Jun
20
2018
--

Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

Beamery, a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures.

Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017, led by Index.

Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates.

Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires.

Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty.

It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco.

It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that.

“Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

A “significant” portion of the Series B funds will also go towards R&D and produce development focused on its HR tech niche.

“Across all sectors, there’s a shift towards proactive recruitment through technology, and Beamery is emerging as the category leader,” added Tom Mendoza, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT, in a supporting statement.

“Beamery has a fantastic product, world-class high-ambition founders, and an outstanding analytics-driven team. They’ve been relentless about building the best talent CRM and marketing platform and gaining a deep understanding of the industry-wide problems.”

Jun
18
2018
--

Blockchain startups woo enterprises with a private chain audit trail

By placing all the information about services or complex manufacturing and assembly processes on a private, permissioned blockchain, the idea is that a company can create an “immutable” audit trail of data. When you think about it, currently this involves a labor-intensive combination of paper and networks. But initial trials with private blockchains in the last couple of years have shown there is potential to reduce the identification process of a data trail from several days to minutes.

Indications that this is becoming a hot issue amongst startups arrives today in two pieces of news.

Firstly, London-based “Gospel”(yes, that really is their name…) has raised £1.4m in seed funding from investors led by European-focused LocalGlobe.

The blockchain startup says it has been working with an unnamed “aerospace and defence manufacturer” to develop a proof of concept to improve record keeping for its supply chain. What’s the betting it’s British Aerospace? They aren’t saying.

At any rate, Gospel says it has developed a way of securely distributing data across decentralised infrastructures, offering companies the potential to automate records for complex products that usually require significant manual management. The idea is that is shares only the information it needs to, securely, with other partners in its supply chain, potentially leading to improved efficiency and lower costs of information recall.

Founded in December 2016 by entrepreneur Ian Smith, Gospel uses a private blockchain that requires users to set up a network of “nodes” within their ecosystem. Each party controls their own node and all the nodes must agree before any transaction can be processed and put on the blockchain. The node network acts as a consensus and provides a mechanism of trust.

Smith says: “For manufacturers and other businesses dealing with critical data there is a problem of trust in data systems, particularly when there is a need to share that data outside the organization. With Gospel technology we can provide an immutable record store so that trust can be fully automated between systems of forward-thinking businesses.”

Prior to this seed round, Gospel was backed by a number of angel investors including Gumtree co-founder Michael Pennington and Vivek Kundra, the Chief Information Officer for the US Government during Barack Obama’s administration.

Secondly, Russia-based startup Waves, which has issued its own cryptocurrency, is getting into the space with the launch of Vostok, a universal blockchain solution for scalable digital infrastructure.

The idea is that public institutions and large enterprises can use the platform to enhance security, data storage, transparency and stability of their systems.

Vostok, which is named after the craft that carried Yuri Gagarin into space, claims to be significantly faster and cheaper than existing blockchain solutions, claiming 10,000 transactions per second (TPS) at only $0.000001 per a transaction. This is compared to Bitcoin which has transactional processing capacity of 3-6TPS and costs $0.951 per transaction. Vostok also uses a closed operational node set and Proof-of-Stake.

Sasha Ivanov, CEO and Founder of Vostok and Waves Platform, said: “Vostok is a multi- purpose solution, quite simple, but at the same time non-trivial. It will allow any large organisation to gain the benefits of blockchain without having to create new systems from scratch or retrain their staff.”

Jun
14
2018
--

Pipedrive, a CRM and sales tool, raises $50M to take on Salesforce and Microsoft

While Salesforce and Microsoft have a dominant position in the world of sales software today, there are a number of startups nipping at their heels, and today one of the more promising of them has announced a growth round to help them in the effort. Pipedrive, a startup co-headquartered in Estonia and New York that offers tools to salespeople to help them close deals that are still in their pipeline, has picked up $50 million to expand its product, develop its business globally and potentially make acquisitions in the CRM space.

The Series C round was co-led by new investor Insight Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation also from Rembrandt Venture Partners and Atomico (which itself has Estonian roots: Atomico’s founder, Niklas Zennstrom, was the co-founder of Skype, which developed and built the core IP voice and messaging product in the country). It brings the total raised by Pipedrive to $80 million.

Timo Rein, Pipedrive’s co-founder and CEO (and a former salesman himself), would not disclose the company’s valuation, saying only that it was “a pretty good round.” For some more context, Pitchbook writes that Pipedrive’s last funding, in 2016, valued the company at $188 million. Sources very close to the company tell us that the valuation now is $300 million+. (We’re asking around and will update this as and when we learn more.)

