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Low-code app development platform Crowdbotics raises $22M

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As companies expanded their tech investments during the pandemic, developers became saddled with larger workloads. Fifty-five percent of people in IT services say that the amount of work they’re expected to perform increased in 2021, according to a Statista survey. Developers, among other employees who transitioned to remote work as a result of the pandemic, claim they work more hours during the week than they did before — which is perhaps why 83% say they’re suffering from burnout.

Low-code development tools have been heralded as a potential solution, particularly as the worldwide shortage of developers continues to grow. Low-code tools enable non-developers from different business units like HR, finance, and procurement to build custom apps without having to write code, leveraging visual drag-and-drop interfaces and preconfigured templates. According to one source, low-code tools have the potential to reduce the development time by 90%. And using a low-code platform can save enterprises on average $1.7 million annually in operational costs, The New Stack found.

One of the vendors benefiting from the low-code development boom is Crowdbotics, which today announced that it raised $22 million in funding (a combination of seed and series A) from Victor Echevarria at Jackson Square Ventures with participation from Homebrew, Bee Partners, UC Berkeley’s House Fund, Harrison Metal, and PacWest. Based in Berkeley, California, Crowdbotics’ platform is designed to help customers to create low-code apps even in highly regulated environments like health care, finance, education, and defense.

Low-code app development

Crowdbotics was founded in 2016 by Anand Kulkarni, who previously started LeadGenius, a platform that crawls the web for sales lead opportunities. He got the idea for Crowdbotics after graduating from UC Berkeley with a Ph.D. in machine learning and operations research, as well as funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Crowdbotics allows over 1,400 customers to launch React Native and Django apps without having to learn programming languages. React Native is a JavaScript library used to develop apps for iOS and Android, while Django is a popular framework primarily for web app development. With Crowdbotics, users can iterate app screens and data models with a visual editor and deploy to hosting platforms like Heroku. Under the hood, the platform produces real code synced to a GitHub repository, allowing developers to audit and customize after the fact.

“Product teams spend most of their time bogged down in the routine parts of software creation, not the interesting stuff. But the usual solution, low-code tools, aren’t extensible or developer-friendly enough to support serious businesses — they’re black boxes that are never as good as real code,” Kulkarni told VentureBeat via email. “The team started Crowdbotics to let domain experts from outside tech turn ideas into code. The company’s product … lets creators, innovators, and product teams build full-code applications using reusable building blocks and on-demand engineering pulled from all over the web.”

Crowdbotics

Above: Crowdbotics’ app development dashboard.

Image Credit: Crowdbotics

Crowdbotics also offers managed app development services, letting companies hire project managers and developers to estimate, scope, build, test, and launch apps. Customers can hire additional development resources from Crowdbotics’ dashboard as needed, or use tools that intelligently select software that’s the best fit for a project; set daily monitoring and backups of apps; and enable automatic error tracking and security updates.

As of May 2021, Crowdbotics claims that over 20,000 apps have launched on its platform, including “mission-critical” health care apps, venture-backed software products earning millions in revenue, financial trading engines, learning management platforms, and government tools.

“The Crowdbotics platform is at its core enablement of ideas to code at much cheaper price point,” Kulkarni continued. “Crowdbotics plays nice with IT by pairing the simplicity of low-code tooling with the transparency and customization of real, open source code. Executives can still enable their non-technical employees to build with low-code features like … storyboard tools, functional feature modules, and visual data mapping. However, developers will also find robust support for their existing workflows, including the ability to edit the project’s code directly, configure microservices, and sync changes to a linked GitHub repo. If they want to accelerate development, organizations can complement their internal team’s output via our platform’s integrated hiring cloud.”

Expanding market

Formstack found in a recent study that 20% of workers have adopted no-code tools — 66% within the past year and 41% in the past six months. Gartner forecasts that low- and no-code app platforms will account for 65% of all app development by 2024. Meanwhile, Forrester expects the market for low-code development platforms will increase to $21.2 billion by 2022, up from $3.8 billion in 2017.

But low-code tools aren’t perfect. Organizations say that a lack of experience with low-code platforms remains one of the biggest hurdles to adoption. A study by OutSystems, meanwhile, found that 37% of organizations are concerned about “lock-in” with a low-code vendor and that 32% don’t believe they could build the types of app they need with low-code tools.

Crowdbotics — whose subscribers include teams at Uber, McKinsey, Meta (formerly Facebook), and the U.S. Air Force — claims its platform solves the lock-in problem by allowing companies to access their app’s source code, which they can repurpose as they wish. “You can export your code, host it on your own, and develop on your own. This is easy to do with Crowdbotics,” the company writes on its website.

