Sep
11
2018
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Twilio’s contact center products just got more analytical with Ytica acquisition

Twilio, a company best known for supplying a communications APIs for developers has a product called Twilio Flex for building sophisticated customer service applications on top of Twilio’s APIs. Today, it announced it was acquiring Ytica (pronounced Why-tica) to provide an operational and analytical layer on top of the customer service solution.

The companies would not discuss the purchase price, but Twilio indicated it does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its “results, operations or financial condition.” In other words, it probably didn’t cost much.

Ytica, which is based in Prague, has actually been a partner with Twilio for some time, so coming together in this fashion really made a lot of sense, especially as Twilio has been developing Flex.

Twilio Flex is an app platform for contact centers, which offers a full stack of applications and allows users to deliver customer support over multiple channels, Al Cook, general manager of Twilio Flex explained. “Flex deploys like SaaS, but because it’s built on top of APIs, you can reach in and change how Flex works,” he said. That is very appealing, especially for larger operations looking for a flexible, cloud-based solution without the baggage of on-prem legacy products.

What the product was lacking, however, was a native way to manage customer service representatives from within the application, and understand through analytics and dashboards, how well or poorly the team was doing. Having that ability to measure the effectiveness of the team becomes even more critical the larger the group becomes, and Cook indicated some Flex users are managing enormous groups with 10,000-20,000 employees.

Ytica provides a way to measure the performance of customer service staff, allowing management to monitor and intervene and coach when necessary. “It made so much sense to join together as one team. They have huge experience in the contact center, and a similar philosophy to build something customizable and programmable in the cloud,” Cook said.

While Ytica works with other vendors beyond Twilio, CEO Simon Vostrý says that they will continue to support those customers, even as they join the Twilio family. “We can run Flex and can continue to run this separately. We have customers running on other SaaS platforms, and we will continue to support them,” he said.

The company will remain in Prague and become a Twilio satellite office. All 14 employees are expected to join the Twilio team and Cook says plans are already in the works to expand the Prague team.

Jun
26
2018
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Ping Identity acquires stealthy API security startup Elastic Beam

At the Identiverse conference in Boston today, Ping Identity announced that it has acquired Elastic Beam, a pre-Series A startup that uses artificial intelligence to monitor APIs and help understand when they have been compromised.

Ping also announced a new product, PingIntelligence for APIs, based on the Elastic Beam technology. They did not disclose the sale price.

The product itself is a pretty nifty piece of technology. It automatically detects all the API IP addresses and URLs running inside a customer. It then uses artificial intelligence to search for anomalous behavior and report back when it finds it (or it can automatically shut down access depending on how it’s configured).

“APIs are defined either in the API gateway because that facilitates creation or implemented on an application server like node.js. We created a platform that could bring a level of protection to both,” company founder Bernard Harguindeguy told TechCrunch.

It may seem like an odd match for Ping, which after all, is an enterprise identity company, but there are reasonable connections here. Perhaps the biggest is that CEO Andre Durand wants to see his company making increasing use of AI and machine learning for identity security in general. It’s also worth noting that his company has had an API security product in its portfolio for over five years, so it’s not a huge stretch to buy Elastic Beam.

With this purchase, Ping has not only acquired some advanced technology, it has also acqui-hired a team of AI and machine learning experts that could help inject the entire Ping product line with AI and machine learning smarts. “Nobody should be surprised who has been watching that Ping will drive machine learning AI and general intelligence into our identity platform,” Durand said.

Harguindeguy certainly sees the potential here. “I think we can over time bring a high level of monitoring and intelligence to Ping to understand whether an identity may have been used by someone else or being misused somehow,” he said.

Elastic Beam interface. Photo: Elastic Beam website

Harguindeguy will join Ping Identity as Senior Vice President of Intelligence along with his entire team. Neither company would divulge the exact number of employees, but Durand did acknowledge it fell somewhere between the 11 and 50 mentioned in the company Crunchbase profile. The original team consisted of around 10 according to  Harguindeguy and they have been hiring for some time, so fair to say more than 11, but less than 50.

Harguindeguy says they were pursued by more than one company (although he wouldn’t say who those other companies were), but he felt that Ping provided a good cultural match for his company and could take them where they wanted to go faster than they could on their own, even with Series A money.

“We realized this is going to be really big. How do we go after the market really strongly really fast? We saw that we could fuse this really fast with Ping and have strong go to market with them,” he said.

Durand acknowledged that Ping, which was itself acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $600 million two years ago, couldn’t have made such an acquisition without the backing of a larger firm like this. “There was there was no chance we could have done either UnboundID (which the company acquired in August 2016) or Elastic Beam on our own. This was purely an artifact of being part of the Vista family portfolio,” he said.

PingIntelligence for APIs, the product based on Elastic Beam’s technology, is currently in private preview. It should be generally available some time later this year.

