November 2020 Insider Report
What a difference a month makes. Things were bleak in the last Insider Report: fires and pandemic with no end in sight and Covid-19 cases spiking against a backdrop of pre-election stress. This month we learned about multiple vaccines (with high efficacy rates) on the horizon, the fires have ended or subsided, bitcoin roared, DJIA hit a new record high, online retail sales records shattered, many parts of the world have the pandemic under control, and at least for most of us the election is over.
Too positive? Well, millions are sick or dead from Covid-19, businesses are still closing, unemployment is still high, mass evictions and foreclosures are expected, lockdowns are increasing, the economic outlook is grim, and the pandemic case rate is expected to explode in December.
Regarding enterprise communications, despite the short month (light during election week and then again during Thanksgiving week), there were some interesting developments, esp. in the M&A department. The most interesting event this month wasn’t directly enterprise comms related — Apple’s M1 processor. I’m not an Apple person, but this is bigger than Apple. What resonates is a new era of computing, one I was prematurely calling last year. I’m talking about the end of x86.
The x86 chips that have been powering PCs for 40 years are mostly produced by Intel and AMD. The new M1 chip is produced by Apple, Arm, and TSMC. The Arm architecture is customized via licensing, which invites innovation. Arm speeds are advancing much faster than we’ve seen from x86.
The M1 is known as a system on a chip (SoC). It puts the CPU, GPU, memory, and IO on one chip. It has an 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 16 core neural engine, and built-in system IO capabilities (Thunderbolt). Apple claims the M1 delivers a 3.5x faster CPU, 6x faster GPU, and 15x faster machine learning, and does so with half the (battery) power in a smaller chip. Like iOS devices, apps optimized for the M1 can ramp performance up and down while using less RAM. Early reviews indicate the M1 MacBook Air is as powerful as the current top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. I can’t wait for the M2.
All of the apps I use are available for my smartphone; only some are available for my PC. The primary value my PC delivers is form factor, esp. large screens and keyboards. There have been some big-screen solutions for mobile, like Samsung DeX, but the better answer is to bring the mobile ecosystem to the desktop.
Apple is again teaching the industry that great software companies make hardware. Apple is now bringing the chip design (what it has been doing on mobile) to the Mac. The result is speed: faster video conferencing, games, image processing, web pages, and more. The M1 is significant enough that reuse of the basic MacBook design is fine. Except for the webcam! It frustrates me that even high-end laptops are still using 720 webcams.
Apple will get a lot of credit for its bold and innovative move, but my blogging colleague Colin thinks the story is really more about Intel being disrupted. Intel finally cured its paranoia with complacency. It failed to shift to SoC designs, didn’t invest in 5nm design, and insisted on doing both design and manufacturing.
Half of the Wintel duopoly is in serious trouble. The other half is distancing itself as quickly as it can. Microsoft is not that reliant on Intel anymore. Office 365, Edge, Android/iOS support, and Azure are Intel independent. There’s even an Arm-powered SurfacePro with a limited version of Windows.
Ironically, The Innovator’s Dilemma, the book about disruptive technologies, was about semiconductors — and here we go again. For more, see Goodreads below.
Here’s what else happened in enterprise communications this month.
|Real-Time, Recorded is a new weekly short video about industry news. Sometimes news can’t wait for the newsletter. Dave Michels and Zeus Kerravala provide what you need to know in a weekly short video discussion.
Also, check out this video on the 2020 Turkeys of Enterprise Communications.
Google VPN? Google launched a VPN subscription service on Android. It will certainly protect you from various Internet threats, esp. shared Wi-Fi, but it offers questionable privacy. Of course, Google will see usage details. Google promises it won't analyze your data, but there’s plenty of private information in the headers.
Facebook got into the VPN business with Onavo. Supposedly, the data Onavo (since discontinued) collected revealed increasing popularity in WhatsApp and Instagram — which Facebook then acquired. “It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to present people with a privacy tool whose purpose was to gain their data,” author Steven Levy observes in his new book Facebook: The Inside Story.
Bye Pai: FCC chair Ajit Pai has announced he will leave the agency on January 20. He could continue as a commissioner, but traditionally the party in control of the presidency names the chair.
