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Tiger Global backs SaaS omnichannel social commerce platform SleekFlow in $8M funding – TechCrunch

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Social commerce — the process of buying and selling products or services directly through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok — is becoming the most natural way for consumers to make purchases since people use social media and messaging apps almost every day.

SleekFlow, an omnichannel social commerce platform that helps businesses build customer flow automation from messaging and live video to transactions, has closed $8 million Series A funding led by Tiger Global Management. Transcend Capital and AEF Greater Bay Area Fund, managed by Gobi Partners GBA, also participated in the round.

“Consumers now spend 80 percent of their time on social platforms, and it is already a habit to discover and buy products directly from here,” said founder and CEO of SleekFlow Henson Tsai. “SleekFlow aims to drive this e-commerce revolution by being the top social commerce unified hub — merging conversations, product catalogs, payment solutions, and order management into one for businesses.”

SleekFlow

Image Credits: SleekFlow

Founded in 2019, SleekFlow now serves more than 5,000 businesses across the globe, including NARS Cosmetics, Bossini, Lalamove Hong Kong and PSB Academy. The company claims that it saw approximately 500% revenue growth after its recent pre-Series A funding backed by Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund (AHKEF) in May 2021. (SleekFlow did not provide its baseline for that growth.)

The Hong Kong-headquartered startup will use the fresh capital for its market penetration into Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore and Malaysia, as well as the U.K. and other countries in Europe. In addition, the latest funding will enable SleekFlow to enhance its product development with fintech and data analytics functions, one-click checkouts via social media platforms, and easy in-chat payment integrations for online to offline (O2O) and e-commerce brands’ seamless workflow.

The startup has recently launched a fintech product social-to-payment feature to provide a comprehensive solution for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses. In Southeast Asia alone, about 90% of digital merchants use digital payments for profitability and survival, the company says, adding that the chat-to-checkout tool is significant in driving sales and conversions from various digital sales channels. SleekFlow also introduced a new sales and analytics and customer service performance tracking that helps users track and analyze consumer profiles and behaviors for personalized communications after its partnership with Shopify last November.

The global social commerce market is projected to rise to $6.2 trillion by 2030.

According to the company, one in five dollars spent on retail in Southeast Asia is transacted through social media, and more consumers are looking to businesses offering convenient communications. SleekFlow integrates multiple messaging channels such as Official WhatsApp Business API, Facebook Messenger, Instagram chat, SMS and Telegram to address the challenges of managing multiple messaging and social media platforms.

“Despite the economic downturn, the social commerce market is going stronger than ever, reaching $474 billion in 2021,” Chibo Tang, managing partner of Gobi Partners GBA said in a statement. “Eight in 10 U.S. businesses anticipate increased sales via social media within the next three years. SleekFlow’s innovative solutions will help these global commerce businesses meet the evolving needs of customers who are turning to social channels to purchase more than ever before.”

Slack now has a team of 60 members in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and the U.K.

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Amazon Prime members get exclusive sneak peek of ‘Lord of the Rings’ series – TechCrunch

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As part of the promotion for Amazon’s annual Prime Day shopping event, Prime members were given an exclusive 60-second sneak peek at Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” The preview was released today, July 6, and will only be available to watch for 48 hours.

The only way to see the exclusive clip is to sign in with an active Prime account. The company hopes that fans will sign up in order to take advantage of the opportunity.

This week, Amazon is also surprising 20 Prime members from around the world with an invitation to attend the London global premiere happening in August.

While Amazon has offered Prime Day deals connected to entertainment before — such as discounted Prime channel subscriptions — this time around its helping push new Prime subscriptions and, of course, sell more goods.

“Being the first to watch a sneak peek of one of the most highly anticipated shows of 2022 or ordering your favorite takeout while watching a football game on a TV you snagged for a great price—that’s the promise of Prime,” said Jamil Ghani, VP of Amazon Prime, in a statement.

Other promotions tied to the Prime Day event include deals of up to 45% off on home entertainment devices such as Fire TVs, as well as 50% to 58% off on Fire TV streaming products to hype up Amazon Prime Video’s first exclusive “Thursday Night Football” game on September 15. There will be deals on licensed fan gear in its NFL fan shop as well.

The biggest deal unveiled today was arguably the free one-year subscription to GrubHub+ for Prime members, further demonstrating its strategy to tie offerings to its core retail business.

Prime members can also stream “Ultimate Crown” on Prime Video and Amazon-owned Twitch to watch MrBeast and Ninja go head-to-head in “League of Legends” on July 7. Members will get exclusive experiences for the event, such as a chance to attend the event in person or take part in live chats to win gifted subscriptions and giveaways.

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US government says North Korean hackers are targeting American healthcare organizations with ransomware – TechCrunch

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The FBI, CISA, and the U.S. Treasury Department are warning that North Korean state-sponsored hackers are using ransomware to target healthcare and public health sector organizations across the United States.

