Matygo emerged out of Vancouver’s GrowLab accelerator in late 2011 to take advantage of the growing popularity of the “flipped classroom” philosophy in education, which, as Knewton describes it, seeks to invert traditional methods of teaching by delivering instruction online (through videos, etc.) outside of class, while moving homework into the classroom. Khan Academy is one of many examples of how startups are applying the flipped classroom model to improve the learning process.
Initially, the startup focused on developing a cloud-based learning management system (LMS), along with providing free, online courses to let anyone learn how to code, for example, along with classroom collaboration tools. However, as it goes in the burgeoning EdTech space, the startup’s learning platform never quite hit its stride, struggling to reach scale and profitability amidst slim margins.
Instead, after pulling back and delving into months of research, the startup identified three areas in which EdTech businesses are finding success: They help get internal teams up to speed, create customer evangelists, and they improve partner channel revenue through sales and product training. In November, Matygo rebranded as Learndot, focusing instead on bringing universities to businesses and the enterprise.
In other words, Learndot is building a training and certification platform for businesses that enables anyone within an organization to build courses, certify customers, educate partners and get employees up to speed, from the cloud. Learndot launched its new platform in beta in November, and were quickly overwhelmed by the response, receiving hundreds of trial requests within the first few months.
The startup wasn’t ready for the response, Learndot founder Paul Roland Lambert tells us, and they had to turn people away, as it initially took the startup nearly a week to set up a single trial manually. Now, with customers like Get Satisfaction, Clio and Zirtual on board, Learndot is officially coming out of restricted beta and opening its platform to the public.
In its newest form, Learndot is focused on providing enterprise clients with a results-centric education platform, in an attempt to improve training outcomes and to streamline the learning process, while allowing organizations to emphasize great content rather than simply prioritizing compliance.
Traditionally, business leaders and organizations have looked at training as a checkmark they need for compliance, which has led to corporate education taking a backseat on a company’s list of priorities. Recently, however, this mindset has begun to change as organizations realize that education can be used to deliver long-term results and give them a competitive advantage.
“We believe all organizations will benefit by nurturing a culture of learning, but people-powered businesses of all sizes see the greatest impact,” Lambert told Cantech this month. “This includes most service-based businesses, retailers, sales teams, or any industry where employee retention is a key metric.”
So, in essence Learndot is combining a course-creation tool a la Udemy with a platform for delivery, quizzing and analytics. Together, it allows anyone to create learning content and makes it easy to start small, test ideas with a few people, iterate and add as they go.
The idea is to offer a product that doesn’t require you to be an expert on workplace learning or training to build an awesome course. And, by providing easy access to analytics and data on employee performance within these courses, Learndot wants to make it easy for businesses to customize learning content, resulting in courses that are both more effective and aren’t excruciatingly boring.
This week, as part of exiting private beta, Learndot is launching Web signup so that anyone can sign up to use its SaaS tools mentioned above, beginning with a 14-day free trial. In addition, Learndot is adding a “forever free” plan, which provides access for up to five learners at no charge, in an effort to allow teams that want to test and evaluate Learndot do so without worrying about an expiration date. For organizations with up to 50 employees, Learndot offers a “Team” package that starts at $250, and a business plan for up to 150 employees at $500.
Through its new pricing scheme and re-organization, Learndot hopes to significantly lower the friction around testing out its product, while allowing small teams to use the platform for free. Startups helpin’ startups.
Instagram has hired a Director of Operations, the first of what we’re assuming will be many steps to monetize its explosive scale and expand on it’s infinite potential for brand partnerships. Facebook’s Director of Mobile Partnerships Emily White will be moving over to the more than 20 person team, which just surpassed the 100 million user mark in February.
The hire was announced by Emily White on Instagram itself.
Described as a “really dynamic person” by one source, Emily was an early employee at Google, joining when they were at 200 employees and leaving when they were 22k. While at Google she helped build Google Adwords among other things. White joined Facebook in 2010, where she was primarily focused on getting Facebook on as many devices as possible, 2500 devices at last count. She will be working on brand partnerships at Facebook.
She is also on the board at Lulumon.
Fast-growing enterprise network security company OpenDNS is announcing a new investment this morning, we’ve learned, raising an undisclosed amount of Series B funding from Sutter Hill Ventures. New managing partner and former Juniper Network Systems executive Stefan Dyckerhoff is joining the company’s board. While OpenDNS is not releasing the exact amount of the funding, founder and CEO David Ulevitch tells us it’s a “meaningful round and a very large check,” that will enable the cash-flow-positive company to ramp up expansion in the next few years. Prior to this round, OpenDNS had raised $7 million from Minor Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners.
