Polarity raises $8.1M for its AI software that constantly analyzes employee screens and highlights key info

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Reference docs and spreadsheets seemingly make the world go ’round, but what if employees could just close those tabs for good without losing that knowledge?

One startup is taking on that complicated challenge. Predictably, the solution is quite complicated as well from a tech perspective, involving an AI solution that analyzes everything on your PC screen — all the time — and highlights text onscreen that you could use a little bit more context on. The team at Polarity wants its tech to help teams lower the knowledge barrier to getting stuff done and allow people to focus more on procedure and strategy then memorizing file numbers, IP addresses and jargon.

The Connecticut startup just closed an $8.1 million “AA” round led by TechOperators, with Shasta Ventures, Strategic Cyber Ventures, Gula Tech Adventures and Kaiser Permanente Ventures also participating in the round. The startup closed its $3.5 million Series A in early 2017.

Interestingly, the enterprise-centric startup pitches itself as an AR company, augmenting what’s happening on your laptop screen much like a pair of AR glasses could.

The startup’s computer vision software that uses character recognition to analyze what’s on a user’s screen can be helpful for enterprise teams importing things like a company rolodex so that bios are always collectively a click away but the real utility comes from team-wide flagging of things like suspicious IP addresses that will allow entire teams to learn about new threats and issues at the same time without having to constantly check-in with their co-workers. The startup’s current product has a big focus on analysts and security teams.

Polarity before and after two

via Polarity

Using character recognition to analyze a screen for specific keywords is useful in itself, but that’s also largely a solved computer vision problem.

Polarity’s big advance has been getting these processes to occur consistently on-device without crushing a device’s CPU. Battista says that for the average customer, Polarity’s software generally eats up about 3-6% of their computer’s processing power though it can spike much higher if the system is getting fed a ton of new information at once.

“We spent years building the tech to accomplish [efficiency], readjusting how people think of [object character recognition] and then doing it in real time.” CEO Paul Battista tells me. “The more data that you have onscreen, the more power you use. So it does use a significant percentage of the CPU.”

Why bother with all of this AI trickery and CPU efficiency when you could pull this functionality off in certain apps with an API? The whole deliverable here is that it doesn’t matter if you’re working in Chrome, or Excel or pulling up a scanned document, the software is analyzing what’s actually being rendered onscreen, not what the individual app is communicating.

When it comes to a piece of software analyzing everything on your screen at all times, there are certainly some privacy concerns not only from the employee’s perspective but from a company’s security perspective.

Battista says the intent with this product isn’t to be some piece of corporate spyware, and that it won’t be something running in the background — it’s an app that users will launch. “If [companies] wanted to they could collect all of the data on everybody’s screens, but we don’t have any customers doing that.. The software is built to have a user interface for users to interact with so if the user didn’t choose to subscribe or turn on a metric, then [the company] wouldn’t be able to force them to collect it in the current product.”

Battista says that teams at seven Fortune 100 companies are currently paying for Polarity, with many more in pilot programs. The team is currently around 20 people and with this latest fundraise, Battista wants to double the size of the team in the next 18 months as they look to scale to larger rollouts at major companies.


Polarity raises .1M for its AI software that constantly analyzes employee screens and highlights key info

The Exit: The acquisition charting Salesforce’s future

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Before Tableau was the $15.7 billion key to Salesforce’s problems, it was a couple of founders arguing with a couple of venture capitalists over lunch about why its Series A valuation should be higher than $12 million pre-money.

Salesforce has generally been one to signify corporate strategy shifts through their acquisitions, so you can understand why the entire tech industry took notice when the cloud CRM giant announced its priciest acquisition ever last month.

The deal to acquire the Seattle-based data visualization powerhouse Tableau was substantial enough that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff publicly announced it was turning Seattle into its second HQ. Tableau’s acquisition doesn’t just mean big things for Salesforce. With the deal taking place just days after Google announced it was paying $2.6 billion for Looker, the acquisition showcases just how intense the cloud wars are getting for the enterprise tech companies out to win it all.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. [Have feedback? Shoot me an email at lucas@techcrunch.com]

Scott Sandell, a general partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates) who has now been at the firm for 25 years, was one of those investors arguing with two of Tableau’s co-founders, Chris Stolte and Christian Chabot. Desperate to close the 2004 deal over their lunch meeting, he went on to agree to the Tableau founders’ demands of a higher $20 million valuation, though Sandell tells me it still feels like he got a pretty good deal.

