4 proven approaches to CX strategy that make customers feel loved

Customers have been “experiencing” business since the ancient Romans browsed the Forum for produce, pottery and leather goods. But digitization has radically recalibrated the buyer-seller dynamic, fueling the rise of one of the most talked-about industry acronyms: CX (customer experience).

Part paradigm, part category and part multibillion-dollar market, CX is a broad term used across a myriad of contexts. But great CX boils down to delighting every customer on an emotional level, anytime and anywhere a business interaction takes place.

Great CX boils down to delighting every customer on an emotional level, anytime and anywhere a business interaction takes place.

Optimizing CX requires a sophisticated tool stack. Customer behavior should be tracked, their needs must be understood, and opportunities to engage proactively must be identified. Wall Street, for one, is taking note: Qualtrics, the creator of “XM” (experience management) as a category, was spun-out from SAP and IPO’d in January, and Sprinklr, a social media listening solution that has expanded into a “Digital CXM” platform, recently filed to go public.

Thinking critically about customer experience is hardly a new concept, but a few factors are spurring an inflection point in investment by enterprises and VCs.

Firstly, brands are now expected to create a consistent, cohesive experience across multiple channels, both online and offline, with an ever-increasing focus on the former. Customer experience and the digital customer experience are rapidly becoming synonymous.

The sheer volume of customer data has also reached new heights. As a McKinsey report put it, “Today, companies can regularly, lawfully, and seamlessly collect smartphone and interaction data from across their customer, financial, and operations systems, yielding deep insights about their customers … These companies can better understand their interactions with customers and even preempt problems in customer journeys. Their customers are reaping benefits: Think quick compensation for a flight delay, or outreach from an insurance company when a patient is having trouble resolving a problem.”

Moreover, the app economy continues to raise the bar on user experience, and end users have less patience than ever before. Each time Netflix displays just the right movie, Instagram recommends just the right shoes, or TikTok plays just the right dog video, people are being trained to demand just a bit more magic.

#brand-management, #column, #customer-experience, #customer-experience-analytics, #customer-experience-management, #customer-satisfaction, #cx, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #enterprise, #marketing, #qualtrics, #sap, #sprinklr, #startups

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Just 72 hours left to save $100 on passes to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

So much can happen in 72 hours, and it’s easy to get distracted — especially when you’re building a startup in the fast lane that is mobility tech. But listen up: you have just 72 hours left to save $100 on your pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9.

Don’t let “busy” distract you. Buy your pass to Mobility 2021 before the price increase goes into effect on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Why should you attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? It’s where you can tap into the latest trends, regulatory concerns, technical and ethical challenges surrounding the technologies that will forever change how we move people and material goods across towns, cities, states, countries — and space.

Or, as Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager at SAP, told us:

“TC Sessions Mobility is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re an early-stage founder. You get to connect to people in your field and learn from founders who are literally a year into your same journey. Plus, you can meet and talk to the movers and shakers — the people who are making it happen.”

Take a gander at just some of the fascinating people and topics waiting for you and see the event agenda here.

  • Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.
  • EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. We’ll chat with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.
  • The Future of Flight: Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt spent more than a decade quietly developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Now he is preparing for a new phase of growth as Joby Aviation merges with the special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and Linked co-founder Reid Hoffman. Bevirt and Hoffman will come to our virtual stage to talk about how to build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Pro tip: Between the live stream and video on demand, you can keep your work schedule on track without missing out.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have only 72 short hours left to save $100 on all the info and opportunity that TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 offers. Kick distractions to the curb. Buy your pass before the early bird price disappears on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

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

#alex-wang, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #automotive, #av, #ben-schippers, #co-founder, #electric-aircraft, #emerging-technologies, #fitbit, #joby-aviation, #reid-hoffman, #renewable-energy, #robotics, #sap, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-car, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tezlab, #video-on-demand

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SAP CEO Christian Klein looks back on his first year

SAP CEO Christian Klein was appointed co-CEO with Jennifer Morgan last April just as the pandemic was hitting full force across the world. Within six months, Morgan was gone and he was sole CEO, put in charge of a storied company at 38 years old. By October, its stock price was down and revenue projections for the coming years were flat.

That is definitely not the way any CEO wants to start their tenure, but the pandemic forced Klein to make some decisions to move his customers to the cloud faster. That, in turn, had an impact on revenue until the transition was completed. While it makes sense to make this move now, investors weren’t happy with the news.

There was also the decision to spin out Qualtrics, the company his predecessor acquired for $8 billion in 2018. As he looked back on the one-year mark, Klein sat down with me to discuss all that has happened and the unique set of challenges he faced.

Just a pandemic, no biggie

Starting in the same month that a worldwide pandemic blows up presents unique challenges for a new leader. For starters, Klein couldn’t visit anyone in person and get to know the team. Instead, he went straight to Zoom and needed to make sure everything was still running.

The CEO says that the company kept chugging along in spite of the disruption. “When I took over this new role, I of course had some concerns about how to support 400,000 customers. After one year, I’ve been astonished. Our support centers are running without disruption and we are proud of that and continue to deliver value,” he said.

Taking over when he couldn’t meet in person with employees or customers has worked out better than he thought. “It was much better than I expected, and of course personally for me, it’s different. I’m the CEO, but I wasn’t able to travel and so I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the U.S., and this is something that I’m looking forward to now, meeting people and talking to them live,” he said.

That’s something he simply wasn’t able to do for his first year because of travel restrictions, so he says communication has been key, something a lot of executives have discussed during COVID. “I’m in regular contact with the employees, and we do it virtually. Still, it’s not the same as when you do it live, but it helps a lot these days. I would say you cannot over-communicate in such times,” he said.

#christian-klein, #cloud, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #enterprise, #erp, #sap, #tc

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Norwegian corporate training startup Attensi raises $26M from NYC’s Lugard Road, DX Ventures

Corporate training startup Attensi — which originally emerged out of Oslo, Norway — has raised $26 million from New York-based Lugard Road Capital, DX Ventures (a VC fund backed by Delivery Hero), and existing shareholder Viking Venture. The new funding will be used to expand in North America and Europe.

Attensi uses a ‘gamified approach to corporate training, putting employees into 3D simulations of their workplace and work processes. Its competitors include companies like GoSkills, Mindflash SAP Litmos Skilljar.

With the pandemic shifting all office work to remote, digital training platforms like this stand to benefit.

This is also yet another recent example of how US VCs are ‘going hunting’ for startups in Europe, putting pressure on local VCs.

Attensi co-founder and co-CEO, Trond Aas said in a statement: “With gamified simulation training, we have combined the best of workplace psychology with our expertise in simulations and gamification to create a new category of training solutions.”

The company claims it’s experienced a 63% CAGR in annual recurring revenue. Its clients include Daimler Mercedes Benz, Circle K, Equinor, BCG, and ASDA.

Doug Friedman, a partner at Lugard Road Capital, said: “We could not be more excited to be investing in the Attensi team as they work to forever change and improve corporate learning and development through their Attensi solutions.”

#articles, #business, #companies, #daimler, #delivery-hero, #europe, #gamification, #gaming, #lugard-road-capital, #new-york, #north-america, #norway, #oslo, #partner, #sap, #simulation, #startup-company, #tc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Tetrate, the company born out of Istio’s open source app networking project, raises $40 million

Tetrate, the company commercializing an open source networking project that allows for easier data sharing across different applications, has raised $40 million.

The round, led by Sapphire Ventures underscores the importance of the Istio project and just how critical services that facilitate cross-platform data sharing have become.

Sapphire was joined by other new investors including Scale Venture Partners and NTTVC, along with existing investors, Dell Technologies Capital, Intel Capital, 8VC, and Samsung NEXT.

The company said it would use the cash to further develop its hybrid cloud application networking platform and support a new product, based on Istio, that makes the application service mesh easier to use, according to a statement from the company. Geographic expansion to Latin America, Europe and Asia is also on the menu now that it has 40 million simoleons to play around with (personally I’d have converted all that money into bills and gone swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck).

“As the microservices revolution picks up steam, it’s indispensable to use Istio for managing applications built with microservices and deployed on containers. Both the product and background of the founding team lead us to believe that Tetrate is poised to bring Istio into the mainstream for enterprises by making it easy to manage and deploy on multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments,” said Jai Das, the partner, president and co-founder of Sapphire’s multi-billion dollar firm, who’s joining the Tetrate board. “The applications we use daily require a lot of work in the background, and Tetrate helps make that happen with its Istio-based service mesh technology, which helps route traffic between microservices, add visibility and enhance security.”

Founded in 2018, Tetrate formally launched in 2019 with a $12.5 million round that boosted the company’s profile and helped the company commercialize and professionalize services around the Istio and Envoy Proxy open source projects.

Tons of really big customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense use Tetrate’s services currently. In the military, Tetrate powers the DevSecOps platform called Platform One.

“We partnered with Tetrate to help secure and smoothly operate Platform One with Istio. Platform One works with the most critical systems across the DoD. The Tetrate team has provided world class expertise, trained our team members, reviewed our platform architecture and configurations, and helped with debugging and upgrades,” said Nicolas Chaillan, the chief software officer for the US Air Force, in a statement. “We’re getting excellent production support for running our platform smoothly and we rely on them and their platform for a critical layer of our stack.”