The CRM market is currently estimated to be worth over $40 billion, according to Gartner, and so unsurprisingly there are a number of startups in the fray, from those that are infusing the process with AI (such as Clari) through to other startups that help organise leads to act on them better (such as Zoho and Hubspot), through to those focusing on specific verticals like software companies (Paddle out of the UK).

Rein said that there was some skepticism when the company first launched that it would be possible to make a dent in landscape dominated by the likes of Salesforce and Microsoft.

“When we entered the market in 2010, people asked us, ‘Why build a product in an area where Salesforce is already strong?’ But having been in sales for more than a decade ourselves, we realized that it’s not just the sheer number of features you offer users. The difference is finding the right spot on the spectrum where you are getting what you need out of a product that you can use,” Rein said. “We have proven that users are migrating from Salesforce and others and are coming to Pipedrive. We definitely have less functionality, but professional salespeople know that performance is largely about your personality.”

In the case of Pipedrive, this translates to a software platform whose aim is to cut down on busywork to focus you on selling: all of your activity across emails and phone calls gets and other actions (it integrates some 100 other apps used in business, for example Google Apps, Trello, Zapier, MailChimp, Yesware and PandaDoc) is tracked without you needing to update the system, with the aim of making it easier for you to see what you might tackle next (and that gets tracked, too).

This is not about finding sales leads, Rein said: that may be something the company would consider down the line, but for now it’s looking at what happens when you already have a lead and need to make it as easy as possible to close that deal.

Ironically, Rein said that Pipedrive hasn’t been using its own tools in the majority of its own sales efforts. “In areas where we can use Pipedrive, we do,” he said, “but the service we offer is almost the opposite of what we built.” Pipedrive is priced on a monthly, SaaS basis ranging from $12.50 per user per month to $62.50 depending on number of users and features.

One way to think of Pipedrive’s approach is akin to something like Razer for the gaming world, which touts its ethos as “For Gamers. By Gamers.”

“Pipedrive is built primarily for salespeople, not just their managers,” said Teddie Wardi, a partner at Insight who also led the company’s Series B when he was still at Atomico. “This principle has helped them to create a product loved by users around the world, differentiate from competitors and propel the company to stellar growth.”

And that growth has come: today the company has 75,000 customers in 170 countries, with triple digital revenue growth each year since it first opened for business in 2010.

The plethora of startups in the market focusing on different aspects of the sales cycle and the CRM that surrounds that creates a ripe landscape not just for what Pipedrive might choose to tackle next, but how it might go about that.

“Post-sales, when you already have a customer and now need to help manage it, is an opportunity,” Rein said. “But our main effort and focus has been a product to help sales people deal with their pressure, and their own need to stay focused on the steady flow of sales, from the beginning to the actual close.”

May
31
2018
--

More speakers, panels at The Europas, and how to get your ticket free

The Europas Unconference & Awards is back on 3 July in London and we’re excited to announce more speakers and panel sessions as the event takes shape. Crypto and Blockchain will be a major theme this year, and we’re bringing together many of the key players. TechCrunch is once again the key media partner, and if you attend The Europas you’ll be first in the queue to get offers for TC events and Disrupt in Europe later in the year.

You can also potentially get your ticket for free just by sharing your own ticket link with friends and followers. See below for the details and instructions.

To recap, we’re jumping straight into our popular breakout sessions where you’ll get up close and personal with some of Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders.

The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

Our Crypto HQ will feature two tracks of panels, one focused on investing and the other on how blockchain is disrupting everything from financial services, to gaming, to social impact to art.

We’ve lined up some of the leading blockchain VCs to talk about what trends and projects excite them most, including Outlier Ventures’ Jamie Burke, KR1’s George McDonaugh, blockchain angel Nancy Fenchay, Fabric Ventures’ Richard Muirhead and Michael Jackson of Mangrove Capital Partners.

Thinking of an ICO vs crowdfunding? Join Michael Jackson on how ICOs are disrupting venture capital and Ali Ganjavian, co-founder of Studio Banana, the creators of longtime Kickstarter darling OstrichPillow to understand the ins and outs of both.

We’ve also lined up a panel to discuss the process of an ICO – what do you need to consider, the highs, the lows, the timing and the importance of community. Linda Wang, founder and CEO of Lending Block, which recently raised $10 million in an April ICO, joins us.

