Google today introduced a new mobile management and security solution, Android Enterprise Essentials, which, despite its name, is actually aimed at small to medium-sized businesses. The company explains this solution leverages Google’s experience in building Android Enterprise device management and security tools for larger organizations in order to come up with a simpler solution for those businesses with smaller budgets.
The new service includes the basics in mobile device management, with features that allow smaller businesses to require their employees to use a lock screen and encryption to protect company data. It also prevents users from installing apps outside the Google Play Store via the Google Play Protect service, and allows businesses to remotely wipe all the company data from phones that are lost or stolen.
As Google explains, smaller companies often handle customer data on mobile devices, but many of today’s remote device management solutions are too complex for small business owners, and are often complicated to get up-and-running.
Android Enterprise Essentials attempts to make the overall setup process easier by eliminating the need to manually activate each device. And because the security policies are applied remotely, there’s nothing the employees themselves have to configure on their own phones. Instead, businesses that want to use the new solution will just buy Android devices from a reseller to hand out or ship to employees with policies already in place.
Though primarily aimed at smaller companies, Google notes the solution may work for select larger organizations that want to extend some basic protections to devices that don’t require more advanced management solutions. The new service can also help companies get started with securing their mobile device inventory, before they move up to more sophisticated solutions over time, including those from third-party vendors.
The company has been working to better position Android devices for use in workplace over the past several years, with programs like Android for Work, Android Enterprise Recommended, partnerships focused on ridding the Play Store of malware, advanced device protections for high-risk users, endpoint management solutions, and more.
Google says it will roll out Android Enterprise Essentials initially with distributors Synnex in the U.S. and Tech Data in the U.K. In the future, it will make the service available through additional resellers as it takes the solution global in early 2021. Google will also host an online launch event and demo in January for interested customers.
As we’ve moved to work from home during the pandemic, it’s been challenging for remote workers to feel connected. Loop Team, a new entrant into the enterprise communications space, thinks the way we are communicating needs improvement. That’s why the startup is releasing Loop Team today, a tool that is trying to use software to reproduce the in-office experience.
Company founder and CEO Raj Singh says that he learned about the problems of feeling disconnected first-hand at a previous remote-first company, but in spite of his best attempts to use technology to produce that in-office feel, he said he continued to feel out of the loop (so to speak). That’s when he decided to build the solution he wanted.
“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter, the serendipitous bumping, things like that. And we built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form,” Singh explained to me.
While he created this company prior to COVID, the pandemic has highlighted the need for a tool like this. Before he created the software, he interviewed hundreds of people who worked from home to understand their issues working outside of the office and he heard a lot of common complaints.
“There was an office and they didn’t necessarily know what was going on. They didn’t know who was available. They didn’t know who was around. It was difficult to connect. Everything was scheduled through calendar. They were missing some of that presence — and they were feeling lonely or out of touch or out of the loop,” he said.
His company’s solution tries to reproduce the office experience using AI, good, old-fashioned presence awareness and other tech to let team members know what you’re doing and if you’re available to chat. So just as you would wander down the hall and see your colleague on the phone or deeply involved with work on the laptop, and know to leave them be, you could get that same feel with Loop.
Image Credits: Loop Team
It gives the current status of the person, and you can know from looking at the list of people on your team, who’s available to talk and who’s busy. As you go into virtual discussions, the team can see who’s having meetings and individuals can pop in too, just as you might do in the office.
What’s more, you can set up rooms (like in Slack), but these are designed to give you a more personal connection using video and audio for actual discussion. You can work on projects via screen share and people who miss these meetings because of other obligations or time zone differences, can always review what they missed.
While you can do all of these things in Slack and Zoom, or in some combination of similar tools, Loop’s layout and presentation is designed to help you see the conversations in a clear way and expose what you want to see, while hiding parts of the day that don’t interest you.
The product is available for free starting today, but Singh wants to introduce a pricing model sometime next year based on team size. He expects there will always be a freemium version for teams under 10 people.