#asia, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #dell-technologies-capital, #department-of-defense, #envoy, #europe, #intel-capital, #jai-das, #latin-america, #microservices, #proxy, #samsung, #sap, #sapphire-ventures, #scale-venture-partners, #tc, #technology, #tetrate, #us-air-force

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From the ashes of nearly a billion dollars, Ample resurrects Better Place’s battery swapping business model

A little over thirteen years ago, Shai Agassi, a promising software executive who was in line to succeed the chief executive at SAP, then one of the world’s mightiest software companies, left the company he’d devoted the bulk of his professional career to and started a business called Better Place.

That startup promised to revolutionize the nascent electric vehicle market and make range anxiety a thing of the past. The company’s pitch? A network of automated battery swapping stations that would replace spent batteries with freshly charged ones.

Agassi’s company would go on to raise nearly $1 billion (back when that was considered a large sum of money) from some of the world’s top venture capital and growth equity firms. By 2013 it would be bankrupt and one of the many casualties of the first wave of cleantech investing.

Now serial entrepreneurs John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah are reviving the battery swapping business model with a startup called Ample and an approach that they say solves some of the problems that Better Place could never address at a time when the adoption of electric vehicles is creating a far larger addressable market.

In 2013, there were 220,000 vehicles on roads, according to data from Statista, a number which has grown to 4.8 million by 2019.

Ample has actually raised approximately $70 million from investors including Shell Ventures, the Spanish energy company Repsol, and the venture capital arm of the $10 billion money manager, Moore Capital Management. That includes a $34 million investment first reported back in 2018, and a later round from investors including Japan’s energy and metals company, Eneos Holdings that closed recently.

“We had a lot of people that either said, I somehow was involved in that and was suffering from PTSD,” said de Souza, of the similarities between his business and Better Place. “The people who weren’t involved read up about it and then ran away.”

For Ample, the difference is in the modularization of the battery pack and how that changes the relationship with the automakers that would use the technology.

“The approach we’ve taken… is to modularize the battery and then we have an adapter plate that is the structural element of the battery that has the same shape of the battery, same bolt pattern and same software interface. Even though we provide the same battery system.. .it’s same as replacing the tire,” said Hassounah, Ample’s co-founder and chief executive. “Effectively we’re giving them the plate. We don’t modify the car whatsoever. You either put a fixed battery system or an Ample battery plate. We’re able to work with the OEMS where you can make the battery swappable for the use cases where this makes a lot of sense. Without really changing the same vehicle.”

Ample’s currently working with five different OEMs and has validated its approach to battery swapping with nine different car models. One of those OEMs also brings back memories of Better Place.

It’s clear that the company has a deal with Nissan for the Leaf thanks to the other partnership that Ample has announced with Uber. Ample’s founders declined to comment on any OEM relationships.

It’s clear that Ample is working with Nissan because Nissan is the company that inked a deal with Uber earlier this year on zero-emission mobility. And Uber is the first company to use Ample’s robotic charging stations at a few locations in the Bay Area, the company said. This work with Nissan echoes Better Place’s one partnership with Renault, another arm of the automaker, which proved to be the biggest deal for the older, doomed, battery swapping startup.

Ample says it only takes weeks to set up one of its charging pods at a facility and that the company’s charging drivers on energy delivered per mile. “We achieve economics that are 10% to 20% cheaper than gas. We are profitable on day one,” said Hassounah.

Uber is the first step. Ample is focused on fleets first and is in talks with multiple, undisclosed municipalities to get their cars added to the system. So far, Ample has done thousands of swaps, according to Hassounah with just Uber drivers alone.

The cars can also be charged at traditional charging facilities, Hassounah said, and the company’s billing system knows the split between the amount of energy it delivers versus another charging outlet, Hassounah said.

“So far, in the use cases that we have, for ride sharing it’s individual drivers who pay,” said de Souza. With the five fleets that Ample expects to deploy with later this year the company expects to have the fleet managers and owners pay for. charging.

Some of the inspiration for Ample came from Hassounah’s earlier experience working at One laptop per child, where he was forced to rethink assumptions about how the laptops would be used, the founder said.

“Initially i worked on the keyboard display and then quickly realized the challenge was in the field and developed a framework for creating infrastructure,” Hassounah said.

The problem was the initial design of the system did not take into account lack of access to power for laptops at children’s homes. So the initiative developed a charging unit for swapping batteries. Children would use their laptops over the course of the day and take them home, and when they needed a fresh charge, they would swap out the batteries.

“There are fleets that need this exact solution,” said de Souza. But there are advantages for individual car owners as well, he said. “The experience for the owner of a vehicle is after time the battery degrades. With ours as we put new batteries in the car can go further and further over time.” 

Right now, OEMs are sending cars without batteries and Ample is just installing their charging system, said Hassounah, but as the number of vehicles using the system rises above 1,000, the company expects to send their plates to manufacturers, who can then have Ample install their own packs.

Currently, Ample only supports level one and level two charging, but won’t offer fast charging options for the car makers it works with — likely because that option would cannibalize the company’s business and potentially obviate the need for its swapping technology.

At issue is the time it takes to charge a car. Fast chargers still take between 20 and 30 minutes to charge up, but advances in technologies should drive that figure down. Even if fast charging ultimately becomes a better option, Ample’s founders say they view their business as an additive step to faster electric vehicle adoption.

“When you’re moving 1 billion cars, you need everything… We have so many cars we need to put on the road,” Hassounah said. “We think we need all solutions to solve the problem. As you think of fleet applications you need a solution that can match gas in charge and not speed. Fast charging is not available in mass. The challenge will not be can the battery be charged in 5 minutes. The cost of building  charges that can deliver that amount of power is prohibitive.”

Looking beyond charging, Ample sees opportunities in the grid power market as well, the two founders said.

“Time shift is built into our economics… that’s another way we can help,” said de Souza. “We use that as grid storage… we can do demand charge and now that the federal mandate is there to feed into the grid we can help stabilize the grid by feeding back energy.. We don’t have a lot of stations to make a significant impact. As we scale up this year we will.”

Currently the company is operating at a storage capacity of tens of megawatts per hour, according to Hassounah.

“We can use the side storage to accelerate the development of swapping stations,” de Souza said. “You don’t have to invest an insane amount of money to put them in. We can finance the batteries in multiple ways as well as utilize other sources of financing.” 

Ample co-founders John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah. Image Credit: Ample

#ample, #better-place, #cars, #charging-station, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #inductive-charging, #japan, #lithium-ion-battery, #nissan, #nissan-leaf, #one-laptop-per-child, #range-anxiety, #renault, #repsol, #sap, #shai-agassi, #shell-ventures, #tc, #transport, #uber, #venture-capital

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Robotic process automation platform UiPath raises $750M at $35B valuation

UiPath, one of the leaders in the quickly growing robotic process automation (RPA) space, announced Monday that it has closed on $750 million in Series F funding at a staggering post-money valuation of $35 billion.

Existing backers Alkeon Capital and Coatue co-led the round, which also included participation from other returning investors such as Altimeter Capital, Dragoneer, IVP, Sequoia, Tiger Global, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. The financing brings the New York-based company’s total raised to nearly $2 billion since inception, according to Crunchbase.

UiPath was founded in 2005 but didn’t raise institutional capital until 2015, according to Crunchbase. CNBC reported in December that the company had annual revenue of about $360 million and over 6,300 customers including Amazon, Bank of America and Verizon.

UiPath’s self-proclaimed mission is “to unlock human creativity and ingenuity by enabling the Fully Automated Enterprise™ and empowering workers through automation.” Its Automation Platform aims to “transform the way humans work” by giving companies a way to build out and run automations across departments.

The company uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in an effort to “automate millions of repetitive, mind-numbing tasks for business and government organizations all over the world, improving productivity, customer experience and employee job satisfaction.” Its goal is to give workers the mental energy and time to focus on more complex jobs. Competitors include Microsoft Power Automate, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere. SAP also recently entered the space.

The company has been growing like crazy. Back when I covered its $568 million Series D in April of 2019, UiPath had 400,000 users in 200 countries. At the time, the company said it had increased its annual recurring revenue (ARR) from $8 million in April 2017 to over $200 million. UiPath said then it had grown its headcount by 16 times over a two-year period, to more than 2,500 employees. It also hinted that it was considering an IPO.

True to its word, UiPath in December submitted a draft registration to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. So it’s especially interesting that it raised such a huge round now.

For some, UiPath’s going public could be the Snowflake IPO of 2021. Alternative payments provider Affirm followed a similar path recently – raising $500 million before filing for an IPO weeks later.

UiPath declined to comment on its latest funding round beyond a press release.

#alkeon-capital, #altimeter-capital, #artificial-intelligence, #automation-anywhere, #blue-prism, #business-software, #machine-learning, #microsoft, #robotic-process-automation, #sap, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #tc, #tiger-global, #uipath

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#Hintergrund – Wer beim Signavio-Exit an SAP nun Millionen vom Tisch nehmen kann


Der deutsche Software-Gigant SAP übernimmt das Berliner Software-Startup Signaviound zahlt dafür wohl rund 1 Milliarde Euro. Nach der spektakulären Milliardenübernahme von flaschenpost.de durch Dr. Oetker vor wenigen Wochen zahlt somit erneut ein deutsches Unternehmen rund 1 Milliarde Euro für ein heimisches Startup. Noch vor wenigen Monaten eine quasi völlig undenkbare Sache. Wenn überhaupt kauften bisher amerikanische Konzerne deutsche Startups und griffen dafür tief in die Kasse.

