Google launches new AI initiatives in Japan

It’s no surprise that Google used its Cloud Next 2018 event in Tokyo today — one of a number of international Cloud Next events that follow its flagship San Francisco conference — to announce a couple of new initiatives that specifically focus on the Japanese market. These announcements include a couple of basic updates like translating its Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform Coursera specialization, its Associate Cloud Engineer certification and fifty of its hands-on Qwiklabs into Japanese. In addition, Google is also launching an Advanced Solutions Lab in Tokyo as well. Previously Google opened similar labs in Dublin, Ireland, as well as Sunnyvale and New York. These labs offer a wide range of machine learning-centric training options, collaborative workspaces for teams that are part of the company’s four-week machine learning training program, and access to Google experts.

(Photo by Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The company also
Continue reading "Google launches new AI initiatives in Japan"

Microsoft launches new AI applications for customer service and sales

Like virtually every other major tech company, Microsoft is currently on a mission to bring machine learning to all of its applications. It’s no surprise then that it’s also bringing ‘AI’ to its highly profitable Dynamics 365 CRM products. A year ago, the company introduced its first Dynamics 365 AI solutions and today it’s expanding this portfolio with the launch of three new products: Dynamics 365 AI for Sales, Customer Service and Market Insights. “Many people, when they talk about CRM, or ERP of old, they referred to them as systems of oppression, they captured data,” said Alysa Taylor, Microsoft corporate VP for business applications and industry. “But they didn’t provide any value back to the end user — and what that end user really needs is a system of empowerment, not oppression.” It’s no secret that few people love their CRM systems (except for maybe a handful of
Continue reading "Microsoft launches new AI applications for customer service and sales"

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
Continue reading "Mabl announces $20 million Series B to bring automated QA to enterprise customers"

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
Continue reading "Why the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI deal has cloud companies going nuts"

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
Continue reading "Why rumors that Adobe could be in talks to buy Marketo make sense"

Hybrid cloud data specialist Datrium nabs $60M led by Samsung at a $282M valuation

Cloud services — where our data, apps and computing power are all being managed in servers owned by others, many miles from where we are sitting — have taken off like a rocket in the decade with the rise of smaller devices, but in the business world, hybrid solutions — mixing cloud with on-premise architectures — remains the order of the day. And today, a provider of hybrid cloud services has raised a round of funding to capitalise on that. Datrium, a provider of back-up and other services for businesses that store and use data in hybrid environments, has raised $60 million in a Series D round of funding. The company is not disclosing its valuation — we’re asking — but PitchBook estimates that it was at $222 million pre-money, putting it at $282 million post-money. This was an upround compared to previous raises, but it’s also playing on
Continue reading "Hybrid cloud data specialist Datrium nabs $60M led by Samsung at a $282M valuation"

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
Continue reading "Hacera creates directory to make blockchain projects more searchable"

Nvidia launches the Tesla T4, its fastest data center inferencing platform yet

Nvidia today announced its new GPU for machine learning and inferencing in the data center. The new Tesla T4 GPUs (where the ‘T’ stands for Nvidia’s new Turing architecture) are the successors to the current batch of P4 GPUs that virtually every major cloud computing provider now offers. Google, Nvidia said, will be among the first to bring the new T4 GPUs to its Cloud Platform. Nvidia argues that the T4s are significantly faster than the P4s. For language inferencing, for example, the T4 is 34 times faster than using a CPU and more than 3.5 times faster than the P4. Peak performance for the P4 is 260 TOPS for 4-bit integer operations and 65 TOPS for floating point operations. The T4 sits on a standard low-profile 75 watt PCI-e card. What’s most important, though, is that Nvidia designed these chips specifically for AI inferencing. “What makes Tesla T4 such
Continue reading "Nvidia launches the Tesla T4, its fastest data center inferencing platform yet"

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
Continue reading "Wasabi just landed $68 million to upend cloud storage"

Plex Cloud will shut down November 30 due to technical challenges

Plex today announced it’s shutting down its troubled Plex Cloud service, via a forum post that hasn’t found its way over to the company’s official blog – likely a choice the company made in order to downplay the news, or avoid media scrutiny. Plex Cloud, launched in fall 2016, was meant to serve as a way for Plex customers to save their files to online storage services like OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive, instead of having to host their saved files locally on their own machines or network-attached storage devices. But now that will no longer be an option, as the service will stop functioning on November 30, 2018, Plex says. Plex Cloud had struggled from the beginning with technical issues. Almost immediately, its debut launch partner, Amazon, stopped working with Plex Cloud. Users were complaining that Amazon Drive files couldn’t be accessed and wondered if Amazon was imposing upload
Continue reading "Plex Cloud will shut down November 30 due to technical challenges"

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
Continue reading "Twilio’s contact center products just got more analytical with Ytica acquisition"

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
Continue reading "Packet hauls in $25M Series B as customized cloud vision takes shape"

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
Continue reading "Zendesk expands into CRM with Base acquisition"

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
Continue reading "New Relic shifts with changing monitoring landscape"

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
Continue reading "Adobe looks to AI to lift customer experience business"

Commons Clause stops open-source abuse

There’s a dark cloud on the horizon. The behavior of cloud infrastructure providers, such as Amazon, threatens the viability of open source.

During 13 years as a venture investor, I have invested in the companies behind many open-source projects:

Open source has served society, and open-source business models have been successful and lucrative. Life was good.

Amazon’s behavior

I admire Amazon’s execution. In the venture business we are used to the large software incumbents (such as IBM, Oracle, HP, Compuware, CA, EMC, VMware, Citrix and others) being

Continue reading "Commons Clause stops open-source abuse"

PagerDuty raises $90M to wake up more engineers in the middle of the night

PagerDuty, the popular service that helps businesses monitor their tech stacks, manage incidents and alert engineers when things go sideways, today announced that it has raised a $90 million Series D round at a valuation of $1.3 billion. With this, PagerDuty, which was founded in 2009, has now raised well over $170 million. The round was led by T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management . Accel, Andreessen Horowitz and Bessemer Venture Partners participated. Given the leads in this round, chances are that PagerDuty is gearing up for an IPO. “This capital infusion allows us to continue our investments in innovation that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning, enabling us to help our customers transform their companies and delight their customers,” said Jennifer Tejada, CEO at PagerDuty in today’s announcement. “From a business standpoint, we can strengthen our investment in and development of our people, our most valuable asset,
Continue reading "PagerDuty raises $90M to wake up more engineers in the middle of the night"

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
Continue reading "Microsoft commits to fixing custom apps broken by Windows 10 upgrades"

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
Continue reading "Salesforce updates Sales Cloud ahead of Dreamforce with increased automation"

Thoma Bravo buys majority stake in Apttus in unexpected ending

Apttus, a quote-to-cash vendor built on top of the Salesforce platform that looked to be heading toward an IPO in recent years has taken a different tack, instead being acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo today. The company did not reveal the purchase price, but said it could be ready to share more details about the arrangement after the deal closes, probably next month. “What we can say is that Apttus views this development positively and believes Thoma Bravo can instill greater operational excellence, strengthen our market leadership and allow us to continue providing indispensable value to our customers,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. They are describing this not as a full on acquisition, but as ‘taking a majority stake’. However you describe it, it probably wasn’t the ending the company envisioned after taking $404 million in investment since launching in 2006, one of the earliest startups to
Continue reading "Thoma Bravo buys majority stake in Apttus in unexpected ending"