Deepgram raises $12 million to train custom speech recognition models for businesses

Deepgram, a Y Combinator graduate building tailored speech recognition models, today announced it has raised $12 million in series A financing. CEO and cofounder Scott Stephenson says the proceeds will bolster the development of Deepgram’s platform, which helps enterprises to process meeting, call, and presentation recordings. If all goes according to plan — if Deepgram’s scale eventually matches that of the competition — it could save organizations valuable time by spotlighting key results.

Deepgram leverages a backend speech stack that eschews hand-engineered pipelines for heuristics, stats-based, and fully end-to-end AI processing, with hybrid models trained on PCs equipped with powerful graphics processing units. Each custom model is trained from the ground up and can ingest files in formats ranging from phone calls and podcasts to recorded meetings and videos. Deepgram processes the speech, which is stored in what’s called a “deep representation index” that groups sounds by phonetics as opposed to words. Customers can search for words by the way they sound and, even if they’re misspelled, Deepgram can find them.

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01 Business Forum – L’Hebdo – Samedi 25 janvier

Ce samedi 25 janvier, Daniel Rezlan, président d’Idecsi, Julien Pierrepont, directeur Innovation chez Leyton, Sébastien Gibier, directeur de SAP.iO Foundry Paris, Emile Leclerc, directeur d’études chez Odoxa, Raphaël de Cormis, VP Innovation Labs des solutions d’identité et biométrie chez Thales, Gilles Lévêque, directeur des systèmes d’information (DSI) du Groupe ADP, Emile Gabrié, conseiller juridique et relations institutionnelles à la CNIL et Grégory Serrano, CSMO et co-fondateur d’Invenis étaient les invités de l’émission 01 Business Forum – L’Hebdo présentée par Frédéric Simottel.

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SAP to Expand Development Center Team in Israel

German software multinational SAP SE announced this month that it was expanding its R&D center in Israel and looking to recruit some 100 big data experts, software engineers, and team leaders over the coming year.


The recruitment drive is set to bolster the SAP-Gigya team at the R&D center which currently employs over 700 people including more than 100 from Gigya, the Israeli customer identity management firm SAP acquired in 2017 for $350 million.

SAP also runs a number of other operations in Israel. Last year, SAP announced the first foundry program by its venture capital arm SAP.iO in Tel Aviv with seven local startups.

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The Rise of Customer Experience in Fintech and GRC

Debt collection and a great customer experience are two concepts not typically combined. The image of an intimidating, baseball bat-carrying debt collector is too ingrained in our cultural consciousness.

So being the “friendliest debt collectors in Europe” is quite a bold goal for troy, one of six startups invited to a dedicated financial technology (fintech) program focused on finance and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) in Berlin by the SAP.iO Foundries.

Philip Rürup, CEO of troy, makes clear that creating a friendly customer experience in debt collection is more than a marketing slogan; it is a mindset backed up by technology and proven key performance indicators (KPIs). By treating people as customers and not debtors, troy has found unique solutions to incorporate customer experience into the debt collection process. According to Rürup, this  induces people to pay their debts faster, pay more, and even pay “happily.”

“We found that 50 percent of people simply forgot to pay, or just faced a short-term bottleneck,” explained Rürup. “So, it doesn’t make sense to use heavy-handed approaches here.”

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Zippin closes Series A funding round with $12m

Retail checkout-free technology provider Zippin has concluded a Series A funding round, with $12m, taking the company’s total funding to $15m.

The latest funding round was led by Evolv Ventures, which is a Kraft Heinz-backed venture fund focused on investing in tech companies involved in transforming the food and consumer packaged goods industry.

Other investors include SAP.iO, Scrum Ventures, Arca Continental, Nomura Research Institute and NTT DOCOMO Ventures.

Zippin’s existing investors Maven Ventures, Core Ventures Group, Pear Ventures and Montage Ventures were also part of the funding round.

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Four Finalists Named to the 2019 Autumn HITLAB Women’s Health Tech Challenge.

Finalists present their FemTech Women’s Health Innovations on Pitch Day, Thursday, Dec. 5, in NYC. Mitigating discomfort and improving diagnostic accuracy and outcomes are the overarching goals of the four projects selected to compete in the 2019 Autumn HITLAB Women’s Health Tech Challenge. The finalists’ winning innovations were designed to treat different conditions in the women’s health spectrum: fertility, long-term breastfeeding, pelvic organ prolapse, and endometriosis.

