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AI

Improving accuracy of computer vision models, Voxel51 raises $12.5M

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Computer vision AI models rely on having properly labeled data in order to infer the correct object. The challenge of helping to verify that data used for a model is accurate is one that Ann Arbor, Michigan-based startup Voxel51 is aiming to solve with open-source tools and a commercial service called FiftyOne Teams.

Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, which is where Voxel51 cofounder and CEO Jason Corso works as a professor, and where he got the idea to build the new company. Corso’s research focuses on computer vision applications like the relationship of video to natural language. In recent years, as computer vision adoption has grown so, too, has the size of the datasets.

“When I was a grad student, I had datasets that numbered in the dozens and I could look at every sample,” Corso told VentureBeat. “Now my students came along and they can’t look at a million samples; it’s just not possible, so the need for Voxel51 was born out of that.”

It’s a need that has found a reception in the marketplace and with investors. Today, the company announced that it has raised $12.5 million in series A funding from Drive Capital, Top Harvest and Shasta Ventures, as well as from existing investors eLab Ventures and ID Ventures, and the University of Michigan. 

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The challenge and opportunity of unstructured data for computer vision

Unstructured data takes many forms and includes any type of data that doesn’t fit into a specific data structure format (e.g., columns and rows). 

Among the most common forms of unstructured data is video content, which is growing exponentially as the number of cameras continues to grow globally. Getting value out of unstructured video data can happen in a number of different ways. Corso noted that there are technologies that help users to extract semantically meaningful information from images, such as simple tools that allow users to look for images taken in a certain location.

While there is no shortage of unstructured image data and large datasets used to help train computer vision models, ensuring accuracy is a challenge.

“Our whole shtick is that when datasets grew to be over 10 million samples, no one bothered to look at the images anymore,” Corso said.

What Voxel51 is doing is acting as a bridge between what a data engineer does when creating datasets, and what either that same engineer or their partner does when they’re training models. The Voxel51 technology supports visualizing annotations on image data and can be used to identify potential errors as well enabling users to compare the performance of different models.

Corso explained that Voxel51 enables users to semantically slice data to understand the correctness of a model. For example, via a Python API, a user can execute a query on a computer vision dataset to find all the images in which one model outperforms another, for images where there is a child running into the street.

Open source and the enterprise

Voxel51 started as an open-source product, but alongside the funding announcement, the company is officially launching its FiftyOne Teams enterprise offering, which provides commercial support and additional capabilities. 

The Voxel51 open-source project was first launched in August of 2020 and has grown over the past two years, with up to 150,000 monthly users. “The open-source project is built for a user with local data, where all the data is on a single system,” Corso said.

In contrast, the commercially supported FiftyOne Teams offering provides support for cloud data, as well as role-based access control (RBAC) to enable multiple users to use the same platform securely. Currently the commercial service is not offered as a fully managed cloud service, instead organizations will still need to run the technology on-premises or in their own cloud instances.

“We are envisioning a future in which, at least for certain types of customers, maybe startups who don’t want to go and deploy locally into their ecosystem, a managed service, but that will not be coming out for some time,” Corso said.

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Game

Sony raises PlayStation 5 pricing across the globe, but not in the US

Gamers who’ve yet to get the PS5 may have to pay more for the console when they do buy it. Sony Interactive Entertainment has raised the console’s prices in select markets due to “challenging economic conditions,” president and CEO Jim Ryan has announced on the PlayStation blog. The company had to make the difficult decision, he said, due to high global inflation rates, as well as currency fluctuations. PlayStation fans in the US can breathe easy — there will be no price hikes in the US for now. 

Ryan said Sony is increasing the recommended retail price for the console in Canada, Mexico, Europe, the UK, Middle East, Africa (EMEA), Latin America, China and Australia. In Japan, the new prices will take effect on September 15th. Both the disc and the digital versions will cost €50 more than their launch prices (€500 and €300, respectively) in Europe and £30 more than their original prices (£450 and £360) in the UK. The consoles will cost around ¥10,500 more in Japan, as well, where they originally sold for ¥49,980 and ¥39,980.

As a closer, Ryan said the price increase is a necessity “given the current global economic environment.” He promised, however, that Sony’s top priority remains improving the PS5’s supply so that more people can get it. The company said in May that it will finally be able to ramp up the console’s production, though it also said that its efforts may not be enough to fully meet the strong demand for the console until next year.

