Proxyclick began life by providing an easy way to manage visitors in your building with an iPad-based check-in system. As the pandemic has taken hold, however, customer requirements have changed, and Proxyclick is changing with them. Today the company announced Proxyclick Flow, a new system designed to check in employees during the time of COVID.
“Basically when COVID hit our customers told us that actually our employees are the new visitors. So what you used to ask your visitors, you are now asking your employees — the usual probing question, but also when are you coming and so forth. So we evolved the offering into a wider platform,” Proxyclick co-founder and CEO Gregory Blondeau explained.
That means instead of managing a steady flow of visitors — although it can still do that — the company is focusing on the needs of customers who want to open their offices on a limited basis during the pandemic, based on local regulations. To help adapt the platform for this purpose, the company developed the Proovr smartphone app, which employees can use to check in prior to going to the office, complete a health checklist, see who else will be in the office and make sure the building isn’t over capacity.
When the employee arrives at the office, they get a temperature check, and then can use the QR code issued by the Proovr app to enter the building via Proxyclick’s check-in system or whatever system they have in place. Beyond the mobile app, the company has designed the system to work with a number of adjacent building management and security systems so that customers can use it in conjunction with existing tooling.
They also beefed up the workflow engine that companies can adapt based on their own unique entrance and exit requirements. The COVID workflow is simply one of those workflows, but Blondeau recognizes not everyone will want to use the exact one they have provided out of the box, so they designed a flexible system.
“So the challenge was technical on one side to integrate all the systems, and afterwards to group workflows on the employee’s smartphone, so that each organization can define its own workflow and present it on the smartphone,” Blondeau said.
Once in the building, the systems registers your presence and the information remains on the system for two weeks for contact tracing purposes should there be an exposure to COVID. You check out when you leave the building, but if you forget, it automatically checks you out at midnight.
The company was founded in 2010 and has raised $ 19.6 million. The most recent raise was a $ 18.5 million Series B in January.
Boston-based marketing automation firm Klaviyo wants to change the way marketers interact with data, giving them direct access to their data and their customers. It believes that makes it easier to customize the messages and produce better results. Investors apparently agree, awarding the company a $ 200 million Series C on a hefty $ 4.15 billion valuation today.
The round was led by Accel with help from Summit Partners. It comes on the heels of last year’s $ 150 million Series B, and brings the total raised to $ 385.5 million, according the company. Accel’s Ping Li will also be joining the company board under the terms of today’s announcement.
Marketing automation and communication takes on a special significance as we find ourselves in the midst of this pandemic and companies need to find ways to communicate in meaningful ways with customers who can’t come into brick and mortar establishments. Company CEO and co-founder Andrew Bialecki says that his company’s unique use of data helps in this regard.
“I think our success is because we are a hybrid customer data and marketing platform. We think about what it takes to create these owned experiences. They’re very contextual and you need all of that customer data, not some of it, all of it, and you need that to be tightly coupled with how you’re building customer experiences,” Bialecki explained.
He believes that by providing a platform of this scope that combines the data, the ability to customize messages and the use of machine learning to keep improving that, it will help them compete with the largest platforms. In fact his goal is to help companies understand that they don’t have to give up their customer data to Amazon, Google and Facebook.
“The flip side of that is growing through Amazon where you give up all your customer data, or Facebook or Google where you kind of are delegated to wherever their algorithms decide where you get to show up,” he said. With Klaviyo, the company retains its own data, and Ping Li, who is leading the investment at Accel says that it where the e-commerce market is going.
“So the question is, is there a tool that allows you to do that as easily as going on Facebook and Google, and I think that’s the vision and the promise that Klaviyo is delivering on,” Li said. He believes that this will allow their customers to actually build that kind of fidelity with their customers by going directly to them, instead of through a third-party intermediary.
The company has seen some significant success with 50,000 customers in 125 countries along with that lofty valuation. The customer number has doubled year over year, even during the economic malaise brought on by the pandemic.
Today, the company has 500 employees with plans to double that in the next year. As he grows his company, Bialecki believes diversity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also smart business. “I think the competitive advantages that tech companies are going to have going forward, especially for the tech companies that are not the leaders today, but [could be] leaders in the coming decades, it’s because they have the most diverse teams and inclusive culture and those are both big focuses for us,” he said.
