Microsoft acquires jClarity, an open source Java performance tuning tool

Microsoft announced this morning that it was acquiring jClarity, an open source tool designed to tune the performance of Java applications. It will be doing that on Azure from now on. In addition, the company has been offering a flavor of Java called AdoptOpenJDK, which they bill as a free alternative to Oracle Java. The companies did not discuss the terms of the deal.

As Microsoft pointed out in a blog post announcing the acquisition, they are seeing increasing use of large-scale Java installations on Azure, both internally with platforms like Minecraft and externally with large customers including Daimler and Adobe.

The company believes that by adding the jClarity team and its toolset, it can help service these Java customers better. “The team, formed by Java champions and data scientists with proven expertise in data driven Java Virtual Machine (JVM) optimizations, will help teams at Microsoft to leverage advancements in the Java platform,” the company wrote in the blog.

Microsoft has actually been part of the AdoptOpenJDK project along with a Who’s Who of other enterprise companies including Amazon, IBM, Pivotal, Red Hat and SAP.

Co-founder and CEO Martin Verburg, writing in a company blog post announcing the deal, unsurprisingly spoke in glowing terms about the company he was about to become a part of. “Microsoft leads the world in backing developers and their communities, and after speaking to their engineering and programme leadership, it was a no brainer to enter formal discussions. With the passion and deep expertise of Microsoft’s people, we’ll be able to support the Java ecosystem better than ever before,” he wrote.

Verburg also took the time to thank the employees, customers and community who has supported the open source project on top of which his company was built. Verburg’s new title at Microsoft will be Principal Engineering Group Manager (Java) at Microsoft.

It is unclear how the community will react to another flavor of Java being absorbed by another large vendor, or how the other big vendors involved in the project will feel about it, but regardless, jClarity is part of Microsoft now.


By Ron Miller

Rookout lands $8M Series A to expand debugging platform

Rookout, a startup that provides debugging across a variety of environments including serverless and containers, announced an $8 million Series A investment today. It plans to use the money to expand beyond its debugging roots.

The round was led by Cisco Investments along with existing investors TLV Partners and Emerge. Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub; John Kodumal, CTO and co-founder of LaunchDarkly, and Raymond Colletti, VP of revenue at Codecov also participated.

Rookout from day one has been working to provide production debugging and collection capabilities to all platforms,” Or Weis, co-founder and CEO of Rookout told TechCrunch. That has included serverless like AWS Lambda, containers and Kubernetes and Platform as a Service like Google App Engine and Elastic Beanstalk

The company is also giving visibility into platforms that are sometimes hard to observe because of the ephemeral nature of the technology, and that go beyond its pure debugging capabilities. “In the last year, we’ve discovered that our customers are finding completely new ways to use Rookout’s code-level data collection capabilities and that we need to accommodate, support and enhance the many varied uses of code-level observability and pipelining,” Weiss said in a statement.

It was particularly telling that a company like Cisco was deeply involved in the round. Rob Salvagno, vice president of Cisco Global Corporate Development and Cisco Investments, likes the developer focus of the company.

“Developers have become key influencers of enterprise IT spend. By collecting data on-demand without re-deploying, Rookout created a Developer-centric software, which short-circuits complexities in the production debugging, increases Developer efficiency and reduces the friction which exists between IT Ops and Developers,” Salvagno said in a statement.

Rookout, which launched in 2017, has offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv with a total of 20 employees so far. It has raised over $12 million.


By Ron Miller

CircleCI brings its continuous integration to Microsoft programmers for first time

CircleCI has been supporting continuous integration for Linux and Mac programmers for some time, but up until today, Microsoft developers have been left on the outside looking in. Today, the company changed that announcing new support for Microsoft programmers using Windows Server 2019.

CircleCI, which announced a $56 million Series D investment last month, is surely looking for ways to expand its market reach, and providing support for Microsoft programmers is a good place to start, as it represents a huge untapped market for the company.

“We’re really happy to announce that we are going to support Windows because customers are asking for it. Windows [comprises] 40% of the development market, according to a Stack Overflow survey from earlier this year,” Alexey Klochay, CircleCI product manager for Windows told TechCrunch.