Pai's tenure was a parade of industry-cozy policies, bad data, and a lot of lies. He joined the FCC after working for Verizon. I am sure he’s welcome to return. The FCC is considered to be an independent agency with five commissioners (no more than three from one political party) who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Trump had already nominated Nathan Simington as a new FCC commissioner, and he’s expected to be confirmed soon.
Pai was effective: He destroyed net neutrality and other anti-competitive protections. He promised that change would result in significant investment, job growth, and innovation — none of which materialized. It took ingenuity beyond lies to get rid of net neutrality, like blocking legal inquiries and making up identities that championed the changes. He then reversed all those arguments later in order to attack social media’s protections from Section 230. He even managed to shift FCC responsibilities to the FTC despite it not having appropriate resources or authority.
Regarding net neutrality, its elimination is still not complete. The courts returned some aspects to the FCC regarding consumer protection and public safety. Pai’s FCC just voted to ignore the court’s requests and move ahead with its "Restoring Internet Freedom" repeal without changes.
Pai was very supportive of mergers. Pai argued the Sprint/T-Mobile merger would speed up the rollout of 5G. He took a hands-off approach to the Time Warner/AT&T merger (despite DoJ concerns) and championed the proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company (which didn’t occur).
Professional Procurement: The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act was unanimously passed by the House in September and by the Senate in November. It requires the federal procurement and use of IoT devices that meet basic security requirements to be defined by NIST. It’s the power of the purse. When the US refuses to buy substandard stuff, it causes an industry to clean up.
Masergy SASE: As more see UCaaS as a commodity, Masergy is turning to networking and security as its means of differentiation. I know that SASE is Secure Access Service Edge, but I can’t help but think of Keyser Söze. The very mention of the name Söze curdles the blood of the tough usual suspects. If you didn’t follow that, it’s not your fault. Anway, Masergy has integrated multiple market-leading security capabilities with its SD-WAN service to create a converged network and security solution. It’s nice to see this come together. Masergy began working on this before the surge in demand.
Microsoft’s Surveillance Gambit: I touched on this in the last Insider Report, but I was a bit early. Awareness over Microsoft’s Productivity Score is slowly increasing. Most people have an inkling that Facebook and Google attempt to monitor everything we do. It’s largely accepted “in exchange for better ads.” Most don’t realize just how much information those companies gather, but that’s a different post. Now, this approach to surveillance is coming to the office.
Microsoft’s Productivity Score is being rolled out, and it’s turned on by default. It’s pushing normal surveillance to a new level. It tracks activities and interactions across Office 365 (Office, Exchange, Edge, OneDrive, Yammer, and Teams) and compiles these behaviors into leaderboards that attempt to show relative “productivity” of each employee.
There’s definitely some good stuff here. For example, Microsoft can identify people who may be vulnerable to burnout. By the way, if you work for me there’s a problem if you aren’t near burnout, but that’s another story. There are also a few concerns. For example, what Microsoft chooses to measure will likely have a distorting effect on workplace behavior. Remember Goodhart’s Law: Any measure becomes a target and then ceases to be a useful measure.
Productivity is a bit of a misnomer. Microsoft is measuring activities, not quality. There’s also a privacy issue here — a complex one, given that work data belongs to the employer. I doubt that it’s legal in some European countries; it will be up to IT staff to determine whether they are in compliance. The data collection is presented as a tool for managers, but the data is also shared with Microsoft. The lure here is an industry-wide comparison feature. You get more charts, and Microsoft gets fine-grained data on company operations across numerous industries and regions — data it can sell, mine, exploit, or lose. Microsoft will be creating a big data treasure trove of work behaviors.
I’ve heard some claim that Productivity Score is really just a reporting engine. IT administrators can already track how many emails you send, meetings you attend, etc. Admins can tell how employees use company-provided tools. While there’s some truth there, this is much more granular. It’s not just how many emails one may send, but to whom (and presumably the sentiment).
