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Fashion tech startup raised funding round entirely over Zoom during Covid - Tech Insider

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Fashion tech startup raised funding round entirely over Zoom during Covid - Tech InsiderFashion tech startup raised funding round entirely over Zoom during Covid - Tech InsiderPosted: 26 May 2020 03:30 AM PDT E-commerce platform Blackcart is set to launch later this month having raised $2 million in venture funding, solely over Zoom, during the coronavirus pandemic. The try-before-you-buy fashion startup has fast-tracked its launch process with Covid-19 closing physical clothes stores across North America."We were going to keep the platform in beta for a few more months, but then Covid came along," Blackcart founder and CEO Donny Ouyang told Business Insider in an interview. "We messaged all potential investors to fast-track the fundraising process to launch, it was five weeks of back and forth, 100s of emails and five or six meetings every day." Click here for more BI Prime stories.E-commerce platform Blackcart is set to launch later this month having raised $2 mil…

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How to Transform your Business with a Customer Success Portal - Business 2 Community

Posted: 07 Mar 2019 12:13 PM PST

Discover how you can find champions for your business/organization

hands on laptop

Your customers are your greatest weapons to driving new business. How, you may ask? Because these are the people who will one day become the champions of your business.

A champion is a person who advocates for your organization's, capabilities and publicly shares their approval. These types of customers can be an asset to your marketing and sales strategy. But, how do you get an ordinary customer to become a champion for your business?

You provide value to their business goals and leave them with an unforgettable experience that is worth talking about. Exceptional experience starts with wooing customers/members with the charm of a customer success portal.

What is a Customer Success Portal?

A Customer Success Portal is a platform that centralizes and delivers personalized and intelligent service to customers, members and employees. Users are enabled to help themselves and each other by engaging with one another through shared knowledge assets. It is a powerful tool for providing customers with an unforgettable experience, worth advocating for. Plus, some portals allow for an API connection that integrates other platforms embedded within your business, like Salesforce.

Benefits of Customer Success Portal

Here's a breakdown of how a customer success portal can help your business organization:

Remove barriers to customers doing business with you.
No matter what you sell or how you sell it, there will be logical touch points where extending your Salesforce CRM can remove significant barriers. Do your customers need to check status of an order? Provide approvals or sign-offs? A Portal can easily and securely integrate into your existing business process. As Melissa Stark, Marketing Manager at Core Scientific, put it in her case study:

"Once we identified our proposed Portal as a key business differentiator and looked through the available options in market, Magentrix stood out for their integration capabilities with Salesforce, ease of configuration and use along with stellar reviews and customer support. It was one of the easiest decisions I've made!"

With Magentrix's Customer Success Portal they were able to quickly deploy a Portal that allowed their customers to check status of their lots, see where they are in the process, access reimbursement information, view articles, and importantly schedule a pickup and request a new collection container – all synced to Salesforce automatically. This was previously handled manually, mostly through phone calls and email to Core Scientific. The Customer Community takes that time-consuming work away from customers and employees and is a major differentiator for Core Scientific.

Give customers a solid experience with your business/organization by providing them with the tools they need to succeed. Engaging with other like-minded customers gives users the opportunity to compare use cases and learn from each other. This also gives users the power to search for the answers they're looking for via someone who may have had the same question.

Providing great customer service doesn't have to be time consuming. A seamless support system not only helps provide support in an orderly fashion, but it also enables transparency to the number of support tickets coming in. A support ticketing system also gives valuable insights into trends. The trends of ticketing can help you dictate what your business can do better to improve its customer experience. For example, if you notice users have a tendency to submit support tickets around a particular question, you can leverage this data to develop knowledge base articles or training modules that will not only help and engage users, but will also reduce the number of support cases submitted.

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Webcast, March 13th: How to Activate High-Value Customers Leveraging Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning

Let your customers be heard and build relationships that will help gain further insight into how you can improve your products and services with an ideation newsfeed.

Being open to new ideas gives your business the opportunity to be innovative. Allowing customers/members to provide you with suggestions for improvement shows that you care and are providing a service that is dedicated to their success.

Serve a variety of users and appease everyone who interacts with your business.

