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Rockset announces $40M Series B as data analytics solution gains momentum

October 27, 2020 No Comments

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.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


TikTok announces first data center in Europe

August 6, 2020 No Comments

TikTok, the Chinese video sharing app that’s found itself at the center of a geopolitical power struggle which threatens to put hard limits on its global growth this year, said today it will build its first data center in Europe.

The announcement of a TikTok data center in the EU also follows a landmark ruling by Europe’s top court last month that put international data transfers in the spotlight, dialling up the legal risk around processing data outside the bloc.

TikTok said the forthcoming data center, which will be located in Ireland, will store the data of its European users once it’s up and running (which is expected by early 2022) — with a slated investment into the country of around €420M (~$ 497M), according to a blog post penned by global CISO, Roland Cloutier.

“This investment in Ireland… will create hundreds of new jobs and play a key role in further strengthening the safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data, with a state of the art physical and network security defense system planned around this new operation,” Cloutier wrote, adding that the regional data centre will have the added boon for European users of faster load times, improving the overall experience of using the app.

The social media app does not break out regional users — but a leaked ad deck suggested it had 17M+ MAUs in Europe at the start of last year.

The flipside of TikTok’s rise to hot social media app beloved of teens everywhere has been earning itself the ire of US president Trump — who earlier this month threatened to use executive powers to ban TikTok in the US unless it sells its US business to an American company. (Microsoft is in the frame as a buyer.)

Whether Trump has the power to block TikTok’s app is debatable. Tech savvy teenagers will surely deploy all their smarts to get around any geoblocks. But operational disruption looks inevitable — and that has been forcing TikTok to make a series of strategic tweaks in a bid to limit damage and/or avoid the very worst outcomes.

Since taking office the US president has shown himself willing to make international business extremely difficult for Chinese tech firms. In the case of mobile device and network kit maker, Huawei, Trump has limited domestic use of its tech and leant on allies to lock it out of their 5G networks (with some success) — citing national security concerns from links to the Chinese Communist Party.

His beef with TikTok is the same stated national security concerns, centered on its access to user data. (Though Trump may have his own personal reasons to dislike the app.)

TikTok, like every major social media app, gathers huge amounts of user data — which its privacy policy specifies it may share user data with third parties, including to fulfil “government inquiries”. So while its appetite for personal data looks much the same as US social media giants (like Facebook) its parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, is subject to China’s Internet Security Law — which since 2017 has given the Chinese Chinese Communist Party sweeping powers to obtain data from digital companies. And while the US has its own intrusive digital surveillance laws, the existence of a Chinese mirror of the US state-linked data industrial complex has put tech firms right at the heart of geopolitics.

TikTok has been taking steps to try to insulate its international business from US-fuelled security concerns — and also provide some incentives to Trump for not quashing it — hiring Disney executive Kevin Mayer on as CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance in May, and promising to create 10,000 jobs in the U.S., as well as claiming US user data is stored in the US.

In parallel it’s been reconfiguring how it operates in Europe, setting up an EMEA Trust and Safety Hub in Dublin, Ireland at the start of this year and building out its team on the ground. In June it also updated its regional terms of service — naming its Irish subsidiary as the local data controller alongside its UK entity, meaning European users’ data no longer falls under its US entity, TikTok Inc.

This reflects distinct rules around personal data which apply across the European Union and European Economic Area. So while European political leaders have not been actively attacking TikTok in the same way as Trump, the company still faces increased legal risk in the region.

Last month CJEU judges made it clear that data transfers to third countries can only be legal if EU users’ data is not being put at risk by problematic surveillance laws and practices. The CJEU ruling (aka ‘Schrems II’) means data processing in countries such as China and India — and, indeed, the US — are now firmly in the risk frame where EU data protection law is concerned.

One way of avoiding this risk is to process European users’ data locally. So TikTok opening a data center in Ireland may also be a response to Schrems II — in that it will offer a way for it to ensure it can comply with requirements flowing from the ruling.

Privacy commentators have suggested the CJEU decision may accelerate data localization efforts — a trend that’s also being seen in countries such as China and Russia (and, under Trump, the US too it seems).

