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.

CRM software has become a critical piece of IT when it comes to getting business done, and today a startup focusing on one specific aspect of that stack — sales automation — is announcing a growth round of funding underscoring its own momentum. Outreach, which has built a popular suite of tools used by salespeople to help identify and reach out to prospects and improve their relationships en route to closing deals, has raised $ 50 million in a Series F round of funding that values the company at $ 1.33 billion. 

The funding will be used to continue expanding geographically — headquartered in Seattle, Outreach also has an office in London and wants to do more in Europe and eventually Asia — as well as to invest in product development.

The platform today essentially integrates with a company’s existing CRM, be it Salesforce, or Microsoft’s, or Kustomer, or something else — and provides an SaaS-based set of tools for helping to source and track meetings, have to-hand information on sales targets, and a communications manager that helps with outreach calls and other communication in real-time. It will be investing in more AI around the product, such as its newest product Kaia (an acronym for “knowledge AI assistant”), and it has also hired a new CFO, Melissa Fisher, from Qualys, possibly a sign of where it hopes to go next as a business.

Sands Capital is leading the round, Outreach noted, with “strong participation” also Salesforce Ventures. Other investors include Operator Collective and repeat backers Lone Pine Capital, Spark Capital, Meritech Capital Partners, Trinity Ventures, Mayfield, and Sapphire Ventures. The company has raised $ 289 million to date, and for some more context, this is definitely an upround: Outreach was last valued at $ 1.1 billion in its previous round in April 2019.

The funding comes on the heels of strong growth for the company: more than 4,000 businesses now use its tools, including Adobe, Tableau, DoorDash, Splunk, DocuSign, and SAP, making Outreach the biggest player in a field that also includes Salesloft (which also raised a significant round last year on the heels of Outreach’s), ClariChorus.aiGongConversica, and Afiniti. Its sweet spot has been working with technology-led businesses and that is a market that is continuing to expand, even as so much more of the economy has contracted in recent months. 

“You are seeing a cambric explosion of B2B startups happening everywhere,” Manny Medina, CEO and co-founder of Outreach, said in a phone interview this week. “It means that sales roles are being created as we speak.” And that translates to a growing pool of potential customers for Outreach.

It wasn’t always this way.

When Outreach was first founded in 2011 in Seattle, it wasn’t a sales automation company. It was a recruitment startup called GroupTalent working on software to help source and hire talent, aimed at tech companies. That business was rolling along, until it wasn’t: it hit a wall in 2015 and the startup saw it had only two months of runway left, with little hope of raising more. 

“We were not hitting our stride, and growth was hard. We didn’t make the numbers in 2014 and then had two months of cash left and no prospects of raising more,” Medina recalled. “So I sat down with my co-founders,” — Gordon Hempton, Andrew Kinzer and Wes Hather, none of whom are at the company anymore — “and we decided to sell our way out of it. We thought that if we generated more meetings we could gain more opportunities to try to sell our recruitment software.

“So we built the engine to do that, and we saw that we were getting 40% reply rates to our own outreaching emails. It was so successful we had a 10x increase in productivity. But we ran out of sales capacity, so we started selling the meetings we had managed to secure with potential talent directly to the tech companies themselves, who would have become their employers.”

That quickly tipped over into a business opportunity of its own. “Companies were saying to us, ‘I don’t want to buy the recruitment software. I need that sales engine!” The company never looked back, and changed its name to work for the pivot.

Fast forward to 2020, and times are challenging in a completely different way, defined as we are by a global health pandemic that affects what we do every day, where we go, how we work, how we interact with people, and much more. 

Medina says that impact of the novel coronavirus has been a significant one for the company and its customers, in part because it fits well with two main types of usage cases that have emerged in the world of sales in the time of COVID-19.

“Older sellers now working from home are accomplished and don’t need to be babysat,” he said, but added but they can’t rely on their traditional touchpoints “like meetings, dinners, and bar mitzvahs” anymore to seal deals. “They don’t have the tools to get over the line. So our product is being called in to help them.”

