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For Sale – 2 x MacBook Pro 15.4″ (Retina, Mid 2015) A1398, Intel i7 2.80GHz, 16Gb RAM, 1 Tb SSD

Hi Steve,

Many thanks for the replies – much appreciated & thanks for agreeing to payment by Paypal – Like you, I am a long time member as well with an honourable track record – if you wish & if allowed by the rules, I can refer you to an currently active member with recent trades & 100% record for reference.

My very sincere apologies as I had mistakenly taken post no 18 as coming from you so thought you had offered £1200 for both – old age creeping up on me – need better glasses!

Does the G8WM ending serial number show on Apple check as having been registered or as “puchase date not validated”? You are obviously very sincere but I once saw a unit with came up with “purchase date not validated” on gumtree & due to the reputation there got put off in case “purchase date not validated” implied the the unit was not kosher & was not sure of the implications of having a unit with that on it in case it was dodgy according to Apple – you seem very knowledgable about these things – can you elaborate what that designation means?

I have given up selling high value items on ebay/paypal with the heavy fees & many instances of dishonest claims/refund made afterwards & losses incurred.

What would you accept for unit 1 – I think we can both be within a ball park distance!

Many Thanks
Suave.

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For Sale – 2 x MacBook Pro 15.4″ (Retina, Mid 2015) A1398, Intel i7 2.80GHz, 16Gb RAM, 1 Tb SSD

Hi Steve,

Many thanks for the replies – much appreciated & thanks for agreeing to payment by Paypal – Like you, I am a long time member as well with an honourable track record – if you wish & if allowed by the rules, I can refer you to an currently active member with recent trades & 100% record for reference.

My very sincere apologies as I had mistakenly taken post no 18 as coming from you so thought you had offered £1200 for both – old age creeping up on me – need better glasses!

Does the G8WM ending serial number show on Apple check as having been registered or as “puchase date not validated”? You are obviously very sincere but I once saw a unit with came up with “purchase date not validated” on gumtree & due to the reputation there got put off in case “purchase date not validated” implied the the unit was not kosher & was not sure of the implications of having a unit with that on it in case it was dodgy according to Apple – you seem very knowledgable about these things – can you elaborate what that designation means?

I have given up selling high value items on ebay/paypal with the heavy fees & many instances of dishonest claims/refund made afterwards & losses incurred.

What would you accept for unit 1 – I think we can both be within a ball park distance!

Many Thanks
Suave.

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Workspot VDI key to engineering firm’s pandemic planning

Like many companies, Southland Industries is working to accelerate its virtualization plans in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mechanical engineering firm, which is based in Garden Grove, Calif., and has seven main offices across the U.S., has been using the Workspot Workstation Cloud virtual desktop service. Combined with Microsoft Azure Cloud, Workspot’s service enables engineers to build design-intensive work at home and enables Southland to keep pace as technology advances. When COVID-19 emerged, the company was transitioning users in the mid-Atlantic states to virtual desktops.

Israel Sumano, senior director of infrastructure at Southland Industries, recently spoke about making the move to virtual desktops and the challenges posed by the current public health crisis.

How did your relationship with Workspot first begin?

Israel SumanoIsrael Sumano

Israel Sumano: We were replicating about 50 terabytes across 17 different locations in the U.S. real-time, with real-time file launches. It became unsustainable. So over the last five years, I’ve tested VDI solutions — Citrix, [VMware] Horizon, other hosted solutions, different types of hardware. We never felt the performance was there for our users.

When Workspot came to us, I liked it because we were able to deploy within a week. We tested it on on-prem hardware, we tested it on different cloud providers, but it wasn’t until we had Workspot on [Microsoft] Azure that we were comfortable with the solution.

For us to build our own GPU-enabled VDI systems [needed for computing-intensive design work], we probably would have spent about $4 million, and they would have been obsolete in about six years. By doing it with Microsoft, we were able to deploy the machines and ensure they will be there and upgradeable. If a new GPU comes out, we can upgrade to the new GPU and it won’t be much cost to us to migrate.

How has your experience in deploying Workspot been so far? What challenges have you met?

Sumano: It was a battle trying to rip the PCs from engineers’ hands. They had a lot of workstations [and] they really did not want to give them up. We did the first 125 between October 2017 and February 2018. … That pushed back the rest of the company by about a year and a half. We didn’t get started again until about October of 2019. By that time, everyone had settled in, and they all agreed it was the best thing we’ve ever done and we should push forward. That’s coming from the bottom up, so management is very comfortable now doing the rest of the company.