Founded in 2005, OpenDNS originally launched as a way for consumers to connect safely to the Internet. The company offers free DNS controls alongside parental and organizational filtering (i.e. giving parents control over what their kids have access to on their home network, etc.), providing an alternative way for consumers to protect themselves from having their search terms hijacked by ISPs. By 2009, the company had 30 million users that included both companies and consumers.
But Ulevitch and his team realized that there was another hole to fill in the network security space specifically for large companies and enterprises that were particularly susceptible to sophisticated malware and botnet attacks.
The Umbrella Solution
He explains that as businesses use cloud-based services such Box and Google Apps, and employees view and access content on mobile devices, such as smartphones, iPads and tablets, there is a huge hole in network security. As workers are remote, accessing business applications on the road or outside of the office, the expensive, old-school networks that most businesses invested in years ago will not protect this data on these devices. The traditional security appliance approach of “build a firewall around the corporate network” fails to scale or address the reality of how employees work today. These disruptive changes in the way work gets done left IT administrators without visibility, leaving users unprotected and devices unsecure.
So OpenDNS launched a new cloud-delivered security solution, called Umbrella, which protects businesses and their users regardless of where they work and what device they use to connect to the Internet. As Ulevitch tells us, he sees OpenDNS as a pathway to layer on solutions like Okta Identity Access Management, CipherCloud’s data-encryption service, SourceFire IDS, giving IT admins an extension of their network perimeter.
While it would take most companies years to develop this kind of product, OpenDNS already had the infrastructure in place from the DNS product (which is alive and well, says Ulevitch). The company had built out 19 data centers that had the ability to carry tremendous volumes of traffic. And this infrastructure was already being paid for by other parts of the business.
From a product standpoint, OpenDNS gives IT cloud-based software that monitors and secures every device that connects to a business’ network, from anywhere in the world and even for the devices that leave. The onboarding process takes minutes as opposed to days with traditional incumbent security networks that offer on-premise hardware. And admins can create different security policies for different offices and users. For example, an admin can set from the cloud that all iPhone users in a particular network cannot be logged. From the actual employee standpoint, there is no app to download and users barely interact with OpenDNS.
Dyckerhoff says that one of the reasons that OpenDNS is so disruptive to the network security space is that the company has developed its offering starting with the mobile user in mind. As more sophisticated attacks emerge from botnets and malware that are attacking mobile devices, the incumbent appliances don’t have protection against some of these sophisticated attacks. OpenDNS does, he adds.
Dyckerhoff would know. He was the 33rd employee at Juniper, and he helped the networking equipment manufacturer become a $10 billion market cap company. Ulevitch had met Dyckerhoff a few years ago at the annual Davos conference and the two hit it off immediately. Last year, Ulevitch approached him about becoming a board member or advisor to the company, but Dyckerhoff was just about to join Sutter Hill. The two talked about a possible investment as well, and Ulevitch decided the timing was right to take outside investment. Dyckerhoff joins Greylock’s Dave Strohm, and Sequoia’s Mike Goguen on OpenDNS’ board.
The Enterprise Response And Data As The Future
After launching the enterprise networking product, OpenDNS grew from 3,500 enterprise customers to over 7,000 in 2012 alone. The company also has 1,500 partners who resell their service. And OpenDNS currently handles over 50 billion customer transactions per day and 50 billion DNS inquiries daily across 19 global data centers. Customers include BP, Panera, Macaroni Grill, Genentech and Deloitte.
While the company doesn’t reveal exact revenue numbers, we’ve heard it’s in the eight digits, and sales have grown by more than 100 percent for the third year in a row. Additionally, OpenDNS sees a 97 percent annual renewals rate among customers.
With the massive amount of security data being parsed by OpenDNS, the company is getting a real-time, global view into all ports and protocols. The company’s Umbrella Security Labs research team is mining this data to help predict malware attacks before they actually take place. The team, which is composed of infrastructure experts, mathematicians, data scientists and security researchers, analyzes this disparate data and uses AI, pattern discovery, anomaly detection and temporal patterns to deliver predictive threat protection.
Essentially, OpenDNS wants to be able to predict future threat origins – sites that are likely to host malware in the future, for example – and block them using an Amazon-like recommendation algorithm. For example, when Facebook announced that it had been under sophisticated hacking attack in February, OpenDNS was able to predict threats for other companies that had similar profiles. Ulevitch adds that OpenDNS is providing security from sophisticated threats that other vendors can’t do because they don’t see the traffic and lack the big data analysts to create actionable intelligence from this.
In terms of the competition, there are incumbents like Barracuda that are also playing in the network security space. But Ulevitch isn’t worried, as many of these companies can’t scale around the cloud model because they have bet on hardware with hosting boxes on customer sites. Cloudflare is often cited as a competitor, though Ulevitch says he doesn’t see the startup as a rival, and finds the service to be more complementary.
