits, #gusto, #india, #ipcc-report, #mailchimp, #pave, #ransomware, #rapidsos, #salesforce, #startups, #surfside, #trendyol, #turkey, #upgrad

Talkdesk’s valuation jumps to $10B with Series D for smart contact centers

Talkdesk, a provider of cloud-based contact center software, announced $230 million in new Series D funding that more than triples the company’s valuation to $10 billion, Talkdesk founder CEO Tiago Paiva confirmed to TechCrunch.

New investors Whale Rock Capital Management, TI Platform Management and Alpha Square Group came on board for this round and were joined by existing investors Amity Ventures, Franklin Templeton, Top Tier Capital Partners, Viking Global Investors and Willoughby Capital.

Talkdesk uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve customer service for midmarket and enterprise businesses. It counts over 1,800 companies as customers, including IBM, Acxiom, Trivago and Fujitsu.

“The global pandemic was a big part of how customers interact and how we interacted with our customers, all working from home,” Paiva said. “When you think about ordering things online, call, chat and email interactions became more important, and contact centers became core in every company.”

San Francisco-based Talkdesk now has $498 million in total funding since its inception in 2011. It was a Startup Battlefield contestant at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2012. The new funding follows a $143 million Series C raised last July that gave it a $3 billion valuation. Prior to that, Talkdesk brought in $100 million in 2018.

The 2020 round was planned to buoy the company’s growth and expansion to nearly 2,000 employees, Paiva said. For the Series D, there was much interest from investors, including a lot of inbound interest, he said.

“We were not looking for new money, and finished last year with more money in the bank that we raised in the last round, but the investors were great and wanted to make it work,” Paiva said.

Half of Talkdesk’s staff is in product and engineering, an area he intends to double down in with the new funding as well as adding to the headcount to support customers. The company also has plans to expand in areas where it is already operating — Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

This year, the company unveiled new features, including Talkdesk Workspace, a customizable interface for contact center teams, and Talkdesk Builder, a set of tools for customization across workspaces, routing, reporting and integrations. It also launched contact center tools designed specifically for financial services and healthcare organizations and what it is touting as the “industry’s first human-in-the-loop tool for contact centers and continues to lower the barrier to adopting artificial intelligence solutions.”

In addition to the funding, Talkdesk appointed its first chief financial officer, Sydney Carey, giving the company an executive team of 50% women, Paiva said. Carey has a SaaS background and joins the company from Sumo Logic, where she led the organization through an initial public offering in 2020.

“We were hiring our executive team over the past couple of years, and were looking for a CFO, but with no specific timeline, just looking for the right person,” Paiva added. “Sydney was the person we wanted to hire.”

Though Paiva didn’t hint at any upcoming IPO plans, TI Platform Management co-founders Trang Nguyen and Alex Bangash have followed Paiva since he started the company and said they anticipate the company heading in that direction in the future.

“Talkdesk is an example of what can happen when a strong team is assembled behind a winning idea,” they said in a written statement. “Today, Talkdesk has become near ubiquitous as a SaaS product with adoption across a broad array of industries and integrations with the most popular enterprise cloud platforms, including Salesforce, Zendesk and Slack.”

 

#acxiom, #alpha-square-group, #artificial-intelligence, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #computing, #enterprise, #franklin-templeton, #fujitsu, #funding, #recent-funding, #salesforce, #sumo-logic, #talkdesk, #tc, #ti-platform-management, #tiago-paiva, #trivago, #viking-global-investors, #whale-rock-capital-management, #zendesk

Salesforce wants Salesforce+ to be the Netflix of biz content

Salesforce just closed a $28 billion mega-deal to buy Slack, generating significant debt along the way, but it’s not through spending big money.

Today the CRM giant announced it was taking a leap into streaming media with Salesforce+, a forthcoming digital media network with a focus on video that, in the words of the company, “will bring the magic of Dreamforce to viewers across the globe with luminary speakers.” (Whether that’s a good thing or not is in the eye of the beholder.)

Over the last year, Salesforce has watched companies struggle to quickly transform into fully-digital entities. The Slack purchase is part of Salesforce’s response to the evolving market, but the company believes it can do even more with an on-demand video service providing business content around the clock.

Salesforce president and CMO Sarah Franklin said in an official post that her company has had to “reimagine how to succeed in the new digital-first world.” The answer apparently is involves getting the larger Salesforce community together is a new live, and recorded video push.

