Airmeet, a startup that offers a platform to host virtual events, said on Tuesday it has raised $ 12 million in a new financing round as the Bangalore-headquartered firm demonstrates accelerating growth in its user base.
Sequoia Capital India led the $ 12 million Series A financing round in one-year-old Airmeet. Redpoint Ventures and existing investors Accel India, Venture Highway, Global Founders Capital (GFC) and Gokul Rajaram (Caviar Lead at DoorDash) also participated in the round.
The new round values Airmeet at about $ 50 million, more than double of what it was valued in March, when it raised $ 3 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Airmeet allows users and businesses to host interactive virtual events. Its platform intuitively replicates aspects of a physical event, offering a backstage, grouping people to a table, allowing participants to network with each other and even enabling event organizers to work with sponsors. Airmeet, currently in public beta, is available through a freemium model where it charges businesses based on their usage.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Lalit Mangal, co-founder of Airmeet, said the usage on the platform has grown 2,000% over the last quarter without any investment in advertisement, he said.
In recent months, Airmeet has worked to expand the use cases of the platform. In addition to hosting large conferences, Airmeet is now also being used for professional meetups at large film festivals, he said. Recently it held university resource fairs and technical industry summits.
“Covid-19 has accelerated a permanent behavioral shift across many industries. With digitization of largely traditional spaces leapfrogging by years, the $ 800+ billion global offline events space is up for grabs. There is massive potential for players who drive the industry’s transition towards online-events,” said Abhishek Mohan, VP at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.
Airmeet is built on top of WebRTC, a standard that most modern browsers follow. This has enabled Airmeet to be fully accessible through Chrome and Firefox. All the sessions are also end-to-end encrypted, said Mangal. It does not have a mobile app. Mangal said people tend to use their laptop or desktop or their iPads for professional events. (Users can consume a session through their mobile browser, however.)
The startup, which is in the same space as Hopin and Andreessen Horowitz-backed Run The World, will use the fresh capital to add new features to Airmeet and also scale globally, said Mangal.
“Airmeet’s mission is to create a global platform to enable millions of community managers and event organizers across the world to engage with and expand their audience. And with Lalit and team’s focus, execution and innovative thinking, they are strongly placed to achieve their goal,” said Mohan.
Varada, a Tel Aviv-based startup that focuses on making it easier for businesses to query data across services, today announced that it has raised a $ 12 million Series A round led by Israeli early-stage fund MizMaa Ventures, with participation by Gefen Capital.
“If you look at the storage aspect for big data, there’s always innovation, but we can put a lot of data in one place,” Varada CEO and co-founder Eran Vanounou told me. “But translating data into insight? It’s so hard. It’s costly. It’s slow. It’s complicated.”
That’s a lesson he learned during his time as CTO of LivePerson, which he described as a classic big data company. And just like at LivePerson, where the team had to reinvent the wheel to solve its data problems, again and again, every company — and not just the large enterprises — now struggles with managing their data and getting insights out of it, Vanounou argued.
The rest of the founding team, David Krakov, Roman Vainbrand and Tal Ben-Moshe, already had a lot of experience in dealing with these problems, too, with Ben-Moshe having served at the Chief Software Architect of Dell EMC’s XtremIO flash array unit, for example. They built the system for indexing big data that’s at the core of Varada’s platform (with the open-source Presto SQL query engine being one of the other cornerstones).
Essentially, Varada embraces the idea of data lakes and enriches that with its indexing capabilities. And those indexing capabilities is where Varada’s smarts can be found. As Vanounou explained, the company is using a machine learning system to understand when users tend to run certain workloads and then caches the data ahead of time, making the system far faster than its competitors.
“If you think about big organizations and think about the workloads and the queries, what happens during the morning time is different from evening time. What happened yesterday is not what happened today. What happened on a rainy day is not what happened on a shiny day. […] We listen to what’s going on and we optimize. We leverage the indexing technology. We index what is needed when it is needed.”
That helps speed up queries, but it also means less data has to be replicated, which also brings down the cost. As Mizmaa’s Aaron Applbaum noted, since Varada is not a SaaS solution, the buyers still get all of the discounts from their cloud providers, too.
In addition, the system can allocate resources intelligently to that different users can tap into different amounts of bandwidth. You can tell it to give customers more bandwidth than your financial analysts, for example.
“Data is growing like crazy: in volume, in scale, in complexity, in who requires it and what the business intelligence uses are, what the API uses are,” Applbaum said when I asked him why he decided to invest. “And compute is getting slightly cheaper, but not really, and storage is getting cheaper. So if you can make the trade-off to store more stuff, and access things more intelligently, more quickly, more agile — that was the basis of our thesis, as long as you can do it without compromising performance.”
Varada, with its team of experienced executives, architects and engineers, ticked a lot of the company’s boxes in this regard, but he also noted that unlike some other Israeli startups, the team understood that it had to listen to customers and understand their needs, too.
“In Israel, you have a history — and it’s become less and less the case — but historically, there’s a joke that it’s ‘ready, fire, aim.’ You build a technology, you’ve got this beautiful thing and you’re like, ‘alright, we did it,’ but without listening to the needs of the customer,” he explained.
The Varada team is not afraid to compare itself to Snowflake, which at least at first glance seems to make similar promises. Vananou praised the company for opening up the data warehousing market and proving that people are willing to pay for good analytics. But he argues that Varada’s approach is fundamentally different.
