ClassPass introduces a corporate wellness program

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

ClassPass has set up yet another revenue stream, signing on partners like Facebook, Glossier, Google, Morgan Stanley, Under Armour, Etsy, Southwest Airlines and Gatorade to a corporate wellness program.

The program will give employees at these companies access to the ClassPass network of more than 22,000 studio partners across 2500 cities around the world, which includes studio brands like Barry’s Bootcamp, Flywheel Sports, and CorePower Yoga. Corporate partners also get access to a ‘large library’ of on-demand audio and video workouts.

This comes after ClassPass retooled the ClassPass Live product, in which it invested the resources to build out a new live broadcast studio, and rebuilt it into a library of on-demand video workouts.

The company launched ClassPass Live in 2018 with the hopes that users could workout from home within the ClassPass ecosystem. CEO Fritz Lanman told TechCrunch in June that the company stopped doing live classes in April 2019 and repackaged the content into free, on-demand video classes.

According to the release, one of the issues with corporate wellness programs is that HR departments have to patch together programs based on the regions in which their companies have offices/employees. ClassPass argues that its scale across the country, and in 17 other countries, gives it an edge with corporations who have global workforces.

Moreover, the ClassPass corporate wellness program only charges employers when employees actually use the service, and allows employers to reward good behaviors (going to a certain number of classes per month) by offering additional credits toward ClassPass experiences.

Here’s what Lanman had to say about it in a prepared statement:

The ClassPass Corporate Program enables employers of all sizes to offer the world’s most extensive, one-stop fitness and wellness program to their employees worldwide. ClassPass is the best fitness program ever created for consumers. With this launch, it’s now also the best fitness program ever created for employers and their employees.


ClassPass introduces a corporate wellness program

Dust Identity secures $10M Series A to identify objects with diamond dust

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

The idea behind Dust Identity was originally born in an MIT lab where students developed a system of uniquely identifying objects using diamond dust. Since then, the startup has been working to create a commercial application for the advanced technology, and today it announced a $10 million Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins, which also led its $2.3 million seed round last year.

Airbus Ventures and Lockheed Martin Ventures, New Science Ventures, Angular Ventures and Castle Island Ventures also participated in the round. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $12.3 million.

The company has an unusual idea of applying a thin layer of diamond dust to an object with the goal of proving that object has not been tampered with. While using diamond dust may sound expensive, the company told TechCrunch last year at the time of its seed round funding that it uses low-cost industrial diamond waste, rather than the expensive variety you find in jewelry stores.

As CEO and co-founder Ophir Gaathon told TechCrunch last year, “Once the diamonds fall on the surface of a polymer epoxy, and that polymer cures, the diamonds are fixed in their position, fixed in their orientation, and it’s actually the orientation of those diamonds that we developed a technology that allows us to read those angles very quickly.”

Ilya Fushman, who is leading the investment for Kleiner, says the company is offering a unique approach to identity and security for objects. “At a time when there is a growing trust gap between manufacturers and suppliers, Dust Identity’s diamond particle tag provides a better solution for product authentication and supply chain security than existing technologies,” he said in a statement.

The presence of strategic investors Airbus and Lockheed Martin shows that big industrial companies see a need for advanced technology like this in the supply chain. It’s worth noting that the company partnered with enterprise computing giant SAP last year to provide a blockchain interface for physical objects, where they store the Dust Identity identifier on the blockchain. Although, the startup has a relationship with SAP, it remains blockchain agnostic, according to a company spokesperson.

While it’s still early days for the company, it has attracted the attention from a broad range of investors and intends to use the funding to continue building and expanding the product in the coming year. To this point, it has implemented pilot programs and early deployments across a range of industries including automotive, luxury goods, cosmetics and oil, gas and utilities


Dust Identity secures M Series A to identify objects with diamond dust

Stonly lets you create interactive step-by-step guides to improve support

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

French startup Stonly wants to empower users so that they can solve their issues by themselves. Instead of relying on customer support agents, Stonly wants to surface relevant content so that you can understand and solve issues.