EU data watchdogs have also warned there will be no grace period following the CJEU invalidating the US-EU Privacy Shield data transfer mechanism. While those using other still valid tools for international transfers are bound to carry out an assessment — and either suspend data flows if they identify risks or inform a supervisor that the data is still flowing (which could in turn trigger an investigation).

The EU’s data protection framework, GDPR, bakes in stiff penalties for violations — with fines that can hit 4% of a company’s global annual turnover. So the business risk around EU data protection is no longer small, even as wider geopolitical risks are upping the uncertainty for global Internet players.

“Protecting our community’s privacy and data is and will continue to be our priority,” TikTok’s CISO writes, adding: “Today’s announcement is just the latest part of our ongoing work to enhance our global capability and efforts to protect our users and the TikTok community.”


Social – TechCrunch


Intercom announces the promotion of Karen Peacock to CEO

June 20, 2020 No Comments

Three years ago almost to the day, Intercom announced that it was bringing former Intuit exec Karen Peacock on board as COO. Today, she got promoted to CEO, effective July 1. Current CEO and company co-founder Eoghan McCabe will become Chairman.

As it turns out, these moves aren’t a coincidence. McCabe had been actively thinking about a succession plan when he hired Peacock. “When I first started talking to Eoghan three years ago, he shared with me that his vision was to hire someone as COO, who could then become the CEO at the right time and he could transition into the chairman role,” Peacock told TechCrunch .

She said while the idea was always there, they didn’t feel the need to rush the process. “We were just looking for whatever the right time was, and it wasn’t something we were expected to do in the first year or two. And now is really the right time to transition with all of the momentum that we’re seeing in the market,” she said.

She said as McCabe makes the transition away from running the company he helped found, he will still be around, and they will continue working together on things like product and marketing strategy, but Peacock brings a pedigree of her own to the new role.

Not only has she been in charge of commercial aspects of the Intercom business for the past three years, prior to that she was SVP at Intuit where she ran small business products that included QuickBooks, and grew it from a $ 500 million business to a hefty $ 2.5 billion during her tenure.

McCabe says that experience was one of the reasons he spent six months trying to convince Peacock to become COO at Intercom in 2017. “It’s really hard to find a leader that’s as well rounded, and as unique as Karen is. You know she doesn’t actually fit your typical very experienced operator,” he said. He points to her deep product background, calling her a “product nerd,” and her undergraduate degree in applied mathematics from Harvard as examples.

In spite of the pandemic, she’s taking over a company that’s still managing to grow. The company’s business messenger products, which enable companies to chat with customers online, have become increasingly important during the pandemic with many brick-and-mortar businesses shut down and the majority of business is being conducted digitally.

“Our overall revenue is $ 150 million in annual recurring revenue, and a supporting data point to what we were just talking about is that our new business to up market customers through our sales teams has doubled year over year. So we’re really seeing some quite nice acceleration there,” she said.

Peacock says she wants to continue building the company and using her role to build a diverse and inclusive culture. “I believe that [diversity and inclusion] is not one person’s job, it’s all of our jobs, but we have one person who’s the center post of that (a head of D&I). And then we work with outside consulting firms as well to just try and stay in a place where we understand all of what’s possible and what we can do in the world.”

She adds, “I will say that we need to make more progress on diversity and inclusion. I wouldn’t step back and pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve done this perfectly. There’s a lot more that we need to do, and it’s one of the things that I’m very excited to tackle as CEO.”

According to a February Wall Street Journal article, less than 6% of women hold CEO jobs in the U.S. Peacock certainly sees this and wants to continue to mentor women as she takes over at Intercom. “It is something that I’m very passionate about. I do speak to various different groups of up and coming women leaders, and I mentor a group of women outside of Intercom,” she said. She also sits on the board at Dropbox with other women leaders like Condoleezza Rice and Meg Whitman.

Peacock says that taking over during a pandemic makes it interesting, and instead of visiting the company’s offices, she’ll be doing a lot of video conferences. But neither is she coming in cold to the company having to ramp up on the business side of things, while getting to know everyone.

“I feel very fortunate to have been with Intercom for three years, and so I know all the people and they all know me. And so I think it’s a lot easier to do that virtually than if you’re meeting people for the very first time. Similarly, I also know the business very well, and so it’s not like I’m trying to both ramp up on the business and deal with a pandemic,” she said.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Datameer announces $40M investment as it pivots away from Hadoop roots

October 29, 2019 No Comments

Datameer, the company that was born as a data prep startup on top of the open source Hadoop project, announced a $ 40 million investment and a big pivot away from Hadoop, while staying true to its big data roots.

