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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

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

Clumio, a 100-people startup that offers a SaaS-like service for enterprise backup, today announced that it has raised a $ 135 million Series C round, led by existing investor Sutter Hill Ventures and new investor Altimeter Captial. The announcement comes shortly after the company’s disclosure in August that it had quietly raised a total of $ 51 million in Series A and B rounds in 2017 and 2018. The company says it plans to use this new funding to “accelerate its vision to deliver a globally consolidated data protection service in and for the public cloud.”

Given the amount of money invested in the company, chances are Clumio is getting close to a $ 1 billion valuation, but the company is not disclosing its valuation at this point.

The overall mission of Clumio is to build a platform on public clouds that gives enterprises a single data protection service that can handle backups of their data in on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications. When it came out of stealth, the company’s focus was on VMware on premises. Since then, the team has expanded this to include VMware running on public clouds.

“When somebody moves to the cloud, they don’t want to be in the business of managing software or infrastructure and all that, because the whole reason to move to the cloud was essentially to get away from the mundane,” explained Clumio CEO and co-founder Poojan Kumar.

The next step in this process, as the company also announced today, is to make it easier for enterprises to protect the cloud-native applications they are building now. The company today launched this service for AWS and will likely expand it to other clouds like Microsoft Azure, soon.

The market for enterprise backup is only going to expand in the coming years. We’ve now reached a point, after all, where it’s not unheard of to talk about enterprises that run thousands of different applications. For them, Clumio wants to become the one-stop-shop for all things data protection — and its investors are obviously buying into the company’s vision and momentum.

“When there’s a foundational change, like the move to the cloud, which is as foundational a change, at least, as the move from mainframe to open systems in the 80s and 90s,” said Mike Speiser, Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures . “When there’s a change like that, you have to re-envision, you have to refactor and think of the world — the new world — in a new way and start from scratch. If you don’t, what’s gonna end up happening is people make decisions that are short term decisions that seem like they will work but end up being architectural dead ends. And those companies never ever end up winning. They just never end up winning and that’s the opportunity right now on this big transition across many markets, including the backup market for Clumio.”

Speiser also noted that SaaS allows for a dramatically larger market opportunity for companies like Clumio. “What SaaS is doing, is it’s not only allowing us to go after the traditional Silicon Valley, high end, direct selling, expensive markets that were previously buying high-end systems and data centers. But what we’re seeing — and we’re seeing this with Snowflake and […] we will see it with Clumio — is there’s an opportunity to go after a much broader market opportunity.”

Starting next year, Clumio will expand that market by adding support for data protection for a first SaaS app, with more to follow, as well as support for backup in more regions and clouds. Right now, the service’s public cloud tool focuses on AWS — and only in the United States. Next year, it plans to support international regions as well.

Kumar stressed that he wants to build Clumio for the long run, with an IPO as part of that roadmap. His investors probably wouldn’t mind that, either.


TechCrunch

On-demand video streaming giant Netflix, which is increasingly expanding its footprint in developing markets, now has a new competitor in Indonesia: Gojek.

The Indonesian ride-hailing giant on Thursday launched a video streaming service called GoPlay that features exclusive access to “hundreds of movies and TV shows” as well as snackable short clips. The streaming service is currently available only in Indonesia.

The service, which Gojek began testing with select users in June, focuses on local content, Edy Sulistyo, CEO of GoPlay said. Gojek, which was valued at $ 9.5 billion in its last financing round, said it has partnered with major local production houses such as Base Entertainment, Kalyana Shira Films, and Wahana Kreator for production of original titles. The firm said it has also tied up with some international studios to source foreign content.

“Despite a rise in demand for local content and a growing number of mobile audiences in Indonesia, access has still been limited especially for consumers living outside of urban areas. With GoPlay, we aim to enable all Indonesian consumers to enjoy high-quality on-demand entertainment at their convenience, while providing a platform for local content producers to showcase their creative work,” said Sulistyo in a statement.

Gojek is offering the video streaming service through two aggressively priced monthly plans: IDR 89,000 ($ 6.27), which offers access to the full catalog in HD; and IDR 99,000 ($ 7), which will additionally also provide users with access to GoFood delivery vouchers.

