Klaxoon gets $50M to try to make boring meetings more interactive and productive

If you’ve ever been in a pointless meeting at work, odds are you’ve spent part of the time responding to messages or just putzing around on the Internet — but Klaxoon hopes to convert that into something a bit more productive with more interactive meetings.

The French startup today said it’s raised $50 million in a new financing round led by Idinvest Partners, with early round investors BPI, Sofiouest, Arkea and White Star Capital Fund also participating. The company offers a suite of tools designed to make those meetings more engaging and generally just cut down on useless meetings with a room of bored and generally unengaged people that might be better off working away at their desk or even taking other meetings. The company has raised about $55.6 million in total.

The whole point of Klaxoon is to make meetings more engaging, and there are a couple ways to do that. The obvious point is to translate what some classrooms are doing in the form of making the whole session more engaging with the use of connected devices. You might actually remember those annoying clickers in classrooms used to answer multiple choice questions throughout a session, but it is at least one way to engage people in a room — and offering a more robust way of doing that may be something that helps making the session as a whole more productive.

Klaxoon also offers other tools like an interactive whiteboard (remember Smartboards, also in classrooms?) as well as a closed networks for meeting participants that aims to be air-gapped from a broader network so those employees can conduct a meeting in private or if the room isn’t available. All this is wrapped together with a set of analytics to help employees — or managers — better conduct meetings and generally be more productive. All this is going to be more important going forward as workplaces become more distributed, and it may be tempting to just have a virtual meeting on one screen while either working on a different one — or just messing around on the Internet.

Of course, lame meetings are a known issue — especially within larger companies. So there are multiple interpretations of ways to try to fix that problem, including Worklytics — a company that came out of Y Combinator earlier this year — that are trying to make teams more efficient in general. The idea is that if you are able to reduce the time spent in meetings that aren’t really productive, that’ll increase the output of a team in general. The goal is not to monitor teams closely, but just find ways to encourage them to spend their time more wisely. Creating a better set of productivity tools inside those meetings is one approach, and one Klaxoon seems to hope plays out.

AWS launches pay-per-session pricing for its QuickSight BI tool

Amazon QuickSight, the company’s business intelligence tool for AWS, launched back in 2015, but it’s hard to say how much impact the service has made in the highly competitive BI market. The company has far from given up on this project, though, and today, it’s introducing a new pay-per-session pricing plan for access to QuickSight dashboards that is surely meant to give it a bit of a lift in a market where Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI have captured much of the mindshare.

Under the new pricing plan, creating and publishing dashboards will stay cost $18 per user and month. For readers, though, who only need to have access to these dashboards, AWS now offers a very simple option: they will now pay $0.30 per session up to a maximum of $5 per month and user. Under this scheme, a session is defined as the first 30 minutes from login.

Previously, AWS offered two tiers of QuickSight plans: a $9 per user/month standard plan and a $24/user/month enterprise edition with support for Active Directory and encryption at rest.

That $9/user/month is still available and probably still makes sense for smaller companies where those who build dashboards and consume them are often the same person. The new pricing plan replaces the existing enterprise edition.

QuickSight already significantly undercuts the pricing of services like Tableau and others, though we’re also talking about a somewhat more limited feature set. This new pay-per-session offering only widens the pricing gap.

“With highly scalable object storage in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), data warehousing at one-tenth the cost of traditional solutions in Amazon Redshift, and serverless analytics offered by Amazon Athena, customers are moving data into AWS at an unprecedented pace,” said Dorothy Nicholls, Vice President of Amazon QuickSight at AWS, in a canned comment. “What’s changed is that virtually all knowledge workers want easy access to that data and the insights that can be derived. It’s been cost-prohibitive to enable that access for entire companies until the Amazon QuickSight pay-per-session pricing — this is a game-changer in terms of information and analytics access.”

Current QuickSight users include the NFL, Siemens, Volvo and AutoTrader.

Trade war? What you need to know about US steel tariffs

The world’s closer to a full-scale trade war than at any time since the 1930s, with the US, China and the EU all involved

A key theme of Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016 was that American jobs were being lost as a result of unfair global trade. Most commentators thought it was bluster when Trump threatened to impose swingeing tariffs on Chinese goods and to pull the US out of trade deals.

Related: US and EU on brink of trade war as Trump hits allies with steel tariffs

Related: Anyone, anyone? What happened when the US last introduced tariffs

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