Crowdbotics

Crowdbotics competes with companies including Webflow, which recently raised $140 million for its set of web app development tools and services. In March, no-code development startup Airtable raised $270 million at a $5.77 billion valuation post-money. Unqork, another startup creating a no-code enterprise app development suite, last year secured $207 million in a funding round that catapulted the company’s valuation to more than $2 billion.

According to SpreadsheetWeb, low- and no-code vendors raised $2.3 billion during the first three quarters of 2021, more than doubling the total investments they received in 2020. Fifty-employee Crowdbotics’ total capital raised stands at $28 million.

“We ended 2021 comfortably north of a $10 million run rate, which is 300% growth from a year ago. In 2022 we’ll triple revenues again,” Kulkarni added. “Crowdbotics raised the [latest capital] to extend its core … product, which will add more prefab features and architectures, improved design tooling … and a more powerful product management-as-a-service suite. We also intend to introduce niche feature sets for target industries, including health care, finance, education, tech, media, and Web 3.0.”

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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Akros Technologies, an AI-powered asset management platform, raises funding from Z Holdings • TechCrunch

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Artificial intelligence is taking over almost every industry. The investment and finance industry is no exception. In Deloitte’s 2019 report, the firm reveals that AI is transforming the financial ecosystem to reduce costs and make operations more efficient by providing automated insights and alternative data, analysis and risk management.

Technology such as AI has digitized the finance sector, ranging from payments and remittances to lending. However, asset management is still in the nascent stage of digitization, according to the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Akros Technologies, Jin Chung.

Akros Technologies wants to disrupt the current asset management industry via its AI-driven asset management software platform that mines market data for stocks. Akros just raised $2.3 million from Z Venture Capital, the corporate venture capital wholly owned by Z Holdings, which also owns the Japanese messaging app Line and internet portal Yahoo Japan.

Akros intends to strengthen strategic ties with Z Holdings via strategic investment, the startup said. The latest funding, which brings Akros’s total amount raised to $6.1 million since its 2021 inception, will help Akros to scale its software platform and asset management products and ramp up its users, including local and global financial institutions and fintech companies.

The outfit is already in discussions with potential partners to expand its AI-powered product called portfolio management as a service, or PMaaS, an all-in-one operating system for portfolio management. Chung explained to TechCrunch that PMaaS “enables B2B clients such as financial institutions, fintech startups and robot-advisors to launch their own exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without having to set up ETF teams and infrastructure.”

He added that it expects to secure more than five B2B clients in the first quarter of 2023.

The startup claims that its AI-powered portfolio management platform can reduce “the overall cost structure [of] the traditional fund development,” including management fees and unnecessary fees involved in the investment process, by more than 80%. The outfit aims to maximize the finance management performance of data-driven ETFs and offer a portfolio management solution via the PMaaS for Akros’s users to help them compete with global ETF institutions like Vanguard or JPMorgan.

In August, Contents Technologies launched Korean pop music, also known as K-pop, and Korea Entertainment ETF, on the NYSE Arca Exchange under the ticker KPOP, using Akros’s PMaaS solution to develop the ETFs. In addition, Akros listed an AI-driven target income ETF, called Akros Monthly Payout ETF (ticker: MPAY), on the NYSE in May with monthly distributions at an annualized target rate of 7%, according to the startup.

To build a slew of investment strategies that lower the cost of portfolio modeling and generate scores of investment portfolios, Akros applies a generative AI model based on a decision transformer, which predicts future actions through the sequencing model, Chung said, adding the company also employs GPT-3 natural language processing (NLP) to analyze unstructured language data.

Akros plans continuously to enhance its engineering technology by bolstering its business to disrupt the asset management market and attract new partners across the globe, including Japan, Singapore and the U.S., co-founder and chief executive officer Kyle Moon said in a statement.

Founded by CEO Moon, CSO Jin and chief marketing officer Justin Gim, Akros employs seven people.

Co-founders of Akros Technologies: (Left to right) Justin Gim, Kyle Moon and Jin Chung. Image Credits: Akros Technologies

Moon previously worked for Qraft Technologies as head of AI research and CSO and had experience listing four ETFs on NYSE. Before co-founding Akros, Gim had more than nine years of experience in the asset management industry; Chung did research work for Bayesian deep learning in autonomous driving cars at Oxford Robotics Institute.

In March, Akros raised $3.75 million in funding from PeopleFund, a South Korean peer-to-peer lending platform. The company declined to provide its valuation when asked.

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