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Whatfix nabs $90M to help workers onboard and get the most out of their IT stacks

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“Digital transformation” has been on the mind of many an organization in the last year: the pandemic and the shift it’s brought to how we work are speeding up investments in new apps, infrastructure and work practices to improve productivity regardless of where we sit all day. Now, it looks like we’re on to the next stage of that journey: actually figuring out how to adopt and run with all that new tech.

In a sign of the times, today a startup called Whatfix — which has built a platform that helps make better use of tech investments by giving chatbot-style guidance to users on how to use apps, with the option also to apply AI to understand what a person is doing to suggest what actions to take next — is announcing $90 million in funding. It will use the money to continue expanding its tech platform and hiring more talent to meet demand, said CEO Khadim Batti, who co-founded the company with Vara Kumar (CTO), in an interview this week.

Sources close to the company — co-headquartered in San Jose and Bangalore — confirmed that the Series D round was made at a valuation of around $600 million, triple Whatfix’s value in its Series C round last year.

That sharp rise is due in part to the state of the market today, but also the company’s growth within that bigger trend. Whatfix today has some 500 global customers on its books, The Netherlands Red Cross, Experian, Sentry Financial Services, Cardinal Health Canada, BMC Software Inc., and Bausch & Lomb among them. Some 75% of its business is coming out of the U.S., with another 18% from Europe. Revenues in the last six months have been growing at a rate of 100% quarter-on-quarter.

“This pandemic has proven an inflection point for adoption,” said Batti (pictured above, left with Kumar, right).

This latest tranche of equity funding is coming from a mix of financial and strategic investors.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 is leading the round, with Eight Roads Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, Dragoneer Investment Group, F-Prime Capital and Cisco Investments also investing. The company has raised just under $140 million in total.

“Digital adoption solutions” — the general term describing what Whatfix has built — have become a popular solution for enterprises that have found themselves in an IT pickle, Batti said.

“We’ve seen more than $500 billion spent on enterprise software, with areas like SaaS growing very fast. There is so much there, and every employee has access to do better work. But most are not adopting or using that software. This means a lot [of inefficiency] in ‘digital transformation,’” said Batti. “We are focusing on fixing this problem.”

Digital adoption and digital experience overall can come in many forms these days.

They include assistants that are embedded directly into apps themselves (with some versions of this — such as Clippy on Word — nearly as old as software itself). The category also includes separate platforms that integrate at the back end with the apps that you use, providing not just a single ingestion point for data but intelligence on how best to use it, and what to use. (Dooly for sales teams is an example of that, although I don’t know if it would describe itself as a “digital adoption solution” per se.)

Others like Pendo are geared more at observing how your sites and apps are being adopted and used by others. And there are a number of others out there specifically looking at digital adoption by enterprises and competing directly with Whatfix: they include Apty, Userlane, Applearn.

One of the biggest — WalkMe — yesterday announced an IPO at an estimated $2.5 billion valuation.

Overall digital adoption and digital experience are big businesses: one analyst estimates that the market is growing currently at a rate of just under 11% annually and will be worth $15.8 billion by 2025.

Whatfix is built around the premise that it sits on top of whatever apps a company may choose to use, and will work with just about any piece of modern software, Batti said. That includes Whatfix being able to provide assistance on apps even when they have been customised for a particular workplace. It most commonly appears like a little chatbot on the user’s screen, like the one in this paragraph, which can expand with more details and information as needed, like this:

The company works with the most popular software packages — including Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Oracle’s CRM platform, ServiceNow, SuccessFactors, SharePoint, Workday — but, since it is used in the form of a browser extension or an overlay integrated by a company’s IT department, it can be used to help guide people with any application that’s available over the web. Batti said that one priority the startup has is to build deeper integrations with specific apps so that Whatfix can be used better across mobile and with local apps in future, not just via the web.

Many might think of “digital adoption” as training someone to use a particular software package, and while Whatfix is used for that, the company has also found a lot of traction as a tool beyond it, providing support on a more regular basis and across a wider variety of use cases, whether it’s to help guide people through app usage, or to monitor what they are doing in order to help suggest what to do next, and even populate relevant fields if “next” means using a different app.

The platform can be used to create usage guides, multilingual support, multi-device support, user tracking and more, and it comes with low-code options (it can be intergrated into an app with a single line of code, the company says).

The company claims its assistants can increase employee productivity by 35%, reduce training time and costs by 60%, reduce employee case tickets by 50% and increase application data accuracy by 20%.

While the field for digital adoption is very crowded today, it’s numbers like these, Whatfix’s own growth, and the fact that software is continuing to get more capable, but also more complex, that have interested investors.

