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.

Gorgias, a startup offering artificial intelligence tools for customer service and support, is announcing that it has raised $ 14 million in Series A funding.

Co-founder and CEO Romain Lapeyre told me that the startup (whose name is pronounced “gorgeous”) is taking advantage of a broader shift as brands are looking to sell directly to consumers, rather than going through intermediaries like Amazon — for example, he pointed to Nike’s recent decision to pull its products from Amazon.

As brands make this change, Lapeyre (pictured above with his co-founder and CTO Alex Plugaro) said they need a “bundle of tools” to build their online business, and “each little part of the bundle is separate.” So they might create a store with Shopify, accept payments via Stripe — and naturally, Lapeyre believes they should be handling their customer support through Gorgias .

The product integrates with Shopify, using AI and customer data to automate responses to basic questions like, “What’s my tracking number?” By doing this, the business can free customer service representatives from spending most of their time responding to these routine requests, and the customers get faster answers.

Gorgias screenshot

“The automation should just be the very basic questions,” Lapeyre added.

But even when it comes to more complex queries, Gorgias also provides tools that help the customer service representatives to respond more quickly and to upsell customers on additional products and services — Lapeyre said they’re acting as “sales associates rather than customer service agents.”

It seems like this approach is becoming a reality at some of Gorgias’ 2,000 customers — the Groovelife customer service team gets paid a commission based on upselling. At Steve Madden, meanwhile, the customer service team is using automation to respond to 20% of tickets.

Gorgias previously raised $ 1.5 million in seed funding. The new round was led by Flex Capital, with participation of SaaStr, Alven, CRV, Amplify Partners and Eric Yuan.

Lapeyre said Gorgias will use the money to build out the product with new  features while also bringing on more merchants.


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

Trump said in July that some U.S. suppliers would be allowed to sell to Huawei while it remains blacklisted, but so far no vendors have been allowed to do so. Reuters reports that more than 130 applications have been submitted by companies that want to do business with Huawei, but the U.S. Commerce Department has not approved any of them yet.

Huawei has served as a bargaining chip in the U.S.-China trade war, which escalated again last week when Trump said he would adds tariffs to $ 550 billion worth of Chinese imports, after China said it would impose duties of $ 75 billions on U.S. goods. Trump’s mixed signals during this weekend’s G7 summit also created confusion on Wall Street.

When both presidents met at the G20 Summit in June, Donald Trump told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he would allow some American companies to sell to Huawei, even though it remains on the Commerce Department’s Entity List. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the Commerce Department would begin accepting applications again, requiring companies to prove that the tech they sell to Huawei would not pose a national security risk.

But one of the reasons no licenses have been granted yet is because the Commerce Department is unclear about what it is supposed to do. Former Commerce department official William Reinsch told Reuters that “nobody in the executive branch knows what [Trump] wants and they’re all afraid to make a decision without knowing that.”

In addition to providing telecom equipment, Huawei is an important customer for many U.S. tech firms, including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron. Out of the $ 70 billion in parts it bought last year, $ 11 billion of that went to U.S. suppliers. The U.S. claims Huawei is a national security risk, a charge the company has repeatedly denied.


TechCrunch

President Donald Trump and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have issued technology companies some temporary tariff relief.

Citing an unwillingness to hit consumers with higher prices on things like computers, mobile phones, laptops, video game consoles, computer monitors, clothes and shoes before the holidays, the President and his trade reps are holding off on slapping additional tariffs on those products coming from China.

The President could also have been motivated by growing concerns that the ongoing trade war could trigger a global recession and hurt his chances for re-election in 2020.

Whatever the reason, the news sparked a stock market rally on Tuesday with investors ignoring the rising prices that 10% tariffs on imports that don’t include consumer goods would cause.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices were both up 1.4% on the day, while the Nasdaq rose 1.9% — thanks in large part to a surge of Apple stock. The company’s stock rose $ 8.49 or over 4.2% to close at $ 208.97.

At the beginning of the month, President Trump said he would slap a 10% tariff on $ 300 billion worth of Chinese goods, which sent markets tumbling. An ensuing slight devaluation of the Chinese currency further pushed markets into a tailspin before they began to recover.

The news on Tuesday all but erased those earlier losses.

These market whipsaws between fear and trembling and irrational exuberance won’t end until the U.S. and China come to some sort of agreement in the trade war.

Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with their Chinese counterparts Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan about the ongoing trade battle. The two Chinese officials issued a protest against the duties that were set to take effect in September. The two trade representatives have a called scheduled for another two weeks.


TechCrunch

NASA has opened up a call for companies to join the ranks of its nine existing Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) providers, a group it chose in November after a similar solicitation for proposals. With the CLPS program, NASA is buying space aboard future commercial lunar landers to deliver to the surface of the Moon its future research, science and demonstration projects, and it’s looking for more providers to sign up as lunar lander providers. Contracts could prove out to $ 2.6 billion and extend through 2028.

The list of nine providers chosen in November 2018 includes Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and OrbitBeyond. NASA is looking to these companies, and any new firms added to the list as a result of this second call for submissions, to deliver both small and mid-size lunar landers, with the aim of delivering anything from rovers, to batteries, to payloads specific to future Artemis missions with the aim of helping establish a more permanent human presence on the Moon.

NASA’s goal in building out a stable of providers helps its Moon ambitions in a few different ways, including providing redundancy, and also offering a competitive field so they can open up bids for specific payloads and gain price advantages.

At the end of May, NASA announced the award of more than $ 250 million in contracts for specific payload delivery missions that were intended to take place by 2021. The three companies chosen from its list of nine providers were Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond, although OrbitBeyond told the agency just yesterday that it would not be able to fulfill the contract awarded due to “internal corporate challenges,” and backed out of the contract with NASA’s permission.

Given how quickly one of their providers exited one of the few contracts already awarded, and the likely significant demand there will be for commercial lander services should NASA’s Artemis ambitions even match up somewhat closely to the vision, it’s probably a good idea for the agency to build out that stable of service providers.


TechCrunch

Trading on China’s new Nasdaq-style stock market began today, with 25 tech companies listed on the Science and Technology Innovation Board, operated by the Shanghai Stock Market. Called the STAR Market, the board is an initiative by the government to encourage more Chinese tech companies to list domestically by addressing concerns about governance.

Traders cautioned that initial trading may be volatile as investors buy and trade stocks, however, and that warning was borne out today with trading by several companies paused after a surge of buying triggered their circuit breakers, or measures put into place that temporarily halt buying and selling to prevent stock crashes.

Plans for the STAR Market were announced in November as part of the Chinese government’s efforts to launch capital market reforms and make listing in mainland China more appealing to tech companies by easing profitability requirements. Some of the highest-profile Chinese tech IPOs, including Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi, JD.com and Pinduoduo, have taken place in New York City or Hong Kong, and the STAR Market may encourage more local stock debuts and investment—a goal that holds especially high stakes as China’s trade war with the U.S. continues.

But CNBC notes that the success of the STAR Market is far from a sure thing, since China has launched two other equity markets (the ChiNext in 009 and the New Third Board in 2013) that still receive far less attention than its two primary stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen.


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