How did you convince workers that the virtualization service was worthwhile?

Sumano: They were convinced when they went home and were able to work, or when they were in a hotel room and they were able to work. When they were at a soccer match for their kids, and something came up that needed attention right away, they pulled out their iPads and were able … to manipulate [designs] or check something out. That’s when it kicked in.

In the past, when they went to a job site, [working] was a really bad experience. We invested a lot of money into job sites to do replication [there].

[With Workspot,] they were able to pick up their laptops, go to the job site and work just like they were at the office.

The novel coronavirus has forced companies to adopt work-at-home policies. What is Southland’s situation?

Sumano: We have offices in Union City [California], which is Marin County, and they were ordered to stay in place, so everyone was sent home there. We just got notice that Orange County will be sent home. Our Las Vegas offices have also been sent home.

Our job sites are still running, but having this solution has really changed the ability for these engineers to go home and work. Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about the shops — we need to have people on-hand at the shop, [as] we’re not fully automated at that level.

On the construction site, we need guys to install [what Southland has designed]. Those are considered critical by the county. They’re allowed to continue work at the job sites, but everybody from the offices has been set home, and they’re working from home.

We hadn’t done the transition for the mid-Atlantic division to Workspot. We were planning on finishing that in the next 10 weeks. We are now in a rush and plan on finishing it by next Friday. We’re planning on moving 100 engineers to Workspot, so they’re able to go home.

How has it been, trying to bring many workers online quickly?

Sumano: I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve implemented large virtual-desktop and large Citrix environments in the past. It’s always been a year to a year-and-a-half endeavor.

We are rushing it for the mid-Atlantic. We’d like to take about 10 weeks to do it — to consolidate servers and reduce footprint. We’re skipping all those processes right now and just enacting [virtualization] on Azure, bringing up all the systems as-is and then putting everyone onto those desktops.

Has the new remote-work situation been a strain on your company’s infrastructure?

Sumano: The amount of people using it is exactly the same. We haven’t heard any issues about internet congestion — that’s always a possibility with more and more people working from home. It’s such a small footprint, the back-and-forth chatter between Workspot and your desktop, that it shouldn’t be affected much.

What’s your level of confidence going forward, given that this may be a protracted situation?

Sumano: We’re very confident. We planned on being 100% Azure-based by December 2020. We’re well on track for doing that, except for, with what’s happening right now, there was a bit of a scramble to get people who didn’t have laptops [some] laptops. There’s a lot of boots on the ground to get people able to work from home.

Most of our data is already on Azure, so it’s a very sustainable model going forward, unless there’s a hiccup on the internet.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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Delivering information and eliminating bottlenecks with CDC’s COVID-19 assessment bot – The Official Microsoft Blog

In a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not only important to deliver medical care but to also provide information to help people make decisions and prevent health systems from being overwhelmed.

Microsoft is helping with this challenge by offering its Healthcare Bot service powered by Microsoft Azure to organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response to help screen patients for potential infection and care.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a COVID-19 assessment bot that can quickly assess the symptoms and risk factors for people worried about infection, provide information and suggest a next course of action such as contacting a medical provider or, for those who do not need in-person medical care, managing the illness safely at home.

The bot, which utilizes Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service, will initially be available on the CDC website.

Public health organizations, hospitals and others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response need to be able to respond to inquiries, provide the public with up-to-date outbreak information, track exposure, quickly triage new cases and guide next steps.  Many have expressed great concern about the overwhelming demand COVID-19 is creating on resources such as urgent, emergency and nursing care.

In particular, the need to screen patients with any number of cold or flu-like symptoms — to determine who has high enough risk factors to need access to limited medical resources and which people may more safely care for themselves at home — is a bottleneck that threatens to overwhelm health systems coping with the crisis.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service is one solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help the CDC and other frontline organizations respond to these inquiries, freeing up doctors, nurses, administrators and other healthcare professionals to provide critical care to those who need it.

The Healthcare Bot service is a scalable Azure-based public cloud service that allows organizations to quickly build and deploy an AI-powered bot for websites or applications that can offer patients or the general public personalized access to health-related information through a natural conversation experience. It can be easily customized to suit an organization’s own scenarios and protocols.