As they move forward flush with this cash, the company wants to continue to build out the platform, giving customers access to a set of tools that allow them to know their own customers on an increasingly granular level, while delivering more meaningful interactions. “It’s all about accelerating product development and getting into new markets,” Bialecki said. They certainly have plenty of runway to do that now.
Isovalent, a startup that aims to bring networking into the cloud-native era, today announced that it has raised a $ 29 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz and Google. In addition, the company today officially launched its Cilium Enterprise platform (which was in stealth until now) to help enterprises connect, observe and secure their applications.
The open-source Cilium project is already seeing growing adoption, with Google choosing it for its new GKE dataplane, for example. Other users include Adobe, Capital One, Datadog and GitLab. Isovalent is following what is now the standard model for commercializing open-source projects by launching an enterprise version.
The founding team of CEO Dan Wendlandt and CTO Thomas Graf has deep experience in working on the Linux kernel and building networking products. Graf spent 15 years working on the Linux kernel and created the Cilium open-source project, while Wendlandt worked on Open vSwitch at Nicira (and then VMware).
“We saw that first wave of network intelligence be moved into software, but I think we both shared the view that the first wave was about replicating the traditional network devices in software,” Wendlandt told me. “You had IPs, you still had ports, you created virtual routers, and this and that. We both had that shared vision that the next step was to go beyond what the hardware did in software — and now, in software, you can do so much more. Thomas, with his deep insight in the Linux kernel, really saw this eBPF technology as something that was just obviously going to be groundbreaking technology, in terms of where we could take Linux networking and security.”
As Graf told me, when Docker, Kubernetes and containers, in general, become popular, what he saw was that networking companies at first were simply trying to reapply what they had already done for virtualization. “Let’s just treat containers as many as miniature VMs. That was incredibly wrong,” he said. “So we looked around, and we saw eBPF and said: this is just out there and it is perfect, how can we shape it forward?”
And while Isovalent’s focus is on cloud-native networking, the added benefit of how it uses the eBPF Linux kernel technology is that it also gains deep insights into how data flows between services and hence allows it to add advanced security features as well.
As the team noted, though, users definitely don’t need to understand or program eBPF, which is essentially the next generation of Linux kernel modules, themselves.
“I have spent my entire career in this space, and the North Star has always been to go beyond IPs + ports and build networking visibility and security at a layer that is aligned with how developers, operations and security think about their applications and data,” said Martin Casado, partner at Andreesen Horowitz (and the founder of Nicira). “Until just recently, the technology did not exist. All of that changed with Kubernetes and eBPF. Dan and Thomas have put together the best team in the industry and given the traction around Cilium, they are well on their way to upending the world of networking yet again.”
As more companies adopt Kubernetes, they are now reaching a stage where they have the basics down but are now facing the next set of problems that come with this transition. Those, almost by default, include figuring out how to isolate workloads and get visibility into their networks — all areas where Isovalent/Cilium can help.
The team tells me its focus, now that the product is out of stealth, is about building out its go-to-market efforts and, of course, continue to build out its platform.
As the pandemic rages on, companies are looking for an edge when it comes to sales. Having the right data about the customers most likely to convert can be a huge boost right now. Slintel, an early-stage startup building a sales intelligence tool, announced a $ 4.2 million seed round today.
The investment was led by Accel with help from Sequoia Capital India and existing investor Stellaris Venture Partners. The company reports it has now raised $ 5.7 million, including a pre-seed round last year.
Deepak Anchala, company founder and CEO, says that while sales and marketing teams are trying to target a broad market, most of the time their emails and other forms of communication with customers fall flat. As a sales person in previous startups, Eightfold and Tracxn, this was a problem Anchala experienced first hand. He believed with data, he could improve this, and he started Slintel to build a tool to provide the sales data that he was missing in these previous positions.
“We focus on helping our customers solve that [lack of data] by identifying people with high buying intent. So we are able to tell sales and marketing teams, for example, who is most likely to buy your product or your service, and who is most likely to buy your product today, as opposed to two months or six months from now,” Anchala explained.
