Frontegg raises $5M to help SaaS companies build SaaS faster

Frontegg, a Tel Aviv-based startup that helps SaaS companies build their products faster by giving them access to a set of enterprise-ready building blocks for often-used features like authentication and notifications, today announced that it has raised a $ 5 million seed round. The round was led by Pitango, with backing from i3 Equity and Global Founders Capital.

The founders of Frontegg, Sagi Rodin (CEO) and Aviad Mizrachi (CTO), met during their time at security company Check Point, where Mizrachi managed an R&D group and Rodin’s last role was that of director in its cloud security organization. Both have extensive experience in various management and engineering roles at other companies.

“Most of the SaaS products today kind of feel and act the same,” Rodin explained. “They provide the same capabilities and the same user experience around things like authentication, security, notification, reporting dashboards and capabilities like that. These are capabilities that have become the facto standard in the landscape of modern SaaS products.”

Frontegg, he hopes, can become the new standard for SaaS companies to build these kinds of features into their products.

“Over the last decade, the SaaS market has matured and customer expectations for SaaS features have become firmly established,” said Ayal Itzkovitz, managing partner at Pitango Early Stage, who will join the company’s board of directors. “SaaS companies building products powered by the Frontegg platform can supercharge SaaS innovation, simplifying the development process while delivering solutions with the confidence they will be secure, stable and scalable, all the while meeting high customer expectations for experience and performance.”

Image Credits: Frontegg

For the most part, these are also table stakes that take a long time to develop — or involve bringing in expensive third-party services — but that don’t help these companies differentiate and that take focus away from developing their own products. The idea behind Frontegg is to give dev teams the building blocks to integrate all of these capabilities into their own products.

Right now, the team is focusing on building out tools around three main areas: security, connectivity and engagement. That includes the ability to add enterprise-level authentication through third-party identity providers, setting up roles and permissions for users and audit logs, for example, as well as features like in-app alerts, push notifications and various reporting capabilities.

In part, the company’s philosophy is also to give these companies the ability to allow their own customers to self-manage everything on their own, so a lot of these building blocks focus on giving SaaS companies the ability to build these self-service capabilities into their products.

Interestingly, Rodin noted that a lot of companies that are using the service today aren’t starting from zero but are looking to integrate new capabilities quickly because their users are demanding them.

Right now, the one-year-old company has 16 employees, with plans to use the new funding to expand the team and build out the product.

Image Credits: Frontegg

Startups – TechCrunch

Dear Sophie: Is it easier and faster to get an O-1A than an EB-1A?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Is it easier and faster to get an O-1A extraordinary ability visa than an EB-1A extraordinary ability green card? What are the pros and cons of each?

—Outstanding in Oakland

Dear Outstanding:

Thanks so much for your timely questions about the extraordinary ability visa and green card. The short answer to your first question is yes, the O-1A visa is generally easier and faster to get than an EB-1A green card. In fact, I once helped a client get an O-1A approved in three days — of course, that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

We recently launched “Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp,” a new, 15-module online course that takes a deep dive into the O-1A extraordinary ability nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card, the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver for exceptional ability) and what it takes to file a successful application in each category. Check my podcast where I discuss the Bootcamp in more detail. Register for the Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp and use code DEARSOPHIE for 20% off the enrollment fee.

In general, the requirements for a green card, which enable its holder to live permanently in the U.S., are more stringent than those for nonimmigrant visas, which only allow a temporary stay in the U.S. And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically takes longer to process green card petitions than nonimmigrant visa petitions. Moreover, the U.S. imposes numerical and per-country caps on the number of green cards issued each year, which means some green card categories for people born in some countries, such as India and China, face long waits. Only a few visas have an annual cap (like the H-1B), but the O-1A visa is not one of them.

That said, the EB-1A has one of the shortest USCIS processing times, compared to other employment-based green cards. Also, EB-1A petitions are eligible for premium processing, which requires USCIS to make a decision on a petition within 15 days (whether it is “calendar” days or “business” days is currently in flux!). The I-140 petition can be adjudicated quickly in a few weeks, but for somebody whose priority date is “current” on the Visa Bulletin, the determining factor for how long a green card takes is often the I-485 processing time in the local field office. Recently that’s been taking about 1.5-2 years for interviews in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, nonimmigration visa petitions can face delays for a number of reasons, but a delay happens most often when USCIS responds to a petition with a Request for Evidence (RFE). An RFE is a written notice from USCIS seeking additional evidence to make a decision on a case. During the past few years, the number of RFEs issued by USCIS for both visas and green cards has increased substantially.

