Drata raises $3.2M for its compliance audit platform

Drata, a startup that helps businesses get their SOC 2 compliance, today announced that it has raised a $ 3.2 million seed round led by Cowboy Ventures and that it is coming out of stealth. Other investors include Leaders Fund, SV Angel and a group of angel investors.

Like similar services, Drata helps businesses automate a lot of the evidence collection as they prepare for a SOC 2 audit. The focus of the service is obviously on running tests against the SOC 2 framework to help businesses prepare for their audit (and to prepare the right materials for the auditor). To do so, it features integrations with a lot of standard online business tools and cloud services to regularly pull in data. One nifty feature is that it also lets you step through all of the various sections of the SOC 2 criteria to check your current readiness for an audit.

At the end of the day, tools like Drata are meant to get you through an audit, but at the same time, the idea here is also to give you a better idea of your own security posture. For that, Drata offers continuous control monitoring, as well as tools to track if your employees have turned on all the right controls on their work computers, for example. Because companies have to regularly renew their certification, too, Drata can help them to continuously collect all of the data for their renewal, something that previously often involved boring — and quickly forgotten — manual tasks, like taking screenshots of various settings every month or so.

Image Credits: Drata

Drata co-founder and CEO Adam Markowitz worked on the space shuttle engines after graduating from college, and then launched his own startup, Portfolium, when that program ended. Portfolium, which helped students showcase their work in the form of — you guessed it — a portfolio, eventually sold to Instructure in 2019, where Markowitz stayed on until he launched Drata last June, together with a group of former Portfolium founders and engineers. Besides Markowitz, the co-founders include CTO Daniel Marashlian and CRO Troy Markowitz. It was the team’s experience seeing companies go through the audit process, which has traditionally been a drawn-out and manual process, that led them to look at building their own solution.

The company already managed to sign up a number of customers ahead of its official launch. These include Spot by NetAppAccel RoboticsAbnormal SecurityChameleon and Vareto. As Markowitz told me, even though Drata already had customers that were using the service to prepare for their audits, the team wanted to remain in stealth mode until it had used its own tool to go through its own audit. With that out of the way, and Drata receiving its SOC 2 certification, it’s now ready to come out of stealth.

As the number of companies that need to go through these kinds of audits increases, it’s maybe no surprise that we’re also seeing a growing number of companies that aim to automate much of this process. With that, unsurprisingly, the number of VC investments in this space also continues to increase. In recent months, Secureframe and Strike Graph announced their own funding rounds, for example.

Image Credits: Drata

Startups – TechCrunch

Human AI nabs $3.2M seed to build personal intelligence platform

The last we heard from Luther.ai, the startup was participating in the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in September. The company got a lot of attention from that appearance, which culminated in a $ 3.2 million seed round it announced today. While they were at it, the founders decided to change the company name to Human AI, which they believe better reflects their mission.

Differential VC led the round, joined by Village Global VC, Good Friends VC, Beni VC and Keshif Ventures. David Magerman from Differential will join the startup’s board.

The investors were attracted to Human AI’s personalized kind of artificial intelligence, and co-founder and CEO Suman Kanuganti says the Battlefield appearance led directly to investor interest, which quickly resulted in a deal four weeks later.

“I think overall the messaging of what we delivered at TechCrunch Disrupt regarding an individual personal AI that is secured by blockchain to retain and recall [information] really set the stage for what the company is all about, both from a user standpoint as well as from an investor standpoint,” Kanuganti told me.

As for the name change, he reported that there was some confusion in the market that Luther was an AI assistant like Alexa or a chatbot, and the founders wanted the name to better reflect the personalized nature of the product.

“We are creating AI for the individual and there is so much emphasis on the authenticity and the voice and the thoughts of an individual, and how we also use blockchain to secure ownership of the data. So most of the principle lies in creating this AI for an individual human. So we thought, let’s call it Human AI,” he explained.

As Kanuganti described it in September, the tool allows individuals to search for nuggets of information from past events using a variety of AI technologies:

It’s made possible through a convergence of neuroscience, NLP and blockchain to deliver seamless in-the-moment recall. GPT-3 is built on the memories of the public internet, while Luther is built on the memories of your private self.

The company is still in the process of refining the product and finding its audience, but reports that so far they have found interest from creative people such as writers, professionals such as therapists, high-tech workers interested in AI, students looking to track school work and seniors looking for a way to track their memories for memoir purposes. All of these groups have the common theme of having to find nuggets of information from a ton of signals, and that’s where Human AI’s strength lies.

