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How digital experiences are fueling the new digital economy



This article was contributed by Ken Fine, CEO of Heap 

The reign of the digital economy is upon us. It’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate between the digital economy, the physical economy, and service economies since digital technology and the internet now mediate so many transactions across every industry. By now, even the traditional barbershop has realized that offering a great digital experience is the key to business survival.

“The digital economy” and “the economy” may not yet be synonymous, but that gap is quickly closing. A recent analysis predicted that digital and digital-transformed businesses would account for $53.3 trillion, roughly half the United States’ Gross Domestic Product, by 2023. And, because these projections don’t account for free goods and services in the digital economy, some economists believe that the given estimates are likely too conservative.

New expectations are the new normal

In 2011 venture capitalist Marc Andreessen observed that “software is eating the world.” Ten years later, the coronavirus pandemic has only made tech hungrier. The emblematic experience is now digital, unfolding on the screens of our computers, tablets, and phones. In the first lockdowns, people who might never have ordered groceries began using mobile apps like DoorDash; an obscure teleconferencing system Zoom became as familiar as Google and Facebook. With emergency rooms overfull and hospital staff overextended, many routine medical interactions migrated to telehealth, which McKinsey predicts could be a quarter-trillion-dollar business.

For businesses in the digital economy, the biggest byproduct of moving everything on-screen and online was that consumers increasingly expect their needs to be met through digital experiences. The average consumer has now internalized Amazon-style one-click convenience as their baseline. Disappoint them and they’ll take their business elsewhere, “walking” to the next business with a few screen taps or keystrokes. A sticking point that slowed down a transaction yesterday is likely to cancel that transaction today. When a check can’t be deposited via a credit union’s phone app, when a local restaurant’s website doesn’t load, when a digital storefront is not integrated with familiar payment processors — customers simply leave. And odds are they won’t return to give the platform a second chance.

The three I’s in a digital economy

How will businesses compete in this increasingly digital environment? Just as they have always done: serving the needs of their customers. What’s changed is that being a leader today means setting the bar for the digital experience, and then raising it, again and again. The best companies will do this by adhering to the three i’s: information, insight, and iteration. Armed with a wealth of data and a powerful set of new tools, the next generation of industry leaders will be those who focus on continuously improving the digital experience they provide their customers. With frequent releases and updates, they’ll keep setting — and then exceeding — new standards of accessibility and ease-of-use.


Digital businesses produce terabytes worth of information every day, but relatively few businesses capture all the data their customers produce. This is leaving money on the table in a digital economy. How long does the average potential customer spend on the website or in the app? Where do customers exit the sales funnel? What age groups don’t react to your sales pitches, and in which cities do your biggest fans reside? This information is the foundation of best-of-breed digital experiences.


Data tells stories that people alone cannot decipher. While broad trends may be obvious even to an amateur at statistics, best-in-class insight draws on the subtle, the hidden, and the counterintuitive. A portion of your website that seems intuitive and friendly to your design team might in reality be a point of consumer friction; another page might send unduly high numbers of customers to their browsers’ “back” buttons. Assumptions and gut feelings about customer experience may not reflect reality, and even when they’re broadly correct, specifics are more useful than generalities.


All the insight in the world is useless unless it’s put into practice. In a time of rapid and disconcerting change, businesses cannot rest on past accomplishments: They must continuously reintroduce and refine their offerings. A/B testing, revised sales funnels, and tweaked landing pages all have parts to play. The most successful of today’s major digital economy players, like Amazon, Netflix, and Google, are constantly tweaking their websites and updating their apps in hopes of producing “stickier” and more convenient experiences. The information-insight-iteration cycle should only end when the business does: Each new product iteration that goes online provides further information for the business to distill into insight.  This knowledge gets quickly incorporated into the next release. The customer gets a better and more satisfying experience; the company increases revenue and lifetime value.

As the OECD reported, the economy now faces “COVID-19 induced digital acceleration.”  The digital economy of 2023, when digital business is set to account for half of GDP, will doubtless hold many surprises for even the best-informed prognosticator. Businesses cannot expect that their December 2021 offerings will suffice for January 2022, much less January 2023. As we enter a new era of digital competition, the would-be winners of tomorrow must continue to gather the data that they need to innovate and to iterate. Customers demand better digital experiences. Businesses that fail to adapt should plan for obsolescence.

