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Holiday marketing tips, low-cost NFTs, SaaS sprawl study – TechCrunch

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Boston-based VC firm OpenView interviewed nearly 600 SaaS companies for its annual pricing survey and the results are in: Automation is taking usage-based pricing (USP) mainstream.

Last year, 34% of survey respondents said they were using a flexible pricing model. This year, that figure rose to 45%.


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Seats are just an outdated way of charging and dont allow a company to communicate value or invest in features that would add more value,” said OpenView operating partner Kyle Poyar.

In fact, he said, it might even be negatively correlated: When AI can automate tasks, the more successful the solution is, the fewer people need to be logging in.”

The report had many interesting findings, but here’s the one that left the biggest impression on me: Startups that adopt USP and product-led growth strategies pay back customer acquisition costs faster and have higher net-dollar retention.

Thanks very much for reading TechCrunch+ I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

The holiday shopping season is coming: How are growth marketers preparing?

Directly Above Shot Of Open Cardboard Box Over White Background

Image Credits: paolomartinezphotography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

With only three weeks left to the start of the holiday shopping season, Miranda Halpern checked in with several growth marketers to find out how they’re advising their clients to prepare for supply chain disruptions.

Cargo ships are stacked up outside ports, and empty shipping containers are in short supply, as are the truck drivers who would take them to market. This is not the time for doing business as usual.

To gather advice and insights, she interviewed:

  • Julio Lopez, director of client strategy, retail practice lead, Movable Ink
  • Chris Toy, CEO and co-founder, Marketer Hire
  • Kristin Dick, head of operations and growth marketer, Tuff
  • Dipti Parmar, founder, Dipti Parmar Consulting

Bring on the low-cost NFTs

The NFT marketplace is still a bit of a head-scratcher for those of us without loads of expendable income, but new data from DappRadar provides some insight into what the masses value.

As Alex Wilhelm reports, a lot of activity is focused on games like Axie Infinity, where players can collect and do battle with Pokmon-esque NFTs priced at around $250.

That gives us a look into the nascent non-fungible token ecosystem and what people want to buy and trade: more affordable, value-generating NFTs that “unlock an activity that are not artificially supply constrained.”

The consequences of SaaS sprawl: A real-world study

Spaghetti and sauce spilled on kitchen floor

Image Credits: Lew Robertson (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

There’s no way to avoid SaaS sprawl: When employees can independently select software that meets their personal needs, every organization must dodge this pothole.

In a detailed breakdown of a recent research study, returning contributors Tomer Y. Avni and Mark Settle explore the myriad impacts of running a business partially on shadow IT.

Besides numerous administrative problems, SaaS sprawl can create fundamental security risks, especially for companies where many employees can access IP and personally identifiable information.

Were still just scratching the surface of the clouds potential

The state of the public cloud in 2021 looks pretty good

Image Credits: your_photo (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The cloud storage and services market is nowhere near maturity, according to Battery Ventures’ 2021 State of the OpenCloud report.

According to the firm’s estimate, the market could eventually be worth as much as $1 trillion.

“When you consider that the vast majority of work, development and computing will be done in the cloud at some point, the investment groups round-number projection may prove modest,” write Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm, who broke down the report and spoke to Battery General Partner Dharmesh Thakker.

What does Zillows exit tell us about the health of the iBuying market?

For Sale sign board in front of a model home

Image Credits: Glow Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

I always learn something while editing stories written by TechCrunch reporters: Because Ryan Lawler covers proptech for us, I asked him to explain the significance of Zillow’s decision to depart the iBuying business.

This story has been very well covered, but I haven’t seen anyone else put it this succinctly:

Selling an asset at a loss is a bad idea in most areas of business, but it is a particularly bad idea in a market where sales cycles are slow, unpredictable and largely out of your control.

Vias Tiffany Chu on the importance of govtech for planning mobility ecosystems

Illustration of Tiffany Chu, SVP and co-founder of Remix by Via

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Robots that can make salads and cheeseburgers are fascinating, which means they’re more likely to hog the headlines than companies making technology that optimizes governmental operations.

But govtech and civic tech has a greater social impact than burger-flipping robots. Startups that bridge the public and private sectors can build sustainable businesses with strong returns, says Tiffany Chu, SVP of mobility firm Via and former CEO of Remix.

“Whats special about this space is that its the intersection of a customer base that will always be around,” Chu says.

“Governments rarely go out of business, so theres a very direct, targeted customer base that makes it clear who your product needs to serve.”

Female founders are making a buzzing, venture-backed comeback

We are nowhere near achieving parity or representation when it comes to startup funding, but the gender gap is narrowing, according to PitchBook data.

