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Teamflow lands $3.9 million for a productive virtual HQ platform

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After a year of video calls and Slack messages, the definition of workplace is set to shift again. In a post-pandemic world, some will return to the office, many will remain remote and regardless of where an employee sits, Florent Crivello, the founder of Teamflow, has raised millions for what he views as a trillion-dollar idea to make their work day easier.

Teamflow, formerly Huddle, is creating a virtual headquarters to help distributed teams collaborate and communicate from a singular platform. The startup, which has been in private beta for six months, today announced it has raised $3.9 million in a seed financing round led by Menlo Ventures.

It’s good timing, as Crivello notes, as the competition is red hot. There are dozens of other virtual HQ platforms, some venture-backed and some bootstrapped, similarly mixing gamification and productivity into a service.

“I think every engineer and every tech person in the Valley has been having a very first-hand experience of this problem over the last year,” Crivello said. “A lot of small brains are thinking about this issue right now.”

Crivello, who previously led teams at Uber, sees Teamflow’s focus on virtual work, instead of virtual socializing, as its competitive advantage against other platforms. Competitors include Branch, which has a more social feel, and Hopin, a platform last valued at $2 billion, which produces digital conferences.

“We’re not Pokémon kind of fun,” he said. “We’re still very work-focused.”

A quick tour through Teamflow illustrates its emphasis on productivity over aesthetic. When you enter the virtual space, you’re greeted with a sidebar of options ranging from white boards, countdown timers, and soon integrations with Notion and Google Docs.

Crivello views Teamflow as being a response to the very “app-centric” world of remote work right now. The platform can be the collaboration layer that brings all the apps out of unorganized tab hell and into one place.

Teamflow uses spatial technology to give employees the feel of spontaneity. If you walk — or toggle — past a co-worker, you’ll be able to join in conversation. The farther you move, the less you hear. There are also breakout rooms where people can enter to have focused, invite-only meetings.

The product has shown some signs of growth since launching its beta. There is 30% growth in hours on the platform week over week, bringing a total of over 50,000 hours of user testing into the platform experience. There are 1,000 users on the waitlist.

“We believe that we are this thing you open in the morning and leave open all day,” Crivello said.

While Teamflow is focusing heavily on productivity, user design does matter when you’re trying to convince consumers to spend an entire work day on your app. Teamflow will need to make more investments in its experience to give it the feel and culture of a virtual HQ, versus another place for employees to spend screen time. It’s why some competitors are opting for a gamified approach.

Any virtual HQ company will have to convince users to exist passively on its platform for a meaningful amount of time, every single day.

If all goes well, Teamflow is looking to be a remote work solution that can replace Slack and Zoom. Crivello says that he has “several customers” who have stopped using both apps altogether, and Teamflow is currently building an internal chat feature that rivals Slack.

The cost for a subscription per starts at $15 a month, according to the most recent pricing information. 

“There’s so much more to remote work collaboration than communication,” Crivello said. Slack and Zoom’s primary features are connecting employees to each other to talk; while he hopes that Teamflow allows employees to talk and work in one place.

Undoubtedly, the opportunity for a platform that can get widespread adoption around distributed teams is grandiose. Pandemic or not, Teamflow thinks that the world has experienced a tipping point that will bring distributed work mainstream. Founders will be looking for solutions to keep their teams happy and productivity high.

“Now, if you don’t offer remote work, you’re at a competitive disadvantage [as a company],” Crivello said.

The beauty of early-stage startups is that long-term success doesn’t need to be obvious from the get go. Yet, when it comes to Teamflow, or any virtual HQ platform, the validation will be simple to prove (or disprove) the moment that post-pandemic consumer habits materialize.

 

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Calling Athens VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

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TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Athens, Greece will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to know how Greece’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Greece, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

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India asks WhatsApp to withdraw new privacy policy, expresses ‘grave concerns’

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India has asked WhatsApp to withdraw the planned change to its privacy policy, posing a new headache to Facebook-owned service that identifies the South Asian nation as its biggest market by users.

In an email to WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, the nation’s IT ministry said WhatsApp’s planned update to its data-sharing policy raised “grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens… Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes.”

The ministry also sought clarification from WhatsApp on its data-sharing agreement with Facebook and other commercial firms and has asked why users in the EU are exempt from the new privacy policy but their counterpoint in India have no choice but to comply.

“Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government,” the ministry wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by TechCrunch. “The government of India owes a sovereign responsibility to its citizens to ensure that their interests are not compromised and therefore it calls upon WhatsApp to respond to concerns raised in this letter.”

Through an in-app alert earlier this month, WhatsApp had asked users to agree to new terms of conditions that granted the app the consent to share with Facebook some personal data about them, such as their phone number and location. Users were initially provided until February 8 to comply with the new policy if they wished to continue using the service.

“This ‘all-or-nothing’ approach takes away any meaninful choice from Indian users. This approach leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain, which may infringe on their interests in relation to informational privacy and information security,” the ministry said in the email.

The notification from WhatsApp prompted a lot of confusion — and in some cases, anger and frustration — among its users, many of which have explored alternative messaging apps such as Telegram and Signal in recent weeks. WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014, has been sharing some limited information about its users with the social giant since 2016 — and for a period allowed users to opt-out of this. Last week the Facebook-owned app, which serves more than 2 billion users worldwide, said it was deferring the enforcement of the planned policy to May 15.

An advertisement from WhatsApp is seen in a newspaper at a stall in New Delhi on January 13, 2021. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP) (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)

WhatsApp also ran front-page ads on several newspapers in India, where it has amassed over 450 million users, last week to explain the changes and debunk some rumors.