Last month (September 2020) USCIS extended its policy of giving petitioners an extra 60 calendar days to respond to certain USCIS notices, including RFEs, intent to deny, revoke, rescind and terminate due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For any of these notices dated between March 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021, a timely response will be considered 60 days after the date listed on the notice. Whether you want to take advantage of this extra time is a conversation to have with your attorney, based on the strength of your pending petition and the urgency of getting an approval.

As you probably know, the O-1A visa is for individuals who have achieved national or international acclaim and have risen to the top of their field in the areas of science, education, business or athletics. The EB-1A enables individuals who have achieved substantial international or national success in their field due to their extraordinary talent to live permanently in the U.S.

Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of the O-1A and the EB-1A:

O-1A NONIMMIGRANT VISA

(Temporary Stay)

EB-1A GREEN CARD

(Permanent Residence)

Pros

  • Easier standard than EB-1A.
  • A change of status can be processed by USCIS in a few weeks.
  • Eligible for premium processing.
  • Unlimited extensions possible.
  • Does not require an LCA or PERM.
  • No annual cap.
Pros

  • Possible to self-petition without an employer sponsor or job offer.
  • I-140 is eligible for premium processing.
  • Green card: Allows you to permanently remain in the U.S.
  • Does not require an LCA or PERM.
  • Five years after green card can apply for citizenship.
Cons

  • Requires employer or agent sponsorship.
  • Requires job offer or itinerary of gigs.
  • Individuals cannot self-petition.
  • Might require union letter or advisory opinion.
  • Not a green card (permanent residence).
Cons

  • Multiyear process.
  • High evidentiary standard.
  • Annual numerical and per-country caps exist.
  • Backlog for people born in India and China.
  • Under a presidential proclamation issued in April, green cards not currently being issued at Consulates.

Keep in mind that like the EB-1, the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card does not require an employer sponsor. However, the eligibility requirements for the EB-2 NIW are less stringent than for the EB-1A. For individuals born in India and China, the downside to the EB-2 NIW green card is that they face a much longer wait compared to the EB-1A. Unlike the EB-1A, premium processing is not available for EB-2 NIW petitions.

Remember, U.S. embassies and consulates are not processing green cards so you should try to apply for a green card while you remain in legal status in the U.S. Otherwise, you may have to return to and stay in your home country for a while.

Still, getting a visa or green card abroad remains possible. I recommend working with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss which options best match your accomplishments, goals and timing. Remember, you can sign up for Bootcamp and use code DEARSOPHIE for 20% off the enrollment fee to get qualified!

All my best,

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

Startups – TechCrunch

Shogun raises $35M to help brands take on Amazon with faster and better sites of their own

E-commerce has boomed this year, with more businesses and shoppers than ever before turning to websites and apps as a safer, socially distanced alternative during the current global health pandemic. Today, a startup that has built a platform to help individual companies and brands design better websites is announcing a round of growth funding to help them step up to that challenge with faster and better designed interfaces.

Shogun, which lets companies build sites that sit on top of e-commerce back-ends like Shopify, Big Commerce or Magento to let them sell goods and services is today announcing that it has raised $ 35 million in funding after seeing its business growth 182% over the last year, with 15,000 companies — including Leesa, MVMT, Timbuk2 and Chubbies, as well as household Fortune 500 brands that it declines to name — now using Shogun’s tools, up 5,000 in the last eight months.

Finbarr Taylor, the CEO who co-founded the company with Nick Raushenbush, said that the startup plans to use the company to continue enhancing its two main products — Page Builder for bigger companies and agencies; and frontend, a headless commerce solution for smaller businesses — and to help improve its market strategy.

To date, much of the company’s growth has been organic, with a marketing team of two, and also only two sales people. “So it will be about scaling up those teams as well as our engineer and design and product teams, to deliver on the promises we made to our customers.”

The Series B is being led by Accel with participation from Initialized Capital, VMG Partners, and Y Combinator, and it also has a number of high-profile individuals in the round that speak to Shogun’s credibility in the worlds of e-commerce and web design, including Bryant Chou (CTO at Webflow), Mark Lavelle and Mark Lenhard (former CEO and SVP of Strategy at Magento, respectively), Alex O’Byrne (CEO of We Make Websites, a leading Shopify agency), Brian Grady (CEO of Gorilla Group, a leading Magento agency), and Romain Lapeyre (CEO of Gorgias).