They do this by looking at signals that might not be obvious, but which let sales teams know key information about these companies and their likelihood of buying soon. He says that every company leaves a technology footprint. This could be data from SEC filings, annual reports, job openings and so forth.
“In today’s world there is an enormous amount of footprint left online when a company uses a certain product. So what our algorithms do is we map that at scale for about 15 million companies to all the products that they’re using from the different sources we are able to identify — and we track it all from week to week,” he said.
The company has 45 employees today and expects to double that number by the end of 2021. As he builds the company, especially as an immigrant founder, Anchala wants to build a diverse and inclusive organization.
“I think one of the key successes for companies today is having diversity. We have a global workforce, so we have a workforce in the U.S. and India and we want to capitalize on that. In the next phase of hires we are looking at hiring more diverse candidates, more female employees and people of different nationalities,” he said.
The company, which was founded in 2018, and emerged from stealth last year, has amassed 100 enterprise customers and has seen most of the customers actually come on board this year as COVID has forced companies to find ways to be more efficient with their sales processes.
Online education tools continue to see a surge of interest boosted by major changes in work and learning practices in the midst of a global health pandemic. And today, one of the early pioneers of the medium is announcing some funding as it tips into profitability on the back of a pivot to enterprise services, targeting businesses and governments who are looking to upskill workers to give them tech expertise more relevant to modern demands.
Udacity, which provides online courses and popularized the concept of “nanodegrees” in tech-related subjects like artificial intelligence, programming, autonomous driving and cloud computing, has secured $ 75 million in the form of a debt facility. The funding will be used to continue investing in its platform to target more business customers.
Udacity said that part of the business is growing fast, with Q3 bookings up by 120% year-over-year and average run rates up 260% in H1 2020.
Udacity said that customers in the segment include “five of the world’s top seven aerospace companies, three of the Big Four professional services firms, the world’s leading pharmaceutical company, Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency, and three of the four branches of the United States Department of Defense”, which work with Udacity to build tailor-made courses for their specific needs, as well as use off-the-shelf content from its catalogue.
Udacity also works with companies to build programs as part of their CSR remits, and with tech companies like Microsoft to build programs to get more developers using their tools.
“We’re seeing tremendous demand on the enterprise and government side,” said Gabe Dalporto, Udacity’s CEO who joined the company in 2019. “But to date it’s mostly been inbound, with enterprises, Fortune 500 companies and government organizations coming in and wanting to work with us. Now it’s time to build out a sales team to go after them.”
The news today is a welcome turn of events for a company that has been in the spotlight over the years for less rosy reasons, partly because it found it challenging to land on a profitable business model.
Founded nearly a decade ago by three robotics specialists including Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford professor who at the time was instrumental in building and running Google’s self-driving car and larger moonshot programs, Udacity initially saw an opportunity to partner with colleges and universities to build online tech courses (Thrun’s academic standing, and the vogue for MOOCs, were possibly two fillips for that strategy).
After that proved to be too challenging and costly, Udacity pivoted to positioning itself as a vocational learning provider targeting adults, specifically those who didn’t have the hours or money to embark on full-time courses but wanted to learn tech skills that could help them land better jobs.
Currently, the company still provides direct-to-consumer (direct-to-learner?) courses, but it won’t be long, Dalporto said, before enterprise and government customers account for about 80% of the company’s business.
Previously, Udacity had raised nearly $ 170 million from a pretty illustrious group of investors that include Andreessen Horowitz, Ballie Gifford, CRV, Emerson Collective and more. This latest tranche is coming in the form of a debt facility from a single company, Hercules Capital.
Dalporto said the decision to take the debt route came after initially getting a number of term sheets for an equity round.
“We had multiple term sheets on the equity side, but then we received an unsolicited debt term sheet unsolicited,” he said. That led to the company modelling out the cost of capital and dilution, he said, and “it turned out it was the better option.” For now, he added, equity was “off the table” but it may consider revisiting the idea en route to a public listing. “For the foreseeable future, we are cash flow positive so there is no compelling reason right now, but we might do something closer to an IPO.”