The company’s diverse founding team includes two women, CTO Sharon Zhang and designer Kristie Kaiser, along with Kanuganti, who is himself an immigrant. The founders want to continue building a diverse organization as they add employees. “I think in general we just want to attract a diverse kind of talent, especially because we are also Human AI and we believe that everyone should have the same opportunity,” Zhang told me.

The company currently has seven full-time employees and a dozen consultants, but with the new funding is looking to hire engineers and AI talent and a head of marketing to push the notion of consumer AI. While the company is remote today and has employees around the world, it will look to build a headquarters at some point post-COVID where some percentage of the employees can work in the same space together.

Startups – TechCrunch

Roots Automation Raises $3.2M to Make Bots Your Digital Coworkers at Scale

The most agile and innovative companies will rely on AI-powered digital “coworkers” alongside creative humans to enhance productivity and increase profits. Roots Automation has built the first zero integration, self-learning Digital Coworker (pre-trained bot) that can perform a variety of common tasks found in Insurance, Healthcare, and Financial Services roles. Through interactions with human counterparts, the pre-programmed bots increase their capabilities and become more efficient, better at understanding the business, and eventually have the capacity to offset the work of four to eight individuals on average per bot. AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Cofounder Chaz Perera to learn more about the company, how his time as Chief Transformation Officer at AIG provided the inspiration for the Roots Automation, and the company’s first funding round led by Vestigo Ventures.
AlleyWatch

InFeedo raises $3.2M led by Bling Capital, delivers $1.1M exit to early employees and investors

A Y Combinator-backed startup that is helping major companies efficiently listen to how happy — or unhappy — their employees are and resolve their issues on time to retain talent just raised a new financing round from several high-profile executives.

InFeedo, a four-year-old people analytics SaaS startup with headquarters in Gurgaon, said on Thursday it has raised $ 3.2 million in its Series A funding round. Bling Capital led the round and its founder, Benjamin Ling, who previously served as a general partner at Khosla Ventures and executive roles at Google and Facebook, has assumed a board seat at InFeedo.

Simon Yoo of Green Visor Capital, Maninder Gulati, chief strategy officer at budget lodging startup Oyo, Munish Varma, managing director for EMEA region at SoftBank and Girish Mathrubootham, founder of SaaS giant Freshworks, are among those who participated in the round.

As a business grows up and the headcount balloons over thousand, ten thousand, and tens of thousands, it becomes impossible for the chief executive to engage meaningfully with employees to gauge their morale and understand if there is anything they wish the company changed.

InFeedo is tackling this challenge through Amber, a chatbot it has built that touches base with employees periodically to quickly check how things are going, explained Tanmaya Jain, founder and chief executive of the four-year-old startup.

On the backend, executives can check the status of their employees across the company and how likely some individuals — especially the top talent — are at leaving the firm. They can check exactly what issues these employees have raised in the past, and whether their concerns were resolved.

Amber is able to track the progress because it remembers what an employee has previously shared. So each future conversation begins with it asking whether anything has meaningfully changed since the last time it spoke to the employee.

“Almost three years ago, we started using Amber at OYO and I was amazed by the product. We were using this for executive decision-making, to get an accurate pulse of our employees across geographies, functions as we were expanding across the world. I actually reached out to Tanmaya and am excited to be part of this journey,” said Oyo’s Gulati in a statement.

InFeedo has amassed more than 100 customers — including GE Healthcare, Puma, steel-to-salt conglomerate Tata Group, telecom firm Airtel, computer vendor Lenovo, Oyo, Indian internet conglomerate Times Internet and edtech giant Byju’s — across over 50 countries. More than 300,000 users today use InFeedo’s service. The startup today is clocking an annual revenue run rate of $ 1.6 million, something Jain said he is working to get to $ 10 million.

For Jain, 26, InFeedo’s current avatar is the third pivot he has made at the startup. InFeedo started as an edtech platform to create a feedback loop between students and their teachers. The startup then explored building a social network for companies. Neither of those ideas gained much traction, he explained. During the third attempt, Jain said he spent days at his early customers to understand exactly what features they needed.

As part of the new financing round, InFeedo, which has raised $ 4 million to date, said it has delivered partial exits of $ 1.1 million to early investors and early employees or those who left. “Helping people around me make so much money has been one of the most fulfilling things for me,” he said, adding that this liquidity at the time of a pandemic has been immensely useful to many.

