Fiix raises $12M to smooth out the asset maintenance process

As sensors become cheaper and easier to install, the whole process of maintaining equipment and assets is starting to shift from just scrambling to fix problems to getting a hold of issues before they get out of control.

That’s opened the door for startups like Fiix, which are creating workflow software that helps companies manage equipment and assets. That software enables companies to keep a close eye on equipment and resolve issues quickly before they become more complex to the point of costing companies hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Every percentage point of efficiency, for some operations, can translate to revenue significant enough to the point that this kind of software is an easy sell. Fiix said today it has raised $12 million in a new financing round led by BuildGroup.

“It was one of the last bastions of enterprise software that’s yet to go through the same disruption that every other major software company,” COO James Novak said. “If you look at human resource software, CRM software, accounting software, they’ve all gone through the same transition. This market was one of the last ones to go through that transition.”

Fiix takes the process of managing work orders, assets and inventories and throws it all into a set of software that’s designed to be easier to use when compared to existing complex asset management software. That includes making sure all of this is available on a phone, where managers and employees can monitor what kinds of work orders are in progress, approve them, or issue them. That’s designed to remove some of the time barriers that may keep managers from starting the maintenance process.

 

But because there’s a lot of money to be made here, there’s going to be an increasing amount of competition. Already, there are startups like UpKeep, which came out of Y Combinator’s winter class last year. By giving managers a way to prioritize and get work orders done quickly, employees and managers can have a more real-time level of communication — which means they can spot problems earlier and earlier, and keep things running smoothly.

Advertisements

Uizard raises funds for its AI that turns design mockups into source code

When you’re trying to build apps, there is a very tedious point where you have to star at a wireframe and then laboriously turn it into code. Actually, the process itself is highly repetitive and ought to be much easier. The traditional software development from front-end design, to front-end html/css development and to working code is expensive, time-consuming, tedious and repetitive.

But most approaches to solving this problem have been more complex than they need to be. What if you could just turn wireframes straight into code and then devote your time to the more complex aspects of a build?

That’s the idea behind a Copenhagen-based startup called Uizard.

Uizard’s computer vision and AI platform claims to be able to automatically turn design mockups — and this could be on the back of napkin — into source code that developers can plug into their backend code.

It’s now raised an $800,000 pre-seed round led by New York-based LDV Capital with co-investors ByFounders, The Nordic Web Ventures, 7percent Ventures, New York Venture Partners, entrepreneur Peter Stern co-founder of Datek, and Philipp Moehring and Andy Chung from AngelList . This fundraising will be used to grow the team and launch the Beta product.

The company received interest when in June 2017 when they released their first research milestone dubbed “pix2code” and implementation on Github was the 2nd most trending project of June 2017 ahead of Facebook Prepack and Google Tensorflow.

OpenStack spins out its Zuul open source CI/CD platform

There are few open source projects as complex as OpenStack, which essentially provides large companies with all the tools to run the equivalent of the core AWS services in their own data centers. To build OpenStack’s various systems the team also had to develop some of its own devops tools, and in 2012, that meant developing Zuul, an open source continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) platform. Now, with the release of Zuul v3, the team has decided to decouple Zuul from OpenStack and to run it as an independent project. It’s not quite leaving the OpenStack ecosystem, though, since it will still be hosted by the OpenStack Foundation.

Now all of that may seem a bit complicated, but at this point, the OpenStack Foundation is simply the home of OpenStack and other related infrastructure projects. The first one of those was obviously OpenStack itself, followed by the Kata Containers project late last year. Zuul is simply the third of these projects.

The general concept behind Zuul is to provide developers with a system for automatically merging, building and testing new changes to a project. It’s extensible and supports a number of different development platforms, including GitHub and the Gerrit code review and project management tool.

Current contributors include BMW, GitHub, GoDaddy, Huawei, Red Hat and SUSE. “The wide adoption of CI/CD in our software projects is the foundation to deliver high-quality software in time by automating every integral part of the development cycle from simple commit checks to full release processes,” said BMW software engineer Tobias Henkel. “Our CI/CD development team at BMW is proud to be part of the Zuul community and will continue to be active contributors of the Zuul OSS project.”