Being a debt facility, this funding does not mean a revisiting of Udacity’s valuation. The company was last capitalized five years ago at $ 1 billion, but Dalporto would not comment on how that had changed in the (uncompleted) equity term sheets it had received.
Education is in session
The interest Udacity is seeing — both from investors and as a company — is part of the bigger spotlight that online education companies have had in the last year. In K-12 and university education, the focus has been on building better technology and content to help students stay engaged and continue learning even when they cannot be in their normal physical classrooms as schools, districts, governments and public health officials implement social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But that’s not the only classroom where online education is getting called on. In the world of business, organizations that have also gone remote because of the pandemic are facing a matrix of challenges. How can they keep employees productive and feeling like part of a team when they no longer work next to each other? How do they make sure their workforces have the skills they need to work in the new environment? How do they make sure their own businesses are equipped with the right technology, and the expertise of people to run it, for this latest and future iterations of “work”? And how can governments make sure their economies don’t fall off a cliff as a result of the pandemic?
Online education has been seen as something of a panacea for all of these questions, and that has spelled a lot of opportunity for tech companies building online learning tools and other infrastructure — with others including the likes of Coursera, LinkedIn, Pluralsight, Treehouse and Springboard in the area of tech-related courses and learning platforms for workers.
As with other market segments like e-commerce, this isn’t about a trend emerging out of the blue, but about it accelerating much faster than people projected it would.
“Given Udacity’s growth, focus on sustainable business practices, and expanding reach across multiple industries, we are excited to provide this investment. We look forward to working with the company to help them sustain their impressive global growth, and continued innovation in upskilling and reskilling,” said Steve Kuo, Senior MD and Technology Group Head at Hercules Capital, in a statement.
In the areas of enterprise and government, Dalporto described a number of scenarios where Udacity is already active, which are natural progressions of the kind of vocational learning it was already offering.
They include, for example, the energy company Shell retraining structural and geological engineers “who had good math skills but no machine learning expertise” to be able to work in data science, needed as the company builds more automation into its operation and moves into new kinds of energy technology.
And he said that Egypt and other nations — looking to the success that India has had — have been providing technology expertise training to residents to help them find jobs in the “outsourcing economy.” He said that the program in Egypt has seen an 80% graduation rate and 70% “positive outcomes” (resulting in jobs).
“If you take just AI and machine learning, demand for these skills is growing at a rate of 70% year-over-year, but there is a shortage of talent to fill those roles,” Dalporto said.
Udacity is for now not looking at any acquisitions, he added, for another 6-12 months. “We have so much demand and work to do internally that there is no compelling reason to do that. At some point we will look at that but it needs to be linked to our strategy.”
The cloud infrastructure market kept growing at a brisk pace last quarter, as the pandemic continued to push more companies to the cloud with offices shut down in much of the world. This week the big three — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — all reported their numbers and, as expected, the news was good, with Synergy Research reporting revenue growth of 33% year over year, up to almost $ 33 billion for the quarter.
Still, John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy, was a bit taken aback that the market continued to grow as much as it did. “While we were fully expecting continued strong growth in the market, the scale of the growth in Q3 was a little surprising,” he said in a statement.
He added, “Total revenues were up by $ 2.5 billion from the previous quarter causing the year-on-year growth rate to nudge upwards, which is unusual for such a large market. It is quite clear that COVID-19 has provided an added boost to a market that was already developing rapidly.”
Per usual Amazon led the way with $ 11.6 billion in revenue, up from $ 10.8 billion last quarter. That’s up 29% year over year. Amazon continues to exhibit slowing growth in the cloud market, but because of its market share lead of 33%, a rate that has held fairly steady for some time, the growth is less important than the eye-popping revenue it continues to generate, almost double its closest rival Microsoft .
Speaking of Microsoft, Azure revenue was up 48% year over year, also slowing some, but good enough for a strong second place with 18% market share. Using Synergy’s total quarterly number of $ 33 billion, Microsoft came in at $ 5.9 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $ 5.2 billion last quarter.
Finally, Google announced cloud revenue of $ 3.4 billion, but that number includes all of its cloud revenue including G Suite and other software. Synergy reported that this was good for 9%, or $ 2.98 billion, up from $ 2.7 billion last quarter, good for third place.
