The Learning Experience Market Explodes: Degreed Acquires Pathgather, Taking an Early Lead

Today Degreed, one of the pioneering vendors of Learning Experience Platforms (LXP), announced plans to acquire Pathgather, another innovator in this space. This acquisition gives Degreed clear market share leadership in this fast-growing new market, putting pressure on challengers like EdCastCornerstoneOnDemandSkillsoftLinkedIn and others to move faster as the market accelerates.

Background on the Learning Experience Platform (LXP) Market

Over the last several years the corporate training market has become very dynamic. Companies spend over $200 billion around the world on training, and as the demand for new skills accelerates, they are investing in new learning tools heavily. 

Corporate learning tools, which make up approximately $19 billion of the money spent on corporate training, include a wide variety of products. The primary platform is the Learning Management System (LMS), which is used by most companies to administer, track, and manage training programs and compliance. They also buy tools to build content, tools for performance support, tools for content management, tools for virtual and social learning, and tools for career development, competency management and skills assessment.

While historically the learning management system has been the core technology in this space, this is changing quickly. Employees want a consumer-like experience to learn (similar to YouTube or Netflix), and the LMS was never designed for this kind of use. (The LMS launches “courses” and is more of a management system than a learning system, read more about this history in the article Learning in the Flow of Work).

As a result, the LMS, which is actually an administrative and compliance application, is moving into the world of ERP. And a new category of software for employees has emerged, something I call the Learning Experience Platform (LXP).

Simply explained, the LXP is a place employees go to learn. (A screen shot of Degreed’s user interface is shown below). It curates and recommends content based on your role, experience, goals and interests; it lets employees publish and share content they find useful; and it uses data, AI and machine intelligence to recommend, nudge, and push content to people based on the skills they want (or need) to develop.

While the market was pioneered by Degreed, Pathgather, and EdCast, it has now become a very hot space, with many other vendors trying to get in. (Today CornerstoneOnDemand, Skillsoft (product name is Percipio), Fuse, Valamis, and Tribridge have formally entered the space and we can expect Oracle, SAP, Salesforce, and Workday to enter over time).

As this chart shows, the learning experience platform sits on top of a series of tools and delivers a consumer-like experience to employees. The simple paradigm for these tools is the Netflix of Learning, but over time this layer of software will evolve to be very consumer-like, intelligent, and integrated into the flow of work.  (Over time I expect categories 1, 2, and 3 to merge.)

A Large New Market

While the LMS market today is over $5 billion in size (there are more than 200 LMS companies), it is well-penetrated and grows by 3-4% per year based on turnover and economic growth. The LEP market, by contrast, is much smaller (around $200-250M today), but growing at 200% or more.

The potential LXP market size is huge. Consider the numbers here.  There are more than 500 million working professionals in the world and nearly a billion employees of various types (gig, part-time, blue collar, temporary). All of them need to learn at some point in their job (onboarding, compliance training, or simply training to learn how to use the tools of their trade). So if we look at the potential recurring revenue fees to “deliver” training to all these people (separate out content as a different market), it is easily a multi-billion dollar market.

As I wrote about in a recent article, the LMS market is being reinvented.  Every major ERP provider (Oracle, SAP, Workday, ADP) sell an LMS with their platform, and while they vary in their user interfaces, much of their functionality (tracking registrations, completions, compliance, and managing workflow and training cost allocation) is focused on administration. Employees don’t use the LMS that much, and most companies now believe that this system belongs in the basement – to be run by IT and HR.

Employees, on the other hand, want a visually attractive, intelligent, mobile-enabled interface that actually gives them a true “learning environment.” Hence the LXP market is becoming more valuable than people realized. And with today’s big focus on improving the employee experience, it has become a hyper-growth market.

In the last decade an employee’s learning experience was a course catalog bolted onto the LMS, so it really didn’t command a separate price. Today, however, these intelligent LXP platforms are enormously valuable so companies are spending millions of dollars to buy them (forcing down the pricing on their core LMS).  I know of nearly a dozen companies that have spent millions of dollars on learning experience platforms now, often spending $20-30 or more per employee per year. That adds up fast (500 million professional employees at this price is a $10-15 billion market).  Of course prices will come down as the market gets bigger, but you can see the size of the opportunity which has emerged.

As I mentioned above, many vendors are eyeing this market.  SAP’s product Jam and Workday Learning are potential players in this space, and nearly every LMS vendor is trying to build a similar product.  Percipio, the LXP developed by Skillsoft, is already generating meaningful revenue and the company plans to integrate it with SumTotal. One could also argue that LinkedIn Learning (it can publish and manage third party content) is an LXP, and I believe Microsoft Teams could become one over time as well. One could imagine that Google sells a corporate version of YouTube that could compete.

Over the last few months I’ve carefully surveyed the market and believe that today the total revenue captured by these products is probably around $200-250 Million and growing at 150-200% per year (this is for separately priced products that compliment the LMS). While some vendors don’t explicitly charge for the LXP today (Cornerstone and LinkedIn for example), I believe they could over time.

Degreed Now Clear Leader, EdCast Growing Fast

Who are the real leaders?  Today, with over 200 enterprise customers, Degreed is well ahead, and by acquiring Pathgather the company accelerates its lead. Pathgather was developed with a similar paradigm to Degreed, but it had an even more engaging user interface, so the company captured major client wins. As a combined company Degreed gains a larger market footprint, a larger engineering team, and valuable product management from the Pathgather founders and marketing team. 

Degreed has already signed up dozens of the biggest employers in the world, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Mastercard, Intel, Cisco, Harley Davidson, Tesla, Unilever, and most recently, Boeing. Now, though Pathgather, which brings Visa, Qualcomm, and Capital One, it has emerged as the clear leader in the Fortune 500 market.

But this game is far from over. The fast-growing alternative is EdCast, which is about a third the size of Degreed and also growing quickly.  EdCast positions itself as a knowledge management platform, with technology for learning, information discovery, and knowledge management. The company does not have the maturity of skills assessment and ERP integrations of Degreed, but does have tools for robotic process automation, digital adoption, and scalable knowledge management.  EdCast has also captured deals from some of the world’s largest companies (Anglo American, HP Enterprise, Schneider Electric, Kraft Heinz) and has been selected by NASSCOM, World Economic Forum, and Norway’s non-profit Future Learning Lab to power large public-facing skills development networks. So the market is still wide open.

One way to think about this market is that LXP software is to learning what middleware is to applications. Look at the enormous growth of ServiceNow, a company that provides case management and employee experience software that sits between employee service applications and both IT and HR. ServiceNow has more than 2,000 customers, over $2B in revenue, and is one of the fastest growing cloud vendors in the world. I believe the focused LXP companies have the potential to play a similar role in the gigantic employee learning market, selling an employee-centric layer that sits on top of the LMS.

Market Still Young

This is still a young market and I expect a lot of things yet to happen. As more learning moves to short form video (micro-learning) and more courses are authored by experts and employees, we can expect these LXP systems to “deliver” learning right into the platforms of work.

This means tools like Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google G-Suite will be seen as learning platforms, since that’s where employees spend most of their time. IBM Watson today can deliver learning through conversations, and I know of several vendors who have systems that “chat with employees” to help them learn what they need to know (Filtered and Butterfly.ai, for example). Already Skillsoft’s Percipio has a feature called ELSA, the Embedded Learning Synchronized Assistant, that recommends content based on your web activity already and Degreed offers integrations with Slack.

Imagine, for example, if you have all your company’s learning content in Degreed or another LXP and you now decide you want to build an onboarding program for sales people in Salesforce. Rather than try to build a training program and embed it into the Salesforce portal, you could simply build it in the LXP and then use the LXP’s integration to provision it to all your sales people. This is what we always wanted the LMS to do – the LXP is just more open, flexible, and easier to integrate.

In an adjacent market, the fast-growing marketplace of on-demand digital adoption tools (WalkMe, EnableNow, EdCast’s GuideMe, and others) is impinging on this space, delivering software that recommends instructional content based on your job and learning history with systems that monitor your minute-by-minute activity to guide and help you along the way.  Learning is one of the most exciting marketplaces for AI and conversational systems, and I expect that the LEP will become the platform for some of the most advanced AI-based innovations.

I attended the ServiceNow customer conference a few weeks ago and was astounded at how much money and energy companies are putting into tools that “simplify the employee experience.” Think about the opportunity to do the same for employee development, learning, and performance support. With a robust and now well-defined market for Learning Experience Platforms, I think we have a new billion dollar market coming fast.

How This Retail Technology Platform Is Positively Changing The Way Consumers Shop

Jessica Murphy, co-founder of True Fit, along with her business partner, Romney Evans, is on a mission to change the way consumers purchase clothes and shoes. In short, True Fit helps real people find clothes and shoes they’ll love and keep. “First we are changing the way people shop,” Murphy states matter-of-factly. “The next step is changing the entire retail industry; everything from how products get produced to how consumers buy.