In a Q&A with Colin Fleming, Salesforce’s senior vice president of Global Brand Marketing, he sees it as a way to evolve the content the company has been sharing all along. “As a result of the pandemic, we looked at the media landscape, where people are consuming content, and decided the days of white papers in a business-to-business setting were no longer interesting to people. We’re staring at a cookie-less future. And looking at the consumer world, we reflected on that for Salesforce and asked, “Why shouldn’t we be thinking about this too,” he said in the Q&A.

The company’s efforts are not small. Axios reports that there are “50 editorial leads” aboard the project to help it launch, and “hundreds of people at Salesforce currently working on Salesforce+” more broadly.

Notably Salesforce does not have near-term monetization plans for Salesforce+. The service will be free, and will not feature external advertising. Salesforce+ will launch in September in conjunction with Dreamforce and include four channels: Primetime for news and announcements, Trailblazer for training content, Customer 360 for success stories and Industry Channels for industry-specific offerings.

The company hopes that by combining the announcement with Dreamforce, it will help drive interest in what Salesforce has cooked up. After the Dreamforce push, Salesforce+ will enter into interesting territory. How much do Salesforce customers, and the larger business community really want what the company describes as “compelling live and on-demand content for every role, industry and line of business,” and “engaging stories, thought leadership and expert advice”?

Salesforce is considered the most successful SaaS-first company in history, and as such may have an opinion that people are interested in hearing. In its most recent quarterly earnings report in May, the company disclosed $5.96 billion in revenue, up 23% compared to the year-ago quarter, putting it close to a $25 billion run rate. The company also generates lots of cash. But being cash-rich doesn’t absolve the question of whether this new streaming effort will prove to be a money pit, costing buckets of cash to produce with limited returns.

The service sounds a bit like your LinkedIn feed brought to life, but in video form. At the very least, it’s probably the largest content marketing scheme of all time, but can it ever pay for itself either as a business unit or through some other monetization plans (like advertising) down the road?

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM essentials says that he could see Salesforce eyeing advertising revenue with this venture and having it all tie into the Salesforce platform. “A customer could sponsor a show, advertise a show, or possibly collaborate on a show. And have leads generated from the show directly tied to the activity from those options while tracking ROI, and it’s all done on one platform. And the content lives on with ads living on with them,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Whether that’s the ultimate goal of this venture remains to be seen, but Salesforce has proven that there is market appetite for Dreamforce content at least in the physical world with over a hundred thousand people involved in 2019, the last time the company was able to hold a live event. While the pandemic shifted most traditional conference activity into the digital realm, making Dreamforce and related types of content available year-round in video format makes some sense in that context.

Precisely how the company will justify the sizable addition to its marketing budget will be interesting; measuring ROI from video products is not entirely straightforward when it is not monetized directly. And sooner or later it will have to have some direct or indirect impact on the business or face questions from shareholders on the purpose of the venture.

#cloud, #crm, #dreamforce, #enterprise, #marc-benioff, #marketing, #saas, #salesforce, #slack, #streaming-media, #tc, #video

Salesforce’s Kathy Baxter is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS to talk AI

As the use of AI has grown and developed over the last several years, companies like Salesforce have tried to tap into it to improve their software and help customers operate faster and more efficiently. Kathy Baxter, principal architect for the ethical AI practice at Salesforce will be joining us at TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS on October 27th to talk about the impact of AI on SaaS.

Baxter, who has more than 20 years of experience as a software architect, joined Salesforce in 2017 after more than a decade at Google in a similar role. We’re going to tap into her expertise on a panel discussing AI’s growing role in software.

Salesforce was one of the earlier SaaS adherents to AI, announcing its artificial intelligence tooling, which the company dubbed Einstein, in 2016. While the positioning makes it sound like a product, it’s actually much more than a single entity. It’s a platform component, which the various pieces of the Salesforce platform can tap into to take advantage of various types of AI to help improve the user experience.

That could involve feeding information to customer service reps on Service Cloud to make the call move along more efficiently, helping salespeople find the customers most likely to close a deal soon in the Sales Cloud or helping marketing understand the optimal time to send an email in the Marketing Cloud.

