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Australia’s TechnologyOne acquires UK-based higher-ed platform Scientia for $16.6M

By Mike Butcher

TechnologyOne, an Australian SaaS enterprise, has agreed to acquire UK-based higher education software provider Scientia for £12 million /$16.6 million in cash.
 
TechnologyOne claims to have 75% of Higher Education institutions in Australia using its software, while Scientia claims 50% market share in the UK.

The acquisition includes an initial payment of £6m and further payments.
 
Adrian Di Marco, TechnologyOne founder and Executive Chairman said: “This is our company’s first international acquisition and it demonstrates our deep commitment to serving the higher education sector and the UK market. The unique IP and market-leading functionality of Scientia’s product supports our vision of delivering enterprise software that is incredibly easy to use.”

Commenting, Michelle Gillespie, Registrar and Director of Student Administration and Library Services at Swinburne University of Technology said: “The one thing that students care most about is their timetable. Being able to fully integrate a schedule into the full student experience is very important, and an exciting step for those universities – like Swinburne – that use TechnologyOne’s student management system.”

Pry Financials raises $4.2M to make startup accounting more approachable

By Catherine Shu

Pry Financials wants to make startup finances approachable for its entire team, not just the people in charge of its accounting spreadsheets. The Y Combinator alum announced today it has raised $4.2 million from Global Founders Capital, Pioneer Fund, NOMO VC, Liquid2 and Hyphen Capital. 

Launched in March, Pry now has more than 200 customers and claims it has grown 35% month-over-month since YC’s Demo Day. It was founded by Alex Sailer, Tiffany Wong, Hayden Jensen and Andy Su. 

Before starting Pry, Su was co-founder of InDinero, another YC alum that started as a “Mint for small businesses” before pivoting to a full-service accounting company. InDinero launched while he was still a student at UC Berkeley, and Su eventually became responsible for its financial planning.

A group photo of Pry Financials' team

Pry Financials’ team. Image Credits: Pry Financials

He told TechCrunch that most startups can’t afford accounting software like Workday Adaptive Planning. Instead, they sometimes work with outsourced CFO services, but mostly rely on spreadsheets for everything: three-way forecasts, predicting runway, hiring and contractor budgets and investor updates. 

“I was the chief technical officer and over the years, I also took on the finance function, so it was kind of a dual CTO/CFO role. This was 2010 through 2020 and as technology grew, the engineering and product teams got all sorts of new tools every six months or so, whereas the finance team was just stuck in Excel,” he said. 

Started as a side project while Su was still at InDinero, Pry starts at just $50 a month and replaces those spreadsheets with easy-to-understand dashboards for accounting, financial planning and scenario modeling. The dashboards connect to QuickBooks, Xero or bank accounts, so numbers are continuously updated.

Pry’s clients typically start using it after they raise seed funding, because “for most first-time founders, that’s the most amount of money you have ever received, so you need to spend more time managing it and reviewing it every month. And you’re spending a lot of time on payroll each month,” Su said. Second-time founders, meanwhile, sign up for Pry because they are sick of Excel spreadsheets. 

“Reviewing a spreadsheet is mind-numbingly hard,” said Su. “If you see a number that’s off, you get this weird formula if you didn’t do it yourself. Then you basically have to write a long email to the financial analyst who wrote it and hope that they get back to you before closing time.” For founders who need to update lenders or investors every month, this means a lot of work. 

Pry makes the process more efficient by turning three-way reports — combinations of balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cashflow — into Financial Report dashboards, and then adding features like hiring plans, financial modeling and scenario planning. 

The scenario planning feature serves as a sandbox, giving startup teams and their investors a way to predict how different situations will impact finances: for example, how much runway they have if they raise a certain amount of funding or adjust product pricing.

Fundraising dashboards created with Pry Financials

Fundraising dashboards created with Pry Financials. Image credits: Pry Financials

“We’re improving upon and trying to make decisions about the company in a collaborative way. The analogy we have is Git branching, where you have your main plan, and want to try something like a new revenue model or acquiring a business, but don’t want to mess with your current strategy,” said Su. “What you can do is create a completely new branch with, say, a new pricing strategy. You can make all the changes you want and then switch back to your old branch without worrying about overriding or conflicting with it.” 