The investment was led by existing investor ST Telemedia . Other existing investors including Redpoint Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Nextworld Capital, Citi Ventures and Top Tier Capital Partners also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to almost $ 140 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Company CEO Christian Rodatus says the company’s original mission was about making Hadoop easier to use for data scientists, business analysts and engineers. In the last year, the three biggest commercial Hadoop vendors — Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR — fell on hard times. Cloudera and Hortonworks merged and MapR was sold to HPE in a fire sale.

Starting almost two years ago, Datameer recognized that against this backdrop, it was time for a change. It began developing a couple of new products. It didn’t want to abandon its existing customer base entirely of course, so it began rebuilding its Hadoop product and is now calling it Datameer X. It is a modern cloud-native product built to run on Kubernetes, the popular open source container orchestration tool. Instead of Hadoop, it will be based on Spark. He reports they are about two-thirds done with this pivot, but the product has been in the hands of customers.

The company also announced Neebo, an entirely new SaaS tool to give data scientists the ability to process data in whatever form it takes. Rodatus sees a world coming where data will take many forms from traditional data to Python code from data analysts or data scientists to SaaS vendor dashboards. He sees Neebo bringing all of this together in a managed service with the hope that it will free data scientists to concentrate on getting insight from the data. It will work with data visualization tools like Tableau and Looker, and should be generally available in the coming weeks.

The money should help them get through this pivot, hire more engineers to continue the process and build a go-to-market team for the new products. It’s never easy pivoting like this, but the investors are likely hoping that the company can build on its existing customer base, while taking advantage of the market need for data science processing tools. Time will tell if it works.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Daily Crunch: Facebook announces Portal TV

September 18, 2019 No Comments

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Facebook launches Portal TV, a $ 149 video chat set-top box

The Portal TV lets you hang out with friends using your home’s biggest screen. It’s part of a new line of Portal devices that bring the platform’s auto-zooming AI camera, in-house voice assistant speaker, Messenger video chat and end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp video calls to smaller form factors.

Facebook says it also will provide a lot more clarity around privacy — although human review of voice recordings is still turned on by default.

2. Apple Watch Series 5 review

The Apple Watch Series 5 doesn’t include any hardware additions quite as flashy as the LTE functionality and ECG monitor it introduced with previous updates. But taken as a whole, the new features maintain the device’s spot at the top of the smartwatch heap.

3. Google Fi gets an unlimited plan

For the longest time, Google Fi didn’t play the unlimited calls, text and data game. That’s changing this week.

simone gertz

4. Roboticist and YouTube star Simone Giertz is coming to Disrupt SF

With 1.92 million YouTube subscribers, Giertz is best known for her “shitty” robotic creations, including arms that serve soup and breakfast, draw holiday cards and apply lipstick — to hilariously uneven results.

5. Documents reveal how Russia taps phone companies for surveillance

Documents reviewed by TechCrunch offer new insight into the scope and scale of the Russian surveillance system known as SORM, and how Russian authorities gain access to the calls, messages and data of customers of the country’s largest phone provider.

6. Podcast app Pocket Casts is now available for free, with an optional $ 0.99 subscription

Previously, you had to pay a one-time fee of $ 3.99 to access the Android or iOS apps, but CEO Owen Grover said this approach seemed increasingly at odds with Pocket Casts’ goals, and with the vision of the public radio organizations that acquired it last year.

7. In a social media world, here’s what you need to know about UGC and privacy

For a brand, is it worth the effort to incorporate UGC into their marketing strategy? And if so, how can they do it within the rules — and more importantly, in adherence with the expectations of consumers? (Extra Crunch membership required.)


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat announces new shows from Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others

July 10, 2019 No Comments

Snapchat just announced that it’s making shows with big names like Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin Hart, as well as online stars like Emma Chamberlain, Loren Gray, Rickey Thompson, Baby Ariel and FaZe Banks.

Snapchat launched its original content efforts two years ago, and today it’s unveiling a new program called Creator Shows. As initially announced in the Hollywood Reporter, these will be first-person shows designed around individual creators.

