Monthly Archives: May 2021
We don’t hear as much these days about “Zoom fatigue” as we did in the first months after the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off last year, but what’s less clear is whether people became more tolerant of the medium, or if they found ways of coping with it better, or if they were hopeful that tools for coping would soon be around the corner.
Today, a startup that has come up with a solution to handling all that video is announcing some funding to grow, on the understanding that whatever people are doing with video today, there will be a lot more video to handle in the future, and they will need more than just a good internet connection, microphone and video camera to deal with it.
Rewatch, which has built a set of tools for organizations to create a “system of record” for their internal video archives — not just a place to “rewatch” all of their older live video calls, but to search and organise information arising from those calls — has closed a $ 20 million round of funding.
Along with this, Rewatch from today is opening up its platform from invite-only to general availability.
This latest round is a Series A and is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Semil Shah at Haystack and Kent Goldman at Upside Partners, as well as a number of individuals, also participating.
It comes on the heels of Rewatch announcing a $ 2 million seed round only in January of this year. But it’s had some buzz in the intervening months: Customers that have started using Rewatch include GitHub (where co-founders Connor Sears and Scott Goldman previously worked together), Brex, Envoy and The Athletic.
The issue that Rewatch is tackling is the fact that a lot more of our work communications are happening over video. But while video calling has been hailed as a great boost to productivity — you can work wherever you are now, as long as you have a video connection — in fact, it’s not.
Yes, we are talking to each other a lot, but we are also losing information from those calls because they’re not being tracked as well as they could be. And, by spending all of our time talking, many of us are working on other things less, or are confined into more rigid times when we can.
Rewatch has built a system that plugs into Zoom and Google Meet, two of the most-used video tools in the workplace, and automatically imports all of your office’s or team’s video chats into a system. This lets you browse libraries of video-based conversations or meetings to watch them on-demand, on your time. It also provides transcripts and search tools for finding information in those calls.
You can turn off the automatic imports, or further customize how meetings are filed or accessibility. Sears said that Rewatch can be used for any video created on any platform; for now those require manually importing the videos into the Rewatch system.
Sears also said that over time it will also be adding ways to automatically turn items from meetings into, say, work tickets to follow them up.
While there are a number of transcription services available on tap these days, as well as any number of cloud-based storage providers where you can keep video archives, what is notable about Rewatch is that it has identified the pain point of managing and indexing those archives and keeping them in a single place for many to use.
In this way, Rewatch is highlighting and addressing what I think of as the crux of the productivity paradox.
Essentially, it is this: The tech industry has given us a lot of tools to help us work better, but actually, the work required to use those tools can outweigh the utility of the tools themselves.
(And I have to admit, this is one of the reasons I’ve grown to dislike Slack. Yes, we all get to communicate on it, and it’s great to have something to connect all of us, but it just takes up so much damn time to read through everything and figure out what’s useful and what is just watercooler chat.)
“We go to where companies already are, and we automate, pull in video so that you don’t have to think about it,” Sears said. “The effort around a lot of this takes a lot of diligence to make sure people are recording and transcribing and distributing and removing. We are making this seamless and effortless.”
It sometimes feels like we are on the cusp, technologically, of leaning on tools by way of AI and other innovations that might finally cross that chasm and give us actual productivity out of our productivity apps.
In another example of how this is playing out, Dooly, which raised funding last week, is looking to do the same in the world of sales software (automatically populating various sales software with data from your phone, video and text chats, and other sources).
Similarly, we’re starting to see an interesting wave of companies emerge that are looking for better ways to manage and tap into all that video content that we now have swimming around us.
AnyClip, which announced funding yesterday, is also applying better analytics and search to internal company video libraries, but also has its sights on a wider opportunity: organizing any video trove. That points, too, to the bigger opportunity for Rewatch.
For now, though, enterprises and businesses are an opportunity enough.
“As investors we get excited about founders first and foremost, and Connor and Scott immediately impressed us with their experience, clear articulation of the problem, and their vision for how Rewatch could be the end-all solution for video and knowledge management in an organization,” noted David Ulevitch, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a blog post. “They both worked at GitHub in senior roles from the early days, as a Senior Director of Product Design and a Principal Engineer, respectively, and have first-hand experience scaling a product. Since founding Rewatch in early 2020, they have very quickly built a great product, sold it to large-scale customers, and hired top-tier talent, demonstrating rapid founder and company velocity that is key to building an enduring company.”
