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Quick Answers to Quick Questions: Leon Papkoff, EVP, Enterprise Apps

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In May, founder of CXApp, Leon Papkoff celebrated the one-year anniversary of its acquisition by Inpixon (Nasdaq: INPX) – the Bay Area Indoor Intelligence company that is doing some exciting work enabling office return to work policies and helping un-snarl supply chain issues.

Leon’s story is unique as the sale of CXApp occurred in the middle of the pandemic, which both made the CXApp more valuable (one of its key use cases is improving the health and safety conditions of an in-person office), as well as forced he and his team to get creative when going through the process sans an office. 

As we know the Pandemic created micro-communities within greater communities due to “stay at home” mandates, so Leon was not able to take part in the one-on-one meetings for advice, consider offers and help his decision along.

In fact, his bubble of influence were his neighbors in his neighborhood in Pleasanton Calif., literally on the street he lived on—as he, like all of us, was forced to spend most of his time at home during lockdown. Lucky his neighbors were made up of other entrepreneurs, VCs and leadership types, so the advice he secured from them was in many cases based on their own experiences.

M.R. Rangaswami: You recently celebrated the 1-year anniversary of The CXApp (now Inpixon Enterprise Apps). What was unique about the acquisition process seeing the majority of it took place in the middle of the early days of the Pandemic?

Leon Papkoff: The most unique thing about the acquisition of The CXApp was timing. About two years prior to the pandemic, we had rolled out our ‘Smart Campus’ solution to address the opportunity for on-the-go experiences for enterprises. We quickly caught the eye of many of the Fortune 500 and began rolling out deployments to customers, many big-name Silicon Valley tech firms among them. Our target customers were forward-thinking companies looking to make a transformative impact in the workplace with an IoT approach to workplace experience.

At the time, the market labeled this as a ‘nice to have’ product, but once the pandemic hit, the market quickly shifted its perspective of our workplace experience app to a ‘must have’ product. Two key benefits of our solution were to maintain high levels of employee engagement amongst a distributed workforce and to aid in bringing employees back into the office space safely and confidently. With this strong product-market fit, and as we rolled out our native desk booking and spaces reservation capabilities, we experienced a strong growth spurt.

It was at this time that we had our first meetings with Inpixon, and we subsequently integrated their mapping product into our platform for a few of our key customers that wanted advanced indoor navigation and wayfinding capabilities. The use cases for an employee app that helps companies address the new workplace realities were and continue to be numerous. Even now, two years later, the demand for companies to support flex work environments persists along with the need to bridge the experience gap for in-person and remote experiences.

Because of our strong growth and great working relationship, the Inpixon team expressed interest in acquiring The CXApp. We had similar inquiries from other groups as well, however we chose to go through due diligence and sign a letter of intent (LOI) with Inpixon because we felt it was a good strategic match and that they could help us scale quickly.

Overall, the idea of The CXApp + Inpixon brought other capabilities and technologies into our growing ecosystem that would allow us to have a more well-rounded and powerful solution for our customers.

The timing could not have been better.

Another unique aspect of the courtship and transaction was the style in which we conducted our meetings throughout the due diligence process. All of that was done virtually through collaboration tools like Zoom and Teams, including highly confidential meetings with Nadir Ali, Inpixon’s CEO, and Soumya Das, Inpixon’s COO. It was more difficult in some ways, but also lent a nice platform for us to communicate.

We took the same approach with internal meetings as well. I used the same video conferencing tools to meet with The CXApp leadership team and conduct working sessions throughout the due diligence process. Anyone that’s gone through an acquisition knows how intense this process can be and the substantial volume of items that needed to be aggregated and coded and sent back to the acquisition team. It was in this way that we collaborated and combed through years of company data to present to Inpixon.

Near the end of the process, we were still in the height of the pandemic, so we continued to use virtual collaboration tools. Our official acquisition announcement was made virtually, with cameras on, of course, across our global team with employees across the United States, the Philippines, and China.

Normally I would have flown overseas to meet with the team, talked them through the process in-person, conducted 1:1 meetings with team leads, and ensured that every employee was comfortable with the news. But, because of the pandemic, I needed to reassure teams remotely and even still conduct 1:1’s within each department. It was a big announcement, and I cared about each individual, so I wanted to make sure they felt confident in their jobs and well being, which of course, Inpixon was invested in as well.

Coincidentally, the day the acquisition was official, there was an Inpixon leadership off-site happening in Northern California, so I was able to attend and meet all of the leaders in-person for the first time which was a pretty amazing experience.

M.R.: Tell us more about the unique counsel you engaged with through the process.

Leon: The entire process took about five months, and I can say with certainty it helped to be backed by a diverse team of experts. I brought in a number of individuals to help with different stages of the acquisition process from negotiations, through due diligence, to signing the LOI, and even for final signature on the definitive agreement. I had one law firm that managed the entire acquisition itself.

I also brought in a very good colleague of mine as an advisor. He had experience in M&As for larger corporations, and I knew his guidance would be critically important for the leadership team to help make the best fiduciary decisions on behalf of our shareholders.

The combined experience with these individuals that have their own skill set beyond mine was especially helpful for such a small company.

M.R. What are your 3-5 tips you would offer other startup owners to consider before they sell their business?

Leon: Firstly, timing is critical. If you’re planning an acquisition strategy, expedite when you start to see velocity with your product, customers, and the market.

Secondly, partner with strategic companies. When you have a robust partner strategy, you add more value to your product. Similar to networking, use your business positioning to grow your network of products, vendors, partners, potential acquirers, etc.

Thirdly, keep tight organization on your intellectual property. If you have a product that is engineered, write code natively from scratch to keep it clean.

And lastly – listen to the experts. Invest in third-party experts. Try to bring in strong advisors that have experience in M&A to help you negotiate the best offer for your shareholders and to protect your interest. You’re responsible for more than just yourself.

Have open conversations with your leadership team. Be open to discuss key decisions with top leaders in your organization. Different perspectives help round out the entire position of your product, strengths and weaknesses, and even aspects of the deal. I value my leadership team’s opinions, so it really helps me to talk out loud and bounce ideas around to nurture organic brainstorming and assessment. I go through that process anytime I make a big decision to ensure my ideas are the best ideas, and if not, I have strength in knowing that my trusted peers will help me arrive at the best conclusion for everyone. 

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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SVB Global Research Report: State of the Markets India 2022

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A Look at the Technologies and  Economics Powering India’s Progress

If you’ve been watching, India’s growth is no surprise.

Over the past decade, innovation and policy have converged to shape an increasingly
entrepreneurial and digitally -enabled India. The confluence of smartphone proliferation, affordable mobile data and the establishment of a widely-adopted digital payment infrastructure rapidly digitized small and mid-size businesses.

COVID only accelerated this trend. In May 2022, India marked its 100th unicorn with a sense of “we’ve arrived,” but this is just the tip of the iceberg. India is a leader in global SaaS — with the likes of Freshworks, ChargeBee, Innovaccer, Uniphore, and Postman— and has a flourishing domestic
technology market: 83% of unicorns serve Indian businesses and consumers.

Foreign direct investment, boosted by reforms and production -linked incentives, reached $84 billion in fiscal year 1 2022. In light of supply chain shocks, companies like Apple
and Samsung are seeking to diversify their respective smartphone manufacturing
by expanding their operations in India. Through production-linked incentives, the Indian
government has taken steps to bolster smartphone manufacturing and establish key
industries such as semiconductors.

India has not been immune to global macroeconomic events such as rising fuel prices
and supply chain congestion. Inflationary pressures prompted the Reserve Bank of India
(RBI) to raise rates, as a result public and private markets pull back.

For the remainder of 2022, we expect muted private investment, lower company valuations, slower
unicorn creation and delayed IPOs. We don’t expect 2022 to exceed last year’s record
$36B of VC investment, but we feel confidant Indian VC investment is on track to
surpass the years prior to 2021.

The below SVB Global Research Report Highlights:

MACRO VIEW: INDIA’S INNOVATIVE ECONOMY

India currently ranks as the sixth-largest economy globally, growing 45% since 2014 with a CAGR1 of 5.4%. Tactical reforms, such as the Make in India initiative, have increased the ease of doing business in a country that has favorable talent demographics.

Over half the population is under 30, and in the 2019-2020 academic year, India had 30.6 million undergraduates, 3.85M are studying engineering and technology.

VENTURE ECOSYSTEM: INVESTMENTS, FUNDS & EXITS

“Indus Valley” was coined by Blume Ventures as a moniker for the Indian Startup ecosystem. It spans from tier-1 cities — major metros designated by population: Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Pune — to rural hubs.

Much like the rise of emerging hubs in the US (Atlanta, Austin, Miami), tier-2 cities like Jaipur, Kochi, and Indore are gaining a reputation for their startup scenes. Lower cost of living, access to talent, and a reduction in the digital infrastructure gap have laid the foundations for startups based in tier-2 cities to
thrive.

Local incubators such as TiE-Rajasthan, The Kerala Startup Mission, and Indore Smart Seed act as catalysts providing programming, space, and support.

THE NETWORK EFFECT: INDIA’S GLOBLA PRESENCE

India has the world’s largest diaspora. The UN estimates that 18 million Indians live abroad, and that number nearly doubles to about 32 million when accounting for people of Indian origin. The diaspora has created a global community with shared roots that strongly emphasizes educational
achievement and entrepreneurship.

For example, Indian students make up the second largest international student population in the US,3 and of the 500 unicorns founded in the US between 1999-2019, 90 of the 1,078 founders are Indian immigrants.

These synergies have helped create a network of tech leaders internationally and within India.

2022 & BEYOND: A VIEW FROM THE TOP

GLOBAL TECH TRADE: Recent trade deals with UAE, Israel, Australia, and US, including the IndoPacific Economic Framework emphasize the digital economy.

SEMICONDUCTOR HUB: India estimates its semiconductor market will reach $63 billion by 2026. In 2021, The India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) allocated $10B to help companies establish manufacturing in India. In 2022, Vedanta and Foxconn announced plans for a $20B plant in India, and the ISMC announced a $3B chip fab.

To read the full SVB Global Research Report, see below.

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions, Daniel Kravtsov, Co-Founder & CEO, Improvado

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A serial entrepreneur who had founded four companies and had two successful exits, Improvado CEO, Daniel Kravtsov, learned after hundreds of meetings with digital media agencies and businesses, that all of them found it painful to monitor and report on digital ad campaigns.

Daniel’s reporting products and style, aggregates data across all marketing campaigns into one centralized dashboard. It has been such a saught after service, it pushed Daniel to created what is now Improvado.io – a tool that helps enterprises and ad agencies aggregate their marketing data in one place, in real time. 


M.R. Rangaswami: How should companies think and calculate Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), that would give them a deeper understanding of their complexity help companies increase their revenue?

Daniel Kravtsov: Each company needs to decide how it will calculate ROAS. One company may base ROAS on all Net New Revenue. Another might base it on Net New Marketing Revenue. A third might focus on the marginal fraction of Net New Marketing Revenue minus prime costs (which a company will spend anyway while creating a product).

Then the company has to get clear on how it calculates CAC. If a prospect sees your ad, for example, then reads an article mentioning your company, then reads a blog post, and finally converts through a paid organic click, each of those touches has a cost. One of the touches represented a direct conversion, but if you turned off all the campaigns except the one that directly converted, you would likely experience a big drop in conversion. 

