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Startup Digest: Ashneer Grover says viral audio clip ‘Fake’, Shiprocket to acquire 75% stake in Wigzo Tech and Google hit with 150 mn euro French fine

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Startup Digest: Ashneer Grover says viral audio clip ‘Fake’, Shiprocket to acquire 75% stake in Wigzo Tech and Google hit with 150 mn euro French fine

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Here are the top stories from the startup space.

Startup Digest: Ashneer Grover says viral audio clip ‘Fake’, Shiprocket to acquire 75% stake in Wigzo Tech and Google hit with 150 mn euro French fine
Here are the top stories from the startup space.
BharatPe’s Ashneer Grover says viral audio clip with abuse is 'fake, to extort funds'
BharatPe founder Ashneer Grover said that a viral audio clip which claims to be of him verbally abusing a Kotak Mahindra bank employee for not getting share allotment in beauty brand Nykaa’s IPO is “fake” and that it was a “scamster” who put it out.
“Folks. Chill. It’s a fake audio by some scamster trying to extort funds (US$ 240K in bitcoins). I refused to buckle. I’ve got more character. And Internet has got enough scamsters,” Grover tweeted.
Ashneer Grover also shared screenshots of his e-mail exchange from last month with “Unicon Baba” who sought $240,000 in exchange of marketing and promotion for BharatPe.
The unverified clip, tweeted on Wednesday morning by an account named “@BabuBongo”, has a SoundCloud link with an audio clip. “How rich founders treat poor bank employees,” the account claimed.
Allegedly in the audio clip, Ashneer Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain Grover are heard arguing with the bank employee over not getting them the IPO allocation, with the former hurling out abuses and even threats to the employee and his family during the conversation. The word Grover reportedly uses to threaten the bank employee is 'encounter'.
Shiprocket to acquire 75% stake in Wigzo Tech: Report
Zomato-backed Shiprocket is all set to acquire a 75% stake in Delhi-based Wigzo Tech which operates an enterprise automation suite for a valuation of around $20-25 million, sources told Moneycontrol.
The deal will have around 60% secondary and 15% primary components and is likely to help Shiprocket build a full-stack solution for its merchants to drive better logistics.
All the existing investors of Wigzo including Mahandas Pai-backed 3one4 Capital and Advantedge Partners besides angels investors would be exiting the company following the deal, the report added.
Space-bound and unstoppable! Shiprocket India commits to buying a 75% stake in WigzoTech. Heading towards new horizons in eCommerce tech," Wigzo tweeted.
Google Cloud partners with CryptoWire to develop blockchain, crypto ecosystem
TickerPlant, a subsidiary of 63 Moons technologies limited, today announced its collaboration with Google Cloud for the development of the CryptoWire eco-system, catering to all stakeholders of crypto and the blockchain industry on a common platform.
As an exchange neutral global platform, CryptoWire aims to simplify the digital asset class, blockchain technology, its industrial application and empower enthusiasts and professionals to make informed business decisions by offering deep insight and leading-edge knowledge.
CryptoWire's state-of-the-art knowledge portals, CryptoTV and Crypto University will provide technology and knowledge-intensive global intervention in crypto asset and blockchain ecosystem to enable seamless operations and convergence of all applications for participants to make informed investment decisions and enable industry usage of the blockchain.
TickerPlant will tap Google Cloud's scalable, reliable, and high-performance data management infrastructure to build and expand CryptoWire's applications, as well as leverage its innovative networking capabilities for video streaming, content delivery, smart business execution, and opportunity convergence.
In addition, CryptoWire will also explore Google Cloud's advanced solutions including smart data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to deliver a superior customer experience.
On Monday this week, CryptoWire, a global crypto super app that is a special business unit of TickerPlant, launched India's first index of Cryptocurrencies - IC15 to empower knowledge on crypto and blockchain ecosystem.
Notably, Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, Bitcoin Cash, Cardano, Litecoin, Binance Coin, Chainlink, Polkadot, Uniswap, Dogecoin, Solana, Terra, Avalanche, and Shia Inu are the constituents of IC15.
Simpl eyes aggressive growth backed by asset backed facility from partner investors
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) fintech Simpl has secured an asset-based facility from Franklin Templeton, Finuvo and Catalina Finance to fund the rapid growth of its 1-click pay-later offering.
