Chargify launches a new payment management tool for subscription services

Chargify, the payment management service owned by Scaleworks, has launched a new tool for billing management.  The new product is designed to remove limitations and allow payers to assign or reassign payment responsibility for subscriptions or groups of subscriptions, according to the company. Called WhoPays, the new service is pitched to businesses as a way […]

Chargify, the payment management service owned by Scaleworks, has launched a new tool for billing management. 

The new product is designed to remove limitations and allow payers to assign or reassign payment responsibility for subscriptions or groups of subscriptions, according to the company.

Called WhoPays, the new service is pitched to businesses as a way to consolidate and manage their payments with different subscribers in an organization.

According to the company, the launch of the product required the re-engineering of its underlying invoice architecture — centering it around the hierarchies of employees that can be involved in making purchasing decisions.

“One of our customers sells API services primarily to developers. They noticed that there’d be multiple developers in different parts of their company… each with their own subscription. The customer didn’t know that the multiple subscriptions were connected and sometimes being paid by the same credit card,” said Chargify chief executive Tom Rotem. “They want to make sense of their own customer organizations and subscriptions and are having a hard time doing it. What we’re launching is exactly what they need to fix the pain around that chaos.”

Billers can model out their relationships with customers to create the hierarchies of decision-making so users can group subscriptions so the responsible payer receives one consolidated invoice that can be paid in one transaction.

“WhoPays is the capstone feature on the new invoice-first architecture we’ve been building to make subscriptions more relational,” said chief technology officer and co-founder Michael Klett in a statement.

Google’s Apigee officially launches its API monitoring service

It’s been about two years since Google acquired API management service Apigee. Today, the company is announcing new extensions that make it easier to integrate the service with a number of Google Cloud services, as well as the general availability of the company’s API monitoring solution. Apigee API monitoring allows operations teams to get more […]

It’s been about two years since Google acquired API management service Apigee. Today, the company is announcing new extensions that make it easier to integrate the service with a number of Google Cloud services, as well as the general availability of the company’s API monitoring solution.

Apigee API monitoring allows operations teams to get more insight into how their APIs are performing. The idea here is to make it easy for these teams to figure out when there’s an issue and what’s the root cause for it by giving them very granular data. “APIs are now part of how a lot of companies are doing business,” Ed Anuff, Apigee’s former SVP of product strategy and now Google’s product and strategy lead for the service, told me. “So that tees up the need for API monitoring.”

Anuff also told me that he believes that it’s still early days for enterprise API adoption — but that also means that Apigee is currently growing fast as enterprise developers now start adopting modern development techniques. “I think we’re actually still pretty early in enterprise adoption of APIs,” he said. “So what we’re seeing is a lot more customers going into full production usage of their APIs. A lot of what we had seen before was people using it for maybe an experiment or something that they were doing with a couple of partners.” He also attributed part of the recent growth to customers launching more mobile applications where APIs obviously form the backbone of much of the logic that drives those apps.

API Monitoring was already available as a beta, but it’s now generally available to all Apigee customers.

Given that it’s now owned by Google, it’s no surprise that Apigee is also launching deeper integrations with Google’s cloud services now — specifically services like BigQuery, Cloud Firestore, Pub/Sub, Cloud Storage and Spanner. Some Apigee customers are already using this to store every message passed through their APIs to create extensive logs, often for compliance reasons. Others use Cloud Firestore to personalize content delivery for their web users or to collect data from their APIs and then send that to BigQuery for analysis.

Anuff stressed that Apigee remains just as open to third-party integrations as it always was. That is part of the core promise of APIs, after all.

D-Wave offers the first public access to a quantum computer

Outside the crop of construction cranes that now dot Vancouver’s bright, downtown greenways, in a suburban business park that reminds you more of dentists and tax preparers, is a small office building belonging to D-Wave. This office, squat, angular, and sun-dappled one recent cool Autumn morning, is unique in that it contains an infinite collection […]

Outside the crop of construction cranes that now dot Vancouver’s bright, downtown greenways, in a suburban business park that reminds you more of dentists and tax preparers, is a small office building belonging to D-Wave. This office, squat, angular, and sun-dappled one recent cool Autumn morning, is unique in that it contains an infinite collection of parallel universes.

Founded in 1999 by Geordie Rose, D-Wave company worked in relatively obscurity on esoteric problems associated with quantum computing. When Rose was PhD student at the University of British Columbia he turned in an assignment that outlined a quantum computing company. His entrepreneurship teacher at the time, Haig Farris, found the young physicists ideas compelling enough to give him $1,000 to buy a computer and a printer to type up a business plan.