May
15
2018
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Auth0 snags $55M Series D, seeks international expansion

Auth0, a startup based in Seattle, has been helping developers with a set of APIs to build authentication into their applications for the last five years. It’s raised a fair bit of money along the way to help extend that mission, and today the company announced a $55 million Series D.

This round was led by led by Sapphire Ventures with help from World Innovation Lab, and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, Meritech Capital and K9 Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $110 million. The company did not want to share its valuation.

CEO Eugenio Pace said the investment should help them expand further internationally. In fact, one of the investors, World Innovation Lab, is based in Japan and should help with their presence there. “Japan is an important market for us and they should help explain to us how the market works there,” he said.

The company offers an easy way for developers to build in authentication services into their applications, also known as Identification as a Service (IDaaS). It’s a lot like Stripe for payments or Twilio for messaging. Instead of building the authentication layer from scratch, they simply add a few lines of code and can take advantage of the services available on the Auth0 platform.

That platform includes a range of service such as single-sign on, two-factor identification, passwordless log-on and breached password detection.

They have a free tier, which doesn’t even require a credit card, and pay tiers based on the types of users — regular versus enterprise — along with the number of users. They also charge based on machine-to-machine authentication. Pace reports they have 3500 paying customers and tens of thousands of users on the free tier.

All of that has added up to a pretty decent business. While Pace would not share specific numbers, he did indicate the company doubled its revenue last year and expected to do so again this year.

With a cadence of getting funding every year for the last three years, Pace says this round may mark the end of that fundraising cycle for a time. He wasn’t ready to commit to the idea of an IPO, saying that is likely a couple of years away, but he says the company is close to profitability.

With the new influx of money, the company does plan to expand its workforce as moves into markets across the world . They currently have 300 employees, but within a year he expects to be between 400 and 450 worldwide.

The company’s last round was a $30 million Series C last June led by Meritech Capital Partners.

May
12
2018
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Adobe CTO leads company’s broad AI bet

There isn’t a software company out there worth its salt that doesn’t have some kind of artificial intelligence initiative in progress right now. These organizations understand that AI is going to be a game-changer, even if they might not have a full understanding of how that’s going to work just yet.

In March at the Adobe Summit, I sat down with Adobe executive vice president and CTO Abhay Parasnis, and talked about a range of subjects with him including the company’s goal to build a cloud platform for the next decade — and how AI is a big part of that.

Parasnis told me that he has a broad set of responsibilities starting with the typical CTO role of setting the tone for the company’s technology strategy, but it doesn’t stop there by any means. He also is in charge of operational execution for the core cloud platform and all the engineering building out the platform — including AI and Sensei. That includes managing a multi-thousand person engineering team. Finally, he’s in charge of all the digital infrastructure and the IT organization — just a bit on his plate.

Ten years down the road

The company’s transition from selling boxed software to a subscription-based cloud company began in 2013, long before Parasnis came on board. It has been a highly successful one, but Adobe knew it would take more than simply shedding boxed software to survive long-term. When Parasnis arrived, the next step was to rearchitect the base platform in a way that was flexible enough to last for at least a decade — yes, a decade.

“When we first started thinking about the next generation platform, we had to think about what do we want to build for. It’s a massive lift and we have to architect to last a decade,” he said. There’s a huge challenge because so much can change over time, especially right now when technology is shifting so rapidly.

That meant that they had to build in flexibility to allow for these kinds of changes over time, maybe even ones they can’t anticipate just yet. The company certainly sees immersive technology like AR and VR, as well as voice as something they need to start thinking about as a future bet — and their base platform had to be adaptable enough to support that.

Making Sensei of it all

But Adobe also needed to get its ducks in a row around AI. That’s why around 18 months ago, the company made another strategic decision to develop AI as a core part of the new  platform. They saw a lot of companies looking at a more general AI for developers, but they had a different vision, one tightly focussed on Adobe’s core functionality. Parasnis sees this as the key part of the company’s cloud platform strategy. “AI will be the single most transformational force in technology,” he said, adding that Sensei is by far the thing he is spending the most time on.”

Photo: Ron Miller

The company began thinking about the new cloud platform with the larger artificial intelligence goal in mind, building AI-fueled algorithms to handle core platform functionality. Once they refined them for use in-house, the next step was to open up these algorithms to third-party developers to build their own applications using Adobe’s AI tools.

It’s actually a classic software platform play, whether the service involves AI or not. Every cloud company from Box to Salesforce has been exposing their services for years, letting developers take advantage of their expertise so they can concentrate on their core knowledge. They don’t have to worry about building something like storage or security from scratch because they can grab those features from a platform that has built-in expertise  and provides a way to easily incorporate it into applications.