For example, let’s take all the 1s (employee ratings) and see the frequency (and sentiment) of emails and Teams chats sent before and after team meetings, and then compare that to the performance of 5s. Perhaps if there is a correlation, we can use frequency (and sentiment) of team interactions to predict performance. Basically, the types of measures that call center agents work under are going enterprise-wide.
Productivity tracking is going to happen. It’s another feature of this pandemic. Remote work is here to stay and requires new measures. However, I’d prefer this monitoring to be more contained. Zoom has an attention-tracking feature that is contained to screen sharing in meetings. When the meeting is over, Zoom stops measuring attention. The Prodoscore app is broad across communication channels, but typically contained to communications roles such as a sales team. This Microsoft app basically covers all MS tools at an organization — across tasks, projects, teams, and more. That’s another problem: you might have some low productivity explaining to do if you get some things done in a non-MS tool. There were several articles on this in November. Also, see this Tweet Thread.
Grandstream announced the release of a new HD Video Conferencing Endpoint for its IPVideoTalk Meetings platform. The GVC3212 mounts on a TV and runs on Grandstream’s IPVideoTalk Meeting service. It provides up to 720p HD video and comes equipped with integrated dual microphones. It includes built-in dual-band Wi-Fi and supports Miracast and AirPlay.
Zoom Ups Work: Zoom meetings are now integrated into gig marketplace provider Upwork. First, this integrated communication makes a lot of sense in an app like Upwork. I’ve used Upwork many times, and often it’s necessary to resort to real-time communications to clarify communications. Upwork lives in the browser, and it’s fascinating to me how Zoom has completely overcome its WebRTC deficiency.
Ooma Meetings: Ooma (finally) announced availability of the Ooma Meetings as part of its Ooma Office Pro business phone service. Ooma Meetings allows multiple users to share their screens simultaneously. Participants can click on the shared screen of their choice to easily view it in the main window. Desktop and laptop users run meetings in the browser.
Star2Star Remote Meetings: Star2Star announced that its Video Meetings platform has been verified as Citrix Ready. Since most thin clients have browsers, why bother? Good question. It depends on whether you look at thin clients from a desktop or server POV. Running an app through Citrix also brings with it management and security benefits. Video is tricky because parts of the client run on a remote server and the AV IO is local.
Cisco Webex also became VDI certified this month. Cisco was actually very quiet. Presumably, they were holding everything for WebexOne in December.
Neat Upgrades: Neat announced a bunch of updates to the firmware on all three of its products. New features/capabilities include a new Music mode that accommodates voice and music at the same time, improved exposure capabilities on the camera, and expanded Wi-Fi support. Admins cannot remotely access devices.
Amazon Chime Has a New Tune: Chime started as an app, but has slowly turned into a developer toolkit. Mitel was the trailblazer here as it used Chime APIs to create its video collaboration app. This month the Chime SDK received a number of major improvements, including Alexa-ready noise suppression capabilities that were added to the SDK, support for PSTN calling, and support for persistent messaging.
New in Teams Meetings: Slowing but steady updates to the Teams meeting experience; AI-based noise suppression feature; more Together Mode shared backgrounds, polls, and the ability to start an instant meeting from mobile; Yealink A20 now supported for Huddle rooms; Together Mode now supported on Surface Hub; and MTR and Surface Hub also got a few updates including support for new gallery views and dual screens.
Do You Speak AWS? Amazon updates Connect with a few additional languages. Amazon Lex chatbots now speak French (Canadian French too), Spanish, and Italian. Customers can perform tasks such as changing a password, requesting a balance on an account, or scheduling an appointment using natural conversational language. Also, the Amazon Connect VTI Adapter for Salesforce now supports Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Italian, German, (Simplified/Traditional) Chinese, and Japanese.
Connect now also supports interactive messages. For example, customers can choose a recent order they need help with or select their preferred appointment time from a list of options simply by clicking on it. Powered by Amazon Lex, interactive messages allow you to create personalized, self-service experiences.
Edify Scripts: Edify Labs announced its Workflows tool has been upgraded with new dynamic scripting capabilities. Contact center agents are guided through scripts that dynamically update in real time. No coding is necessary with Edify’s drag and drop interface. This RPA solution checks all three boxes we repeatedly see in the contact centers: lowering costs, decreased tech reliance, and increased personalization.