The company consulted with academics until 2005 when Rose and his team decided to focus on building usable quantum computers. The result, the Orion, launched in 2007 and was used to classify drug molecules and play Sodoku. The business now sells computers for up to $10 million to clients like Google, Microsoft, and Northrop Grumman.

“We’ve been focused on making quantum computing practical since day one. In 2010 we started offering remote cloud access to customers and today, we have 100 early applications running on our computers (70% of which were built in the cloud),” said CEO Vern Brownell. “Through this work, our customers have told us it takes more than just access to real quantum hardware to benefit from quantum computing. In order to build a true quantum ecosystem, millions of developers need the access and tools to get started with quantum.”

Now their computers are simulating weather patterns and tsunamis, optimizing hotel ad displays, solving complex network problems, and, thanks to a new, open source platform, could help you ride the quantum wave of computer programming.

Inside the box

When I went to visit D-Wave they gave us unprecedented access to the inside of one of their quantum machines. The computers, which are about the size of a garden shed, have a control unit on the front that manages the temperature as well as queuing system to translate and communicate the problems sent in by users.

Inside the machine is a tube that, when fully operational, contains a small chip super-cooled to 0.015 Kelvin or -459.643 degrees Fahrenheit or -273.135 degrees Celsius. The entire system looks like something out of the Death Star – a cylinder of pure data that the heroes must access by walking through a little door in the side of a jet black cube.

It’s quite thrilling to see this odd little chip inside of its supercooled home. As the computer revolution maintained its predilection towards room-temperature chips, these odd and unique machines are a connection to an alternate timeline where physics is wrestled into submission in order to do some truly remarkable things.

And now anyone – from kids to PhDs to everyone in between – can try it.

Into the Ocean

Learning to program a quantum computer takes time. Because the processor doesn’t work like a classic universal computer you have to train the chip to perform simple functions that your own cellphone can do in seconds. However, in some cases researchers have found the chips can outperform classic computers by 3,600 times. This trade off – the movement from the known to the unknown – is why D-Wave exposed their product to the world.

“We built Leap to give millions of developers access to quantum computing. We built the first quantum application environment so any software developer interested in quantum computing can start writing and running applications — you don’t need deep quantum knowledge to get started. If you know Python, you can build applications on Leap,” said Brownell.

To get started on the road to quantum computing D-Wave build the Leap platform. The Leap is an open source toolkit for developers. When you sign up you receive one minute’s worth of quantum processing unit time which, given that most problems run in milliseconds, is more than enough to begin experimenting. A queue manager lines up your code and runs it in order received and the answers are spit out almost instantly.

You can code on the QPU with Python or via Jupiter notebooks and it allows you to connect to the QPU with an API token. After writing your code, you can send commands directly to the QPU and then output the results. The programs are currently pretty esoteric and require a basic knowledge of quantum programming but, it should be remembered, classic computer programming was once daunting to the average user.

I downloaded and ran most of the demonstrations without a hitch. These demonstrations – factoring programs, network generators, and the like – essentially turned the ideas concepts of classical programming into quantum questions. Instead of iterating through a list of factors, for example, the quantum computer creates a “parallel universe” of answers and then collapses each one until it finds the right answer. If this sounds odd it’s because it is. The researchers at D-Wave argue all the time about how to imagine a quantum computer’s various processes. One camp sees the physical implementation of a quantum computer to be simply a faster methodology for rendering answers. The other camp, itself aligned with Professor David Deutsch’s ideas presented in The Beginning of Infinity, sees the sheer number of possible permutations a quantum computer can traverse as evidence of parallel universes.

What does the code look like? It’s hard to read without understanding the basics, a fact that D-Wave engineers factored for in offering online documentation. For example, below is most of the factoring code for one of their demo programs, a bit of code that can be reduced to about five lines on a classical computer. However, when this function uses a quantum processor, the entire process takes milliseconds versus minutes or hours.