The idea for True Fit emerged out of a shopping experience gone horribly wrong. “One day I received an email from a guy who is now my partner,” Murphy states. “I thought he was looking for advice with retail. He told me a frustrating story of shopping with his wife looking for jeans. By the end of the conversation he asked me, ‘would you like to join me in trying to solve this [the frustrating process of finding clothes that fit and flatter]?’” At the time, Murphy was in graduate school with experience as a buyer in the retail industry. Her conversation with Evans sparked an interest. “From day one I was so determined to solve this,” smiles Murphy. “I knew we could change the game for consumers and for the industry with a simple value proposition: help people find and buy clothes and shoes they’ll love and want to keep. It’s a concept of using data and technology to match a consumer with a set of preferences to styles from mass-produced products.”

Murphy transitioned from working in retail to building the first-of-its-kind data-driven personalization platform for the retail industry. As a buyer at the May Department Stores Company, which was acquired by Macy’s, she realized that the one thing that plagues retail is lack of advanced analytics. “Retail has never been first with adopting technology,” explains Murphy, “let alone advanced analytics. I got to the point as a buyer that I was feeling frustrated by the way we were making decisions and that we weren’t trying new things, so I began applying to graduate schools. I thought business school would be the place for me to figure out what I wanted to do next.” Murphy and Evans launched True Fit out of business school.

Murphy’s passion for fashion and retail has driven her to keep going even when the odds were against her and her company. “I learned pretty quickly that I was a bigger risk taker than I thought,” Murphy expresses while discussing the early years of the company. “After graduate school I decided not to take a regular job and focus on building this company. We [Murphy and Evans] each put in five thousand dollars. We then raised one million dollars in seed capital in our first round from angel investors to start the company.”

True Fit gives people confidence to buy by making the process seamless. The company is a data-driven personalization platform for footwear and apparel retailers that uses rich connected data and machine learning to enable personal experiences for fashion retailers. “The consumers put a little bit of information about themselves in [within the platform], and we do the heavy lifting behind the scenes,” shares Murphy. “The retailer displays to them a set of products that are really going to work well for them. The consumer doesn’t have to read through 15 reviews or scroll through hundreds of products. We’re simplifying a process when people don’t have the time nor the patience to navigate the amount of content being thrown at them. This technology takes the friction out of shopping for the consumer."

Murphy has faced two major pivots with the company. The first major pivot occurred prior to raising their Series A round. “Those were pretty dark days,” she reminisces. “We were operating on fumes. We were sued for a trademark infringement by a large retail brand. At the time, we were operating the company as a direct business to consumer website that was the test kitchen for the technology.  The lawsuit accelerated the pivot to the business model we have today. Our intention was never to become a retailer. It was always to build a tech company.”

Although the company’s first major pivot almost put Murphy out of business, the second major pivot changed the course of the company and propelled them to success. True Fit landed an endorsement from one of its initial retail partners, one of the largest Department Stores in the U.S. and still a customer today. “Having them co-write a letter with us to the industry,” she continues to explain, “saying ‘you should entrust True Fit with your data. They are going to hold it in trust for the benefit of our shared consumer.’ That was the point where we went from getting dozens of companies to share their data with us to hundreds and thousands.”  That’s the point where True Fit became recognized as a trusted advisor for the industry.

Through it all, Murphy relies on three main concepts to help her manage life’s pivots:

  • Believe in what you’re going after; in yourself. Let your belief and your why drive the opportunity.
  • Be flexible and nimble. The story isn’t going to unfold as perfectly as you have in your head and that’s ok.
  • Develop grit and perseverance. No matter what people say around you, it’s liberating to bust through obstacles and challenges.

Murphy and her team just raised a round of Series C funding, which is enabling them to open up their data set to the industry to continue to improve the way people shop and buy. Her big message is “do something that you love!”

Cheryl Robinson ,  WOMEN@FORBESI focus on embracing the pivot during life’s transitions.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

 

SMART Global Holdings Announces Acquisition of Penguin Computing

Expanding into Specialty Compute and Storage, Targeting Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and High Performance Computing Applications

Conference Call to Discuss Acquisition @ 1:30pm PT /4:30pm ET on June 11, 2018

NEWARK, Calif., June 11, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SMART Global Holdings, Inc. (“SMART”) (SGH) today announced that it has acquired Penguin Computing, Inc. (“Penguin”), a privately held company and a leader in specialty compute and storage solutions targeting applications in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and High-Performance Computing (HPC) using state-of-the-art, open technologies and advanced industry architectures. Penguin’s compute and storage solutions are also available on a secure cloud infrastructure.
                        
Penguin will continue as a standalone operation being the first part of a new business unit, SMART Specialty Compute & Storage Solutions (SCSS), which will benefit from shared infrastructure and the ability to leverage the products and capabilities of SMART’s Specialty Memory business unit into the emerging AI and ML markets. The acquisition of Penguin and the creation of SMART SCSS will serve as a broad platform on which SGH can further build. 

“We are pleased to be embarking on the first acquisition of our strategy to broaden the reach and capabilities of SMART into new technologies, markets and channels that leverage our proven platform of integrating and growing businesses,” commented Ajay Shah, Chairman and CEO of SMART Global Holdings. “Penguin brings an outstanding customer base, solid products and strong supplier relationships to SMART in the specialty compute, storage and networking markets.”

Tom Coull, CEO of Penguin, stated, “We are looking forward to becoming a part of the SMART family of global companies and will continue to deliver Penguin branded high quality, cost effective, purpose-built servers, storage and networking solutions for our customers. With this new platform, Penguin will have substantially improved access to capital to drive additional investment in, and further development and growth of our product and services offerings. Based on all of the benefits that we anticipate from this transaction, we expect that our customers and suppliers will be supportive of the transaction.”

SMART has agreed to acquire Penguin for up to $85 million, which includes up to $25 million of performance-based payments that are made only if certain agreed-upon targets are achieved.

KKR Credit provided the debt financing for this transaction. Needham & Company, LLC acted as financial advisor to SMART.

Selected financial information on Penguin Computing is provided below. This financial information is subject to adjustments as the Company completes its review.

SMART will be hosting a conference call to discuss the acquisition at 1:30pm Pacific Time (PT), 4:30pm Eastern Time (ET) on Monday, June 11, 2018. Details are shown below:

Penguin Acquisition Conference Call Details

 

Date:                           Monday, June 11, 2018
Time:                          1:30pm Pacific Time (PT) / 4:30pm Eastern Time (ET)
Dial-in US toll free:   +1-866-487-6452
Passcode:                    5685225
Webcast:                    www.smartgh.com

 

A replay of the conference call will be accessible for one week following the call as follows:

Replay:  +1-855-859-2056; Passcode: 5685225; or through the Investors section of the SMART website at www.smartgh.com.

(amounts in millions) Penguin Computing, Inc.

   Q1'FY18  Q1'FY17  FY'17

  (unaudited)  (audited)

Net sales $48.5 $26.9 $166.5

Gross profit $10.3 $5.8
 $30.4

Adjusted EBITDA(1) $3.5 $0.9 $8.1

   (1)Reconciliation:         

Net Income $2.0 $0.4 $5.9

Interest & fees  0.3  0.1  0.9

Taxes  0.6  0.0  0.1

Depreciation  0.6  0.3  1.2

Adjusted EBITDA $3.5 $0.9 $8.1

          

Note: Fiscal year ended December 31, 2017

Matt Belkin, Joins Big Squid, Inc. as President and Newest Member of the Board of Directors

The former Domo Executive and Omniture Leader will work closely with CEO, Chris Knoch, to drive revenue growth and customer expansion.

SALT LAKE CITY (PRWEB) MAY 21, 2018

Big Squid is pleased to announce the addition of Matt Belkin to the Senior Executive team as President and newest member of the Board of Directors.

Belkin brings over 20 years of enterprise software experience to Big Squid, and was most recently the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Analytics Officer at Domo, where he helped run the business on a day to day basis, exceeding over 100% annual growth and surpassing a $2B private company valuation.

Prior to Domo, Belkin has helped build and scale numerous successful technology companies including Omniture, Adobe, Macromedia and Yahoo. He began his career as a Technical Software Analyst at JP Morgan.

“Matt and I have spent more than two decades helping leaders turn data into actionable insights that move businesses forward. It’s in our DNA. Matt’s passion, domain expertise, and proven ability to scale companies to billion dollar valuations is absolutely unparalleled. We’re thrilled to have him join the team as our growth continues to accelerate.”

Belkin will be working closely with CEO, Chris Knoch to drive revenue growth and global customer expansion.

“Big Squid is one of the most transformative technology companies I’ve ever seen,” Belkin said. “Every analyst and business leader wants to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to make more confident real-time decisions - but they lack the expertise to do it. It’s a massive gap that all businesses are struggling with. Big Squid uniquely solves this problem by bringing the power of self-service data science and automated machine learning to the masses. I couldn’t be more ecstatic to join this amazing team.”

