Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Perdoo, a Berlin-based OKR-focused software startup, has decided to make its basic service free, potentially shaking up its growing, and somewhat crowded, market. “Objectives and Key Results,” a planning and management technique usually shortened to “OKRs,” is a hot space for software startups, with several raising in recent months.

WorkBoard and Gtmhub, for example, each raised capital for their OKR products in the last two months. WorkBoard raised $ 30 million, while Gtmhub added $ 9 million to its coffers. So many companies are operating in the space that TechCrunch created a compendium of sorts listing the players, simply to get our mind around who is active in the space as a partial, or pure participant.

Perdoo is a different animal than its rivals. The company, instead of tapping into an obviously interested venture capital pool, is a largely bootstrapped affair, it told TechCrunch. That makes its decision all the more curious. Why would a company with, theoretically, at least, less room to maneuver, make a portion of its product cost less than before? To understand, we got on the phone with Perdoo co-founder Henrik-Jan van der Pol to dig in.

Pricing

OKR software runs from cheap to expensive, with WorkBoard not listing prices on its website (that we could find while compiling this entry), to $ 1 per user per month for Gtmhub’s lowest-priced tier. Most providers in the space offer enterprise offerings that cost more. (Before offering a free tier, Perdoo only charged per user per month for its service, with sliding discounts for volume.)

During a call with TechCrunch, van der Pol explained his company’s move to undercut other companies’ lower-cost pricing, saying that the OKR market is “still new for a lot of organizations, meaning that they don’t have a budget available.” Those players, he said, “start with spreadsheets, which creates a lot of hassle and actually decreases their chances of success.” Those firms that need tooling but didn’t have ready budget open for the cost were why Perdoo “decided to make that switch to freemium, and give people a solid and free version that they can get started with that has very few limitations,” van der Pol continued.

Free Perdoo users can track as many goals as they’d like with as many users as they’d like. According to the co-founder, his company “looked at what functionality people currently use that build their own [OKR] tools” and decided to give those away.

Perdoo isn’t insane, mind. The company is still selling a paid version of its product with more features, and the company must hope that free users convert to its paid service over time.

In a sense, the freemium move is a gambit of sorts: By offering functionality for free, perhaps Perdoo can attract to itself users that might not have otherwise selected its service (perhaps choosing a provider with more available capital for marketing expenses) — users that might convert to paying customers later on, naturally.

Money

According to van der Pol, “in order to sustain a free offer, you need to be cash flow positive and profitable,” telling TechCrunch that his company is both.

Here we can see the power of not raising lots of money. Because Perdoo only raised angel money and has paid its own way since, the company can afford (literally) to offer a lot for nothing. It doesn’t have investors shouting over its shoulder about possible cannibalizing its own market, or anything similar.

So: Lots of venture dollars are powering several neat startups that are growing like mad, with WorkBoard and Gtmhub posting huge ARR gains in recent years to the tune of hundreds of percent. What impact Perdoo’s move might have on their growth, or product choices, won’t be clear for a while, if it has any at all. But Perdoo did just reprice basic OKR software to zero.

In the middle of a venture-capital powered growth war, that’s fascinating.


TechCrunch

Maze wants to reinvent usability tests by letting you turn design prototypes into tests in just a few clicks. It could become the equivalent of a developing test suite for developers, but this time for designers — it could be something that you run before shipping an update to make sure everything works fine. The startup just raised a $ 2 million funding round and launched a couple of new features.

Since I first covered the company, Maze founders Jonathan Widawski and Thomas Mary still have the same vision. The company wants to empower designers and turn them into user testing experts. With Maze, you can turn your InVision, Marvel or Sketch projects into a browser-based user test.

You can then share a link with a group of users to get actionable insights on your upcoming design changes. Everything works in a web browser on both desktop and mobile.

After running a testing campaign, you get a detailed report with a success rate (how many people tapped on all the right buttons to achieve something in your app), where your users drop off, polling results and more.

