Y Combinator graduate PredictLeads helps VCs hunt for unicorns – gpgmail


The Slovenian founders behind PredictLeads, another recent Y Combinator graduate, applied to the prestigious accelerator five times before they were admitted.

Their business, which helps venture capital firms and sales teams identify high growth companies, i.e. potential investments and potential customers, had come a long way since it was founded in 2016. And earlier this year — finally — YC gave them the green light to complete its three-month accelerator program.

“We almost ran out of money in 2017 and then I took a loan from my mother because that bank wouldn’t give me the loan at that point,” PredictLeads chief executive officer Roq Xever tells gpgmail. “But by then, the data was getting much better and we were able to make higher-value sells and that got us to profitability.”

You read that right. Unlike most of today’s tech startups, PredictLeads is profitable, though, only out of pure necessity: “We didn’t know we would ever get into YC to raise the money we needed, so we structured the company to make more money than we spent.”

Xever leads the small PredictLeads team alongside marketing chief Miha Stanovnik and chief technology officer Matic Perovsek. Xever tells gpgmail it wasn’t until they realized the opportunity to sell their product to VCs that YC became interested. Today, PredictLeads has eight venture firms as customers, the names of which they were not able to disclose.

The tool helps investors track companies they’ve considered in the past. PredictLeads notifies users if certain companies start getting traction so they can reevaluate the deal and helps investors become aware of startups they may not have otherwise heard of.

More and more venture capital firms are turning to third-party tools to help them make sense of and leverage data in the investment and company-tracking process, leading to the birth of new data-focused companies. Social Capital co-founder Chamath Palihapitiya is spinning out a company from his venture capital fund-turned-family-office, gpgmail learned earlier this year. The new entity, temporarily dubbed CaaS (short for capital-as-a-service) Technologies, will focus on providing data-driven insights to VC firms, for example.

Startups have also realized the importance of data. Narrator, another recent YC graduate, is betting big on this trend. The startup wants to become the operating system for data science by providing companies software that claims to fulfill the same service as a data team for the price of an analyst.

PredictLeads, for its part, collects data from websites, press releases, news articles, blogs and career sites, then uses supervised machine learning to extract and structure the data. The startup tracks 20 million public and private companies.

Now that it’s a graduate of YC, the team is in the process of moving its headquarters to the U.S. Either New York or San Francisco, says Xever, who’s currently navigating the difficult visa application process.

The startup is today raising a $1.5 million seed financing at a $10 million valuation. They plan to use the capital to expand their service to cater to quant funds, build a Salesforce app to better support sales teams, and, of course, expand their small team.


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Classic Hangouts for G Suite will hang in there a bit longer – gpgmail


Earlier this year, Google said it would transition all Hangouts users on G Suite to Hangouts Chat and Meet by October 2019 and then retire the classic version of Hangouts. But a lot of G Suite users love their classic Hangouts, so Google has now revised Hangouts’ retirement date to “no sooner than June 2020.” That leaves the door open for a later date, too, and the company says it will provide a “more definitive date” at some point in the future.

It’s worth stressing that this is about Hangouts for paying G Suite users. What’s happening to Hangouts for consumers remains unclear, given that Google’s original consumer messaging strategy failed after the disappointment that was Allo.

Earlier this year, Google said that it wanted to transition consumers over to a free version of Hangouts Chat and Meet after the G Suite transition. A Google spokesperson told me that this plan remains in place and that it will start after the G Suite transition.

As for G Suite users, Google plans to make the transition for G Suite users easier as it looks to move them over to the new platform. Admins can already jump on an accelerated timeline and disable classic Hangouts right now (but they still need an invitation from Google to do so).

 


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Adobe’s Amit Ahuja will be talking customer experience at gpgmail Sessions: Enterprise – gpgmail


As companies collect increasingly large amounts of data about customers, the end game is about improving the customer experience. It’s a term we’re hearing a lot of these days, and we are going to be discussing that very topic with Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s vice president of ecosystem development, next month at gpgmail Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco. Grab your early-bird tickets right now — $100 savings ends today!

Customer experience covers a broad array of enterprise software and includes data collection, analytics and software. Adobe deals with all of this, including the Adobe Experience Platform for data collection, Adobe Analytics for visualization and understanding and Adobe Experience Cloud for building applications.

