Here are the top headlines from the startup space.BharatPe to launch ‘Merchant Shareholding Program’ for its merchant partnersFintech unicorn BharatPe has announced the launch of the ‘Merchant Shareholding Program’ (MSP) for its merchant partners.The company will be rolling out this program to its 7.5 million+ existing merchant partners and extend this to new merchants who join it.BharatPe will be creating an equity pool structure worth up to $100 million for MSP to be allotted to eligible merchants over the course of the next four years. The company is aiming for the MSP pool to be worth close to $1 billion by the time it goes public, it said in a statement.“The folks who contribute to MAUs / DAUs / revenue of start-ups and therefore, the valuation, don’t get any equity upside or even allocation in IPOs. We will change it at BharatPe by making our merchants part equity owners and giving them the IPO upside through the first-of-its-kind program in the world,” said Ashneer Grover, Co-Founder and Managing Director, BharatPe.Teachmint announces continuous ESOP liquidity planEducation infrastructure start-up Teachmint has announced a continuous ESOP liquidity plan (CELP) to reward and recognise the contribution of its team members.Under the CELP, any member of Teachmint’s workforce will be able to liquidate their vested employees stock option plans (ESOPs) against cash at any point in time over the next year, the company said in a statement.An initiative like CELP will also fuel the company’s hiring initiatives and help them groom top-quality talent, it added.To scale its current user base from 10 million to 100 million and beyond, Teachmint is focused on doubling its team strength in the next six months with a focus on product, technology and design skills.This initiative comes on the heels of the company’s latest Series-B fund-raise of $78 million led by Rocketship.vc and Vulcan Capital, with participation from Goodwater Capital, Epiq Capital, Learn Capital, CM Ventures, Lightspeed India and Better Capital.Hero Vired to offer half-yearly appraisal, increase headcount by 3x: ReportEdtech firm Hero Vired will increase its headcount by 3.5 times within a year and roll out a biannual appraisal and increment system to retain talent, Moneycontrol reported.Akshay Munjal, founder and Chief Executive of Hero Vired told Moneycontrol that his start-up was entering the growth phase, and hiring talent and retaining them is a priority to sustain the growth momentum.“Appraisal and increment will happen every six months,” Munjal said, adding that it was a conscious decision to retain talent, promote them, and grow together.He said Hero Vired will have around 350 people by end of calendar year 2022 and hiring will happen in equal proportion for tech, content and learning excellence, and sales and marketing talents.In the last six months, Hero Vired has seen a 2x increase in revenue month-on-month (MoM), as per the report.Exotel acquires conversational AI platform Cogno AICloud telephony and communications start-up Exotel has acquired chatbot developer Cogno AI in a cash and stock deal.The acquisition will add conversational AI and co-browsing capabilities to its product suite and bring it one step closer to being an AI-powered customer engagement platform, the company said in a statement.Cogno AI’s team of 98 will now be part of Exotel. The company provides a conversational AI platform with an omni-channel chatbot, live chat, and co-browse capabilities.Exotel is a cloud telephony platform that provides APIs for voice, messages and user verification services over voice telephony or internet communications. It currently works with start-ups such as Flipkart, Quikr, Redmart, GoJek, and Ola, among others.Exotel and contact centre software provider Ameyo recently announced their merger and now with Cogno AI, the organisation claims to be growing at 70 percent YoY and is at an ARR of $50 million with a target to hit an annual run rate of $200 million over the next three years.Agnikul showcases its Made In India rocket in DubaiIIT Madras-incubated spacetech startup Agnikul has showcased its full-scale second-stage rocket engine – Agnilet - at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) and the World Expo in Dubai.The spacetech start-up also inked multiple agreements with various stakeholders in the event which will help the company launching its vehicle in 2022.Agnilet is a single-piece 3D printed engine, fully designed and manufactured in India. It was successfully test-fired in early 2021 by Agnikul.