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Forget the Moat and Make Your Startup a Tropical Island

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Building a business should be like creating a destination, not erecting a fortress.

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June 12, 2020 4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To be successful, your startup needs a “line of attack,” a strategy for “dominating” the market. The first step? Claim your “beachhead.” When that’s been successfully “conquered,” build “fortifications” to protect it from “invasion.” This foothold also serves as a base from which you can conduct further attacks to gain more “territory.”

Military jargon is commonplace in business. But, this rhetorical shortcut — that a company is a fortress surrounded by a moat — is misleading and counterproductive. Selling is not about “conquering” customers. Similarly, your business is not your kingdom. And your competitors are not your sworn enemies to be fought with to the death.

As any experienced entrepreneur knows, there is no such thing as “your” market. You cannot conquer customers, and you certainly don’t own them. Nor can you protect them from your competitors.

The customer is sovereign. Your role is to serve.

Starting and running a successful business is not about keeping everybody out but, instead, inviting customers in.

Your business isn’t a moat-circled fortress — it’s an island. An island is a refuge from the treacherous ocean, unaffected by depths and waves. When sighted from afar, the island offers direction and the promise of a safe harbor. It welcomes travelers and those in distress.

An island is what businesses should strive to be, something that attracts and comforts.

How does a business become an island? Specialize.

More specifically, by exploiting divisions of labor to create value beyond what other businesses can.

Here are the four ways to build your island.

1. Aim to please.

A beachhead is taken by force. This poor metaphor suggests you establish your business by making that all-important first sale. But entrepreneurs can’t capture or occupy customers, and they shouldn’t battle with competitors. Instead, they should focus on serving their customers. Whoever serves the customer better, on the customer’s terms, will be the more successful entrepreneur. Structure your business to please the customer. The better your offering, the better your business idea.

2. Don’t copy. Move beyond.

Competition is not about replicating what others are doing. Such a “red ocean” strategy is unwise as it is costly and has little chance of success — even if you catch up, you’re unlikely to exceed. Instead, take inspiration from what competitors are doing, and then add your strengths to go above and beyond. This includes how you structure your business internally. There’s no reason to use an organizational chart or apply standard processes. Develop and customize these in ways that fit your business and goals.

3. Build on your strengths.

Every business is unique. Businesses, then, should be uniquely organized and optimized based on their strengths and weaknesses. Sadly, this is rarely how business management is taught. But University of Virginia Professor of Entrepreneurship Saras Sarasvathy has made this core to what she calls the effectuation theory of entrepreneurship. Her take on the bird-in-hand principle is that you must start with who you are, what you know, and whom you know. Where does that put you?

4. Maximize value, not output.

Entrepreneurship is about providing customers with valuable experiences. While it is important to keep costs down, it is even more important to keep value up — value according to your customer, not as determined by you. The price someone is willing to pay for what you offer is based on the value they think they can get out of it. Consequently, the more valuable customers consider your offering, the easier it will be to cover your costs. So make value core to your business!

Businesses should be positioned, structured, and focused on doing their very best — in the eyes of the customer. If you do this and blaze a trail off the tired tracks everybody else has taken, you will discover new specializations and new divisions of labor. It may sound abstract and theoretical but is really about doing different things and doing them differently. And that will set you apart.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/NHs_WIJQ7r4/351078

AI

Workflow automation platform Aisera raises $40M

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Aisera, a company developing a platform that automates operations and support tasks across IT, sales, and customer service, today announced it has raised $40 million in a series C round led by Icon Ventures. The startup says the funds, which bring its total raised to $90 million, will support product expansion and deployment, as well as go-to-market, marketing, and software development efforts.

When McKinsey surveyed 1,500 executives across industries and regions in 2018, 66% said addressing skills gaps related to automation and digitization was a “top 10” priority. According to market research firm Fact.MR, small and medium-sized enterprises are expected to adopt business workflow automation at scale, creating a market opportunity of more than $1.6 billion between 2017 and 2026.

A multi-pronged approach

Aisera offers products that auto-complete actions and workflows by integrating with existing enterprise apps, like Salesforce and ServiceNow. The company was founded in 2017 by Muddu Sudhakar, who previously launched e-discovery vendor Kazeon (which was acquired by EMC in 2009), big data startup Cetas (acquired by VMware in 2012), and cybersecurity firm Caspida (acquired by Splunk in 2015).

Aisera claims its platform can continuously learn to resolve issues through a combination of conversational AI, robotic process automation, and reinforcement learning. For example, Aisera can predict outages and send notifications to DevOps teams and customers. Moreover, the company claims its platform can detect patterns to predict service disruptions.

