Bunch Raises $20M for Integrated Video Chat for Gamers That’s Grown 50x During the Pandemic

COVID-19 has left us longing for human connection even if it’s through video chat. This is no different for gamers. Multiplayer games are the new social networks. And in these trying times where we are isolated from each other, games are how people are choosing to spend time with friends. Bunch, is an integrated video chatting app that allows gamers to video chat in real time with fellow gamers and friends. CEO and Cofounder Selçuk Atl walks us through how the company has grown the user base 50x since March and the company’s $ 20M Series A round from investors that include General Catalyst, Electronic Arts, Krafton (PUBG), mixi, Take-Two Interactive Software, Ubisoft, Supercell, Riot Games, Miniclip, COLOPL, LVP, Northzone, Streamlined Ventures, Konvoy Ventures, OneTeam Ventures, Velo Partners, Golden Venture Partners, and Alven Capital Partners.
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Global Web Video Conferencing Software Market 2020 In-Depth Analysis, Growth, Opportunities Forecasts Report till 2025 By Top Key Players- Zoom, LogMeIn, BlueJeans, Amazon – The Market Chronicles

Global Web Video Conferencing Software Market 2020 In-Depth Analysis, Growth, Opportunities Forecasts Report till 2025 By Top Key Players- Zoom, LogMeIn, BlueJeans, Amazon  The Market Chronicles
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Willo, a freemium video interview SaaS, scores ~$320k during the remote work boom

Scotland-based video interview startup Willo has scored a £250,000 (~$ 320k) seed round of funding after watching demand for its asynchronous Q&A style video platform leap up during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Guernsey-based VC firm 1818 Venture Capital is investing in the seed round, with Willo board members Steve Perry, Stefan Ciecierski and Peter Preston also kicking in a smaller chunk of the capital.

Willo says usage of its SaaS platform has grown at least 80% each month since April, after the UK went into a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Customers have also been finding new uses for the product beyond video interviews — such as for reviews, training, and learning and development — as remote working has been supercharged by the pandemic.

“We have over 1,000 users in 60+ countries — growing 2x faster this month than previous months!” says CEO and founder, Euan Cameron. “Core industries are recruitment, customer research, learning and development and non-profits for volunteers etc.”

The seed funding will be put towards accelerating Willo’s international growth — with a recruitment drive that will add 24 members of staff planned, in addition to spending on further product development.

Cameron confirms it’s working on adding real-time video to the platform, when we ask — so it’s gunning to go after a slice of Zoom (et al)’s lunch.

“Our core product offering is simple, affordable async video communication. However, we are currently in development of a realtime (Live) interviewing option so that organisations can seamlessly flip from an asynchronous video into a realtime one,” he says.

Currently Willo offers an interface that let employers pose questions for candidates/staff to respond to by recording a video response. The platform stores all videos in a dashboard for easy reviewing and sharing.

For the recruitment use-case it also offers a question bank — letting employers choose from “hundreds” of pre-written questions to shave a little friction off the recruitment process.

Expanding on some of the additional uses customers have been finding for the platform during the pandemic, Cameron tells TechCrunch: “We have an education charity in the UK (worktree) who use Willo to ask people in successful careers around the world about their job and their career path. Worktree then provides these videos to kids in schools to help them make career choices.

“A business in Europe uses Willo to identify niche influencers who have potential and bring them on board a training and development program.”

Another example he gives is a university in India that’s using it to find and enrol software engineers for a degree course. Businesses are also using it to obtain customer testimonials and for customer research. And of course Willo’s own VC investor is a user — having adopted the platform for all new business pitches.

“Every new business must go through Willo as part of what they have branded their ‘Ten Minute Pitch’. They connect Willo to Calendy to automate this workflow which is cool,” he notes, adding: “What is most interesting is that all of these examples previously used to rely on face-to-face meetings or video calls, but they had to adapt.”

Willo is also putting a tentative toe into the waters of artificial intelligence for the hiring use-case, although he says its roadmap has shifted to focus more on chasing growth as a result of the pandemic lockdown effect.

Its website trails an “AI-powered” beta feature that’s doing keyword analysis with the aim of identifying personality and behavioral traits, based on how candidates speak.

Asked about this, Cameron says: “Currently, our AI which is in beta is purely focused on the transcription of the audio, we are working hard on not only transcribing accurately but also creating keyword trends. For example, if you are an analytical person we can identify that and call it out to the organisation by looking at common words and themes within your interview.”