Funding for U.S.-based, female-founded startups nearly doubled in the last year: So far in 2021, women-led companies have closed 2,661 deals worth $40.4 billion.

Thus far in 2021, the backsliding has more than stopped, report Natasha Mascarenhas and Alex Wilhelm. Indeed, it has shot the other direction.

Why LatAms fintech boom is more than hype and superlative venture investment

Venture capital is flowing around the world in unprecedented volumes, but it’s not hyperbole to say that Latin America’s fintech startups are having their best year ever.

Unprecedented tailwinds, a wealth of opportunities and strong competition are together driving fintechs in the region to innovate faster than ever, report Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm. And despite intense competition, VCs are jumping in feet first, looking for more opportunities.

“Nubank is setting the bar of how big can a business get on an IPO and will make VCs think more thoroughly about how big can a business get if everything [goes] right,” said one investor.

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Emerging tech in security and risk management to better protect the modern enterprise

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Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


With growing agreement that the traditional enterprise perimeter and security architecture are dead, an array of security and risk management technologies have recently emerged that are worth considering in the enterprise, according to Gartner senior director and analyst Ruggero Contu.

The rapid pace of digital transformation, the move to cloud, and the distribution of the workforce mean that standard security controls are not as effective as in the past, Contu said during the research firms Security & Risk Management Summit Americas virtual conference this month.

Most businesses report theyve faced security struggles while trying to adapt to the accelerated technology changes of the past two years. A recent report by Forrester, commissioned by cyber vendor Tenable, found that 74% of companies attribute recent cyberattacks to vulnerabilities in technology put in place during the pandemic.

Of course, the irony is that the adoption of new technology also offers a solution for many of these issues. With a massive global shortage of cybersecurity talent and skills, tools and automation designed for the new digital world are essential for meeting the security challenge.

8 emerging technologies to watch

When it comes to emerging technologies in security and risk management, Contu focused on eight areas: confidential computing; decentralized identity; passwordless authentication; secure access service edge (SASE); cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM); cyber physical systems security; digital risk protection services; and external attack surface management.

Many of these technologies are geared toward meeting the new requirements of multicloud and hybrid computing, Contu said. These emerging technologies also align to what Gartner has termed the security mesh architecture, where security is more dynamic, adaptable, and integrated to serve the needs of digitally transformed enterprises, he said.

Confidential computing

To process data, that data must be decrypted, opening a potential for unauthorized access or tampering. There is thus a risk of exposure for data that is in use.

How it works: Confidential computing mitigates the risk of exposure when data gets decrypted while in use. It does this through using a hardware-based enclave or trusted execution environment that isolates and protects the data during processing.

To keep in mind: The performance of the cloud systems may be impacted, and there could be higher cost for increased infrastructure-as-a-service instances. Hardware-based approaches are also not bulletproof, as evidenced by the Spectre and Meltdown processor vulnerabilities.

Decentralized identity

Ensuring privacy and compliance require a way to not only control identities, but also control the data associated with those identities. Identity and access management has also faced issues around security and scalability in the midst of rapid digital transformation. The use of centralized identity stores poses security and privacy risks.

How it works: Decentralized identity provides a distributed identity model, leveraging technologies such as blockchain to distribute the storing of identities and related data across a large number of systems.

To keep in mind: Decentralized identity and even blockchain itself are still relatively new technologies and remain fairly untested at this point, Contu said. Enterprises should require proof of concepts from vendors before investing in this technology.

Passwordless authentication

Infamously, passwords have severe limitations ranging from the widespread use of weak passwords, to phishing and social engineering attacks aimed at stealing passwords, to potential compromises of stored passwords. Compromised passwords are responsible for 81% of hacking-related breaches, Verizon has reported.

How it works: Passwordless authentication replaces the use of passwords with the use of alternative authentication methods such as smart cards, biometrics, and tokens.

To keep in mind: The issue of credential theft can still be an issue with passwordless authentication if the vendor stores credentials in a central repository cyber criminals can still attack that repository. The cost is also likely to be higher, in particular for methods that require additional hardware such as biometric readers or smart card readers.

Secure access service edge (SASE)

While still relatively new, secure access service edge (SASE) has gotten significant traction in the market because its a very powerful approach to improving security, Contu said. The term was first coined by Gartner analysts in 2019. SASE offers a more dynamic and decentralized security architecture than existing network security architectures, and it accounts for the increasing number of users, devices, applications, and data that are located outside the enterprise perimeter.

How it works: SASE offers a flexible and anywhere, anytime approach to providing secure remote access by delivering multiple capabilities, including secure web gateway for protecting devices from web-based threats; cloud access security broker (CASB), which serves as an intermediary between users and cloud providers to ensure enforcement of security policies; next-generation firewalls; and zero-trust network access, which considers context such as identity, location, and device health before granting remote access to applications.

