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SD Times news digest: Fastly to acquire Signal Sciences, LDRA launches Secure Software Development Resource Centre, and Dynatrace announces observability for AWS

Fastly entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Signal Sciences for approximately $775 million in cash and stock. 

The acquisition will expand Fastly’s security portfolio through developer-first web applications and API protection solutions, according to the company. 

“Fastly was founded to meet developers’ need for greater visibility and control. Now, as the digital transformation movement continues to accelerate, DevOps teams are struggling with inadequate and inflexible security tools,” said Joshua Bixby, the CEO of Fastly. “Together with Signal Sciences, we will give developers modern security tools designed for the way they work.”

LDRA launches Secure Software Development Resource Centre
The new Secure Software Development Resource Centre is an online portal that guides developers through the phases of the SDLC, including requirements, design, model, code, and verification whether developers are using traditional V-model, waterfall life cycle, or an Agile approach.

“The security resources at our new portal are designed to help companies learn how to build security into their software from the beginning, because attempting to bolt on security after the fact is costly and error prone,” said Ian Hennell, the LDRA operations director. “Preventing vulnerabilities from entering the code during construction cost-effectively addresses the accelerating security requirements of connected devices and systems.”

Dynatrace announces observability for AWS services
Dynatrace said that integrating all AWS services enables organizations to accelerate cloud migration and digital transformation with automation and precise AI-powered answers. 

With these enhancements, Dynatrace will automatically identify and collect metrics from the 95 AWS services currently supported by Amazon CloudWatch. This enriches Dynatrace’s AI-powered answers with the latest services from AWS, including Amazon MSK, Amazon Route 53, Amazon Sagemaker, Amazon Neptune, and Amazon MQ.

Dynatrace-AWS customers not only get all CloudWatch metrics streamed to dashboards automatically, they also gain automatic, self-adjusting baselining, immediate anomaly detection, and precise root-cause determination prioritized by business impact across their entire AWS and hybrid or multi-cloud environment, according to the company.

Windows Terminal Preview 1.3 released
The new release introduces the command palette, which allows users to search through all of the commands available in the Windows Terminal, similar to the one found in Visual Studio Code. 

The release also includes an advanced tab switcher, tab color settings, and new commands that users can add to their key bindings in the settings.json file.

Additional details are available here. The next release will be in September, according to Microsoft. 

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Krisp snags $5M A round as demand grows for its voice-isolating algorithm

Krisp’s smart noise suppression tech, which silences ambient sounds and isolates your voice for calls, arrived just in time. The company got out in front of the global shift to virtual presence, turning early niche traction into real customers and attracting a shiny new $5 million Series A funding round to expand and diversify its timely offering.

We first met Krisp back in 2018 when it emerged from UC Berkeley’s Skydeck accelerator. The company was an early one in the big surge of AI startups, but with a straightforward use case and obviously effective tech it was hard to be skeptical about.

Krisp applies a machine learning system to audio in real time that has been trained on what is and isn’t the human voice. What isn’t a voice gets carefully removed even during speech, and what remains sounds clearer. That’s pretty much it! There’s very little latency (15 milliseconds is the claim) and a modest computational overhead, meaning it can work on practically any device, especially ones with AI acceleration units like most modern smartphones.

The company began by offering its standalone software for free, with a paid tier that removed time limits. It also shipped integrated into popular social chat app Discord. But the real business is, unsurprisingly, in enterprise.

“Early on our revenue was all pro, but in December we started onboarding enterprises. COVID has really accelerated that plan,” explained Davit Baghdasaryan, co-founder and CEO of Krisp. “In March, our biggest customer was a large tech company with 2,000 employees — and they bought 2,000 licenses, because everyone is remote. Gradually enterprise is taking over, because we’re signing up banks, call centers and so on. But we think Krisp will still be consumer-first, because everyone needs that, right?”