NEA went on to invest further in subsequent rounds and went on to hold over 38% of the company at the time of its IPO in 2013 according to public financial docs.

I had a long chat with Sandell, who also invested in Salesforce, about the importance of the Tableau deal, his rise from associate to general partner at NEA, who he sees as the biggest challenger to Salesforce, and why he thinks scooter companies are “the worst business in the known universe.”

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Lucas Matney: You’ve been at this investing thing for quite a while, but taking a trip down memory lane, how did you get into VC in the first place? 

Scott Sandell: The way I got into venture capital is a little bit of a circuitous route. I had an opportunity to get into venture capital coming out of Stanford Business School in 1992, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. And so I had an interest, but I didn’t have the right opportunity.

The Exit: The acquisition charting Salesforce’s future

Source: Microsoft more

Before Tableau was the $15.7 billion key to Salesforce’s problems, it was a couple of founders arguing with a couple of venture capitalists over lunch about why its Series A valuation should be higher than $12 million pre-money.

Salesforce has generally been one to signify corporate strategy shifts through their acquisitions, so you can understand why the entire tech industry took notice when the cloud CRM giant announced its priciest acquisition ever last month.

The deal to acquire the Seattle-based data visualization powerhouse Tableau was substantial enough that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff publicly announced it was turning Seattle into its second HQ. Tableau’s acquisition doesn’t just mean big things for Salesforce. With the deal taking place just days after Google announced it was paying $2.6 billion for Looker, the acquisition showcases just how intense the cloud wars are getting for the enterprise tech companies out to win it all.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. [Have feedback? Shoot me an email at lucas@techcrunch.com]

Scott Sandell, a general partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates) who has now been at the firm for 25 years, was one of those investors arguing with two of Tableau’s co-founders, Chris Stolte and Christian Chabot. Desperate to close the 2004 deal over their lunch meeting, he went on to agree to the Tableau founders’ demands of a higher $20 million valuation, though Sandell tells me it still feels like he got a pretty good deal.

NEA went on to invest further in subsequent rounds and went on to hold over 38% of the company at the time of its IPO in 2013 according to public financial docs.

I had a long chat with Sandell, who also invested in Salesforce, about the importance of the Tableau deal, his rise from associate to general partner at NEA, who he sees as the biggest challenger to Salesforce, and why he thinks scooter companies are “the worst business in the known universe.”

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Lucas Matney: You’ve been at this investing thing for quite a while, but taking a trip down memory lane, how did you get into VC in the first place? 

Scott Sandell: The way I got into venture capital is a little bit of a circuitous route. I had an opportunity to get into venture capital coming out of Stanford Business School in 1992, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. And so I had an interest, but I didn’t have the right opportunity.

Week in Review: Regulation boogaloo

Source: Microsoft more

Hello, weekenders. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how services like Instagram had moved beyond letting their algorithms take over the curation process as they tested minimizing key user metrics such as “like” counts on the platform.


John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The big story

The big news stories this week intimately involved the government poking its head into the tech industry. What was clear between the two biggest stories, the DoJ approving the Sprint/T -Mobile merger and the FTC giving Facebook a $5 billion slap on the wrist, is that big tech has little to worry about its inertia being contained.

It seems the argument from Spring and T-Mobile that it was better to have three big telecom companies in the U.S. rather than two contenders and two pretenders, seems to have stuck. Similarly, Facebook seems to have done a worthy job of indicating that it will handle the complicated privacy stuff but that they’ll let the government orgs see what they’re up to.

Fundamentally, none of these orgs seem to want to harm the growth of these American tech companies and I have a tough time believing that perspective is going to magically get more toothy in some of these early antitrust investigations. The government might be making a more concerted effort to understand how these businesses are structured, but even focusing solely on something like the cloud businesses of Microsoft, Google and Amazon, I have little doubt that the government is going to spend an awfully long time in the observation phase.

The danger is erraticism and for that the worst government fear for tech isn’t a three-letter agency, it’s the Twitter ramblings of POTUS.

feedback -> @lucasmtny

Onto the rest of the week’s news.