Aisera

Aisera customers can choose from a library of prebuilt workflows and intents built for IT, HR, facilities, sales operations, and customer service applications. The platform offers out-of-the-box reports and dashboards for auditing, including auto-resolution metrics and the ability to discover the most-requested knowledge articles.

A growing market

Aisera has a number of competitors in a global intelligent process automation market that’s estimated to be worth $15.8 billion by 2025, according to KBV Research. Automation Anywhere and UiPath have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investments at multibillion-dollar valuations. Within a span of months, Blue Prism raised over $120 million, Kryon $40 million, and FortressIQ $30 million. Tech giants have also made forays into the field, including Microsoft, which acquired RPA startup Softomotive, and IBM, which purchased WDG Automation. That’s not counting newer startups like WorkFusion, Indico, Tray.io, Tonkean, AirSlate, WorkatoCamunda, and Automation Hero.

But the funding comes at a time of significant expansion for Aisera. In addition to achieving year-over-year growth of 300% and a base of over 65 million users, the company says it has secured a number of new enterprise customers, including Autodesk, Dartmouth College, McAfee, and Zoom.

Aisera’s success is perhaps unsurprising, given the value proposition of automation. Ninety-five percent of IT leaders are prioritizing automation, and 70% of execs are seeing the equivalent of over four hours saved per employee, per week, according to Salesforce’s recent Trends in Workflow Automation report. Moreover, market research firm Fact.MR says the adoption of business workflow automation at scale could create a market opportunity of over $1.6 billion between 2017 and 2026.

Palo Alto, California-based Aisera’s latest funding round saw participation from new investor World Innovation Lab, as well as existing backers True Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, First Round Capital, Webb Investment Network, and Sherpalo.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/21/workflow-automation-platform-aisera-raises-40m/

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Cyrebro raises $15M to expand its security operations platform

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Cyrebro, a cloud-based security operations center (SOC), today announced it has raised $15 million in a series B round led by Prytek. CEO Nadav Arbel says the capital, which brings the company’s total raised to $22 million, will be used to support development of the Cyrebro platform and strengthen the startup’s reach in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

Email messages and files have become top attack vectors for hackers looking to steal data, particularly as the pandemic necessitates novel work-from-home arrangements. Cybersecurity Ventures anticipates that the damage related to cybercrime will hit $6 trillion annually this year. Corresponding with this rise, Gartner reports that worldwide spending on cybersecurity is expected to reach $133.7 billion in 2022.

A streamlined approach

Cyrebro aims to address this with a platform that integrates cybersecurity tools in a single dashboard. Cyrebro shows critical incidents across business operations and security solutions, allowing response teams to conduct investigations by type, severity, and status. With Cyrebro, security analysts can drill down into events and see which assets were impacted, as well as recommended actions and real-time status. Beyond this, Cyrebro delivers insights about where most alerts are generated and where attention should be focused for preemptive steps.

“Global businesses of all sizes are facing the new threats of cyberattacks brought on by the pandemic, and companies now need simplified solutions to see, understand, and respond to their cybersecurity needs. With this understanding in mind, we created Cyrebro, a real-time, live security operation platform to enable online operations of the entire security stack,” Arbel told VentureBeat via email. “It is the only platform to address the full scope of cybersecurity needs in the most effective, powerful, and cost-efficient way. More than ever, organizations need holistic detection and response mechanisms while covering the complete suite of security solutions, including monitoring, threat hunting, response, and compliance.”

Aggregating cyber insights

Cyrebro collects and processes data from clouds, networks, and endpoints, including laptops, desktops, and servers. A feature shows the geographic location of hosts with their coverage, connectivity state, and related alerts, and reporting functions enable users to generate audits with visualizations like pie charts.

Cyrebro

Above: Cyrebro’s SOC platform.

Image Credit: Cyrebro

Competition is fierce in a cybersecurity market that’s anticipated to reach $199.98 billion in value by 2025, according to Market Research Future. Securiti.ai, a developer building a platform designed to automate cybersecurity and compliance processes, recently emerged from stealth with $31 million. There’s also Swimland and Tines, a cybersecurity startup that helps enterprise security teams automate repetitive workflows.

But Arbel, which has 80 employees, says it has “hundreds” of paying customers, including casinos, global retailers, banks, insurance companies, and other Fortune 500 companies. “Over the past year, our customer base has grown by 100% and our employees by 20%. Since the start of COVID, SMBs experienced new challenges within their IT and cybersecurity departments. We realized the critical need to develop an accessible platform that simplifies proactive cyber operations for the average small to mid-sized business owner, allowing them to gain the posture of Fortune 500 enterprises,” he added. “Our business has grown exponentially, and we took on this round of funding to meet this new market demand for comprehensive online security solutions.”

