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  • Iterative launches its second fund for Southeast Asia startups

    Despite global headwinds, Southeast Asia’s early-stage startups are still going strong, say the founders of Iterative Capital. The Singapore-based venture capital firm, which runs a YC-style accelerator program, announced today it has raised $55 million for its Fund II from LPs like Cendana, K5 Global, Village Global and Goodwater Capital.

    Other backers include a group of founders and executives, such as Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi, Bukalapak co-founder and former CEO Achmad Zaky, Andreessen Horowitz general partner Andrew Chen, former YC COO Qasar Younis, former Foursquare CEO David Shim and Airbnb Asia head Kum Hong Siew.

    Since launching Iterative’s Fund I in 2021, the firm has backed more than 65 companies in five cohorts. Its portfolio companies have raised $163 million in follow-on funding and are worth $1.2 billion in total. Venture firms that have invested in Iterative’s portfolio companies include Insight Partners, Tiger Global, Monk’s Hill, Wavemaker and Hustle Fund.

    The new funding will allow Iterative to increase its check sizes to $500,000 and add more programs for founders in different stages, including ones for earlier-stage founders who aren’t ready for an accelerator yet and later-stage founders who have already gained strong traction. With Fund II, Iterative’s plan is have bigger batches of startups of about 30 each. Its goal is to invest in 100-plus companies at more stages, including pre-seed, seed and Series A startups. While Iterative’s first fund did not perform follow-on investments, the firm is now in the position to do so.

    Iterative co-founder and general partner Brian Ma said Fund II took just four weeks to raise, because Fund I’s founders performed well. Many of the first fund’s LPs returned and attractive return profiles in Southeast Asia also attracted new LPs.

    Startups in Iterative programs have access to its 80+ group of venture partners and visiting partners, who are all previous or current operating founders.

    “More concretely, we run weekly office hours, group office hours, speakers and workshops with our visiting partners, have a scaled-out fundraise bootcamp program, a built-out network to automate white-gloved introductions to investors and 450+ investors engage with our startups at our demo days,” said Ma.

    “Some of the most important work actually happens post-cohort, where we help alumni companies deal with negotiating their A’s or B’s, deal with scaling their organizations and help coach them through co-founder issues and other growing pains.”

    Some examples of Iterative’s portfolio companies that have recently raised money include Spenmo, which closed an $85 million Series B round led by Tiger Global; travel company GoZayaan, which raised $8 million and acquired FindMyAdventure to expand beyond Pakistan; and proptech startup Propseller, which raised a $12 million Series A in August. Meanwhile, another Iterative alum, Sendhelper, was acquired by PropertyGuru in October.

    Iterative’s founders remain upbeat about startups in Southeast Asia. Even though there are currently fewer startups currently exiting there, early-stage investments continue to increase. For example, a report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Co. found that Southeast Asia is “relatively less impacted by global economic trends” and that its real GDP growth is still 4.6% year-over-year. Iterative’s founders also note that Southeast Asia’s digital economy is expected to reach $200 billion this year, while Indonesia’s online spending it expected to hit $130 billion by 2025. Vietnam is an especially promising market, forecasted to more than double its online GMV over the next three years.

    Ma said Southeast Asian startups benefit from high potential and reasonable valuations. “With depressed economies and lofty priced companies in the U.S., China, etc., more capital is flowing into more nascent and higher growth regions like Southeast Asia. We believe this is where the best returns will come from in the next seven to 10 years.”

    Iterative launches its second fund for Southeast Asia startups by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Catherine Shu
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 11:30 pm

  • Austin-based ICON awarded $57.2 million NASA contract for lunar construction tech

    ICON, a construction tech company that’s raised more than $400 million in funding, has landed a new contract from NASA to develop new systems to build on the moon and Mars.

    The $57.2 million contract is a continuation of a previous Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) dual-use contract with the U.S. Air Force, which was partly funded by NASA. This award will support the development of what ICON is calling “Project Olympus,” an ambitious plan to build structures on the moon and Mars using in-situ resources.

    “To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies,” ICON CEO Jason Ballard said in a statement. It’s clear that NASA agrees. Indeed, the agency has explicitly stated that one of the goals of its ambitious Artemis lunar program is to establish a long-term human presence on the moon. But as of yet, NASA has established no clear plans on where those astronauts will stay once they get there.

    ICON, which is best-known for its 3D-printed homes, has been working on Project Olympus for some time. The company was awarded the initial SBIR grant from the U.S. Air Force in October 2020 for $14.55 million. This latest funding will keep the project alive for a handful more years at least: the contract runs through 2028.

    Under the terms of this contract, ICON will be working with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, under an agency venture called the “Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies” project. The company is planning on working with samples of lunar regolith and bringing its hardware and software into space to help it develop construction approaches that can best function in the cold, low-gravity atmosphere of the moon. Habitats aren’t the only thing on the company’s radar: it’s also eyeing up landing pads and other infrastructure to support sustained lunar exploration.

    ICON has seen explosive growth since its founding in late 2017. The company landed a $207 million Series B last August, and closed another $185 million scarcely six months later. Sources told TechCrunch that the latest funding pushed ICON’s valuation close to $2 billion.

    Austin-based ICON awarded $57.2 million NASA contract for lunar construction tech by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Aria Alamalhodaei
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 11:19 pm

  • Let’s-a-go again with a new ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ trailer

    One month after Nintendo debuted its first trailer for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” the company has revealed yet another trailer — this time giving fans a first look at Princess Peach and Donkey Kong.

    In the newest trailer, viewers get to see more of Illumination’s incredible animating skills with Donkey Kong, voiced by Seth Rogen, completely bitch-slapping Mario (Chris Pratt), and Princess Peach, voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy, ripping off a Cheep-Cheeps (pufferfish) from the plumber’s face. We also see Mario Kart get a nod with a quick clip of the legendary Rainbow Road.

    And while many fans were disappointed with Pratt’s impression of Mario in the first trailer, he did give us a “let’s-a-go” and a “wahoo!” this time around. So, we’ll give him a break from the mocking for now. Or not.

    In a pre-recorded clip that played before the trailer, Rogen pretty much echoed Pratt’s statement from Nintendo’s last video. He said, “I remember looking at Mario Brothers and thinking, if they ever make a movie out of this, I better be in it. I’m happy to say that dream came true.”