To assist customers in the rapid deployment of their COVID-19 bots, Microsoft is making available a set of COVID-19 response templates that customers can use and modify:

  • COVID-19 risk assessment based on CDC guidelines
  • COVID-19 clinical triage based on CDC protocols
  • COVID-19 up-to-date answers to frequently asked questions
  • COVID-19 worldwide metrics
COVID-19 assessment bot screenshots
Screenshots from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 assessment bot.

Providence, one of the largest health systems in the U.S. headquartered near Seattle and serving seven Western states, had previously used Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service running on Azure to create a healthcare chatbot named Grace that could help answer patient’s questions online. Using CDC guidelines and its own clinical protocols, Providence was able to build a similar Coronavirus Assessment Tool in just three days to help people in the communities it serves know whether they should seek medical attention for their respiratory symptoms.

The tool, which launched in early March, can bring a prospective patient directly into a telehealth session with a clinician to get immediate care.  It also aims to prevent healthy people or those with mild symptoms from showing up at clinics and emergency departments, which helps to limit community infection and save hospital beds and equipment for those who need it.

Other providers who are now using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service to respond to COVID-19 inquiries include:

Virginia Mason Health System, based in Seattle and serving the Pacific Northwest region, has created a patient assessment Healthcare Bot to help its patients understand whether care is needed. The instance is live and has thousands of daily users.

Novant Health, a healthcare provider in four states in the Southeast with one of the largest medical groups in the country, has created a Healthcare bot for COVID-19 information that went live on its website within a few days, with thousands of daily users since its launch.

Across all users, customized instances of Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service are now fielding more than 1 million messages per day from members of the public who are concerned about COVID-19 infections — a number we expect to escalate quickly to meet growing needs. We hope the answers it can provide will curb anxiety that the “worried well” may experience without clear guidance and save lives by speeding the path to care for those who need it most.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Remote work shift may boost SaaS management platforms

In Milan, Ivan Fioravanti, CTO at CoreView, is working from home, like so many others because of the coronavirus. In Italy, the outbreak has caused a rapid shift to remote work. His firm makes a SaaS management platform for cloud-based SaaS systems, including Office 365, something that may gain HR’s interest, especially as remote work increases.

Features include workflow management and administration, but a SaaS management platform like the one from CoreView, which has dual headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., and Italy, can also help HR departments and business managers get a better understanding for the productivity of employees.

SaaS applications connect through APIs into the cloud-based management platform to provide application usage data. This can include anything from companywide usage to employee-specific data on applications such as Outlook, Skype or Teams, whether the employee is in the office or remote.

This monitoring capability may appeal to firms new to remote working, said David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn.

Firms are now adopting remote work that “were not interested in it before,” Lewis said. “And that breeds a certain lack of sophistication about remote work.”

Indeed, he said, the coronavirus will have a major impact on how work gets done. “The number of companies that will have people working remotely will outnumber the number of companies that don’t,” he said.

Employees may see this type of monitoring as big brotherish, Lewis said. But it may “calm the concerns and paranoia that tends to creep in to most managers” about remote workers, he said. Managers may be concerned that employees working from home are distracted and not giving the job the time it needs, he said.

Ivan FioravantiIvan Fioravanti

This shift to remote work is happening quickly in Milan, Fioravanti said. The coronavirus problem is “really becoming worse day after day,” he said. Italy this week closed schools until March 15. Universities are closing as well, and the government is urging seniors to remain at home.

“Very few people are going to the office,” Fioravanti said. “If you go outside in the city, you see very few people around.”

SaaS management platform functions

Firms that are shifting to remote work and have invested in a SaaS management platform can decide on the level of monitoring they want, whether it’s a department, team or individual usage, Fioravanti said. Individual level monitoring can tell whether an employee is responding to such things as emails and chats and is engaged with co-workers and thirds parties, he said.

Along with providing insights into how an application is used, usage data can tell whether a firm needs all the seat licenses it is paying for. Workflow features can be used to speed up onboarding, and SaaS management platforms often provide embedded learning tools, such as short videos for ongoing training, on specific applications. The platforms also include licensing management and IT security functions, such as role-based access controls.

If there is fear of an employee backlash, or legal restrictions in some countries about employee monitoring, the system can be configured to anonymize users, Fioravanti said.