Krisp’s smart noise-cancelling gets official release and pricing

Now even more large companies have signed on, including one call center with some 40,000 employees. Baghdasaryan says the company went from 0 to 600 paying enterprises, and $0 to $4 million annual recurring revenue, in a single year, which probably makes the investment — by Storm Ventures, Sierra Ventures, TechNexus and Hive Ventures — look like a pretty safe one.

It’s a big win for the Krisp team, which is split between the U.S. and Armenia, where the company was founded, and a validation of a global approach to staffing — world-class talent isn’t just to be found in California, New York, Berlin and other tech centers, but in smaller countries that don’t have the benefit of local hype and investment infrastructure.

Funding is another story, of course, but having raised money the company is now working to expand its products and team. Krisp’s next move is essentially to monitor and present the metadata of conversation.

“The next iteration will tell you not just about noise, but give you real time feedback on how you are performing as a speaker,” Baghdasaryan explained. Not in the toastmasters sense, exactly, but haven’t you ever wondered about how much you actually spoke during some call, or whether you interrupted or were interrupted by others, and so on?

“Speaking is a skill that people can improve. Think Grammar.ly for voice and video,” Baghdasaryan ventured. “It’s going to be subtle about how it gives that feedback to you. When someone is speaking they may not necessarily want to see that. But over time we’ll analyze what you say, give you hints about vocabulary, how to improve your speaking abilities.”

Since architecturally Krisp is privy to all audio going in and out, it can fairly easily collect this data. But don’t worry — like the company’s other products, this will be entirely private and on-device. No cloud required.

“We’re very opinionated here: Ours is a company that never sends data to its servers,” said Baghdasaryan. “We’re never exposed to it. We take extra steps to create and optimize our tech so the audio never leaves the device.”

That should be reassuring for privacy wonks who are suspicious of sending all their conversations through a third party to  be analyzed. But after all, the type of advice Krisp is considering can be done without really “understanding” what is said, which also limits its scope. It won’t be coaching you into a modern Cicero, but it might help you speak more consistently or let you know when you’re taking up too much time.

For the immediate future, though, Krisp is still focused on improving its noise-suppression software, which you can download for free here.


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The LinkedIn Fairness Toolkit launched to measure fairness in large-scale AI apps

LinkedIn wants to address bias in large-scale AI apps. The company introduced the LinkedIn Fairness Toolkit (LiFT) and shared the methodology it developed to detect and monitor bias in AI-driven products. 

LiFT is a Scala/Spark library that enables the measurement of fairness, according to a multitude of fairness definitions, in large-scale machine learning workflows. It has broad utility for organizations who wish to conduct regular analyses of the fairness of their own models and data, according to the company. 

“News headlines and academic research have emphasized that widespread societal injustice based on human biases can be reflected both in the data that is used to train AI models and the models themselves. Research has also shown that models affected by these societal biases can ultimately serve to reinforce those biases and perpetuate discrimination against certain groups,” AI and machine learning researchers at LinkedIn wrote in a blog post. “Although several open source libraries tackle such fairness-related problems, these either do not specifically address large-scale problems (and the inherent challenges that come with such scale) or they are tied to a specific cloud environment. To this end, we developed and are now open sourcing LiFT.”

The toolkit can be deployed in training and scoring workflows to measure biases in data, evaluate different fairness notions for ML models, and detect statistically significant differences in their performance across different subgroups, the researchers explained. 

The library provides a basic driver program powered by a simple configuration, allowing quick and easy deployment in production workflows. 

Users can access APIs at varying levels of granularity with the ability to extend key classes to enable custom computation. 

The currently supported metrics include different kinds of distances between observed and expected probability distributions; traditional fairness metrics (e.g., demographic parity, equalized odds); and fairness measures that capture a notion of skew like Generalized Entropy Index, Theil’s Indices, and Atkinson’s Index.

The solution also introduced a metric-agnostic permutation testing framework that detects statistically significant differences in model performance – a testing methodology that will appear in KDD 2020. 