    “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is slated to premiere in theaters on April 7, 2023. The film also stars Charlie Day as Luigi, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Jack Black as Bowser, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike.

    Let’s-a-go again with a new ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ trailer by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Lauren Forristal
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 11:06 pm

  • Daily Crunch: Apple announces its 2022 App Store Award winners

    To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

    Oh hey! While we have you here, grab your calendar — we’ve got some things for you to add. For the stargazers among us, we’ll be in Los Angeles doing TC Sessions: Space on December 6. And on April 20, 2023, we’re heading to Boston for our TC Early Stage festival. Come to either. Come to both. Come to neither. We love you all just the same. But we’d prefer to see your faces in person if we can!

    Oh, and did you know it’s “Giving Tuesday”? That means it’s time to think about which of your favorite causes deserve some of your time or dollars, if you have some of either to spare. — Christine and Haje

    The TechCrunch Top 3

    • And the winner is…: Okay, all you fans of taking photos of yourself “in the now,” no matter where you are. Ivan writes that BeReal won “app of the year” for 2022 in Apple’s annual App Store Awards.
    • Order up!: Nigerian restaurant tech company Orda gobbled up $3.4 million and is now perfecting its recipe for a cloud-based operating system that helps digitize Africa’s small restaurants. Tage has more.
    • M&A action: Manish reports that India-based fintech CRED is acquiring CreditVidya, a SaaS startup specializing in underwriting first-time borrowers. He reports that this is CRED’s latest move to expand its infrastructure and product offerings.

    Startups and VC

    The venture market is in the middle of a downturn, but there are still plenty of emerging fund managers. Seedstars announced today it has launched a platform called Seedstars Capital with Swiss-based investment holding company xMultiplied to help new fund managers around the world launch funds and develop their investment firms. The folks behind the initiative told Catherine that “Seedstars’ mission is to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship.”

    Earlier today, renowned VC Bill Gurley put together a list of the many “red flags” that VCs should have paid closer attention to when funding FTX, suggesting in a tweet that this summary of warning signs might help keep VCs “out of the investor hurt locker” going forward. All good and well, but in her great piece today, Connie wonders if publishing them now is a little like shouting “Fire!” after everyone is already outside the theater, watching its smoldering remains dissolve into the parking lot. Most of the behaviors that Gurley identified today came to a grinding halt when the market abruptly shifted in spring, and by then, the damage was already done.

    And we have five more for you. Can you spot the theme of these puns? Send an @Haje on Twitter if you think you know the answer!

    Early-stage founders still have currency: Fundraising in times of greater VC scrutiny

    Human hand holding magnifying glass over american quarter on yellow background

    Image Credits: Boris Zhitkov (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

    According to a pre-seed report by DocSend, founders took an average of 52 meetings with investors in 2022, compared to 39 last year. At the same time, they are submitting 30% more pitch decks, but VC engagement has fallen 23%.

    “Founders may be discouraged in this environment, but they need to remember that they have ‘currency,’ too,” said Russ Heddleston, co-founder and former CEO of DocSend at Dropbox.

    DocSend’s report recommends using no more than 50 words per slide. The sections of the deck that address purpose, product and business model are the meat in the sandwich, so founders should spend the most time polishing those points.

    “Investors spent the third-highest amount of time reviewing the company purpose slide in pre-seed pitch decks, behind only the business model and product slides,” said Heddleston.

    Three more from the TC+ team:

    TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

    Big Tech Inc.

    A group of our fine folks are covering Amazon’s AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week and have already posted a number of AWS announcements and updates. If you’re looking for recommendations, let us steer you toward:

    • Frederic’s story on Amazon DataZone, a new data management service that “can help enterprises catalog, discover, share and — most importantly — govern their data.” If you have “Danger Zone” stuck in your head now, you’re welcome.
    • Ron’s item on AWS Supply Chain, Amazon’s answer to “supply chain chaos.”
    • Paul’s look at the AWS natural language updates to QuickSight Q.
    • Brian’s story on the new AWS SimSpace Weaver, which “allows developers to run city-sized simulations at scale in the cloud.”

    Here’s a bit of non-AWS news for ya:

    • It’s like your own little Coachella: Ivan’s story on the Instafest app went viral into the wee hours of this morning. The app lets you create your own music festival lineup from your Spotify faves.
    • Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water…: India wants to keep its citizens protected from cryptocurrency, but at the same time is poised to introduce a retail digital currency, called e-rupee, starting in December. It’s intended to lessen the country’s dependency on cash, Manish reports.
    • It’s not about the money, money, money: People be shoppin’ after Thanksgiving, and Ingrid writes that Cyber Monday online sales hit a record of $11.3 billion, and not just because prices have gone up with inflation — deep discounts and demand for certain products helped.
    • Letting the bird out of the cage: Be careful where you get your COVID-19 news. Natasha L reports that Twitter is no longer enforcing its COVID misleading information policy when it comes to virus posts.
    • What about your friends?: Moving over to Mastodon? Don’t worry, Sarah has a look at Movetodon, a new tool that helps you find your Twitter friends over there.

    Daily Crunch: Apple announces its 2022 App Store Award winners by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Christine Hall
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 11:05 pm

  • Magic creator Richard Garfield on why he put a paper game on the blockchain

    Richard Garfield is a name familiar to many in the tabletop gaming world, most notably as one of the creators of Magic: The Gathering, the most prominent trading card game out there. But Garfield is dipping his toes into the world of digital and in particular blockchain-adjacent games, and TechCrunch took the opportunity to quiz the veteran gamemaker on the pros and cons of this and other new approaches to gaming.

    It should be noted at the outset that unlike the dubious profit-focused gameplay of your Axie Infinity and suchlike, Garfield’s new game, technically a “mode” of Blockchain Brawlers, is not focused on speculation but more of an experiment in distribution of a complete card-based game outside traditional publishing methods.

    It should probably also be noted that the game platform is full of the usual NFT and monetization chatter, but the core game itself, a 1v1 bluffing style match, is capable of being played with ordinary playing cards or for that matter numbered pieces of paper. I played a few rounds with him that way and it’s actually quite fun and straightforward (I would like to state for the record that I was in a fair way to win but we had to stop early). A follow-up game unrelated to Garfield’s design and which uses more rarity/stat/token-focused mechanics is underway for a separate release in 2023.

