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STARTUP DIGEST: Apna raises $70 mn, MindTickle to turn unicorn; Mukesh Bansal, Hari Menon join 1MG board


There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Wednesday. Here are the top stories from the startup universe.

STARTUP DIGEST: Apna raises $70 mn, MindTickle to turn unicorn; Mukesh Bansal, Hari Menon join 1MG board
There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Wednesday, which include hiring platform Apna has raised $70 million from Insight Partners, Tiger Global & others; VC firm Stellaris plans to close the second fund at $220 million; SoftBank to lead investment in Mindtickle; PUBG maker Krafton aims to raise over $5 billion in South Korea's biggest IPO. Here are the top stories from the startup universe.
Apna raises $70 mn from Insight Partners, Tiger Global & others
Professional networking and jobs platform for India’s rising working class, Apna, has raised $70 million in Series B round led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global.
Existing investors, Sequoia Capital India, Lightspeed India, Greenoaks Capital and Rocketship VC have also participated in the round. With this investment, Apna has now raised over $90 million and is now valued at $570 million, within 16 months of product launch.
Apna will use the proceeds to strengthen its presence in existing cities and expand pan-India over the next 6 months. The team also plans to hire talent and build world class engineering and product capabilities. Additionally, Apna plans to expand to high potential international markets such as Southeast Asia and the United States in the coming year.
Founded in 2019, Apna claims its tech-driven approach to harness the power of communities has enabled access to better jobs and entrepreneurship for millions of users. The company facilitated more than 45 million candidate-recruiter interactions since the pandemic hit in 2020. The platform has grown 50X over the past year and currently has ~1.4 million job openings across 70 plus different job categories and 14 cities in India.
Fampay raises $38 mn in Series A round
FamPay, a neobank or payment app for teenagers, has raised $38 million Series A, led by Elevation Capital, General Catalyst, Rocketship VC and Greenoaks Capital. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Y Combinator, Global Founders Capital and Venture Highway also participated in the round.
In March 2020, the company announced raising $4.7 million in seed funding. The company at present is valued at $42.7 million.
Within just 8 months of its inception, the startup claims to have amassed over 2 million registered users. Fampay plans to use the fresh capital to expand its user base and product offerings. The company is envisioning to become the only bank the adolescents will ever need.
Mindtickle eyes unicorn tag: Report
SoftBank, the Japanese investment giant is continuing its dealmaking spree. Its latest is a $100 million top up in software firm Mindtickle, valuing it at a billion dollars, as per Moneycontrol report.
The deal will make Mindtickle India's latest unicorn- the newest member in a record-breaking year for unicorns.
“They have delivered on what they promised SoftBank. They have grown well, executed well. SoftBank is doing this round because they know somebody else will do the round if they don’t. They want to double down on a plan that has worked so far,” sources told Moneycontrol.
VC firm Stellaris plans to close second fund at $220 mn
VC firm Stellaris is closing its second venture fund at $220 million, higher than the $150-160 million it had originally planned according to Moneycontrol.
Stellaris' key investments include software firm Whatfix and consumer brand Mamaearth, where its stakes are worth over $150 million. Stellaris declined to comment on Moneycontrol’s queries.
Stellaris is backed by software firms Cisco and Infosys as well as the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) as its Limited Partners (LPs), among others.
Mukesh Bansal, Hari Menon join 1MG board: Report
CureFit founder and Tata Digital President Mukesh Bansal, BigBasket founder Hari Menon and Ankur Verma of Tata Sons, join 1MG’s board, according to a Moneycontrol report. The move comes days after Tata Digital acquired a majority stake in the e-pharma firm.
According to the report, Bansal will be the new chairman of the board. This is also his first significant appointment in a portfolio company after he joined Tata Digital as President to help lead their super app efforts.
According to regulatory filings Moneycontrol sourced from Tofler, 1MG now has 7 directors, with the induction of Bansal, Menon and Verma. Its existing directors include co-founder and CEO Prashant Tandon, Matthew John Kinsella and Gaurav Agarwal. Vandana Mehrotra is listed as key management personnel.
The move to expand the board and rope in veterans from the e-commerce space will help 1MG as it prepares to compete in a fast-growing space that is seeing a lot of investment and consolidation, the report adds.
Over half a billion people will use 5G this year: Ericsson
5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day according to Ericsson Mobility Report.
5G remains on track to become the fastest adopted mobile generation in history, as 5G mobile subscriptions will reach 3.5 billion by the end of 2026 while the 5G population coverage will touch 60 percent.