The modern data stack was created to help execute and understand such omnichannel campaigns. 
In general, marketers ought to spend their digital ad dollars more shrewdly in order to create a more consistent return on ad spend. Here are some of the reasons they don’t do this:

  • Growing data complexity. Some departments have more tools than employees. In order to gain a true understanding of Return on Ad Spend, or ROAS, the company has to fetch, normalize, format and combine the data from each of those tools. Few companies invest the resources to do that. 
  • Unattributed data and analytics misconfigurations. If your web analytics are broken or degraded, you won’t be able to properly connect leads directly with ad metrics. 
  • The rise of the modern data stack. It can be convenient to use CRMs to attribute marketing data. However, to do this effectively requires the routing of countless data sources into a CRM, followed by a lot of attention from data engineers and analysts. Moreover, the inflow of marketing metrics offers conflicting indicators for a single entry, thus demanding an external system to pre-process and harmonize it. We’re in the era of omnichannel, where a decent lead comes only after a dozen or so marketing touches. That fact further increases the complexity of such a setup, making it more challenging to assess the Customer Acquisition Cost. 

Companies need to acknowledge these complexities in order to address them. 


M.R.: Marketers often look at the number of touchpoints it takes to convert a customer’s early interest to revenue. How can marketers develop a greater understanding of that customer journey, and focus their marketing efforts to be less expensive? 

D.K.: Fortunately, for the first time, revenue attribution models show marketers exactly how much it costs to bring prospective customers to each point of the journey, from awareness to purchase. Such models, when built properly, can show where the revenue comes from.
  
In a three-step customer journey, for example, we can measure first-touch attribution, last-touch attribution, and time-decay/reverse time-decay, in which we attribute revenue to steps that vary depending on when they occur.
  
Omnichannel attribution enables marketers to look at the data from different angles and to experiment, taking those angles into account.
 
However, implementation is not at all simple. You have to record events across different channels, collect them in a single storage location (data warehouses are the new nerve centers), normalize the data across channels, and then attribute revenue to channels based on the occurrences of similar touches in the customer journey of your prospects in order to determine which ones are likely to become ideal customers.
 
Global marketers, in particular, should study these models as they examine the impact of their cross-regional marketing, looking for similarities and differences in the behaviors of their ideal-customer cohorts. There’s no substitute for understanding how each ad contributes to the bottom line.
  
As part of this process, data warehouses have become the new nerve center of marketing organizations. Rather than scattered information across multiple tools, they serve as a central data storage, making it easier to connect vast amounts of data to BI and Analytics tools for further visualization and analysis.

Yet, data warehouses alone aren’t a silver bullet to cut on the data complexity. It’s not about piling up data at a central (or cloud) location — it’s about how you make use of that data.
 

M.R.: What would be the optimal pace of launching new experiments, and how can marketers ensure they have the right mix of short-term and long-term experiments?

D.K.: In our work with companies, agencies and brands, the biggest predictor of campaign success is the use of rapid experimentation and real-time measurement.

What determines whether you’re going to get the most out of a channel or not is directly connected to the frequency of your experiments, and how well you can measure them to synthesize the insights. 
Iteration matters more than your budget, your time or even your creative assets.

If you want to get the most out of your investment in each ad channel of your choice and control for variables (for example, which message, which targeting, which time of day, which creative and which tactics worked best), you can’t just stop there; you have to dig deeper.

You need to be able to ask more detailed questions, compare different segments and deploy multiples of the same campaign, with slightly varied parameters.

The most successful companies and marketers launch new campaigns daily. Or more precisely, they launch new experiments every day. And the more experiments they launch, the more they learn about what works and why.

Although it may sound funny, the best way to ensure that you have the right mix of short-term and long-term experiments is to … experiment with your mix!  

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Vladi Sandler, Co-Founder & CEO, Lightspin

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Before co-founding Lightspin, CEO Vladi established the comprehensive application security training program at Ernst & Young and initiated the first Automotive Cloud Security team at CYMOTIVE.

An avid security entrepreneur with a career in cybersecurity domains, Vladi Sandler used his experience to start Lightspin – a proactive cloud security platform that protects cloud and Kubernetes environments from unknown risks.

M.R.: You launched a startup right before the pandemic. Upon reflection, what benefits did you experience as a result?

Vladi Sandler: We launched Lightspin in January 2020, mere months before the global pandemic. While at the moment it felt daunting, I now realize there were several key benefits to launching a startup
during that time frame.

First, we quickly gained access to the global market – in person meetings stopped, so I was able to meet via Zoom with the best companies in the world in minutes.

We did more customer meetings and were able to quickly develop personal relationships. We raised
funding during that time as well; being virtual allowed us to connect with VCs all over the
country and alleviated the cross-country flights and additional overhead costs of travel.

We invested in talent and secured an incredible office space for a very reasonable price.

On a personal note, my daughter was six months old when we launched the company. Instead
of being away from home during that pivotal time, I was able to conduct business via Zoom and
be there for my family.

M.R.: As organizations embrace the cloud, what are the pitfalls or security risks they should be
aware of?

Vladi: Cloud threats are on the rise. At any point in time, sensitive data can move between 2,481 different cloud apps and services, making it a prime target for cybercriminals. Cloud breaches
cost organizations billions every year. Here are the key considerations for modern cloud
security:

● Avoid the compliance checkbox. Most security are compliance-minded as a risk that can
be easily controlled. But checking the compliance box does not mean that your Cloud
Security Posture Management (CSPM) tool is meeting your business’ needs or focused
on securing the holistic cloud environment.

● Maintain tight identity management and access controls. Your organization should
manage permissions and stay on top of all access to critical information. Only key
stakeholders who need access to a particular environment should have privileges. Sally
in accounting should not be able to access highly sensitive HR files. This limits what an
attacker can do, and the number of files that she or he can access. Be stingy with
access controls – especially those related to Privileged Access Management (PAM).

● Protect your data (in the cloud). Deploying a strategic data loss prevention strategy
helps to limit data breaches and protects cloud data from outside threats that can affect
compliance. This will also help reveal and prioritize which cloud data encryption needs
protecting.

● Know your CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures). This open source, public list
of known vulnerabilities found in applications is available to any member of the public.
Each found vulnerability receives an ID and score based on its impact, type of attack
vector, and potential ramifications. This approach is only beneficial for known risks; not
those lurking in your organizations’ code. Second, relying on CVEs will generate A LOT
of alerts – which can lead to ignored alerts, skipped steps, or alert fatigue.

M.R.: Is security more difficult in the “hybrid cloud” environment, when dealing with
microservices, containers etc.? How should companies approach this?

Vladi: In today’s complex cloud environments, there’s a whole lot that can–and does–go wrong,
leading to suboptimal security. When an attacker looks at your environment, they are looking for
the easiest way inside.

The key to preventing cloud security risks and vulnerabilities is to understand the full context of
events and incidents. This context is what sets the scene and what determines the true
significance of issues. Context provides a full view into the circumstances that serve as the
background for all events and by which the events can be fully assessed.

With Lightspin’s graph-based algorithms and attack path prioritization, organizations can identify
all assets and relationships to effectively protect their cloud environment.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Rujul Zaparde Co-founder & CEO, Zip

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A serial entrepreneur and former Visiting Partner at acclaimed startup accelerator Y Combinator, Rujul is deeply committed to using technology to solve complex business problems. Prior to Zip, Rujul co-founded FlightCar, where he served as CEO through the company’s acquisition by Mercedes Benz in 2016. He also served as a Product Manager for Airbnb.

M.R. Rangaswami: Can you please explain your journey of founding and scaling a fintech startup in just 18 months? What have been the challenges and the successes?

Rujul Zaparde: In previous roles, I experienced firsthand how frustrating it is for business users to navigate vague, complex financial processes inside their companies. It leaves people wondering not only how to begin business purchases, but also how to secure all of the necessary approvals to get what they need to properly do their jobs. My co-founder Lu and I launched Zip in 2020, the world’s first intake-to-procure software to solve this ubiquitous problem.

We provide an easy-to-use “concierge” experience for any employee to request a business-related purchase. Companies use our software to orchestrate any purchase through complex approval workflows with complete visibility for all stakeholders throughout the process. 

Starting Zip and scaling the company from fintech startup to fintech unicorn in just 18 months has been an amazing journey! We recently announced $43M in Series B funding at a $1.2 billion valuation. Our more than 100 customers include industry leaders like Canva, Snowflake, Roblox, Coinbase, Airtable, Toast, Webflow and Databricks. I believe one of the keys to our success is that unlike many other financial software applications on the market, we started with a consumer-focused lens so our business-class product genuinely appeals to end-users.

This has helped us grow quickly. One of the biggest challenges we faced has been cultivating company culture as a fresh team in a remote-first environment during the pandemic. We’re figuring out how to be the most successful we can be in a hybrid, but mostly remote, work environment. What’s worked well is going the extra mile to over-communicate, in particular between sales and engineering teams, to ensure that a remote workforce doesn’t get in the way of engineering having true empathy with customer pain.

M.R.: How has the SaaS explosion and decentralization of purchasing decisions impacted modern businesses? How will it continue to impact modern businesses in the future?

Rujul: More companies are increasingly buying new software as part of digital transformation initiatives. Accommodating remote and hybrid workforces has also accelerated the SaaS explosion, which really started over the course of the last decade prior to the pandemic. This is true for all businesses, whether they’re a small tech startup or a Fortune 500 company.

Given current economic turbulence, it’s more important than ever to have a clear vision of a company’s spending and procurement processes. However, this is more difficult now because many departments inside of companies have invested over the years in a wide array of SaaS products, many of them being point solutions that do not necessarily solve long-term problems. 

The SaaS explosion and immediate fixes to long-term issues combined with decentralized purchasing decisions have complicated and disaggregated the process of buying software and services. What once was the purview of IT and purchasing departments is now often dropped in the laps of line of business employees who are forced to spend significant time navigating outdated purchase order processes and complex vendor request approval workflows.

This leads to delays that hamper productivity and innovation. Current manual procurement workflow processes also create visibility challenges for finance and executive teams. Businesses need new solutions, now and in the future, to keep up with the rapid adoption of technology and services driven by digital transformation as purchasing decisions become increasingly decentralized and employees take on greater agency in the procurement process.

M.R.: What are the necessary steps needed to improve outdated procurement processes? What advice would you give to business and technology leaders looking to implement technology to solve the issues that have arisen with the SaaS explosion and decentralization of purchasing decisions?

Rujul: Legacy procurement tools and processes often only focus on procure-to-pay – from the point where a purchase order (PO) is generated to payment – without considering the challenge of initially requesting a purchase and getting the approvals required for generating a PO in the first place.

By contrast, an intake-to-procure approach, which is how Zip operates, provides an easy-to-adopt experience for employees to initiate any procurement request – no training required. Without Zip, typical procurement processes require 3-6 teams and disparate systems, 5+ hours of training just to know how to initiate a request, and 25+ emails. 

I advise companies to seriously consider investments in technology that automate manual processes and replace or supplement the legacy software that their employees dread using. If we expect people to be more productive and efficient we should be making people’s work lives simpler whenever possible. We owe it to the employees who are persistently trying to solve business challenges and innovate. Employees are being severely underserved, having to make business purchases through scattered, outdated processes. Implementing modern intake-to-procure technology provides a unified, long-lasting solution to the SaaS chaos every organization is experiencing.

M.R. Rangaswami, Co-Founder, Sandhill Group

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Shopify’s Sustainability Fund & Stripe Climate Receive the 2022 C.K. Prahalad Award

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The 2022 C.K. Prahalad Award was given to two co-winners, Shopify Sustainability Fund and Stripe Climate, recognizing their groundbreaking efforts to catalyze a market for carbon removal solutions.

The awards were announced in connection with the 2022 CEF Annual Leadership Retreat, attended by senior executives representing CEF member companies with combined revenues of $4 trillion.

Here is Yahoo Finance’s coverage of the news.

