Aug
31
2021
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Extra Crunch roundup: Toast and Freshworks S-1s, pre-pitch tips, flexible funding lessons

The digital transformation currently sweeping society has likely reached your favorite local restaurant.

Since 2013, Boston-based Toast has offered bars and eateries a software platform that lets them manage orders, payments and deliveries.

Over the last year, its customers have processed more than $38 billion in gross payment volume, so Alex Wilhelm analyzed the company’s S-1 for The Exchange with great interest.

“Toast was last valued at just under $5 billion when it last raised, per Crunchbase data,” he writes. “And folks are saying that it could be worth $20 billion in its debut. Does that square with the numbers?”


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Airbnb, DoorDash and Coinbase each debuted at past Y Combinator Demo Days; as of this writing, they employ a combined 10,000 people.

Today and tomorrow, TechCrunch reporters will cover the proceedings at YC’s Summer 20201 Demo Day. In addition to writing up founder pitches, they’ll also rank their favorites.

Even remotely, I can feel a palpable sense of excitement radiating from our team — anything can happen at YC Demo Day, so sign up for Extra Crunch to follow the action.

Thanks very much for reading; I hope you have an excellent week.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

How Amazon EC2 grew from a notion into a foundational element of cloud computing

Image Credits: Ron Miller/TechCrunch

In August 2006, AWS activated its EC2 cloud-based virtual computer, a milestone in the cloud infrastructure giant’s development.

“You really can’t overstate what Amazon was able to accomplish,” writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

In the 15 years since, EC2 has enabled clients of any size to test and run their own applications on AWS’ virtual machines.

To learn more about a fundamental technological shift that “would help fuel a whole generation of startups,” Ron interviewed EC2 VP Dave Brown, who built and led the Amazon EC2 Frontend team.

3 ways to become a better manager in the work-from-home era

Image of a manager talking to his team via a video conference.

Image Credits: Jasmin Merdan (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Most managers agree that OKRs foster transparency and accountability, but running a team effectively has different challenges when workers are attending all-hands meetings from their kitchen tables.

Instead of just discussing key metrics before board meetings or performance reviews, make them part of the day-to-day culture, recommends Jeremy Epstein, Gtmhub’s CMO.

“Strengthen your team by creating authentic workplace transparency using numbers as a universal language and providing meaning behind your team’s work.”

The pre-pitch: 7 ways to build relationships with VCs

A person attracts people to his side with a magnet.

Image Credits: Getty Images under an Andrii Yalanskyi (opens in a new window) license

Many founders must overcome a few emotional hurdles before they’re comfortable pitching a potential investor face-to-face.

To alleviate that pressure, Unicorn Capital founder Evan Fisher recommends that entrepreneurs use pre-pitch meetings to build and strengthen relationships before asking for a check:

“This is the ‘we actually aren’t looking for money; we just want to be friends for now’ pitch that gets you on an investor’s radar so that when it’s time to raise your next round, they’ll be far more likely to answer the phone because they actually know who you are.”

Pre-pitches are good for more than curing the jitters: These conversations help founders get a better sense of how VCs think and sometimes lead to serendipitous outcomes.

“Investors are opportunists by necessity,” says Fisher, “so if they like the cut of your business’s jib, you never know — the FOMO might start kicking hard.”

Lessons from COVID: Flexible funding is a must for alternative lenders

Flexible Multi Colored Coil Crossing Hexagon Frame on White Background.

Image Credits: MirageC (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

FischerJordan’s Deeba Goyal and Archita Bhandari break down the pandemic’s impact on alternative lenders, specifically what they had to do to survive the crisis, taking a look at smaller lenders including Credibly, Kabbage, Kapitus and BlueVine.

“Only those who were able to find a way through the complexities of their existing capital sources were able to maintain their performance, and the rest were left to perish or find new funding avenues,” they write.

Inside Freshworks’ IPO filing

Customer engagement software company Freshworks’ S-1 filing depicts a company that’s experiencing accelerating revenue growth, “a great sign for the health of its business,” reports Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s The Exchange.

“Most companies see their growth rates decline as they scale, as larger denominators make growth in percentage terms more difficult.”

Studying the company’s SEC filing, he found that “Freshworks isn’t a company where we need to cut it lots of slack, as we might with an adjusted EBITDA number. It is going public ready for Big Kid metrics.”

Aug
27
2021
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Accounting platform Synder raises $2M to automate e-commerce bookkeeping

As Synder’s two co-founders Michael Astreiko and Ilya Kisel wrap up their time at Y Combinator, they also announced their seed round of $2 million from TMT Investments.