Another group is at the other end of the spectrum, he said, are “younger and less experienced salespeople who don’t have the physical environment [many live in smaller places with roommates] nor experience to sell well alone. For them it’s been challenging not to come into an office because especially in smaller companies, they rely on each other to train, to listen to others on calls to learn how to sell.” That’s the other scenario where Outreach is finding  up for a job and come into office.

Although a lot of sales tools are essentially taking on some of the more mundane jobs of salespeople, Medina doesn’t believe that we’re anywhere close to replacing the humans, even at this time when we’re seeing so many layoffs.

“We are at the early innings,” he said. “There are 6.8 million sales people and we only have north of 100,000 users, not even 2% of the market. There may be a redefinition of the role, but not a reduction.”


TechCrunch

Bit Bio, the new startup which pitches itself as the “enter button for the keyboard to the software of life” only needed three weeks to raise its latest $ 41.5 million round of funding.

Originally known as Elpis Biotechnology and named for the Greek goddess of hope, the Cambridge, England-based company was founded by Mark Kotter in 2016 to commercialize technology that can reduce the cost and increase the production capacity for human cell lines. These cells can be used in targeted gene therapies and as a method to accelerate drug discovery at pharmaceutical companies.

The company’s goal is to be able to reproduce every human cell type.

“We’re just at a very crucial time in biology and medicine and the bottleneck that has become really clear is a scalable source of robust human cells,” said Kotter. “For drug discovery this is important. When you look at failure rates in clinical trials they’re at an all time high… that’s in direct contradiction to the massive advancements in biotechnology in research and the field.”

In the seventeen years since scientists completely mapped the human genome, and eight years since scientists began using the gene editing technology known as CRISPR to edit genetic material, there’s been an explosion of treatments based on individual patient’s genetic material and new drugs developed to more precisely target the mechanisms that pathogens use to spread through organisms.

These treatments and the small molecule drugs being created to stop the spread of pathogens or reduce the effects of disease require significant testing before coming to market — and Bit Bio’s founder thinks his company can both reduce the time to market and offer new treatments for patients.

It’s a thesis that had investors like the famous serial biotech entrepreneur, Richard Klausner, who served as the former director of the National Cancer Institute and founder of revolutionary biotech companies like Lyell Immunopharma, Juno, and Grail, leaping at the chance to invest in Bit Bio’s business, according to Kotter.

Joining Klausner are the famous biotech investment firms Foresite Capital, Blueyard Capital and Arch Venture Partners.

“Bit Bio is based on beautiful science. The company’s technology has the potential to bring the long-awaited precision and reliability of engineering to the application of stem cells,” said Klausner in a statement. “Bit Bio’s approach represents a paradigm shift in biology that will enable a new generation of cell therapies, improving the lives of millions.”

Photo: Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

Kotter’s own path to develop the technology which lies at the heart of Bit Bio’s business began a decade ago in a laboratory in Cambridge University. It was there that he began research building on the revolutionary discoveries of Shinya Yamanaka, which enabled scientists to transform human adult cells into embryonic stem cells.

“What we did is what Yamanaka did. We turned everything upside down. We want to know how each cell is defined… and once we know that we can flip the switch,” said Kotter. “We find out which transcription factors code for a single cell and we turn it on.”

Kotter said the technology is like uploading a new program into the embryonic stem cell.

Although the company is still in its early days, it has managed to attract a few key customers and launch a sister company based on the technology. That company, Meatable, is using the same process to make lab-grown pork.

Meatable is the earliest claimant to a commercially viable, patented process for manufacturing meat cells without the need to kill an animal as a prerequisite for cell differentiation and growth.

Other companies have relied on fetal bovine serum or Chinese hamster ovaries to stimulate cell division and production, but Meatable says it has developed a process where it can sample tissue from an animal, revert that tissue to a pluripotent stem cell, then culture that cell sample into muscle and fat to produce the pork products that palates around the world crave.

