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Traction Tech Council launches to help IT execs spend money on the right startups

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Sourcing the right technology for a company has always been challenging, but today it is an entirely different beast. There are tens of thousands of startups out there hawking their technology services, and the pace of innovation has increased dramatically. Hundreds of startups claim to use artificial intelligence or blockchain technology in their software, but do they actually solve the core issues that an enterprise customer has?

That’s where Traction Tech Council comes in. The service, which launched today and is based in New York City, is the brainchild of Neal Silverman, who formerly led the DEMO series of conferences for IDG Enterprise, and Erick Schonfeld, former editor of TechCrunch. The two got together after years of thinking about how to create a better experience for IT executives to find the best emerging technologies and startups. We wanted to “curate and find and discover companies specifically for CIOs to solve problems they have,” Silverman explained.

As a member of the Council, users can use the platform to investigate the background of startups organized around a series of “topics” like data processing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. From there, buyers can investigate the backgrounds of individual companies, such as how much funding the company has received or who its customers are. The goal is to connect buyers with “enterprise-ready” startups, and indeed, the platform has a button for a buyer to connect directly with startups they like.

Potentially most valuable for users is the ability to interact and ask questions of other network members, including a function to ask questions anonymously. That way, a corporate executive can ask how others are using say marketing automation for ecommerce, without revealing key details of their business or identity.

Users are offered a feed of relevant startups based on their interests

Our goal is to “create a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange,” Silverman explained to me. “It is overwhelming for anyone to keep up with it all,” and so the Council is designed to “bring [CIOs] the best of breed enterprise startups they can really work with.”

In this way, it is a symmetrical software platform to StackShare, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Where the Council focuses on building community for CIOs and other business executives, StackShare helps engineers connect with other engineers to understand the technical challenges of working with different technology solutions.

In addition to the platform and startup database, there is also a series of events that is included in membership. Six live sessions, two field trips to San Francisco and New York as well as four Deep Dives into specific ecosystems are part of the package as well. The goal is to provide context to challenging problems like data analytics, while also allowing members to potentially meet each other in person or via video live stream.

Pricing is $2,900 a year for individuals, and $5,000 a year for a team-based membership, which includes a total of six accounts (the buyer and five colleagues). Right now, the platform has 150 members on the platform interested in a range of enterprise technology. Charter members include Akamai, Honeywell, and Lockheed Martin.

Silverman emphasized that the Council is “built specifically for enterprise executives, [and] it is a vendor-free zone.” That said, startups can apply and be listed on the service for free by filling out a startup application. Vetted startups are then listed on the platform, where members have the ability to connect directly to them.

The Council is just one part of Silverman and Schonfeld’s Traction Technology Partners startup. In addition to the Council, TTP hosts private “innovation discovery programs” for enterprise companies looking for more tailored advice on startups they should engage with as well as the Velocity Network that TechCrunch has written about previously. TTP also announced today that they have raised a $500,000 seed round, led by Eric Gertler, co-chairman of U.S. News & World Report and CEO of Ulysses Ventures.

Ultimately, the two hope to move beyond sales pitches and awkward IT dinners to engage enterprise technology buyers in a new way. We are “leading with education, then discovery, then community,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of consultants out there that can show you good startups,” but few can help you build connections with peers to be informed on exactly how an industry is responding to new technology services.

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Adecco Group acquires recruiting startup Vettery for $100M

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The Adecco Group, a global HR services firm headquartered in Switzerland, announced today that it has acquired Vettery.

The financial terms were not disclosed, but a source with knowledge of the deal told us that the price was a little over $100 million. (It’s not clear how much of that is cash versus stock.)

We’ve reached out to the Adecco Group for confirmation and will update if we hear back. A Vettery spokesperson declined to comment.

Vettery was launched in 2014. Shortly after that, co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein told me that they’re hoping to reinvent the traditional recruiting process. They’ve created a marketplace where job candidates browse offers, schedule interviews with the employers that interest them and receive a signing bonus from Vettery when they take a job — all assisted by an on-staff “talent executive.”

The company says it now works with more than 4,000 employers to fill positions in IT, sales and finance. It’s raised a total of $11.9 million from investors including Greycroft and Raine Ventures.

According to Adecco, Adcock and Goldstein will continue to lead the Vettery team.