The PS5’s new prices in select markets are listed below. Take note that parts of EMEA, Latin America and Asia-Pacific will also be affected, and Sony recommends checking with local retailers for specifics.

  • Europe
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – €549.99
    PS5 Digital Edition – €449.99

  • UK
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – £479.99
    PS5 Digital Edition – £389.99

  • Japan (effective Sept. 15, 2022)
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – ¥60,478 yen (including tax)
    PS5 Digital Edition – ¥49,478 yen (including tax)

  • China
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – ¥4,299 yuan
    PS5 Digital Edition – ¥3,499 yuan

  • Australia
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – AUD $799.95
    PS5 Digital Edition – AUD $649.95

  • Mexico
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – MXN $14,999
    PS5 Digital Edition – MXN $12,499

  • Canada
    PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive – CAD $649.99
    PS5 Digital Edition – CAD $519.99

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Computing

Europe’s worst-ever DDoS attack raises serious questions

A record-breaking distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack situated within Europe was attempted during July, a new report has confirmed, but the lack of details on the target leaves the motive undetermined.

The largest DDoS attack ever detected in European-based regions was revealed by cybersecurity and cloud service firm Akamai, who said the target was one of its own customers.

Digital Trends Graphic

As reported by Bleeping Computer, the target, which is based in Eastern Europe, has been subjected to numerous DDoS attacks during the last 30 days. But we’re not really sure why this organization or individual was on the receiving end of this onslaught.

Akamai stated in its report that the attempt was recorded last week on July 21. Over the course of 14 hours, the attack peaked at a whopping 853.7 Gbps (gigabits per second), as well as 659.6 Mpps (million packets per second).

For reference, a DDoS attack is when a threat actor tries to overwhelm the target’s systems and effectively disable its operations by directing an unmanageable amount of traffic to that infrastructure.

Although Akamai understandably opted to not divulge information pertaining to who its client is, it confirmed that the unprecedented DDoS attack was prevented via mitigation methods it had in place.

The threat actor specifically concentrated its efforts on various specific IP addresses. As we touched on above, the attack itself was not an isolated, one-off incident. In fact, the target was connected to 75 DDoS attempts in July alone.

A large monitor displaying a security hacking breach warning.
Stock Depot/Getty Images

Hackers preferred to use the UDP (user datagram protocol) flood in its record-breaking DDoS attempt, which was discovered in both record spikes. They didn’t stop there, though. Its arsenal of tools included other methods, such as UDP fragmentation, ICMP flood, RESET flood, SYN requests flood, TCP anomaly, TCP fragment, PSH ACK flood, FIN push flood, and PUSH flood.

Akamai stated that a “highly-sophisticated global botnet” of infected devices orchestrated the DDoS attacks. Bleeping Computer highlights how this follows a trend of more capable botnets trying to execute DDoS attacks on a level that’s never been seen before.

For example, cloud services firm Cloudflare managed to prevent a DDoS incident that reached 26 million requests per second (RPS) in June, which represents the biggest such attack in history.

Hackers have been quite busy as of late, especially after the pandemic. DDoS attacks are on the rise, ransomware gangs are evolving, the number of attacks in general from threat actors is accelerating at an extremely aggressive rate, newly discovered malware is nearly impossible to remove, and hackers are moving faster than ever in regard to scanning vulnerabilities.

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Categories
Game

Summer Games Done Quick 2022 raises $3 million for charity

In its first in-person event since 2020, GDQ’s Summer Games Done Quick 2022 raised more than $3.01 million for Doctors Without Borders. In all, some of the world’s best speedrunners descended on Bloomington, Minnesota to complete 134 different playthroughs of games like Doom Eternal, Tunic and Control. Across seven days of programming, Games Done Quick collected more than 42,000 individual donations.

And while the final tally fell short of the record-breaking $3.4 million the organization secured for the Prevent Cancer Foundation at Awesome Games Done Quick at the start of the year, it was more than the $2.9 million raised during SGDQ 2021. This year’s event saw the departure of Kasumi “Sumichu” Yogi. For the past eight years, Yogi has served as GDQ’s director of marketing and business development, helping the organization grow into the community cornerstone that it is today. Games Done Quick’s next fundraiser, the all-women Flame Fatales showcase, starts on August 21st, with proceeds from the event slated to go to the Malala Fund.