The company was founded in 2018 and nurtured at the Stanford SRI Institute. It has raised $4.75 million so far. Today it starts on its journey as a startup with its first product, and it’s one that comes with good timing as more teams find themselves working remotely than every before.
Several years ago Serenade co-founder Matt Wiethoff was a developer at Quora when he was diagnosed with a severe repetitive stress injury to his hand and couldn’t code. He and co-founder Tommy MacWilliam decided to use AI to create a tool that let him speak the code instead, and Serenade was born.
Today, the company announced a $2.1 million seed investment led by Amplify Partners and Neo. While it was at it, the startup also announced the first commercial version of the product, Serenade Pro.
“Serenade is an app that you’ll download onto your computer. It will plug into your existing editors like Visual Studio Code or IntelliJ, and then allows you to speak your code,” co-founder MacWilliam told me. At that point the startup’s AI engine takes over and translates what you say into syntactically correct code.
He says that while there are a bunch of generalized speech-to-text engines out there, they hadn’t been able to find anything that was tuned specifically for the requirements of someone entering code. While it may seem that this would have a pretty narrow market focus, the co-founders see this use case as simply a starting point with developers using this kind of technology even when not injured.
“Our vision is that this is just the future of programming. With machine learning, coding becomes faster and easier than ever before, and our AI eliminates a lot of the rote mechanical parts of programming. So rather than needing to remember keyboard shortcuts or syntax details of a language, you can just focus on expressing your idea naturally, and then our machine learning takes care of translating that into actual code for you,” MacWilliam explained.
The startup has five employees today, but has plans to build the company to 15-20 in the next year fueled by the introduction of the commercial product and the new funding. As they build the company, MacWilliam says being diverse is a big part of that.
“Our diversity strategy ranges throughout the process. I think it starts at the top of the funnel. We need to make sure that we’re going out and reaching great people — there are great people everywhere and it’s on us to find them and convince them why working at Serenade would be great,” he said. They are working with a variety of sources to find a diverse group of candidates that stretches beyond their own personal network, then looking at how they interview and judge candidates’ skill sets with the goal of building a more diverse employee base.
The company sees itself as a way to move beyond the keyboard to speaking your code, and it intends to use this money to continue building the product, while building a community of dedicated users. “We’ll be thinking about how we can showcase the value of coding by voice, how we can put together demos and build a community of product champions showing that [it’s faster to code using your voice],” he said.
Chooch.ai, a startup that hopes to bring computer vision more broadly to companies to help them identify and tag elements at high speed, announced a $20 million Series A today.
Vickers Venture Partners led the round with participation from 212, Streamlined Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, Waterman Ventures and several other unnamed investors. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $25.8 million, according to the company.
“Basically we set out to copy human visual intelligence in machines. That’s really what this whole journey is about,” CEO and co-founder Emrah Gultekin explained. As the company describes it, “Chooch Al can rapidly ingest and process visual data from any spectrum, generating AI models in hours that can detect objects, actions, processes, coordinates, states, and more.”
Chooch is trying to differentiate itself from other AI startups by taking a broader approach that could work in any setting, rather than concentrating on specific vertical applications. Using the pandemic as an example, Gultekin says you could use his company’s software to identify everyone who is not wearing a mask in the building or everyone who is not wearing a hard hat at a construction site.
With 22 employees spread across the U.S., India and Turkey, Chooch is building a diverse company just by virtue of its geography, but as it doubles the workforce in the coming year, it wants to continue to build on that.
“We’re immigrants. We’ve been through a lot of different things, and we recognize some of the issues and are very sensitive to them. One of our senior members is a person of color and we are very cognizant of the fact that we need to develop that part of our company,” he said. At a recent company meeting, he said that they were discussing how to build diversity into the policies and values of the company as they move forward.
The company currently has 18 enterprise clients and hopes to use the money to add engineers, data scientists and begin to build out a worldwide sales team to continue to build the product and expand its go-to-market effort.
Gultekin says that the company’s unusual name comes from a mix of the words choose and search. He says that it is also an old Italian insult. “It means dummy or idiot, which is what artificial intelligence is today. It’s a poor reflection of humanity or human intelligence in humans,” he said. His startup aims to change that.