Ericsson also said that the company is currently working with Bharti Group, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea for 5G trials in India. The company has also been closely working with startups on several use cases for 5G adoption.
BrowserStack closes $200 million Series B funding at a $4 billion valuation
Software testing platform BrowserStack has secured $200 million in Series B funding at a $4 billion valuation. The round was led by tech expert Mary Meeker's fund BOND, with participation from Insight Partners and existing investor Accel.
BrowserStack is a global player in software testing on the cloud, with 50,000+ customers and four million+ developer signups. The investment will support BrowserStack’s strategic acquisitions, expansion of its product offerings, and continued scale and growth, the company said.
BrowserStack's platform is used by developers in over half of the Fortune 500. Its customers include leaders such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Tesco, IKEA, Spotify, Expedia, and  Trivago.
Men’s apparel brand XYXX raises Rs 30 cr
Men’s apparel brand XYXX has raised Rs 30 crore as a part of its Series A funding from DSG Consumer Partners and Synergy Capital Partners along with participation from existing investor
XYXX has seen solid growth in the last year with revenues jumping by over 300 percent compared to pre-COVID 19 levels, the company said. With fresh funding, the company aims to scale its offline presence to 15,000 stores across the country
The brand is currently present in over 6,000 offline outlets and all major e-commerce marketplaces.
Flexmoney raises $4.8 mn in funding from Pravega Ventures
Fintech platform Flexmoney has raised $4.8 million in funding led by Pravega Ventures.
The series A round also saw participation from Silicon Valley-based Z5 Capital as well as individual investors, including Ben Davey, former Group Head of Strategy, Barclays Bank & CEO Barclays Ventures, Mike Smith, ex-Chief Product and Technology Officer, Barclays Ventures, Ambarish Malpani and Rishad Byramjee, Group MD and CEO Casby Logistics.
The company has raised $6.5 million in funding to date. Flexmoney is planning to use the funds to scale its credit network footprint to many more lenders and merchants, a statement said.
D2C startup Pilgrim raises fresh capital
Direct-to-consumer beauty and personal care brand, Pilgrim has raised ₹13 crore as part of its Series A fundraise led by Fireside Venture and Rukam Capital, as per reports.
Other angel investors which are a part of founding teams of Boat, NoBroker, along with Prabhkiran Singh, founder and chief executive of Bewakoof, also participated as a part of this fundraise.
The company will use the funds to enhance its research and development (R&D) capabilities and will look to expand its team and brand investments. Pilgrim also plans to expand its team by 50 percent over the next s months, the Mint reported.
Udaan eyes 100% growth in FY22
Udaan has invested over Rs 4,000 crore in the past 12-18 months across technology, supply chain, and others areas, and is aiming for 100 percent year-on-year growth this financial year, according to co-founders of the B2B e-commerce firm.
Udaan co-founders Amod Malviya, Sujeet Kumar, and Vaibhav Gupta, in an internal mail on Tuesday, highlighted that the company has completed five years of operations this week.
"What started off as an idea to transform the trade ecosystem in the country by solving problems of millions of small businesses across “Bharat” leveraging technology, is today a reality. We are well on track to become India's largest Commerce platform, not just the biggest e-commerce platform," the founders said.
Over the years, Udaan's business model has continued to evolve as per the market requirements and become sharper, the founders said in their note, a copy of which has accessed by the PTI.
Founded in 2016, Udaan currently has over 3 million users and more than 30,000 sellers on its platform. The company claims it has over 1.7 million, including retailers, Kirana shops, HoReCa, chemists, and farmers, and more than 5 lakh different products curated across 2,500 brands.
17,000 MSMEs raised Rs 1,200 crore loans via Lendingkart in FY21
Digital small business lender Lendingkart said it disbursed Rs 1,198 crore loans to 17,000 MSMEs during FY21 as it announced results for the pandemic year.
Lendingkart ended FY21 with Rs 490 crore revenue and AUMs of about Rs 2,500 crores, a company statement said.
The company claims it has supported 1.2 lakhs MSMEs with cumulative credit disbursement of around Rs 6,500 crores, till date.
The NBFC's operating profit grew to Rs 96 crore from Rs 56 crore in the last fiscal.
The company said, "FY21 growth was supported by investors and lenders including various Public Sector Bank such as State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Indian Bank, Bank of India, financial institutions such as SIDBI, NABARD and also from International DFIs such as FMO and Symbiotics as it raised around Rs 1,300 crore during FY21."
