Google Workspace and Cloud get support for passkeys

A month ago, Google rolled out passkey support to consumer Google accounts. Today, it is extending this to business users, with the open beta launch of passkeys for Google Workspace and Cloud accounts.

Like almost every other major tech company, Google has been waging war against passwords for years. The promise of passkeys is that they are safer than passwords and multifactor authentication because instead of using an authentication code from an app or SMS, passkey users can simply use their phones, desktop or laptops to sign into websites and apps with the same logins they already use for their devices — be that a biometric login or a PIN code. Since users need to have physical access to these devices, it’s also less likely that an adversary will be able to gain access to them accidentally.

Image Credits: Google

Passkeys, like physical security keys, also have the advantage of being resistant to phishing and indeed, the cryptographic protocols underlying the technology aren’t all that different from those of physical security keys.

Google’s own research has shown that using passkeys is twice as fast and four times less error-prone than passwords (no surprise there).

Over the past decade Google has been at the forefront of the battle against phishing and password-related threats, including with our automated defenses powered by Google AI,” write Google Workspace product manager Jeroen Kemperman and Workspace engineering manager Shruti Kulkarni in today’s announcement. “We championed the development of physical security keys and their standardization under the FIDO Alliance. As generally a simpler and more secure alternative to passwords, passkeys represent the culmination of this work to bring phishing-resistant technology to billions of people worldwide.”

As is typical for these Workspace rollouts, Google is rolling this new feature out slowly. Over the course of the next few weeks, admins will get the ability to enable passkeys for their users and skip passwords at sign-in.

Google Workspace and Cloud get support for passkeys by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

After investing $28B in Slack, Salesforce bets on one of its own as new CEO

In a flurry of activity at the end of last year, Salesforce announced that co-CEO Bret Taylor was stepping down. Shortly thereafter, Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield announced his exit. We would soon learn that his replacement would be Lidiane Jones, who at the time was GM of Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Experience Cloud at Salesforce.

While Jones was running essentially the entire B2C business with that title, she was relatively unknown in the industry. Yet she brought with her a deep background that included more than a dozen years at Microsoft and almost four years at Sonos, all of which helped her build a keen understanding of software and product development.

To be sure, she was walking into a difficult situation replacing a beloved founder-CEO, while trying to find ways to bridge the gap between Salesforce and Slack. At the same time those executives were leaving, Salesforce as a company was dealing with a slew of activist investors. One of their primary complaints was a lack of integration between the core Salesforce products and the company’s expensive acquisitions over the last several years.

Of those, Slack was by far the most expensive at a whopping $28 billion. The hope was to bring the platform into the fold and have it be the communications layer across the entire Salesforce family of products. Salesforce has to this point done some integrations between the two platforms but not enough to satisfy critics.

At the same time, Jones still must protect the independence of Slack because it can’t be perceived as being so tightly integrated into Salesforce that it can’t operate outside of the ecosystem.

Nobody claimed the job was going to be easy.

TechCrunch+ sat down with Jones recently at the Salesforce offices in Boston to discuss how her transition is going so far and what challenges she faces as she dives into job.

Welcome aboard

Not long before Jones took over as CEO, The Information ran an expose suggesting that the relationship between the two companies was damaged. The report also stated that Marc Benioff and Butterfield butted heads, the deal was Taylor’s baby, and with Taylor and Butterfield gone, Benioff was less interested in it, a point that Jones disputes now.

After investing $28B in Slack, Salesforce bets on one of its own as new CEO by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

For startups, growth still trumps cloud cost control

There’s room for startups to cut their cloud costs, even if they have to balance the implicit costs of doing so, such as the time required and the potential for slower development. The question then becomes: How much of a priority is finding incremental savings for young tech companies?

A recent survey of founders by TechCrunch+ indicates that a change in investor expectations is spurring startups to take a closer look at their cloud spending and move away from a position more focused on speed than cost efficiency — just not too much.

The changing economy and the resulting impact on both venture capital availability and the price of money keeps showing up in our investigative work. Put another way, rising interest rates are having a knock-on effect on cloud spending at tech companies, and therefore, slowing growth at public cloud incumbents.

TechCrunch+ also recently asked startup founders if new startups should pursue a multicloud strategy. They answered mostly in the negative, with some caveats regarding edge cases.

This morning, we have a sheaf of perspectives to digest, building off our work in late 2022 aiming to understand how startups picked their first major cloud provider and why.

Finding fat to trim

Last year, Boldstart Ventures partner Shomik Ghosh told TechCrunch+ that for startups still “in early product or go-to-market stages, optimizing cloud spend should be the last thing on a founder’s mind besides utilizing as much cloud resource credits as possible.”