Those speculative branches are also continuously updated with the company’s most recent bank account and payroll information, so founders don’t need to recreate them from scratch if they want to revisit a potential scenario later. 

Pry plans to build more complex predictive tools and also integrate industry standards, like statistic and benchmarks, into templates to help founders understand what targets they should set. 

Because Pry is easier to manage than a set of Excel spreadsheets, Su said it’s helped startups spot important things. For example, one founder was able to find a way to save $15,000 by catching a tax issue. Pry also helps everyone at a startup understand its finances’ even if they haven’t worked with accounting spreadsheets before. The platform will add roles and permissions soon, so founders can give or restrict access to different people, like leaders of specific departments. 

Su said Pry does not compete with the accounting services many startups rely on until they can hire a head of finance, but makes it easier for startups to collaborate with them since they can share their dashboards. 

“Usually early on, you can outsource to a CFO firm. That’s the norm in the business and it works pretty well for most companies. You get a part-time CFO to work really hard for a month and get your fundraising structure done,” said Su, adding “we fit into that ecosystem well.” 

Affordable student passes available for TC Sessions: SaaS 2021

By Alexandra Ames

If you’re a current student or a recent grad with a burning passion for data, software and artificial intelligence, we want you to join us on October 27 for TC Sessions: SaaS 2021. The software-as-a-service sector keeps growing rapidly — both in size and sophistication, and it’s going to require a deep bench of thinkers, makers and technologists to create and wrangle a data-driven future.

We want to foster the next generation, and we’ve set aside discounted, budget-friendly passes especially for students. Register for your $35 student pass and get ready to meet, network with and learn from the global SaaS community’s most influential founders, makers and investors.

Your student pass provides full access to all the day’s events — main stage presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking with CrunchMatch. Video-on-demand takes care of any schedule conflicts — you don’t have to miss a single presentation.

A quick word about networking at TC Sessions: SaaS. Whether you’re hunting for internships, employment, mentorship, a co-founder or investors, you won’t find a better place or opportunity to meet the people who can help you launch your dreams.

Deal Sweetener: Your pass includes a free, one-month subscription to Extra Crunch, our members-only program featuring exclusive daily articles for founders and startup teams.

While we’re not quite ready to reveal the full agenda, we can share some of the speakers we have lined up. And (not-so-humble-brag) what a group it is so far.

We’re talking folks like investors Casey Aylward (Costanoa Ventures) and Sarah Guo (Greylock), Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, Javier Soltero, Google’s head of Workspace, UiPath’s Daniel Dines, Puppet’s Abby Kearns and Monte Carlo co-founder, CEO and data junkie extraordinaire, Barr Moses.

Who would you love to hear from at TC Sessions: SaaS? The TechCrunch editorial team is accepting recommendations for speakers. Submit your recommendations here no later than 11:59 pm (PT) on September 29.

Register here for updates and keep your fingers on the pulse of this event as we announce new speakers, events and ticket discounts.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Jump on this student discount, join the global SaaS community and take advantage of every opportunity.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Score a free month of Extra Crunch with your TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 pass

By Alexandra Ames

Whether you’re just starting to build your SaaS empire or you’re further along in your journey, you don’t want to miss TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 on October 27. This day-long virtual event, dedicated to the increasingly sophisticated world of software-as-a-service, features some of the sector’s biggest names, plenty of actionable advice and ample opportunity to network for, well, ample opportunities.

Learn how to scale, how to manage growth — of your business and of the massive amount of data it generates — and how to keep your products and services safe in an increasingly cyber-hostile world. And that’s just for starters.

Bonus Alert: Buy a TC Sessions: SaaS pass and receive a free, one-month subscription to Extra Crunch, our members-only program featuring exclusive daily articles for founders and startup teams.

Extra Crunch membership gives you the inside scoop and helps you stay ahead of the tech, business and investing trends every startup founder needs to know. Since Extra Crunch launched in 2019, we’ve posted more than 2,000 articles.

