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The Evolution Of Corporate Spend Solutions: What’s Next?

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By Dennis Chang, entrepreneur creating the future of corporate payment infrastructure with RoadFlex.

The financial services sector has experienced massive innovation in the last decade as fintech solutions disrupt traditional companies. This has been enabled by other technologies like machine learning, mobile and IoT across the globe. Within fintech, the corporate payments sector has been making headway. The U.S. corporate payments market was $1.4 trillion in size in 2021.

In the last few years, businesses have started adopting corporate payment solutions as it helps them more easily manage their expenses. This lets organizations get better visibility and management of their cash flow. New payment models now offer fast and cheap processing options, leading to fast adoption of these new methods. To support this new wave of innovation, venture funding for fintech has been at an all-time high. Fintech companies raised $44.4 billion in VC funding throughout 2020. In 2021, fintech VC funding hit $91.5 billion in the first three quarters alone, with fintech VC funding nearly tripling from just the year before by the end of 2021.

This is because new digital finance solutions are spearheading the long-overdue disruption of big banks by removing layers within legacy payment value chains and adding new infrastructure to cater to modern transactional needs. Still, the road ahead for new credit card startups isn’t easy. Credit cards are a mature, well-established market and the big banks usually already offer a wide variety of cards. Many of the traditional banks have even adopted new B2B payment methods such as buy-now-pay-later options and invested heavily in new digital offerings.

The Evolution Of Corporate Spend Solutions

There have been several waves of corporate spending solutions, and the rate of innovation has increased significantly in the last few years.

Wave 1 was composed of companies such as Divvy, Brex and Ramp. They offer corporate credit cards and give away their cards for free and make money primarily from interchange. As they have visibility over the cash flow of their clients, they have started to offer new financial products to their customers, such as lending and insurance.

Currently, finance teams still have the issue that they must manage multiple siloed financial tools to a single spend management platform to get full visibility into their corporate non-payroll spend. They still spend a big chunk of their time reconciling data from a wide range of sources, including billing tools, customers, suppliers, ERPs, etc. As a result, this wave of corporate payment solutions was not enough.

Wave 2 is composed of companies such as Airbase, Rho and Mesh, which are relatively newer players that emerged to partner with businesses. They are at the intersection of spend management and corporate cards but focus more on the software layer value proposition instead. This includes real-time visibility for corporate finance teams such as streamlining payments across different departmental processes, automating AR/AP and bill pay and spend forecasts.

Due to the maturity of card-issuing platforms nowadays, corporate cards have become commoditized. Newer corporate spend solutions are focusing more on workflow-driven software products that deeply engrain into the end users’ workflows. Newer solutions will automate many of the financial workflows by seemingly integrating multiple data sources and connecting with corporate decision makers. We have started seeing companies breaking down the barriers between different stacks for finance teams. Solutions are integrating spend management with payroll, ERP, AP/AR, equity management and bookkeeping into one. Business customers will look to adopt these new solutions, instead of continuing to use several disparate solutions to manage each part of an organization’s financial aspects.

The Future Looks Bright

So, what will the next wave of corporate spend solutions look like? At this moment, even though this market is already quite saturated, the majority of businesses of all sizes still remain underbanked. This doesn’t mean businesses don’t have access to credit, but instead, it means that existing solutions still don’t fully address all their financial needs.

Some new capabilities we’re already seeing being developed by some of the players include:

1. More robust and real-time insights into finances and transactions.

2. Offering of alternatives to expenses, along with ratings and reviews of each service/product that comes highly recommended.

3. Suggestions on products that the organization might need to use based on current needs.

4. Spend forecasts based on past transactions and current company needs.

Most entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to (myself included) don’t want to spend their time managing finances for their companies, but instead, focus more on product development and growth. We still spend a very significant portion of our day-to-day lives managing financial and operational aspects of the business as these workflows haven’t been fully automated at this point. I look forward to that day when there’s an end-to-end solution that takes care of it.

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These are the 12 big bets of future disruptive technologies

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The 12 big bets on future technologies as per Nasscom report

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) have identified 12 big bet technologies that can potentially disrupt markets in the next 3-5 years.

A report titled “Sandboxing into the Future: Decoding Technology’s Biggest Bets”, has identified these technologies of the future: autonomous analytics, Artificial Reality and Virtual Reality, autonomous driving, computer vision, deep learning, distributed ledger, edge computing, sensortech, smart robots, spacetech, sustainability tech, and 5G/6G.