Each team is now in the running for the $10,000 first-place prize, to be awarded at Pitch Day on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the SAP.iO Foundry in New York’s Hudson Yards. All four teams will compete for other awards (described below) from McKinsey & Company, Horizon Government Affairs, and the HITLAB Breakthrough Alliance, as well as incredible exposure and networking opportunities with HITLAB and high-profile sponsors.   All are welcome, tickets available at www.hitlab.org/world-cup.

Following are the four finalists and the health issues they aim to address based on their applications:

Kegg , San Francisco, CA

  • The Problem: In the U.S. alone, infertility affects 1 in 10 women—6.1 million—and the number is rising. Moreover, usage of hormonal contraception is on the decline by 11% year after year due to 70% of women reportedly suffering from side effects. Many current fertility monitors focus on side effects that may or may not correlate with what is happening inside a woman’s body.
  • The Solution: The inaugural product from a women-centric company, Kegg is a fertility kegel device that collects and analyzes previously difficult-to-attain data from a woman’s cervical fluid to better diagnose and monitor fertility cycles. The device may quadruple the chances of natural conception and replace the pill for pregnancy planning.

LuulaTech’s LuulaPump, Brooklyn, NY

  • The Problem: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies are fed breast-milk until two years of age. Most mothers try it, but by 6 months, 75% feed formula to babies. Existing breast pumps are in part to blame. Most lactating mothers consider them essential, but also conspicuous, uncomfortable, unintuitive, painful, isolating and degrading.
  • The Solution: LuulaPump by LuulaTech is a revolutionary science-based wearable pump: spill proof, dishwashable, and intuitively used with one hand, allowing gentle and discreet pumping in public and in any position. Instead of repackaging existing technology, LuulaTech stepped back and redesigned the pump based on breastfeeding science and with an emphasis on a mother’s experience.

Reia Health, Hanover, NH

  • The Problem: Prolapse, a condition affecting 50% of women over the age of 50 to some degree, is characterized by weakened pelvic floor muscles that allow the uterus to descend and, in extreme cases, protrude outside the body. Current non-surgical treatment options are painful or impossible for women to use without the assistance of a practitioner, limiting women’s independence and requiring regular time-intensive and costly doctor appointments.
  • The Solution: Reia is developing a novel collapsible pessary that is designed for comfort and enables women to self-manage their prolapse. Alongside this pessary, Reia plans to launch a digital platform to further enhance personalized care.

Oratel Diagnostics’ Endo-Tek , Hammondsport, NY

  • The Problem: Endometriosis, a fertility problem affecting 10% of all women, costs the U.S. health system more than $15 billion and continues to be under treated and misdiagnosed in adolescent girls because the current diagnosis is an invasive and costly laparoscopy. Adolescents with endometriosis have an earlier age at menarche, and longer diagnostic delay, resulting in poorer quality of life.
  • The Solution: Oratel’s ENDO-Tek is the only saliva-based, easy-to-use, low-cost diagnostic for endometriosis that gives instant results at the time of testing and through a proprietary phone-based app, links the patient to a specialist who counsels on next steps. The technology has demonstrated over 84% sensitivity and up to 92% specificity in three studies.

“We were thrilled with the high-quality submissions we received for the 2019 Autumn Women’s Health Tech Challenge,” said Savira Dargar, Challenge Director. “Judging was intense but in the final analysis, these four disruptors showed the strongest promise of empowering women to improve their health outcomes in cost-effective ways.” Applications were evaluated on impact, innovation, sustainability, feasibility, team and quality of work.

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SAP.iO Foundry San Francisco Customer Experience Cohort Caps Off with Demo Day

The 12-week program provided the startups with access to curated mentorship, exposure to SAP technology and application programmable interfaces (APIs), and access to SAP customers. It concludes with an invite-only Demo Day event for customers, partners and industry guests — such as Ronan Dunne, Verizon Consumer Group executive vice president and CEO; Beverly Parenti, The Last Mile executive director; angel investor Dan Scheinman and others — to meet the founders and hear about their collaboration with SAP and its customers.

“We are very excited about what has been achieved in the past three months and that we were able to help these startups deliver winning outcomes and incremental value to our customers,” said Ram Jambunathan, SAP.iO managing director and SAP senior vice president head of Corporate Strategy.