About Big Squid, Inc: Big Squid places the power of predictive modeling and machine learning in the hands of the analyst, executive, and business decision maker. Big Squid’s Kraken platform is built specifically to allow user access and data input from all divisions of your company. Leveraging your existing BI data, Big Squid deploys automated data science modeling and machine learning to quickly generate likely future business outcomes and scenarios. Now CEO’s, analysts, and all business users alike, can work within one platform and share predictive modeling outcomes across all departments.

UpWell Expands Executive Bench to Fuel Growth and Market Expansion Across Healthcare Services Industry

 C-level hires advance corporate strategy and streamline operations

 Salt Lake City, UT – May 8, 2018 – UpWell Health, a leading provider of healthcare services, support, and solutions for people living with chronic conditions, today announced that it has rounded out its leadership team with the appointments of two executive hires to support its rapid growth as the company expands market share. Patrick Grosso has assumed the role of chief administrative officer and Josh Walker has joined the company as chief operating officer.

“More than 133 million Americans are living with a chronic condition. On top of feeling sick for the majority of their lives, they face hefty healthcare bills and have to manage complex treatment plans,” said Alison Wistner, chief executive officer of UpWell. “I’m excited to lead a strong team of executives who truly embrace our mission to help our members feel normal again. As healthcare continues to evolve, each executive will play a vital role in shaping the next phase of UpWell. We have a huge opportunity to influence and disrupt the way we deliver healthcare and I’m confident that we have the best leaders in place to succeed.”

Patrick Grosso, who brings 19 years of private and public company operations experience to UpWell, has assumed the role of chief administrative officer, overseeing all business administration and legal functions and the development of strategic initiatives that help the company achieve core organizational objectives. Previously, he served as Skullcandy’s chief legal officer and vice president of strategic initiatives and corporate affairs, leading several departments internationally.

Josh Walker has joined the company as chief operating officer, bringing more than 15 years of healthcare experience and a reputation for strong leadership and catalyzing business growth. Prior to UpWell, Walker served as COO at both Imagine Health and Optum, UnitedHealth Group’s $40 billion health services arm. At UpWell, he oversees the technology, information technology, pharmacy operations, and project management teams.

“We are very pleased to see UpWell’s continued expansion in the market, and could not be happier with the further additions to the management team these past several months,” said Ron Heinz, UpWell board member and managing partner at Signal Peak Ventures. “Alison has attracted a group of executives who are like-minded, yet offer very complimentary skill sets. The success of any organization is deep-rooted in its culture and leadership, and we have high expectations that this team will drive compelling solutions for members and partners for years to come.”

Grosso and Walker are serving alongside Wistner and chief financial officer Tony Sansone, who both joined the company upon its inception in late 2017. Wistner brought a range of investment experience from the venture capital world, specifically in healthcare services and IT, and Sansone joined as a seasoned financial executive with experience at both private and public companies in complex rapid-growth and turnaround environments.

UpWell has made several other additions to its leadership team to strengthen departments across the organization, including marketing, member services, and business development:

·         Valerie Adams Meffert joined UpWell as vice president of marketing earlier this year. In this role, she is responsible for UpWell’s brand, content, communications, and member experience. She was previously vice president of engagement at Mercato Partners, an active growth equity investor in the technology and branded consumer sectors. 

·         Josh Harris is UpWell’s new vice president of member services, leading the company’s member-facing and demand generation teams. Josh brings a wealth of experience in sales and customer experience to this role, previously having served as Clearlink’s vice president of sales, where he grew a team of 30 people into more than 1,000 employees over the span of eight years. 

·         Melissa Floren has been appointed vice president of strategic partnerships, and is responsible for identifying, nurturing, and growing key relationships with industry partners to deliver on the UpWell vision. She joined UpWell after leading customer success and business development at Imagine Health, bringing years of healthcare experience to this new role.

“We’re bolstering our leadership team at a critical time for the organization,” added Wistner. “I’m looking forward to working as a collective management team to explore ways to advance support for this massively underserved healthcare population.”

UpWell empowers members to take control of their health by making it easier for them to get the medications and care they need, at an affordable cost. The company’s mission is to change the way people learn about and manage their conditions through prescription delivery, online community support, and access to educational resources. To learn more, visit www.upwell.com.

About UpWell

UpWell is on a mission to simplify life for the nearly 133 million people in the U.S. living with chronic conditions. By working directly with physicians, pharmacies, and insurance companies, UpWell ensures that members receive the right prescriptions and medical supplies, at the right time. Established in 2017 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, the company provides medications, products, and services to enable treatment adherence. In addition, UpWell’s condition-specific online social networks connect patients and caregivers, fostering engagement, peer support, and knowledge sharing. By providing holistic healthcare services, community support, and solutions, UpWell makes living with a chronic condition easier so its members can lead more empowered lives. Learn more at www.UpWell.com.

Contact Information:

Matthew Briggs

PAN Communications

617.502.4300

upwell@pancomm.com

 

  

10 Best Tech Startups in Salt Lake City

Proud to be partnering with 2 out of the top 10 tech start ups in Salt Lake City! Congrats to Big Squid and East Wind!

 April 3, 2018  

The Tech Tribune staff has compiled the very best tech startups in Salt Lake City, Utah. In doing our research, we considered several factors including but not limited to:

  1. Revenue potential
  2. Leadership team
  3. Brand/product traction
  4. Competitive landscape

Additionally, all companies must be independent (un-acquired), privately owned, at most 10 years old, and have received at least one round of funding in order to qualify.

Looking for a badge to celebrate your awesome accomplishment? Find it here!

1. Health Catalyst

Founded: 2008

“Health Catalyst is dedicated to enabling health care organizations to fundamentally improve care by building the most comprehensive and fully integrated suite of healthcare data warehousing and process improvement solutions available.

Health Catalyst was formed by a group of healthcare veterans with vast data warehousing and quality improvement experience. Our founders and executives collaborated for nearly a decade to revolutionize clinical process models using analytics. During development, they faced numerous hurdles in the quest to develop a data warehouse that could handle the complexities unique to healthcare data.”

2. TaskEasy, Inc.

 

Founded: 2011

“TaskEasy is a hyperlocal technology provider and the first company to apply the services-on-demand model to home exterior services nationwide with a primary focus on lawn care and yard maintenance ancillary services. The company’s mission is to make buying home exterior services as easy for customers as buying products online, while helping reliable contractors generate more business. TaskEasy’s patent-pending formula establishes fair market pricing for these services in statistical metropolitan areas in all 50 U.S. states. This means customers and contractors don’t have to haggle on price and can instead focus on quality service delivery. Since its consumer launch in April 2013, TaskEasy has performed more than 400,000 tasks in over 4,800 cities across the U.S. and has established a network of more than 5,000 screened and rated contractors. The company is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

3. MasteryConnect

 

Founded: 2009

“MasteryConnect provides formative assessment and competency-based learning solutions to educators around the world. The web-based mobile platform, which includes Socrative, was designed to help teachers measure levels of student understanding in real time, to target students for intervention, and to inform instruction. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, MasteryConnect now serves over two million teachers and 21 million students in more than 85% of U.S. districts and over 170 countries.”

4. Podium

 

Founded: 2014

“We believe that every business should participate in building a thriving local ecosystem. So we’re building tools that make interacting easier and more convenient for everyone.

We started with a single product that helps businesses collect and manage reviews on the sites that matter most. But that was just the beginning. We’ve since released Messenger to help make interactions between businesses and consumers more convenient and analysis tools like Sentiment Report to provide quicker, deeper insights into what consumers love most about your business.”

5. Artemis Health

 

Founded: 2013

“At Artemis Health, we are striving to help fix healthcare in America. We’re making it easy for self-insured employers to use their own benefits data to reduce spending and improve benefits for their employees.

Because we believe that everyone should have good healthcare they can afford.”

6. Teem

 

Founded: 2012

“Teem’s (formerly EventBoard) cloud-based platform makes it easy for your employees to meet and book conference rooms, to efficiently manage workspaces and meeting resources, and to measure and analyze your company’s meeting and collaboration behavior. Thousands of innovative, busy organizations – including Twitter, Palantir and Airbnb – use Teem to help their people, places and technology work better together.”

7. Big Squid

 

Founded: 2009

“Big Squid was founded 9 years ago to provide much-needed automation and scale in the Data & Analytics space through a combination of services and software. Our evolution and software development efforts are rooted in addressing real-world business outcomes associated with Data & Analytics deployments across many industries. We focus specifically on the executive and business users’ need to effectively forecast business outcomes and build a business action plan grounded in greater mathematical certainty and ROI. With so much data readily accessible, we’ve built Kraken, a software platform that provides automated access to the power of machine learning for existing Data & Analytics teams and technology investments. With more accurate forecasts and more mathematically sound business insights in hand, executives and business leaders can prescribe action to drive more profitable and effective outcomes. Simply put, we help businesses look ahead, and to be proactive instead of reactive.”