On Shopify

Shopify, a leading provider of essential internet infrastructure for commerce and one of the largest corporate buyers of long-term carbon removal, launched its Sustainability Fund in September 2019. The goal of the Fund is to assist companies that are proving, scaling, and commercializing climate technologies for massive impact in the long term.

CEF’s founder, MR Rangaswami, praised this strategy:

“The decision to purchase carbon removal at prices well above the minimum available price as a way to kickstart the demand and spur innovation showed real foresight and courage. Shopify is truly doubling down on long-term carbon removal and the forward-thinking entrepreneurs behind it.”

The goal is to accelerate the timeline to a low-cost carbon removal market, and they are well underway. As of March 2022, Shopify has committed 32 million dollars through its Fund to carbon removal purchases from 22 entrepreneurial, tech-driven companies. Upon signing, Shopify was the largest purchaser for 17 of them, and the very first purchaser for nine. Several have gone on to raise tens of millions of dollars of capital — and grown their carbon removal capacity and customer bases exponentially — on the basis of that crucial early support.

On Stripe

During the same timeframe, global payments leader Stripe started blazing its own trail to help drive carbon removal solutions. In August 2019, Stripe announced its Negative Emissions Commitment, pledging at least one million dollars per year to pay, at any price, for the direct removal and permanent storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Stripe’s thesis was that early customers could help accelerate new technologies to market. By being early adopters of promising new carbon removal solutions that are small-scale and very expensive, Stripe could enable these technologies to scale more rapidly. Stripe worked with scientific experts to select carbon removal companies that store carbon permanently, don’t take up significant arable land, and have a path to being affordable at scale.

After the initial pledge, Stripe launched Stripe Climate – allowing any business on Stripe’s platform to direct a percentage of their revenue towards scaling carbon removal technologies. This program quickly became the world’s largest coalition of carbon removal buyers and today has more than 15,000 active users. At the end of 2021, Stripe had deployed $15 million in carbon removal purchases into 14 different companies and was the first customer for 11 of them.

CEF Chair P.J. Simmons underscored the importance of these developments, pointing to the 2022 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

To reach our net zero climate goals, the IPCC says reducing emissions is not enough — we need to focus on removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with technologies that are science-based, verifiable, and scalable. Both Prahalad Award winners are accelerating momentum to do that, in ways that will help future-proof their businesses.”

Though Shopify and Stripe entered their carbon removal journeys separately, they quickly came to the same conclusion: that collective action would be more impactful than working alone.

In April of this year they co-founded Frontier, alongside Alphabet, Meta and McKinsey Sustainability, incorporating everything they’d learned since placing their first bets on carbon removal in 2019.

Frontier is an advance market commitment to put nearly a billion dollars on the table to buy carbon removal between now and 2030. The goal is to send researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors a strong demand signal that there is a future market for carbon removal.

On Corporate Eco Forum

CEF is an invitation-only network of leading executives from Fortune and Global 500 companies driving sustainability strategy and innovation worldwide. Members include Fortune and Global 500 companies from diverse industries with combined revenues of $4 trillion.

CEF provides a year-round safe, neutral space for influential executives to exchange best practice, collaborate, and innovate. The diversity of executives, coupled with the cross-industry nature of CEF, creates a world-class platform to accelerate sustainable business problem solving and innovation.

About The C.K. Prahalad Award For Global Business Sustainability Leadership

The C.K. Prahalad Award for Global Business Sustainability Leadership, created in 2010 to honor founding CEF Advisory Board member C.K. Prahalad, recognizes exceptional, globally significant private-sector action that exemplifies the fundamental connection between sustainability, innovation and long-term business success in a globalizing world

Article credit: Yahoo Finance

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Quick Answers to Quick Questions: Jeffrey Milewksi, Co-Founder, Global Income Coin

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Following his role as research director and instructor of fintech at Creighton University, San Francisco-based economist, Jeffrey Milewski co-founded the non-profit Global Income Coin.

The crypto company aims to provide a universal basic income of $1 to any person worldwide. Initial funding of $2 million is from a personal donation of Sid Sijbrandij (co-founder and CEO of GitLab Inc.).

M.R. Rangaswami: Why did you co-found a nonprofit that wants to utilize crypto as a way to provide universal basic income worldwide? 

Jeffrey Milewski: I’m inspired by the potential of crypto to make a major positive impact in the world. Crypto is an exciting technology that has transformed the way we think about and actually use money. We think the timing is right to leverage it for a good cause. Over the years, blockchain technology has proven to be a trustworthy and a legitimate mechanism for value transfer.

More recent innovations have addressed issues of scalability. We are now able to develop a new monetary model using crypto that can be efficiently adopted worldwide as a form of useful money. The universal basic income aspect of our model is driven by our mission to use crypto for good. Specifically, we aim to reduce extreme poverty by giving $1 a day of income to everyone in the world. As a nonprofit, we want people to trust and support Global Income Coin as both an organization and a new currency.

M.R. How can nonprofits add value to the crypto ecosystem?

Jeffrey: Many people have a skeptical view of crypto because of its speculative nature and its association with ponzi-like schemes. There typically is some group of individuals that profit tremendously from the promotion of the new token. A nonprofit entity is in a much better position to avoid this negative association and draw in the crypto-skeptic population. We want to create greater trust in the crypto ecosystem by being a nonprofit that honestly incentivizes users to participate in our project. 

M.R.: Why should nonprofits consider crypto as part of their strategy?

Jeffrey: We are using crypto because it is inherently permissionless, which means we can introduce a new currency through a grassroots movement without depending on an incumbent party. This also means the crypto as a technology can accelerate financial inclusion in areas where incumbent parties haven’t served potential customers or even restricted access. 

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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Anxieties of a technology CEO

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Bikram Gupta Sarma

There is a common saying that has been echoed by many CEOs that “it is lonely at the top”. In an interview in 2016, five years after taking over as CEO from Steve Jobs, Tim Cook clarified that the problems that leaders face is not loneliness, but isolation.

Technology CEOs experience this isolation in their roles as they go about their daily work.  All of them are extremely successful and got to this position because they were better than others, but do they still feel anxieties that they are isolated in their roles? 

There are common anxieties that I have witnessed working with technology leaders in my career both in technology companies and now as an executive and leadership coach. Many solutions and advises have been given to overcome these, however since technology itself changes rapidly, these anxieties get amplified, and the feeling continues to stay.

The 5 anxieties of a tech CEO

A technology CEO constantly faces these five anxieties or challenges. The first is dealing with increasing individual and team performance. Technology moves at such a rapid pace that it is difficult to keep up with evolving new concepts. The second is with doing more with less – either with resources (people and budgets) or time to meet the company goals. Most technology organizations have developed specializations over the years and the CEO experiences the third anxiety of leveraging with partner organizations as specializations are all over. Often, either the organization, the investors or the board has a new vision, and the CEO now needs to deal with a fourth anxiety of how to synchronize one’s execution with a new vision. Finally, the technology world has grown global and technology teams take the job to where the talent is. This now means managing and leading global workforce, the fifth anxiety. 

“Into the unknown” is a popular song from Disney’s movie – Frozen 2. The following lines from the song resonate with all these anxieties and challenges that a tech leader faces as they climb the corporate ladder.

Every day’s a little harder
As I feel my power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me
That longs to go

More about these anxieties

Being a CEO in technology is a mixed blessing. One loves technology as it involves creation, design and execution of a new product. However, for customers to adopt a product, it is not just dependent on generating ideas of what is possible, but successful execution and delivery. As the leader starts to bring visions to reality, they start to encounter the various challenges and anxieties. Let us examine each in detail.

Anxiety 1: Increasing Performance

We all know technology moves at a fast pace. Technology companies pivot their technology strategy every 2 to 3 years due to rate of change. In this environment a CEO could be a hero today and not be the cool leader tomorrow. As they try to keep up with the new shiny object it causes great anxiety and challenges. 

A CEO who understands a few concepts in one and some or none in the other will have trouble if his team starts to think that he is a dinosaur. This causes anxieties like “Does the team respect me?” The leader is now challenged with continually increasing their personal performance. Where is the time to do this while running a company?

Anxiety 2: Doing more with less

As we know, technology is an evolving field. How does this translate to what one does and execution of regular programs and projects? Let us put ourselves in the shoes of a CEO. The leader has developed a state-of-the-art product or service using today’s technology. In a couple of years, this technology will be obsolete. In two to three years, the company will need to build another product or service using the prevalent technology of that time. But they will also need to sustain the existing technology due to customers who may not be ready to switch to a new paradigm or may have users who use that. The CEO now needs to manage two streams – one sustaining and one innovating. This is the innovative leader’s dilemma. The investors are not ready to invest in the sustaining technology as it will not bring any new customers. This will plateau the company as opposed to the growth plan that was agreed on with investors and communicated to the employees. The CEO now needs to deliver more with almost the same or lessor amount of investment.

Another dimension of this challenge is that employees move onto other technologies as they want to stay ahead of new things. This implies that the sustaining team get smaller. Investors decide that there is no business growth in this area, so this magically becomes the budget for next year.

In both cases, the CEO is now challenged to do more with less – either with budgets or people resources. 

Anxiety 3: Partner management

As technology evolved, it also continued to specialize. A great example is of banking software. 25 years ago, almost all banking data was in mainframe computers. If one needed a statement, one went to a bank’s branch which would print out the statement. Around this time, personal computers and internet started to emerge, and banking technologists built software to allow access using web connection technologies. Soon smart mobile phones and tablets emerged, and our data was accessible as applications (Apps) on these devices. Just this use case alone has five specializations in a broad category. In addition, each has sub specializations in user interface, data management, device and data security, data integration, etc.

In the example above, let us assume that the technology CEO needs to provide a complete solution to a customer. The CEO’s company has a piece of the puzzle that will help form the bigger picture. How does the CEO now find the other pieces and effectively partner with other companies to provide a complete solution to the customer? 

Anxiety 4: Change in vision

There can be two reasons of vision change. First is in the direction of the company and second is change in a board or investors. 

The company’s new vision needs change in skills, and the existing teams could become redundant all together. This is the cause of the first type of anxiety that CEO face due to vision change.

The second is when the composition of the board or the investors changes and they want the company to go a different way than what the CEO would like or envisages.

This is a conundrum that the CEO faces while they would like to stay with the original goal. 

Anxiety 5: Effective Global workforce

This has been a competency in some industries like manufacturing, however it is a different kind of challenge for technology CEOs. I have written an article on this topic entitled ‘The world is potholed’. The tech CEO is posed with cultural issues, gauging productivity, managing multiple time zones, establishing local leadership, management of global workforce, project portfolio distribution, resource and skill availability, juggling budgets, and various administrative challenges. These can easily overwhelm a CEO in addition to the other anxieties that they already have.

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Getting to Successful outcomes

I first came across the term thinking partner in a book by Marcia Reynolds. This was an ‘aha’ moment for me. Somewhere in my mid-career, I was fortunate to have an executive coach who was my thinking partner when similar anxieties and challenges started. 

A technology CEO is the one who understands their organization and its behaviors the best. A ‘trusted advisor, executive coach and thinking partner’ works with the successful CEO – leader to make them even more successful. In his book, Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s #1 leadership coach talks about 20 habits that hold leaders back. 

A thinking partner helps engage in a productive dialog in a safe environment to remove anxieties and discuss these habits. The executive coach provides a confidential environment for thoughts and ideas and helps examine them. The trusted advisor discusses prizes (pros) for doing or not doing something, and punishment (cons) for doing or not doing something. This approach leads to successful outcomes.

Outcome 1: Impactful leadership

Technology CEOs continue to get better in their areas using a structured process so that their leadership has a major impact. This works both for a CEO who has been in a role for a time and when these anxieties emerge, or someone who recently got into this new role and is suddenly faced with questions like “how much is my work is related to technology and how much is leading the extended leadership team?

