Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights June 16-17: Aramark & Jefferson Health Launch App to Help Clients Reopen Safely; T-Mobile Writes Off Layer3 Acquisition

Tom Spann’s Act II, Brightside, raises $35.1 million from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) with participation from existing investors Comcast Ventures and Trinity Ventures

Tom Spann / Brightside website

Tom Paine

Brightside, which provides. tools to help companies’ employees stay on the right financial track with their personal finances, announced a $35.1 million Series A investment today.

The round was led by Andreesson Horowitz, with Comcast Ventures, Trinity Ventures and others also participating..Tom Spann, who founded employee health navigation company Accolade, which now has a valuation of $620 milli9n, is trying to replicate his success with healthcare by taking a similar approach to financial management. Accolade filed for an IPO back in February.

in its announcement, Brightside said it would have three headquarters: Chandler, AZ, San Fransisco, and Philadelphia, though Philadelphia presently has only a handful of the 103 employees listed on LinkedIn. The presence of Andreesson Horowitz, along with continued support from Comcast Ventures, is important.

Andreesson Horowitz also led a large round in Acccolade, so presumably its reasonably pleased with that investment and Spann as a founder. Spann cut his last formal tie with Accolade late last year, leaving its board to focus on being CEO of Brightside.

There is definitely a sense of missionary zeal about Spann, a belief in doing good, but nonetheless the venture must make financial. sense. Brigthside claims to put $1200 per year back in the pockets of the average employee, a number that seems low but honest. Expenses must. be measured against that number. Also, there must be limits on how far you can go in advising employees without running into regulatory issues.

Its still an unproven concept. Comcast as a client has been a test case.

Opinion: Why TechUnited Matters to the NJ Tech Community

Esther Surden

Opinion: Why TechUnited Matters to the NJ Tech Community

Today, Aaron Price and his team turned a page in the history of the NJ Tech Council. They introduced the organization’s new name and brand, “TechUnited:NJ.”

New Jersey is one of the few states that has a strong organization uniting and advocating for its tech community. The NJ Tech Council has been that advocate for 24 years.

However, as a 20-plus-year-old organization, it needed a refresh, and TechUnited:NJ sets the expectations just right.

In a recent interview, Price described the organization’s vision as follows: “For those who are defining the path ahead in New Jersey and beyond, TechUnited:NJ is an empowering force for all innovators, instigators and entrepreneurs, achieving this by uniting our community to embolden the ‘what ifs,’ so that we accelerate opportunity, propel ideas into action, in order to build a better future for all.”

The word “all” is an important part of that statement, Price said, and it’s deliberately used twice “because we want to make sure the organization addresses all kinds of people from all different backgrounds, and we think about equity as an important driving characteristic of how we move forward.”

Bringing Value to Stakeholders

The organization is putting a lot of emphasis on the experiences and value it offers its members and others who may not be members. Price thinks a lot about what TechUnited:NJ’s differentiator is and what he brings to the table. Based on his experience running the NJ Tech Meetup, Propelify and the NJ Tech Council, he noted that “they all offer surprising and impactful opportunities that arise when the tech community unites.”

So, this time, “We were thinking about a name that represented the power of community, the power of bringing people together.”

There’s a ton of energy around the state and around the region about what can we do together, he added. “I think TechUnited:NJ is really well positioned to help catalyze a lot of that opportunity. It’s a really exciting time to be involved with all of this.”

The new logo was developed in New Jersey, said Price. He pointed out that, on the logo, the point where the “h” connects with the “u” represents when tech unites, and they are the only letters that are physically connected. A multicolored gradient shoots out from the space behind “united” to represent the impact and the opportunities that emerge when technology unites and people and companies come together. He noted that “h” and “u” are the first two letters in the word “human,” and that human powers activate this explosion, and humans are the catalyst driving energy and momentum.

“The graphic behind the ‘united’ is a gradient meant to represent a diversity of individuals and the ideas in the community,” he said. “It’s deliberately changing colors over time as a reflection of the diversity of people and ideas that come together. It goes from cooler tones to warmer tones in a nod towards building a better future for all.”

The word “Tech” is prominent in the logo. According to the website,”Tech isn’t just about coding languages and transistors. To us, being a ‘tech’ person is a lens through which one sees the world. Where some see headaches – we see opportunity. Where some find frustration, we look for efficiency. Where some think small – we leverage technology to make a dent in the globe.”

Data Driven

Price announced the new name and brand during an NJTC Town Hall webinar, making it clear that TechUnited:NJ would be holding itself to a very high standard, and would be collecting and monitoring data on user satisfaction with the organization and its programs. He noted that the overall goal will be to bring value to New Jersey’s tech community. “Whether you’re an early-stage entrepreneur with an idea just looking to get started, or you’re a Fortune 100 company,” TechUnited:NJ can accelerate your opportunities, he said.