8. Homie

 

Founded: 2015

“Homie is the future of home buying and selling. We use technology to automate some functions and provide licensed attorneys, agents, and experts to help our customers get the deal they want on the home they want. Our sellers save an average of $10,000 compared to using a traditional real estate agent and our buyers can get a refund of up to $5,000 towards closing costs.”

9. CloudCherry

 

Founded: 2014

“Understanding Voice of Customer has never been easier or faster, thanks to CloudCherry’s disruptive Customer Experience Management platform. Used by leading global enterprises today to delight their customers, the platform helps leaders map and capture omni-channel feedback across the customer’s journey, empowers every single person within the organization with data-driven insights and real-time actionability, and integrates with leading systems of records to make CX a key driver of growth and profitability.”

10. Eastwind Networks

 

Founded: 2013

“Eastwind Networks offers the only breach analytics cloud that provides complete visibility of your key cyber terrain. We analyze the flight data flowing across your corporate networks, virtual networks, cloud provider networks, cloud application networks, and your mobile workforce—quickly and easily. Always watching, our army of automated hunters enable organizations to identify malicious activity that has evaded other security solutions Founded in 2014 and led by a team of Internet security veterans, Eastwind Networks was recently named a Founders 50 member by Dell.”

MINDBODY to Acquire Booker Software

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., March 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — MINDBODY, Inc. (NASDAQ: MB), the leading technology platform for the wellness services industry, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Booker Software, a leading cloud-based business management platform for salons and spas, and the provider of Frederick, a fast-growing, automated marketing software for wellness businesses.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., March 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — MINDBODY, Inc. (NASDAQ: MB), the leading technology platform for the wellness services industry, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Booker Software, a leading cloud-based business management platform for salons and spas, and the provider of Frederick, a fast-growing, automated marketing software for wellness businesses.

The acquisition of Booker will add approximately 10,000 salons and spas to the MINDBODY marketplace, combining MINDBODY’s leadership in boutique fitness studios and its vast consumer network with Booker’s leadership in high-value salons and spas.

“MINDBODY and Booker power the local businesses that help tens of millions of people lead healthier, happier lives,” said Rick Stollmeyer, MINDBODY CEO and co-founder. “By combining our technology and teams, we will help our customers grow by connecting them to even larger consumer audiences. Our intention is to rapidly expand our wellness and beauty platform by delivering more value to customers, consumers and partners alike.”

“MINDBODY and Booker have long shared a common purpose: delivering a platform that empowers wellness and beauty professionals to run and grow their businesses,” said Josh McCarter, Booker CEO. “By joining forces, we can deliver the game-changing technologies the wellness industry has been waiting for, and accelerate growth for our customers.”

Booker was founded in 2010 to serve the beauty industry and earned approximately $25 million in subscription and payments revenue in 2017.  Today, Booker serves approximately 10,000 high end salons and spas, and its platform processed over $1.4 billion in payments volume in 2017.

Under the terms of the agreement, MINDBODY will acquire Booker Software for approximately $150 million in cash and the assumption of unvested option awards. The transaction is expected to close in Q2 2018, and if closed, additional financial information will be shared when MINDBODY reports its Q1 2018 results.

Centerview Partners is acting as financial advisor to MINDBODY. Raymond James is acting as financial advisor to Booker. Cooley LLP is acting as counsel for MINDBODY and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, LLP is acting as counsel for Booker.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

MINDBODY, Inc. 

Mar 12, 2018, 16:05 ET

Degreed gets $42M to help build a tool to help employees learn the right skills

When an employee is looking to advance in their career, where they work might have a kind of strict hierarchical path for the role they’re in and what titles come next — but there’s a good chance that employee might want to try something new without leaving their company.

When an employee is looking to advance in their career, where they work might have a kind of strict hierarchical path for the role they’re in and what titles come next — but there’s a good chance that employee might want to try something new without leaving their company.

Instead of going from just an agent to a manager of agents, or following some existing promotion line, a company that’s large enough probably has plenty of other opportunities within it across many different divisions — each with either a directly-comparable skillset, or one that might need some slight additions. That’s where Degreed, an online service for identifying those skill gaps and how to pick them up, as well as track them, comes. Instead of locking employees into a single trajectory, Degreed  hopes to give employers tools to help employees improve their skills even more, and in the end become much more valuable to the employer. Degreed today said it has raised $42 million in a venture financing round co-led by Owl Ventures and Jump Capital, with Founders Circle Capital and existing investors participating.

The service launches inside an organization, identifies the content that offers an opportunity to work on skills like project management (often made by the company itself), and then shows employees how to start working on those skills. And those skill gaps between roles might actually be much smaller than those employees think, and it’s just a matter of identifying what they need to work on in order to grow within their company. After that, it identifies the best ways to get those skills, which can come in the form of content or potentially other avenues, and helps employees figure out how far along their progression path they are.

“The real challenge is that no matter how big or sophisticated any one content source is, whether it’s higher education and formal training, that’s increasingly a smaller slice of the pie,” Chris McCarthy, who was named CEO of the company today, said. “If you know where to look, you can build any skill. As content proliferates — for enterprises and for individuals — all these platforms are islands of learning. They do a good job of getting through that experience. Nothing prior to that is weaving through those islands of learning.”

 

McCarthy said even though the employers are helping their employees learn new skills, which might even help them get jobs elsewhere, they aren’t having an issues signing up potential clients. That’s because in the end, employers are going to see more value in helping those employees grow and learn new skills, and that might provide its own feedback loop where employees feel like they are getting the most from their company and want to stick around.

Of course, one of the big challenges for Degreed is not only identifying content that can serve as a barometer for learning a new skill, but also gauging its quality. For example, an online MIT course on Linear Algebra — just a series of videos and problem sets — could potentially end up superior to the other online course next to it on some well-known online course service.

While Degreed may have initially served as a kind of hub or aggregation point for educational content initially — or at least, that’s what people thought it was, McCarthy said — all that information coming in has helped it create a robust data set that it can use going forward to further help employees figure out what skills they need to learn, or even skills they didn’t realize they want to learn. When an employee comes in the door for the first time, the hope is that Degreed will have enough information for what’s inside the company and what the employee is interested in to gauge right away what they might want to learn.

That, in the end, provides a neat feedback loop. A tool like Degreed gets used to what employees want to learn, and starts to spot skills gaps inside a company that need to be filled. If all that plays out the way you might expect, then the whole notion of a hierarchy in a company might be a thing that might not exist for much longer — and employees, who are hopefully digging up the skills they want and would be good at, are the ones that chart out the real progression path inside a company as it tries to achieve its goals.

“Without engagement, just having data is insufficient,” McCarthy said. “The data you need only comes from engagement on a platform. You can have all the best models and content, but if people aren’t using the product, you can’t reduce the data that’s helpful. They’re making these decisions looking at the data, and they might see the tip of the iceberg on the surface of the water. But now companies can sit back and say, ‘here’s this glacier of learning under the water.’ It’s a combination of putting a place in the individual where a person can touch it and see it and see a real pathway.”

There is definitely a lot of interest in the employee learning space, especially as it makes sense for larger companies who are increasingly aching for niche talent like machine learning are looking to find the best people — who might even be at their own company. Grovo,  for example, raised $40 million about two years ago. But as is the case with any platform looking to win, it’s going to be a race to get the best (and most) data to convince employers that they can quickly and efficiently identify the best people to learn a skill, something McCarthy hopes Degreed has with a million licensed users.

Matthew Lynley@mattlynley / Mar 6, 2018

Snaps Integrates With Adobe Campaign To Enhance Leading Enterprise Brand’s Messenger Chatbots With CRM Data

With this integration, Adobe Campaign customers can further extend their campaign channel to Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, Skype, and other platforms

NEW YORK, Feb. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Conversational marketing platform, Snaps, one of the select companies listed in Facebook’s Platform Development Providers, announces an integration with Adobe Campaign, part of Adobe Marketing Cloud. Snaps enterprise chatbot platform empowers marketers to segment and engage customers through conversation across messaging and voice apps.

One benefit of Snaps platform is brands can leverage their existing tools and databases. Through the integration with Adobe Campaign, brands will now be able to implement their Adobe Campaign data right within an individual’s Facebook Messenger chatbot conversation. Adobe Campaign enables the orchestration and execution of personalized cross-channel marketing campaigns to fuel meaningful customer experiences.

With the integration, Adobe and Snaps enterprise customers can quickly create an exceptional chatbot experience that utilizes all existing customer data. Brands can also utilize the chatbot as an endpoint capable of reading and writing customer profile data such as preferences, addresses, purchase history, and more.

