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How the pandemic has transformed work in the game industry

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The pandemic has impacted all of us, including the game industry. Sure, many publishers are reporting record engagement and increased revenues as players flock to games for entertainment and distraction. But what about the people who make these games?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked to some of the studios, creators, and software makers about how COVID-19 has changed they way they work. Of course, this has meant adjusting to a new normal of people working remotely. Companies used to offices and immediate access to colleagues are now getting used to video conferences and turning personal spaces into working ones.

This changes the way games are made, and it can make the process more difficult.

Development never ends

Chris Wilson is the studio head for Grinding Gear Games, the developer behind the hit free-to-play action role-playing game Path of Exile. It’s a long-lived title that has become popular thanks to a steady stream of constant updates. It keeps offering new content, so its players are rarely bored.

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“One of the big attributes of Path of Exile that’s been successful is that there’s a reliable release schedule,” Wilson told GamesBeat. “We release every 13 weeks. One of the reasons why we get a lot of players at those releases is because the community just knows when — there’s a cadence to it. They know when to come back. They’re excited about it. It’s easy to drop back in. We want to keep that cadence. We don’t want to say, no, we’re delaying stuff for months.”

But not only is Grinding Gear always working on new stuff for Path of Exile, but the studio is also developing Path of Exile 2. It’s plate isn’t just full, it’s spilling over. And now it has to work on these projects with a new reality: people working from home.

“The concept of people working from home was something we really didn’t want to have to accept, but for health reasons of course, we have to put our staff’s health first, so we started to get things set up so that people could,” Wilson told GamesBeat. “And that setup time was important, because rather rapidly, as soon as New Zealand got its first case of community transmission in March, the government announced, you have two days to be working from home and everyone is in total lockdown.”

Path of Exile 2.

Above: Path of Exile 2 is Grinding Gear’s next game.

Image Credit: Grinding Gear Games

This is a tough situation for a studio used to close collaboration and outputting new content on a regular basis. Working from home can be good or bad, but it always different. And that uncertainty can be stressful.

“An artist working on Path of Exile 2 assets is going to work at his desk making assets all day just like he was before, which is great,” Wilson continued. “But all of the upper management is scrambling to keep people working efficiently from home, with our existing release schedule of updates. We have a management deficit for the sequel at the moment, which won’t affect its quality of course, because we’ll make sure to do the management as we can. It’s just going to affect its release time. We’re going to be in a situation where assets are ready earlier than we need them, because we’re behind on getting them integrated into the game and functioning correctly and so on. I do expect that the pandemic will probably have a bit of an impact on our release schedule for the sequel, but honestly it was up in the air anyway. It’s an ambitious project. We’ve said we’ll release it when it’s ready.”

Warframe developer Digital Extremes is in a similar situation. Warframe is another free-to-play game that receives constant updates. Rebecca Ford is its live ops director and one of the most visible members of the staff to the game’s community. She’s also the voice of the Lotus, who serves as an in-game guide for players. She does a ton of work for Warframe, and the pandemic has now changed the way she does that work, both in big and small ways.

“I miss having coffee on the go,” Ford told GamesBeat. “I miss having instant access to food I don’t have to buy. I miss our catered lunches. I miss just walking in and being fed. Woe is me! I said, unironically. I have to make my own lunch. This is insane. I have not had to make my own lunch in nine years, just for the record.”

Now that Warframe’s staff is working from home, employees are more dependent on communication tools like Slack to be efficient.

“We’ve been integrated in Slack so heavily for the past five years, I’d say, that it’s not too big of a change in communicating on Slack with my team,” Ford continued. “It’s just I don’t have any other option. I kind of regret how much I relied on Slack before when I could have just talked to people side by side, but now it’s like, you have no choice, it’s only Slack.”

Different platforms, different problems

And depending on what platform you’re developing for, you can discover some unique problems. Patrick O’Luanaigh is the CEO of nDreams, the studio behind the upcoming Oculus exclusive Phantom: Covert Ops, a stealth-based game that has you piloting a kayak.

