Jul
28
2020
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YC alum Paragon snags $2.5M seed for low-code app integration platform

Low-code is a hot category these days. It helps companies build workflows or simple applications without coding skills, freeing up valuable engineering resources for more important projects. Paragon, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 cohort, announced a $2.5 million seed round today for its low-code application integration platform.

Investors include Y Combinator, Village Global, Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital and FundersClub.

“Paragon makes it easier for non-technical people to be able to build out integrations using our visual workflow editor. We essentially provide building blocks for things like API requests, interactions with third party APIs and conditional logic. And so users can drag and drop these building blocks to create workflows that describe business logic in their application,” says company co-founder Brandon Foo.

Foo acknowledges there are a lot of low-code workflow tools out there, but many like UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere concentrate on robotic process automation (RPA) to automate certain tasks. He says he and co-founder Ishmael Samuel wanted to focus on developers.

“We’re really focused on how can we improve developer efficiency, and how can we bring the benefits of low code to product and engineering teams and make it easier to build products without writing manual code for every single integration, and really be able to streamline the product development process,” Foo told TechCrunch.

The way it works is you can drag and drop one of 1,200 predefined connectors for tools like Stripe, Slack and Google Drive into a workflow template, and build connectors very quickly to trigger some sort of action. The company is built on AWS serverless architecture, so you define the trigger action and subsequent actions, and Paragon handles all of the back-end infrastructure requirements for you.

It’s early days for the company. After launching in private beta in January, the company has 80 customers. It currently has six employees, including Foo, who previously co-founded Polymail, and Samuel, who was previously lead engineer at Uber. They plan to hire four more employees this year.

With both founders people of color, they definitely are looking to build a diverse team around them. “I think it’s already sort of built into our DNA. As a diverse founding team we have perhaps a broader viewpoint and perspective in terms of hiring the kind of people that we seek to work with. Of course, I think there’s always room for improvement, and so we’re always looking for new ways that we can be more inclusive in our hiring recruiting process [as we grow],” he said.

As far as raising during a pandemic, he says it’s been a crazy time, but he believes they are solving a real problem and that they can succeed in spite of the macro economic conditions of the moment.

Jul
22
2020
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Reflect wants to help you automate web testing without writing code

Reflect, a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2020 class, is building a tool to automate website and web application testing, making it faster to get your site up and running without waiting for engineers to write testing code, or for human testers to run the site through its paces.

Company CEO and co-founder Fitz Nowlan says his startup’s goal is to allow companies to have the ease of use and convenience of manual testing, but the speed of execution of automated or code-based testing.

“Reflect is a no-code tool for creating automated tests. Typically when you change your website, or your web application, you have to test it, and you have the choice of either having your engineers build coded tests to run through and ensure the correctness of your application, or you can hire human testers to do it manually,” he said.

With Reflect, you simply teach the tool how to test your site or application by running through it once, and based on those actions, Reflect can create a test suite for you. “You enter your URL, and we load it in a browser in a virtual machine in the cloud. From there, you just use your application just like a normal user would, and by using your application, you’re telling us what is important to test,” Nowlan explained.

He adds, “Reflect will observe all of your actions throughout that whole interaction with that whole browser session. And then from those actions, it will distill that down into a repeatable machine executable test.”

Nowlan and co-founder Todd McNeal started the company in September 2019 after spending five years together at a digital marketing startup near Philadelphia, where they experienced problems with web testing first-hand.

They launched a free version of this product in April, just as we were beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic in the U.S, a point that was not lost on him. “We didn’t want to delay any longer and we just felt like, you know you got to get up there and swing the bat,” he said.

Today, the company has 20 paying customers, and he has found that the pandemic has helped speed up sales in some instances, while slowing it down in others.

He says the remote YC experience has been a positive one, and in fact he couldn’t have participated had they had to show up in California as they have families and homes in Pennsylvania.  He says that the remote nature of the current program forces you to be fully engaged mentally to get the most out of the program.