But regardless of the competition, the market opportunity is huge and there’s room for a variety of players. Gartner expects worldwide spending on security to grow to $86 billion by 2016.
The new funding comes at a time when OpenDNS is looking to seriously scale in the next few years. The new funding will be used towards building out additional infrastructure as well as hiring, particularly in sales. Dyckerhoff is also going to use his own experience at Juniper to help make this a transformative year for OpenDNS.
It’s clear that Ulevitch and Dyckerhoff want to build a lasting company and are not looking for a quick exit — if OpenDNS has the transformative year or two that Ulevitch envisions, the next step could be the public markets. Much is still yet to be determined, but one thing is clear — the network security space is better with OpenDNS in it.
Simpler, a new startup that wants to disrupt employee onboarding, is launching today and announcing $1.25 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, SV Angel, Data Collective, and Formation8.
The startup, which is the brainchild of gaming startup TinyCo co-founder (who left the company two years ago) Ian Spivey, and Ivan Kim and Bo Shi, is a solution for the new-hire paperwork problem. As Spivey explains, when he hired people at TinyCo there was always the requisite huge stack of papers that new employees had to fill out on the first day, including tax forms, health care forms, employee agreements and more. He said he wished he had an easy onboarding tool. He adds that the process is the same for startups or for Fortune 500 companies.
So when he left TinyCo he set about trying to create a cloud-based tool that managed new-hire paperwork without the paper, essentially creating paperless onboarding. Simpler, which is in private beta, digitizes all the forms that companies need for employee onboarding.
The customer sends Simpler their current on-boarding packet and Simpler digitizes it. HR admins can then enter a new employee’s name, start date and email, and select the type of packet they’ll get (e.g. full time vs. contractor), and the employee will receive an e-mail with a link to their employee portal, which contains all the docs they need to fill out.
Employees then review the documents and sign the forms via an e-signature feature. The documents are submitted for approval, and the HR reps can see what areas where action is required or fields are missing. Administrators can also track employee progress.
Finally, completed documents are sent to third-party service providers like payroll and benefits brokers. The eventual output is a set of documents in a PDF that can be emailed, as well. The workflow as a whole is simple and easy, and doesn’t waste employee or HR time.
As Spivey explains, the company is focusing on a specific part of human capital management, which is a multi-billion dollar opportunity.
Pricing is still being determined, we’re told.
Dynamic Signal, the social marketing company led by Adify co-founder Russ Fradin, is launching a new product today called VoiceStorm, which encourages, manages and measures employees’ efforts to promote a company on social networks.
Fradin told me that VoiceStorm is functionally similar to Dynamic Signal’s existing platform, which helps companies run word-of-mouth marketing campaigns — it’s just built for employees rather than customers or fans. Basically, Fradin aims to replace all those team emails and in-person encounters where someone is nudging everyone else into tweeting something, posting it on Facebook, and so on.
“One of our first clients said to us, ‘Hey, can we get our employees to join this community as well?’” Fradin said. “Our employees are really our best advocates. We want to be able to send content to them and make it super easy for them to be able to get that content.”
VoiceStorm can automatically pull content from a company’s RSS feeds, and users can also upload content that they find elsewhere for approval. So when an employee logs into their dashboard, they might see the latest job listings, or a press release about a big product launch, or a TechCrunch article about their latest venture funding. Then they can select the content that seems worth sharing, write their own message, and push it to all of their connected social accounts.
Management, meanwhile, can see who’s doing the most sharing and getting the most clicks. The site even includes a leaderboard of the most successful employee advocates. Fradin argued that this allows companies to quantify the value of that promotion, and to reward employees accordingly. For example, if someone’s sharing eventually leads to the hiring of an important team member, that could save the company tens of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees.
There are other companies, including Addvocate, trying to help employees promote the company on social media. Fradin said that with VoiceStorm, the key ingredient is mobile messaging. Managers can not only add content to the system, but they can also send it as a push notification to specific groups within the company. So if TechCrunch had a big scoop that we wanted to promote immediately, VoiceStorm could actually send alerts asking all the writers to tweet it right away.
On the flip side, if employees just want to visit the VoiceStorm site once a day, they can also queue up a number of social media updates, then the service will automatically space them out so that they don’t all post at once. Fradin said there’s not much technical intelligence in the scheduling. It’s less about optimizing the timing and more about making it convenient for the employee.
Oh, and it isn’t just for employees. You can invite other company supporters, as well — for startups, that would probably include their investors and advisors. VoiceStorm is free for up to 40 users, with final pricing to be announced later.
See the original post: Dynamic Signal Launches VoiceStorm To Manage Employees’ Social Media Promotion Efforts