Easy IVR: Intermedia announced the launch of Easy-IVR, a wizard-based tool that builds interactive voice response systems (IVRs). Easy-IVR is offered as part of Intermedia Contact Center's Pro and Elite packages and is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, and French. Presumably, the service is also available to NEC Univerge Blue CCaaS subscribers.
Intrado Telemedicine: This is a clever mashup of existing techs into a new vertical service. Intrado announced interactive healthcare communication tools for telemedicine. The new HIPAA-compliance services deliver three components: chatbots, curbside check-ins, and virtual visits. Intrado is building a notifications platform that connects patients with healthcare providers through an automated multichannel communications solution.
When it rains, it pours Magic Quadrants. Gartner recently issued the Meetings MQ, UCaaS MQ, and CCaaS MQ nearly back-to-back. I do enjoy the MQs and love writing about them. I wrote thoughts on UCaaS on NoJitter, covered Meetings on TalkingPointz, and I’ll share my CCaaS thoughts in this Insider Report. There’s a lot to say.
This year the CCaaS MQ is a single report. This differs from last year when there were separate CCaaS MQs for North America (NA) and Western Europe (WE). Gartner is reducing the number of regional MQs it produces, and this report notes that “organizations are starting to consolidate to a single CCaaS provider for operations in multiple regions.”
In 2019, the WE report only had eight providers, and NA had nine. Only three providers (NICE inContact, Talkdesk, and Vonage) appeared in both. To create a consolidated report, the analysts had to get creative regarding inclusion criteria. As a result, 13 providers made it into the combined report.
The core requirement was that providers be viable in both WE and NA plus one other region. Other inclusion requirements included a public multi-tenant offer, revenue thresholds, and a focus on inbound calls.
Changes to inclusion requirements and category weightings typically occur every year, but this consolidated report is more than that. This year the revised inclusion rules accommodate DevOps solutions. AWS, but not Twilio, made the cut. Workline also makes its first appearance in an MQ CCaaS. Aspect, Puzzle, and Telia, included in 2019, didn’t make 2020. There were also big changes in dot placements or quadrants for Content Guru, Five9, Lifesize, Odigo, and Vonage. The changes in providers, criteria, and weighting are so significant that there’s very little value in comparing the 2020 report with either 2019 report.
Multitenancy: The first elephant in the room we need to address is Gartner’s rule that CCaaS systems must be multi-tenant. Many of the largest and most sophisticated contact centers remain single-tenant. Excluding a large percentage of the CC market (and vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, and a good chunk of Genesys) may seem odd for a report aimed at enterprise buyers.
This is complex, but I have a theory about the multi-tenant rule. We are seeing the same in UC and UCaaS, and it really has nothing to do with the feature of multitenancy at all. Multitenancy is more important to analysts than customers. Not only does it provide a means of normalization, but it also is reasonably indicative of modern CCaaS architecture. Multi-tenant systems are generally faster to implement, evergreen, always OpEx, offer greater scalability, and usually involve fewer professional services. Additionally, these cloud-native systems are typically browser-based, support flexible networking options, and offer integrated app marketplaces.
Premises-based and hybrid solutions are relatively mature. Gartner covers them in its Market Guide for Contact Center Infrastructure (CCI). The related MQ was retired last year. The rationale is that these single-tenant solutions receive less R&D. The market for these solutions is not expanding; deployments are maintained, consolidated, or replaced with multi-tenant solutions. However, don’t confuse that trend with the end of a lifecycle. These single-tenant solutions will be around for a long time.
I’d like to see this report acknowledge these single-tenant alternatives. One can review this MQ and fail to realize that a larger CC world even exists. There is innovation occurring in single-tenant services, which remains the norm for the world’s largest contact centers. In this regard, Genesys gets an implied endorsement because it (the company) is in the Leaders quadrant while its primary competitors can’t be. To be clear, Genesys made this MQ for Genesys Cloud, not its Engage multi-cloud solution.
