Connect with us

Tech

Accessibility awareness is on the rise, but is it turning into action?

Published

on

Accessibility awareness is on the rise, but is it turning into action?

For almost two years, people everywhere made massive adjustments to how they interact with the world. It forced many to change their daily behaviors. Unfortunately, some of these changes would make daily tasks many take for granted become daunting for anyone requiring accessibility or accommodations.

A Harris Poll reveals that more than half of American adults increased their online activities because of the pandemic. That number grows to 60% for people with disabilities.

The increase in online activities does not mean that everyone is able to achieve their goals. So, what kind of impact is the crisis having on accessibility? Are organizations finally getting the message on the importance of accessibility?

Accessibility awareness on the rise

In recent years, has it felt like everywhere you look there’s something about accessibility or people with disabilities? Many TV ads from Big Tech firms have featured people with disabilities and accessible technology.

Apple started with the first prime-time ads on network television, followed by Microsoft, with an ad during America’s biggest game. In a Google ad, a man who is deaf calls his son for the first time using the Live Caption on his Pixel phone. And Amazon has an ad about Brendan, an employee who is deaf.

Clearly, accessibility awareness looks like it’s growing. In May, in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple, Google and Microsoft announced a slew of updates and resources related to accessibility across their products. DAGERSystem announced an upcoming Accessible Games Database, which is now live. Gamers can now search for accessible games by platform and filter accessibility by auditory, visual, color and fine motor categories.

It’s great that tech companies are talking about accessibility, promoting it and even making it part of their marketing budget. But there’s a difference between talking about it and taking action: Talking about it does not make a website accessible. That requires action.

A recent Forrester survey found that eight in 10 companies are working on digital accessibility. So, is anything actually changing? Are people able to use websites without barriers?

Did the rise in internet usage boost accessibility?

That’s the question the 2021 State of Accessibility Report (SOAR) report set out to answer. The purpose of SOAR is to assess the current state of accessibility across companies and industries. It’s a tool to find out what has improved in accessibility and what needs work.

The report has traditionally obtained accessibility metrics by analyzing the state of accessibility on the Alexa top 100 websites. The report focuses on the most popular digital products rather than going for volume. Change almost always starts at the top. When things improve at the top, the rest will follow.

The Pareto principle, known as the 80/20 rule, applies here. You will reach about 80% of the traffic with the top 20% of digital products.

What’s interesting is that the Alexa top 100 listed 31 new websites in 2021 that were not in the top 100 for 2019 or 2020. Only 60% of the tested websites on the Alexa 100 list in 2019 appeared on the 2021 list.

In reviewing the changes and the current Alexa top 100 websites, it’s easy to see how the pandemic changed online behavior. The top websites contained many productivity apps such as file transfer and collaboration tools, delivery services and communication tools like Zoom and Slack.

Speaking of video platforms, it’s clear the pandemic had a big impact on their accessibility, especially where closed captions come in. As of April 2020, none of the video platforms had automatic captions built-in except for Skype. Unfortunately, the captions on Skype weren’t of the highest quality.

Google Meet added captions by May 2020. At this time, Zoom was beta testing automatic captions. However, they initially rolled it out only to paid accounts. Thanks to a petition, Zoom agreed to make it available on free accounts. It took about eight months before that happened.

Around June, Microsoft Teams’ iOS app allowed people who weren’t on the Teams network to use it with captions for free. That’s a great start. Video platforms need more than captions to be accessible, however. They need to be navigable without a mouse. In addition to captions, the platforms need to offer transcripts. It’s the transcripts, not the captions, that are compatible with screen readers and refreshable Braille devices.

With that, here are the key results from the Alexa top 100 website testing:

  • Out of the websites tested, 62% were accessible to screen readers, up from 40% in 2020.
  • Every single page passed for having the valid document “lang” attribute.
  • Only 11% of websites tested had errors in input field labels.
  • The most common error was the use of ARIA.
  • The second most common error was color contrast.

In short, the screen reader testing of the Alexa top 100 websites showed much improvement over 2019 and 2020 testing.

What about mobile apps? One study found that out of four hours spent on the mobile internet, 88% of the respondents said they spend that time on mobile apps. Given this high usage of apps and the accessibility community’s interest in app accessibility, SOAR tested mobile apps for the first time. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 added 10 success criteria related to accessibility for mobile devices.