In a joint advisory published Wednesday, the U.S. government agencies said they had observed North Korean-backed hackers deploying Maui ransomware since at least May 2021 to encrypt servers responsible for healthcare services, including electronic health records, medical imaging, and entire intranets.

“The FBI assesses North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors have deployed Maui ransomware against Healthcare and Public Health Sector organizations,” the advisory reads. “The North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors likely assume healthcare organizations are willing to pay ransoms because these organizations provide services that are critical to human life and health. Because of this assumption, the FBI, CISA, and Treasury assess North Korean state-sponsored actors are likely to continue targeting [healthcare] organizations.”

The advisory notes that in many of the incidents observed and responded to by the FBI, the Maui ransomware caused disruption to healthcare services “for prolonged periods.”

Maui was first identified by Stairwell, a threat-hunting startup that aims to help organizations determine if they have been compromised, in early-April 2022. In an analysis of the ransomware, Stairwell principal reverse engineer Silas Cutler notes that Maui lacks many of the features commonly seen with tooling from ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) providers, such as an embedded ransom note or automated means of transmitting encryption keys to attackers. Rather, Stairwell concludes that Maui is likely manually deployed across victims’ networks, with remote operators targeting specific files they want to encrypt.

North Korea has long used cryptocurrency-stealing operations to fund its nuclear weapons program. In an email, John Hultquist, vice president of Mandiant Intelligence, said that as a result “ransomware is a no-brainer” for the North Korean regime.

“Ransomware attacks against healthcare are an interesting development, in light of the focus these actors have made on this sector since the emergence of COVID-19. It is not unusual for an actor to monetize access which may have been initially garnered as part of a cyber espionage campaign,” said Hultquist. “We have noted recently that North Korean actors have shifted focus away from healthcare targets to other traditional diplomatic and military organizations. Unfortunately, healthcare organizations are also extraordinarily vulnerable to extortion of this type because of the serious consequences of a disruption,” he added.

The advisory, which also includes indicators of compromise (IOCs) and information on tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) employed in these attacks to help network defenders, urges organizations in the healthcare industries to strengthen their defenses by limiting access to data, turning off network device management interfaces, and by using monitoring tools to observe whether Internet of Things devices have become compromised.

“The FBI, along with our federal partners, remains vigilant in the fight against North Korea’s malicious cyber threats to our healthcare sector,” said FBI Cyber Division assistant director Bryan Vorndran. “We are committed to sharing information and mitigation tactics with our private sector partners to assist them in shoring up their defenses and protecting their systems.”

The U.S. government’s latest warning follows a spate of high-profile cyberattacks targeting healthcare organizations; University Medical Center Southern Nevada was hit by a ransomware attack in August 2021 that compromised files containing protected health information and personally identifiable information, and Eskenazi Health said in October that cybercriminals had access to their network for almost three months. Last month, Kaiser Permanente confirmed a breach of an employee’s email account led to the theft of 70,000 patient records.

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Hotel giant Marriott confirms yet another data breach – TechCrunch

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Hotel group Marriott International has confirmed another data breach, with hackers claiming to have stolen 20 gigabytes of sensitive data including guests’ credit card information.

The incident, first reported by Databreaches.net Tuesday, is said to have happened in June when an unnamed hacking group claimed they used social engineering to trick an employee at a Marriott hotel Maryland into giving them access to their computer.

“Marriott International is aware of a threat actor who used social engineering to trick one associate at a single Marriott hotel into providing access to the associate’s computer,” Marriott spokesperson Melissa Froehlich Flood told TechCrunch in a statement. “The threat actor did not gain access to Marriott’s core network.”

Marriott said the hotel chain identified, and was investigating, the incident before the threat actor contacted the company in an extortion attempt, which Marriott said it did not pay.

The group claiming responsibility for the attack say the stolen data includes guests’ credit card information and confidential information about both guests and employees. Samples of the data provided to Databreaches.net purport to show reservation logs for airline crew members from January 2022 and names and other details of guests, as well as credit card information used to make bookings.

However, Marriott told TechCrunch that its investigation determined that the data accessed “primarily contained non-sensitive internal business files regarding the operation of the property.”

The company said that it is preparing to notify 300-400 individuals regarding the incident, and has already notified relevant law enforcement agencies.

This isn’t the first time Marriott has suffered a significant data breach. Hackers breached the hotel chain in 2014 to access almost 340 million guest records worldwide – an incident that went undetected until September 2018 and led to a £14.4 million ($24M) fine from the U.K’s Information Commissioner’s Office. In January 2020, Marriott was hacked again in a separate incident that affected around 5.2 million guests.

TechCrunch asked Marriott what cybersecurity protections it has in place to prevent such incidents from happening, but the company declined to answer.

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