Microsoft programmers could have used continuous integration before outside of CircleCI, but it was much harder. Klochay says that with CircleCI, they are getting a much more integrated solution. For starters, he says, developers can get up and running right away without the help of an engineer. “We give the power to developers to do exactly what they need to do at their own pace without getting locked into anything. We’re providing  ease of use and ease of maintenance,” he explained.

CircleCI also provides greater visibility across a development team. “We are also giving companies tools to get to get better visibility into what everyone is building, and how everyone is interacting with the system,” he said.

Klochay says that much of this is possible because of the changes in Windows Server 2019, which was released last year. “Because of all the changes that Microsoft has been introducing, in the latest Windows Server, it has been a smoother experience than if we had to start the year ago,” he said.

Nathan Dintenfass from CircleCI says that in general, the Microsoft ecosystem has shifted in recent years to be more welcoming to the kind of approach that CircleCI provides for developers. “We have observed a maturation of the Windows ecosystem, and being more and more attracted to the kinds of teams that are investing in really high throughput software delivery automation, while at the same time same a maturation of the underlying cloud infrastructure that makes Windows available, and makes it much easier for us to operate,” he explained.


By Ron Miller

Apple subsidiary FileMaker Inc. changes its name (back) to Claris

Remember Claris, the 1987 Apple spin-off that made applications like MacWrite, MacPaint and FileMaker? In 1998, Apple brought all of those products in-house again, with the exception of the low-code application platform FileMaker . With that move, Claris changed its name to FileMaker Inc. Today, however, the Claris name rises from the dead, as FileMaker Inc. is changing its name to Claris International. The name of the FileMaker product itself, though, remains the same.

As FileMaker Claris CEO Brad Freitag, who recently took over this role from Dominique Goupil, told me, the reason for this move is because the company is starting to look beyond its core FileMaker product. “We’re accelerating our vision and our strategy,” he said. “We’ve described our vision for a long time as making powerful technology accessible to everyone. And with the leadership change, we are really asserting a more aggressive posture in bringing that product roadmap to life.”

Brad

Claris CEO Brad Freitag

To put a point on this and clarify its strategy, Claris is also using today’s announcement to launch Claris Connect, a tool for integrating various cloud services and automating workflows between them. With this, Claris also confirmed the previously reported acquisition of Stamplay, a small Italian startup that makes tools for connecting the APIs of various enterprise tools. Claris Connect is going to be the second product in Claris’ lineup, with FileMaker remaining its flagship product.

FileMaker, the product, currently serves more than a million end users who work at about 50,000 different companies. The company has great brand recognition and has been profitable for more than 80 consecutive quarters, Freitag said, but with its foray into workflow and business process automation, it was time to look for a different brand name.

Although low-code/no-code has been a growing buzzword in the industry for a few years now, FileMaker didn’t really make any waves. That, too, is going to change a bit, it seems, as Freitag actually hopes to expand the business significantly. “As we look out five years, we see multiplying the user community by at least 3x and there’s a pretty clear path to getting there,” he said. “If you look at our business, we’re over 50% outside of the U.S. The market opportunities for us exist in the Americas, as well as Europe and Asia.”

Claris logo rgb blk

Freitag admits that FileMaker was “relatively modest” in its go-to-market posture, so it will expand its brand and category awareness efforts. Chances are then, you’ll hear the Claris and FileMaker names a bit more often going forward (and Freitag stressed that the company remains “100% committed to the FileMaker platform”).

Claris also expects to expand its product offerings going forward — and that may include additional acquisitions. “We are investing heavily in organic innovation as we expand the product lines — and we are open to additional acquisitions,” he said.

FileMaker Inc./Claris is making this move while the overall market for products like FileMaker continues to grow. That’s something Freitag hopes to capitalize on as the company looks ahead. What exactly that will look like remains to be seen, but Freitag noted that the kind of next-generation platform will go beyond the kind of database-driven applications FileMaker itself is known for today and focus on services that support workflow applications. He also believes there is an opportunity for IoT solutions under the Claris brand and maybe, in the long run, augmented reality applications.