For startups, growth still trumps cloud cost control by Alex Wilhelm originally published on TechCrunch

T. Rowe Price has marked down its stake in Canva by 67.6%

Last summer, Blackbird, one of Australia’s largest venture operations, marked down the value of one of its most prized stakes, in the Sydney-based design platform Canva. Valued at $40 billion by investors in a $200 million round in the fall of 2021, Blackbird adjusted its own valuation of the company 36% to $25.6 billion.

Now, T. Rowe Price — the mutual fund goliath that began investing aggressively into late-stage startups nearly a decade ago, continued to fund them throughout the pandemic, and which led that $40 billion round in 2021 — has marked down the value of its stake in Canva even more dramatically, adjusting it downward by a whopping 67.6%. (T. Rowe’s Blue Chip Growth Fund, which owns several classes of Canva shares but predominantly Series A shares, has to date invested $99.1 million in Canva and states in its most recent prospectus, dated March 31, that it now values those shares on a cost-adjusted basis at $32.1 million.)

Asked for comment earlier today, a spokesman for Canva responded that, “Overall, despite the broader market conditions, our metrics continue to rapidly move in the right direction. We just crossed 135 million monthly users, $1.5 billion in annualized revenue and had our sixth year of profitability.”

T. Rowe’s “changes in valuation are a result of [Canva] being marked to market when compared to our publicly listed peers,” the spokesman said.

T. Rowe’s investment in Canva represents a minuscule amount of money for the sprawling investment firm. Its Blue Chip Growth Fund had roughly $53 billion in assets under management at the end of the first quarter of this year, down from $63 billion a year ago, in June 2022.

Still, it’s notable that one of the savviest asset managers in the U.S. thinks a company that was for a time the fifth most valuable startup on the planet is currently worth far less — essentially $13 billion and not $40 billion.

Asked if Canva has adjusted its own, independent 409A valuation to match up with T.Rowe’s assessment — T. Rowe’s markdown is really just its opinion, after all — Canva’s spokesman said its assessment does not match that of T. Rowe but declined to comment further.

Naturally, Canva is far from alone in being emphatically marked down by its backers after soaring to new valuation heights in 2021. Klarna, the Stockholm-based buy-now-pay-later provider saw an even steeper markdown a year ago, dropping 85% from the $45.6 billion valuation that it was assigned in 2021 to $6.5 billion.

Klarna, which proactively accepted its reduced valuation, has since tightened its lending standards and slashed costs, including through repeated layoffs, and says it is now firmly on track” to reach monthly profitability in the second half of the year.

Like so many other outfits right now, both companies are actively being transformed by — and looking to take advantage of — generative artificial intelligence.

In a press release late last week, Klarna credited some of its current momentum to OpenAI, saying an integration with its large language model is “accelerating Klarna’s evolution into a digital financial assistant.”

In an effort to maintain its own leading position in the world of graphic design collaboration, Canva has also integrated generative AI across its product suite, telling Fast Company in March that much of what is now infused throughout has been built in-house through long-term investment and acquisition.

Though Canva also relies partly on major large language models —  it uses them piecemeal, says its spokesman — co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins told FC that it has intentionally relied less on the work of others so that it can promise users that “anything you create in Canva is yours.”

As for AI’s impact on Canva’s valuation going forward, that remains to be seen. While public shareholders will eventually decide what they think the company is worth, an offering isn’t forthcoming, not yet anyway.

Asked about a possible IPO, Canva’s spokesman said today that there are no plans on the horizon. Meanwhile in March, Canva co-founder and COO Cliff Obrecht (who is married to Perkins), suggested to Barron’s that it’s now very much top of mind for the now 11-year-old company.

“It’s not the right market to go out right now. But obviously, it becomes an inevitability at our size,” he told the outlet. “It’s on the horizon, but not on the imminent horizon.”

T. Rowe Price has marked down its stake in Canva by 67.6% by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

Puneet Chandok, AWS India and South Asia head, has resigned

Puneet Chandok, the head of AWS in India and South Asia, has resigned, according to two sources familiar with the matter, a surprise move just weeks after the cloud giant pledged to invest over $12 billion in India by 2030.

Chandok, who served as the President of AWS India and South Asia, joined the e-commerce group four years ago, according to his LinkedIn. His last day at Amazon’s cloud unit is in August, one of the sources said. A broader group of Amazon executives were informed about the move on Tuesday, the source said.