A customer success portal isn't just for your customers/members, it can be for your employees too! With different user features, employees can have the ability to access valuable data that will help them excel in their respective role and help provide customer/member experiences that are worth talking about.

Varun, a Systems Integrator Engineer at Accellion has this to say about his customer success portal;

"The ability to have a simplified portal for customers to view their open cases and view security advisories; as well as for the partners to go in and register deals is a great advantage."

Customer Success Portal + Customer Support = Success

team collaborating

Leaving customers with a good experience is a stepping stone to building a champion for your business/organization. Combining your customer support with a strong customer success portal is a recipe for success.

As humans, we want to feel valued and special. Customer support can project this feeling on customers by tailoring every customer's experience to their specific needs.

We spoke to real customers and asked them to define good customer support and here's a short list that satisfies their service needs:

  • Speak to someone who is knowledgeable and understands their issues
  • Sense that the person they're speaking to not only wants to help but actually does help
  • Work with support representatives who provide tailored solutions that work best for them
  • Quick responses and access to information that will resolve any issues

A customer success portal will not only enable customers to get faster answers via support tickets, but it will also give customers access to a customer community. A customer community can spark customer engagement and create an environment where customers can feel comfortable, ask questions and share experiences outside of support.

We have to remember that our customers are not all the same, and their use for our business/service is not the same. Our customer support needs to provide a 24/7, customized experience, with tools that are as innovative as our customers. It's time to introduce a customer success portal.

An Email Marketing Company Left 809 Million Records Exposed Online - WIRED

Posted: 07 Mar 2019 02:49 PM PST

By this point, you've hopefully gotten the message that your personal data can end up exposed in all sorts of unexpected internet backwaters. But increased awareness hasn't slowed the problem. In fact, it's only grown bigger—and more confounding.

Last week, security researchers Bob Diachenko and Vinny Troia discovered an unprotected, publicly accessible MongoDB database containing 150 gigabytes of detailed, plaintext marketing data—including 763 million unique email addresses. The pair are going public with their findings today. The trove is not only massive but also unusual; it contains data about individual consumers as well as what appears to be "business intelligence data," like employee and revenue figures from various companies. This diversity may stem from the information's source. The database, owned by the "email validation" firm Verifications.io, was taken offline the same day Diachenko reported it to the company.

While you've likely never heard of them, validators play a crucial role in the email marketing industry. They don't send out marketing emails on their own behalf, or facilitate automated mass email campaigns. Instead, they vet a customer's mailing list to ensure that the email addresses in it are valid and won't bounce back. Some email marketing firms offer this mechanism in-house. But fully verifying that an email address works involves sending a message to the address and confirming that it was delivered—essentially spamming people. That means evading protections of internet service providers and platforms like Gmail. (There are less invasive ways to validate email addresses, but they have a tradeoff of false positives.) Mainstream email marketing firms often outsource this work rather than take on the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters, or lowering their online reputation scores.

"Companies have email lists and want to start emailing them, but they're not sure how valid they are," says Troia, who founded the firm Night Lion Security. "So they go to a company that will essentially send out spam." Troia speculates, but has not confirmed, that the database may be so large and varied because it comprises all of Verification.io's customers' data. WIRED was unable over the course of several days to contact the company or CEO Vlad Strelkov. On Monday, the entire Verifications.io website went offline and has not been restored since.

Record Setter

In general, the 809 million total records in the Verifications.io trove include standard information like names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses. But many also include things like gender, date of birth, personal mortgage amount, interest rate, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts associated with email addresses, and characterizations of people's credit scores (like average, above average, and so on). Meanwhile, other records in the collection seem related to generating sales leads at businesses, including company names, annual revenue figures, fax numbers, company websites, and industry identifiers for categorizing companies called "SIC" and "NAIC" codes.

The data doesn't contain Social Security numbers or credit card numbers, and the only passwords in the database are for Verifications.io's own infrastructure. Overall, most of the data is publicly available from various sources, but when criminals can get their hands on troves of aggregated data, it makes it much easier for them to run new social engineering scams, or expand their target pool.

"This is just another case where someone has my data, and hundreds of millions of other people's data, and I've absolutely no idea how they got it."