Classical

# Python Program to find the factors of a number

define a function

def print_factors(x):
# This function takes a number and prints the factors

print("The factors of",x,"are:")
for i in range(1, x + 1):
if x % i == 0:
print(i)

change this value for a different result.

num = 320

uncomment the following line to take input from the user

#num = int(input("Enter a number: "))

print_factors(num)

Quantum


@qpu_ha
def factor(P, use_saved_embedding=True):

####################################################################################################
# get circuit
####################################################################################################

construction_start_time = time.time()

validate_input(P, range(2 ** 6))

# get constraint satisfaction problem
csp = dbc.factories.multiplication_circuit(3)

# get binary quadratic model
bqm = dbc.stitch(csp, min_classical_gap=.1)

# we know that multiplication_circuit() has created these variables
p_vars = ['p0', 'p1', 'p2', 'p3', 'p4', 'p5']

# convert P from decimal to binary
fixed_variables = dict(zip(reversed(p_vars), "{:06b}".format(P)))
fixed_variables = {var: int(x) for(var, x) in fixed_variables.items()}

# fix product qubits
for var, value in fixed_variables.items():
    bqm.fix_variable(var, value)

log.debug('bqm construction time: %s', time.time() - construction_start_time)

####################################################################################################
# run problem
####################################################################################################

sample_time = time.time()

# get QPU sampler
sampler = DWaveSampler(solver_features=dict(online=True, name='DW_2000Q.*'))
_, target_edgelist, target_adjacency = sampler.structure

if use_saved_embedding:
    # load a pre-calculated embedding
    from factoring.embedding import embeddings
    embedding = embeddings[sampler.solver.id]
else:
    # get the embedding
    embedding = minorminer.find_embedding(bqm.quadratic, target_edgelist)
    if bqm and not embedding:
        raise ValueError("no embedding found")

# apply the embedding to the given problem to map it to the sampler
bqm_embedded = dimod.embed_bqm(bqm, embedding, target_adjacency, 3.0)

# draw samples from the QPU
kwargs = {}
if 'num_reads' in sampler.parameters:
    kwargs['num_reads'] = 50
if 'answer_mode' in sampler.parameters:
    kwargs['answer_mode'] = 'histogram'
response = sampler.sample(bqm_embedded, **kwargs)

# convert back to the original problem space
response = dimod.unembed_response(response, embedding, source_bqm=bqm)

sampler.client.close()

log.debug('embedding and sampling time: %s', time.time() - sample_time)

“The industry is at an inflection point and we’ve moved beyond the theoretical, and into the practical era of quantum applications. It’s time to open this up to more smart, curious developers so they can build the first quantum killer app. Leap’s combination of immediate access to live quantum computers, along with tools, resources, and a community, will fuel that,” said Brownell. “For Leap’s future, we see millions of developers using this to share ideas, learn from each other, and contribute open source code. It’s that kind of collaborative developer community that we think will lead us to the first quantum killer app.”

The folks at D-Wave created a number of tutorials as well as a forum where users can learn and ask questions. The entire project is truly the first of its kind and promises unprecedented access to what amounts to the foreseeable future of computing. I’ve seen lots of technology over the years and nothing quite replicated the strange frisson associated with plugging into a quantum computer. Like the teletype and green-screen terminals used by the early hackers like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, D-Wave has opened up a strange new world. How we explore it us up to us.

Africa Roundup: Paga goes global and 4 startups raise $99M in VC

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor Polestar unveils first production EV with aim to overtake Tesla Liquid Telecom goes long on Africa’s startups as future clients Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for international expansion […]

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for international expansion with a $10 million round led by the Global Innovation Fund.

The company is exploring the release of its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch.

Paga looks to go head to head with regional and global payment players, such as PayPal, Alipay, and Safaricom according to Oviosu.

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he said of Kenya’s MPesa mobile money product. “Our goal is to build a global payment ecosystem across many emerging markets.”

Launched in 2012, Paga has created a multi-channel network and platform to transfer money, pay bills, and buy things digitally 9 million customers in Nigeria—including 6000 businesses.

Since inception, the startup has processed 57 million transactions worth $3.6 billion, according to Oviosu. He joined Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge and Helios Investment Partners’ Fope Adelowo at Disrupt San Francisco to discuss fintech and Africa’s tech ecosystem.

South African fintech startup Jumo raised a $52 million round (led by Goldman Sachs) to bring its fintech services to Asia. The company—that offers loans to the unbanked in Africa—has opened an office in Singapore to lead the way.

The new round takes Jumo to $90 million raised from investors and also saw participation from existing backers that include Proparco — which is attached to the French Development Agency — Finnfund, Vostok Emerging Finance, Gemcorp Capital, and LeapFrog Investments.

Launched in 2014, Jumo specializes in social impact financial products. That means loans and saving options for those who sit outside of the existing banking system, and particularly small businesses.

To date, it claims to have helped nine million consumers across its six markets in Africa and originated over $700 million in loans. The company, which has some 350 staff across 10 offices in Africa, Europe and Asia, was part of Google’s Launchpad accelerator last year. Jumo is led by CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball, who has close to two decades in finance and investing.

Lagos based Paystack raised an $8 million Series A round led by Stripe.