“The acquisition of Vettery accelerates the development of the Adecco Group’s digital strategy, broadening our offering into the fast-growing digital permanent recruitment market and complementing our professional recruitment businesses,” said Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze in the acquisition release. “Digital innovations have the potential to transform the recruitment industry and the Adecco Group is taking the lead.”

Recent Adecco acquisitions include life sciences staffing company BioBridges and career transition firm Mullin.

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Sonos One is the speaker to beat for those that want great sound and smarts

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The connected speaker wars are upon us, and one day they will be detailed in history books for all to remember. But here now, it can be hard to cut through the various narratives surrounding the options out there and pick a winner. Now that the cards are on the table in terms of offerings from the major players, however, it’s pretty clear that Sonos has the best option available for most people.

Sonos One, the connected speaker that the company released last year, is a terrific sounding Wi-Fi-enabled speaker that also has built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa, which is if not the best smart assistant out there, then at least tied for first with Google’s Assistant.

On the sound front, Sonos has the most experience of any of the top three companies making smart speakers worth your consideration, too. The Sonos One is, in many ways, just an updated version of the Sonos Play:1 that’s acoustically very similar – but that’s actually a really good thing. The Sonos One, like the Play:1, is a terrific sounding audio device, especially given its size and physical footprint.

I’ve been using a pair of Sonos Ones for the past couple of weeks, and it’s clear that they do a great job of filling a room with sound, thanks in part to Sonos’ sound shaping tech that uses a two-minute setup process involving waving your phone around to properly model the audio they put out for your space.

Individually, a Sonos One is already a strong contender even against the Google Home Max and HomePod for sound quality for most people (who don’t need the additional power or won’t notice the auditory improvements afforded by the larger speakers) but the Sonos One has a another neat trick up its sleeve, since it can form a stereo pair with a second Sonos One. This provides true sound separation, meaning left and right channels reproduced as they were actually meant to be, instead of via some simulated stereo separation effect (which can be pretty cool, as HomePod reviews show, but which ultimately can’t match true stereo separation).

Another huge benefit of Sonos vs. the competition: the Sonos One integrates out of the box with the rest of your Sonos setup, should you have one. You can control all speakers via voice, and group them together for whole home/room-by-room playback. Google’s Home Max can work together with Chromecast-enabled speakers for similar multi-room streaming setups, and HomePod is set to get an update that will add multi-room and stereo syncing, but Sonos One offers both of these now, and using a method that’s proven to work.

There’s also pricing to consider. Sonos One, in a bundle with two, is available for $349 right now, which is the same price as a single HomePod. It’s an unbeatable deal, given the other advantages listed above, especially since it means you can see if you like it alone, or equip multiple rooms with Alexa smarts and quality connected sound in one go.

There are reasons to consider other options, to be sure, especially if you’re 100 percent committed to the Apple ecosystem of device and services, but in general for most people, for most use cases, Sonos One is the far better choice.

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Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, opens its API to all developers

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The arrival of Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, was probably the company’s biggest launch of 2017. While the company generally allows developers to easily integrate with its products, Stride’s API remained in closed beta for significantly longer than the product itself, which exited beta last September. Today, however, Atlassian is opening the Stride API to all developers.

As the company notes, this is the first API that sits on top of the new Atlassian API platform. Thanks to this, Stride developers will get access to a new app management console that makes it easier for them to manage their app’s credentials, for example. In addition, Atlassian is also making a new documentation interface available for Stride developers.

The Stride team stresses that third-party apps in Stride are “first class citizens.” Unsurprisingly, developers can create new Bots and other experiences that center around sending and receiving messages. Apps, however, can also display their own user interface for showing contextual information in the Stride sidebar with the help of a JavaScript API.

Developers can also include app cards inside conversations and create action buttons (or even build a pop up dialog for when they need to show multiple button actions, for example). These buttons can both act on Stride itself (to open the app sidebar or a dialog, for example) or call on a backend service (which could be any REST endpoint). The team also notes that Stride apps can upload files (think presentations, videos and pictures) into conversations.

Atlassian says about 1,000 developer signed up for early access to the API.

What’s maybe more important, though, is that the company also says that “tens of thousands of teams” now use Stride. That’s not exactly at the same level of Slack, which has more than 6 million active users, or Microsoft Teams, which is now in use by more than 125,000 teams, but it shows that there’s some momentum behind the platform. The modern workplace, after all, seems to have a need for an ever increasing number of tools that provide constant interruptions.

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