InCapital, Mizrahi Bank, and previous investor Mangrove also participated in Tel Aviv, Israel-based Cyrebro’s latest round of funding.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/21/security-operations-platform-cyrebro-raises-15m-to-expand-its-customer-base/

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Marketing automation startup ActiveCampaign raises $240M

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Customer experience automation startup ActiveCampaign today announced it has raised $240 million at an over $3 billion valuation. The capital comes as the startup surpasses $165 million in annual recurring revenue, up from $90 million a year ago.

CEO Jason VandeBoom created the company in 2003 to help businesses orchestrate email marketing, customer relationship management, and ad campaign processes. ActiveCampaign’s automations are powered in part by AI and machine learning algorithms and customized with flows that inform hundreds of unique experiences generated dynamically for each customer. The flows live within a visual automation map that reveals which are connected to each other, active, or in need of adjustment.

Simplify and scale

ActiveCampaign’s platform enables brands to broadcast emails or configure triggers that send messages based on purchase intent, site visits, and engagement. Segmenting tools let managers group audiences and orchestrate email autoresponders, funnels, and scheduled emails. Meanwhile, an integrated drag-and-drop email designer enables features like revision histories, geotracking, analytics, image hosting, and social sharing.

ActiveCampaign

Above: The ActiveCampaign dashboard.

Image Credit: ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign supports split testing — up to five emails with different subject lines, content, images, and calls to action can be tested at once — and records metrics like conversion rate, opens, and more to bubble the best-performing options to the top. A split actions feature allows customers with a certain number of products to make offers until they sell out, for example, before sending other contacts down a different automation path. And extensive event tracking saves logins, plays, clicks, video views, orders, and more across apps, membership sites, and online portals.

Expanded reach

Beyond email, ActiveCampaign features a text message marketing platform that supports scheduling, notifying, and automating, as well as social media audience targeting. Companies can target people with Facebook Ads and draw on data to automatically retarget based on visits to websites, product interests, form submissions, custom fields, and other collected information.

A brand can set up a welcome series and other automations and view them from within a single dashboard using ActiveCampaign. Or they can tap migration services that move emails, forms, and contacts from other platforms to ActiveCampaign’s own. They’re also able to implement site tracking that follows up on customer interactions with triggered messages and tracks goals and conversions to evaluate the effectiveness of ongoing campaigns. And they can employ lead scoring to pick out top engaged contacts and offer what they want.

“[We] rely on machine learning to help our customers better understand their own customers,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. “One example is sentiment analysis, which looks at the emails of a customer or prospect and analyzes the sentiment of that communication to trigger automations. This means we can easily automate a happy customer receiving a thank you note, while a frustrated customer can receive a support call — all without manual intervention.”

Year of growth

ActiveCampaign says it achieved record usage in 2020, including 4 billion weekly automated experiences, 150 million monthly automated campaigns, and 2 million daily predictions. The company also launched functionality like pages and web personalization, plus a predictive feature that helps to navigate its over 500 automation recipes. The platform’s ecosystem grew to over 850 technology partners, up from 200 as of January 2020. And ActiveCampaign announced plans to grow to over 1,000 employees by the end of 2021, after adding 300 in 2020.

The global campaign management software market was valued at approximately $1.85 billion in 2017 and is anticipated to grow at 15.65% from 2018 to 2025. Competitors abound. There’s Pyze, which raised $4.6 million in July 2019 for its AI-driven analytics and marketing campaign orchestration tool, and Clari, which recently nabbed $60 million to further develop its AI sales pipeline toolset. That’s not to mention TapClicks, which raised $10 million in August 2019; BoomtrainAlbert Technologies; 6Sense; AppierHighspot; and Panoramic.

But VandeBoom notes that ActiveCampaign’s client list is swiftly growing, with over 145,000 customers in more than 170 countries — 50,000 of which were added in the last year. “The need for enhanced customer experiences is fueling growth at ActiveCampaign and the growth of businesses around the globe. Companies are becoming increasingly frustrated with legacy marketing automation tools and customer relationship management platforms that only solve for one part of the customer experience,” he told VentureBeat via email. “Our customer experience automation solution helps companies grow by automating 1:1 communication during the entire customer lifecycle, from awareness to acquisition to advocacy, and creates experiences that turn customers from first-time purchasers into long-term brand advocates.”