Growth is one marker of how hot the market is for what Shogun is offering — in addition to Shogun’s own expanding list of users, it’s estimated by the company that there has been some $ 94 billion in extra sales online (beyond original projections, that is) since March globally — and another is the funding itself.

This the second round that the startup has raised in the short span of eight months: Shogun closed a $ 10 million Series A in February of this year led by Initialized (with participation also from YC and VMG).

And a third marker is the valuation. Taylor said that the company is valued in the “solid nine figures” but declined to say where in the regions of hundreds of millions of dollars that might be. For some context, the company was valued at $ 50 million in February, according to data from PitchBook.

Shogun’s news comes at a key moment in the world of e-commerce not just in terms of the wider macroeconomic trends, but in terms of who is making the wheels move. Amazon and other marketplaces have come to dominate how a lot of people are shopping online: after all, they offer one-stop shops for whatever you might want or need, free shipping, and a familiar interface. Similarly, social media platforms have made a play as a new kind of “store” of sorts, a place where brands already are interacting with would-be customers, and are now being given the tools to sell to them there as well.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story: brands and companies want to have their own space to present things how they want them to look, to better control the customer experience, and to make sure that they are not beholden to a third party (both physically and financially) for their online survival.

Yes, some consumers might only care about where they can get what they want for the cheapest price, but others know exactly what they want, or feel loyal to a specific company, and want to shop there without the rest of the noise, and there will always be a business opportunity in building stores for them, too.

And the predictability of the interface of a marketplace like Amazon, or a “shoppable” photo on Instagram, belies how frustratingly oblique it can also be at times. I don’t want to see 15 different Danish whisks at slightly different prices; I just want one that will arrive in one piece and not break after a month of use, leading me down a rabbit hole trying to find someone to provide a refund. Similarly, I may want to buy from a brand, but perhaps not the particular item that they’re serving me in a Story.

Shogun’s proposition to the companies it works with is to give them more choice and better speed after they have already made the decision to build their own “real estate” online using backends like Shopify’s.

The opportunity is that, even if an e-commerce business is seen as a “tech” play, that is not often its core competency.

“Merchants large and small are getting sick of maintaining their own tech stacks,” said Ethan Choi, a partner at Accel. While the platforms are getting ever more sophisticated by moving into areas like shipping and logistics alongside payments and inventory ordering and so on, they have yet to extend into web design. “Shopify only has like 15 templates,” he said. “There is no design control and you look like 1 of one million other sites.” At the same time, if you have the funds and energy to build a custom site, he added, “that is expensive and it can take a whole day to change just a piece of text.”

The speed is an issue that Shogun has identified and fixed in another way: Taylor says that with site speed being the most important aspect of converting a browser to a buyer, it’s providing the fastest page loading times to customers.

As with so many startup stories, Taylor and Raushenbush nearly stumbled on their gap in the market by accident. The pair were working at Y Combinator — Taylor, an engineer originally from Glasgow in Scotland, had been devising tools for YC to help it manage the huge inbound volume of applications it was receiving for its incubator. (Sidenote: one offshoot of that was the Startup School that the company created to better address working with startups on a more regional level: Taylor built that.)

As a side project, he and Nick had come up with a page builder based on Ruby on Rails. It wasn’t getting much traction, but a friend of Nick’s, who worked for an e-commerce agency, said that if the two could tweak it for building e-commerce pages specifically, his agency would use it and even pay them. “So we did,” he said. That eventually took off with more customers and more use, prompting them to eventually move to the other side of the organization, becoming part of a YC cohort and eventually striking out on their own.

Looking ahead, one particular focus for Shogun, Taylor said, will be to build more tools to improve mobile commerce — notable for typically accounting for 80% of all e-commerce browsing but only some 20% of sales.

Startups – TechCrunch

7 Strategies To Solve Your Business Problems Faster

Office-Conference-ProblemsProblem solving is a full-time task in business. Whether you own the business, or have only a small role in daily operations, making decisions and solving problems is a key part of your job. The most effective people, and the happiest ones, are the ones who accept this reality, and even relish the challenges of overcoming the unknowns, rather than struggling and stressing with each.

If this doesn’t come naturally for you today, I assure you that it can be learned. In my own business career, many years as a business advisor, and mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, I have validated the following strategies to practice and guide you. Each of these will help you in achieving success and satisfaction while tackling your toughest business issues:

  1. Stop attacking symptoms – dig first for the root cause. A broken process or a subtle quality issue can generate a flood of customer satisfaction problems, cost overruns, and loss of market share. The right first step for every issue is the old “ask why three times” strategy to get to the root of the problem. Don’t waste time fixing symptoms.

    Jeff Bezos is a huge proponent of root cause analysis, and believes it is what sets Amazon apart. Way back in 2004, he cared enough about an associate’s injury to spend time investigating, and used the exercise to isolate a root cause without blaming anyone.

  2. Search for the multiple dimensions of a problem. Don’t oversimplify – most issues have a scope greater than one dimension. For example, your quality problem may well have both design as well as manufacturing elements. Fixing only one of these will only lead to more frustration. A better definition of a problem always leads to a better solution.

    This same principle can also be applied to solving problems that are new opportunities. Elon Musk often talks about identifying all the dimensions of a problem, such as lower cost battery technology, as the key to moving the electric vehicle industry ahead.

  3. Build and evaluate a list of alternative solutions. We are all prone to running with the initial solution that comes to mind, rather than comparing several to produce the best outcome. On tough issues, I recommend the use of brainstorming with colleagues, to expand your efforts, and develop a half-dozen alternatives. Then pick the best one.

    Of course, this all has to start with you having the confidence and conviction that there is at least one solution to every problem, and that you can find it. Without this mindset, and the determination to make a decision, nothing happens, and customers find alternatives.

  4. Build motivation through rewards and incentives. Team members, including yourself, who are not engaged or determined will ignore problems, or will give up too soon. All you will hear are excuses, or you won’t hear about the problem until it’s a crisis. Build that momentum by rewarding every team member for small successes and early surfacing.

  5. Hold the right people accountable for delivering results. Ultimately, every problem and every issue needs a decision and a solution, not more study. It’s your job as a business leader to accept and assign responsibility, and then track the process to completion. The most damaging issues are the ones that never seem to get resolved.

  6. Measure results to validate fixes and prevent recurrence. The positive impact of recognizing problems in a business is the clear indication that something more needs to be measured. Make sure that you implement a metric with each solution, to prevent the issue from recurring, and check for side effects and follow-on side effects.

  7. Provide training and tools to upgrade solution skills. As the market and technology changes, you and your team need to learn new skills, and how to use new tools. Even the best business professionals and leaders must concentrate on learning something new each day, through mentors, Internet resources, and studying competitors.

If you are looking for more satisfaction from your work, or seeking to advance your career, then more focus on problem solving, utilizing the strategies outlined here, will definitely pay big dividends. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, then adopting these strategies is critical to surviving and thriving in the uncharted world of startups. Put the fun back into your work.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on Inc.com on 08/26/2020 ***

Startup Professionals Musings

Transposit scores $35M to build data-driven runbooks for faster disaster recovery

Transposit is a company built by engineers to help engineers, and one big way to help them is to get systems up and running faster when things go wrong — as they always will at some point. Transposit has come up with a way to build runbooks for faster disaster recovery, while using data to update them in an automated fashion.

Today, the company announced a $ 35 million Series B investment led by Altimeter Capital with participation from existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures, SignalFire and Unusual Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $ 50.4 million, according to the company.

Company CEO Divanny Lamas and CTO and founder Tina Huang see technology issues as less an engineering problem and more as a human problem because it’s humans who have to clean up the messes when things go wrong. Huang says forgetting the human side of things is where she thinks technology has gone astray.

“We know that the real superpower of the product is that we focus on the human and the user side of things. And as a result, we’re building an engineering culture that I think is somewhat differentiated,” Huang told TechCrunch.

Transposit is a platform that its core helps manage APIs, connections to other programs, so it starts with a basic understanding of how various underlying technologies work together inside a company. This is essential for a tool that is trying to help engineers in a moment of panic, figure out how to get back to a working state.

When it comes to disaster recovery, there are essentially two pieces: getting the systems working again, then figuring out what happened. For the first piece the company is building data-driven runbooks. By being data-driven, they aren’t static documents. Instead the underlying machine learning algorithms can look at how the engineers recovered and adjust accordingly.

Transposit diaster recovery dashboard

Image Credits: Transposit

“We realized that no one was focusing on what we realize is the root problem here, which is how do I have access to the right set of data to make it easier to reconstruct that timeline, and understand what happened? We took those two pieces together, this notion that runbooks are a critical piece of how you spread knowledge and spread process, and this other. piece, which is the data, is critical, Huang said.