It’s the team’s productivity that matters more than individual metrics.
Manjunath BhatAnalyst, Garnter

Gartner analyst Manjunath Bhat said SaaS management platforms “are increasingly becoming important to manage, govern and secure SaaS applications.”

“It’s less about measuring individual productivity, and more about ensuring that employees are making use of the productivity tools at their disposal — and doing so in secure and compliant ways,” he said.

Bhat advised against using SaaS management platforms to monitor individual employees.

“Organizations will see employee backlash if the tools are used to target and penalize individuals for not using productivity apps,” Bhat said. What’s important to measure is the application’s “contribution toward business outcomes and not individual output,” he said.

“It’s the team’s productivity that matters more than individual metrics,” Bhat said.

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SAP S/4HANA migration should be business-driven

As SAP customers contemplate an SAP S/4HANA migration, they have to work through big questions like what infrastructure it will run on and how to handle business processes. One of the keys to a successful S/4HANA migration will be which part of the organization sets the project parameters, IT or business.

SAP expert Ekrem Hatip, senior solution architect at Syntax Systems, advises that because an S/4HANA migration is a fundamentally different project than a normal system upgrade, such as from SAP R/3 to SAP ECC, organizations must approach it differently. In this Q&A, Hatip discusses some of the issues that organizations need to consider as they embark on an S/4HANA journey.

Syntax Systems is based in Montreal and provides managed services for SAP systems, including hosting SAP systems in Syntax Systems data centers and running SAP systems on public cloud provider infrastructures.

How are Syntax customers approaching a possible S/4HANA migration? Is it on their minds?

Ekrem Hatip, Syntax senior solution architectEkrem Hatip

Ekrem Hatip: Over the last few years we have brought up the S/4HANA topic even if the customer doesn’t show immediate interest in doing that. We discuss with them what S/4HANA is, what are the advantages, and what are the innovations that S/4HANA introduces. We look at the customers’ existing landscape and discuss the possible migration paths from their system to an S/4HANA system. We talk about the business requirements, because an S/4HANA conversion is not a technical upgrade — it’s not a technical conversion from one database to another. It touches every aspect of their business processes, and we want to make sure that customers are aware that it is a sizable project.

Are customers eager to move or are they holding back now?

Hatip: Most customers are happy with what they have right now — with their SAP implementation. It satisfies their current needs and they don’t see an immediate reason to go to S/4HANA other than the fact that SAP has put the 2025 date in front of them [when SAP will end support for SAP ECC]. We can help our customers to understand what is ahead of them.

So educating them on what to expect is the first step of an S/4HANA migration?

Hatip: Absolutely. Most people don’t know much about SAP HANA let alone S/4HANA. Their expectation is, just like when they upgraded from R/3 to ECC, they will go ahead and just upgrade their system over one weekend. Then come Monday morning, they will continue running as they used to run on a shiny new system. We have to make sure that they understand this is not the case. Most of their business processes will be touched and most of the business processes might need to be modified or dropped. I also tell customers — especially if they’re going with a greenfield implementation — to keep their customizations at minimum. Everything seems to be going into cloud and S/4HANA Cloud is out there. So, I tell them if they can limit their customizations, they’ll be able to go to S/4HANA Cloud for the true SaaS experience.

Are customers considering any other systems as an alternative to an S/4HANA migration?

Hatip: For many customers SAP is the core of their business operations, and I haven’t yet seen any customers who are considering going to other solutions than SAP for their core business. So, it’s more likely they’re considering if they want to remain on ECC for as long as they can before moving to S/4HANA. With that said, I have seen that some customers are now considering alternatives to some of the peripheral systems offered by SAP. For example, one customer who was using BOB-J [SAP BusinessObjects BI] for its reporting is now considering using Microsoft Power BI on Azure. Do I know whether this is driven by the fact that they need to go to S/4HANA or not? I don’t know, but my observation is that some customers are considering alternatives for the systems surrounding their core SAP environment.

What are the most critical issues to consider as you make the S/4HANA decision?