Though the round was acquired before going into the accelerator program, the Belarus-based pair wanted to wait to publicly share the milestone. As they focus their sights on their next journey of growth and expansion, the new funding will go toward attracting more clients, visibility and sales.

The company bills itself as an easy accounting platform for e-commerce businesses. It was originally founded as CloudBusiness in 2016 and developed accounting automation and management of business finances for small and mid-size businesses.

Astreiko and Kisel started Synder, in 2018 and a year later focused on the company full-time to develop an easy way for commerce companies to shift to omnichannel sales, something Astreiko told TechCrunch can be “a huge pain” due to the complexity of different payment systems and high fees.

“There are a lot of solutions on the market, but you still have to have special knowledge to operate within accounting or commerce,” Kisel said. “For us, the simplicity means that it is worth it if you can have access in several clicks to consolidated inventory, profits and liabilities. Small businesses sometimes are not sharing this information due to competition, but if something is working and easy, they will definitely share it.”

Synder does the heavy lifting for companies by connecting sales channels like Amazon, Shopify, eBay and Etsy into one platform that users can manage with one-click operations. It also created a way to help the accounting stream so that all of the different payment methods can still be used, Kisel said.

The company is already working with 4,000 clients, and will now be fast-tracking their expansion, but will need the right people on board to help the company grow, Astreiko said.

Igor Shoifot, a partner at TMT Investments, said he will join Synder’s board after the company graduates from YC. He likes the simplicity of what the company is doing.

“Often the best solutions are economical, succinct and elegant — you can be onboarded in 10 minutes,” he added. “There is really nobody that really provides a similar solution that was that easy or didn’t require downloading or installing something. I also like their focus on growth, the fact they have no burn and they are making money.”

Synder’s business model is a subscription SaaS model that starts off as a free trial, and users can purchase additional services inside the platform to fit small and large companies.

Its more than 15 employees are spread around Europe, and the company just started hiring in the areas of marketing and sales in the U.S.

 

Aug
27
2021
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Zeal banks $13M to offer employers a ‘build your own’ payroll product infrastructure

Embedded fintech company Zeal secured $13 million in Series A funding to continue developing its platform for building individualized payroll products.

Spark Capital led the Series A, with participation from Commerce Ventures and a group of individual investors, including Marqeta CEO Jason Gardner and CRO Omri Dahan, Robinhood founder Vlad Tenev, UltimateSoftware executives Mitch Dauerman and Bob Manne and Namely founder Matt Straz. The latest round now gives the company $14.6 million in total funding, which includes a $1.6 million seed round in 2020, CEO Kirti Shenoy told TechCrunch.

The Bay Area company’s origin was as Puzzl, a payment processing startup for the gig economy, founded in 2018 by Shenoy and CTO Pranab Krishnan. It was part of Y Combinator’s 2019 cohort. The pair had to pivot the company after needing to move some of its thousands of 1099 contractors to W2 employee status.

They went looking for payroll processors that could handle high volumes of payroll automatically, like ADP or Paycor, but found they didn’t match some of the capabilities Shenoy and Krishnan wanted, including to pay workers daily and customize earning components.

To ensure other companies didn’t run into the same problem, they decided to build a payroll API that enables their customers to build their own payroll products, even being able to pay their workers everyday. Traditionally, companies would layer together antiquated third-party payroll tools and spend millions of dollars on consulting fees. Zeal’s API tool modernizes the payroll process and takes on the payroll liability while managing the back-end payment logistics, Shenoy said.

Currently, enterprises use Zeal to pay large volumes of workers and keep payment data on their own native systems, while software platforms that sell business-to-business services use Zeal to build their own payroll product to sell to their customers.

“Our mission is to touch every American paycheck with our tax and payment technology, ensuring that American employees are paid correctly and efficiently,” Krishnan said.

And that is a complex goal: there are 200 million American employees, over $8.8 trillion of payroll is processed annually in the U.S. and the country’s 11,000 tax jurisdictions produce over 25,000 income tax code changes a year.

Meanwhile, Shenoy cited IRS data that showed more than 40% of small and medium businesses pay at least one payroll penalty per year. That was one of the drivers for Zeal’s latest product, the Abacus gross-to-net calculator, which payroll companies can use to ensure they are compliant in paying their income taxes.

The co-founders intend to use the new funding to build out their team and strengthen compliance measures to ensure its track record with enterprises.