The mobile analysis looks at the top 20 free apps for both iOS and Android as well as the top 20 paid apps for both operating systems. The biggest surprise is that free apps were far more accessible than the paid apps.

When testing the accessibility of the main features in the free apps, 80% of the iOS and 65% of Android apps passed. Regarding the accessibility of the paid apps’ main features, only 10% of the iOS and 40% of Android apps’ main features passed.

Why the disparity? Free apps have far more users than paid apps as Statista shows more than 93% use free apps for both Android and iOS devices. The more consumers a product has, the more likely the consumers will request and provide feedback on accessibility. Also, many of the companies behind the free apps are large tech companies that have made accessibility a high priority.

Where do we go from here?

It’s exciting to see progress in digital accessibility, but companies need to stay on track. One of the most effective ways to do that is to take a top-down buy-in approach to accessibility. Make it part of the culture.

Now, building an accessibility-first culture does not happen overnight or even in a few months. It takes time. Every little step is progress. The key is to take that first step no matter how small. It could be as simple as teaching everyone in the company about adding alternative text to images. Or maybe on how to use proper headings.

It will take a lot of practice to become muscle memory. Once you conquer one thing, you move on to the next. According to SOAR 2021, many companies are mastering alternative text and headings. But they’re struggling with color contrast and ARIA. Perhaps that will be the next step.

Creating accessible products requires involving people with disabilities through the entire process. Yes, before you build that minimum viable product. Better yet, hire people with disabilities so you always have experts available.

The reason for a lot of the gaps in accessibility is the lack of education and training. Companies need to train everyone, not just the product development team. The development team can create an accessible website, but all that hard work will be undermined the minute someone from marketing posts a video without captions, a graphic designer creates an image with poor contrast or the sales professional publishes a PDF file that’s not accessible.

Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility.

Source: Tech

Tech

Spendesk is the fifth French startup to reach unicorn status this month

Published

on

Fintech startup Spendesk is announcing that it has raised an extension to its Series C round. Tiger Global is investing $114 million (€100 million) in the startup. Following today’s funding round, the company says that is has reached a valuation of more than $1.14 billion (more than €1 billion).

In other words, Spendesk is a new unicorn in the French tech ecosystem. Funding news has been accelerating over the last few months in France. In January alone, five startups announced that they have crossed the threshold to reach unicorn status — PayFit, Ankorstore, Qonto, Exotec and Spendesk.

Back Market, an e-commerce marketplace focused on refurbished smartphones and electronics devices, has also raised a mega round and reached a $5.7 billion valuation.

Let’s go back to Spendesk. The startup offers an all-in-one corporate spend management platform for medium companies in Europe. Originally focused on virtual cards for online payments, the company has expanded its product offering to tackle everything related to corporate spending.

Spendesk customers can order physical cards for employees, team members can use the platform to pay outstanding invoices, file expense reports, manage budgets and generate spending reports. By offering everything in a single service, Spendesk wants to simplify accounting and approvals in general so that money moves more freely.

The startup defines its platform as a “7-in-1 spend management solution”, meaning that Spendesk is no longer just a product that lets you order debit cards for your employees.

“We have had this goal since the beginning — we really want to become this platform, this operational system to manage your spending,” co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “When we started working on the product, we looked at each use case and designed the right workflow for that.”

In particular, Spendesk helps you formalize your internal processes. You can define team budgets, set up complicated approval workflows for expensive payments, automate some pesky tasks, such as VAT extraction.

“We target mid-market clients. Those are customers with 50 to 1,000 employees. We have a few clients that are bigger than that and a few clients that are smaller than that,” Ardant said.

And the company currently has 3,500 clients — around half of them are based in France while other clients are mostly based in Germany and the U.K. Clients have spent €3 billion through Spendesk in 2021 alone.

With its central positioning in the financial stack, Spendesk needs to interface perfectly with other financial tools — banks on one side and ERP products on the other side.

The startup currently supports many of the popular accounting tools used by European companies, such as Xero and Datev. Spendesk customers can also export transaction batches and import them into Sage, Cegid and other accounting software solutions.