Snaps is featured in the Adobe Exchange Directory under the personalization category. “At Snaps, our vision is to enable truly personal experiences for consumers, and to lower the cost and effort for enterprise brands to deliver personalization to their customers,” said Christian Brucculeri, CEO, Snaps.  There are three initial use cases to integrate Adobe Campaign into the Snaps platform. First, the integration allows brands to get a more complete picture of their customer. This is made possible by associating email addresses, connected with Adobe Campaign, to chatbot users. Second, brands can now leverage a user’s purchase history to deliver notifications such as status updates and tracking numbers directly on their messaging platform of choice. All existing purchase history can be accessed via the bot for use cases such as reordering, returns, and recommendations. Finally, brands can send transactional messages, which are defined within Adobe Campaign.

 

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Snaps 

Feb 14, 2018, 13:50 ET

True Fit Closes $55 Million Series C Investment

Georgian Partners leads growth financing as True Fit’s Genome® Platform and data collective become the intelligent data layer for personalizing the world’s largest consumer vertical

January 15, 2018 09:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–True Fit, the retail industry’s data-driven personalization platform for apparel and footwear today announced a new $55 million Series C investment, led by Georgian Partners with participation from existing investors Jump Capital, Signal Peak Ventures, Intel Capital, and new investor Cross Creek Capital.

The new funding will further develop True Fit’s robust AI data platform, as well as advance innovation of its personalized style, fit, and analytics solutions. It will also expand the company’s offerings to include more robust open APIs, new AI-driven integrations, and new capabilities such as personal outfitting, chatbot virtual stylists, and enhanced visualizations.

The investment underscores the rapid growth of True Fit’s vast network of retailers and partners in North America, UK and EU markets, while expanding into new global markets including Asia and South America.

To help retailers and brands expand their growth even further, True Fit is also making its APIs available to the broad ecosystem of retail service providers. True Fit’s unique understanding of consumer preferences and garment attributes helps retailers to better personalize all touchpoints of the consumer journey from top-of-funnel search and display, to on site discovery and inspiration, to conversion confidence and return reduction, reengagement with personalized emails, retargeting, chat and voice applications, and new in-store experiences. Rich analytics and insights from True Fit help retailers and brands make smarter merchandising, marketing, and manufacturing decisions.

True Fit’s Series C financing comes at a time of hyper growth for the company. The company tripled its commercial growth YoY in 2017, seeing its presence top 200 major global enterprise retail sites, while in parallel the network of registered users surpassed 55 million.

“The retail industry is experiencing an exciting and profound shift toward great, personal experiences, and rich, data-driven personalization is at the core driving the growth,” said William R. Adler, CEO, True Fit. “We are grateful to steward this special data collective on behalf of thousands of brands and the world’s leading retailers, while supporting them with the innovative tools required to successfully compete.” Adler continued, “We’re thrilled to welcome Georgian Partners to our investor group and Board of Directors. The Georgian team is extraordinary, and their thesis for building the world’s best AI-driven data platforms makes this a very natural partnership. This round and their leadership underscores and accelerates our vision to be the intelligence inside every footwear and apparel shopping experience.”

“As a trusted partner for the apparel industry, True Fit has developed a truly unique dataset,” said Justin LaFayette, Managing Partner, Georgian Partners. “We’re very excited to be partnering with what is a world-class team to help further develop their applied AI capabilities.”

For more information about True Fit, visit: www.truefit.com.

Contacts

Racepoint Global for True Fit
Amanda Nadile, 617-624-3244
truefit@racepointglobal.com

Snaps raises $6M to expand its marketing platform for messaging apps

Snaps has raised $6 million in Series A funding for what it calls its Conversational Marketing Cloud.

Snaps has raised $6 million in Series A funding for what it calls its Conversational Marketing Cloud.

By that, it’s referring to a suite of tools that allows businesses to promote themselves through messaging. CEO Christian Brucculeri said Snaps is differentiated by its “write once and deploy everywhere approach,” allowing marketers to build things like chatbots and emoji keyboards that work across platforms, no developers required.

Brucculeri also pointed to the Snaps’ ability to deliver personalized messages to each consumer, thanks in part to integration with customer databases and with artificial intelligence platforms like IBM Watson.

As an example of what a brand can do with Snaps, Brucculeri recounted a campaign with Bud Light, where a chatbot would ask consumers about their favorite team, then send them a message before the game, reminding them that kickoff was in two hours and asking if they needed a beer delivery from Drizly.

Snaps actually started out as an augmented reality company called GoldRun, but Brucculeri said it was a little ahead of its time — he joined in 2014 to help the company switch directions, eventually settling on its current model.

Snaps has since worked with brands like Nike and Macy’s, as well as celebrities like Lady Gaga, and it says that sales have been increasing 200 percent year-over-year for the past two years.

It’s also gone beyond traditional messaging, allowing marketers to build skills for Amazon Alexa as well. Asked about how the platform might continue to expand, Brucculeri said, “Channels like email and branded native applications are — I wouldn’t say that they’re dead, but I would say they’ve hit a point of maturity and relative decline. The future of communication is conversational.” And so the company will focus on “building products that speak to and help accelerate that vision.”

The funding comes from Signal Peak Ventures, with Signal Peak’s Brandon Tidwell joining the Snaps board. Brucculeri said the money will help the company expand its product, sales and customer support teams, and to open its first office to address the market of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Snaps has now raised a total of $13 million.

By Anthony Ha

Flexera to Acquire BDNA, Reimagining How Data Powers the Software Supply Chain

Acquisition will create the world’s largest technology asset data platform, transforming how software is bought, sold, managed and secured.

“Software applications are essential tools to help companies solve business problems.  But it’s the data used by those applications that ultimately powers the software ecosystem. We’re bringing together two leaders with a shared vision of how technology asset data can transform the entire software industry,” said Jim Ryan, Flexera’s CEO.  “As a result of this acquisition, Flexera will have the largest repository of decision-support data available to any organization running commercial and open source software, including applications powering IoT devices.   Furthermore, Flexera now has the world’s largest database of security-specific data relating to software and devices.  Even if an organization has invested in a Software Asset Management (SAM), Open Source or Security application not developed by Flexera – our software and hardware asset data will dramatically increase the ROI that organization will get from their investment.”

Technology Asset Intelligence Fuels Better Decision-Making

Every day, executives rely on multiple software solutions to make business decisions.  But the technology asset data feeding these solutions often is incomplete and inaccurate, resulting in poor data quality.  Additionally, because these software tools don’t speak a common “data language,” they’re siloed, making it difficult to share information. This impedes collaboration, sound decision-making, and ultimately it reduces the ROI companies realize from software investments.

This software supply chain dysfunction is no longer acceptable. To succeed today, executives have to be business-ready. They have to be able to make faster business decisions wherever they are, whenever needed, leveraging any software solution they use. So, the data powering their software must be up to date, reliable, comprehensive, and speak a common language.

“Flexera and BDNA understand better than anyone else the key role technology asset intelligence plays in executive decision-support,” said Ryan.  “We’ve both built our businesses on a foundation of data.  We both combine broad and rich technology asset data with best-in-class automation and analytics.  We both solve the most complicated software and hardware management challenges organizations face.”

The World’s Largest Technology Asset Data Platform

Flexera is an established leader in curating technology asset data.  Flexera’s Nexus data cloud and software intelligence repository sit at the heart of its data strategy.  Built and maintained by teams of expert, subject-matter researchers, it’s the industry’s most comprehensive software asset, vulnerability and open source repository – containing data on more than 150 million software and hardware assets.

Flexera’s data cloud harnesses the only software supplier/software buyer partnership in the industry. Software suppliers and Internet of Things (IoT) companies contribute asset data about their products directly to Flexera’s data cloud – deepening its depth and breadth.  This data, in turn, powers Flexera’s own market-leading SAMSoftware Vulnerability Management and Software Composition Analysis solutions. The repository is also built on an open platform, so other solution providers and system integrators can access Flexera’s data to power their own solutions.

Likewise, BDNA has built a world-class reputation in technology asset data. The company’s Technopedia data repository categorizes and aligns product technology information allowing organizations to speak a common language and make better decisions.  It includes more than 2 million products and 180 million data points on enterprise hardware, software, IoT, open source, product lifecycle, vulnerabilities and more.

But, simply having the largest technology asset data repository isn’t enough.  Since data “atrophies” very quickly if left untouched, it’s vital to develop the people, tools and methods to ensure data is kept current. BDNA has refined the processes for creating, managing and curating Technopedia at market velocities, capturing over 2,500 daily updates. BDNA provides industry-leading Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to guarantee its customers have the most up to date, highest-quality data.  Together BDNA’s and Flexera’s data teams are unrivalled.