In Nigeria the company’s payment API integrates with tens of thousands of businesses, and in two years it has grown to process 15 percent of all online payments.

In 2016, Paystack became the first startup from Nigeria to enter Y Combinator, and the incubator is doing some follow-on investing in this round.

Other strategic investors in this Series A include Visa and the Chinese online giant Tencent, parent of WeChat and a plethora of other services. Tencent also invested in Paystack’s previous round: the startup has raised $10 million to date.

Paystack integrates a wide range of payment options (wire transfers, cards, and mobile) that Nigerians (and soon, those in other countries in Africa) use both to accept and make payments. There’s more about the company’s platform and strategy in this TechCrunch feature.

South African startup Yoco raised $16 million in a new round of funding to expand its payment management and audit services for small and medium-sized businesses as it angles to become one of Africa’s billion-dollar businesses.

To get there the company that “builds tools and services to help SMEs get paid and manage their business” plans to tap $20 billion in commercial activity that the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Katlego Maphai estimates is waiting to move from cash payments to digital offerings.

Yoco offers a point of sale card reader that links to its proprietary payment and performance software at an entry cost of just over $100.

With this kit, cash-based businesses can start accepting cards and tracking metrics such as top-selling products, peak sales periods, and inventory flows.

Yoco has positioned itself as a missing link to “solving an access problem” for SMEs. Though South Africa has POS and business enterprise providers — and relatively high card (75 percent) and mobile penetration (68 percent) — the company estimates only 7 percent of South African businesses accept cards.

Yoco says it is already processing $280 million in annualized payment volume for just under 30,000 businesses.

The startup generates revenue through margins on hardware and software sales and fees of 2.95 percent per transaction on its POS devices.

Yoco will use the $16 million round on product and platform development, growing its distribution channels, and acquiring new talent.

Emerging markets credit startup Mines.io closed a $13 million Series A round led by The Rise Fund, and looks to expand in South America and Asia.

Mines provides business to consumer (B2C) “credit-as-a-service” products to large firms.

“We’re a technology company that facilitates local institutions — banks, mobile operators, retailers — to offer credit to their customers,” Mines CEO and co-founder Ekechi Nwokah told TechCrunch.

Most of Mines’ partnerships entail white-label lending products offered on mobile phones, including non-smart USSD devices.

With offices in San Mateo and Lagos, Mines uses big-data (extracted primarily from mobile users) and proprietary risk algorithms “to enable lending decisions,” Nwokah explained.

Mines started operations in Nigeria and counts payment processor Interswitch and mobile operator Airtel as current partners. In addition to talent acquisition, the startup plans to use the Series A to expand its credit-as-a-service products into new markets in South America and Southeast Asia “in the next few months,” according to its CEO.

Nwokah wouldn’t name specific countries for the startup’s pending South America and Southeast Asia expansion, but believes “this technology is scalable across geographies.”

As part of the Series A, Yemi Lalude from TPG Growth (founder of The Rise Fund) will join Mines’ board of directors.

 

Digital infrastructure company Liquid Telecom is betting big on African startups by rolling out multiple sponsorships and free internet across key access points to the continent’s tech entrepreneurs.

The Econet Wireless subsidiary is also partnering with local and global players like Afrilabs and Microsoft­­ to create a cross-border commercial network for the continent’s startup community.

“We believe startups will be key employers in Africa’s future economy. They’re also our future customers,” Liquid Telecom’s Head of Innovation Partnerships Oswald Jumira told TechCrunch.

With 13 offices on the continent, Liquid Telecom’s core business is building the infrastructure for all things digital in Africa.

The company provides voice, high-speed internet, and IP services at the carrier, enterprise, and retail level across Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa. It operates data centers in Nairobi and Johannesburg with 6,800 square meters of rack space.

Liquid Telecom has built a 50,000 kilometer fiber network, from Cape Town to Nairobi and this year switched on the Cape to Cairo initiative—a land-based fiber link from South Africa to Egypt.

Though startups don’t provide an immediate revenue windfall, the company is betting they will as future enterprise clients.

“Step one…in supporting startups has been….supporting co-working spaces and events with sponsorships and free internet,” Liquid Telecom CTO Ben Roberts told TechCrunch. “Step two is helping startups to adopt…business services.”

Liquid Telecom provides free internet to 30 hubs in seven countries and is active sponsoring startup related events.

On the infrastructure side, it’s developing commercial services for startups to plug into.

“At the early stage and middle stage, we’re offering startups connectivity, skills development, and access to capital through the hubs,” said Liquid Telecom’s Oswald Jumira.