“Digital Adoption Solutions are enhancing the growth and importance of SaaS products for enterprises globally,” said Munish Varma, Managing Partner, SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Whatfix makes it easier for companies to use SaaS products, which increases productivity. Whatfix, with its roster of global clients, is well placed to become a DAS leader, and we are excited to be part of their journey.” Sumer Juneja, Partner, SoftBank Investment Advisers, added: “Enterprises spend billions on applications across multiple functions and yet employee adoption is low. Quick adoption ensures payback on software investments. Whatfix’s solutions will be a key driver for enterprises to achieve this goal, which is reflected in their growth.”

What will be interesting to watch is how platforms like Whatfix’s will evolve over time, and what further functions they might take on. For example, in enterprises, one of the biggest vulnerabilities in security has been how people mistakenly click on dodgy links in emails or otherwise inadvertently pass on information to malicious hackers. Could there be a role for digital adoption assistants to identify when this might happen and alert people before they click the wrong way? Regardless, the question and very existence of loopholes like that are signals for why we’ll probably why we’ll continue to see tools like Whatfix’s around for some time to come.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/08/whatfix-nabs-90m-to-help-workers-onboard-and-get-the-most-out-of-their-it-stacks/

AI

Digital Onboarding: BNY Mellon and Saphyre to Leverage AI to Enhance Customer Experience

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BNY Mellon (NYSE: BK), an American investment banking services holding company headquartered in New York City with over $380 billion in assets, and Saphyre recently revealed that they’ll utilize AI tech to enhance the customer experience while also automating and expediting client onboarding.

This partnership with Saphyre supports the bank’s OMNISM strategy to work cooperatively with Fintechs to better support customers’ investment goals.

Saphyre’s platform has been developed to provide seamless communication between customers and priority stakeholders by enhancing traditional communication methods, like email, fax, and phone calls.

This latest integration between the two firms will allow for improved communication while lowering time to market, and also enabling more efficient international trading.

Caroline Butler, Global Head of Custody at BNY Mellon, stated:

“Time is a finite and precious commodity. BNY Mellon’s work with Saphyre aims to create true savings for our custody clients and truly expedite the client onboarding process. What once took days or weeks, is now near real time. This is yet another example of the digitization efforts BNY Mellon has undertaken in the past two years with a direct client benefit.”

Gabino M. Roche, Jr., CEO and Founder at Saphyre, remarked:

“Having BNY Mellon join the Saphyre endeavor is a great honor. By applying our patented technology to their leading asset servicing operations we’ve demonstrated the ability to intelligently pre-fill client custody packs, allow for digital signatures, auto-setup SWIFT Reporting, Trade Message Routing, and Corporate Action standing instruction – while intelligently and dynamically tracking market requirements and their respective document statuses. In a post-COVID world where AI and digital is paramount, BNY Mellon is fully seizing the innovation mandate.”

Earlier this year, BNY Mellon released a report in which it noted that the bank thinks there’s now real demand for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In its report, the bank clarified that it’s not attempting to derive a price target or formalize “a valuation mode” for these new forms of assets. However, they intend to look into the different “analogies” and “dissimilarities” that may be applied to Bitcoin and “potentially other areas of cryptos.”

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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/06/176551-digital-onboarding-bny-mellon-and-saphyre-to-leverage-ai-to-enhance-customer-experience/

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Passengers Learn To Adapt As Airlines Adopt Dynamic Pricing

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With airlines keener than ever to maximize revenues, dynamic pricing is making inroads into the industry. Not everyone is welcoming the trend, but industry insiders say dynamic pricing can benefit both passengers and airlines.

dynamic-pricing-airline-industry
Like it or not, dynamic pricing is here to stay in the airline industry. Photo: Don Wilson / Sea-Tac Airport

Airlines know a lot about their passengers, dynamic pricing harnesses that knowledge

Dynamic pricing is a process whereby an airline will pitch a fare at you based on what they know about you or think they know about you. Airlines are masters at gathering data. They harvest your frequent flyer data and track your searches and interests online via cookies. Hand over your Amex details to buy a drink inflight or a case of wine from the airline’s wine store and that airline gets an insight into your drinking preferences. Hundreds or thousands of these tracked behaviors all add up.

Log on to the British Airways website (or any airline’s website) after cleaning up your browser, and a message like this pop up.

“By continuing to use ba.com, you will be agreeing to the website terms and conditions and the use of cookies while using the website and our services. Please also read our privacy policy under which, to the extent stated, you consent to the processing of your personal data.”