Most marketers today know how to send targeted communications to customers, and there are many tools to help, but when it comes to sending personalized in-house messages, there aren’t nearly as many options. Pyn, an early-stage startup based in Australia, wants to change that, and today it announced an $ 8 million seed round.
Andreessen Horowitz led the investment with help from Accel and Ryan Sanders (the co-founder of BambooHR) and Scott Farquhar (co-founder and co-CEO at Atlassian).
That last one isn’t a coincidence, as Pyn co-founder and CEO Joris Luijke used to run HR at the company and later at Squarespace and other companies, and he saw a common problem trying to provide more targeted messages when communicating internally.
“I’ve been trying to do this my entire professional life, trying to personalize the communication that we’re sending to our people. So that’s what Pyn does. In a nutshell, we radically personalize employee communications,” Luijke explained. His co-founder Jon Williams was previously a co-founder at Culture Amp, an employee experience management platform he helped launch in 2011 (and which raised more than $ 150 million), so the two of them have been immersed in this idea.
They bring personalization to Pyn by tracking information in existing systems that companies already use, such as Workday, BambooHR, Salesforce or Zendesk, and they can use this data much in the same way a marketer uses various types of information to send more personalized messages to customers.
That means you can cut down on the company-wide emails that might not be relevant to everyone and send messages that should matter more to the people receiving them. And as with a marketing communications tool, you can track how many people have opened the emails and how successful you were in hitting the mark.
David Ulevitch, general partner at a16z and lead investor in this deal, points out that Pyn also provides a library of customizable communications materials to help build culture and set policy across an organization. “It also treats employee communication channels as the rails upon which to orchestrate management practices across an organization [by delivering] a library of management playbooks,” Ulevitch wrote in a blog post announcing the investment.
The startup, which launched in 2019, currently has 10 employees, with teams working in Australia and the Bay Area in California. Williams says that already half the team is female and the plan is to continue putting diversity front and center as they build the company.
“Joris has mentioned ‘radical personalization’ as this specific mantra that we have, and I think if you translate that into an organization, that is all about inclusion in reality, and if we want to be able to cater for all the specific needs of people, we need to understand them. So [diversity is essential] to us,” Williams said.
While the company isn’t ready to discuss specifics in terms of customer numbers, it cites Shopify, Rubrik and Carta as early customers, and the founders say there was a lot of interest when the pandemic hit last year and the need for more frequent and meaningful types of communication became even more paramount.
Facebook made a few noteworthy changes to its misinformation policies this week, including the news that the company will now allow claims that COVID was created by humans — a theory that contradicts the previously prevailing assumption that humans picked up the virus naturally from animals.
“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge.”
The company is adjusting its rules about pandemic misinformation in light of international investigations legitimating the theory that the virus could have escaped from a lab. While that theory clearly has enough credibility to be investigated at this point, it is often interwoven with demonstrably false misinformation about fake cures, 5G towers causing COVID and most recently the false claim that the AstraZeneca vaccine implants recipients with a Bluetooth chip.
Earlier this week, President Biden ordered a multi-agency intelligence report evaluating if the virus could have accidentally leaked out of a lab in Wuhan, China. Biden called this possibility one of two “likely scenarios.”
“… Shortly after I became President, in March, I had my National Security Advisor task the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident,” Biden said in an official White House statement, adding that there isn’t sufficient evidence to make a final determination.
Claims that the virus was man-made or lab-made have circulated widely since the pandemic’s earliest days, even as the scientific community largely maintained that the virus probably made the jump from an infected animal to a human via natural means. But many questions remain about the origins of the virus and the U.S. has yet to rule out the possibility that the virus emerged from a Chinese lab — a scenario that would be a bombshell for international relations.
Prior to the COVID policy change, Facebook announced that it would finally implement harsher punishments against individuals who repeatedly peddle misinformation. The company will now throttle the News Feed reach of all posts from accounts that are found to habitually share known misinformation, restrictions it previously put in place for Pages, Groups, Instagram accounts and websites that repeatedly break the same rules.
Attribution modeling helps you analyze which touchpoints result in a conversion. Read this article to find out which channel matters most to your business.