For example, Schwarzenegger will be providing motivational advice in a show called “Rules of Success,” while Thompson will weigh in on fashion and lifestyle trends on “Trend or End” and Gray offers beauty advice on “Glow Up.”

The shows will begin airing this month. They’re all exclusive to Snapchat, and many of them come from creators who have a substantial following on other platforms — Chamberlain, for example, was just described in The New York Times as “the funniest person on YouTube.

Rickey Thompson Premieres July 10

“Snapchat has always been my favorite platform to post random and funny things on because it’s so relaxed,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “My favorite part about it is that I get to watch my own Snapchat Stories a few hours after I post them for entertainment… kind of embarrassing, I know…”

Snap isn’t sharing viewership numbers around its original shows, but it does say that daily time spent watching those shows tripled over the past year.

And as media giants funnel more and more money into original video content, this might be the strategy that Snapchat needs to compete — rather than trying to find the next big-budget hit, it can focus on personality-driven shows from creators with large followings.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat announces new shows from Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others

July 10, 2019 No Comments

Snapchat just announced that it’s making shows with big names like Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin Hart, as well as online stars like Emma Chamberlain, Loren Gray, Rickey Thompson, Baby Ariel and FaZe Banks.

Snapchat launched its original content efforts two years ago, and today it’s unveiling a new program called Creator Shows. As initially announced in the Hollywood Reporter, these will be first-person shows designed around individual creators.

For example, Schwarzenegger will be providing motivational advice in a show called “Rules of Success,” while Thompson will weigh in on fashion and lifestyle trends on “Trend or End” and Gray offers beauty advice on “Glow Up.”

The shows will begin airing this month. They’re all exclusive to Snapchat, and many of them come from creators who have a substantial following on other platforms — Chamberlain, for example, was just described in The New York Times as “the funniest person on YouTube.

Rickey Thompson Premieres July 10

“Snapchat has always been my favorite platform to post random and funny things on because it’s so relaxed,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “My favorite part about it is that I get to watch my own Snapchat Stories a few hours after I post them for entertainment… kind of embarrassing, I know…”

Snap isn’t sharing viewership numbers around its original shows, but it does say that daily time spent watching those shows tripled over the past year.

And as media giants funnel more and more money into original video content, this might be the strategy that Snapchat needs to compete — rather than trying to find the next big-budget hit, it can focus on personality-driven shows from creators with large followings.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Twitter announces new content deals with Univision, The Wall Street Journal and others

April 30, 2019 No Comments

Twitter is unveiling a number of new content deals and renewals tonight at its NewFronts event for digital advertisers.

It’s only been two years since Twitter first joined the NewFronts. At the time, coverage suggested that executives saw the company’s video strategy as a crucial part of turning things around, but since then, the spotlight has moved on to other things (like rethinking the fundamental social dynamics of the service).

And yet the company is still making video deals, with 13 of them being unveiled tonight. That’s a lot of announcements, though considerably less than the 30 revealed at last year’s event. The company notes that it has already announced a number of partnerships this year, including one with the NBA.

“When you collaborate with the top publishers in the world, you can develop incredibly innovative ways to elevate premium content and bring new dimensions to the conversations that are already happening on Twitter,” said Twitter Global VP and Head of Content Partnerships Kay Madati in a statement. “Together with our partners, we developed this new slate of programming specifically for our audiences, and designed the content to fuel even more robust conversation on Twitter.”

Here’s a quick rundown of all the news:

  • A partnership with Univision covering Spanish-language sports, news and entertainment content, including 2020 election analysis and reporting.
  • A multi-year extension of Twitter’s deal with the NFL, which includes highlights and analysis.
  • The Players’ Tribune and Twitter are announcing a live talk show called “Don’t @ Me,” where two athletes with debate topics chosen in part by Twitter users.
  • A multi-year extension of Twitter’s deal with Major League Soccer.
  • Continued programming from ESPN, including new ESPN Onsite branding to highlight shows filmed on location at big events.
  • Bleacher Report is bringing “House of Highlights” back for a second season.
  • Blizzard Entertainment will be sharing content from BlizzCon in November, including the entire opening ceremony.
  • The Wall Street Journal is launching WSJ What’s Now, an original video show for Twitter. The deal will also include live-streamed content from Wall Street Journal events.
  • Bloomberg’s TicToc will expand its coverage to include events like the G20 Summit, United Nations General Assembly and World Economic Forum.
  • CNET is announcing a new partnership with Twitter, which will cover major tech industry events.
  • Time is developing new video content for Twitter around the Time Person of the Year and Time 100.
  • Live Nation is bringing a new concert series exclusively to Twitter this fall, with 10 concerts in 10 weeks.
  • At the Video Music Awards, Viacom-owned MTV will offer a Stan Cam where fans can share their own live-streamed reactions to the show. Viacom will also be live-streaming red carpet coverage from its other events.