Outcome 2: Business direction

Most CEOs start out in technology with either a skill or knowledge in a particular area as an individual contributor. Soon technology leadership takes them into roles of managing and leading successful teams. They need to balance the direction their company’s business is going, even as the excitement of the technology stays. CEOs need to escape the present trap.

Outcome 3: Successful Global teams

Creating, managing and leading global teams is not an easy task. The CEO needs to find the right person who understands the strategy then establish these teams and investigate models that work. CEOs know their organizations best and team dynamics could negatively or positively impact the outcome.

Outcome 4: Solve Conundrums

A lot of decisions made by tech CEOs is impacted by knowledge, assumptions and beliefs. Another decision factor is determined by the consequences the leader fears. A thinking partner helps the leader understand, analyze and look at them objectively to get to an informed decision.  

Outcome 5: Streamline workflows

Leaders could possibly streamline plans if they think about the workflows that they want to create. A thinking partner expands awareness of all these outcomes.

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Figure 2: Transformation of the Technology CEO to move forward and leaving anxieties behind

The author Bikram Gupta Sarma is a Principal at IBTA GLOBAL. He pivoted from being a Technology Leader to an Advisor, Thinking partner and Executive Coach. He has over three and a half decades of experience, from building startups to mid-sized businesses to working in a large Fortune 100 company. He has held executive leadership positions in software engineering, product management and engineering operations working with customers across multiple disciplines. Bikram drove and managed platform and systems engineering at Oracle as Vice President for multiple products. He also worked in a General Management role of Global Operations leading teams in 6 countries across multiple business units. 

Recently, as technology continues to evolve, Bikram helped create cloud based systems and transform business models from traditional software licensing to recurring revenue subscriptions. He also managed engineering teams developing for embedded, Internet of Things (IoT) and Data Integration solutions. 

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Inflation – Why Technology Companies Should Care

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Gaurav Bhasin, Managing Director, Allied Advisers

Inflation has surged in the US economy in recent months at 8.5% to its highest level in 40 years and impacted the business environment across practically every industry. Public and Private technology companies in particular have seen their valuations impacted.

Allied Advisers developed this article to provide insights into how inflation impacts technology company valuations and what business executives can do to navigate this choppy environment and suggestions to sustain growth momentum and earnings despite the inflation headwinds.

The inflation rate in the United States has swung from less than 1% during the peak of the Pandemic to 8.5% currently, the highest since 1981.

As a consumer, you have felt the bite of inflation while filling your car with gas unless you drive a Tesla! Inflation has also taken a bite out of technology stocks. It is not a coincidence that technology stocks have taken a severe fall during the recent rapid rise of inflation. There are very specific reasons why technology stocks decline during high inflationary periods.

Here are four reasons inflation erodes a technology company’s value:

  1. Increase in borrowing costs: Variable rate debt on company books becomes more expensive as interest rates rise with inflation, reducing net income. However, debt could still be a cheaper financing option compared to equity.

  2. Increase in supply chain costs: the rising prices of components and logistics have a deleterious impact on production economics at technology companies. For example, semiconductor chip shortages and resulting price escalations have substantially increased cost of goods for companies like Apple (-11%) Microsoft (-18%) and Roku (-58%)

  3. Increase in labor costs: inflation causes companies to increase employee wages to retain talent, especially in hotly contested areas like R&D, sales and engineering, resulting in an increase in cost of sales (resulting in lower gross margins) and operating expenses (resulting in lower operating profits). Wage inflation creates headwinds to high growth technology companies that rely on not just retaining but also growing headcount in critical areas to drive revenue acceleration.

  4. Increase in G&A costs: “keep the lights on” expenses like rent (though hybrid work due to COVID has helped reduce rent), utilities and insurance escalate in an inflationary environment, chipping away at cash and profitability

As inflation causes nominal interest rates to rise with monetary tightening, the present value of those future cash flows decreases since the discount rate (or the cost of capital) has increased. The
markets are always forward-looking, so software companies that derived most of their value from future growth have suffered the greatest declines in market price.

For a further insights on inflation and details on NASDAQ’s Composite Index vs. US Treasury Note Yield (1-Year) – click here for Allied Advisor’s full article.

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SEG Snapshot: 1Q22 SaaS Public Market Update

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The SEG SaaS Index is a list of publicly traded companies that they have determined to be SaaS businesses (i.e., they primarily offer solutions via the cloud and may have a subscription or transaction-based pricing model).

In 1Q22 the median growth rate for the SEG SaaS Index reached 28.5%, with nearly a third of SaaS companies experiencing a growth rate of 40% or more. Note: this upward trend is also a result of more high-growth companies added to the Index.

Here are five highlight updates from the 2022 Q1 Report.

 

I) Due to the large influx of companies taking advantage of strong stock market performance in 2021, there were 14 additions to the SEG SaaS Index in 1Q22. Notable additions include Couchbase, Squarespace, PowerSchool, Instructure, Riskified, Alkami, and Monday.com.

II) EV/Revenue multiples dropped significantly in 1Q22, down 30% from 13.9x in 4Q21 to 9.8x in 1Q22. This material decline over the last four months has occurred as investors shy away from riskier, high growth investments and focus more on profitability instead. Geopolitical unrest, inflation, interest rates, and federal monetary policy have all contributed to this shift.

III) Security and human capital management had the highest revenue growth in 1Q22 as employee retention, labor shortages, hybrid work environments, and increased attention on cybersecurity solutions brought these product categories into focus.

IV) Communications & Collaboration had the highest TTM revenue growth rate out of all product categories, with a median growth of 41.5%. Leaders in the space included Monday.com at 91.3%, Asana at 66.7%, and Twilio at 61.3%. This category was followed closely by Other SaaS and Security, with median growth rates of 35.2% and 33.3%, respectively.

V) The Weighted Rule of 40%: Generally, SaaS companies with a higher weighted Rule of 40(1) are rewarded with higher revenue multiples. In 1Q22, companies in the higher cohorts saw the most significant impact on multiples. We see this impact as a result of investors shifting toward profitability since these cohorts include many companies growing quickly but are unprofitable.

 

Click here for the full SEG 1Q22 SaaS Public Market Update.

 

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M.R. Rangaswami Asks 3 Questions: Ashwin Bharath, CEO, Revature

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“It’s finding talent that’s the problem.” Sound familiar? The past two years have accelerated the job demands that were already presenting themselves in Traditional IT and Digital IT workforce.

What Ravature has leveraged is their “Talent as a Service” or TaaS.

CEO, Ashwin Bharath and his teams are finding, hiring, and developing technology talent for an organization’s specific requirements so talent can be successful contributors from day one.

Training over 19,000 software engineers in 55 technical disciplines and deploying them to blue-chip companies throughout the world, Ashwin had some inspiring perspectives on the tech hiring landscape and the opportunities available in the wake of COVID-19.

M.R. Rangaswami: Tell me a little about the tech talent landscape and why there is an opportunity for disruption?

Ashwin Bharath: This left the supply-side hiring constituents such as large enterprises and systems integrators scrambling for cover with an unprecedented wave of challenges. The talent supply ecosystem which had relied in the past on sourcing from staffing firms supplemented by training firms (primarily instructor and online learning) as well as the ones offering coding boot camps have fallen woefully short in addressing the magnitude of this challenge.

M.R: So, the reliance on staffing and training firms coupled with the shift to broad platforms left a huge opportunity for disruption or a new approach. Is this where your “Talent as a Service” model was born?

Ashwin: In short yes. The strength of a company is not on its power or size, but based on how quick they can pivot, react, and respond to market demands. Any CTO will tell you that technology provides that agility. So, growth and agility rely heavily on technology, but the company’s existing tech teams are ill-prepared to take on this demand. It is this heavy demand that is forcing companies to realize that it is impossible to solve their tech woes by themselves. That is why companies come to Revature, we understand this challenge better than anyone else and we help create a unique solution built just for them.

M.R.: What is that approach? What is Revature’s secret sauce?

Ashwin: We start by considering two factors:

1. First thing we do is to unbundle the current talent solutions that are in place. As we unbundle, we help the client realize that they must focus on solving both the Talent Acquisition and Talent Transformation problems. This process helps the client understand that attacking both Talent Acquisition and Talent Transformation is what is needed to solve their tech staffing challenges. Bottom line: we help the client to understand the value of hiring based on talent and not on skills.

2. Next, we emphasize the need to democratize opportunities. Democratizing means that we need to build a Talent Enablement Ecosystem or Talent as a Service – which we define as a self-sustaining habitat that allows the client to tap into a consistent talent development cycle. This TaaS gives our clients a plug and play participation model irrespective of size and scale.

M.R.: I heard you say “Don’t Hire for Skill, Hire for Talent” can you unpack that a bit?

Ashwin: Well, this is really the “secret sauce” that you mentioned before. At Revature, we believe that the real problem with tech hiring is not a skill gap but an opportunity gap. “Skill” in technology changes at the speed of light and where most organizations get into trouble is that they hire based on skillset. That approach is basically just kicking the can down the road and leaves you vulnerable in the future.

Revature thinks about the problem differently, while traditional hiring focuses on the “skill gap” issue. We focus on opportunity creation and diversity. The idea that there is a lack of talent is not true, there is plenty of talent out there, but the traditional hiring approaches are too focused on skillset to take advantage of it.

Considering these facts, the Fed Reserve Bank of NY states that 40% of recent graduates are underemployed and over 50 million Americans are stuck in low wage jobs, without any prospect of acquiring skills that will get them better jobs.

The quantity of potential talent included in these group are staggering, tapping into these groups is one of the answers to the supply problem. And that is the advantage of working with us at Revature, our Hire, Train, Deploy model hires for talent and delivers the skill. Revature hires based on the potential of a candidate, not on their current skills. In other words, we don’t find talent, we create it.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder Sandhill.com

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Siddharth Lunawat, CEO & Co-Founder, Hammoq

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Siddharth “Sid” Lunawat is CEO and co-founder of Hammoq Inc., a company that automates the ecommerce process for returned item resale and used goods. In the face of an exploding market for overstocked, returned and used goods, where the fashion resale market alone is expected to reach $26 billion in 2022, Hammoq is reimaging “recommerce.”

By using artificial intelligence and machine learning to close the labor gap challenge, Hammoq is overcoming industry barriers which have traditionally limited the product identification, valuation and marketplace listing process.

M.R. Rangaswami: What is recommerce and how is it changing the landscape of today’s retail and ecommerce industries? 

Sid Lunawat: Recommerce is the sale of used and returned goods. This includes everything from clothing to electronics, toys and much more. The industry is supported with a tremendous glut of online retail returns. In fact, retail returns topped $761 billion in 2021. This is further accelerated by a high demand for sustainable fashion upcycling and vintage items as consumers, particularly GenZ and Millenials, increasingly make green and sustainable product choices.

Conventional retailers are also starting to shift to a recommerce model to monetize the high volume of product returns that cannot be resold as new. The retail industry has sustained more than $309 billion in return losses and seeks better methods to recoup revenue from their returned item inventory.

While there is an abundance of products as well as resale marketplaces to support this recommerce economy, the challenge is in the labor required to identify product value and push it to the marketplaces where used goods are sold. This is a mounting challenge across the industry from resellers and liquidators to thrifters and retailers. At Hammoq, we are reimagining this recommerce process using artificial intelligence and machine learning, matched with virtual assistants, to automate the online listing process so retailers and resellers alike can sell more and build thriving recommerce businesses.

M.R.: Why is AI a key enabler of recommerce? Why can’t this new retailing trend happen without AI technology?