AR VR concept image

The report noted that these 12 technologies will unravel in diverse ways, giving way to regional and vertical-specific big bets. While buyers in North America and Europe are betting on technologies such as autonomous analytics, APAC is likely to focus more on 5G/6G technologies, sensortech and smart robotics. Overall, technology buyers anticipate that investments in emerging technologies will account for 70%- 80% of tech spending by 2030.

“Going forward, it will be interesting to see how businesses will put their bets on emerging technologies and how they would be taking ahead the tech revolution for the larger good of the society,” said NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh.

Cognizant acquires Utegration

Leading technology services company Cognizant has said it bought Houston-based Utegration LLC, a full-service consulting and solutions provider specializing in SAP  technology and SAP-certified products for the energy and utilities sectors.

Cognizant will gain approximately 350 employees in North America and India upon the close of this acquisition.

“We believe Utegration’s rich industry expertise and differentiated portfolio of energy and utilities-focused products and accelerators is a perfect complement to our SAP practice,” said Rob Vatter, Executive Vice President of Cognizant’s Enterprise Platform Services.

Utegration serves over 50 North America-based clients in the energy and utilities sector with solutions across four domains aligned to market needs: customer experience, billing and advanced metering infrastructure, managed services, data science and analytics, and finance and asset performance management.

HCLTech partners with Intel and Mavenir for 5G solutions

HCLTech, a leading Indian technology services company revealed a new collaboration with Intel Corporation and Mavenir to develop and provide scalable private 5G network solutions for communication service providers (CSP) and broader cross-vertical enterprises.

Through this new collaboration, the companies will work closely on a range of projects and activities across enablement, go-to-market and sales acceleration, with the goal of delivering more 5G solutions to CSPs, Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise verticals, a statement said.

HCL

The three companies will work cross-functionally to add new offerings and help generate greater value for enterprises. The companies will develop a cloud-native enterprise-to-enterprise (E2E) architecture of an Intel Xeon processor-based 5G solution leveraging Mavenir RAN, Intel SmartEdge and HCLTech’s management, orchestration and automation services.

“There is currently a great need for scalable, reliable 5G solutions across nearly every enterprise and industry,” said Kalyan Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, HCLTech. “This need represents a major opportunity to innovate and deliver solutions that will have a major impact on business operations and outcomes.”

Collins Aerospace to expand operations in India

Collins Aerospace, which is part of Raytheon Technologies has announced that it will be expanding its operations in India. The company inaugurated its Global Engineering & Tech Centre and a new India Operations Centre to mark its 25th year in Bengaluru.

Collins Aerospace has also pledged significant capital and manpower investments over the next five years given that the Indian aerospace & defence (A&D) market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2030.

The team at Collins India is actively collaborating with Indian R&D organisations like NAL, CMTI, DRDO for study into materials, additive manufacturing, pre-qualification tests and other important projects.

Wipro bags top honour for workplace inclusion

Wipro Limited, a leading Indian technology services and consulting company, has been recognised as a ‘Gold’ employer by the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) 2022.

Awarded to the top employers by IWEI, the gold employer is the highest of 3 levels, where an organisation is credited with ‘embedding inclusion in the workplace.’ Highlights of Wipro’s efforts in this journey include recognition of Wipro’s leadership in India to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, from organisational policies to external communications.

wipro

It also demonstrates a long-term and in-depth commitment towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, where Wipro has implemented several initiatives enabling its employees to become active allies for the community.

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Corraling Kafka: New ecosystem simplifies, democratizes event-streaming data for enterprises

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Aiven, a cloud-data platform based in Helsinki, has fleshed out an open-source ecosystem for Apache Kafka, a popular event-streaming platform. The new offerings promise to help enterprises consolidate their Kafka infrastructure using open-source components. 

“Event streaming is transitioning toward the main stack of the IT infrastructure,” Filip Yonov, director of data streaming product management at Aiven, told VentureBeat. “At Aiven, we have witnessed the fastest growth in the event-streaming domain compared to all other products.”

Apache Kafka provides the infrastructure for wiring streams of data together from databases, apps, IoT devices, and third-party sources. Kafka helps organize raw data into event streams that reduce data size and are easier to integrate into event-driven apps and analytics. Enterprises use it to improve customer experiences, build the industrial metaverse and monitor patients. 