We are thrilled to announce that Civil, the decentralised marketplace for sustainable journalism, will be joining to talk about the rise of fake news and Verisart’s Robert Norton will share his views on stamping out fraud in the art world with blockchain. Min Teo of ConsenSys will discuss blockchain and social impact and Jeremy Millar, head of Consensys UK, will speak on Smart Contracts.

Our Pathfounders Startup Zone is focused purely on startups. Our popular Meet the Press panel is back where some of tech’s finest reporters will tell you what makes a great tech story, and how to pitch (and NOT pitch them). For a start, TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear and Quartz’s Joon Ian Wong are joining.

You’ll also hear from angels and investors including Seedcamp’s Carlos Eduardo Espinal; Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital; Accel Partners’ Andrei Brasoveanu; Jeremy Yap; Candice Lo of Blossom Capital; Scott Sage of Crane Venture Partners; Tugce Ergul of Angel Labs; Stéphanie Hospital of OneRagtime; Connect Ventures’ Sitar Teli and Jason Ball of Qualcomm Ventures.

Sound great? You can grab your ticket here.

All you need to do is share your personal ticket link. Your friends get 15% off, and you get 15% off again when they buy.

The more your friends buy, the more your ticket cost goes down, all the way to free!

The Public Voting in the awards ends 11 June 2018 11:59: https://theeuropas.polldaddy.com/s/theeuropas2018

We’re still looking for sponsor partners to support these editorially curated panels.

Please get in touch with Petra@theeuropas.com for more details.

SPEAKERS SO FAR:

Jamie Burke, Outlier Ventures


Jeremy Millar, ConsenSys


Linda Wang, Lending Block


Robert Norton, Verisart


George McDonaugh, KR1


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Michael Jackson, Mangrove Capital Partners


Min Teo, ConsenSys


Steve O’Hear, TechCrunch


Joon Ian Wong, Quartz


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker


Jeremy Yap


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Tugce Ergul, Angel Labs


Stéphanie Hospital, OneRagtime


Jason Ball, Qualcomm Ventures

The Europas Awards
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s sunny (probably)!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

May
29
2018
--

Startup studio eFounders is gaining some serious traction

European startup studio eFounders is slowly but surely building a portfolio of successful software-as-a-service startups. The company is behind some of the most promising enterprise startups in recent years.

Over the past six months, six eFounders startups have raised $120 million in total, with Front and Aircall leading the pack with a $66 million and a $29 million round. Spendesk raised $9.9 million. Forest, Slite and Station raised seed rounds.

Some of them also attended Y Combinator’s most recent batch. Finally, Technicis acquired TextMaster for an undisclosed sum.

If you don’t know the eFounders model, it’s quite simple. At first, the core eFounders team comes up with an idea and hires a founding team. In exchange for financial and human resources, eFounders keep a significant stake in its startups.

After a year or two, startups should have proven that they can raise a seed round and operate on their own. This way, eFounders can move on to the next project and start new companies.

eFounders currently lists 14 companies on its website. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, there is Mailjet, Mention, Foxintelligence, Forest, Hivy, Folk, Upflow, Briq and Illustrio.

Based on this list, you’d think that eFounders has a nearly perfect track record. But eFounders had to stop a couple of projects, such as PressKing and Muxi. Illustrio seems to be on pause right now as well.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that eFounders has cooked up a secret playbook for software-as-a-service startups. More importantly, it’s also clear that eFounders managed to attract some talented entrepreneurs to lead those startups and transform them into their own startups.

Overall, eFounders companies have raised $175 million in total, have 100,000 clients and 500 employees. Together, they generate $50 million in revenue. eFounders itself has raised $11.4 million.

It’s going to be a long play for eFounders as the company only generates revenue when there’s an exit or a secondary market transaction. As long as startups keep raising more money, eFounders doesn’t get anything, and its stake gets diluted. It’ll only make money when there’s a significant acquisition or an IPO. But the valuation of eFounders’ portfolio also keeps growing, so the outcome looks more and more positive.

May
23
2018
--

Square brings its Stand for iPad tablets to the UK

Square, the company that provides payments and other business services to merchants, is today taking another step in its gradual expansion outside of the U.S. Stand — one of Square’s key pieces of hardware, turning an iPad into a point of sale system — is launching in the U.K.

