Artificial intelligence, it seems, is everywhere these days. From depictions of AI and sentient robots in Hollywood, through to the launch of a multitude of seemingly intelligent apps, AI is definitely a trend that isn’t going away fast. Even if Elon Musk warns against it.
And today Fusemachines, a sales technology company, has launched its artificially intelligent assistant for salespeople, called SAM. SAM, according to the makers, assists with a company’s inside sales process. How?
SAM uses machine learning and natural language processing techniques, rapidly sifting through millions of qualified leads and appointments. It then ranks these with a buying intention metric, which it goes on to use in order to create automated communications, drafting the correct response to the prospect.
In turn, this frees up the sales development rep’s time for booking appointments, and closing deal, rather than manually finding, and nurturing the best leads. And if you think “time” is an irrelevant metric, you might be interested to hear that sales force automation solutions, by an order of magnitude, have the highest cost of ownership of all marketing technologies. Time truly is money — sales role salaries and other burdened costs add up fast.
So where does SAM find all this information, and how does it help to identify purchase intent?
“SAM is finding its leads from internal databases as well as external sources,” Sameer Maskey, CEO at Fusemachines told me. “SAM constantly crawls the web to take snapshot of leads, companies, and events associated with them. The external sources include many publicly available sources including social media sites, personal web sites, company websites and job sites.”
That information feeds the algorithms SAM is based on, which have been developed during both an internal project and a private beta phase.
One concern I had was understanding how SAM works in a team. What if you have ten salespeople working inside sales, and they end up competing with each other for the same, high-intent leads?
“Yes, ten or more salespeople can use the platform — it is designed to be collaborative,” Maskey said. “But they can’t use the same leads at the same time for multiple campaigns. Whenever someone ties a lead to a campaign, SAM automatically sets a flag that doesn’t allow anyone else to attach the lead to his/her campaign until the original campaign is completed.”
And SAM has a smart approach to understanding, and tying, lead sources with the marketing campaigns sent to those leads.
“Most platforms have no notion of how to optimize Ssourcing parameters based on marketing/outreach results besides making intuitive guesses,” Maskey said. “Our system optimizes sourcing parameters based on data generated from outreach experiments. We look at the whole process as a data driven optimization problem that machine helps you perform rather than ‘build me this list, send these emails and see what happens’ approach.”
Currently, SAM integrates with Gmail to mine all the leads, and opportunities, in progress.
“Gmail integration allows SAM to not only build the list of previously contacted leads, but also automatically score the new leads based on similarity with old leads that turned into meetings,” Maskey said.
Fusemachines has not connected SAM to any existing CRM solutions yet, although those integrations are in the works. SAM is available today from Fusemachines, for both new and existing customers.
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GamesBeat 2015 has come and gone, but the videos of our main stage talks live on.
We had a lot of cool talks on topics such as diversity in gaming to the right way to make virtual reality games. The speakers ranged from Kate Edwards of the International Game Developers Association to Tim Sweeney of Epic Games. We aspired to cover the breadth of important business, technological, and cultural topics under the theme of A Game of Thrones. And we captured video from just about every talk.
Here’s the archives of the videos from GamesBeat 2015. Please check them out at your leisure.
French members of parliament (MPs) have voted to give the government extra powers to block online communications when the country is under a “state of emergency.”
The French National Assembly passed Amendment 50 today, which sees the following paragraph included in the legislation [Google Translate used]:
“II. – Minister of the Interior may take any measure to ensure the interruption of any online public communication service causing the commission of acts of terrorism or which glorify.”
Existing legislation already allowed for the control of various media channels, including radio broadcasts, movie-screenings and theater performances. The powers aren’t automatically enabled when a state of emergency is declared, however authorities can specifically call for such censorship if deemed necessary.
Now, with the advent of the Internet age, it seems current control mechanisms aren’t enough, and the National Assembly referred to the Internet now being the “preferred vehicle of radical Islamism and jihadism.”
Technology and terrorism
It’s been a frenetic week in France and across Europe in the wake of the terrorist attacks that left 129 people dead and many more wounded in Paris last Friday. France immediately declared a state of emergency, or “etat d’urgence,” following the atrocities — this was extended to three months.
France’s state of emergency measures stem from a 1950s law that was drawn up around the Algerian war of Independence, and are designed for situations that present “imminent danger resulting from serious breaches of public order, or in case of events threatening, by their nature and gravity, public disaster.”
The law basically gives authorities additional powers, including restricting the movement of people, curbing mass-gatherings, setting curfews, conducting house-searches, and so on. The French President has the power to enforce a state of emergency for up to 12 days — any longer requires approval from Parliament. Parliament can also extend the scope of the measures, and this is what MPs have voted in favor of today.
