Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Martech competition confuses investors?
The rise of new data storage and analytics technologies have helped make marketing technology one of the fastest-growing segments in the tech space. But the market has also become flooded with competitors and products.
At the end of December 2015, VentureBeat noted there had been year-on-year, triple-digit growth in the number of martech solutions since 2013. There are about 2000 companies competing in the martech market, offering more than 2500 products.
To put it simply, there’s tremendous confusion in the space, and it may be leading investors to be a bit more selective in the plays they back. VentureBeat said investors poured US$47 billion in funding into 487 organisations in the marketing technology industry in 2014, but that slipped to $17 billion across 313 businesses in 2015.
Using data from VB Profiles, ChiefMartech, Luma Partners and Gartner, the media company also claimed more than US$134bn had been invested in martech in the past five years.
AR startup raises US$793.5 million
That doesn’t mean there the money being thrown at marketing and consumer technology startups has dried up, however.
One such winner in the capital raising race is Google-backed augmented reality (AR) platform provider, Magic Leap, which has secured US$793.5 million in a new funding round led by Chinese ecommerce giant, Alibaba.
The latest round is a who’s who list of notable tech and digital investors including Qualcomm Ventures, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and JP Morgan Investment Management, as well as leading media company, Warner Bros.
According to TechCrunch, the funding brings Magic Leap’s total valuation up to a whopping $4.5 billion – not bad for a vendor with no commercial product yet on the market.
In a statement, Magic Leap founder, president and CEO, Rony Abovitz, said bringing Alibaba on-board as a strategic partner will help introduce its AR products to more than 400 million people served on the ecommerce provider’s platforms. The cash injection will also help accelerate plans to bring Magic Leap’s Mixed Reality Lightfield experience to market.
Salesforce releases Lightning
Salesforce has taken the wrappers off its next generation CRM platform, Salesforce Lightning, which includes built-in Wave analytics, configure-price-quote capabilities from its SteelBrick acquisition last year, and additional field service and omni-channel sales capabilities.
The new-look Sales Cloud Lightning has Lightning Voice natively embedded into the platform, as well as Salesforce IQ Inbox, an extension app that integrates CRM with email and calendar capabilities. Sales Wave App has also been optimised for sales team and includes new dashboards for pipeline trend, plus there are additional sales components on offer such as sales path and account insights.
The repackaged Service Cloud Lighting includes the ability to connect a service workforce with tools for agents, dispatchers and mobile employees and is aimed at integrating the service experience. Omni-Channel Supervisor, meanwhile, gives call centre managers greater insight and visibility into their operations and agents’ workloads and allocate resources appropriately.
Personalisation platform secures US$56m
BloomReach, a startup with a personalised discovery platform designed to help customers make content and products more discoverable through natural language processing and machine learning, has secured US$56 million in funding.
Founded in 2008 by former Google scientist, Ashutosh Garg, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Raj De Datta, the company focuses on a single personalisation platform that includes applications for organic search and personalised site search and navigation, along with marketing and merchandising analytics. These are based on combination of Web-wide and social data, natural language processing and machine learning.
The vendor breaks its products down into two families:
- BloomReach Commerce: Commerce includes BloomReach's Organic Search and SNAP (site search, navigation and personalisation) applications. BloomReach said it drives 10 to 40 per cent lift by algorithmically optimising site experience.
- BloomReach Compass: Compass’ role-specific analytics provide machine intelligence insights, KPI management and action tracking for marketers and merchandisers. BloomReach said it leads to an average $8000 in monthly revenue for each action taken.
The Series D funding came from venture capital firms and SaaS companies including Bain Capital Ventures, Battery Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Salesforce Ventures and a sovereign wealth fund. Marcus Ryu, CEO and co-founder of SaaS provider, Guidewire Software, also joined BloomReach's board.
“Ecommerce is a $3.5 trillion market, and marketing technology is a big force driving that - with personalisation at the core,” commented Neeraj Agrawal, general partner at Battery Ventures and a longtime marketing tech investor, in a statement. “We are just in the fourth inning of the marketing tech revolution. I am impressed with BloomReach's growth and am excited to partner with its management team as the company continues to innovate.”
BloomReach plans to use the investment to further strengthen its big-data technology and scale its business globally for all digital businesses. The company has more than 250 employees and plans to grow personnel worldwide.
Scribblelive Visually aligns its content marketing offering
Content marketing tool, ScribbleLive, has purchased fellow content creation lifecycle platform, Visually, a marketplace that matches clients with creative talent from a network of writers, designers and developers.
In a statement, Canada-based ScribbleLive described Visually as a complementary offering that extends the platform by giving customers new content creation sourcing opportunities. ScribbleLive already has a range of capabilities, such as using data to predict the types of content that will be successful to assisting brands find digital influencers. Visually, meanwhile, creates content for more than 1000 brands including 40 in the Fortune 100.
“ScribbleLive already offers customers the ability to curate live content from the Scribble Marketplace,” the company stated in a blog post. “Now, with Visually, marketers are connected to a network of professional creatives, enabling them to feed the ‘content angry beast’ with the high-quality content it needs.”
Visually CEO, Matt Cooper, continues to lead the Visually marketplace and also assumes responsibility for ScribbleLive’s content marketplace platform. Visually VP of marketing, Ural Cebeci, will expand his role to assume marketing leadership across the combined organisation.
