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Former Asana employees want to take on Discord with a positive platform for creator communities

February 2, 2021 No Comments

In a creator-economy world, if you’re only as good as your last YouTube video, then your next YouTube video had better be bigger and louder than the last.

Vibely, a new startup co-founded by Asana alumni Teri Yu and Theresa Lee, wants to turn the constant, and often exhausting, beast of content creation on its head. The startup has created a premium, creator-controlled community platform that allows fans to gather and be monetized in new ways, beyond what is possible on YouTube or TikTok.

The core of Vibely, and what the co-founders hope will keep users coming back, is the ability to let any creator make a challenge for their fans to enjoy. For example, a creator whose brand evokes thoughtfulness could ask fans to sketch out their personal growth goals or take action around a new year’s resolution everyday. Or a fitness influencer could motivate fans to work out for a sprint of days.

“Most people in the creator economy are thinking about how to immediately monetize and get that instant gratification of like money here,” Yu said, which is why creators sell merchandise or hop on Cameo. “We’re focusing on long-term strategic communities.” Yu describes her startup’s shift as a mindset change, from a linear relationship between creators and fans to a multi-directional relationship between fans, superfans, new fans and creators.

Image Credits: Vibely

Vibely’s pitch is two-fold. For fans, the platform gives them a chance to chat with other fans from around the world. It also lets fans participate in community challenges and have a place to plan virtual hangouts over shared love for makeup or dance. The startup helps creators simultaneously, by giving them a one-stop shop to announce plans, do call to actions and create an ambassador program. It lets the “creator scale their time and have a multi-directional relationship with the community under or beneath them.”

Notably, Vibely is trying to be different from Patreon or OnlyFans, which is basically paywalled content for fans. Vibely doesn’t need creators to post more content, it just needs them to pop into a premium community and interact with fans in a meaningful way.

The startup is formalizing a sporadic daily occurrence: When a creator posts content, their comment sections in YouTube, Instagram and TikTok light up with fans discussing every detail you can imagine, from a suggestive hair flip to if that background poster has a hidden message. Creators often pop in to respond to a spicy thread or a random compliment, which incentivizes fans to keep swarming the content section.

The startup has spent little on customer acquisition cost and relied heavily on word of mouth. In December, Vibely launched a part-in-person, part-virtual creator house to pair top TikTok creators with their followers, generating some buzz. In 2020, Vibely had more than 600 communities with 392,000 messages sent and 37,000 challenges completed. Creators include Lavendaire, with 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and Rowena Tsai, who has 520,000 subscribers.

Yu says that there is one day where Kim Kardashian might have a community on the platform, but the main “bread and butter” of Vibely is searching for creators who represent a true interest, value or belief system. This can be a book influencer or a religious creator, for example.

“[Creators] are controlling their own destiny,” Yu said. “On Instagram or Facebook, you might create content but the algorithm decides at the end of the day whether or not your audience sees it. With Vibely, they have 100% control since this is their community.” The startup is planning to make money through membership dues and in-app mechanics like social currencies and rewards.

Vibely’s moonshot goal is to be a more positive, and supportive, Discord, a platform used by gamer communities across the world. So far, Yu says that less than .1% of Vibely users have been flagged by other users, although notably would not share total user numbers. There is also an ambassador program that appoints a user to oversee a community, as well as a global community manager on the team.

“The ceiling of where [Discord] can support is really only going to be gamers,” she said. “But creators want to protect their brand right now and make sure people have a positive experience,” so they are looking for another place to set up.

Image Credits: Vibely

While moderation is apparently going well so far, Vibely will most certainly encounter problems as more and more users join its platform. In the world of challenges, craze and hype led by fanatics could potentially become harmful if someone takes it too far. While Vibely aims to be a judgement-free zone for people to connect around the world, scale has a uniquely pessimistic way of forking that from time to time. Some consumer apps have responded to this truth by aggressively hiring on-staff moderators, but that too can become grueling work.

To hit the ground running, Vibely announced today that it has raised $ 2 million in seed financing from backers including Steve Chen, the co-founder of YouTube; Justin Rosenstein, the co-founder of Asana and co-creator of Netflix’s “Social Dilemma” documentary; Scott Heiferman, the co-founder of Meetup; Turner Novak, formerly an investor at Gelt, and more.

 


Social – TechCrunch


Former Asana employees want to take on Discord with a positive platform for creator communities

February 2, 2021 No Comments

In a creator-economy world, if you’re only as good as your last YouTube video, then your next YouTube video had better be bigger and louder than the last.

