CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 25 November 2021

All the latest martech, adtech and customer technology news from Meltwater, OpenText, Braze, Tapjoy, Narrative Science, Tableau, Anyword, NICE, Google and aqfer

Meltwater buys Oxford Uni AI spin-off

Media intelligence and social analytics provider, Meltwater, has acquired Oxford University spin-off, DeepReason.ai, as part of a long-term plan to launch its own Siri-like data access experience.

DeepReason.ai was established in 2018 and operates in the field of AI known as ‘reasoning’. The genesis for its technology came out of the Value Added Data Systems (VADA) research project, funded by UK research council, EPSRC. The offering now coming to market is a reasoning engine that can maintain incremental views of knowledge graphs, a core element of AI, solving what is can be a costly challenge of updating and maintaining complex knowledge graphs at scale.

Meltwater’s purchase for $7.3 million includes a combination of cash and Meltwater equity, including earn-outs contingent on reaching technical milestones and retention requirements.

Meltwater said it ingests and processes more than 800 million documents daily, extracting new information on over 14 million companies, 50 million public personas and 75 million topics. This knowledge graph incorporates 2 billion connections to conversations around these companies, public personas and topics daily. But as Meltwater executive director Asia-Pacific, David Hickey, pointed out, having the data is only one aspect.

“But it’s the ability to find patterns, connections and insights from the data that is the proverbial needle in the haystack and the sole focus of Meltwater,” he said. “The Deepreason.ai technology will eventually enable Meltwater to deliver an Alexa or Siri-like experience, helping our clients across APAC find exactly what they are looking for through a simple interface. By asking questions like ‘what was the sentiment on my latest press release’ or ‘tell me my share of voice versus my competition’, users will be able to access the answers and insights they need instantly without needing any training or setup work.”

DeepReason.ai has five full-time and four part-time employees, seven with PhD degrees, who will all join the Meltwater team. The DeepReason.ai acquisition will be Meltwater’s fourth since listing on Euronext Growth Oslo in December 2020. Others are business information and community company, Owler; social intelligence player, Klear; and media intelligence provider, Linkinfluence.

Braze makes its IPO debut

Braze stocks rose 44 per cent following the company’s IPO debut on 17 November 2021, raising its stock value to US$520 million on day one.

Prior to debuting on the Nasdaq, the customer engagement tech vendor had confirmed pricing of its IPO of 8 million shares of Class A common stock at $65 per share. The IPO included offering 6.7 million shares of Class A common stock and the selling stockholders named in the prospectus offering 1.3 million shares of Class A common stock. In addition, Braze granted a 30-day option for up to 800,000 additional shares of Class A common stock.

The leap in share price on day one saw Braze’s market value climb to $8.5bn and stock value increase to $93.39. At time of press, the company’s shares were trading at $74.05.   

Braze’s (formerly Appboy) platform allows brands to ingest and process customer data in real time then use it to orchestrate and optimise contextually relevant, cross-channel marketing campaigns. The company is headquartered in New York with offices in Berlin, Chicago, London, San Francisco, Singapore and Tokyo. Braze reported a net loss of $26m on revenue of $104m for the six months to July 31 2021, compared with a loss of $12 million on revenue of $68 million a year earlier, according to filings. Customers includes IBM, DraftKings, Car Next Door and iHeart Radio.

OpenText to acquire Zix Corporation

Information and digital asset management company, OpenText, has acquired Zix Corporation as part of efforts to both strengthen its email security and compliance capabilities and address the SME market.

OpenText has confirmed plans to purchase all common shares in Zix via its wholly owned subsidiary, Zeta Merger, at US$8.51 per share, or a total of US$860 million. The deal is expected to contribute immediately to organic growth in cloud and annual recurring revenues and be accretive to EBITDA.

Zix Corporation provides SaaS-based email encryption, threat protection and compliance cloud solutions for SMEs. The deal follows OpenText’s acquisition and integration of Carbonite and Webroot in December 2019, also both operating in the SME space with security-related offerings.

“We intend to integrate Carbonite, Webroot and Zix products to create a powerhouse SMB platform for data protection, threat management, email security and compliance solutions,” said OpenText CEO and CTO, Mark J. Barrenechea. “Acquisitions of cloud growth assets like Zix highlights our commitment to our total growth strategy and approach to cash-based returns." Barrenechea noted Zix will deepen OpenText’s technology and go-to-market relationship with Microsoft. Zix has 5600 MSPs, also paving the way for cross-sell opportunities in the OpenText and Zix clouds.