Today the company has 26 employees including Huang and Lamas who Huang brought on board from Splunk last year to be CEO. The company is somewhat unique having two women running the organization, and they are trying to build a diverse workforce as they build their company to 50 people in the next 12 months.

The current make-up is 47% female engineers, and the goal is to remain diverse as they build the company, something that Lamas admits is challenging to do. “I wish I had a magic answer, or that Tina had a magic answer. The reality is that we’re just very demanding on recruiters. And we are very insistent that we have a diverse pipeline of candidates, and are constantly looking at our numbers and looking at how we’re doing,” Lamas said.

She says being diverse actually makes it easier to recruit good candidates. “People want to work at diverse companies. And so it gives us a real edge from a kind of culture perspective, and we find that we get really amazing candidates that are just tired of the status quo. They’re tired of the old way of doing things and they want to work in a company that reflects the world that they want to live in,” she said.

The company, which launched in 2016, took a few years to build the first piece, the underlying API platform. This year it added the disaster recovery piece on top of that platform, and has been running it beta since the beginning of the summer. They hope to add additional beta customers before making it generally available later this year.

Startups – TechCrunch

A faster, easier, cheaper way of going public

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is the fourth episode of the week, pushing our production calendar to the test. Happily we’ve managed to hold it together amidst the news deluge that the last few days have brought. It was a good week for our scheduling change, with the main episode of the show coming to you on Thursday afternoon versus Friday morning.

Change is good.

But unchanging this time around was our hosting lineup, with Natasha Mascarenhas and Danny Crichton and myself yammering with Chris Gates on the mix. Here’s what we got into:

  • The CEO of TikTok is out, bids are swirling, and whom will wind up owning a piece of all of TikTok’s global operations is not clear. Walmart is in the mix, apparently, which feels very 2020.
  • The New York Stock Exchange has gotten approval from the SEC for a new type of direct listing, one in which the company going public can sell a bloc of shares during the normal price discovery process. This means that all the banker-faff of setting a price and roadshowing to various investor groups could be going the way of the buffalo.
  • About time, maybe? That was our take after reading this Bill Gurley note and the latest SEC news.
  • But while the direct listing world is getting more interesting, the SPAC world is taking flight. Desktop Metal is going public via a SPAC which is all sorts of fascinating. A younger, Boston-based unicorn going public in this manner is eye catching!
  • And then two funding rounds, the first from Finix, which can’t stop adding to its Series B. And Mural, which raised the largest Series B we can recall.

And with that, we’re all going to bed. We’re tired. No more news, thanks!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups – TechCrunch

Swiss challenger bank neon raises €4.6 million for faster growth

One of the first independent Swiss challenger banks neon has completed a financing round in parallel to its rapid growth in customers. A wide range of supporters from the existing investors Backbone Ventures, TX Group, the Schwyzer Kantonalbank innovation foundation and the “Höhle der Löwen” investors Roland Brack and Bettina Hein and new investors Helvetia Venture Fund, QoQa Services SA and other private investors participated in the round.

Founded in 2017, neon offers a simple, user-friendly and secure account solution as an app for all smartphones. One year after the solution went live, the 30,000 customer mark has already been exceeded. neon positions itself as the Swiss solution for a mobile, inexpensive and easy-to-use smartphone account.

For Jörg Sandrock, CEO of neon, the new financing is both a success and an incentive: “The financing round confirms the path and goal. Existing and new investors are convinced of our potential. We are of course proud of that. It’s also a great incentive to keep working hard on our development in order to continue our growth and change the market. ” 

With Helvetia, one of the leading Swiss insurers joins neon. At the beginning of summer, Smile, the Swiss digital insurance from Helvetia, and neon launched the first Swiss mobile bancassurance solution. Neon has also already worked with the Lausanne-based company QoQa. “The deep expertise and experience of QoQa will accelerate our growth in the eCommerce sector and also in French-speaking Switzerland”.

Samuel Hügli, Head of Technology Services & Ventures at TX Group, notes what makes neon particularly interesting for investors: “It’s impressive how neon, as an uncomplicated and secure mobile banking solution, stirs up the Swiss market. We are convinced of this development and want to make our contribution to the continued success of neon by expanding our financial support and our expertise in the development and marketing of digital platforms.” 

Miklos Stanek, Founding Partner and Chairman of BackBone Ventures, is convinced: “neon is enthusiastic about its product. We firmly believe that neon will visibly change the banking behavior of the Swiss in the next 2-3 years. We look forward to accompanying neon on this path. ”

EU-Startups