Bei flaschenpost.de nahmen insbesondere der amerikanische Finanzinvestor Tiger Global, der Berliner Kapitalgeber Cherry Ventures, die portugiesische Unternehmerfamilie Dos Santos, Brightfolk, also Anders Holch Povlsen (Bestseller Group) und der stille Geldgeber Hedosophia, hinter dem insbesondere der US-Unternehmer Michael Bloomberg steckt, Millionen vom Tisch. Die Flaschenpost-Macher – das Management und Gründer Dieter Büchl – hielten zuletzt noch 25 % am Unternehmen – siehe: “Diese Investoren nehmen bei Flaschenpost Millionen vom Tisch“.

Und wie sieht es nun bei Signavio, das eine B2B-Software zur Prozessoptimierung anbietet, aus? Gründer Gero Decker hielt zuletzt rund 15,2 % an Signavio. Dies bedeutet auf dem Papier rund 152 Millionen Euro. Signavio-Mitgründer Nicolas Peters, bis Sommer des vergangenen Jahres beim Software-Startup tätig, hielt zuletzt rund 9,3 % am Unternehmen. Auf Mitgründer Willi Tscheschner (CTO) entfielen zuletzt rund 9,5 % der Firmenanteile. Mitgründer Torben Schreiter, bis 2016 bei Signavio tätig, kam kurz vor dem Exit auf 2,8 %.

Neben den Gründern profitieren aber auch etliche Mitarbeiter vom Milliardenverkauf: Gerrit de Veer, SVP Sales MEE bei Signavio, war zuletzt mit knapp 6 % an Bord. Auf Markus “Mark” Holenstein (COO) und Daniel Rosenthal (CFO) entfielen zuletzt jeweils rund 0,6 %. Holenstein wirkt seit Anfang 2017 bei Signavio. Zuvor war er bei SAP tätig. Rosenthal wiederum ist seit April 2018 bei Signavio an Bord. Im Idealfall konnten die Gründer und das langjährige Management beim Exit somit rund 440 Millionen mitnehmen.

Nun zu den Investoren: Der amerikanische Geldgeber Summit Partners, seit 2015 bei Signavio dabei, hielt beim Exit noch rund 8,1 % am Unternehmen. Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners – inzwischen besser unter dem Kürzel DTCP bekannt – 6,6 %. Der amerikanische Investor Apax, der wie DTCP 2019 bei Sgnavio eingestiegen ist, wiederum war zuletzt mit 40,6 % an Bord. Was im besten Fall nun über 400 Millionen eingebracht hat. Zu guter Letzt war auch noch GP Bullhound an Signavio beteiligt (0,4 %).

Was noch wichtig zu wissen ist: Beim Einstieg von Apax vor rund eineinhalb Jahren verkündete Signavio damals ein Investment in Höhe von rund 157 Millionen Euro. Die Bewertung soll damals bei 350 Millionen Euro gelegen haben. Bei der letzten Investmentrunde sind aber nur rund 40 Millionen Euro direkt ins Unternehmen geflossen, der größte Anteil entfiel auf sogenannte Secondaries. Andere Anteilseigner – etwa die Gründer und Summit Partners – verkauften damals Anteile an Apax. Auch DTCP kaufte beim Einstieg zahlreiche Anteile von vorherigen Investoren. Insgesamt flossen in den vergangenen Jahren “nur” rund 63 Millionen Euro direkt in Signavio und nicht wie oftmals geschrieben rund 190 Millionen Euro.

Jetzt noch ein paar weitere Zahlen: 2019 erwirtschaftete Signavio einen Umsatz in Höhe von 28,6 Millionen Euro, der Jahresfehlbetrag lag bei knapp 20 Millionen. 2020 lief es besser als zunächst erwartet für das Unternehmen! “Nachdem das Wachstum des SaaS-Vertragsbestandes in 2020 bis zum Zeitpunkt dieses Berichts trotz der Coronavirus-Pandemie sogar über dem Vorjahresniveau lag, wird 2020 und 2021 nach dem Abklingen der Corona-Epidemie ein beschleunigtes Wachstum erwartet. Das ursprüngliche Umsatzziel 2020 zwar nicht erreicht, aber die Prognose vom April 2020 wird deutlich übertroffen”, heißt es im Jahresabschluss für 2019.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): signavio

#aktuell, #apax, #berlin, #dtcp, #gp-bullhound, #sap, #signavio, #summit-partners, #venture-capital

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SAP is buying Berlin business process automation startup Signavio

Rumors have been flying this week that SAP was going to buy Berlin business process automation startup Signavio, and sure enough the company made it official today. The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the deal could be worth $1.2 billion.

With Signavio SAP gets a cloud native business process management tool. SAP CFO Luka Mucic sees a world where understanding and automating businesses processes has become a key part of a company’s digital transformation efforts.

“I cannot overstress the importance for companies to be able to design, benchmark, improve and transform business processes across the enterprise to support new capabilities and business models,” he said in a statement.

While traditional enterprise BPA tools have existed for years, having a cloud native tool gives SAP a much more modern approach to attacking this problem, and being able to automate business processes via the cloud has become more important during the pandemic when many many employees are working entirely from home.

SAP also sees Signavio as a key missing piece in the company’s Business Process Intelligence unit. “The combination of business process intelligence from SAP and Signavio creates a leading end-to-end business process transformation suite to help our customers achieve the requirements needed to gain a competitive edge,” he said.

SAP has been making moves into process automation of late. In fact at SAP TechEd in December, the company announced SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, its foray into the RPA space. This should fit in nicely alongside it.

Dr. Gero Decker, Savigno co-founder and CEO, sees SAP resources helping push the company beyond what it could have done on its own. “Considering the positioning of SAP, its geographical coverage and financial muscle, SAP is the biggest and best platform to bring process intelligence to every organization,” he said in a statement.

The increased resources and reach argument is one that just about every acquired company CEO makes, but being pulled into a company the size of SAP can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it has vast resources, but it’s also hard for an acquired company to find its place in a very large pond. How well they fit in and make that transition from startup to big company piece, will go a long way in determining the success of this transaction in the long run.

Signavio launched in 2009 in Berlin and has raised almost $230 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors include Apax Digital and Summit Partners. The most recent investment was July 2019 Series C for $177 million, which came in at a $400 million valuation.

Customers include Comcast, Bosch, Liberty Mutual, and yes SAP. Perhaps it will be getting a discount now.

#business-process-automation, #cloud, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #rpa, #saas, #sap, #signavio, #startups, #tc

0

SAP launches ‘RISE with SAP,’ a concierge service for digital transformation

SAP today announced a new offering it calls ‘RISE with SAP,’ a solution that is meant to help the company’s customers go through their respective digital transformations and become what SAP calls ‘intelligent enterprises.’ RISE is a subscription service that combines a set of services and product offerings.

SAP’s head of product success Sven Denecken (and its COO for S/4Hana) described it as “the best concierge service you can get for your digital transformation” when I talked to him earlier this week. “We need to help our clients to embrace that change that they see currently,” he said. “Transformation is a journey. Every client wants to become that smarter, faster and that nimbler business, but they, of course, also see that they are faced with challenges today and in the future. This continuous transformation is what is happening to businesses. And we do know from working together with them, that actually they agree with those fundamentals. They want to be an intelligent enterprise. They want to adapt and change. But the key question is how to get there? And the key question they ask us is, please help us to get there.”

With RISE for SAP, businesses will get a single contact at SAP to help guide them through their journey, but also access to the SAP partner ecosystem.

The first step in this process, Denecken stressed, isn’t necessarily to bring in new technology, though that is also part of it, but to help businesses redesign and optimize their business processes and implement the best practices in their verticals — and then measure the outcome. “Business process redesign means that you analyze how your business processes perform. How can you get tailored recommendations? How can you benchmark against industry standards? And this helps you to set the tone and also to motivate your people — your IT, your business people — to adapt,” Denecken described. He also noted that in order for a digital transformation project to succeed, IT and business leaders and employees have to work together.

In part, that includes technology offerings and adopting robotic process automation (RPA), for example. As Denecken stressed, all of this builds on top of the work SAP has done with its customers over the years to define business processes and KPIs.

On the technical side, SAP is obviously offering its own services, including its Business Technology Platform, and cloud infrastructure, but it will also support customers on all of the large cloud providers. Also included in RISE is support for more than 2,200 APIs to integrate various on-premises, cloud and non-SAP systems, access to SAP’s low-code and no-code capabilities and, of course, its database and analytics offerings.

“Geopolitical tensions, environmental challenges and the ongoing pandemic are forcing businesses to deal with change faster than ever before,” said Christian Klein, SAP’s CEO, in today’s announcement. “Companies that can adapt their business processes quickly will thrive – and SAP can help them achieve this. This is what RISE with SAP is all about: It helps customers continuously unlock new ways of running businesses in the cloud to stay ahead of their industry.”

With this new offering, SAP is now providing its customers with a number of solutions that were previously available through its partner ecosystem. Denecken doesn’t see this as SAP competing with its own partners, though. Instead, he argues that this is very much a partner play and that this new solution will likely only bring more customers to its partners as well.

