Twilio acquires email API platform, SendGrid.

Communications platform Twilio announced on Tuesday that it plans to acquire the API centric e mail platform SendGrid.  This would be a $2 billion, all-stock transaction and Twilio’s largest to date.  If it all goes ahead, it would be a sound investment. The two companies share a vision.  It is their mission to make building communications platforms easier for developers.

In a statement outlining the plans, Jeff Lawson, Twilio co-founder and CEO stated that:

“The two companies share the same vision, the same model, and the same values”, and that “this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring together the two leading developer-focused communications platforms to create the unquestioned platform of choice for all companies looking to transform their customer engagement.”

Should the acquisition go ahead, SendGrid will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Twilio, and its stock converted to Twilio stock.  It is looking like the deal will close in early 2019, once it has been cleared by the regulatory bodies.

The acquisition will allow Twilio to diversify its current product. It currently has its sights firmly set on omnichannel communication.  Email is obviously a major part of that. It has a host of services centring around voice, video and chat, but up until this point, email hasn’t been on its radar in quite the same way. This acquisition will allow it to quickly build up expertise in this area and expand its services there.

Tuesday’s announcement came shortly before Twilio’s annual developer conference.  We doubt this will be the last we hear about its plans for SendGrid. Watch this space!

Connected cars:  UK – 1, Silicon Valley – 0

The Ignite Digital HQ is a proud resident of the South West, so give us The Silicon Gorge over Silicon Valley any day!  Couple that with our love of all “Things Internet” and this next story is one we just had to feature!  

It would appear that our poor roads and “adverse” weather conditions puts the UK in pole position when it comes to the development of the driverless car.  

Fraser Robinson, is a former Uber Exec who has recently left the US ride-sharing company to join Oxford-based autonomous car developer Oxbotica.  He suggested that having features such as roundabouts and potholes will mean our driverless cars will be tough enough to be exported to the rest of the world.  Those made on California’s straight roads will falter. In short, the UK technology will be more robust and versatile.

He said: “Google and Uber are in Phoenix, Arizona, where they have hours and hours of sunlight, and it never rains, and their roads are perfect, so it is too easy to make driverless cars for those roads…to work around the rest of the world then you have got to cope with the rest of the world’s roads, and trust me, not all roads are like those in Austin, Texas, where you could eat off it because it is so clean and flat.”

Next time we are sat in rush hour traffic, cursing the rain or are questioning what our road tax is being spent on, we’ll remember these words; safe in the knowledge that our driverless car will perform better thanks to these roadblocks!

GitHub launches workflow automation tool, Actions.

Once upon a time, GitHub was all about storing source code; sharing it with colleagues and the wider web developer community.   

This week the company moves in a related but different direction.  They have announced the launch of GitHub Actions, which allows developers to not just host code on the platform, but also run it.  In its current form, this product can be likened to a very flexible IFTTT for developers who want to automate their development workflows…whether that is sending notifications or building a full continuous integration and delivery pipeline.   

This is a revolutionary product for GitHub.  Indeed, Sam Lambert, head of the platform, described it as “the biggest shift we’ve had” in the lifespan of the company.   He went on to describe the product as one that users can “easily build, package, release, update, and deploy your project in any language—on GitHub or any external system—without having to run code yourself.”

He went on to say that he anticipates that it will revolutionise the DevOps space.  Developers are now going to be able to build “best in breed deployment workflows for specific applications and frameworks, and those become the de facto standard shared on GitHub. […] It’s going to do everything we did for open source again for the DevOps space and for all those different parts of that workflow ecosystem.”

GitHub also used Tuesday’s announcement to release a number of other features to its platform.  These add-ons are all designed to advance the workflow of the developer community. Jobs will become easier and their work more secure. For a complete rundown of all the new features, interested developers can read the full story here. Uber Eats squares up to Deliveroo

Fusion food…it’s become a familiar face on the foodie scene.  Fusion restaurants are popping up across our high street, and have taken the culinary world by storm.  If Uber Eats have their way, fusion menus could also become a feature of the humble Friday night takeaway.

Uber Eats to launch 400 virtual restaurants in the UK

Uber Eats plan to launch 400 “virtual restaurants” in the UK over the course of the next year in an attempt to boost growth and market share within the food delivery space.

The proposal will mean that the virtual restaurants can make better use of existing kitchen space.  By identifying gaps in the market, takeaways can maximise upon their existing resources. The new ‘restaurant’ only appears on the delivery app and often exclusively to one app.

All this will mean a better and wider variety for the customer.  Extra takeaway menus exclusive to Uber’s fast-food app, will appear in towns and cities where previously there were only a few brick and mortar options.

Although this is a new concept for the UK arm of Uber Eats, they can be confident in its potential should they be able to replicate their success from across the Atlantic.  

Uber Eats UK manager, Toussaint Wattine said; “We heard there was an appetite from restaurants to grow their business. Starting with our experience in the US, we have shown how you can build up menus using existing infrastructure.”

Uber’s US head of virtual restaurants Cathy Zhou added; “The opportunity is really huge just given the early signals we’ve seen from the restaurants that we’ve already worked with. We launched virtual restaurants in January 2017 starting in Chicago, and today we already see over 1,600 virtual restaurants globally.”

Indeed, early trials in the UK suggest success.  The company has begun work with a Dagenham based Indian restaurant, extending its menu to include a new business in desserts and milkshakes.  In some weeks these new options do 200% the turnover of its parent kitchen.