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Categories
AI

Evisort embeds AI into contract management software, raises $100M

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For lawyers and the organizations that employ them, time is quite literally money. The business of contract management software is all about helping to optimize that process, reducing the time and money it takes to understand and manage contracts. 

As it turns out, there is big money in the market for contract management software as well. An increasingly integral part of the business is the use of AI-powered automation. To that end, today contract management vendor Evisort announced that it raised $100 million in a series C round of funding, bringing total funding to date up to $155.6 million. 

Evisort was founded in 2016 and raised a $15 million series A back in 2019. The company was founded by a team of Harvard Law and MIT researchers and discovered early on that there was a market opportunity for using AI to help improve workflow for contracts within organizations.

“If you think about it, every time a company sells something, buys something or hires somebody, there’s a contract,” Evisort cofounder and CEO Jerry Ting told VentureBeat. “Contract data really is everywhere.”

Contract management is a growing market

Evisort fits squarely into a market that analysts often refer to as contract lifecycle management (CLM). Gartner Peer Insights lists at least twenty vendors in the space, which includes both startups and more established vendors.

Among the large vendors in the space is DocuSign, which entered the market in a big way in 2020 with its $188 million acquisition of AI contract discovery startup Seal Software. Startups are also making headway, with SirionLabs announcing this week that it has raised $85 million to help add more AI and automation to its contract management platform.

The overall market for contract lifecycle management is set to grow significantly in the coming years, according to multiple reports. According to Future Market Insights, the global market for CLM in 2021 generated $936 million in revenue and is expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2029. MarketsandMarkets provides a more considerable number, with the CLM market forecast to grow to $2.9 billion by 2024.

Ting commented that while every organization has contracts, in this view many organizations still do not handle contracts with a digital system and rely on spreadsheets and email. That’s one of the key reasons why he expects to see significant growth in the CLM space as organizations realize there is a better way to handle contracts.

Integrating AI to advance the state of contract management

Evisort’s flagship platform uses AI to read contracts that users then upload into the software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based platform.

Ting explained that his company developed its own algorithm to help improve natural language processing and classification of important areas in contracts. Those areas could include terms of a deal, such as deadlines, rates and other conditions of importance for a lawyer who is analyzing a contract. Going a step further, Evisort’s AI will now also analyze the legal clauses in an agreement.

“We can actually pull the pertinent data out of a contract, instead of having a human have to type it into a different system,” Ting said. 

Once all the contract data is understood and classified, the next challenge that faces organizations is what to do with all the data. That’s where the other key part of Evisort’s platform comes into play, with a no-code workflow service. The basic idea with the workflow service is to help organizations collaborate on contract activities, including analysis and approvals.

What $100M of investment into AI will do for Evisort

With the new funding, Ting said that his company will continue to expand its go-to market and sales efforts. Evisort will also be investing in new AI capabilities that Ting hopes will democratize access to AI for contract management.

To date, he explained that Evisort’s AI works somewhat autonomously based on definitions that Evisort creates. With future releases of the platform, Ting wants to enable users to take Evisort’s AI and adjust and train the algorithm for specific and customized needs. The plan is to pair Evisort’s no-code capabilities into the future feature, in an approach that will make it easy for regular users and not just data scientists, to build AI capabilities to better understand and manage contracts.

“I think the 100 million dollar mark tells the market, hey, this company is a serious player and they’re here to stay,” Ting said. “It’s a scale-up, not a startup.”

The new funding round was led by TCV with participation from Breyer Capital as well as existing investors Vertex Ventures, Amity Ventures, General Atlantics and Microsoft’s venture capital fund M12.

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Categories
AI

Automated accounts payable platform Tipalti raises $270M

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Tipalti, a platform used by major enterprises to automate common accounts payable tasks, has raised $270 million in a series F round of funding, valuing the company at a cool $8.3 billion.

Accounts payable (AP) refers to any money owed by a company to its various suppliers. Processing and reviewing all internal and external transactions (e.g., paying invoices and reimbursing expenses), ensuring that all liabilities are met, is a resource-intensive process — one that typically requires a lot of manual data capture and management across various internal systems.