“The unveiling of Agnikul’s engine at a global stage such as the IAC, allowed us to showcase the capabilities of Indian space tech start-ups to the international community and allowed us to forge agreements with multiple commercial players such as NPC Spacemind, Precious Payload and RIDE!,” said Moin SPM, Co-founder and COO, Agnikul.The company signed an MoU with NPC Spacemind to provide end-to-end solutions for its customers, as NPC manufactures advanced state-of-the-art satellite subsystems and small satellites deployers. Additionally, an agreement was inked with Precious Payload to get global access to customers.Agnikul also signed an agreement with India-based Asaco which will help the start-up realise various structural subsystems of Agnibaan.Blue-collar jobs app Apna logs 5 mn new users during festival seasonJobs platform Apna which became India’s 27th unicorn this year, has registered 5 million new users on its app from the first week of September to November.The start-up recorded 12 million openings in the September-November quarter, saying the employment demand shows the economy is lifting after crashing in the pandemic. It also enabled more than 37 million interviews during the festival season that quarter.“The surge in new jobs, users and interviews we witnessed during the festival season affirms India is back on the road to recovery after a difficult year,” said Manas Singh, Chief Business Officer of Apna.According to Apna, hyperlocal opportunities, higher pay, and greater efficiencies led to an increase in applications for a variety of roles. It observed an increase in demand for jobs from Metro cities Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata and Tier II cities like Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Patna and Ahmedabad.India’s gig economy is set to triple over the next three-four years to 24 million jobs in the non-firm sector from the existing eight million, according to a report by consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.EaseMyTrip announces 50% dividend after stellar profit growthOnline travel platform EaseMyTrip has declared an interim dividend of 50 percent or Rs 1 per equity share of face value Rs 2 each for fiscal year 2022 that ends in March next year.The company said that the total payout of the interim dividend is Rs 10.86 crore.This is the second dividend EaseMyTrip announced since its listing in March. In April, the company announced an interim dividend of 100 percent or Rs 2 per share for fiscal 2020-21.The latest development comes soon after EaseMyTrip announced its financial result for July to September quarter of 2021. The company reported over 330 percent year-on-year increase in its consolidated net profit. The company, which got listed on BSE/NSE in March 2021, reported consolidated revenue of Rs 59.78 crore for the quarter ending September 30, up from Rs 22.29 crore reported in the same period of the previous year.Automovill starts operations in PuneFull-stack mobility start-up Automovill has launched its operations in Pune.The brand has partnered with 20 car repair workshops and established three company-owned hubs in the first phase of expansion in the city, it said in a statement. The new launch comes in line with the brand’s recently announced western India expansion strategy.With this launch, Automovill has strengthened its retail presence too, in over 16 cities, it added. The start-up aims at widening its footprint in western and eastern India, with plans to open operations in five more cities within this fiscal.uFaber launches Rs 10-cr accelerator program for early-stage edtech start-upsEdtech startup uFaber has set aside Rs 10 crore from its internal accruals to support early-stage and struggling-to-scale start-ups in the larger edtech space.Besides financial, infrastructure and operational support, uFaber which will provide access to its network, customer pool and related assets for the chosen start-ups, it said in a statement.The bootstrapped venture claims to have over two lakh annual student enrolments, 500+ school and university partners across India, and 3,000+ all-women army of work from home trainers, and a revenue run rate of Rs 100 crore.GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWSElon Musk sells $5 bn in Tesla shares after Twitter pollTesla Chief Executive Elon Musk sold about $5 billion in shares, just days after he polled Twitter users about selling 10 percent of his stake, Reuters reported.In his first share-sale since 2016, Musk’s trust sold nearly 3.6 million shares in Tesla, worth around $4 billion, while he also sold another 934,000 shares for $1.1 billion after exercising options to acquire nearly 2.2 million shares.The 4.5 million shares equate to about 3 percent of his total holdings in the electric vehicle manufacturer, which makes up the vast part of his estimated $281.6-billion fortune, according to Forbes.Musk, on Saturday, polled Twitter users about selling 10 percent of his stake, helping push down Tesla’s share price after a majority on Twitter said they agreed with the sale.The stock sank 12 percent on Tuesday in a multi-day selloff that endangered the company’s position in the $1-trillion club, but recovered 4.3 percent on Wednesday.United States sues Uber over alleged disability discriminationThe US Justice Department has sued ride-sharing