Sid: Used clothing comes from two main sources – donations or returns. In both scenarios they are dropped in a bin that is then sent to a warehouse. They generally have no tags and because the items are used, the retail price no longer holds. AI can quickly identify the item and its resale price in a way that used to be a purely manual effort. Traditionally, expensive human intervention was required to identify product attributes, assign product value and create the listing that is required to place the product in a marketplace for sale. This high labor cost has prevented the industry from scaling up rapidly.  

At Hammoq, we’re overcoming this obstacle with AI-powered machine vision technology. Using machine vision, sellers can quickly and accurately categorize an item. AI automates the product’s description of the color, style, pricing and other attributes needed to accurately list the product for sale. The result is enabling resellers to scale and sell more products, faster.

M.R.: What is the future of recommerce and how will it change the retail supply chain? 

Sid: As the recommerce industry grows the stress it puts on the supply chain becomes even greater. Without AI and machine learning technology, supply chain costs will dramatically rise and more products will go wasted in landfills. This also prevents retailers from capitalizing on the demand for increased sustainability and product recycling.

With AI, Hammoq is changing this trajectory by injecting a new, scalable process to more rapidly place returned items back into the retail supply chain. We are helping to increase the volume and profitability of products and shave down the billions of dollars in failed replacement of returned items. Through the use of automation, processing costs per item will drop and retailers can sustain profitability on higher value items, repurposing them more easily vs. liquidating them for pennies on the dollar.  

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Vadim Vladimirskiy, CEO and Co-Founder, Nerdio

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In a time where many companies have had to rapidly embrace new ways to work from anywhere – from remote and home offices to in the office and on the road, Nerdio has helped to more securely and efficiently deliver user workspaces from the cloud. 

Working remote isn’t new for Co-Founder Vadim, or his team at Nerdio. In fact, the company has a fully remote workforce with employees around the world putting its technology to work internally just as its customers do.

Today, Nerdio has more than two million users across its product portfolio, to easily deploy Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365. Nerdio Manager for MSP and Nerdio Manager for Enterprise add significant features and functionality on top of Microsoft’s virtual desktop services, Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365, to support faster virtual desktop deployments and more simplified management to lighten the load on IT administrators. 

M.R. Rangaswami: The pandemic caused many companies to quickly re-evaluate their end-user computing strategy and employ technologies, like virtual desktops and desktop-as-a-service or DaaS, to enable employees to work from home. But now that workers are slowing going back to the office, will DaaS still be a growing trend?

Vadim Vladimirskiy: COVID-19 rapidly transformed the way we work, and think about work. Nearly overnight, employees who had never worked remotely or from home were required to do so. This has had a long-term impact on our work cultures and cultural approaches to work. Even as pandemic restrictions are being lifted, digital workers are reluctant to go back to the office.

Pew Research Center reports that two years into the pandemic 61% of workers that have a workplace outside of their home choose not to go into their workplace often citing an increase in work/life balance. Yet others still prefer to go into the office, or have the option of a hybrid workplace, so it’s the need for flexibility of work that remains constant. 

All this is to say, the end user computing technology we use to keep employees productive must support every way people want to work. In the office, remote and a hybrid of both. This is the ultimate value of DaaS technology – it gives users a familiar and accessible workspace from anywhere they want to work. DaaS, particularly virtual desktops that are delivered from Microsoft Azure, will also lower operating costs, enhance security, improve business continuity and simplify management of end user computing. 

These benefits far outweigh the traditional cost of end user computing where the management of physical devices can be pricey and riddled with needless overhead. DaaS was already a trending technology to improve the productivity and security of end users. The pandemic simply accelerated it.

M.R. Rangaswami: What are some of the challenges DaaS technology can help IT solve? 

Vadim: Supporting the remote worker isn’t the only value of DaaS technology – even though the improved accessibility to business apps and data is the benefit many think of first. Security, lower operating costs and improved business continuity are all additional values of a DaaS computing approach.  

We all know the endpoint is an enduring problem when it comes to security vulnerabilities. End users are often not prepared or educated appropriately when it comes to spotting socially engineered or phishing attacks that can increase the threat surface and provide cybercriminals an entry point into the corporate network. DaaS is the ideal solution to this security risk. Because data lives securely in infrastructure that can be better secured, protected and controlled by IT, it isn’t put at risk by the user. Added encryption and multi-factor authentication further removes security risk. 

DaaS also can dramatically lower both capital and operating costs. Physical devices and clients no longer need to be as robust to operate cloud workspaces, so hardware costs are reduced and extended. Management is also much easier and can be done remotely from a central console, lowering staff and resource burdens.

Finally, when leveraging a public cloud such as Microsoft Azure, infrastructure costs and even space, power and cooling requirements of a traditional on-prem data center can be avoided, while scale can be swiftly enabled regardless of location. 

Further, DaaS increases business resilience and continuity. Leveraging the cloud, enterprises achieve a much greater uptime level, drawing from the high-grade public cloud infrastructure. DaaS access to business data and apps is virtually immune to weather, disaster or even ransomware-related disasters which can often cripple the more traditional local-device based approach to end user computing. 

M.R.: What will it take to make DaaS part of the new common fabric of enterprise IT? 

Vadim: DaaS is already becoming a regular component of many organizations – both large and small. It will only be a matter of time before it is the de facto standard for enterprise end user computing based on the advantages outlined earlier. As the new hybrid work world continues to persist – and all indicators show that it will – IT will continue to seek ways to improve employee productivity, secure business data, and improve business continuity all while lowering capital and operating costs. DaaS is a clear solution to achieve each of these and will in time become a vital component of every enterprise environment. 

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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Re-think your SSO strategy or get left in the Stone Age

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By Dr. Canming Jiang is founder and CEO of Datawiza

A CEO recently told me his company can’t take their solution upmarket without the stronger authentication and single sign-on (SSO) capabilities that Fortune 500 companies need.

Adapting to the wide array of new identity platforms and tools that customers are requesting, he explained, requires too much precious developer time, risking a slower pace of innovation and forcing
uncomfortable conversations about pricing models that the market may consider exploitive. (Check
out the SSO Wall of Shame, a list of vendors that one GitHub member believes are overcharging for
SSO capabilities.)

I challenged the CEO that he needs to be three steps ahead of customers. Just as no one would
think of building an HTTP website today when HTTPS is standard, he needs to deliver Burger King-
style “have it your way” SSO and other access and provisioning capabilities now because these are
going to be table steaks before long.


Login freedom is a must.

Let’s back up a bit. Security risks abound, so implementing the security your customers need can’t be
an option, even if they’re not explicitly asking for it today. One thing automotive CEOs Elon Musk
and James Farley agree on: Powerful, responsive automotive braking systems are not optional. I
believe that we are at this same place now with respect to SSO, and we will be there sooner than
you think with tomorrow’s security protocols.

Companies are adopting any number of modern identity platforms –such as Okta, Azure AD and
Google – to increase security, enable SSO and multi-factor authentication (MFA), offer better and
more productive user experiences and provide visibility into user activity. The complexity of
optimizing SaaS software to run in any cloud, and support any IAM platform has opened the door to
what I believe borders predatory pricing. Customers should not have to pay double or even triple the
standard price for B2B SSO integration because the market has not settled on one IAM winner yet,
and it’s too costly to incrementally support what individual customers are using.

Breaches are unfortunately all too common. So whether your customer is a manufacturer, school
district or government agency, they either have – or will soon have – a tool to identify and set access
privileges for employees, partners, and customers. From the perspective of your sales team,
supporting all possible SSO options today is a dream. Doing so is one less detail that can knock your
solution out of the qualification process. I would go so far as to say that it should be part of any
minimum viable solution.

However, the challenge doesn’t stop at SSO. Companies are constantly looking for new ways to
make it easier and safer for users and customers to access applications, which may involve a mix of
strategies. The latest trend is social logins.

Zoom is a great example of this, and it’s becoming a must-have feature of B2B applications. As a vendor, you don’t have a crystal ball to see what’s next
– and the last thing you want to do is sink costs into constantly responding to the latest access
management strategy.


But then again, can you afford not to if your competitors are doing it?

The cost and pricing predicament.

One rosy way to get around the challenge of evolving login strategies is to charge premium fees for
SSO and whatever comes next. Mature SaaS vendors can better afford the development costs –
including headcount for a couple of extra security experts. And many larger enterprises are more
than willing to pay those premium fees because verifying access is essential for security and tools
like SSO deliver a more acceptable user experience.

It’s a legitimate approach, but how long until this falls out of favor? Are you pricing yourself out of
customers who don’t want to pay the SSO tax? Will hiring development and security resources cut
into your already razor-thin margins?


Is “have-it-your-way” SSO a realistic mantra?

What is not supporting a range of SSO options costing you? The flip side of that coin is how much
does it really cost to support each identity platform? Clearly some vendors on the SSO Wall of
Shame are price gouging, while others are passing on legitimate costs.

The CEO and others I’ve talked to told me it takes several months to integrate the first identity
platform, and it can still take a month or more to integrate each additional platform even after the
team is experienced. (SDKs and APIs from IAM platforms are not as magical as some of us would
like to believe.) And then there is the cycle of constant maintenance and fixes. This is a huge cost
and an endless distraction for developers who should be focused on the critical product roadmap.
These costs can be passed on in some way to customers. In my view, the market should decide
SSO pricing and vendors that can justify charging exorbitant premium fees for SSO have every right
to do so.

But innovation doesn’t always come from those with the deepest pockets, and not every SaaS
vendor can throw more bodies at “have-it-your-way SSO,” providing the capability for free or for a
minimal additional fee. There are always tradeoffs, but as an industry, we need to think about
whether trading off our own software innovation for something that will soon be table stakes is good
for our customers.

The key to driving SSO-for-all is adopting an innovative no-code strategy that eliminates the need for
one-off development, enabling support for any identity platform with just a few clicks and all the
required security already built-in. Ideally, wouldn’t it be great if your customer support team could
enable the SSO flavor your customer needs, leaving developers to work on the next big thing?

The world is going no-code for a reason. Business users, accustomed to the simplicity of consumer-
based SaaS applications will no longer tolerate cumbersome Stone Age enterprise software. No-
code platforms are the key to delivering modern applications faster. Who hasn’t heard of Webflow,
Squarespace or Shopify for DIY website building tools? And tools abound for other development
areas, such as mobile apps and online courses.

To continue leading our markets, B2B SaaS vendors must support every possible login strategy that
customers want – username/password, SSO, social login, passwordless, and any other secure and
user-friendly strategy that comes along. Think of it as comprehensive connectivity for your
customers. Gartner has a name for this market: Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM).
It’s where the industry is going.

Dr. Canming Jiang is founder and CEO of Datawiza

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions, Dr. Ittai Dayan, Co-Founder & CEO of Rhino Health

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As co-founder and CEO of Rhino Health, Dr. Ittai Dayan is transforming the way healthcare AI solutions are created, adopted and measured. The Rhino Health Platform provides access to a large, distributed dataset from a diverse group of patients, powering models that deliver consistent results and, ultimately, improve health outcomes for large populations of patients.

Drawing on his background as a clinician and researcher, Ittai is passionate about creating equitable access to advanced AI-based diagnostics and treatment pathways – across increasingly diverse patient populations.

He led the world’s largest and most prominent study, utilizing federated learning (FL), published in Nature Medicine, the world’s largest and most prominent study, utilizing federated learning (FL). The EXAM study brought more than 20 healthcare institutions together, to train a healthcare AI solution on diverse data across institutions.

M.R. Rangaswami: What is Federated Learning (FL) and how is it improving healthcare and specifically precision medicine?