“We embrace the data lake. So if you are Mr. Customer, your data is your data. We’re not going to take it, move it, copy it. This is your single source of truth,” he said. And in addition, the data can stay in the company’s virtual private cloud. He also argues that Varada isn’t so much focused on the business users but the technologists inside a company.
Grid, a SaaS startup founded in Iceland that lets you turn spreadsheets into visual “narratives,” has closed $ 12 million in Series A funding.
The round is led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from existing investors BlueYard Capital, Slack Fund, Acequia Capital and other unnamed “strategic” partners. The injection of capital will be used by the company to bring its product to market and for further product development.
Founded in late 2018 by Hjalmar Gislason — who was previously behind DataMarket, an early mover in the “Data-as-a-Service” space — Grid is on a mission to change the way knowledge workers interact with data, starting with spreadsheets. Opening up its beta today, the SaaS enables you to turn spreadsheet workbooks into visual and interactive websites so that the data residing in them can be better communicated to various audiences.
“Grid provides a way for the everyday spreadsheet user to easily create visual and interactive narratives on top of existing spreadsheets and securely share them using the web,” Gislason explains.
“Most data tools, even the most accessible ‘self-service’ tools, are power user tools — meaning it takes time and deliberate effort to learn how to use them, and the people that do become the go-to-people within their organizations when it comes to analysis, data-driven decisions and data narratives. The tool everyone else uses to get stuff done in their day-to-day work is the spreadsheet.”
Gislason frames the initial problem the startup is focusing on as the moment when someone has pulled together data or built a model in a spreadsheet and now has to communicate it with someone else. “The most common method, even today, is attaching an Excel file to an email. In doing so the spreadsheet author is giving up control over the spreadsheet, how its read and further distributed,” he says.
Furthermore, that content is painful to consume on mobile devices and it is difficult making sure everyone has the latest version. Sharing spreadsheets in the cloud is an improvement, but is still far from optimum.
To overcome this, people typically copy and paste charts and tables out of spreadsheets into PowerPoints and PDFs and distribute these as static artifacts, which solves the control problem but is difficult to create and maintain as it disconnects the presentation from “the underlying data and models.” Grid aims to change this.
During Grid’s private beta period, the startup saw two core use cases. The first was model presentation, such as a consultant or a business analyst that has built a spreadsheet model and needs to communicate how the inputs affect the outcomes. The second is reporting, seeing Grid used by anyone that needs to regularly report data they’ve pulled together in a spreadsheet.
“And that’s a lot of people!” adds Gislason. “Our users like the combination of text and data visualization that Grid offers, in addition to the fact that the Grid documents are directly linked to the underlying workbooks so that any change in the workbook, even a local Excel file, is immediately reflected in the online report.”
Qualified, a startup co-founded by former Salesforce executives Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley, has raised $ 12 million in Series A funding.
Swensrud (Qualified’s CEO) said the startup is meant to solve a problem that he faced back when he was CMO at Salesforce. Apparently he’d complaining about being “blind,” because he knew so little about who was visiting the Salesforce website.
“There could be 10 or 100 or 100,000 people on my website right now, and I don’t know who they are, I don’t know what they’re interested in, my sales team has no idea that they’re even there,” he said.
Apparently, this is a big problem in business-to-business sales, where waiting five minutes after a lead leaves your website can result in a 10x decrease in the odds of making contact. But the solution currently adopted by many websites is just a chatbot that treats every visitor similarly.
Qualified, meanwhile, connects real-time website visitor information with a company’s Salesforce customer database. That means it can identify visitors from high-value accounts and route them to the correct salesperson while they’re still on the website, turning into a full-on sales meeting that can also include a phone call and screensharing.
Of course, the amount of data Qualified has access to will differ from visitor to visitor. Some visitors may be purely incognito, while in other cases, the platform might simply know your city or what company you work for. In still others (say if you click on a link from marketing email), it can identify you individually.
That’s something I experienced myself, when I decided to take a look at the Qualified website this morning and was quickly greeted with a message that read, “ Welcome TechCrunch! We’re excited about our funding announcement…” It was a little creepy, but also much more effective than my visits to other marketing technology websites, where someone usually sends me a generic sales message.
Swensrud acknowledged that using Qualified represents “a change to people’s selling processes,” since it requires sales to respond in real-time to website visitors (as a last resort, Qualified can also use chatbots and schedule future calls), but he argued that it’s a necessary change.
“If you email them later, some percentage of those people, they ghost you, they get bored, they moved on to the competition,” he said. “This real-time approach, it forces organizations to think differently in terms of their process.”
And it’s an approach that seems to be working. Among Qualified’s customers, the company says ThoughtSpot increased conversations with its target accounts by 10x, Bitly grew its enterprise sales pipeline by 6x and Gamma drove over $ 2.5 million in new business pipeline.
The Series A brings Qualified’s total funding to $ 17 million. It was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors including Redpoint Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. Norwest’s Scott Beechuk is joining Qualified’s board of directors.
“The conversational model is simply a better way to connect with new customers,” Beechuk said in a statement. “Buyers love the real-time engagement, sellers love the instant connections, and marketers have the confidence that every dollar spent on demand generation is maximized. The multi-billion-dollar market for Salesforce automation software is going to adopt this new model, and Qualified is perfectly positioned to capture that demand.”
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