Vibely, a new startup co-founded by Asana alumni Teri Yu and Theresa Lee, wants to turn the constant, and often exhausting, beast of content creation on its head. The startup has created a premium, creator-controlled community platform that allows fans to gather and be monetized in new ways, beyond what is possible on YouTube or TikTok.

The core of Vibely, and what the co-founders hope will keep users coming back, is the ability to let any creator make a challenge for their fans to enjoy. For example, a creator whose brand evokes thoughtfulness could ask fans to sketch out their personal growth goals or take action around a new year’s resolution everyday. Or a fitness influencer could motivate fans to work out for a sprint of days.

“Most people in the creator economy are thinking about how to immediately monetize and get that instant gratification of like money here,” Yu said, which is why creators sell merchandise or hop on Cameo. “We’re focusing on long-term strategic communities.” Yu describes her startup’s shift as a mindset change, from a linear relationship between creators and fans to a multi-directional relationship between fans, superfans, new fans and creators.

Image Credits: Vibely

Vibely’s pitch is two-fold. For fans, the platform gives them a chance to chat with other fans from around the world. It also lets fans participate in community challenges and have a place to plan virtual hangouts over shared love for makeup or dance. The startup helps creators simultaneously, by giving them a one-stop shop to announce plans, do call to actions and create an ambassador program. It lets the “creator scale their time and have a multi-directional relationship with the community under or beneath them.”

Notably, Vibely is trying to be different from Patreon or OnlyFans, which is basically paywalled content for fans. Vibely doesn’t need creators to post more content, it just needs them to pop into a premium community and interact with fans in a meaningful way.

The startup is formalizing a sporadic daily occurrence: When a creator posts content, their comment sections in YouTube, Instagram and TikTok light up with fans discussing every detail you can imagine, from a suggestive hair flip to if that background poster has a hidden message. Creators often pop in to respond to a spicy thread or a random compliment, which incentivizes fans to keep swarming the content section.

The startup has spent little on customer acquisition cost and relied heavily on word of mouth. In December, Vibely launched a part-in-person, part-virtual creator house to pair top TikTok creators with their followers, generating some buzz. In 2020, Vibely had more than 600 communities with 392,000 messages sent and 37,000 challenges completed. Creators include Lavendaire, with 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and Rowena Tsai, who has 520,000 subscribers.

Yu says that there is one day where Kim Kardashian might have a community on the platform, but the main “bread and butter” of Vibely is searching for creators who represent a true interest, value or belief system. This can be a book influencer or a religious creator, for example.

“[Creators] are controlling their own destiny,” Yu said. “On Instagram or Facebook, you might create content but the algorithm decides at the end of the day whether or not your audience sees it. With Vibely, they have 100% control since this is their community.” The startup is planning to make money through membership dues and in-app mechanics like social currencies and rewards.

Vibely’s moonshot goal is to be a more positive, and supportive, Discord, a platform used by gamer communities across the world. So far, Yu says that less than .1% of Vibely users have been flagged by other users, although notably would not share total user numbers. There is also an ambassador program that appoints a user to oversee a community, as well as a global community manager on the team.

“The ceiling of where [Discord] can support is really only going to be gamers,” she said. “But creators want to protect their brand right now and make sure people have a positive experience,” so they are looking for another place to set up.

Image Credits: Vibely

While moderation is apparently going well so far, Vibely will most certainly encounter problems as more and more users join its platform. In the world of challenges, craze and hype led by fanatics could potentially become harmful if someone takes it too far. While Vibely aims to be a judgement-free zone for people to connect around the world, scale has a uniquely pessimistic way of forking that from time to time. Some consumer apps have responded to this truth by aggressively hiring on-staff moderators, but that too can become grueling work.

To hit the ground running, Vibely announced today that it has raised $ 2 million in seed financing from backers including Steve Chen, the co-founder of YouTube; Justin Rosenstein, the co-founder of Asana and co-creator of Netflix’s “Social Dilemma” documentary; Scott Heiferman, the co-founder of Meetup; Turner Novak, formerly an investor at Gelt, and more.

 


Startups – TechCrunch


Tokyo-based SODA, which runs Japan’s largest sneaker resell platform, lands $22 million led by SoftBank Ventures Asia

January 14, 2021 No Comments

Tokyo-based SODA, which runs sneaker reselling platform SNKRDUNK, has raised a $ 22 million Series B led by SoftBank Ventures Asia. Investors also included basepartners, Colopl Next, THE GUILD and other strategic partners. Part of the funding will be used to expand into other Asian countries. Most of SNKRDUNK’s transactions are within Japan now, but it plans to become a cross-border marketplace.

