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STARTUP DIGEST: Jupiter gets $86 mn in Series C round, Flipkart’s Rs 17,000 cr ESOP pool highest in India & Riot Games $100 mn gender discrimination suit.

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From Flipkart raising an ESOP pool of Rs 17,000 to Chinese ride-hailing app Didi banning its employees from stealing stock, here is the top news from the startup space

STARTUP DIGEST: Jupiter gets $86 mn in Series C round, Flipkart’s Rs 17,000 cr ESOP pool highest in India & Riot Games $100 mn gender discrimination suit.
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Jupiter gets $86 mn in Series C round from QED Investors & Sequoia Growth fund
Neobank Jupiter has secured $86 million as part of its Series C fundraise led by US-based QED Investors and Sequoia Growth fund, according to regulatory filings sourced through Tofler.
The round also saw participation from other existing investors such as Tiger Global, Matrix Partners, 3one4 Capital and BEENEXT. This is Jupiter’s second round of fundraising in 2021.
Founder and CEO Jitendra Gupta told Moneycontrol that the valuation for the company now stands at $710 million. This is a jump of close to 2.5x in valuation from the previous round, which valued Jupiter at $293 million.
As per the report, the startup will continue to invest in customer acquisition with an aim to have a million customers by April 2022 and is also looking at entering lending in the coming year.
MetaMap raises Rs 530 crore in Series B funding round led by Tribe Capital
MetaMap (formerly Mati), a startup that builds a merit-based trust and reputation infrastructure layer to help companies transition to a borderless economy, has raised Rs 530 crore in Series B funding led by Tribe Capital.
Craft Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), Titan Capital, and prominent angel investors including Jerry Murdock, founder of Insight Partners, also participated in the funding round. With this investment, the company’s total funding stands at Rs 630 crores.
The firm said it will deploy the fresh capital in product development and furthering its international expansion.
MetaMap is building their flagship tech hub in India, with over 30 employees already and is planning to increase the headcount fivefold this year. The company is also announcing a number of partnerships with leading Indian fintechs, marketplaces and crypto exchanges in 2022, it added.
MetaMap offers solutions for a wide range of use cases, including fraud prevention, identity and financial qualification, and credential sourcing.
Deep tech startup Metamall raises $4.6 mn ahead of IDO
Blockchain startup Metamall has raised $4.6 million a pre-IDO (a fundraising technique mediated by a decentralised trade) round.
The funding round saw participation from new-age investors including 316VC, CSPDAO, MarsVC, WLI Capital, BullPerks, HVS Ventures, CCK ventures and others.
Metamall has sold $1 million worth of land on the metaverse.  Out of $2.5 million land available on pre-sales, $1 million has been sold in 3 days to investors, it said in a statement.
 The firm will use the proceeds to develop its technical capabilities, and strengthen cooperation with main websites and builders. It will allow Metamall to create essentially the most modern and enjoyable game-for-money (P2E) metaverse for customers.
“We see generations of users spending quality time on metaverse for gaming, social networking as well as building wealth. Metamall is a unique convergence of metaverse, NFT and crypto that enables enriching user experience as well as giving brands, individuals and experience owners to connect with their audience,” said Serge Gianchandani, Co-Founder of Metamall.
Built on the Solana Blockchain network, Metamall features native token MALL for users to buy virtual real estate and earn money by leasing, staking, advertising and developing the real estate based on choice. The MetaMall is a VR Shopping, Lifestyle and Experience Zone that converts everyday tasks like shopping, socializing, and business interactions into an immersive experience powered by VR technology.
It is expected to close before IDO planned in January while the company is looking to take the platform live in the next 6 months, it added.
OwO Tech gets $3 mn seed capital from marquee investors to fuel growth
Water e-commerce start-up OwO Technologies has raised $3 million (about Rs 22.5 crore) seed funding from marquee investors.
OwO is creating disruptions in the online essentials space (the drinking water market at large) by launching WaaS (water-as-a-service), the company said in a statement adding that the company aims to expand to 75 cities by March 2023.