Startups need to live in the future. They create roadmaps, build products and continually upgrade them with an eye on next year — or even a few years out.
Big companies, often the target customers for startups, live in a much more near-term world. They buy technologies that can solve problems they know about today, rather than those they may face a couple bends down the road. In other words, they’re driving a Dodge, and most tech entrepreneurs are driving a DeLorean equipped with a flux-capacitor.
That situation can lead to a huge waste of time for startups that want to sell to enterprise customers: a business development black hole. Startups are talking about technology shifts and customer demands that the executives inside the large company — even if they have “innovation,” “IT,” or “emerging technology” in their titles — just don’t see as an urgent priority yet, or can’t sell to their colleagues.
Rather than asking large companies about which technologies they were experimenting with, we created four buckets, based on what you might call “commitment level.” (Our survey had 211 respondents, 62% of them in North America and 59% at companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenue.) We asked survey respondents to assess a list of 16 technologies, from advanced analytics to quantum computing, and put each one into one of these four buckets. We conducted the survey at the tail end of Q3 2020.
Respondents in the first group were “not exploring or investing” — in other words, “we don’t care about this right now.” The top technology there was quantum computing.
Bucket #2 was the second-lowest commitment level: “learning and exploring.” At this stage, a startup gets to educate its prospective corporate customer about an emerging technology — but nabbing a purchase commitment is still quite a few exits down the highway. It can be constructive to begin building relationships when a company is at this stage, but your sales staff shouldn’t start calculating their commissions just yet.
Here are the top five things that fell into the “learning and exploring” cohort, in ranked order:
Technologies in the third group, “investing or piloting,” may represent the sweet spot for startups. At this stage, the corporate customer has already discovered some internal problem or use case that the technology might address. They may have shaken loose some early funding. They may have departments internally, or test sites externally, where they know they can conduct pilots. Often, they’re assessing what established tech vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco can provide — and they may find their solutions wanting.
Here’s what our survey respondents put into the “investing or piloting” bucket, in ranked order:
By the time a technology is placed into the fourth category, which we dubbed “in-market or accelerating investment,” it may be too late for a startup to find a foothold. There’s already a clear understanding of at least some of the use cases or problems that need solving, and return-on-investment metrics have been established. But some providers have already been chosen, based on successful pilots and you may need to dislodge someone that the enterprise is already working with. It can happen, but the headwinds are strong.
Here’s what the survey respondents placed into the “in-market or accelerating investment” bucket, in ranked order:
Contrast, a developer-centric application security company with customers that include Liberty Mutual Insurance, NTT Data, AXA and Bandwidth, today announced the launch of its security observability platform. The idea here is to offer developers a single pane of glass to manage an application’s security across its lifecycle, combined with real-time analysis and reporting, as well as remediation tools.
“Every line of code that’s happening increases the risk to a business if it’s not secure,” said Contrast CEO and chairman Alan Nauman. “We’re focused on securing all that code that businesses are writing for both automation and digital transformation.”
Over the course of the last few years, the well-funded company, which raised a $65 million Series D round last year, launched numerous security tools that cover a wide range of use cases from automated penetration testing to cloud application security and now DevOps — and this new platform is meant to tie them all together.
DevOps, the company argues, is really what necessitates a platform like this, given that developers now push more code into production than ever — and the onus of ensuring that this code is secure is now also often on that.
Traditionally, Nauman argues, security services focused on the code itself and looking at traffic.
“We think at the application layer, the same principles of observability apply that have been used in the IT infrastructure space,” he said. “Specifically, we do instrumentation of the code and we weave security sensors into the code as it’s being developed and are looking for vulnerabilities and observing running code. […] Our view is: the world’s most complex systems are best when instrumented, whether it’s an airplane, a spacecraft, an IT infrastructure. We think the same is true for code. So our breakthrough is applying instrumentation to code and observing for security vulnerabilities.”
