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Affogata, which helps brands manage their online reputation, raises $5.5M

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Affogata

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Customer intelligence platform Affogata today announced it has raised $5.5 million in series A funding co-led by Mangrove Capital Partners and PICO Venture Partners. Cofounder Sharel Omer said the funds will enable Affogata to invest in its tooling, strengthen its online presence, and support its customer service initiatives.

No matter how exceptional a company’s customer service, meeting expectations is a challenge. According to American Express, the U.S. consumers’ board report shows more people talk about poor service than good experiences.

How it works

Affogata, which was founded in 2019 by Omer, Ran Margaliot, and Itamar Rogel, offers AI-driven technology that provides clients with data related to their brand and competitors from forums, the web, and internal data sources. The platform lets stakeholders — including marketers, product managers, customer success teams, and data analysts — derive insights based on this data, enabling proactive actions to ostensibly ensure better customer experiences.

The company surfaces what customers are searching for across various channels to provide a picture of preferences and trends, offering the ability to perform customer segmentation with automated competitor keyword and sentiment tracking. Affogata clients can receive alerts about sentiment changes and connect and engage with customers through the aforementioned channels. And they can keep track of reviews while controlling their messaging by removing bots and spammers with automated, AI-powered moderation.

For example, Affogata can highlight mentions of a company name in app store reviews, on Twitter and Facebook, in online communities such as Discord, and from internal systems like Zendesk and Wix Answers. Users can funnel these mentions into customized reports and dashboards or export the data for further analysis and ingestion by analytics and business intelligence systems.

“The unique challenge faced by our platform is how to fuse data from structured, unstructured, and half-structured sources, coming from sources as diverse as support conversation, reviews, surveys, social media posts, and more,” Omer told VentureBeat via email. “This means we had to build a proprietary analysis pipeline, leveraging a broad set of AI approaches that we developed in-house, which is able to look at very different ‘signals’ from a vast array of sources. After those signals are taken into account, we then come up with a sensible, unified view of what customers care about, what warrants attention, and what is relevant to which stakeholder, and what requires immediate action.”

Ability to respond

Omer believes that there’s a vital need for brands like Wix, eToro, MyHeritage, Playtika, and Lemonade, which Affogata counts among its customers, to gain visibility and take action regarding sentiment. A company’s ability to implement customer feedback, monitor, and respond to online communities is increasingly a determinant in their success or failure, he claims.

“Our technology shines when customers integrate it as a key part of their ops. For example, gaming companies have really short feedback loops — for example, overly aggressive game mechanics are introduced, leading to immediate churn and user complaints about ‘pay to play,’” Omer said. “Our tool helps them get instant feedback and adapt their games accordingly, reducing churn and increasing engagement, both directly contributing to their bottom-line revenues.”

One study found that nearly 3 out of 4 consumers trust a company to a greater degree if the reviews for that company are positive. And according to research from Reputation X, consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business.

“The criteria for the insights we produce is whether they’re actionable. Our insights are relevant for customer success, product managers, marketing, developers, executives, crisis managers, security, and more,” Omer said. “That cross-organizational relevancy enables strategic initiatives that involve multiple teams at the company, giving them the power to utilize customer insights to execute and adjust initiatives.”

Wix Capital and Fiverr Founder and CEO Micha Kaufman also participated in Affogata’s funding round — its first. the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company currently has 25 employees.

Updated at 7:35 a.m. Pacific: This article has been updated to note that the funding round totaled $5.5 million, not $5 million, as was earlier reported. We regret the error.

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Former Blizzard and Epic veterans raise $5M for Lightforge Games

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Former Blizzard and Epic veterans raise $5M for Lightforge Games

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When game companies become successful, they tend to breed offspring. That’s the case with veterans of Blizzard Entertainment and Epic Games, who have raised $5 million to open a new studio called Lightforge Games.

The new studio is based near Epic Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, and its quest is to change how role-playing games are made. The team is developing a new cross-platform, social video game where players have the power to create worlds and tell stories with freedom.

CEO Matt Schembari said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company is hiring people for remote jobs.

“Our blended DNA from both Blizzard and Epic extends to the entire studio at this point,” Schembari said. “About a year ago, a bunch of us got together and have been operating quietly, building up the company and our early game prototypes. We’re testing and validating crazy game ideas that we have been coming up with.”

While he isn’t talking about the game yet, Schembari said the game will be highly social and creative and it will run across multiple platforms.

“We love experiences where players can come together and build worlds together, create stories together, tell stories together, where they’re able to have this kind of emergent gameplay. Telling stories together is really the part that we’re most focused on,” he said. “We really believe that there’s no barrier between creation and play. It’s not user-generated content in the classic sense of you create something and then you publish it and people can download it. It’s a different kind of model than just UGC.”

The funding came from Galaxy Interactive, NetEase Games, Dreamhaven, Maveron, 1UP Ventures, and angel investors from the gaming and tech industries.

One of the surprises is that Dreamhaven is another game startup itself, started by former Blizzard president Mike Morhaime and Amy Morhaime. In a statement, Mike Morhaime said that Lightforge is creating a game in a space with a lot of potential and he is excited about the team’s vision.

