A lot of attention is focused on how some tech services are seeing a big boost in demand during the coronavirus pandemic — for example, streaming services and other online media, and anything to do with food delivery, are all seeing unprecedented levels of use. Today comes news from another startup highlighting another important aspect of how tech companies are faring. With many now staying at home, online services are seeing new levels of “stress testing,” and are realising, sometimes with urgency, where user experience is failing or could be better.
Glassbox — which provides analytics and other tools to businesses that run online customer interfaces to track how they are used and when they are not working, and also to suggest how to fix them — is today announcing that it has raised $40 million in funding, money that it will use to continue expanding its tech and its business overall.
The funding, a Series C, is being led by Brighton Park Capital, with existing investors Updata Partners, Ibex Investors, Gefen Capital and CEIIF also participating. The London-based startup has now raised $70 million, and it’s not disclosing valuation.
Yaron Morgenstern, the CEO (the company was co-founded by Yaron Gueta, Hanan Blumstein and Yoav Schreiber) said that revenues have doubled in the last year, and that this is an upround. Glassbox does not disclose a lot of customer names — a few on the site currently include insurers like Seguros and airlines like Air Canada. Morgenstern notes that others include 10 of the largest banks in the world, and “a few very large S&P 500 retailers.”
The funding underscores an interesting trend that we’re in the middle of right now: with more people going online and relying on digital interfaces to shop, entertain, and get and send critical information, the failings of websites and apps are more apparent than ever and need fixing more urgently than before.
But that is not the only reason why this funding is notable.
Last year, we published an expose about how Glassbox’s SDK was being adopted by some customers, where they were not fully disclosing to their own customers just how their online actions were being monitored and tracked in the name of quality control; and how and if sensitive data was being sucked up in the process.
It turns out that the story did open up some cracks and help both Glassbox, its customers, and platform operators like Apple and Google (in the case of apps) get on the same page with how well these tools worked, and when.
Notably, it didn’t make much of a dent on Glassbox’s business — which has doubled over the year and continues to grow at a very fast pace, Morgenstern said today in an interview.
“We managed to have a very successful year last year and more than doubled our business. This whole thing is behind us,” he said. “For use, the safety and security of our customers, and our customers’ customers, is the most important thing. We are working with the relevant vendors that are responsible for the apps and app management to understand their requirements and what are the measurements we need to do to comply with rules and regulations.”
There is an argument to be made about how privacy issues like these are being treated at the moment, and whether they are continuing to get the same scrutiny as before in a climate where going online, and being tracked, has taken on a new kind of priority (a different kind of stress test, as it happens).
But at least for now, there has been an interesting turn in user experience, where services that were never necessarily designed for full accessibility, or with bugs slipping through, are now no longer as acceptable — with hopefully the fixes and detections happening in a way that is transparent to users.
“I think that what we are seeing is that organizations have had to change how they behave with customers,” Morgenstern said.
He noted that this is playing out on two fronts. On one side, new audiences and a new segment of the market “that is being forced into digital channels.” For example, elderly consumers now often “have no choice but in online” for some services, he said. “Our customers are serving new parts of the population, and what they are providing may not not fit.”
On another side is the company itself. “Many are finding that they now need to shift a lot of their products and services into online and digital experiences in ways they had never done before,” he said. “According to the digital transformation curve, many are now finding themselves doing this years before they had ever planned to do so.” In other words, it means services like Glassbox’s have become “mission critical,” he added.
“Glassbox stood out as the best product in an important, growing market,” said Zach Gut at Brighton Capital, in a statement. “The company’s approach enables businesses to seamlessly enhance their capabilities and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving world defined by digitization. We are thrilled to be partnering with Glassbox’s talented team and join them on their exciting journey.” Gut and Lisa Hammitt, Global VP of Data & AI at VISA and special advisor to Brighton Park, are both joining the startup’s board.