It will sell for £64 (+VAT) and will be sold alongside existing products that Square offers in the U.K. — Square Reader, its Point of Sale app, Instant Deposit, Virtual Terminal and Cash app. (Square Register, the company’s all-in-one product for larger businesses that sells for $999, is not yet available outside the U.S.)

The move comes just over a year after Square launched in the U.K., its first market in Europe, and also on the heels of a big move from two of its biggest competitors: last week, PayPal said it would acquire iZettle, sometimes referred to as “the Square of Europe,” for $2.2 billion.

Those two developments underscore both the challenges and opportunities ahead for Square.

On the one hand, the company is tapping into a big market opportunity by creating services that cater to the often-overlooked small and medium business sector — and the Stand, which extends a tablet into a more interactive payment terminal, plays into that.

On the other hand, the consolidation underway between iZettle and PayPal points to how stronger competitors — PayPal’s market cap is nearly four times that of Square — going after the same business as Square, will put pressure on the company. (As a point of comparison, iZettle’s tablet stands range in price from £49 to £99.)

Square may be smaller, but it has picked up a lot of loyalty for its services and innovations. Square says that today the company has two million business customers using its products globally. It doesn’t break out numbers by geography or product. But given how many merchants use more than just a phone to take payments and run other sales software (a phone being the basic building block of Square’s original card payment processor), it was a much-requested feature.

“Square Stand was built to provide sellers with a unique and beautiful solution that makes taking in-person payments simple, elegant and fast,” said Jesse Dorogusker, Square’s hardware lead and designer of the Stand. “Sellers in the U.K. have been asking for a full countertop solution for their businesses since we first introduced Square.”

Despite its popularity and how it seemed to appear and take off amid a surge of smartphone and tablet adoption and use in the U.S., Square has taken a very deliberate route when it’s come to growing outside its home country, where payment methods, regulations and languages might all be different. Today, the company has operations in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and the U.K. It also has an office in Ireland but not active payments or other business.

Asked about where Square might like to go next, the company has remained mum.

“Nothing to share on that front,” a spokesperson said. “We are just getting started here in the U.K. and iterating fast to bring new services to market. Since we entered the U.K. market in 2017 we have continued to bring our U.K. sellers important products at a steady pace.”

May
23
2018
--

Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

May
16
2018
--

Dashdash, a platform to create web apps using only spreadsheet skills, nabs $8M led by Accel

Sometimes I think of spreadsheets as the dirty secret of the IT world today. We’ve seen a huge explosion in the number of productivity tools on the market tailored to help workers with different aspects of doing their job and organising their information, in part to keep them from simply dumping lots of information into Excel or whatever program they happen to use. And yet, spreadsheets are still one of the very, very most common pieces of software in use today to organise and share information: Excel alone now has around 1 billion users, and for those who are devotees, spreadsheets are not going to go away soon.

So it’s interesting that there are now startups — and larger companies like Microsoft — emerging that are tapping into that, creating new services that still appear like spreadsheets in the front end, while doing something completely different in the back.

One of the latest is a startup called dashdash, a startup out of Berlin and Porto that is building a platform for people, who might to be programmers but know their way around a spreadsheet, to use those skills to build, modify and update web apps.

The dashdash platform looks and acts like a spreadsheet up front, but behind the scenes, each ‘macro’ links to a web app computing feature, or a design element, to build something that ultimately will look nothing like a spreadsheet, bypassing all the lines of code that traditionally go into building web apps.

The startup is still in stealth mode, with plans to launch formally later this year. Today, it’s announcing that it has received $8 million in Series A funding to get there, with the round being led by Accel, with participation from Cherry Ventures, Atlantic Labs, and angel investors including Felix Jahn, founder of Home24. (It’s raised $9 million to date including $1 million in seed funding.)

Co-founded by serial entrepreneurs Humberto Ayres Pereira and Torben Schulz — who had also been co-founders of food delivery startup EatFirst — Ayres Pereira said that the idea came out of their own observations in work life and the bottleneck of getting things fixed or modified in a company’s apps (both internal and customer-facing).

“People have a lot of frustration with the IT department, and their generally access to it,” he said in an interview. “If you are part of an internet business, it’s very hard to get features prioritised in an app, no matter how small they are. Tech is like a big train on iron tracks, and it can be hard to steer it in a different direction.”