“We are starting to win more enterprise deals and moving millions of dollars each day,” Shenoy said. “This has been a legacy space for so long, so companies want to work with a provider to move fast.”

Shenoy predicts that more companies will shift to hyper-customized experiences in the next five to 10 years. Whereas the default was a company like ADP, companies will want to control their own data and build products so their customers can do everything payroll-related from one platform.

As part of the investment, Spark Capital’s partner Natalie Sandman has joined Zeal’s board of directors. The firm previously invested in other embedded fintech companies like Affirm and Marqeta, and she thinks there are new experiences in the sector that APIs can unlock.

Sandman felt the payroll-building pain points herself when she worked at Zenefits. At the time, the company was trying to do the same thing, but there were no APIs to connect with. There were all of these spreadsheets to transfer data, but one wrong deduction would trickle down and cause a tax penalty.

Shenoy and Krishnan are both “customer-obsessed,” she said, and are balancing speed with thoughtfulness when it comes to understanding how their customers want to build payroll products.

She is seeing a macro shift to audience-driven human resources where bringing new employees online will mean embedding them into products that will be more valuable versus the traditional spreadsheet.

“To me, it is a no-brainer that APIs provide flexibility in the way wages and deductions need to be made,” Sandman said. “You can lose trust in your employer. Payroll is at the deepest trust point and where you want transparency and a robust solution to solve that need.”

Aug
25
2021
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Forward Kitchens cooks up $2.5M to transform existing kitchens into digital storefronts

Forward Kitchens was working quietly on its digital storefront for restaurants and is now announcing a $2.5 million seed round.

Raghav Poddar started the company two years ago and was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2019 cohort. Poddar told TechCrunch he has been a foodie his entire life. Lately, he was relying on food delivery and pickup services, and while visiting with some of the restaurant owners, he realized a few things: first, not many had a good online presence, and second, these restaurants had the ability to cook cuisine representative of their communities.

That led to the idea of Forward Kitchens, which provides a turnkey tool for restaurants to set up an online presence, including food delivery, where they can create multiple digital storefronts easily and without having to contact each delivery platform. The company ran pilot programs in a handful of restaurants, and this is the first year coming out of stealth.

“It’s an expansion of what they have on the menu, but is not immediately available in the neighborhood,” Poddar added. “Kitchens can keep the costs and headcount the same, but be able to service the demand and get more orders because it is fulfilling a need for the neighborhood, which is why we can grow so fast.”

Here’s how it works: Forward Kitchens goes into a restaurant and takes into account its capacity for additional cooking and the demographic area, as well as what food is available near it, and helps the restaurant create the storefront.

Each restaurant is able to build multiple storefronts, for example, an Italian restaurant setting up a storefront just to sell its popular mac n’ cheese or other small plates on demand. A couple hundred digital storefronts were already created, Poddar said.

A group of investors, including Y Combinator, Floodgate, Slow Ventures and SV Angel and angel investors Michael Seibel of YC, Ram Shriram and Thumbtack’s Jonathan Swanson, were involved in the round.

The new funding will be used to expand the company’s footprint and reach, and to hire a team in operations, sales and engineering to help support the product.

“Forward Kitchens is empowering independent kitchens to create digital storefronts and receive more online sales,” Seibel said via email. “With Forward Kitchens, a kitchen can create world-class digital storefronts at the click of a button.”

Aug
23
2021
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Virtual dressing room startup Revery.ai applying computer vision to the fashion industry

Figuring out size and cut of clothes through a website can suck the fun out of shopping online, but Revery.ai is developing a tool that leverages computer vision and artificial intelligence to create a better online dressing room experience.

Under the tutelage of University of Illinois Center for Computer Science advisrr David Forsyth, a team consisting of Ph.D. students Kedan Li, Jeffrey Zhang and Min Jin Chong, is creating what they consider to be the first tool using existing catalog images to process at a scale of over a million garments weekly, something previous versions of virtual dressing rooms had difficulty doing, Li told TechCrunch.

Revery.ai co-founders Jeffrey Zhang, Min Jin Chong and Kedan Li. Image Credits: Revery.ai

California-based Revery is part of Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort gearing up to complete the program later this month. YC has backed the company with $125,000. Li said the company already has a two-year runway, but wants to raise a $1.5 million seed round to help it grow faster and appear more mature to large retailers.