The funding line will support close to $1billion in annual payment volume, the startup said.
The recent capital infusion, along with the Series B funding last year, will allow Simpl to accelerate the growth of its existing businesses. Simpl will also be doubling its engineering, product, data science and sales teams to work on a suite of new merchant and consumer-facing products to enable zero friction commerce experiences, it claimed.
After growing its merchant base by 10x in the last 12 months to more than 10,000 online retailers, Simpl is seeing strong growth acceleration in user-base and payment volumes.
Besides the growing merchant network that now includes Jio, Zomato, Bigbasket and MakeMyTrip, Simpl’s growth is fueled by the rise of e-commerce and consumers’ increasing demand for safe, seamless and cashless premium payment options.
Edtech startup Wonderslate launches App in App
Edtech startup Wonderslate has launched 'App in App' that allows their end users /learners to integrate more than 120 eBooks, eLibrary in learning apps.
With this, learners will now be able to easily use Wonderslate's smooth user experience and learning features like highlight, annotate, online tests, videos, and other multimodal learning based on blended learning methodology, the company said in a statement.
"The idea is to enable any educational app to get access to eBooks/ eLibrary technology with all features at the fingertips of the users for their ease and convenience. The pandemic has opened a plethora of opportunities to explore new ideas and innovation. App in App is just the right step in that direction and we hope that the learners will definitely get maximum benefits from this," said Anand Achyut, Founder & CEO, Wonderslate.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Google hit with 150M euro French fine for cookie breaches
France's data privacy watchdog CNIL has fined Alphabet's Google a record 150 million euros ($169 million) for making it difficult for internet users to refuse online trackers known as cookies, Reuters reported.
Meta Platforms' Facebook was also fined 60 million euros for the same reason, the CNIL said.
Internet users' prior consent for the use of cookies -- tiny snippets of data that help build targeted digital ad campaigns -- is a key pillar of the European Union's data privacy regulation and a top priority for the CNIL.
"When you accept cookies, it's done in just one click," said Karin Kiefer, CNIL's head for data protection and sanctions. "Rejecting cookies should be as easy as accepting them".
In its statement, the watchdog said it had found that the facebook.com, google.fr and youtube.com websites didn't allow the refusal of cookies easily, citing Google's video-streaming platform.
The CNIL said the two companies had three months to comply with its orders or face an extra penalty payment of 100,000 euros per day of delay.
These include the obligation for Google and Facebook to provide French internet users simpler tools for refusing cookies, in order to guarantee their consent.
The CNIL said that while Google and Facebook provided a virtual button to allow the immediate acceptance of cookies, there was no equivalent to refuse them as easily.
"People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision," a Google spokesperson said.
CNIL's previous record fine in 2020 also targeted Google and amounted to 100 million euros.
Twitter convenes a team to prepare for Capitol riot anniversary
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the storming of the US Capitol, Twitter convened a team to prepare the social networking site to address any harmful content associated with the event, the company told Reuters.
Social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook were accused of enabling extremists to organize the siege on January 6, 2021, when supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to block Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's presidential election victory.
Twitter said it "convened a cross-functional working group" comprised of members across its site integrity and trust and safety teams, which is specific to the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol and will watch for risks such as tweets and accounts that incite violence. The company did not say how many people were on the monitoring team.
The company said the effort expands upon its work to monitor the platform around major global events, and added it will continue to monitor trending topics and search results for harmful content.
A spokesperson for Meta Platforms, the company previously known as Facebook, said in a statement: "We’re continuing to actively monitor threats on our platform and will respond accordingly.”
A spokesperson for YouTube, which is owned by Google, said the online video platform had removed tens of thousands of videos for violating its US elections-related policies over the past year, and said it continued to closely monitor for election misinformation on the site.
Tencent's WeChat mini program daily users in China hit 450M
China's dominant messaging app, Tencent Holdings' Weixin, known as WeChat outside the country, said that average daily active users for its mini programs hit 450 million in 2021.
As per Reuters, that represents a 13% increase from a year earlier, much slower than the 33% growth seen in 2020.