With this new platform, Contrast is aggregating information from its existing systems into a single dashboard. And while Contrast observes the code throughout its lifecycle, it also scans for vulnerabilities whenever a developers check code into the CI/CD pipeline, thanks to integrations with most of the standard tools like Jenkins. It’s worth noting that the service also scans for vulnerabilities in open-source libraries. Once deployed, Contrast’s new platform keeps an eye on the data that runs through the various APIs and systems the application connects to and scans for potential security issues there as well.
The platform currently supports all of the large cloud providers like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, and languages and frameworks like Java, Python, .NET and Ruby.
Vectary, a design platform for 3D and Augmented Reality (AR), has raised a $7.3 million round led by European fund EQT Ventures. Existing investor BlueYard (Berlin) also participated.
Vectary makes high-quality 3D design more accessible for consumers, garnering over one million creators worldwide, and has more than a thousand digital agencies and creative studios as users.
With the coronavirus pandemic shifting more people online, Vectary says it has seen a 300% increase in AR views as more businesses start showcasing their products in 3D and AR.
Vectary was founded in 2014 by Michal Koor (CEO) and Pavol Sovis (CTO), who were both from the design and technology worlds.
The complexity of using and sharing content created by traditional 3D design tools has been a barrier to the adoption of 3D, which is what Vectary addresses.
Although Microsoft, Facebook and Apple are making it easier for consumers, the creative tools remain lacking. Vectary believes that seamless 3D/AR content creation and sharing will be key to mainstream adoption.
Designers and creatives can use Vectary to apply 2D design on a 3D object in Figma or Sketch; create 3D customizers in Webflow with Embed API; and add 3D interactivity to decks.
Atlassian has been offering collaboration tools, often favored by developers and IT for some time with such stalwarts as Jira for help desk tickets, Confluence to organize your work and BitBucket to organize your development deliverables, but what it lacked was machine learning layer across the platform to help users work smarter within and across the applications in the Atlassian family.
That changed today, when Atlassian announced it has been building that machine learning layer called Atlassian Smarts, and is releasing several tools that take advantage of it. It’s worth noting that unlike Salesforce, which calls its intelligence layer Einstein or Adobe, which calls its Sensei; Atlassian chose to forgo the cutesy marketing terms and just let the technology stand on its own.
Shihab Hamid, the founder of the Smarts and Machine Learning Team at Atlassian, who has been with the company 14 years, says that they avoided a marketing name by design. “I think one of the things that we’re trying to focus on is actually the user experience and so rather than packaging or branding the technology, we’re really about optimizing teamwork,” Hamid told TechCrunch.
Hamid says that the goal of the machine learning layer is to remove the complexity involved with organizing people and information across the platform.
“Simple tasks like finding the right person or the right document becomes a challenge, or at least they slow down productivity and take time away from the creative high-value work that everyone wants to be doing, and teamwork itself is super messy and collaboration is complicated. These are human challenges that don’t really have one right solution,” he said.
He says that Atlassian has decided to solve these problems using machine learning with the goal of speeding up repetitive, time-intensive tasks. Much like Adobe or Salesforce, Atlassian has built this underlying layer of machine smarts, for lack of a better term, that can be distributed across their platform to deliver this kind of machine learning-based functionality wherever it makes sense for the particular product or service.
“We’ve invested in building this functionality directly into the Atlassian platform to bring together IT and development teams to unify work, so the Atlassian flagship products like JIRA and Confluence sit on top of this common platform and benefit from that common functionality across products. And so the idea is if we can build that common predictive capability at the platform layer we can actually proliferate smarts and benefit from the data that we gather across our products,” Hamid said.
The first pieces fit into this vision. For starters, Atlassian is offering a smart search tool that helps users find content across Atlassian tools faster by understanding who you are and how you work. “So by knowing where users work and what they work on, we’re able to proactively provide access to the right documents and accelerate work,” he said.
The second piece is more about collaboration and building teams with the best personnel for a given task. A new tool called predictive user mentions helps Jira and Confluence users find the right people for the job.