By Frederic Lardinois

Mesosphere changes name to D2IQ, shifts focus to Kubernetes, cloud native

Mesosphere was born as the commercial face of the open source Mesos project. It was surely a clever solution to make virtual machines run much more efficiently, but times change and companies change. Today the company announced it was changing its name to Day2IQ or D2IQ for short, and fixing its sights on Kubernetes and cloud native, which have grown quickly in the years since Mesos appeared on the scene.

D2IQ CEO Mike Fey says that the name reflects the company’s new approach. Instead of focusing entirely on the Mesos project, it wants to concentrate on helping more mature organizations adopt cloud native technologies.

“We felt like the Mesosphere name was somewhat of constrictive. It made statements about the company that really allocated us to a given technology, instead of to our core mission, which is supporting successful Day Two operations, making cloud native a viable approach not just for the early adopters, but for everybody,” Fey explained.

Fey is careful to point out that the company will continue to support the Mesos-driven DC/OS solution, but the general focus of the company has shifted, and the new name is meant to illustrate that. “The Mesos product line is still doing well, and there are things that it does that nothing else can deliver on yet. So we’re not abandoning that totally, but we do see that Kubernetes is very powerful, and the community behind it is amazing, and we want to be a value added member of that community,” he said.

He adds that this is not about jumping on the cloud native bandwagon all of a sudden. He points out his company has had a Kubernetes product for more than a year running on top of DC/OS, and it has been a contributing member to the cloud native community.

It’s not just about a name change and refocusing the company and the brand, it also involves several new cloud native products that the company has built to serve the type of audience, the more mature organization, that the new name was inspired by.

For starters, it’s introducing its own flavor of Kubernetes called Konvoy, which it says, provides an “enterprise-grade Kubernetes experience.” The company will also provide a support and training layer, which it believes is a key missing piece, and one that is required by larger organizations looking to move to cloud native.

In addition, it is offering a data integration layer, which is designed to help integrate large amounts of data in a cloud-native fashion. To that end, it is introducing a Beta of Kudo, an open source cloud-native tool for building stateful operations in Kubernetes. The company has already donated this tool to the Cloud Native Computing foundation, the open source organization that houses Kubernetes and other cloud native projects.

The company faces stiff competition in this space from some heavy hitters like the newly combined IBM and Red Hat, but it believes by adhering to a strong open source ethos, it can move beyond its Mesos roots to become a player in the cloud native space. Time will tell if it made a good bet.


By Ron Miller

With the acquisition closed, IBM goes all in on Red Hat

IBM’s massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat closed a few weeks ago and today, the two companies are now announcing the first fruits of this process. For the most part, today’s announcement further IBM’s ambitions to bring its products to any public and private cloud. That was very much the reason why IBM acquired Red Hat in the first place, of course, so this doesn’t come as a major surprise, though most industry watchers probably didn’t expect this to happen this fast.

Specifically, IBM is announcing that it is bringing its software portfolio to Red Hat OpenShift, Red Hat’s Kubernetes-based container platform that is essentially available on any cloud that allows its customers to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

In total, IBM has already optimized more than 100 products for OpenShift and bundled them into what it calls “Cloud Paks.” There are currently five of these Paks: Cloud Pak for Data, Application, Integration, Automation and Multicloud Management. These technologies, which IBM’s customers can now run on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform or IBM’s own cloud, among others, include DB2, WebSphere, API Connect, Watson Studio and Cognos Analytics.

“Red Hat is unlocking innovation with Linux-based technologies, including containers and Kubernetes, which have become the fundamental building blocks of hybrid cloud environments,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, in today’s announcement. “This open hybrid cloud foundation is what enables the vision of any app, anywhere, anytime. Combined with IBM’s strong industry expertise and supported by a vast ecosystem of passionate developers and partners, customers can create modern apps with the technologies of their choice and the flexibility to deploy in the best environment for the app – whether that is on-premises or across multiple public clouds.”

IBM argues that a lot of the early innovation on the cloud was about bringing modern, customer-facing applications to market, with a focus on basic cloud infrastructure. Now, however, enterprises are looking at how they can take their mission-critical applications to the cloud, too. For that, they want access to an open stack that works across clouds.

