radar

In the land of tech unicorns, it's hard not to root for startups. 

With that in mind, we began a series last year called On Our Radar — profiles on technology companies we think have bright futures. As you'll see below in our progress report on these companies, most of them lived up to our expectations in 2016. 

We continue this series today with a look into Kezmo, an enterprise chat and collaboration platform for companies concerned about security in the cloud and a need to manage international teams. It was created by the founders of OrangeLoops.

Year founded: 2015

Founders: Gabriel Lopez, CEO, and Daniel Gomez, CTO. Lopez was one of the two founders of SouthLabs, the company behind SharePlus, a mobile client for SharePoint that was acquired by Infragistics in 2011. He has a degree in software engineering and more than 15 years experience in the software industry working for the enterprise sector, often as a SharePoint consultant.

Gomez was part of the founding team of SouthLabs as well. He architected SharePlus and led the development of the product before and after the acquisition. Gomez has more than 20 years experience in the software industry, working for the enterprise sector architecting large-scale projects for the banking industry for clients throughout South America and the Caribbean.

Headquartered in: Montevideo, Uruguay

Number of employees: 10

Number of customers: Kezmo is used by hundreds of teams across South America and Europe, the company said.

When was your latest major platform release, and what did it entail? Last September Kezmo was released to the market as an alternative collaboration platform that "reunites the best of the chat-centric experience that we see in modern messaging apps with the more structured approach to managing information that is required for business process automation."

The release shipped with messaging, document and task management capabilities, and included the web and mobile clients for Android and iOS. 

Gabriel Lopez and Daniel Gomez

Where do you see companies succeeding in enterprise collaboration? Currently success is being driven by platforms that excel in ease of use, and fast-paced, real-time interactions. Chat-driven interactions in environments that provide pockets of context, such as: WhatsApp groups, or Slack channels. 

The fact that context is already established makes collaboration more efficient. With short messages you are able to make a point, ask for information, get something started. When we compare this with email-based interactions where in each new email message you have to state a background and purpose for the message, it’s clear it's saving time.

Where do you see enterprise collaboration programs fail most often? The successful implementation of a collaboration platform within a company is a cultural change that needs to be managed. Different organizations have different starting points and comfort zones when it comes to technology. 

For instance, to our surprise one of the differentiators that helped Kezmo gain traction in some regions is the fact that it’s localized, available in Spanish among other languages. Consultants trying to champion/sponsor the adoption of a product regardless of the company’s culture will face challenges.

What's your company's differentiator against Slack, HipChat, Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft TeamsWe have designed Kezmo to enable a frictionless passage from agile messaging to structured content, and we believe that's unique to our product. In the prevailing approach taken by these platforms everything is a message and lacks structure. 

For instance, you may agree in conversation that someone needs to review a document, but if not reflected in a different task management platform it may be forgotten after a couple of days. In Kezmo you can assign a task while you chat, or even edit a message after it's created to mark it as a task, or issue or note. In the future we see more complex and specific types such as purchase orders that are requested through the chat interface, but are later managed through an independent and specific view.  

What is one thing you have no one else does in this space? Kezmo supports offline, nearby collaborations based on proximity protocols such as BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) that enable interactions to take place regardless of the network conditions. For instance, two teams of lawyers can meet in a trade show abroad with poor or no Wi-Fi and just open Kezmo, discover each other and exchange documents without leaving any traces on any server side infrastructure. This collaboration can later be carried on remotely or not. 

What is your total funding from investors to date? Privately funded, and in the process of closing Series A.

What can we expect in terms of innovation in 2017? More applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the collaboration space. This will surface in the form of chatbots and virtual assistants, that will enable intelligent interactions in natural language with information systems to manage business processes. 

The possibilities are endless, from retrieving information without switching context, to more complex behaviors where the collaboration platform proactively suggest pieces of content, such as links or documents that may be relevant to conversations taking place.  

Customer Take

Licrim Forensic Labs, a forensic science laboratory that provides services such corporate fraud investigations, uses Kezmo. Its methodology follows international norms and forensic protocols, applying standard ISO 27037 for the handling of digital evidence. It has presence in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Italy and the United States.

CEO Vladimir Cobarrubias, an engineer, judicial expert and ex-detective, said the company once managed information "by more traditional means" — paper, scanner, spreadsheets, folders with a history of investigations. 

Vladimir Cobarrubias
Vladimir Cobarrubias

Now with Kezmo, Licrim can create diverse "workspaces," and maintain the privacy of antecedents. It can also grant access to users to share information on the investigations, allowing collaboration to take place, and keeping the entire team notified instantly. 

"Undoubtedly Kezmo came to stay in the administration of all our files, effectively integrating the team and with a solid customer support, simplifying the management and administration of our investigations,” Cobarrubias said.

What Happened to ...

Before we close out our first Radar profile of 2017, we wanted to check in on the companies we profiled in 2016 to see what they've been up to: 

Clkim

Clkim boasts about being an alternative to Bitly, the URL shortening platform. We're always intrigued by startups that take on tech giants. 

Neve Ilan, Israel-based Clkim closed in November a $1 million first round of funding and appointed a new chairman of the board, Ran Poliakine, the former CEO of Powermat Technologies. Poliakine also owns NanoX Imaging, Years of Water, Illumigyn and QinFlow.

Potentiate

Potentiate sparked our interest when it won recognition from The Temkin Group in its fourth annual Customer Experience Vendor Excellence (CxVE) contest. Sydney-based Potentiate was one of five companies to receive the honor. 

Bounce Exchange

We met the folks at New York City's Bounce Exchange at the Forrester Research Tech Mixer. Also referred to as BounceX, the company provides a machine-learning platform that automates conversion rate optimization and user acquisition. Inc. 5000 named Bounce Exchange the fastest growing software company in the US in August.

x.ai

Artificial intelligence-born Amy and Andrew Ingram are the centerpieces of technology for x.ai, a meeting scheduler. "Amy" and "Andrew" check calenders and set up your meetings on your behalf. In October, the New York City-based provider released its professional version.

Lytics

We got a tip from a source about this startup based in Portland, Ore. Our source claimed "customer data platforms are going to be all the rage in the coming years." Officials at Lytics base their platform on the premise that personalized marketing starts with customer data management. Lytics did let go of five of its engineering staff to realign around sales, in June, dropping the staff then to 27. 

It launched products around website personalization and an integration with Janrain segmentation.

WiSilica

The 2015 Golden Bridge Awards organization selected WiSilica as the winner in both the Startup of the Year and Innovations in Technology categories. The Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based company supports Internet of Things applications. WiSilica in February of last year closed a $3.35 million Series A funding round.

Localytics

A venture capitalist turned us on to Localytics, a Boston-based app marketing analytics provider. The company laid off 37 people last January (about 15 percent of its staff), but did move into a new Boston digs in the city's Government Center nearly twice the size as the old Boston home.

Zinc (formerly Cotap)

Last year was one of major change for Cotap, the enterprise collaboration company, since we caught up with them: it changed its name from Cotap to Zinc. It also raised $5 million in June

The San Francisco-based provider also named a new CEO last February, Stacey Epstein, former CMO of ServiceMax and VP of global marketing communications at SuccessFactors, which was acquired for $3.4 billion by SAP.

Affectiva

Affectiva has not sat idle since we profiled the artificial intelligence technology provider. Waltham, Mass.-based Affectiva raised $14 million in September in a Series D round of funding. Affectiva is now working on "socio-emotive AI," cognitive tech that reads facial expressions.