The cohort consists of the following startups:

  • Constructor.io is an artificial intelligence (AI) commerce search and discovery solution that learns from usage to increase personalization and conversation rates. Constructor personalizes results from users on-site and online and optimizes them for business metrics relevant to the retailer.
  • Breinify is a time-driven AI platform that predicts and acts on an individual’s highly dynamic interests. The technology blends traditional machine learning and AI techniques with complex temporal algorithms to make granular intelligent decisions that vary for each individual at any time.
  • FINDMINE increases commerce orders by using machine learning to generate and display product collections that can be used together. FINDMINE ensures shoppers are able to see full product sets that answer the question “How do I use this?” It can be employed for every product and customer, and across every channel (e-commerce, e-mail, in-store, and for associates and customer support).
  • Wisy is an engagement platform that gathers unique consumer and market insights for brands and retailers while increasing consumer engagement through mobile experiences.
  • Idiomatic identifies top product and service issues by analyzing large amounts of customer interactions with AI and machine learning. Idiomatic helps companies turn customer feedback into customer intelligence through its voice-of-customer platform, which identifies and tracks all issues and trends in customer support inquiries, Net Promoter Score survey responses and app reviews.
  • Askdata is a natural language engine that turns text questions into queries that search across enterprise data for the best answer. Business users with no technical skills can search for data in natural language with convenience and productivity.
  • SetSail accelerates pipeline and flexibly drives strategic priorities in weekly sales incentive systems with machine learning and natural language processing. Customer events and e-mail sentiment are analyzed to objectively measure and reward true deal progress, allowing sales leaders to reward their representatives every week

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Cultivate Raises $8M to Bring Scalable AI-Driven Leadership Coaching to the Enterprise

People mingling in conversation

Cultivate, a digital leadership coaching platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to provide in-the-moment feedback and management coaching within the enterprise, today announced an $8 million Series A investment to grow its go-to-market team and product offerings. Trinity Ventures led the Series A round with participation from previous investors Bloomberg Beta, Silicon Valley Data Capital and SAP.iO. Karan Mehandru from Trinity Ventures will be joining the Cultivate board of directors. Cultivate has raised a total of $10 million since the company exited from a Samsung NEXT accelerator program in the summer of 2018.

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SAP.iO provides SAP an opportunity to partner instead of acquire

Rather than acquire every company it believes could benefit its customers, SAP is doing something else — partnering with them.

About 18 months ago, SAP contacted Caitlin MacGregor about her startup, Plum.io. It wanted to invest in her psychometric assessment firm. This outreach is part of SAP’s strategy to partner with companies and avoid acquisitions.

McGregor said the effort by SAP “has made us more credible.” Plum gained business from enterprises. Systems integrators, including Deloitte Consulting, are also expanding the company’s reach. “We’ve definitely been able to increase our growth,” she said.

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How to Build an Entrepreneurial University

“In particular, aligning on expectations from each stakeholder – academia, start-ups, and corporations – is a key to establishing trust and long-term success,” said Ram Jambunathan, Managing Director, SAP.iO.

Universities and industry have a lot to learn from one another – and partnerships between the two can be mutually beneficial while especially serving the university’s entrepreneurial students.

It can be difficult to get these partnerships right, but with a structured collaborative framework on the part of the university, an eye to common values, flexibility and smart programmes for budding start-ups, these partnerships can benefit all involved.

Here’s how universities can better partner with industry and become more entrepreneurial.

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The Fight Over “Employee Experience” is Finally Here

By: Stacia Garr, RedThread Research

The term “employee experience” has become increasingly popular in the last few years — so much so that we began an investigation into what it is and why it matters, which will publish in October. In the course of that research, we came across a wide range of perspectives on what it is, including from vendors like Medallia, Qualtrics, Service Now, and TI People.

But now, the heavy HR technology hitters are here to weigh in on the subject. Today, SAP SuccessFactors announced that their technology category, which we have long known as Human Capital Management, will now be known as Human Experience Management.

Along with this announcement comes a significant redesign of their user experience (UX) to offer a more integrated and holistic view of the information within the SAP SuccessFactors ecosystem in a more accessible format that intends to put individuals, teams, and organizations at the center of the experience. This new interface integrates into one location conversational AI, robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, nudges, and predictions to try to get people higher quality information more efficiently. There is a lot we like in what the SuccessFactors team has done, and we applaud them for this holistic revamp of their product.

