Jan
13
2020
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Salesforce announces new tools to boost developer experience on Commerce Cloud

Salesforce announced some new developer tools today, designed to make it easier for programmers to build applications on top of Commerce Cloud in what is known in industry parlance as a “headless” system.

What that means is that developers can separate the content from the design and management of the site, allowing companies to change either component independently.

To help with this goal, Salesforce announced some new and enhanced APIs that enable developers to take advantage of features built into the Commerce Cloud platform without having to build them from scratch. For instance, they could take advantage of Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence platform, to add elements like next-best actions to the site, the kind of intelligent functionality that would typically be out of reach of most developers.

Developers also often need to connect to other enterprise systems from their e-commerce site to share data with these tools. To fill that need, Salesforce is taking advantage of MuleSoft, the company it purchased almost two years ago for $6.5 billion. Using MuleSoft’s integration technology, Salesforce can help connect to other systems like ERP financial systems or product management tools and exchange information between the two systems.

Brent Leary, founder at CRM Essentials, whose experience with Salesforce goes back to its earliest days, says this about helping give developers the tools they need to create the same kind of integrated shopping experiences consumers have grown to expect from Amazon.

“These tools give developers real-time insights delivered at the ‘moment of truth’ to optimize conversion opportunities, and automate processes to improve ordering and fulfillment efficiencies. This should give developers in the Salesforce ecosystem what they need to deliver Amazon-like experiences while having to compete with them,” he said.

To help get customers comfortable with these tools, the company also announced a new Commerce Cloud Development Center to access a community of developers who can discuss and share solutions with one another, an SDK with code samples and Trailhead education resources.

Salesforce made these announcement as part of the National Retail Foundation (NRF) Conference taking place in New York City this week.

Dec
13
2019
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Adobe turns it up to 11, surpassing $11B in revenue

Yesterday, Adobe submitted its quarterly earnings report — and the results were quite good. The company generated a tad under $3 billion for the quarter, at $2.99 billion, and reported that revenue exceeded $11 billion for FY 2019, its highest-ever mark.

“Fiscal 2019 was a phenomenal year for Adobe as we exceeded $11 billion in revenue, a significant milestone for the company. Our record revenue and EPS performance in 2019 makes us one of the largest, most diversified, and profitable software companies in the world. Total Adobe revenue was $11.17 billion in FY 2019, which represents 24% annual growth,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told analysts and reporters in his company’s post-earnings call.

Adobe made a couple of key M&A moves this year that appear to be paying off, including nabbing Magento in May for $1.7 billion and Marketo in September for $4.75 billion. Both companies fit inside its “Digital Experience” revenue bucket. In its most recent quarter, Adobe’s Digital Experience segment generated $859 million in revenue, compared with $821 million in the sequentially previous quarter.

Obviously buying two significant companies this year helped push those numbers, something CFO John Murphy acknowledged in the call:

Key Q4 highlights include strong year-over-year growth in our Content and Commerce solutions led by Adobe Experience Manager and success with cross-selling and up-selling Magento; Adoption of Adobe Experience Platform, Audience Manager and Real-Time CDP in our Data & Insights solutions; and momentum in our Marketo business, including in the mid-market segment, which helped fuel growth in our Customer Journey Management solutions.

All of that added up to growth across the Digital Experience category.

But Adobe didn’t simply buy its way to new market share. The company also continued to build a suite of products in-house to help grow new revenue from the enterprise side of its business.

“We’re rapidly evolving our CXM product strategy to deliver generational technology platforms, launch innovative new services and introduce enhancements to our market-leading applications. Adobe Experience Platform is the industry’s first purpose-built CXM platform. With real-time customer profiles, continuous intelligence and an open and extensible architecture, Adobe Experience Platform makes delivering personalized customer experiences at scale a reality,” Narayan said.

Of course, the enterprise is just part of it. Adobe’s creative tools remain its bread and butter, with the creative tools accounting for $1.74 billion in revenue and Document Cloud adding another $339 million this quarter.