“This is very much in its infancy as COVID-19 has pushed us to focus on delivering what we already do at scale and for the many additional use cases [mentioned previously],” he adds.

Applying algorithms to automate elements of the hiring process is something a growing number of startups have been dabbling in in recent years. Although there can be legal risks around bias/discrimination when applying such tools — given the varied and often complex patchworks of applicable laws in different jurisdictions. (In the UK, for example, equality, employment and data protection law may all need to be considered.)

Asked how Willo is avoiding the risk of AI-powered keyword analysis leading to unfair/unequal effects for interview candidates, Cameron says: “Regarding UK equality law we have been working with organisations on a 1-to-1 basis around training and development of their own staff to ensure that they are using Willo as a tool for good. We believe that the same bias and discrimination would occur in a face-to-face or live video interview so it is a case of eradicating that from the individuals through training. We partner with an HR consultancy to help deliver this training when requested.”

“We are working with an incredibly experienced data and compliance expert to ensure we introduce AI effectively, legally and to the benefit of both interviewer and interviewee,” he adds.

“Our core values are always to be transparent and ensure that we are adding value for all users. One of the challenges with AI at Willo is to ensure that we continue to enhance the human interactions at scale — the number one piece of feedback we receive from users is that they loved seeing and hearing from people — so we never want to automate that out of the product.”

On the competitive front, Cameron lists Sparkhire, Vidcruiter and Recright as “key” competitors though he notes that Willo, which offers a freemium tier, is positioning itself to be accessible for a wider range of users.

“They all focus primarily on recruitment and are prohibitively expensive for most SMEs and start-ups. I believe that video interviewing should benefit everyone, not just large multinationals,” he adds.

Startups – TechCrunch

Robinhood’s financial news team launches its first video series

Stock trading app Robinhood has seen rapid growth during the pandemic, leading it to raise hundreds of millions more dollars in funding — most recently in a $ 200 million round that valued the company at $ 11.2 billion.

And the content side of the business has been growing as well. The company acquired the financial podcast and newsletter MarketSnacks early last year, rebranding it as Robinhood Snacks. Now it says the Snacks newsletter has 20 million subscribers, while the podcast has nearly 2 million monthly listeners. And a shorter version of the podcast, the Snacks Minute, was one of Spotify’s most popular podcasts of the summer.

The next step: Launching a video series, also called Robinhood Snacks, which will be available on the Robinhood/Robinhood Snacks YouTube and Instagram accounts.

Snacks founders Jack Kramer and Nick Martell still host the podcast and they’ll be hosting the video series as well. Like the rest of their content, it’s a news-focused show, filmed from their living rooms and quickly edited by the Robinhood Snacks team.

“We’re starting with two videos a week for now, until we get the hang of it,” Kramer told me. But the goal is to get to a daily publication schedule in the “near future.”

He argued that video seemed like the best way to reach new, younger audiences who might not be reading the newsletter or listening to the podcasts. The approach will be similar to other Robinhood Snacks products, analyzing two big financial stories in under three minutes, and in a way that should be accessible to normal viewers.

Kramer suggested that just as Robinhood is trying to “democratize finance for all,” Robinhood Snacks is trying to deliver financial news in “a totally new way.” As Martell put it, they want Snacks to be useful to experienced investors while remaining accessible to people who don’t know “what an earnings report [is], don’t know revenues from profit, and maybe are confused about why the Tiffany’s acquisition isn’t going through.”

“When we’re covering news, we’re focused on: How is this relevant to listeners as consumers?” Kramer added. “How is this relevant to investors as a potential investor in the company stock? And how is this interesting and relevant to consumers with regard to trends that play in the story that we’re telling. It’s not just earnings per share.”

The ultimate goal, he said, is to make finance “as culturally relevant as music, sports and the arts.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Klaxoon teases new interactive meeting product for video calls

French startup Klaxoon is currently testing a new product called Board. The company expects to launch Board at some point during the second half of September. Board is a new visual interface that connects directly with video-conferencing services, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet.

If you’re not familiar with Klaxoon, the startup wants to make meetings more engaging and little bit less boring. The startup has built a suite of tools tailored for different use cases. There are voting and brainstorming modules, multiple features that let you gather feedback through questions, surveys and more. Meeting organizers can also get feedback and see analytics their meetings.