Along with SODA’s $ 3 million Series A last year, this brings the startup’s total funding to $ 25 million.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was initially expected to put a damper on the sneaker resell market, C2C marketplaces have actually seen their business increase. For example, StockX, one of the biggest sneaker resell platforms in the world (which hit a valuation of $ 2.8 billion after its recent Series E), said May and June 2020 were its biggest months for sales ever.

SNKRDUNK’s sales also grew last year, and in December 2020, it recorded a 3,000% year-over-year increase in monthly gross merchandise value. Chief executive officer Yuta Uchiyama told TechCrunch this was because demand for sneakers remained high, while more people also started buying things online.

A lifestyle image of two men promoting SNKRDUNK, Japan's largest sneaker reselling platform

A promotional image from SNKRDUNK, Japan’s largest sneaker reselling platform

Launched in 2018, SNKRDUNK now has 2.5 million monthly users, which it says makes it the largest C2C sneaker marketplace in Japan. The Series B will allow it to speed up the pace of its international expansion, add more categories and expand its authentication facilities.

Like StockX and GOAT, SNKRDUNK’s user fees cover authentication holds before sneakers are sent to buyers. The company partners with FAKE BUSTERS, an authentication service based in Japan, to check sneakers before they are sent to buyers.

In addition to its marketplace, SNKRDUNK also runs a sneaker news site and an online community.

SODA plans to work with other companies in SoftBank Venture Asia’s portfolio that develop AI-based tech to help automate its operations, including logistics, payment, customer service and counterfeit inspection.


Startups – TechCrunch


Slim.ai announces $6.6M seed to build container DevOps platform

January 12, 2021 No Comments

We are more than seven years into the notion of modern containerization, and it still requires a complex set of tools and a high level of knowledge on how containers work. The DockerSlim open source project developed several years ago from a desire to remove some of that complexity for developers.

Slim.ai, a new startup that wants to build a commercial product on top of the open source project, announced a $ 6.6 million seed round today from Boldstart Ventures, Decibel Partners, FXP Ventures and TechAviv Founder Partners.

Company co-founder and CEO John Amaral says he and fellow co-founder and CTO Kyle Quest have worked together for years, but it was Quest who started and nurtured DockerSlim. “We started coming together around a project that Kyle built called DockerSlim. He’s the primary author, inventor and up until we started doing this company, the sole proprietor of that of that community,” Amaral explained.

At the time Quest built DockerSlim in 2015, he was working with Docker containers and he wanted a way to automate some of the lower level tasks involved in dealing with them. “I wanted to solve my own pain points and problems that I had to deal with, and my team had to deal with dealing with containers. Containers were an exciting new technology, but there was a lot of domain knowledge you needed to build production-grade applications and not everybody had that kind of domain expertise on the team, which is pretty common in almost every team,” he said.

He originally built the tool to optimize container images, but he began looking at other aspects of the DevOps lifecycle including the author, build, deploy and run phases. He found as he looked at that, he saw the possibility of building a commercial company on top of the open source project.

Quinn says that while the open source project is a starting point, he and Amaral see a lot of areas to expand. “You need to integrate it into your developer workflow and then you have different systems you deal with, different container registries, different cloud environments and all of that. […] You need a solution that can address those needs and doing that through an open source tool is challenging, and that’s where there’s a lot of opportunity to provide premium value and have a commercial product offering,” Quinn explained.

Ed Sim, founder and general partner at Boldstart Ventures, one of the seed investors sees a company bringing innovation to an area of technology where it has been lacking, while putting some more control in the hands of developers. “Slim can shift that all left and give developers the power through the Slim tools to answer all those questions, and then, boom, they can develop containers, push them into production and then DevOps can do their thing,” he said.

They are just 15 people right now including the founders, but Amaral says building a diverse and inclusive company is important to him, and that’s why one of his early hires was head of culture. “One of the first two or three people we brought into the company was our head of culture. We actually have that role in our company now, and she is a rock star and a highly competent and focused person on building a great culture. Culture and diversity to me are two sides of the same coin,” he said.