The company is talking confidently about 2020, as its recent acquisitions mature and become a bigger part of the company’s digital experience offerings. But Narayan feels good about the performance this year in digital experience: “When I take a step back and look at what’s happened during the year, I feel really good about the amount of innovation that’s happening. And the second thing I feel really good about is the alignment across Magento, Marketo and just call it the core DX business in terms of having a more unified and aligned go-to-market, which has not only helped our results, but it’s also helped the operating expense associated with that business,” he said.

It is no small feat for any software company to surpass $11 billion in trailing revenue. Consider that Adobe, which was founded in 1982, goes back to the earliest days of desktop PC software in the 1980s. Yet it has managed to transform into a massive cloud services company over the last five years under Narayan’s leadership.

Nov
18
2019
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Ohi raises $2.75M to power same-day delivery for brands that aren’t Amazon

The world has gotten so much faster. Amazon has made two-day shipping the standard and same- or next-day shipping commonplace. And that doesn’t even include the collection of on-demand players that can get us everything from groceries to alcohol to services like concierge storage and in-home cleaning with the press of a button.

But the logistics around same- or next-day delivery are incredibly complicated, which usually means that only the biggest, most successful brands and platforms can pull it off.

Enter Ohi.

Ohi was founded last year by Ben Jones, with a mission to democratize e-commerce by offering Amazon-level speed to smaller brands. The company today announced the close of a $2.75 million seed round led by Flybridge Capital Partners .

Ohi partners with landlords to turn what would normally be leased as commercial retail property or office space into micro-warehouses within major cities. The company then offers those warehouses on flexible leases that can be as short as three months, which help D2C brands distribute their inventory and power same- or next-day delivery of their products. Ohi employs 1099 workers to handle pick and pack at warehouses, and partners with Postmates and Doordash for last-mile courier services.

Eventually, Ohi has plans to turn this into a full-fledged platform, paying landlords based on volume. For now, however, the startup is doing traditional leases with landlords, taking on more of a financial risk with the spaces, as it scales up the brand side of the platform.

Ohi charges brands a fixed monthly access fee to the platform, which starts at $750/month. More expensive tiers unlock premium intelligence features around matching inventory to warehouse location, as well as access to more spaces. At the transaction level, Ohi asks for a fee of $2.50 for pick and pack.

Jones says that delivery is actually a higher cost for brands than storage, and that same-day shipping can cost upwards of $50/package for a brand, with same-day pick and pack costing about $10/item. The hope is that Ohi can bring down the price of same-day and next-day delivery by using this Ohi network of commercial space, pick and pack and courier services to compete with Amazon.

Moreover, Ohi believes that the platform can go well beyond bringing down the price of same-day delivery. The company says its brands are also seeing a decrease in cart abandonment when customers see that same-day or next-day delivery option.

Plus, through the data it collects by handling fulfillment for brands, Ohi expects to be able to use its tech to predict demand based on geography and category, helping brands understand their own customers and customers shopping in their particular category.

“There is a lot of positive momentum behind what we’re doing,” said Jones. “Every brand we talk to knows this is the future.”

Jones came up with the idea for Ohi after suffering a serious back injury that left him for more than a year unable to get around easily or carry things. This forced him into a situation where e-commerce was his only option for just about everything. Many of the orders he placed offered three- to five-day shipping, leaving him waiting for what he needed.

He started to investigate how a service could democratize the convenience of same-day and next-day delivery for brands and their customers. And Ohi was born.

Ohi currently offers its service in Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City, and is launching in Los Angeles this week.

“The greatest challenge we face is how to scale quickly without making mistakes,” said Jones. “It’s not quite as simple as a piece of software that has one-to-many distribution. We’re actually holding brands’ inventory and there’s a physical aspect to this business that makes it more complex. Making sure we can scale that efficiently without making mistakes is going to be one of the biggest challenges.”

Nov
12
2019
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Loop Returns picks up $10 million in Series A led by FirstMark Capital

Loop Returns, the startup that helps brands handle returns from online purchases, has today announced the close of a $10 million Series A funding round led by FirstMark Capital. Lerer Hippeau and Ridge Ventures also participated in the round.