The funding will be used to scale its technology platform and to launch operations in Delhi, Noida, Jaipur and Pune.
OwO technologies co-founder and CEO Ajay Changani said, "We have now entered a D2C model to deliver the healthiest water to every Indian home through a water subscription model. With a disruptive business model, it uses technology to ensure that every glass of water consumed in every home is in its healthiest form."
Flipkart creates ESOP pool of Rs 17,000 cr ; highest in India: Report
E-commerce platform Flipkart has created a Rs 17,000-crore ESOP pool, the highest stock options allocated to employees among Indian technology companies.
The Walmart-owned homegrown e-tailer joins new-age companies like Oyo, Paytm, Nykaa and Zomato which also created a high ESOP pool, the Economic Times reported quoting data exclusively sourced from search firm Longhouse Consulting.
Oyo created an ESOP pool of Rs 7,569 crore, Zomato had Rs 5,639 crore, Paytm Rs 4,571 crore and Nykaa Rs 4,280 crore. Zomato and Nykaa, which debuted on the Indian bourses earlier this year, generated a windfall for employees and investors with the listing.
Learning platforms UpGrad and Byju's put together ESOP pools of Rs 427 crore and Rs 3,092 crore, respectively.
ShareChat, a social media platform in regional languages which entered the unicorn club in April, created an ESOP pool of Rs 462 crore.
With more companies conducting buyback programmes, Indian start-ups have seen a record year for ESOPs. Between July 2020 and November 2021, 40 Indian start-ups bought back ESOPs worth Rs 3,200 crore, an earlier ET report said.
In July, Flipkart announced one of the largest buybacks of the year worth Rs 600 crore. Around 6,000 employees of the e-commerce platform were said to have the option to liquidate up to 10 percent of their vested ESOPs, a Times of India report said.
Foxconn India iPhone plant in Tamil Nadu postpones resumption of operations
Electronic parts maker Foxconn, which recently faced a protest by women contract workers over food poisoning, has postponed its plan to resume its iPhone factory by a "day or two" in neighbouring Sriperumbudur, sources told PTI.
The Taiwan-based firm was supposed to resume its operations on Monday after the facility remained shut for a week after contract workers, a majority of them women, resorted to a protest after they were allegedly fed poor quality food at the accommodation provided by the company.
The Tamil Nadu government taking cognisance of the protest advised the company to enhance the basic amenities provided to the over 15,000 employees like stepping up adequate infrastructure at hostels and providing restroom facilities and rooms with ventilation.
Carzso to launch Auto Virtual showroom/store of pre-owned cars in Karnal
Virtual pre-owned cars showroom Carzso is all set to launch its “Virtual Reality” based experience store in India on January 1, 2022, in Karnal.
With this store, Carzso said it will be the first auto-tech startup to launch a virtual showroom in India accompanied by a physical visit to its state-of-the-art store spread around 500 sq ft. with a capacity of 25 cars.
“The global VR market in the automotive industry currently accounts for circa $1 billion and is forecasted to grow up to $15 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 45.1%. Future of auto retail is about how best the Virtual Reality technology can be used for digitization. We are aggressively working on bringing the “Virtual Reality” technology in the Indian auto industry which could be a game changer in taking the auto industry online,” said Vaibhav Sharma, Founder and CEO of Carzso.
In 2020, Carzso opened an Express store with capacity of 50+ cars in Ambala. Additionally, the auto tech startup is building a superstore of pre-owned cars in Gurugram (Haryana) for which a parking of 300+ cars has already been reserved.
Social commerce platform Coutloot claims to boost income of 6L+ sellers by 7x in a year
Coutloot, a social e-commerce, platform today announced that it has helped over six lakh small street shops and sellers to expand their business online.
The company said it has boosted their seller’s income sevenfold. An average seller today earns Rs 16,000 on the platform every month as compared to Rs 2,300 at the start of the pandemic in 2020, it added.