However, building out a Kafka infrastructure involves a lot of moving parts. Aiven has consolidated all the necessary tooling into one place to simplify this process. Key new enhancements include support for Apache Flink and data governance. These complement existing tools for connecting services, replicating data and managing schemas for Kafka deployments.

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The need for simplicity

LinkedIn originally developed Kafka to integrate data across its large microservices infrastructure and open-sourced it in 2011. Over the intervening years, large enterprises have customized the tooling for their own needs, and several vendors have rolled out proprietary enhancements to fill in gaps around governance and integration. Many organizations use Kafka for various data pipeline scenarios, such as transferring data between applications in real-time or moving data from a database to a data warehouse.

Yonov told VentureBeat that as Kafka clusters become larger and more complex, they require additional tooling and governance to ensure proper operation and management. “Unlike existing Kafka solutions, Aiven’s offering does not require organizations to choose between proprietary tools and vendor lock-in or open-source technologies without support,” he said.

Improving the developer experience with event streaming

One essential aspect has been to democratize the experience for working with event-streaming data. The open-source tool, Klaw, provides a self-service interface for managing Kafka clusters. Kafkawize, which develops Klaw, recently joined Aiven’s open-source development office in September to help integrate their tools together. Now they are working together to improve self-service, simplify user management and enforce data governance. 

Another significant development was to connect streaming data to SQL queries familiar to data engineers. The new Aiven for Apache Flink tools allows teams to process larger volumes of events and run real-time analytics using SQL. Aiven provides this as a fully managed service that reduces the complexity of deploying a Flink cluster. It also simplifies the integration with Aiven for Apache Kafka to filter, enrich and aggregate events on the fly. 

Aiven hopes to replicate the success of other open-source frameworks like PostgreSQL, Kubernetes and Linux, built by a healthy mix of contributions from various communities. 

“We truly believe that fostering an open-source, community-driven and inclusive ecosystem of technologies around Apache Kafka can drive further innovations and new developments in the data-streaming domain, ensuring the long sustainment of the technology in the future,” Yonov said.

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How do tech layoffs impact PERM and the green card process? • TechCrunch

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Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I handle HR and immigration at our tech company. We filed a PERM for one of our team members about five months ago for her EB-2 green card, and we’re awaiting certification from the Labor Department. We’ve been gearing up to start PERM for another employee.

Will the layoffs in the tech industry affect the PERM process for EB-2 and EB-3 green cards? What will happen to my team members’ green cards if our company has to do layoffs?

— Pondering in People Ops

Dear Pondering,

It’s wonderful that you’re steadfastly supporting your team with green card sponsorship. This can provide unfathomable peace of mind for people still on non-immigrant status in the U.S. through the green card process. We’re here to help ease the holiday season with education on the options for both companies and individuals.

Let’s dive into the winter wonderland of PERM and employment-sponsored green cards.

Will tech layoffs impact the PERM process?

For the permanent labor certification application — or PERM — your company is currently working on, the short answer is yes, the layoffs may have several different effects depending on where your company is in the process.

The PERM green card process is a multistep and time-intensive one involving a labor market recruitment test requiring employers to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no qualified U.S. workers (U.S. citizens and green card holders) who are qualified, willing and able to fill the EB-2 or EB-3 PERM position. PERM also aims to ensure that the opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. citizens and green card holders are protected.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

If you are in or will soon start the PERM recruiting phase, you may receive a larger number of job applicants for your job posting due to the recent layoffs in the tech sector. With an uptick in potentially qualified applicants, it could prove more difficult to demonstrate that there is no qualified U.S. worker to fill the PERM role. If a qualified U.S. worker is ready, willing and able to fill the PERM role, the labor market test fails and the DOL will not grant the company’s PERM labor certification.

Keep in mind that unemployment is a big concern for the DOL. During the last recession, when millions of jobs were lost, DOL increased its scrutiny of the adjudication of PERMs, particularly within the financial sector, to ensure displaced U.S. workers were considered for positions before international talent.

At the moment, the U.S. unemployment rate is under 4%, so we have a ways to go before we match the 10.6% unemployment rate in 2010. Although there have been many layoffs in tech, I remain optimistic, as there are other indicators that the economy is still strong and there are many job requirements in and beyond the tech sector.



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