Loop started when Jonathan Poma, a co-founder and COO and president, was working at an agency and consulting with a big Shopify brand on how to improve their system for returns and exchanges. After partnering with longtime friend Corbett Morgan, Loop Returns was born.

Loop sits on top of Shopify to handle all of a brand’s returns. It first asks the customer if they’d like a different size in the item they bought, quickly managing an exchange. It then asks if the customer would prefer to exchange for a new item altogether, depositing the credit in that person’s account in real time so they can shop for something new immediately.

If an exchange isn’t in the cards, Loop will ask the customer if they’d prefer credit with this brand over a straight-up refund.

The goal, according to Poma and Morgan, is to turn the point of return into a moment where brands can create a life-loyal customer when handled quickly and properly.

The more we shop online, the more brands extend themselves financially, and returns are a big part of that. Returns account for 20 to 30% of e-commerce sales, which can become a terrible financial burden on a growing direct-to-consumer brand. And what’s more, the cost of acquiring those users in the first place also goes down the drain.

Loop Returns hopes to keep that customer in the fold by giving them post-purchase options that are more sticky and more lucrative for the brand than a refund.

The company thinks of it as Connection Infrastructure. Most brands already have a customer acquisition architecture, and Shopify and Amazon are ahead when it comes to the infrastructure around customer convenience. But the ties that bind customers to brands haven’t been optimized for the many D2C brands out there looking to make an impact.

“The big problem we’re trying to solve long term is connection infrastructure,” said Morgan. “Why does this brand matter? Why does it mean something to me? Why does the product matter? We want to enforce more mindfulness and meaning into buying.”

Of course, a more mindful shopper doesn’t yield as many returns. Poma and Morgan admit that the goal of their software is to minimize returns, the very reason for the software’s existence. After all, return volume is one of a handful of variables that help Loop Returns determine what it will charge its brand clients.

But the team is thinking about other layers of the connection infrastructure, with plans to launch a product in 2020 that also focuses on the connection point after purchase. Poma and Morgan believe, with an almost religious reverence, that the brands themselves will help lead shoppers and infrastructure providers to a better, more connected shopping experience.

“Brands are the torch bearers,” said Poma. “They will lead us to a more enlightened era of how we think about buying. Empowerment of the brand will lead us to a better consumerism.”

The co-founders stayed mum on any specific plans for the 2020 product, but did say they will use the funding to expand operations and further build out its current and future products.

Of course, Loop is playing in a crowded space. Not only are there other players thinking about post-purchase connection, but Shopify has itself built out tools to help with exchanges and returns, and even acquired Return Magic, a similar service, in the summer of 2018.

That said, Loop Returns believes there is a long way to go as it builds the “connection infrastructure,” and that one clear path forward is actual personalization. With data from returns and exchanges, Loop Returns is relatively well-positioned to take on personalization in a meaningful way.

For now, Loop Returns has more than 200 customers and has handled more than 2 million returns, working with brands like Brooklinen, Allbirds, PuraVida and more.

Oct
29
2019
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WeFarm rakes in $13M to grow its marketplace and network for independent farmers

Huge networks like Facebook and LinkedIn have a huge gravitational force in the world of social media — the size of their audiences make them important platforms for advertising and those who want information (for better or worse) to reach as many people as possible. But alongside their growth, we’re seeing a lasting role for platforms and networks focused on more narrow special interests, and today one of them — focused on farmers, of all communities — is picking up a round of funding to propel its growth.

WeFarm, a marketplace and networking site for small-holder farmers (that is, farms not controlled by large agribusinesses), has raised $13 million in a Series A round of funding, with plans to use the money to continue adding more users — farmers — and more services geared to their needs.

The round, which brings the total raised by the company to a modest $20 million, is being led by True Ventures, with AgFunder, June Fund; previous investors LocalGlobe, ADV and Norrsken Foundation; and others also participating.

