Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Three Tips For Maximizing Your Career As An International Software Developer - Forbes

Three Tips For Maximizing Your Career As An International Software Developer - Forbes

Three Tips For Maximizing Your Career As An International Software Developer - Forbes

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 04:30 AM PDT

I've hired software developers across the world for multiple startups for over 24 years and have been honored to follow the careers of many offshore developers. Here are the best practices I teach to young developers in my network as they begin their journeys as international software engineers.

1. Think About Time

Do you work with a lot of 45-year-old software developers at your current company? According to a 2015 survey on Stack Overflow (via InfoWorld), the average software developer is 28.9 years old. (Data USA puts the average at 39.7.)

While there are many reasons for this, the bottom line for many developers is that the window to fully develop your professional network may be limited compared to other industries such as the legal profession, where the average age for U.S. judicial workers (including lawyers) is 46.3. 

Sure, it's tempting to take your excellent pay to go on every available holiday and let your friends know you're living the good life on Instagram, but it also pays to take some risks early in your career. So take risks.

Risk joining a startup, risk starting your own project or company, or risk asking someone you'd like to emulate to mentor you. As the old adage goes, "Fortune favors the brave."

While press headlines may focus on the Zuckerbergs of the world, I know plenty of developers who were early employees at technology companies you've never heard of that were acquired, and who have leveraged such experiences to leapfrog their careers.

So surround yourself with people who embrace risk. You can easily spot these people and organizations because they're the ones who are constantly investing in new experiments.

Believe me, not many developers want to join the ranks of those who thought joining my first startup was "too risky." That company is now worth over $3 billion on the NASDAQ stock market.

I believe the greatest risk for young developers is not taking any.

2. Use IT Outsourcing As A Stepping Stone, Not A Career Destination

In emerging economies, working for an IT outsourcer can be a great place to learn basic skills and get exposure to live commercial projects, but you may not want to think of this as a long-term career prospect. That's because IT outsourcer culture can be one of employment arbitrage and not innovation, and learning to think like an innovator can widen your career opportunities greatly.

A 2016 Deloitte survey (via The Wall Street Journal) indicated that only 21% of enterprise outsourcing contracts had any "proactive innovation" built into their service contracts, although Deloitte found that number had risen to 43% in 2018 (download required). 

Obviously many innovations come from startups, so working on a startup project could be great exposure to innovation culture and give you the opportunity to put your own unique ideas into production code.

As well, I've found that IT outsourcers (especially large ones) tend to work on legacy projects and in legacy languages like J2EE. This can severely limit the types of jobs you can get in the future and rob you of the experience to learn new technologies or frameworks.

A common mistake I see young developers make is thinking it's OK to work in the "safety" of a large outsourcing company because they and a friend are working weekends on their brilliant app idea. It rarely works.

A 2012 study by Harvard Senior Lecturer Shikar Ghosh (via Silicon Valley Business Journal) found that 75% of venture-backed startups fail, although other estimates vary. Think about that for a second -- if founders who are dedicating their lives to their projects with VC money fail three out of four times, what are the chances that your unfunded side project will be successful?

For those that aren't born innovators, developers can nurture an innovation mentality by working for a company whose culture rewards "outside the box" ideas and fosters risk-taking. That can be a fast-moving corporation, a VC-funded startup, or a bootstrapped group of hungry founders.

3. Find A Great Mentor

I've had two mentors that taught me how to grow my two startups to exit. There is no way I could have accomplished either of these feats without the guidance of my mentors. Their operational experience not only gave me best-practice rules for hiring and managing teams but also helped me negotiate the financing rounds for my first company and the sale of my second.

If you don't have a senior coder that can take you under their wing and mentor you, please go ahead and work for someone that can. This is by far the single biggest difference I see between developers who simply survive from paycheck to paycheck and those that continue to increase their opportunities until they decide to retire.

Another common mistake I see young developers make is that they think $500 per month more in the short term is more valuable than working for a good mentor in the long run. In my opinion, they are wrong -- good mentors are as valuable as a top university education. 

Look for mentors who are living the life you want and who espouse the values you hold dear. Just because someone made millions and drives a Ferrari doesn't mean they're a good mentor for you. And a good mentor doesn't have to be someone that makes you feel good about yourself.

Think about your best professor or teacher from your school years. Was the person you learned the most from the nicest teacher? Did they challenge you and at times make you feel uncomfortable, or did they sing your praises on a regular basis?

Mentors come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. You want to choose those that can most accelerate your career and help you train for your "career black belt."

As Marc Andreessen once said (paywall), "Software is eating the world." Just make sure you get your slice of the pie while your career still has teeth.

Logistics startup Zencargo raises $20M to take on the antiquated business of freight forwarding - TechCrunch

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 05:12 AM PDT

Move over, Flexport. There is another player looking to make waves in the huge and messy business of freight logistics. Zencargo — a London startup that has built a platform that uses machine learning and other new technology to rethink how large shipping companies and their customers manage and move cargo, or freight forwarding as it's known in the industry — has closed a Series A round of funding of about $19 million.