Metrics available out-of-the box (like Precision, Recall, False Positive Rate (FPR), and Area Under the ROC Curve (AUC)) can be used with this test and with the CustomMetric class, users can define their own User Defined Functions to plug into this test. In order to accommodate the variety of metrics measured, LiFT makes use of a generic FairnessResult case class to capture results

“While a seemingly obvious choice for comparing groups of members, permutation tests can fail to provide accurate directional decisions regarding fairness. That is, when rejecting a test that two populations are identical, the practitioner cannot necessarily conclude that a model is performing better for one population compared with another,” the team wrote. “LiFT implements a modified version of permutation tests that is appropriate for assessing the fairness of a machine learning model across groups of users, allowing practitioners to draw meaningful conclusions.”

LinkedIn stated that the release of its toolkit is part of the company’s R&D efforts to avoid harmful bias in its platform, alongside Project Every Member and ‘diversity by design’ in LinkedIn Recruiter. 

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Black Founders Matter, a fund focused on Black entrepreneurs, makes first investment

Too often, Black founders are locked out of Silicon Valley before they even have a chance to get started, Marceau Michel, founder of venture capital firm Black Founders Matter, tells TechCrunch.

“It’s important we’re looking at the social justice movement from very different places,” Michel says. “It’s one thing for Black people to not be killed by the police — that’s just the baseline. We still have Black people locked out of economic opportunity.”

That’s why Michel has not given up on his mission to raise a $10 million fund to invest in Black entrepreneurs. Michel and I first chatted back in 2018, when he unveiled the fund. Between then and now, Michel worked for a VC firm in Portland to better understand how the industry works. He also toyed with the idea of launching an incubator for Black entrepreneurs, instead of creating a fund. But what he landed on was that the tech industry needs more deciders, he says. So far, Black Founders Matter has raised about $1 million for the fund.

“We’re not struggling to raise this fund now,” he says. “It’s very tangible and very much in hand. The investors we’re having conversations with understand the importance of the work we’re doing investing in Black and diverse problem solvers make this society better.”

But it didn’t always feel like a feasible goal, Michel says. What makes it feel more achievable today is the heightened attention and conversations around racism in our society, he says.

“Now, because it’s in the national conversation and in people’s minds, these resources are coming in quicker and the investors we’re talking to get what we’re trying to do,” he says. “You can do great work and you can also get profits. Those things are not mutually exclusive. We’ve had to turn investors down that were looking at Black Founders Matter as a charity.”

Last month, Black Founders Matter made its first investment in a company called A Kids Book About, founded by Jelani Memory.

“In a world where we look at how Black lives matter but also how we look at the quality of Black life in this country, it’s about creating access for the community to be able to solve problems,” Michel says.

That’s what the fund’s first investment did. A Kids Book About, which published its first book on the topic of racism in October, helps solve a problem for all communities, he says. Black Founders Matter only invested $40,000, but that figure is more of a reflection of how much space was left in the round. Michel says Memory carved out that space for Black Founders Matter by turning down other checks. Beyond this investment, there are a number of other companies on the firm’s radar, but first, it’s a matter of getting the funds to invest.

“This whole experience of raising this venture fund and working in this space was an exercise in being patient and not forcing it before it was its time,” Michel says. “And now, it’s clearly time and the floodgates have opened. And we’re able to do it with integrity and authenticity. I’m not at a place where I need to convince people anymore. We’re able to have conversations with authority and not from a place of desperation. We’re able to be selective about who invests in our fund. We can be selective and that is a very good sign of the future of Black entrepreneurship.”


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Human Capital: Uber and Lyft’s ongoing battle with the law and a brief history of diversity at Snap

Welcome back to Human Capital (formerly known as Tech at Work), which looks at all things labor in tech. This week presented Uber and Lyft with a fresh labor lawsuit as a judge heard arguments from Uber, Lyft and lawyers on behalf of the people of California in a separate suit brought forth by California’s attorney general. Meanwhile, Snap recently released its first-ever diversity and inclusion report — something the company had been holding off on doing for years. 