WeFarm today has around 1.9 million registered users, and its early moves into providing a marketplace — helping to put farmers in touch with local suppliers of goods and gear such as seed and fertilizers — generated $1 million in sales in its first eight months of operations, a sign that there is business to be had here. The startup points out that this growth has been, in fact, “faster… than both Amazon and eBay in their early stages.”

WeFarm is based out of London, but while the startup does have users out of the U.K. and the rest of Europe, Kenny Ewan, the company’s founder and CEO, said in an interview that it is seeing much more robust activity and growth out of developing economies, where small-scale agriculture reigns supreme, but those working the farms have been massively underserved when it comes to new, digital services.

“We are building an ecosystem for global small-scale agriculture, on behalf of farmers,” Ewan said, noting that there are roughly 500 million small-scale farms globally, with some 1 billion people working those holdings, which typically extend 1.5-2 hectares and often are focused around staple commercial crops like rice, coffee, cattle or vegetables. “This is probably the biggest industry on Earth, accounting for some 75-80% of the global supply chain, and yet no one has built anything for them. This is significant on many levels.”

The service that WeFarm provides, in turn, is two-fold. The network, which is free to join, first of all serves as a sounding board, where farmers — who might live in a community with other farmers, but might also be quite solitary — can ask each other questions or get advice on agricultural or small-holding matters. Think less Facebook and more Stack Exchange here.

That provided a natural progression to WeFarm’s second utility track: a marketplace. Initially Ewan said that it’s been working with — and importantly, vetting — local suppliers to help them connect with farmers and the wider ecosystem for goods and services that they might need.

Longer term, the aim will be to provide a place where small-holding farmers might be able to exchange goods with each other, or sell on what they are producing.

In addition to providing access to goods for sale, WeFarm is helping to manage the e-commerce process behind it. For example, in regions like Africa, mobile wallets have become de facto bank accounts and proxies for payment cards, so one of the key ways that people can pay for items is via SMS.

“For 90% of our users, we are the only digital service they use, so we have to make sure we can fulfill their trust,” Ewan said. “This is a network of trust for the biggest industry on earth and we have to make sure it works well.”

For True and other investors, this is a long-term play, where financial returns might not be as obvious as moral ones.

“We are enormously inspired by how Kenny and the Wefarm team have empowered the world’s farmers, and we see great potential for their future,” said Jon Callaghan, co-founder of True Ventures, in a statement. “The company is not only impact-driven, but the impressive growth of the Wefarm Marketplace demonstrates exciting commercial opportunities that will connect those farmers to more of what they need to the benefit of all, across the food supply chain. This is a big, global business.”

Still, given the bigger size of the long tail, the company that can consolidate and manage that community potentially has a very valuable business on its hands, too.

Oct
10
2019
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Salesforce adds integrated order management system to its arsenal

Salesforce certainly has a lot of tools crossing the sales, service and marketing categories, but until today when it announced Lightning Order Management, it lacked an integration layer that allowed companies to work across these systems to manage orders in a seamless way.

“This is a new product built from the ground up on the Salesforce Lightning Platform to allow our customers to fulfill, manage and service their orders at scale,” Luke Ball, VP of product management at Salesforce told TechCrunch.

He says that order management is an often-overlooked part of the sales process, but it’s one that’s really key to the whole experience you’re trying to provide for your customers. “We think about advertising and acquisition and awareness. We think about creating amazing, compelling commerce experiences on the storefront or on your website or in your app. But I think a lot of brands don’t necessarily think about the delivery experience as part of that customer experience,” he said.

The problem is that order management involves so many different systems along with internal and external stakeholders. Trying to pull them together into a coherent system is harder than it looks, especially when it could also involve older legacy technology. As Ball pointed out, the process includes shipping carriers, warehouse management systems, ERP systems and payment and tax and fraud tools.

The Salesforce solution involves a few key pieces. For starters there is order life cycle management, what Ball calls the brains of the operation. “This is the core logic of an order management system. Everything that extends commerce beyond the Buy button — supply chain management, order fulfillment, payment capture, invoice creation, inventory availability and custom business logic. This is the bread and butter of an order management system,” he said.