The accounts payable software market was pegged as a $8.77 billion market last year, a figure that’s predicted to more than double within seven years. And with Tipalti’s valuation more than quadrupling from the $2 billion at its previous fundraise last year, this serves to underscore the size of the pie Tipalti is chasing. Cofounder and CEO Chen Amit said that Tipalti’s target market constitutes nearly 700,000 companies, with only 4% of that currently penetrated.

“The addressable market is large, as solutions for payables and finance operations are not widely adopted, and none are as integrated as Tipalti’s approach,” Amit told VentureBeat. “Many organizations still struggle with manual processes. The pandemic’s impact on remote work and scalability issues also accelerated the need to turn finance processes into digital workflows — a trend that will not be reversible.”

Payments automation

Founded in 2010, Tipalti offers tools that enable companies such as Twitter, GoDaddy, and Twitch to automate most of their AP tasks, spanning invoice management, supplier management, a purchase order (PO) matching, payment reconciliation, tax compliance, fraud detection, and more. With invoices, for example, suppliers can upload their bills either through Tipalti’s portal or by email, and track the progress online. On the AP (i.e., payer’s) side, optical character recognition (OCR) serves to remove manual data entry, so that the details within all invoices are automatically extracted ready for review.

This automated workflow includes various smarts such as duplicate invoice alerts, which help ensure that a company doesn’t inadvertently pay the same invoice twice. And Tipalti also leans on machine learning (ML) to improve over time, so that if it detects frequent manual data overrides carried out by someone in AP, it will apply that similar logic to future invoices.

Elsewhere, Tipalti also uses historical and real-time data to carry out risk checks on payees — this includes establishing whether they are connected in any way to other blocked payees, for example, or whether there are multiple different accounts with the same associated payment or contact details.

High-velocity enterprises

Automation is playing an increasingly bigger role in the financial services and software sphere, with countless companies getting in on the act. Back in October, Stripe acquired Recko, a platform that automates the payments’ reconciliation process by comparing internal accounting records against external bank statements to ensure there are no discrepancies. And in the past year, we’ve seen businesses such as automated spend-management platform Ramp raise gargantuan sums at billion-dollar valuations.

Tipalti, for its part, had raised some $295 million before now, including its $150 million series E round last October. Today, the San Mateo, California-based company claims that it’s processing more than $28 billion in annual payments for two thousand-plus customers, representing a 100% year-on-year growth.

According to Amit, Tipalti’s focus is more on fast-growing, “high-velocity” enterprises, because they don’t want or have the kind of expenses and resources that larger enterprises typically consume on maintaining complex architectures, often constituting a mix of custom integrations and IT outlays.

“The key challenge our customers face is that they themselves would rather focus on something else — the product, sales, customer experience, and so on — than on the back-office and suppliers,” Amit explained. “And the back office must keep up with and enable the front office’s growth goals. They’re more modern in thinking, and adopt best-in-class, highly scalable solutions that don’t require a lot of maintenance.”

With another $270 million in the bank from backers including lead investor G Squared and funds managed by Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global, the company is well-positioned to “accelerate its product roadmap” and global expansion plans. This will include rolling out new ways to manage spending through a corporate credit card, as well as a feature that will help teams “use invoices as a point of social engagement,” according to Amit. This will be less about morphing into a social network than it will be about making it easier to glean answers from across an organization around “specific areas of spend.”

Looking further into the future, Amit said that the company plans to look beyond accounts payable. “We’ll be developing more product offerings that improve finance operations even more — right now, we’re focused on accounts payable as it is the least efficient process in finance, but we’re also expanding into other areas with the same approach,” Amit explained.

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AI

NewtonX raises $32M for AI that connects customers with subject-matter experts

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According to Forrester research, between 60% and 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. The challenge is often surfacing knowledge from people with experience in a particular field, who might be distributed throughout branches of an organization. The average large business loses $47 million in productivity each year as a result of inefficient knowledge sharing, according to Panopto. In fact, Panopto estimates that knowledge workers waste 5.3 hours each week either waiting for information from their colleagues or recreating existing knowledge.

The inefficiencies inspired Germain Chastel and Sascha Eder — former McKinsey analysts — to cofound NewtonX, which leverages search technologies to connect companies with subject-matter experts both inside and outside of the organization. NewtonX today announced that it raised $32 million in series B funding led by Marbruck Investments with participation from Gaingels and Level One Fund, which brings the company’s total raised to more than $45 million.

