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4 Ways Startups Can Prepare to Survive Economic Tumult

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June 12, 2020 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The world is in a state of unprecedented tumult. Businesses and governments around the globe have been shaken to their cores by the COVID-19 coronavirus. This crisis has forced companies to ask their employees to work from home for their safety and improved productivity. In the startup world, though, many teams are already accustomed to remote work, and they can use this fact as a way to protect themselves from economic tumult. Here’s what we can learn from startups who have resisted economic crises in the past.   

1. Flexibility for the way people work

Around the world, the majority of large corporations still operate on inflexible, conservative management structures that care more about how long people are in the office than how productive they can be. The fear of being wrong or arriving late, rather than the urge to advance the company, rules most workers’ lives. Recent and current crises have shown that distributed, output-based companies like modern tech startups have a competitive advantage in survival over these larger corporations. 

At my firm, we encourage our startups to measure their employees’ work in outputs, rather than hours. If someone is more productive from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., then takes care of their kids during the day, and starts working again at night, it is counterproductive to expect them to be in an office from 9 to 5. This kind of flexibility also helps workers handle crises, since lost productivity during working hours can be made up at more convenient times. 

I have also personally found that creating a flexible work schedule encourages a more collaborative and less hierarchical work environment. It allows people to feel in control of their time, and they are more willing to dig deep for a project when required. Building an expectation that people can work however and whenever they feel most comfortable also means that productivity is less likely to decline.

Related: How the Coronavirus Has Changed the Future of Work

2. Work from home does work

As we are learning, many people who work in offices could do the majority of their job from just a laptop. Of course, this reality does not apply to many industries, including the service, entertainment, and travel industries, which rely heavily on in-person interactions. Startups in these industries also struggle when catastrophe hits but, for many startups, working from an office is more of a team-building exercise than a workplace necessity. 

Startups that are used to a flexible work situation where employees occasionally (or frequently) work from home have taken to social media lately to show other businesses how to follow in their footsteps and become more resilient to the current crisis. Others have spoken out about how to keep important data safe when working from a laptop at home, which might be less secure than office networks. Many startups who have experience working remotely and from home have an advantage in situations of crisis, allowing them to continue work without skipping a beat during complex times.

Related: During Uncertain Times, Your Startup Should be a Camel, Not a Unicorn. Here’s How to Be Prepared.

3. Solving problems quickly

Startups survive through rapid innovation, quick feedback loops and repeated trial-and-error. Changing plans is a part of growing quickly, and tech startups often outmaneuver their larger competitors by pivoting on a heel to test new business models and strategies. This mode of work means that startups can also react quickly to changing situations and look for opportunity in crisis.

Two event management startups, Rebus and InEvent, have looked for ways that event organizers can survive this period through online meetings, live broadcasts, and even a rewards system to benefit people who support their favorite artists through the crisis. Within days of the announcement for quarantine in Colombia, Rebus launched four new products to help manage essential board meetings, monetize online concerts, set up classes for small businesses, and organize drive-through coronavirus testing in four cities. InEvent, an end-to-end software for managing massive events, quickly launched a new platform to create virtual lobbies for conferences and meetings that can integrate with most video conferencing software. 

Mexican AI startup Roomie IT recognized the potential of its humanoid robot to help out health care workers. The company had its initial product prepared to market and sell to companies when the pandemic exploded. Using the model they had ready, they made adjustments so the robot can check patients’ temperature and oxygen levels and ask a few questions to determine whether a look by medical personnel is necessary. 

Colombian voice recognition startup Vozy is helping businesses automate their call centers. The company uses AI and machine learning technology to identify and learn regional Spanish accents and provide personalized virtual customer service. Demand for their services has skyrocketed since the pandemic outbreak.  

Related: 15 Work Apps That Can Help You Run Your Company Better

Colombian farm-to-restaurant platform Frubana was created to facilitate the food supply chain between producers and restaurants. However, with widespread lockdown measures in place, restaurant business has dropped off. In response, Frubana shifted its platform to provide online solutions for local neighborhood shops, which are serving as primary food sources for many people sheltering at home. 