New Delhi also said that it was reviewing the Personal Data Protection Bill, a monumental privacy bill that is meant to oversee how data of users are shared with the world. “Since the Parliament is seized of the issue, making such a momentous change for Indian users at this time puts the cart before the horse. Since the Personal Data Protection Bill strongly follows the principle of ‘purpose limitation,’ these changes may lead to significant implementational challenges for WhatsApp should the Bill become an Act,” the letter said.

On Tuesday, India’s IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Be it WhatsApp, be it Facebook, be it any digital platform. You are free to do business in India but do it in a manner without impinging upon the rights of Indians who operate there.”

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Spain’s Glovo inks real-estate tie-up to add more dark stores for speedy urban delivery

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Spain’s Glovo, an on-demand delivery app, has announced a strategic partnership with Swiss-based real estate firm, Stoneweg.

The deal will see the latter invest €100M in building and refurbishing “prime city real estate” in some of Glovo’s key markets as the delivery app works to build out its network of dark stores and sign up more retail partners for its urban delivery service, it said today.

The initial focus for the partnership will be on growing its dark stores network in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania, with additional countries slated as under review in Europe.

“These are the countries in which both Glovo and Stoneweg have a major presence, and therefore are able to move much quicker when it comes to setting up,” a Glovo spokeswoman told us. “However, the deal is not limited to these countries. Glovo’s aim is to grow and strengthen their Q-Commerce and dark kitchens infrastructure across Eastern Europe too.”

Glovo currently operates 18 dark stores globally — in cities including Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Milan — but said it’s now looking to open similar stores in Valencia, Rome, Porto and Bucharest, among others.

It wants to have 100 dark stores up and running by the end of 2021, it added.

Last September the startup announced the sale of its LatAm ops to food-delivery focused rival Delivery Hero for $272M — leaving it more fully focused on Southern and Eastern Europe.

Then in November it announced the launch of a dedicated business unit to support expansion of the sub-30 minute urban delivery service, which it calls ‘Q-Commerce’ (that’s ‘Q’ for quick) — saying it would accelerate development of a b2b offering to stock third parties’ products in its city center warehouses (and have them delivered to shoppers via the couriers doing gig work on its platform).

Glovo said today that the Stoneweg strategic partnership will help it step on the gas to grow the infrastructure and fulfilment centers it needs to underpin this b2b offering.

The ‘deliver anything’ app is spying an opportunity to capitalize on the coronavirus’ impact on traditional bricks-and-mortar retail — betting urban consumers will make a permanent shift to outsourcing grocery and other convenience/essential shops to an app which bundles high speed delivery, rather than making such trips in person.

Its dialled-up focus on Q-Commerce is a direct response to “changing consumer sentiment and demand for instant and same-day delivery”, it added.

To date, Glovo’s platform has delivered more than 12 million multi-category orders globally, while in 2020 it experienced a growth rate of more than 300% year-on-year.

As well as supermarkets such as Carrefour, Continente, and Kaufland, Glovo’s list of retail partners includes the likes of Unilever, Nestle and L’Oréal, and IKEA — so it’s by no means focused purely on groceries.

It has said it wants Q-Commerce to power delivery of a wide range of products — from toys, music, books, flowers and beauty products to pharmacy items and groceries. And even, in some markets, a curated selected of IKEA wares — i.e. stuff that’s small enough to fit in couriers’ backpacks.

Commenting on the Stoneweg strategic investment in a statement, Oscar Pierre, co-founder and CEO, said: “We believe that the third-generation of commerce is already upon us. Following the close of Stoneweg’s investment, we are consolidating our strategic commitment to Q-Commerce, which will allow us to better connect people with a wide variety of available products in their cities.

“In the wake of COVID-19, we believe that dark stores represent the future of post-pandemic retail, and I think we’ll see a permanent shift in consumer habits towards same-day and instant delivery. We’re excited to continue to expand our offering, so that all types of businesses, from local independent stores to multi-national chains, can reach more and more customers thanks to new technological solutions and highly efficient infrastructure.”

In another supporting statement, Stoneweg’s Joaquín Castellví, founding partner and head of acquisitions for Europe, added that the strategic investment represents “an opportunity to offer our clients to diversify into a new class of retail asset through consolidated cities where Glovo operates — in a segment with great growth potential, accelerated by the situation we are experiencing”.

Glovo’s push to take a margin on a broad range of urban retail comes at a time when consolidation is eating into the thin margin food delivery space.

It is also facing legal challenges to its business model in Europe over the classification of couriers as self-employed — losing a supreme court ruling in its home market last September.

Ministers in Spain are working on a new regulatory framework for delivery apps and Glovo has said it’s awaiting that reform before making any changes but a lot will be riding on the detail.

UK-based Deliveroo also recently lost a legal challenge in Spain over the classification of its couriers. A court in Barcelona found last week that the company had falsely defined 748 riders as self employed, following a 2018 workplace inspection.

The delivery platform which competes with Glovo in the on-demand food and grocery space, announced Sunday the closing of a Series H funding round — raising $180M+ from existing investors, led by Durable Capital Partners LP and Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, which it said valued the business at over $7BN.

The investment would enable Deliveroo to continue investing in “developing the best proposition for consumers, riders and restaurants”, it said, noting that it would be expanding in on-demand grocery following “rapid” growth over the last year.

Deliveroo added that the Series H investment comes ahead of a “potential” IPO — and said it “reflects strong demand from existing shareholders to invest in the company, given the significant growth potential in the online food delivery sector in which consumer adoption is accelerating”.

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