GoPlay will compete with a range of streaming services such as Netflix, iFlix, and Hooq. Netflix last year began testing a low-cost mobile-only plan in some developing markets including Indonesia to boost its presence in those nations. The global giant eventually launched the affordable tier in India earlier this year. A Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch this week that it currently has no plans to expand the low-cost tier to other markets.

Like many other major firms in Southeast Asia, Gojek is increasingly bulking up its ride-sharing platform to enter additional categories. Today, it offers an online payments service and a gaming platform. The firm began working on its video streaming service last year after it set up an in-house content studio.

Grab, Gojek’s arch rival in Southeast Asian markets, and India’s Ola, have also expanded their offerings in recent years. While Grab, like Gojek, offers everything including a video streaming service, Ola launched a credit card in May.

Grab has a partnership with Hooq for its video streaming service. In the run up to GoPlay’s launch, Hooq CEO Peter Bithos told TechCrunch in an interview that Gojek lacks the reach Hooq maintains in Southeast Asian markets. “Gojek hasn’t been able to get to anything like the scale or reach that we’ve got,” he said.

About 125 million people in Indonesia, or half of the nation’s population, is currently online. Sulistyo said Gojek sees a lot of potential for GoPlay’s growth in the country.

Indonesia has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia in recent years. According to a study conducted by Google and Singapore’s Temasek, Indonesia’s internet economy is estimated to be worth $ 100 billion by 2025.


TechCrunch

As Facebook prepares to launch its new cryptocurrency Libra in 2020, it’s putting the pieces in place to help it run. In one of the latest developments, it has acquired Servicefriend, a startup that built bots — chat clients for messaging apps based on artificial intelligence — to help customer service teams, TechCrunch has confirmed.

The news was first reported in Israel, where Servicefriend is based, after one of its investors, Roberto Singler, alerted local publication The Marker about the deal. We reached out to Ido Arad, one of the co-founders of the company, who referred our questions to a team at Facebook. Facebook then confirmed the acquisition with an Apple-like non-specific statement:

“We acquire smaller tech companies from time to time. We don’t always discuss our plans,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Several people, including Arad, his co-founder Shahar Ben Ami, and at least one other indicate that they now work at Facebook within the Calibra digital wallet group on their LinkedIn profiles. Their jobs at the social network started this month, meaning this acquisition closed in recent weeks. (Several others indicate that they are still at Servicefriend, meaning they too may have likely made the move as well.)

Although Facebook isn’t specifying what they will be working on, the most obvious area will be in building a bot — or more likely, a network of bots — for the customer service layer for the Calibra digital wallet that Facebook is developing.

Facebook’s plan is to build a range of financial services for people to use Calibra to pay out and receive Libra — for example, to send money to contacts, pay bills, top up their phones, buy things and more.

It remains to be seen just how much people will trust Facebook as a provider of all these. So that is where having “human” and accessible customer service experience will be essential.

“We are here for you,” Calibra notes on its welcome page, where it promises 24-7 support in WhatsApp and Messenger for its users.

Screenshot 2019 09 21 at 23.25.18

Servicefriend has worked on Facebook’s platform in the past: specifically it built “hybrid” bots for Messenger for companies to use to complement teams of humans, to better scale their services on messaging platforms. In one Messenger bot that Servicefriend built for Globe Telecom in the Philippines, it noted that the hybrid bot was able to bring the “agent hours” down to under 20 hours for each 1,000 customer interactions.

Bots have been a relatively problematic area for Facebook. The company launched a personal assistant called M in 2015, and then bots that let users talk to businesses in 2016 on Messenger, with quite some fanfare, although the reality was that nothing really worked as well as promised, and in some cases worked significantly worse than whatever services they aimed to replace.

While AI-based assistants such as Alexa have become synonymous with how a computer can carry on a conversation and provide information to humans, the consensus around bots these days is that the most workable way forward is to build services that complement, rather than completely replace, teams.

For Facebook, getting its customer service on Calibra right can help it build and expand its credibility (note: another area where Servicefriend has build services is in using customer service as a marketing channel). Getting it wrong could mean issues not just with customers, but with partners and possibly regulators.