The company began building out its AI tooling early on with the help of 175 data scientists and has been expanding on that initial idea since. Other companies, both startups and established companies like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft have continued to build AI into their platforms as Salesforce has. Today, many SaaS companies have some underlying AI built into their service.

Baxter will join us to discuss the role of AI in software today and how that helps improve the operations of the service itself, and what the implications are of using AI in your software service as it becomes a mainstream part of the SaaS development process.

In addition to our discussion with Baxter, the conference will also include Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, UiPath’s Daniel Dines, Puppet’s Abby Kearns, and investors Casey Aylward and Sarah Guo, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a stimulating day.

Buy your pass now to save up to $100, and use CrunchMatch to make expanding your empire quick, easy and efficient. We can’t wait to see you in October!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#abby-kearns, #ali-ghodsi, #artificial-intelligence, #casey-aylward, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #computing, #daniel-dines, #databricks, #enterprise, #google, #information-technology, #kathy-baxter, #microsoft, #oracle, #salesforce, #sap, #sarah-guo, #tc, #tc-sessions-saas-2021, #uipath

OwnBackup reels in $240M Series E on $3.35B valuation, up from $1.4B in January

OwnBackup, the late stage startup that helps companies in the Salesforce ecosystem back up their data, announced a $240 million Series E today at a $3.35 billion valuation. The latter is up from $1.4 billion in January when the company announced a $167.5 million Series D.

Alkeon Capital and B Capital Group co-led today’s investment, which also included BlackRock Private Equity Partners and Tiger Global along with existing investors Insight Partners, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire Ventures and Vertex Ventures. The company has now raised close to $500 million, over $455 million coming since last July.

That’s a lot of capital, but OwnBackup CEO Sam Gutmann says that as the Salesforce ecosystem has grown, which includes not only Salesforce itself, but companies like Veeva and nCino, business has been booming, growing 100% year-over-year since 2018. That kind of growth gets investor attention and Gutmann reported a lot of inbound investor interest in this round.

What’s more, the company announced that it will now support the same type of backup for Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers, thereby greatly expanding its potential market. “We’re also announcing that we are expanding into the Microsoft ecosystem specifically around Microsoft Dynamics 365’s huge ecosystem. I think it’s the second largest B2B SaaS ecosystem beyond Salesforce. We’re just getting started there, but super excited about the opportunity,” he said.

The company also sees the opportunity to grow the business through acquisition. Over the last year, it bought two small companies, but he says that was more focussed on acquiring specific talent to develop the platform, while future acquisitions could be more focussed on expanding the business itself. He certainl

As the company takes on this kind of investment, Gutmann sees an IPO possibility at some point in the future, but for now he’s concentrating on growth. “We’re not focused on exiting. We’ve really focused on developing what is already a huge market and growing into an even bigger market, continuing to expand with a business that has great unit economics and continues to grow nicely,” he said.

The company has ballooned to 500 employees this year with plans to double that number in the next year. As he does that, Gutmann says that hiring in general is challenging, but he is always looking to find ways to diversify his workforce. “It’s really, really hard. Our hiring managers definitely focus on [diversity], but at the end of the day, we want the best employees for the job. I think we’ve made a lot of strides. We’re working with one of our largest investors Insight, who is co-sponsoring a program to train, more on the junior side, some underrepresented minorities in technical fields and bring them on as full time employees after that program,” Gutmann said.

Gutmann says his offices have remained open throughout the pandemic, but nobody was required to come in. In fact, he says that his company is one of the few that has actually added office space to make it easier to distance. The company, which is located in New Jersey, has also expanded space outdoors for working outside when the weather permits.

#cloud, #cloud-backup, #enterprise, #funding, #microsoft-dynamics, #ownbackup, #recent-funding, #salesforce, #startups, #tc

Salesforce steps into RPA buying Servicetrace and teaming it with Mulesoft

Over the last couple of years, Robotic Process Automation or RPA has been red hot with tons of investor activity and M&A from companies like SAP, IBM and ServiceNow. UIPath had a major IPO in April and has a market cap over $30 billion. I wondered when Salesforce would get involved and today the company dipped its toe into the RPA pool, announcing its intent to buy German RPA company Servicetrace.

Salesforce intends to make Servicetrace part of Mulesoft, the company it bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion. The companies aren’t divulging the purchase price, suggesting it’s a much smaller deal. When Servicetrace is in the fold, it should fit in well with Mulesoft’s API integration, helping to add an automation layer to Mulesoft’s tool kit.