“It’s just a little more mental work to prepare yourself and to have the mental energy to stay locked in for a remote batch. But I think if you can get over that initial hump, the information flow and the knowledge sharing is all the same,” he said.

He says as technical founders, the program has helped them focus on the sales and marketing side of the equation, and taught them that it’s more than building a good product. You still have to go out there and sell it to build a company.

He says his short-term goal is to get as many people as he can using the platform, which will help them refine their ability to automate the test building. For starters, that involves recording activities on-screen, but over time they plan to layer on machine learning and that requires more data.

“We’re going to focus primarily over the next six to 12 months on growing our customer base — both paid and unpaid — and I really mean that we want people to come in and create tests. Even if they [use the free product], we’re benefiting from that creation of that test,” he said.

Jul
14
2020
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Recurrency is taking on giants like SAP with a modern twist on ERP

Recurrency, a member of the Summer 2020 Y Combinator cohort, was started by a 21 year old just out of college. He decided to take on a highly established market that is led by giants like SAP, Infor, Oracle and Microsoft, but instead of taking a highly complex area of enterprise software in one big bite, he is starting by helping wholesale businesses.

Sole founder and company CEO Sam Oshay just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a dual degree that straddled engineering and business, before joining the summer batch. Oshay is bringing a modern twist to ERP by using machine learning to drive more data-driven decision making.

“What makes us different from other ERPs like SAP, Infor and Epicor is that we can tell the user something that they don’t already know.” He says these traditional ERPs are basically data entry systems. For example, you could enter a pricing list, but you can’t do anything with it in terms of predictions.

“We can scan historical data and make pricing recommendations and predictions. So we are an ERP that not only does data analysis, but also imports external data and matches it to internal data to make recommendations and predictions,” Oshay explained.

While he doesn’t expect to remain confined to just the wholesale side of the business, it makes sense that he started with it because his family has a history of running these kinds of businesses. In fact, his grandfather immigrated to the U.S. after World War II and started a hardware wholesale business that his uncle still runs today. His dad started his own business selling wholesale shipping supplies, and he grew up in the family business, giving him some insight that most recent college grads probably wouldn’t have.

“I learned about the wholesale business at a very deep level. And what I observed is that so many of the issues with my dad’s business came down to issues with his ERP system. It occurred to me that if someone were to build an ERP extension or a better ERP, they could unlock so much of the value that is currently locked inside these legacy systems,” he said.

So he did what good entrepreneurs do, and began building it. For starters, his system plugs into legacy systems like SAP or NetSuite, but the plan is to build a better ERP, one step at a time. For now, it’s about wholesale, but he has a much broader vision for his company.

He originally applied to YC during the Fall 2019 semester of his junior year, and was admitted to the winter batch, but deferred to the Summer 2020 group to complete his studies. He spent his remaining time at UPenn sprinting to early graduation, taking 10 classes to come close to finishing his studies (with just a dissertation standing between him and his degree).

With this batch being delivered remotely, he says that the YC team has taken that into account and is still offering a meaningful experience for the summer group. “All of the events that YC would normally be doing are still happening, just remotely. And to my knowledge, some of the events we’re doing are designed specifically for this weird set of circumstances. The YC team has put quite a bit of thought into making this batch meaningful and I think they’ve succeeded,” he said.

While the pandemic has created new challenges for an early-stage business, he says that in some ways it’s helped him focus better. Instead of going out with friends, he’s home with his head down working on his company with little distraction.

As you would expect, it’s early days for the product, but he has three customers who are operational and two more in the implementation phase. He also has two employees so far, a front end and back end engineer.

For now, he’s going to continue building his product and his business, and he sees the pandemic as a time when businesses might be more open to changing a system like a legacy ERP. “If they want to try something new, and you can make it easier for them to try that, I’ve found that’s a place where you can make a sale,” he said.

Jul
02
2020
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QuestDB nabs $2.3M seed to build open source time series database

QuestDB, a member of the Y Combinator summer 2020 cohort, is building an open source time series database with speed top of mind. Today the startup announced a $2.3 million seed round.

