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STARTUP DIGEST: GlobalBees and Mamaearth turn unicorns, Teachmint acquires Airlearn, Apple issues $180K bonuses for top talent & Paris Hilton launches metaverse business on Roblox

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Startup Digest brings you all the updates from the startup space.

STARTUP DIGEST: GlobalBees and Mamaearth turn unicorns, Teachmint acquires Airlearn, Apple issues $180K bonuses for top talent & Paris Hilton launches metaverse business on Roblox
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Roll-up firm GlobalBees joins unicorn club with $111.5 mn funding
Thrasio-style e-commerce strartup GlobalBees has entered the unicorn club after raising $111.5 million in its Series B funding round led by Premji Invest.
Steadview Capital, along with existing investors SoftBank and e-commerce baby products company FirstCry, also participated in the funding round.
The investment pushed GlobalBees valuation to $1.1 billion, making it the 44th Indian company to join the unicorn club in 2021.
The roll-up firm said it plans to use the fresh capital to strengthen its product portfolio and also for innovation, enhancing customer experience, hiring employees and scaling brands that it owns. The company added it is in advanced talks with 20 companies to acquire their brands.
Mamaearth turns unicorn after funding from Sequoia, Sofina & others
Personal care brand Mamaearth has entered the billion-dollar club after raising funds in a new round at unicorn valuation, as per data from Venture Intelligence.
The funding was led by Sequoia Capital’s Sequoia Capital Growth Fund III, Sofina and Evolvence Fund.
As per reports, Mamaearth has raised close to $80 million, at an estimated valuation of $1.07 billion. It has approved the allotment of 1,741 Series F preference shares at an issue price of Rs 33,85,049 to raise Rs 589.3 crore or $79.5 million.
This is the second round for the startup in 2021. In July, it had secured $50 million in a round led by Sofina at a valuation of $730 million.
Insurance broker SecureNow bags $6 million in Series B round
Insurance Broker SecureNow has raised $6 million in a Series B round led by Apis Insurtech Fund I, managed by Apis Partners, and Charan Singh, founder of SelectQuote.
The firm will be use the fresh capital to develop the platform further, bundle value-added services for clients, and increase client outreach, it said in a statement.
The company will focus on commercial insurance issuance by developing an end-to-end insurtech platform, that presently serves 25,000 small businesses in 150 locations. Over the next three years, the startup aims to grow to over one million enterprises, and the same timeframe in which it expects to reach profitability, it added.
SecureNow sells pure-risk, commercial insurances to small and medium enterprises using an end-to-end insurtech platform.
Teachmint acquires Airlearn to expand developer offerings
Education infrastructure startup Teachmint has announced the acquisition of Airlearn, a video engagement platform for education businesses, in a cash-and-stock deal to expand its developer offerings.
With this deal, Teachmint strengthens its developer offering called Teachstack, enabling edtech companies across the globe to build state-of-the-art classroom solutions for their users, the company said in a statement.
This comes following Teachmint's acquisitions of course-selling platform Teachmore and Singapore-based Teachee's India team.
Teachmint CEO and co-founder Mihir Gupta said that by joining hands with Airlearn, the company further expands this offering and also grows its Teachstack team with highly experienced tech and product talent.
These acquisitions also come following the company's Series-B fundraising of $78 million in October 2021.
Ola Electric kick-starts setting up Hyperchargers for e-scooters, aims to hit 4,000 by 2022
Ola Electric has started to install its charging network called Hypercharger across the country, days after it started to roll out its electric scooters S1 and S1 Pro to its customers.
Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder of Ola Electric, shared the update while revealing the EV maker's plans to increase the charging infrastructure in coming days.
Aggarwal took to Twitter to announce that Ola Electric aims to set up more than 4,000 such charging points for its electric scooters across India by the end of the year.
The Hyperchargers are currently being installed at public places like BPCL petrol pumps, as well as residential complexes to cater to its S1 and S1 Pro customers.
Ola Electric's Hyperchargers will be capable of charging e-scooter batteries from 0 - 50% in just 18 minutes, making it fit for a half cycle range of 75 km. A home-charger unit, however, will also come as standard with each unit purchased.
Indian travellers indulged in 'workcation' mode this year: OYO report
Indian travellers were busy indulging in 'workcation' -- working away from home in a scenic location -- this year as they tried to adapt and make up for lost vacations while working remotely after the coronavirus pandemic upended travel and tourism sector in 2020, according to OYO Travelopedia 2021.
Around 65 percent of respondents in India have travelled in the past six months and a majority of them visited their loved ones, while some went for a getaway from their daily routines and travelled for leisure.
"Nearly 48 percent of Indians worked from home during the year, out of which a whopping 85 percent preferred taking workcations or working away from home in a scenic location. And out of these, 61 percent took a workcation," according to OYO's fourth year-end annual index --  OYO Travelopedia 2021.
Interestingly, nearly 27 percent took a month-long workcation. Hill stations ranked top on the list of spots for these work and travel trips, followed by many who visited their hometowns and beach destinations.
The OYO Travelopedia 2021 found that with mass vaccination drives, travel intent and confidence among Indians is back with 60 percent of respondents have planned vacations for the winter holiday season. However, most seem to plan their trip closer to the date.
"Nearly 31 percent said they plan their trips a month in advance, whereas 26 percent prefer planning their travel only a week in advance. This is a stark contrast from pre-COVID days," it said.
EaseMyTrip appoints Vijay Raaz and Varun Sharma brand ambassadors
Online travel company EaseMyTrip has appointed actors Vijay Raaz and Varun Sharma its brand ambassadors.
The company said this is the first time it has appointed brand ambassadors.