The company is still in the very early stages of developing that product. In the meantime, they continue to nurture the open source project and to build a community around that. They hope to use that as a springboard to build interest in the commercial product, which should be available some time later this year.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Social gaming platform Rec Room scores $20 million Series C

December 17, 2020 No Comments

Against Gravity, the startup behind the social gaming platform Rec Room, has scored some new funding as it brings its once VR-centric platform to every major gaming platform out there.

The startup has closed a $ 20 million Series C led by Madrona Venture Group . Existing investors including First Round Capital, Index, Sequoia and DAG also participated in the round. They’ve raised just shy of $ 50 million to date.

The platform has been around for years serving as a social hub and gaming platform for virtual reality users. In recent years, the company has tried to scale its ambitions past being known as the “Roblox of VR” and scale its capabilities to meet its young user base. This year was big for the platform doing just that.

CEO Nick Fajt estimates that the company has tripled its total audience since this time last year as the company has made a concerted drive on new platforms. While a substantial portion of Rec Room’s audience still comes from its bread-and-butter VR audience, the platform’s base of console users has grown substantially in 2020 and by the end of next year, Fajt expects that mobile will have grown to be Rec Room’s most common point of entry. Meanwhile, mobile Android remains one of the last major gaming platform that Rec Room still doesn’t have a home on.

One of the company’s big aims heading into the new year is scaling their creation tools which allow players to build their own experiences inside the game. Over 1 million of the platform’s 10 million registered users have engaged with creator tools building 4 million distinct rooms on the platform. Next year, Fajt plans to scale up creator payments estimating that by the end of 2021 they’ll have paid out $ 1 million to their network.

Fajt says he wants creation tools on Rec Room to be more accessible to the general player base than other platforms including Roblox, aiming to keep tools simple for now and push everyday users to invest time in the creation platform.

Image via Rec Room

“Roblox has an incredible business, that’s certainly no secret,” Fajt tells TechCrunch. “We want breadth of expression over depth of expression; we want anyone who comes into to Rec Room to be able to build.”

Despite the slow maturation of the VR market, Fajt says the company doesn’t plan on moving away from its VR roots anytime soon. The company has just updated its popular battle royale mode Rec Royale for the new Quest 2 as well as on iOS.


Startups – TechCrunch


Turing nabs $32M more for an AI-based platform to source and manage engineers remotely

December 12, 2020 No Comments

As remote work continues to solidify its place as a critical aspect of how businesses exist these days, a startup that has built a platform to help companies source and bring on one specific category of remote employees — engineers — is taking on some more funding to meet demand.

Turing — which has built an AI-based platform to help evaluate prospective, but far-flung, engineers, bring them together into remote teams, then manage them for the company — has picked up $ 32 million in a Series B round of funding led by WestBridge Capital. Its plan is as ambitious as the world it is addressing is wide: an AI platform to help define the future of how companies source IT talent to grow.

“They have a ton of experience in investing in global IT services, companies like Cognizant and GlobalLogic,” said co-founder and CEO Jonathan Siddharth of its lead investor in an interview the other day. “We see Turing as the next iteration of that model. Once software ate the IT services industry, what would Accenture look like?”

It currently has a database of some 180,000 engineers covering around 100 or so engineering skills, including React, Node, Python, Agular, Swift, Android, Java, Rails, Golang, PHP, Vue, DevOps, machine learning, data engineering and more.

In addition to WestBridge, other investors in this round included Foundation Capital, Altair Capital, Mindset Ventures, Frontier Ventures and Gaingels. There is also a very long list of high-profile angels participating, underscoring the network that the founders themselves have amassed. It includes unnamed executives from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft, Snap and other companies, as well as Adam D’Angelo (Facebook’s first CTO and CEO at Quora), Gokul Rajaram, Cyan Banister and Scott Banister, and Beerud Sheth (the founder of Upwork), among many others (I’ll run the full list below).

Turing is not disclosing its valuation. But as a measure of its momentum, it was only in August that the company raised a seed round of $ 14 million, led by Foundation. Siddharth said that the growth has been strong enough in the interim that the valuations it was getting and the level of interest compelled the company to skip a Series A altogether and go straight for its Series B.

The company now has signed up to its platform 180,000 developers from across 10,000 cities (compared to 150,000 developers back in August). Some 50,000 of them have gone through automated vetting on the Turing platform, and the task will now be to bring on more companies to tap into that trove of talent.

Or, “We are demand-constrained,” which is how Siddharth describes it. At the same time, it’s been growing revenues and growing its customer base, jumping from revenues of $ 9.5 million in October to $ 12 million in November, increasing 17x since first becoming generally available 14 months ago. Current customers include VillageMD, Plume, Lambda School, Ohi Tech, Proxy and Carta Healthcare.