The terrorist attacks have reignited debates around how technology is used to coordinate and carry out such atrocious actions. Popular messaging apps such as Telegram have come under fire for the way they use encryption to prevent authorities from snooping on private messages Telegram did announce yesterday that it had closed down 78 ISIS-related channels in 12 languages on the platform this week alone. However, that doesn’t stop more channels from opening up.
While governments are pushing to force tech companies to open up so-called “back doors” to their respective systems, allowing governments to intercept communications, many argue that such methods weaken the entire platform and allow any miscreant to gain access. Moreover, signs so far suggest that the terrorist group responsible for the Paris atrocities weren’t actually using encrypted communication during the attacks — they reportedly used plain-old SMS.
However, the intersection between terrorism and technology extends beyond messaging apps. News emerged earlier today that European Union countries are planning a crackdown on “virtual” currencies and other anonymous payment systems in a bid to block terrorist funding.
Today’s vote was almost inevitable given the series of terrorist events this year. Earlier this year, France president Francois Hollande revealed plans to introduce a law that would effectively make Internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter “hate-speech accomplices” if they failed to block messages posted by extremist groups. The move followed the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, when the French satirical magazine was targeted for posting cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. And in August, another major terrorist attack was thwarted on an Amsterdam-to-Paris train.
No details were given on how the French government plans to enforce blocks to Internet communications, but there is only so much authorities can do. Facebook and Twitter will be easy enough to block for the average user, but with the likes of VPNs (virtual private networks) and other privacy-focused communication tools, it’s not too difficult for those with just a little bit of knowledge to circumvent the blocks.
Enterprise software vendor Salesforce is enhancing its Salesforce for Startups program to target early-stage technology companies. Going forward, participants will be able to use Salesforce’s Pardot business-to-business marketing automation service free of charge for a year.
The program, which was first launched in October 2014, also includes free access to Salesforce services like the Heroku platform as a service, the Desk.com service-desk software, and the core Sales Cloud customer-relationship management software.
So why would Salesforce want to add marketing automation to the mix? Because once startups have built their software, they might very well want to grow.
“It’s easier to upsell existing customers than to try to generate new ones,” Ludo Ulrich, the head of startup relations for Salesforce, told VentureBeat in an interview. And Pardot, with its support for email marketing, landing pages, and forms, could come in handy if startups want to inspire their customers to spend more money.
Not that the existing portfolio of services available for participating tech startups wasn’t good enough. The program now includes 3,650 members in 85 countries, with 20 startups accelerators on board as partners.
But Salesforce wants to have 10,000 startups in the program by the end of 2016, Ulrich said.
The program won’t help Salesforce immediately shed its reputation for catering only to enterprises, with lots of handholding from salespeople, but it does ensure the company has a funnel for young companies. Big cloud providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all shower free credits on startups, and now there is a self-serve smorgasbord of tools available from Salesforce.
And even if companies take credits from, say, Amazon Web Services to host their web applications, they might very well need a CRM. Ulrich wants such startups to know that Salesforce welcomes them. “We want you to come,” he said.
BRUSSELS (By Francesco Guarascio, Reuters) – European Union countries plan a crackdown on virtual currencies and anonymous payments made online and via pre-paid cards in a bid to tackle terrorism financing after the Paris attacks, a draft document seen by Reuters said.
EU interior and justice ministers will gather in Brussels on Friday for a crisis meeting called after the Paris carnage of last weekend.
They will urge the European Commission, the EU executive arm, to propose measures to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments and virtual currencies and transfers of gold, precious metals, by pre-paid cards,” draft conclusions of the meeting said.
Bitcoin is the most common virtual currency and is used as a vehicle for moving money around the world quickly and anonymously via the web without the need for third-party verification.
Electronic anonymous payments can be made also with pre-paid debit cards purchased in stores as gift cards.
EU ministers also plan “to curb more effectively the illicit trade in cultural goods,” the draft document said.
Experienced Newcomer Promises to Set New Standard for Satellite Imagery and Analytics
Experienced Newcomer Promises to Set New Standard for Satellite Imagery and Analytics
SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–November 19, 2015–
San Jose-based Hera Systems is revealing its plans to launch the first of the company’s satellites that will capture high-resolution Earth images and video in near-real time. Hera Systems has secured its initial round of investment funding and is set to begin initial launches in October 2016. It will be the only company to collect fresh, intelligent, one-meter and higher resolution imagery and video of any location on the globe, and make these products, along with analytics and derived information, easily accessible on-demand via mobile applications. Hera Systems sets itself apart from other providers by offering the combination of all of these features and capabilities in one affordable package.