“We’re a VR developer, so everyone had to take all of our equipment home,” O’Luanaigh told GamesBeat. “You can’t log into a VR headset remotely at the office, because you can’t put it on. You have to have your powerful PC to do your development and test on a VR headset at home. We had to get everyone’s headsets and hardware and PCs and monitors home with them, which isn’t quite the same in terms of more traditional development. But things like dev kits have had to go back to people’s houses. We had to get permission from the hardware manufacturers to take headsets home and all sorts of stuff. That was a bit of a pain initially.”

Phantom: Covert Ops releases on June 25. O’Luanaigh notes that it can be easier working on the post-production part of game when everyone is at home.

“We’ve found that for a game in the later stages, everyone knows what you need to do. You have your bugs to fix. Everyone’s got their task.”

Phantom Covert Ops

Above: Phantom: Covert Ops is launching during a pandemic.

Image Credit: nDreams/Oculus

Pre-production, however, can be more fluid. People are creating concepts and building the foundations of a game. That can take more iteration and collaboration, which can be difficult when your staff is all working apart from each other.

Joel Burgess is the studio director at Capy, the developer behind the mobile hit Grindstone, a puzzle game that debuted alongside the Apple Arcade subscription service. Capy is based in Ontario, Canada, and Burgess has been helping the government there support gaming studios during the pandemic.

“I got thrown in very quickly when the pandemic started, into this committee for the minister of tourism, heritage, and culture for Ontario,” Burgess told GamesBeat. “We’re doing a whole bunch of meetings and subcommittees and all this stuff every week to make recommendations on how the government can support companies through COVID. I would say 90 percent of these meetings and subcommittee stuff is making sure that there’s financial health for studios.

The committee is especially important for indie developers.

“A lot of those smaller studios, having somebody who started the game pull out and now they’re not going to get a milestone payment, that can bankrupt them,” said Burgess . “The damage to the Toronto indie scene could be catastrophic, if suddenly a bunch of people who had been able to make it because of government assistance, if they can’t because those programs are bogged down in red tape or something.”

As for Capy itself, Burgess is glad that Grindstone became a known quantity before the pandemic hit.

“I wouldn’t say that the pandemic has been good for us. I think it’s more a matter of, from a damage mitigation perspective, I’m happy that we have a product on a platform like Apple Arcade that’s doing well,” Burgess notes. “Grindstone is out. We know what it is. We know what we like about it. We read what critics and fans say about the game and can respond to that. Which means the team has something to work on that’s really clear.”

But as O’Luanaigh from nDreams talked about earlier, stay-at-home work becomes more difficult for games early in the development process.

“We had other stuff going on in the studio that I can’t talk about, because it’s newer and earlier and still secret,” said Burgess. ” That stuff has been much more of a challenge, because those early stage projects have uncertainty in them already, and when we’re in this situation where people have anxiety about their lives and the world, and then you mix that with project anxiety, because everyone has a different version of this game in their head, that compounds.”

Capy is a small studio with just 25 people. This presents Burgess with an additional challenge: protecting his employees’ mental health.

“If I were still at Ubisoft, for example, there’s an apparatus there with HR and management relationships and all of that, to check in on people. When you’re in a small indie studio, you rely a lot more on organic personal connections to check on people, because you’re friends,” Burgess explained. “I’m concerned about it. People on the team with whom I’m close, I can get a sense that, say, this is a rough week for them. But we’re just small enough that we don’t have more formal systems for checking in on people, and we’re just big enough that you can’t rely on it being five people who know each other super well.”

Staying connected while stuck at home

Apps like Slack and Zoom have become a regular part of many gaming companies’ lives. Some are even using programs designed for less practical reasons to help make work more efficient. Benjy Boxer is the co-founder of Parsec, software that makes it possible for people to use cloud gaming to play and stream with each other. But Parsec also has tools for screen-sharing and accessing other computers remotely.