Lightning Order Management 7 LOM AppPicker bezel

Salesforce Lightning Order Management App Picker (Image: Salesforce)

Customers start by building visual order workflows. They can move between systems in an App Picker, and the information is shared between Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud, so that as customers move from sales to service, the information moves with them and it makes it easier to process inquiries from customers about an order, including returns.

Ball says that Salesforce recognizes that not every customer will be an all-Salesforce shop and the system is designed to work with tools from other vendors, although these external tools won’t show up in the App Picker. It also knows that this process involves external vendors like shipping companies, so they will be offering specific integration apps for Lightning Order Management in the Salesforce AppExchange.

The company is announcing the product today and will be making it generally available in February.

Sep
10
2019
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Payments giant Stripe debuts a credit card in its latest step into the financing fray

Last week, when the popular payments startup Stripe made some waves with its first move into money lending through the launch of Stripe Capital, we reported that the company was also soon going to be launching a credit card. Now, that news is official. Today, the company is doubling down on financing with the launch of corporate cards for business customers.

Announced officially today to coincide with the company’s developer event Stripe Sessions, the Stripe Corporate Card — as the product is officially called — is a Visa that will be open to businesses that are incorporated in the U.S., although they can operate elsewhere.

Notably, users are expected to pay their balance in full each month, so for now there is no interest rate, or fee, to use the card, with Stripe making its money by way of the interchange fee that comes with every transaction using the card.

“We’re not freezing cards based on late or no payments,” Cristina Cordova, the business lead overseeing the launch, said in an interview. “A pretty common reason for non-payment is that a person switched bank accounts and forgot to update the information. But we think we’ll have fewer problems because we have banking information for accepting revenue, by way of our payments business.”

The move is another major step ahead for Stripe as it continues to diversify its business and bring on more financial products to become a one-stop shop for e-commerce and other companies for all the transactions they might need to make in the course of their lives. It is a little ironic that it’s taken years for credit cards to get added into the mix, considering Stripe’s earliest homepages and marketing efforts were built around the design of a credit card (a reference to taking payments online, not issuing credit, of course).

In any case, the list of products now offered by Stripe is long — longer, you might say, than it takes to incorporate a Stripe service into a developer workflow. In addition to its API-based flagship payments product — which is available as a direct service or, via Stripe Connect, for third parties via marketplaces and other platforms — it offers billing and invoicing, in-person payment services (via Terminal), business analytics, fraud prevention on transactions (Radar), company incorporation (Atlas) and a range of content around business strategy.

Some of these Stripe products are free to use, and some come at a price: The main point for offering them together is to build more engagement and loyalty from customers to keep them from migrating to other services. In that regard, credit cards are a cornerstone of how businesses operate, to handle day-to-day expenses in a more accountable way, and this is an area that is already well-served by others, including startups like Brex but also a plethora of challenger and traditional banks. So as much as anything else, this is a clear move to help stave off competition.

At the same time, it underscores how Stripe is leveraging the huge amount of data that it has amassed about its users and payments on the platform: It’s not just about enabling single services, but about using the byproducts of those services — data — to put fuel into new products.

Today, to underscore its global ambitions in that regard, Stripe is adding some expansions to several of its existing products. For example, it will now allow businesses to make payouts in local currencies in 45 countries (an important detail, for example, for marketplaces and network-based companies like ridesharing businesses).

The credit card product will follow a model similar to that of Stripe Capital. As with the lending product, there is a single bank issuing the credit and the card. Amber Feng, head of financial infrastructure for Stripe, confirmed to me that it is actually the same bank that’s providing the cash behind Stripe Capital. Stripe is still declining to name the bank itself, but hints that we may hear more about it soon, which leads me to wonder what news might be coming next.

(Funding perhaps would make sense? The company has raised a whopping $785 million to date and has a valuation of $22.5 billion at the moment. Given that Stripe has made indications that a public listing is not on the cards soon, that might imply, with the launch of these new financing products, that more capital might be raised soon.)

