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August 19, 2018
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Software

Google Firebase adds in-app messaging, JIRA integration, new reports and more

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Firebase is now Google’s default platform for app developers and over the course of the last four years since it was acquired, the service has greatly expanded its feature set and integrations with our Google services. Today, it’s rolling out yet another batch of updates that bring new features, deeper integrations and a few design updates to the service.

The highlight of this release is the launch of in-app messaging, which will allow developers to send targeted and contextual messages to users as they use the app. Developers can customize the look and feel of these in-app notifications, which are rolling out today, but what’s maybe even more important is that this feature is integrated with Firebase Predictions and Google Analytics for Firebase so that developers can just react to current behavior but also Firebase’s predictions of how likely a user is to spend some additional money or stop using the app.

Developers who use Atlassian’s JIRA will also be happy to hear that Firebase is launching an integration with this tool. Firebase users can now create JIRA issues based on crash reports in Firebase. This integration will roll out in the next few weeks.

Another new integration is a deeper connection to Crashlytics, which Google acquired from Twitter in early 2017 (together with Fabric). Firebase will now let you export this data to BigQuery to analyze it — and then visualize it in Google’s Data Studio. And once it’s in BigQuery, it’s your data, so you’re not dependent on Firebase’s retention and deletion defaults.

Talking about reports, Firebase Cloud Messaging is getting a new reporting dashboard and the Firebase Console’s Project Overview page has received a full design overhaul that’ll allow you to see the health and status of your apps on a single page. The Latest Release section now also features live data. These features will start rolling out today and should become available to everybody in the next few weeks.

Firebase Hosting, the service’s web content hosting service, is also getting a small update and now allows you to host multiple websites within one project. And when you push an update, Firebase Hosting now only uploads the files that have changed between releases, which should speed up that process quite a bit.

News Source = techcrunch.com

With $40 million for AuditBoard’s risk and compliance toolkit, LA’s enterprise startups notch another win

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Daniel Kim and Jay Lee, the two founders of AuditBoard, a Los Angeles-based provider of a risk and compliance software service for large businesses, grew up middle school friends in Cerritos, Calif.

It was from their hometown Los Angeles exurb, that Kim and Lee first began plotting how they would turn their experience working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young (respectively) into the software business that just managed to rake in $40 million in financing led by one of venture capital’s most-respected firms, Battery Ventures.

Kim, who had moved on from the world of the big four audit firms to take positions as the head of global audit at companies as diverse as the chip component manufacturer, International Rectifier and the surf and sportswear-focused clothing company, Quiksilver, had complained to his childhood friend about how little had changed in the auditing world since the two men first started working in the industry.

For Kim, the frustration that systems for accounting for risk and compliance — requirements under the Sarbanes Oxley Act passed in 2002, were still little more than Excel spreadsheets tracking information across different business lines.

He thought there had to be a better way for companies to manage their audit and compliance processes. So with Lee’s help, he set out to build one. The two men touted the company’s service and its ability to create an out-of-the-box system of record for all internal audit, compliance and risk teams.

“It had been ten years since I had left audit. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a software for compliance and risk,” Lee said. “Companies still manage Sarbanes-Oxley in Excel.”

There are other tools out there, IBM has OpenPages and ThomsonReuters developed a tool for audit and risk and compliance, but these software services pre-dated Sarbanes-Oxley, and were not made with a modern organization in mind, according to Lee and Kim.

The company counts major clients like TripAdvisor, Lululemon, HD Supply, Express Scripts and Spirit Airlines, among its roster of customers and will use the funding led by Battery to further expand its sales and marketing and product development efforts.

“We were impressed with AuditBoard’s product and its customer traction. With more CFOs now turning to dedicated, cloud-based software tools for various tasks, from ERP to tax compliance to procurement, we see a big opportunity for AuditBoard to continue to grow,” said Michael Brown, a general partner with Battery Ventures and the latest board member on AuditBoard’s board of directors. “We have invested before in similar companies that sell technology to CFOs — ranging from Avalara* and Intacct* to Outlooksoft* and Bonfire*– and we are excited to partner with Daniel, Jay and their team, who have already built a significant business in a short amount of time.”