“You can use it as an indie game developer to log into your workstation at the office,” Boxer told GamesBeat. “But there are larger companies that are saying, hey, we really need this so that our game developers can connect to their workstations from outside the office.”

But people are still using Parsec for its main intention, which helps people play games together.

“That hasn’t really changed,” Boxer continued. We’re seeing a very significant increase in that usage, to be frank, but the way that people use Parsec is to play games with their friends. They invite their friends to join their PC and they play together. I believe what is happening is — from the consumer side of things, if you’re interested in that, people need a social connection. They’re using Parsec and games for that social connection, because we’re all isolated and feeling lonely. At least I am. Parsec is a great product to continue to connect to those who you want to be connected to. That’s what’s driving a lot of the consumer usage right now. People need that social connection, and then they want an escape through games.”

Xbox Series X.

Above: Xbox Series X could be coming out during a pandemic.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Matias Rodriguez if the vice president of Technology Gaming Studio at Globant, an IT and software development company. I asked him about a logistical problem facing developers. Many of them have dev kits for the next-gen systems, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. You need those to do a lot of work on games for those upcoming systems, but you can’t exactly move them around to different people’s homes. Is this going to have a big impact on the creation of PlayStation 5 and Series X titles?

“No, there is actually a workaround,” Rodriguez told GamesBeat. “We’re working remotely with them, so there is a workaround. The problem is that for some of the work, like optimization work, even with the best remote solution, it’s not possible. At some point — it doesn’t affect some things, because you can buffer them, but at some point it will require having those devices. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft and Sony are having discussions about that. Now, next-gen, as you can imagine, you also have the complexity of manufacturing. There’s not a lot of stock. Logistics are more complicated. That makes things more sticky. It’s not necessarily a full hold on production, but it’s definitely something — it doesn’t have the velocity or productivity of Steam, something like that.”

Future impact

So far, Microsoft and Sony are still committed to releasing their new consoles later this year. But we don’t know exactly what impact the pandemic will have on the games coming to these systems. Considering the long development period for many games, we could be seeing the fallout of this situation for years to come.

But it isn’t all bad news.

“A positive is that a lot of companies are now seeing that they can have more time to develop,” Rodriguez continued. “That could translate into teams having less crunch time and other things that, toward the end of the game, could be more problematic. Now, if because of the pandemic, you earn four or five months of delays because it doesn’t make sense to release a huge title under these conditions, then you end up with more buffer, more time. Again, that’s on the production side. On the consumption side, for a lot of people, they’re discovering games. There’s something very interesting we saw the other day.”

And once the pandemic is over, can we expect companies adopt more lenient work-from-home policies?

“The honest answer is we have to talk to all the employees,” nDream’s O’Luanaigh told GamesBeat. “We have to see how they feel. People don’t really feel safe yet coming back to the office, and we certainly wouldn’t force anybody back until they felt comfortable. We’re going to wait and see how it pans out. But I’ll be very surprised if we don’t have more flexibility than we did before. I suspect that there will be more working from home.”

Right now, many parts of America are attempting to reopen. This could result in another wave of COVID-19 cases. And even if it doesn’t, the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how the gaming industry operates. Working from home may become more common for companies that once depended on the office environment.

Like most of the country, gaming wasn’t ready for the pandemic. But developers have done what they can to adapt, working hard to offer entertainment to millions of people looking for fun during a dark time.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/venturebeat/SZYF/~3/Oe_DiRARO3s/

Fintech

Australia’s first virtual card technology of its kind secures a further $1.7 million in Series A funding

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DiviPay, Australia’s first all-in-one virtual corporate card and expense management platform, has announced a second instalment of $1.7 million in its Series A funding round led by ANZ Bank’s venture capital arm, ANZi.

Founded in 2017 by CEO Daniel Kniaz and CTO Russell Martin, DiviPay enables finance teams to better manage, control and streamline spending across their organisation.