Hatip: Unlike the previous conversions or upgrades, an S/4HANA conversion is not an IT-driven decision. It should definitely be a business-driven decision. It should be coming from the top and presented to the IT department, as opposed to the IT department going back and saying, this operating system is going out of support or that database is going out of support, so we have to upgrade. It should definitely be coming from the business side. Therefore, not only should the CIO be convinced to go to S/4HANA, at the same time CEOs and COOs should also be in the decision-making process. An S/4HANA conversion is a lengthy and fairly complex project, but at the same time it allows customers to clean up their existing legacy systems. Customers can use the opportunity to clean up data and review hardware or server requirements, or they can definitely leverage the public cloud offerings when they decide to go to S/4HANA. Finally, CIOs and the IT department should try to keep their customizations at a minimum in order to future-proof their environment. 

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For Sale – Dell XPS 15 9560 – i5, 8gb, 256gb ssd, 1050 4gb and 4k touchscreen

Lovely laptop, selling as I’m moving to something smaller.

All working spot on. Note, like a macbook, this has a US keyboard layout but can set to UK mode no problem.

all in great condition, really, really nice laptop.

Spec is

i5 7300hq
8gb ram (easy to upgrade if you wanted)
256gb ssd (again, easy to upgrade)
nvidia 1050 4gb gpu
4k touchscreen

comes with genuine charger

I’d like £630 delivered

Any questions – let me know

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Pilots underscore Amazon healthcare strategy

Amazon’s initial moves into healthcare have analysts like Forrester’s Jeff Becker wondering what its larger game might be.

In the last two years, Amazon has increasingly set its sights on the healthcare industry as it makes acquisitions and tests healthcare products internally that could be pushed out to customers in an effort to solve larger issues, such as the lack of prescription price transparency and the high cost of healthcare.

The Amazon healthcare strategy includes acquiring online pharmacy PillPack and digital health technology startup Health Navigator. It also includes co-founding Haven. The initiative aims to use their combined resources and test new ways of lowering healthcare costs for their employees and is in partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorganChase.

“I think the most interesting thing they’re doing is following along the storyline of bringing down their own employee medical cost,” Becker said.

Jeff BeckerJeff Becker

Becker believes the company’s strategy is currently focused on cultivating the use of voice technology in healthcare and creating a “more shoppable healthcare experience” for patients and employers.

Some efforts are already proving fruitful. Others are more of a question mark. Becker pointed to Haven as one place that may not be making the kind of progress it set out to make.

The big picture

The Haven initiative is combining data, technology and resources from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorganChase to lower prescription drug costs and medical treatment for patients, according to the company’s vision statement.

Amazon announced the Boston-based joint venture in January 2018, but it didn’t get the name Haven until earlier this year. According to Haven’s vision statement, it’s not looking to make a profit as it seeks to find ways to lower healthcare costs. Haven plans to “reinvest any surplus” back into the initiative’s work to improve health outcomes and lower costs. While its current focus centers on employees of all three companies, the vision is to eventually share its innovations with others.

One of the first pilot healthcare services to grow out of the Haven initiative is Amazon Care, for Amazon employees in the Seattle area. The pilot service offers virtual and in-person care from Oasis Medical through a mobile app.

Becker called Amazon Care a “digital front door” for lowering employee healthcare costs by addressing an employee’s minor healthcare needs and potentially sidestepping costly urgent care visits.

“If they can reduce the overuse of the ER, the digital front door strategy will pay for itself,” he said.

Amazon Care also offers same-day prescription deliveries. The service utilizes Amazon’s $753 million acquisition of PillPack, a digital pharmacy that sorts medication by dose and delivers to a patient’s door. The PillPack acquisition has since been rebranded as PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy. This month, it started working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts by integrating pharmacy services into the health insurer’s “MyBlue” app.

Amazon also acquired a start-up called Health Navigator earlier this year, its first healthcare-related acquisition since PillPack. Health Navigator provides services such as online symptom checking and triage tools for digital health companies seeking to steer patients to the right location to seek care. The acquisition plays a role in the overall Amazon healthcare strategy as it will become part of the Amazon Care health service.

Kamaljit BeheraKamaljit Behera

“If you go by what Amazon’s spokesperson revealed, they want to eliminate costs associated with travel, as well as the inconvenience associated with waiting times for patients,” Kamaljit Behera, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said. “This is where we see Amazon coming strong into the telehealth space.”

The work Amazon is doing through the Haven initiative and pilots like Amazon Care points to what Becker thinks will be the wider Amazon healthcare strategy: a one-stop-shop for patients seeking healthcare options.

What if there was a marketplace for shoppable healthcare experiences?
Jeff BeckerAnalyst, Forrester

“What if there was a marketplace for shoppable healthcare experiences?” Becker said.