There are three particular data points that are important to TechUnited, Price said. The first one is overall engagement. “Our goal is to have at least four meaningful engagements with every stakeholders’ organization each year. I hope we have significantly more, but it is a minimum of four. We’ve now committed to technology to start to track those things.” Secondly, TechUnited is looking to increase its value by having a higher net promoter score, which is the ratio that shows that people are heavily advocating for our organization.

 “We were looking to meet or beat a 35 Net Promoter Score. … We looked at the services industries, and 30 was the was the good-to-excellent score, so we set a slightly higher bar: 35. Most recently, and it’s early in the process, but we’re at 58 and above with most of the experiences.” The third goal is to look at growth as measured by an increase in members, an increase in overall revenue and “a decrease in our membership churn rate.”

Emphasis on New Jersey

During the launch webinar, Price was asked specifically if the goal of the rebrand was to start in New Jersey and to expand to other regions. He added that it is possible. “The goal wasn’t to come up with a brand necessarily that could expand to other regions, but it certainly was a major positive as we thought about branding, that it might open doors” to other areas.

“There are logical steps to how we could have other TechUnited brands around the country, around the globe. And our thinking was [that] we may or may not ever get to that place, but if we did, and the headquarters and the mother ship is in New Jersey, we can bring people together here and show that this can be the beacon from which it all grows. We think that’s a net positive for everybody.”

Price emphasized that, for the foreseeable future, TechUnited’s emphasis will be on this state and this region.

Why it Matters

So why does all this matter? It matters because the tech and innovation community is New Jersey’s future.  If we all pull in the same direction, if we can unite the state and the region, if we can get large companies, mid-sized companies, small companies and startups talking together and finding common ground, we can finally put New Jersey on the tech map.

Am I worried about Price’s possible long-term goal of replicating this in other places? To me, it only means that the organization will be working extra hard to get this right for New Jersey.

Innovation comes out of every corner of New Jersey, and TechUnited:NJ can help us all pull together to move forward. We wish TechUnited:NJ the best of luck in the next 20-plus years of this organization.

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About The Author

Esther Surden

Esther Surden

Esther is the Founder and Editor in Chief of NJ Tech Weekly. This article is republished here with her permission.

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Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights 6/13-6/15: SAP says Azure is preferred Cloud; Elliot Management going UpMarket, but are profits the same?

WALMART TO SHUTTER JET BRAND, BUT JOBS TO STAY IN HOBOKEN

Aaron Price and Marc Lore photo by Matthew Weber
Aaron Price and Marc Lore at a NJ Tech Meetup (File Photo) | Matthew Weber

Home » Around New Jersey » entrepreneurship » Innovation » Meetings » News » NJ Tech People » Startups » tech entrepreneurship » Walmart to Shutter Jet Brand, but Jobs to Stay in Hoboken

WALMART TO SHUTTER JET BRAND, BUT JOBS TO STAY IN HOBOKEN

 May 19, 2020  Esther Surden

It is the end of the line for Jet.com, the brave new e-commerce experiment started by New Jersey entrepreneur Marc Lore in Montclair in 2014. The startup raised over $820 million in four venture rounds and built a massive tech presence in Hoboken.

Jet’s claim to fame was its “smart cart,” an e-commerce technology that bundled goods together to reduce costs to consumers. Jet.com was a digital-first e-commerce company that was emboldened to try new ways of doing business. The startup’s employees could be found in their purple shirts everywhere in Hoboken, and they were a presence at the Propelify Innovation Festival, with Jet sponsoring a Ferris Wheel that it used to conduct job interviews.

Walmart, which bought Jet.com for over $3 billion from Lore and cofounders Mike Hanrahan and Nathan Faust in 2016, has decided to put an end to all that. According to a report by TechCrunch, the company stated that “due to continued strength of the Walmart.com brand, the company will discontinue Jet.com. The acquisition of Jet.com nearly four years ago was critical to accelerating our omni strategy.” 

NJTechWeekly.com reached out to Walmart to ask what will happen to the Jet.com tech jobs in Hoboken. Prior to this announcement, Walmart had already incorporated those teams into the main Walmart e-commerce brand. “These teams are part of Walmart.com and are not affected by this change,” a Walmart spokeswoman told us.

“These teams are part of Walmart.com and are not affected by this change,”

Walmart spokeswoman

When the news of the Walmart acquisition of Jet in 2016 hit New Jersey, many in the local tech community, including Aaron Price, now president and CEO of the NJ Tech Council, were disappointed. They had hoped that Jet would grow into a large e-commerce entity that would spin off many e-commerce technology startups of its own, and be the anchor for an innovation hot spot in New Jersey.

At that time, Lore said about the acquisition, “We started Jet with the vision of creating a new shopping experience. Today, I couldn’t be more excited that we will be joining with Walmart to help fuel the realization of that vision. The combination of Walmart’s retail expertise, purchasing scale, sourcing capabilities, distribution footprint, and digital assets — together with the team, technology and business we have built here at Jet — will allow us to deliver more value to customers.”