Before Revery, Li was working on another startup in the personalized email space, but was challenged in making it work due to free versions of already large legacy players. While looking around for areas where there would be less monopoly and more ability to monetize technology, he became interested in fashion. He worked with a different adviser to get a wardrobe collection going, but that idea fizzled out.

The team found its stride working with Forsyth and making several iterations on the technology in order to target business-to-business customers, who already had the images on their websites and the users, but wanted the computer vision aspect.

Unlike its competitors that use 3D modeling or take an image and manually clean it up to superimpose on a model, Revery is using deep learning and computer vision so that the clothing drapes better and users can also customize their clothing model to look more like them using skin tone, hair styles and poses. It is also fully automated, can work with millions of SKUs and be up and running with a customer in a matter of weeks.

Its virtual dressing room product is now live on many fashion e-commerce platforms, including Zalora-Global Fashion Group, one of the largest fashion companies in Southeast Asia, Li said.

Revery.ai landing page. Image Credits: Revery.ai

“It’s amazing how good of results we are getting,” he added. “Customers are reporting strong conversion rates, something like three to five times, which they had never seen before. We released an A/B test for Zalora and saw a 380% increase. We are super excited to move forward and deploy our technology on all of their platforms.”

This technology comes at a time when online shopping jumped last year as a result of the pandemic. Just in the U.S., the e-commerce fashion industry made up 29.5% of fashion retail sales in 2020, and the market’s value is expected to reach $100 billion this year.

Revery is already in talks with over 40 retailers that are “putting this on their roadmap to win in the online race,” Li said.

Over the next year, the company is focusing on getting more adoption and going live with more clients. To differentiate itself from competitors continuing to come online, Li wants to invest body type capabilities, something retailers are asking for. This type of technology is challenging, he said, due to there not being much in the way of diversified body shape models available.

He expects the company will have to collect proprietary data itself so that Revery can offer the ability for users to create their own avatar so that they can see how the clothes look.

“We might actually be seeing the beginning of the tide and have the right product to serve the need,” he added.

Aug
23
2021
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Y Combinator-backed Adra wants to turn all dentists into cavity-finding ‘super dentists’

Like other areas of healthcare, the dental industry is steadily embracing technology. But while much of it is in the orthodontic realm, other startups, like Adra, are bringing artificial intelligence into a dentist’s day-to-day workflow, particularly in finding cavities, of what will be a $435.08 billion global dental services market this year.

The Singapore-based company was founded in 2021, but was an idea that started last year. Co-founder Hamed Fesharaki has been a dentist for over a decade and owns two clinics in Singapore.

He said dentists learn to read X-rays in dental school, but it can take a few years to get good at it. Dentists also often have just minutes to read them as they hop between patients.

As a result, dentists end up misdiagnosing cavities up to 40% of the time, co-founder Yasaman Nematbakhsh said. Her background is in imaging, where she developed an artificial intelligence machine identifying hard-to-see cancers, something Fesharaki thought could also be applied to dental medicine.

Providing the perspective of a more experienced dentist, Adra’s intent is to make every dentist “a super dentist,” Fesharaki told TechCrunch. Its software detects cavities and other dental problems on dental X-rays faster and 25% more accurately, so that clinics can use that time to better serve patients and increase revenue.

Example of Adra’s software. Image Credits: Adra

“We are coming from the eye of an experienced dentist to help illustrate the problems by turning the X-rays into images to better understand what to look for,” he added. “Ultimately, the dentist has the final say, but we bring the experience element to help them compare and give them suggestions.”

By quickly pointing out the problem and the extent of it, dentists can decide in what way they want to treat it — for example, do a filling, a fluoride treatment or wait.

Along with third co-founder Shifeng Chen, the company is finishing up its time in Y Combinator’s summer cohort and has raised $250,000 so far. Fesharaki intends to do more formalized seed fundraising and wants to bring on more engineers to tackle user experience and add more features.

The company has a few clinics doing pilots and wants to attract more as it moves toward a U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance. Fesharaki expects it to take six to nine months to receive the clearance, and then Adra will be able to hit the market in late 2022 or early 2023.

Aug
20
2021
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Rutter comes out of stealth with $1.5M in funding for its e-commerce API

Rutter, a remote-first company, is developing a unified e-commerce API that enables companies to connect with data across any platform.

On Friday the company announced it was emerging from stealth with $1.5 million in funding from a group of investors including Haystack, Liquid 2 and Basis Set Ventures.

Founders Eric Yu and Peter Zhou met in school and started working on Rutter, which Zhou called “Plaid for commerce,” in 2017 before going through the summer 2019 Y Combinator cohort.