Dr. Ittai Dayan: FL is a machine learning paradigm that allows data scientists to train algorithms without exchanging underlying data. Rather than pooling data from multiple institutions into a central repository, federated learning involves training an algorithm on different ‘pools’ of data, blending only model weights, so that no patient data ever needs to leave a hospital’s firewall.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for healthcare and lifesciences is well suited to FL, because it relies on patient data, which is highly sensitive, its usage is tightly regulated, and full anonymization of it can be difficult or impractical.

Without methods like FL, healthcare AI will only be trained on limited sets of patient data, decreasing the volume and diversity of patient data required to truly identify precision medicine. Precision medicine relies on algorithmic approaches, including AI, but requires that ‘models’ are trained on diverse data. This is especially an issue for rare diseases, or novel data modalities that are very ‘patchy’ and require accessing data from multiple providers. FL can help accelerate healthcare AI for the purposes of precision medicine.

M.R.: Coming from the healthcare field, was there any personal experience that brought you to found Rhino Health? What were the unmet needs you saw in the healthcare industry?

Ittai: As a clinician, I saw firsthand the amount of data that was generated by every patient interaction and how much of that was not accessible to be used for benefiting clinical care. While I was leading the development and deployment of AI models at Mass General Brigham, I oversaw many projects related to healthcare AI, many of which required access to diverse data to ensure robust model performance. To improve performance of a COVID-19 prognostication model, I led the EXAM study, published in Nature Medicine, which is probably the world’s largest and most prominent study to-date utilizing FL to train a healthcare AI solution on diverse data across institutions.

The understanding that FL can help break barriers to collaboration on data distributed all over the globe was eye-opening to me. Until then, it was considered too ‘sciency’ for the ‘real world.’  Rhino Health has proved that it is ready for prime time. We are turning this concept into a platform that would serve developers, clinicians and patients.

M.R.: What is the future of healthcare and precision medicine?

Ittai: The future of healthcare AI and precision medicine requires ongoing access to massive amounts of patient-derived biologic data and performing models that use that detailed data to predict diagnoses, aid in clinical decision making and predict outcomes, all in order to drive better care with better diagnostics, biomarkers and drugs that will be an improvement from the current standard of care. Federated learning will drive the future of healthcare, since it will be able to access sensitive patient data privacy in a secure and anonymized way.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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MR Asks 3 Questions: Frank Fawzi, President & CEO, IntelePeer 

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Before IntelePeer, Frank Fawzi worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories as the lead data communications architect for a $1.4B winning bid to the IRS. Later, he would found CommTech, eventually selling it to ADC, a leading provider of broadband solutions for the telecommunications industry, for $178 million.

Frank received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Master of Science in Management from Stevens Institute of Technology and participated in the Wharton Executive Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also selected as a QuantumShift’s Top Entrepreneurs in America for 2017 by KPMG’s Private Markets Group and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

As the President and Chief Executive Officer at IntelePeer, Frank has been a driving force behind its growth and achieving its mission to become a dominant CPaaS provider for enterprises.

M.R. Rangaswami: How do you see customer experience evolving in this post-pandemic era? What is IntelePeer doing to get prepared?

Frank Fawzi: Primarily, during COVID, consumers moved from physical to digital interactions with businesses. And, as a result, have now learned the convenience and speed of digital interactions with a business instead of having to physically be present. As a result, companies have had to significantly increase their digital operations while maintaining the same level of personalization that a physical interaction allowed for.

And because call centers and offices were empty across the county, businesses had to pivot to a work-from-home or hybrid business model and needed to quickly find ways to continue answering customer queries while keeping both staff and customers informed about crucial business updates. 

During COVID, IntelePeer leaped forward to help our customers deliver that digital customer engagement through automation, virtual agents, communication AI and chatbots. These solutions were so effective they produced both a high ROI and an improvement in customer experience at scale, and today, consumers have come to expect 24/7 availability, self-service options and seller-free experiences. In addition, consumers continue to rely on automated self-serve or interacting with a virtual agent if it means spending less time on hold. 

At IntelePeer, we empower our customers with Atmosphere CPaaS, which streamlines customer interactions and engagement, allowing our clients to optimize staffing and deliver a variety of communication channels for a best-in-class customer experience (CX). Plus, by incorporating CPaaS and communications workflow automation into their cloud transition, our customers can free themselves from legacy platforms to provide personalized automation for enhanced CX.

MR: Are no-code/low-code applications the future? What advantages does such a solution give to companies that might not have a dedicated development team? 

Frank: While there is debate as to whether coding and software development will become obsolete in the future due to advanced machines, for now, no-code/low-code applications make the lives of businesses with limited development resources or busy developers much easier. IntelePeer’s Atmosphere Marketplace platform offers a suite of pre-built applications that allow non-technical and technically adept people to solve business communication needs within a matter of minutes. 

By eliminating drawn-out and costly development cycles, our no-code/low-code offering democratizes access to the latest communications, AI and analytics technologies that helps organizations of all sizes achieve outcomes that were once reserved only for large corporations with huge budgets. With a step-by-step and plug-and-play setup, our clients can solve their communication needs cost-effectively and rapidly. And with snap-in apps, they can integrate seamlessly with their current workflows, CRM, database, billing systems, or any other system that supports APIs. 

From easily tailoring voice-enabled BOTs, intelligent routing, and setting up post-call surveys to effortlessly capture customer feedback and smoothly configuring auto-response messages, these no-code and low-code applications modernize the consumer’s communication experience. Additionally, no company’s communication strategy is safe from having its numbers get mislabeled as spam or fraud by third-party regulators. Through IntelePeer’s Reputation Management solutions, businesses can remediate mismarked numbers before significant negative impact.

 

MR: How have virtual assistants, chatbots and other AI solutions transformed the customer experience/ journey?

Frank: Tremendously and more advances will be delivered to fully automate customer engagement and experience. The days of massive call centers with obscene hold times are numbered and will be replaced by communication workflow automation with virtual assistants, chatbots, AI and other tools.  

We now see that consumers prefer to try out self-service options before speaking with a human agent – most likely, the increased accuracy of virtual assistants, chatbots, and conversational AI solutions have given people greater confidence in solving problems on their own. However, because research shows that most customers consider their experience with an organization to be just as important as its products or services, it is paramount that those AI solutions be effective useful and comprehensive.  

Virtual agents and chatbots have elevated the customer journey by delivering more human interactions via sentiment and tonality analysis, language detection and translation, and speech-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities. With IntelePeer’s Atmosphere SmartFlows, customers can still escalate to a live agent based on the complexity of their inquiry for the most personalized CX possible. With SmartFlows, every call or communication interaction is recorded, transcribed and available to be searched and analyzed to continue looking for opportunities to improve the customer experience in the future.

Likewise, the customer journey is becoming more complicated, as people use an average of ten channels to communicate with companies today. IntelePeer’s easily configurable and ready-to-use AI solutions help our clients meet their customers on the channels they prefer, be that SMS, voice, web, email, digital or social channels. And through actionable insights on consumers’ preferences, attitudes, and purchase behaviors, businesses can provide precise recommendations and tailored experiences. 

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com 

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Bobby Balachandran, Founder & CEO, Exterro

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Bobby founded Exterro with the conviction that the legal industry was rife with opportunities for process improvements that could be driven from lessons learned in other industries.

Today, Bobby fulfills Exterro’s founding principles by leading the company in building a comprehensive platform for global corporations and governmental agencies to mitigate risks, control costs, and have complete end to end visibility into their legal governance, risk and compliance processes.

M.R. Rangaswami: What are the key challenges facing corporate General Counsel or Chief Legal Officers that’s driving them to consider Exterro solutions?

Bobby Balachandran: The role of the GC or CLO has greatly evolved and expanded over the past 10-15 years due to a number of macro trends. First is the constant introduction of new laws and regulations to which an organization must comply. Significant among these over the past seven to eight years has been related to the increased scrutiny on privacy with laws such as the GDPR in Europe, or the various state laws like the CPRA in California here in the United States. Third is the relentless threat of cyber-attack or breach, and the fourth is the rise of legal operations, due to a sharp focus from the C-Suite on improving the efficiency and productivity of the legal department.

All of these greater trends have combined to create new business challenges that no longer can be addressed by a single organizational department, like Privacy, Compliance, Legal Operations, Security etc.

Let me give you an example:

Laws like the GDPR or CPRA allow an individual to request to know what data you have stored on them, how you’re using it, how long you plan to store it and even ask that you delete it. If the requester is a current or former employee, not only do you need to ensure you have the workflow to ensure the request is handled by the appropriate group, but the person or group responsible for the data must be able to quickly locate it, collect it, review it, redact any personal information not related to the requester and then securely deliver this information to the requestor.

You can see how this request quickly crosses conventional divisions and responsibilities—it’s not just someone in your Privacy department’s responsibility – he or she will need to work with someone with expertise in e-discovery at a minimum. And if that data subject submits a request for data deletion, things get even more complex, because before deleting anything, you must first confirm that the information can legally be deleted. It can’t be subject to retention requirements imposed by regulatory compliance obligations or a legal hold.

As a result, you have solid or very strongly dotted reporting lines for privacy, compliance, legal operations, litigation support and even incident response into the GC/CLO. And this is forcing a new way to think about both how to organize across these different areas for optimal performance, but also how to apply technology to solve some pretty challenging business processes.

M.R. So how should a GC or CLO think about solving these challenges?

Bobby: We strongly believe it all starts with data. All of us have heard that data is the “new oil” and while it might sound trite, there is truth to the statement. How organizations collect, store, use, manage, protect and ultimately delete data largely determines how successful they can be.
But it’s not easy. The amount of data is huge and it’s growing exponentially. So, while there can be significant competitive advantages realized if you optimize your use of data, it is a double-edged sword, with significant downside risk as well.

Think of the impact that a serious data breach can have, the loss of a “bet your company” legal dispute, or the public perception you don’t treat personally sensitive data appropriately.
This is a massive problem for organizations of all kinds – private enterprise, government, education – no one is immune to the risks data poses.

But this is where Exterro helps. Our platform enables clients to understand what data they have, where it is located, what regulations apply to it, what third parties have access to it, and most importantly, respond quickly to requests for that data. A request could be e-discovery necessary for litigation, collecting evidence for an internal investigation, responding to a data subject access request, or fulfilling reporting obligations to data authorities after an incident or breach is identified, or any number of other business processes that are the responsibility of the legal department.

M.R. While that’s a broad set of capabilities, it’s not all that Exterro does, though, is it?

Bobby: No, and I’m glad you asked me that. I mentioned how Exterro can help with internal investigations or incident response earlier, and that’s due to our portfolio of FTK® digital forensic products. And while the use cases I mentioned previously are those that address corporate challenges, the largest market segment for forensic investigation solutions is law enforcement, which includes very large agencies in the federal government charged with protecting citizens as well as your local police department.

Our software is helping to stop crimes against children, human trafficking, terrorist plots, illegal drug smuggling, murders, and so forth. I’m extremely proud of the software platform our team has built, and the enviable list of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 customers who use our solutions, but it is a very different feeling – both humbling and gratifying – to know that we truly are helping to make the world a safer place.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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Quick Answers to Quick Questions: Rick Stengard, EVP, Meridian Technologies

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Meridian Technologies, a Consulting Solutions company, fills a full spectrum of skilled technical positions for some of the country’s largest organizations. Meridian meets the highest standard of excellence due to its focus on forging long-term relationships with deeply experienced consultants and building high-performance, service-oriented teams that produce results. Its scalable engagement models, from individual technology consultants to more strategic enterprise programs, enable clients to tap into world-class talent, expertise, and services to drive technology and enterprise transformation initiatives. 

As Executive Vice President at Meridian, Rick Stengard leads over 250 people in multiple regional sales and client-facing delivery teams across the commercial and government IT services sectors. His focus is on developing techniques, processes, and training to ensure scalable and repeatable growth. 