“We aim to expand and evolve the platform for the betterment of the sellers as well as buyers. The team has been customising the app for our users who are not tech-savy. We are overcoming such challenges with new updates in the app that have experienced a great response. We currently have over 1 crore app downloads and are in the top 20 shopping apps in the country by Play Store ranking,” said Jasmeet Thind, co-founder of Coutloot.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Alphabet was the top Big Tech stock of the year: Report
Alphabet is on the verge of wrapping up its best year from an investment perspective since 2009, and has proven to be by far the top-performing Big Tech stock of 2021, according to CNBC.
As of Thursday’s close at $2,938.33, Alphabet’s stock is up 68% this year. With just five trading days left in 2021, it’s virtually impossible for any of its biggest peers to catch up.
Microsoft is the closest, up 51%. Apple has gained 33%, followed by Facebook (now Meta) at 23% and Amazon at 5%. You can even throw in Tesla, which has climbed 51% for the year. The Nasdaq 100, a basket of the largest nonfinancial companies in the Nasdaq, is right in the middle, up 27%.
In its third-quarter earnings report in October, Alphabet reported a 43% increase in advertising revenue to $53.1 billion, and a similar jump in YouTube ad sales to $7.2 billion. Earnings topped analyst estimates.
While other ad-based internet companies like Facebook and Snap were dragged down by privacy changes to Apple’s iOS, Google has held up better, thanks in part to its control over the Android operating system and lack of reliance on Apple.
For the full year, revenue is expected to climb 39% to $254 billion, according to the average analyst estimate in a Refinitiy survey. That would mark the fastest growth since 2007 and follows a year of just 13% expansion, as the Google parent reckoned with a brief drop in revenue, for the first time, in the second quarter of 2020.
Apple closes New York City stores to shoppers as COVID-19 cases rise
Apple has closed all of its 12 New York City stores to indoor shopping as cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant surged across the United States.
Customers will be able to pick up online orders at the stores, an Apple spokesperson told Reuters.
The affected stores include outlets at Fifth Avenue, Grand Central and SoHo.
"We regularly monitor conditions and we will adjust both our health measures and store services to support the wellbeing of customers and employees," the company said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Apple said it had temporarily closed three stores in the United States and Canada after a rise in COVID-19 cases and exposures among the stores' employees.
For the same reason, Apple also mandated that all its customers and employees wear masks at its US stores.
Riot Games agrees to pay $100 mn to settle gender discrimination lawsuit
Tencent Holdings' Riot Games has agreed to pay $100 million to settle a 2018 gender-based discrimination class action lawsuit with California state agencies and current and former women employees, Reuters reported.
The company said it will pay $80 million to the members of the class-action suit, comprising all current and former full-time women employees and temporary agency contractors in California who worked from November 2014 to present.
An additional $20 million will be paid towards attorneys’ fees and miscellaneous expenses, Riot Games said in a statement.
"In an effort to drive ongoing transparency and accountability, Riot has also committed to having its internal reporting and pay equity processes monitored by a third party jointly approved by Riot and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for three years," the company said.
A final approval of the settlement by the court is pending, with a hearing expected in the coming months, the statement added.
The lawsuit was filed in November 2018 by now-former employees Melanie McCracken and Jess Negrón, alleging gender discrimination as well as sexual harassment and misconduct at Riot Games, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The suit was followed by two inquiries led by California state agencies, the reported added.
Didi bars employees from selling shares indefinitely: FT
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has barred current and former employees from selling shares of the company indefinitely, the Financial Times reported.
The 180-day lock-up period post the company's initial public offering during which current and former staff were not permitted to sell shares was supposed to end on December 27, but the prohibition has been extended without a new end date, the report said.
Employees will not be able to sell shares until after the company has listed in Hong Kong, according to the report.
The company has been the target of a regulatory crackdown in China that has forced the Beijing-based ride-hailing giant to announce plans to delist from the New York Stock Exchange and pursue a Hong Kong listing.
The powerful Cyberspace Administration of China told the company to stop registering new users shortly after its NYSE debut in June. Its apps remain under investigation.
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