    TC: Why is introducing blockchains, tokens and things into game design worth it? When you have consumer fears about things like FTX… I know that they’re very different, but why is the why is the asset worth the risk?

    Garfield: There’s some benefits of not being tied to paper, and there’s some benefits of not being digital. In the digital space, the opportunity to sell people games which are digital but ownable has some appeal. In particular, when you sort of contrast what’s evolved in other digital spaces, where there’s so much free to play, which has a lot of negative baggage along with whatever positive it brings to the table.

    TC: Of course, FTX can crash and that has nothing to do with, you know, a tracking mechanism for ownership of a card or whatever. But in the minds of consumers, they can be conflated. Is that is that just a consumer education thing? Or is that a branding thing?

    Garfield: It’s all the above and more. It’s also a designer and a publisher choice. I think there’s some natural caution in this space, because so much of the design has been in an area which I don’t think is healthy for games, which is trying to conflate it with speculation — which I’ve got a lot of experience with, because this was the environment which Magic: The Gathering began in. And it was very poisonous for the gameplay to have people basically buying just to see their money go up. Because it got in the way of the game as a game.

    Image Credits: Blockchain Brawlers

    A lot of the designers and publishers these days are embracing that and saying, ‘join this game now, make a lot of money.’ That’s not healthy for game design, but is not intrinsically a part of players ownership of digital assets anymore. The negative qualities of free to play, for instance, aren’t intrinsically a part of free to play. It’s just there’s some things that are difficult to avoid, because of the way the revenue model works. And players these days, with digital ownership are, it’s natural for them to conflate that with the speculation bubble, in the same way that a player who engages free to play, it’s always going to be a danger for them to think that’s it’s pay to win, or it’s some sort of hustle. But there is some confusion, and some reasons for that confusion.

    TC: At the beginning of Magic, I’m curious what kind of blowback you got at the time regarding both the business model and the unanticipated hoarding of valuable cards, taking them out of play. Was there skepticism that this was a valid gaming model, and a valid business model? And do you think that kind of reaction is also happening now?

    A lot of the designers and publishers these days are embracing that and saying, ‘join this game now, make a lot of money.’ That’s not healthy for game design, but is not intrinsically a part of players ownership of digital assets anymore.

    Garfield: Yes, there was some skepticism. And, and it actually took a lot of effort to get past that. And it was quite divisive inside Wizards of the Coast itself. The problem was that as the prices went up with speculation, everybody drew comparison to the comic book market or Cabbage Patch Kids or whatever people collected, and got really popular, and then always busted.

    I wasn’t very educated in that area when when I began, because I didn’t pay much attention to collectibles. But very quickly, I adopted the idea that this speculation was just awful for gameplay, that there was no upside for the players.

    We had to really work to bust that cycle – intentionally overprinted, for example, because we had to make it so that it wasn’t appealing to collect. When we finally managed to do that, there were some people at the company that thought we had sunk the product. And some players did, because they saw the value of their collection go down. But the game just blossomed at that point. And in the end, that’s what it was about: it was a game. It became very clear that the people who were playing the game were doing it because they loved the gameplay, not because of any investment.

    TC: Do you think that something similar will have to happen now with digital ownership? How do you prove that model out? Because I know that people will people will be skeptical like, ‘how do I know I’m not gonna get the rug pulled out on me once I invest a couple 100 bucks in this game?’

    Garfield: You really have to trust your publisher. When you’re doing a tradable object game, the publisher can always mess it up.

    Image Credits: Blockchain Brawlers

    On the other hand, people don’t buy Settlers of Catan and worry about whether the publisher is going to screw that by making their game weaker; they’ve got the game, and they can play it. And that is, to me, the potential appeal of digital ownership, that is that people don’t necessarily have to rely on the publisher. They only have to rely on the publisher to be fair when they’re in charge of some ongoing environment.

    TC: How do we move forward on that ownership piece to a point where people can say, ‘Hey, I paid my 50 bucks, I have that digital copy.’ People will trust Steam for a PC game. But if it gets more complicated with, you know, NFT based instances of cards and things like that.

    Garfield: Well, it’s a matter of, if you’re having your game engine being provided by somebody, you’ve got to trust them. That’s the end of the story. Here you have other avenues. Whether those will evolve or not depends on the community, and you know, whether there’s people who are interested enough to pursue that.

    I should point out that, with the game that I’ve worked on here, I was very firmly in the board game category, in the sense that the game that’s been provided is something where there’s no distinction between what players own — it’s a completely fair game. Really, it was the only reason I became interested in the project, because the publisher said they backed me on that.

    [Note: Players can own different “moves” and cosmetics but the gameplay elements, essentially the numbers 1-8 and some other minor things, are functionally the same for all even though they are treated as NFTs or some other owned digital item. These items may serve different purposes in other modes or games.]

    That part of the game is always there for people, like they can play it themselves, or somebody can code a new framework for it. And it’s simple enough that that’s not hard. This really is a very close to a traditional game, in the sense that you buy a box and you can play.

    TC: I feel like my readers are going to ask, well, why am I not just buying this game on Steam? Or what is what is really the improvement over a free to play situation where, you know, if there’s 50 cards, I pay $50. And now I’ve got all the cards. What really are the advantages that you see in this approach versus the traditional publishing or a free to play model?

    Garfield: Frankly, I think that the advantages have been overstated by a lot of people. And in fact, that’s what’s kept me out of it for so long is that I really didn’t see the advantage over a server based system for a long time. The key thing which got me involved is just how hard it is to get certain games done in the digital space, because of this free to play expectation.

    Like there’s a lot of games that, in theory, yeah, you could just put it on Steam, or put it up on iOS and have people download and play it. But you actually can’t do that, because you can’t charge for it. And if you put it up for free, you got to pay for it. And if you start attaching some free to play monetization to it, you’ve got advertisements or, you know, you got to fill a bar, or do cosmetics, or something which may not be of interest to designers or the players.

    The key thing which got me involved is just how hard it is to get certain games done in the digital space, because of this free to play expectation.

    So the game that’s being done here, for example, it could be done on Steam, or it could be done on iOS. But the games I’ve done in the past, which are in this description have been really hard to get going because of this, because you’ve got to make it free. And then you’ve got to put in ads or something. So I’m being drawn to it in the same way that I really like working with paper publishers, because I can say: ‘here’s a card game,’ and they can print it, put it in a box, sell it to people. And nobody complains about that as a revenue model.