In addition, IBM also today announced the launch of a fully managed Red Hat OpenShift service on its own public cloud, as well as OpenShift on IBM Systems, including the IBM Z and LinuxONE mainframes, as well as the launch of its new Red Hat consulting and technology services.


By Frederic Lardinois

Google updates its speech tech for contact centers

Last July, Google announced its Contact Center AI product for helping businesses get more value out of their contact centers. Contact Center AI uses a mix of Google’s machine learning-powered tools to help build virtual agents and help human agents as they do their job. Today, the company is launching several updates to this product that will, among other things, bring improved speech recognition features to the product.

As Google notes, its automated speech recognition service gets to very high accuracy rates, even on the kind of noisy phone lines that many customers use to complain about their latest unplanned online purchase. To improve these numbers, Google is now launching a feature called ‘Auto Speech Adaptation in Dialogflow,” (with Dialogflow being Google tool for building conversational experiences). With this, the speech recognition tools are able to take the context of the conversation into account and hence improve their accuracy by about 40 percent, according to Google.

Speech Recognition Accuracy

In addition, Google is also launching a new model phone model for understanding short utterances, which is now about 15 percent more accurate for U.S. English, as well as a number of other updates that improve transcription accuracy, make the training process easier and allow for endless audio streaming to the Cloud Speech-to-Text API, which previously had a 5-minute limit.

If you want to, you can also now natively download MP3s of the audio (and then burn them to CDs, I guess).

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By Frederic Lardinois

CircleCI closes $56M Series D investment as market for continuous delivery expands

CircleCI launched way back in 2011 when the notion of continuous delivery was just a twinkle in most developer’s eyes, but over the years with the rise of agile, containerization and DevOps, we’ve seen the idea of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) really begin to mainstream with developers. Today, CircleCI was rewarded with a $56 million Series D investment.

The round was led by Owl Rock Capital Partners and Next Equity. Existing investors Scale Venture Partners, Top Tier Capital, Threshold Ventures (formerly DFJ), Baseline Ventures, Industry Ventures, Heavybit and Harrison Metal Capital also participated in the round. CircleCI’s most recent funding prior to this round was $31 million Series C last January. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $115.5 million, according to the company.

CircleCI CEO Jim Rose sees a market that’s increasingly ready for the product his company is offering. “As we’re putting more money to work, there are just more folks that are now moving away from aspiring about doing continuous delivery and really leaning into the idea of, ‘We’re a software company, we need to know how to do this well, and we need to be able to automate all the steps between the time our developers are making changes to the code until that application gets in front of the customer,’” Rose told TechCrunch.

Rose sees a market that’s getting ready to explode and he wants to use the runway this money provides his company to take advantage of that growth. “Now, what we’re finding is that FinTech companies, insurance companies, retailers — all of the more traditional brands — are now realizing they’re in a software business as well. And they’re really trying to build out the tool sets and the expertise to be effective at that. And so the real growth in our market is still right in front of us,” he said.

As CircleCI matures and the market follows suit, a natural question following a Series D investment is when the company might go public, but Rose was not ready to commit to anything yet. “We come at it from the perspective of keeping our heads down trying to build the best business and doing right by our customers. I’m sure at some point along the journey, our investors will be itching for liquidity, but as it stands right now, everyone is really [focussed]. I think what we have found is that the bulk of the market is just starting to arrive,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Google Cloud makes it easier to set up continuous delivery with Spinnaker

Google Cloud today announced Spinnaker for Google Cloud Platform, a new solution that makes it easier to install and run the Spinnaker continuous delivery (CD) service on Google’s cloud.

Spinnaker was created inside Netflix and is now jointly developed by Netflix and Google. Netflix open-sourced it back in 2015 and over the course of the last few years, it became the open-source CD platform of choice for many enterprises. Today, companies like Adobe, Box, Cisco, Daimler, Samsung and others use it to speed up their development process.