Zencargo's co-founder and head of growth Richard Fattal said in an interview that the new funds will be used to continue building its software, specifically to develop more tools for the manufacturers and others who use its platform to predict and manage how cargo is moved around the world.

The Series A brings the total raised by Zencargo to $20 million. This latest round was led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures. Tom Stafford, managing partner at DST Global; Pentland Ventures; and previous investors Samos, LocalGlobe and Picus Capital also participated in the round.

Zencargo is not disclosing its valuation, nor its current revenues, but Fattal said that in the last 12 months it has seen its growth grow six times over. The company (for now) also does not explicitly name clients, but Fattal notes that they include large e-commerce companies, retailers and manufacturers, including several of the largest businesses in Europe. (One of them at least appears to be Amazon: Zencargo provides integrated services to ship goods to Amazon fulfillment centers.)

Shipping — be it by land, air or sea — is one of the cornerstones of the global economy. While we are increasingly hearing a mantra to "buy local," the reality of how the mass-market world of trade works is that components for things are not often made in the same place where the ultimate item is assembled, and our on-demand digital culture has created an expectation and competitive market for more than what we can source in our backyards.

For companies like Zencargo, that creates a two-fold opportunity: to ship finished goods — be it clothes, food or anything — to meet those consumer demands wherever they are; and to ship components for those goods — be it electronics, textiles or flour — to produce those goods elsewhere, wherever that business happens to be.

Ironically, while we have seen a lot of technology applied to other aspects of the economics equation — we can browse an app anytime and anywhere to buy something, for example — the logistics of getting the basics to the right place are now only just catching up.

Alex Hersham, another of Zencargo's co-founders who is also the CEO (the third co-founder is Jan Riethmayer, the CTO), estimates that there is some $1.1 trillion "left on the table" from all of the inefficiencies in the supply chain related to things not being in stock when needed, or overstocked, and other inventory mistakes.

Fattal notes that Zencargo is not only trying to replace things like physical paperwork, faxes and silos of information variously held by shipping companies and the businesses that use them — but the whole understanding and efficiency (or lack thereof) that underlies how everything moves, and in turn the kinds of businesses that can be built as a result.

"Global trade is an enormous market, one of the last to be disrupted by technology," Fattal said. "We want not just to be a better freight forwarder but we want people to think differently about commerce. Given a choice, where is it best to situate a supplier? Or how much stock do I order? How do I move this cargo from one place to another? When you have a lot of variability in the supply chain, these are difficult tasks to manage, but by unlocking the data in the supply chain you can really change the whole decision making process."

Zencargo is just getting started on that. Flexport, one of its biggest startup competitors, in February raised $1 billion at a $3.2 billion valuation led by SoftBank to double down on its own freight forwarding business, platform and operations. But as Christian Saller, a partner at HV Holtzbrinck Ventures describes it, there is still a lot of opportunity out there and room for more than one disruptor.

"It's such a big market that is so broken," he said. "Right now it's not about winner-take-all."

On-demand warehousing startup Flowspace raises $12 million in Series A investment - FreightWaves

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 06:30 AM PDT

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Flowspace, a California-based on-demand warehousing and fulfillment startup, announced its Series A investment raise of $12 million, which was led by Canvas Ventures. The round also saw participation from Moment Ventures, 1984 Ventures and Y Combinator. In total, Flowspace has raised $15.5 million since its inception in 2017.

Flowspace helps small- and mid-sized companies by sourcing warehousing space for their needs. This allows businesses to scale up rapidly and concentrate on gaining more customers, rather than stagnate with the burden of finding warehouses to stock products.

Ben Eachus, the CEO of Flowspace, explained that the startup can identify warehouse space based on their client's requirements – typically within a day. That apart, the fulfillment space also comes without the long technical integration process that is usually required by warehouses before they stock products.

The company has automated the process of sourcing warehouse space, and handles the storage, transportation and services of inventory on a per-month basis. While on the Flowspace platform, clients gain access to hundreds of professionally operated warehouses that are strategically located throughout the U.S. Customers can then select the warehouse that is best for them, based on location and their inventory needs.

"We have had rapid growth since our launch in 2017. Flowspace now supports hundreds of warehouse partners and merchants who are using our software platform," said Eachus. "The feedback has been positive from our customers as we've saved them time when finding and launching into new facilities. Our customers find our product easy to use and our customer support to be excellent."

Flowspace's cloud-based inventory management software is supported by its spread of warehouses and fulfillment centers that touch every major U.S. market, and provide flexible monthly subscriptions for clients that are expanding quickly and do not have a definitive answer about the inventory volume they will require down the line.