DiviPay solves a common pain point for small and large businesses alike: issuing corporate cards to staff while staying in control of spending and collecting receipts and accounting data. DiviPay enables businesses to instantly issue virtual corporate Mastercards to employees to make online and in-store purchases via Apple Pay – the first business of its kind to do so in Australia – and Google Pay. Businesses control spending through pre-approved budget limits, smart payment rules that lock cards to approved amounts and merchants, and live transaction feeds. Businesses can also automate their expense management: once a transaction occurs, DiviPay automatically creates and populates an expense report with details such as merchant data, GL codes and budgets, and exports the information into the business’s accounting system.

Its recently launched feature, Automatic Bill Payments, enables organisations to extract, code, approve and automatically pay bills from the DiviPay platform, as well as instantly send remittance advice to suppliers. DiviPay integrates with an organisation’s accounting software to automatically turn invoices into bills, saving finance teams hours per week on manual invoice data entry. Organisations can set scheduled payment dates as well as approval rules, based on its suppliers, invoice amounts and budgets, enabling staff to process their own bills autonomously. The seamless integration of its virtual card technology and invoice payments has ensured DiviPay is the first all-in-one business spend management platform of its kind in Australia.

Today, DiviPay has issued more than 20,000 virtual cards to 7000-plus users and more than 650 customers. Its customers range from small businesses such as consultancies and trades, to not-for-profits and large organisations with 500-plus employees. Customers include Western Sydney University, Xero, Canva, Michael Hill and the Autism Association of WA. Businesses have used the DiviPay platform to process $45 million in business payments – including $24.3 million spent in 2020 alone. DiviPay won Emerging App of the Year at the Xero awards in 2019, and soon after launched DiviPay Rewards to give customers discounts from Google, Canva, Shopify and Amazon Web Services, among others.

In 2016, Daniel and Russell attracted $100,000 in funding for DiviPay from H2 Ventures when they joined its fintech accelerator program. In September 2019, DiviPay received a first instalment of $2.3 million in a Series A funding round from a consortium of investors led by ANZi and which includes Seed Space ventures and former Pepper Money CEO Patrick Tuttle. The funding enabled DiviPay to build its engineering team and execute its product vision.

Recently, the investment was topped by an additional $1.7 million as part of the same funding round, bringing the total investment to date to $4 million. The funding will allow DiviPay to build its marketing, sales and engineering teams, and ensure it has the resources needed to grow and broaden its customer base.

Daniel Kniaz, DiviPay CEO, says: “Up until this year, DiviPay’s customer growth has been mainly through word of mouth. We have built strong advocates of our product because we involved customers in our business journey and truly built a product that solves a common problem. This year, we plan to attract larger customers and will continue to grow our non-profit customer base. Not-for-profits are a sector in need of our product, as their budgets are tight, they have a short reconciliation cycle, and they are unable to get cards from traditional providers. One not-for-profit that we worked with used to drop-off envelopes of cash to their caregivers. Now they save hours by instantly issuing virtual corporate cards while tracking every dollar spent from our intuitive online platform.”

Ron Spector, ANZi Managing Director and DiviPay board member, says: “We are pleased to continue to support DiviPay as they move to their next stage of growth. DiviPay delivers an innovative solution for a major pain-point for businesses of all sizes and aligns with ANZi Ventures’ mission to invest in and partner with leading Fintech companies that support solutions for ANZ customers, bankers and partners.”

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Source: https://australianfintech.com.au/australias-first-virtual-card-technology-of-its-kind-secures-a-further-1-7-million-in-series-a-funding/

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Fintech

x15ventures invests $1 million in Identitii subsidiary, Payble

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ASX-listed Australian fintech Identitii Limited announce that the Commonwealth Bank’s venture scaling entity, x15ventures, is investing $1.0 million in Identitii subsidiary, Payble to acquire a minority ownership stake.

