All posts in “scale venture partners”

PerimeterX secures $43M to protect web apps from bot attacks

We know by now that modern website attacks are typically automated, as armies of bots knock on doors until they inevitably find vulnerabilities and take advantage. PerimeterX, a San Francisco startup wants to protect sites from these automated assaults. Today, it announced a $43 million Series C.

The round was led by Scale Venture Partners . New investor Adams Street Partners joined existing investors Canaan Partners, Vertex Ventures and Data Collective in the round. Ariel Tseitlin, a partner at Scale will be joining the company’s board under the terms of the deal. Today’s investment brings the total raised to over $77 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Omri Iluz, co-founder and CEO at PerimeterX says bots have become the preferred way of hackers to attack websites and mobile apps, and his company has developed a way to defend against that kind of approach.It uses an approach called behavioral fingerprinting to blunt these automated attacks.

“Once we gain visibility into the behavior of the user, we are able to discern between normal behavior and an anomalous behavior that looks like it’s coming from an automated tool,” he said. The solution looks at attributes like mouse movements and swipes. It also analyze the hardware to understand the graphics driver and audio driver of whatever device the bot is purporting to be.

To achieve this kind of identification requires massive amounts of data and PerimeterX uses machine learning to help understand normal behavior and shut down anomalous behavior in an automated fashion.

The company was founded in 2014 and currently as 140 employees. Ariel Tseitlin from Scale Venture Partners, who is leading the round, says as companies reach this level of maturity, the Series C money tends to go into sales and marketing to push the revenue pedal and scale the company.

“While there is a lot of opportunity in R&D, generally at this stage most of the dollars are going for sales and marketing, so hiring more salespeople, hiring more marketers more sales ops.
That’s where a big part of the expansion comes from, and that tends to be pretty closely correlated to revenue growth, and pretty closely correlated to just greater growth in general,” he explained

We wrote about Signal Sciences’ funding last week, a company that also works to protect web apps using a firewall approach. Iluz says that the two companies often work together in the same customers, rather than competing because they attack the problem differently.

TechSee nabs $16M for its customer support solution built on computer vision and AR

Chatbots and other AI-based tools have firmly found footing in the world of customer service, used either to augment or completely replace the role of a human responding to questions and complaints, or (sometimes, annoyingly, at the same time as the previous two functions) sell more products to users.

Today, an Israeli startup called TechSee is announcing $16 million in funding to help build out its own twist on that innovation: an AI-based video service, which uses computer vision, augmented reality and a customer’s own smartphone camera to provide tech support to customers, either alongside assistance from live agents, or as part of a standalone customer service “bot.”

Led by Scale Venture Partners — the storied investor that has been behind some of the bigger enterprise plays of the last several years (including Box, Chef, Cloudhealth, DataStax, Demandbase, DocuSign, ExactTarget, HubSpot, JFrog and fellow Israeli AI assistance startup WalkMe), the Series B also includes participation from Planven Investments, OurCrowd, Comdata Group and Salesforce Ventures. (Salesforce was actually announced as a backer in October.)

The funding will be used both to expand the company’s current business as well as move into new product areas like sales.

Eitan Cohen, the CEO and co-founder, said that the company today provides tools to some 15,000 customer service agents and counts companies like Samsung and Vodafone among its customers across verticals like financial services, tech, telecoms and insurance.

The potential opportunity is big: Cohen estimates there are about 2 million customer service agents in the U.S., and about 14 million globally.

TechSee is not disclosing its valuation. It has raised around $23 million to date.

While TechSee provides support for software and apps, its sweet spot up to now has been providing video-based assistance to customers calling with questions about the long tail of hardware out in the world, used for example in a broadband home Wi-Fi service.

In fact, Cohen said he came up with the idea for the service when his parents phoned him up to help them get their cable service back up, and he found himself challenged to do it without being able to see the set-top box to talk them through what to do.

So he thought about all the how-to videos that are on platforms like YouTube and decided there was an opportunity to harness that in a more organised way for the companies providing an increasing array of kit that may never get the vlogger treatment.

“We are trying to bring that YouTube experience for all hardware,” he said in an interview.

The thinking is that this will become a bigger opportunity over time as more services get digitised, the cost of components continues to come down and everything becomes “hardware.”

“Tech may become more of a commodity, but customer service does not,” he added. “Solutions like ours allow companies to provide low-cost technology without having to hire more people to solve issues [that might arise with it.]”

The product today is sold along two main trajectories: assisting customer reps; and providing unmanned video assistance to replace some of the easier and more common questions that get asked.

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In cases where live video support is provided, the customer opts in for the service, similar to how she or he might for a support service that “takes over” the device in question to diagnose and try to fix an issue. Here, the camera for the service becomes a customer’s own phone.