Read more at PPCHero.com
Breinify is a startup working to apply data science to personalization, and do it in a way that makes it accessible to nontechnical marketing employees to build more meaningful customer experiences. Today the company announced a funding round totaling $ 11 million.
The investment was led by Gutbrain Ventures and PBJ Capital with participation from Streamlined Ventures, CXO Fund, Amino Capital, Startup Capital Ventures and Sterling Road.
Breinify co-founder and CEO Diane Keng says that she and co-founder and CTO Philipp Meisen started the company to bring predictive personalization based on data science to marketers with the goal of helping them improve a customer’s experience by personalizing messages tailored to individual tastes.
“We’re big believers that the world, especially consumer brands, really need strong predictive personalization. But when you think about consumer big brands or the retailers that you buy from, most of them aren’t data scientists, nor do they really know how to activate [machine learning] at scale,” Keng told TechCrunch.
She says that she wanted to make this type of technology more accessible by hiding the complexity behind the algorithms powering the platform. “Instead of telling you how powerful the algorithms are, we show you [what that means for the] consumer experience, and in the end what that means for both the consumer and you as a marketer individually,” she said.
That involves the kind of customizations you might expect around website messaging, emails, texts or whatever channel a marketer might be using to communicate with the buyer. “So the AI decides you should be shown these products, this offer, this specific promotion at this time, [whether it’s] the web, email or SMS. So you’re not getting the same content across different channels, and we do all that automatically for you, and that’s [driven by the algorithms],” she said.
Breinify launched in 2016 and participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield competition in San Francisco that year. She said it was early days for the company, but it helped them focus their approach. “I think it gave us a huge stage presence. It gave us a chance to test out the idea just to see where the market was in regards to needing a solution like this. We definitely learned a lot. I think it showed us that people were interested in personalization,” she said. And although the company didn’t win the competition, it ended up walking away with a funding deal.
Today the startup is growing fast and has 24 employees, up from 10 last year. Keng, who is an Asian woman, places a high premium on diversity.
“We partner with about four different kinds of diversity groups right now to source candidates, but at the end of the day, I think if you are someone that’s eager to learn, and you might not have all the skills yet, and you’re [part of an under-represented] group we encourage everyone to apply as much as possible. We put a lot of work into trying to create a really well-rounded group,” she said.
The notion of digital transformation evolved from a buzzword joke to a critical and accelerating fact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes wrought by a global shift to remote work and schooling are myriad, but in the business realm they have yielded a change in corporate behavior and consumer expectation — changes that showed up in a bushel of earnings reports this week.
TechCrunch may tend to have a private-company focus, but we do keep tabs on public companies in the tech world as they often provide hints, notes and other pointers on how startups may be faring. In this case, however, we’re working in reverse; startups have told us for several quarters now that their markets are picking up momentum as customers shake up their buying behavior with a distinct advantage for companies helping customers move into the digital realm. And public company results are now confirming the startups’ perspective.
The accelerating digital transformation is real, and we have the data to support the point.
What follows is a digest of notes concerning the recent earnings results from Box, Sprout Social, Yext, Snowflake and Salesforce. We’ll approach each in micro to save time, but as always there’s more digging to be done if you have time. Let’s go!
Enterprise earnings go up
Kicking off with Yext, the company beat expectations in its most recent quarter. Today its shares are up 18%. And a call with the company’s CEO Howard Lerman underscored our general thesis regarding the digital transformation’s acceleration.
In brief, Yext’s evolution from a company that plugged corporate information into external search engines to building and selling search tech itself has been resonating in the market. Why? Lerman explained that consumers more and more expect digital service in response to their questions — “who wants to call a 1-800 number,” he asked rhetorically — which is forcing companies to rethink the way they handle customer inquiries.
In turn, those companies are looking to companies like Yext that offer technology to better answer customer queries in a digital format. It’s customer-friendly, and could save companies money as call centers are expensive. A change in behavior accelerated by the pandemic is forcing companies to adapt, driving their purchase of more digital technologies like this.
It’s proof that a transformation doesn’t have to be dramatic to have pretty strong impacts on how corporations buy and sell online.
A new phishing campaign from Russian spies targeted USAID among others. But it’s less an escalation than a regression to the mean.
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