Episode1 Ventures led the round with assistance from Seedcamp, 7percent Ventures, YCombinator, Kima Ventures and several unnamed angel investors.

The database was originally conceived in 2013 when current CTO Vlad Ilyushchenko was building trading systems for a financial services company and he was frustrated by the performance limitations of the databases available at the time, so he began building a database that could handle large amounts of data and process it extremely fast.

For a number of years, QuestDB was a side project, a labor of love for Ilyushchenko until he met his other co-founders Nicolas Hourcard, who became CEO and Tancrede Collard, who became CPO, and the three decided to build a startup on top of the open source project last year.

“We’re building an open source database for time series data, and time series databases are a multi-billion-dollar market because they’re central for financial services, IoT and other enterprise applications. And we basically make it easy to handle explosive amounts of data, and to reduce infrastructure costs massively,” Hourcard told TechCrunch.

He adds that it’s also about high performance. “We recently released a demo that you can access from our website that enables you to query a super large datasets — 1.6 billion rows with sub-second queries, mostly, and that just illustrates how performant the software is,” he said.

He sees open source as a way to build adoption from the bottom up inside organizations, winning the hearts and minds of developers first, then moving deeper in the company when they eventually build a managed cloud version of the product. For now, being open source also helps them as a small team to have a community of contributors help build the database and add to its feature set.

“We’ve got this open source product that is free to use, and it’s pretty important for us to have such a distribution model because we can basically empower developers to solve their problems, and we can ask for contributions from various communities. […] And this is really a way to spur adoption,” Hourcard said.

He says that working with YC has allowed them to talk to other companies in the ecosystem who have built similar open source-based startups and that’s been helpful, but it has also helped them learn to set and meet goals and have access to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen, who delivered a talk to the cohort the same day we spoke.

Today the company has seven employees, including the three founders, spread out across the US, EU and South America. He sees this geographic diversity helping when it comes to building a diverse team in the future. “We definitely want to have more diverse backgrounds to make sure that we keep having a diverse team and we’re very strongly committed to that.”

For the short term, the company wants to continue building its community, working on continuing to improve the open source product, while working on the managed cloud product.

May
18
2020
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GO1, an enterprise learning platform, picks up $40M from Microsoft, Salesforce and more

With a large proportion of knowledge workers doing now doing their jobs from home, the need for tools to help them feel connected to their profession can be as important as tools to, more practically, keep them connected. Today, a company that helps do precisely that is announcing a growth round of funding after seeing engagement on its platform triple in the last month.

GO1.com, an online learning platform focused specifically on professional training courses (both those to enhance a worker’s skills as well as those needed for company compliance training), is today announcing that it has raised $40 million in funding, a Series C that it plans to use to continue expanding its business. The startup was founded in Brisbane, Australia and now has operations also based out of San Francisco — it was part of a Y Combinator cohort back in 2015 — and more specifically, it wants to continue growth in North America, and to continue expanding its partner network.

GO1 not disclosing its valuation but we are asking. It’s worth pointing out that not only has it seen engagement triple in the last month as companies turn to online learning to keep users connected to their professional lives even as they work among children and house pets, noisy neighbours, dirty laundry, sourdough starters, and the rest (and that’s before you count the harrowing health news we are hit with on a regular basis). But even beyond that, longer term GO1 has shown some strong signs that speak of its traction.

It counts the likes of the University of Oxford, Suzuki, Asahi and Thrifty among its 3,000+ customers, with more than 1.5 million users overall able to access over 170,000 courses and other resources provided by some 100 vetted content partners. Overall usage has grown five-fold over the last 12 months. (GO1 works both with in-house learning management systems or provides its own.)

“GO1’s growth over the last couple of months has been unprecedented and the use of online tools for training is now undergoing a structural shift,” said Andrew Barnes, CEO of GO1, in a statement. “It is gratifying to fill an important void right now as workers embrace online solutions. We are inspired about the future that we are building as we expand our platform with new mediums that reach millions of people every day with the content they need.”