“Needless to say, this has been a negotiation with those partners,” he said. “Because yes, it’s sometimes topics that we now take over they [previously] did. But we are looking for scale here. The need in the market for digital transformation has just started. And this is where we see that this is definitely a big offering, together with partners. “

#articles, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #coo, #digital-transformation, #enterprise, #erp-software, #sap, #technology

0

The long road to the Qualtrics IPO

Speculation around the Qualtrics public offering is nothing new. All the way back in 2016, CEO Ryan Smith was dropping not-so-subtle hints about his intentions to file for IPO. After a decade bootstrapping, and growing to $50 million in annual revenue, the company was swayed into taking outside capital from Sequoia, and then again from Sequoia, Accel, and Insight Venture Partners.

TechCrunch has written about the entire journey, and considering the unusual circumstances of the public offering paired with Qualtrics’ position outperforming its peer group, we thought it smart to take a look back at how the whole thing came together.


2017

After years of dodging the question, or offering up vague answers, Smith said the following in an interview with TechCrunch back in 2017:

We know that there’s a huge opportunity here and we’re being very thoughtful about it because it’s not about going public. Going public is super easy to do. Just file the S-1 and we’re out,” Smith told [TechCrunch]. “It’s about being public and how that works and getting the house in order to make sure that that’s the case. We’re going to be a great public company. We’re going public.

Just a couple days later, literally, Qualtrics raised $180 million at a $2.5 billion valuation, again from Sequoia, Accel, and Insight Venture Partners. At the time, it was the biggest investment Accel had ever made. The growth of the company was staggering — the experience management startup had gone from $50 million in revenue in 2012 to $250 million in revenue in 2017.

TechCrunch and many others speculated that the massive raise may not signal a delayed IPO, but rather a final financial push before listing on the public markets.

Smith was coy about whether that speculation was warranted:

We raised the money because we can. An IPO isn’t an exit. It should be the beginning and we wouldn’t be going out if we didn’t think that more wealth could be created post-IPO.

The company also launched its XM platform in 2017, an experience management platform that Smith implied would one day be as ubiquitous as Workday or Salesforce software in every office, but for managing internal feedback and helping organizations uncover key business drivers, predict future customer needs, and retain employees.

Sequoia Capital partner Bryan Schreier said at the time:

Qualtrics is an outlier. They have delivered outstanding, accelerating growth at nine-digit revenue numbers all while staying cash flow positive. That is practically unheard of. It’s an incredible sign of confidence in Qualtrics’ continued growth trajectory and the huge market for its new XM Platform that all of its investors have come back to buy as many shares as they could at this new valuation.


2018

In October of 2018, Qualtrics filed its S-1, which included third quarter results for the firm. Revenue was more than $100 million (up $8 million from the quarter before) and nearly 75 percent of that was gross profit. It was a strong quarterly performance and the perfect primer for a public offering.

The original plan was to sell 20.5 million shares in its debut for $18 to $21, which would have grossed up to $495 million, putting its valuation between $3.9 billion and $4.5 billion.

And then the unexpected happened.

SAP swooped in with an $8 billion acquisition offer. An offer that Qualtrics did not refuse. Its public offering was delayed (or scrapped, depending on how you look at it) yet again.

The idea was that SAP’s operational data combined with Qualtrics’ customer and user data would be a devastating blow to the competition and give the duo an unmatched level of power. Think Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. Think Eye of Sauron.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott said at the time:

The legacy players who carried their ‘90s technology into the 21st century just got clobbered. We have made existing participants in the market extinct.

If it wasn’t clear, he was talking about competitors like Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft and IBM.

As part of the acquisition announcement, Qualtrics offered yet another revenue update, saying it expected excess of $400 million in revenue for 2018 and a forward growth rate of more than 40 percent, synergies from the acquisition notwithstanding.


2020

Post-acquisition Qualtrics was a quieter Qualtrics, so we’ll skip past 2019 to 2020. Just 20 short months after being acquired, another twist in the plot: SAP announced it would spin out Qualtrics in a new IPO.

Noting the company’s cloud growth had been in excess of 40 percent, SAP said the company would continue to be run by founder Ryan Smith and, interestingly, mentioned that Smith intends to be Qualtrics’ largest individual shareholder. SAP, of course, would retain majority ownership of the company.

Though the announcement lacked much meat with its potatoes, it implied that Qualtrics could grow even more rapidly if not encircled by SAP’s corporate arms.

The spin-out strategy was a rare move for a company like SAP.

As my colleague Danny Crichton wrote at the time:

While private equity firms will take a company private and sometimes quickly turn it around in an IPO, it is rare to see a large company like SAP make such a dramatic last-minute bid for a company only to reverse that decision just months later.

Here at TechCrunch we were excited about the impending IPO. Here was a company that had nearly gone public, now going public again.

And just as the year was coming to a close, Qualtrics dropped its first (second, technically) S-1 filing. After digging through the numbers this was our takeaway from the data:

Qualtrics is growing at over 30%, and after enduring some post-acquisition costs that appear at least partially related to how SAP handled equity compensation, is back to a more acceptable level of losses on a GAAP basis and is doing perfectly fine when we observe its adjusted (non-GAAP) results.

As often happens when a company goes public while having a large corporate owners, Qualtrics’ accounting was harder to parse the second time around, but the bones of a nicely growing software company at scale were still there. How investors would value Utah’s giant was the next question.


2021

A few weeks later, Qualtrics dropped what would prove to be its first IPO pricing interval, targeting a range of $22 and $26 per share, giving the company a far larger value than it had targeted during its first run at the public markets.  Of course, Qualtrics was not only benefiting from its own growth and whatever boost it received from synergies with SAP, but also from frothy SaaS valuations and a frenetic public market.

At that price, with 50 million shares up for grabs, the target raise was north of $1 billion. If that sounds high recall that Qualtrics posted a revenue run rate of around $800 million. The company’s growth has kept up as well, with the company’s Q4 2020 midpoint revenue expanding more than 23% compared to its Q4 2019 performance.

All said and done, the S-1/A pegged Qualtrics’ early 2021 valuation at anywhere from $11.2 billion to $13.3 billion. Alex Wilhelm is much better at breaking down the numbers than me (or anyone, really) so I urge you to take a look at his coverage.

Wilhelm was also astute enough to recognize that the share pricing for Qualtrics’ IPO would likely be adjusted higher. And it was!

Yesterday, Qualtrics raised its share price from $22 – $26 to between $27 and $29, putting the valuation range between $13.8 billion to $14.8 billion. Yowzah!

  • New Qualtrics low-end IPO run rate multiple: 16.2x.
  • New Qualtrics high-end IPO run rate multiple: 17.4x.

Wilhelm noted that the Qualtrics share price may go up yet again, but also explained that while the multiples in play may feel low, it’s tough to be certain:

Those do not seem to be particularly high multiples for Qualtrics, given recent market norms. However, trying to decipher the public market lately has been similar to reading the Rosetta Stone, but written in Wingdings. While on acid. So, you never know what is going to happen when a company starts to trade.

There is one thing we know for sure: Qualtrics has showed growth in revenue and more profitability than most software companies during its entire existence. We’ve been waiting for this IPO for years now, literally, and while many pieces of the puzzle are uncertain, we’ll get our answers soon enough.

Unless of course some giant firm swoops in with a $20 billion acquisition offer. Now wouldn’t that be fitting?

 

#qualtrics, #sap, #tc

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A first look at Qualtrics’ IPO pricing

Earlier today, Qualtrics dropped a new S-1 filing, this time detailing its proposed IPO pricing. That means we can now get a good look at how much the company may be worth when it goes public later this month.

The debut has been one TechCrunch has been looking forward to since the company announced that it would be spun out from its erstwhile corporate parent, SAP. In 2019, the Germany-based enterprise giant SAP snatched up Qualtrics for $8 billion just before it was to go public.

Qualtrics is either worth less than we would have guessed, or its first IPO range feels light.

That figure provides a good marker for how well SAP has done with the deal and how much value Qualtrics has generated in the intervening years. Keep in mind, however, that the value of software companies has risen greatly in the last few years, so the numbers we’ll see below benefit from a market-wide repricing of recurring revenue.

Qualtrics estimates that it may be worth $22 to $26 per share when it goes public. Is that a lot? Let’s find out.

Qualtrics’ first IPO range

First, scale. Qualtrics is selling just under 50 million shares in its public offering. As you can math out, at more than $20 per share, the company is looking to raise north of $1 billion.

After going public, Qualtrics anticipates having 510,170,610 shares outstanding, inclusive of its 7.4 million underwriter option. Using that simple share count, Qualtrics would be worth $11.2 billion to $13.3 billion.

#enterprise, #fundings-exits, #qualtrics, #sap, #startups, #tc

0

SAP latest enterprise software giant to offer low code workflow

Low code workflow has become all the rage among enterprise tech giants and SAP joined the group of companies offering simplified workflow creation today when it announced SAP Cloud Platform Workflow Management, but it didn’t stop there.

It also announced SAP Ruum, a new departmental workflow tool and SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, its entry into the RPA space. The company made the announcements at SAP TechEd, its annual educational conference that has gone virtual this year due to the pandemic.

Let’s start with the Cloud Platform Workflow Management tool. It enables people with little or no coding skills to build operational workflows. It includes predefined workflows like employee onboarding and can be used in combination with Qualtrics, the company it bought for $8 billion 2018, to include experience data.

As SAP CTO Juergen Mueller told me, the company sees these types of activities in a much larger context. In the hiring example, that means it’s more than simply the act of being hired and getting started. “We like to think in end-to-end processes, and the one fitting into the employee onboarding would be recruit to retire. So it would start at talent acquisition,” he said.