Droom registers 80% growth in Q1 of 2021
Online automobile marketplace Droom has registered a year-on-year growth of 80 percent in Q1 of 2021. The company clocked monthly GMVs of over Rs 1,000 crore in March.
Droom expects the economy to open up and has forecast a strong growth in Q2 of CY2021.
EaseMyTrip reports eight-fold increase in Q4 profit
Easy Trip Planners, the parent of travel portal EaseMyTrip posted its first quarterly earnings since listing.
The portal posted a net profit of Rs 30.5 crore in the fourth quarter of FY21 as against a profit of Rs 3.6 crore in the previous fiscal driven by increase in margin and commissions, and reduction in operational expenses.
The sharp rise in net profit comes at a time when the tourism and hospitality sector has been severely affected by Covid-19 pandemic.
A jump in the revenue and a big cut in expenses led to a massive surge in the EBITDA this quarter.
Twitter loses intermediary status; what does it mean?
Twitter has lost legal immunity in India following its failure to comply with the new IT rules that require the platform to appoint key officers in the country, according to reports.
"Due to their non-compliance, their protection as an intermediary is gone. Twitter is liable for penal actions against any Indian law just as any publisher is," NDTV citing sources as saying.
This means that the microblogging platform has now lost its indemnity and intermediary status, under which it was granted exemption from liability available under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.
According to the report, a case was filed against Twitter on June 15 in Uttar Pradesh over a video of assault that went viral and allegedly incited communal tensions. This is the first case that holds the social media giant responsible for third-party content. It has been accused in a First Information Report (FIR) of not removing "misleading" content linked to the incident, NDTV reported.
"Since they do not enjoy any protection and they did not flag this video as manipulated media, they are liable for penal action," government sources were quoted as saying.
As Twitter loses its intermediary status, it can now be held liable for content published on the microblogging site and can no longer claim protection under the "safe harbour clause". It shall now be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India, just like any other publisher is.
The implication of this development is that if there is any charge against Twitter for alleged unlawful content it would be treated as a publisher – not an intermediary – and be liable for punishment under any law, including IT Act, as also the penal laws of the country, ANI reported.
As per the government, Twitter is the only social media platform that has not complied with rules that require them to appoint India-based officers including a grievance officer, a nodal officer, and a chief compliance officer.
On June 15, Twitter had announced that it has appointed an interim chief compliance officer, whose details will be communicated to the IT Ministry directly soon.
A company spokesperson said that Twitter "continues to make every effort" to comply with the new guidelines and is keeping the IT Ministry apprised of progress at every step of the process.
The new IT rules, which were notified on February 25 by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), came into effect on May 26. Every social media intermediary, including Twitter, was given three months to comply with them.
Under the new guidelines, social media companies like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter have also been asked to identify within 36 hours the originator of a flagged message.
CNBC-TV18 had earlier reported that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had summoned Twitter representatives on June 18 to seek an explanation as well as inputs over a range of issues.
Jeff Bezos' ex-wife MacKenzie Scott donates $2.7 bn; GiveIndia among 286 recipients
Bengaluru-based non-profit GiveIndia is one of the 286 beneficiaries of billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott's recent $2.7billion charity donation. The NGO said that the money comes with "no restrictions".
The latest funding from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo’s ex-wife will help GiveIndia enhance crowdfunding and partnering with corporates and foundations to support their giving.
"We are extremely honoured and humbled by the trust placed in GiveIndia as an organization," said Atul Satija, CEO, GiveIndia
Facebook launches new initiative to help children be safe online
Facebook has launched a new initiative to encourage reporting of content related to child abuse on its social media platforms, instead of sharing it further.
Called ‘Report it, don’t share it’, the initiative was launched in collaboration with civil society organisations like Aarambh India Initiative, Cyber Peace Foundation and Arpan.
This comes after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) wrote to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Telegram, asking them to flag illegal posts about adopting orphaned children to relevant authorities.
"We want to foster a safe and supportive environment on Facebook and Instagram and we're constantly working towards that. While we invest heavily in people and technology to identify and remove this kind of content even before people see it, we also want to spread awareness on the appropriate behaviour in case people spot child abuse content on our platforms," said Madhu Sirohi, Head of Policy Programs & Outreach, Facebook India, in a statement.
PUBG maker Krafton aims for up to $5 billion in South Korea's biggest IPO
Krafton, the maker of the blockbuster video game 'PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' (PUBG), is aiming to raise as much as $5 billion in South Korea's biggest initial public offering, Reuters reported.