In Australia each year, more than 75 million recurring or scheduled bill payments fail or are paid late. Businesses pay a high price to collect missing funds, using expensive call centres to update billing details, request late payments or activate instalment plans.

Payble helps fix failed or late bill payments before they happen, leveraging Identitii’s participation in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) CDR testing. Payble intends to utilise the new Open Banking regime to help businesses ensure more payments are made on time, and to provide customers with more control over their finances.

Payble represents x15ventures’ first minority equity investment.

Commenting on the announcement, Toby Norton-Smith, Managing Director, x15ventures said, “We’re thrilled to welcome Payble into the x15ventures family. Working closely with the startup community is key to our strategy to build, invest and acquire digital businesses that are reshaping banking and benefiting Australian businesses and consumers.”

Commenting on the announcement, Elliott Donazzan, CEO, Payble, said, “Over 500 million bills are sent to Australian consumers every year and over 75 million of those aren’t paid on time. This is a huge problem for Aussie businesses who spend time and money following up on late payments, fielding calls from customers about their billing details or retrying payments when they fail. Payble set out to fix failed or late payments before they happen and we are thrilled to have x15ventures join us on this journey. I’d like to thank the x15ventures team for their support to date and look forward to working together as we accelerate our go-tomarket strategy.”

Commenting on the announcement, John Rayment, CEO, Identitii, said, “It’s a really exciting time for the Payble team and Identitii is thrilled to be working alongside x15ventures to support their aspirations. We’re very excited x15ventures decided to continue to invest in Payble and congratulate Elliott Donazzan, CEO of Payble, on the progress the company has made in such a short space of time under his leadership.”

x15ventures will be a significant minority shareholder in Payble and has appointed Chris Austin as Director to Payble’s Board, joining Founding Directors John Rayment and Elliott Donazzan. Mr Austin leads CBA’s Business Development Partnerships team, which includes investments by x15ventures. He brings over 15 years of M&A and strategy experience from his time with CBA and UBS. The additional links forged at the Board level will be instrumental in helping bring Payble to market.

Payble was founded by Identitii and Elliott Donazzan. After the x15ventures investment, Identitii will hold 51.3% of the issued capital of Payble Pty Ltd, x15ventures will hold 26.7% and Elliott Donazzan will hold 7.3%. The remaining 14.7% will be issued and allocated as part of employee incentive arrangements.

x15ventures retains a right to invest further at the same valuation to move to a majority ownership position.

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Source: https://australianfintech.com.au/x15ventures-invests-1-million-in-identitii-subsidiary-payble/

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Fintech

Standard Chartered turbocharges digital payments proposition with investment and the merger of CurrencyFair with Assembly Payments

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CurrencyFair, a global cross-border payments platform and Assembly Payments, whose platform automates complex payment workflows, today announce their merger as a result of a strategic investment by Standard Chartered, subject to regulatory approval. SC Ventures, the innovation, ventures and fintech investments unit of Standard Chartered is doubling down on its commitment to the rapidly growing payments industry, following its earlier investment in Assembly Payments in 2020.

Bill Winters, Group Chief Executive of Standard Chartered said, “Digital payments is a core strategic area for Standard Chartered and our 2020 investment in Assembly Payments greatly enhanced our presence in the domestic payments business. By bringing together the complementary strengths of CurrencyFair and Assembly, we are supporting the merged company in offering the full range of payment services, providing retail and corporate clients access to fast, high-volume domestic and cross-border payments.”

Paul Byrne (pictured), CEO of CurrencyFair, will lead the merged business.

Will Prendergast, Chairman of CurrencyFair said, “The merger of CurrencyFair and Assembly Payments partnering with SC Ventures is a strategic move which will see us develop beyond the traditional transactional nature of a payments company and provide a core suite of integrated financial services to businesses and individuals globally.