While Klaxoon already offers interactive whiteboards for your meeting rooms, chances are your team isn’t in the meeting room right now. That’s why Klaxoon started working on Board during lockdown. It is accessible from your phone, tablet and computer.

Board brings together a set of interactive tools in a video call. It adds a blank canvas that you can use to write text, insert images or videos. You can also start with a template and fill it out during the call. Other people joining the call can react using likes, votes or questions.

And here’s what it’ll look like when it launches:

Image Credits: Klaxoon

Given that Klaxoon has been working hard to replace sticky notes and other low-tech solutions used during meetings, the startup seems particularly well-positioned right now. Many companies don’t plan to reopen their offices for the foreseeable future.

Klaxoon has raised around $ 55 million over the years and now has a team of 240 employees. 15% of Fortune 500 companies use the service.

Startups – TechCrunch

Global Web Video Conferencing Software Market 2020-2025 Key insights, Business Overview, Industry Trends,(Covid-19 Outbreak) Challenges By Top Players- Zoom, LogMeIn, BlueJeans, Amazon – Bulletin Line

Global Web Video Conferencing Software Market 2020-2025 Key insights, Business Overview, Industry Trends,(Covid-19 Outbreak) Challenges By Top Players- Zoom, LogMeIn, BlueJeans, Amazon  Bulletin Line
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Estonian startup So.Fa.Dog raises €600K to expand its 10-second video news platform

Video news startup So.Fa.Dog has announced closing an early investment round of €600K from 32 investors, including employees and the founders of the company.

So.Fa.Dog is an Estonian startup, founded in February 2020, which already has a team of around 40+ people from 17 different nationalities. The ambition of So.Fa.Dog is to change the way people consume news permanently by providing exclusive 10-second video news in a visually appealing and user-friendly app.

During the peak of the pandemic lockdown, news sites across the world saw a huge spike in readers, unsurprisingly due to the high number of people isolating at home and consuming more online media for entertainment. Presenting news in a 10-second video format adds an extra element of interaction, as well as speeding up the news consumption process for the user. With a mobile-first approach, So.Fa.Dog’s app offers colour categories such as scientific discoveries, world economy, arts and fashion, playing on the ‘swipe’ action known to other social media apps with news feeds.

The app’s founder and co-founders Lauri Meidla and Mihkel Oja confirmed that investors responded well to the pitch. Co-founder Lauri Meidla explained: “We are very lucky to have ‘hot investors’ on board who believe in us and help us develop and fine-tune the product. Thanks to their and our customers’ feedback we have made our news clips more visually appealing, engaging and have improved the overall user experience. With the help of these investments more improvements in the journalistic quality and functionalities of the app lie ahead and we’re very excited for the upcoming months.”

Among some of the investors were CEO of LHV Group Madis Toomsalu, entrepreneur Kristjan Mitt and Planet 42 founders Eerik Oja and Marten Orgna. So.Fa.Dog app is available in English for Android and iOS globally.

EU-Startups

Cisco acquiring BabbleLabs to filter out the lawn mower screeching during your video conference

We’ve all been in a video conference, especially this year, when the neighbor started mowing the lawn or kids were playing outside your window — and it can get pretty loud. Cisco, which owns the WebEx video conferencing service wants to do something about that, and late yesterday it announced it was going to acquire BabbleLabs, a startup that can help filter out background noise.

BabbleLabs has a very particular set of skills. It uses artificial intelligence to enhance the speaking voice, while filtering out those unwanted background noises that seem to occur whenever you happen to be in a meeting.

Interestingly enough, Cisco also sees this as a kind of privacy play by removing background conversation. Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager in the Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, says that this should go a long way toward improving the meeting experience for Cisco users.

“Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation — automatically removing unwanted noise — to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences,” Patel, who was at Box for many years before joining Cisco recently, said in a statement.

In a blog post, BabbleLabs CEO and co-founder Chris Rowen wrote that conversations about being acquired by Cisco began just recently, and the deal came together pretty quickly. “We quickly reached a common view that merging BabbleLabs into the Cisco Collaboration team could accelerate our common vision dramatically,” he wrote.