Security Researcher Troy Hunt

In the exposed database, the researchers also found some of what appear to be Verifications.io's own internal tools like test email accounts, hundreds of SMTP (email sending) servers, the text of emails, anti-spam evasion infrastructure, keywords to avoid, and IP addresses to blacklist. Diachenko suggests that in the Verifications.io work flow, customers would upload an Excel spreadsheet listing the email addresses to validate, and then Verifications.io would run their tests and return lists of clean addresses and ones that bounced back. It's possible, given the piecemeal nature of the data and evidence that it was imported from numerous different Excel files, that Verifications.io also retained some or all of the data it received from customers after concluding its email address checks.

The researchers validated samples of the data with companies listed as Verifications.io customers. Troia says his own information appears in the database. WIRED spoke to the proprietor of an email marketing firm who confirmed the validity of a segment of the data. WIRED also checked for four individuals, but did not find them listed. Diachenko and Troia also note that they have no way to know whether anyone discovered and downloaded the Verifications.io data while it was publicly available and fully exposed.

"I have no idea if anyone else accessed this besides us," Troia says. "But it was definitely out there for anyone to grab."

'Another Day on the Internet'

Much remains unknown about the database and Verifications.io, because the company is difficult to track. When the researchers initially contacted the company through a messaging portal on its site to disclose the database exposure, someone responded with an unsigned note. "Thank you for reporting the issue. We appreciate you reaching out and informing us," the reply said. "This is our company database built with public information, not client data. We were able to quickly secure the database. Goes to show, even with 12 years of experience you can't let your guard down."

Much of the data in the database is publicly available, though it's not clear that all of it is. When the researchers asked in the portal for the name of the owner of the company and the legal name of the company, someone wrote back declining to answer.

It is also unclear where Verifications.io is based. Most of its materials list Boca Raton, Florida, but some of its web assets are registered in California and Delaware. The Verifications.io website lists addresses in Estonia, but some of those matched up with what appear to be a museum and a government building.

Security researcher Troy Hunt is adding the Verifications.io data to his service HaveIBeenPwned, which helps people check whether their data has been compromised in data exposures and breaches. He says that 35 percent of the trove's 763 million email addresses are new to the HaveIBeenPwned database. The Verifications.io data dump is also the second-largest ever added to HaveIBeenPwned in terms of number of email addresses, after the 773 million in the repository known as Collection 1, which was added earlier this year. Hunt says some of his own information is included in the Verifications.io exposure.

"The main takeaway for me is that this is just another case where someone has my data, and hundreds of millions of other people's data, and I've absolutely no idea how they got it," Hunt says. "I'd never heard of the company until now and I certainly can't ever recall consenting to their use of my data. Of course, it's entirely possible that buried in some other service's terms and conditions it says they're allowed to pass my data around in this fashion, but that's not really consistent with my expectations of how my data should be used."

As with recent data exposures from the business data aggregator Apollo and the marketing firm Exactis, there's not a lot you can do to individually protect yourself when vast repositories of data compiled from both public and private sources leak. Check HaveIBeenPwned to see if your data was in the Verifications.io exposure, and continue your general vigilance about using strong, unique passwords, monitoring your financial statements, and giving out your Social Security number as infrequently as possible. But also know that none of those measures provide a full solution to this society-scale problem.

The disjointed nature of the exposed Verifications.io data speaks to the chaotic state of the data industry overall. People's personal information is shared by massive companies like Facebook, bought and sold by shady marketers, or stolen from data giants and doomed to circulate endlessly in the purgatory of criminal forums. The churn makes it difficult for consumers to control who has their data and where it ends up. As Hunt puts it, "Sadly, it's just another day on the internet."


More Great WIRED Stories

The Super-Rich Are Being Scammed on Their Private Jets - Crain's Chicago Business

Posted: 07 Mar 2019 09:11 AM PST

(Bloomberg) — Five grand for mystery sushi. Seven for plastic cups. And more fuel than the plane could possibly hold.

Such are the deceptions stinging the billionaires and mere millionaires of today's private jet-set class. In an era of ultra-wealth, reports of shady billing related to private-jet travel are on the rise.