Getting the Message: Two of the most interesting points were buried near the end of the CCaaS MQ. The first has to do with the importance of a digital-first approach to CX. The analysts state that better customer experiences are possible in digital channels versus voice. They feel so strongly about this that they suggest that investments in digital customer service and support technologies may offer better results than upgrading legacy contact center solutions.
That’s a thought-provoking claim and a nudge to providers to offer and promote standalone tools for digital channels. As with UCaaS, many of the providers bundle their services around voice. Both sectors need to embrace unbundled communications offers, and customer prospects should consider acquiring a la carte solutions. A comprehensive solution is best, but leading with digital creates a low-cost upgrade opportunity.
That said, this MQ isn’t geared toward digital interactions. It actually specifies that included providers earn at least 50% of their CCaaS revenue from inbound voice. CPaaS providers (Vonage, Twilio), bot providers (Kustomer), and even the CRMs offer rich digital-first solutions for customer engagement.
Messaging is similarly effective with employee engagement. The report authors stressed the importance of workstream collaboration apps (such as Teams, Slack, and others) to facilitate collaborative customer service. The pandemic truly highlighted the importance of team messaging (and conferencing) for all kinds of employees, including agents.
The concepts here are not new. We often hint at them with the term “digital transformation.” The contact center, like many other workflows, is weaning itself from voice. It’s not that voice is going away, but there’s a growing argument that the ACD (and voice) should no longer be the center of a (provider’s or customer’s) contact center strategy.
The Providers: Here are a few notes regarding the vendors and their placements. As with all MQs, it is important to note that the MQ CCaaS represents a provider ranking based on certain requirements and weights. For example, remove the requirement for multitenancy or even a European presence, and the eligible providers, as well as where they land on the chart, would be different. There’s also the issue that every vendor’s dot placement is impacted by the competitors as MQs show relative positioning.
This particular study put a lot of emphasis on NA and WE coverage. It is impressive how much these providers are expanding geographic coverage. NA + WE coverage worked well for Talkdesk (split between Portugal and the US) but not so well for Five9 (mostly NA with some coverage in the UK). Five9 had strong enough European services to be included in the report, but came up short on the Vision axis to make the Leaders Quadrant. Five9 publicly responded to Gartner with the implication that its seat count and revenue in WE were lower than Gartner’s requirements. There was a minimum requirement of $30M in CCaaS revenue for report inclusion, but to my knowledge there are no specific limits for separate quadrants. Regardless, revenue goes toward Execution and where Five9 scored well. Four providers (AWS, Content Guru, Five9, and Odigo) were placed very close to the Leaders quadrant. There won’t be seven Leaders next year, so expect additional hurdles to clear in 2021.
RingCentral was not included in this report. I assume that’s because its CCaaS is powered by NICE inContact. However, a big part of its value proposition is the tight integration with RingCentral Office. It’s a similar situation with the UCaaS MQ not including Verizon’s One Talk. It uses a customized version of Cisco BroadWorks. In both cases, the providers use their own branding. I speculated in this recent RingCentral Research Note that the provider will soon launch its own CCaaS. RingCentral checks a lot of CCaaS boxes, including WE and NA reach, team messaging, digital channels, and inbound and outbound services.
The final point I’d like to make is that this MQ is filled with small providers. Other than AWS, any of these providers could be easily acquired. This is Amazon’s first appearance in the CCaaS MQ, and it’s already pretty close to the Leader’s Quadrant. I expect some significant disruptions over the next few years, and would not be surprised to see names like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, or Salesforce appear in future versions. Avaya, Cisco, and Mitel are also bolstering their CCaaS offers, and there are several compelling cloud-native providers such as Ujet and Edify.
Teams Calling Updates: Microsoft released improvements to its calling UI and endpoints. A new calling interface in the app shows contacts, voicemail, and calling history in a single location. It’s designed to allow Microsoft Teams to more easily replace your desk phone. Users will also be able to transfer calls between mobile and desktop! CarPlay support is also coming, but not Android Auto. Microsoft certified the new Poly Sync BT speaker phones, and Yealink released the MP50 USB phone.
