CIOs would love to centralize technology purchasing decisions with a handful of strategic partners, but the reality is that incumbent technology providers can’t always address all of IT’s needs, especially when it comes to emerging technologies.
That is why enterprise startups have always played a crucial role in IT portfolios. These days many CIOs regularly travel to Silicon Valley where venture capitalists invite them to meet their portfolio companies to assess fit. Some enterprises engage reverse-pitching, hosting events in which they identify a need and challenge startups to develop fit-for-purpose solutions. Still others learn of promising startups from peers who have vetted them for their own companies.
Connecting with entrepreneurs is the easy part; the hard part is rolling the dice on a johnny-come-lately startup that could go bankrupt from a few bad business moves. No matter how strong the pedigree of a startup’s founders, CIOs know there are no guarantees. CIO.com is here to help, offering a peek at several hot tech startups that could boost your digital business in key areas.
Continuous delivery of software remains a huge challenge in the burgeoning DevOps era. Harness, which launched early this year with $20 million in Series A funding led by Menlo Ventures, is tackling that problem.
Harness software automates the continuous deployment of code. Mark Sost, engineering and product lead at SoulCycle, counts himself among Harness’s happy customers. To help support hundreds of thousands users of SoulCycle’s mobile application and website, Sost knew he needed a more fungible software development model.
SoulCycle opted for services-oriented architecture, running Docker containers atop Google’s Kubernetes orchestration software, Sost tells CIO.com. To help automate software delivery, Sost selected Harness for its intelligent automation features, including automated rollback, as well as support for customization.
Sost credited Harness for being responsive to his needs. For example, when SoulCycle requested cluster-level support, Harness added it the next day. “When we hit a roadblock, they come up with a solution,” Sost says. With Harness, SoulCycle has reduced quality assurance and verification time for deployments by 80 percent.
Few CIOs may know what a “knowledge graph” is today, but that may change if Enigma Technologies continues to gain traction. The company’s software maps digital connections between entities, such as people, places and things.
Knowledge graphs, which underpin the logic in enterprise networks such as Google’s G Suite and Microsoft Office 365, are considered crucial in lending context to AI.
MetLife is working with Enigma to explore ways to anticipate and reduce potentially risky customer behaviors and to spot other conditions that can increase risk, says Greg Baxter, the insurance company’s chief digital officer. “The insights you can gain become almost unlimited or only limited by our imagination,” Baxter says.
Tresata uses AI to power customer intelligence management software that helps enterprises analyze customer identity, marketing, fraud and risk. This month the company nabbed $50 million from GCP Capital Partners, according to SiliconAngle.
“We are extremely impressed by the data automation and software business that Tresata has built, which we view as a truly disruptive technology innovator targeting a large and high-growth marketplace,” says Robert H. Niehaus, chairman and founder of GCP Capital Partners.
Snowflake Computing is one of the best-known of an emerging class of startups. Customers such as Capital One, which has invested $5 million in and is the using company’s cloud data warehouse software to process anything from fraud alerts to credit reviews, would say it’s already arrived.
Regardless, Snowflake’s financial position suggests it’s not going anywhere soon. The company, which runs on public cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, this month raised a new $450 million round led by Sequoia Capital, according to GeekWire.
Existing investors, such as Madrona Venture Group, participated in the round, which helped boost the company’s valuation to nearly $3.5 billion. Other Snowflake customers include Sony Pictures, EA, Instacart and Logitech.
Hypergiant, a startup that emerged from stealth earlier this year, makes AI software that powers TGI Fridays Flanagan “virtual bartender,” which helps guests create their own cocktails. The startup, which has divisions targeting enterprise, research and development and venture capital, was founded by Ben Lamm.
As it happens, Lamm has proved to be a master of creating innovative companies and selling them. Lamm previously founded and sold design concern Chaotic Moon Studios to Accenture, and gaming company Team Chaos to Zynga.
Earlier this month, Lamm sold chatbot darling Conversable to LivePerson. Hypergiant has received funding from Mythic Ventures, Align Capital Partners and Beringer Capital.
Another startup showing the great promise of chatbots is Intercom, whose customer intelligence software enables companies to better communicate with their customers.
The company this month launched Answer Bot, which uses machine-learning algorithms to study a company’s most common questions and answers in an effort to help suggest common responses on its own, according to Forbes.
Earlier this year, Intercom, whose customers include Shopify, Expensify and Trunk Club, banked $125 million in Series D funding from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, which led the round, as well as contributions from Google Ventures and others.
Rigetti Computing is one of the key startups fueling the red-hot market for quantum computing, which stores and processes information using individual photons, enabling dramatically greater computational power and energy efficiency.
Founded by Chad Rigetti, the company in September launched a cloud computing platform that will feature access to hybrid computing systems — both Rigetti’s own quantum processors as well as traditional servers — co-located at its data centers, according to Forbes.
Rigetti Computing banked $64 million in Series A and B funding rounds led by Andreessen Horowitz and Vy Capital, respectively.
Startup ThetaRay is using AI-based analytics to detect and prevent cybercrime and bolster operational efficiency. ThetaRay uses machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence technology to detect systemic anomalies in real-time, helping financial institutions identify and thwart money laundering and other malicious acts.
ThetaRay recently capped a fundraising round of over $30 million led by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), GE, Bank Hapoalim, OurCrowd and SVB Investments.
“Financial crime, money laundering, fraud and advanced integrated cyberattacks on financial institutions pose a growing systemic risk that has already put banks out of business,” stated Yoav Tzruya, general partner at JVP and founding investor of ThetaRay.
Its name may sound like something that Harry Potter and his friends might yell at Voldemort, wand-arm outstretched. But Demisto is serious about stopping cyberthreats with SOAR, which stands for Security Orchestration, Automation and Response, a model for how enterprises coordinate teams and technologies for defending against hackers and other digital threats.
Demisto’s platform includes a visual dashboard that centralizes all the information being generated by the range of security products deployed, and fires off notifications to appropriate cyberstaff when there is a potential security issue, according to VentureBeat. The company this month raised $43 million in a round led by Greylock Partners.
Employees in large organizations face a catch-22. Their employers sit on troves of information, most in disparate repositories, making it difficult to access. Spoke has developed an application corporate employees can use to query HR, IT, sales, marketing and other departments. Employees can log a question about healthcare benefits or IT help via SMS, web app email or a Spoke chatbot residing in Slack. If the app can’t answer a query it will alert an assigned domain expert, who will answer within Spoke. Spoke’s machine learning algorithms in turn will “remember” answers, adding a human curation element to the tool.
Spoke CEO Jay Srinivasan said the idea to launch Spoke came from struggling to find internal corporate information at Google, which he joined in 2014 after selling his company Appurify in 2014. “Even at Google, as a new employee on a team of 30 employees, it was hard to figure out how to get basic things done,” Srinivasan told CIO.com.
Eventually, Srinivasan says, Spoke will work with Amazon.com’s Alexa and other tools. Spoke has raised $28 million from Accel, Greylock Partners and other venture capital firms.