    TC: There’s obviously there’s been this huge renaissance of tabletop gaming. Everybody loves it, everybody’s playing with paper, everybody’s playing with cardboard and wood, and it’s great. But then you also have crossover successes, like Gloomhaven, which has a great digital version and paper version. I’m curious how you think it’ll play out over the next few years as analog and digital gaming both become more popular, and continue to cross pollinate one another.

    Garfield: That’s a really exciting area. I could talk for a long time on that. I’ve been really interested in that space. I first began to think about it back in, I guess, the late 90s, where I just was struck by how I liked computer games, I like board games. And then I would play whatever, TF [Team Fortress]. I would play some digital shooter or something like that, and then I would play Scrabble.

    And I’d think, how are these even in the same space? They’re just such different experiences, and why aren’t there more games sort of that are like the board games I love, but taking advantage of all the things which have to be offered digitally.

    So to see more and more examples of that, including, like, Slay the Spire, these games, which have this sensibility really rooted in traditional gameplay, but taking full advantage of what the computer has to offer, and not making you just play twitch games or something like that… It’s a very exciting area, I’m really excited to see where it goes, and happy to contribute anything to it where I can.

    Magic creator Richard Garfield on why he put a paper game on the blockchain by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Devin Coldewey
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 10:46 pm

  • Blue Origin’s Shahir Gerges discusses a post-ISS orbital economy at TC Sessions: Space

    NASA’s plan to decommission and deorbit the International Space Station (ISS) by 2031 creates another collaborative, multinational opportunity to provide a persistent orbital presence. Yet, the path to achieving that goal remains unclear.

    Here’s the rub. No one knows exactly what that presence looks like, how it should be built, who would run it and how it would make money. These complex questions are why we’re thrilled that Blue Origin’s Shahir Gerges, director of business strategy for Orbital Reef, will join us for a fireside chat onstage at TC Sessions: Space on December 6.

    These aren’t issues for engineers and astronauts to solve, although they must be involved in the discussion. Instead, it will take far-sighted business leaders who see where the market is headed. They’ll also need to build a compelling case for how a phenomenally expensive expedition, like a long-term space station, can reasonably be expected to pay for itself over a 10-year period.

    What, who and how much will it take to build a safe, thriving commercial space economy? What can and should the world expect from privately operated successors to the ISS?

    In a session called “Space Station Shake-up,” Gerges, an expert in the realm of commercial space stations, will share his perspective. Be in the room to hear what this space ace has to say about that and more.

    Shahir Gerges serves as the director of business strategy for Orbital Reef, within Blue Origin. Orbital Reef is designed to be a mixed-use space station in low Earth orbit for commerce, research and tourism by the end of this decade. Focused on long-term financial sustainability for Orbital Reef, Gerges develops offerings to cultivate growth in new and emerging markets that would benefit from the on-orbit environment, including microgravity.

    Before joining Blue Origin, Gerges worked as a strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he advised industrial companies (including aerospace and defense) on market strategy decisions, internal operations strategy and multiple-deal due diligence. Gerges started his career at United Launch Alliance working in various engineering and strategy roles, as well as supporting government affairs.

    Gerges holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology and an MBA from Georgetown University.

    TC Sessions: Space takes place on December 6 in Los Angeles. Buy your pass today, join us to learn about the latest space economy trends, see cutting-edge technology, and network for opportunities to help you build a better, stronger startup.

    Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Space? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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    Blue Origin’s Shahir Gerges discusses a post-ISS orbital economy at TC Sessions: Space by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Lauren Simonds
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 8:00 pm

  • AWS adds automated agent monitoring to Amazon Contact Center

    AWS introduced Contact Center, its customer service-oriented product, some years ago, putting it smack dab in the middle of enterprise applications. It also places the company in the position of competing directly with the likes of Salesforce and other established enterprise SaaS vendors.

    When you are competing in that space, you need some powerful features, and today at AWS re:invent in Las Vegas, AWS CEO Adam Selipsky introduced three features to help bring more automation to managing Amazon Contact Centers running on AWS.

    For starters, the company is introducing new performance management capabilities under Contact Lens for Amazon Connect designed to help managers identify CSAs who are having issues. The solution uses a combination of performance review forms and machine learning-driven voice analytics to review job performance.

    In reality, it’s supposed to help identify agents who might need additional training or coaching. “These reduce the time the contact center managers spend identifying performance issues and helping to coach agents,” Selipsky explained today. Employees could see it differently (the bot says I didn’t answer correctly).

    Somewhat along the same lines, AWS is also introducing a new capability to guide agents through customer interaction so they can resolve issues faster and in a more consistent manner. This should help reduce the number of mistakes, and the need for the prior feature (at least in theory).

    Amazon Contact Center screen for guiding CSA interactions.

    Image Credits: AWS

    The company also announced the general availability of Amazon Connect forecasting, which was originally announced in March this year. It’s designed to help contact center managers optimize agent schedules and ensure that they have the right people available.

    “Connect is a great example of how the cloud is removing constraints to reimagine business challenges like delivering better customer service,” Selipsky said, something that SaaS companies have known all along, but for AWS, which tends to concentrate on infrastructure and platform pieces, it is a different approach.

    Read more about AWS re:Invent 2022 on TechCrunch

    AWS adds automated agent monitoring to Amazon Contact Center by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Ron Miller
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 7:54 pm

  • 8 great gifts for anyone working from home

    This time two years ago, I changed up my annual gift guide feature’s focus from travel to working from home. After all, very few of us were doing much traveling at the time. I planned to switch back as the world reopened; it’s clear now, however, that for many of us, there is no going back to the before times.

    The pandemic has had a number of lasting impacts on our lives, including how — and where — we work. But the transition from the office to home requires more than simply choosing not to get on that train every morning.

    Creating a home office is a deliberate act. At its center is building a space where it’s possible to be every bit as productive in the absence of in-face meetings and awkward break-room conversations. You need to build a place that will sufficiently separate work life from the personal for eight to 10 hours a day.

    Here’s a handy gift guide for the person in life who needs a little extra push into that — or perhaps requires a refresh on some of the gear they purchased early in the pandemic.

    This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

    1. Mac Studio

    Mac Studio desktop

    Image Credits: Brian Heater

    This thing is a beast. This is that money-is-no-object gift to really, properly transform that spare room into a home office. There are far-less-expensive options out there — including several from Apple — but the Mac Studio is a beautiful and wildly powerful desktop.

    And hey, while you’re picking up that little square computer, why not shell out for the $1,599 27-inch 5K Studio Display? It’s a heck of a one-two combo — though fair warning, the Studio Display’s webcam continues to be lacking for a system at that price point. Aside from that, picking up one of these will make you never want to go into the office (or, perhaps, leave the house) ever again.

    Price: Mac Studio $1,999, Studio Display $1,599

    Available from: Apple

    2. Opal C1

    Opal C1 desktop video camera

    Image Credits: Brian Heater

    Speaking of webcams, I continue to get a lot of compliments on the picture quality from the Opal C1. The startup’s hardware had great image quality out of the gate that nearly rivaled a desktop DSLR, and subsequent software updates have only made things better. The company has worked out most of the beta bugs, with firmware that will work with all the major teleconferencing platforms and tweaks to image quality that make this is a hard one to beat.

    Also worth a look is the Insta360 Link. The webcam is priced the same at $300, but the clever gimbal base makes for more dynamic shot tracking. That’s great for those who like to move around a bit more during remote meetings.

    Price: $300

    Available from: Opal

    3. Shure MV7

    Shure MV7 microphone

    Image Credits: Shure

    I love this mic. I asked Shure to send me one for gift guide testing purposes and wound up writing a bit of a love letter to the thing in the meantime. As I shifted from in-person to remote podcasting during the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect USB mic. With design and sound-quality to rival its famous XLR counterparts, the directional MV7 is going to be a hard one to beat.

    I recently recorded an NPR interview on the thing, and have turned it into my day-to-day teleconferencing microphone. It’s about as close as you’ll get to plug and play at this level, and the sound rivals studio-quality recordings. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about it. Pair this with the Opal cam and wow everyone on that Zoom call.

    Price: $225
    Available from: Amazon

    4. Google Nest WiFi Pro

    Google Nest WiFi Pro image

    Image Credits: Brian Heater

    The Google Nest WiFi Pro is a bit of an odd duck. Like some of the products above, it’s super easy to use. After years of wildly complicated router installs, it’s a breath of fresh air. Setup is effectively as easy as getting a smart speaker up and running. Also like the above, it may be a lot more powerful than most need. The system supports extremely fast download speeds via WiFi 6E — and there’s a good chance your existing ISP is going to be the biggest bottleneck.

    I’ve happily ditched my ISP’s hardware for one and haven’t looked back. It’s reasonably priced at $200 (larger homes may want to go the mesh route with the two- or three-device bundle) and designed to blend in with its surroundings, much like the rest of the Nest line.

    Price: $200
    Available from: Google

    5. Sony WH-1000XM5

    Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones on woman

    Image Credits: Sony

    Unless you live alone in the middle of nowhere, a good pair of noise canceling headphones are a must — and over-ear models don’t come better than this. Sony continues to be my top pick in the category, courtesy of sound quality, comfort, battery life and active noise canceling. And bonus: when it’s time to get back on the road, these are a perfect carry-on companion.

    Price: $350
    Available from: Amazon

    6. Satechi Accessories

    Satechi Accessories headphones stand with iPhone charger

    Image Credits: Satechi

    I love me a good Satechi accessory. The company makes clever, well-designed products that blend in well with their surroundings.

    The 2-in-1 Headphone Stand With Wireless Charger is a particularly good desktop companion. The bar up top gives you a place to keep the over-ear headphones, with a USB-C port in the rear to keep them charged up. Below is a MagSafe compatible wireless charging pad for your iPhone or AirPods.

    The 3-in-1 Magnetic Charging stand is a bit pricier. It’s great way to charge up the iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch in one fell swoop. The MagSafe pad is also designed to keep the phone upright, so you can continue to use it while topping up the battery.

    Price: 2-in1 Headphone Stand With Wireless, $80 | 3-IN-1 Magnetic Wireless Charging Stand, $120
    Available from: Satechi

    7. Keychron Q5 QMK Custom Mechanical Keyboard

    Keychron Q5 QMK Custom Mechanical Keyboard

    Image Credits: Keychron

    I asked my friend (and fellow TechCruncher) Frederic to recommend a nice, accessible mechanical keyboard for my work from home guide. He recommended the Keychron Q5 QMK Custom Mechanical Keyboard. The accessory is customizable, but it’s nothing too fancy, just a great feeling, terrific sounding, well-priced mechanical keyboard that will help your loved one reconnect with the joys of typing.

    Price: $200
    Available from: Keychron

    8. Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty

    Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty image in a baby's nursery

    Image Credits: Coway

    How about the person who seems to otherwise have their office in order? No one has ever regetted bringing a high-quality air purifier into their house. There are a lot of overpriced products and quite a bit of snake oil in this category, but the Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty is a reasonably priced powerhouse. This HEPA filter is designed to clean a space up to to 874 sq. ft. in around half an hour, promising to reduce 99.999% of 0.01-micron particles.

    In addition to removing pollen and odors, there’s a built-in pollution sensor that showcases a room’s air quality in real time. It’s hard to imagine a better gift than the gift of breathable air.

    Price: $220
    Available from: Amazon

    8 great gifts for anyone working from home by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Brian Heater
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 7:30 pm

  • Amazon introduces AWS Supply Chain to help bring order to supply chain chaos

    Over the last several years, we’ve seen supply chain disruptions the likes of which we haven’t seen previously. The pandemic led to a series of issues that spiraled into a full-blown supply chain crisis.

    Amazon wants to put AWS technology to work on the problem, and today the company announced a new supply chain solution at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas.

    AWS CEO Adam Selipsky talked about the supply chain disruptions in today’s keynote. “The last few years have highlighted the importance of supply chain resilience; from baby formula shortages to ships circling ports unable to unload, the disruptions have been widespread. Addressing supply chain issues around inventory is especially critical,” he said.

    And that is an area where the company wants to put its strengths to work with a new solution called AWS Supply Chain.

    “So today I am thrilled to announce the preview of AWS Supply Chain, a new cloud application that improves supply chain visibility, delivers actionable insights to help customers mitigate supply chain risks and lower costs. With AWS Supply Chain you get a unified view of your supply chain data, ML-powered insights, recommended actions and built-in collaboration capabilities, so you can react quickly to unexpected issues,” Selipsky explained.