Also similar to Stripe Capital, the underwriting of the card is based on Stripe data. That is to say, business users are verified and approved based on turnover (revenues) as measured by the Stripe payments platform itself; and in cases where applicants are “pre-revenue,” they can be evaluated based on other data sources. For example, if they have used Stripe Atlas to incorporate their businesses, the paperwork supplied for that is used by Stripe to vet the customer’s suitability for a credit card.  

Notably, the cards will be delivered in the spirit of instant gratification: If you are applying and get approved, you can within minutes download a virtual card to your Apple Wallet as you await the physical card to arrive in the post.

Stripe is big on data in its own business, and it’s bringing some of that into this product with spending controls that can be set by person and by category; real-time expense reporting by way of texts; rewards of 2% back on spending in the business’s most-used categories; and integration with financial software like QuickBooks and Expensify.

Aug
27
2019
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Sweden’s Hedvig raises $10.4M led by Obvious Ventures to build ‘nice insurance’

Hedvig, a Swedish startup, is following in the footsteps of Lemonade, building a new generation of insurance platforms that use AI to help evaluate customers and operate on a policy of using surplus for social good. Today the company announced the next stage of its growth. The startup has closed a SEK100 million ($10.4 million) round of funding to expand from its current offering of property insurance into a wider range of categories, and begin the costly process of expanding its business into more countries beyond its home market.

The funding values the company at SEK342 million ($35.5 million) — a modest figure considering Lemonade’s recent $300 million round, reportedly (per PitchBook) at a $2.1 billion post-money valuation — but helps position the company to set its sights on being a strong regional player (if not an acquisition target for Lemonade if it wants to quickly add new regions: the latter kicked off its first services in Europe earlier this year, so its global aspirations are clear).

It currently has 15,000 customers in its home market of Sweden, who use it for property insurance on rented or owned apartments, and Lucas Carlsen, the co-founder and CEO, said in an emailed interview with TechCrunch that it “definitely” plans to expand that to houses as well as other categories. Home insurance also covers contents, such as gadgets, and travel, and Carlsen said that the former (gadgets) accounts for the majority of claims at the moment.

The round was led by Obvious Ventures, the venture fund co-founded by Twitter/Medium/Blogger co-founder Ev Williams, with D-Ax, the early-stage investment arm of Swedish retail giant Axel Johnson Group, also participating, along with past investor Cherry Ventures.

“We are building a global company. We just started in Sweden since we happened to live here, and it serves as a good test market as we have some of the worlds’ most progressive and demanding consumers. Today, we do not have any news to share about future markets, but stay tuned!,” said Carlsen.

“The new funding will mainly be used to fuel growth in Sweden, but we’ll also be looking at extending into new markets and insurance categories. Insurance is capital intensive and our new partners are committed to supporting our long-term vision,” he continued.

Indeed, getting an investor like Obvious (which published its own short announcement about the investment) involved could open the door to introductions with a number of other investors down the road.

Hedvig is harnessing its purpose, the power of AI, and its human-centered product to create a modern, full-stack insurance company. Their incredible team is delivering against the mission – to give people the world’s most incredible insurance experience – and we at Obvious are honored to help scale it further,” said Vishal Vasishth, one of Obvious Ventures’ other co-founders, in a statement.

Hedvig — named, Carlsen said, after a legend of “someone who stood up for others and fought for their causes: that’s what we do,” — will sound familiar to you if you know Lemonade.

It follows in a wave of more socially forward businesses that are being created, which are using technology to help disrupt the status quo but also to bridge the gap between building services that consumers need and the principles they would like to adhere to more if possible. (Other examples include the likes of Beyond Meat, which is also backed by Obvious; as well as the plethora of electric and hybrid vehicle makers; and more.)