When Walmart began integrating the teams into its overall e-commerce strategy last year, Lore wrote a blog post noting that, after the acquisition, “we merged many Jet and Walmart teams to become one, and created incredible new customer experiences. Our combined supply chain team has retooled fulfillment centers and mirrored inventory. This initially led to two-day free shipping, and more recently, free NextDay Delivery, all without a membership fee.”

He continued, “The smart cart technology we built for Jet played a big role in making that possible. Our combined retail team has added incredible new brands, including private brands with Sophia Vergara, Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Barrymore, and a lot more. They’ve built amazing tools like FlightDeck to put data at our merchants’ fingertips, and created a new baby registry and PetRX.”

Lore added that his company had repositioned the Jet site itself. “Across most of the country, we saw we could get a much higher return on our marketing investments with Walmart.com, so we’ve dialed up our marketing spend there. However, in specific large cities where Walmart has few or no stores, Jet has become hyper focused on those urban customers. It added iconic local brands in New York and brought in products from brands like Apple and Nike that you haven’t seen on Walmart.com. While this has made Jet smaller from a sales perspective, it has helped us create a smart portfolio approach where our businesses complement each other,” he wrote.

“Bringing together talent from Jet and Walmart into joint teams has created more opportunity for our business and our people. We’re now merging the rest of our Jet teams, including Retail, Marketing, Technology, Analytics, Product and several others within Walmart.”

More of our coverage of Jet.com can be found here:

At NJ Tech Meetup, Lore Talks about Jet’s Value Proposition, Massive Market, and What Keeps Him Up at Night, by Esther Surden

At June NJ Tech Meetup, Jet Reveals the Tech Secret Sauce That Helps It Compete with Amazon, by Givon Zirkind

Hoboken-based Jet Changes Its Business Model; Goodbye to Yearly Fee, by Esther Surden

Some Details Emerge on Marc Lore’s E-Commerce Startup Jet, by Esther Surden

COPYRIGHT © 2019 NJ TECH WEEKLY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Esther Surden is founder & publisher of NJTechWeekly. This article is republished here with her permission.

Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights 6/10 & 6/11: Instacart & DoorDash (pending) raises, GrubHub merger, raise steaks

Aramark used to own Seamless, which merged with GrubHub

Philly EnterpriseTech Peoplenews June 12: Ex Dell exec (spent time at Boomi) to head refurbished Vonage; Comcast has new Treasurer & head of DC office

Elemica has found its muse
Interesting background
Putting a frenchman in charge of an Indian company?
Some question why this Wharton grad received such a boost
Former CEO of Philly startup ListenLogic, which was sold to Anaxinet
Don’t know why he left a very successful startup

DuckDuckGo in the limelight

Tom Paine

In case you haven’t noticed, news about Paoli-based alternative privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo has grown from a trickle into a flood, partially based on recent interviews founder & CEO Gabriel Weinberg has granted.

In one, he says he is talking with the Feds about their active Google antitrust investigation. In another, he is described as “talking to investors”, perhaps implying another funding round might be forthcoming.

The latest is a slew of articles ( prompted by a Wall Street analyst) ) suggesting Apple should acquire DuckDuckGo (for less than $1 billion, the analyst recommends)

Here are some dates and milestones mentioned in recent articles:

Raised $3 million in a Series A round in 2011, led by Union Square Ventures.

Says it might pass the $100 million revenue barrier for the first time in 2020

89 staff members currently

Profitable since 2014

In March 2018, 17 million daily DuckDuckGo searches were made; exactly two years later, 57 million searches were completed.

2018: Canadian investment fund leads $10 million round

1.5 billion monthly DuckDuckGos already taking place.

If DuckDuckGo is generating $100 million in revenue with 89 associates and no large content acquisition costs, its economics are exceptional

DuckDuckGo advertising contextual; Google search advertising personalized behavioral

Gooogle is paying Apple an estimated $7-8 billion per year to be Apple’s default search engine

Continue reading “DuckDuckGo in the limelight”

Josh Harris & private equity buddy considering Mets bid: report

Tom Paine

Variety reported that Sixers & Devils primary owner Josh Harris and his sports business partner David Blitzer, another private equity monarch and also an investor in those franchises, are at the early stages of considering a possible bid for the Mets. Fans of the directionless, hopeless franchise would need to buy in to”trusting the process”, which if the Sixers are any model could add at least 10 more years to their baseball purgatory.

But any New York sports franchise is worth billions, and the Mets’ Wilpon family is said to be seeking $2 billion, which is not unrealistic. Harris acquired the Sixers for $280 million in 2011, and Forbes (who’s valuations I often question) says its worth $2 billon, which is probably in the ballpark.

A key issue in the Met’s case is the sports net, SNY, which the Wilpon’s seem to want to keep control of.

Talks with hedge fund manager Steve Cohen broke down earlier in the year, and a possible bid by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez appears dead right now.

The Wilpon family owns 70% of the team. Last year, the Wilpons bought back small stakes owned by Charter and Comcast.

Factors that could limit the Mets’ valuation include the still uncertain impact on large crowds due to the Corona virus, and possible economic pressures caused by friction over payroll between ownership and players.