Competition between the three big hitters in the food delivery space remains at an all-time high.  Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats are all battling it out to be the frontrunner. While Uber Eats are ahead in new app downloads, Just Eat remain the industry leader.  Rivals, Deliveroo cannot be discounted though; they launched their own chain of Virtual Restaurants earlier in the year.

Only time will tell how this battle will play out.  Uber only launched their UK food delivery service in 2016, but since then have expanded aggressively.  Reports from September have even suggested that Uber Eats have been in early talks to buy a stake in rivals, Deliveroo.   

We’ll watch with anticipation and next time we want a milkshake with our Balti, we’ll know which app to tap!

New Chrome Tab page tests new UI “explore” feature.

This week sees search engine giants Google, trial “Explore”, a new content discovery interface in the Chrome browser’s new tab page.

Although the interface is in its early test stages,  ‘Explore’ can be thought of as an extremely broad “channel” browser meant to present websites that could potentially be of interest to you.   It is not yet known if this will be based upon previous browsing data or if it will be more broadly tailored to locales and regions than specific users.  If Google’s past form is taken into account, we suspect that it will be the former. Data is king after all!

Early testing sees the product mainly geared toward Indian websites, but industry analysts don’t think this is an indication of where the product will be targeted.  It is available on Android right now, and can be accessed through enabling an experimental flag.

Interested Android users need only follow these instructions to try this new UI out for themselves.

  • Simply go to ‘chrome://flags’  in your browser & search for ‘explore’.  
  • You should see the ‘Explore websites’ flag.
  • Set that to ‘enabled’ and relaunch Chrome and open a new tab.
  • Hey Presto! The Explore interface should then appear on the new tab page.

Who knows if we’ll see a wider roll out of this latest Chrome flag.  It could very well end up on another shelf, gathering dust amongst the Google archives.  Never the less, its another interesting development, and just another way that Google are nudging us towards content before we know we are looking for it!

Applied gets £1.5M to make hiring fairer.

Last week, Our Week in Digital ran a story about how a “sexist” AI algorithm had to be eliminated from Amazon’s internal recruitment processes.

This week there are more interesting developments on the recruitment scene!

Applied are a London based startup who launched its software as a service recruitment platform in 2016.  Since its inception, this SaaS has been used by more than 55 employers to recruit candidates for more than 2,000 jobs.  More than 50,000 candidates have applied via the platform to date.

This week, Applied announce they have received £1.5M in seed funding for a fresh, diversity-sensitive approach to recruitment; one which deconstructs and reworks the traditional CV-bound process.  They draw on algorithms and behavioural science to level the playing field, helping employers fill vacancies with skilled candidates they might otherwise have overlooked.  Fairer hiring is their mantra.

Applied’s approach to recruitment uses a host of algorithms that both score candidates and anonymise applications.  This practice serves to strip away the potential for bias, presenting the numbered candidates in a random order too.  It does not, however, involve any AI-based matching. Indeed, if you want to make hiring fairer, AI doesn’t look like a great fit, despite the likelihood it will become a familiar face on the recruitment scene.   Last week’s “sexist” algorithim at Amazon is a perfect example of this.

Instead, Applied lets the software do ALL the hard yards.  In order to eliminate any notion of bias, it must (and does) take over the entire recruitment process.  This includes writing the job spec itself — to remove things like gendered language which could introduce bias into the process — and slicing and dicing the application process to be able to score and compare candidates and fill in any missing bits of data via role-specific skills tests.

CEO and founder Kate Glazebrook states;

“We manage the hiring process right from the design of an inclusive job description, right through to the point of making a hiring decision and all of the selection that happens beneath that…we use over 30 behavioural science nudges throughout the process to try and improve conversion and inclusivity — so that includes everything from removal of gendered language in job descriptions to anonymisation of applications to testing candidates on job preview based assessments, rather than based on their CVs.”

The seed funding will be spent on developing these data science predictions.  It will also help to update Applied’s gendered language tool and inclusive job description tool — as well as on sales and marketing to grow the business on a larger scale.

Vodafone and EE to offer the OnePlus 6T.

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas, and the much-anticipated techie highlight Black Friday is fast approaching!  

Super disruptive smartphone, the Oneplus 6T launches later this month.  This week it has been disclosed that Vodafone and EE will join O2 in selling the coolest smartphone on the block from early November.

High Street retailers, John Lewis and Carphone Warehouse will also offer the 6T officially in their stores, alongside OnePlus’ own online store.  This move is significant for OnePlus. Brick and mortar stores are a new venture for OnePlus. Formally they only had an online-only market presence.

Techies will be rubbing their hands together in glee! The 6T certainly looks to be packing a punch!  It will offer a Snapdragon 845, up to 8GB of RAM, a 6.4-inch Optic AMOLED with a smaller, water drop notch, optical in-display fingerprint scanner and a “whole new UI”.

Vodafone, EE and O2 customers can pick up the latest handset from November 6th.

Our Black Friday Wish List just got a little longer!

Danny Birks, Co-Founder and Director of Digital at Ignite Digital Talent

About the author: I ensure that everyone at Ignite Digital Talent brings our brand values to life. I focus on building great relationships with both clients and candidates whilst also unearthing the best digital marketing professionals and opportunities on the market.

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