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STARTUP DIGEST: Amazon to acquire Prione, Ola to tackle ride-cancellation menace, Urban Company sends legal notice to gig workers & Musk, Dorsey mock Web3.

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STARTUP DIGEST: Amazon to acquire Prione, Ola to tackle ride-cancellation menace, Urban Company sends legal notice to gig workers & Musk, Dorsey mock Web3.

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From Amazon to Ola, from Shiprocket to Elon Musk, here's who made the headlines in the startup space.

STARTUP DIGEST: Amazon to acquire Prione, Ola to tackle ride-cancellation menace, Urban Company sends legal notice to gig workers & Musk, Dorsey mock Web3.
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Amazon to acquire Cloudtail parent Prione from Catamaran
Amazon is set to acquire the stake of Narayana Murthy-owned Catamaran in Prione Business, the parent company of Cloudatil, one of the largest sellers on the ecommerce giant's India platform.
Prione Business Services was set up as a joint venture between Catamaran and Amazon in 2014. The entity will be acquired by Amazon subject to requisite regulatory approvals, both companies said on Wednesday.
"Amazon will acquire Catamaran’s shareholding in Prione in compliance with applicable laws including all assets and liabilities.  The businesses of the Joint Venture shall continue under the leadership of the current management and on receipt of regulatory approvals, the board of Prione and Cloudtail will take steps to complete the transaction in compliance with applicable laws," the joint statement said.
On August 09, 2021, both Catamaran and Amazon had announced their decision to not continue the JV beyond the end of its current term of May 2022.  
 The announcement had come on the same day when the Supreme Court dismissed petitions by Amazon as well as of rival Flipkart to quash a probe by the competition watchdog over alleged practices such as preferential treatment to sellers.
Both companies announced on August 9 that Prione Business Services Pvt Ltd, the joint venture between Amazon and Catamaran, is coming up for renewal on May 19, 2022, and that the two partners have mutually decided to not continue their joint venture beyond the end of its current term.
 
Ola to tackle ride-cancellation menace; drivers will see drop location, payment mode before accepting ride
Ride-hailing major Ola has said that its driver partners will now see an approximate drop location and payment mode before accepting a ride, a move aimed at reducing cancellations by them and enhancing customer experience.
Ola co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal on Tuesday tweeted that the company is taking steps to fix the industry-wide issue of ride cancellations.
"Addressing the second most popular question I get -- Why does my driver cancel my Ola ride? We're taking steps to fix this industrywide issue. Ola drivers will now see approx drop location & payment mode before accepting a ride. Enabling drivers is key to reducing cancellations," Aggarwal tweeted.
Customers often face cancellations after drivers on ride-hailing platforms like Ola and Uber either refuse to travel to the location of the rider or want to be paid in cash.  These cancellations also lead to delays, further adding to the hassle for riders.
On every completed trip booked via these applications, the ride hailing company charges a percentage of the fare as commission from the driver partners. Over the past few years, a section of drivers have complained that their earnings have reduced as a result.
 
Urban Company sends legal notice to gig workers amid protests: Reports
Home services provider Urban Company has filed a lawsuit against its women gig workers, seeking directions to the workers, their family members and other associates to cease their protest and vacate the company’s premises.
As per reports, in its petition, the startup has called the protestors’ actions “illegal” and “unlawful”. The firm has also sought an injunction from the court directing police to make arrangements and disburse the protesters.
In the petition, the company had named four workers in particular, alleging that they were representing other protestors whose numbers are “extremely large” and therefore it was not possible to “sue each person individually", Entrackr reported.
Over 50 women ‘partners’ from the company’s spa and salon verticals, have been camping outside Urban Company’s office since Monday morning, protesting against proposed policy changes in the app, claiming it would impact their earnings.
 
Adar Poonawalla picks up 20% stake in Wakau: Reports
Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla has picked up 20 percent stake in a short-video sharing platform Wakau which is a subsidiary of JetSynthesys.
The amount and financial details of the transaction remains undisclosed. Poonawalla joins Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as an investor at Wakau, according to reports.
Wakau is a community-driven social media platform that offers a combination of mobile-first screen experience and short video content in entertainment and fashion domains with an associated video-commerce element. The app has over five lakh daily user engagement events and can serve over one million users simultaneously.
 
Salesforce launches maiden startup programme in India
Global customer relationships management (CRM) solutions provider Salesforce has launched its maiden startup programme in India, in a bid to work with startups and help them scale their ventures.
The programme, which is already present in its global markets, will offer startups access to Salesforce technology, experts, ecosystems, as well as business mentorship to create real impact, the company said in a statement.
Under this programme, the startups will get access to the California-based company’s AppExchange partner programme (its online marketplace for cloud solutions) and the company's Trailblazer Community, the firm added.
The company also said that select startups will get an opportunity for investments through its venture capital arm Salesforce ventures.
According to IDC, the Salesforce Economy in India will create 1.3 million jobs and $66.4 billion in new business revenues by 2026. As per the firm, Salesforce is driving immense growth for its partner ecosystem in India, which will make $6.55 for every $1 Salesforce makes locally by 2026.
 