Chatter among industry executives is that Chandok plans to join a rival firm. Sources requested anonymity to talk candidly about non-public information.

India, the world’s second largest internet market, has witnessed a considerable surge in cloud adoption across various industries in recent years, reflecting the sector’s robust growth. Amazon’s cloud division holds a dominant position within the market, boasting a roster of prominent customers.

Google, which like Amazon has two cloud regions in India, and Microsoft, which maintains three, have also expanded their cloud businesses in the country in recent years. The overall India public cloud services market is expected to reach $13 billion by 2026, according to researcher IDC.

Update: After the publication of the story, AWS confirmed Chandok’s departure. Vaishali Kasture, head of enterprise, mid-market and global businesses at AWS India & South Asia, is taking on the role of interim leader of commercial business at the unit effective immediately.

Story updated with confirmation from AWS. 

Puneet Chandok, AWS India and South Asia head, has resigned by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Salesforce could be repositioning itself as a data company

Salesforce reported earnings on Wednesday, and while it wasn’t quite the heady rush of last quarter’s unexpectedly strong offering, it was by all accounts decent. And as far as Wall Street is concerned, the numbers beat analyst’s expectations. Good on them, that always feels like a key investor metric when judging the quality of a quarter.

When you consider the stakes of the prior quarter, when activist investors were circling, the company did well enough to ease the pressure. Now it has to do everything else.

The company’s $8 billion in revenue certainly wasn’t anything to sneeze at. Salesforce grew 11%, down slightly from last quarter’s 14%. Overall, though, the numbers, if anything, look a little mixed with some good news and some not so good: Some parts of the business were growing quite slowly, and perhaps worse, continuing to decelerate.

That said, however, perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of data in the financial report was which part of the company’s core offerings was actually the fastest growing cloud. Probably not the one you think. In fact, it was the newest one: Data Cloud, which launched last year at Dreamforce. (They called it Genie then, but as the company often does when it comes to product names, it changed the name a few months later to Data Cloud.)

Salesforce data broken down by quarter and cloud type.

Image Credits: Salesforce

Perhaps the fact it’s new could account for some of that growth since it’s always easier to grow faster when starting with a smaller number, but it could also signal a focus shift where the data exhaust being generated by the Salesforce family of products could become more valuable than the products themselves, at least in terms of new revenue adds.

At a recent customer event in New York last month, the company’s main keynote focused almost exclusively on generative AI, and that by using Salesforce data instead of the open internet, you could reduce some of the issues around hallucinations where the model makes things up, as well as data ownership and governance problems.

Salesforce could be repositioning itself as a data company by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch raises $6.6M to automate customer support workflows

Working in customer support often means navigating disjointed tools to find data and solve issues. However, many of these actions are routine and repeatable, making them ideal candidates for automation., which is launching out of stealth today and announcing a $6.6 million seed funding round, wants to do exactly this.

The company is rolling out an enterprise-grade, self-learning workflow automation engine that integrates with tools like Zendesk, ServiceNow and Salesforce Service Cloud to assist agents in their daily tasks. But that’s only step one. The company then plans to use all of this data to train machine-learning models to generate AI-led workflows that are tailored to each user’s needs.

8Flow co-founders Josh Russ, Yev Goldin, Boaz Hecht Image Credits: 8flow

“Ultimately, where we are headed is that we’re building a tool that learns what an agent is doing today,” 8Flow co-founder and CEO Boaz Hecht told me. “But in the end, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a support agent, or you’re a finance person, or you’re an HR person, or whatever — the point is, we’re building an engine that learns in order to build a model that is then rich enough to be used.”

Right now, though, the team is still focused on phase one and on optimizing the user interface and experience. Hecht noted that this already helps out agents quite a bit and creates enough value for enterprises to pay for the product today. In addition, it also allows 8Flow to capture data and collect feedback.

“The idea is that we’re capturing data — we’re collecting the feedback — meaning we’re iterating for the agent on what they’re doing,” he explained. “Then, as they do that, we observe what they do and then we create — I almost think of it like building Lego bricks from the bottom up — we learn what bricks need to be built. Once we build the bricks, we learn how you put them together. And once you put them together, we see what you’ve built and we recreate those into pre-built workflows.”

Image Credits: 8flow

Currently, this takes the form of a Chrome extension that can automatically copy and paste relevant data from one application to another. The tool automatically learns common steps for each agent and then presents them as actions they can trigger with a single click.

As Hecht noted, fulfilling an order return, for example, may take dozens of clicks for a support agent, but it should really only be a handful because most steps are about copying and pasting data from one application to another. There are only a few steps where the agent has to make a decision (to issue the refund or not, for example) — and ideally, that’s what a tool like 8Flow allows those agents to focus on.