“By combining forces with BDNA, Flexera will have, by far, the largest, most accurate and up to date technology asset data platform in the world,” said Ryan.  “We are the ‘Rosetta Stone’ delivering a common data language capable of powering any type of enterprise application today as well as emerging applications tomorrow.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased to be joining with Flexera. We have a shared vision for reimagining the software supply chain today and expanding upon it in the future,” said Walker White, BDNA’s President.  “We have a shared understanding of the power technology asset data plays in that transformation.  And most importantly, we have shared values and commitment to quality, customers, partners and employees essential for any market leader.”

Big Squid Secures $6M in Series A Funding Led By Signal Peak Ventures to Bring Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning to Business Decision Makers

The Utah-based startup seeks to continue development and adoption of their proprietary software platform for advanced forecasting and planning capabilities via machine learning

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (PRWEB) AUGUST 08, 2017

Big Squid, a leader in predictive analytics and machine learning with their Predictive Toolkit™ software platform, announced today that it has closed $6 million in Series A funding, led by Signal Peak Ventures, with a second round of participation from its seed investors, Silverton Partners and Kickstart Seed Fund. This new investment brings Big Squid’s total amount raised to over $10 million.

“Business decision makers want to make smarter, faster decisions using state-of-the-art machine learning & predictive analytics capabilities. But they cannot,” said Chris Knoch, CEO of Big Squid. “These valuable capabilities often sit out of reach of day to day decision makers – sometimes viewed as little more than interesting, but confusing buzzwords. Big Squid is solving for that market problem first and foremost.”

He continued, “We are thrilled to add Signal Peak Ventures to the team and enable us to execute on our rapidly growing opportunity. They have a highly regarded reputation for their commitment to entrepreneurial teams in which they see the potential to transform markets and create lasting value. We are truly honored to be working with them. Receiving additional investment from Kickstart and Silverton Partners further validates that our mission to bring predictive forecasting and machine learning to the enterprise decision maker is on the right track, and momentum is only accelerating for us.”

Big Squid’s Predictive Toolkit™ puts the power of predictive analytics forecasting and machine learning into the hands of the business user and decision maker, allowing organizations to gain insight into future trends and act with greater certainty. With Predictive Toolkit™, organizations are able to easily construct machine learning models in three easy steps, forecast key business metrics and explore different “what if” scenarios a business could take to make smarter decisions faster.

“Big Squid is a ‘must have’ for any organization looking to take action on their data. The platform brings data science and predictive analytics in an accessible format to business analysts and decision makers. It’s enabling them to build and deploy machine learning models and more accurate decision making tools quickly and easily” said Scott Petty, Managing Director of Signal Peak Ventures. “Our team is excited about the technology they’re bringing to the market.”

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Melissa Kirkeide, Director of Marketing at Big Squid, Inc. – 312.662.3585 or email us mkirk(at)bigsquid(dot)com.

About Big Squid: Big Squid specializes in all aspects of Business Intelligence, Data Science, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics. With more than 500 data and strategic Business Intelligence platform implementations under their belt, Big Squid develops and implements innovative data science solutions that enable business users to identify and answer their key business questions faster. Seed Funding Press Release. For more information, please visit http://www.bigsquid.com

About Signal Peak Ventures: Signal Peak Ventures is a venture capital firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Signal Peak Ventures invests in innovative technology companies and looks for entrepreneurial teams with the potential to transform markets and create lasting value. Specific areas of focus include Internet, SaaS, enterprise software, security, and mobile computing. For more information, please visit http://www.spv.com

About Kickstart Seed Fund: Kickstart Seed Fund is a seed stage venture capital firm based in Salt Lake City, UT. Kickstart Seed Fund’s mission is to kickstart the best companies in Utah and the Mountain West by providing smart capital, a connected community and expert guidance. Since raising its first fund in 2008, Kickstart has invested in more than 60 companies. For more information, visit http://www.kickstartfund.com

About Silverton Partners: Silverton Partners is an early stage venture capital firm based in Austin, Texas. Silverton collaborates with exceptional entrepreneurs who are committed to attacking growth markets with proprietary products or services. The principals of Silverton Partners have over five decades of venture experience, having been the start-up investors in Tivoli Systems (IPO), Silicon Labs (IPO), Motive Communications (IPO), Waveset (acquired by Sun Microsystems) and BlackLocus (acquired by The Home Depot). More information on Silverton Partners can be found at http://www.silvertonpartners.com

Eagle Communications Upgrades Voice Portfolio With Alianza Cloud VoIP Solution

Cloud Voice Platform provides better experience for Eagle Communications employees and customers

Indianapolis — July 24, 2017 — Alianza Inc., the cloud voice platform company, announced today that Eagle Communications has selected Alianza’s Cloud Voice Platform for its next-gen cable VoIP solution. With the Cloud Voice Platform, Eagle Communications realizes significant operational improvements and a superior cost model, along with more frequent and impactful innovation for its staff and customers.

Eagle Communications, Inc. is a Kansas-based Broadband Services and Media Company with over 290 employee-owners. The company operates 28 radio stations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri as well as internet, TV, and phone service with a full host of business IT and advertising solutions in 60 Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado communities.

“From the outset, Alianza demonstrated strong commitment to innovation and driving additional value for our customers,” commented Travis Kohlrus, General Manager of Eagle Communications. “The Alianza team and its innovative technology are outstanding; its cloud-based VoIP solution is the future of cable voice and is clearly the best choice for Eagle Communications.”

Eagle Communications is migrating its customer base from a wholesale hosted VoIP model that is based on legacy softswitch technology. Alianza’s solution supports Eagle’s existing phone services and provides a platform for growth and launching new business services. Using Alianza’s flexible REST APIs, Eagle is integrating the Cloud Voice Platform with its existing back-office systems to automate and improve customer life cycle management.

“Eagle Communications provides an essential role connecting the communities it serves,” commented Brian Beutler, Alianza’s co-founder and CEO. “We are thrilled to partner with Eagle to enhance the customer experience and provide impactful operational and economic improvements for the company and its employee-owners.”

Learn more

Download Alianza’s eBook Cable VoIP 2.0: Voice Moves to the Cloud to discover how cable MSOs are leveraging cloud voice platforms to boost voice profitability and rapidly launch new services.

Alianza is showcasing its cable VoIP 2.0 solution for NCTC members in booth #333 at The Independent Show (July 24-25 in Indianapolis).

About Alianza

Alianza radically transforms communications delivery so that service providers thrive with strong margins, better service and elegant management. Alianza’s Cloud Voice Platform is a web-scale, turnkey virtualized software solution that enables cable, mobile, telco and other broadband providers to rapidly customize, launch and profit from VoIP and UC services. The power of Alianza’s cloud delivers a lower total cost of ownership and a clear business case for VoIP with a zero-CAPEX, success-based SaaS model. This new way to deliver voice service untangles service providers from the restraints of old-school voice networks and accelerates innovation and growth. Learn more about Alianza at www.alianza.com and connect with the company on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Service Electric Cable TV & Communications Upgrades VoIP Solution With Alianza Cloud Voice Platform

Cable pioneer blazes new path to streamlined operations, superior market responsiveness and reduced costs

Indianapolis — July 24, 2017 — Alianza Inc., the cloud voice platform company, announced today that Service Electric Cable TV & Communications (SECTV) has selected Alianza to enhance its VoIP solution. With Alianza’s Cloud Voice Platform, SECTV will deliver the latest in residential and business communication services while substantially reducing costs and streamlining operations.

SECTV, one of the first cable operators in the United States, serves more than 125,000 customers with broadband, cable and phone services in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Joining a growing list of cable operators, SECTV is migrating from a legacy hosted softswitch solution to a cloud solution. Alianza’s APIs, proven migration process and experienced team allow the cable operator to rapidly and easily move its customers to the Cloud Voice Platform.

“Technology partners play a key role in how we positively impact the communities we serve. Through our Alianza partnership, we have a stronger solution to continue that tradition,” remarked John Walson, President of ‎Service Electric Cable TV & Communications. “We now have a more simplified operating environment and an agile product suite that can adapt to our customers’ needs along with the best economics.”

“Service Electric Cable TV has a strong customer service focus and an impressive history as a cable pioneer, changing how television was delivered,” stated Brian Beutler, Alianza’s co-founder and CEO. “The company is now spearheading a new change in how communications are delivered that ultimately creates a better experience for its subscribers.”

Learn more

Alianza’s eBook Cable VoIP 2.0: Voice Moves to the Cloud explores how cable MSOs are leveraging cloud voice platforms to boost voice profitability and rapidly launch new services.

Alianza is showcasing its cable VoIP 2.0 solution for NCTC members in booth #333 at The Independent Show (July 24-25 in Indianapolis).