SBI Foundation, Social Alpha launch challenge to support assistive tech startups
SBI Foundation and Social Alpha today jointly launched the challenge, Techtonic: Innovations in Assistive Technology, inviting innovators and entrepreneurs working on products and services that address the difficulties faced by people with disabilities.
The challenge is structured to support early-stage assistive technology startups to accelerate their lab to market journey through comprehensive support that includes access to Rs 15 lakh for ideating, prototyping, and growth, R&D labs for prototyping and infrastructure for scaled-up manufacturing, and access to mentors, incubation facilities, industry players, and end-users for product testing and business model validation.
The challenge focuses on Visual Impairment, Developmental Disorders & Chronic Neurological Conditions, Locomotor Disabilities, and Speech & Hearing Disabilities.
The programme will extend support towards 10 startups in accelerating their Lab to Market journey. Out of these 10, the top four startups will receive Rs 15 lakh along with incubation support for one year.
 
Arvog bets big on tech-based startups
Arvog, a smart tech-enabled diversified finance and venture growth investment company has announced investment plans in cutting-edge tech startups.
The latest announcement will leverage the new-age investor’s portfolio by helping them expand into various segments and to get a better valuation for themselves, the company said.
The firm has invested in 27 tech startups since the ‘Arvog Ventures’ inception two-and-a-half years ago. Arvog has recently invested in startups from various sectors such as Blu smart (Mobility tech), Nemo (Neo Bank Industry), Dhruva Space (Aerospace tech).
“Through our investment strategies, we have fostered advancement for a couple of growth-based startups like Indi Energy, a company that is into producing lithium iron-based batteries that negate the need of contents for making a solar or electric-based batteries for vehicular usage. This highlights Arvog’s overall thesis that revolves around the company’s vision of investing in brands armed with futuristic technology that will lead to a better and sustainable tomorrow,” said Priyank Kothari, Director-Operations, Arvog.
 
After Shiprocket, Tech Innovations joins Mumbai Angels Network for 'The Co-Investment Program'
Mumbai Angels Network, a platform for early-stage investments has on-boarded fintech startup Tech Innovations as their latest partner for ‘The Co-Investment Program’.
With this programme, both Mumbai Angels Network and Tech Innovations will jointly invest in select, high-potential startups across Fintech, Healthtech, Agritech and Edtech, the company said in a statement. The programme aims to partner with like-minded networks and funds to facilitate faster access to capital for growth ramp-up, it added.
The development comes a day after Mumbai Angels Network onboarded Shiprocket, tech-enabled logistics and fulfillment platform, as their partner for ‘The Co-Investment Program’.
 
YouTube surpasses $3 bn in consumer spend on iOS: App Annie report
YouTube has surpassed $3 billion in consumer spend worldwide as of October 17, entirely driven by iOS, according to App Annie's latest report.
The report revealed that YouTube ranked third among all non-gaming apps by global lifetime consumer spend as of October 2021 just from their iOS revenue.
Not just that, Alphabet’s YouTube was also the #1 live streaming app by spend -- combined on iOS and Android as of October 10. The app first launched in 2012, and the top markets by spend include the US, Japan, the UK, Australia and Canada.
 
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
 
Moody's gives Apple top 'AAA' credit rating on growth promise
Ratings agency Moody's has upgraded Apple’s long-term credit rating to 'AAA' with a stable outlook, citing the iPhone maker's "exceptional liquidity" and robust earnings, according to Reuters.
With this, Apple joins an elite club of companies including Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson that have been given Moody's highest rating.
"Apple's very strong business profile reflects its substantial operating scale, a large installed base of products and users of its services, strong customer loyalty, and premium brand positioning," Moody's analyst Raj Joshi said.
Apple's fiscal 2021 earnings surged about 65%, while revenue rose 33% on strong demand for its products and services during the pandemic.
Its stock has surged nearly 30% this year, bringing the iPhone maker within spitting distance of becoming the world's first company to cross $3 trillion in market value.
Joshi added that he expects Apple's earnings to grow over the next two to three years.
 
Amazon among key tech firms to drop CES plans on COVID-19 concern
Amazon, Facebook parent Meta Platform, Twitter and Pinterest will not send teams to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas as concerns grow about Omicron, as per a report by Reuters.
CES, which serves as an annual showcase of new trends and gadgets in the technology industry has attracted more than 1,80,000 people from around the world to a sprawling array of casinos and convention spaces in the past.
Amazon and its smart-home unit Ring said they would not be onsite at next month's event due to the "quickly shifting situation and uncertainty around the Omicron variant" of coronavirus, the firm's spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
US wireless carrier and conference sponsor T-Mobile also said the vast majority of its contingent would no longer be going and its chief executive would not deliver a keynote speech.
Twitter had planned to have some employees attend, to participate on panels. However, both Twitter and Facebook have said they are now exploring online opportunities. Pinterest, before canceling, had planned a scaled-down meeting area for its sales and partner teams, compared to years past.
But many companies, such as Qualcomm, Sony Electronics and Google and self-driving vehicle unit Waymo have said they are sticking with plans to attend and show off new hardware or host meetings.
 
