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Emergence Monthly: 100M Alexa devices sold


What we're seeing in the market

Voice assistants are here to stay: Amazon has officially sold 100M Alexa devices, and Google Assistant will soon be on 1B+ devices.

The next generation of voice-enabled tech is coming just around the corner, elevating these tools from low-IQ assistants to sophisticated, multi-modal tools for consumers and businesses alike.

They're everywhere...
They're everywhere...

If you ask most Alexa-owners how they use their device, their answers won't surprise you:

"Unsurprisingly, the most popular use was to play music or the radio (65%) or for news and weather reports (50%). Other common uses include travel updates (16.2%) and playing audiobooks/podcasts (8.2%). Interestingly, only 7% percent of users have ever bought anything via their smart speaker.”

Despite promises of having our very own digital assistant that could run our lives on autopilot, most of us are using Alexa to perform relatively simple, audio-exclusive tasks.

Performing tasks with just voice commands can get annoying quickly. Between awkward required phrasings and the unfortunate reality that most of us work in open office spaces, yelling at a computer to do our jobs isn't realistic.

In addition, most complex tasks require us to repeatedly reference the written information quickly. Imagine trying to do your taxes with Alexa – you'd lose your mind trying to remember each specific number without trying to write something down.

The next generation of voice is multi-modal. Tech giants and startups alike are racing to integrate voice into screen-first processes and leverage the complexity of voice to unlock new insights:

The Echo Show (left) and Google Home Hub (right).
The Echo Show (left) and Google Home Hub (right).

Both Google and Amazon have launched screen-first devices with integrated voice assistants. The Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show both allow users to pull up information on the screen with their voice: "Alexa, play The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Prime Video" or even "Hey Google, show me my calendar for the next 24 hours."

The June Oven & AmazonBasics Microwave.
The June Oven & AmazonBasics Microwave.

Kitchen appliances are getting voice assistants too. June Oven, backed by a $22.5M Series A from First Round, and Amazon's very own AmazonBasics microwave are both deeply integrated with Alexa. Expect to see more voice-first appliances coming soon.

It's not all just about what's in your kitchen: a wave of startups is working to surface insights from your conversations – voice input – into actionable reports and data on your screen about sales or customer service calls. TethrTalkIQ (acquired by Dialpad), Voice OpsDeepgram, and EmCap portfolio companies GuruAugmedix, and are all early competitors in the space.

We're also excited to see companies unlock additional meaning behind the complexities of voice: tone, breathing, and pitch. For example, Swedish firm Corti designed an AI that can detect heart attacks during 911 calls. Human dispatchers can identify ~72% of cardiac arrests over the phone, but Corti scored a staggering 95%.

"Hey Alexa, am I having a heart attack?" might seem outlandish now, but it could be coming much sooner than you think.

Other news we're watching.

Fiserv bought credit card processor First Data for $22B. Fintech giant Plaid bought Quovo for ~$200M. Confluent is now a unicorn, with a $125M Series DBanking startup N26 raised $300M at a $2.7B valuation. Katerra raised $700M and Globality raised $100M, both from SoftBank. PagerDuty filed their IPO. Adobe acquired AllegorithmicDISCO raised another $83MOneLogin snagged $100M in funding. TaxJar raised $60M to automate e-commerce taxes. Desktop Metal raised $160MGoogle fined €50M for GDPR violations. AI can detect Alzheimer's 6 years before doctors. And... Kohler is making a smart toilet. 🤔

What we're hearing from GTM leaders

Last week, BuzzFeed announced significant layoffs. 15% of their overall budget was cut. Verizon announced a 7% cut across HuffPost, Yahoo, and AOL's editorial teams. 1,000 skilled writers, journalists, and editors lost their jobs.

This has been coming for a while. Between an increasingly competitive content environment, ballooning salaries for top editorial and distribution roles, and competition for advertising budgets from big players like Facebook and new players like Reddit, and young writers who will work for free, BuzzFeed's model has struggled.

Another nail in their coffin: big enterprise advertisers haven't seen the ROI. Advertising on BuzzFeed was "literally the biggest waste of money" according to one of our CMOs.

What's the takeaways for advertisers? Make sure your advertisements are aligned with the website that will host them. Otherwise, you're fighting a losing battle.

As for the laid-off BuzzFeeders, Alexandre Mouriec put together a list of everybody looking for their next opportunity. Hire them here. 👏

Tactical Advice from the Emergence Team

10 Sins of Sales Ops

Every great sales organization is backed by an equally great Sales Operations team, who design, manage, and streamline your entire go-to-market strategy. We sat down with Zoom's Hilary Headlee to surface the best GTM practices. Read more.

