Voicera scoops up AI note-taking app Wrappup

Voicera wants to be the company that eliminates the need for human note taking once and for all. Their vision is an AI-driven voice recognition system that not only takes notes, but identifies speakers and summarizes key points and action items. Today, the company announced it had acquired a similar startup, Wrappup, an AI-fueled note taking app that fits in nicely with that vision.

The Wrappup team is joining Voicera immediately. Terms were not disclosed.

Voicera CEO Omar Tawakol certainly saw the fit. “Both companies approached the problem with meetings in synergistic ways. Wrappup’s mobile-first, in-person meeting product complements and extends Voicera’s initial focus on conference calls,” he said in a statement.

Wrappup’s special strength it turns out it is identifying the salient points in a meeting in a mobile context. To that end, the company also announced the launch of a new mobile app. Chances are this combining of these two companies has been in the works for some time, and is just being made official today.

Photo: Voicera

Wrappup CEO Rami Salman says joining forces with Voicera creates a more compelling and powerful solution for customers. “Our combined tech stack and AI algorithms more accurately identify and summarize important moments from all your meetings, regardless of where they are held,” he said in a statement.

Voicera’s voice recognition tool is a cloud service called Eva. It is designed to remove the task of note taking from the meeting experience. The company got a $13.5 million Series A last month from some big-time investors, including e.ventures, Battery Ventures, GGV Capital and Greycroft. They also got some attention from enterprise corporate venture investors, including GV (the investment firm affiliated with Google), Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures. The level of these investors shows the company is attacking a real pain point for meeting attendees.

Wrappup is based in Dubai and was founded in 2015. It has raised $800,000 to date. It works with existing meeting tools, including GoToMeeting from Citrix, WebEx from Cisco, UberConference and Zoom.

Wonolo picks up $13M to create a way to connect temp workers with companies

AJ Brustein was out spending time with a member of his merchandising team when a nearby store ran out of stock of some goods — but there was no one on staff responsible for that location. Fortunately, the employee he was with had already showed him how to restock the shelves, and he offered to peel off and do it himself.

But that gap in the workforce may have just continued, leading directly to potential lost revenue for companies that sell products in those stores. That’s why Brustein and Yong Kim started Wonolo, a tool to connect companies with temporary workers in order to fill the unexpected demand those companies might face in those same out-of-stock situations. Wonolo employees sign up for the platform, and the companies that partner with the startup have an opportunity to grab the necessary workers they need on a more flexible basis. Wonolo today said it has raised $13 million in a new financing round led by Sequoia Capital, including existing investors PivotNorth and Crunchfund, and new investor Base10. Sequoia Capital’s Jess Lee is joining the company’s board of directors as part of the financing.

“There’s a big opportunity  helping people fill in their schedule with shifts,” Brustein said. “We really found there’s this huge untapped market of people who are looking for work who are underemployed. Let’s say Mary is a great worker and has a great job at the Home Depot, but no matter how good she, is she can only get 29 hours of work. It’s hard to manage schedules between different employers that want you to work the same hours. That’s the market we’ve really focused on, the underemployed market, which is a growing unfortunate trend in the U.S. That’s changed a little bit about the types of jobs we have on the platform.”

Wonolo is essentially looking to replace the typical temp agency experience, which helps workers find positions with companies that need a more limited amount of time. Meanwhile, those workers get an opportunity to fill in extra shifts that they might need for additional income on a more flexible schedule. Once a company posts a job to Wonolo, employees will get notified that it’s available and then get a chance to pick up those shifts, and when the job is approved those workers get paid right away.

While the jobs that Wonolo is suited for are more along the lines of merchandising, events staff, or more general labor, the hope is that the service will also expose those employees to a variety of companies who may actually end up wanting to hire them at some point. It allows them to get a good snapshot of all the work that’s available, and theoretically would help offer them an additional step on a career path that could get them to a direct full-time job with any of the companies from which they might end up accepting jobs.

“We thought we could address [the idea of being able to deal with unpredictability] better than temp staffing, and we realized the antidote was flexibility on the worker side,” Brustein said. “We could match them with these jobs that would unpredictably pop up. When we dug into it, we realized flexibility was something that was just completely lacking for workers. We took a very different approach to the way that people will often recruit talent for staffing agencies or their own employees. We are looking at character traits.”

Wonolo was born out of Brustein and Kim’s experience at Coca-Cola, where they had an opportunity to work with a major brand for a number of years. After a while, they got an opportunity to start working on a more entrepreneurial project, and that’s when that whole merchandising scenario played out and prompted them to start working on Wonolo. That part about character traits is an important part for Wonolo, Brustein said — because as long as someone can complete a job, they don’t have to be an absolute expert, as long as they are there ready and good to go.

There are, of course, companies trying to create platforms for temporary workers, like TrueBlue, and Brustein said Wonolo will inevitably have to compete with more local players as it looks to expand. But the hope is that aiming to tap the same kind of flexibility that made Uber so popular for temporary staffers — and potentially that pathway to a big career opportunity — will be one that attracts them to their service.

Here’s the 23rd batch of 500 Startups companies

500 Startups may soon be coming up on the one-year mark for the end of a tumultuous saga involving its founder, but its accelerator classes still continue to plug along — and its next batch is now getting ready to roll.

The firm’s 23rd batch of startups this year consists of the usual mix of business to business and consumer companies (even coffee) that end up in each class. This class is definitely a smaller one, but it still seems to spread a pretty wide number of different verticals. There’s also, of course, a blockchain track for this class, though a small percentage of the startups in it are taking part of that — and there was still a certain rigor they had to have to run through it.