The spin-off of Zuul comes at an interesting time in the CI/CD community, which is currently spoiled for choice. With Spinnaker, Google and Netflix are betting on an open source CD platform that solves some of the same problems as Zuul, for example, while Jenkins and similar projects continue to go strong, too. The Zuul project notes that its focus is more strongly on multi-repo gating, which makes it ideal handling very large and complex projects. A number of representatives of all of these open source projects are actually meeting at the OpenDev conference in Vancouver, Canada that’s running in parallel with the semi-annual OpenStack Summit there and my guess is that we’ll hear quite a bit more about all of these projects in the coming days and weeks.

 

 

 

Blunder burns unicorn attack that exploited Windows and Reader

Enlarge (credit: Lisa Cooper)

It’s not every day someone develops a malware attack that with one click exploits separate zeroday vulnerabilities in two widely pieces of software. It’s even rarer that a careless mistake burns such a unicorn before it can be used. Researches say that’s precisely happened to malicious PDF document designed to target unpatched vulnerabilities in both Adobe Reader and older versions of Microsoft Windows.

Modern applications typically contain “sandboxes” and other defenses that make it much harder for exploits to successfully execute malicious code on computers. When these protections work as intended, attacks that exploit buffer overflows and other common software vulnerabilities result in a simple application crash, rather than a potentially catastrophic security event. The defenses require attackers to chain together two or more exploits, one that executes malicious code and a separate one that allows the code to break out of the sandbox.

A security researcher from antivirus provider Eset recently found a PDF document that bypassed these protections when Reader ran on older Windows versions. It exploited a then-unpatched memory corruption vulnerability, known as a double free, in Reader that made it possible to gain a limited ability to read and write to memory. But to install programs, the PDF still needed a way to bypass the sandbox so that the code could run in more sensitive parts of the OS.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Rackspace acquires Salesforce specialist RelationEdge

Rackspace today announced that it has acquired RelationEdge, a Salesforce implementation partner and digital agency. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition.

At first, this may sound like an odd acquisition. Rackspace is still best known for its hosting and managed cloud and infrastructure services, after all, and RelationEdge is all about helping businesses manage their Salesforce SaaS implementations. The company clearly wants to expand its portfolio, though, and add managed services for SaaS applications to its lineup. It made the first step in this direction with the acquisition of TriCore last year, another company in the enterprise application management space. Today’s acquisition builds upon this theme.

Gerard Brossard, the executive VP and general manager of Rackspace Application Services, told me that the company is still in the early days of its application management practice, but that it’s seeing good momentum as its gaining both new customers thanks to these offerings and as existing customers look to Rackspace for managing more than their infrastructure. “This allows us to jump into that SaaS management practice, starting with the leaders in the market,” he told me.

Why sell RelationEdge, a company that has gained some good traction and now has about 125 employees? “At the end of the day, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount organically with very little funding,” RelationEdge found and CEO Matt Stoyka told me. “But there is a huge opportunity in the space that we can take advantage of. But to do that, we needed more than was available to us, but we needed to find the right home for our people and our company.” He also noted that the two companies seem to have a similar culture and mission, which focuses more on the business outcomes than the technology itself.

For the time being, the RelationEdge brand will remain and Rackspace plans to run the business “with considerable independence under its current leadership.” Brossard noted that the reason for this is RelationEdge’s existing brand recognition.

Contentstack doubles down on its headless CMS

It’s been about two years since Build.io launched Contentstack, a headless content management system for the enterprise. Contentstack was always a bit of an odd product at Build.io, which mostly focuses on providing integration tools like Flow for large companies (think IFTTT, but for enterprise workflows). Contentstack is pretty successful in its own right, though, with customers ranging from the Miami Heat to Cisco and Best Buy. Because of this, Build.io decided to spin out the service into its own business at the beginning of this year, and now it’s doubling down on serving modern enterprises that want to bring their CMS strategy into the 21st century.

As Build.io COO Matthew Baier told me, the last few years were quite good to Contentstack . The company doubled its deal sizes since January, for example, and it’s now seeing hockey-stick growth. Contentstack now has about 40 employees and a dedicated support team and sales staff. Why spin it out as its own company? “This has been a red-hot space for us,” Baier said. “What we decided to do last year was to do both opportunities justice and really double down on Contentstack as a separate business.”