They stumbled upon the e-commerce API idea while working in education technology last year. The pair were creating subscription kits and learning materials for parents concerned about how their children would be learning during the global pandemic. Then their vendor customers had problems listing their storefronts on Amazon, so they wrote scripts to help them, but found that they had to write separate scripts for each platform.

With Rutter, customers only need one script to connect anywhere. Its APIs connect to e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Walmart and Amazon so that tech customers can build functions like customer support and chatbots, Yu told TechCrunch.

Lan Xuezhao, founding and managing partner of Basis Set Ventures, said via email that she was “super excited” about Rutter first because of the founders’ passion, grit and speed of iteration to a product. She added it reminded her of another team that successfully built a business from zero to over $7 billion.

“After watching them (Rutter) for a few years, it’s clear what they built is powerful: it’s the central nervous system of online commerce,” Xuezhao added.

As the founders see it, there are two big explosions going on in e-commerce: the platform side with the adoption of headless commerce — the separating of front end and back end functions of an e-commerce site, and new companies coming in to support merchants.

The new funding will enable Yu and Zhou to build up their team, including hiring more engineers.

Due to the company officially launching at the beginning of the year, Yu did not disclose revenue metrics, but did say that Rutter’s API volume was doubling and tripling in the last few months. It is also supporting merchants that connect with over 5,000 stores.

Some of Rutter’s customers are building one aspect of commerce, like returns, warranties and checkouts, but Yu said that since Shopify represents just 10% of e-commerce, the company’s goal is to take merchants beyond the marketplace by being “that unified app store for merchants to find products.”

“We think that in the future, the e-commerce stack of a merchant will look like the SaaS stack of a software company,” Zhou added. “We want to be the glue that holds that stack together for merchants.”

 

Aug
11
2021
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Bite Ninja scoops up pre-seed funding to reimagine restaurant working environments

Will Clem knows all too well about restaurant workers not showing up for a shift. At least one person would have car trouble or need to stay home with sick children, and it became a common occurrence on the weekends for the co-founder of Memphis Meats and owner of Baby Jacks BBQ in Memphis.

Needing to fill a shift one Friday night, Clem decided to prop his laptop in the drive-thru lane of one of his restaurants and took orders from home by remoting into the system. No one noticed that he wasn’t actually taking orders from the kitchen itself. Thus came the idea for Bite Ninja, a remote hiring technology platform for restaurants.

Clem connected with Orin Wilson to start the company in 2020 and worked for a year on the technology before launching it in March. Today, the company announced $675,000 in pre-seed funding led by Y Combinator, AgFunder and Manta Ray.

With many restaurants unable to find workers as a result of the global pandemic, Clem and Wilson wanted to build a technology that would enable restaurants to go back to normal operating hours, or even reopen their stores. At the same time, the workers, or “Ninjas” as they are referred to, can work the drive-thru or counter for a lunch or dinner rush shift from home, but appear on-screen to customers via menu boards, Wilson said.

Bite Ninja drive-thru. Image Credits: Bite Ninja

“When a restaurant is slammed, you need an army of people to work the rush, but it is not reasonable to ask them to get in their uniform and get in their cars, last-minute, to clock in for just an hour or two,” he added. “They have control of their schedule and can pick the right shift for them. It is so popular that we typically have five to 10 people bidding on each shift.”

Bite Ninja is providing a better experience and reaches potential workers that would not necessarily have an interest in performing fast food work. Many of the 3,000 Ninjas already working with the company are stay-at-home moms and retirees with customer service experience, but who can’t physically come into a store, Clem said. In addition, the company is working with the Nurse-Family Partnership to help women get back into the workforce.

The company initially ran three pilot programs and has expanded services to curbside and front cashier stations. The funding will enable Bite Ninja to scale initiatives, hire additional software engineers and prepare for a rollout at national food chains.

Since launching earlier this year, Bite Ninja is already being used in a few thousand stores.

Manuel Gonzalez, partner at AgFunder, said restaurants are a big part of entrepreneurship, but the pandemic forced more than 110,000 of them out of business.

“Bite Ninja’s solution is one that decreases costs to restaurant owners, but increases the income of the worker,” he said. “It also helps entrepreneurs and the community because restaurants are important for economic, cultural, community and social points of view.”

 

Aug
09
2021
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CommandBar raises $4.8M to make web-based apps searchable

James Evans, Richard Freling and Vinay Ayyala, co-founders at CommandBar, were working on a software product when they hit a wall while trying to access certain functionalities within the software.