BabbleLabs, which launched three years ago and raised $ 18 million, according to Crunchbase, had an interesting, but highly technical idea. That can sometimes be difficult to translate into a viable commercial product, but makes a highly attractive acquisition target for a company like Cisco.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says this acquisition could be seen as part of a broader industry consolidation. “We’re seeing consolidation taking place as the big web conferencing players are snapping up smaller players to round out their platforms,” he said.

He added, “WebEx may not be getting the attention that Zoom is, but it still has a significant presence in the enterprise, and this acquisition will allow them to keep improving their offering,”

The deal is expected to close in the current quarter after regulatory approval. Upon closing, BabbleLabs employees will become part of Cisco’s Collaboration Group.

Startups – TechCrunch

Global Web Video Conferencing Software Market 2020 Expected to Flourish By 2025 with Top Key Players – Chelanpress

Global Web Video Conferencing Software Market 2020 Expected to Flourish By 2025 with Top Key Players  Chelanpress
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Mux raises $37M Series C as its API-based video streaming service scales

This morning, Mux, a startup that provides API-based video streaming tooling and analytics, announced that it has closed a $ 37 million Series C round of capital.

Andreessen Horowitz led the round, which included participation from Accel and Cobalt. Prior to this funding round, Mux most recently raised a roughly $ 20 million round in mid-2019. In total, the company had raised a hair under $ 32 million before its Series C, according to PitchBook data.

The Mux round lands amidst a number of trends that we’re tracking here at TechCrunch, namely API-based startups, which are hot as a group at the moment, and startups that are serving an accelerating digital transformation.

Let’s explore a bit of Mux’s history, and then dig into how the startup’s current pace of revenue growth explains its fresh infusion of capital.

From exits to analytics to APIs

TechCrunch spoke with Mux’s founder Jon Dahl about the round, curious about how the company came to be. Dahl was a co-founder of Zencoder back in the early 2010s, which sold to Brightcove. When Zencoder launched, TechCrunch said that it wanted “to be the Amazon Web Services of video encoding.” It wound up selling for $ 30 million, a figure that stood a bit taller in 2012, when the transaction was announced.

Dahl stuck around Brightcove for a few years while angel investing. Then in late 2015 he founded Mux. The new startup first built an analytics tool called Mux Data. Dahl said the analytics product was needed because more conventional tooling like Google Analytics don’t work well with online video.

Mux Data is a SaaS product. But what made Mux even more interesting is its on-demand infra play, namely Mux Video.

Mux Video is delivered via an API, supporting both live and on-demand video for other companies. The startup likes to argue that it’s doing for video what Stripe has done for payments, namely take a bundle of complexity and headache, wrestle it into shape, then offer it via a developer-friendly hook.

Delivering video, we’ve seen via the bootstrapped growth of Cloudinary and recent Daily.co round, is growing work in 2020.

That fact shows up in Mux’s numbers, which are somewhat bonkers. The company’s aggregate revenue numbers are growing at a pace that Dahl described as 4x, while Mux Video’s revenues are growing at a pace of 8x, he said. Dahl shared a few other metrics — startups: if you want folks to care about your funding round, follow this example — including that Mux Video’s LTV/CAC ratio is somewhere around 5x-6x, and that its net retention is around 160%.

The collected performance data that Mux shared explain why a16z wanted to put its capital into the company.

But to better understand that all the same, I caught up with Kristina Shen, a general partner at the venture firm. Shen stressed that Mux was heading in the right direction before the pandemic, but that COVID has accelerated the importance of video in how humans interact with one another — an accelerating secular shift for Mux to surf, in other words.

COVID has bolstered Mux, with a release regarding its new investment, noting that its “social media customers [have seen] an increase of 118% in video streaming since mid-February while fitness and health streaming surged by 162%, e-learning grew by 230% and religious streams jumped nearly 3 orders of magnitude.”

Shen said during our call that Mux is one of the fastest-growing enterprise SaaS companies that her firm has seen.

Finally, when asked about Mux’s gross margins, Shen said the company would eventually look similarly to other companies in the infra space, like Twilio and Stripe. This matches what Dahl told this publication, though the founder included a fun wrinkle. Remember Mux Data, the analytics product? Its margins more closely resembles SaaS economics, while Mux Video is more similar to other API, infra plays. So Mux has a bit of SaaS and a bit of infra in it, which should give it a super interesting blended gross margin profile.

Fun. The next time we talk to the firm we’ll be curious to see how far into the double-digit millions it can stretch its run rate.

Startups – TechCrunch