“When they reach the more mature level, we’re focused on how we can scale them up…and be a go to market partner for them. To do that they’ll need to leverage…cloud services.”

Microsoft and Liquid Telecom announced a partnership in 2017 to offer cloud services such as Microsoft’s Azure, Dynamics 365, and Office 365 to select startups through free credits—and connected to comp packages of Liquid Telecom product offerings.

On the venture side, Liquid Telecom doesn’t have a fund but that could be in the cards.

“We haven’t yet started investing in startups, but I’d like to see that we do,” said chief technology officer Ben Roberts. “That can be the next move onwards… from having successful business partnerships.”

And finally, tickets are now available here for Startup Battlefield Africa in Lagos this December. The first two speakers were also announced, TLcom Capital senior partner and former minister of communication technology for Nigeria Omobola Johnson and Singularity Investment’s Lexi Novitske will discuss keys to investing across Africa’s startup landscape.

More Africa Related Stories @TechCrunch

African Tech Around the Net

Cloudflare partners with Microsoft, Google and others to reduce bandwidth costs

Say hello to the Bandwidth Alliance, a new group led by Cloudflare that promises to reduce the price of bandwidth for many cloud customers. The overall idea here is that customers who use both Cloudflare, which is turning eight years old this week, and a cloud provider that’s part of this alliance will get a […]

Say hello to the Bandwidth Alliance, a new group led by Cloudflare that promises to reduce the price of bandwidth for many cloud customers. The overall idea here is that customers who use both Cloudflare, which is turning eight years old this week, and a cloud provider that’s part of this alliance will get a significant discount on their egress traffic or won’t have to pay for it at all.

The alliance is open, and others may join still, but right now it includes virtually every major and minor cloud provider you’ve ever heard of — with one exception. Current members include Automattic, Backblaze, Digital Ocean, DreamHost, IBM Cloud, Linode, Google, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Packet, Scaleway and Vapor. Some of these will now offer free egress traffic to mutual customers with Cloudflare, while others will offer at least a 75 percent discount.

That’s quite the alliance, but as Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew Prince told me, once the first member joined, the rest of the pieces fell into place quickly. Surely it also helped that both Google and Microsoft have invested in Cloudflare.

Why would these businesses choose to do away with what’s a minor but high-margin business, though? “The argument that we made to them was a pretty simple argument: it makes sense for you to charge for transit when you are actually paying for it,” Prince said. Most of the time, though, those costs are very minor and Cloudflare, thanks to his massive number of global peering locations, can ingest the traffic directly from the cloud provider with no middlemen involved.

The first company Cloudflare partnered with was Google, thanks to that company’s CDN Interconnect program, which launched in 2015. Cloudflare was one of the initial partners in the program, though as Prince noted, there was still a lot to learn for all parties involved, especially because traffic was sometimes routed in very unpredictable ways that circumvented the cost savings mechanisms. Cloudflare learned from this, though, and is now using its own Argo technology to intelligently route traffic.

As Prince noted, though, one thing that turned out to be harder than anticipated was ensuring that the cloud vendors would know that one of their customers is a mutual customer. Some have that instrumentation in place, while Cloudflare needs to pass a special header to them so they can know where their traffic is coming from.

Prince also argued that this will make it easier for many companies to use multiple cloud providers without having to pay extremely high bandwidth cost. While Cloudflare’s early focus was very much on web traffic, Prince said that more than half is now API-based traffic, and that’s exactly the kind of user who will likely save quite a bit of money thanks to this.

The one company that’s not part of this alliance, of course, is Amazon with its AWS platform. Prince said that Cloudflare has talked to them, though, and the group is open to all cloud and CDN providers.

Microsoft Azure bets big on IoT

At its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft today announced a plethora of new Internet of Things-focused updates to its Azure cloud computing platform. It’s no secret that the amount of data generated by IoT devices is a boon to cloud computing services like Azure — and Microsoft is definitely aiming to capitalize on this […]

At its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft today announced a plethora of new Internet of Things-focused updates to its Azure cloud computing platform. It’s no secret that the amount of data generated by IoT devices is a boon to cloud computing services like Azure — and Microsoft is definitely aiming to capitalize on this (and its existing relationships with companies in this space).

Some of today’s announcements are relatively minor. Azure IoT Central, the company’s solution for helping you get started with IoT, is now generally available, for example, and there are updates to Microsoft’s IoT provisioning service, IoT hub message routing tools and Map Control API.

Microsoft also today announced that the Azure IoT platform will now support Google’s Android and Android Things platform via its Java SDK.