The funding is coming from a very strong list of backers: it’s being co-led by Madrona Venture Group and SEEK — the online recruitment and course directory company that has backed a number of edtech startups, including FutureLearn and Coursera — with participation also from Microsoft’s venture arm M12; new backer Salesforce Ventures, the investing arm of the CRM giant; and another previous backer, Our Innovation Fund.

Microsoft is a strategic backer: GO1 integrated with Teams, so now users can access GO1 content directly via Microsoft’s enterprise-facing video and messaging platform.

“GO1 has been critical for business continuity as organizations navigate the remote realities of COVID-19,” said Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Global Head of M12, in a statement. “The GO1 integration with Microsoft Teams offers a seamless learning experience at a time when 75 million people are using the application daily. We’re proud to invest in a solution helping keep employees learning and businesses growing through this time.”

Similarly, Salesforce is also coming in as a strategic, integrating this into its own online personal development products and initiatives.

“We are excited about partnering with GO1 as it looks to scale its online content hub globally. While the majority of corporate learning is done in person today, we believe the new digital imperative will see an acceleration in the shift to online learning tools. We believe GO1 fits well into the Trailhead ecosystem and our vision of creating the life-long learner journey,” said Rob Keith, Head of Australia, Salesforce Ventures, in a statement.

Working remotely has raised a whole new set of challenges for organizations, especially those whose employees typically have never before worked for days, weeks and months outside of the office.

Some of these have been challenges of a more basic IT nature: getting secure access to systems on the right kinds of machines and making sure people can communicate in the ways that they need to to get work done.

But others are more nuanced and long-term but actually just as important, such as making sure people remain in a healthy state of mind about work. Education is one way of getting them on the right track: professional development is not only useful for the person to do her or his job better, but it’s a way to motivate people, to focus their minds, and take a rest from their routines, but in a way that still remains relevant to work.

GO1 is absolutely not the only company pursuing this opportunity. Others include Udemy and Coursera, which have both come to enterprise after initially focusing more on traditional education plays. And LinkedIn Learning (which used to be known as Lynda, before LinkedIn acquired it and shifted the branding) was a trailblazer in this space.

For these, enterprise training sits in a different strategic place to GO1, which started out with compliance training and onboarding of employees before gravitating into a much wider set of topics that range from photography and design, through to Java, accounting, and even yoga and mindfulness training and everything in between.

It’s perhaps the directional approach, alongside its success, that have set GO1 apart from the competition and that has attracted the investment, which seems to have come ahead even of the current boost in usage.

“We met GO1 many months before COVID-19 was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and were impressed then with the growth of the platform and the ability of the team to expand their corporate training offering significantly in North America and Europe,” commented S. Somasegar, managing director, Madrona Venture Group, in a statement. “The global pandemic has only increased the need to both provide training and retraining – and also to do it remotely. GO1 is an important link in the chain of recovery.” As part of the funding Somasegar will join the GO1 board of directors.

Notably, GO1 is currently making all COVID-19 related learning resources available for free “to help teams continue to perform and feel supported during this time of disruption and change,” the company said.

May
13
2020
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FeaturePeek moves beyond Y Combinator with $1.8M seed

FeaturePeek’s founders graduated from Y Combinator in Summer 2019, which for an early-stage startup must seem like a million years ago right now. Despite the current conditions though, the company announced a $1.8 million seed investment today.

The round was led by Matrix Partners with some unnamed angel investors also participating.

The startup has built a solution to allow teams to review front-end designs throughout the development process instead of waiting until the end when the project has been moved to staging, co-founder Eric Silverman explained.

FeaturePeek is designed to give front-end capabilities that enable developers to get feedback from all their different stakeholders at every stage in the development process and really fill in the missing gaps of the review cycle,” he said.

He added, “Right now, there’s no dedicated place to give feedback on that new work until it hits their staging environment, and so we’ll spin up ad hoc deployment previews, either on commit or on pull requests and those fully running environments can be shared with the team. On top of that, we have our overlay where you can file bugs, you can annotate screenshots, record video or leave comments.”