TechCrunch

Transportation startup Lime is shutting down LimePod, its car-sharing service that it launched last November in Seattle. Lime plans to start removing its vehicles from the streets of Seattle next month and will completely shut down the service by the end of the year. The news was first reported by GeekWire.

Lime has operated a pilot program in Seattle since last year and is set to conclude at the end of the year. Throughout the program, more than 18,000 people took more than 200,000 trips in LimePods, according to a Lime spokesperson. At launch, the plan was to explore carsharing for short distances and eventually replace its vehicles with an all-electric fleet. Lime, however, is not looking to make LimePods a permanent fixture of the city at this point.

“While the program was a great learning experience,  at our core, we are an electric mobility company first,” Lime wrote in an email to LimePod users. “We are committed — like Seattle is —  to sustainability, lower carbon emissions, and to make cities more livable, all of which require reduced car travel.”

Additionally, Lime said it was not able to find the right partner for its LimePod’s electric fleet, which led to the decision to end the program at the end of the pilot period.

“We deeply appreciate our partnership with the Seattle community and the opportunity to collaborate on our LimePod Pilot Program,” a Lime spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The experience is a testament to the city’s forward-looking position on the future of transportation and the necessity of sustainable options for citizens. We are similarly committed to that goal and the information gained during our pilot will support the work necessary should we decide to expand and improve this service with an all-electric fleet in the future.”

Lime, which got its beginnings as a bike-share company, has deployed its scooters and bikes in more than 100 cities in the U.S. and more than 20 international cities. Recently, Lime hit 100 million rides across its micromobility vehicles. Clearly, Lime sees more a future with shared bikes and scooters than it does with cars.

Earlier this year, Lime raised a $ 310 million Series D round led by Bain Capital Ventures and others. That round valued the startup at $ 2.4 billion.


TechCrunch

Making good on plans revealed last year to debut an EV-exclusive car sharing service, Volkswagen is actually launching its fleet for customers – debuting WeShare, a new shared service similar to Car2Go or GM’s Maven, but featuring only all-electric vehicles. Initially, WeShare will be available only in Berlin, where it’s launching today with 1,500 Volkswagen e-Golf cars making up the on-demand rental fleet.

The plan is to add 500 more cars to the available population by early next year, specifically the e-up! electric city company car, and then it’ll also play host to the brand new ID.3 fully electric car when that’s officially launched. VW is still targeting the middle of next year for a street date for that vehicle, which is part of its all-new ID line of vehicles designed from the ground-up based on its next-generation electric vehicle platform. In terms of new geographies, WeShare will look to launch In Prague (in partnership with VW Group sub-brand Skoda) and also in Hamburg, both some time in 2020.

WeShare has a coverage area that includes the Berlin city centre and a little bit beyond the Ringbahn train line that encircles it. The cars are available in a “free-floating” arrangement, meaning they’ll be free to pickup and park wherever public parking is available. This one-way model, which is the one used by competitor Car2go, is distinct from the round-trip style rentals preferred by Zipcar, for instance. It’s more convenient for customers, but more of a headache for operators, who have to worry about ensuring cars remain in the rental zone and are parked appropriately and legally.

WeShare will also take responsibility for recharging the vehicles as needed, and will do so using the public charging network that’s available in Berlin, but later on it will seek to incentive actual users of the system to charge up when vehicles need it.

Car sharing, especially one-way, has had a hit-and-miss track record to date. Car2go shuttered operations in Toronto and Chicago, for instance, due to incompatibility with city operations regarding parking in the case of Toronto, and rampant cases of fraud in Chicago that resulted in cars being used to commit crimes. VW notes in a release that in Berlin, however, the number of car sharing users has grown from 180,000 people in 2010 to 2.46 million in early 2019.

Volkswagen also owns and operates a fully-electric ridesharing service called MOIA, which has built its own fit-for-purpose vehicle and which currently operates in Hamburg and Hanover. Last year, VW said the two mobility service operations, which offer very different service models, will work together in future.


TechCrunch

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