What’s more interesting, though, is the new services. The highlight here is probably the launch of Azure Digital Twins. Using this new service, enterprises can now build their own digital models of any physical environment.

Think of it as the virtual counterpart to a real-world IoT deployment — and as the IoT deployment in the real world changes, so does the digital model. It will provide developers with a full view of all the devices they have deployed and allows them to run advanced analytics and test scenarios as needed without having to make changes to the actual physical deployment.

“As the world enters the next wave of innovation in IoT where the connected objects such as buildings, equipment or factory floors need to be understood in the context of their environments, Azure Digital Twins provides a complete picture of the relationships and processes that connect people, places and devices,” the company explains in today’s announcement.

Azure Digital Twins will launch into preview on October 15.

The other major announcement is that Azure Sphere, Microsoft’s play for getting into small connected microcontroller devices, is now in public preview, with development kits shipping to developers now. For Azure Sphere, Microsoft built its own Linux-based kernel, but the focus here is obviously on selling services around it, not getting licensing fees. Every year, hardware companies ship nine billion of these small chips and few of them are easily updated and hence prone to security issues once they are out in the wild. Azure Sphere aims to offer a combination of cloud-based security, a secure OS and a certified microcontroller to remedy this situation.

Microsoft also notes that Azure IoT Edge, its fully managed service for delivering Azure services, custom logic and AI models to the edge, is getting a few updates, too, including the ability to submit third-party IoT Edge modules for certification and inclusion in the Azure Marketplace. It’s also about to launch the public preview of IoT Edge extended offline for those kinds of use cases where an IoT device goes offline for — you guessed it — and extended period.

more Microsoft Ignite 2018 coverage

Buy tickets for concerts on TV with the new Comcast and Ticketmaster feature

Comcast and Ticketmaster are rolling out a feature to let Xfinity X1 customers search tour dates and begin the ticket buying process directly through their televisions — using voice search on their remotes. The feature’s launch coincides with the first tickets going on sale for Kelly Clarkson’s new tour. If users speak “Kelly Clarkson tour” […]

Comcast and Ticketmaster are rolling out a feature to let Xfinity X1 customers search tour dates and begin the ticket buying process directly through their televisions — using voice search on their remotes.

The feature’s launch coincides with the first tickets going on sale for Kelly Clarkson’s new tour.

If users speak “Kelly Clarkson tour” into their voice remote, they’re sent to a dedicated Kelly Clarkson destination (which, surprisingly, isn’t a purgatory of bland pop power ballads).

To be clear, customers can’t actually complete an order using the voice tool. Instead they can get set to this destination where they will receive a prompt to buy tickets and then opt in to receive a text with a code that will enable them to buy tickets online.

If that sounds like an incredibly circuitous and unwieldy process to find tickets to concerts nearby for artists someone likes, that’s because it is.

Customers will see a promotional tile with an option to “get tickets” which will let them find a list of performances and corresponding dates at venues — powered by Ticketmaster’s API. Those customers can then opt to receive a text message with a code that they can use to complete the purchase online.

“Our team is always thinking of new ways to reach more fans by extending Ticketmaster’s open platform,” said Dan Armstrong, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Distributed Commerce for Ticketmaster in a statement. “This partnership with Comcast is a groundbreaking way to discover events and buy tickets.”

The new feature is certainly groundbreaking. It also seems extremely unnecessary.

For the Kelly Clarkson superfan, the X1 “experience” also includes the ability to stream her music through Pandora, watch music videos, and the singer’s appearances on The Voice — as well as watching clips from previous tours and see her web series A Glass of Wine.

“Fans can now go to Kelly Clarkson’s dedicated destination on X1 to enjoy her music and shop for tickets to her much-anticipated tour right on the TV via this seamless integration with Ticketmaster,” said Nancy Spears,  Vice President, Strategy & Execution at Comcast Cable, in a statement. “X1 enables us to unveil new and innovative experiences that complement and elevate content across the plaform and to add more value for customers by giving them more ways to interact with the events, entertainment, performers and brands they love.”

Anaxi brings more visibility to the development process

Anaxi‘s mission is to bring more transparency to the software development process. The tool, which is now live for iOS, with web and Android versions planned for the near future, connects to GitHub to give you actionable insights about the state of your projects and manage your projects and issues. Support for Atlassian’s Jira is […]

Anaxi‘s mission is to bring more transparency to the software development process. The tool, which is now live for iOS, with web and Android versions planned for the near future, connects to GitHub to give you actionable insights about the state of your projects and manage your projects and issues. Support for Atlassian’s Jira is also in the works.