The idea is to begin to build an understanding of your customers through the various interactions you have with them, and then build applications to give them a positive experience. There is a lot of talk about “delighting” customers, but it’s really about using the digital realm to help them achieve what they want as efficiently as possible, whatever that means to your business.

Ahuja will be joining gpgmail’s editors, along with Qualtrics chief experience officer Julie Larson-Green and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to discuss the finer points of what it means to build a customer experience, and how software can help drive that.

Ahuja has been with Adobe since 2005 when he joined as part of the $3.4 billion Macromedia acquisition. His primary role today involves building and managing strategic partnerships and initiatives. Prior to this, he was the head of Emerging Businesses and the GM of Adobe’s Data Management Platform business, which focuses on advertisers. He also spent seven years in Adobe’s Corporate Development Group, where he helped complete the acquisitions of Omniture, Scene7, Efficient Frontier, Demdex and Auditude.

Amit will be joining us on September 5 in San Francisco, along with some of the biggest influencers in enterprise, including Bill McDermott from SAP, Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Aparna Sinha from Google, Wendy Nather from Duo Security, Aaron Levie from Box and Andrew Ng from Landing AI.

Early-bird savings end today, August 9. Book your tickets today and you’ll save $100 before prices go up.

Bringing a group? Book our 4+ group tickets and you’ll save 20% on the early-bird rate. Bring the whole squad here.


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Hundreds of exposed Amazon cloud backups found leaking sensitive data – gpgmail


How safe are your secrets? If you used Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage snapshots, you might want to check your settings.

New research just presented at the Def Con security conference reveals how companies, startups and governments are inadvertently leaking their own files from the cloud.

You may have heard of exposed S3 buckets — those Amazon-hosted storage servers packed with customer data but often misconfigured and inadvertently set to “public” for anyone to access. But you may not have heard about exposed EBS snapshots, which poses as much, if not a greater, risk.

These elastic block storage (EBS) snapshots are the “keys to the kingdom,” said Ben Morris, a senior security analyst at cybersecurity firm Bishop Fox, in a call with gpgmail ahead of his Def Con talk. EBS snapshots store all the data for cloud applications. “They have the secret keys to your applications and they have database access to your customers’ information,” he said.

“When you get rid of the hard disk for your computer, you know, you usually shredded or wipe it completely,” he said. “But these public EBS volumes are just left for anyone to take and start poking at.”

He said that all too often cloud admins don’t choose the correct configuration settings, leaving EBS snapshots inadvertently public and unencrypted. “That means anyone on the internet can download your hard disk and boot it up, attach it to a machine they control, and then start rifling through the disk to look for any kind of secrets,” he said.

One of Morris’ Def Con slides explaining how EBS snapshots can be exposed. (Image: Ben Morris/Bishop Fox; supplied)

Morris built a tool using Amazon’s own internal search feature to query and scrape publicly exposed EBS snapshots, then attach it, make a copy and list the contents of the volume on his system.

“If you expose the disk for even just a couple of minutes, our system will pick it up and make a copy of it,” he said.

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 2.14.30 PM

Another slide noting the types of compromised data found using his research, often known as the “Wall of Sheep” (Image: Ben Morris/Bishop Fox; supplied)

It took him two months to build up a database of exposed data and just a few hundred dollars spent on Amazon cloud resources. Once he validates each snapshot, he deletes the data.

Morris found dozens of snapshots exposed publicly in one region alone, he said, including application keys, critical user or administrative credentials, source code and more. He found several major companies, including healthcare providers and tech companies.

He also found VPN configurations, which he said could allow him to tunnel into a corporate network. Morris said he did not use any credentials or sensitive data, as it would be unlawful.

Among the most damaging things he found, Morris said he found a snapshot for one government contractor, which he did not name, but provided data storage services to federal agencies. “On their website, they brag about holding this data,” he said, referring to collected intelligence from messages sent to and from the so-called Islamic State terror group to data on border crossings.

“Those are the kind of things I would definitely not want to be exposed to the public internet,” he said.

He estimates the figure could be as many as 1,250 exposures across all Amazon cloud regions.

Morris plans to release his proof-of-concept code in the coming weeks.

“I’m giving companies a couple of weeks to go through their own disks and make sure that they don’t have any accidental exposures,” he said.


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