service Uber Technologies over allegations of overcharging people with disabilities, and asked a federal court to order the company to comply with a federal law protecting the disabled from discrimination.The Justice Department’s lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in San Francisco, takes aim against an April 2016 policy by Uber of charging passengers “wait time” fees - a practice started in several cities that was eventually expanded nationwide.It alleges that the policy discriminates against people with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying that disabled people such as the blind or those who use wheelchairs or walkers need more than two minutes to get into an Uber car.The department is asking the court to order Uber to modify its wait time fee policy and pay monetary damages to those subjected to illegal fees.Didi prepares to relaunch apps in China, anticipates probe will end soonDidi Global is preparing to relaunch its ride-hailing and other apps in China by the end of the year in anticipation that Beijing’s investigation into the company will be wrapped up by then, sources told Reuters.The people, who declined to be identified as the information was private, said they expect Chinese regulators to finalise any penalties on the company in December.The company has set aside 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) for a potential fine.In July, the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ordered app stores to remove 25 mobile apps operated by Didi ― just days after the ride-hailing giant listed in New York. It also told the company to stop registering new users, citing national security and public interest.Rivian valued at over $100 bn in debut, after world’s biggest IPO of 2021Shares of Rivian Automotive surged as much as 53 percent in its Nasdaq debut on Wednesday, giving the Amazon-backed electric vehicle maker a market valuation of more than $100 billion after the world’s biggest initial public offering this year.Rivian shares closed at $100.73, marking a nearly 30 percent jump from its offering price, Reuters reported.That made Rivian the second most valuable US automaker after Tesla, which is worth $1.06 trillion.Tencent says Beijing likely to support metaverse if it obeys China rulesChinese social media giant Tencent Holdings expects Beijing to allow ‘metaverse’ virtual environment services, now the talk of Silicon Valley, to operate in China, provided they fall in line with Chinese rules, Reuters reported.In some of its first public comments on the metaverse, Tencent, China’s biggest company by market value, welcomed the potential for gaming business opportunities in post-earnings call on Wednesday, but acknowledged China’s version of the metaverse would need to be different to the rest of the world’s.“There’s a lot of technologies that’s related to the development of games as well as for the metaverse,” Tencent president Martin Lau told analysts on a call peppered with questions about the metaverse.Investors have poured over the prospects for the burgeoning virtual reality world ever since Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc, announced that he would devote the future of his company on building a metaverse.Microsoft and Disney have also said they are working on their own metaverses.Disney wants to become the happiest place in the metaverseMickey Mouse is poised to venture into the metaverse.Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the entertainment conglomerate is preparing to make the technological leap into a virtual reality world first imagined by science fiction writers.It is a popular destination these days, ever since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the future of his company would be devoted to creating a robust, three-dimensional environment where users’ digital avatars would work, hang out and pursue their hobbies.According to Reuters, Chapek told investors that entering this new digital frontier is consistent with Disney’s long history of technological innovation, dating back nearly a century to Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon to feature synchronised sound.“Our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling, without boundaries in our own Disney Metaverse,” Chapek said during Disney’s fourth-quarter earnings call.Facebook’s work app Workplace to integrate with Microsoft TeamsFacebook said it is integrating Workplace, the work-focused version of its social app, with Microsoft’s collaboration app Teams, so users can better share information between the two platforms.According to Reuters, the changes will allow users to share content from Workplace’s newsfeed and from its groups into Microsoft’s Teams platform. Soon, it said, users will be able to livestream video from Teams into Workplace groups.The software is also used by companies including Walmart and Deliveroo. Facebook says it has 7 million paid subscribers on Workplace.