In the case of Hedvig and the challenge of insurance, the proposition goes like this:

Hedvig uses technology and innovative algorithms to help assess a potential customer, who is then provided with lowest-cost, and often competitively priced, premiums. Then, as a “full-stack” digital company, it also uses its algorithms to help process claims. After Hedvig uses its bigger pot of money to pay out claims, the annual surplus is donated to charities selected by its customers.

“By not pocketing this money ourselves we can focus on providing the best service possible to you and not on making more money from denying claims,” Carlsen said.

Hedvig itself makes money by taking a cut off users’ monthly premiums (it doesn’t specify how much). To date, Hedvig has not disclosed how much it has been able to “give back” according to its business model. But the philosophy is that by digitising some of the more mundane processes that are relegated to human adjustors and customer agents at traditional agencies — and by not being inherently greedy — the startup is able to provide a more pleasant, more efficient and more conscionable service.

Aug
12
2019
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India’s Reliance Jio inks deal with Microsoft to expand Office 365, Azure to more businesses; unveils broadband, blockchain and IoT platforms

India’s Reliance Jio, which has disrupted the local telecom and features phone markets in less than three years of existence, is ready to foray into many more businesses.

In a series of announcements Monday, which included a long-term partnership with global giant Microsoft, Reliance Jio said it will commercially roll out its broadband service next month; an IoT platform with ambitions to power more than a billion devices on January 1 next year; and “one of the world’s biggest blockchain networks” in the next 12 months — all while also scaling its retail and commerce businesses.

The broadband service, called Jio Fiber, is aimed at individual customers, small and medium-sized businesses as well as enterprises, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries and Asia’s richest man, said at a shareholders’ meeting today.

The service, which is being initially targeted at 20 million homes and 15 million businesses in 1,600 towns, will start rolling out commercially starting September 5. Ambani said more than half a million customers have already been testing the broadband service, which was first unveiled last year.

The broadband service will come bundled with access to hundreds of TV channels and free calls across India and at discounted rates to the U.S. and Canada, Ambani said. The service, the cheapest tier of which will offer internet speeds of 100Mbps, will be priced at Rs 700 (~$10) a month. The company said it will offer various plans to meet a variety of needs, including those of customers who want access to gigabit internet speeds.

Continuing its tradition to woo users with significant “free stuff,” Jio, which is a subsidiary of India’s largest industrial house (Reliance Industries) said customers who opt for the yearly plan of its fiber broadband will be provided with the set-top box and an HD or 4K TV at no extra charge. Specific details weren’t immediately available. A premium tier, which will be available starting next year, will allow customers to watch many movies on the day of their public release.

The broadband service will bundle games from many popular studios, including Microsoft Game Studios, Riot Games, Tencent Games and Gameloft, Jio said.

Partnership with Microsoft

The company also announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to launch new cloud data centers in India to ensure “more of Jio’s customers can access the tools and platforms they need to build their own digital capability,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a video appearance Monday.

ambani nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks about the company’s partnership with Reliance Jio

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Core to this mission is deep partnerships, like the one we are announcing today with Reliance Jio. Our ambition is to help millions of organizations across India thrive and grow in the era of rapid technological change.”

“Together, we will offer a comprehensive technology solution, from compute to storage, to connectivity and productivity for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere in the country,” he added.

As part of the partnership, Nadella said, Jio and Microsoft will jointly offer Azure, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft AI platforms to more organizations in India, and also bring Azure Cognitive Services to more devices and in 13 Indian languages to businesses in the country. The solutions will be “accessible” to reach as many people and organizations in India as possible, he added. The cloud services will be offered to businesses for as little as Rs 1,500 ($21) per month.

The first two data centers will be set up in Gujarat and Maharashtra by next year. Jio will migrate all of its non-networking apps to the Microsoft Azure platform and promote its adoption among its ecosystem of startups, the two said in a joint statement.

The foray into broadband business and push to court small enterprises come as Reliance Industries, which dominates the telecom and retail spaces in India, attempts to diversify from its marquee oil and gas business. Reliance Jio, the nation’s top telecom operator, has amassed more than 340 million subscribers in less than three years of its commercial operations.