That’s when the lightbulb moment happened and, in 2020, the team shifted to building an embeddable search widget to make software easier to use.

“We thought this paradigm feels like it could be useful, but it is hard to build well, so we built it,” Evans told TechCrunch.

On Monday, CommandBar emerged from beta and announced its $4.8 million seed round, led by Thrive Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, BoxGroup and a group of angel investors including, AngelList’s Naval Ravikant, Worklife Ventures’ Brianne Kimmel, StitchFix president Mike Smith and others.

CommandBar’s business-to-business tool, referred to as “command k,” was designed to make software simpler and faster to use. The technology is a search interface that sits on top of web-based apps so that users can access functionalities by searching simple keywords. It can also be used to boost new users with recommended prompts like referrals.

CommandBar in Clubhouse. Image Credits: CommandBar

Companies integrate CommandBar by pasting in a line of code and using configuration tools to quickly add commands relevant to their apps. The product was purposefully designed as low-code so that product and customer success teams can add configurations without relying on engineering support, Evans said.

Initially, it was a difficult sell: One of the more challenging parts in the early days of the company was helping customers and investors understand what CommandBar was doing.

“It was hard to describe over the phone, we had to try to get people on Zoom so they could see it,” he said. “It is easier now to sell the product because they can see it being used in an app. That is where many new users come from.”

CommandBar is already being used by companies like Clubhouse.io, Canix and Stacker that are serving hundreds of thousands of users. The most common use case for CommandBar so far is onboarding new software users.

He intends to use the new funding to grow the team, hiring across engineering, sales and marketing. The beta testing was successful in receiving good feedback from the early customers, and Evans wants to reflect that in new products and functionalities that will come out later this year.

Vince Hankes, an investor at Thrive Capital, was introduced to CommandBar through one of its pre-seed investors.

His interest is in B2B software companies and applications, and one of the things that became obvious to him while looking into the space was the natural tension between the simplicity and functionality of apps.

Apps are sometimes hard for even a power user to navigate, he said, but CommandBar makes something as simple as resetting a password easier by being able to search for that term and go right to that page if it is configured that way by the company.

“The types of companies interested in their product are impressive,” Hankes said. “We began to see demand from a broad range of companies that weren’t obvious. In fact, they are using CommandBar as a tool for deeper customer engagement.”

 

May
19
2021
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Netlify snags YC alum FeaturePeek to add design review capabilities

Netlify, the startup that’s bringing a micro services approach to building websites, announced today that it has acquired YC alum FeaturePeek. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

With FeaturePeek, the company gets a major upgrade in its design review capability. While Netlify has had a previewing capability called Deploy Previews in the platform since 2016, it lacked a good way for reviewers to discuss and comment on the design. The preview alone was useful as far as it goes, but having the ability to collaborate on the design remained a missing piece until today.

With FeaturePeek, the company can expand on Deploy Previews to not only preview the design, but also enable all the stakeholders in the design process to add their opinions, edits and changes as the design moves through the creation process instead of having to wait until the end or gather the comments in a separate document or communications channel.

As FeaturePeek co-founder Eric Silverman told me at the time of their seed funding last year, his product removed a lot of frustration when the web coders would get all their review comments at the last minute:

“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.”

Matt Biilmann, CEO and co-founder, Netlify says that when his company created Deploy Previews, it was in reaction to customers who were kloodging together their own solutions to the issue. They learned that even with their own preview feature, customers craved a communications capability.

In the classic build versus buy debate, the company began building its own, then it met the FeaturePeek team and decided to switch course. “We had a team working on a prototype when the founders of FeaturePeek, Eric and Jason, gave us a demo of their product. As the demo progressed, our jaws got increasingly closer to hitting the floor and we knew straight away that what we had just seen was miles away from both our internal prototypes and any of the other tools we had seen in the space,” Billmann told TechCrunch.

He added, “It also quickly became apparent that fully building towards this vision as two different companies, without a deep end-to-end experience from initial Pull Request to a new feature release, would never really allow us to build what we were dreaming of, so we decided to join forces.”

The companies’ combined effort actually comes together today in a new release of Deploy Previews that includes the new FeaturePeek collaboration/commenting capabilities.

FeaturePeek was founded in 2019, went through Y Combinator Summer 2019 batch, and raised around $2 million. Netlify was founded in 2014 and has raised over $97 million, according to Crunchbase. Its last raise was a $53 million Series C in March 2020.

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