Microsoft is putting HoloLens to work with new Dynamics 365 applications

Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality glasses have always been interesting technology, but it’s never been clear how the company would move from novelty device to actual viable business use cases. Today, it made a move toward the latter, announcing a couple of applications designed to put the HoloLens to work in Dynamics 365, giving it a real business purpose. Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s one-stop shop for CRM and ERP, where a company can work on some of its key business software functions including field service in an integrated fashion. The company has been looking at for HoloLens to bring computing power to a group of field workers like repair technicians for whom even a tablet would be awkward because they have to work with both hands free. For these people, having a fully functioning Windows 10 computer you can wear on your face could be a big advantage and that’s
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UIpath lands $225M Series C on $3 billion valuation as robotics process automation soars

UIPath is bringing automation to repetitive processes inside large organizations and it seems to have landed on a huge pain point. Today it announced a massive $225 million Series C on a $3 billion valuation. The round was led by CapitalG and Sequoia Capital. Accel, which invested in the companies A and B rounds also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $408 million, according to Crunchbase, and comes just months after a $153 million Series B we reported on last March. At that time, it had a valuation of over $1 billion, meaning the valuation has tripled in less than six months. There’s a reason this company you might have never heard of is garnering this level of investment so quickly. For starters, it’s growing in leaps in bounds. Consider that it went from $1 million to $100 million in annual recurring revenue in under 21 months, according to
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Mabl announces $20 million Series B to bring automated QA to enterprise customers

Mabl, a Boston-based startup from the folks who brought you Stackdriver, wants to change software testing using machine learning, and today it announced a $20 million Series B investment led by GV (formerly Google Ventures). Existing investors CRV and Amplify Partners also participated. As part of the deal, Karim Faris, general partner at GV will be joining the Mabl board. Today’s investment comes on top of a $10 million Series A announced in February. While it was at it, the company also announced a brand new enterprise product. In fact, part of the reason for going for a hefty Series B so soon after landing the Series A was because it takes some money to service enterprise clients, company founder Izzy Azeri explained. Azeri says that when he and his partner Dan Belcher decided to start a new company after selling Stackdriver to Google in 2014, they
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Why the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI deal has cloud companies going nuts

By now you’ve probably heard of the Defense Department’s massive winner-take-all $10 billion cloud contract dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short).
Star Wars references aside, this contract is huge, even by government standards.The Pentagon would like a single cloud vendor to build out its enterprise cloud, believing rightly or wrongly that this is the best approach to maintain focus and control of their cloud strategy. Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Heather Babb tells TechCrunch the department sees a lot of upside by going this route. “Single award is advantageous because, among other things, it improves security, improves data accessibility and simplifies the Department’s ability to adopt and use cloud services,” she said. Whatever company they choose to fill this contract, this is about modernizing their computing infrastructure and their combat forces for a world of IoT, artificial intelligence and big data analysis, while consolidating some
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Why rumors that Adobe could be in talks to buy Marketo make sense

Adobe could be shopping for another piece of the digital marketing puzzle, as reports surfaced today that the company might be in talks with Vista Equity Partners to buy Marketo, a company the private equity firm purchased in May 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. Reuters was first to report the rumor. While the report states the talks are early, and nothing is imminent, and none of the companies involved would comment (understandably), it is a deal that makes sense for Adobe. The company has been trying to build out its digital marketing business for some time, including buying Magento in May for $1.8 billion to help beef up the ecommerce piece. Assuming that Vista wants to flip Marketo for a profit, a good bet, it would likely need to come in at $2 billion at a minimum and probably more. There are only a few companies out
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Hacera creates directory to make blockchain projects more searchable

In the 1990s when the web was young, companies like Yahoo, created directories of web pages to help make them more discoverable. Hacera wants to bring that same idea to blockchain, and today it announced the launch of the Hacera Network Registry. CEO Jonathan Levi says that blockchains being established today risk being isolated because people simply can’t find them. If you have a project like the IBM -Maersk supply chain blockchain announced last month, how does an interested party like a supplier or customs authority find it and ask to participate? Up until the creation of this registry, there was no easy way to search for projects. Early participants include heavy hitters like Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, IBM, SAP and Oracle, who are linking to projects being created on their platforms. The registry supports projects based on major digital ledger communities including Hyperledger, Quorum, Cosmos, Ethereum and Corda. The
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Wasabi just landed $68 million to upend cloud storage

Chances are you see a story about cloud storage, and you yawn and move on, but Wasabi, a startup from the folks who brought you Carbonite backup, might make you pause. That’s because they claim to have found a cheaper, faster way to store data, and apparently investors like what they are seeing, forking over $68 million for a Series B investment. Yes, that’s a hefty amount for an early round, but with founders who have multiple successful exits, investors might have seen a lower risk than you might think. The company didn’t go with your usual Sand Hill Road suspects here, instead opting for an unconventional set of industry veterans and family offices along with Forestay Capital, Swiss entrepreneur, Ernesto Bertarelli’s technology fund. Much like Packet, a startup that scored $25 million the other day, they are hoping to take on cloud giants by finding a seam in
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Sisense hauls in $80M investment as data analytics business matures

