Jul
15
2020
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Sumeru Equity Partners buys majority stake in SocialChorus with $100M investment

SocialChorus, a startup that helps distribute communications internally in a similar way marketers reach customers externally, announced a $100 million investment today led by Sumeru Equity Partners. With this investment, the firm has bought a majority stake in the company. As part of today’s deal, Sumeru will be adding three members to the SocialChorus board.

Sumeru Equity Partners is making a majority investment in the company but also well capitalizing the business for future growth,” Mark Haller, principal at Sumeru told TechCrunch.

The company previously raised $47 million, according to Crunchbase data. Haller says this is not a buyout, so much as a partnership with those previous investors. “We’re seeing continued partnership with existing investors and we’re coming in and making that majority investment, and we’ll also be making another investment in the balance sheet,” he said.

What Sumeru is getting is a company that helps with internal communications using marketing techniques, says company CEO Gary Nakamura. “You can run campaigns with targeting segmentation and all the telemetry back that you need as a leader, as a manager, as an organization to understand how your communications are landing with your workforce,” Nakamura told TechCrunch.

The target is large companies and customers, including big names like Ford, Archer Daniels Midland and Boeing. The company reports it has 120 large customers around the world, and the business has been growing at 50% year over year.

While the company is getting this infusion of cash from Sumeru, Nakamura says he will continue to try to manage the company in a thoughtful way, and that means being careful about how they hire beyond the 120 employees the company already has.

“What we have built is a business that doesn’t require a lot of heads to run it. We can maintain a 50% growth rate with financial discipline that we’ve implemented. Historically that is what we’ve been able to do,” he said.

Sumeru Equity Partners is a private equity firm based in San Francisco. It targets mid-market companies, according to the company website, and then tries to apply operational efficiency by working with them on areas like product strategy, go-to-market acceleration and organizational development, with the goal of building up the company and taking it to exit.

Jul
07
2020
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Zoom announces new Hardware as a Service offering to run on ServiceNow

Zoom announced a new Hardware as a Service offering today that will run on the ServiceNow platform. At the same time, the company announced a deal with ServiceNow to standardize on Zoom and Zoom Phone for its 11,000 employees in another case of SaaS cooperation.

For starters, the new Hardware as a Service offering allows customers, who use the Zoom Phone and Zoom Rooms software, to acquire related hardware from the company for a fixed monthly cost. The company announced that initial solutions providers will include DTEN, Neat, Poly and Yealink.

The new service allows companies to access low-cost hardware and pay for the software and hardware on a single invoice. This could result in lower up-front costs, while simplifying the bookkeeping associated with a customer’s online communications options.

Companies can start small if they wish, then add additional hardware over time as needs change, and they can also opt for a fully managed service, where a third party can deal with installation and management of the hardware if that’s what a customer requires.

Zoom will run the new service on ServiceNow’s Now platform, which provides a way to manage the service requests as they come in. And in a case of one SaaS hand washing the other, ServiceNow has standardized on the Zoom platform for its internal communications tool, which has become increasingly important as the pandemic has moved employees to work from home. The company also plans to replace its current phone system with Zoom Phones.

One of the defining characteristics of SaaS companies, and a major difference from previous generations of tech companies, has been the willingness of these organizations to work together to string together sets of services when it makes sense. These kinds of partnerships not only benefit the companies involved, they tend to be a win for customers too.

Brent Leary, founder at CRM Essentials, sees this as a deal between two rising SaaS stars, and one that benefits both companies. “Everyone and their mother is announcing partnerships with Zoom, focusing on integrating video communications into core focus areas. But this partnership looks to be much more substantial than most, with ServiceNow not only partnering with Zoom for tighter video communication capabilities, but also displacing its current phone system with Zoom Phone,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Mar
18
2020
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Slack introduces simplified interface as usage moves deeper into companies

When Slack first launched in 2013, the product was quickly embraced by developers, and the early product reflected that. To get at advanced tools, you used a slash (/) command, but the company recognizes that as it moves deeper into the enterprise, it needed to simplify the interface.

Today, the company introduced a newly designed interface aimed at easing the user experience, making Slack more of an accessible enterprise communications hub.

Jaime DeLanghe, director of product management at Slack, says that the messaging application has become a central place for people to communicate about work, which has grown even more important as many of us have begun working from home as a result of COVID-19.

But DeLanghe says usage was up even before the recent work from home trend began taking off. “People are connected to Slack, on average, about nine hours a day and they’re using Slack actively for almost 90 minutes,” she told TechCrunch.

To that end, she says her team has been working hard to update the interface.

“From my team’s perspective, we want to make sure that the experience is as simple to understand and get on-boarded as possible,” she said. That also means surfacing more advanced tooling, which has been hidden behind those slash commands in previous versions of the tool.

She said that the company has been trying to address the needs of the changing audience over the years by adding many new features, but admits that has resulted in some interface clutter. Today’s redesign is meant to address that.