“CurrencyFair and Assembly will retain their ‘customer first’ cultures, deepen these relationships by enabling customers to easily access, build, connect, and use any payment service from within their existing business operations without any of the technical, compliance or geographical complexities associated with traditional financial services offerings. The merged proposition will focus on five core capabilities – payments, global payment accounts, partner ecosystem, lending and settlement, and services – to address the growth opportunities in the US$2 trillion revenue market for payments.”

Global e-commerce sales, estimated to be almost US$26 trillion in 2018, have further accelerated as businesses and consumers increasingly look to the digital marketplace due to COVID-19. A substantial number of these transactions have taken place between continents and markets, resulting in cross border digital payments becoming more complex and requiring workflows that involve many steps, systems and interactions. Corporate clients are also increasingly demanding more value-added services from their payments providers, to consolidate all aspects of their payment value chain within a seamless and cost-efficient offering that meets domestic and cross border payment flow needs.

Recognising this opportunity, the new company will focus on addressing key pain points including the fragmentation of payment ecosystems, the complexity of implementing different payment ecosystems from a technical, operational, financial, and regulatory perspective, privacy and security of data, and cross-border e-commerce for multi-market and multi-currency collection requirements.

Alex Manson from SC Ventures said, “E-Commerce is one of the highest conviction themes for SC Ventures, and we will continue to grow and scale our capabilities and geographies to support the transition to digital economies.”

The board of Assembly Payments added in a statement: “Businesses around the world continue to accelerate their offline to online journey, and increase investment into digitising their products and services. As a result, the importance of providing complementary payment services such as non-card payments, fraud management, reconciliation, foreign exchange and liquidity via a product-rich experience is critical. As a combined proposition, we believe Assembly Payments and CurrencyFair are perfectly positioned to address these challenges in the global cross border business payments market.”

The merger is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

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Source: https://australianfintech.com.au/standard-chartered-turbocharges-digital-payments-proposition-with-investment-and-the-merger-of-currencyfair-with-assembly-payments/

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Artificial Intelligence

Extra Crunch roundup: Tonal EC-1, Deliveroo’s rocky IPO, is Substack really worth $650M?

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For this morning’s column, Alex Wilhelm looked back on the last few months, “a busy season for technology exits” that followed a hot Q4 2020.

We’re seeing signs of an IPO market that may be cooling, but even so, “there are sufficient SPACs to take the entire recent Y Combinator class public,” he notes.

Once we factor in private equity firms with pockets full of money, it’s evident that late-stage companies have three solid choices for leveling up.

Seeking more insight into these liquidity options, Alex interviewed:

  • DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill, whose company went public via IPO;
  • Latch CFO Garth Mitchell, who discussed his startup’s merger with real estate SPAC $TSIA;
  • Brian Cruver, founder and CEO of AlertMedia, which recently sold to a private equity firm.

After recapping their deals, each executive explains how their company determined which flashing red “EXIT” sign to follow. As Alex observed, “choosing which option is best from a buffet’s worth of possibilities is an interesting task.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch! Have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


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The Tonal EC-1

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

On Tuesday, we published a four-part series on Tonal, a home fitness startup that has raised $200 million since it launched in 2018. The company’s patented hardware combines digital weights, coaching and AI in a wall-mounted system that sells for $2,995.

By any measure, it is poised for success — sales increased 800% between December 2019 and 2020, and by the end of this year, the company will have 60 retail locations. On Wednesday, Tonal reported a $250 million Series E that valued the company at $1.6 billion.

Our deep dive examines Tonal’s origins, product development timeline, its go-to-market strategy and other aspects that combined to spark investor interest and customer delight.

We call this format the “EC-1,” since these stories are as comprehensive and illuminating as the S-1 forms startups must file with the SEC before going public.

Here’s how the Tonal EC-1 breaks down:

We have more EC-1s in the works about other late-stage startups that are doing big things well and making news in the process.

What to make of Deliveroo’s rough IPO debut

Why did Deliveroo struggle when it began to trade? Is it suffering from cultural dissonance between its high-growth model and more conservative European investors?