“What we’ve done with the Atlassian platform is actually baked in that intelligence, because we know what you work on and who you collaborate with, so we can predict who should be involved and brought into the conversation,” Hamid explained.
Finally, the company announced a tool specifically for Jira users, which bundles together similar sets of help requests and that should lead to faster resolution over doing them manually one at a time.
“We’re soon launching a feature in JIRA Service Desk that allows users to cluster similar tickets together, and operate on them to accelerate IT workflows, and this is done in the background using ML techniques to calculate the similarity of tickets, based on the summary and description, and so on.”
All of this was made possible by the company’s previous shift from mostly on-premises to the cloud and the flexibility that gave them to build new tooling that crosses the entire platform.
Today’s announcements are just the start of what Atlassian hopes will be a slew of new machine learning-fueled features being added to the platform in the coming months and years.
As machine learning has grown, one of the major bottlenecks remains labeling things so the machine learning application understands the data it’s working with. Datasaur, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch, announced a $3.9 million investment today to help solve that problem with a platform designed for machine learning labeling teams.
The funding announcement, which includes a pre-seed amount of $1.1 million from last year and $2.8 million seed right after it graduated from Y Combinator in March, included investments from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman.
Company founder Ivan Lee says that he has been working in various capacities involving AI for seven years. First when his mobile gaming startup, Loki Studios was acquired by Yahoo! in 2013, and Lee was eventually moved to the AI team, and most recently at Apple. Regardless of the company, he consistently saw a problem around organizing machine learning labeling teams, one that he felt he was uniquely situated to solve because of his experience.
“I have spent millions of dollars [in budget over the years] and spent countless hours gathering labeled data for my engineers. I came to recognize that this was something that was a problem across all the companies that I’ve been at. And they were just consistently reinventing the wheel and the process. So instead of reinventing that for the third time at Apple, my most recent company, I decided to solve it once and for all for the industry. And that’s why we started Datasaur last year,” Lee told TechCrunch.
He built a platform to speed up human data labeling with a dose of AI, while keeping humans involved. The platform consists of three parts: a labeling interface, the intelligence component, which can recognize basic things, so the labeler isn’t identifying the same thing over and over, and finally a team organizing component.
He says the area is hot, but to this point has mostly involved labeling consulting solutions, which farm out labeling to contractors. He points to the sale of Figure Eight in March 2019 and to Scale, which snagged $100 million last year as examples of other startups trying to solve this problem in this way, but he believes his company is doing something different by building a fully software-based solution.
The company currently offers a cloud and on-prem solution, depending on the customer’s requirements. It has 10 employees with plans to hire in the next year, although he didn’t share an exact number. As he does that, he says he has been working with a partner at investor Initialized on creating a positive and inclusive culture inside the organization, and that includes conversations about hiring a diverse workforce as he builds the company.
“I feel like this is just standard CEO speak but that is something that we absolutely value in our top of funnel for the hiring process,” he said.
As Lee builds out his platform, he has also worried about built-in bias in AI systems and the detrimental impact that could have on society. He says that he has spoken to clients about the role of labeling in bias and ways of combatting that.
“When I speak with our clients, I talk to them about the potential for bias from their labelers and built into our product itself is the ability to assign multiple people to the same project. And I explain to my clients that this can be more costly, but from personal experience I know that it can improve results dramatically to get multiple perspectives on the exact same data,” he said.
Lee believes humans will continue to be involved in the labeling process in some way, even as parts of the process become more automated. “The very nature of our existence [as a company] will always require humans in the loop, […] and moving forward I do think it’s really important that as we get into more and more of the long tail use cases of AI, we will need humans to continue to educate and inform AI, and that’s going to be a critical part of how this technology develops.”
Adobe has had a developer program for years called Adobe.io, but today at the Adobe Developers Live virtual conference, the company announced some new tools with a fresh emphasis on helping developers build custom apps on the Adobe Experience Cloud.
Jason Woosley, VP of developer experience and commerce at Adobe says that the pandemic has forced companies to build enhanced digital experiences much more quickly than they might have, and the new tools being announced today are at least partly related to helping speed up the development of better online experiences.