AuditBoard raised a small seed round from friends and family, and followed that up with Donnelly Financial Solutions, a strategic investor who partnered with AuditBoard in 2017 to further develop its Securities and Exchange Commission reporting and Sarbanes-Oxley toolkit.

Now, AuditBoard joins a growing list of Los Angeles business-focused software companies that are beginning to scale dramatically in the city.

Long known for its advertising, marketing, and entertainment technology companies, large business-to-business software vendors are cropping up across the Los Angeles region. In addition to AuditBoard’s big round, companies like ServiceTitan, which raised $62 million in funding through an investment round led by Battery Ventures earlier in the year, are also making a splash in the Los Angeles business tech scene.

Earlier big rounds for companies like InAuth, the security firm; Factual, a location-based targeting service; PatientPop, the management tool for physicians offices; RightScale, a cloud management and cost optimization service; and Oblong Industries, a collaboration and computer interface developer, all speak to the breadth of the business-to-business talent that’s emerging from Hollywoodland.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Musical.ly investor bets on internet radio with $17M deal for Korea’s Spoon Radio

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One of the early backers of Musical.ly, the short video app that was acquired for $1 billion, is making a major bet that internet radio is one of the next big trends in media.

Goodwater Capital, one of a number of backers that won big when ByteDance acquired Musical.ly last year, has joined forces with Korean duo Softbank Ventures and KB Investment to invest $17 million into Korea’s Spoon Radio. The deal is a Series B for parent company Mykoon, which operates Spoon Radio and previously developed an unsuccessful smartphone battery sharing service.

That’s much like Musical.ly, which famously pivoted to a karaoke app after failing to build an education service.

“We decided to create a service, now known as Spoon Radio, that was inspired by what gave us hope when [previous venture] ‘Plugger’ failed to take off. We wanted to create a service that allowed people to truly connect and share their thoughts with others on everyday, real-life issues like the ups and downs of personal relationships, money, and work.

“Unlike Facebook and Instagram where people pretend to have perfect lives, we wanted to create an accessible space for people to find and interact with influencers that they could relate with on a real and personal level through an audio and pseudo-anonymous format,” Mykoon CEO Neil Choi told TechCrunch via email.

Choi started the company in 2013 with fellow co-founders Choi Hyuk jun and Hee-jae Lee, and today Spoon Radio operates much like an internet radio station.

Users can tune in to talk show or music DJs, and leave comments and make requests in real-time. The service also allows users to broadcast themselves and, like live-streaming, broadcasters — or DJs, as they are called — can monetize by receiving stickers and other virtual gifts from their audience.

Spoon Radio claims 2.5 million downloads and “tens of millions” of audio broadcasts uploaded each day. Most of that userbase is in Korea, but the company said it is seeing growth in markets like Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. In response to that growth — which Choi said is over 1,000 percent year-on-year — this funding will be used to invest in expanding the service in Southeast Asia, the rest of Asia and beyond.

Audio social media isn’t a new concept.

Singapore’s Bubble Motion raised close to $40 million from investors but it was sold in an underwhelming and undisclosed deal in 2014. Reportedly that was after the firm had failed to find a buyer and been ready to liquidate its assets. Altruist, the India-based mobile services company that bought Bubble Motion has done little to the service. Most changes have been bug fixes and the iOS app, for example, has not been updated for nearly a year.

Things have changed in the last four years, with smartphone growth surging across Asia and worldwide. That could mean different fortunes but there are also differences between the two in terms of strategy.

Bubbly was run like a social network — a ‘Twitter for voice’ — whereas Spoon Radio is focused on a consumption-based model that, as the name suggests, mirrors traditional radio.

“This is mobile consumer internet at its best,” Eric Kim, one of Goodwater Capital’s two founding partners, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Spoon Radio is taking an offline experience that exists in classic radio and making it even better.”

Kim admitted that when he first used the service he didn’t see the appeal — he claimed the same was true for Musical.ly — but he said he changed his tune after talking to listeners and using Spoon Radio. He said it reminded him of being a kid growing up in the U.S. and listening to radio shows avidly.