That product has been working well, attracting 20,000 users working for IBM, Greenpeace, Accenture, BMW and more.

Now, Maze also supports Figma projects. Given the hype behind Figma, adding this feature is important to stay relevant. It also opens up a new market for Maze — companies using Figma as their main design tool.

Maze has also added a feature that should be particularly useful for companies that are just starting with user testing. The startup can put together a testers panel for you.

This is completely optional and you can just stick with your monthly software-as-a-service plan and work with your own panel. But it provides a good end-to-end experience if you want to centralize all your user testing needs under one roof.

Maze has also raised a $ 2 million funding round. Amplify Partners is leading the round with existing investors Seedcamp and Partech also participating. Business angles in this round also include Eric Wittman, the former Director of Operations at Adobe and COO at Figma, Peter Skomoroch, the former Head of AI Automation & Data Products at Workday, and Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel.


TechCrunch

Impossible Foods made huge waves in the food industry when it came up with a way of isolating and using “heme” molecules from plants to mimic the blood found in animal meat (also comprised of heme), bringing a new depth of flavor to its vegetarian burger.

This week at CES, the company is presenting the next act in its mission to get the average consumer to switch to more sustainable, plant-based proteins: it unveiled its version of pork — specifically ground pork, which will be sold as a basic building block for cooking as well as in sausage form. It’s a critical step, given that pork is the most-eaten animal product in the world.

Impossible has set up shop in CES’s outdoor area, situated near a line of food trucks, and it will be cooking food for whoever wants to come by. (I tasted a selection of items made from the new product — a steamed bun, a meatball, some noodles and a lettuce wrap — and the resemblance is uncanny, and not bad at all.) And after today, the new product will be making its way first to selected Burger King restaurants in the US before appearing elsewhere.

It may sound a little far-fetched to see a food startup exhibiting and launching new products at a consumer electronics show, attended by 200,000 visitors who will likely by outnumbered by the number of TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices on display. Indeed, Impossible is the only food exhibitor this year.

But if you ask Pat Brown, the CEO and founder of Impossible Foods (pictured right, at the sunny CES stand in the cold wearing a hat), the company is in precisely the right place.

“To me it’s very natural to be at CES,” he said in an interview this week at the show. “The food system is the most important technology on earth. It is absolutely a technology, and an incredibly important one, even if it doesn’t get recognised as such. The use of animals as a food technology is the most destructive on earth. And when Impossible was founded, it was to address that issue. We recognised it as a technology problem.”

That is also how Impossible has positioned itself as a startup. Its emergence (it was founded 2011) dovetailed with an interesting shift in the world of tech. The number of startups were booming, fuelled by VC money and a boom in smartphones and broadband. At the same time, we were starting to see a new kind of startup emerging built on technology but disrupting a wide range of areas not traditionally associated with technology. Technology VCs, looking for more opportunities (and needing to invest increasingly larger funds), were opening themselves up to consider more of the latter opportunities.

Impossible has seized the moment. It has raised around $ 777 million to date from a list of investors more commonly associated with tech companies — they include Khosla, Temasek, Horizons Ventures, GV, and a host of celebrities — and Impossible is now estimated to be valued at around $ 4 billion. Brown told me it is currently more than doubling revenues annually.  

With his roots in academia, the idea of Brown (who has also done groundbreaking work in HIV research) founding and running a business is perhaps as left-field a development as a food company making the leap from commodity or packaged good business to tech. Before Impossible, Brown said that he had “zero interest” in becoming an entrepreneur: the bug that has bitten so many others at Stanford (where he was working prior to founding Impossible) had not bitten him.

“I had an awesome job where I followed my curiosity, working on problems that I found interesting and important with great colleagues,” he said.

That changed when he began to realise the scale of the problem resulting from the meat industry, which has led to a well-catalogued list of health, economic and environmental impacts (including increased greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of natural ecosystems to make way for farming land. “It is the most important and consequential issue for the future of the world, and so the solution has to be market-based,” he said. “The only way we can replace themes that are this destructive is by coming up with a better technology and competing.”

