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Accel-backed Agave lets construction software talk to one another



A lot of the most popular construction software was developed 20 to 40 years ago and many systems don’t talk to each other. As a result, the information stored in them is fragmented, adding extra work for building teams. Agave, a member of Y Combinator’s winter 2022 batch, is helping with a unified API that connects with more than 30 software systems. The startup announced it has raised a $2.9 million seed round led by Accel.

Agave’s four co-founders—Tom Reno, John Zucchi, Pooria Azimi and Samantha Zhang—met at Graphiq, the data analysis and search engine startup that was acquired by Amazon in 2017, and have worked together for almost a decade.

Reno told TechCrunch that one of the first times they encountered the construction industry was while working on an internal skunkworks project at Graphiq for Procore, the publicly-listed construction management software company (and now one of Agave’s customers). It involved building a natural search language tool to embed within Procore to help its users. But the team didn’t get to release it publicly until after Amazon acquired Graphiq.

While at Amazon, the four focused on building out their product for Alexa, including its question and answer capabilities. After five years, they left to start Agave, which combines what they learned while working with Procore with their experience at Amazon.

After talking to people in the construction industry, including software developers, Procore and Autodesk users, and foreman and superintendents on job sites, the team realized that one of the most frequent pain points mentioned was that construction software systems don’t communicate, which means data has to be manually transferred between different applications.

“That signaled an opportunity and based on our experience building thousands of data integrations at Amazon Alexa, we thought it seemed like a pretty good fit for our skill set,” said Reno. “Let’s attack that problem and solve it for both groups of people.”

Agave's team

Agave’s team

Agave currently connects with 33 software systems and has 950 endpoints on its API. It connects systems in three categories: cloud-based software like Procore, hosted systems like Viewpoint Vista and ERP accounting tools, and on-prem solutions like Sage 100 Contractor and Sage 300 CRE. Some of them, like Sage 300 CRE and Sage 100 Contractor, Viewpoint Vista and COINS Global, were built decades ago, but are still widely used in North America’s construction industry.

One of Agave’s customers is Beam Payments, which uses its API to read invoices from accounting systems, and then registers payments against them after they have been processed through the software. Another example of how Agave’s API can be used is reading vendor information from ERPs to verify insurance certificates before working with subcontractors to install electrical wiring in a building or lay rebar on mixed use property. It can also handle use cases like time tracking, payroll and expense management, procurement and purchasing and equipment tracking.

Another benefit of Agave’s API is providing users with real-time analytics. One example is showing daily logs, like worker counts and total hours across different projects. Another is showing RFIs (requests for information), or documents that can impact the status of a project. This is important because if an RFI is delayed, it can impact milestones, tasks and activities in a schedule. Agave can blend information from an RFI and adjust forecasts so people know the potential impact on their project and what areas they need to focus on.

Agave competes against three main categories. The first is in-house teams, or construction companies that have software developers working on their own integrations. The second is generic infrastructure platform-as-a-service bypass systems—for example, companies using generic platforms like Workato or Boomi to build integrations. The final category are industry tools that help companies integrate with single systems, and are patched together to cover all their integrations.

Reno said Agave has an edge over in-house teams because it gives companies immediate access to systems that are partnered with Agave, and its API. Agave also benefits from its team’s domain knowledge, since they have spent a lot of time understanding the nuances and complexities of industry jargon and working directly with each system that integrates into its API, he added.

“The analogy I like to use is that we’re building the highway system of construction technology,” Reno said. “We’re building the core infrastructure that allows data to move between systems. Once that’s built, it doesn’t make sense for another company to try to do that, because there’s no other second or third highway system. There’s one highway system with a single standard, so that’s why we’re very open and transparent with what we’re building.”

Agave now has 65 customers and has quadrupled its revenue year-over-year. Its funding will be used to hire new software engineers and continue adding new integrations, including new systems and endpoints. It will also be used to scale Agave’s operations.

Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.


Warner Music CEO Robert Kyncl says AI to impact the music industry within the next year



Warner Music CEO Robert Kyncl believes AI will be significantly impacting the music industry within the next year. Speaking at the Code Conference this week, the industry exec said the industry should soon expect the increasing quality of music made with AI technologies that comes at a very fast pace, and the industry’s best bet is to embrace the technology.

“Look, you have to embrace the technology, because it’s not like you can put technology in a bottle…like the genie is not going back in,” he said.

However, Warner Music has plans to address the rightsholder issues that come with AI technology that’s used to create songs that sound like existing artists, he noted.