Tiger Global led the series C round announced today, which included new investor Dragoneer. Existing investors Susquehanna Growth Equity and Silversmith Capital Partners also participated. The round brings the Chicago, Illinois-based company’s total raised to date to $360 million.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/21/marketing-automation-startup-activecampaign-raises-240m/

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Marketing automation startup ActiveCampaign raises $240M

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Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Customer experience automation startup ActiveCampaign today announced it has raised $240 million at an over $3 billion valuation. The capital comes as the startup surpasses $165 million in annual recurring revenue, up from $90 million a year ago.

CEO Jason VandeBoom created the company in 2003 to help businesses orchestrate email marketing, customer relationship management, and ad campaign processes. ActiveCampaign’s automations are powered in part by AI and machine learning algorithms and customized with flows that inform hundreds of unique experiences generated dynamically for each customer. The flows live within a visual automation map that reveals which are connected to each other, active, or in need of adjustment.

Simplify and scale

ActiveCampaign’s platform enables brands to broadcast emails or configure triggers that send messages based on purchase intent, site visits, and engagement. Segmenting tools let managers group audiences and orchestrate email autoresponders, funnels, and scheduled emails. Meanwhile, an integrated drag-and-drop email designer enables features like revision histories, geotracking, analytics, image hosting, and social sharing.

ActiveCampaign

Above: The ActiveCampaign dashboard.

Image Credit: ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign supports split testing — up to five emails with different subject lines, content, images, and calls to action can be tested at once — and records metrics like conversion rate, opens, and more to bubble the best-performing options to the top. A split actions feature allows customers with a certain number of products to make offers until they sell out, for example, before sending other contacts down a different automation path. And extensive event tracking saves logins, plays, clicks, video views, orders, and more across apps, membership sites, and online portals.

Expanded reach

Beyond email, ActiveCampaign features a text message marketing platform that supports scheduling, notifying, and automating, as well as social media audience targeting. Companies can target people with Facebook Ads and draw on data to automatically retarget based on visits to websites, product interests, form submissions, custom fields, and other collected information.

A brand can set up a welcome series and other automations and view them from within a single dashboard using ActiveCampaign. Or they can tap migration services that move emails, forms, and contacts from other platforms to ActiveCampaign’s own. They’re also able to implement site tracking that follows up on customer interactions with triggered messages and tracks goals and conversions to evaluate the effectiveness of ongoing campaigns. And they can employ lead scoring to pick out top engaged contacts and offer what they want.

“[We] rely on machine learning to help our customers better understand their own customers,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. “One example is sentiment analysis, which looks at the emails of a customer or prospect and analyzes the sentiment of that communication to trigger automations. This means we can easily automate a happy customer receiving a thank you note, while a frustrated customer can receive a support call — all without manual intervention.”

Year of growth

ActiveCampaign says it achieved record usage in 2020, including 4 billion weekly automated experiences, 150 million monthly automated campaigns, and 2 million daily predictions. The company also launched functionality like pages and web personalization, plus a predictive feature that helps to navigate its over 500 automation recipes. The platform’s ecosystem grew to over 850 technology partners, up from 200 as of January 2020. And ActiveCampaign announced plans to grow to over 1,000 employees by the end of 2021, after adding 300 in 2020.

The global campaign management software market was valued at approximately $1.85 billion in 2017 and is anticipated to grow at 15.65% from 2018 to 2025. Competitors abound. There’s Pyze, which raised $4.6 million in July 2019 for its AI-driven analytics and marketing campaign orchestration tool, and Clari, which recently nabbed $60 million to further develop its AI sales pipeline toolset. That’s not to mention TapClicks, which raised $10 million in August 2019; BoomtrainAlbert Technologies; 6Sense; AppierHighspot; and Panoramic.

But VandeBoom notes that ActiveCampaign’s client list is swiftly growing, with over 145,000 customers in more than 170 countries — 50,000 of which were added in the last year. “The need for enhanced customer experiences is fueling growth at ActiveCampaign and the growth of businesses around the globe. Companies are becoming increasingly frustrated with legacy marketing automation tools and customer relationship management platforms that only solve for one part of the customer experience,” he told VentureBeat via email. “Our customer experience automation solution helps companies grow by automating 1:1 communication during the entire customer lifecycle, from awareness to acquisition to advocacy, and creates experiences that turn customers from first-time purchasers into long-term brand advocates.”

Tiger Global led the series C round announced today, which included new investor Dragoneer. Existing investors Susquehanna Growth Equity and Silversmith Capital Partners also participated. The round brings the Chicago, Illinois-based company’s total raised to date to $360 million.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

Become a member

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/04/21/marketing-automation-startup-activecampaign-raises-240m/

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