Since last summer, the company has remained lean with three full-time employees, but it has continued to build out the product. In addition to the funding, the company also announced a free command line version of the product for single developers in addition to the teams product it has been building since the Y Combinator days.

Ilya Sukhar, partner at Matrix Partners, says as a former engineer, he had experienced this kind of problem firsthand, and he knew that there was a lack of tooling to help. That’s what attracted him to FeaturePeek.

“I think FeaturePeek is kind of a company that’s trying to change that and try to bring all of these folks together in an environment where they can review running code in a way that really wasn’t possible before, and I certainly have been frustrated on both ends of this where as an engineer, you’re kind of like, ‘okay, I wrote it, are you ever going to look at it?’ ” he said.

Sukhar recognizes these are trying times to launch a startup, and nobody really knows how things are going to play out, but he encourages these companies not to get too caught up in the macro view at this stage.

Silverman knows that he needs to adapt his go to market strategy for the times, and he says the founders are making a concerted effort to listen to users and find ways to improve the product while finding ways to communicate with the target audience.

May
12
2020
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UpKeep raises $36 million Series B to help facilities and maintenance teams go mobile

UpKeep, a mobile-first platform for maintenance and operations collaboration, has today announced the close of a $36 million Series B financing round. The round was led by Insight Partners, with participation from existing investors Emergence Capital, Battery Ventures, Y Combinator, Mucker Capital and Fundersclub.

UpKeep was founded by Ryan Chan. Chan worked at Trisep Corporation, a chemical manufacturing company, before founding UpKeep and saw first-hand how plant maintenance was handled. Despite the fact that the plant had purchased software for facilities maintenance and operations, most of the data was written down on pen and paper before being input into the system because that software was desktop only.

The idea for UpKeep was born.

UpKeep meets maintenance workers where they are, which could be just about anywhere.

With any maintenance job, from changing a lightbulb in an office building to repairing a complicated piece of machinery on the floor of a manufacturing plant, there are usually three parties involved: the requester, the facilities manager, and the technician.

Before UpKeep, the requester would either send an email to the facilities manager or perhaps use some other software to let them know of the problem. The facilities manager would prioritize the various requests of the day and send out technicians to resolve them.

Technicians have to log plenty of information when they’re out on the job, but this usually involved writing this info down on paper and then returning to a desk to input the data into the system.

With UpKeep, the requester can use the app itself to notify the facilities manager of problems, or send an email that flows directly into the UpKeep system. Facilities managers use UpKeep to prioritize and assign issues to their team of technicians, who then receive the work orders right on UpKeep.

Instead of logging information on paper, these technicians can take pictures of the problem and note the parts they need or other details of the job right in the app. No duplication of effort.

UpKeep operates on a freemium model, allowing technicians to manage their own work for free. Collaborative use of the product across an organization costs on a per user on both an annual or monthly basis. The company offers various tiers, from a Starter Plan ($35/month/user) to an Enterprise Plan ($180/month/user).

Higher tier plans offer more in-depth reporting and analysis around the work that gets done. Chan explained that these reports are not necessarily about tracking people, though.

“Yes, we track technicians and it’s a tool to manage work done by people,” said Chan. “But a manufacturing facility really cares much more about the equipment. They can use UpKeep to manage things like how many hours of downtime a piece of equipment has, etc. It’s more targeted toward the actual asset and the equipment versus the person completing their work.”

Chan said that around 80 percent of the company’s 400,000 users are on the free version of the app. Some brands on the app include Unilever, Siemens, DHL, McDonald’s, and Jet.com. Chan said UpKeep saw a 206 percent increase in revenue in 2019.

Important to the company’s future, UpKeep is working with OSHA and a group called SQF (Safe Quality Food) to offer templates around best practices during the pandemic. Now, maintenance workers and facilities staffs have a whole new checklist around sanitation and safety that many businesses are just getting up to speed on. UpKeep is working to make these new practices easier to adopt by providing those checklists directly to facilities managers.

This latest funding round brings UpKeep’s total funding to $48.8 million.