“There’s a very clear analogy to user-generated content — we have a blueprint for this,” the exec explained. At YouTube, for example, people had begun to upload loads of copyrighted material, which put the platform in hot water with different copyright holders who then sued. This became an issue that YouTube had to address with technology.

Kyncl, whose background includes more than 12 years as YouTube’s chief business officer before moving to Warner Music in January 2023, helped steer the company’s development of a fingerprinting software — Content ID — that allowed YouTube to track the copyrighted material on the platform and build out a commercial relationship with copyright holders to ensure they got paid.

“We built a multibillion-dollar business, which now is a multibillion-dollar business per year,” Kyncl noted. “It was an incredible revenue stream for everyone. AI is that, with new super tools. We need to approach it with the same thoughtfulness and we have to make sure that artists have a choice,” he said.

That is, artists who don’t want to participate could opt out, but those who do could ensure they are protected.

“We got the blueprint from [user-generated content] and now we have to figure out the fine print for AI,” Kyncl said.

This system is not yet developed, but Kyncl said people are working on it and things are evolving quickly. In addition, Warner Music is focused on working collaboratively with the largest platforms, like YouTube, TikTok and Spotify, to help it define the rules of the road as these technologies are developed.

YouTube recently announced, for example, that it’s working on a plan to compensate artists and rightsholders for AI music. But it’s kicking off the program with Universal Music Group (UMG) and its roster of talent. UMG had already been using the copyright-strike system to pull AI music from YouTube and has taken steps to prevent AI companies from using its music to train their models. But likely other stakeholders, like Warner Music, are already a part of these discussions at YouTube.

In addition to the fast pace at which AI is impacting music, Kyncl also noted that he believes AI innovation will impact the music industry ahead of its impact on TV and film — a concern that was raised during the recent Hollywood writers’ strike, who were worried studios would attempt to use AI to avoid paying union members for their work.

“Music, because it’s so broadly distributed and it’s so well aligned with the internet because it’s a short format. It lends itself to recommendations. It’s on all platforms and is generally first in most transformations and most innovations,” Knyncl explained. “So, I would say it probably shows up earlier.”

“Whatever happened to the music industry 20 years ago is starting to happen in the movies and TV shows now,” he added.

Knyncl noted, too, that the law will need to evolve to address AI music.

“Name, image likeness, and voice should have the same protections as copyright and the same simple protections as copyright, but it will take time,” he said. I believe it will get there, but it will take time. And in the meantime, we’ll work with the distribution platforms collaboratively to run ahead of that.”

Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.

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Rollstack automatically syncs data to reports and presentations



Most white collar jobs involve creating presentations. And this can be a time-consuming, laborious process. Presentations include data points, and ensuring that these data points remain accurate and up to date is a challenging task in its own right.

A study from Coveo, in fact, has found that the stress and hassle of locating the right information in workplaces is causing employee burnout. Employees report spending nearly four hours each day searching for info; over 31% of those surveyed said the frustration of being unable to find information made them feel burned out.

To help ease the burden — at least on the data points front — Nabil Jallouli, Bahir Saad and Younes Jallouli co-founded Rollstack, a platform that automatically updates the metrics and figures in slide decks, reports and documents. A member of Y Combinator’s Winter 2023 cohort, Rollstack has raised $1.8 million in seed funding from investors including Y Combinator, UpHonest Capital, Kima Ventures, Monte Carlo Capital and Roosh Ventures.

“Recurring reporting isn’t just a task — it’s a cornerstone of teams’ decision-making processes,” Nabil told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Teams operate in a constant cycle of data extraction, synthesis and presentation, both for internal strategizing and external communications. Traditionally, this workflow has been labor-intensive, but Rollstack is specifically designed for these challenges.”


Image Credits: Rollstack

Prior to founding Rollstack, Nabil led data, strategy and revenue operations teams at Pinterest, Deel and Groupon. Bahir was a software and DevOps engineer at cashierless checkout startup AiFi, while Younes held various engineering and product positions at Tesla.

With Rollstack, Nabil, Bahir and Younes sought to create a tool that allows teams to automatically update their presentations using data sources like Tableau, Salesforce and Looker. Rollstack lets users connect to data sources – including business intelligence tools, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and databases — and set up scheduled data and visualization refreshes for presentations and reports created with Google Slides, PowerPoint, Google Docs, Word or Notion.

Rollstack takes care of refreshing the data where it’s presented and saves formatting and visualization preferences for future use. In addition, it allows users to create new versions of the same deck programmatically, and implement version control to roll back to historical data snapshots (e.g. data from a previous fiscal year).