This adaptability, which startups employ every day to solve problems affecting their growth, helps tech companies thrive even in the face of adversity.

4. Tech companies still struggle in crisis

Not all tech startups survive crises, however. During periods of uncertainty, investors tend to become more averse to risk, preferring to wait on new investments until times become more predictable. Enterprise startups may also struggle to find new clients as large businesses struggle to manage drops in sales and look to cut costs rather than taking on new software. Startups in the travel, restaurant, event, and service industries are facing the same challenges as their established competitors, but with smaller margins and less cash flow to bolster their survival. 

Although startups may have some advantages, hard times are hard for everyone. Economic shocks affect businesses of all sizes. The current global crisis will undoubtedly have an impact on the tech industry through a drop in investments, resistance to spending on innovation and a potential for a long period of time without significant revenue. However, crises can also be an opportunity for startups to flourish as they innovate quickly to provide solutions for struggling companies and individuals, from credit lines to virtual concerts.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/9QmGQu6h6fc/349624

Big Data

FanGraphs’ advanced baseball analytics has a new cloud home: MariaDB

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With the 2021 Major League Baseball season opening today, fans will be filling out their scorecards as they return to stadiums for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last spring.

Of course, the data that is now regularly made available by the MLB goes well beyond the hits, runs, and errors fans typically record in a scorecard they purchase at a game. MLB has made the Statcast tool available since 2015. It analyzes player movements and athletic abilities. The Hawk-Eye service uses cameras installed at ballparks to provide access to instant video replays.

Fans now regularly consult a raft of online sites that uses this data to analyze almost every aspect of baseball: top pitching prospects, players who hit the most consistently in a particular ballpark during a specific time of day, and so on.

One of those sites is FanGraphs, which has transitioned the SQL relational database platform it relies on to process and analyze structured data to a curated instance of the open source MariaDB database that has been deployed on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as part of a MariaDB Sky cloud service.

MariaDB provides IT organizations with an alternative to the open source MySQL database Oracle gained control over when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2009. MariaDB is a fork of the MySQL database that is now managed under the auspices of a MariaDB Foundation that counts Microsoft, Alibaba, Tencent, ServiceNow, and IBM among its sponsors, alongside MariaDB itself.

FanGraphs uses the data it collects to enable its editorial teams to deliver articles and podcasts that project, for example, playoff odds for a team based on the results of the SQL queries the company crafts. These insights might be of particular interest to a baseball fan participating in a fantasy league, someone who wants to place a more informed wager on a game at a venue where gambling is, hopefully, legalized, or those making baseball video games.

The decision to move from MySQL to MariaDB running on GCP was made after a few false starts involving attempts to lift and shift the company’s MySQL database instance into the cloud, FanGraphs CEO David Appelman said.

One of the things that attracted FanGraphs to MariaDB is the level of performance that it could attain using a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) platform based on MariaDB and that it provides access to a columnstore storage engine that might one day be employed to drive additional analytics, Appelman said.

In addition, MariaDB now manages the underlying database FanGraphs uses. Appleman said he previously handled most of the IT functions for FanGraphs, including the crafting of SQL queries. Now he will have more time to create SQL queries and monitor the impact they have on the performance of the overall database, Appelman said. “I like to see where the bottlenecks created by a SQL query are,” he added.

FanGraphs plans to eventually take advantage of the data warehouse service provided by MariaDB, Appelman noted.

It’s not likely any of the analytics capabilities provided by FanGraphs and similar sites will one day be able to predict which baseball team will win on any given day. However, the insights they surface do serve to make the current generation of baseball fans a lot more informed about the nuances of the game than Abner Doubleday probably could have imagined.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/01/fangraphs-advanced-baseball-analytics-has-a-new-cloud-home-mariadb/

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Curri nabs $6M for AI-powered last-mile construction logistics

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Curri, a Y Combinator-backed logistics startup delivering construction supplies and materials, today announced the closing of a $6 million funding round. The company says the proceeds will be used to expand its services as well as its market reach.