“It’s a really interesting phenomenon taking off in Asia because of smartphone growth and people being keen for content, but not always able to get video content. It was a net new behavior that we’d never seen before… Musical.ly was in the same bracket as net new content for the new generation, we’ve been paying attention to this category broadly,” Kim — whose firm’s other Korean investments include chat app giant Kakao and fintech startup Toss — explained.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Gmail for iOS and Android now lets you turn off conversation view

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When Gmail launched with its threaded conversation view feature as the default and only option, some people sure didn’t like it and Google quickly allowed users to turn it off. On mobile, though, you were stuck with it. But here’s some good news for you conversation view haters: you can now turn it off on mobile, too.

The ability to turn off conversation view is now rolling out to all Gmail app users on iOS and Android . So if you want Gmail to simply show you all emails as they arrive, without grouping them to”make them easier to digest and follow,” you’re now free to do so.

If you’ve always just left conversation view on by default, maybe now is a good time to see if you like the old-school way of looking at your email better. I personally prefer conversation view since it helps me keep track of conversations (and I get too many emails already), but it’s pretty much a personal preference.

To make the change, simply tap on your account name in the Settings menu and look for the “conversation view” check box. That’s it. Peace restored.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Japan’s Freee raises $60M to grow its cloud accounting business

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Japan-based accounting software company Freee, one of the country’s most-prominent startups, has raised a $60 million Series E funding round as it bids to expand its services into other areas of management for its customers.

Freee was founded six years ago — we wrote about the startup when it raised a Series A in 2013 — which makes it one of the ‘oldest’ startups in Japan, while this round is also a large one for the country, too. Japan’s startup ecosystem has a culture that encourages founders to take their companies’ public earlier than in most parts of the world, to mitigate some risk, but there are signs of alternative approaches that include this round and of course the recent IPO of Mercari, which went public this summer and raised over $1 billion.

“Japan is a country that respects precedent a lot,” Freee founder and CEO Daisuke Sasaki told TechCrunch in an interview. “Having present cases will change [the culture] a lot, we are staying private and investing in growth. The ecosystem isn’t changing [yet] but [startups, founders and VCs] now have more options.”

Free was one of the first Japanese startups to raise from overseas investors, a move that helped get Japanese VCs interested in enterprise and Saas, and this time around it has pulled in capital from a bunch of big names: Chat app company Line, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) — Japan’s largest bank — consumer credit firm Life Card and “several [unnamed] international institutional investors.”

DCM and Infinity Investments are among the startup’s earliest backers.

Today, Freee offers cloud-based accounting and HR software and it claims to have over one million business accounts. It has over 5,000 certified accountant advisors — who help it reach new customers and also use it for their own work — and the company said that over 3,500 apps and services, including mainly financial products, are integration with its software.

Going forward, Sasaki — who is a former Googler — said Freee will use this new capital to build out an API ecosystem to enable more integrations — some of its practical ones right now include Slack and Salesforce — while it is planning a major collaboration with Line to allow Line business customers to integrate their use of the app with Free, while it is exploring how it can collaborate around Line Pay.

Freee founder and CEO Daisuke Sasaki

Freee is also focused on expanding the scope of its services to branch out into products that help with more general management and operational tasks.

“We want to focus not only on back office but also to add value to customers to make their businesses better through dashboards, reporting and insight. Customers who use the [existing business] reports grow faster. Our vision is to give much better insight and business advice through AI [and] to do that we need more data, not just back office but front line too,” Sasaki said.

Finally, the startup is exploring ways it can enable banks and financial organizations to work more closely with its customer base. Already customers can share data within Freee to banks for assessment for loans and other credit products, and the company is exploring the potential to introduce a marketplace that would give its customers a place to scout out financial products at more preferential rates.

“Initially we focused on small business but now our biggest customers have a couple of hundred employees so we are going upmarket,” Sasaki told TechCrunch.

One area Freee won’t be moving into is overseas markets. Yet at least. Sasaki explained that the company wants to build out that vision of an expanded ecosystem of connected services and more in-depth business tools before branching out into new countries.

SmartHR, a younger rival to free which specializes in HR as the name suggests, raised $13.3 million earlier this year to push on into areas such as payroll and more. That could begin to pose a threat to Freee, particularly since SmartHR a developer platform to hose third-party applications and services.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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