With Spinnaker for Google Cloud Platform, which runs on the Google Kubernetes Engine, Google is making the install process for the service as easy as a few clicks. Once up and running, the Spinnaker install includes all of the core tools, as well as Deck, the user interface for the service. Users pay for the resources used by the Google Kubernetes Engine, as well as Cloud Memorystore for Redis, Google Cloud Load Balancing and potentially other resources they use in the Google Cloud.

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The company has pre-configured Spinnaker for testing and deploying code on Google Kubernetes Engine, Compute Engine and App Engine, though it will also work with any other public or on-prem cloud. It’s also integrated with Cloud Build, Google’s recently launched continuous integration service and features support for automatic backups and integrated auditing and monitoring with Google’s Stackdriver.

“We want to make sure that the solution is great both for developers and DevOps or SRE teams,” says Matt Duftler, Tech Lead for Google’s Spinnaker effort, in today’s announcement. “Developers want to get moving fast with the minimum of overhead. Platform teams can allow them to do that safely by encoding their recommended practice into Spinnaker, using Spinnaker for GCP to get up and running quickly and start onboard development teams.”

 


By Frederic Lardinois

Slack speeds up its web and desktop client

Slack is launching a major update to its web and desktop today that doesn’t introduce any new features or a new user interface. Instead, it’s almost a complete rebuild of the underlying technology that makes these two experiences work. Over the course of the last year or so, Slack worked on shifting the web and desktop clients (which essentially use the same codebase) to a modern stack and away from jQuery and other technologies it used when it first introduced these tools in 2012.

“We want people to be able to run Slack alongside anything else they’re using to get their job done and have that be easy, uncumbersome, delightful even. So we took a look at the environment we’re in,” Jaime DeLanghe, Director of Product Management at Slack, told me. “I think the other thing to note is that the ecosystem for client-side development has just changed a lot in the past five years. There have been some major updates to JavaScript and new technologies like React and Redux to make it easier to build dynamic web applications. We also wanted to update our stack to fit in with the modern paradigm.”

02 Speed Slack desktop side by side

Over the course of the last few months, the team actually quietly rolled out a lot of the prep work for this move, though the full extent of the work is only going to become apparent once you update the client to the latest version as its the new Electron app that will bring it all together.

Slack promises that this new version will use up to 50 percent less memory than before and that Slack will load 33 percent faster. Joining an incoming call will also be ten times faster now.

A lot of these changes will be especially apparent to users who are part of multiple workspaces. That’s because, as DeLanghe stressed, the team designed the new architecture with the assumption that many users are now part of multiple workspaces. Those used to take up a lot of memory and CPU cycles when you switched between them, as each workspace used to get its own Electron process in the old app. 2019 07 21 1907

In the updated app, Slack went with React to build all of the UI components and instead of waiting for all the data to load before displaying the UI, the new app now lazily loads data as it becomes available.

The result of this is an experience that also now allows you to at least read previously opened channels and conversations when you are offline.

04 Low connectivity Slack desktop side by side

What’s maybe even more important, though, is that Slack now has a modern client to build on, which should speed up feature development going forward. “I’m not going to over-promise,” DeLanghe said. “This removes one of the barriers that any company that’s scaling and building features at the same time has to think about. […] This makes that tradeoff a little bit easier.”

The update will roll out to all users over the course of the next few weeks. That’s because this is a two-part change.  You’ll need both the new desktop application and become eligible for the new version. Some of this is out of Slack’s hands, as your IT department may decide how it rolls out updates, for example.

03 Memory Slack desktop side by side


By Frederic Lardinois

Serverless, Inc expands free Framework to include monitoring and security

Serverless development has largely been a lonely pursuit until recently, but Serverless, Inc has been offering a free framework for intrepid programmers since 2015. At first, that involved development, deployment and testing, but today the company announced it is expanding into monitoring and security to make it an end-to-end tool — and it’s available for free.

Serverless computing isn’t actually server-free, but it’s a form of computing that provides a way to use only the computing resources you need to carry out a given function and no more. When the process is complete, the resources effectively go away. That has the potential to be more cost-effective than having a server that’s always on, regardless of whether you’re using it or not. That requires a new way of thinking about how developers write code.