May
07
2020
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VC’s largest funds make big bets on vertical B2B marketplaces

During the waning days of the first dot-com boom, some of the biggest names in venture capital invested in marketplaces and directories whose sole function was to consolidate information and foster transparency in industries that had remained opaque for decades.

The thesis was that thousands of small businesses were making specialized products consumed by larger businesses in huge industries, but the reach of smaller players was limited by their dependence on a sales structure built on conferences and personal interactions.

Companies making pharmaceuticals, chemicals, construction materials and medical supplies represented trillions in sales, but those huge aggregate numbers hide how fragmented these supply chains are — and how difficult it is for buyers to see the breadth of sellers available.

Now, similar to the way business models popularized by Kozmo.com and Webvan in decades past have since been reincarnated as Postmates and DoorDash, the B2B directory and marketplace rises from the investment graveyard.

The first sign of life for the directory model came with the success of GoodRX back in 2011. The company proved that when information about pricing in a previously opaque industry becomes available, it can unleash a torrent of new demand.

Apr
07
2020
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WorkClout shifts focus to manufacturing performance support and raises $2.3M seed

WorkClout, a graduate of the Y Combinator Winter 2019 cohort, announced today that it has shifted its focus from manufacturing automation to manufacturing performance support and has raised a $2.3 million seed round.

The funding was led by Spider Capital with participation from Y Combinator, Liquid 2, Soma Capital, Pioneer Fund, Mehta Ventures and several individual investors.

When the company launched last year, it was looking at helping customers drive operational efficiency in their processes, but WorkClout founder and CEO Arjun Patel says they were seeing that there was a ceiling in terms of how much efficiency they could squeeze out of work processes using software.

At that point, Patel decided to take a step back and do some research to figure out how WorkClout could best help manufacturing customers with its software-based solutions. After surveying 124 manufacturers, he says that he realized that these companies really needed help training front-line workers, an area he says is called performance support.

“We found that most of the companies were saying that employees are the biggest challenge that they have to face in terms of how to engage them better or how to empower them better, because ultimately they realize people, even if there is automation, are still the driving force for a lot of sectors,” Patel told TechCrunch.

Towards the end of last year, the company built a new tool to help customers train employees for complex front-line tasks. The workers might have a phone or tablet, which shows them how to complete each task, and gives them feedback as they move through a set of tasks. It also enables these workers to communicate with one another and with management about issues they are seeing on the line. Managers can monitor communication and see how workers are doing on a back-end system in the office.

“We gave them the ability to allow employees to capture and share critical information in real time on the factory floor, where the goal is to actually create standardized multimedia and training content for machines, processes and stations, allowing new and existing employees to get better insight into their work, and at the same time, allowing employees to communicate better about problems on the floor and reduce downtime,” he explained.

Patel recognizes that this is a difficult time to pivot, but says he believes it puts the company in a better position to succeed in the long term. He has cut the team from nine to five employees in an effort to run lean for the short term.

He hopes to begin hiring again in the fourth quarter this year or, at the latest, by Q1 next year. He plans to use that time to build out the product and prepare for a big go-to market push whenever the economy begins to rebound.

He sees this money giving him a long runway of 2.5 years with the company’s current burn and revenue rates, and that should give him enough time to wait out the current economic downturn.

Mar
16
2020
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To make locks touchless, Proxy bluetooth ID raises $42M

We need to go hands-off in the age of coronavirus. That means touching fewer doors, elevators, and sign-in iPads. But once a building is using phone-based identity for security, there’s opportunities to speed up access to WIFI networks and printers, or personalize conference rooms and video call set-ups. Keyless office entry startup Proxy wants to deliver all of this while keeping your phone in your pocket.

The door is just a starting point” Proxy co-founder and CEO Denis Mars tells me. “We’re . . . empowering a movement to take back control of our privacy, our sense of self, our humanity, our individuality.”

With the contagion concerns and security risks of people rubbing dirty, cloneable, stealable key cards against their office doors, investors see big potential in Proxy. Today it’s announcing here a $42 million Series B led by Scale Venture Partners with participation from former funders Kleiner Perkins and Y Combinator plus new additions Silicon Valley Bank and West Ventures.