The new company was founded by former Apple engineering manager and Docker EVP of product development Marc Verstaen and former CodinGame CEO John Lafleur. Unsurprisingly, this new tool is all about fixing the issues these two have seen in their daily lives as developers.

“I’ve been doing software for 40 years,” Verstaen told me.” And every time is the same. You start with a small team and it’s fine. Then you grow and you don’t know what’s going on. It’s a black box.” While the rest of the business world now focuses on data and analytics, software development never quite reached that point. Verstaen argues that this was acceptable until 10 or 15 years ago because only software companies were doing software. But now that every company is becoming a software company, that’s not acceptable anymore.

Using Anaxi, you can easily see all issue reports and pull requests from your GitHub repositories, both public and private. But you also get visual status indicators that tell you when a project has too many blockers, for example, as well as the ability to define your own labels. You also can define due dates for issues.

One interesting aspect of Anaxi is that it doesn’t store all of this information on your phone or on a proprietary server. Instead, it only caches as little information as necessary (including your handles) and then pulls the rest of the information from GitHub as needed. That cache is encrypted on the phone, but for the most part, Anaxi simply relies on the GitHub API to pull in data when needed. There’s a bit of a trade-off here in terms of speed, but Verstaen noted that this also means you always get the most recent data and that GitHub’s API is quite fast and easy to work with.

The service is currently available for free. The company plans to introduce pricing plans in the future, with prices based on the number of developers that use the product inside a company.

Wish, Netflix, Uber and ~100 others testing WhatsApp’s new Business API

Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced the launch of its first revenue-generating enterprise product, the WhatsApp Business API. The API allows businesses to respond to messages from WhatsApp users for free up to 24 hours, then charges for any responses after that point on a per message basis. Though still in a limited preview, the company […]

Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced the launch of its first revenue-generating enterprise product, the WhatsApp Business API. The API allows businesses to respond to messages from WhatsApp users for free up to 24 hours, then charges for any responses after that point on a per message basis. Though still in a limited preview, the company is now supporting around 100 businesses directly on its API platform, including airlines, e-commerce companies, banks, and others like Uber and Netflix, and plans to onboard many more in the months ahead.

Because businesses have to first apply to gain access the API, there’s some misinformation floating around on backchannels about how to get approved.

For example, some industry sources have been telling partners that no U.S.-based businesses are being onboarded to the API at this point. This is untrue, WhatsApp says. In fact, there’s a public site where U.S. companies Uber and Wish are featured as “customer stories.” We also understand that U.S.-based Netflix is testing the API, though not for use in the U.S. for the time being.

Others listed on WhatsApp’s website include Booking.com, MakeMyTrip, B2W, iFood, Singapore Airlines, Melia Hotels, KLM, Bank BRI, absa, Coppel, and Sale Stock.

WhatsApp isn’t limiting access to the API based on where companies are located, it says, nor does it have requirements for those businesses  – like how many messages they need to send per month.

The latter is another piece of misinformation out there, as businesses try to decipher who’s getting in. Some have been saying that API customers need to send at least 100,000 messages a month, if they expect WhatsApp to approve them during this preview phase. This is inaccurate, WhatsApp says.

There’s no requirement related to the number of messages being sent. Although the API is intended to be used by larger businesses, some today are using it for customer service which often means they’re receiving more messages than they’re sending, the company noted.

The API is now how WhatsApp generates revenue, as it ditched its subscription fee years ago. That’s why it’s worth tracking its progress. Businesses can also buy Facebook News Feed ads that launch customers into WhatsApp conversations they can respond to.

WhatsApp officially launched its Business app at the beginning of the year, which makes sense for smaller companies, and then rolled out the API this summer for the larger ones.

Bringing businesses into the WhatsApp ecosystem is a significant shift for the Facebook-owned company, as it turns what’s been a place where family and friends communicate into a place of business.

With that delicate balance in mind, WhatsApp says that businesses cannot reach out to customers using the API without the customers’ specific permission.

Instead, the API is designed to allow businesses to respond to customer inquiries, or provide them with other information they’ve requested. For example, an airline may send a boarding pass via the API; an e-commerce business may send a receipt; a bank may send over a bank statement.

Uber is using WhatsApp with its drivers to all them to connect to members of its team about questions and Netflix is sending account messages and suggestions as a part of its test.

Further down the road, the API could enable other types of customer interactions as well, like handling two-factor authentication requests, perhaps, instead of using SMS. But that’s not happening at present.

WhatsApp says there are now around 100 companies globally on the API platform.