CEO Eder says that the new funds will be used to expand NewtonX’s headcount and further grow its technology platform. “We have grown 40 times since founding the company in 2017 and have plans to more than double revenue in 2022 and in 2023,” he told VentureBeat via email. “The company had several months at profitability, but is currently prioritizing growth over profitability. That being said, it’s great to have a clear path to it.”

Surfacing knowledge

Customers start with a business problem, which NewtonX turns into a custom search query across its database of 1.1 billion experts in 140 industries (e.g., “CRM software decision makers who work at Fortune 500 health care companies”). The database spans professional networks and third-party websites with publicly available professional profiles, like LinkedIn.

Once a list of experts who might be able to help with the problem are identified, NewtonX’s consultants craft personalized messages to pique the experts’ interest and verify the experts’ identities. To customers, NewtonX arranges in-person meetings and relays raw data, survey results from 10 to 10,000 respondents, and analyses from the experts that it ultimately contacts.

“[W]e start with one-on-one interviews and use those qualitative in-depth insights to inform a survey to refine the initial findings at scale and quantify them. Then we take the survey results and follow up with individual respondents who provided interesting insights to discuss further. Since every professional that works with NewtonX goes through a two-step ID check, we can reconnect with them to drive deeper learnings,” Eder explained. “Even though we’re a startup, we compete for business-to-business research projects against the leading market research companies who are often very established, large organizations. That’s because nearly all market research companies specialize in business-to-consumer, and they sometimes have difficulty with reaching business-to-business audiences.”

To prevent conflicts of interest and breaches of confidentiality, NewtonX says it’s implemented a system that allows organizations to register guidelines concerning any consulting activity. Automated tools handle expert consultation scheduling and billing.

A growing network

While 98% of leaders acknowledge the need for high-quality data, only 51% say they have access to the data they need, according to Experian.

NewtonX claims to have provided insights into fields as disparate as quantum computing, the oil industry, fashion, and titanium ore extraction. For one client, it set up 10 videoconferencing sessions with data monetization experts to answer questions about best practices. For another, it recruited a team of engineers and salespeople to develop strategies around the virtual reality market.

NewtonX competes with Zurich-based Starmind, which has a platform that automatically forwards questions to domain experts within companies. Another rival, GrowthEnabler, connects large corporations with people and companies that match their needs.

But NewtonX claims its roughly 200 customers include “decision-makers at top institutional investment firms,” Fortune 500 enterprises, financial services firms, banks, big tech companies (including Microsoft, Pinterest, and Fortune), and consultancies. The 75-person company grew 100% in size year-over-year and has plans to hire over 200 employees by the end of 2022.

“We fared well despite the pandemic. Our work easily transferred to a remote setting because of the way we already managed the fielding and delivery of surveys and interviews in a remote and digital setting,” Eder said. “As a lot of businesses were being very careful with their resources, we saw an uptick in research requests. Companies were taking more calculated risks with their budgets. They were willing to spend real dollars on solid research to be sure about their decision, before launching a new product or initiative with millions on the line.”

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AI

Simpro raises $350M as demand grows for field service automation software

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Field service management, which refers to the management of jobs performed in the field (e.g., telecom equipment repair), faces continued challenges brought on by the pandemic. While the number of customer service inquiries has increased as enterprises have adopted remote work arrangements, worker availability has decreased. Forty-seven percent of field service companies say that they’re having trouble finding enough quality technicians and drivers to meet business goals, according to a Verizon survey. The shortfall in the workforce has increased the burden on existing staff, who’ve been asked to do more with fewer resources.

Against this backdrop, Simpro, a field service management software company based in Brisbane, Australia, today announced that it raised $350 million from K1 Investment Management with participation from existing investor Level Equity. The new funding brings Simpro’s total capital raised to nearly $400 million, which CEO Sean Diljore says will be put toward product development and customer support with a particular focus on global trade and construction industries.

Simpro also revealed today that it acquired ClockShark, a time-sheeting and scheduling platform, as well as AroFlo, a job management software provider. The leadership teams of Simpro, ClockShark, and AroFlo will operate independently, Diljore says, including continued work on existing services.