Spendesk is also working on automating the integrations with your bank accounts, which could be particularly useful for companies with multiple bank accounts. For instance, you could imagine setting up a rule that automatically triggers a transfer between your German bank account and your Spendesk account when you want to pay a German supplier.

Image Credits: Spendesk

Spend management in Europe

Spendesk isn’t the only spend management solution in Europe. There are some competitors, such as Pleo, which recently reached a $4.7 billion valuation, and Soldo — another well-funded competitor as it has raised $180 million last year.

In the U.S. as well, companies like Brex and Ramp have reached sky-high valuations. And yet, Spendesk doesn’t think it has the same positioning as American startups.

“On the American market, it shouldn’t be called the spend management industry — it’s the corporate card industry. Players like Brex and Ramp position themselves as a payment method,” Spendesk co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “Europe’s corporate culture is a culture of debit — not credit. We don’t provide payment methods, we provide a process.”

It’s a slight difference in product positioning, so it’s going to be interesting to see if a European spend management startup can successfully enter the U.S. and vice versa.

When it comes to business model as well, Spendesk considers itself as a software-as-a-service company with recurring subscriptions. The startup didn’t want to share any hard numbers for its revenue. Its CEO just said that Spendesk’s revenue “more than doubles every year.”

With today’s funding round, Spendesk plans to triple the size of its team over the next two years. The company plans to have 1,000 employees by the end of 2023.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

Crypto.com expands venture arm to $500 million to back early-stage web3 startups

Published

on

Crypto.com, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, has extended its venture arm’s fund size to $500 million as it looks to more aggressively back early-stage startups to help the nascent ecosystem grow, following similar moves by rivals Binance, Coinbase and FTX.

The broadening of Crypto.com Capital comes less than a year after the Singapore-headquartered firm unveiled its maiden fund of $200 million. The fund, unlike those of many of its rivals, has no LPs (meaning, it’s fully financed by the firm’s balance sheet.)

The maiden fund, whose individual checks run up to $10 million in size, has been so far deployed to back about 20 startups including YGG SEA, multi-chain crypto portfolio tracker DeBank, cross-chain token infrastructure Efinity and Ethereum scaling solution Matter Labs.

Crypto.com will continue to focus on backing early-stage startups, said Jon Russell, who joined the firm as a general partner this month, in an interview with TechCrunch.

With the fund, Crypto.com is broadly focusing on gaming, decentralized-finance and startups innovating on cross-chain solutions. But he cautioned that the industry could change and expand, as it has in recent years, to areas “we don’t know about,” hence the firm is keeping an eye out on everything.

Tuesday’s announcement also further illustrates the growing involvement of cryptocurrency exchanges in being the rainmaker – and beneficiary – of the ecosystem which encompasses the industry in which they operate.

FTX, which has backed over 15 startups, last week announced a $2 billion crypto fund. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, also owns Alameda Research, a venture firm that has backed close to 100 web3 startups.

Coinbase Ventures, the investment arm of the only crypto exchange that is publicly traded, and Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, are also among the most prolific investors in the web3 space.

Venture investment in crypto / web3 in 2021 by category (Image credits: Galaxy Digital)

The funding activity in the space, even as most of the aforementioned names often co-invest in startups, is at an all-time high. VCs invested more than $33 billion in crypto/web3 startups in 2021, more than all prior years combined, Galaxy Digital, another prolific investor in the space, wrote in a recent report.

“Valuations in the crypto/blockchain space were 141% higher than the rest of the venture capital space in Q4, highlighting a founder-friendly environment and the intense competition among investors for deal allocations,” the report added.

Scores of venture capital firms have also raised new funds for their crypto investments. Just last year, Andreessen Horowitz added a $2.2 billion crypto fund, Paradigm unveiled a $2.5 billion fund, and Hivemind Capital Partners announced a $1.5 billion fund. Katie Haun, who co-led a16z’s $2.2 billion crypto fund, has left the firm to launch her own crypto-focused fund.

Russell – a former journalist who previously had stints at TechCrunch, The Next Web, and The Ken – said Crypto.com is backing startups to help the ecosystem grow.