“We know which DNA sequence is responsible for moving an early-stage cell to a muscle cell,” says Meatable chief executive Krijn De Nood.

If that sounds similar to Bit Bio, that’s because it’s the same tech — just used to make animal instead of human cells.

Image: PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

If Meatable is one way to commercialize the cell differentiation technology, Bit Bio’s partnership with the drug development company Charles River Laboratories is another.

“We actually do have a revenue generating business side using human cells for research and drug discovery. We have a partnership with Charles River Laboratories the large preclinical contract research organization,” Kotter said. “That partnership is where we have given early access to our technology to Charles River… They have their own usual business clients who want them to help with their drug discovery. The big bottleneck at the moment is access to human cells.”

Drug trials fail because the treatments developed either are toxic or don’t work in humans. The difference is that most experiments to prove how effective the treatments are rely on animal testing before making the leap to human trials, Kotter said.

The company is also preparing to develop its own cell therapies, according to Kotter. There, the biggest selling point is the increased precision that  Bit Bio can bring to precision medicine, said Kotter. “If you look at these cell therapies at the moment you get mixed bags of cells. There are some that work and some that have dangerous side effects. We think we can be precise [and] safety is the biggest thing at this point.”

The company claims that it can produce cell lines in less than a week with 100 percent purity, versus the mixed bags from other companies cell cultures.

“Our moonshot goal is to develop a platform capable of producing every human cell type. This is possible once we understand the genes governing human cell behaviour, which ultimately form the ‘operating system of life’,” Kotter said in a statement. “This will unlock a new generation of cell and tissue therapies for tackling cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and autoimmune diseases and accelerate the development of effective drugs for a range of conditions. The support of leading deep tech and biotech investors will catalyse this unique convergence of biology and engineering.”

 


TechCrunch

Nearly a year ago, Todd Howard, the director of Bethesda Games, said that the company’s “Fallout Shelter” game would be coming to Tesla displays. It arrived, via the 2020.20 software update, this week, which was first noted at driver’s platform Teslascope.

Fallout Shelter is the latest — and one of the more modern games — to join Tesla’s Arcade, an in-car feature that lets drivers play video games while the vehicle is parked. It joins 2048, Atari’s Super Breakout, Cuphead, Stardew Valley, Missile Command, Asteroids, Lunar Lander and Centipede. The arcade also includes a newly improved (meaning more difficult) backgammon game as well as chess.

The 2020.20 software update that adds the game, along with a few other improvements, hasn’t reached all Tesla vehicles yet, including the Model 3 in this reporter’s driveway (that vehicle has the prior 2020.16.2.1 update, which includes improvements to backgammon and a redesigned Tesla Toybox).

However, YouTube channel host JuliansRandomProject was one of the lucky few who did receive it and released a video that provides a look at Fallout and how it works in the vehicle. Roadshow also discovered and shared the JuliansRandomProject video, which is embedded below.

Fallout Shelter is just one of the newer features in the software update. Some functionality was added to the steering wheel so owners can use the toggle controls to play, pause and skip video playback in Theater Mode, the feature that lets owners stream Netflix and other video (while in park).

Tesla also improved Trax, which lets you record songs. Trax now includes a piano roll view that allows you to edit and fine tune notes in a track.


TechCrunch

Namely, an eight-and-a-half-year-old, New York-based company that sells payroll, talent management and other HR services to mid-size businesses across the U.S. via subscription software, has let go of upwards of 40% of its roughly 400 employees.

The cuts are across the board, from high-ranking staffers, including a CFO who was brought on almost exactly two years ago, and a chief security officer who has spent just the last year with the company, to its entire customer success team.

In a call earlier today, Namely CEO Larry Dunivan said the company had reduced executive pay five weeks ago, hoping to avoid layoffs, but that the coronavirus and its impact on the business made that impossible. He also shared the difficulties of running a startup right now that depends largely on small- and medium-size businesses, noting that even though Namely’s customers sign up for between one- and three-year-long contracts — they also pay an additional amount for a minimum number of employees — many of those customers are finding it difficult to fulfill those contracts at the moment.