To keep in mind: In many cases, adopting SASE will mean migrating to new vendors and products, which can bring challenges around cost and management of the new products. Still, the overall benefit [of SASE] is very high, as demonstrated by the interest in the market, Contu said.

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM)

Management of identities and their entitlements, such as access privileges, is notoriously difficult. Doing so in multicloud and hybrid environments adds a further level of complication. Threat actors are known to exploit these weaknesses in order to infiltrate and compromise cloud services.

How it works: Cloud infrastructure entitlements management, or CIEM, is a tool for monitoring and managing cloud identities and permissions. This can include detection of anomalies in account entitlements such as accumulation of privileges, risky dormant accounts, and unnecessary permissions.

To keep in mind: CIEM is starting to combine with other cloud security tools, and is only expected to remain as a standalone tool in the short term. Over the longer term, CIEM will likely be available as part of identity governance and administration (IGA), privileged access management (PAM), and cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) offerings.

Cyber physical systems security

The concept of cyber physical systems security recognizes that cyber threats and vulnerabilities now extend outside of IT infrastructure alone, and can impact the increasingly IT- and IoT-connected physical infrastructure, as well. With the increasing convergence of IT, operational technology (OT), and other physical systems, new security approaches and solutions are required.

How it works: Cyber physical systems security offers a set of capabilities to enable organizations to securely manage their increasingly interconnected environments particularly in terms of bringing better visibility of assets and systems, both known and unknown. Along with providing greater visibility, cyber physical systems security brings the ability to correlate inventories with available vulnerability data, enabling organizations to prioritize their mitigation efforts around those vulnerabilities. Other capabilities can include anomaly detection and secure remote access. Cyber physical systems security ultimately spans IoT, industrial IoT, and OT, as well as concepts such as smart cities.

To keep in mind: Regardless of how much money an enterprise invests in cyber physical systems security, the approach will fail unless there is strong collaboration between IT and OT teams.

Digital risk protection services

With digital transformation come a growing number of digital assets and enterprises need protection and visibility for these digital assets, which may not be provided by traditional security controls.

How it works: Digital risk protection services can provide brand protection, data leakage protection, and services to protect against account takeover and fraud campaigns. The services offer visibility into the open web, social media, and dark web, to uncover threats such as fraudulent/infringing web domains and mobile apps. Other services can include protection against social media account takeovers or phishing scams.

To keep in mind: Digital risk protection services are starting to converge with other technologies such as external attack surface management.

External attack surface management

Internet-facing exposure of enterprise assets and systems can bring major risks, security and otherwise.

How it works: External attack surface management, or EASM, focuses on identifying all internet-facing assets, assess for vulnerabilities, and then managing any vulnerabilities that are uncovered. For instance, this might include misconfigured public cloud services, servers with inadvertently open ports, or third parties with poor security posture that represents a potential risk.

To keep in mind: EASM tools are currently in the midst of consolidation, including with digital risk protection services.

Fragmentation fatigue

Ultimately, while these eight technology categories all bring potentially useful advancements in security and risk management for enterprises, theyre also contributing to an already highly fragmented security market, Contu said.

This market fragmentation has now created significant fatigue within the enterprises and all the CISOs we talk to, he said. This fatigue is pushing security professionals to consider a solution set platform more and more, rather than standalone solutions.

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‘Howard the Duck’ Is Even Worse Than You Remember

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One of the most bizarre movies of the 1980s was Howard the Duck, based on the minor comic book character of same name. TV writer Andrea Kail was aware of the movie’s awful reputation, but was still surprised at how bad it was.

“I pretty much watched the entire thing with my jaw on the floor,” Kail says in Episode 494 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It was insanely terrible in every possible way.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley remembers loving Howard the Duck when he watched it as an 8-year-old, but agrees that the movie is a train wreck. “It’s a really weird combination of a kid’s movie, an Animal House-style sex comedy, and a horror movie,” he says. “Some of those things could go together, but the kids and the sex comedy part doesn’t work together.”

Howard the Duck was produced by George Lucas, hot off the success of the original Star Wars trilogy. Humor writer Tom Gerencer says that fame had clearly gone to the director’s head. “[Howard the Duck] works as a comic,” he says, “but then thinking that you could take that and it would work as a live-action movie just takes the kind of egomania you only get after you just made the biggest-selling movie of all time and you think, ‘I can do anything.’”

Science fiction author Matthew Kressel was appalled by Howard the Duck, but notes that the film does have its defenders. “I know some people love this movie,” he says. “If you go on the Gen X Reddit forum, every now and then they do, ‘What was your favorite movie of the ’80s?’ and Howard the Duck came up. Some people are like, ‘I love Howard the Duck! Oh yeah, it was so funny.’”