“If you’re in the industry, it’s in your interest to help companies grow in the ecosystem and the ecosystem itself to grow,” he said. (Worth pointing out that Solana, Avalanche, Polkadot — as well as some of their major investors — are also aggressively backing startups that are building applications for the native blockchains.)

The startups Crypto.com backs are under no obligation to list their tokens on Crypto.com over any of its rivals or offer the exchange any other preferential treatment, he said. The exchange team similarly doesn’t have a soft spot for the investment arm’s portfolio firms, he added.

(What’s up with the career move? “I’ve been crypto curious for a number of years but I wasn’t gasping to dive in full-time. This project appeals to me because Crypto.com is ambitious but yet it does things the right way. There’s certainly a lot of hype and hot air in crypto and web3 right now, but it’s impossible to ignore the talent that’s pouring into the industry,” he said.)

Crypto.com, which started its life as a blog of professor Matt Blaze (who sold the domain to the crypto exchange), has aggressively expanded in the past year as it looks to court more users. The Singapore-headquartered firm last year agreed to pay more than $700 million for the naming rights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The downtown Los Angeles complex has been rebranded as Crypto.com Arena for the next 20 years.

The firm, which bills itself as the “fastest-growing” crypto exchange, said at the time of the announcement that the move is positioned to make cryptocurrencies mainstream. Crypto.com, which processes trade volumes of over $2.5 billion every day, also teamed up with Hollywood star Matt Damon last year to promote the brand and cryptocurrencies.

The Damon-starring ad equated buying crypto tokens and NFTs to one of the greatest and boldest accomplishments in the history of humankind. Hyperbole, to be sure, but having the most mainstream American actor as Crypto.com’s celebrity sponsor has certainly helped bring the trading platform, and all that it sells, into the mainstream. The ad went viral and also attracted criticism for being cringeworthy.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

Focused on smaller cities, Vietnamese social commerce startup Mio raises $8M Series A

Published

on

Mio, the Vietnamese social commerce platform, has raised an $8 million Series A, less than a year after announcing its seed round. The funding was led by Jungle Ventures, Patamar Capital and Oliver Jung, with participation from returning investors GGV, Venturra, Hustle Fund, iSEED SEA and Gokul Rajaram.

TechCrunch first covered Mio at the time of its $1 million seed funding in May 2021. Founded in 2020, Mio is a group buying platform that focuses on selling fresh produce and groceries in Tier 2 and 3 cities in Vietnam. The company is able to offer next day delivery because it built a logistics infrastructure that enables it to send produce directly from farms to customers.

The Series A brings Mio’s total raised to $9.1 million, and will be used to expand its logistics and fulfillment system, enter new areas in Vietnam and add new product categories like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and household appliances.

Mio co-founder and chief executive officer Trung Huynh said that since TechCrunch first covered Mio seven months ago, it has achieved 10x gross merchandise value growth, a 10x increase in agents, or resellers, and grew its team from 60 people to 240. It now fulfills more than 10,000 pieces of fresh produce per day, operating in Ho Chi Minh, Thu Duc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An, with plans to expand into northern Vietnam.

The numbers “strengthened our conviction in this model and its potential,” he said. “We need fresh capital to accelerate hiring, product development and supply chain to keep up with the pace of growth as we deepen our presence in existing geographies and expand to new provinces.”

Mio is able to offer next day deliveries because its vertically integrated mayor layers of the value chain, including procurement, warehousing, order sorting and bulk delivery. The startup owns the majority of its logistics infrastructure and uses its own fleet of couriers. Its ability to delivery fresh produce directly from farms to customers in less than 16 hours contributed to higher customer retention and growth, Huynh said, and it will continue to shorten delivery times. .

Mio resellers are called Mio Partners. Huynh said one of the driving factors behind Mio is targeting the right people for the program, or “housewives and stay-home-moms in lower income regions who love sharing value-for-money products to their social circle of friends.”

They aggregate orders, usually from friends and family, and orders are delivered to them in batches for distribution. The startup claims Mio Partners can make up to $400 a month, including a 10% commission on each order and additional commissions based on the monthly performance of other resellers they referred to the program.

“There is a strong possibility” that Mio will expand beyond Vietnam, Huynh said, “but will only be considered at a more appropriate time after we successfully built our playbook for Vietnam.”

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Trending