“These automations allow employees to concentrate on their core tasks like analysis, strategy or selling, rather than the tedious process of generating data reports,” Nabil said.

Rollstack has competition in Coefficient, which lets users create, share and automate live reports, set up alerts and write data back to connected software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools. Actiondesk similarly connects with databases, CRMs and SaaS tools to feed live data into Excel and Google Sheets spreadsheets. But Nabil points out that Rollstack supports a wide range of document types — wider than most of its rivals, he asserts.

Rollstack claims that its customer base is growing by 50% every month and includes companies ranging from startups to “large publicly-listed firms.” Nabil wouldn’t disclose revenue — or burn rate. But he said that Rollstack plans to double the size of its seven-person team by the end of Q1 2024.

“Manual work is Rollstack’s primary competitor,” he added. “With the team’s expertise in the field, Rollstack is well positioned to leverage AI to further enhance its clients’ efficiency. The focus remains on delivering real value and impact to its users — rather than just following trends.”

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Russian zero-day seller offers $20M for hacking Android and iPhones



A company that acquires and sells zero-day exploits — flaws in software that are unknown to the affected developer — is now offering to pay researchers $20 million for hacking tools that would allow its customers to hack iPhones and Android devices.

On Wednesday, Operation Zero announced on its Telegram accounts and on its official account on X, formerly Twitter, that it was increasing payments for zero-days in those platforms from $200,000 to $20 million.

“By increasing the premium and providing competitive plans and bonuses for contract works, we encourage the developer teams to work with our platform,” the company wrote.

Operation Zero, which is based in Russia and launched in 2021, also added that “as always, the end user is a non-NATO country.” On its official website, the company says that “our clients are Russian private and government organizations only.”

When asked why they only sell to non-NATO countries, Operation Zero CEO Sergey Zelenyuk declined to say. “No reasons other than obvious ones,” he said.

Zelenyuk also said that the bounties Operation Zero offer right now may be temporary, and a reflection of a particular time in the market, and the difficulty of hacking iOS and Android.

“The price formation of specific items is heavily dependent on availability of the product on the zero-day market,” Zelenyuk said in an email. “Full chain exploits for mobile phones are the most expensive products right now and they’re used mostly by government actors. When an actor needs a product, sometimes they’re ready to pay as much as possible to possess it before it gets into the hands of other parties.”

For at least a decade, various companies around the world have offered bounties to security researchers willing to sell the bugs and hacking techniques to exploit those flaws. Unlike traditional bug bounty platforms like Hacker One or Bugcrowd, companies like Operation Zero don’t alert the vendors whose products are vulnerable, but instead sell them to government customers.

This is inherently a gray market, where prices fluctuate and the identity of the customers is often secret. But there are and have been public price lists such as the ones published by Operation Zero.

Zerodium, a company that was launched in 2015, offers up to $2,5 million for a chain of bugs that allows customers to hack an Android device with no interaction from the target, meaning the target doesn’t have to fall for a phishing link, for example. For the same type of chain, Zerodium offers up to $2 million, according to its website.

On modern mobile devices, thanks to improved security mitigations and defenses, hackers might need a series of zero-days to fully compromise and take control of a targeted device.

Crowdfense, a competitor based in the United Arab Emirates, offers up to $3 million for the same kind of chain of bugs on Android and iOS.

Referring to the bounties offered by Zerodium and Crowdfense, Zelenyuk said that he doesn’t believe they will ever drop so low.

“The Zerodium price sheet is outdated, but it doesn’t mean the company still buys for such low prices. They just don’t need to update them, the zero-day business works fine regardless of that,” said Zelenyuk.

The market for zero-days is largely unregulated. But in some countries, companies may have to obtain export licenses from the governments they operate from. This process essentially entails asking permission to sell to certain countries, which may be restricted. This has created a fractured market that is increasingly affected by politics. For example, a recently passed law in China mandates that security researchers alert the Chinese government of bugs before they alert the software makers. This law, according to experts, effectively means China is cornering the market for zero-days in an attempt to use them for intelligence purposes.

“This new regulation might enable elements in the Chinese government to stockpile reported vulnerabilities toward weaponizing them,” Microsoft said in a report from last year.

Corrected an earlier version of this story to remove “tenfold” from the second paragraph, this was due to an editor’s error. ZW

Do you have more information about the market for zero-days? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, or via Telegram, Keybase, and Wire @lorenzofb, or email You can also contact TechCrunch via SecureDrop.

Disclaimer – This is just shared content from above mentioned source for knowledge sharing.

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