Alibaba and IBM were tied for fourth with 5%, or around $ 1.65 billion each.
It’s worth noting that Canalys had similar numbers to Synergy, with growth of 33% to $ 36.5 billion. They had the same market order with slightly different numbers, with Amazon at 32%, Microsoft at 19% and Google at 7%, and Alibaba in 4th place at 6%.
Canalys sees continued growth ahead, especially as hybrid cloud begins to merge with newer technologies like 5G and edge computing. “All three [providers] are collaborating with mobile operators to deploy their cloud stacks at the edge in the operators’ data centers. These are part of holistic initiatives to profit from 5G services among business customers, as well as transform the mobile operators’ IT infrastructure,” Canalys analyst Blake Murray said in a statement.
While the pure growth continues to move steadily downward over time, this is expected in a market that’s maturing like cloud infrastructure, but as companies continue to shift workloads more rapidly to the cloud during the pandemic, and find new use cases like 5G and edge computing, the market could continue to generate substantial revenue well into the future.
Rockset, a cloud-native analytics company, announced a $ 40 million Series B investment today led by Sequoia with help from Greylock, the same two firms that financed its Series A. The startup has now raised a total of $ 61.5 million, according to the company.
As co-founder and CEO Venkat Venkataramani told me at the time of the Series A in 2018, there is a lot of manual work involved in getting data ready to use and it acts as a roadblock to getting to real insight. He hoped to change that with Rockset.
“We’re building out our service with innovative architecture and unique capabilities that allows full-featured fast SQL directly on raw data. And we’re offering this as a service. So developers and data scientists can go from useful data in any shape, any form to useful applications in a matter of minutes. And it would take months today,” he told me in 2018.
In fact, “Rockset automatically builds a converged index on any data — including structured, semi-structured, geographical and time series data — for high-performance search and analytics at scale,” the company explained.
It seems to be resonating with investors and customers alike as the company raised a healthy B round and business is booming. Rockset supplied a few metrics to illustrate this. For starters, revenue grew 290% in the last quarter. While they didn’t provide any foundational numbers for that percentage growth, it is obviously substantial.
In addition, the startup reports adding hundreds of new users, again not nailing down any specific numbers, and queries on the platform are up 313%. Without specifics, it’s hard to know what that means, but that seems like healthy growth for an early stage startup, especially in this economy.
Mike Vernal, a partner at Sequoia, sees a company helping to get data to work faster than other solutions, which require a lot of handling first. “Rockset, with its innovative new approach to indexing data, has quickly emerged as a true leader for real-time analytics in the cloud. I’m thrilled to partner with the company through its next phase of growth,” Vernal said in a statement.
The company was founded in 2016 by the creators of RocksDB. The startup had previously raised a $ 3 million seed round when they launched the company and the $ 18.5 million A round in 2018.
We’re excited to announce an update to the Extra Crunch Partner Perk from Zendesk. Starting today, annual and two-year Extra Crunch members that are new to Zendesk, and meet their startup qualifications, can now receive six months of free access to Zendesk’s Sales CRM, in addition to Zendesk Support Suite, Zendesk Explore and Zendesk Sunshine.
Here is an overview of the program.
Zendesk is a service-first CRM company with support, sales and customer engagement products designed to improve customer relationships. This offer is only available for startups that are new to Zendesk, have fewer than 100 employees and are funded but have not raised beyond a Series B.
The Zendesk Partner Perk from Extra Crunch is inclusive of subscription fees, free for six months, after which you will be responsible for payment. Any downgrades to your Zendesk subscription will result in the forfeiture of the promotion, so please check with Zendesk first regarding any changes (email@example.com). Some add-ons such as Zendesk Talk and Zendesk Sell minutes are not included. Complete details of what’s included can be found here.
Lawmatics, a San Diego startup that’s building marketing and CRM software for lawyers, is announcing that it has raised $ 2.5 million in seed funding.
CEO Matt Spiegel used to practice law himself, and he told me that even though tech companies have a wide range of marketing tools to choose from, “lawyers have not been able to adopt them,” because they need a product that’s tailored to their specific needs.