The difference here is that it involves Adobe’s core functions, so it may be intelligent auto cropping and smart tagging in Adobe Experience Manager or AI-fueled visual stock search in Creative Cloud. These are features that are essential to the Adobe software experience, which the company is packaging as an API and delivering to developers to use in their own software.

Whether or not Sensei can be the technology that drives the Adobe cloud platform for the next 10 years, Parasnis and the company at large are very much committed to that vision. We should see more announcements from Adobe in the coming months and years as they build more AI-powered algorithms into the platform and expose them to developers for use in their own software.

Parasnis certainly recognizes this as an ongoing process. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we are off in an extremely good architectural direction, and AI will be a crucial part,” he said.

Mar
28
2018
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Salesforce introduces Integration Cloud on heels of MuleSoft acquisition

Salesforce hasn’t wasted any time turning the MuleSoft acquisition into a product of its own, announcing the Salesforce Integration Cloud this morning.

While in reality it’s too soon to really take advantage of the MuleSoft product set, the company is laying the groundwork for the eventual integration into the Salesforce family with this announcement, which really showcases why Salesforce was so interested in them that they were willing to fork over $6.5 billion.

The company has decided to put their shiny new bauble front and center in the Integration Cloud announcement, so that when they are in the fold, they will have a place for them to hit the ground running

The Integration Cloud itself consists of three broad pieces: The Integration Platform, which will eventually be based on MuleSoft; Integration Builder, a tool that lets you bring together a complete picture of a customer from Salesforce tools, as well as across other enterprise data repositories and finally Integration Experiences, which is designed to help brands build customized experiences based on all the information you’ve learned from the other tools.

For now, it involves a few pieces that are independent of MuleSoft including a workflow tool called Lightning Flow, a new service that is designed to let Salesforce customers build workflows using the customer data in Salesforce CRM.

It also includes a dash of Einstein, Salesforce’s catch-all brand for the intelligence layer that underlies the platform, to build Einstein intelligence into any app.

Salesforce also threw in some Trailhead education components to help customers understand how to best make use of these tools.

But make no mistake, this is a typical Salesforce launch. It is probably earlier than it should be, but it puts the idea of integration out there in the minds of its customers and lays a foundation for a much deeper set of products and services down the road when MuleSoft is more fully integrated into the Salesforce toolset.

For now, it’s important to understand that this deal is about using data to fuel the various pieces of the Salesforce platform and provide the Einstein intelligence layer with information from across the enterprise wherever it happens to live, whether that’s in Salesforce, another cloud application or some on-prem legacy systems.

This should sound familiar to folks attending the Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas, since it’s eerily similar to what Adobe announced on stage yesterday at the Summit keynote. Adobe is calling it a customer experience system of record, but the end game is pretty much the same: bringing together data about a customer from a variety of sources, building a single view of that customer, and then turning that insight into a customized experience.

That they chose to make this announcement during the Adobe Summit, where Adobe has announced some data integration components of its own could be a coincidence, but probably not.

Mar
05
2018
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Virtru’s new API brings encryption tech built by ex-NSA engineer to third-party developers

 Virtru co-founder Will Ackerly developed the company’s underlying encryption technology while he was working as an engineer at the NSA, so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about the subject. The company has been delivering encryption products for email and files in transit for several years now, mainly through a partnership with Google GMail and Microsoft Office… Read More

Aug
30
2017
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Plaid delivers bank account integration to enterprise developers

 Plaid, which is best known for helping financial services customers build applications with direct connections to their users’ bank accounts, announced today that they have released a new SDK to bring that same type of functionality to enterprise developers. “At a high level we are the middle layer between you and your bank,” Zach Perret, CEO at Plaid told TechCrunch. When… Read More

Mar
05
2017
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IBM adds new API to quantum computing cloud service

IBM Quantum Computer IBM announced today that it was updating its Quantum Experience cloud with a new API that it hopes will increase the abilities of researchers and other interested parties to build more sophisticated applications with its experimental quantum computing system.
Last May, IBM opened up its 5 qubit computer in its NY state labs to the public in the form of a cloud service. The hope was that by… Read More

Feb
08
2017
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Box unveils new set of developer tools

Cropped shot of a young computer programmer looking through data Box decided early on it wanted to be a platform on top of which which developers can build applications using Box services. Today, it introduced several new tools designed to make it easier for developers to get up and running on the Box platform.
Today’s announcement starts with a newly designed Box Developer Console. This is the place developers typically grab their API keys and get… Read More

Oct
18
2016
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Looker expands beyond the confines of the application in its latest release

Looker interface The application is where we traditionally tend to work with a piece of software, but with the increasing use of APIs, sometimes the application is just one way of interacting with the tool. Looker announced version 4 of its data visualization tool today with expanded ways to make use of the data beyond the interface itself.
Sure, they updated the interface as part of today’s broad… Read More

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