Above: Lightforge’s team

Image Credit: Lightforge

Schembari has 20 years of experience and he shipped games played by millions as former lead engineer at Blizzard and director of user interface at Epic Games, where he led the Fortnite platform team.

Other founders include Dan Hertzka, Nathan Fairbanks, Glenn Rane, and Marc Hutcheson. Hertzka is engineering director and he led a team at Fortnite that added the client social layer to the battle royale game. Fairbanks has been games for 13 years and has worked on titles such as Fortnite, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Elder Scrolls Online. He is serving as studio director. Rane is art director and he has worked on World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Diablo Immortal. Hutcheson is product director and he has 18 years of experience in marketing and publishing games such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Overwatch, Diablo III, Fortnite, and Hearthstone.

Lightforge has a total of 11 people and is on the verge of hiring three more. The team brings decades of experience from Epic, Blizzard, Riot, Bioware, and Zenimax Online and have shipped top games such as Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hearthstone, the StarCraft 2 trilogy, Overwatch, Elder Scrolls Online, and more.

Lightforge is an all-remote studio where employees can work and live nearly anywhere. Schembari said that his startup received multiple offers and went with Galaxy Interactive as the lead investor because of their understanding about games and online communities.

“We are all remote and have been since the very beginning and this is something that was really important to us,” Schembari said. “One of our values is to really think about embracing empathy with everything we do. And, in particular, in the case of being all remote. We’ve all lived the experience that one of the most disruptive things you can do to someone’s life is to ask them to relocate for a job. And that was something that we really just strongly didn’t want to do. We are now at a point both technologically and culturally where you can totally work remotely.”

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Amazon’s SaaS Boost tool addresses dev challenges

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AWS SaaS Boost

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Amazon today open-sourced Amazon Web Services (AWS) SaaS Boost, an open source tool that helps software developers migrate their existing solutions to software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models. Amazon says that SaaS Boost — which launched in preview at AWS Re:Invent 2020 — has the potential to offload development efforts by supporting app transformations to SaaS, freeing up developers to focus on other aspects.

SaaS apps are constantly evolving. Many of them use industry-standard protocols and interface with other products, but they all need certain foundational capabilities to onboard users, provision infrastructure, and surface key metrics. These functions are critical for enabling SaaS providers to scale. However, if every company invested in building these capabilities, it’d take resources — slowing down the time to market.

To address this challenge, AWS SaaS Boost provides functionality including tenant isolation, data partitioning, monitoring, metering, and billing. According to Amazon, the focus is on creating an environment that brings together all the elements of a ready-to-use SaaS architecture, removing much of the heavy lifting commonly associated with migrating a solution to a SaaS model.

Unifying data across disparate sources is one key feature in AWS SaaS Boost. Between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends, a Forrester survey found. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial, with a Veritas report pegging it at $3.3 trillion by 2020. That’s perhaps why organizations have taken an interest in technologies like AWS SaaS Boost that help to ingest, understand, organize, share, and act on data from multiple environments.

Data challenges

According to Gartner, creating a‌n architecture‌ ‌that helps‌ ‌operationalize data‌ ‌pipelines‌ ‌is one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌major‌ ‌trends‌ ‌for‌ ‌2021. Organizations want to make better use of their data, but most lack a mature strategy. Indeed, surveys show that data’s business impact is limited by challenges in lifecycle management.

Recognizing this, Amazon designed AWS SaaS Boost to be adaptable to the needs of individual projects and organizations. The management and core services of SaaS Boost were built using a serverless application model, with a dashboard where users can configure the ports, domains, compute settings, databases, file systems, and billing options unique to their apps.

New tenants are introduced to the AWS SaaS Boost environment through an onboarding process that collects a tenant’s configuration options and launches an automation. From there, AWS SaaS Boost provisions tenants with separate subdomains that are used to route them to their architectures. The specific resources that apps will need are set up automatically, so that when new versions of the apps are uploaded, SaaS Boost can deploy the updates to all tenants.

Above: A portion of the SaaS Boost onboarding process.

Image Credit: Amazon

On the analytics side, SaaS Boost includes a collection of tenant-focused graphs that can be used to analyze trends. Beyond this, the tool enables integration with preprovisioned infrastructure that can aggregate and surface custom metrics views.

In a blog post, AWS worldwide partner solution architecture Adrian De Luca said that the goal is to “build a vibrant community of developers using AWS SaaS Boost” for production workloads. “We’d like to [encourage] contributors [to donate] code to enhance and optimize … features. As the project matures, we plan to invite other maintainers to take active roles in determining the project’s direction,” he wrote. “Throughout the preview period with developers all over the world, we received interest from large industry-leading software companies who want to offer their traditional products in an easier way, startups who want to build new products with it, and systems integrators modernizing enterprise software on behalf of customers.”

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Hidden Leaf Games raises $3.2 million on a MOBA gambit called Fangs

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Hidden Leaf Games is making a 3v3 MOBA.

Hidden Leaf Games is making a three-vs.-three multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game called Fangs. They have raised $3.2 million.Read More3P8UNcLPZCo

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