How to Set Up Maintenance Planner | simPRO

Above: Simpro’s maintenance-planning dashboard.

“This investment marks the next stage of Simpro’s exciting growth journey. Our mission is to build a world where field service businesses can thrive,” Diljore said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to welcome ClockShark and AroFlo to the Simpro family. Both companies are leaders in their spaces and have incredibly valuable product offerings that will benefit our combined customer bases and help our customers increase revenue. We look forward to growing together and building a range of solutions for the field service and construction industries.”

Managing field service workers

Field service workers feel increasingly overwhelmed by the amount of tasks employers are asking them to complete. According to a study by The Service Council, 75% of field technicians report that work has become more complex and that more knowledge — specifically more technical knowledge — is needed to perform their jobs now versus when they started in field service. Moreover, 70% say that both customer and management demands have intensified during the health crisis.

Simpro, which was founded in 2002 by Curtis Thomson, Stephen Bradshaw, and Vaughan McKillop, claims to offer a solution in software that eases the burden on field workers and their managers. The company’s platform provides quoting, job costing, scheduling, and invoicing tools in addition to capabilities for reporting, billing, testing assets, and planning preventative maintenance.

Bradshaw, a former electrical contractor, teamed up with McKillop, an engineering student, in the early 2000s to build the prototype for Simpro in the early 2000s. Working out of Bradshaw’s garage, they started with the development of job list functionality before adding new features, including a scheduling tool for allocating resources.

Today, Simpro supports over 5,500 businesses in the security, plumbing, electrician, HVAC, and solar and data networking industries. It has more than 200,000 users worldwide and more than 400 employees in offices across Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.

An expanding product

With Simpro, which integrates with existing software including accounting and HR analytics software, customers can use digital templates to build estimates and convert quotes into jobs. From a dashboard, they can schedule field service workers based on availability and job status, plus perform inventory tracking, connect materials to jobs, and send outstanding invoices.

Diljore expects the purchases of ClockShark and AroFlo to bolster Simpro’s suite in key, strategic ways. ClockShark, a Chico, California-based company founded by brothers Cliff Mitchell and Joe Mitchell in 2013, delivers an app that lets teams clock in and out while recording the timesheet data needed for payroll and job costing. Ringwood, Australia-based AroFlo, on the other hand, provides job management features including field service automation, work scheduling, geofencing, and GPS tracking.

Reece is now available for Automatic Catalog and Invoice Sync | simPRO

AroFlo and ClockShark claim to have over 2,200 and 8,000 customers, respectively. AroFlo’s business is largely concentrated in Australia and New Zealand, where it says that over 25,000 workers use its platform for asset maintenance, compliance, and inventory across plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and facilities management.

Somewhat concerningly from a privacy standpoint, AroFlo offers what it calls a “driver management” feature that uses RFID technology as a way of logging which field service worker are driving which work vehicles. Beyond this, AroFlo allows companies to track the current and historical location of devices belonging to their field workers throughout the workday.

While no federal U.S. statutes restrict the use of GPS by employers nor force them to disclose whether they’re using it, workers have mixed feelings. A survey by TSheets showed that privacy was the third-most important concern of field service workers who were aware that their company was tracking their GPS location.

In its documentation, AroFlo suggests — but doesn’t require — employers to “speak to [field] users about GPS tracking.”

Aroflo GPS lets you monitor your field technicians across the entire day,” the company writes on its website. “You’ll always know where they are, what they’re working on, and when they finish.”

A spokesperson told VentureBeat via email: “Simpro will continue offering GPS services and also has its own vehicle GPS tracking add-on, SimTrac. Implementation of GPS fleet tracking can help reduce risks, remain compliant with licenses and vehicle upkeep, and reduce costs in the business. It also benefits the technicians by improving their safety, spending less time in traffic and improving time management. Overall, GPS tracking provides improved visibility of staff and understanding of their location, introduces opportunities to reduce costs associated with travel, schedule smarter and even improve driver safety (by limiting their need to race across to another side of town to complete a job).”

A growing field

The field service management market is rapidly expanding, expected to climb from $2.85 billion in value in 2019 to $7.10 billion in 2026. While as many as 25% of field service organizations are still using spreadsheets for job scheduling, an estimated 48% were using field management software as of 2020, Fieldpoint reports. Customer demand is one major adoption driver. According to data from ReachOut, 89% of customers want to see “modern, on-demand technology” applied to their technician scheduling, and nearly as many would be willing to pay top dollar for it.