Hiring and employee onboarding is the first part of the larger process, but there are other workflows that develop out of that throughout the employee’s time at the company. “Basically this is a collection of different workflow steps that are happening with some in parallel, some in sequence,” he said.

If there are experience questions involved like which benefits you want, you could add Qualtrics questionnaires to that part of the workflow. It’s designed to be very flexible. As with all of these kinds of tools, you can drag and drop components and do some basic configuration and you’re good to go. In reality, the more complex these become, the more expertise would be required, but this type of tool is designed with non-technical end users in mind as a starting point.

SAP Ruum is a simplified version of Cloud Platform Workflow Management designed for building departmental processes, and if there is an automation element involved where you want to let the machine take care of some mundane, repeatable tasks, then the RPA solution comes into play. The latter tends to be more complex and require more IT involvement, but it enables companies to build automation into workflows where the machine pushes data along through the workflow and does at least some of the work for you.

The company joins Salesforce, which announced Einstein Workflow Automation last week at Dreamforce and Google Workflows, the tool the company introduced in August. There are many others out there from companies large and small including Okta, Slack and Airtable, which all have no-code workflow tools built in.

The SAP TechEd conference has been going on for 24 years, and usually takes place in three separate venues — Barcelona, Las Vegas and Bangalore —  throughout the year. This year, the company is running a single-combined virtual conference for free to all comers. It runs for 48 hours straight starting today with a worldwide audience of over 60,000 sign-ups as of yesterday.

#cloud, #enterprise, #no-code-workflows, #sap, #tc

0

Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith is buying majority stake in the Utah Jazz for $1.6B

The Utah Jazz, an NBA basketball team based in Salt Lake City, announced today that Qualitrics CEO and co-founder Ryan Smith was buying a majority stake in the team along other properties. ESPN is reporting the deal is worth $1.6 billion.

Smith can afford it. He sold Qualtrics, which is based in Provo, Utah, in 2018 to SAP for $8 billion just before the startup was about to go public. Earlier this year, SAP announced plans to spin out Qualtrics as public company.

In addition to The Jazz, he’s also getting Vivint Arena, the National Basketball Association (NBA) G League team Salt Lake City Stars and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees. Smith is buying the properties from the Miller family, who have run them for over three decades.

Smith was over the moon about being able to buy into a franchise he has supported over the years. “My wife and I are absolutely humbled and excited about the opportunity to take the team forward far into the future – especially with the greatest fans in the NBA. The Utah Jazz, the state of Utah, and its capital city are the beneficiaries of the Millers’ tremendous love, generosity and investment. We look forward to building upon their lifelong work,” he said in a statement.

The deal is pending approval of the NBA Board Governors, but once that happens, Smith will have full decision making authority over the franchise. He is not the first tech billionaire to buy a basketball team.

Qualtrics, which makes customer survey tools, was founded in 2002 and raised over $400 million from firms like Accel, Insight Partners and Sequoia before selling the company two years ago to SAP.

Smith is not the first tech billionaire to buy a basketball team. He joins Mark Cuban, who bought the Dallas Mavericks in 1999 after selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion that same year. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 for $2 billion.

#cloud, #enterprise, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #nba, #qualtrics, #ryan-smith, #sap, #tc

0

SAP shares fall sharply after COVID-19 cuts revenue, profit forecast at software giant

SAP announced its Q3 earnings yesterday, with its aggregate results down across the board. And after missing earnings expectations, the company also revised its 2021 outlook down. The combined bad news spooked investors, crashing its shares by over 20% in pre-market trading and the stock wasn’t showing any signs of improving in early trading.

The German software giant has lost tens of billions of dollars in market cap as a result.

The overall report was gloomy, with total revenues falling 4% to €6.54 billion, cloud and software revenue down 2%, and operating profit down 12%. The only bright spot was its pure-cloud category, which grew 11% to €1.98 billion.

SAP’s revenue result was around €310 million under expectations, though its per-share profit beat both adjusted, and non-adjusted expectations.

While SAP’s big revenue miss might have been enough to send investors racing for the exits, its revised forecast doubled concerns. Even though the company said that its customers are accelerating their move to the cloud during the pandemic — something that TechCrunch has been tracking for some time now — SAP also said that the pandemic is slowing sales, and large projects.

Constellation Research anayst Holger Mueller says this is resulting in an unexpected revenue slow-down.

“What has happened at SAP is a cloud revenue delay as customers know that SAP is only investing into cloud products, and they have to migrate to those in the future. The news is that SAP customers are not migrating to the cloud during a pandemic,” Mueller told TechCrunch.

In a sign of the times, SAP spent a portion of its earnings results talking about 2025 results, a maneuver that failed to allay investor concerns that the pandemic was dramatically impacting SAP’s business today and in the coming year.

For 2020, SAP made the following cuts to its forecasts:

  • €8.0 – 8.2 billion non-IFRS cloud revenue at constant currencies (previously €8.3 – 8.7 billion
  • €23.1 – 23.6 billion non-IFRS cloud and software revenue at constant currencies (previously €23.4 – 24.0 billion)
  • €27.2 – 27.8 billion non-IFRS total revenue at constant currencies (previously €27.8 – 28.5 billion)
  • €8.1 – 8.5 billion non-IFRS operating profit at constant currencies (previously €8.1 – 8.7 billion)

So, €300 million to €500 million in cloud revenue is now gone, along with €300 million to €400 million in cloud and software revenue, and €600 to €700 million in total revenue. That cut profit expectations by up to €200 million.

The company, however, is trying to put a happy face on the future projections, believing that as the impact of COVID begins to diminish, existing customers will eventually shift to the cloud and that will drive significant new revenues over the longer term. The trade-off is short-term pain for the next year or two.

“Over the next two years, we expect to see muted growth of revenue accompanied by a flat to slightly lower operating profit. After 2022 momentum will pick up considerably though. Initial headwinds of the accelerated cloud transition will start to turn into tailwinds for revenue and profit. […] That translates to accelerated revenue growth and double digit operating profit growth from 2023 onwards,” SAP CFO Luka Mucic said in a call with analysts this morning.

The question now becomes can they meet these projections, and if the longer-term approach during a pandemic will placate investors. As of this morning, they weren’t looking happy about it.

#cloud, #crm, #customer-experience, #earnings, #enterprise, #enterprise-software, #erp, #sap

0

Robin.io launches a free version of its cloud-native Kubernetes storage solution

Robin.io, a cloud-native application and data management solution with enterprise customers like USAA, Sabre, SAP, Palo Alto Networks and Rakuten Mobile, today announced the launch of its new free(-mium) version of its service, in addition to a major update to the core of its tool.

Robin .io promises that it brings cloud-native data management capabilities to containerized applications with support for standard operations like backup and recovery, snapshots, rollbacks and more. It does all of that while offering bare-metal performance and support for all major clouds. The service is essentially agnostic to the actual database being used and offers support for the likes of PostgreSQL, MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, MariaDB, Cassandra, Elasticsearch and others.

Image Credits: Robin.io

“Robin Cloud Native Storage works with any workload on any Kubernetes-based platform and on any cloud,” said Robin founder and CEO Partha Seetala. “With capabilities for storing, taking snapshots, backing up, cloning, migrating and securing data — all with the simplest of commands — Robin Cloud Native Storage offers developers and DevOps teams a super simple yet highly performant tool for quickly deploying and managing their enterprise workloads on Kubernetes.”

The new free version lets teams manage up to 5 nodes and 5TB of storage. The promise here is that this a free-for-life offering and the company obviously expects that it allows enterprises to get a feel for the service and then upgrade to its paid enterprise plans over time.

Talking about those enterprise plans, the company also today announced that it is moving to a consumption-based pricing plan, starting at $0.42 per node-hour (though it also offers annual subscriptions). The enterprise plan includes 24×7 support and doesn’t limit the number of nodes or storage capacity.

Among the new features to Robin’s core storage service are data management support for Helm Charts (where Helm is the Kubernetes package manager), the ability to specify where exactly the data should reside (which is mostly meant to keep it close to the compute resources) and affinity policies that ensure availability for stateful applications that rely on distributed databases and data platforms.