“I’m trying to take the opposite stance of chatbots,” founder and CEO Alexis Fogel told me. “The issue [with chatbots] is that technology is not good enough and you often end up searching through the help center.”

If you’re in charge of support for a big enough service, chances are your customers often face the same issues. Many companies have built help centers with lengthy articles. But most customers won’t scroll through those pages when they face an issue.

That’s why Stonly thinks you need to make this experience more interactive. The service lets you create scripted guides with multiple questions to make this process less intimidating. Some big companies have built question-based help centers, but Stonly wants to give tools to small companies so that they can build their own scenarios.

A Stonly module is basically a widget that you can embed on any page or blog. It works like a deck of slides with buttons to jump to the relevant slide. Companies can create guides in the back end without writing a single line of code. You can add an image, a video and some code to each slide.

At any time, you can see a flowchart of your guide to check that everything works as expected. You can translate your guides in multiple languages as well.

Once you’re done and the module is live, you can look back at your guides and see how you can improve them. Stonly lets you see if users spend more time on a step, close the tab and drop in the middle of the guide, test multiple versions of the same guide, etc.

But the startup goes one step further by integrating directly with popular support services, such as Zendesk and Intercom. For instance, if a user contacts customer support after checking a Stonly guide, you can see in Zendesk what they were looking at. Or you can integrate Stonly in your Intercom chat module.

Editor 01

As expected, a service like Stonly can help you save on customer support. If users can solve their own issues, you need a smaller customer support team. But that’s not all.

“It’s not just about saving money, it’s also about improving engagement and support,” Fogel said.

Password manager company Dashlane is a good example of that. Fogel previously co-founded Dashlane before starting Stonly. And it’s one of Stonly’s first clients.

“Dashlane is a very addictive product, but the main issue is that you want to help people get started,” he said. It’s true that it can be hard to grasp how you’re supposed to use a password manager if you’ve never used one in the past. So the onboarding experience is key with this kind of products.

Stonly is free if you want to play with the product and build public guides. But if you want to create private guides and access advanced features, the company has a Pro plan ($30 per month) and a Team plan (starting at $100 per month with bigger bills as you add more people to your team and use the product more extensively).

The company has tested its product with a handful of clients, such as Dashlane, Devialet, Happn and Malt. The startup has raised an undisclosed seed round from Eduardo Ronzano, Thibaud Elzière, Nicolas Steegmann, Renaud Visage and PeopleDoc co-founders. And Stonly is currently part of the Zendesk incubator at Station F.


Stonly lets you create interactive step-by-step guides to improve support

ContractPodAi scores $55M for its ‘AI-powered’ contract management software

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

ContractPodAi, a London-based startup that has developed what it describes as AI-powered contract lifecycle management software, is disclosing $55 million in Series B funding. The round is led by U.S.-based Insight Partners, with participation from earlier backer Eagle Investment.

Founded in 2012, ContractPodAi offers an “end-to-end” solution spanning the three main aspects of contract management: contract generation, contract repository, and third-party review. Its AI offering, which uses IBM’s Watson, claims to streamline the contract management process and reduce the burden on corporate in-house legal teams.

“The legal profession has been historically behind the curve in technology adoption and our objective here is to support to digital transformation of legal departments via our contract management platform,” ContractPodAi co-founder and CEO Sarvarth Misra tells TechCrunch.

“Our business focusses on providing in-house counsel of corporations across the world with an easy to use, out of the box and scalable end to end contract management platform at a fixed fee SaaS licence model”.

With regards to ContractPodAi’s target customer, Misra says its solution is industry agnostic but is typically sold to large international businesses, including FTSE 500 and Fortune 2000 corporations. Customers include Bosch Siemens, Braskem, EDF Energy, Total Petroleum, Benjamin Moore and Freeview.

Armed with new capital, ContractPodAi says it plans to “significantly” scale up its product development, sales, and customer success teams globally. The company already has offices in San Francisco, New York, Glasgow and Mumbai, in addition to its London HQ.