He pointed to one client who has numerous yoga studios and who earlier this year employed 500 people but has laid off all but 15 of them in the shutdown. Said Dunivan, “We just had a stark, painful conversation and you could tell I was one of many people she was calling. [But] because I care about that relationship, I waived that minimum for some period of time so she can conserve cash.”

Which means less revenue for Namely.

It’s a situation that many startups find themselves in, of course. According to Layoffs.ai, a site that’s trying to track industry layoffs as they happen, at least 356 startups alone have now laid off 34343 employees. That’s saying nothing of the many companies and small businesses like yoga studios that don’t register as tech startups. In fact, nearly four million people filed for unemployment benefits last week alone, bringing to more than 30 million the nation’s number of unemployment claims.

While the deep cuts are understandable in the current context, they also represent one in a series of milestones at Namely that no startup wants to encounter. Though it was once among New York’s most promising businesses and accordingly raised at least $ 217 million from investors, including Matrix Partners, True Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, it has seen more than its share of transition at the top. In the most devastating development for the company until now, Namely’s board abrupt fired the company’s cofounder, Matt Straz, as its CEO in 2018.

Accused of actions “inconsistent with that which is expected of Namely leadership,” as the company told employees at the time, Straz has gone on to launch an employee benefits startup called Bennie.  But it cast a cloud over the the company (which still isn’t talking about what happened).

Soon after, the board member who led the investigation into Straz —  longtime Silicon Valley executive Elisa Steele — was appointed as Namely’s permanent CEO, which at the time helped attract $ 60 million in new funding to the company led by GGV Capital.

Yet by last summer, she had also left as CEO, a decision that she made based on family commitments says one source, and owes partly to the relationship she had established with Dunivan, he said separately. Specifically, Dunivan said that in his previous role as the interim CEO of the human resources company ThinkHR, he was consulted by Steele on business and product strategy, and that “as sometimes happens, one thing led to the other and i joined” the company in her stead. (Steele remains on the company’s board.)

Certainly, he inherited a business that no longer enjoys the sheen it once did.

As says one person with a stake in the business, “I don’t think anyone is giving up on Namely but it had a modest growth plan at the start of 2020 and that’s now been made uncertain because of [COVID-19]. I think the company is just trying to control what it can and to structure itself so it can operate more efficiently with a major drop-off in revenue.” Adds this person, “It’s like a clean sheet of paper.”

It’s an optimistic perspective and surely one that remaining employees will need to embrace, at least until the fourth quarter, which is when Dunivan estimates that businesses across the board may pick up again.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult time, but we look at the world through a fairly conservative lens and we’re making certain assumptions about how new customers will buy, how existing customers will increase or decrease headcount, and how many businesses will be closed and never to come back,” said Dunivan when we spoke earlier.

“It’s my believe that the recovery will start to show signs of life in the fourth quarter and into the first quarter, and our current looks at it through that lens,” he added. “But in the meantime, employers will be paying fewer people.”

Faced with dwindling options, Namely is now among them.


TechCrunch

Veel voorkomende problemen in Windows 10 oplossen

De ervaringen met Windows 10 zijn heel verschillend. Sommigen zijn enthousiast, maar er zijn ook problemen. Maar voor sommige problemen is er wel een oplossing, als je weet waar je die moet zoeken.

Windows 10 is een beetje ‘werk in uitvoering’. De software heeft nog wat ruwe kantjes, en niet alle leveranciers van pc’s of onderdelen daarvan hebben hun huiswerk gedaan. Daardoor ontstaan er voor sommige upgraders wat problemen met Windows 10. De meest voorkomende zijn:

Problemen bij installatie 

In principe werkt Windows 10 op een pc die Windows 7 or 8.1 aankan. Maar bij de upgrade treden er toch nog wel eens problemen aan het licht …

Read more …


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