Below, we’ll explore the nuances and the significance of these lawsuits, as well as Snap’s track record with diversity and inclusion. Let’s get to it.

Gig life

CA Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman heard arguments regarding a preliminary injunction that seeks to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers as employees

In May, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, sued Uber and Lyft, alleging the companies gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by misclassifying workers as independent contractors. The suit argues Uber and Lyft are depriving workers of the right to minimum wage, overtime, access to paid sick leave, disability insurance and unemployment insurance. In June, plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction in an attempt to force Uber and Lyft to comply with AB 5 and immediately stop classifying their drivers as independent contractors.

This week, more than 100 people tuned in to the hearing regarding the preliminary injunction. The hearing, held on Zoom, initially was only able to hold just 100 people. But the interest in the case forced the court to increase its webinar capabilities to 500. There hasn’t been a ruling yet, but Judge Schulman said we could expect one likely within a matter of days, rather than weeks.

In the hearing, Schulman expressed how hard it is to determine the impact of a preliminary injunction in this case. For example, how Uber and Lyft would comply with the injunction is unknown, as are the economic effects on drivers, such as their ability to earn income, the hours they would be able to work and their eligibility for state benefits, Schulman said.

“I feel a little bit like I’m being asked to jump into a body of water without really knowing how deep it is, how cold the water is and what’s going to happen when I get in,” he said.

Here are some other key quotes from the hearing:

Rohit Singla, counsel for Lyft

The proposed injunction would cause irreparable injury to Lyft and Uber, and would actually cause massive harm to drivers and harm to riders.

Matthew Goldberg, deputy city attorney for San Francisco

We think the parties have drastically overstated precisely what they would need to do to be in compliance with the law.

The other lawsuits against Uber and Lyft

Earlier in the week, California Labor Commission sued Uber and Lyft in separate lawsuits. The goals of the separate suits are to recover the money that is allegedly owed to these drivers. By classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, both Uber and Lyft have not been required to pay minimum wage, overtime compensation, nor have they been required to offer paid breaks or reimburse drivers for the costs of driving.

What these lawsuits share is a core focus and argument that Uber and Lyft are misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors and breaking the law. These two companies have been sued many, many times for their labor practices, specifically as they pertain to the classification of their respective drivers as independent contractors. What’s different about the latest string of lawsuits is that they’re coming in light of a new law that went into effect in California earlier this year that is supposed to make it harder for these gig economy companies to classify their workers this way. The lawsuits are also coming from legislative bodies, rather than from drivers themselves. 

This moment has been a long time coming. Uber faced its first high-profile labor lawsuit back in 2013, when Douglas O’Connor and Thomas Colopy sued Uber for classifying them as 1099 independent contractors. Uber settled the lawsuit several years later in 2019 by paying out $20 million to O’Connor and Colopy, as well as the other class members

Stay Woke

Snap finally releases a diversity report

Snap, after declining to release diversity numbers for years, finally decided now was the time to make them public. Before we jump in, let’s take a quick look at Snap’s history with diversity.

2016: Snap came under fire for a couple of filters that many people called out as being racist. The first was a Bob Marley filter that basically enabled some sort of digital blackface. The second time it had to do with a lens that was supposed to be a take on anime characters. Instead, there was an outcry about Snapchat enabling yellowface.

2017: “We fundamentally believe that having a team of diverse backgrounds and voices working together is our best shot at being able to create innovative products that improve the way people live and communicate. There are two things we focus on to achieve this goal. The first—creating a diverse workplace—helps us assemble this team. We convene at the conferences, host the hackathons, and invest in the institutions that bring us amazing diverse talent every year. The second—creating an inclusive workplace—is much harder to get right, but we believe it is required to unleash the potential of having a diverse team. That’s because we believe diversity is about more than numbers. To us, it is really about creating a culture where everyone comes to work knowing that they have a seat at the table and will always be supported both personally and professionally. We started by challenging our management team to set this tone every day with each of their teams, and by investing in inclusion-focused programs ranging from community outreach to internal professional development. We still have a long and difficult road ahead in all of these efforts, but believe they represent one of our biggest opportunities to create a business that is not only successful but also one that we are proud to be a part of” – Snap’s S-1

2018: A former Snap engineer criticized the company for a “toxic” and “sexist” culture. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel later said the letter was “a really good wake-up call for us.”

