Stensul raises $7M to make email creation easier for marketers

Email marketing startup Stensul is announcing that it has raised $7 million.

Stensul spun out of founder and CEO Noah Dinkin’s previous company FanBridge. Dinkin explained via email that the startup isn’t competing with the big email service providers — in fact, it integrates with ESPs including Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud and Marketo.

Dinkin said that while ESPs include email creation tools, most companies ignore them. Instead, the marketer has to work with specialists like designers, developer and agencies: “That process often takes weeks, everyone hates it, and it is SUPER expensive.”

Stensul, meanwhile, is focused exclusively on the email creation process. Marketers can build the email themselves, without having to rely on anyone else, in less than 20 minutes.

“They don’t need to know how to code, they don’t need to know how to use Photoshop or have memorized the 100 page pdf of brand guidelines,” Dinkin said. “The platform controls for brand governance and rules, and also guarantees that the output will be technically perfect.”

Stensul

Javelin Venture Partners led the Series A, with participation from Arthur Ventures, First Round Capital, Uncork Capital, Lowercase Capital and former ExactTarget President Scott McCorkle.

“Stensul has zeroed in on a massive problem space hiding in plain sight,” said Javelin’s Alex Gurevich in the funding announcement. “Email Marketing is used by every large company in the world, and the amount of time and money spent on email creation is far more than most people realize. The quality of top-tier customers that stensul has been able to bring on made it clear to us that they have a solution that really delivers value on day 1.”

Companies that have used Stensul include YouTube, Grubhub, BMW, Lyft and Box. Dinkin said he will continue to invest in product, but he the big goal with the new funding is to grow sales and marketing.

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Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

Beamery, a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures.

Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017, led by Index.

Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates.

Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires.

Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty.

It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco.

It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that.

“Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

A “significant” portion of the Series B funds will also go towards R&D and produce development focused on its HR tech niche.

“Across all sectors, there’s a shift towards proactive recruitment through technology, and Beamery is emerging as the category leader,” added Tom Mendoza, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT, in a supporting statement.

“Beamery has a fantastic product, world-class high-ambition founders, and an outstanding analytics-driven team. They’ve been relentless about building the best talent CRM and marketing platform and gaining a deep understanding of the industry-wide problems.”

Microsoft staff call on company to end ICE contract

Enlarge / Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaks at the Microsoft Annual Shareholders Meeting in Bellevue, Washington, on November 30, 2016. (credit: Jason Redmond, Getty Images)

Microsoft staff members are calling on CEO Satya Nadella to terminate the company’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In an open letter published by The New York Times, employees say that they “refuse to be complicit” in ICE’s policy of breaking apart migrant families that come to the US without legal documentation.

Since April, the agency has been systematically separating children from their parents, and the kids have been housed in former warehouses and camps around the country. Microsoft’s involvement comes from the company’s Azure Government cloud computing platform: a segregated set of government-only data centers and cloud services operated exclusively by US citizens, with certifications and approval to fulfill certain government needs. In January, the company announced in a blog post that it was proud to support ICE’s “IT modernization” using Azure Government. This language was briefly removed “by mistake” from the blog post but has subsequently been reinstated.

In the view of the open letter’s signatories—and no small number of Microsoft employees on Twitter and the company’s internal social media—this cooperation is unacceptable, and the company should take an “ethical stand, and put children and families above profits.” They’re calling on the company to cancel its contract with ICE (claimed to be worth $19.4 million), create a public policy that neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients violating international human rights law, and show greater transparency over contracts with government agencies.

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Nginx lands $43 million Series C to fuel expansion

Nginx, the commercial company behind the open source web server, announced a $43 million Series C investment today led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity.

NEA, which has been on board as an early investor is also participating As part of the deal, David Campbell, managing director at Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division will join the Nginx board. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $103 million, according to the company.

The company was not willing to discuss valuation for this round.

Nginx’s open source approach is already well established running 400 million websites including some of the biggest in the world. Meanwhile, the commercial side of the business has 1500 paying customers, giving those customers not just support, but additional functionality such as load balancing, an API gateway and analytics.

Nginx CEO Gus Robertson was pleased to get the backing of such prestigious investors. “NEA is one of the largest venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and Goldman Sachs is one of the largest investment banks in the world. And so to have both of those parceled together to lead this round is a great testament to the company and the technology and the team,” he said.

The company already has plans to expand its core commercial product, Nginx Plus in the coming weeks. “We need to continue to innovate and build products that help our customers alleviate the complexity of delivery of distributed or micro service based applications. So you’ll see us release a new product in the coming weeks called Controller. Controller is the control plane on top of Nginx Plus,” Robertson explained. (Controller was launched in Beta last fall.)

But with $43 million in the bank, they want to look to build out Nginx Plus even more in the next 12-18 months. They will also be opening new offices globally to add to its international presence, while expanding its partners ecosystem. All of this means an ambitious goal to increase the current staff of 220 to 300 by the end of the year.