Intel and Apple logos

(Photo: ALASTAIR PIKE,THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Apple dropping $1 billion on Intel’s modem business
    Apple is snapping up a missing link in its in-house component production with the $1B purchase of most of Intel’s modem business. This follows a dramatic saga between Intel, Qualcomm and Apple over the past year, but Apple will be making its own smartphone modems the question is when they actually end up in new iPhones. Read more here.
  • Microsoft dropping $1 billion on OpenAI
    Microsoft announced this week that it is dumping $1 billion into Sam Altman’s OpenAI research group. The partnership is pretty major, but it’s just one of the interesting avenues Microsoft is using to ensure its Azure services gain notable customers. Read more here.
  • Galaxy Fold is coming back!
    After a very embarrassing soft launch, Samsung which managed to make it a several devices beyond the Note 7 before another garbage fire is trying its hand at the Galaxy Fold again and will be releasing it sometime in September. It seems like the carriers are a little dubious of the prospect and T-Mobile has already opted out of carrying it. Read more here.

darkened facebook logo

GAFA Gaffes [Facebook Edition!!]

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook gets five:
    [Facebook settles with FTC: $5 billion and new privacy guarantees]
  2. FTC isn’t quite done with Facebook:
    [Facebook says it’s under antitrust investigation by the FTC]
  3. Facebook dismissed CA warnings:
    [Facebook ignored staff warnings about sketchy Cambridge Analytica in September 2015]
  4. Facebook left kids vulnerable:
    [Facebook fails to keep Messenger Kids safety promise]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. This week, my colleague Danny spoke with some top VCs about why fintech startups have been raising massive amounts of cash and he seemed to walk away with some interesting impressions.

Why fintech VC mega rounds have become so common

“…The biggest challenge that has faced fintech companies for years — really, the industry’s consistent Achilles’ heel — is the cost of acquiring a customer. Financial customer relationships are incredibly valuable, and the cost of acquiring a user for any product is among the most expensive in every major channel.

And those costs are going up…”

Here are some of our other top reads for premium subscribers.

We’re excited to announce The Station, a new TechCrunch newsletter all about mobility. Each week, in addition to curating the biggest transportation news, Kirsten Korosec will provide analysis, original reporting and insider tips. Sign up here to get The Station in your inbox beginning in August.


Week in Review: Regulation boogaloo

Animal Crossing for Switch gets delayed

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Fans had few expectations rolling into Nintendo’s E3 Direct that were more pronounced than hopes for more details on Animal Crossing for Switch.

We got some insight into the title’s storyline, but the bigs news is that the originally announced 2019 release timeframe is getting pushed back. Now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as it’s being called, will be released March 20, 2020.

“To ensure that this game is the best it can be, we must ask you to wait a little bit longer than we thought,” Nintendo executive Yoshiaki Koizumi said during the company’s presentation.

In terms of game details, it looks like you begin the game being flown to a deserted island courtesy of character Tom Nook’s “Nook Inc. Deserted Island Getaway Package.” From there, it seems that a lot of the gameplay should be pretty familiar, chatting with animals, getting them out of jams, customizing things, feeding Tom Nook’s perverted brand of capitalism etc. etc.

The gameplay seems to incorporate many of the evolutions the series has seen in the past few games, including Nintendo’s mobile title. You can craft furniture and really change the outdoor environments. It looks like there’s some significant updates to multiplayer as some of the footage multiple human characters onscreen, there still seems to be a good deal we don’t know.

The delay is disappointing news, especially after Nintendo’s announcement that Metroid Prime 4 had to restart development. It’s of course positive to keep the quality of titles high, but it seems Nintendo is having some issues keeping their core IP on track for the original estimated release dates.


Animal Crossing for Switch gets delayed

Microsoft teases 8K Xbox

Source: Microsoft more

Microsoft is working to create its most powerful Xbox yet as it gears up for the next wave of gaming console hardware. Xbox shared some details on its next hardware at E3 and it sounds appropriately next-gen.

The company teased some huge factoids in a teaser about what it’s calling “Project Scarlett.” The upcoming console will have 8K capability, will be able to handle frame rates up to 120fps and will utilize SSD storage to keep load times low. The hardware will be powerful enough to enable real-time ray tracing.