“8Flow has allowed my team to significantly increase efficiency and accuracy,” said Heather English, a senior customer support manager at FloorFound. “We save hours using 8Flow to eliminate the need to switch between browser tabs to copy and paste data. We’re excited about their roadmap ahead, as each release results in freeing up more valuable time for our team members.”

There’s also an additional benefit here for businesses, as they get data about which tools their agents actually use (and which they can cancel because they aren’t being used) and how they use them.

Image Credits: 8flow

Hecht is no stranger to workflow automation. He was also the co-founder and CEO of SkyGiraffe, an early enterprise mobility platform, which he then sold to ServiceNow in 2017. After that, he stayed at ServiceNow until March 2022, ultimately becoming the VP of Platform, leading the company’s teams that focused on its core platform, mobile, AI chatbots and most employee-facing products. By late 2021, he decided that he wanted to build another startup, though, taking former SkyGiraffe and ServiceNow colleagues Josh Russ and Yev Goldin with him to co-found the company.

While 8Flow’s focus right now is on support agents, largely because that’s the market the founding team knows best, there’s no reason it couldn’t add just as much value to businesses in other verticals as well.

8Flow‘s seed round was led by Caffeinated Capital, with BoxGroup, Liquid2, HNVR and Trilogy also joining the round. A number of prominent angel investors, including former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, Airtable co-founder and CEO Howie Liu, and Snowflake CFO Michael Scarpelli, also participated. raises $6.6M to automate customer support workflows by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

Startups may have room to innovate as enterprise providers puzzle out how to price AI tools

Nearly every tech company seems to be working on AI tooling, and everyone is at least talking about using it. But how the heck are companies going to charge for it?

There’s little clarity on the business model front, which contrasts with the clear optimism on the part of corporate leaders and their customers about the potential impact of new AI technology on their products and markets.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

Regular readers of The Exchange will recall that we touched on this very question in May. At the time, we took a broader view, considering how consumer-focused AI services and AI-powered business services would charge.

This morning, we’re narrowing our focus to the enterprise software space, the target of an enormous number of startups. Let’s start by hearing what the CEOs of Salesforce, Box and CrowdStrike have to say on their AI-related work and customer interest. Then, we’ll go over their answers to industry analysts regarding how they intend to charge for new AI products.

We’ll wrap with a few thoughts on where startups might have an edge and where they probably won’t.

If you build it, they will come

Box, Salesforce and CrowdStrike are very different from one another. Box focuses on enterprise storage and productivity, Salesforce is a CRM giant and CrowdStrike is a cybersecurity company. However, they share a very interesting facet: They store or create lots of data for their customers.

Box, of course, started as an enterprise file storage and sync (EFSS) company, though its remit has expanded with time. Salesforce has oodles of its customer and sales data, in addition to a variety of other information. CrowdStrike has an enormous historical archive of cybersecurity-related data that it uses to help predict and interdict new cyber threats.

Startups may have room to innovate as enterprise providers puzzle out how to price AI tools by Alex Wilhelm originally published on TechCrunch

Back-end development platform Platformatic raises $3.5M

Platformatic, a new back-end development platform, wants to make it easier for enterprises to modernize their infrastructure by giving them the tools to build and deploy microservices-based architectures with the simplicity of a monolith. The company, which was founded by Node.js veterans Luca Maraschi (CEO) and Matteo Collina (CTO), also today announced a $3.5 million seed funding round led by Decibel, with Panache Ventures and a number of angel investors (including GitHub founder Tom Preston-Werner) also participating.

Unsurprisingly, given the co-founders’ background, Platformatic uses Node.js and, maybe even more importantly, the popular Fastify web framework created by Collina, at its core. Fastify is already in use at large enterprises like Capital One, Walmart and American Express and Platformatic essentially takes Fastify and extends it with enterprise capabilities, managed services and a dedicated support team. That’s pretty much the modern playbook for monetizing popular open source projects.

Image Credits: Platformatic

It’s Fastify’s extensibility and plug-in architecture that enables the team to build this new platform, the company explains.

“In today’s digital world, businesses of all shapes and sizes are undergoing digital transformation initiatives in order to keep at pace with the growing need to deliver robust, reliable and scalable software,” write the founders. “However, with application architectures moving from monolithic to distributed, building and operating these distributed backends is becoming increasingly complex. While frontend application development has benefitted from modern frameworks and platforms, backend development has lagged far behind due to its complex and rigid nature.”