New Slack interface. Screenshot: Slack

Among the new features, besides the overall cleaner look, many people will welcome the new ability to nest channels to organize them better in the Channel sidebar. As your channels proliferate, it becomes harder to navigate them all. Starting today, users can organize their channels into logical groupings with labels.

New nested channel labels in Slack. Screenshot: Slack

DeLanghe is careful to point out that this channel organization is personal, and cannot be done at an administrative level. “The channels don’t actually live inside of another channel. You’re creating a label for them, so that you can organize them in the sidebar for just yourself, not for everybody,” she explained.

Other new features include an improved navigation bar at the top of the window, a centralized search and help tool also located at the top of the window and a universal compose button in the Sidebar.

All of these new features are designed to help make Slack more accessible to users, as more employees start using it across an organization.

Mar
27
2018
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Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, hits general availability

Last September, Atlassian launched Stride, its take on a Slack-like real-time communications platform for text, audio and video chats, into beta. Six months later, Stride is now generally available to any and all teams that want to give it a try.

While Atlassian is a bit cagey about providing exact user numbers, so the numbers it actually shared aren’t all the useful to gauge the service’s success. What the company was willing to say is that its users have now spent a quarter of a million hours in Stride’s Focus Mode, which is meant to allow worked to reclaim a bit of sanity in today’s notification-driven world by allowing you to turn off all incoming messages and notifications. As Atlassian’s head of communications products Steve Goldsmith told me, the company is happy with the state of Stride and that it’s growing quickly.

Since the closed beta launch, Atlassian has added about 50 new features and improvements to the service that include better ways to organize chat lists, better search and a number of improvements to the service’s video meetings features. Indeed, it’s these video chat features that the team is maybe the most proud of. “Small impromptu meetings don’t just happen when you have to switch context,” Goldsmith told me but declined to give us any numbers for how much time users spend in these chats beyond that “it’s a lot.”

Goldsmith also stressed that this is far from the final version of Stride. The team still has quite a roadmap of features that it wants to implement. But taking away the beta label, though, the company is signalling that it has worked out most of the kinks and that Stride is now ready for full enterprise deployments.

About a month ago, the Stride team also opened up its API to outside developers. Goldsmith was pretty open about the fact that he’s very happy with the final result but that he would’ve liked to see that happen a bit earlier. Stride’s API is the first product that sites on top of Atlassian’s new API platform. That probably made building the API a bit harder, but Goldsmith noted that that now makes integrating with Stride easier for other Atlassian teams.

Jun
28
2017
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Intercom lands former Intuit exec Karen Peacock as its new COO

Karen Peacock, COO at Intercom Intercom, a business messaging tool that enables companies to communicate directly with customers in an online context, announced today that it has hired former Intuit SVP Karen Peacock as company COO.
She joined the company May 30th, but they are making the news public for the first time today.
Peacock comes with an impressive resume that starts with a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford. Read More

May
01
2017
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Collaboration software company Jive to be acquired by Aurea for $462 million

Jive at IPO in 2011 Jive, a community collaboration software company that was one of the biggest Enterprise 2.0-era success stories, going public in 2011, announced today it had agreed to be acquired by ESW Capital’s Wave Systems for $462 million. It will become part of the Aurea family of companies. Read More

Apr
18
2017
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Workplace by Facebook continues to mature

Workplace" at the Facebook Inc. At the F8 conference today, Facebook announced a bunch of updates to its Workplace by Facebook team communications tool including a slew of new partnerships and new bot integrations, which all show a product that’s maturing to meet the needs of larger enterprise customers. When Workplace by Facebook was first launched last fall, it was an attempt to take Facebook and put it into a… Read More

Feb
01
2017
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The enterprise is the next logical step for Slack

Faces on discs depicting a man as leader of a marketing or social scheme in the centre Slack took a big step in its evolution as a startup yesterday when it launched Slack Enterprise Grid, the enterprise version of its popular messaging platform.
For Slack to continue its growth trajectory, it had to move on from being a tool for discrete teams to one that could deal with substantially more users, and provide some security and governance as it connected to other departments… Read More

Mar
09
2016
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Cisco bringing advanced search to Spark platform with Synata acquisition

Cisco logo in browser. Cisco announced it has purchased Synata, a search startup that allows users to search across on-premise or cloud repositories simultaneously. Cisco plans to integrate the Synata technology into its Spark communications platform (which should not to be confused with Apache Spark). While Cisco usually reveals purchase prices, because it was under $100 million, it chose to keep this one… Read More

Feb
09
2016
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ThinkingPhones Becomes Fuze And Grabs $112 Million Investment Led By Summit Partners

Woman on phone in front of two big computer screens taking notes. ThinkingPhones, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, cloud service that offers messaging, phone service and video streaming, announced $112 million investment round today.
The company also announced it was changing its name to Fuze, which happens to be the name of the cloud video company it purchased last fall.
The round was led by Summit Partners with help from current investors Bessemer Venture… Read More

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