#ceo, #cloning, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-native-computing-foundation, #elasticsearch, #kubernetes, #mirantis, #mongodb, #mysql, #palo-alto-networks, #rakuten-mobile, #robin, #sabre, #sap, #usaa

0

#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Picus investiert in Avi Medical – Atlantic setzt auf Audry – Benner Holding investiert in Gindumac


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 5. Oktober werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Avi Medical
+++ Picus Capital und die UiPath-Gründer investieren in Avi Medical. Hinter dem jungen Startup stecken Vlad Lata (Mitgründer von Konux), Christoph Baumeister. (Mitgründer von nello) und Julian Kley, zuletzt BCG. “We are on a mission to elevate the patient experience and provide the best possible primary care by combining technology with a human touch”, heißt es auf der Website. Konkret möchte die Jungfirma “die ambulante Patientenbetreuung in das 21. Jahrhundert zu bringen”. Dazu entwickelt das Unternehmen  “nutzerorientierte, digitale Anwendungen, die den Austausch zwischen Patienten und Praxen erleichtern, transparenter machen und administrative Arbeiten automatisieren”. Zudem gründet Avi Medical ” allgemeinärztliche Praxen um eine ganzheitliche Betreuung abzubilden”. Hintergründe gibt es nur im ds-Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Audry

  • Atlantic Labs investiert in Audry. Das Berliner Startup, das von Niklas Hildebrand und Eugenio Warglien geführt wird, möchte Podcastern zu mehr Reichweite verhelfen. Hinzu kommt eine AdTech-Komponente: “At Audry we enable brands to scale podcast advertising through programmatic buying”. Das Audry-Team baute vorher Boutiq, einen Influencer-Dienst auf. Hintergründe gibt es nur im ds-Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Gindumac

  • Die Schuhe24-Macher, also die Benner Holding, investiert in Gindumac. Der Marktplatz rund mm Gebrauchtmaschinen der Metallbearbeitung und Kunststoffverarbeitung ging 2016 an den Start. Zuletzt investierte der Münchner Anlagenhersteller Krauss Maffei in das Unternehmen aus Kaiserslautern. Die Benner Holding betreibt neben Schuhe24 auch Outfits24 und WeWantShoes. Hintergründe gibt es nur im ds-Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

heartbeat medical
+++ btov Partners, Holtzbrinck Ventures und der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) investieren 5 Millionen Euro in heartbeat medical. Das E-Health-Startup, das eine Software anbietet, mit der der Erfolg medizinischer Behandlungen vor, während und nach der Behandlung gemessen werden kann, wurde 2014 von Yannik Schreckenberger, Sebastian Tilch, Marc Tiedemann und Yunus Uyargil gegründet. Holtzbrinck Ventures investierte 2017 bereits 3 Millionen Euro in das Startup.

trackle 
Die SchneiderGolling & Cie. Beteiligungsgesellschaft und die Pro Invest TechTalys Beteiligungsgesellschaft sowie die Altinvestoren investieren einen hohen sechsstelligen Betrag in trackle. Das junge Unternehmen entwickelt und vertreibt ein Wearable Device, das Frauen im Zyklustracking unterstützt. Mehrere Investoren und die NRW.BANK investieren bereits einen sechsstelligen Betrag in das Bonner Startup.

Pydro
+++ gigahertz.ventures investiert gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren Genius Venture Capital und Thomas Clemens eine siebenstellige Summe in Pydro. Das Startup aus Hamburg, das 2016 gegründet wurde, hilft Wasserversorgern, ihre Wasserverluste zu minimieren. “Das Ziel der Finanzierung ist die Weiterentwicklung des energieautarken und smarten Sensors für Wasserrohrleitungen hin zur Serienreife”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

EXITS

Emarsys
+++ Der Walldorfer Software-Konzern SAP übernimmt den österreichischen Marketing-Technlogie-Anbieter Emarsys. Das 2000 gegründete österreichische Unternehmen, das keine Umsatz- oder Gewinnzahlen veröffentlicht, beschäftigte zuletzt 800 Mitarbeiter an 13 Standorten. Zu den Kunden des Unternehmen zählen Firmen wie Puma, Sky und Bugatti. Die Private-Equity-Gesellschaft Vector Capital investierte vor fünf Jahren 33 Millionen US-Dollar in Emarsys.

Bergfex
+++ Russmedia Equity Partners übernimmt 60 % der Anteile an Bergfex, einer Tourismusplattform im Alpenraum. Die drei Gründer Markus Kümmel, Oliver Jusinger und Andreas Koßmeier bleiben auch nach der Übernahme operativ und als Gesellschafter im Unternehmen tätig. Bergfex mit Sitz in Graz gong bereits 1999 an den Start. Zu Russmedia Equity Partners gehören Investments wie erento, PaulCamper und eversports.

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Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #atlantic-labs, #audry, #avi-medical, #benner-holding, #bergfex, #bonn, #e-health, #emarsys, #femtech, #gindumac, #heartbeat-medical, #picus-capital, #pydro, #russmedia-equity-partners, #sap, #telemedizin, #trackle

0

SAP continues to build out customer experience business with Emarsys acquisition

SAP seemed to be all in on customer experience when it acquired Qualtrics for $8 billion in 2018. It continued on that journey today when it announced it was acquiring Austrian cloud marketing company Emarsys for an undisclosed amount of money.

Emarsys, which raised over $55 million, according to PitchBook data, gives SAP customer personalization technology. If you talk to any marketing automation vendor over the last several years, the focus has been on using a variety of data and touch points to understand the customer better, and deliver more meaningful online experiences.

With the pandemic closing or limiting access to brick and mortar stores, personalization has taken a new urgency as customers are increasingly shopping online and companies need to meet them where they are.

With Emarsys, the company is getting an omnichannel marketing solution that they say is designed to deliver messages to customers wherever they are including e-mail, mobile, social, SMS, and the web, and deliver that at scale.

When SAP announced it was spinning out Qualtrics a couple of months ago, just 20 months after buying, it left some question about whether SAP was fully committed to customer experience business.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that the acquisition shows that SAP is still very much in the game. “This illustrates that SAP is serious about CX and competing in a highly competitive space. Emarsys adds industry-specific customer engagement capabilities that should help SAP CX customers accelerate their efforts to provide their customers with the experiences they expect as their needs change over time,” Leary told TechCrunch.

As an ERP company at its core, SAP has traditionally focused on back office kind of operations, but Bob Stutz, president, SAP Customer Experience sees this acquisition as a way to continue bringing back office and front office operations together.

“With Emarsys technology, SAP Customer Experience solutions can link commerce signals with the back office and activate the preferred channel of the customer with a relevant and consistently personalized message, allowing customers the freedom to choose their own engagement,” Stutz said in a statement.

The company, which is based in Austria, was founded back in 2000 when marketing was a very different world. It has built a customer base of 1500 companies with 800 employees in 13 offices across the globe. All of this will become part of SAP, of course and come under Stutz’s purview.

As with all transactions of this type it will be subject to regulatory approval, but the deal is expected to close this quarter.

#cloud, #customer-experience, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #ma, #marketing, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #sap, #startups, #tc

0

ServiceNow updates its workflow automation platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: ServiceNow

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

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

Image Credits: ServiceNow

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

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

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

0

SAP decision to spin out Qualtrics 20 months after spending $8B surprises industry watchers

When SAP announced it was spinning out Qualtrics on Sunday, a company it bought less than two years ago for an eye-popping $8 billion, it was enough to make your head spin. At the time, then CEO Bill McDermott saw it as a way to bridge the company’s core operational with customer data, while acquiring a cloud company that could help generate recurring revenue for the ERP giant, and maybe give it a dose of innovation along the way.

But Sunday night the company announced it was spinning out the acquisition, giving its $8 billion baby independence, and essentially handing the company back to founder Ryan Smith, who will become the largest individual shareholder when this all over.

It’s not every day you see founders pull in a windfall like $8 billion, get sucked into the belly of the large corporate beast and come out the other side just 20 months later with the cash, independence and CEO as the largest individual stockholder.

While SAP will own a majority of the stock, much like Dell owns a majority of VMware, the company will operate independently and have its own board. It can acquire other firms and make decisions separately from SAP.

We spoke to a few industry analysts to find out what they think about all this, and while the reasoning behind the move involves a lot of complex pieces, it could be as simple as the deal was done under the previous CEO, and the new one was ready to move on from it.

Bold step

It’s certainly unusual for a company like SAP to spend this kind of money, and then turn around so quickly and spin it off. In fact, Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that this was a move he didn’t see coming, and it could be related to that fat purchase price. “To me it could mean that SAP didn’t see the synergies of the acquisition panning out as they had envisioned and are looking to recoup some of their investment,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research agreed with Leary’s assessment, but doesn’t think that means the deal failed. “SAP doesn’t lose anything in regards to their […] data and experience vision, as they still retain [controlling interest in Qualtrics] . It also opens the opportunity for Qualtrics to partner with other ERP vendors [and broaden its overall market],” he said.

Jeanne Bliss, founder and president at CustomerBLISS, a company that helps clients deliver better customer experiences sees this as a positive step forward for Qualtrics. “This spin off enables Qualtrics to focus on its core business and prove its ability to provide essential technology executives are searching for to enable speed of decision making, innovation and customization,” she said.

Show me the money

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy sees the two companies moving towards a VMware/Dell model where SAP removes the direct link between them, which could then make them more attractive to a broader range of customers than perhaps they would have been as part of the SAP family. “The big play here is all financial. With tech stocks up so high, SAP isn’t seeing the value in its stock. I am expecting a VMware kind of alignment with a strategic collaboration agreement,” he said.

Ultimately though, he says the the move reflects a cultural failure on the part of SAP. It simply couldn’t find a way to co-exist with a younger, more nimble company like Qualtrics. “I believe SAP spinning out Qualtrics is a sign that its close connection to create symbiotic value has failed. The original charter was to bring it in to modernize SAP but apparently the “not invented here” attitudes kicked in and doomed integration,” Moorhead said.

That symbiotic connection would have involved McDermott’s vision of combining operational and customer data, but Leary also suggested that since the deal happened under previous the CEO, that perhaps new CEO Christian Klein wants to start with a clean slate and this simply wasn’t his deal.

Qualtrics for the win

In the end, Qualtrics got all that money, gets to IPO after all, and returns to being an independent company selling to a larger potential customer base. All of the analysts we spoke to agreed the news is a win for Qualtrics itself.

Leary says the motivation for the original deal was to give SAP a company that could sell beyond its existing customer base. “It seems like that was the impetus for the acquisition, and the fact that SAP is spinning it off as an IPO 20 months after acquiring Qualtrics gives me the impression that things didn’t come together as expected,” he said.