Remote work = immediate opportunity

A lot of people talk about remote work today in the context of people no longer able to go into their offices as part of the effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. But in reality, another form of it has been in existence for decades.

Offshoring and outsourcing by way of help from third parties — such as Accenture and other systems integrators — are two ways that companies have been scaling and operating, paying sums to those third parties to run certain functions or build out specific areas instead of shouldering the operating costs of employing, upsizing and sometimes downsizing that labor force itself.

Turing is essentially tapping into both concepts. On one hand, it has built a new way to source and run teams of people, specifically engineers, on behalf of others. On the other, it’s using the opportunity that has presented itself in the last year to open up the minds of engineering managers and others to consider the idea of bringing on people they might have previously insisted work in their offices, to now work for them remotely, and still be effective.

Siddarth and co-founder Vijay Krishnan (who is the CTO) know the other side of the coin all too well. They are both from India, and both relocated to the Valley first for school (post-graduate degrees at Stanford) and then work at a time when moving to the Valley was effectively the only option for ambitious people like them to get employed by large, global tech companies, or build startups — effectively what could become large, global tech companies.

“Talent is universal, but opportunities are not,” Siddarth said to me earlier this year when describing the state of the situation.

A previous startup co-founded by the pair — content discovery app Rover — highlighted to them a gap in the market. They built the startup around a remote and distributed team of engineers, which helped them keep costs down while still recruiting top talent. Meanwhile, rivals were building teams in the Valley. “All our competitors in Palo Alto and the wider area were burning through tons of cash, and it’s only worse now. Salaries have skyrocketed,” he said.

After Rover was acquired by Revcontent, a recommendation platform that competes against the likes of Taboola and Outbrain, they decided to turn their attention to seeing if they could build a startup based on how they had, basically, built their own previous startup.

There are a number of companies that have been tapping into the different aspects of the remote work opportunity, as it pertains to sourcing talent and how to manage it.

They include the likes of Remote (raised $ 35 million in November), Deel ($ 30 million raised in September), Papaya Global ($ 40 million also in September), Lattice ($ 45 million in July) and Factorial ($ 16 million in April), among others.

What’s interesting about Turing is how it’s trying to address and provide services for the different stages you go through when finding new talent. It starts with an AI platform to source and vet candidates. That then moves into matching people with opportunities, and onboarding those engineers. Then, Turing helps manage their work and productivity in a secure fashion, and also provides guidance on the best way to manage that worker in the most compliant way, be it as a contractor or potentially as a full-time remote employee.

The company is not freemium, as such, but gives people two weeks to trial people before committing to a project. So unlike an Accenture, Turing itself tries to build in some elasticity into its own product, not unlike the kind of elasticity that it promises its customers.

It all sounds like a great idea now, but interestingly, it was only after remote work really became the norm around March/April of this year that the idea really started to pick up traction.

“It’s amazing what COVID has done. It’s led to a huge boom for Turing,” said Sumir Chadha, managing director for WestBridge Capital, in an interview. For those who are building out tech teams, he added, there is now “No need for to find engineers and match them with customers. All of that is done in the cloud.”

“Turing has a very interesting business model, which today is especially relevant,” said Igor Ryabenkiy, managing partner at Altair Capital, in a statement. “Access to the best talent worldwide and keeping it well-managed and cost-effective make the offering attractive for many corporations. The energy of the founding team provides fast growth for the company, which will be even more accelerated after the B-round.”