“Our focus is very specifically on making the experience generation business something that’s very attractive to developers and very accessible to developers so we’re announcing a number of tools,” Woosley told TechCrunch.
The idea is to build a more complete framework over time to make it easier to build applications and connect to data sources that take advantage of the Experience Cloud tooling. For starters, Project Firefly is designed to help developers build applications more quickly by providing a higher level of automation than was previously available.
“Project Firefly creates an extensibility framework that reduces the boilerplate that a developer would need to get started working with the Experience Cloud, and extends that into the customizations that we know every implementation eventually needs to differentiate the storefront experience, the website experience or whatever customer touch point as these things become increasingly digital,” he said.
In order to make those new experiences open to all, the company is also announcing React Spectrum, an open source set of libraries and tools designed to help members of the Adobe developer community build more accessible applications and websites.
“It comes with all of the accessibility features that often get forgotten when you’re in a race to market, so it’s nice to make sure that you will be very inclusive with your design, making sure that you’re bringing on all aspects of your audiences,” Woosley said.
Finally, a big part of interacting with Experience Cloud is taking advantage of all of the data that’s available to help build those more customized interactions with customers that having that data enables. To that end, the company is announcing some new web and mobile software development kits (SDKs) designed to help make it simpler to link to Experience Cloud data sources as you build your applications.
Project Firefly is generally available starting today as are several React Spectrum components and some data connection SDKs. The company intends to keep adding to these various pieces in the coming months.
Privacy data mismanagement is a lurking liability within every commercial enterprise. The very definition of privacy data is evolving over time and has been broadened to include information concerning an individual’s health, wealth, college grades, geolocation and web surfing behaviors. Regulations are proliferating at state, national and international levels that seek to define privacy data and establish controls governing its maintenance and use.
Existing regulations are relatively new and are being translated into operational business practices through a series of judicial challenges that are currently in progress, adding to the confusion regarding proper data handling procedures. In this confusing and sometimes chaotic environment, the privacy risks faced by almost every corporation are frequently ambiguous, constantly changing and continually expanding.
Conventional information security (infosec) tools are designed to prevent the inadvertent loss or intentional theft of sensitive information. They are not sufficient to prevent the mismanagement of privacy data. Privacy safeguards not only need to prevent loss or theft but they must also prevent the inappropriate exposure or unauthorized usage of such data, even when no loss or breach has occurred. A new generation of infosec tools is needed to address the unique risks associated with the management of privacy data.
A variety of privacy-focused security tools emerged over the past few years, triggered in part by the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) within the European Union in 2018. New capabilities introduced by this first wave of innovation were focused in the following three areas:
Data discovery, classification and cataloging. Modern enterprises collect a wide variety of personal information from customers, business partners and employees at different times for different purposes with different IT systems. This data is frequently disseminated throughout a company’s application portfolio via APIs, collaboration tools, automation bots and wholesale replication. Maintaining an accurate catalog of the location of such data is a major challenge and a perpetual activity. BigID, DataGuise and Integris Software have gained prominence as popular solutions for data discovery. Collibra and Alation are leaders in providing complementary capabilities for data cataloging.
Consent management. Individuals are commonly presented with privacy statements describing the intended use and safeguards that will be employed in handling the personal data they supply to corporations. They consent to these statements — either explicitly or implicitly — at the time such data is initially collected. Osano, Transcend.io and DataGrail.io specialize in the management of consent agreements and the enforcement of their terms. These tools enable individuals to exercise their consensual data rights, such as the right to view, edit or delete personal information they’ve provided in the past.
When we last reported on Snyk in January, eons ago in COVID time, the company announced $150 million investment on a valuation of over $1 billion. Today, barely nine months later, it announced another $200 million and its valuation has expanded to $2.6 billion.
The company is obviously drawing some serious investor attention and even a pandemic is not diminishing that interest. Addition led today’s round, bringing the total raised to $450 million with $350 million coming this year alone.