Sisense, a company that helps customers understand and visualize their data across multiple sources, announced an $80 million Series E investment today led by Insight Venture Partners. They also announced that Zack Urlocker, former COO at Duo Security and Zendesk, has joined the organization’s board of directors. The company has attracted a prestigious list of past investors, who also participated in the round, including Battery Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DFJ Venture Capital, Genesis Partners and Opus Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to close to $200 million. CEO Amir Orad says investors like their mission of simplifying complex data with analytics and business intelligence and delivering it in whatever way makes sense. That could be on screens throughout the company, desktop or smartphone, or via Amazon Alexa. “We found a way to make accessing data extremely simple, mashing it together in a logical way and embedding it in
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Twilio’s contact center products just got more analytical with Ytica acquisition

Twilio, a company best known for supplying a communications APIs for developers has a product called Twilio Flex for building sophisticated customer service applications on top of Twilio’s APIs. Today, it announced it was acquiring Ytica (pronounced Why-tica) to provide an operational and analytical layer on top of the customer service solution. The companies would not discuss the purchase price, but Twilio indicated it does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its “results, operations or financial condition.” In other words, it probably didn’t cost much. Ytica, which is based in Prague, has actually been a partner with Twilio for some time, so coming together in this fashion really made a lot of sense, especially as Twilio has been developing Flex. Twilio Flex is an app platform for contact centers, which offers a full stack of applications and allows users to deliver customer support over
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Packet hauls in $25M Series B as customized cloud vision takes shape

In a world where large hyperscale companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google dominate the public cloud, it would seem foolhardy for a startup to try and carve out a space, but Packet has an alternative customized cloud vision, and investors have taken notice. Today, the company announced a $25 million Series B led by Third Point Ventures. An interesting mix of strategic and traditional investors joined the round including Battery Ventures, JA Mitsui Leasing and Samsung Next. Existing investors SoftBank Corp. and Dell Technologies Capital also participated. The company has now raised over $36 million. The company also showed some signs of maturing by bringing in Ihab Tarazi as CTO and George Karidis as COO. Tarazi, who came over from Equinix, likes what he sees in Packet . He says they offer several advantages over the public providers. First of all, customers can buy whatever hardware they want. “We offer the
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Zendesk expands into CRM with Base acquisition

Zendesk has mostly confined itself to customer service scenarios, but it seems that’s not enough anymore. If you want to truly know the customer behind the interaction, you need a customer system of record to go with the customer service component. To fill that need, Zendesk announced it was acquiring Base, a startup that has raised over $50 million. The companies did not share the purchase price, but Zendesk did report that the acquisition should not have a significant impact on revenue. While Base might not be as well known as Salesforce, Microsoft or Oracle in the CRM game, it has created a sophisticated sales force automation platform, complete with its own artificial intelligence underpinnings. CEO Uzi Shmilovici claimed his company’s AI could compete with its more well-heeled competitors when it was released in 2016 to provide salespeople with meaningful prescriptive advice on how to be more successful. Zendesk
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New Relic shifts with changing monitoring landscape

New Relic CEO Lew Cirne was feeling a bit nostalgic last week when he called to discuss the announcements for the company’s FutureStack conference taking place tomorrow in San Francisco. It had been 10 years since he first spoke to TechCrunch about his monitoring tool. A lot has changed in a decade including what his company is monitoring these days. Cirne certainly recognizes that his company has come a long way since those first days. The monitoring world is going through a seismic shift as the ways we develop apps changes. His company needs to change with it to remain relevant in today’s market. In the early days, they monitored Ruby on Rails applications, but gone are the days of only monitoring a fixed virtual machine. Today companies are using containers and Kubernetes, and beyond that, serverless architecture. Each of these approaches brings challenges to a monitoring company like
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Adobe looks to AI to lift customer experience business

For years, marketers have been trying to optimize the online shopping experience to better understand their customers and deliver more customized interactions that ultimately drive more sales. Artificial intelligence was supposed to accelerate that, and today Adobe announced enhancements to Adobe Target and Adobe Experience Manager that attempt to deliver at least partly on that promise. Adobe has been trying to lift the enterprise side of its business for some time, and even though they are well on their way to becoming a $10 billion company, the potential for even more revenue from the enterprise side of the business remains tantalizing. They are counting on AI to help push that along. Adobe’s Loni Stark says companies are looking for more sophisticated solutions around customization and optimization. Part of that involves using Adobe’s intelligence layer, which they call Sensei, to help marketers as they tweak these programs to drive better
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Starry wants to put high-speed 5G internet in reach of everyone

Starry, a Boston startup, wants deliver high-speed 5G internet in major cities at a reasonable price. Today, it announced it is expanding service from its initial launch in Boston to New York City. The company also announced a deal with Related Companies, a large national affordable housing owner, to host Starry equipment on its buildings and offer Starry service to its tenants. The Starry solution consists of three parts: The beam sits on a high roof. The point sits on a lower roof and the consumer gets a Starry Station, which acts as a modem of sorts to deliver the internet service to the home. As they put it, internet access becomes an extension of the property.