The mini programs - which look and operate much like apps on Apple’s iOS and Google's Android operating systems, but are less data intensive - are key to Tencent's efforts to build its e-commerce operations.
Weixin said at its annual developers conference in Guangzhou that the number of active mini programs operated by overseas merchants had more than tripled over the past two years.
Total transaction volumes via those programs grew 897% over the same period, it added.
More than 700 million users have used Weixin mini programs tailored to combat the pandemic, such as ones used to book COVID-19 tests, the company said.
Weixin will also start to allow users to pay with China's digital yuan, Tencent said, as the country's central bank steps up its push to develop its own digital currency.
China bans most exclusive copyright deals for digital music platforms
China's copyright authority said that digital music platforms are not allowed to sign exclusive copyright agreements except in special circumstances, amid a regulatory crackdown on monopolistic behaviour in the country's private sector, Reuters reported.
The National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) gave the order on Thursday at a meeting in Beijing with influential digital music platforms, as well as record and songwriting copyright companies, according to a statement published on the NCAC's official WeChat account.
The order comes amid a widening crackdown by Chinese regulators on the country's technology sector, which has focused on issues such as monopolistic behaviour, unfair competition and consumer rights.
The NCAC did not mention which companies were called in on Thursday. Besides Tencent, smartphone maker Xiaomi, telecommunications provider China Mobile, and Internet tech giant Netease all own popular streaming services in China. Globally popular streaming services like Spotify are banned in mainland China.
Australia's Latitude offers $242M for Humm's BNPL business
Australian digital payments and lending firm Latitude Group on Thursday offered to buy Humm Group consumer unit, including its buy now, pay later business, for A$335 million ($241.8 million), as per Reuters.
The proposal comes weeks after Humm said it was approached for a takeover, and follows bellwether Afterpay's (APT.AX) $29 billion buyout by Block, which analysts have said could spark a flurry of deal-making as more household names look to enter the fast-growing sector.
Latitude said it will pay A$35 million in cash and 150 million shares for the unit as it looks to accelerate its BNPL strategy, and expects to have more than five million customers and over 70,000 merchants after the deal.
It currently expects annualised combined synergies and cash earnings from the acquisition to exceed A$100 million pre-tax in 2023 and anticipates the deal to be double digit accretive to its earnings.
Bitcoin, ether near multi-month lows following hawkish Fed minutes
Bitcoin fell below $43,000 on Thursday, testing multi-month lows after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting showed it leaning toward more aggressive policy action, which sapped investor appetite for riskier assets.
The world's largest cryptocurrency was last at $42,700, down 1.7%, having lost 5.2% on Wednesday. A break below last month's trough of $42,000 would make it the weakest since September, Reuters reported.
The token hit a record high of $69,000 in November.
Ether, the world's second-largest cryptocurrency which underpins the ethereum network, lost 5.2% on Wednesday, and touched its lowest level since October, before bouncing back slightly to $3,460.
Crypto scammers took a record $14 Bn in 2021: Report
Scammers took home a record $14 billion in cryptocurrency in 2021, thanks in large part to the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms, according to new data from blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.
Losses from crypto-related crime rose 79% from a year earlier, driven by a spike in theft and scams.
Scamming was the greatest form of cryptocurrency-based crime in 2021, followed by theft — most of which occurred through hacking of cryptocurrency businesses. The firm says that DeFi is a big part of the story for both, in yet another warning for those dabbling in this emerging segment of the crypto industry.
“DeFi is one of the most exciting areas of the wider cryptocurrency ecosystem, presenting huge opportunities to entrepreneurs and cryptocurrency users alike,” Chainalysis wrote in its annual Crypto Crime report.
“But DeFi is unlikely to realize its full potential if the same decentralization that makes it so dynamic also allows for widespread scamming and theft.”
Cryptocurrency theft rose 516% from 2020, to $3.2 billion worth of cryptocurrency. Of this total, 72% of stolen funds were taken from DeFi protocols, as per CNBC.
Losses from scams rose 82% to $7.8 billion worth of cryptocurrency.
Over $2.8 billion of this total came from a relatively new but very popular type of scheme known as a “rug pull,” in which developers build what appear to be legitimate cryptocurrency projects, before ultimately taking investors’ money and disappearing.
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