“For every major tech movement, for every tech phase, there’s the infrastructure phase and the deployment phase,” 500 Startups partner Marvin Laio said. “Our view, with the blockchain, we’re in the infrastructure phase. A lot of these projects outside that we see and read about, they’re kind of bad. They’re really applications. There’s no point having a mobile app if you don’t have the app store. You need to build out the app store. For better or worse, we’re in the infrastructure phase right now.”

The firm is still clearly making some pretty big changes, including an unconventional deal with the Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) that gives it a stake in the firm’s parent company. The terms of that deal weren’t disclosed, it was another move among many by CEO Christine Tsai to begin to rework the mechanics of how the firm works — especially as it hopes to succeed as both a venture fund as as a program for entrepreneurs looking to get their companies off the ground. Dave McClure, the firm’s co-founder, resigned last year following allegations of sexual misconduct, and since then it’s been trying to get back to business as usual.

500 Startups takes a similar approach to other accelerators, where they will invest around $150,000 for a small chunk of equity and then take on a small amount of that back (a little more than $37,000) for program fees. The firm has primarily been known for its savvy when it comes to growth and marketing, so the support entrepreneurs get usually has that as a core part of the experience.

Here’s the next batch of 500 Startups companies:

  • Chipper — A mobile app that helps student loan borrowers pay off debt faster through round ups from everyday transactions and contributions from family and friends.
  • Copper Cow Coffee — A service that brings specialty Vietnamese coffee to offices and homes biodegradable pour over technology.
  • Finedine Menu — A management platform for restauranteurs to create data driven digital menus for a smarter dining experience.
  • Harmonica — A mobile application that helps users find the right life partner that focuses on quality and fits conservative cultures.
  • Koreaboo — A digital media company that creates and shares viral Korean pop culture content in English to millions of people around the world.
  • Lexop — A digital process server that allows law firms and property managers prove the delivery of their emails in a legal and trackable way.
  • Lexyom — An online platform that provides users with smart legal answers and tailored legal services using artificial intelligence.
  • Libra Credit — A global lending platform that allows anyone to borrow money against their crypto-curriences and crypto-assets
  • Metadium — An identity service platform that provides the fundamentals for various services providers to develop their business on the blockchain.
  • Orchard — A program for affordable smartphone insurance to enterprises, leveraging diagnostic software to make device support and claims a seamless self-serve experience.
  • Purple Go — Enables retailers in the $36B vision care industry to reach today’s omni-channel consumer with seamlessly integrated online and in-store mobile software services.
  • reflect — A mental health platform that reimagines in-person therapy to be more accessible and effective by using data-driven matching to increase engagement and outcomes.
  • Salusive Health — A nurse-based healthcare provider that offers a technology platform with clinical services to help physician practices streamline disease management.
  • Shezlong — An online mental health platform focusing in the Middle East and North Africa region that allows patients to be connected with licensed therapists via video visit on mobile or web.
  • Solana — A high performance blockchain that can scale over 700,00 transactions per second on stock hardware.
  • Starship — A mobile health savings account with automated investing built for humans.
  • StructionSite Inc — Lets construction project teams access the jobsite remotely and compare design to reality.

Personably, software that helps on-board new hires at fast-growing companies, gets backing from GFC

As fast-growing companies — or, dare I say, “scale-ups” — add new headcount, the pace at which they are able to on-board new hires doesn’t always keep up. In fact, I’m told it is not unheard of for new employees to turn up on day one apparently unexpected, and to be passed from pillar to post as they attempt to get set up and be shown all of the things one needs to be shown to actually start a new role.

Enter Personably, the London startup founded in late 2016 by Katerina Pascoulis and Lewis Blackwood, after the former Crowdcube and GoCardless employees spotted an opportunity to use software to streamline and in some instances automate aspects of the on-boarding process. Bootstrapped until now, the company is disclosing that it recently raised £500,000 in seed funding.

The round was led by GFC, the venture arm of e-commerce behemoth and company builder Rocket Internet — which knows more than a thing or two about the teething problems scaling companies have — along with a number of angel investors. The latter includes Matt Robinson, co-founder of GoCardless and Nested (which I’m told are both early customers of Personably), and Caroline Sage, founder at Kea Consultants.

“Right now, on-boarding people into fast growing companies is incredibly time-consuming,” Pascoulis tells me. “If you don’t on-board that person properly you’re losing out on the first six months of their time at the company. They’ll take longer to get up to speed, which is expensive for the company and a poor experience for the individual, especially if they then leave sooner because of it.”

In researching the viability of a solution like Personably, Pascoulis says everyone she and Blackwood spoke to had their own story about something that had gone wrong in their first week that had stuck with them. “What Personably does to solve this is automating away a lot of those manual tasks that need to happen when someone starts,” she says. “Things as simple as sending welcome emails right up to automatically scheduling everything that new starter needs to attend.”

When a company is relatively small, these types of on-boarding tasks and the organisation around it tend to fall to one or two people and happens at a hiring pace that makes it manageable. However, if a company hits hyper-growth mode or simply becomes a much larger organisation with many more moving parts, the on-boarding process itself also needs to scale.

“When you’re hiring one person every couple of months it’s something you can handle. But when you’re hiring one or more people a week, you’re spending a lot of time doing these tasks that should just be handled automatically. We give teams that time back,” says Pascoulis.

As an example, imagine scheduling weeks of training across a company, involving lots of different team members. This might typically be handled through a combination of spreadsheets, email and task manager, but with Personably it can be done with a single click and tracked all in one interface.

Meanwhile, the business model is typical SaaS. Companies pay a monthly subscription fee to use the product, and the pricing varies based on the volume of hires a company is making.

Pascoulis cites competitors as newer HR systems like CharlieHR and HiBob that have on-boarding features, but, she argues, don’t scale as well. There’s also traditional enterprise products like Workday that handle on-boarding on an enterprise level.