While serverless offers a compelling value proposition, up until Serverless, Inc came along with some developer tooling, early adherents were pretty much stuck building their own tooling to develop, deploy and test their programs. Today’s announcement expands the earlier free Serverless, Inc Framework to provide a more complete set of serverless developer tools.

Company founder and CEO Austen Collins says that he has been thinking a lot about what developers need to develop and deploy serverless programs, and talking to customers. He says that they really craved a more integrated approach to serverless development than has been available until now.

“What we’re trying to do is build this perfectly integrated solution for developers and developer teams because we want to enable them to innovate as much as possible and be as autonomous as possible,” Collins told TechCrunch. He says at the same time, he recognizes that operations needs to connect to other tools and the Serverless Framework provides hooks into other systems as well.

Screenshot 2019 07 22 09.27.24

The new tooling includes an integrated environment, so that once you deploy, you can simply click an error or security event and drill down to a dashboard for more information about the issue. You can click for further detail to see the exact spot in the code where the issue occurred, which should make it easier to resolve more quickly.

While no tool is 100 percent comprehensive, and most large organizations, and even individual developers, will have a set of tools they prefer to use, this is an attempt to build a one-stop solution for serverless developers for the first time. That in itself is significant as serverless moves beyond early adopters and begins to become more of a mainstream kind of programming and deployment option. People starting now probably won’t want to cobble together their own toolkits and the Serverless, Inc. Framerwork gives them a good starting point.

Serverless, Inc. was founded by Collins in 2015 out of a need for serverless computing tooling. He has raised over $13.5 million since inception.


By Ron Miller

Software development analytics platform Sourced launches an enterprise edition

Sourced, or source{d}, as the company styles its name, provides developers and IT departments with deeper analytics into their software development lifecycle. It analyzes codebases, offers data about which APIs are being used and provides general information about developer productivity and other metrics. Today, Sourced is officially launching its Enterprise Edition, which gives IT departments and executives a number of advanced tools for managing their software portfolios and the processes they use to create them.

“Sourced enables large engineering organizations to better monitor, measure and manage their IT initiatives by providing a platform that empowers IT leaders with actionable data,” said the company’s CEO Eiso Kant. “The release of Sourced Enterprise is a major milestone towards proper engineering observability of the entire software development life cycle in enterprises.”

Engineering Effectiveness Efficiency

Since it’s one of the hallmarks of every good enterprise tools, it’s no surprise that Sourced Enterprise also offers features like role-based access control and other security features, as well as dedicated support and SLAs. IT departments can also run the service on-premise, or use it as a SaaS product.

The company also tells me that the enterprise version can handle larger codebases so that even complex queries over a large dataset only takes a few seconds (or minutes if it’s a really large codebase). To create these complex queries, the enterprise edition includes a number of add-ons to allow users to create these advanced queries. “These are available upon request and tailored to help enterprises overcome specific challenges that often rely on machine learning capabilities, such as identity matching or code duplication analysis,” the company says.

Cloud Migration

The service integrates with most commonly used project management and business intelligence tools, but it also ships with Apache Superset, an open-source business intelligence application that offers built-in data visualization capabilities.

These visualization capabilities are also now part of the Sourced Community Edition, which is now available in private beta.

“Sourced Enterprise gave us valuable insights into the Cloud Foundry codebase evolution, development patterns, trends, and dependencies, all presented in easy-to-digest dashboards,” said Chip Childers, the CTO of the open-source Cloud Foundry Foundation, which tested the Enterprise Edition ahead of its launch. “If you really want to understand what’s going on in your codebase and engineering department, Sourced is the way to go.”

To date, the company has raised $10 million from Frst VC, Heartcore Capital, Xavier Niel and others.

Talent Assessment Managment


By Frederic Lardinois

Tara.ai, which uses machine learning to spec out and manage engineering projects, nabs $10M

Artificial intelligence has become an increasingly important component of how a lot of technology works; now it’s also being applied to how technologists themselves work. Today, one of the startups building such a tool has raised some capital, Tara.ai, a platform that uses machine learning to help an organization get engineering projects done — from identifying and predicting the work that will need to be tackled, to sourcing talent to execute that, and then monitoring the project of that project — has raised a Series A of $10 million to continue building out its platform.