M.R. Rangaswami: What are some of the current challenges impacting the staffing of technical positions?

Rick Stengard: It’s a competitive market right now for highly skilled IT professionals. One thing we try to impress upon clients is the importance of speed—the faster we can move a strong candidate through the hiring process, the more likely it is they’ll accept an offer. Unfortunately, multiple interviews and homework to assess candidates aren’t as doable as they used to be.

Right now, the most skilled and qualified candidates are on the market for days, not weeks. One of the things we do at Meridian is to help our clients hire faster while maintaining the same level of talent quality. We spend time up front matching the right people with the right opportunity. A full gamut of screening is done before the interview process begins for the client, so the evaluation process can move faster.

Within the government sector, which is a key focus for us, one of the biggest challenges is sourcing talent with the required clearances and certifications. For federal government especially, clearances as well as technical certifications are needed for most people working with technology or in an IT capacity. Meridian continues to successfully migrate qualified tech talent from the commercial side to the public-sector side to fill the demand, including helping consultants get the proper clearances and certifications. 

M.R.: What have been the impacts of remote working on the workforce, including program delivery? 

Rick: Pre-pandemic, our consultants and technical professionals were almost exclusively onsite, meaning that people were relocated or had to travel to client facilities during the contracted period. This meant that oftentimes, access to talent was limited by geography or was attained at greater cost. Now, with cloud computing and the increasing acceptance of distributed work environments, the need for relocation and travel is less, reducing costs and widening the talent pool. 

Overall, we’ve found that our remote teams are just as effective. As a validating point, we have Agile software programs that have their performance measured on a quantifiable, point-based scale. The velocity of points being accrued per person and per hour has remained the same or in some cases even surpassed the levels seen during onsite work. 

M.R.: What should organizations look for in an IT staffing and solutions partner?

Rick: No matter what an organization’s staffing needs are, it comes down to the quality of the people. It’s the client that is taking the risk, so it’s vital to have faith in a partner that can identify people who deliver programs successfully.

There are many IT staffing solutions providers that will look at a job description and just provide a resume that checks the basic boxes. It’s important to have a partner that spends time pre-consulting with you to understand your needs—not only in terms of technical skills, clearances, and certifications—but also in terms of more intrinsic qualities to deliver exactly the right person. There are great software developers who won’t make good team leads because they aren’t good communicators or lack leadership skills, for example.

It’s also important that the partner doesn’t just step out of the process after the hire is made. Your partner should continue to manage talent post-hire and throughout the project to ensure successful program delivery and a satisfactory experience on both sides of the table. In fact, consultant care is a big part of Meridian’s culture. We believe that establishing long-term relationships with IT professionals that we have confidence in, and who are happy in their jobs, is key to providing the best human resources to our clients. Our consultant retention averages nearly 36 months and extends to as much as 10 years, which is exceptional in our industry. 

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Bhaskar Gorti, CEO of Platform9

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Moving from Oracle Corporation’s Senior Vice President to CEO at Platform9
Moving from Nokia Software’s president and chief digital officer to CEO at Platform9, Bhaskar Gorti is ready to speed up their go-to-market to support large-scale deployments and solidify their place as the leading open distributed cloud service

M.R. Rangaswami: Based on recent experience, what did you see happening in the cloud landscape and what are some of the unmet enterprise needs and opportunities to innovate?

Bhaskar Gorti: My recent experience was with Nokia as its President of Software and Chief Digital Officer, but I’ve been in enterprise software for most of my career, including as Senior Vice President and General Manager at Oracle Corporation, enabling B2B customers to modernize and become cloud native. Many of these customers have large, traditional non-cloud IT technologies to run many keep-the-lights-on operations in addition to cloud-based products for competitive differentiation.

A few years ago, a lot of companies talked about moving all of their IT infrastructure and applications to the public cloud. But what they all have realized is that moving infrastructure to the cloud is simply not enough to complete a cloud-native transformation. Companies who have tried to migrate from on-premises to a public cloud, or from one public cloud to another public cloud, know it’s not a trivial task.

The problem they are all trying to solve is how to have the flexibility and choice of using their own infrastructure for cloud-native applications while delivering a unified management and consumption experience of a public cloud.

Platform9 provides an elegant solution to this problem: delivering the power of cloud computing on the infrastructure of customer’s choice – whether that be public clouds, private infrastructure, or edge-sites – powered by Kubernetes and cloud-native technologies. Our platform delivers an open distributed cloud service, offering a neutral third option to public clouds and costly, time-consuming DIY.

Flexibility is crucial for enterprises to be able to drive their digital transformation and match their cloud capabilities to their business needs, and Platform9’s open distributed cloud is the optimal solution.

M.R.: Why did you join Platform9?

Bhaskar: I have known Platform9 and have interacted with Sirish Raghuram and Platform9’s other co-founders a few years ago while I was at Nokia developing a cloud-native software stack and looking for alternatives to DIY cloud-native orchestration and container management.  Platform9 has built and matured some phenomenal cloud-native technologies; they are a unique example of a disruptor company which has done very well with their platform and are leading in the cloud-native market segment. I was impressed with Platform9’s team, mission, and vision, especially their customer success stories, so when the chance to work alongside them came along I couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

My main goal is to help Platform9 build and grow the open distributed cloud category in order to allow enterprises across multiple new industries to reach their cloud-native transformation goals. By speeding up Platform9’s go-to-market to support more large-scale deployments of our software at major organizations across verticals, we will solidify our place as the leading open distributed cloud service.

M.R.: What are the biggest challenges and concerns you see customers facing?

Bhaskar: One of the things that I have learned over the years is that the most difficult task is to make complex things extremely simple. Customers are trying to solve very complex mission-critical problems of navigating between hyperscalers, on-premises data centers, and edge solutions. And it’s all so complex – what they really need is an open, cloud-agnostic platform to bring simplicity, agility, and a fast track so they can really focus on what is more important to them: organizational agility and competitive differentiation using modern cloud-native technologies.

With prior generations of technology, it was relatively easy to migrate to a new platform. In this new world of cloud-native, you cannot port. Simply lifting-and-shifting doesn’t really provide any agility and cost benefits. You have to start from scratch and build your cloud-native infrastructure and applications using a very different approach, grounded in cloud-native principles and technologies. This journey is fraught with challenges and cultural changes that most companies struggle with. They can benefit by using a partner like Platform9 with a cloud-native DNA and a platform that can speed up their transformation.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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Zinnov Confluence Summit 2022

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As businesses make the transition to the next normal, organizations need to set new standards and upend old paradigms to build long-term strategic advantage while keeping sustainability at its core….

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Amanda Reed, CEO, CrowdSmart.ai

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When it comes to AI programming, CrowdSmart.ai is moving beyond eavesdropping on social media and polling customers like test subjects. Rather, Amanda Reed and her team are working on pulling information from the collective’s intelligence.

A third-generation silicon valley entrepreneur, Amanda began her career in start-up sales and marketing, followed by early-stage venture capital, and she most recently led long-horizon innovation for one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. Her new role as CrowdSmart.ai’s CEO is an exact fit for their use of collective intelligence and AI to help people make smarter decisions.

M.R. Rangaswami: The Great Resignation and customer frustration are two of the biggest consumer issues. How do you reverse these trends with AI? 

Amanda Reed: From my perspective, the essential frame of mind to retain and grow employees and customers in 2022 is how to offer them authentic engagement. It’s time we moved beyond eavesdropping on social media and polling our customers and employees like impersonal test subjects. Instead, we can use AI as a facilitator to draw these very important people and critical relationships into a virtual ‘room where it happens’ to anonymously and asynchronously work together to co-create successful strategies and products.

With AI we can do this at scale from a single cross-departmental project to hundreds of thousands of citizens.  Our concept of collective intelligence reduces human bias that affects decision accuracy while also creating an opportunity for iterative learning and recognition of the most influential ideas and participants. It is a critical idea and feedback loop that draws people in like a game and creates incredibly rich and predictive data. 

Typical top-down hierarchies have a hard time accessing and leveraging the knowledge and experience that exist at all levels in an organization. Our approach is to use AI to make it easy for anyone to harvest this insight and bring it into sharp focus for their specific purpose. CrowdSmart helps close the gap between top management, the customer front lines and the customers themselves.


M.R.: This sounds different from what people think when they think of Ai and decisions. How does it work?

Amanda: We’ve harnessed recent advancements in deep learning and NLP to create a patented AI that learns from human reasoning in real time. Our AI does not make decisions, it is designed to assist with the type of complex decisions that only humans can make and help predict their outcomes. In a CrowdSmart online conversation, the AI is working interactively with your fellow employees, customers or partners to proactively uplift diverse ideas and test for alignment at every step.

As the group anonymously learns and iterates with each other’s ideas and feedback, they are also refining the ‘signal’ and creating both qualitative and quantitative recommendations in real-time to the conversation organizer. You don’t need an analyst on your team to help you decide what to do because the results are clear and easy to understand. CrowdSmart provides the scale and speed to collect and refine the intelligence of the people around you so you can make smarter decisions.

M.R. I can think of so many places where this would be helpful, where do you start?

The pandemic has given us both the opportunity and the challenge. It is a fulcrum moment to rethink where ideas come from and dismantle the ‘inside vs. outside the company’ or the ‘exec suite vs. frontline worker’ mindset. When people realize they can easily capture the intelligence of people around them and those people will feel validated and valued, they have tons of ideas on how to use it from daily collaborations to very large projects.

We are making CrowdSmart simple to use by integrating it with Zoom to bring instant clarity to large calls. Zoom call organizers can quickly and easily ensure equitable participation and refined insights from any group by launching CrowdSmart during the call. They get real-time results on the call, and if necessary can avoid call fatigue by taking that same conversation and group of people off-camera and online for additional conversation, continued iteration, and ultimately very clear results.

CrowdSmart is a cloud service that supports companies, non-profits and government agencies with critical functions such as innovation on products and services, as well as strategic decisions such as how to grow revenue, which companies to buy and how to best optimize the integration and operations post-merger.

Our customers are often surprised by what they learn as CrowdSmart surfaces and refines new ideas that weren’t part of their original thinking. We are a purpose-driven business with a focus on helping everyday business users capture the insight of the people around them. We are also passionate about CrowdSmart’s opportunity to support major issues in society and we are proud to support leaders of social impact projects that fulfill our mission to help people understand each other and make smarter

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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Leading Through Change and Embracing the Chaos with HubSpot’s Yamini Rangan

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What does it take to lead through an era of exponential change?

Nascent trends — virtualization of the workspace, online learning, virtual health, and e-commerce — accelerated exponentially. Understandably, leaders have struggled mightily to address these overlapping changes simultaneously, dealing with economic, health, and logistical crises that have unfolded at top speed.

Watch this fireside chat between Yamini Rangan, CEO, HubSpot & MR Rangaswami, Founder, Indiaspora which will deep dive into:

– Her journey, learnings & pitfalls
– Shift to digital first & white spaces on the path on innovation
– Building right customer experience, specially for enterprise versus SMBs
– Metrics that matter while navigating complex buyer archetypes, silos, changing digital priorities, customer churn etc.
– Role of partnerships and acquisitions About NPC2021 (Dec 1-4, 2021)

The 18th edition of NPC is themed at “World class from India” is all about the transformation of businesses & lives, powered by technology and the ingenuity of India’s innovation ecosystem.

We are striving towards developing a seamless, transparent, and inclusive digital ecosystem that is driven by India’s world-class innovation capabilities. We are at a cusp of a product revolution which would be defined by two key things, ‘Technology & Innovation’, which is the core to develop world-class technology products and creating a robust ‘digital talent’ ecosystem to position India as a global talent hub. Leveraging the virtual nature of NPC this year, the content curation and speaker selection was aligned to what practitioners and aspirants of technology would look for.