Over time, that live assistance is used in two ways that are directly linked to TechSee’s artificial intelligence play. First, it helps to build up TechSee’s larger back catalogue of videos, where all identifying characteristics are removed with the focus solely on the device or problem in question. Second, the experience in the video is also used to build TechSee’s algorithms for future interactions. Cohen said there are now “millions” of media files — images and videos — in the company’s catalogue.

The effectiveness of its system so far has been pretty impressive. TechSee’s customers — the companies running the customer support — say they have on average seen a 40 percent increase in customer satisfaction (NPS scores), a 17 percent decrease in technician dispatches and between 20 and 30 percent increase in first-call resolutions, depending on the industry.

TechSee is not the only company that has built a video-based customer engagement platform: others include Stryng, CallVU and Vee24. And you could imagine companies like Amazon — which is already dabbling in providing advice to customers based on what its Echo Look can see — might be interested in providing such services to users across the millions of products that it sells, as well as provide that as a service to third parties.

According to Cohen, what TechSee has going for it compared to those startups, and also the potential entry of companies like Microsoft or Amazon into the mix, is a head start on raw data and a vision of how it will be used by the startup’s AI to build the business.

“We believe that anyone who wants to build this would have a challenge making it from scratch,” he said. “This is where we have strong content, millions of images, down to specific model numbers, where we can provide assistance and instructions on the spot.”

Salesforce’s interest in the company, he said, is a natural progression of where that data and customer relationship can take a business beyond responsive support into areas like quick warranty verification (for all those times people have neglected to do a product registration), snapping fender benders for insurance claims and of course upselling to other products and services.

“Salesforce sees the synergies between the sales cloud and the service cloud,” Cohen said.

“TechSee recognized the great potential for combining computer vision AI with augmented reality in customer engagement,” said Andy Vitus, partner at Scale Venture Partners, who joins the board with this round. “Electronic devices become more complex with every generation, making their adoption a perennial challenge. TechSee is solving a massive problem for brands with a technology solution that simplifies the customer experience via visual and interactive guidance.”

A new unicorn is born: Root Insurance raises $100 million for a $1 billion valuation

Root Insurance, an Ohio-based car insurance startup with a tech twist, said Wednesday it has raised $100 million in a Series D funding round led by Tiger Global Management, pushing the company’s valuation to $1 billion. 

Redpoint Ventures, Ribbit Capital and Scale Venture Partners all participated as follow-on investors in this latest round.

The car insurance company, founded in 2015, plans to use the funds to expand into existing markets and make inroads into new states, as well as hire more employees such as engineers, actuaries, claims and customer service to support increased scale. 

Root provides car insurance to drivers. Not exactly a new concept. But it establishes the premium customers based on their driving along with other factors. Drivers download the app and take a test drive that typically lasts two or three weeks. Then Root provides a quote that rewards good driving behavior and allows customers to switch their insurance policy. Customers can purchase and manage their policy through the mobile phone Root app.

Root says its approach allows good drivers to save more than 50 percent on their policies compared to traditional insurance carriers.

The company uses AI algorithms to adjust risk and sometimes provide discounts. For example, a vehicle with an advanced driver assistance system that it deems improves safety might receive further discounts.

“Root Insurance is leading digital innovation in U.S. auto insurance,” Lee Fixel, a partner at Tiger Global Management said in a statement. “This industry is ripe for change, and we are excited to invest in a team that has the expertise, vision, and momentum to deliver real results. We look forward to growing our partnership with Root and helping them expand their footprint across the United States.”

The company has grown from its home market of Ohio into 20 other states in the past two years. The company plans to expand to all 50 states and Washington, D.C., by the end of 2019.

Drive Capital and Silicon Valley Bank are also investors in the company.

Equity podcast: Benchmark sues Kalanick, and what’s next for IPOs after Snap and Blue Apron’s very bad day

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s weekly venture-themed podcast where we dive into the numbers behind the noise.

Forget the summer lull, friends. This week was chock full of news that broke right up until the very last minute. Matthew Lynley was off this week, but Katie Roof and myself were incredibly lucky to have Kate Mitchell, co-founder and partner at Scale Venture Partners on hand to help us shift the weight.

Picking from among the various conflagrations, mistakes, and Softbank-led boondoggles deals, we dove into Blue Apron’s earnings report, which led to a steep decline in its market value. We then turned to Snap’s earnings report, which also led to a steep decline in its market value.

Following the two public companies’ sheepish reports, we moved on to the brand new Benchmark-Uber-Travis Kalanick lawsuit, which may deter the troubled ride-hailing company from finding a proper new CEO. That Travis wants to come back to the company appears correct. That the company’s investors don’t want that also seems correct. To the courts with Uber, then.

And, finally, we spent a few minutes digging into the JOBS Act, and the impact that opening private IPO filings to all firms might have on the pipeline of companies going public.

It was a big week, but Kate was nothing short of a smashing hit. Tune in, and we’ll be right back in seven days.

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