Ken Fine is the CEO of Heap.

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Better together: Offsetting cybersecurity’s labor challenges with API integrations



The labor challenges afflicting cybersecurity teams far and wide are no secret. A razor-tight hiring market coupled with surging demand and an accelerating threat landscape has created a perfect storm of complexity, resulting in a widening skills gap that is driving higher levels of burnout and human error across the sector. In fact, Verizon’s independently commissioned 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 82% of breaches today involve some degree of human error. Whether it’s an unsuspecting end user or a bleary-eyed analyst, the vulnerabilities caused by cognitive overload shouldn’t be overlooked.  

Take the recent high-profile Uber data breach. A malicious actor, posing as an internal IT administrator, used digital collaboration channels to trick an Uber employee into giving up their VPN credentials, leading to a total compromise of the rideshare giant’s network infrastructure. The breach exemplified the consequences of a social engineering attack targeting the always-on hybrid workforce. And with the rate of such attacks accelerating in volume and velocity, it’s clear that more visibility of these threats is needed for security teams to effectively remediate them.

Many organizations are investing in a plethora of new, best-in-class security products in response to staffing shortages. However, reactive patchwork spending on the industry’s latest niche products shouldn’t be viewed as the answer, as the tool sprawl often creates additional complexity that hurts organizations more than it helps. Enterprises, on average, have 60 to 80 different security monitoring tools in their portfolio, many of which go unused, underutilized or forgotten. Forcing security teams to master a myriad of tools, consoles and workflows shifts priorities from managing risk to managing technology.

An integrated cybersecurity framework

The companies best positioned to offset cybersecurity’s labor challenges are those adopting best-of-breed security tools and platforms that offer a deep library of API and third-party integrations. Above all, an integrated framework empowers organizations to effectively navigate their unique environments by consolidating tools and reducing human error through the following three processes:


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  • Improved protection via security intelligence and threat sharing: This enables rapid recognition and response to incoming threats via machine learning analytics tools, strengthening a human analyst’s ability to formulate swift and comprehensive cyberdefense measures.
  • Improved efficiency via automation: This enables offloading of repetitive and mundane manual tasks to AI-enabled tools, streamlining human workflows by accelerating and improving key facets of incident response and vulnerability management.
  • Improved prevention via sharing and consolidating tool data: This enables complete, real-time visibility into an organization’s entire security environment to promote the creation of targeted alerts that uncover unknown threats.

In collaborating with a wider range of security vendors, organizations leveraging API integrations benefit from the combined knowledge of all integrated platforms to greatly improve overall security posture. The extensive access to timely threat intelligence allows security teams to align prevention, investigation and response plans across multiple security controls, as well as increase the speed of their detection and remediation efforts.

Amid the widespread adoption of cloud-based hybrid work environments, it’s increasingly clear that organizational security architectures must consist of scalable, tightly integrated solutions that combine the right balance of automated prevention, detection and response capabilities to effectively protect data across its lifecycle.

Enhancing detection and increasing cybersecurity efficacy

An open API integration framework is the embodiment of unlocking strength in numbers. It stitches together the critical functions and processes performed by foundational security tools — email security, endpoint security, web security, NDR, data security — into a single meshed framework that operates in unison and shares centralized threat intelligence data across its ecosystem. By connecting all the pieces of the puzzle, organizations gain the resources to enhance their prevention and detection capabilities in complex environments.

In one scenario, an API framework could enable automated processes to continuously flow between an email gateway and security service edge (SSE) to corresponding SIEM/XDR systems. This would allow security teams to share rich logging, metadata, indicators of compromise, malicious URLs, user activity, data movement and machine learning analytics in real time. The AI-powered SIEM platform automates the analysis of that threat data, sifting through the noise to generate actionable alerts with contextual information for security teams. Meanwhile, the real-time contextual insights provide simplified guidance for analysts to alleviate potential threats and, if needed, formulate a swift response to an attack.

With access to a wider range of threat data touchpoints, cybersecurity teams can also create customized scripts within the overarching API library. This gives them “targeted capabilities” that more directly align with their specific needs and skillsets. For instance, the team could create a script that simultaneously analyzes email security logs from Vendor A, data protection logs from Vendor B, web security click logs from Vendor C, and spam filter logs from Vendor D, based on which intel is most relevant to their specific use case. Filtering the exceedingly high volumes of incoming alerts enhances the efficiency of the entire team, empowering analysts to identify needles in the haystack by prioritizing the right alerts at the right times for maximized protection.