To know more about NASSCOM Product Connect and its initiatives visit: https://nasscom.in/about-us/what-we-d…

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SEG’s Annual SaaS Report: 2021

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SEG’s Annual Report labels 2021 as an outstanding year for the software industry. M&A activity and valuations broke records once again. SaaS deal volume grew an astonishing 40% in 2021,…

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Elay Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, Saleshood

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Elay Cohen is the Co-Founder and CEO of Saleshood, a Sales Enablement Platform. Recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as a “mover and shaker” in sales leadership and listed by LinkedIn as one of the world’s top sales experts.

Named Salesforce’s 2011 Executive of the Year by Marc Benioff after creating a Partner Relationship Management category and product line at Salesforce, Elay’s experience in B2B sales effeciencies is thoughtful and comprehensive.

M.R. Rangaswami: Why is sales enablement exploding now? 

Elay Cohen: There are three main factors. First, the pandemic has accelerated the need for organizations to have solutions to enable sales teams that are now mostly distributed and remote. Second, there’s been a tsunami of investment and funding announcements that has resulted in many more software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. These companies want to grow fast and are looking for levers they can pull to achieve this growth. And third, sales enablement as a software category has matured to a point where senior sales and marketing leaders are measuring and correlating positive impact.

According to the B2B tech marketplace G2, sales enablement has recently surged in popularity, experiencing a 343% increase in adoption over the last five years, with significant impacts on sales (76% of organizations see an increase in sales between 6% and 20%). Compare this to a decade ago, when many organizations were not yet prioritizing sales enablement as a growth lever. Sales enablement has evolved from being a nice-to-have to being a must-have mission-critical system for growth.

At Salesforce, we created the sales enablement discipline and processes to ramp our sales and customer teams faster. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff had the vision to invest in sales enablement before it was a common business practice. We knew with sales enablement as a growth lever we could realize revenue faster.

It was the rocket fuel that propelled us into hyper growth. Based on our experience and success at Salesforce, we started Saleshood because the market lacked a scalable SaaS platform purpose-built for sales enablement.

M.R.: What changes to the sales profession are we seeing during COVID that will remain?

Elay: The simple truth is we’re not going to revert back to 100% in-person selling. The sales efficiencies realized during the pandemic will continue. Sellers and buyers appreciate the benefits of being remote and collaborating digitally.

People have become protective of their time. There’s less friction in the buying process and sales cycles are compressed. Sales tools like digital sales rooms (DSRs) where buyers and sellers come together to collaborate and drive better engagement are on the rise. Companies need to master digital selling or risk falling behind and losing out to competitors.

M.R.: With so many sales enablement tools being funded, what’s going to happen to the market?

Elay: We’re going to see massive consolidation in the sales tech space. Today there are so many solutions in the sales tech stack and they’re all in varying stages of maturity. Sales enablement, revenue operations, data cleansing, virtual selling, conversation intelligence — you name it. There are simply too many categories and there’s a ton of overlap, which will lead companies to start looking at their stack and questioning how many they really need. The same kind of consolidation happened in the marketing automation space in the early days of SaaS. The companies that rise to the top will be those that can deliver a seamless experience with tightly integrated systems and an end-to-end workflow that can win over the hearts and minds of their users.

Another trend we’ll see in the sales tech space is revenue teams will expect their systems to be smarter and more tailored to their roles and scenarios. AI (artificial intelligence) is playing a big role in defining the future of sales. It will streamline systems, workflows and processes for sellers (and buyers), helping to deliver more actionable insights. Expect to see AI become the standard in the sales tech stack.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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What is the Rule of 40 for SaaS companies?

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…and how does it impact valuation?

The Rule of 40 for SaaS companies is a useful metric for private equity investors and strategic buyers to measure the performance of SaaS companies. The Allied Advisers’ reports shows that companies which exceed the Rule of 40 tend to trade at premium valuations compared to companies that do not.

The Rule of 40 is a good metric for founders and entrepreneurs to keep in mind as they build their companies into global leaders.

Allied Adviser’s Rule of 40: A Brief Analysis

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Fiona Smythe, CEO, MedaSystems

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After selling her patient-pharmacy communication platform to Cardinal Health in 2020, CEO Fiona Smyth started her next health-tech company: MedaSystems.
Here, we talk about what works and what challenges arise being a for-profit enterprise with a primary motivation to improve patients’ lives

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: David Moricca, Founder & CEO, Socialive

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What started as a vision for an online music creation platform for kids, Socialive has turned into a rapid growth service for enterprises. This conversation with David is a great reference for entrepreneurs who have developed a technology with one function in mind, but are willing to pivot and adapt to meet an entirely different market’s demand.

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Ran Ronen, Co-Founder & CEO, Equally AI

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For tech companies who want their digital products and platforms more accessible? CEO Ran Ronen believes it starts with an intentional approach and more capable resources.
However, if that feels too abstract to be useful, our conversation with Ran breaks down the major obstacles to web accessibility, how tech entrepreneurs can build a better internet for everyone, and who are the beneficiaries of accessibility solutions.

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Mia Millette, CEO of Skyline Technology Solutions

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It’s a rare find when you see a female CEO running a male-founded tech company, but that’s exactly what we found at Skyline Technology Solutions.

Mia Millette serves as Chief Executive Officer where she leads the execution of the company’s overall mission and vision. Mia was appointed CEO in 2021 after serving as Skyline’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) beginning in 2018. In this role she leverages more than two decades of technology and business experience to advance Skyline’s strategic initiatives, with keen focus on enriching the lives of those served by the company. 

M.R. Rangaswami: Can you tell us about what products or services Skyline offers that are unique in the market? 

Mia Millette: We do a lot of work in the transportation space. From the fiber in the ground to the design, implementation, and monitoring and management of the networks and devices that are utilized by transportation agencies – we do the full stack. About 12 years ago, we noticed a pain that was being experienced by our customers; they were struggling with how to share their traffic and other closed-circuit TV (CCTV) camera data with other organizations and jurisdictions. As you can imagine, every stretch of road has multiple jurisdictions that own and support devices and, if there is an accident, or a planned event, or an unplanned security, safety, or weather event, these jurisdictions need to be able to communicate and share the video immediately and securely regardless of video management system or jurisdiction. 

This is where Skyline developed a solution. 

Our Claris video interoperability solution allows video data from various CCTV systems, that have different video formats and are not inherently interoperable, to be ingested and normalized for sharing. It then aggregates and distributes this video to a presentation layer where it can be viewed by almost any application used by other jurisdictions and without any proprietary software. Our native mobile video viewing application uses the presentation layer to provide video to any device that has a browser; think Traffic Management Centers (TMC) and Network Operation Centers (NOC) workstation, mobile laptop, a police Toughbook in a patrol car, tablet or smartphone, and other devices. The video sharing architecture allows one agency to see another agency’s video in their native viewing application without the need to purchase new CCTV software or systems. 

 

M.R.: If video isn’t inherently sharable- what other use cases do you see for your solution?

Mia: It’s actually pretty amazing. When we walk into a traffic management center regardless of state and talk to them about our Claris solution, they immediately say that they didn’t realize that so many of their problems have already been solved. So, while the transportation space is a nice sweet-spot for us for traffic cameras and the sharing of that video cross-jurisdiction, we also love serving the Public Safety market. Our video solution uses HTML5 compatible CLSP, which is low latency video sharing. This means that jurisdictions who utilize our solution will be able to share in near real-time, which is a game changer in a 911 situation where a local business, organization, or school system needs to communicate with a 911 operator or the police and can provide near real-time video situational awareness

 

M.R.: It sounds like the solution has great growth potential, where is Skyline Technology Solutions headed? 

Mia: We think it’s very important to understand your market and to provide the best cohesive solutions that complement each other. That is why we have initially focused on Transportation, State and Local Government, Public Safety, and Education. We feel a special obligation to these markets, the first responders, and to all the people that they serve. These workers are responsible for the safety and security of their citizens, and all of these markets require innovative connected solutions to deliver that security. Ultimately, we are focused on providing solutions to enhance the resiliency and reliability that these important markets need to support their initiatives.

In terms of where we’re headed, we are most excited that we’ve only just scratched the surface of Claris’ growth potential. We often say our solution is agnostic; it doesn’t care where the cameras are pointing. We are breaking into multiple new markets including commercial and high density residential real estate, large volume retail, and even large-scale events. Any organization that has a high volume of cameras that they need to integrate, share, and analyze to improve their safety, security, or operational effectiveness.  

By providing end-to-end complementary solutions and services, we are uniquely qualified to understand the complexity that our customers need to deliver the customer experience they desire for the future. With that focus and detailed understanding, we are excited for the future and look to expand our platform to serve the broader community of interoperability needs. 

 

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

 

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Manny Medina, CEO, Outreach

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You’ve likely heard of Outreach – (the #1 Sales Engagement Platform) which might mean you’ve heard of their explosive growth in the past year with CEO, Manny Medina at the helm.

Their 2020 growth wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling for Manny.  A former lead on Microsoft’s Windows phone Business Development team in Latin America and Canada, and engineering Amazon’s compensation system for Amazon Associates, Manny has led his teams with a tight focus on opportunity outward and depth of understanding of his customers inward.

M.R. Rangaswami: What caused your revenue to explode during COVID?  Did you beat your original 2020 plan?  What was the key factor?

Manny Medina: We beat our 2020 plan. The factor was that covid accelerated the digital transformation across the board and created a rush to both more efficient, productive, and remote, all at the same time. All companies wanted to do those three things right away. COVID presented a challenge and an opportunity in the same package. If you were not growing coming out of the pandemic, you were left behind by years, and no one wanted to be there.

So, companies we had been in conversations with who were thinking about digital transformation and supercharging their sales team all came to us in a rush through the pandemic. They seized the opportunity to take market share ahead of everyone else and used this time to grow faster than their competitors. That is still happening right now, as things start to open back up.

M.R.: There is a lot of hype around AI (and many stories of failure) – what has Outreach done differently to make AI successful for Enterprises?

Manny: We are in a new era of B2B software – you have to be showing them ROI all the time. You need to grow with your customer. So new software needs to be able to get smarter as your customer gets smarter, which is where AI comes in. The future is that every customer will have their own growth, own pace of innovation that’s based around their needs as they grow and get better. Our AI all about adapting to our customers so they can track their progress and push their growth in their own environment.

Take Kaia for instance is custom ontologies – every time you enter a content card in Kaia, it will train in your environment which is different than any other customer’s environment. You have to make your rep better, make your pipeline bigger, drive more opportunity creation, and drive more revenue. That’s what we do consistently and that’s why people buy us.

M.R.: You almost went out of business once (you were selling your companies computers) – now you have raised nearly $500M, how to keep the lessons you learned when the company was days from going out of business alive today with your 1,000 employees?

Manny: It’s all about storytelling and making sure that I am always painting the opportunity ahead. Our opportunity ahead when we were on the brink of collapse was large. The opportunity ahead of us now is significantly bigger. So if we can keep telling the story around the opportunity – there are 30 million B2B sellers and we have less than 1% of that. That crystalizes our mission and shows how far we can go. The opportunity we have in front of us is larger and more exciting than when we were smaller and running out of money. That’s how we keep our drive.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com

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M.R. Asks 3 Questions: Umesh Sachdev, Co-Founder & CEO, Uniphore

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“Passionate about making machines talk,” Umesh Sachdev, co-founded Uniphore Software Systems with the aim of revolutionising interactions between human and machines.
With patents in Speech Recognition Technologies, Umesh and his teams were ready for the hyper-growth Uniphore experienced over the past 18 months as the world’s consumerism moved to online, requiring comprehensive digital customer support.

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