Adds Misra: “We believe that market for contract management solutions is fragmented with providers focussing one or two aspects of contract management functionality. ContractPodAi’s objective has been to provide one contract management ecosystem which covers all aspects of contract management functionality… This, along with our fixed, transparent pricing and ability to provide full implementation as part of the annual SaaS, differentiates us the from the rest of the providers”.


ContractPodAi scores M for its ‘AI-powered’ contract management software

Amazon adds Hindi to the Alexa Skills Kit

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Users of Amazon’s voice assistant will soon be able to talk to Alexa in Hindi. Amazon announced today that it has added a Hindi voice model to its Alexa Skills Kit for developers. Alexa developers can also update their existing published skills in India for Hindi.

Amazon first revealed that it would add fluent Hindi to Alexa last month during its re: MARS machine learning and artificial intelligence conference. Before, Alexa was only able to understand a few Hinglish (a portmanteau of Hindi and English) commands. Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Alexa, told Indian news agency IANS that adding Hindi to Alexa posed a “contextual, cultural as well as content-related challenge” because of the wide variety of dialects, accents and slang used in India.

Along with English, Hindi is one of India’s official languages (Google Voice Assistant also offers Hindi support). According to Citi Research, Amazon holds about a 30 percent market share, about the same as its main competitor, Walmart-backed Flipkart.


Amazon adds Hindi to the Alexa Skills Kit

Judge dismisses Oracle lawsuit over $10B Pentagon JEDI cloud contract

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Oracle has been complaining about the procurement process around the Pentagon’s $10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract, even before the DoD opened requests for proposals last year. It went so far as to file a lawsuit in December, claiming a potential conflict of interest on the part of a procurement team member. Today, that case was dismissed in federal court.

In dismissing the case, Federal Claims Court Senior Judge Eric Bruggink ruled that the company had failed to prove a conflict in the procurement process, something the DOD’s own internal audits found in two separate investigations. Judge Bruggink ultimately agreed with the DoD’s findings.

“We conclude as well that the contracting officer’s findings that an organizational conflict of interest does not exist and that individual conflicts of interest did not impact the procurement, were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the administrative record is therefore denied,” Judge Bruggink wrote in his order.

The company previously had filed a failed protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which also ruled that the procurement process was fair and didn’t favor any particular vendor. Oracle had claimed that the process was designed to favor cloud market leader AWS.

It’s worth noting that the employee in question was a former AWS employee. AWS joined the lawsuit as part of the legal process, stating at the time in the legal motion, “Oracle’s Complaint specifically alleges conflicts of interest involving AWS. Thus, AWS has direct and substantial economic interests at stake in this case, and its disposition clearly could impair those interests.”

Today’s ruling opens the door for the announcement of a winner of the $10 billion contract, as early as next month. The DoD previously announced that it had chosen Microsoft and Amazon as the two finalists for the winner-take-all bid.


Judge dismisses Oracle lawsuit over B Pentagon JEDI cloud contract

Judge dismisses Oracle lawsuit over $10B Pentagon JEDI cloud contract

Source: Microsoft more

Oracle has been complaining about the procurement process around the Pentagon’s $10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract, even before the DoD opened requests for proposals last year. It went so far as to file a lawsuit in December, claiming a potential conflict of interest on the part of a procurement team member. Today, that case was dismissed in federal court.

In dismissing the case, Federal Claims Court Senior Judge Eric Bruggink ruled that the company had failed to prove a conflict in the procurement process, something the DOD’s own internal audits found in two separate investigations. Judge Bruggink ultimately agreed with the DoD’s findings.

“We conclude as well that the contracting officer’s findings that an organizational conflict of interest does not exist and that individual conflicts of interest did not impact the procurement, were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the administrative record is therefore denied,” Judge Bruggink wrote in his order.

The company previously had filed a failed protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which also ruled that the procurement process was fair and didn’t favor any particular vendor. Oracle had claimed that the process was designed to favor cloud market leader AWS.