Let’s peek at the numbers and find out.

Kaltura puts debut on hold. Is the tech IPO window closing?

The Exchange doubts many folks expected the IPO climate to get so chilly without warning. But we could be in for a Q2 pause in the formerly scorching climate for tech debuts.

Is Substack really worth $650M?

A $65 million Series B is remarkable, even by 2021 standards. But the fact that a16z is pouring more capital into the alt-media space is not a surprise.

Substack is a place where publications have bled some well-known talent, shifting the center of gravity in media. Let’s take a look at Substack’s historical growth.

RPA market surges as investors, vendors capitalize on pandemic-driven tech shift

Business process organization and analytics. Business process visualization and representation, automated workflow system concept. Vector concept creative illustration

Image Credits: Visual Generation / Getty Images

Robotic process automation came to the fore during the pandemic as companies took steps to digitally transform. When employees couldn’t be in the same office together, it became crucial to cobble together more automated workflows that required fewer people in the loop.

RPA has enabled executives to provide a level of automation that essentially buys them time to update systems to more modern approaches while reducing the large number of mundane manual tasks that are part of every industry’s workflow.

E-commerce roll-ups are the next wave of disruption in consumer packaged goods

Elevated view of many toilet rolls on blue background

Image Credits: Javier Zayas Photography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

This year is all about the roll-ups, the aggregation of smaller companies into larger firms, creating a potentially compelling path for equity value. The interest in creating value through e-commerce brands is particularly striking.

Just a year ago, digitally native brands had fallen out of favor with venture capitalists after so many failed to create venture-scale returns. So what’s the roll-up hype about?

Hack takes: A CISO and a hacker detail how they’d respond to the Exchange breach

3d Flat isometric vector concept of data breach, confidential data stealing, cyber attack.

Image Credits: TarikVision (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The cyber world has entered a new era in which attacks are becoming more frequent and happening on a larger scale than ever before. Massive hacks affecting thousands of high-level American companies and agencies have dominated the news recently. Chief among these are the December SolarWinds/FireEye breach and the more recent Microsoft Exchange server breach.

Everyone wants to know: If you’ve been hit with the Exchange breach, what should you do?

5 machine learning essentials nontechnical leaders need to understand

Jumble of multicoloured wires untangling into straight lines over a white background. Cape Town, South Africa. Feb 2019.

Image Credits: David Malan (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Machine learning has become the foundation of business and growth acceleration because of the incredible pace of change and development in this space.

But for engineering and team leaders without an ML background, this can also feel overwhelming and intimidating.

Here are best practices and must-know components broken down into five practical and easily applicable lessons.

Embedded procurement will make every company its own marketplace

Businesswomen using mobile phone analyzing data and economic growth graph chart. Technology digital marketing and network connection.

Image Credits: Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images

Embedded procurement is the natural evolution of embedded fintech.

In this next wave, businesses will buy things they need through vertical B2B apps, rather than through sales reps, distributors or an individual merchant’s website.

Knowing when your startup should go all-in on business development

One red line with arrow head breaking out from a business or finance growth chart canvas.

Image Credits: twomeows / Getty Images

There’s a persistent fallacy swirling around that any startup growing pain or scaling problem can be solved with business development.

That’s frankly not true.

Dear Sophie: What should I know about prenups and getting a green card through marriage?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I’m a founder of a startup on an E-2 investor visa and just got engaged! My soon-to-be spouse will sponsor me for a green card.

Are there any minimum salary requirements for her to sponsor me? Is there anything I should keep in mind before starting the green card process?

— Betrothed in Belmont

Startups must curb bureaucracy to ensure agile data governance

Image of a computer, phone and clock on a desk tied in red tape.

Image Credits: RichVintage / Getty Images

Many organizations perceive data management as being akin to data governance, where responsibilities are centered around establishing controls and audit procedures, and things are viewed from a defensive lens.