Mueller also sees nothing but postivies Qualtrics. “It’s a win […] for Qualtrics, which can now deliver what they wanted [from the start], and it’s a win for customers as Qualtrics can run as fast as they want,” he said.

Regardless, the company moves on, and the Qualtrics IPO moves forward, and it’s almost as though Qualtrics gets a do-over with $8 billion in its pocket for its trouble.

#bill-mcdermott, #christian-klein, #cloud, #customer-experience, #drama, #enterprise, #erp, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #qualtrics, #ryan-smith, #sap, #tc

0

Why is SAP spinning Qualtrics out via an IPO?

Over the weekend, software giant SAP announced that it will take Qualtrics public, with the German software company retaining a majority stake in the Utah-based “experience management” firm after its forthcoming debut.

SAP paid $8 billion in cash for Qualtrics back in 2018, right before the smaller firm was set to go public. Chatting with the CEOs of both companies around the time of the deal, they were pretty pumped about the combination. Since then, SAP has swapped CEOs.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


At the time, the deal not only made waves within the business realm, it also helped put Utah’s startup scene on the map. (An $8 billion deal makes an impact.)

Current commentary on the spin-out idea seems to rotate on the idea of unlocking value, that if SAP can float a good chunk of Qualtrics’ shares, the market may give that equity a good price. And, then, the value of Qualtrics that SAP will retain will gain implicit value, perhaps boosting the value of its own shares. Making the point, CNBC quoted analysts from Bernstein Research, which said it believes “many SAP investors do not fully understand Qualtrics,” and that the spin-out might “help at least as it relates to better understanding its value.”

What is Qualtrics worth? If we can understand that, we’ll know if the current commentary regarding the spin-out makes sense. So this morning, let’s remind ourselves how big Qualtrics was heading into its IPO, what it might have been worth, how much it has have grown since and what that might be worth at today’s super-high software valuations.

Did SAP overpay? Did it get a deal? Let’s find out what Qualtrics might look like in 2020.

2018

Before SAP stole it from the public markets, Qualtrics was looking for $18 to $21 per share on the public markets, valuing the company at around $3.9 billion to $4.5 billion. SAP had to pay up for Qualtrics stock, obviously, to get the deal done given how hot the Utah-based firm was at the time.

Qualtrics had growth and profits, two things that combine to create lots and lots of market value. Here are some key Qualtrics numbers from the time:

#christian-klein, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #extra-crunch, #ma, #market-analysis, #market-research, #qualtrics, #saas, #sap, #software, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange

0

Equity Monday: SAP, Qualtrics, and oh boy are we excited

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest big news, chats about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here, and myself here, and don’t forget to check out last Friday’s episode.

Here’s what we talked about today:

  • Headlines: SAP is spinning out part of Qualtrics, Dave leaked customer data, Asian markets were mixed while US shared opened green. Cryptos and gold are up at the same time, marking the moment as a melt-up.
  • The Qualtrics news was the loudest note from the weekend’s jam, coming a few years after SAP bought the Utah-based tech giant. SAP will retain a majority stake even after the debut, but the plan should give Qualtrics more freedom, and SAP a better valuation for the piece of the smaller company that it retains. That’s if the spin-out goes well, of course.
  • Dave’s leak looks bad, and will test what happens to more nascent fintech properties when they endure this sort of breach.
  • Looking ahead, this is a huge earnings week. We’ll see results from Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, and others.
  • And, finally, rounds from StashAway, cargo.one, and Blueheart.

Closing, we’re in exciting territory on the public markets given that high share prices are giving big companies more ammunition than ever. Let’s see what they can get done with it before the window closes.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#equity-monday, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #qualtrics, #sap, #startups, #tc

0

SAP will spin out its $8B spin-in Qualtrics acquisition

Well, this isn’t a story you see every day.

Less than two years after German software giant SAP snatched experience management platform Qualtrics for $8 billion days before the startup’s IPO debut, it has now decided to spin out the company in a brand new IPO.

https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/11/sap-agrees-to-buy-qualtrics-for-8b-in-cash-just-before-the-survey-software-companys-ipo/

In a press statement released Sunday, SAP said that Qualtrics had seen cloud growth “in excess of 40 percent” in a quote attributed to SAP CEO Christian Klein. The company will continue to be run by founder and former CEO Ryan Smith, who joined SAP with Qualtrics and led the organization within the German conglomerate.

SAP will retain majority ownership of the new spin out. Interestingly, the statement noted that “Ryan Smith intends to be Qualtrics’ largest individual shareholder.”

SAP’s press statement is vague, but the implication is that the move will offer Qualtrics more flexibility to engage with customers and partners outside of its parent company’s dominion.

I am sure my Equity colleague Alex Wilhelm will have much more to analyze tomorrow with his The Exchange column, but SAP’s rapid about-face on the acquisition is a major surprise. While private equity firms will take a company private and sometimes quickly turn it around in an IPO, it is rare to see a large company like SAP make such a dramatic last minute bid for a company only to reverse that decision just months later.

Given the heated market for SaaS markets these days though, the path seems clear for Qualtrics’ return to the public markets, particularly if the soon-to-be independent company’s metrics have held up since we last saw its financials. As Wilhelm and his Crunchbase news team wrote back during its S-1 filing:

Qualtrics, unlike most companies going public this year, isn’t a trash fire of losses incurred under the name of growth. It shows that you can grow, and not lose every one of the dollars you have at the same time.

“Isn’t a trash fire” was a high bar back then, but Qualtrics was indeed an outperformer of its peer group. Assuming those fundamentals haven’t changed, it looks like a real win for Qualtrics and Smith, and a save by SAP from whatever strategic plan they decided to change midstream.

#enterprise, #qualtrics, #ryan-smith, #sap

0

Typewise taps $1M to build an offline next word prediction engine

Swiss keyboard startup Typewise has bagged a $1 million seed round to build out a typo-busting, ‘privacy-safe’ next word prediction engine designed to run entirely offline. No cloud connectivity, no data mining risk is the basic idea.

They also intend the tech to work on text inputs made on any device, be it a smartphone or desktop, a wearable, VR — or something weirder that Elon Musk might want to plug into your brain in future.

For now they’ve got a smartphone keyboard app that’s had around 250,000 downloads — with some 65,000 active users at this point.

The seed funding breaks down into $700K from more than a dozen local business angels; and $340K via the Swiss government through a mechanism (called “Innosuisse projects“), akin to a research grant, which is paying for the startup to employ machine learning experts at Zurich’s ETH research university to build out the core AI.

The team soft launched a smartphone keyboard app late last year, which includes some additional tweaks (such as an optional honeycomb layout they tout as more efficient; and the ability to edit next word predictions so the keyboard quickly groks your slang) to get users to start feeding in data to build out their AI.

Their main focus is on developing an offline next word prediction engine which could be licensed for use anywhere users are texting, not just on a mobile device.

“The goal is to develop a world-leading text prediction engine that runs completely on-device,” says co-founder David Eberle. “The smartphone keyboard really is a first use case. It’s great to test and develop our algorithms in a real-life setting with tens of thousands of users. The larger play is to bring word/sentence completion to any application that involves text entry, on mobiles or desktop (or in future also wearables/VR/Brain-Computer Interfaces).

“Currently it’s pretty much only Google working on this (see Gmail’s auto completion feature). Applications such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Telegram, or even SAP, Oracle, Salesforce would want such productivity increase – and at that level privacy/data security matters a lot. Ultimately we envision that every “human-machine interface” is, at least on the text-input level, powered by Typewise.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking all this sounds a bit retro, given the earlier boom in smartphone AI keyboards — such as SwiftKey (now owned by Microsoft).

The founders have also pushed specific elements of their current keyboard app — such as the distinctive honeycomb layout — before, going down a crowdfunding route back in 2015, when they were calling the concept Wrio. But they reckon it’s now time to go all in — hence relaunching the business as Typewise and shooting to build a licensing business for offline next word prediction.

“We’ll use the funds to develop advanced text predictions… first launching it in the keyboard app and then bringing it to the desktop to start building partnerships with relevant software vendors,” says Eberle, noting they’re working on various enhancements to the keyboard app and also plan to spend on marketing to try to hit 1M active users next year.

“We have more ‘innovative stuff’ [incoming] on the UX side as well, e.g. interacting with auto correction (so the user can easily intervene when it does something wrong — in many countries users just turn it off on all keyboards because it gets annoying), gamifying the general typing experience (big opportunity for kids/teenagers, also making them more aware of what and how they type), etc.”

The competitive landscape around smartphone keyboard tech, largely dominated by tech giants, has left room for indie plays, is the thinking. Nor is Typewise the only startup thinking that way (Fleksy has similar ambitions, for one). However gaining traction vs such giants — and over long established typing methods — is the tricky bit.

Android maker Google has ploughed resource into its Gboard AI keyboard — larding it with features. While, on iOS, Apple’s interface for switching to a third party keyboard is infamously frustrating and finicky; the opposite of a seamless experience. Plus the native keyboard offers next word prediction baked in — and Apple has plenty of privacy credit. So why would a user bother switching is the problem there.

Competing for smartphone users’ fingers as an indie certainly isn’t easy. Alternative keyboard layouts and input mechanism are always a very tough sell as they disrupt people’s muscle memory and hit mobile users hard in their comfort and productivity zone. Unless the user is patient and/or stubborn enough to stick with a frustratingly different experience they’ll soon ditch for the keyboard devil they know.  (‘Qwerty’ is an ancient typewriter layout turned typing habit we English speakers just can’t kick.)