You’ll have access to exclusive articles on topics like market analysis, growth and fundraising. Here’s a quick peek at just some of the recent titles available to Extra Crunch subscribers:

Your membership also includes access to our weekly virtual event series, Extra Crunch Live. We hosted more than 40 events during 2020, and we built more interactivity into our 2021 format. We added a bunch of new stuff, too — like Pitch Deck Teardowns. Check out what’s going on with Extra Crunch Live in 2021.

We’re not quite ready to share the TC Sessions: SaaS event agenda, but register for updates and you’ll know when we announce new speakers, add events and offer ticket discounts.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Join your global SaaS community to learn, inspire, connect and grow a stronger business. Buy your SaaS pass here and scoop up a free month of Extra Crunch goodness on us.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 – Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Group discounts let you take the whole team to TC Sessions: SaaS 2021

By Alexandra Ames

If you want to get the most value out of attending TC Sessions: SaaS 2021, a day-long deep dive into the rapidly changing and expanding world of software-as-a-service, don’t go it alone — take your team. It’s a smart way to cover more ground on October 27, make more connections and increase your ROI.

We’re talking a sweet group discount, people. The early-bird pricing won’t remain in play forever, so get your group passes now and cross that money-saving task off your to-do list before the prices go up.

TC Sessions is where community meets opportunity. Each event focuses on a specific tech sector, and it’s a chance for everyone within that ecosystem to learn about the latest trends, hear from the leading experts, founders, investors and other visionaries and, of course, network.

Expect nothing less from TC Sessions: SaaS. We’re nailing down the agenda and building out a roster of impressive speakers. Does that describe you? Apply here to speak if you want to share your vast knowledge.

We’ll be announcing plenty more speakers in the coming weeks. Here’s a perfect of example. Databricks co-founder and CEO, Ali Ghodsi will grace our virtual stage to talk, among other things, about the future of data management in AI.

Pro tip: Keep your finger on the pulse TC Sessions: SaaS. Get updates when we announce new speakers, add events and offer ticket discounts.

Why should you carve a day our of your hectic schedule to attend TC Sessions: SaaS? This may be the first year we’ve focused on SaaS, but this ain’t our first rodeo. Here’s what other attendees have to say about their TC Sessions experience.

“TC Sessions: Mobility offers several big benefits. First, networking opportunities that result in concrete partnerships. Second, the chance to learn the latest trends and how mobility will evolve. Third, the opportunity for unknown startups to connect with other mobility companies and build brand awareness.” — Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking.

“People want to be around what’s interesting and learn what trends and issues they need to pay attention to. Even large companies like GM and Ford were there, because they’re starting to see the trend move toward mobility. They want to learn from the experts, and TC Sessions: Mobility has all the experts.” — Melika Jahangiri, vice president at Wunder Mobility.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Grab your team, join your community and create opportunity. Don’t wait — jump on this group discount offer right now.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 – Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Epic Games acquires Sketchfab, a 3D-model sharing platform

By Romain Dillet

New York-based startup Sketchfab has been acquired by Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite and Unreal Engine. Sketchfab has been building a platform to upload, download, view, share, sell and buy 3D assets. Essentially, it is the leading repository for 3D files on the web.

Epic Games isn’t disclosing the terms of the deal. Sketchfab will still operate as a separate brand and offering. Epic Games also says that all integrations with third-party tools will remain available, including with Unity.

The deal makes a ton of sense as Epic Games has been developing — and acquiring — some of the most popular creation tools. Unreal Engine has been one of the most popular video game engines of the past couple of decades.

More recently, Unreal Engine has been used for different use cases beyond video games, such as special effects, 3D explorations of virtual worlds, mixed reality projects and more.

But an engine without assets is pretty useless. That’s why creators either design their own 2D and 3D assets, outsource this process or buy assets directly. It led to the creation of an entire ecosystem of assets and creators.

Epic Games has its own Unreal Engine marketplace, but Sketchfab has been working on building the definitive 3D marketplace for many years with three important pillars — technology, reach and collaboration.

On the technology front, Sketchfab lets you view 3D models on any platform. The Sketchfab viewer works with all major browsers on both desktop and mobile — you can see an example on Sketchfab. It also works with VR headsets. You can upload 3D models from your favorite 3D modeling app, such as Blender, 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D and Substance Painter.