Pork is a necessary step in that strategy to compete. America, it seems, is all about beef and chicken when it comes to eating animals. But pigs and pork take the cake when you consider meat consumption globally, accounting for 38% of all meat production, with 47 pigs killed on average every second of every day. Asia, and specifically China, figure strongly in that demand. Consumption of pork in China has increased 140% since 1990, Impossible notes.

Pigs’ collective footprint in the world is also huge: there are 1.44 billion of them, and their collective biomass totals 175 kg, twice as much as the biomass of all wild terrestrial vertebrates, Impossible says.

Whether Impossible’s version of pork will be enough or just an incremental step is another question. Ground meat is not the same as creating structured proteins that mimic the whole-cuts that are common (probably more common) when it comes to how pork is typically cooked (ditto for chicken and beef and other meats).

That might likely require more capital and time to develop.

For now, Impossible is focused on building out its business on its own steam: it’s not entertaining any thoughts of selling up, or even of licensing out its IP for isolating and using soy leghemoglobin — the essential “blood” that sets its veggie proteins apart from other things on the market. (I think of licensing out that IP, as the equivalent of how a tech company might white label or create APIs for third parties to integrate its cool stuff into their services.)

That means there will be inevitable questions down the line about how Impossible will capitalise to meet demand for its products. Brown said that for now there are no plans for IPOs or to raise more externally, but pointed out that it would have no problem doing either.

Indeed, the company has built up an impressive bench of executives and other talent to meet those future scenarios. Earlier this year, Impossible hired Dennis Woodside — the former Dropbox, Google and Motorola star– as its first president. And its CFO, David Lee, joined from Zynga back in 2015, with a stint also in the mass-market food industry, having been at Del Monte prior to that.

Lee told me that the company has essentially been running itself as a public company internally in preparation for a time when it might follow in the footsteps of its biggest competitor, Beyond Meat, and go public.

“From a tech standpoint I’m absolutely confident that we can outperform what we get from animals in affordability, nutrition and deliciousness,” said Brown. “This entire industry is most destructive by far and has major responsibility in terms of climate and biodiversity, but it going to be history and we are going to replace it.”

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch


TechCrunch

YouTube Music is taking on Spotify, Apple Music and others with the launch of three personalized playlists, including its own version of Spotify’s Discover Weekly, called Discover Mix, as well as a New Release Mix and Your Mix. Discover Mix had been spotted in the wild during testing, but now all three are globally available to YouTube Music users.

The company’s plans to introduce these new mixes were announced this fall at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019, where YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan spoke about the service’s plans to utilize a combination of machine learning and human curation to improve the music service’s offerings.

The Discover Mix is very much like Spotify’s Discover Weekly, as it will focus on helping users uncover new artists and music they like, including tracks you’ve never listened to before as well as lesser-known tracks from artists you already love. But unlike on competitor music services, this playlist can leverage historical listening data on both YouTube Music and on YouTube itself.

The mix, which updates every Wednesday, will give listeners 50 tracks per week.

The New Release Mix, as you can guess, focuses on all the recent releases by your favorite artists and others YouTube thinks you’ll like. This one drops every Friday, as most new releases do, but will add other tracks mid-week as needed.

Finally, Your Mix is a playlist that combines the music you love with songs you haven’t heard yet but will probably like, based on your listening habits. This one updates regularly to stay fresh.

Of course, the longer you listen on YouTube Music, the better the mixes will get. But YouTube says it can offer personalized mixes as soon as a user selects a couple of artists they like during the setup process or after they listen to a couple of songs.

The mixes arrive at a time when Google is more heavily investing in its streaming music service. Earlier this fall, it made YouTube Music the default music app that ships with new Android devices, instead of Google Play Music. And recently, reports indicate that YouTube Music is ahead of Spotify and JioSaavn in India, a key market for Spotify, despite its late entry.

The new mixes are live today on YouTube Music across iOS, Android, and the web.