The promise of Platformatic is that it abstracts away all of the routine work of setting up the back-end infrastructure, database integrations, authentication, security settings, API gateways, observability and more, and allows developers to focus on writing their code, no matter where it will later run.

“Platform engineering teams keep reinventing the wheel with components that are virtually identical across companies,” said Decibel partner Sudip Chakrabarti. “It holds developers back from building products that make an impact. Platformatic offers the best of all worlds: a great developer experience and peace of mind for enterprises with lower dependency risks and deployment costs.”

The platform includes the Platformatic Runtime and Runtime API for consolidating an enterprise’s Node.js applications and microservices into a single unit; Platformatic Taxonomy for creating a visual map of these microservices and how they are connected; Platformatic Composition for composing these microservices into one ecosystem with a single API; and Platformatic Cloud, the company’s cloud environment for deploying these Node.js applications.

“We plan to build Platformatic such that it just works out-of-the-box and yet provides all the reliability, security and scalability that developers and enterprises so desperately need,” said Maraschi. “Additionally, while the out-of-the-box Platformatic experience provides an opinionated view of how distributed backends should be, it allows for customizations to address bespoke enterprise needs. Our goal is to be ‘opinionated without being prescriptive’ and the rich plug-in ecosystem around Fastify provides the best platform to accomplish that vision.”

Back-end development platform Platformatic raises $3.5M by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

Measurabl, an ESG platform for real estate, raises $93M

Measurabl, a startup developing a platform for environmental, social and governance (ESG) data in the real estate space, today announced that it raised $93 million in a Series D funding tranche co-led by Energy Impact Partners and Sway Ventures.

The round, which Measurabl CEO Matt Ellis described as oversubscribed, brought the company’s total raised to more than $170 million. Moderne Ventures, WVV, Suffolk Construction, Broadscale, Camber Creek, Salesforce Ventures, Building Ventures, Constellation Technology Ventures, Concrete Ventures, RET Ventures, Colliers and Lincoln Property Company were among the others participating.

“This funding allows Measurabl to further enhance its market-leading ESG technologies, expand to new geographies and ensure the real estate industry has the investment grade data necessary to transition to a sustainable, profitable future for all,” Ellis told TechCrunch in an email interview.

Measurabl, founded in 2013 by Ellis, the former director of sustainability solutions at CBRE, the commercial real estate services and investment firm, is riding the wave of startups in the ESG sector attracting serious venture backing. Measurabl offers tools for managing, benchmarking, reporting and tracking the sustainability of a real estate business, from building-level operations to boardroom and capital markets activities.

Measurabl’s tech can automate the collection of electricity, water, fuel, district and waste data from utilities, for example. Or it can maintain social and governance documents alongside environmental data.

“Measurabl’s … solutions are critical for companies seeking to streamline their operations and gain a competitive edge in an increasingly data-driven world,” Brian Nugent, a general partner at Sway Ventures, said in an emailed statement. “As the real estate industry moves towards a more sustainable future, Measurabl’s innovative approach to data management will be essential in providing investment-grade reporting and analysis. This is not just a matter of meeting ESG standards; it is a financial imperative.”

According to a Dow Jones survey, ESG investments are projected to more than double in the next three years, accounting for 15% of all investments by 2025. But recent U.S. political headwinds, such as an attempt spearheaded by Senate and House Republicans to overturn a Labor Department rule allowing retirement plans to consider ESG factors when making investment decisions, threaten to depress the market’s growth.

Case in point: during the final months of 2022, investors pulled nearly $6.2 billion more out of sustainable funds than they put in, according to Morningstar.

Measurabl’s successful financing would suggest that there’s still an appetite for ESG, though. The company’s momentum most likely had something to do with it; Measurabl has over 1,000 customers and claims to be used by 40% of global real estate asset managers.

Another factor in Measurabl’s favor is the increasing pressure on the real estate market to change — often in the form of municipal-level carbon emissions laws. (According to one source, real estate drives roughly 39% of total worldwide emissions — much of it generated by manufacturing materials used in buildings and the rest from the buildings themselves and generating energy to power the buildings.) Estimates out of the U.N. climate conference COP26 suggest that $14 trillion of buildings will be uninsurable over the next 20 years if they don’t meet climate and efficiency standards.

“Measurabl is the world’s most widely adopted ESG data management platform for real estate,” Ellis said. “[Customers use it to] decarbonize buildings, mitigate physical climate risk, comply with regulation and underwrite sustainability risks in real estate transactions.”

Measurabl, an ESG platform for real estate, raises $93M by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch