Several years ago Serenade co-founder Matt Wiethoff was a developer at Quora when he was diagnosed with a severe repetitive stress injury to his hand and couldn’t code. He and co-founder Tommy MacWilliam decided to use AI to create a tool that let him speak the code instead and Serenade was born.
Today, the company announced a $ 2.1 million seed investment led by Amplify Partners and Neo. While it was at it, the startup also announced the first commercial version of the product, Serenade Pro.
“Serenade is an app that you’ll download onto your computer. It will plug into your existing editors like Visual Studio Code or IntelliJ, and then allows you to speak your code,” co-founder MacWilliam told me. At that point the startup’s AI engine takes over and translates what you say into syntactically correct code.
He says that while there are a bunch of generalized speech-to-text engines out there, they hadn’t been able to find anything that was tuned specifically for the requirements of someone entering code. While it may seem that this would have a pretty narrow market focus, the co-founders see this use case as simply a starting point with developers using this kind of technology even when not injured.
“Our vision is that this is just the future of programming. With machine learning, coding becomes faster and easier than ever before, and our AI eliminates a lot of the rote mechanical parts of programming. So rather than needing to remember keyboard shortcuts or syntax details of a language, you can just focus on expressing your idea naturally, and then our machine learning takes care of translating that into actual code for you,” MacWilliam explained.
The startup has five employees today, but has plans to build the company to 15-20 in the next year fueled by the introduction of the commercial product and the new funding. As they build the company, MacWilliam says being diverse is a big part of that.
“Our diversity strategy ranges throughout the process. I think it starts at the top of the funnel. We need to make sure that we’re going out and reaching great people — there are great people everywhere and it’s on us to find them and convince them why working at Serenade would be great,” he said. They are working with a variety of sources to find a diverse group of candidates that stretches beyond their own personal network, then looking at how they interview and judge candidates’ skill sets with the goal of building a more diverse employee base.
The company sees itself as a way to move beyond the keyboard to speaking your code, and it intends to use this money to continue building the product, while building a community of dedicated users. “We’ll be thinking about how we can showcase the value of coding by voice, how we can put together demos and build a community of product champions showing that [it’s faster to code using your voice],” he said.
You’ve spent the majority of 2020 being told that you must adapt to the pandemic’s new economic landscape in order to stay afloat. Acknowledging this fact is easy: putting it into action in a way that promotes long-term business success, that’s the hard part.
While companies across the globe were forced to lay off staff and cut expenditures when the crisis hit, many missed an opportunity to creatively augment or repurpose their existing offerings to serve a new audience and solve a new problem.
At Talview, we did exactly that. We discovered a newly expanded market for e-learning solutions, and identified the ways in which our own core virtual recruitment technology could fit into remote educational environments.
Repurposing your existing product is an excellent way to quickly adapt to current and future crises. Here’s how you can make sure your new offering can provide long-term value, and not just act as a short-term solution.
StartupNation exclusive discounts and savings on Dell products and accessories: Learn more here
New products must align with your mission and vision
At Talview, our company vision is to enable everyone to build the best career for themselves, no matter where they’re located. While our original focus has been on allowing companies to transcend traditional barriers and take hiring online, with the advent of the pandemic, we realized that there was a similar need for remote learning solutions. We also realized that our existing AI-enhanced technology could power a platform which remotely proctors university exams for off-campus students.
As such, creating an effective, innovative and accessible way for students to continue learning virtually is in-line with our core mission and vision of breaking down barriers to opportunities for growth.
Whatever new product you decide on in order to adapt to changing circumstances, it must first and foremost be able to form part of your company’s core values.
This will also make it easier to get the rest of your team on board and embrace this new direction. In fact, mission-driven team members perform better and stay at the company longer than those only motivated by their paychecks.
Product-founder fit is essential, too. Any new offering must fall within the interests of the company. Are you passionate about this product and the market it fits into?
If you don’t enjoy spending time in this market, or do not have relevant experience, it’s going to be more difficult building and sustaining a meaningful project. Once you’ve established that your new idea is aligned with your core mission and has founder-fit, it’s all about looking at the larger trends.
Long-term market prospects are just as important as usual
Crises change market circumstances and customer demands, but unless you are desperately strapped for cash, you need to make sure your new product has long-term relevance. This means conducting research on how your solution fits into current demands and the future of the market.
For example, while many educational institutions were forced into adopting solutions to deliver courses digitally, e-learning will continue to be a growing trend into the future, which holds a number of benefits in terms of increasing accessibility and affordability of education. Even before the pandemic, the e-learning market size was predicted to grow at 8 percent CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) between 2020 and 2025, to value $ 315 billion by 2025.
When it comes to tech, any market trends that you’re investing in must already have tailwind to be successful. This could be an established sector driving forward innovation, or an industry where numerous other players are creating adjacent products. You need to be able to service an existing need, replace existing technology, or create something that will become a vital part of wider trends.
Leverage your core technology base
Finally, if you’re seeking to augment or repurpose your existing product to quickly adapt, you need to make sure you already have the necessary core capabilities to support it. Building digital products from scratch can take years, but if you already have the foundations, you can pivot and launch quickly.
For example, during the pandemic, cosmetics companies such as Nivea and LMVH began manufacturing hand sanitizer to meet growing demand, while household appliance manufacturer Dyson developed ventilators with its air compression technology.
However, this innovation doesn’t just apply to crises as unique as COVID-19; circumstances can change unexpectedly at any time, and acting fast to cater to new consumer demands will help you stay on a path to growth. By building on your existing core tech, you can spend less time worrying about creating products from the ground up and more time focusing on the ways in which you will service new customers and build a presence in a new market.
Ultimately, any new offering should be something that excites you and your team, doesn’t add excess workload and stress onto employees, and is undergoing an increase in demand in its respective market. And by keeping short-term adaptability in-line with long-term market prospects, you’ll be able to use it as a key contributor to business growth.
The post How Startups Can Successfully Turn Their Existing Product into a New Offering appeared first on StartupNation.
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest big news, chats about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here — and don’t forget to check out last Friday’s episode.
Starting the day, American stocks are set to rise despite the country’s president spending the weekend in a military hospital to combat his COVID-19 infection. The weekend itself was marked with national turmoil as information was incomplete, and shifting when it came to the health of the current administration.
Over the weekend a few stories caught our eyes:
- The Ola-London dustup that shows what regulatory risk remains for ride-hailing companies.
- This DappRadar report on the boom in DeFi that is boosting Ethereum.
- Facebook’s leaked plan to combat a push by government to break it up into smaller pieces.
And there were a number of interesting funding rounds to look into. We selected two for your pleasure this morning:
- Einride raised $ 10 million for its autonomous freight system. The company has a big reveal coming on the 8th.
- Cooler Screens raised $ 80 million for a technology that I already hate.
What else was on our minds? We’re getting mentally ready for Q3 earnings. Now that it is Q4, that’s what’s coming up. What will the cycle bring? A clearer image of what happened in the quarter to companies that are not COVID-accelerated. What has happened to them, and can their results match investor expectations? The v-shaped recovery is actually a k-shaped recovery and, in time, it’s going to show. So, buckle up for one hell of an earnings cycle.
Yaw Aning named Malomo, the service he launched for small businesses to turn their order-tracking services into branded customer experiences, as a tribute to his mother, who was a small business owner herself.
“Malomo” means flowers in Swahili and it was the name of Aning’s mother’s small soap-making business which she built over the years — even as she was battling the cancer to which she would eventually succumb.
The small Indianapolis startup has just raised $ 2.8 million to expand its services providing a new marketing channel for the Shopify retailers of the world who can always use more ways to reach new customers, Aning said.
The financing came from the San Francisco-based firm, Base 10, and New York’s Harlem Capital, along with commitments from previous investors Hyde Park and High Alpha.
Aning came to entrepreneurship as an Orr Fellow, an Indiana program that takes 10 graduates and places them in high-growth companies. While Aning worked in corporate finance, he was always interested in the startup world, and started is first company, Pocket Tales, an online reading game for children.
That business was followed by Sticks and Leaves, a web design agency that gave Aning his first view into the opportunity that order tracking presented as a space for a better customer experience.
Along with co-founder Anthony Smith, Aning built a service that connects with a single click to the Shopify platform and creates custom, branded tracking pages for each brand. “It’s a landing page for a brand. They use it like they would use any marketing asset,” Aning said. “The strategy is to build up integrations to the other tools merchants use to create rich experiences leveraging those tools.”
London-based on-demand wellness app Urban is one of the leading wellness app in Europe, which operates in four cities. The company works with the mission to make it easy to book appointments for wellness and treatments right in the comfort of their home. It empowers practitioners by providing them the tools, information, and community to build their business.
Raises €6.5M funding
Now, Urban has raised €6.5M on Seedrs, an equity crowdfunding platform, thereby tripling the initial target of €2M. This is the third-largest raise on Seedrs this year. Among the 2020 Seedrs investors is BNF Capital, a London investment firm with companies such as AirBnB, Gousto, and Revolut in its portfolio. While the campaign was originally set to campaign until mid-October, the increased investment made Urban close the crowdfunding earlier than expected.
“We’re energised and ready to start making good on the promises we’ve made to investors, which includes longstanding Urban customers and professionals alike. This crowdfund is likely to be our last for a very long time,” says Jack Tang, CEO of Urban.
Urban plans to use the investment to expand to more cities with the help of a new remote onboarding process, which does not require professions to visit a physical office. This COVID-19 secure model will let Urban scale at a much faster rate than ever. It also intends to achieve profitability by the end of 2021 by building on its services such as massage, beauty, osteopathy, physiotherapy, fitness and more.
Staying well during the pandemic
Founded in 2014 by Jack Tang and Giles Williams founded Urban with the intention of starting a massage-at-home service. However, they discovered an industry that was broken: practitioners typically took home only 20% of booking revenue and worked long hours to make ends meet. Meanwhile, customers had little other than a salon’s reputation to go off of before making a booking with a specific practitioner.
Therefore, the duo decided to build a platform that would benefit practitioners and customers alike. According to the company, on Urban, practitioners take home 72% of bookings. And customers are able to choose between trusted, pre-vetted practitioners, thanks to detailed profiles with personal bios, ratings and reviews.
Urban operates in London, Manchester, Paris, and Birmingham. It was founded with the intention of starting a massage-at-home service.
During the pandemic crisis, this wellness app witnessed growing enthusiasm for at-home services, a surge in the number of professionals willing to go mobile to reduce overheads, and less competition in the wellness market. According to the company, as of last year, Urban delivered over 451k treatments and received 91% five-star reviews.
Main image picture credits: Urban
The post British on-demand wellness app Urban raises €6.5M funding; to turn profitable by end of 2021 appeared first on Silicon Canals .