2019: Snap hired its first head of diversity and inclusion, Oona King. King previously worked at Google as the company’s director of diversity strategy.

June 2020: Spiegel reportedly said in an all-hands meeting the company will not publicly release its numbers. Snap, however, disputed the report, saying it would release that data.

August 2020: Snap releases its first-ever diversity report showing its global workforce is just 32.9% women, while its U.S. workforce is 4.1% Black, 6.8% Latinx and less than 1% Indigenous.

Snap’s numbers are not good, but also nothing out of the ordinary for the tech industry. What’s novel about Snap’s report, however, is the intersectional data breakdown. You’ll note that the representation of Black women (1.3%) is lower than the representation of Black men (2.8%). The same goes for all race/ethnicity categories. Across all distinct races, there are more men than women. Again, this is not good, but it’s to be expected, unfortunately.

Don’t miss

Black Founders Matter, a fund focused on Black entrepreneurs, makes first investment
Gig workers for Target’s delivery service say tipping glitches are cutting into pay


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Remembering computer pioneer Arnold Spielberg

Computer engineer and the father of the famous filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Arnold Spielberg, has passed away from natural causes at the age of 103.

Spielberg was an electrical engineer known for designing the GE-200 series of mainframe computers at General Electric. He is best known for collaborating on a time-sharing operating system, the GE-225, in the early 1960s, enabling users to interface with one computer to solve simple problems. 

“Unlike the previous computers, the GE-225 — as it was called — was a business computer. It stored its own software, handling the input and output of data. We relocated the factory to Phoenix and sold it within GE as well as to the external market. GE used them for general business applications and some scientific work, but mostly to do business processing. I was in charge of the small-computer-systems group, whose job it was to design the circuits, design the logic, plan the system and put it all together,” Spielberg said in an interview with GE Reports in 2016.

Spielberg was also responsible for designs that computer scientists from Dartmouth College later used to write the BASIC programming language.

Spielberg told GE Reports his interest in electricity came from an early age of playing with magnets and radio waves. “I got my first crystal radio set when I was 9. It’s basically a diode that can detect radio waves, and I played around with it. But I never could get it working until a radio repairman who lived next door helped me set it up,” he said. 

Spielberg also went on to help his son Steven produce Firelight, inspired Saving Private Ryan, and worked on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, among other Hollywood blockbusters. 

He also won the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award in 2006 for real-time data acquisition and recording. 

Spielberg is survived by his children Steven Spielberg, Anne Spielberg, Sue Spielberg, Nancy Spielberg as well as 4 stepchildren, 11 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and countless cousins, nieces and nephews. 

“The name Spielberg brings to mind a movie magician whose blockbusters changed storytelling forever. But Steven Spielberg isn’t the first disruptor in the family. His father, Arnold… helped mold computing — a field whose rise and dominance over all areas of life has no peer in the history of mankind,” GE Reports wrote

 

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WordPress.com launches new P2 to take on internal communication tools

WordPress.com, a division of Automattic, is launching a new product called P2. And this time, it’s all about improving internal communications for private groups. As a remote company, Automattic has been using P2 internally for years to communicate asynchronously. It’s a place to share long-form posts, a repository to keep onboarding documents and other important evergreen documents.

P2 is built on top of WordPress . You can view it as a sort of WordPress for teams that is heavily customized around the concept of sharing ideas with other team members. Companies now rely on multiple internal communication tools. P2 can replace some of them but doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel altogether.

For instance, P2 isn’t a Slack competitor. You can’t use it for real-time chat. But P2 can be used to share important announcements — the kind of announcements that you can find on an intranet portal.