On the other hand, even among the less technical staff, there will be proficiency with certain software, including spreadsheets. “Programming and spreadsheets already store and transform data,” Ayers Pereira said. “There are already a lot of people trying to do more with incumbent spreadsheets, and [combining that with] non-IT people frustrated at having no solution for working on apps, we saw an opportunity to use this to build an elegant platform the empower people. We can’t teach people to program but we can provide them with the tools to do the exact same job.”

While in stealth mode, he said that early users have ranged from smaller businesses such as pharmacies, to “a multi-billion-dollar internet company.” (No names, of course, but it’s interesting to me that this problem even exists at large tech businesses.)

Dashdash is not the only company that is tapping this opportunity. The other week, and IoT startup called Hanhaa launched a service that would let those using Hanhaa IoT sensors in their networks to monitor and interact with them by way of an Excel spreadsheet — another tip of the hat to the realisation that those who might need to keep tabs on devices in the network might not be the people who are the engineers and technicians who have set them up.

That, in turn, is part of a bigger effort from Microsoft to catapult Excel from its reputation as a piece of clunky legacy software into something much more dynamic, playing on the company’s push into cloud services and Office 365.

In September of 2017, Microsoft gave a developer preview of new “streaming functions” for Excel on Office 365, which lets developers, IT professionals and end users the ability to bring streams of data from a variety of sources such as websites, stock tickers and hardware directly into a cell or cells in an Excel spreadsheet, by way of a custom function. “Because Excel is so widely used and familiar to so many people, the ability to do all kinds of amazing things with that data and without complex integration is now possible,” said Ben Summers, a senior product manager for the Office 365 ecosystem team, in a statement to TechCrunch.

That ability to remove the bottleneck from web app building, combined with the track record of the founders, are two of the reasons that Accel decided to invest before the product even launched.

“We believe in dashdash’s mission to democratise app creation and are excited to back Humberto and Torben at such an early stage in their journey,” said Andrei Brasoveanu, the Accel principal who led the deal. “The team has the experience and vision to build a high-impact company that brings computing to the fingertips of a broad audience. Over the past decade we’ve seen a proliferation of web services and APIs, but regular business users still need to rely on central IT and colleagues with development skills to leverage these in their day-to-day processes. With dashdash anyone will be able to access these powerful web services directly with minimal effort, empowering them to automate their day to day tasks and work more effectively.”

With every tool that emerges that frees up accessibility to more people — be they employees or consumers — there are inevitably questions about how that power will be used. In the case of dashdash, my first thought is about those who I know who work in IT: they generally don’t want anyone able to modify or “fix” their code, lest it just creates more problems. And that’s before you start wondering about how all these democratised web apps will look, and if they might inadvertently will add to more overall UI and UX confusion.

Ayres Pereira said dashdash is mindful of the design question, and will introduce ways of helping to direct this, for example for companies to implement their own house styles. And similarly, a business can put in place other controls to help channel how web apps created through dashdash’s spreadsheet interface ultimately get applied.

May
15
2018
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Aircall raises another $29 million

French startup Aircall has raised a funding round of $29 million for its cloud based call center solution. Draper Esprit led the round with NextWorld Capital, Balderton Capital and Newfund also participating.

The company has raised $40.5 million in total. Aircall participated in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF a few years ago. The company first started at eFounders.

Aircall is following the software-as-a-service playbook. First, you take a boring industry like phone systems for large support and sales teams. Second, you bet everything on software. And third, you keep adding new features and integrations, and chasing new customers.

The company now has two offices in New York and Paris and handles millions of calls every day. With today’s funding round, the company plans to hire more people in both offices.

When you sign up to Aircall, you get virtual phone numbers in one or multiple countries. You can then configure a greeting message, add business hours and handle your call queue.

But the magic happens when you have multiple people handling sales or support calls. When someone calls, it can ring multiple people at once or someone specific first, then a second person if the first person isn’t available, etc. You get an overview of all your calls so you can assign them, tag them and more.

Aircall doesn’t work in a vacuum. So you can integrate Aircall with CRMs and other solutions like Salesforce, Zendesk and Zoho. The startup also launched a deep integration with Intercom that lets you switch from a text conversation to a phone call from the popup window.

It’s hard to list all the features right here. But chances are that if you’re running a call center, you’ll have everything you need for your team. Aircall currently costs $30 to $50 per user and per month to access all of this.

