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Inside SaaS (Jul 17th, 2019)

1. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says that Microsoft Teams is "not really a threat." At Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, on Monday, Butterfield said that smaller companies like Slack have "a bit of an advantage against a large incumbent with multiple lines of business." He also pointed out that the David and Goliath battle between Slack and Microsoft Teams, which recently announced that it overtook Slack with 13 million active users, has many precedents in the tech world. Microsoft itself beat out IBM during its heyday, and then Google crushed Microsoft in internet search when it was still young. The fact that Microsoft has boosted user numbers through software bundles also signals that Slack's growth may be more organic. “If it’s based on the bigger distribution [of Office 365], I don’t think that’s really a threat,” said Butterfield. -- FORTUNE

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2. HubSpot has introduced a free service to send up to 1,000 marketing emails a month. According to a statement published by HubSpot yesterday, users of its free-tier CRM tools will now be able to send targeted email marketing campaigns and manage up to $1,000 in digital ad spend as part of the free plan. Offering premium services for free is part of HubSpot's growth strategy, which targets startups and small-to-medium enterprise businesses. “We believe that email and CRM belong together, and that every marketer, no matter the size of their budget, should be able to see how their efforts are impacting their customers and, ultimately, their bottom line,” said HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar. -- FAST COMPANY

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3. ON THE CUSP: India-based supply chain SaaS startup O4S (Original4Sure) has received $2.1 million in a Pre-Series A funding round led by New Delhi-based Venture Highway. Founded in 2016 by Divay Kumar and Shreyans Sipani, O4S will use the new funds to build up data security and expand its supply chain solutions operations in India, where O4S already serves big-name clients such as PepsiCo, ITC and Honeywell. “This new funding will aid our next phase of growth to enable fraud-free supply chains and become a SaaS offering of choice," said Kumar. To date, the software has been used to track over 500 million unique products across 100,000 retailers. 

O4S's seed round signals that more venture capitalists are noticing the SaaS market gap in the global logistics and supply chain industry. At the beginning of the month, logistics startup Haulio won the top prize at this year's RISE tech conference in Hong Kong, an award that coincided with the closure of a private Pre-Series A round of funding. Haulio CEO Alvin Ea said, "we hope to drive the technological sophistication of this profession, and thus attract the younger generation to revitalize this aging industry." -- INC 42

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4. Workplace collaboration suite Swit has become the latest entrant to the Slack and Microsoft Teams fray by raising $6 million in seed funding. In a category that is already getting crowded by big players and a range of niche specialists, such as Symphony and Mattermost, Swit has now entered the ring following a seed round led by Korea Investment Partners, with participation from Hyundai Venture Investment Corporation and Mirae Asset Venture Investment. Swit hopes to stand apart from the crowd through its unique combination of messaging and productivity tools, which include calendars and Gantt charts. Since releasing its desktop and mobile apps last March, Swit has already been adopted by over 450 companies, with 40,000 users. -- TECH CRUNCH

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5. Digital wealth manager Syfe has launched in Singapore after receiving $5.2 million in seed funding. The startup uses a proprietary algorithm to manage and build personalized wealth portfolios in order to make the risk profiling of personal investments smarter. Syfe has signed a platform partnership deal with DBS Bank, Singapore's largest bank, as well as Amazon Web Services. Its seed funding round is among the largest in Southeast Asia and was led by UK-based venture capital fund Unbound. -- STRAITS TIMES

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6. Singapore-based diamond marketplace Luxiee has received a private six-figure seed funding round led by Kewee KhoThe startup, led by CEO Nicholas Lim, connects online customers directly to suppliers of GIA (Gemological Institute of America)-certified diamonds. “It’s about time a traditional industry like diamonds experience a new way of delivering real value to customers,” said Kho. “It is a disruption to an old-school economy.” The startup plans to use the funds to invest in marketing, branding and to create a larger talent pool. -- TECH IN ASIA

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7. Microsoft Office 365 has been banned for school use in the German state of Hesse over data privacy concerns. The press release from the German privacy watchdog also said that cloud suites from Apple and Google do not satisfy their data security regulations, but only mentioned Microsoft in the public statement. High Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Micheal Ronellenfitsch said that although data was held in centers in Europe, it is still “exposed to possible access by U.S. authorities." Hesse is home to six million people and includes Frankfurt, its largest city and a leading financial center in Europe. -- ARS TECHNICA

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8. UK-based VC firm IQ Capital has launched a new $125 million deep tech growth fund. The new funding pool marks another example in Europe as VCs begin to shift into so-called deep tech, which includes artificial intelligence, biotech, and blockchain. The firm has invested in startups such as graphene technology company Paragraf (which just raised $16 million yesterday), predictive maintenance software Senseye, and investment and trading platform Funderbeam. -- TECH CRUNCH

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9. Budapest-based American Sign Language (ASL)-to-English translation platform SignAll has raised €1.7 million ($1.9 million) in its second round of funding. The company employs artificial intelligence to translate the gestures of ASL into spoken or written English. The fresh investment round was led by Hiventures, one of the largest VC firms in Eastern Europe. Global tech research and advisory firm Gartner listed SignAll as one of the best examples of AI being used to improve the lives of customers and employees. -- 150 SEC

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10. Seattle- and India-based contract management SaaS provider Icertis has raised a $115 million Series E round from US-based venture capital firm Greycroft and PremjiInvest. Founded in 2009, this latest round of investment moves the SaaS firm into "unicorn" status and raises its total investment capital to about $211 million. The company was valued at $500 million in 2018, and generates revenue through more than 2 million subscribers. Icertis counts Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Airbus, Airtel, Lupin, Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant as its customers. -- ENTRACKR

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This newsletter is written and curated by Justin Calderón. Justin is based out of Barcelona, Spain, and has covered technology and SaaS news for a variety of publications, including the BBC and Newsweek. Follow him on Twitter at @justinfuyun

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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