Snyk has a unique approach to security, building it into the development process instead of offloading it to a separate security team. If you want to build a secure product, you need to think about it as you’re developing the product and that’s what Snyk’s product set is designed to do — check for security as you’re committing your build to your git repository.
With an open source product at the top of funnel to drive interest in the platform, CEO Peter McKay says the pandemic has only accelerated the appeal of the company. In fact, the startup’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) is growing at a remarkable 275% year over year.
McKay says, even with the pandemic, his company has been accelerating adding 100 employees in the last 12 months to take advantage of the increasing revenue. “When others were kind of scaling back we invested and it worked out well because our business never slowed down. In fact, in a lot of the industries it really picked up,” he said.
That’s because as many other founders have pointed out, COVID is speeding up the rate at which many companies are moving to the cloud, and that’s working Snyk’s favor. “We’ve just capitalized on this accelerated shift to the cloud and modern cloud native applications,” he said.
The company currently has 375 employees with plans to add 100 more in the next year. As it grows, McKay says that he is looking to build a diverse and inclusive culture, something he learned about as he moved through his career at VMware and Veeam.
He says one of the keys at Snyk is putting every employee through unconscious bias training to help limit bias in the hiring process, and the executive team has taken a pledge to make the company’s hiring practices more diverse. Still, he recognizes it takes work to achieve these goals, and it’s always easy for an experienced team to go back to the network instead of digging deeper for a more diverse candidate pool.
“I think we’ve put all the pieces in place to get there, but I think like a lot of companies, there’s still a long way to go,” he said. But he recognizes the sooner you embed diversity into the company culture, the better because it’s hard to go back after the fact and do it.
Addition founder Lee Fixel says he sees a company that’s accelerating rapidly and that’s why he was willing to pour in so big an investment. “Snyk’s impressive growth is a signal that the market is ready to embrace a change from traditional security and empower developers to tackle the new security risk that comes with a software-driven digital world,” he said in a statement.
Snyk was founded in 2015. The founders brought McKay on board for some experienced leadership in 2018 to help lead the company through its rapid growth. Prior to the $350 million in new money this year, the company raised $70 million in 2019.
PopSQL, a startup that builds a collaborative SQL editor for teams, today announced that it has raised a $3.4 million seed round led by Google’s AI-focused Gradient Ventures fund. Other participants include Y Combinator and FundersClub, as well as angel investors Max Mullen, the co-founder of Instacart; Calvin French-Owen, the CTO of Segment; and Guillermo Rauch, the CEO of Vercel.
Like most startups at this stage, the company plans to use the new capital to execute on its product roadmap.
“I started PopSQL because I was frustrated with the existing tools on the market. I wanted a SQL editor that was beautiful, easy to use and collaborative. Just as new collaboration tools like Slack changed the way teams communicate, our vision is that PopSQL will change the way teams analyze and share data,” said Rahil Sondhi, CEO and founder of PopSQL. “The new capital from Gradient allows us to scale the company and pursue our vision of creating the best tools for teams to analyze data together.”
With PopSQL, teams can write a database query once and then easily share it within their company (and build a library of shared queries in the process). That’s a massive timesaver for many companies, where queries like this are often still shared by email or as code snippets in Slack, which PopSQL also integrates with. With this tool, developers and data analysts can also easily create different versions of a query.
PopSQL currently supports a wide range of databases, ranging from Snowflake, Google Cloud’s BigQuery, AWS Redshift, PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, MongoDB and Cassandra.
In addition to the collaborative features, though, PopSQL also offers a number of other interesting features, including the ability to schedule recurring queries using what is essentially a visual cron editor.
The tool also features some basic charting functions and while these are mostly meant to easily allow users to visualize their queries, you can also use this feature to build basic dashboards, for example. Sondhi noted that he doesn’t necessarily think of PopSQL as a business intelligence tool, but the core functionality is there if you want it.
Chef, which went 100% open source last year, had annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $70 million from the commercial side of the house. Needless to say, Progress CEO Yogesh Gupta was happy to bring the company into the fold and gain not only that revenue, but a set of highly skilled employees, a strong developer community and an impressive customer list.