This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151119005036/en/
Artist’s rendering of Hera Systems’ commercial one-meter resolution imaging satellite. (Photo: Business Wire)
“What we’ve learned from talking with customers and watching this industry closely for the past 16 years is that people don’t want to go to multiple providers for their imagery and analytics needs,” said Bobby Machinski, CEO of Hera Systems. “Today’s customers want and expect a variety of features and intelligent analytics capabilities from a single source – and they expect a very high value for every dollar spent.”
Hera Systems recently completed its Series A round of investment funding, with Firsthand Capital as the lead investor. The funding has allowed Hera Systems to complete the development of a mockup satellite that demonstrates its technology, purchase components for the construction of the initial satellites, and make commitments to launch opportunities. Hera Systems successfully completed the preliminary design review for the spacecraft – a key engineering and business milestone – late last month.
The company’s initial constellation will comprise nine satellites. Featuring “sun-synchronous” and “inclined orbit” capabilities, these satellites will enable coverage of the entire globe and at varying times during the day. As market demand grows, Hera Systems will expand its constellation to include 48 satellites in order to provide near-hourly updates.
Over the past year, Machinski and his team have focused their energy and resources on developing Hera Systems’ spacecraft design and capabilities, including communications systems and protocols, and the basic architecture for secure data-cloud and supporting web services.
“In the coming weeks, we will announce additional plans for satellites beyond our one-meter system, as well as major partnering arrangements we’re securing with customers,” said Machinski. “Right now, we’re focused on securing additional funding to get us through the next milestones that get us closer to launch.” As Hera Systems prepares for its next round of investments, it is already accepting convertible funding notes.
A group of industry veterans founded Hera Systems in 2013. Machinski serves as CEO alongside Dave Squires, vice president of space systems; and Satish Chetty, vice president of software engineering. Joe Thurgood is vice president of corporate development and marketing. Each brings to the company an average of 20 years of experience in related technology and engineering fields. Complete biographical information is available on the Hera Systems website.
Hera Systems’ staff currently includes nearly 30 team members with deep expertise and over 200 years of combined experience in aerospace and related technology industries. Machinski expects to double his team’s size within the next 12 months.
Hera Systems will primarily serve commercial and government organizations that need to monitor the Earth’s constantly changing features and make smart decisions on a daily basis – for applications ranging from agricultural crop monitoring and infrastructure monitoring, to national security needs assessments.
About Hera Systems
Hera Systems is a satellite information and analytics company that collects images of the Earth every day, enabling commercial and government organizations to monitor change and make smart decisions in near-real time. The company is the only single source of fresh, up-to-the minute, universally accessible, affordable, high-resolution information about any location on the globe. Hera Systems’ initial satellite constellation will enable customers to acquire imagery and video, as well as intelligent analytics and derived information, on demand through a simplified user interface. For more information, visit www.herasys.com.
Linda Lidov, 303-358-6279
The news that Square is pricing its IPO below already-modest expectations might be worrisome enough for the Valley of the Unicorns.
But thanks to some analysis and a little digging by the Wall Street Journal, we have learned that it’s even worse for those startups with bloated billion-dollar valuations than we first realized.
Yesterday, Square said it had priced its IPO at $9, below an expected range of $11 to $13. Ouch.
The problem is that last year, Square raised $150 million with investors paying $15.46 per share. There’s a significant gap between $9 per share and $15.46 per share, for the math-impaired among you.
But wait, it gets worse.
That’s because as part of that funding agreement, the investors were expecting a 20 percent return, which roughly means they expected the stock to be worth more than $18 per share.
So, double the actual offering price.
As a result, Square has to compensate these investors by giving them more stock, about $93 million, according to the WSJ.
Such agreements, in the VC world, are known as “ratchets.”
At this point, we’ve lost count of the number of unicorns, and the term has become nonsensical in any case, given that the planet has an abundance of them at this point.
But while it’s trendy to stay private as long as possible, at some point every VC-funded startup needs an exit so investors can get a return (or not).
And with unicorns like Evernote stumbling, and publicly-traded former unicorns like Groupon imploding in slow motion, it seems to indicate that the stock markets are not super-duper excited about the herd of unicorns roaming the wilds of Silicon Valley, saddled with sky-high valuations.
The leaves M&A, but there’s only so many companies that the Google-Facebook-Apple-Microsoft axis can buy.
It may not yet be time to thin the herd. But don’t be surprised if the unicorns are looking a bit more nervous these days.
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