The Founder's Guide to Hiring Your First VP of Marketing

It's the biggest reason many startups fail: founders launch companies with great ideas, but no go-to-market expertise. Learn how to prepare for, identify, and close your perfect CMO. Read more.

You've Got Investor Mail: How to Write Investor Updates

Raising seed capital is just the beginning. Instead of hoping your investors will intuit your every need, we've compiled the best tactics to leverage your investor's time and expertise. Read more.

Words from the team

1. Tech for Blue Collar Workers

Only 1% of enterprise venture investments go to help blue-collar workers. Kevin Spain sat down with Reuters to highlight new startups helping the deskless workforce, including UpKeep, DroneDeploy, and Zinc. Watch here.

2. How to Size Your Market Opportunity

Sizing your market correctly is essential when raising a Series A. But... nobody does it correctly. Kara Egan sat down with Forbes to help founders clearly pitch the size of their market. Read more.

3. AI is Coming to Your Video Calls

The next AI frontier: your video calls. Santi Subotovsky shared his predictions with Forbes on how AI will begin to interpret your body language, tone, and phrasing to unlock insights. Read more.

4. Janrain acquired by Akamai

Managing passwords, accounts, and logins across thousands of employees is next to impossible. Janrain's leading identity access tools help. We're proud to see EmCap portfolio company Janrain continue their journey as part of Akamai. Read more.

5. Seed Financing Do's & Don'ts

Don't cut your company off at the knees before you even start. Joe Floyd joined Morgan Linton's podcast to discuss best practices, how to diligence a seed-stage fund, and common mistakes founders make when raising a seed round. Listen here.

Where we're headed

Emergence @ SaaStr – Feb 5-6, San Jose

Start your SaaStr week with the teams at Emergence, Salesloft, and Crunchbase with food, drinks, and all things SaaS. RSVP here.

The Emergence GPs will also be spending time in one-on-ones with early-stage SaaS founders. Interested? Apply here.

Modern SaaS Finance – Feb 6, San Jose

Learn the five key strategies for CFOs to automate & scale their business, with Sage Intacct's Marc Linden, Stack Overflow's Jerry Raphael, Jobvite's Lisa Schulz, and more. Sign up.

Empower 2019 – May 7-9, Philadelphia

Collaborate and learn alongside other Revenue Team execs. Featuring the Miami Heat's Shane Battier, Slack's Christina Kosmowski, Square's John Ley, and Guru's Rick Nucci. Sign up.

Traction – Aug 7-8, Vancouver

Get actionable sales & growth strategies from Twilio's Jeff Lawson, Eventbrite's Julia Hartz, Trello's Michael Pryor & more. Sign up.

Find your new home

Director of Account Management – Textio gives you writing superpowers, using their AI engine to recommend edits that are tied to real-world successes from the rest of the network. They're looking for someone to lead their account management team. Apply here.

VP of Customer Experience – Guru helps everybody get the knowledge they need in seconds. Instead of relying on random documents and shared notes across your organization, Guru surfaces what you need exactly when you need it. They're looking for a customer experience leader with 7+ years experience. Apply here.

VP of Engineering – UpKeep makes maintenance management simple for the tens of thousands of technicians across the country. They're hiring an engineering lead with 5+ years of experience to help build out their platform adored by the teams at Marriott, McDonald's,, and more. Apply here.

Head of Events & Community – We invest in founders who change the way the world works. We’re looking to bring on a Head of Events & Community to work directly with our portfolio, building delightful IRL and digital experiences. Apply here.

Associate – We're looking to bring on a new Associate to our Investment team, focused on driving our sourcing process and the development of new investment themes. Apply here.

Partner Operations Manager – We’re looking to bring on our second POM (think of it as a Chief of Staff role) to work directly with GP Joe Floyd and delight our founders. Apply here.

Or... join the Emergence Talent Network for priority access and referrals to 700+ jobs in our portfolio. Apply here. 👈

What we're enjoying right now

Thrift Stores & the 'Marie Kondo' Effect

Netflix is a powerhouse. Weeks after launching a new show with organizing consultant Marie Kondo aimed to help people tidy up, mounds of unwanted stuff are overwhelming thrift shops across the country. Some are even turning away donations. Listen here.

How To Be Successful

Y Combinator's Sam Altman compiled the thirteen ways anybody can achieve "outlier success." Most interesting on the list: "You get rich by owning things. Though there are some exceptions—entertainers for example —almost no one in the history of the Forbes list has gotten there with a salary." Read more.

Imagining a Cashless Society

Putting physical bills out to pasture could help fight international corruption and temper tax evasion. An on-the-ground investigation into how countries like Sweden have already begun to build a world without paper currency. Read more.

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