Back when Contentstack launched, the service positioned itself as an alternative to Drupal and WordPress. Now, the team is looking at it more in terms of Adobe’s CMS tools.

And these days, it’s all about headless CMS, which essentially decouples the backend from the front-end presentation. That’s a relatively new trend in the world of CMS, but one that enables companies to bring their content (be that text, images or video and audio) to not just the web but also mobile apps and new platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Using this model, the CMS essentially becomes another API the front-end developers can use. Contentstack likes to call this “Content-as-a-Service,” but I’m tired of X-as-a-Service monikers, so I won’t do that. It is worth noting that in this context, “content” can be anything from blog posts to the descriptions and images that go with a product on an e-commerce site.

“Headless CMS is exciting because it is modernizing the space,” explained Baier. “It’s probably the most exciting thing to happen in this space in 25 years. […] We are doing for CMS what Salesforce did for CRM.”

Not every company needs this kind of system that’s ready for an omni-channel strategy, of course, but even for companies that still mostly focus on the web — or whose website is the main product — a service like Contentstack makes sense because it allows them to quickly iterate on the front end without having to worry about the backend service that powers it.

The latest version of Contentstack introduces a number of new features for content editors, including a better workflow management system that streamlines the creating, review and deployment of content in the system, as well as support for publishing rules that ensure only approved content makes it into the official channels (it wouldn’t be an enterprise product if it didn’t have some role-based controls, right?). Also new in today’s update is the ability to bundle content together and then release it en masse, maybe to coincide with a major release, promotional campaign or other event.

Looking ahead, Baier tells me that the team wants to delve a bit deeper into how it can integrate with more third-party services. Given that this is Build.io’s bread and butter, that’s probably no major surprise, but in the CMS world, integrations are often a major paint point. It’s those integrations, though, that users really need as they now rely on more third-party services than ever to run their businesses. “We believe the future is in these composable stacks,” Baier noted.

The team is also looking at how it can best use AI and machine learning, especially in the context of SEO.

One thing Contentstack and Build.io have never done is take outside money. Baier says “never say never,” but it doesn’t look like the company is likely to look for outside funding anytime soon.

Sprinklr hires former fed CIO Vivek Kundra as COO

Sprinklr, the unicorn startup best known for helping customers interpret social signals has been moving into the broader customer experience market in the last year. Today it announced is was hiring a heavy hitter as Chief Operating Officer, bringing in former federal CIO and Salesforce executive Vivek Kundra. He began working at his new position just this week.

Kundra says that he sees a company that is in a good position and poised for growth. It will be part of his job to work with CEO Ragy Thomas to make sure that happens. “When I look at the 1200 customers we have today, I see a massive opportunity to provide technology to change the way [our users] interact with customers,” Kundra told TechCrunch.

He says that, with his background, whether working under President Obama or with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the focus has always been on the customer, however you defined that, whether in the context of delivering government services or selling cloud software.

He said that to achieve that you have to be ruthlessly focused on execution. “Ideas are cheap, but how do you bring them to life in a way that inspires and motivates? I think that’s really important,” he said.

It’s worth noting that Kundra is not the first COO, however. The company hired Tim Page, who was a founder and COO at VCE before joining Sprinklr in 2016. That was apparently not a good fit.

Thomas says that landing Kundra was part of an extensive 9-month executive search where they looked at people who had worked at SaaS companies that had scaled over a billion dollars in revenue, concentrating on Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow. “If you look at people in the driver’s seat at those companies, there is a finite number of people. Salesforce is a great company and a great partner. That experience is relevant and unique,” Thomas said.

Kundra pointed out that as part of his responsibilities at Salesforce he built a business unit from scratch that included driving adoption for the company’s Government Cloud and other verticals. “Now I have ability to draw on those experiences,” he said.

Firming up the COO position, much like the CFO, is crucial ahead of going public. With the company valued at $1.8 billion in 2016, they would seem to be of sufficient size to make that move, but Thomas wasn’t ready to commit to anything definitive (much as you would expect).

Instead, he talked of building a strong foundation as preparation to become a public company at some point. “It’s a question of when, not if [we go public], but for a company of our size and scale, it’s logical for us to go public. We aren’t talking about when and how, and we are trying to pour a strong foundation [before we do]” he said. Bringing in Kundra appears to be part of that.