“With the addition of Servicetrace, MuleSoft will be able to deliver a leading unified integration, API management, and RPA platform, which will further enrich the Salesforce Customer 360 — empowering organizations to deliver connected experiences from anywhere. The new RPA capabilities will enhance Salesforce’s Einstein Automate solution, enabling end-to-end workflow automation across any system for Service, Sales, Industries, and more,” Mulesoft CEO Brent Hayward wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

While Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence layer, gives companies with more modern tooling the ability to automate certain tasks, RPA is suited to more legacy operations, and this acquisition could be another step in helping Salesforce bridge the gap between older on-prem tools and more modern cloud software.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that it brings another dimension to Salesforce’s digital transformation tools. “It didn’t take Salesforce long to move to the next acquisition after closing their biggest purchase with Slack. But automation of processes and workflows fueled by realtime data coming from a growing variety sources is becoming a key to finding success with digital transformation. And this adds a critical piece to that puzzle for Salesforce/MulseSoft,” he said.

While it feels like Salesforce is joining the market late, in an investor survey we published in May Laela Sturdy, general partner at CapitalG told us that we are just skimming the surface so far when it comes to RPA’s potential.

“We’re a long way from needing to think about the space maturing. In fact, RPA adoption is still in its early infancy when you consider its immense potential. Most companies are only now just beginning to explore the numerous use cases that exist across industries. The more enterprises dip their toes into RPA, the more use cases they envision,” Sturdy responded in the survey.

Servicetrace was founded in 2004, long before the notion of RPA even existed. Neither Crunchbase nor Pitchbook shows any money raised, but the website suggests a mature company with a rich product set. Customers include Fujitsu, Siemens, Merck and Deutsche Telekom.

#automation, #cloud, #enterprise, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #rpa, #salesforce, #tc

Box unwraps its answer to the $3.8B e-signature market: Box Sign

Box released its new native e-signature product Box Sign on Monday, providing e-signature capability and unlimited signatures as part of Box’s business and enterprise plans at no additional cost.

The launch comes five months after the Redwood City, California-based company agreed to acquire e-signature startup SignRequest for $55 million.

Box CEO Aaron Levie told TechCrunch the company is already securing content management for 100,000 businesses, and Box Sign represents “a breakthrough product for the company” — a new category in which Box can help customers with business processes.

“We are building out a content cloud that powers the lifecycle of content so customers can retain and manage it,” Levie said. “Everyday, there are more transactions around onboarding a customer, closing a deal or an audit, but these are still done manually. We are moving that to digital and enabling the request of signatures around the content.”

Here’s how it works: Users can send documents for e-signature directly from Box to anyone, even those without a Box account. Places for signature requests and approvals can be created anywhere on the document. All of this integrates across popular apps like Salesforce and includes email reminders and deadline notifications. As with Box’s offerings, the signatures are also secure and compliant.

The global e-signature software market was estimated to be around $1.8 billion in 2020, according to Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, while IDC expects it to grow to $3.8 billion by 2023.

Levie considers the market still early as less than one-third of organizations use e-signature due to legacy tool limitations and cost barriers, revealing massive future opportunities. However, that may be changing: Box worked with banks during the pandemic that were still relying on mailing, scanning and faxing documents to help them adapt to digital processes. It also surveyed its customers last year around product capabilities, and the No. 1 “ask” was e-signature, he said.

He mentioned major players DocuSign and Adobe Sign — two products it will continue to integrate with — among the array of technology within the space. He said that Box is not trying to compete with any player, but saw a need from customers and wanted to proceed with an option for them.

The e-signature offering also follows the hiring of Diego Dugatkin in June as Box’s new chief product officer. Prior to joining, Dugatkin was vice president of product management for Adobe Document Cloud and led strategy and execution for Adobe’s suite of products, including Adobe Sign.

“Our strategy has been for many years to expand our portfolio and power more advanced use cases, as well as a vision to have one platform to manage everything,” Levie said. “Diego has two decades of tremendous domain experience, and he will make a massive dent in powering this for us.”

In addition to the e-signature product, Box also introduced its Enterprise Plus plan that includes all of the company’s major add-ons, as well as advanced e-signature capabilities that will be available later this summer, the company said.

 

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