“The pandemic made many business owners realize how crucial it is to have the right technology in place for remote work. Trades businesses couldn’t afford to abandon projects or lose out on service and maintenance calls because of delayed response times or drawn-out time to complete,” Diljore told VentureBeat via email. “For these businesses, cloud-based software became a necessity for survival when previously it was a ‘nice to have.’”

Simpro competes with Zinier, which last January raised $90 million to automate field service management via its AI platform. The company has another rival in Workiz, a field service management and communication startup, as well as augmented reality- and AI-powered work management platform TechSee.

According to Tracxn, of the over 3,400 companies developing “field force automation” solutions (which include customer service tracking, order management, routing optimization, and work activity monitoring), more than 700 attracted a cumulative $5.8 billion from investors from 2018 to 2020.

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AI

Rescale raises $50M more to meet demand for high-performance compute

Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


San Francisco, California-based Rescale, a startup developing compute infrastructure for scientific research simulations, today announce that it raised $105 million in an expanded series C that included Jeff Bezos, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Richard Branson, Paul Graham, and Peter Thiel. The proceeds bring the company’s total capital raised to $155 million, which CEO Joris Poort says will be put toward growing Rescale’s platform, service offerings, and workforce.

Workloads across scientific R&D often benefit from hybrid cloud and on-premises computing technologies. Powerful computers allow researchers to undertake high volumes of calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics, and molecular modeling — many of which would take months on traditional computing platforms. But less than 20% of high-performance compute (HPC) workloads currently run in the cloud. Even today, cloud adoption in the science and engineering community remains largely on-premises, relegated to private datacenters.

Founded in 2011 by Poort and Adam McKenzie, former aerospace engineers at Boeing, Rescale enables organizations to run scientific simulations on public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, and Oracle. The company’s network spans 8 million servers with over 80 specialized architectures and resources like Nvidia Tesla P100 GPUs, Intel Skylake processors, and over 1TB RAM, delivering a combined a 1,400 petaflops of compute.

“Traditionally, HPC was limited to massive players with massive capital spending budgets to buy and build the latest clusters on-premises,” Rescale chief product officer Ed Hsu told VentureBeat via email. “Now, workloads can run across multiple public clouds and Rescale charges for use — not upfront — for physical purchase of machines and computing infrastructure.”

Scaling up compute resources

Whether they leverage compute from Rescale’s infrastructure or from a third-party provider, Rescale customers gain access to software that supports simulation for aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, life sciences, electronics, academia, and machine learning. The company delivers both on-demand and long-term computing environments and pricing, allowing customers to launch single batch jobs, optimization jobs, and large designs of experiments with programmatic bursting.

Beyond this, Rescale helps to manage on-premises HPC resources, schedulers, and software licenses as well as the transfer, organization, and storage of simulation input and output files.

One of Rescale’s more unique features is its recommendation engine, which leverages the metadata from millions of workloads, tens of thousands of apps, and hundreds of compute architectures. Trained on billions of computational core hours, the engine provides suggestions for optimizing performance across different compute clusters.

“[We] see our main competitors as legacy datacenter on-premises clusters,” Hsu said. “[Rescale] creates a long-tail opportunity for AI and machine learning workloads, since it’s an operating expense and delivers supercomputing capabilities. AI and machine learning benefits from access to the newest chip technologies, fast I/O, and compute that Rescale delivers on its platform; AI can be used on Rescale to abstract many aspects of computing to run their workloads.”

Growth segment

Some analysts forecast an annual HPC market spend of more than $60 billion by 2025, with HPC cloud services showing a compound annual growth rate of nearly 80%. The broad HPC market finished 2020 at $38.9 billion in revenue, down just 0.2% from 2019, according to Intersect360 Research.

Workloads in the scientific research and development category — Rescale’s bread and butter — were estimated to be worth $185 billion in 2020.

Since its most recent February funding round, Rescale claims that it’s added over a hundred new customers and expanded its software catalog to more than 800 apps. The company’s client base now stands at 200 enterprise subscribers and 400 subscribers overall, including several Fortune 50 businesses.