Image Credits: WordPress.com

You can also use it for long-term projects and create your own P2 for your team in particular. In that case, P2 competes more directly with Workplace by Facebook or Yammer. In order to make it more useful for asynchronous communications, P2 has some features that make it more useful than a simple WordPress blog.

For instance, you can @-mention your co-workers to send them a notification and follow posts to receive updates. You can also create checklists, embed PDF documents, stick important posts at the top of the homepage and stay on top of what happened while you were gone. There are dedicated menus to view new posts, new comments and mentions you’ve received.

While you can theoretically access the classic WordPress back-end, you can write new posts, edit existing posts and write comments without ever leaving P2. The company uses the new block editor that lets you add headings, lists, video embeds and media in a visual way. It works a bit like Squarespace’s editor or Notion, and it makes a ton of sense to leverage the new editor right next to content you’re viewing, commenting on, etc.

For content that always remains relevant, you can create documents, which are pages without a specific publishing date and without comments. These documents are sorted in their own category and can be easily shared across a company. You can use documents for internal policies, guides or important contact information. Many companies rely on Google Docs and shared folders in Google Drive for this kind of document. P2 could potentially replace those shared folders and become the main information repository.

By default, P2 sites are private, but you can make them public in case you want to share updates on your product with clients or use P2 for public events.

If you’re familiar with the WordPress ecosystem, you might already know a WordPress theme called P2. The new P2 announced today is a new product that takes that idea to the next level. Automattic has been iterating on the concept and using it widely with its 1,300 employees across 912 internal P2 sites.

WordPress.com is going to offer hosted P2 instances. Anybody can create a P2 for free and invite other people. Eventually, WordPress.com plans to offer paid subscriptions for advanced features. In other words, P2 is going to be a software-as-a-service product. But there will be a self-hostable, open-source version in the future as well.

I played around with a few P2 instances, and the overall impression is that the complexity of WordPress remains hidden by default, which is a good thing. It’s a clean and focused product that would work particularly well in that spot between company-wide emails and announcements getting lost in Slack.

Image Credits: WordPress.com


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Google releases Jetpack Compose Alpha to help build apps across all Android platforms

Android’s Jetpack Compose has reached alpha. It is a modern UI toolkit designed to help developers quickly and easily build apps across all Android platforms with native access to the platform APIs. 

Jetpack Compose focuses on providing APIs for high-quality apps at scale, an intuitive language, and a reactive programming model, the team explained. 

The Compose APIs were designed and developed with a set of canonical sample apps that use the newly-released Material Design. Users can import and explore the latest samples directly in Android Studio as well.

The alpha release includes animations, a constraint layout, initial A11Y support, input and gestures, interoperability with views, lazy lists, and more. The full list of alpha release features is available here.

Android also added new capabilities to Android Studio 4.2 canary in partnership with the JetBrains Kotlin team to help build apps in Compose. 

Jetpack Compose is a fully declarative component-based approach, meaning developers describe their UI as functions that transform data into a UI hierarchy. When the underlying data changes, the Compose framework automatically updates the UI hierarchy, making it simple to build UIs easily and quickly, according to Google. 

When it comes to migrating over to the framework, users can add Compose elements into your existing UI, either by creating an entirely new Compose-based screen, or by adding Compose elements into an existing fragment or view layout or add a view-based UI element into their composable function. 

“Migrating to Compose depends on you and your team. If you’re building a new app, the best option might be to implement your entire UI with Compose. We know that most of you have large existing codebases, so rather than rewriting your app, you can combine Compose with your existing UI design,” the team stated. 

Other additions to the release include MDC Compose Theme Adapter, which allows users to reuse their existing Material Components themes within their Compose UI and powerful tooling in Android Studio.

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ConnectALL Announces Support for Business Outcomes in Its Value Stream Management Solutions

ConnectALL, a leading provider of value stream management solutions, today announced a new feature  ̶  the ability to incorporate OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) into its value stream management solution. The integration of OKR solutions into the software value stream enables corporations to associate business outcomes with code in production.