Sketchfab can also convert any format into glTF and USDZ file formats. Those formats work particularly well on Android and iOS.

When it comes to reach, Sketchfab has grown tremendously over the years. In 2018, the company shared some metrics — 1 billion views, 2 million members and 3 million 3D models. Around the same time, the company launched a store so that creators can buy and sell assets directly on the platform.

Finally, Sketchfab launched an interesting feature for companies that work with 3D models all the time — Sketchfab for Teams. It’s a software-as-a-service play that lets you share a Sketchfab account with the rest of the team. Essentially, it works a bit like a shared Google Drive folder — but for 3D models.

With today’s acquisition, Epic Games is making some immediate changes. Starting today, store fees have been reduced from 30% to 12% — just like on the Epic Games Store. The company lowered commissions on ArtStation immediately after acquiring ArtStation, as well.

As for Sketchfab users paying a monthly subscription fee, everything is a bit cheaper now. All features in the Plus plan are now available for free, all features in the Pro plan are available to Plus subscribers, etc.

“We built Sketchfab with a mission to empower a new era of creativity and provide a service for creators to showcase their work online and make 3D content accessible,” Sketchfab co-founder and CEO Alban Denoyel said in the announcement. “Joining Epic will enable us to accelerate the development of Sketchfab and our powerful online toolset, all while providing an even greater experience for creators. We are proud to work alongside Epic to build the Metaverse and enable creators to take their work even further.”

With the acquisitions of ArtStation and Capturing Reality, Epic Games has been on an acquisition spree. It’s clear that the company wants to build an end-to-end developer suite for the gaming industry.

Consumer Reports concerned Tesla uses owners to test unsafe self-driving software

By Rebecca Bellan

A Tesla in full self-driving mode makes a left turn out of the middle lane on a busy San Francisco street. It jumps in a bus lane where it’s not meant to be. It turns a corner and nearly plows into parked vehicles, causing the driver to lurch for the wheel. These scenes have been captured by car reviewer AI Addict, and other scenarios like it are cropping up on YouTube. One might say that these are all mistakes any human on a cell phone might have made. But we expect more from our AI overlords. 

Earlier this month, Tesla began sending out over-the-air software updates for its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta version 9 software, an advanced driver assist system that relies only on cameras, rather than cameras and radar like Tesla’s previous ADAS systems.

In reaction to videos displaying unsafe driving behavior, like unprotected left turns, and other reports from Tesla owners, Consumer Reports issued a statement on Tuesday saying the software upgrade does not appear to be safe enough for public roads, and that it would independently test the software update on its Model Y SUV once it receives the necessary software updates. 

Running preproduction software is both work & fun. Beta list was in stasis, as we had many known issues to fix.

Beta 9 addresses most known issues, but there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.

Safety is always top priority at Tesla.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2021

The consumer organization said it’s concerned Tesla is using its existing owners and their vehicles as guinea pigs for testing new features. Making their point for them, Tesla CEO Elon Musk did urge drivers not to be complacent while driving because “there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.” Many Tesla owners know what they’re getting themselves into because they signed up for Tesla’s Early Access Program that delivers beta software for feedback, but other road users have not given their consent for such trials. 

Tesla’s updates are shipped out to drivers all over the country. The electric vehicle company did not respond to a request for more information about whether or not it takes into account self-driving regulations in specific states — 29 states have enacted laws related to autonomous driving, but they differ wildly depending on the state. Other self-driving technology companies like Cruise, Waymo and Argo AI told CR they either test their software on private tracks or use trained safety drivers as monitors. 

“Car technology is advancing really quickly, and automation has a lot of potential, but policymakers need to step up to get strong, sensible safety rules in place,” says William Wallace, manager of safety policy at CR in a statement. “Otherwise, some companies will just treat our public roads as if they were private proving grounds, with little holding them accountable for safety.”

In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a standing general order that requires manufacturers and operators of vehicles with SAE Level 2 ADAS or SAE levels 3, 4 or 5 automated driving systems to report crashes. 

“NHTSA’s core mission is safety. By mandating crash reporting, the agency will have access to critical data that will help quickly identify safety issues that could emerge in these automated systems,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, in a statement. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.” 