In 2020, Google and Microsoft kicked off a program with the startup to offer resources at no cost to teams working to develop COVID-19 testing and vaccines. Rescale provides the platform that researchers launch experiments and record results on, while Google and Microsoft supply the backend computing resources.

“Rescale believes it is doubling the size of the HPC market with its platform,” Hsu added. “[The pandemic has caused an uptick] in in life sciences [especially] as new customers [have] embraced the platform to accelerate drug discovery.”

Rescale’s latest funding round also included participation from Fort Ross Ventures, Gaingels, Gopher, Hitachi Ventures, Initialized Capital, Keen Venture Partners, Microsoft M12, Nautilus Venture Partners, Nvidia, Prometheus Capital, Republic Labs, Samsung Catalyst Fund, Solasta Ventures, Yield Capital Partners, and more. The company currently has 200 workers and expects to grow that number to 300 in a year.

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Deliverr raises $250M to grow its ecommerce fulfillment network

Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


While ecommerce sales are on the rise — with revenue projected to increase from $2.3 billion in 2018 to $4.5 billion by the end of 2021 — fulfillment remains a challenge as the pandemic snarls the supply chain. As early as July, a U.S. Census Bureau survey f0und that 38.8% of U.S. small businesses were experiencing domestic supplier delays. Shoppers tend not be very understanding of of disruptions, unfortunately, with 38% saying that they’ll abandon their order if the delivery is estimated to take longer than a week.

Against this backdrop, Deliverr, an ecommerce fulfillment startup headquartered in San Francisco, today announced that it raised $250 million in series E funding, bringing its total raised to over $500 million. The round, which was led by Tiger Global with participation from 8VC, Activant, GLP, Brookfield Technology Partners, and Coatue, values Deliverr at $2 billion post-money.

CEO Harish Abbott says that the proceeds will be put toward growing Deliverr’s shipping network, supporting product development, and expanding headcount.

“The most effective way to address supply chain congestion is to move inventory closer to the end customer. Deliverr is the only company working to solve this problem through stronger inventory placement, while leveraging cutting-edge machine learning and optimization technology to build a smarter fulfillment network,” Abbott said in a press release. “With this new capital, Deliverr will focus on scaling next-day fulfillment for ecommerce merchants and grow our world-class team of engineers, data scientists, and operations experts.”

AI-powered fulfillment

Deliverr was cofounded by former Symphony Commerce colleagues Abbott and Michael Krakaris in 2017. Prior to Symphony, Krakaris spend time working with product marketing teams at Twilio. Abbot was the chief product officer at Lulu.com and a senior program manager at Amazon.

Using predictive analytics and machine learning, Deliverr anticipates the demand for products based on demographics, geography, and other variables. The platform then uses the analysis to “pre-position” items close to areas of demand, stocking items across a network of over 80 warehouses, cross-docks, and sort centers.

Deliverr

Deliverr rents out — rather than purchases — warehouse space, using warehouses’ fulfillment departments to pick and pack ecommerce orders. The company’s software determines which products to send to which warehouses and then finds the best delivery method to ship to customers, with either two-day or next-day delivery guarantees.

Deliverr’s platform integrates with retailers’ listing tools and allows managers to explore cost previews for each SKU in their catalog. It also syncs with sales channels so that orders flow in automatically.

Growth market

One in three companies claim to have incorporated AI capabilities like those offered by Deliverr into their supply chain management processes and one in four is working toward that goal, a study from Symphony RetailAI found. A separate report suggests that within the next two years, retailers plan to upgrade their predictive inventory planning, predictive labor planning, and robotic systems for picking and material handling.

Deliverr is a beneficiary of the tech boom. The company’s network — which Deliverr claims is within 100 miles of half of the U.S. population — is on track to power a more than $2.5 billion gross merchandise volume (GMV) run rate by the end of 2021. (For retailers, GMV refers to the average sale price per item charged to a customer multiplied by the number of items sold.) Current customers include large retailers on marketplaces from Shopify, Walmart, Amazon, eBay, and Target.

The explosive growth of online sales is expected to drive the ecommerce fulfillment services market to $86.44 billion in value this year, according to Grand View Research. Deliverr competes with on-demand logistics and fulfillment startup Flowspace, Bringg, ShipBob, Bond, and Shippo, among others.

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