Automating manual processes and workflows

Despite the growing number of innovative, best-in-class products available on the market today, it’s important to remember that a multi-vector social engineering attack is exceedingly difficult for hybrid security teams to combat regardless of the tools in their stack. Quick and agile responses are non-negotiable in these situations, but with resources stretched thin and employees working from multiple locations, executing swift corrective action free of human error is easier said than done. Even the most experienced and skilled security teams are susceptible to mistakes while trying to remediate an attack. Therefore, identifying how to automate well-defined processes wherever possible is imperative for tightening these response durations and ensuring security teams can remediate quickly and effectively.

With access to an open API library, organizations can integrate the capabilities of additional AI/ML security tools into their existing security architecture to automate the repetitive steps of protection, detection, response, mitigation and intelligence sharing. Whether it’s informing an endpoint security provider of an emerging alert, or securely moving data from one storage solution to another, API-driven automation can handle the routine, error-prone tasks cybersecurity teams perform every day. Streamlining these otherwise human-centric workflows allows overstretched analysts to instead focus on more critical threat assessments requiring extensive time and attention. That, on a macro level, strengthens the security posture of the greater organization.

There’s no magic bullet that will completely reverse cybersecurity’s labor challenges in the immediate future. But there are proactive steps organizations can take now to provide the critical support their security teams need today. For effectively navigating a complex threat landscape, there’s no better place to start than with the applied adoption of a deep API integration framework.

After all, cybersecurity is a team sport. Why defend alone when you can defend together? 

Joseph Tibbetts is senior director for tech alliances and API at Mimecast.

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It’s foie gras season in unicorn land • TechCrunch




elcome to the TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

With most startups getting repriced behind closed doors, we love getting data that gives us a glimpse of what’s going on. This week, our new information comes from EquityZen, which shared insights on secondary stock sales. EquityZen also put up a few IPO predictions that gave us food for thought. Let’s explore. — Anna

A glimpse of repricing

How do you know when a unicorn has lost its billion-dollar valuation? Usually you only find out long after the fact, when — and if — the company raises a down round that makes it clear that its equity valuation is no longer in the unicorn realm.

The thing is, not many founders want to advertise that they have raised capital at a lower valuation than their previous round; in most cases, they just won’t disclose their new valuation.

As market observers, this leaves us with little data on a topic that our readers do care about: What kind of repricing they could expect. This is why we were grateful for Instacart, which made it public that it reduced its valuation through a 409A price change. This wasn’t good news, but it was a helpful data point for everyone involved. However, that was back in March.

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This Top-Rated PDF Solution Is 66% Off Now



Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Paper has made its way largely out of business, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still work with documents regularly. Instead, we’re just working with them differently: with the dreaded PDF. These static files can be great if you’re positive that a document is ready, but a serious nightmare when you have to make changes. When you’re working with a lot of PDFs, you need a quality digital solution.


We’ve got a deal you’ll like. For a limited time, you can get a lifetime subscription to UPDF Pro for 66% off.

UPDF Pro is one of the top-rated PDF solutions on the market. Geeky Gadget writes, “UPDF is a potent PDF editor and PDF converter designed to stay up with advanced technologies. It ensures that whichever features you use are up to date. UPDF not only converts PDF to Word but can perform many advanced editing.” Fossbytes adds, “UPDF doesn’t have a boring interface like other PDF software. The design is stunning and eye-catching. On top of it, it is convenient to use. You wouldn’t be bothered with a complex design that is very time-consuming.”

These are just the tip of the iceberg of positive reviews for this all-in-one PDF solution for individuals and businesses. With it, you can edit any PDF document across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, adding or deleting text, editing fonts and color, and much more. The tool allows you to add, crop, rotate, replace, extract or delete images, watermark documents, and password-protect them for elevated confidentiality. You can also easily annotate PDFs, highlight, underline, or strike out text, add shapes and notes, and much more. Finally, it’s even easy to convert any PDF to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a ton of other file types in just a click.

Working with PDFs has never been easier than with a lifetime subscription to UPDF Pro. Grab it on sale for 66% off $149 at just $49.99, the best price you’ll find online.

Prices subject to change.

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