The funding for the company cofounded by Iba Masood (she is now CEO) and Syed Ahmed comes from an interesting group of investors that point to Tara’s origins, as well as how it sees its product developing over time.

The round was led by Aspect Ventures (the female-led firm that puts a notable but not exclusive emphasis on female-founded startups) with participation also from Slack, by way of its Slack Fund. Previous investors Y Combinator and Moment Ventures also participated in the round. (Y Combinator provides an avenue to companies from its cohorts to help them source their Series A rounds, and Tara.ai went through this process.)

Tara.ai was originally founded as Gradberry out of Y Combinator, with its initial focus on using an AI platform for organizations to evaluate and help source engineering talent: Tara.ai was originally that name of its AI engine.

(The origin of how Masood and Ahmed identified this problem was through their own direct experience: both were engineering grads from the American University of Sharjah in the U.A.E. that had problems getting hired because no one had ever heard of their university. Even so, they had won an MIT-affiliated startup competition in Morocco and relocated to Boston. The idea with Gradberry was to cut through the big names and focus just on what people could do.)

Masood and Syed (who eventually got married) eventually realised that using that engine to evaluate the wider challenges of executing engineering projects came as a natural progression once the team started digging into the challenges and identifying what actually needed to be solved.

A study that Tara conducted across some 5,000 projects found that $66 billion dollars were identified as “lost” due to projects running past the expected completion time, lack of adequate talent and just overall poor planning.

“We realised that recruiting was actually the final decision you make, not the first, and we wanted to be involved earlier in the decision-making process,” Masood said in an interview. “We saw a much bigger opportunity looking not at the people, but the whole project.”

In action, that means that Tara.ai is used not just to scope out the nature of the problem that needed to be solved, or the goal that an organization wanted to achieve; it is also used to suggest which frameworks will need to be used to execute on that goal, and then suggest a timeline to follow.

Then, it starts to evaluate a company’s own staff expertise, along with that from other recruiting platforms, to figure out which people to source from within the company. Eventually, that will also be complemented with sourcing information from outside the organization — either contractors or new hires.

Masood noted that a large proportion of users in the tech world today use Jira and platforms like it to manage projects. While there are some tools in Jira to help plan out projects better, Tara is proposing its platform as a kind of virtual project manager, or an assistant to an existing project manager, to conceive of the whole project, not just help with the admin of getting it done.

Notably, right now she says that some 75% of Tara.ai’s users — customers include Cisco, Orange Silicon Valley and Mower Digital — are “not technical,” meaning they themselves do not ship or use code. “This helps them understand what could be considered and the dependencies that can be expected out of a project,” she notes.

Lauren Kolodny, the partner at Aspect who led the investment, said that one of the things that stood out for her, in fact, with Tara.ai, was precisely how it could be applied exactly in those kinds of scenarios.

Today, tech is such a fundamental part of how a lot of businesses operate, but that doesn’t mean that every business is natively a technology one (think here of food and beverage companies as an example, or government agencies). In those cases, these companies would have traditionally had to turn to outside consultants to identify opportunities, and then build and potentially long-term operate whatever the solutions become. Now there is an opportunity to rethink how technology is used in these kinds of organizations.

“Projects have been hacked together from multiple systems, not really built in combination,” Kolodny said of how much development happens at these traditional businesses. “We are really excited about the machine learning scoping and mapping of internal and external talent, which is looking to be particularly important as traditional enterprises are required to get level with newer businesses, and the amount of talent they need to execute on these projects becomes challenging.”

Tara.ai’s next steps will involve essentially taking the building blocks of what you can think of as a very power talent and engineering project search engine, and making it more powerful. That will include integrating databases of external consultants and figuring out how best to have these in tandem with internal teams while keeping them working well together. And soon to come also will be bug prediction: how to identify these before they arise in a project.

The Slack investment is also a notable nod to what direction Tara.ai will take. Masood said that Slack was one of three “big tech” companies interested in investing in this round, and she and Syed chose Slack because from what they could see of its existing and target customers, many were already using it and some have already started requesting closer collaboration so that events in one could come up as updates in the other.