Given all that, Typewise’s retooled focus on offline next word prediction to do white label b2b licensing makes more sense — assuming they can pull off the core tech.

And, again, they’re competing at a data disadvantage on that front vs more established tech giant keyboard players, even as they argue that’s also a market opportunity.

“Google and Microsoft (thanks to the acquisition of SwiftKey) have a solid technology in place and have started to offer text predictions outside of the keyboard; many of their competitors, however, will want to embed a proprietary (difficult to build) or independent technology, especially if their value proposition is focused on privacy/confidentiality,” Eberle argues.

“Would Telegram want to use Google’s text predictions? Would SAP want that their clients’ data goes through Microsoft’s prediction algorithms? That’s where we see our right to win: world-class text predictions that run on-device (privacy) and are made in Switzerland (independent environment, no security back doors, etc).”

Early impressions of Typewise’s next word prediction smarts (gleaned by via checking out its iOS app) are pretty low key (ha!). But it’s v1 of the AI — and Eberle talks bullishly of having “world class” developers working on it.

“The collaboration with ETH just started a few weeks ago and thus there are no significant improvements yet visible in the live app,” he tells TechCrunch. “As the collaboration runs until the end of 2021 (with the opportunity of extension) the vast majority of innovation is still to come.”

He also tells us Typewise is working with ETH’s Prof. Thomas Hofmann (chair of the Data Analytic Lab, formerly at Google), as well as having has two PhDs in NLP/ML and one MSc in ML contributing to the effort.

“We get exclusive rights to the [ETH] technology; they don’t hold equity but they get paid by the Swiss government on our behalf,” Eberle also notes. 

Typewise says its smartphone app supports more than 35 languages. But its next word prediction AI can only handle English, German, French, Italian and Spanish at this point. The startup says more are being added.

#android, #apple, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #data-mining, #elon-musk, #eth, #europe, #fundings-exits, #gmail, #google, #machine-learning, #microsoft, #ml, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-device, #operating-systems, #oracle, #privacy, #salesforce, #sap, #smartphones, #swiftkey, #switzerland, #typewise, #zurich

0

Google Coronavirus Apps Give it Way to Access Location Data

Some government agencies that use the software said they were surprised that Google may pick up the locations of certain app users. Others said they had unsuccessfully pushed Google to make a change.

#android-operating-system, #apple-inc, #bluetooth-wireless-technology, #computer-security, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #denmark, #general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr, #germany, #global-positioning-system, #google-inc, #gps, #ios-operating-system, #latvia, #merkel-angela, #mobile-applications, #princeton-university, #privacy, #sap, #surveillance-of-citizens-by-government, #switzerland, #wurtzburg

0

Sinch acquires SAP’s Digital Interconnect messaging business for $250M

M&A activity has generally slowed down in the weeks since the novel coronavirus took a grip on the world, but there have been some pockets of activity in the tech industry when the price is right or when the divestment/acquisition just makes sense.

The world of messaging brings us the latest development in that theme: SAP, the CRM and enterprise software giant, is selling its Digital Interconnect messaging business to Sinch, a Swedish cloud voice, video and messaging company that originally spun out from low-cost IP calling company Rebtel and is now public.

Sinch is paying €225 million (around $250 million) on a cash and debt-free basis for the business, which has 1,500 enterprise customers that use it for various messaging services, such as “omnichannel” conversations with customers over SMS, push, email, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber; and messaging technology for carriers.

The deal will give Sinch, based in Sweden, a foothold in the US market — the Digital Interconnect business is headquartered in Silicon Valley — and access to a trove of customers using the kind of messaging technology that Sinch develops and sells.

Messaging continues to be a very high-volume, low-margin (or even no-margin in some cases) business, and so a bigger strategy for more economy of scale that will continue to play out. As a case in point: Sinch has been on an acquisition spree in the last month. Other deals have included Latin American messaging provider Wavy ($119 million, announced March 26), and ChatLayer ($6 million, announced April 20).

“With SAP Digital Interconnect now becoming a part of Sinch, we build on our scale, focus and capabilities to truly redefine how businesses engage with their customers, throughout the world,” comments Oscar Werner, Sinch CEO, in a statement. “The transaction strengthens our direct connectivity globally. Plus, it enables us to expand and accelerate a range of business-critical services to mobile operators, including products for person-to-person messaging, reporting and analytics.”

The news caps off nearly a month of speculation that SAP was gearing up for a sale of the legacy unit as part of a bigger strategy to focus more squarely on its CRM and newer enterprise IT services — SAP acquired Qualtrics in November 2018 for $8 billion, spearheading a stronger move into employee and customer experience, surveys and research — in a particularly challenging economic environment.

And between then and now SAP has seen a very notable personnel change: its co-CEO Jennifer Morgan stepped away from the company by mutual agreement with the board, leaving Christian Klein as sole CEO (the two had been in the co-CEO roles for only six months). At the time, the company said that the abrupt change — a mere 10 days between announcement and departure — was in response to “the current environment [which] requires companies to take swift, determined action which is best supported by a very clear leadership structure.”

It would appear that this sale is an example of the kind of swift and determined action that the board was hoping to see.

SAP’s messaging unit has been around in one form or another for years. It became a part of SAP in 2010 as part of its acquisition of Sybase, but even before that Sybase acquired Mobile 365, which had developed the messaging technology, back in 2006.

At the time, the messaging business was the primary part of Mobile 365, and Sybase paid $417 million for the company. In that regard, it might look like SAP is selling it for a loss, although you could also argue that 15+ year-old technology in the fast-moving world of messaging would have depreciated at this point.

The business itself is very typical of messaging: huge volumes but not huge revenues.

In 2019, SAP said that the enterprise messaging business processed 18 billion messages, while its carrier services processed 292 billion carrier messages. The Bloomberg report that broke the news about the intent to sell the division said that it made $50 million in EBITDA and $250 million in revenue last year, but actually this is small relatively speaking: SAP altogether had revenues of nearly $30 billion in the same period. In other words, it’s an okay business but not really core to SAP and where it’s going. 

On the other hand, it’s a better fit for Sinch, which is a much smaller company — market cap of about $3.1 billion (30.82 billion Swedish krona), versus SAP’s market cap of $139 billion — but is squarely focused on messaging services similar to those that the former SAP division offers.

“SAP Digital Interconnect is a leader in its area showing profitable growth and reaching 99 percent of the world’s mobile subscribers. Looking at Sinch’s innovation and investment strategy in the area of cloud communication platforms, we welcome them as the new owner of SDI. Sinch is perfectly positioned to unleash further growth potential we see in SDI,” said Thomas Saueressig, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, responsible for SAP Product Engineering, in a statement.

M&A continues on in the wider European region even while so much else has slowed down or stopped in the current market. This deal follows on the heels of Intel acquiring Israel’s Moovit for $900 million, and Avira in Germany getting acquired by Investcorp at a $180 million valuation.

#enterprise, #europe, #exit, #ma, #messaging, #sap, #sinch, #startups, #tc, #tcuk

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Cloud Foundry renews its focus on developer experience as it looks beyond the enterprise

The Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF) just went through a major leadership change, with executive director Abby Kearns stepping down after five years (and becoming a CTO at Puppet) and the CFF’s CTO Chip Childers stepping into the top leadership role in the organization. For the most part, though, these changes are only accelerating some of the strategic moves the organization already made in the last few years.

If you’re unfamiliar with the open-source Cloud Foundry project, it’s a Platform-as-a-Service that’s in use by the majority of Fortune 500 enterprises. After a lot of technical changes, which essentially involved building out support for containers and adding Kubernetes as an option for container orchestration next to the container tools Cloud Foundry built long before the rise of Google’s open-source tool, the technical underpinnings of the project are now stable. And as Childers has noted before, that now allows the project to refocus its efforts on developer experience.

That, after all, was always the selling point of Cloud Foundry. Developers stick to a few rules and, in return, they can easily push their apps to Cloud Foundry with a single command (“cf push”) and know that it will run, while the enterprises that employ them get the benefits of faster development cycles.

On the flip side, though, actually managing that Cloud Foundry install was never easy, and required either a heavy lift from internal infrastructure teams or the help of outside firms like Pivotal, IBM, SAP, Suse and others to run and manage the platform. That pretty much excluded smaller companies, and especially startups, from using the platform. As Childers noted, some still did use it, but that was never the project’s focus.

Now, with the Kubernetes underpinnings in place, he believes that it will become easier for non-enterprise users to also get started with the platform. And projects like KubeCF and CF for K8s now offers a full Cloud Foundry distribution for Kubernetes, which makes it relatively easy to use the platform on top of modern infrastructure.

To highlight some of these changes, the CFF today unveiled its new tutorial hub that will not just explain what Cloud Foundry is, but also feature tutorials to get started. Some of these will be hosted and written by the Foundation itself, while community members will contribute others.

“Our community has created a learning hub, curated by the Cloud Foundry Foundation, of open-source tutorials for folks to learn Cloud Foundry and related cloud native technologies,” said Childers. “The hub includes an interactive hands-on lab for first-time Cloud Foundry users to experience how easy the platform makes deploying applications to Kubernetes, and is open for the community to contribute.”

#abby-kearns, #chip-childers, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-foundry, #cloud-foundry-foundation, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #developer, #google, #ibm, #kubernetes, #sap, #suse, #tc, #web-hosting, #web-services

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