That defensiveness is admittedly justified, particularly given the potential financial and reputational damages caused by data mismanagement and leakage.

Nonetheless, there’s an element of myopia here, and being excessively cautious can prevent organizations from realizing the benefits of data-driven collaboration, particularly when it comes to software and product development.

Bring CISOs into the C-suite to bake cybersecurity into company culture

Mixed race businesswoman using tablet computer in server room

Image Credits: Jetta Productions Inc (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Cyber strategy and company strategy are inextricably linked. Consequently, chief information security officers in the C-Suite will be just as common and influential as CFOs in maximizing shareholder value.

How is edtech spending its extra capital?

Money tree: an adult hand reaches for dollar bills growing on a leafless tree

Image Credits: Tetra Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Edtech unicorns have boatloads of cash to spend following the capital boost to the sector in 2020. As a result, edtech M&A activity has continued to swell.

The idea of a well-capitalized startup buying competitors to complement its core business is nothing new, but exits in this sector are notable because the money used to buy startups can be seen as an effect of the pandemic’s impact on remote education.

But in the past week, the consolidation environment made a clear statement: Pandemic-proven startups are scooping up talent — and fast.

Tech in Mexico: A confluence of Latin America, the US and Asia

Aerial view of crowd connected by lines

Image Credits: Orbon Alija (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Knowledge transfer is not the only trend flowing in the U.S.-Asia-LatAm nexus. Competition is afoot as well.

Because of similar market conditions, Asian tech giants are directly expanding into Mexico and other LatAm countries.

How we improved net retention by 30+ points in 2 quarters

Sparks coming off US dollar bill attached to jumper cables

Image Credits: Steven Puetzer (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

There’s certainly no shortage of SaaS performance metrics leaders focus on, but NRR (net revenue retention) is without question the most underrated metric out there.

NRR is simply total revenue minus any revenue churn plus any revenue expansion from upgrades, cross-sells or upsells. The greater the NRR, the quicker companies can scale.

5 mistakes creators make building new games on Roblox

BRAZIL - 2021/03/24: In this photo illustration a Roblox logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Image Credits: SOPA Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Even the most experienced and talented game designers from the mobile F2P business usually fail to understand what features matter to Robloxians.

For those just starting their journey in Roblox game development, these are the most common mistakes gaming professionals make on Roblox.

CEO Manish Chandra, investor Navin Chaddha explain why Poshmark’s Series A deck sings

CEO Manish Chandra, investor Navin Chaddha explain why Poshmark’s Series A deck sings image

“Lead with love, and the money comes.” It’s one of the cornerstone values at Poshmark. On the latest episode of Extra Crunch Live, Chandra and Chaddha sat down with us and walked us through their original Series A pitch deck.

Will the pandemic spur a smart rebirth for cities?

New versus old - an old brick building reflected in windows of modern new facade

Image Credits: hopsalka (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Cities are bustling hubs where people live, work and play. When the pandemic hit, some people fled major metropolitan markets for smaller towns — raising questions about the future validity of cities.

But those who predicted that COVID-19 would destroy major urban communities might want to stop shorting the resilience of these municipalities and start going long on what the post-pandemic future looks like.

The NFT craze will be a boon for lawyers

3d rendering of pink piggy bank standing on sounding block with gavel lying beside on light-blue background with copy space. Money matters. Lawsuit for money. Auction bids.

Image Credits: Gearstd (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding copyright issues, fraud and adult content, and legal implications are the crux of the NFT trend.

Whether a court would protect the receipt-holder’s ownership over a given file depends on a variety of factors. All of these concerns mean artists may need to lawyer up.

Viewing Cazoo’s proposed SPAC debut through Carvana’s windshield

It’s a reasonable question: Why would anyone pay that much for Cazoo today if Carvana is more profitable and whatnot? Well, growth. That’s the argument anyway.

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/02/extra-crunch-roundup-tonal-ec-1-deliveroos-rocky-ipo-is-substack-really-worth-650m/

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