About Alianza

Alianza radically transforms communications delivery so that service providers thrive with strong margins, better service and elegant management. Alianza’s Cloud Voice Platform is a web-scale, turnkey virtualized software solution that enables cable, mobile, telco and other broadband providers to rapidly customize, launch and profit from VoIP and UC services. The power of Alianza’s cloud delivers a lower total cost of ownership and a clear business case for VoIP with a zero-CAPEX, success-based SaaS model. This new way to deliver voice service untangles service providers from the restraints of old-school voice networks and accelerates innovation and growth. Learn more about Alianza at www.alianza.com and connect with the company on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About SECTV

Service Electric is the nation’s first cable television company that takes pride in being a local, family owned business for almost 70 years. We provide Video, Internet, Phone, Home Security, and Business Services. When you select Service Electric, you choose local. We are proud to serve all of your communication needs. Serving the Greater Lehigh Valley, Wilkes-Barre, PA and Western NJ.

Degreed CEO David Blake Wants To Reward Life-Long Learning

The learning and skill tracking website gives you credit for everything from classes to articles, and lets companies see that you’re more than just your traditional academic background.

BY AARON HURST03.30.17 | 4:01 PM

In 2012, when David Blake launched Degreed–an online platform where individuals and organizations can discover, track, and measure all their learning and skills–his mission was, as he puts it, to “jailbreak the degree.”

Blake was taking on the educational establishment, which, he believes, “has given universities a monopoly on credentials and defining who is educated. They have the keys to opportunity in the market, and they are a gatekeeper at the front of the path towards upward mobility. I thought that was really unfair.”

Five years later, his company has raised over $30 million dollars and has more 2 million people using its platform on his bet that grades and test scores don’t predict success in hiring. Rather, what matters is hiring the right people with a proven ability to learn who can take ownership of their learning.

“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings,” says Blake, recalling a remark from Laszlo Bock, the former senior vice president of people operations for Google.

Blake shares the story of meeting one such person in the early days of Degreed. He asked a woman; he estimated was in her mid-50, to tell him about her education. She replied, “Oh, I’m not educated. I didn’t go to university.”

“Here’s a woman, aged 55, and what she did 30 years ago as a 20-something is no longer relevant,” he says. “Yet it’s a lens by which she framed herself and her experience as an uneducated person.”

He offers a comparison: “Think if I asked you, ‘Tell me about your health.’ And you told me that you ran a marathon in 1983. That’s absurd.”

REJECTION OF ENTRANCE EXAMS

When Blake took the ACT in high school, he was frustrated by the results. “I scored well, but I did not score proportionally well to how invested I was in my academics. That felt so unjust to me.”

He says, “I realized what university I’m going to get into is half the equation to what jobs I’ll have available to me, and what job I get after university is the rest of the equation for what career I might end up on. Here I am. I’m 17, and I recall thinking that the way the system is set up is crazy.”

FORGING HIS OWN PATH

Despite his reservations about the education system, Blake ended up attending college and graduating with a degree in economics and took a well-paying job in management consulting. It was the path his father wanted for him, but he felt something missing. He tried to meet the need by volunteering as a pro bono consultant at Kiva and the Taproot Foundation (which I founded)

“I think back to those days of Kiva and Taproot. Those were the two things I had exposure to where I just felt like a new way of building tech platforms is emerging. It gave me a lot of optimism.”

Then, two weeks before having his first child, he got a call from a tech startup, Zinch. Their tagline–“students are more than a test score”–spoke to him. He was immediately reconnected with his purpose, and despite a 60% pay cut, he joined their founding team.

“I ultimately went back to my parents, and asked if I could move my young family back into their basement so that I could pursue this ambition and this dream.” For his father, this decision went against the advice he had given his son for years, “‘You have a great job. Great benefits. Here you are, beholden to me, you want to live in my basement? So you can pursue your ambition? That’s selfish, and it’s wrong,’” he recalls his father saying.

“To his credit, once he knew I wasn’t going to be pushed off my dream, he supported me and loved me, and we lived in his basement for a while,” Blake says. While working at Zinch for the next three years, his vision for how to change the educational system became clearer in his mind.

DISRUPTING THE DEGREE

“Ultimately, my ambition is that more people have more pathways to pursue their personal development and learning. Skills, which they can use to become upwardly mobile.” Degreed has introduced three disruptions that Blake believes will force the education system to change.

First, it has put an emphasis on skill development. “I think the market wants to speak the language of skills but it can’t, so it speaks the language of degrees.”

Second, it is helping people get credit and track their learning from a wide range of sources. The platform allows you to track your learning from curated classes, but also based on your experience and what you read online, from news articles to YouTube videos.

Finally, it is making learning portable. As you move from one employer to the next over the course of your career you can keep your learning profile and continue to get credit for your learning. When a Degreed customer moves from, say, Bank of America to Citibank, their profile moves with them. This enables our “our skills and our learning be inter-operable and travel with us,” he explained.

FINDING COMFORT IN LEARNING

Blake himself uses the platform. “On a busy day, when things haven’t gone well, sometimes I just give myself permission to take 45 minutes, go sit down, and go find a great article. Take a little “me” time. Watch a great TED Talk.”

In this way, learning becomes a real, daily activity rather than a detached certification process. And it can help build resilience within individuals and across organizations.

YOU JUST LEARNED SOMETHING

In reading this article, hopefully you learned something. It’s now part of your lifelong learning and something Blake believes should always be part of your “learning transcript.” With the Degreed browser extension, you can click on any article that was meaningful to you and it will become part of your learning profile.

“If you can make yourself read everything that is published on a specific topic, you can become one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts on that thing. You just need to commit to yourself,” as he points out, using the same principle that a crowdsourced site like Wikipedia relies on.

Blake’s enthusiasm for daily learning is infectious. And it’s something anyone can do without spending a penny–avoiding the six-figure debt created by higher education. It also enables us to stay educated, preventing us from resting on the degree we got twenty years ago as evidence of our skills and knowledge. It helps create the kind of people Google wants–people with the humility to own their learning.

This article is part of a series of articles by Aaron Hurst exploring how leaders find purpose and meaning in their jobs. Last fall, Hurst’s company, Imperative, released a global survey of the role of purpose at work, in partnership with LinkedIn Talent Solutions, which found that those who are intrinsically motivated to find purpose in their jobsconsistently outperform their colleagues and experience greater levels of job satisfaction and well-being, regardless of country, gender, or ethnicity. They are also 50% more likely to be leaders. This series will profile those leaders, and how they connect with what’s meaningful to them in their role and the organizations they lead.

How Having 7 Kids Has Helped This CEO Learn to Lead Differently

Our mission flows through everything we do, including our company’s family-first culture. For us, this means that whatever is important in your life outside of work is recognized, valued and supported.

This is my third time as a CEO. With each company I lead, I’ve learned more about what creates a culture where amazing, high-performing creatives thrive. Little perks like free food, ping-pong tables and parties are fun. However, I’ve found the best way to motivate high-performers is really simple: Get back to the basics and treat them like adults.

The mission of my current company, Chatbooks, is to strengthen family relationships through our photo books. They’re automatically created from your social media and smartphone photos, and are a great way for kids to re-live family memories.

Our mission flows through everything we do, including our company’s family-first culture. For us, this means that whatever is important in your life outside of work is recognized, valued and supported.

My wife and I have seven kids. For us, time spent with family is coaching a Little League game on a Tuesday afternoon, running carpool pick-up and heading to school plays on any given day. Our seven kids have taught me that every individual is unique, and I’ve learned from them that everyone needs different incentives, support and motivation to succeed.

I’ve adapted this philosophy to running Chatbooks: Just like with kids, there’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to managing employees. The best way to support a team at work is to look at someone’s whole life, which can mean focusing on family.

Here are two reasons a family-first culture benefits all employees:

It shows a company truly cares about employee well-being

Family-first policies tell employees that we care about them. That might mean caring for an elderly relative, going to a favorite hot yoga class in the afternoon or taking a couple of weeks to travel to India.

As part of Chatbook’s culture of flexibility, employees can work remotely and with flexible hours, as well as take unlimited vacation. And to further reinforce our family-first policy, we expanded our family leave policy to provide equal benefits to all staff, including four weeks of fully paid new parent leave for both men and women, whether they are full-time or part-time. (All women get an additional eight weeks of fully paid leave, for a total of 12 weeks.)

Happiness at home reinforces happiness at work

It’s harder to be a great spouse, parent, friend, child, etc. if you’re unhappy at work or burned out from long hours. We’ve all been there. Some companies use perks like granola bars and gym memberships to make employees “happy.” However, you can’t be truly happy if you’re not satisfied with the most important parts of your life: your relationships with family, friends and community.

A family-first work culture helps increase happiness by giving people time to strengthen those relationships. It also helps by not adding stresses and strains to home life. For example, no fights about missing a family event or not making it to a lacrosse game. That cycle is self-reinforcing: When you’re happier at home, you can come back to your work with increased energy, enthusiasm and productivity.

The results speak for themselves: Chatbooks has tripled revenue three years in a row and raised over $20 million.