Gupta said that Chef fits with his company’s acquisition philosophy. “This acquisition perfectly aligns with our growth strategy and meets the requirements that we’ve previously laid out: a strong recurring revenue model, technology that complements our business, a loyal customer base and the ability to leverage our operating model and infrastructure to run the business more efficiently,” he said in a statement.
Chef CEO Barry Crist offered a typical argument for an acquired company, that Progress offered a better path to future growth, while sending a message to the open source community and customers that Progress would be a good steward of the startup’s vision.
“For Chef, this acquisition is our next chapter, and Progress will help enhance our growth potential, support our Open Source vision, and provide broader opportunities for our customers, partners, employees and community,” Crist said in a statement.
Chef’s customer list is certainly impressive including tech industry stalwarts like Facebook, IBM and SAP, as well as non-tech companies like Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines and Capital One.
The company was founded in 2008 and had raised $105 million. according to Crunchbase data. It hadn’t raised any funds since 2015 when it raised a $40 million Series E led by DFJ Growth. Other investors along the way included Battery Ventures, Ignition Partners and Scale Venture Partners.
The transaction is expected to close next month pending normal regulatory approvals.
It is clear that as the pandemic has taken hold in 2020, in-person meetings have gone by the wayside. Yet sales teams still need a way to demo their products for potential customers, particularly SaaS vendors. Enter Demodesk, an early stage startup and Y Combinator Winter 2019 grad, which is building an online sales demo platform.
Today the company announced an $8 million Series A led by Balderton Capital with participation from Target Global. The company has now raised a total of $10.3 million including its seed round announced last year.
Demodesk has built a platform to deliver online sales demos remotely with a dash of intelligence to help busy sales people set up the meetings in a more automated fashion. Even though the startup wasn’t thinking about raising money until next year, COVID has accelerated the need for a tool like this in the market, says CEO and co-founder Veronika Riederle.
“We originally planned to raise our next round around the beginning of next year, but because COVID happened, we were able to raise earlier and the money basically enables us to grow a little bit faster now and to build the tool faster because there so much demand in the market,” Riederle told TechCrunch.
The demand has increased because during COVID, sales teams still need to meet with customers, and Demodesk provides a way to do that. Riederle says that the product is significantly different from general meeting software like Zoom, WebEx or GoToMeeting.
While these tools generally allow screen sharing, she says DemoDesk does something different that separates it from these offerings. Instead of a live version of your desktop or a recording where the two parties are seeing the same thing, Demodesk provides a virtual desktop in the cloud where the salesperson can see notes and other information that the customer can’t see, while still letting the customer view the presentation or demo.
What’s more, the virtual approach enables companies to capture data about the demo to help sales teams understand what worked well and what didn’t, something that wouldn’t be possible with traditional screen sharing.
In addition, the company added a new scheduling tool to the product this year that lets customers and sales teams share available times. “You can just select a time that works for you, fill out some data and then we automatically send a calendar invite, put it in the sales person’s calendar, send out a reminder, and then of course automatically prepare the meeting because we know who the meeting is with beforehand. So we do everything from scheduling, preparing the meeting, then assisting you during the meeting,” Riederle explained.
When the meeting is over, Demodesk can share the notes from the meeting automatically with Salesforce or other CRM tool.
The company has 22 employees today, but the goal is to get to 50 by the end of next year. As she grows the company, Riederle says that diversity and inclusion is a key consideration. In fact, diversity is part of the company’s five core values. As an international company, she says that makes diversity even more important, but it’s also about not having just one way of thinking.
“If you have a more diverse set of employees on the team, you just typically come up with better ideas because you are more creative. You think in different ways and have more interesting discussions,” she said.
The company, which launched in 2017 has grown to 150 customers. While these are mostly software companies, Riederle reports she is seeing other industries use the platform like a solar panel company, which was going door-to-door prior to the pandemic, and has used the tool to continue doing business when visiting customers isn’t possible.
She sees this trend continuing, even post-COVID because doing online demos is more efficient, less costly and better for the environment because you don’t have to travel to the meeting.