At the meeting, Ambani also unveiled that Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil producer Aramco was buying a 20% stake in $75 billion worth Reliance Industries’ oil-to-chemicals business.

Like other Silicon Valley companies, Microsoft sees massive potential in India, where tens of millions of users and businesses have come online for the first time in recent years. Cloud services in India are estimated to generate a revenue of $2.4 billion this year, up about 25% from last year, according to research firm Gartner. Microsoft has won several major clients in India in recent years, including insurance giant ICICI Lombard.

Today’s partnership could significantly boost Microsoft’s footprint in India, posing a bigger headache for Amazon and Google.

Ambani also said Reliance Retail, the nation’s largest retailer, is working on a “digital stack” to create a new commerce partnership platform in India to reach tens of millions of merchants, consumers and producers. Ambani said Reliance Industries plans to list both Reliance Retail and Jio publicly in the next years.

“We have received strong interests from strategic and financial investors in our consumer businesses — Jio and Reliance Retail. We will induct leading global partners in these businesses in the next few quarters and move towards listing of both these companies within the next five years,” he said.

The announcement comes weeks after Reliance Industries acquired for $42.3 million a majority stake in Fynd, a Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers. Reliance Industries has previously stated plans to launch a new e-commerce firm in the country.

Without revealing specific details, Ambani also said that Jio is building an IoT platform to control at least one billion of the two billion IoT devices in India by next year. He said he sees IoT as a $2.8 billion revenue opportunity for Jio. Similarly, the company also plans to expand its blockchain network across India, he said.

“Using blockchain, we can deliver unprecedented security, trust, automation and efficiency to almost any type of transaction. And using blockchain, we also have an opportunity to invent a brand-new model for data privacy where Indian data, especially customer data is owned and controlled through technology by the Indian people an d not by corporate, especially global corporations,” he added.

Jul
10
2019
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Anvyl, looking to help D2C brands manage their supply chain, raises $9.3M

Growing D2C brands face an interesting challenge. While they’ve eliminated much of the hassle of a physical storefront, they must still deal with all the complications involved in managing inventory and manufacturing and shipping a physical product to suppliers.

Anvyl, with a fresh $9.3 million in Series A funding, is looking to jump in and make a difference for those brands. The company, co-founded by chief executive Rodney Manzo, is today announcing the raise, led by Redpoint Ventures, with participation from existing investors First Round Capital and Company Ventures. Angel investors Kevin Ryan (MongoDB and DoubleClick), Ben Kaufman (Quirky and Camp) and Dan Rose (Facebook) also participated in the round.

Manzo hails from Apple, where with $300 million in spend to manage logistics and supply chain he was still operating in an Excel spreadsheet. He then went to Harry’s, where he shaved $10 million in cash burn in his first month. He says himself that sourcing, procurement and logistics are in his DNA.

Which brings us to Anvyl. Anvyl looks at every step in the logistics process, from manufacture to arrival at the supplier, and visualizes that migration in an easy-to-understand UI.

The difference between Anvyl and other supply chain logistics companies, such as Flexport, is that Anvyl goes all the way to the very beginning of the supply chain: the factories. The company partners with factories to set up cameras and sensors that let brands see their product actually being built.

“When I was at Apple, I traveled for two years at least once a month to China and Japan just to oversee production,” said Manzo. “To oversee production, you essentially have to be boots on the ground and eyes in the factory. None of our brands have traveled to a factory.”

On the other end of the supply chain, Anvyl lets brands manage suppliers, find new suppliers, submit RFQs, see cost breakdowns and accept quotes.

The company also looks at each step in between, including trucks, trains, boats and planes so that brands can see, in real time, their products go from being manufactured to delivery.

Anvyl charges brands a monthly fee using a typical SaaS model. On the other end, Anvyl takes a “tiny percentage” of goods being produced within the Anvyl marketplace. The company declined to share actual numbers around pricing.

This latest round brings Anvyl’s total funding to $11.8 million. The company plans to use the funding toward hiring in engineering and marketing, and grow its consumer goods customer base.

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