Microsoft gives Yammer to all Office365 users for free
Microsoft has stepped up efforts to expand the reach of its Yammer work social network and is now providing any organisation with an Office 365 subscription free access to the service.
The service will start rolling out to users in waves and automatically activated. Microsoft will also let people sign in to Yammer with the same username and password they use to access all of other Office 365 apps and services. System administrators will, however, have the ability to prevent users from accessing Yammer should they wish.
The first Yammer rollout will just target businesses with fewer than 150 licences and an existing Office 365 subscription that includes Yammer.
Microsoft bought Yammer in 2012 for US$1.2 billion. At the time, it was a high-flying technology startup in the hot enterprise social network space. But it hasn't been taken up widely: Microsoft said that more than 500,000 businesses are using it, up from 200,000 businesses at the time of its acquisition.
Yammer also faces increased competition in the workplace collaboration space. Slack's real-time chat capabilities have made it a popular choice, though that software doesn't replicate the message board and information feed aspects of Yammer's product. However, when Facebook for Work becomes publicly available -- it's now in a closed beta test -- that offering will more closely compete with Yammer's core functionality.
Telco acquires marketing technology firm Tapad
European telecoms and mobile operator, Telenor Group, has taken a big leap into device-based digital advertising and acquired a 95 per cent stake in ad tech player, Tapad, for US$360 million.
US-based Tapad was established in 2010 and delivers cross-device management technology that uses billions of data points from devices and platforms to help recognise, measure and target audiences. The company claims to have 160 of the top US brands using its platform and retains more than 50 data technology licensing partnerships. It also has offices in 13 cities across the US and Europe.
Telenor said the acquisition will give it a solid position within advertising and marketing technology and strengthen its data analytics capabilities significantly. Specifically, the telco is looking to deliver a broad range of relevant, personalised digital services for its customers.
“I believe significant value can be created from applying marketing technology to improve the digital capabilities of our core telecom business,” said CEO, Sigve Brekke. “This will improve our understanding of customer behaviour, and supports building a platform for other business areas.”
Under the deal, Tapad will remain a standalone business, with current CEO, Are Traasdahl, and co-founder and CTO, Dag Liodden, maintaining their positions.
Capgemini to tap artificial intelligence for business services
Consulting group, Capgemini, has struck a three-year global alliance with artificial intelligence company, Celaton, to licence and use its cognitive learning technology across its business services solution portfolio.
InStream is designed to help organisations better handle unstructured and unpredictable data such as correspondence, claims, complaints and invoices that organisations receive via email, social media, fax and printed material. The vendor claims one of its unique features is the ability to learn through the natural consequence of processing information and collaborating with people.
Capgemini is going to put instream to work across its software-as-a-service portfolio to increase efficiency, shorten turnaround times and enhance quality in areas where incoming documents and queries need to be processed, improving overall customer satisfaction. The consulting firm said its extensive knowledge and experience in business process services will also enable Celaton to accelerate and improve inStream’s capabilities.
The deal complements and adds to the launch of Capgemini’s Autonomic Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering last year, founded on best-of-breed technologies to deliver intelligent automation solutions on-demand for enterprises.
Blismedia claims stellar 2015 results and growth
Mobile location tech company, Blismedia, has pronounced 2015 a year of stellar growth and success.
The vendor claimed top-line revenue growth of 90 per cent over last year, and doubled its headcount to more than 100 employees globally. It also expanded its global business to four additional markets – Dubai, Germany, Hong Kong and New Zealand – and is now active across 37 markets and eight offices including Sydney and Melbourne.
The company claims the Blis platform now analyses data from more than 1.2 billion unique devices and stores 1.5bn new location events daily. This data is matched to more than 1.2 million location types and places of interest, such as airport lounges, sports stadiums and shopping malls, as well as combined with time of day plus audience demographic and social data.
“Blis is expanding faster than ever before!”, said VP of Asia-Pacific, Rupert Pay. “2015 was about solidifying our presence, and 2016 will be about going in-depth into the markets, enhancing our current services and expanding across APAC.”
Upsight spies lifecycle management with Fuse acquisition
Mobile apps analytics and automation platform vendor, Upsight, has purchased Fuse Powered, a mobile monetisation and ad mediation platform, for an undisclosed sum.
The vendor claimed the combination of the two solutions under the Upsight brand will enable end-to-end user lifecycle management and tie both data and actionability with revenue. Other features include real-time segmentation and neutral ad mediation.
Upsight tracks and optimises US$2 billion of commerce revenue annually, its CEO, Andy Yang, said. It also handles more than 500 billion data points each month for more than 10,000 mobile apps worldwide and is used by the likes of Warner Bros, Viacom, Electronic Arts and Activision.
“But ad revenue has become an increasingly critical component of the mobile ecosystem for publishers to monetise users,” he said. “With Fuse, we now complete the entire revenue picture and can help our customers achieve harmony between the two streams.”
Upsight was formed following the merger of analytics firm, Kontagent, and PlayHaven in 2013 and is largely focused on mobile game developers. The PlayHaven component of the business was subsequently sold off in 2014.- With additional reporting from Thor Olavsrud and Blair Hanley Frank.