    Selipsky says that the solution is designed to strip away the complexity associated with managing this kind of data. “First, with just a few clicks you connect your supply chain data from SAP, EDI or other sources like warehouse management or order management systems. Then AWS Supply Chain automatically sets up a data lake using ML models that have been pre-trained to understand, extract and transform disparate incompatible data into a unified data model.”

    It then lets you display your supply chain data on a map, and drill down on specific locations to find where inventory is and how you can eliminate issues in any particular location, all while communicating with supply chain managers across your organization from the same tool.

    AWS Supply Chain data map showing locations and inventories in each location.

    Image Credits: AWS

    “AWS supply chain helps you mitigate risk and lower cost by giving you a unified supply chain and surfacing the best actionable insights, all with a single pricing and no upfront licensing fees,” he said — and he promised as is often the case with AWS annoucements, this is just the start.

    Over time the company plans to add additional functionality and linkages. “And this is just the beginning. We’re going to continue to invest here and work to solve your hardest supply chain problems,” he said.

    AWS Supply Chain is available in preview starting today.

    Read more about AWS re:Invent 2022 on TechCrunch

    Amazon introduces AWS Supply Chain to help bring order to supply chain chaos by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Ron Miller
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:41 pm

  • AWS gets data clean rooms for analytics data

    AWS today launched a new service that will help users inside an advertising or marketing organization share data with other employees inside their company or with outside partners, all without running the risk of inadvertently sharing personal data.

    This new service is part of Amazon’s new AWS for Advertising & Marketing initiative, which aims to leverage existing AWS services — and those from its partners — to provide purpose-built services for them. Clean Rooms is the first major new product of this initiative.

    “Data clean rooms are protected environments where multiple parties can analyze combined data without ever exposing the raw data,” AWS CEO Adam Selipsky explained in today’s keynote. “The clean rooms are hard to build. Their complex requirements take months to develop and once you’ve built a clean room you have to continuously update the data all the while meeting requests for new collaborators and data types.”

    A company that has a customer’s loyalty data, for example, could collaborate with another that has data on a user’s ad-clicking behavior to create new insights into a user’s behavior, all without every sharing that user’s raw and identifiable data, Selipsky argued.

    “With these insights, we can produce even more relevant ads while maintaining privacy for everyone to get started,” he said. “Brands and media publishers use the clean room console or the API and they set up a clean room and start collaborating with other companies in just a few clicks. So instead of spending months of development time to customize the types of queries and restrictions, you just need to allow partners to run these clean rooms with you.”

    The idea here is to provide a single service that companies can use to collaborate on data while still protecting the underlying data, using a set of configurable controls. All collaborators can contribute their own data, be it in plain text, hashed, or pre-encrypted. Then, they can use these clean rooms to collaborate on this data, all without revealing the raw data to each other.

    In total, there can be up to five collaborators and their data is stored in an AWS Glue Data Catalog. When anyone runs a query over this data, Clean Rooms will read it, wherever it lives, and then the service will automatically apply the pre-set rules to protect each participant’s raw data. Each table can have its own rules, which restrict the type of query that is allowed. Encrypted data will remain encrypted when these queries are run.

    “Customers in the advertising and marketing industry have been seeking new ways to interoperate with their partners while protecting consumer data and reducing heavy lifting from their engineering teams,” said Tim Barnes, director of solutions for advertising & marketing technology at AWS. “With the launch of AWS Clean Rooms and AWS for Advertising & Marketing, AWS customers now have a broad set of solutions that make it easier for them to securely collaborate together, operate cost-effectively at petabyte scale and millisecond latency, and innovate more quickly in areas like advertising measurement and customer experience.”

    Read more about AWS re:Invent 2022 on TechCrunch

    AWS gets data clean rooms for analytics data by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Frederic Lardinois
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:40 pm

  • AWS SimSpace Weaver can run city-sized simulations in the cloud

    At this morning’s re:Invent keynote in Las Vegas, Amazon unveiled AWS SimSpace Weaver, a computing service that allows developers to run city-sized simulations at scale in the cloud. The service is designed to free simulation developers from the constraints of their own hardware.

    Amazon’s proposed applications are for city managers simulating a natural disaster to test emergency response systems, as well as the impact of sports games on traffic flow. These are complex situations with a lot of moving parts, which shouldn’t require watching a real-life instance to gain insight. Among the other advantages to running this in the cloud is the ability to have multiple external parties view and interact with the simulation remotely in real time.

    Image Credits: Amazon

    “Simulating these events requires modeling hundreds of thousands of independent dynamic entities to represent the people and vehicles,” AWS principal developer advocate Marcia Villalba notes in a blog post. “Each entity has its own set of behaviors that need to be modeled as it moves throughout the world and interacts with other entities. Simulating this at a real-world scale requires CPU and memory beyond what you can have in one instance.”

    Image Credits: Amazon

    The system works by portioning the space into instances and partitions, creating the kind of grip design you see above. SimSpace Weaver’s data replication system manages memory management and networking for transferring entities across partitions. The company notes that SimSpace Weaver is not itself a simulator. Instead, it creates a basis on which a simulator can be built across instances, effectively weaving (hence the name) multiple instances together into a single experience.

    Unity and Unreal Engine 5 developers can access the system through SimSpace Weaver plug-ins. It’s available starting today in the U.S. East, U.S. West, Asia-Pacific and Europe AWS regions. There’s no licensing fee; instead the pricing depends on the number of instances a developer integrates into the simulation.

    Read more about AWS re:Invent 2022 on TechCrunch

    AWS SimSpace Weaver can run city-sized simulations in the cloud by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Brian Heater
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:37 pm

  • AWS now supports natural language forecasting queries in QuickSight Q

    Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced some notable new natural language querying capabilities that enable nonanalysts to forecast future business outcomes.

    By way of a quick recap, AWS first introduced its QuickSight business intelligence service back in 2015, allowing customers to visualize their data through dashboards and reports without requiring the technical prowess of a developer. Fast-forward to 2020, and AWS introduced natural language queries to the mix via QuickSight Q, enabling users to find answers simply by typing plain-English questions into a search bar, such as “show me this month’s sales by segment.”

    Todays’ announcement builds on that by serving answers to future-gazing questions.