Raaz and Sharma will be coming together as a duo for the first time for any brand campaign. The actors with their mass appeal and strong connect with the audience will complement the brand’s image, it said in a statement.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Apple issues rare $180K bonuses for top talent in a bid to prevent defections to Meta: Report
Apple has issued unusual and significant stock bonuses to some engineers in an effort to retain talent, looking to stave off defections to tech rivals such as Facebook owner Meta Platforms, according to a Bloomberg News report.
The bonuses have ranged from about $50,000 to as much as $180,000 in some cases. Many of the engineers received amounts of roughly $80,000, $100,000 or $120,000 in shares, said people who asked not to be identified because the programme isn’t public. The perk was presented by managers as a reward for high performers.
Last week, the company informed some engineers in silicon design, hardware, and select software and operations groups of the out-of-cycle bonuses, which are being issued as restricted stock units. The shares vest over four years, providing an incentive to stay at the iPhone maker.
The payouts aren’t part of normal Apple compensation packages, which include a base salary, stock units and a cash bonus. Apple sometimes awards additional cash bonuses to employees, but the size of the latest stock grants were atypical and surprisingly timed, the report added. They were given to about 10% to 20% of engineers in applicable divisions.
Alphabet CEO Pichai can be questioned in privacy lawsuit, judge rules
Plaintiffs who accused Alphabet’s Google of unlawfully tracking their internet use while on "Incognito" browsing mode can question Chief Executive Sundar Pichai for up to two hours, a California federal judge has ruled.
In the lawsuit filed in June 2020, users accused Google of illegally invading their privacy by tracking internet use while Google Chrome browsers were set in "private" mode.
The plaintiffs are arguing that Pichai has "unique, personal knowledge" of issues relating to the Chrome browser and privacy concerns, a Monday court filing showed.
Google spokesman José Castañeda told Reuters the new requests were "unwarranted and overreaching".
"While we strongly dispute the claims in this case, we have cooperated with plaintiffs' countless requests ... We will continue to vigorously defend ourselves," Castañeda said.
Pichai in 2019 was warned that describing the company's Incognito browsing mode as "private" was problematic, yet it stayed the course because he did not want the feature "under the spotlight," according to a court filing in September.
In her order, US Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen in San Jose, California, said "a few documents establish that specific relevant information was communicated to, and possibly from, Pichai", and therefore supported a request from the plaintiffs' lawyers to question him.
Google has earlier said it makes clear that Incognito only stops data from being saved to a user's device and is fighting the lawsuit.
The Alphabet unit's privacy disclosures have generated regulatory and legal scrutiny in recent years amid growing public concerns about online surveillance.
China's Didi plans Hong Kong 'listing by introduction', picks banks, sources tell Reuters
China's ride-hailing giant Didi Global plans to use a mechanism that will allow it to list shares in Hong Kong without raising capital or issuing new stock as it seeks to delist from New York, sources told Reuters.
The plans come as Didi is moving towards withdrawing from the New York Stock Exchange under pressure from Beijing after running afoul of Chinese authorities by pushing ahead with an initial public offering (IPO) there earlier this year despite being asked to put it on hold while a review of its data practices was conducted.
The Hong Kong mechanism, known as 'listing by introduction', would allow owners of Didi US shares to transfer them to the city's bourse gradually. Didi aims to file for the Hong Kong listing by end-April and list by June.
Didi has picked Goldman Sachs, China Merchants Bank International (CMBI), and China Construction Bank International (CCBI) to manage the Hong Kong listing process.
US judge dismisses claims that LinkedIn overcharged advertisers
A US judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing Microsoft’s LinkedIn of inflating the number of people who watched video ads so the networking platform could overcharge hundreds of thousands of advertisers, as per Reuters.
In a decision, US Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen said that while some LinkedIn statements may have been misleading, the plaintiffs failed to show their legal remedies were inadequate before suing under two California laws that offered only equitable relief such as restitution.
The judge also said LinkedIn had no implied duty to provide "accurate ad metrics," citing its disclaimer that it was not responsible for click fraud or illicit third-party activity that could affect ad costs.
Advertisers in the proposed class action accused LinkedIn of inflating its metrics by counting video ad "views" from users' LinkedIn apps, even when videos played only off-screen because users scrolled past them.
The lawsuit began after LinkedIn said in November 2020 that its engineers had fixed software bugs that may have led to more than 418,000 overcharges, most under $25. LinkedIn said it provided credits to virtually all affected advertisers.
US reality TV star Paris Hilton launches metaverse business on Roblox
Paris Hilton commands as much as $1 million a night working as a celebrity DJ, entertaining partiers at clubs in China, Dubai and on the Spanish vacation island of Ibiza.
As per Reuters, this New Year’s Eve, she will be playing an electronic set for the revelers who drop by a venue of a different sort -- her virtual island on Roblox.
Hilton created an island in the online virtual world, dubbed Paris World, where visitors can explore digital replicas of her Beverly Hills estate and its dog mansion, stroll a boardwalk inspired by the neon carnival wedding celebration she and husband Carter Reum hosted earlier this year at the Santa Monica Pier in California, and explore the island in a luxury sports car or Sunray yacht.
Like other virtual hangouts, Paris World will collect small payments for purchasing virtual clothing or booking a ride on a jet-ski.
For the socialite and reality TV-star turned entrepreneur, Paris World is the latest venture launched by her new media company, 11:11 Media. Hilton has also tapped into the mania for non-fungible tokens, collaborating with designer Blake Kathryn to sell three unique pieces of digital art -- one of which fetched in excess of $1.1 million, according to online auction platform Nifty Gateway.
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