Last-mile delivery logistics tends to be the most expensive and time-consuming part of the shipping process. According to one estimate, last-mile accounts for 53% of total shipping costs and 41% of total supply chain costs. With the rise of ecommerce in the U.S., retail providers are increasingly focusing on fulfilment and distribution at the lowest cost. Particularly in the construction industry, the pandemic continues to disrupt wholesalers, highlighting the need for flexible and reliable delivery.

Curri claims to solve this problem in construction with an “Uber-like” last-mile delivery model. The company makes available to customers a fleet of drivers with trucks, flatbeds, cars, and other vehicles who can deliver items like pipe bundles, water heaters, and lumber. Curri users arrange an order, open the Curri app, and enter pickup and dropoff locations to book the service. Curri’s drivers then pick up the supplies and ensure the order is correct before fulfilling the delivery.

Curri offers live updates via the app to let customers follow and share the status of their deliveries. It also provides proof-of-delivery signature and photos for tracking, regulatory, and compliance purposes.

Curri competes with a number of startups in a last-mile delivery market that’s anticipated to reach $66 billion by 2026, including Bond, Bringg, Onfleet, DispatchTrack, and Deliverr. But Curri claims its secret sauce is something that cofounder and CEO Matthew Lafferty calls “elastic scale.” Basically, it’s a concept where customers only pay for what they need. While traditional fleets can underutilize trucks or idle drivers as they wait for orders to come in, Curri says it delivers loads faster thanks to a deep layer of predictive machine learning.

According to Lafferty, thousands of customers use Curri to deliver shipments throughout the U.S. “Suppliers who don’t have the ability to make urgent, on-demand, or long distance deliveries are leaving sales on the table and risk losing customers and business to suppliers who do,” he said in a press release. “Fleet augmentation is the secret weapon of suppliers who care about getting material in their customer’s hands, fast.”

Los Angeles, California-based Curri’s series A funding announced today included participation from existing backer Initialized Capital in addition to new investor Rainfall Ventures. It brings four-year-old Curri’s total raised to date to nearly $7 million following a $150,000 seed round in August 2019.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/01/curri-nabs-6m-for-ai-powered-last-mile-logistics-for-construction/

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Device monitoring and management startup Memfault nabs $8.5M

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Memfault, a startup developing software for consumer device firmware delivery, monitoring, and diagnostics, today closed an $8.5 million series A funding round. CEO François Baldassari says the capital will enable Memfault to scale its engineering team and make investments across product development and marketing.

Slow, inefficient, costly, and reactive processes continue to plague firmware engineering teams. Often, companies recruit customers as product testers — the first indication of a device issue comes through users contacting customer service or voicing dissatisfaction on social media. With 30 billion internet of things (IoT) devices predicted to be in use by 2025, hardware monitoring and debugging methods could struggle to keep pace. As a case in point, Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 estimates that 98% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted, exposing personal and confidential data on the network.

Memfault, which was founded in 2019 by veterans of Oculus, Fitbit, and Pebble, offers a solution in a cloud-based firmware observability platform. Using the platform, customers can capture and remotely debug issues as well as continuously monitor fleets of connected devices. Memfault’s software development kit is designed to be deployed on devices to capture data and send it to the cloud for analysis. The backend identifies, classifies, and deduplicates error reports, spotlighting the issues likely to be most prevalent.

Baldassari says that he, Tyler Hoffman, and Christopher Coleman first conceived of Memfault while working on the embedded software team at smartwatch startup Pebble. Every week, thousands of customers reached out to complain about Bluetooth connectivity issues, battery life regressions, and unexpected resets. Investigating these bugs was time-consuming — teams had to either reproduce issues on their own units or ask customers to mail their watches back so that they could crack them open and wire in debug probes. To improve the process, Baldassari and his cofounders drew inspiration from web development and infrastructure to build a framework that supported the management of fleets of millions of devices, which became Memfault.

By aggregating bugs across software releases and hardware revisions, Memfault says its platform can determine which devices are impacted and what stack they’re running. Developers can inspect backtraces, variables, and registers when encountering an error, and for updates, they can split devices into cohorts to limit fleet-wide issues. Memfault also delivers real-time reports on device check-ins and notifications of unexpected connectivity inactivity. Teams can view device and fleet health data like battery life, connectivity state, and memory usage or track how many devices have installed a release — and how many have encountered problems.