It’s worth noting that the employee in question was a former AWS employee. AWS joined the lawsuit as part of the legal process, stating at the time in the legal motion, “Oracle’s Complaint specifically alleges conflicts of interest involving AWS. Thus, AWS has direct and substantial economic interests at stake in this case, and its disposition clearly could impair those interests.”

Today’s ruling opens the door for the announcement of a winner of the $10 billion contract, as early as next month. The DoD previously announced that it had chosen Microsoft and Amazon as the two finalists for the winner-take-all bid.


Judge dismisses Oracle lawsuit over B Pentagon JEDI cloud contract

With $34B Red Hat deal closed, IBM needs to execute now

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

In a summer surprise this week, IBM announced it had closed its $34 billion blockbuster deal to acquire Red Hat. The deal, which was announced in October, was expected to take a year to clear all of the regulatory hurdles, but U.S. and EU regulators moved surprisingly quickly. For IBM, the future starts now, and it needs to find a way to ensure that this works.

There are always going to be layers of complexity in a deal of this scope, as IBM moves to incorporate Red Hat into its product family quickly and get the company moving. It’s never easy combining two large organizations, but with IBM mired in single-digit cloud market share and years of sluggish growth, it is hoping that Red Hat will give it a strong hybrid cloud story that can help begin to alter its recent fortunes.

As Box CEO (and IBM partner) Aaron Levie tweeted at the time the deal was announced, “Transformation requires big bets, and this is a good one.” While the deal is very much about transformation, we won’t know for some time if it’s a good one.

Transformation blues

You can now register for the Minecraft Earth closed beta

Source: Microsoft more

Take the real-world exploration of Pokémon GO and mash it up with the building elements of Minecraft, and you get Minecraft Earth.

While there’s no launch date for the game, Mojang has been saying for a while now that a closed Beta would go live sometime “this summer”. If you’re looking to get in there early, good news: they just opened up registration.

You can find the Beta registration page here.

Alas, since it’s a closed Beta, registering doesn’t guarantee you access — but in its FAQ about the Beta, the team notes that they’re planning to open it up to “hundreds of thousands of players” eventually, so your odds of getting in probably aren’t too bad. You’ll need to be over the age of 18, have a device running iOS 10/Android 7 or newer, and a Microsoft or Xbox Live account to get registered.

TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey got a super early look at the game back in May — you can find his thoughts on it right over here.

Mojang also released a video teaser this afternoon, wrapping up much of what the game will offer in just under 3 minutes:


You can now register for the Minecraft Earth closed beta

Microsoft’s $399 Azure Kinect AI camera is now shipping in the U.S. and China

Source: Microsoft more

Earlier this year, at MWC, Microsoft announced the return of its Kinect sensor in the form of an AI developer kit. The $399 Azure Kinect DK camera system includes a 1MP depth camera, 360-degree microphone, 12MP RGB camera and an orientation sensor, all in a relatively small package. The kit has been available for pre-order for a few months now, but as the company announced today, it’s now generally available and shipping to pre-order customers in the U.S. and China.

Unlike the original Kinect, which launched as an Xbox gaming accessory that never quite caught on, the Azure Kinect is all business. It’s meant to give developers a platform to experiment with AI tools and plug into Azure’s ecosystem of machine learning services (though using Azure is not mandatory).

To help developers get started, the company already launched a number of SDKs, including a preview of a body-tracking SDK that is close to what you may remember from the Kinect’s Xbox days.

kinect developers

The core of the camera has more to do with Microsoft’s HoloLens than the original Kinect. As the company notes in its press materials, the Azure Kinect DK users the same time-of-flight sensor the company developed for the second generation of its HoloLens AR visor. And while the focus here is clearly on using the camera, Microsoft also notes that the microphone array also allows developers to build sophisticated speech solutions.

The company is positioning the device as an easy gateway for its users in health and life sciences, retail, logistics and robotics to start experimenting with using depth sensing and machine learning. We’ve seen somewhat similar dev kits from others, including Microsoft partner Qualcomm, though these devices don’t usually have the depth camera that makes the Kinect DK a Kinect.


Microsoft’s 9 Azure Kinect AI camera is now shipping in the U.S. and China