It says as much about this era of hyper-wealth as about modern-day fraudsters. So much money is sloshing around the world that, inevitably, crafty operators are seeking a slice, trying to help themselves to what they figure is a mere rounding error to a billionaire. About a third of private-jet owners are worth more than $500 million, according to a 2018 report by VistaJet and Wealth-X.

How Rebecca Minkoff's 'Female Founder' seal of approval will help women business owners - USA TODAY

Posted: 27 Feb 2019 05:00 AM PST

Rhonda Abrams, Special to USA TODAY Published 8:00 a.m. ET Feb. 27, 2019

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Kathryn Finney created a pipeline into the tech world to help Black and Latinx women founders become successful. USA TODAY

What if you wanted an easy way to help women business owners succeed? If when you went to buy something or hire someone, you could select a woman-owned business?  Well, if designer/entrepreneur Rebecca Minkoff has her way, you'll soon have a way to quickly identify women-owned businesses – a "female founder" symbol to look for whenever you shop or hire.  

"First and foremost, we want a symbol that can be recognized on packaging, or websites, or storefronts," said Minkoff. "We want to galvanize a community to buy from and support each other…We can educate the consumer in the (same) way that she's been educated to turn over and see (if a product) is non-GMO or organic."  

Since March is Women's History Month, now's a good time to see how women entrepreneurs—and many corporate partners—are pulling together to help women entrepreneurs succeed.  

More: The best of deals and the worst of deals: Small business lessons from the NBA

More: What's the biggest small business training program for girls? Girl Scouts

Last September, Minkoff — co-founder and creative director of the popular fashion design company that bears her name — launched the Female Founder Collective.

One of the main goals of the collective is to increase women-owned businesses' share of sales revenue. To do that, they launched a symbol—a seal—that women-owned businesses can use to identify themselves. "Women are more likely to support female-owned companies if they only know how," said Minkoff.  

But the Female Founder Collective is designed to be more than a symbol. Minkoff and other collective founders aim for it to be a platform and a movement for female business leaders to connect and support each other, socially, legally and economically. "There are between 1100 and 2000 female-owned businesses starting every day," said Minkoff, "and I think those women face unique challenges that they've never faced before."  

"The goal is to have a directory of all these (women-owned) brands," said Minkoff. "It will be a b2c (business to consumer) directory, and a b2b (business to business) portal for these companies to continue to help one another." 

The collective was launched in September 2018 and it already has more than 3,000 women members. "When you see a ground swell of this kind of activity it reflects a need that is not being met," said Minkoff.    

"I have 11 million businesses to reach," said Minkoff. "I would love all them to turn lights on this seal so it's recognizable and we change our shopping habits…If we're all shopping from females, that wealth trickles up."  

Does the idea of identifying businesses by gender, ethnic or religious groups bother Minkoff?  "It's been filtered the opposite way for a really long time. So if the pendulum has to swing a little bit to get things more equalized, I'm okay with that. Men can have their own symbol."  

Minkoff has entered into a partnership with Visa, which has recently launched the "She's Next" campaign to help empower and educate female business owners. On March 6 —International Women's Day — the Collective and Visa's She's Next will host a day of workshops in New York City for hundreds of women entrepreneurs to help give them tools and training to help them significantly scale their companies.  

A recent Visa study on the State of Female Entrepreneurship indicated that 73 percent of women entrepreneurs reported having difficulty securing the funding they needed to start their businesses, so Visa and Chase will co-host a workshop on lending to help women get the loans and capital they need.

"Starting and growing a business can be both incredibly rewarding and daunting," said Suzan Kereere, Visa's global head of merchant sales & acquiring, who is heading up Visa's She's Next campaign. "There is never enough time or enough resources, but when we work together to support each other, amazing things can happen." 

If you're a woman business owner who wants to join the Collective, go to the Female Founders Collective website (www.femalefoundercollective.com ) and fill out the application. Your company must be majority-owned by women. 

Once you are a member, "We send you the seal to use…so consumers can see it, wonder what it is, and hopefully seek it out," said Minkoff. "You get access to our Slack, Google, and Facebook groups. You get access to events, and we send information of use to the community."  

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Rhonda Abrams is the author of "Six-Week Start Up" just released in its fourth edition.  Connect with Rhonda on Facebook and Twitter: @RhondaAbrams. Register for Rhonda's free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.

 

 

 

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