The Krafton IPO will offer for purchase 10 million shares, including 7 million new shares and 3 million existing shares, of the company at an indicative range of 458,000-557,000 won per share. At the top of the range, this would be South Korea's largest listing, beating Samsung Life Insurance's 4.9 trillion won IPO in 2010. The pricing is expected to be decided in the coming weeks.
Krafton's online multiplayer war-fighting game PUBG has sold 25 million copies on PC and game consoles, becoming one of the fastest-selling games since its launch in 2017.
It is planning to release two new games this year based on the PUBG intellectual property (IP), including mobile game 'PUBG: New State' and 'Battlegrounds Mobile India' targeting the Indian market.
The company reported 1.67 trillion won in revenue in 2020, its operating profit more than doubled over the previous year to 774 billion won.
Alibaba executive says founder Jack Ma "Lying Low"
Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma is "lying low" and focusing on hobbies and philanthropy, the Chinese e-commerce giant's executive vice-chairman and co-founder Joe Tsai told CNBC.
Following Ma's criticism of China's regulatory system last year, Beijing came down heavily on the company, leading to the shelving of financial affiliate Ant Group's $37 billion initial public offering and an enforced restructuring of Ant.
Ma, China's best-known entrepreneur, has been largely out of public view since.
"He's lying low right now. I talk to him every day," Tsai said on CNBC's Squawk Box show.
"The idea that Jack has this enormous amount of power, I think that's not quite right," Tsai said. "He is just like you and me, he's a normal individual,” he added.
Alibaba was also fined a record $2.8 billion in April for anti-competitive business practices, amid a wider regulatory crackdown on China's booming "platform economy" based around technology frameworks.
"Our business is under some kind of restructuring on the financial side of things, and also in antitrust regulation. We had to pay a big fine. But we've gotten that behind us, so we're looking forward," Tsai told CNBC.
FedEx to test package deliveries with self-driving startup Nuro
FedEx and robotics company Nuro announced a multi-year agreement to test self-driving vehicles in the package delivery company's network, starting with a pilot program in Houston, Reuters reported.
The partnership comes as parcel companies race to reduce the cost of last-mile delivery, which surged during the pandemic.
The companies will target delivery scenarios where Nuro's low-speed, unmanned vehicle can provide "the biggest bang for your buck", Cosimo Leipold, Nuro's head of partnerships, told Reuters in an interview.
That will likely include inefficient tasks like late-night pickups in out-of-the-way places, said Rebecca Yeung, FedEx vice president for advanced technology and innovation.
"Instead of dispatching a driver to get those packages, a device like Nuro could be super helpful," said Yeung, who called the FedEx/Nuro tie-up a "very serious, long-term commitment" that aims to reduce headaches, not human drivers.
Nuro vehicles are already making deliveries for U.S. supermarket operator Kroger Co and Domino's Pizza Inc in the Houston area. Nuro continues to test its technology in Arizona.
EU data watchdogs ruling sharpens focus on Facebook, big tech
Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants could face more scrutiny and potential sanctions in the European Union after the bloc’s top court backed national privacy watchdogs to pursue them, even when they are not the lead regulators.
Consumer lobbying group BEUC welcomed Tuesday’s ruling by the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), which backed the right of national agencies to act, citing enforcement bottlenecks.
“Most Big Tech companies are based in Ireland, and it should not be up to that country’s authority alone to protect 500 million consumers in the EU,” BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said after the judgement.
Along with Google, Twitter and Apple, Facebook has its EU headquarters in Ireland, putting it under the oversight of the Irish data protection regulator under privacy rules known as GDPR, which allow for fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global turnover for breaches.
Several national watchdogs in the 27-member EU have long complained about their Irish counterpart, saying that it takes too long to decide on cases. Ireland has dismissed this, saying it has to be extra meticulous in dealing with powerful and well-funded tech giants.
Ireland’s cases in the pipeline include Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp as well as Twitter, Apple, Verizon Media, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn and U.S. digital advertiser Quantcast.
Big Tech critic Khan becomes US FTC chair
Lina Khan, an antitrust researcher focused on Big Tech’s immense market power, was sworn in as chair of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a victory for progressives seeking a clampdown on tech firms who hold a hefty share of a growing sector of the economy.
The federal government and groups of states are pursuing various lawsuits and investigations into Big Tech companies. The FTC has sued Facebook and is investigating Amazon. The Justice Department has sued Google.