“Equipping our customers to connect OKRs to software delivery will provide unparalleled visibility into their value streams,” said ConnectALL Chief Operating Officer Lance Knight. “At the same time, we are helping organizations build the right products and services that align to business outcomes.”

“Integrating OKRs into the software delivery value stream enables stakeholders to federate corporate  objectives across the whole value stream and visualize, in real time, the completion of tasks that deliver on those objectives,” Knight continued. “Connecting OKRs to value streams is invaluable to tracking and visualizing that pursuit.”

The ability to connect OKRs to value streams will supercharge ConnectALL’s analytics capabilities, giving business leaders visibility of goal completion across the full value stream. With ConnectALL insights, they can also drill down to see more granular data, connecting OKR’s to associated Epics, features, User Stories, defects and more.

Executives will have visibility from their objectives (and everything related to objectives) all the way down to code in production  ̶  regardless of the tool with which they are being managed. With OKR integrations such as Gtmhub, artifacts will be federated through the value stream to help manage the delivery of key business activities and promote achievement of business outcomes.

Furthermore, the bi-directional synchronization powered by ConnectALL lets teams track the progress of required activities to achieve an objective throughout the software delivery process. At the same time, it will promote outcome alignment across the complete software delivery pipeline.

“Imagine a world where business leaders can effectively track and manage their digital transformations,” Knight continued. “By connecting their value streams to their outcomes, ConnectALL has made that vision come true.”

“We are beginning our foray into OKR solutions with Gtmhub, a top-rated, pure-play OKR tool, but this is just the beginning,” said ConnectALL Chief Operating Officer Lance Knight. “Since ConnectALL can integrate any two software platforms, companies can use OKRs in a way never before possible.”

“They can use them to see how changes and corrections affect an extraordinary array of business and customer service activities in Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, ZenDesk and many, many more,” Knight concluded. “The options are truly limitless.”

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YC alum Paragon snags $2.5M seed for low-code app integration platform

Low-code is a hot category these days. It helps companies build workflows or simple applications without coding skills, freeing up valuable engineering resources for more important projects. Paragon, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 cohort, announced a $2.5 million seed round today for its low-code application integration platform.

Investors include Y Combinator, Village Global, Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital and FundersClub.

“Paragon makes it easier for non-technical people to be able to build out integrations using our visual workflow editor. We essentially provide building blocks for things like API requests, interactions with third party APIs and conditional logic. And so users can drag and drop these building blocks to create workflows that describe business logic in their application,” says company co-founder Brandon Foo.

Foo acknowledges there are a lot of low-code workflow tools out there, but many like UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere concentrate on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate certain tasks. He says he and co-founder Ishmael Samuel wanted to focus on developers.

“We’re really focused on how can we improve developer efficiency, and how can we bring the benefits of low code to product and engineering teams and make it easier to build products without writing manual code for every single integration, and really be able to streamline the product development process,” Foo told TechCrunch.

The way it works is you can drag and drop one of 1200 predefined connectors for tools like Stripe, Slack and Google Drive into a workflow template, and build connectors very quickly to trigger some sort of action. The company is built on AWS serverless architecture, so you define the trigger action and subsequent actions, and Paragon handles all of the back-end infrastructure requirements for you.

It’s early days for the company. After launching in private beta in January, the company has 80 customers. It currently has 6 employees including Foo, who previously co-founded Polymail and Samuel, who was previously lead engineer at Uber. They plan to hire 4 more employees this year.

With both founders people of color, they definitely are looking to build a diverse team around them. “I think it’s already sort of built into our DNA. As a diverse founding team we have perhaps a broader viewpoint and perspective in terms of hiring the kind of people that we seek to work with. Of course, I think there’s always room for improvements, and so we’re always looking for new ways that we can be more inclusive in our hiring recruiting process [as we grow],” he said.

As far as raising during a pandemic, he says it’s been a crazy time, but he believes they are solving a real problem and that they can succeed in spite of the macro economic conditions of the moment.


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