“We’re building feedback mechanisms into our software which allows our users to label an error we have not caught, to merge duplicate errors together, and to split up distinct errors which have been merged by mistake,” Baldassari told VentureBeat via email. “This data is a shoo-in for machine learning, and will allow us to automatically detect errors which cannot be identified with simple heuristics.”

Memfault

IDC forecasts that global IoT revenue will reach $742 billion in 2020. But despite the industry’s long and continued growth, not all organizations think they’re ready for it — in a recent Kaspersky Lab survey, 54% said the risks associated with connectivity and integration of IoT ecosystems remained a major challenge.

That’s perhaps why Memfault has competition in Amazon’s AWS IoT Device Management and Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge, which support a full range of containerization and isolation features. Another heavyweight rival is Google’s Cloud IoT, a set of tools that connect, process, store, and analyze edge device data. Not to be outdone, startups like Balena, Zededa, Particle, and Axonius offer full-stack IoT device management and development tools.

But Baldassari believes that Memfault’s automation features in particular give the platform a leg up from the rest of the pack. “Despite the ubiquity of connected devices, hardware teams are too often bound by a lack of visibility into device health and a reactive cycle of waiting to be notified of potential issues,” he said in a press release. “Memfault has reimagined hardware diagnostics to instead operate with the similar flexibility, speed, and innovation that has proven so successful with software development. Memfault has saved our customers millions of dollars and engineering hours, and empowered teams to approach product development with the confidence that they can ship better products, faster, with the knowledge they can fix bugs, patch, and update without ever disrupting the user experience.”

Partech led Memfault’s series A raise with participation from Uncork Capital, bringing the San Francisco, California-based company’s total raised to $11 million. In addition to bolstering its existing initiatives, Memfault says it’ll use the funding to launch a self-service of its product for “bottom-up” adoption rather than the sales-driven, top-down approach it has today.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/01/device-monitoring-and-management-startup-memfault-nabs-8-5m/

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Sarah Kunst will outline how to get ready to fundraise at Early Stage

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Sarah Kunst, founding partner at Cleo Capital, has worn many hats. She’s been an entrepreneur, served on plenty of boards, is a contributing author at Marie Clare, has been a senior advisor to Bumble and worked as a consultant in marketing, business development and more.

With all that experience, she knows all too well that the process of fundraising starts well before your first pitch meeting. That’s why we’re so excited to have Kunst join us at Early Stage in July to discuss how to get ready to fundraise.

This isn’t the first time Kunst has discussed the topic with us. On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, Kunst and one of her portfolio company founders Julia Collins described how to conduct the process of fundraising.

For example, there is a story to tell, metrics to share and an art to building momentum before you ever start filling your calendar. That all requires preparation, and Kunst will outline how to go about that at our event in July.

Early Stage is going down twice this year, with our first event taking place tomorrow! Here’s a look at some of the topics we’ll be covering:

Fundraising

  • Bootstrapping Best Practices (Tope Awotona and Blake Bartlett, Calendly)
  • Four Things to Think About Before Raising a Series A (Bucky Moore, Kleiner Perkins)
  • How to Get An Investor’s Attention (Marlon Nichols, MaC Venture Capital)
  • How to Nail Your Virtual Pitch Meeting (Melissa Bradley, Ureeka)
  • How Founders Can Think Like a VC (Lisa Wu, Norwest Venture Partners)
  • The All-22 View, or Never Losing Perspective (Eghosa Omoigui, EchoVC Partners)

Operations:

  • Finance for Founders (Alexa von Tobel, Inspired Capital)
  • Building and Leading a Sales Team (Ryan Azus, Zoom CRO)
  • 10 Things NOT to Do When Starting a Company (Leah Solivan, Fuel Capital)
  • Leadership Culture and Good Governance (David Easton, Generation Investment Management)

The cool thing about Early Stage is that it’s heavy on audience Q&A, ensuring that everyone gets the chance to ask their own specific questions. Oh, and ticket holders get free access to Extra Crunch.

Interested? You can buy a ticket here.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/31/sarah-kunst-will-outline-how-to-get-ready-to-fundraise-at-early-stage/

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