For users who insist on physical endpoints, the story gets better too, or will in Q1. AudioCodes and Yealink will release more traditional Teams phones that have real buttons. This is good, but I can’t stop thinking about the proclamations of the hard phone’s death made back in the Lync days. Several endpoints will be available for financing (not rental or device as a service) in the Teams Marketplace. A new Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA) was released for branch office failover.
RingCentral and BT: RingCentral announced that it is expanding its partnership with BT. Cloud Work by RingCentral will be BT’s lead UCaaS and CCaaS offering. This fits. RingCentral has made consistent and steady progress in strategic paths to market. Other service providers include AT&T and Telus. Other strategic partnerships include Avaya, Atos/Unify, and ALE. This and much more is covered in the latest TalkingPointz Research Note on RingCentral.
ACO Expansion: Avaya announced that Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral (AC) will expand into five European markets in December: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain (that makes 12 countries since its launch in March). Also, ACO is getting new features: a dark theme, a single click switch from voice to video, improved meeting security, and other features. Also, Avaya has improved migration tools.
Salesforce and Slack: Right around Thanksgiving the WSJ reported that Salesforce was in talks to acquire Slack. The acquisition was formally announced on December 1. Technically, it doesn’t belong in the November Insider Report, but I had already covered the rumor, so will update/include it. A more thorough write-up will be posted on TalkingPointz for subscribers.
Salesforce will acquire Slack for $27.7B in cash and stock (each share of Slack receives $26.78 plus .0776 of a share of Salesforce). This represents a 55% premium over Slack’s price on Nov 24. Salesforce has done 60 acquisitions over 21 years.
First, I am sorry to see this happen. I really wanted Slack to succeed on its own. That said, I am not surprised either. For that matter, no one seemed to question the rumor. Slack had to be acquired. I know Stewart wanted to stay independent, but the deck was stacked against the company. Slack is one of the few #WFH companies that didn’t get a pandemic bump. It has few competitive protections or moats. And it is a single-app solution that customers need to complete by adding telephony and meetings. The problem there is that almost every telephony and meetings provider offers a competitive messaging service. There’s also the minor issue that one of the biggest and most powerful software companies is a direct competitor, and it offers Slack’s base and prospects a “free” alternative.
The question was which firm would acquire Slack? There are only a handful of companies that make sense. Certainly not Microsoft. The optics wouldn’t be good for Google or Amazon during all this antitrust talk. My shortlist of contenders included Amazon, Cisco, IBM, Salesforce, RingCentral, and Zoom. As far as I can tell, each of these companies could afford it, and plausibly justify it.
The obvious draw for Salesforce is the team messaging capability. It already has Chatter and Quip, so the three roles will be blurred into a new collaborative framework. I believe the bigger draw is to secure and nurture the non-Microsoft ecosystem. Almost every Slack customer has rejected Teams. Almost every Salesforce customer has rejected Dynamics. Salesforce likely believes a single, larger vendor provides a stronger competitive balance than separate best-of-breeds.
Acquiring Slack also exaggerates the existing portfolio gaps found in both companies: voice, meetings, and CCaaS. The build v. buy evaluation to fill those gaps just got a lot more interesting. Note that in the CCaaS MQ, they highlighted the complementary power of workstream collaboration.
“Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Mr. Benioff said.
CM Group and Selligent: CM Group, a family of martech companies focused on multichannel campaign management and email marketing, announced the acquisition of Selligent. This marks its fifth acquisition in 24 months. This gives CM Group more than 70K customers. CM Group’s annual revenue is now expected to exceed $250M. Selligent Marketing Cloud was named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Cross-Channel Campaign Management (Independent Platforms), Q4 2019.
Facebook and Kustomer: Facebook acquired Kustomer, a New York-based software company that helps businesses manage customer conversations from multiple services on one dashboard. It appears Facebook intends to expand its messaging business to include customer-service products. Kustomer helps companies interact with people via chat apps like WhatsApp and Messenger. Facebook has made customer service a central part of its business strategy on WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging service.