“This generation is going to be a bigger leap than any generation before,” a video describing the new hardware detailed. Microsoft says the new hardware will be four times as powerful as the Xbox One X.

The next-generation console will be arriving in the holiday season of 2020, the company says. It will be launching alongside a new Halo title, Halo Infinite.

“A console should be designed and built and optimized for one thing: gaming,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said onstage at the company’s E3 presser.

We’ve already heard a bit about PlayStation’s plan for their next generation console, mainly details regarding the system’s transition to SSD storage and its reliance on a third-generation AMD Ryzen CPU.

We’ll see how the systems stack up against each other as we hear more.


Microsoft teases 8K Xbox

Microsoft acquires Psychonauts-maker Double Fine Productions

Source: Microsoft more

As it did last year, Microsoft used its Xbox E3 keynote to announce its moves in bulking up its in-house gaming content.

At its press conference, the company’s Xbox Game Studios head announced that Microsoft had acquired SF-based Double Fine Productions, a game creator that’s been around since 2000 and was founded by LucasArts’s Tim Schafer. As is the case with past acquisitions, it sounds like Double Fine Productions will continue to operate largely externally, now beneath the Xbox Game Studios entity.

There may be more studio acquisition announcements on the way, we’ll keep this post updated if so…

Double Fine Productions notably raised around $3 million in a Kickstarter campaign to create a title, later called Broken Age. The idea of crowdfunding a game was pretty novel at the time when they did it 2012. It is of course, more commonplace now.

The company’s first title Psychonauts was released in 2005. Following the acquisition announcement, the studio showed off a trailer for Psychonauts 2 which is coming to Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One and PC.

Acquiring a host of small indie game studios seems to be Microsoft’s recent strategy in building out its content on Xbox Game Pass, bringing the service its own constant stream of original content.


Microsoft acquires Psychonauts-maker Double Fine Productions

Game Pass Ultimate brings Xbox subscriptions together at a discount

Source: Microsoft more

Xbox wants the future of the gaming business to lean heavily on subscription services. The company’s Game Pass service has let users download games from a pool of dozens of titles, now Microsoft is trying to make the offer too good to refuse by bundling Xbox Live Gold with the service for $14.99.

Xbox Live Gold offers online play, but the extras included with the subscription like free games and Store discounts represent some of Microsoft’s more aged strategies in getting more revenue per user and building out Xbox loyalists. Game Pass brings users unlimited access to a library of 100+ games that include some console classics.

Live Gold retails for $9.99 per month as does Game Pass so the combo offers a nice discount and will likely be an easy sell to existing Live Gold users who are already ponying up subscription fees to Microsoft.

We’ll hear more about Microsoft’s plans with Game Pass Ultimate at their press conference, which begins soon.


Game Pass Ultimate brings Xbox subscriptions together at a discount

Microsoft shares pricing details for Xbox Game Pass on PC

Source: Microsoft more

Ahead of the Xbox E3 keynote this afternoon, Microsoft has dropped the pricing for their Xbox Game Pass plan which gives PC users access to a library of top games. The Service will be launching at a very reasonable $4.99 per month (though they note that’s an “introductory price”).

The Windows 10 service operates much like the console variety, letting you get access to titles on a subscription basis. Users can play the titles in an unlimited capacity as a subscriber and can buy the games at a 20% discount if they decide they want to own it.

You can join for $1 per month ahead of its official launch though the library looks to have just around ten titles during this period. When the full service launches, the company says you’ll have access to 100 titles and there are some hits among them including Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Gears of War 5 and Forza Horizon.

We’re down at E3 in Los Angeles gearing up for Microsoft’s keynote in a few hours, where we’re expecting to hear a lot about new Xbox services products and a bit about some new hardware on the horizon.

It’s interesting that they are adopting the Xbox branding for this PC gaming-focused service. We’ll likely hear a lot more about the Xbox strategy beyond PC today.


Microsoft shares pricing details for Xbox Game Pass on PC

Microsoft starts selling developer ‘mixed reality’ headsets online

Source: Microsoft more
 Microsoft “mixed reality” headsets are finally available (for developers) on the Microsoft store. The company opened pre-orders for the headset back in May; now developers can get their hands on Acer’s headset for $299 and an HP model for $329. Specs-wise, the two headsets are pretty much identical. Read More
Microsoft starts selling developer ‘mixed reality’ headsets online