    “ML-powered forecasting with Q,” as AWS CEO Adam Selipsky referred to the new feature onstage at AWS re:Invent today, allows users to view business performance forecasts without involving any analysts or data scientists. All they have to do is enter “forecast” or “show me a forecast” into the search bar, followed by up to three metrics (e.g., “sales”), and Q will deliver the appropriate visualizations for that query.

    On top of that, users can include filters — for example, if they want to see sales for a specific region over a specific timeframe.

    QuickSight Q: Forecasts with filters

    Additionally, QuickSight Q will also now support natural language “why” questions, allowing nonanalysts to drill down into the data and figure out what factors led to a particular outcome.

    For example, if a graph shows that enrollment in a course dropped, the user might also want to know why it dropped. So they would start such a query with the word “why” and then follow it up with a metric and a timeframe. In this case, the question could be: “Why did enrollment drop in 2021?”

    QuickSight Q: “Why” questions

    Both forecasting and “why” questions are available to users from today.

    Read more about AWS re:Invent 2022 on TechCrunch

    AWS now supports natural language forecasting queries in QuickSight Q by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Paul Sawers
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:19 pm

  • Amazon announces preview of new Inf2 instances designed for larger models

    As companies build more complex machine learning models, the cost of training and running these models becomes a real issue. AWS has created a series of custom instances to help bring down the cost, and today it introduced a preview of an all-new Inf2 instance for EC2 designed to process data from larger workloads more efficiently.

    AWS CEO Adam Selipsky made the announcement today at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas.

    As Selipsky told the AWS re:Invent audience, “Inf1 is great for small-to-medium complexity models, but for larger models, customers have often relied on more powerful instances because they don’t actually have the optimal resource configuration for their inference workloads.”

    They did this because up until now, there simply wasn’t another solution available to help bring down the cost and complexity of processing these larger workloads.

    “You want to choose the solution that is the best fit for your specific needs, which is why today I’m excited to announce a preview of the Inf2 instance powered by our new inferential two chip,” he said.

    For folks who need that extra power, Inf2 provides it. “Customers can deploy a 175 billion parameter model for inference on a single instrument with four times higher throughput and 1/10 the latency of Inf1 instances,” he said.

    The new instances are available in preview starting today.

    Read more about AWS re:Invent 2022 on TechCrunch

    Amazon announces preview of new Inf2 instances designed for larger models by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Ron Miller
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:08 pm

  • TechCrunch+ roundup: Fundraising under scrutiny, optimizing LTV, visa bulletin update

    Plenty of companies that launched during downturns went on to be phenomenally successful.

    During the Great Depression, Stanford grads David Packard and William Hewlett famously set up shop in a Palo Alto garage. Microsoft was founded as the U.S. was recovering from a years-long oil embargo that hobbled the economy. Slack, Airbnb, Uber and Square all rose from the ashes of the Great Recession.

    As of September 2022, investors have amassed almost $300 billion in dry powder, and VC funds are still raising money by the boxcar. That’s because even during recessionary times, VC funds tend to outperform public markets.

    Which explains why I’ve never heard an investor say it’s a bad time to launch a startup. But ask a few entrepreneurs, and you may get a different story.

    Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members.
    Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.

    According to a pre-seed report by DocSend, founders took an average of 52 meetings with investors in 2022 compared to 39 last year. At the same time, they are submitting 30% more pitch decks, but VC engagement has fallen 23%.

    The idea that there’s a “good” time to launch a startup is just a bedtime story investors tell founders.

    In Q4 2022, it takes more time to raise less money.

    “Founders may be discouraged in this environment, but they need to remember that they have ‘currency,’ too,” said Russ Heddleston, co-founder and former CEO of DocSend at Dropbox.

    Because investors spend less time reviewing pitches, concise, data-driven storytelling is more important than ever. DocSend’s report recommends using no more than 50 words per slide.

    The sections of the deck that address purpose, product and business model are the meat in the sandwich, so founders should spend the most time polishing those points.

    “Investors spent the third-highest amount of time reviewing the company purpose slide in pre-seed pitch decks, behind only the business model and product slides,” said Heddleston.

    The idea that there’s a “good” time to launch a startup is just a bedtime story investors tell founders, and I regret any role I had in promoting it. Starting a company is an uphill slog on an uncertain path, and it’s not for everyone.

    But if that’s your path, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

    Thanks for reading.

    Walter Thompson
    Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+

    Interim rate of return: A better approach to valuing early-stage startups

    Low valuation caps allow early-stage investors to gain a larger ownership stake and reduce their risk.

    However, these caps are increasingly being used as a proxy for the value of the company at the time of the investment, which in turn creates “unnecessary complexity for inexperienced founders and investors,” write attorneys Andrew Ritter, Adam Silverman and Jack Sousa, partners at Wiggin and Dana.

    “With the interim rate of return method, you simply negotiate a rate of return (like an interest rate) that applies to the convertible instrument investment solely for purposes of future conversion or the amount payable in a pre-conversion exit.”

    3 mistakes to avoid as an emerging manager

    3 mistakes to avoid

    Image Credits: Westend61 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

    Deep tech VC Champ Suthipongchai is a successful fund manager, but he claims to have made plenty of mistakes along the way.

    As co-founder and general partner of Creative Ventures, he raised $65 million “with fewer than 25 LPs.” Looking back, he says he initially wasted too much time chasing investors and failed to use FOMO to his advantage.

    “While there’s no one right way to go about fundraising, there are a few wrong ways — and failure is a wonderful teacher,” says Suthipongchai.

    Lessons for raising $10M without giving up a board seat

    Blackboard showing soccer strategy

    Image Credits: Ihor Reshetniak (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

    Over the last two years, intelligent calendar platform raised $10 million “using a more incremental approach,” writes co-founder Henry Shapiro.

    “We’ve done all this without giving up a single board seat, and Reclaim employees continue to own over two-thirds of the company’s equity,” rejecting conventional wisdom that founders should “raise as much as you can as fast as you can.”

    In a TC+ post, Shapiro reviews the process they used to identify follow-on investors, shares the email template they used to pitch the SAFE and explains why “a larger cap table means more founder control.”

    Pitch Deck Teardown: Juro’s $23M Series B deck

    Legal tech startup Juro raised a $23 million Series B earlier this year to scale its web-based contract negotiation platform.

    Juro’s founders shared their 15-slide pitch deck with TC+ and only “blurred out part of its future road map and the actual numbers for the financials.”