The raise brings Proxy to $58.8 million in funding so it can staff up at offices across the world and speed up deployments of its door sensor hardware and access control software. “We’re spread thin” says Mars. “Part of this funding is to try to grow up as quickly as possible and not grow for growth sake. We’re making sure we’re secure, meeting all the privacy requirements.”

How does Proxy work? Employers get their staff to install an app that knows their identity within the company, including when and where they’re allowed entry. Buildings install Proxy’s signal readers, which can either integrate with existing access control software or the startup’s own management dashboard.

Employees can then open doors, elevators, turnstiles, and garages with a Bluetooth low-energy signal without having to even take their phone out. Bosses can also opt to require a facial scan or fingerprint or a wave of the phone near the sensor. Existing keycards and fobs still work with Proxy’s Pro readers. Proxy costs about $300 to $350 per reader, plus installation and a $30 per month per reader subscription to its management software.

Now the company is expanding access to devices once you’re already in the building thanks to its SDK and APIs. Wifi router-makers are starting to pre-provision their hardware to automatically connect the phones of employees or temporarily allow registered guests with Proxy installed — no need for passwords written on whiteboards. Its new Nano sensors can also be hooked up to printers and vending machines to verify access or charge expense accounts. And food delivery companies can add the Proxy SDK so couriers can be granted the momentary ability to open doors when they arrive with lunch.

Rather than just indiscriminately beaming your identity out into the world, Proxy uses tokenized credentials so only its sensors know who you are. Users have to approve of new networks’ ability to read their tokens, Proxy has SOC-2 security audit certification, and complies with GDPR. “We feel very strongly about where the biometrics are stored . . . they should stay on your phone” says Mars.

Yet despite integrating with the technology for two-factor entry unlocks, Mars says “We’re not big fans of facial recognition. You don’t want every random company having your face in their database. The face becomes the password you were supposed to change every 30 days.”

Keeping your data and identity safe as we see an explosion of Internet Of Things devices was actually the impetus for starting Proxy. Mars had sold his teleconferencing startup Bitplay to Jive Software where he met his eventually co-founder Simon Ratner, who’d joined after his video annotation startup  Omnisio was acquired by YouTube. Mars was frustrated about every IoT lightbulb and appliance wanting him to download an app, set up a profile, and give it his data.

The duo founded Proxy in 2016 as a universal identity signal. Today it has over 60 customers. While other apps want you to constantly open them, Proxy’s purpose is to work silently in the background and make people more productive. “We believe the most important technologies in the world don’t seek your attention. They work for you, they empower you, and they get out of the way so you can focus your attention on what matters most — living your life.”

Now Proxy could actually help save lives. “The nature of our product is contactless interactions in commercial buildings and workplaces so there’s a bit of an unintended benefit that helps prevent the spread of the virus” Mars explains. “We have seen an uptick in customers starting to set doors and other experiences in longer-range hands-free mode so that users can walk up to an automated door and not have to touch the handles or badge/reader every time.”

The big challenge facing Proxy is maintaining security and dependability since it’s a mission-critical business. A bug or outage could potentially lock employees out of their workplace (when they eventually return from quarantine). It will have to keep hackers out of employee files. Proxy needs to stay ahead of access control incumbents like ADT and HID as well as smaller direct competitors like $10 million-funded Nexkey and $28 million-funded Openpath.

Luckily, Proxy has found a powerful growth flywheel. First an office in a big building gets set up, then they convince the real estate manager to equip the lobby’s turnstiles and elevators with Proxy. Other tenants in the building start to use it, so they buy Proxy for their office. Then they get their offices in other cities on board…starting the flywheel again. That’s why Proxy is doubling down on sales to commercial real estate owners.

The question is when Proxy will start knocking on consumers’ doors. While leveling up into the enterprise access control software business might be tough for home smartlock companies like August, Proxy could go down market if it built more physical lock hardware. Perhaps we’ll start to get smart homes that know who’s home, and stop having to carry pointy metal sticks in our pockets.

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