Diagram: Starry

While the hardware solution is impressive in itself, it allows Starry to offer high-speed internet to consumers at a more affordable price point than traditional large providers. Company founder
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Microsoft commits to fixing custom apps broken by Windows 10 upgrades

Microsoft wants to make life easier for enterprise customers. Starting today, it is committing to fix any custom applications that may break as a result of updates to Windows 10 or the Office 365 product suite. Most large companies have a series of custom applications that play a crucial role inside their organizations. When you update Windows and Office 365, Murphy’s Law of updates says one or more of those applications is going to break. Up until this announcement when that inevitably happened, it was entirely the problem of the customer. Microsoft has taken a huge step today by promising to help companies understand which applications will likely break when you install updates, and working to help fix them if it ultimately happens anyway. One of the reasons the company can afford to be so generous is they have data that suggests the vast majority of applications won’t break when
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Salesforce updates Sales Cloud ahead of Dreamforce with increased automation

Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive customer conference is coming later this month to San Francisco, but the news is starting already well ahead of the event. Today, the company announced updates to its core Sales Cloud with an emphasis toward automation and integration. For starters, the company wants to simplify inside phone sales, giving the team not only a list of calls organized by those most likely to convert, but walking them through a sales process that’s been defined by management according to what they believe to be best practices. High Velocity Sales is designed to take underlying intelligence from Salesforce Einstein and apply it to the sales process to give sales people the best chance to convert that prospect. That includes defining contact cadence and content. For calls, the content could be as detailed as call scripts with what to say to the prospect. For emails, it could provide key
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Hu-manity launches app giving consumers legal control over medical data

Hu-manity wants to change the way we share data by giving people legal ownership with contractual enforcement handled on the blockchain. The first foray will be with medical data, and today the company debuted the #My31 app in Google Play and the Apple App Store. The name refers to the company’s core belief that data ownership should be a human right. The current United Nations Declaration of Human Rights include 30 core principles. The startup is exploring the idea of making data ownership the 31st human right central to its approach and how it markets the service. When users download the app, they can sign up for the service and set the terms and conditions of how they use their data. You may be thinking that you already control your medical data, but you’re only partly right. Medical information is protected in the U.S. under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability
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Forethought looks to reshape enterprise search with AI

Forethought, a 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield participant, has a modern vision for enterprise search that uses AI to surface the content that matters most in the context of work. Its first use case involves customer service, but it has a broader ambition to work across the enterprise. The startup takes a bit of an unusual approach to search. Instead of a keyword-driven experience we are used to with Google, Forethought uses an information retrieval model driven by artificial intelligence underpinnings that they then embed directly into the workflow, company co-founder and CEO Deon Nicholas told TechCrunch. They have dubbed their answer engine ‘Agatha.’ Much like any search product, it begins by indexing relevant content. Nicholas says they built the search engine to be able to index millions of documents at scale very quickly. It then uses natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to read the
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McCarthyFinch AI services platform automates tedious legal tasks

McCarthyFinch sounds a bit like a law firm — and with good reason. The startup has developed an AI as a Service platform aimed at the legal profession. This week, it’s competing in the 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco. The company began life as a project at a leading New Zealand law firm, MinterEllisonRuddWatts. They wanted to look at how they could take advantage of AI to automate legal processes to make them more efficient, cost-effective and faster, according to company president Richard DeFrancisco. “They were working on leveraging technology to become the law firm of the future, and they realized there were some pretty tremendous gaps,” he explained. They found a bunch of Ph.Ds working on artificial intelligence who worked with more than 30 lawyers over time to address those gaps by leveraging AI technology.   That internal project was spun out as a startup last
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Hasura debuts open source event system to simplify serverless development

Hasura, a company that creates tools for developers on top of the popular Postgres database, is introducing a new product in public Alpha today aimed at helping programmers build serverless apps more quickly and efficiently. The idea is to simplify function writing by offering an open source event system on top of Postgres to trigger events when certain conditions are met in the underlying database. This should help reduce the amount of coding needed to make something work, while also driving a more scalable system. Typically, programmers string together a series of API calls to services to take care of different parts of an app such as calling a payment or communications gateway. This saves the programmer from having to create the various pieces from scratch. The problem is that if anything goes wrong in the middle of a string of calls, the system can break down and typically
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