In terms of enterprise comms, it’s another validation of digital-first communications (see notes on CCaaS MQ). It’s even more significant when Facebook gets involved, not just because of its size, but because of its awareness. Above, I mentioned Facebook Onavo and how it identified Instagram as an up-and-comer that FB then acquired. Kustomer is already a FB partner, which means FB is well aware of not only its traction, but also the traction of customer service bots as a whole. It must be good too because the WSJ is reporting an unconfirmed acquisition price of $1B. That’s a whole lotta bot!
ServiceNow and Element: ServiceNow is acquiring Element AI, a startup out of Canada founded by AI pioneers and backed by some of the world’s biggest AI companies. It offers solutions to help non-tech companies build and provision AI-based IT services. It’s a significant step toward ServiceNow’s commitment to build the world’s most intelligent workflow platform. Element AI has received funding from the likes of Microsoft, Intel, Nvidia, and Tencent, among others. The acquisition price is estimated at around $500M, which is below its last fundraising valuation in September 2019. It marks the largest acquisition ServiceNow has made.
Cato Networks: Cato Networks did a Series E round raising $130M with a $1B valuation. The company offers SD-WAN solutions. The company reports it has now raised $332M since inception. Cato currently has 270 employees with plans to grow to 400 by the end of next year.
Klaviyo: Marketing automation and communication takes on a special significance as we find ourselves in the midst of this pandemic. Klaviyo facilitates customized messaging to customers. It announced a Series C round raising $200M with a $4.15B valuation. This brings its total raised to $385.5M.
CloudBolt raised $35M in Series B. It helps companies manage hybrid cloud environments. CloudBolt addresses the complexity of cloud and DevOps management and provides a way to automate, secure, and optimize their workloads. CloudBolt currently has 170 employees.
Verbit: The AI-based transcription service completed a $60M Series C round just 10 months after closing a $31M Series B. Most of Verbit’s current business comes from academia and legal services. Universities and other education institutions are often obligated to provide transcriptions of classroom lectures to comply with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that protect disabled students. This segment alone is a large market of over $1B in potential annual revenue according to Tom Livne of Verbit.
AvePoint: gives enterprises using Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, and Teams a control layer on top of these tools. AvePoint announced it will go public via a SPAC merger with Apex Technology Acquisition Corporation in a deal that values AvePoint at around $2B. Under the terms of the transaction, Apex’s balance of $352M plus a $140M additional private investment will be handed over to AvePoint. The company has raised a total of $294M. It expects to generate almost $150M in revenue by the end of this year, with ARR growing at over 30%.
Friday announced the close of a $2.1M seed round. The app facilitates remote work. The Friday app sits on top of team tools such as GitHub, Trello, Asana, and Slack. Friday users can track their time spent in meetings, as well as team morale and productivity, using the Analytics dashboard of the platform. It has a free-forever model, which allows individual users or even organizations to use the app for free as long as they want. More advanced features like Goals, Analytics, and the ability to see past the three weeks of history within the app are paywalled for a price of $6/seat/month. This latest round brings the company’s total funding to $2.5M.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Not on your Zoom, not on Teams, not Google Meet, not BlueJeans. WebEx, Skype and Houseparty make us itch. No, not FaceTime, not even Twitch
- New Zoom feature can alert room owners of possible Zoombombing disruptions
- Incomplete WFH Change Management Puts Companies At Risk
- Steve Jobs’s last gambit: Apple’s M1 Chip
- Working from home: when the cracks start to show ($)
- Bill Gates says in-person meetings aren't the 'gold standard' anymore and that 50% of business travel will go away even after pandemic
- This messaging app uploads every file you send to the internet, which is bad
- Google is rolling out end-to-end encryption for RCS in Android Messages beta
- Walmart-exclusive router and others sold on Amazon & eBay contain hidden backdoors to control devices
- MacBook Air M1 review: Windows laptops are so screwed
- Post PC
- Your Home-Office Ergonomics Are Still a Mess—Do Something About It
- Why is Apple’s M1 Chip So Fast?
The first part of December is going to be very busy. I will be attending a RingCentral event, a Genesys event, and Cisco WebexOne. I am also monitoring AWS re:Invent, Dreamforce, Pexip, and Gitex.
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