That’s why Spiegel founded Lawmatics with CTO Roey Chasman. He said that a law firm’s relationship with its clients can be divided into three phases — intake (when a client is deciding whether to hire a firm); the active legal case; and after the case has been resolved. Apparently most legal software is designed to handle phase two, while Lawmatics focuses on phases one and three.
The platform includes a CRM system to manage the initial client intake process, as well as tools that can automate a lot of what Spiegel called the “blocking and tackling” of marketing, like sending birthday messages to former clients — which might sound like a minor task, but Spiegel said it’s crucial for law firms to “nurture” those relationships, because most of their business comes from referrals.
Lawmatics’ early adopters, Spiegel added, have consisted of the firms in areas where “if you need a lawyer, you go to Google and start searching ‘personal injury,’ ‘bankruptcy,’ ‘estate planning,’ all these consumer-driven law firms.” And the pandemic led to accelerated the startup’s growth, because “lawyers are at home now, their business is virtual and they need more tools.”
Spiegel’s had success selling technology to lawyers in the past, with his practice management software startup MyCase acquired by AppFolio in 2012 (AppFolio recently sold MyCase to a variety of funds for $ 193 million). He said that the strategies for growing both companies are “almost identical” — the products are different, but “it’s really the same segment, running the same playbook, only with additional go-to-market strategies.”
The funding was led by Eniac Ventures and Forefront Venture Partners, with participation from Revel Ventures and Bridge Venture Partners.
“In my 10 years investing I have witnessed few teams more passionate, determined, and capable of revolutionizing an industry,” said Eniac’s Tim Young in a statement. “They have not only created the best software product the legal market has seen, they have created a movement.”
DroneDeploy, a cloud software company that uses drone footage to help industries like agriculture, oil and gas and construction get a birds-eye view of a site to build a 3D picture, announced a new initiative today that combines drone photos with cameras on the ground or even ground robots from a company like Boston Dynamics for what it is calling a 360 Walkthrough.
Up until today’s announcement, DroneDeploy could use drone footage from any drone to get a picture of what a site looked like outside, uploading those photos and stitching them together into a 3D model that is accurate within an inch, according to DroneDeploy CEO Mike Winn.
Winn says that while there is great value in getting this type of view of the outside of a job site, customers were hungry for a total picture that included inside and out, and the platform which is simply processing photos transmitted from drones could be adapted fairly easily to accommodate photos coming from cameras on other devices.
“Our customers are also looking to get data from the interiors, and they’re looking for one digital twin, one digital reconstruction of their entire site to understand what’s going on to share across their company with the safety team and with executives that this is the status of the job site today,” Winn explained.
He adds that this is even more important during COVID when access to job sites has been limited, making it even more important to understand the state of the site on a regular basis.
“They want fewer people on those job sites, only the essential workers doing the work. So for anyone who needs information about the site, if they can get that information from a desktop or the 3D model or a kind of street view of the job site, it can really help in this COVID environment, but it also makes it much more efficient,” Winn said.
He said that while companies could combine this capability with fixed cameras on the inside of a site, they don’t give the kind of coverage a ground robot could, and the Boston Dynamics robot is capable of moving around a rough job site with debris scattered around.
While Winn sees the use of the Boston Dynamics robot as more of an end goal, he says that more likely for the immediate future, you will have a human walking through the job site with a camera to capture the footage to complete the inside-outside picture for the DroneDeploy software.
“All customers already want to adopt robots to collect this data, and you can imagine a Boston Dynamics robot [doing this], but that’s the end state of course. Today we’re supporting the human walk-through as well, a person with a 360 camera walking through the job site, probably doing it once a week to documents the status of the job sites,” he said.
DroneDeploy launched in 2013 and has raised over $ 100 million, according to Winn. He reports his company has over 5000 customers with drone flight time increasing by 2.5x YoY this year as more companies adopt drones as a way to cope with COVID.
- Adjusting Featured Snippet Answers by Context
- Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’
- Join us for a live Q&A with Sapphire’s Jai Das on Tuesday at 2 pm ET/11 am PT
- 10 Effective ways to boost click-through rate (CTR) using SERPs
- Proxyclick visitor management system adapts to COVID as employee check-in platform