Apr
25
2018
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Allegro.AI nabs $11M for ‘deep learning as a service’, for businesses to build computer vision products

Artificial intelligence and the application of it across nearly every aspect of our lives is shaping up to be one of the major step changes of our modern society. Today, a startup that wants to help other companies capitalise on AI’s advances is announcing funding and emerging from stealth mode.

Allegro.AI, which has built a deep learning platform that companies can use to build and train computer-vision-based technologies — from self-driving car systems through to security, medical and any other services that require a system to read and parse visual data — is today announcing that it has raised $11 million in funding, as it prepares for a full-scale launch of its commercial services later this year after running pilots and working with early users in a closed beta.

The round may not be huge by today’s startup standards, but the presence of strategic investors speaks to the interest that the startup has sparked and the gap in the market for what it is offering. It includes MizMaa Ventures — a Chinese fund that is focused on investing in Israeli startups, along with participation from Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC), Samsung Catalyst Fund and Israeli fund Dynamic Loop Capital. Other investors (the $11 million actually covers more than one round) are not being disclosed.

Nir Bar-Lev, the CEO and cofounder (Moses Guttmann, another cofounder, is the company’s CTO; and the third cofounder, Gil Westrich, is the VP of R&D), started Allegro.AI first as Seematics in 2016 after he left Google, where he had worked in various senior roles for over 10 years. It was partly that experience that led him to the idea that with the rise of AI, there would be an opportunity for companies that could build a platform to help other less AI-savvy companies build AI-based products.

“We’re addressing a gap in the industry,” he said in an interview. Although there are a number of services, for example Rekognition from Amazon’s AWS, which allow a developer to ping a database by way of an API to provide analytics and some identification of a video or image, these are relatively basic and couldn’t be used to build and “teach” full-scale navigation systems, for example.

“An ecosystem doesn’t exist for anything deep-learning based.” Every company that wants to build something would have to invest 80-90 percent of their total R&D resources on infrastructure, before getting to the many other apsects of building a product, he said, which might also include the hardware and applications themselves. “We’re providing this so that the companies don’t need to build it.”

Instead, the research scientists that will buy in the Allegro.AI platform — it’s not intended for non-technical users (not now at least) — can concentrate on overseeing projects and considering strategic applications and other aspects of the projects. He says that currently, its direct target customers are tech companies and others that rely heavily on tech, “but are not the Googles and Amazons of the world.”

Indeed, companies like Google, AWS, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook have all made major inroads into AI, and in one way or another each has a strong interest in enterprise services and may already be hosting a lot of data in their clouds. But Bar-Lev believes that companies ultimately will be wary to work with them on large-scale AI projects:

“A lot of the data that’s already on their cloud is data from before the AI revolution, before companies realized that the asset today is data,” he said. “If it’s there, it’s there and a lot of it is transactional and relational data.

“But what’s not there is all the signal-based data, all of the data coming from computer vision. That is not on these clouds. We haven’t spoken to a single automotive who is sharing that with these cloud providers. They are not even sharing it with their OEMs. I’ve worked at Google, and I know how companies are afraid of them. These companies are terrified of tech companies like Amazon and so on eating them up, so if they can now stop and control their assets they will do that.”

Customers have the option of working with Allegro either as a cloud or on-premise product, or a combination of the two, and this brings up the third reason that Allegro believes it has a strong opportunity. The quantity of data that is collected for image-based neural networks is massive, and in some regards it’s not practical to rely on cloud systems to process that. Allegro’s emphasis is on building computing at the edge to work with the data more efficiently, which is one of the reasons investors were also interested.

“AI and machine learning will transform the way we interact with all the devices in our lives, by enabling them to process what they’re seeing in real time,” said David Goldschmidt, VP and MD at Samsung Catalyst Fund, in a statement. “By advancing deep learning at the edge, Allegro.AI will help companies in a diverse range of fields—from robotics to mobility—develop devices that are more intelligent, robust, and responsive to their environment. We’re particularly excited about this investment because, like Samsung, Allegro.AI is committed not just to developing this foundational technology, but also to building the open, collaborative ecosystem that is necessary to bring it to consumers in a meaningful way.”

Allegro.AI is not the first company with hopes of providing AI and deep learning as a service to the enterprise world: Element.AI out of Canada is another startup that is being built on the premise that most companies know they will need to consider how to use AI in their businesses, but lack the in-house expertise or budget (or both) to do that. Until the wider field matures and AI know-how becomes something anyone can buy off-the-shelf, it’s going to present an interesting opportunity for the likes of Allegro and others to step in.

 

 

 

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