It’s surprisingly simple: Treat people the way you’d want to be treated, and they (and your company) will thrive.

Nate Quigley is the CEO and co-founder of Chatbooks, the app which helps parents create photo books.

Graduation Alliance announces acquisition of AdvancePath Academics

Graduation Alliance, a leader in dropout prevention, dropout recovery and career preparation programs for students of all ages, announced today an expansion of its services through an acquisition of AdvancePath Academics.

SALT LAKE CITY — Graduation Alliance, a leader in dropout prevention, dropout recovery and career preparation programs for students of all ages, announced today an expansion of its services through an acquisition of AdvancePath Academics. The union brings together best practice- and evidence-based solutions that provide opportunities for students who have struggled in traditional academic settings. More than 419,000 students have been served by the combined company since 2005. “There is no one perfect model for overcoming the obstacles that keep people from achieving their academic goals,” Graduation Alliance CEO Ron Klausner said. “There are, however, some models that have proven successful for specific groups of students. Today we bring together two organizations with highly complementary approaches and strong, demonstrated efficacy.” Since 2007, Graduation Alliance has provided online education, intensive support services and workforce preparation options to school districts, states, community colleges and workforce investment boards across the country. Graduation Alliance specializes in locating, re-engaging and educating these students, who enroll in programs to earn a high school diploma and receive industry credentials. Since 2005, AdvancePath Academics has worked with school district partners to
create and manage place-based academies for high school students who are generally over-age and credit deficient. “What really makes sense about merging these two organizations is that they share a deep passion for helping public educators and all students get the educational opportunities they need and deserve,” AdvancePath Executive Chairman John Murray said. “Every day both organizations see that what we do not only makes a difference in the lives of our students but also in the lives of their families – it is a truly noble cause.”

The two organizations have worked with more than 600 public schools, districts and community colleges across the nation to support students who need additional help reaching their academic goals. Specialization in research-based, non-cognitive “soft skills” development is a noted strength of both organizations and will continue to be a vital part of the combined company’s approach to serving students. “It’s encouraging to see such dedication, on the part of everyone involved in this union, to the role that social and emotional skill-building can and should play in the lives of students,” said Scott Solberg, the associate dean of research at the Boston University School of Education and the chief research officer for ScholarCentric, which merged with AdvancePath in 2015 and will now become part of the Graduation Alliance spectrum of services. “Knowledge-building is vital, but it’s not very useful if students aren’t also given support and instilled with confidence. All of these organizations understand and embrace that — which is why this makes so much sense for all of our students.” About Graduation Alliance Since 2007, Graduation Alliance has given schools and communities across the nation the resources and support needed to help individuals reach their educational and career goals. In partnership with school districts, local governments, non-profits, workforce development boards and community colleges, Graduation Alliance develops highly effective alternative education and workforce training programs. As an organization, Graduation Alliance embraces principles of social entrepreneurship and is supported by backers, including New Markets Venture Partners, who believe in always putting students first. For more information about Graduation Alliance, visit graduationalliance.com

This Company Makes Influencers out of Everyday People

“It’s very different from the kind of influencer marketing that is represented by the buzzword today…”

Let’s say you work at Best Buy. You recommend laptops, show off TVs and try to explain what’s so great about the newest iPhone.

You probably never thought of yourself as an “influencer”—a buzzword that now encompasses anyone from Kardashians to mommy bloggers to Instagram stars.

But one company is betting that your blue polo shirt offers advertisers the same sort of value as Kim K’s legions of Instagram followers. Salt Lake City-based Experticity has centered its business model around the idea that everyday people like store managers, ski instructors or cycling enthusiasts are all influencers in their own right.

“It’s very different from the kind of influencer marketing that is represented by the buzzword today,” said the company’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Knight. “These are the people who work at like REI and camera shops and skate shops and people come in every day like, ‘Hey I’m looking for a new jacket. What should I get?’”

The company recently launched an exclusive social network restricted to users it deems experts in given area of retail—usually accomplished sales associates, industry professionals or social media-savvy hobbyists.

These users get steep discounts, early access to products and free sales training materials in exchange for their willingness to submit themselves to sales pitches from hundreds of brands. In turn, brands are looking to make enough of an impression that a member might think of their products the next time a customer asks them for a  recommendation. Or perhaps post a photo featuring them to social media.

“It’s very different from the kind of influencer marketing that is represented by the buzzword today.”

It may not sound like the most immediately intuitive business plan, but the company claims to have more than 1 million active users and nearly 750 brands, including North Face, Adidas and Nickelodeon.

These companies each have a bargain-price virtual store within the platform that can only be unlocked by slogging through a pile of their sales materials.

Knife brand Wusthof, for instance, uses the platform to find salespeople in retail stores that sell its cutlery. The company has users watch a presentation on the company’s history and product lines along with a few videos about creative food preparation tips involving its knives. In exchange, they get a 50-percent discount on its products.

“It’s giving them these little nuggets of stories they can tell,” said Wusthof sales coordinator Lauren Soules.

Like many consumer brands, the company also dispatches reps to pitch sales staffers in person, but Soules said Experticity is a much more efficient way of reaching them in bigger numbers.

Wusthof, which has been a client for a year and a half, has pulled its own data on whether or not this tactic actually works. The company examined sales numbers from a retailer Soules declined to name and found that stores employing Experticity users saw more than three times the sales growth of other locations during the brand’s first eight months on the platform — seven percent and two percent respectively.

“That was huge for us,” Soules said. “It was a national retailer with a lot of floors. It was definitely significant.”

Knight came to Experticity from a career working at big social media companies like Pinterest and Facebook. He often dealt with influence marketers in their more conventional form and eventually came to realize that the model was broken. Advertisers placed far too much emphasis on finding spokespeople with massive numbers of followers, he said, often at the expense of credibility and resonance.

“People don’t trust you because they feel like you’re trying to sneak an ad into your feed without being transparent about it,” Knight said. “Or when you are being transparent — ‘Well, it’s just an ad. They paid you to do it.’”

Knight of course has a vested interest in undercutting the appeal of “capital-I” influencers, but his diagnosis of the trend’s problems echoes a strain of criticism emerging among some industry professionals who think this style of reaching people just doesn’t work.

One particularly scathing assessment comes from an anonymous social media exec, who predicted the death of the influencer model in an interview with Digiday.

“Influencers are going to start disappearing. Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit,” the exec told the site. “Just because photos look good and have 200,000 followers means nothing. You can’t rely on content creators all day long.”

In more than 200 comments below the piece, the trade site’s industry-heavy readership debated fervently over whether this view had merit.

There’s also a problem of transparency. In recent months, the Federal Trade Commission has been tightening its rules regarding how influencers must disclose their paid promotions.

Yet reports have shown many still don’t bother to even append a simple “#Ad” to their branded posts (the FTC recently ruled that hashtag wasn’t sufficient disclosure on its own).

Knight sees Experticity’s unpaid community as a way for brands to circumvent these regulatory headaches. Because the company bars its member brands from directly paying any of its users, disclosure is a non-issue.

Furthermore, he thinks tagging ads is enough of a turn-off for advertising-adverse social media users that it defeats the ad’s entire purpose.

As proof, he references a study from Duke behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely, in which two groups of people are told objectively true statements, like, “the Sun is yellow.” For one group, however, the statements were attributed to an advertiser — say, “Procter & Gamble says the sun is yellow.”

No one in the first group ever questioned what they were told, but the introduction of a corporation into the mix led some in the second group to start doubting their own perception of color—“I mean is it really yellow or is it more of an orange?”

The distrustful instinct—coupled with foundation-shaking changes to the media and advertising landscape—is what spawned the influencer marketing trend in the first place, and the space is now populated with dozens of companies zeroed in on every conceivable aspect of the process.

Yet few, if any, are operating in the same strata of ordinary people as Experticity, or offering a service that outfits influencers offline as well as on.

The company that would become Experticity was actually founded more than a decade ago as a simple sales training platform. But it morphed into its current model through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and took the name Experticity in 2012.

Experticity has raised $30 million in venture capital to date, but it won’t reveal its total valuation.

The company’s client list and reach were significantly boosted in a merger last spring with ReadyPulse, a recruitment and management platform for influencers. Knight joined the company from Pinterest last fall as it looked to beef up its own marketing.

In a bid to prove its model actually works, the company recently tapped Wharton business school professor Jonah Berger and research firm Keller Fay to track down customers in the real world who had talked to the company’s users. The study found 82% of customers were “highly likely” to follow their advice, and users had around 22 times as many conversations about products and brands than the average consumer.

The company is hoping that studies like these will eventually reshape how brands think about influencers at a fundamental level. Knight imagines a future in which a significant chunk of the major brand advertising is spread through the voice of their consumers.

“Influencer marketing is, by its very nature, transactional,” Knight said. “I think we’re going to see more brands buying into what we’re trying to champion, which is to find the people who already love your category and your brand.”