    Dear Sophie: Are there any visas or green cards I can get on my own?

    lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

    Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

    Dear Sophie,

    I’m so worried and stressed about all the layoffs! I’m safe for now, but it has made me realize I need to take control of my own destiny.

    Are there any visas or green cards that I can apply for on my own without relying on my employer?

    — Silicon Stressed

    4 ways to use e-commerce data to optimize LTV pre- and post-holiday

    Four Gift Boxes

    Image Credits: 123ducu(opens in a new window) / Getty Images

    E-commerce startups make as much as one-fifth of their yearly revenue in the months after Black Friday/Cyber Monday. But how can brands convert shoppers who respond to a holiday promotion into repeat customers who come back all year long?

    In a TC+ post, Dan LeBlanc, CEO and co-founder of data and analytics firm Daasity, provides a detailed strategy guide aimed at helping marketers boost ROI and perform cohort analysis to track lifetime value against customer acquisition cost.

    “Consumer brands who know how to use their data to maximize LTV will win the holidays and set their brand up for growth well into the new year.”

    Top 3 riskiest misconfigurations on the Salesforce platform

    Fisherman foot on broken cracked thin ice at lake. Dangerous fishing

    Image Credits: FedBul(opens in a new window) / Getty Images

    No-code technology can be a double-edged sword.

    Platforms like Zapier and Salesforce make it easy to automate tasks and workflows, but “configuring a low-code platform is so easy that the low-code administrator often does not understand the impact of checking a box,” writes David Brooks, senior vice president of product at Copado.

    In a post for TC+, he breaks down the three riskiest Salesforce misconfigurations:

    • Modify All Data (MAD) and View All Data (VAD)
    • Sharing & Sharing Groups
    • Running Apex code without the “runAs” method

    Startup founders need to be data-informed, not just ‘data-driven’

    Alphabet soup with the word hot spelt out on the spoon

    Image Credits: davidf (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

    According to Ann Lai, a general partner at Bullpen Capital, many startups that put core metrics front and center during fundraising are sabotaging themselves.

    “Using raw, unfiltered data is common at startups that donʼt know how to properly filter their information, and they often end up offloading data irrelevant to their company and mission,” says Lai.

    In a post aimed at both investors and founders, Lai offers three strategies that will help “ensure that you arenʼt just data-driven, but data-informed.”

    TechCrunch+ roundup: Fundraising under scrutiny, optimizing LTV, visa bulletin update by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Walter Thompson
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:06 pm

  • Edtech Saasguru wants to fix the cloud talent shortage at scale

    Cloud tech companies are facing a significant cloud skills shortage, making it hard to hire people and difficult to make sure their current workforce’s skills are up to date. Australia- and U.S.-based Saasguru wants to narrow the gap with an edtech platform designed for new graduates and tech workers who want to become better at using cloud platforms like Salesforce or AWS. The company announced today it has raised a seed round of $4 million AUD (about $2.7 million USD) led by Square Peg Capital, along with returning investors Black Nova and Antler.

    Saasguru’s last funding was nine months ago, when it raised a pre-seed round of $1.3 million AUD. The company was founded in 2021 by Amit Choudhary, Atif Saad and Prateek Kataria. Choudhary and Saad sold their last startup SaaSfocus, a Salesforce consulting company, to Cognizant in 2018.

    So far, Salesguru has been used by 40,000 students in 20 countries and has worked with 20 cloud consulting companies that want to train new workers, as well as refresh the skills of their existing teams. Its students range from new graduates who are starting their first jobs in cloud tech to professionals who want to earn more training certificates.

    The search for people with cloud computing skills in the Asia-Pacific region is urgent, with a report by AWS showing that workers needed will triple by 2025, going from 37 million workers in 2020 to 109 million. Saasguru wants to help its learners become ready for cloud tech jobs, while creating more talent at scale.

    Saasguru founders Atif Saad, Amit Choudhary and Prateek Kataria

    Saasguru founders Atif Saad, Amit Choudhary and Prateek Kataria. Image Credits: Saasguru

    Choudhary told TechCrunch that the idea for Saasguru was planted while he and Saad were still working on SaaSfocus and struggled to compete for talent with large cloud consulting companies.

    “This forced us to look at organic talent creation by hiring people from diverse non-technology backgrounds and upskilling them through a homegrown program tailor-made for Salesforce job readiness,” he said. “This became a bit of a ‘secret sauce’ for us and it helped us scale the business to over 360 consultants, with over 80% of them being trained through this program.”

    SaaSfocus’s training program included hyperpersonalized study plans, “TikTok-like” micromodules of content, mentoring, peer-to-peer learning and hands-on assignments.

    After selling SaaSfocus, Choudhary and Saad used this approach in a pro bono program to help people get new jobs during COVID by teaching them Salesforce skills. Of the 50 people who took part in the program, almost all got placed in Salesforce-related jobs.

    “It was the lightbulb moment when we realized this could be scaled with tech into a global business,” Choudhary said. Saasguru was launched in early 2021, combining the components of the pro bono program with a deep tech platform.

    Saasguru’s 15 programs include ones for learning Salesforce, ServiceNow, AWS, GCP and Azure. It plans to use its funding to add more cloud certifications. Choudhary said Saasguru personalizes courses, which can take from 30 hours for a self-paced cloud certification program to 300 hours for a career bootcamp, by using a two-step process. The first step is an initial assessment that analyzes the readiness of a learner and creates a learning pathway for them. Then as they start taking a course, the platform recommends the next best step to take.

    Saasguru acquires customers by running free webinars with its teachers, or gurus. They also offer free one-on-one mentoring sessions on careers and interview tips and certifications, and they run a Slack community. Saasguru serves both individuals and cloud consulting companies that want to build the skills of new and existing employees.

    In a statement about the funding, Square Peg Capital principal Lucy Tan said, “There is a massive cloud skills shortage in the industry that is slowing down digital transformation initiatives undertaken by businesses. Universities are not well equipped to solve this skills shortage as the skills update so quickly. This means post-university upskilling is critical for continued business growth and Saasguru provides a personalised learning pathway for cloud professionals to embark on, helping them get skilled and certified in cloud technologies. This can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives from either landing them in a new career or getting salary increases.”

    Edtech Saasguru wants to fix the cloud talent shortage at scale by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

    Author: Catherine Shu
    Posted: 29 November 2022, 6:00 pm

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