That idea is a long way off, but Becker believes Amazon is testing the idea now, starting with its Amazon Care pilot, to find ways to introduce technology and cut down on costs. Yet beyond Amazon Care, the Haven name hasn’t been associated with many projects, and Becker said there hasn’t been much in the way of updates about Haven and the work Haven CEO Atul Gawande, M.D., has been doing — something he will be looking for in 2020.

Behera echoed Becker, saying he believes the Amazon healthcare strategy going forward will be to extend health services with a more consumer-centric offering.

“Amazon will be looking to create a much more curated, personalized space,” Behera said.

Amazon will continue focus on voice

Amazon’s main goal appears to be lowering healthcare costs through its efforts with the Haven initiative, but one area Amazon will continue to develop is voice technology in healthcare, Becker said.

Early partnerships with health systems like Boston Children’s Hospital to build Alexa skills, or voice capabilities, served as indicators of the company’s interest in healthcare. In 2016, AWS partnered with Boston Children’s to start building Alexa skills for parents, Becker said. Recently, Amazon announced the creation of a skill that enables Alexa to refill prescriptions by voice, as well as remind patients to take their medication.

Amazon has continued to build out Alexa skills for the healthcare industry, and Becker speculates that Alexa will be the first virtual assistant to be HIPAA-compliant. Indeed, Amazon is creating healthcare skills that are etching closer to being HIPAA-compliant, such as Express Scripts and Cigna Health Today, which give eligible customers the ability to use voice to manage prescriptions and engage in health improvement programs.

Becker said Amazon has six ongoing protected health information-processing pilot programs. He described the company as the first to “cross the finish line” for voice-only two-factor authentication, which first authenticates a voice profile and then asks for a unique verbal pin to access protected health information (PHI).

“We’ve been waiting for some kind of way they are going to overcome the authentication requirements for starting to process PHI,” he said.

As Amazon builds healthcare skills for Alexa, Becker said AWS will eventually play a major role as a data processing platform for the Alexa voice skills. At the recent AWS re:Invent 2019 conference, Amazon introduced Transcribe Medical, which records patient-doctor interactions and turns voice into text. The service is helping clinicians with medical notes, but Becker believes it points to a longer-term use case as a data processing tool.

Transcribe Medical can be made more robust by combining it with services like Amazon Comprehend Medical, which uses natural language processing and machine learning to extract pertinent pieces of medical information from unstructured text, according to Becker.  

“If you have a HIPAA-compliant Alexa service, Transcribe Medical will convert those conversations to text, and then Comprehend Medical will identify clinical facts within that text,” Becker said. “You’re starting to see a more compelling set of capabilities for having medical conversations with consumers over a voice channel. I think that’s part of what they’re building.”

Frost & Sullivan’s Behera said Alexa and voice technology is an integral part of the Amazon healthcare strategy. It’s looking to address a known healthcare pain point — physician burnout — with emerging tech.

Based on industry estimates, 40% of physician burnout is related to the EHR, Behera said. While interacting with a patient, physicians enter information into a patient’s electronic health record, a process that can be burdensome and negatively impact the patient-physician relationship. Transcribe Medical, which is HIPAA eligible, could reduce the data entry burden. EHR vendor Cerner is partnering with Amazon to introduce the service as a digital assistant for providers.

“AI-driven interactive, virtual assistants are becoming a common background technology for medical transcription, documentation … and even customer relationship management,” Behera said.

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Differentiation key for BI startups when attracting investors

BI startups, like all companies when they’re getting started, need money to get off the ground.

BI startups need to show that they have a good idea, and are not simply repackaging analytics software platforms already on the market. They need to show that they can build a strong product, and that their founders have the expertise to build and sustain something commercially viable.

And with that, they need to attract investors to fund the company in the years it takes between the time an idea forms and a company becomes financially solvent.

Vanessa Larco is a partner at New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm with over $20 billion assets under management. NEA was an early investor in companies such as Tableau and Salesforce when they were tech startups, and, among many other types of companies, continues to invest in BI startups. Recently, NEA was part of an investment round in Sisu, a startup BI vendor founded in 2018 and based in San Francisco.

Vanessa LarcoVanessa Larco

Larco, meanwhile, has an extensive background in computer science, and before joining NEA was director of product management at Box. Prior to that, she worked in the gaming industry, leading the speech recognition experience team at Xbox Kinnect v1. She leads deals investing in tech companies, including BI startups, and participates in others led by colleagues.