The startup plans to deploy the new funding to make Amber understand multiple languages, a key aspect that Jain said would help the startup better serve clients in adjacent markets to India. InFeedo also wants to expand the use cases of Amber and experiment with new technologies such as GPT-3. It is also hiring for product, engineering and marketing leadership roles.

Startups – TechCrunch

Oula Raises $3.2M to Modernize Maternity Care for Expectant Mothers

Expectant mothers are so often presented with binary options for childbirth – a heavily medicalized approach in a hospital with an obstetrician or a “natural birth” at home with a midwife, neither of which provides the multidimensional and convenient care that women want. Oula, a modern maternity center, blends the best of both options so women don’t have to choose and weaves technology into the experience to provide safe, convenient, and personalized care. AlleyWatch caught up with Cofounders Adrianne Nickerson and Elaine Purcell to learn more about the company’s experience of building a brick and mortar business in the middle of the pandemic and the company’s oversubscribed seed round from investors that include Collaborative Fund. Female Founders Fund, 8VC, and Rock Health.
AlleyWatch

Grata Raises $3.2M for its Search Engine for Small to Middle Market Private Companies

The pandemic has been a particularly challenging time for business development professionals who have had to find new ways of meeting prospects outside of conferences, in-person meetings, and other traditional methods. Grata has built the first search engine of small and mid-sized companies for recruiting, banking, and private equity professionals. Unlike a traditional Google search or legacy databases, instantly reveals companies by strategic fit, whether that be by what they do, how they’re positioned, or the markets they target. CEO and Cofounder Andrew Bocskocsky shares more about how Grata is transforming prospecting, the company’s seed round from investors that include Bling Capital. Accomplice, and Alumni Ventures Group, and much much more…
AlleyWatch

SaaS startup Swoop raises $3.2M to modernize mom-and-pop transportation companies

Chauffeured group transportation — the vehicles used for corporate outings, special events and even weddings — is a fragmented industry, with hundreds of small operators that rely on analog systems to book customers. Now in this era of COVID-19, these operators are being squeezed as travel and tourism have dwindled and companies have opted to have employees work from home.

One Los Angeles-based transportation booking startup called Swoop aims to bring these small, local operators into the digital age with a new software-as-a-service platform that it says is helping them adapt in this COVID-19 era. The startup, loaded with an injection of capital, is ramping up its SaaS product in hopes of tapping into a marketplace where customers spend $ 40 billion annually.

Swoop has raised $ 3.2 million in a seed funding round led by Signia Venture Partners, South Park Commons and several angel investors, including former Uber CPO Manik Gupta; Kevin Weil, co-creator of Libra at Facebook; Kim Fennel, a former Uber executive; and Elizabeth Weil, former partner at Andreessen Horowitz and 137 Ventures.

“I’m fascinated about how operators are still running most of their business with pen and paper,” Swoop CEO and co-founder Amir Ghorbani said in a statement. Ghorbani has witnessed firsthand the constraints of these small operators. During high school and college, Ghorbani helped with his parents’ limousine business. The experience prompted him to seek a solution. 

“I saw a huge opportunity to help these small mom and pop shops, in an under-digitized industry, where no operator has more than 1% market share,” Ghorbani added.

Ghorbani began by building a group transportation booking platform used by companies like Airbnb, Google and Nike. Through those bookings the companies saw an opportunity to build business management software for vehicle operators.

Swoop’s SaaS platform lets companies book and dispatch rides, track vehicles and communicate with customers. It also acts as a central hub for payments and other bookkeeping. The tool is designed to smooth out the booking process as well as increase vehicle utilization, which is currently at 4.9%, according to the company. Swoop also passes on to the operators using its SaaS tool leads from companies that use the booking platform.

For now, the focus is on local transportation companies, not public transit, which is a sector that Uber is chasing.

COVID-19, which has suspended most group outings, has upended these local transportation operators. Swoop says it has adjusted its platform to help these operators survive. The company told TechCrunch that it is helping operators repurpose their vehicles to ship goods rather than people. For instance, large vans once used for corporate outings can now be marketed to food wholesalers or companies that need local package delivery. The platform is also being used to connect operators with companies like Amazon that provide transportation to shuttle essential factory workers.

Swoop said COVID-19 might end up accelerating its business ramp as operators are being forced to evaluate their businesses and seek new ways to generate revenue and reduce costs.

Startups – TechCrunch