"Flowspace customers – enterprise, small- and mid-sized businesses, importers, manufacturers, and e-commerce retailers – rave about its platform and best-in-class service. The company has truly transformed every customer's approach to warehousing and fulfillment, especially for those that have multi-channel needs," said Paul Hsiao, general partner at Canvas Ventures and Flowspace's newest board member. "I've been impressed with the team, their pace of innovation and ability to scale. Flowspace continues to raise customer expectations for the space every day and is well-positioned to lead this category."

The start-up will channel the newly raised investment to bolster its software platform. Eachus stated that Flowspace will add features as requested by the company's warehouse partners, which will enable them to run operations more efficiently.

"We will be releasing tools to enable our merchant clients to more effectively manage their inventory and omnichannel orders," said Eachus. "We will invest in our software by making it the easiest to use fulfillment software in the market. We also plan to invest in marketing and support to provide best-in-class service to our clients and warehouse partners."

Outreach raises $114 million to automate repetitive sales processes - VentureBeat

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 09:22 AM PDT

Outreach, a Seattle, Washington-based software startup developing a semiautomated sales engagement platform, today announced that it's raised $114 million in a series E funding round led by private investment manager Lone Pine Capital, with participation from a wealth of new and existing investors including Meritech Capital Partners, Lemonade Capital, DFJ Growth, Four Rivers Group, Mayfield, Microsoft Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Spark Capital, and Trinity Ventures. It values the company at a whopping $1.1 billion and follows a $65 million series D venture capital round in 2018, bringing Outreach's total funding to date to $239 million.

CEO Manny Medina said the cash infusion will allow it to double its machine learning team, expand its international footprint, and further grow its partner ecosystem, adding that he expects Outreach to reach an annualized sales rate of $100 million within the next year. Currently, the company has over 3,300 customer accounts with 50,000 users, including recognizable names like Adobe, Cloudera, Eventbrite, Showpad, Glassdoor, Zenefits, Okta, Zendesk, and DocuSign.

"That's right: Outreach is officially a 'unicorn' and the only one in the rapidly growing sales engagement space," said Medina, a former Microsoft director. "Through market education and creating a product that delivers on the promise of an inherently better workflow for all customer-facing teams we have built the sales engagement category from the ground up and are uniquely positioned to leverage this momentum across the entire enterprise. This funding will enable us to continue innovating directly for the end user, using the latest in machine learning and natural language processing to deliver a platform that is easy to use and provides immediate value through every action."


Above: Outreach's cloud dashboard.

Image Credit: Outreach

Outreach's suite of tools tap AI to automate repetitive sales tasks like rescheduling meetings and booking times on behalf of coworkers, and to prioritize key customer touch points. It delivers analytics and engagement prospects to sales reps through platforms from Microsoft (for example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales and Outlook) and Salesforce, and soon through SAP, which it expects to support in the coming months.

Through a unified dashboard hosted on Amazon Web Services, reps can quickly queue up activities like calls, texts, and emails with auto-populating templates and custom fields, drawing on data sources like LinkedIn (in addition to Twitter, Owler, Compile, Datanyze, and others) to surface times, channels, and other info relevant to tasks at hand. Outreach supports triggers for things like adding sales prospects to sequences and call recording, and can autonomously send emails, provide call quality feedback, and more.

Administrators and managers are afforded full control over user profiles, enabling them to build out teams and role hierarchies for targeted reporting and governance. And Outreach says that all sensitive data's encrypted both at rest and in transit over public networks, and that its products are compliant with SOC 2 Type II, ISO 27001, and EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

"As enterprise [software-as-a-service] veterans, we have watched the sales engagement space evolve and grow into a critically important category that offers a compelling, hard dollar value proposition to customers," said Meritech Capital Partners managing director George Bischof. "Outreach is the clear category leader in terms of technology, customer traction, and vision, and we are pleased to support their innovative vision for all customer-facing teams."

The "AI in sales" trend shows no sign of losing steam. According to a Salesforce survey conducted earlier this year, nearly half of all salespeople believe that AI has a role to play in guided selling capabilities, like opportunity rankings, and about 66% characterize machine learning's ability to glean customer sentiment and engagement as "transformative." Meanwhile, 65% say AI-powered insights into business developments, emails, and calendar data would "make them more effective in their job."

It's not surprising that AI-driven sales engagement startups continue to attract funding, then. People.ai, which takes into account customer contacts and activity to deliver actionable insights, late last year raised $30 million. Automated conversions firm Conversica raked in $31 million last October, and Chorus.ai — a startup developing artificial intelligence (AI) that listens in on sales calls — secured $33 million in a series B round less than six months ago.

Outreach was founded in 2013 by Medina, Andrew Kinzer, Gordon Hempton, and Wes Hather after the four pivoted away from their first startup — GroupTalent — which provided software recruiting tools for businesses. Outreach employs 315 people and says it'll reach 450 by the end of 2019.

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