Larco recently took time to answer questions about investing in BI startups.

In Part I of a two-part Q&A, she discusses what she looks for in a BI startup and what she loved about Sisu. In Part II, Larco talks about the process of investing in BI startups, including the warning signs that arise that may keep her from investing.

When you’re considering investing in BI startups, what are some of the characteristics you want to see in a vendor that tell you it might make a good investment?

Vanessa Larco: I think every partner has their own journey when trying to figure out where to invest. For me, I draw a lot on my experience having been a product manager. When I think about what the challenges were that I had or that my team had in building, launching, supporting, maintaining products and then when you see a solution — whether it’s in data or any other vertical — that makes sense and you can say, ‘Wow, if this had existed when I was doing things it would have made my life easier, my team’s life easier,’ it’s something that resonates right off the bat.

I think every partner has their own journey when trying to figure out where to invest. For me, I draw a lot on my experience having been a product manager.
Vanessa LarcoPartner, NEA

You then validate it against actual teams that are still building things and ask them if this would be helpful, and that validates the real need for it.

In the case of Sisu, what stood out about them and led NEA to decide it was a company worth betting on?

Larco: Every process, as much as we like it to be standardized, turns out to be its own unique snowflake, and in the case of Sisu, Pete Sonsini led the deal team and I joined the deal team, meaning I helped him evaluate the opportunity and spent time with the team. I am super excited about Sisu. I ran it by some of my portfolio companies, particularly the ones who [complain that] board meetings take forever because they show a bunch of data and people ask, ‘Well why did this happen, why did that happen?’ And to get those answers it takes at least week. So when I saw the Sisu value proposition I wondered if this will solve that problem.

Even back when I led a product team in the past and we would present to CEOs, we’d show numbers going up and down and they’d ask, ‘Well, why did that happen?’ We’d have to get back to them. It’s just super painful when you know they’re going to ask you why, and that is what takes forever. Sometimes you spend all that time trying to figure out why, and then nothing comes of it, so when I saw the Sisu value proposition I thought that if this actually works it could be game changing.

What happened after you saw Sisu’s value proposition?

Larco: I took it to a good friend at a portfolio company to kick the tires, and they were like, ‘Yes. Yes, this awesome. Thank you so much.’ They said their data person would be so happy they wouldn’t be bogged down answering some very simple questions and doing the manual work to answer why, so from that perspective it was super exciting.

Once NEA invests in BI startups, how much influence does it want going forward — does it seek a spot on the board of directors, leave the company alone or something in between?

Larco: Each case in venture is different. It’s not a high-volume type of industry — we’re not doing hundreds of deals a year — so each deal is very unique and each financing round is unique. But in general, the earlier in the company’s lifecycle you invest in, the founders want you on their board because they want the attention and support, the advice, the feedback, the connection. VCs, in most cases, have been on many boards and seen a lot of stories play out, and you have a lot of connections to potential customers, and so to be able to understand what a company’s needs are as they change is really valuable. Most of the time, both parties want a seat on the board.

But if it’s super, super early and someone else leads the financing round and you’re just participating, someone else takes the board seat. Or if it’s the late stages then the board is already pretty filled out and it has less unknowns than in the early formation years, in those cases you may not take a seat on the board. If an investor is acquiring a significant amount of equity and you’re between 15 and 30 percent, they will typically take a board seat. Anything less than that, it may not make a ton of sense to take a board seat — there’s a limit to how many board seats we can take.

Besides Sisu, who are some startups in the BI/analytics space NEA has recently invested in?

Larco: My colleague Julia Schottenstein led the investment in Metabase, which is in the data space in the open-source project world. I was on the deal team and attended the board meetings for a company called OmniSci. The real value proposition there is they do some really cool geospatial [analysis], and it’s lightning fast. If you need data and need to visualize it across any type of map, I haven’t seen anything like it. From my gaming and advertising days that would have been a massive help. It’s a category that historically if you were investors in Tableau and other data companies that have done really well — it’s a category NEA has performed really well in in the past. It’s a massive category for IT spends, so it’s an area we actively invest in year over year.

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For Sale – Microsoft Surface Go 4GB Ram / 64GB eMMC & Blue Signature Type Cover

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