TechCrunch

NASA has added five companies to the list of vendors that are cleared to bid on contracts for the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. This list, which already includes nine companies from a previous selection process, now adds SpaceX, Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems. All of these companies can now place bids on NASA payload delivery to the lunar surface.

This basically means that these companies (which join Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper Laboratory, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and OrbitBeyond) can build and fly lunar landers in service of NASA missions. They’ll compete with one another for these contracts, which will involve lunar surface deliveries of resources and supplies to support NASA’s Artemis program missions, the first major goal of which is to return humans to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

These providers are specifically chosen to support delivery of heavier payloads, including “rovers, power sources, science experiments” and more, like the NASA VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), which is hunting water on the Moon. All of these will be used both to establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface for astronautics to live and work from, as well as key research that needs to be completed to make getting and staying there a viable reality.

Artist’s concept of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander

NASA has chosen to contract out rides to the Moon instead of running its own as a way to gain cost and speed advantages, and it hopes that these providers will be able to also ferry commercial payloads on the same rides as its own equipment to further defray the overall price tag. The companies will bid on these contracts, worth up to $ 2.6 billion through November 2028 in total, and NASA will select a vendor for each based on cost, technical feasibility and when they can make it happen.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced at this year’s annual International Astronautical Congress that it would be partnering with Draper, as well as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, for an end-to-end lunar landing system. SpaceX, meanwhile, revealed that it will be targeting a lunar landing of its next spacecraft, the Starship, as early as 2022 in an effort to help set the stage for the 2024-targeted Artemis landing.


TechCrunch

Chargify, the payment management service owned by Scaleworks, has added revenue forecasting tools to its software as a service offering.

The company’s new revenue forecasting tools uses historical data and month-over-month performance pulled from a company’s billing platform.

The company says its new tool can cut forecasting down from two months to as little as two minutes.

With a suite of billing and revenue management tools, Chargify already has a good window into previous performance. And the company hopes those forecasting tools can help businesses benchmark their revenue progress.

Using the new forecasting tool, companies can pull baseline metrics from historical growth and churn data looking at three, six or 12-month averages to understand how historical trends could affect businesses, the company said.

Beyond forecasting, the toolkit from San Antonio-based Chargify will save the projections and automatically trigger benchmark tracking to actual performance alongside the baseline forecast.


TechCrunch

While The Inside already offers a range of made-to-order furniture like beds, headboards, chairs and ottomans, it’s aiming for the center of your living room today with the launch of its first sofa collection.

Founded by CEO Christiane Lemieux (who previously founded Dwell Studio and sold it to Wayfair) and COO Britt Bunn (who previously worked at One Kings Lane), The Inside uses technologies like digital printing and 3D modeling to rethink the furniture-buying experience — customers can choose from a variety of furniture models and fabrics, then the company will make the furniture from scratch and deliver it within weeks.

When I met with The Inside’s executive team a few weeks ago, Lemieux repeated the company’s motto of taking customers “beyond the beige,” helping them create a home that isn’t just filled with the same boring furniture as everyone else.

“We want you to love your life,” she said. “When you walk into your house, that should be the ultimate destination.”

Bunn, meanwhile, suggested that the sofa launch represents a culmination of the work the company has been doing to build out its supply chain and develop its technology.

“That’s really the centerpiece of the home, one of the first things you buy when you move into a new apartment,” she said. “We want to take all of the value props we’ve been honing for accent furniture and bring that to the sofa category. Yes, people care about price and speed, but we also want someone to feel excited and inspired to pick from one of our hundred-plus fabrics.”

The collection includes prints created in partnership with Scalamandré, SF Girl by Bay, Refinery29’s Christene Barberich, Homepolish’s Katherine Carter and fashion designers Peter Som and Clare V. The Inside says those designs can be paired with six different frames, ranging from modern sofas (where prices start at $ 1,600) to slipcover sectionals (prices start at $ 3,000), all deliverable within four weeks.


TechCrunch

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