Airlines already know a lot about their passengers – we’ve largely lost or surrendered that privacy battle. Now, many airlines are harnessing that data and learning to use it to boost revenues. On an individual passenger level, dynamic pricing tries to determine what a passenger is willing to pay to fly from Madrid to Heathrow next Sunday.

dynamic-pricing-airline-industry
Your favorite airline already knows a lot about you. Photo: Don Wilson / Sea-Tac Airport

Just how much will a passenger pay to fly at a certain time on a certain day?

Justin Jander, Director of Product Management at digital commerce platform PROS  says airlines are trying harder than ever to create a sticky end-to-end passenger journey. One way they can do that is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from the past behavior of a passenger. The airline can then attempt to predict what they will do next – including what they are willing to pay for an airline ticket.

“Dynamic pricing is extremely relevant to the airline industry as it allows airlines to break away from the barriers of fare classes with fixed price points,” says Jander. “Imagine a scenario where there are two filled fares, one at $100 and the other at $200. If a passenger is willing to pay $150, the airline either offers that passenger the $100 fare and loses $50 in incremental income. Or the airline can offer the $200 fare and lose the entire $150. Having this flexibility to identify an optimal price point allows airlines to be more effective in capturing revenue.”

We know airlines adjust fares according to broad seasonal factors. We also know an airline will adjust fares to a particular destination at a certain time if a big event is on in that city, say a football final. Equally, airlines will drop fares at off-peak times to stimulate travel demand. Dynamic pricing is about taking this to a more granular, individual passenger level.

dynamic-pricing-airline-industry
Passengers can stand to benefit from dynamic pricing if they learn how it works. Photo: Ontario International Airport

Dynamic pricing can work for passengers

Justin Jander says dynamic pricing can work for passengers as well as airlines. At a basic level, interested passengers can learn how dynamic pricing works and is applied. It’s like learning how frequent flyer, hotel loyalty, or shopping programs work. Once you understand the nuts and bolts of dynamic pricing, passengers can potentially work dynamic pricing to their advantage.

“It is more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain one,” says the PROS Director. “It makes sense for airlines to prioritize getting to know their existing customers.

“For passengers that are brand loyal customers of a particular airline, they will benefit from receiving personalized flight packages based on the AI that the airline has been able to leverage to understand them and their preferences.”

Most airline insiders agree dynamic pricing is here to stay. As the AI behind it gets smarter, so to will dynamic pricing. It will become more subtle and less driven by sometimes clunky algorithms. There always has been and always will be some tension between buyer and seller. Dynamic pricing in the airline industry won’t take that away> But over time, dynamic pricing may become better at fixing the median price that satisfies both airline and passengers.

Do you agree with dynamic pricing in the airline industry? Is it here to stay? Post a comment and let us know.

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Source: https://simpleflying.com/dynamic-pricing-airlines/

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Waabi’s Raquel Urtasun explains why it was the right time to launch an AV technology startup

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Raquel Urtasun, the former chief scientist at Uber ATG, is the founder and CEO of Waabi, an autonomous vehicle startup that came out of stealth mode last week. The Toronto-based company, which will focus on trucking, raised an impressive $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures. 

Urtasun joined Mobility 2021 to talk about her new venture, the challenges facing the self-driving vehicle industry and how her approach to AI can be used to advance the commercialization of AVs.


Why did Urtasun decide to found her own company?

Urtasun, who is considered a pioneer in AI, led the R&D efforts as a chief scientist at Uber ATG, which was acquired by Aurora in December. Six months later, we have Waabi. The company’s mission is to take an AI-first approach to solving self-driving technology. 

I left Uber a little bit over three months ago to start this new company, Waabi, with the idea of having a different way of solving self-driving. This is a combination of my 20-year career in AI as well as more than 10 years in self-driving. Thinking about a new company was something that was always in my head. And the more that I was in the industry, the more that I started thinking about going away from the traditional approach and trying to have a diverse view of how to solve self-driving was actually the way to go. So that’s why I decided to do this company. (Time stamp: 1:21)

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/14/waabis-raquel-urtasun-explains-why-the-time-was-right-to-launch-an-av-technology-startup/

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Listen: How to teach ethics to AI models

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Removing bias from artificial intelligence (AI) models may seem as simple as removing demographic information from the data, but it may be more valuable instead to inform the model about the demographics, then weight them to offset bias. That’s one possibility studies have supported, Stephen Thomas tells Bank Automation News in this episode of “The […]

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Source: https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/center-of-excellence/listen-how-to-teach-ethics-to-ai-models/

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