Listen to the complete interview with Andrea Kail, Tom Gerencer, and Matthew Kressel in Episode 494 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Tom Gerencer on Weird Science:

“I still love it as a story of two nerds who desperately want the wrong thing and then almost learn to want the right thing. Having said that, I do want to get into the politics. I feel like every movie from the ’80s that we discuss, we spend 10 minutes excusing the casual racism and sexism. ‘Well of course they killed puppies in this movie. Back then that’s what we did. We killed puppies.’ I think after a while I start to feel like I’m doing something wrong by saying that every time. … Every kid in my class endlessly quoted the [jazz club] scene, and we thought it was great. And watching it as a grown-up I was cringing through the whole thing. I was just like, ‘Ugh, this is horrible.’”

David Barr Kirtley on Innerspace:

“The character arc, I think, is supposed to be that Dennis Quaid is confident but not caring—and that’s why he has this whole fight with Meg Ryan at the beginning—and Martin Short is caring but not confident. They form this team, and then over the course of the movie Dennis Quaid teaches Martin Short to be more confident and Martin Short teaches Dennis Quaid to be more caring. And it sort of does that in terms of Martin Short’s character development, but doesn’t really do anything with Dennis Quaid’s character development. And I think that’s the biggest missing hole in this movie for me, is that then he gets back together with Meg Ryan at the end, and they get married, and it’s like, ‘Well wait, none of their relationship issues were addressed or resolved or even really mentioned in this whole movie.’”

Matthew Kressel on Escape from New York:

“I think the setup of the film is great. I love this idea of: ‘Crime is so bad, let’s just wall off Manhattan and put all the criminals in there and let them fend for themselves.’ … You know the scene in the film where they’re like, ‘Oh, this is Broadway! Why are you driving down Broadway?’ And everyone’s just throwing stuff at their car. This actually would happen if you drove down certain streets in the city. I remember people throwing stuff at our car, like fireworks, and of course there were the squeegee men who would put stuff on your windshield, then clean it off and ask for $5. The city was pretty bad. So I love it that John Carpenter is like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to just take this to the extreme. The city’s so bad it’s now a prison colony.’”

Andrea Kail on Night of the Comet:

“I think I did see it in the theater, and I was—I’m fairly sure—the same age as the characters at the time. It really hit me exactly where it should. I knew those characters because I was those characters—selfish, self-involved, rebellious against parents. There’s the scene where she goes, ‘The stores are open. What do you want to do?’ And they go shopping. Everything about it was exactly who I was. … And watching it again, it held up to me. There are some quibbles about the ridiculousness of the science, but just as an adventure story it moves really well, the characters are fun, and it’s funny. The scene in the shopping mall with the evil stock boys is fantastic.”


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Report: Zero-trust architecture is expected to increase cybersecurity efficacy by 144%

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Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


As 2022 quickly approaches, Symmetry Systems and Osterman Research have released a report detailing how organizations plan to deploy zero-trust architecture, with 53% of respondents citing high-profile ransomware attacks as their primary motivator.

Incorporating zero-trust principles into modern data security ensures no one point of failure when systems are breached. Zero-trust principles can ensure that even if attackers know the database location/IP, username, and password, they cannot use that information to access privileged information given to specific application roles, identity and access management (IAM), and cloud-network perimeters.

Today, we live in a hybrid-cloud environment where users, developers, supply-chain vendors, and contractors get data via a web of static infrastructure and cloud applications. Legacy control solutions for this data rely on internal developers IAM rules and authorization policies for customer-facing web services.

Figure 1. Trends That Impact The Decision To Embrace a Zero Trust Architecture. 53% of respondents say high-profile ransomware incidents is the trend having the largest impact on the decision to embrace zero trust.

Figure 1. Trends That Impact The Decision To Embrace a Zero Trust Architecture. 53% of respondents say high-profile ransomware incidents is the trend having the largest impact on the decision to embrace zero trust.

According to the report, a zero-trust architecture is expected to increase cybersecurity protections efficacy to stop data breaches by 144%. The report also credits an emphasis on securing customer data as another motivator behind enterprise-wide deployment.

Other key highlights from respondents include barriers encountered when deploying a zero-trust architecture, their confidence level in existing cybersecurity protections, the top ten data sources in need of protection, and the total IT budget allocated for zero-trust initiatives by year.

This report references data from an in-depth survey of 125 IT and security decision-makers in midsize and large organizations, all of whom are knowledgeable about how their organization was using or planning to use a zero-trust architecture, or why their organization had intentionally chosen not to do so.

Read the full report by Symmetry Systems and Osterman Research.

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