OpenText also this week announced it is acquiring network detection and response (NDR) technology player, Bricata, to lift security and cloud protection across its platform and innovate in the growing NDR market. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Tapjoy goes shopping

Mobile advertising and monetisation platform, Tapjoy, has launched its new Tapjoy Shopping in-app marketplace.

The new offering allows consumers to shop from hundreds of brand retailers and earn rewards in preferred apps for each purchase made. It’s based on the company’s core mobile commerce proposition of providing consumers with rewards for engaging in advertising and promotions and is being made available via the company’s network of 10,000 app partners.

Tapjoy Shopping is an exclusive retail complement to the company’s core Offerwall advertising marketplace, which has been around since 2006. This gives consumers social and mobile app currency for engaging with advertising offers such as app installs, surveys and discounts. These are searchable by product category, brands and other filters. There’s also a graphical representation of all relevant offers and the currency value of making each purchase.

For retail brands, Tapjoy said participation is based on a pay-for-performance pricing model.

Tableau acquires Narrative Science        

Yet another acquisition featured in this week’s round-up comes from Salesforce-owned data visualisation vendor, Tableau. The company has purchased US-based Narrative Science, a data storytelling player, for an undisclosed sum.

Ten-year old Narrative Science is focused on helping people understand and act on data sets. Its president and co-founder, Neil Beil, said signing a definitive agreement to be acquired by Salesforce and becoming part of the Tableau team would help it extend its reach and further realise this vision.

“Bringing Narrative Science’s automated data storytelling capabilities to Tableau’s powerful analytics platform will redefine the future of data and analytics,” he stated in a blog post. “Narrative Science has been a partner of Tableau for several years and we are thrilled to deepen that collaboration to help Tableau expand its offerings in a variety of mediums including language-centric mediums like Slack.

“This combination will help us reach millions more people who are underserved with data and will help them be successful in the digital-first world.”  

Narrative Science indicated further product announcements are on the way once the transaction closes. More recent enhancements included automated data storytelling offering, Lexio, which both generates data stories as well as builds out visual representations of them. Last year, the company added augmented data discovery, expanded data ingestion functionality and a dynamic newsfeed to the platform.

Anyword raises US$21m

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform for helping improve marketing copy, Anyword, has secured US$21 million in its latest fundraising round.

The latest round was led by Innovation Endeavors with participation from Lead Capital and Gandyr Ventures. It brings total raised funds by Anyword to date to US$30m. The money will be used to recruit more employees from product to engineering, build out the technology platform and onboard customers.

Anyword launched in March 2021 and uses AI tools such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) to provide predictive metrics around the success of advertising and marketing copywriting, from subject lines to text messages, descriptions and subheads. It does this by using AI to analyse billions of messages and copy across industries, channels and marketing objectives.

NICE and Google Cloud strengthen collaboration

NICE and Google Cloud have described their decision to better integrate platforms as driving smarter digital conversations and improving self-service experiences.

NICE is integrating its cloud-based, AI-powered CXone customer experience platform with Google Cloud Contact Center Artificial Intelligence (CCAI), a group of application programming interfaces (APIs) for contact centre use cases. The pair said the combination will provide businesses with more sophisticated and efficient ways to engage and help customers across digital and human interactions.

For example, NICE’s CXone Virtual Agent Hub allows businesses to expand customer self-service capabilities through conversational bots for voice and chat. By leveraging Google Cloud's Contact Center AI, businesses can rapidly integrate Google Cloud Dialogflow self-service bots without any coding. In addition, those using CXone Agent Assist Hub can now use Google Cloud’s Agent Assist to give employees real-time, automated knowledge support during live chat interactions.

“As AI-powered virtual assistants continue to become a more crucial part of the customer service mix, contact centres want flexibility and choice in deploying conversational AI bots,” NICE CXone CEO, Paul Jarman, said. “NICE’s collaboration with Google Cloud illustrates commitment to innovation and integration with leading providers.”

Aqfer secures US$11m

Our final capital raising story of the week is from marketing data platform startup, aqfer, which secured US$11m in a Series A funding round Led by Resolve Growth Partners.

Aqfer, which was established in 2018, is pitching itself as a next-generation enterprise data platform solution aiming to help companies better get to the truth about their customers and their data. It’s yet another example of the different approaches being taken in the rapidly growing customer data platform (CDP) space.

Like an ‘aquifer’, aqfer said its solution functions as a ‘semi-permeable container’, allowing marketing data to be collected from all existing systems, refined and then distributed to marketing and advertising platforms for use. It also claims to be taking a fresh approach to the CDP proposition by providing detailed data, and an ability for software integrators to procedures while operating directly in the marketing data lake.

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