The FSD beta 9 software has added features that automates more driving tasks, like navigating intersections and city streets with the driver’s supervision. But with such excellent graphics detailing where the car is in relation to other road users, down to a woman on a scooter passing by, drivers might be more distracted by the tech that’s meant to assist them at crucial moments. 

“Tesla just asking people to pay attention isn’t enough — the system needs to make sure people are engaged when the system is operational,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center in a statement. “We already know that testing developing self-driving systems without adequate driver support can — and will — end in fatalities.”

Fisher said Tesla should implement an in-car driver monitoring system to ensure drivers are watching the road to avoid accidents like the one involving Uber’s self-driving test vehicle, which struck and killed a woman in 2018 in Phoenix as she crossed the street. 

3 issues to resolve before switching to a subscription business model

By Ram Iyer
Jess Warrington Contributor
Jess Warrington is general manager, North America, at CloudBlue.

In my role at CloudBlue, Fortune 500 companies often approach me for help with solving technology challenges while shifting to a subscription business model, only to realize that they have not taken crucial organizational steps necessary to ensure a successful transition.

Subscriptions scale better, enhance customer experience and hold the promise of recurring and more predictable revenue streams — a pretty enticing prospect for any business. This business model is predominant in software as a service (SaaS), but it is hard to find an industry that doesn’t have a successful subscription story. A growing number of companies in sectors ranging from automotive, airlines, gaming and health to wellness, education, professional development and home maintenance have been introducing subscription services in recent years.

Legacy companies accustomed to pay-as-you-go models may assume shifting to a subscription model is just a sales issue. They are wrong.

However, businesses should be aware that the subscription model is much more than simply putting a monthly or annual price tag on their offering. Executives cannot just layer a subscription model on top of an existing business. They need to change the entire operation process, onboard all stakeholders, recalibrate their strategy and create a subscription culture.

While 70% of business leaders believe subscriptions will be key to their future, only 55% of companies believe they’re ready for the transition. Before talking technology, which is an enabler, companies should first address the following core issues to holistically plan and switch to a recurring revenue model.

Get internal stakeholders involved

Legacy companies accustomed to pay-as-you-go models may assume shifting to a subscription model is just a sales issue. They are wrong. Such a migration will affect nearly all departments across an organization, from product development and manufacturing to finance, sales, marketing and customer service. Leaders must therefore get all stakeholders motivated for the change and empower them to actively prepare for the transformation. The better you prepare, the smoother the transition.

But as we know, people naturally do not like change, even if it is for their own good. So it can be a formidable task to secure the cooperation of all internal stakeholders, which, depending on the size of your company, could number in the thousands.

Elon Musk officially hits the brakes on Tesla Model S Plaid+

By Rebecca Bellan

Tesla CEO Elon has made it official and publicly cancelled plans to produce the Model S Plaid+, a supercharged version of the upcoming Plaid version of the electric vehicle that will be delivered to the first customers this month.

Musk’s reason: Plaid is so good that another variant isn’t needed.

“Model S goes to Plaid speed this week,” Musk tweeted on Sunday. “Plaid+ is canceled. No need, as Plaid speed is just so good.”

Model S goes to Plaid speed this week

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 6, 2021

Tesla Model S Plaid powertrain can go from 0 to 60mph in 1.99 seconds, has a top speed of 200 miles per hour and an estimated range of 390 miles, according to the company’s website. The powertrain produces 1,020 horsepower, and the cost of the vehicle starts at $112,990. In late May, Musk tweeted that the delivery event for the electric sedan would be pushed back until June 10 in order to finish one last tweak. Musk described driving the Plaid, which has three motors as feeling like a spaceship.

Model S Plaid delivery pushed to June 10. Needs one more week of tweak.

This car feels like a spaceship. Words cannot describe the limbic resonance.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 29, 2021

The now-canceled Plaid+ wasn’t coming to market until mid-2022. Musk had promised this version would pushed the performance and range even higher. The listed starting price also popped up to $150,000. Tesla stopped taking pre-orders for the vehicle on its website in May, prompting coverage and speculation that the Plaid+ would never come to fruition. The tweet from Musk on Sunday confirms those theories.

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