PS. I said I’d list the full, longer list of investors in this round. In these COVID times, this is likely the biggest kind of party you’ll see for a while. In addition to those listed above, it included [deep breath] Founders Fund, Chapter One Ventures (Jeff Morris Jr.), Plug and Play Tech Ventures (Saeed Amidi), UpHonest Capital (​Wei Guo, Ellen Ma​), Ideas & Capital (Xavier Ponce de León), 500 Startups Vietnam (Binh Tran and Eddie Thai), Canvas Ventures (Gary Little), B Capital (Karen Appleton P​age, Kabir Narang), Peak State Ventures (​Bryan Ciambella, Seva Zakharov)​, Stanford StartX Fund, Amino C​apital, ​Spike Ventures, Visary Capital (Faizan Khan), Brainstorm Ventures (Ariel Jaduszliwer), Dmitry Chernyak, Lorenzo Thione, Shariq Rizvi, Siqi Chen, Yi Ding, Sunil Rajaraman, Parakram Khandpur, Kintan Brahmbhatt, Cameron Drummond, Kevin Moore, Sundeep Ahuja, Auren Hoffman, Greg Back, Sean Foote, Kelly Graziadei, Bobby Balachandran, Ajith Samuel, Aakash Dhuna, Adam Canady, Steffen Nauman, Sybille Nauman, Eric Cohen, Vlad V, Marat Kichikov, Piyush Prahladka, Manas Joglekar, Vladimir Khristenko, Tim and Melinda Thompson, Alexandr Katalov, Joseph and Lea Anne Ng, Jed Ng, Eric Bunting, Rafael Carmona, Jorge Carmona, Viacheslav Turpanov, James Borow, Ray Carroll, Suzanne Fletcher, Denis Beloglazov, Tigran Nazaretian, Andrew Kamotskiy, Ilya Poz, Natalia Shkirtil, Ludmila Khrapchenko, Ustavshchikov Sergey, Maxim Matcin and Peggy Ferrell.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Jeli.io announces $4M seed to build incident analysis platform

December 7, 2020 No Comments

When one of AWS’s east coast data centers went down at the end of last month, it had an impact on countless companies relying on its services including Roku, Adobe and Shipt. When the incident was resolved, the company had to analyze what happened. For most companies, that involves manually pulling together information from various internal tools, not a focused incident platform.

Jeli.io wants to change that by providing one central place for incident analysis, and today the company announced a $ 4 million seed round led by Boldstart Ventures with participation by Harrison Metal and Heavybit.

Jeli CEO and founder Nora Jones knows a thing or two about incident analysis. She helped build the chaos engineering tools at Netflix, and later headed chaos engineering at Slack. While chaos engineering helps simulate possible incidents by stress testing systems, incidents still happen, of course. She knew that there was a lot to learn from them, but there wasn’t a way to pull together all of the data around an incident automatically. She created Jeli to do that.

“While I was at Netflix pre pandemic, I discovered the secret that looking at incidents when they happen — like when Netflix goes down, when Slack goes down or when any other organization goes down — that’s actually a catalyst for understanding the delta between how you think your org works and how your org actually works,” Jones told me.

She began to see that there would be great value in trying to figure out the decision-making processes, the people and tools involved, and what companies could learn from how they reacted in these highly stressful situations, how they resolved them and what they could do to prevent similar outages from happening again in the future. With no products to help, Jones began building tooling herself at her previous jobs, but she believed that there needed to be a broader solution.

“We started Jeli and began building tooling to help engineers by [serving] the insights to help them know where to look after incidents,” she said. They do this by pulling together all of the data from emails, Slack channels, PagerDuty, Zoom recordings, logs and so forth that captured information about the incident, surfacing insights to help understand what happened without having to manually pull all of this information together.

 

The startup currently has 8 employees with plans to add people across the board in 2021. As she does this, she is cognizant of the importance of building a diverse workforce. “I am extremely committed to diversity and inclusion. It is something that’s been important and a requirement for me from day one. I’ve been in situations in organizations before where I was the only one represented, and I know how that feels. I want to make sure I’m including that from day one because ultimately it leads to a better product,” she said.

The product is currently in private beta, and the company is working with early customers to refine the platform. The plan is to continue to invite companies in the coming months, then open that up more widely some time next year.

Eliot Durbin, general partner at Boldstart Ventures says that he began talking to Jones a couple of years ago when she was at Netflix just to learn about this space, and when she was ready to start a company, his firm jumped at the chance to write an early check, even while the startup was pre-revenue.

“When we met Nora we realized that she’s on a lifelong mission to make things much more resilient […]. And we had the benefit of getting to know her for years before she started the company, so it was really a natural continuation to a conversation that we were already in,” Durbin explained.


Startups – TechCrunch


Proxyclick visitor management system adapts to COVID as employee check-in platform

November 27, 2020 No Comments

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 questions, 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 $ 18.5 million. The most recent raise was a $ 15 million Series B in January.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Proxyclick visitor management system adapts to COVID as employee check-in platform

November 24, 2020 No Comments

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.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Marketing automation platform Klaviyo scores $200M Series C on $4.15B valuation

November 17, 2020 No Comments

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.

Andrew Bialecki, CEO and co-founder at Klaviyo

Andrew Bialecki, CEO and co-founder at Klaviyo Image Credits: Klaviyo

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.


Enterprise – TechCrunch