“Our largest customers are heavy Slack users and they are already having conversations in Slack related to projects in Tara.ai,” she said. “W are tackling the scoping element and now seeing how to link up even command line interfaces between the two.”

She noted that this does not rule out closer integrations with communications and other platforms that people use on a daily basis to get their work done: the idea is to become a tool to work better overall.


By Ingrid Lunden

Postman raises $50 million to grow its API development platform

Postman, a five-year-old startup that is attempting to simply development, tests, and management of APIs through its platform, has raised $50 million in a new round to scale its business.

The Series B for the startup, that began its journey in India, was led by CRV and included participation from existing investor Nexus Venture Partners . The startup, with offices in India and San Francisco, closed its Series A financing round four years ago and has raised $57 million to date.

Postman offers a development environment which a developer or a firm could use to build, publish, document, design, monitor, test, and debug their APIs. Postman, like some other startups such as RapidAPI, also maintains a marketplace to offer APIs for quick integration with other popular services.

The startup was co-founded by Abhinav Asthana, a former intern at Yahoo . Asthana was frustrated with how APIs were an afterthought for many developers as they usually got around to building them in the eleventh hour. Additionally, developers were relying on their own workflows and there was no organized platform that could be used by many, he explained in an interview with TechCrunch.

Even big software firms have not looked into this space yet, and many have instead become a customer of Postman. “We are solving a fundamental problem for the technology landscape. Big companies tend to be slower as they have many other things on their plate,” said Asthana.

Five years later, Postman has grown significantly. More than 7 million users and 300,000 companies including Microsoft, Twitter, BestBuy, AMC Theaters, Paypal, Shopify, BigCommerce, and DocuSign today use Postman’s platform.

The modern software development relies heavily on APIs as more businesses begin to talk with one another. According to research firm Gartner, more than 65% of global infrastructure service providers’ revenue will be generated through services enabled by APIs by 2023, up from 15% in 2018.

Asthana said Postman intends to use the fresh capital to scale its startup, products, and grow its team. “We are scaling rapidly across all dimensions. There are many use cases that we still want to address over the coming months. We will also experiment with sales and invest in improving user experience,” he added.

Postman offers some of its services in limited capacity for free to users. For rest, it charges between $8 to $18 per user to its customers. That’s how the company generates revenue. Asthana declined to share the financial performance of the startup, but said its customer based was “growing phenomenally.”

Postman said CRV General Partner Devdutt Yellurkar has joined its board of directors.


By Manish Singh

RealityEngines.AI raises $5.25M seed round to make ML easier for enterprises

RealityEngines.AI, a research startup that wants to help enterprises make better use of AI, even when they only have incomplete data, today announced that it has raised a $5.25 million seed funding round. The round was led by former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google founding board member Ram Shriram. Khosla Ventures, Paul Buchheit, Deepchand Nishar, Elad Gil, Keval Desai, Don Burnette and others also participated in this round.

The fact that the service was able to raise from this rather prominent group of investors clearly shows that its overall thesis resonates. The company, which doesn’t have a product yet, tells me that it specifically wants to help enterprises make better use of the smaller and noisier datasets they have and provide them with state-of-the-art machine learning and AI systems that they can quickly take into production. It also aims to provide its customers with systems that can explain their predictions and are free of various forms of bias, something that’s hard to do when the system is essentially a black box.

As RealityEngines CEO Bindu Reddy, who was previously the head of products for Google Apps, told me the company plans to use the funding to build out its research and development team. The company, after all, is tackling some of the most fundamental and hardest problems in machine learning right now — and that costs money. Some, like working with smaller datasets, already have some available solutions like generative adversarial networks that can augment existing datasets and that RealityEngines expects to innovate on.

Reddy is also betting on reinforcement learning as one of the core machine learning techniques for the platform.

Once it has its product in place, the plan is to make it available as a pay-as-you-go managed service that will make machine learning more accessible to large enterprise, but also to small and medium businesses, which also increasingly need access to these tools to remain competitive.


By Frederic Lardinois