The open source product was originally created by Igor Sysoev back in 2002. He introduced the commercial company on top of the open source project in 2011. Robertson came on board as CEO a year later. The company has been growing 100 percent year over year since 2013 and expects to continue that trajectory through 2019.

Microsoft’s new diverse avatar editor represents more body types, disabilities

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

In its E3 presentation last year, Microsoft announced that it was making a major overhaul to the Xbox avatar system. The goal of the new system is to make the avatars much more representative, showcasing not just our style and tastes, but also our body types, disabilities, and genders. Today, the first public preview of the new avatar editor is finally being rolled out to members of the Xbox Insider preview program some time around 3pm Eastern/noon Pacific.

The new avatar system includes new customization options such as fingernails, limbs, and moods. There are also new gender neutral clothing options. On top of that, most elements can be further customized, with skin and hair color (among other things) being customizable so that they can look however you choose. This means there’s a much greater ability to make an avatar that looks like you—or if realism isn’t your thing, you can pick exactly the right shade of green for your alien alter ego. This customization extends to new props such as wheelchairs, which can similarly be customized to match your stylistic preferences.

In addition to being more customizable, the new avatars are also more poseable; there’s a photo booth for taking still pictures of your avatar. You’ll be able to pick the exact frame of an avatar’s animation to get the facial expression and positioning that you want.

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Riskified prevents fraud on your favorite e-commerce site

Meet Riskified, an Israel-based startup that has raised $64 million in total to fight online fraud. The company has built a service that helps you reject transactions from stolen credit cards and approve more transactions from legitimate clients.

If you live in the U.S., chances are you know someone who noticed a fraudulent charge for an expensive purchase with their credit card — it’s still unclear why most restaurants and bars in the U.S. take your card away instead of bringing the card reader to you.

Online purchases, also known as card-not-present transactions, represent the primary source of fraudulent transactions. That’s why e-commerce websites need to optimize their payment system to detect fraudulent transactions and approve all the others.

Riskified uses machine learning to recognize good orders and improve your bottom line. In fact, Riskified is so confident that it guarantees that you’ll never have to pay chargebacks. As long as a transaction is approved by the product, the startup offers chargeback protection. If Riskified made the wrong call, the company reimburses fraudulent chargebacks.

On the other side of the equation, many e-commerce websites leave money on the table by rejecting transactions and false declines. It’s hard to quantify this as some customers end up not ordering anything. Riskified should help you on this front too.

The startup targets big customers — Macy's, Dyson, Prada, Vestiaire Collective and GOAT are all using it. You can integrate Riskified with popular e-commerce payment systems and solutions, such as Shopify, Magento and Stripe. Riskified also has an API for more sophisticated implementations.

Google injects Hire with AI to speed up common tasks

Since Google Hire launched last year it has been trying to make it easier for hiring managers to manage the data and tasks associated with the hiring process, while maybe tweaking LinkedIn while they’re at it. Today the company announced some AI-infused enhancements that they say will help save time and energy spent on manual processes.

“By incorporating Google AI, Hire now reduces repetitive, time-consuming tasks, like scheduling interviews into one-click interactions. This means hiring teams can spend less time with logistics and more time connecting with people,” Google’s Berit Hoffmann, Hire product manager wrote in a blog post announcing the new features.

The first piece involves making it easier and faster to schedule interviews with candidates. This is a multi-step activity that involves scheduling appropriate interviewers, choosing a time and date that works for all parties involved in the interview and scheduling a room in which to conduct the interview. Organizing these kind of logistics tend to eat up a lot of time.

“To streamline this process, Hire now uses AI to automatically suggest interviewers and ideal time slots, reducing interview scheduling to a few clicks,” Hoffmann wrote.

Photo: Google

Another common hiring chore is finding keywords in a resume. Hire’s AI now finds these words for a recruiter automatically by analysing terms in a job description or search query and highlighting relevant words including synonyms and acronyms in a resume to save time spent manually searching for them.

Photo: Google

Finally, another standard part of the hiring process is making phone calls, lots of phone calls. To make this easier, the latest version of Google Hire has a new click-to-call function. Simply click the phone number and it dials automatically and registers the call in call a log for easy recall or auditing.

While Microsoft has LinkedIn and Office 365, Google has G Suite and Google Hire. The strategy behind Hire is to allow hiring personnel to work in the G Suite tools they are immersed in every day and incorporate Hire functionality within those tools.

It’s not unlike CRM tools that integrate with Outlook or GMail because that’s where sales people spend a good deal of their time anyway. The idea is to reduce the time spent switching between tools and make the process a more integrated experience.

While none of these features individually will necessarily wow you, they are making use of Google AI to simplify common tasks to reduce some of the tedium associated with every-day hiring tasks.