Social – TechCrunch


Rackspace announces it has laid off 200 workers

March 2, 2019 No Comments

Rackspace, the hosted private cloud vendor, let go around 200 workers or 3 percent of its worldwide workforce of 6,600 employees this week. The company says that it’s part of a recalibration where it is trying to find workers who are better suited to their current business approach.

A Rackspace spokesperson told TechCrunch that it is “a stable and profitable company.” In fact, it hired 1,500 employees in 2018 and currently has 200 job openings. “We continue to invest in our business based on market opportunity and our customers’ needs – we take actions on an ongoing basis in some areas where we are over-invested and hire in areas where we are under invested,” a company spokesperson explained.

The company, which went public in 2008 and private again for $ 4.3 billion in 2016, has struggled in a cloud market dominated by giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, but according to Synergy Research, a firm that keeps close watch on the cloud market, it is one of the top three companies in the Hosted Private Cloud category.

It’s worth noting that the top company in this category is IBM, and Rackspace could be a good target for Big Blue if it wanted to use its checkbook to get a boost in market share. IBM is in third or fourth place in the cloud infrastructure market, depending on whose numbers you look at, but it could move the needle a bit by buying a company like Rackspace. Neither company is suggesting this, however, and IBM bought Red Hat at the end of last year for $ 34 billion, making it less likely it will be in a spending mood this year.

For now the layoffs appear to be a company tweaking its workforce to meet current market conditions, but whatever the reason, it’s never a happy day when people lose their jobs.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Pivotal announces new serverless framework

December 8, 2018 No Comments

Pivotal has always been about making open-source tools for enterprise developers, but surprisingly, up until now, the arsenal has lacked a serverless component. That changed today with the alpha launch of Pivotal Function Service.

Pivotal Function Service is a Kubernetes-based, multi-cloud function service. It’s part of the broader Pivotal vision of offering you a single platform for all your workloads on any cloud,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new service.

What’s interesting about Pivotal’s flavor of serverless, besides the fact that it’s based on open source, is that it has been designed to work both on-prem and in the cloud in a cloud native fashion, hence the Kubernetes-based aspect of it. This is unusual to say the least.

The idea up until now has been that the large-scale cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft could dial up whatever infrastructure your functions require, then dial them down when you’re finished without you ever having to think about the underlying infrastructure. The cloud provider deals with whatever compute, storage and memory you need to run the function, and no more.

Pivotal wants to take that same idea and make it available in the cloud across any cloud service. It also wants to make it available on-prem, which may seem curious at first, but Pivotal’s Onsi Fakhouri says customers want that same abilities both on-prem and in the cloud. “One of the key values that you often hear about serverless is that it will run down to zero and there is less utilization, but at the same time there are customers who want to explore and embrace the serverless programming paradigm on-prem,” Fakhouri said. Of course, then it is up to IT to ensure that there are sufficient resources to meet the demands of the serverless programs.

The new package includes several key components for developers, including an environment for building, deploying and managing your functions, a native eventing ability that provides a way to build rich event triggers to call whatever functionality you require and the ability to do this within a Kubernetes-based environment. This is particularly important as companies embrace a hybrid use case to manage the events across on-prem and cloud in a seamless way.

One of the advantages of Pivotal’s approach is that Pivotal can work on any cloud as an open product. This is in contrast to the cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, which provide similar services that run exclusively on their clouds. Pivotal is not the first to build an open-source Function as a Service, but they are attempting to package it in a way that makes it easier to use.

Serverless doesn’t actually mean there are no underlying servers. Instead, it means that developers don’t have to point to any servers because the cloud provider takes care of whatever infrastructure is required. In an on-prem scenario, IT has to make those resources available.


Enterprise – TechCrunch