Tesla's Musk says he sold 'enough stock'; slams California for 'overtaxation'
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he had sold "enough stock" to reach his plan to sell 10% of his shares in the world's most valuable car company, according to an interview released on Tuesday.
The billionaire, who moved the company's headquarters from California to Texas this month after his personal move last year, also slammed California for "overtaxation".
"I sold enough stock to get to around 10% plus the option exercise stuff and I tried to be extremely literal here," he said in the interview with satirical website Babylon Bee.
When asked whether he sold the stock because of the Twitter poll, he said he needed to exercise stock options that are expiring next year "no matter what." He also added that he sold an additional "incremental stock" to get near 10%.
Out of the 13.5 million shares sold, 8.06 million were sold to pay taxes related to his options exercise. Musk said on Sunday on Twitter that he would pay more than $11 billion in taxes this year.
"California used to be the land of opportunity and now it is... becoming more so the land of sort of overregulation, overlitigation, overtaxation," he said, adding that it is "increasingly difficult to get things done" in California.
 
'Has anyone seen Web3?' Musk, Dorsey mock tech's latest buzzword
Billionaires Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey dismissed the so-called Web3 and criticised the involvement of venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz in building out what some have called the next phase of the internet.
Web3, a vague term for a utopian version of the internet that is decentralised, is based on digital record-keeping technology blockchain, which also drives the platforms running cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether.
Tesla CEO Musk tweeted, "Has anyone seen web3? I can't find it.". To this, former Twitter top boss Dorsey replied, "It's somewhere between a and z."
Dorsey did not elaborate on the tweet. Venture capital firms such as a16z, founded by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, have heavily backed blockchain, crypto and Web3.
 
Microsoft's $16 bn Nuance bid gets EU antitrust approval
The European Commission on Tuesday granted Microsoft unconditional antitrust approval for its $16 billion bid for artificial intelligence and speech technology company Nuance Communications.
The deal is Microsoft's second biggest after its $26.2 billion LinkedIn purchase in 2016, and would boost its presence in cloud services for healthcare, Reuters reported.
It has already regulatory approval in the United States and Australia, and Reuters reported earlier this month it was set to receive EU approval.
The commission said its investigation into the deal had concluded that it would not significantly reduce competition in markets for transcription software, cloud services, enterprise communication services, PC operating systems and other products.
"The proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns on any of the markets examined in the European Economic Area," the commission said.
US-based Nuance serves 77% of US hospitals and helped launch Apple's Siri virtual assistant.
The commission said it had examined issues including the overlap between Microsoft and Nuance's transcription software activities, and found that they offered "very different products" that, when combined, would continue to face strong competition from other players.
 
China regulator suspends cybersecurity deal with Alibaba Cloud
Chinese regulators have suspended an information-sharing partnership with Alibaba Cloud Computing, a subsidiary of e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group, over accusations it failed to promptly report and address a cybersecurity vulnerability, according to state-backed media reports.
Alibaba Cloud did not immediately report vulnerabilities in the popular, open-source logging framework Apache Log4j2 to China's telecommunications regulator, according to 21st Century Business Herald, citing a recent notice by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
In response, MIIT suspended a cooperative partnership with the cloud unit regarding cybersecurity threats and information-sharing platforms, to be reassessed in six months and revived depending on the company's internal reforms, the notice said.
This latest measure highlights Beijing's desire to strengthen control over key online infrastructure and data in the name of national security. The Chinese government has asked state-owned companies to migrate their data from private operators such as Alibaba and Tencent to a state-backed cloud system by next year.
 
Chinese autonomous driving startup raises $157 mn from Hillhouse, Meituan
Haomo.AI, a Chinese autonomous driving startup controlled by Great Wall Motor's Chairman Wei Jianjun, has raised nearly 1 billion yuan ($157 million) in a funding round as investors increase bets on smart car technologies, as per Reuters.
Haomo will use the funds raised from investors such as Hillhouse Capital's early-stage investment unit GL Ventures, Meituan, Qualcomm Ventures and others to build its talent pool and enhance its R&D capability, the company said.
The company did not provide details on valuation.
Haomo, formerly known as the intelligent driving department of Great Wall Motor, said it expected to make its Level 2 semi-autonomous driving system, which requires supervision by a human driver, available in 34 vehicle models by the end of 2022.
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