That said, the grand gesture of renaming the category begs us to take a closer look and to ask:

Is this, to borrow my friend and long-time SAPer Steve Hunt’s phrase, simply old wine in a new bottle? Maybe.
Employee experience, as we at RedThread understand it, is about two things:

  • Emotionally-laden events – These often include specific events in the employee life cycle such as the first day at work, a promotion, or returning from a job leave. During these events, employees are vulnerable because their expectations are high, which can suddenly impact their experience.
  • Commonplace exchanges – These are frequent interactions between employees, colleagues, and the organization. These interactions are often relationship-based and happen on an ongoing basis, instead of specific touchpoints, milestones, or moments that matter. During these commonplace exchanges, employees are not as vulnerable as during emotionally laden moments because their expectations are not as high. Yet, these exchanges have a cumulative effect on employee experience. The SAP SuccessFactors team certainly understands the value of emotionally laden events, also called “touchpoints” or “moments that matter”. However, we couldn’t fully tell how this significant user experience redesign will enable managers to better understand – and critically, to enable and improve – how employees experience those touchpoints or commonplace exchanges. It may be that the team is on the earlier parts of the journey or that we just need to see more. So why can’t we just call this new UX old wine in a shiny new bottle? Three reasons:
  1. The Qualtrics acquisition – The SAP SuccessFactors team seems to have a strong vision and appreciation of what Qualtrics, which has a focus on both employee and customer experience, can do (I sure hope so, for $8 billion). They just don’t seem to have turned that into a reality yet, which is reasonable given that the acquisition only closed in January. There are some early indications of their efforts and direction, though. For example, with the new UX, the SuccessFactors team has integrated simple one-question surveys (from Qualtrics) on the quality of manager check-ins into their continuous performance management solution. It sounds like this is just the beginning of what they have in mind.
  2. An ecosystem play – SAP SuccessFactors is making a big deal about it being an ecosystem player, meaning that they acknowledge that they don’t have a monopoly on great ideas and are trying to be better at playing well with others. As a result, the number of apps that can integrate with SuccessFactors has shot up from just 45 last year to more than 250 this year. The variety of these apps enable organizations to build a more customized employee experience that fits their unique needs.
  3. SAP.io – For those of you who don’t know it, SAP.io is SAP’s start-up accelerator, with a vision toward potentially integrating them into the SAP ecosystem. There are several start-ups within SAP.io that are focused on truly transforming the employee experience. One of them, Cultivate (which I have written about several times in other formats), shows significant promise at truly leveraging the existing data and delivering new insights to managers and employees that can help strengthen their relationships (which are so much at the heart of employee experience). We think some of these solutions will increasingly become integrated with this “Human Experience Management” platform.

In some ways, this announcement simply puts an exclamation point on the fact that we are moving away from an era of seeing people as cogs and more toward seeing them as unique humans, which is something we obviously strongly applaud.

From the perspective of being an HR technology market observer, though, we see this as something different. This announcement heralds the mainstreaming of the employee experience concept, which again, is a good thing. As SuccessFactors further refines how employee experience shows up in their platform, they will heighten awareness of the need to take an employee-first perspective.

However, this announcement does also mean that the fight over what “employee experience” really means – and what it should look like from a technological perspective – has really begun in earnest.

And what is a fight without a worthy opponent?

Look out for the good folks in Pleasanton to weigh in with their perspective very soon. I imagine announcements coming from this year’s Workday Rising event in October will carry at least a nugget or two on what they’re thinking.

Predicting Job Success and Preparing Enterprises for the Future of Work

Plum company logo

Everywhere I turn, I hear concerns about technology and workforce automation causing job losses. For employers, however, it seems that the real worry lies not in eliminating but retaining their workforce.

How can they prepare their existing talent pool – and their organizations – to thrive in the new economy? How can they deal with the impending mass migration of jobs toward those requiring new skills?

Those are the fundamental questions that emerged from my discussion with Emily Lambert, Content Marketing specialist at Plum, Inc. Plum offers a solution, also called Plum, that is now available on SAP App Center. It uses the precepts of industrial and organizational psychology combined with – you guessed it – artificial intelligence (AI) to help organizations hire, grow, and retain top talent.

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