The company is also working with a dozen or so solution providers. Businesses like VoiceSageNexmoInfobip, Twilio, MessageBird, Smooch, Zendesk, and others are already advertising their services in this area.

Companies interested in gaining access to the API can work with one of the solution providers or sign up directly via the WhatsApp website.

As WhatsApp brings on more businesses, it’s only vetting requirement of sorts is that it’s looking for those interested in creating quality experiences for customers, the company says.

Of course, even the invited intrusion of businesses into WhatsApp changes the nature of the platform.

As users invite more businesses to communicate with them, WhatsApp may start to feel like more like an email inbox or even a Twitter-like support channel.

Making sure there are easy-to-find settings that let users terminate their connections with businesses will be just as critical as the API becomes more widely adopted going forward.

 

Wish, Netflix, Uber and ~100 others testing WhatsApp’s new Business API

Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced the launch of its first revenue-generating enterprise product, the WhatsApp Business API. The API allows businesses to respond to messages from WhatsApp users for free up to 24 hours, then charges for any responses after that point on a per message basis. Though still in a limited preview, the company […]

Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced the launch of its first revenue-generating enterprise product, the WhatsApp Business API. The API allows businesses to respond to messages from WhatsApp users for free up to 24 hours, then charges for any responses after that point on a per message basis. Though still in a limited preview, the company is now supporting around 100 businesses directly on its API platform, including airlines, e-commerce companies, banks, and others like Uber and Netflix, and plans to onboard many more in the months ahead.

Because businesses have to first apply to gain access the API, there’s some misinformation floating around on backchannels about how to get approved.

For example, some industry sources have been telling partners that no U.S.-based businesses are being onboarded to the API at this point. This is untrue, WhatsApp says. In fact, there’s a public site where U.S. companies Uber and Wish are featured as “customer stories.” We also understand that U.S.-based Netflix is testing the API, though not for use in the U.S. for the time being.

Others listed on WhatsApp’s website include Booking.com, MakeMyTrip, B2W, iFood, Singapore Airlines, Melia Hotels, KLM, Bank BRI, absa, Coppel, and Sale Stock.

WhatsApp isn’t limiting access to the API based on where companies are located, it says, nor does it have requirements for those businesses  – like how many messages they need to send per month.

The latter is another piece of misinformation out there, as businesses try to decipher who’s getting in. Some have been saying that API customers need to send at least 100,000 messages a month, if they expect WhatsApp to approve them during this preview phase. This is inaccurate, WhatsApp says.

There’s no requirement related to the number of messages being sent. Although the API is intended to be used by larger businesses, some today are using it for customer service which often means they’re receiving more messages than they’re sending, the company noted.

The API is now how WhatsApp generates revenue, as it ditched its subscription fee years ago. That’s why it’s worth tracking its progress. Businesses can also buy Facebook News Feed ads that launch customers into WhatsApp conversations they can respond to.

WhatsApp officially launched its Business app at the beginning of the year, which makes sense for smaller companies, and then rolled out the API this summer for the larger ones.

Bringing businesses into the WhatsApp ecosystem is a significant shift for the Facebook-owned company, as it turns what’s been a place where family and friends communicate into a place of business.

With that delicate balance in mind, WhatsApp says that businesses cannot reach out to customers using the API without the customers’ specific permission.

Instead, the API is designed to allow businesses to respond to customer inquiries, or provide them with other information they’ve requested. For example, an airline may send a boarding pass via the API; an e-commerce business may send a receipt; a bank may send over a bank statement.

Uber is using WhatsApp with its drivers to all them to connect to members of its team about questions and Netflix is sending account messages and suggestions as a part of its test.

Further down the road, the API could enable other types of customer interactions as well, like handling two-factor authentication requests, perhaps, instead of using SMS. But that’s not happening at present.

WhatsApp says there are now around 100 companies globally on the API platform.

The company is also working with a dozen or so solution providers. Businesses like VoiceSageNexmoInfobip, Twilio, MessageBird, Smooch, Zendesk, and others are already advertising their services in this area.

Companies interested in gaining access to the API can work with one of the solution providers or sign up directly via the WhatsApp website.

As WhatsApp brings on more businesses, it’s only vetting requirement of sorts is that it’s looking for those interested in creating quality experiences for customers, the company says.

Of course, even the invited intrusion of businesses into WhatsApp changes the nature of the platform.

As users invite more businesses to communicate with them, WhatsApp may start to feel like more like an email inbox or even a Twitter-like support channel.

Making sure there are easy-to-find settings that let users terminate their connections with businesses will be just as critical as the API becomes more widely adopted going forward.