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STARTUP DIGEST: BharatPe looks to raise $350 mn, SoftBank sells 45 mn shares in Uber

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

STARTUP DIGEST: BharatPe looks to raise $350 mn, SoftBank sells 45 mn shares in Uber
There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Thursday. Here are the top stories from the startup universe:
BharatPe to raise $350 mn for $2 bn valuation, eyes ‘unicorn’ status: Report
Digital payment’s platform BharatPe is looking to raise $350 million round investment from Tiger Global Management for a valuation of over $2 billion, which would make the fintech startup India’s latest unicorn.
Tiger Global itself will invest $100 million with participation from exiting investors such as Amplo, Beenext, Insight Partners, Sequoia Capital and Steadview Capital, among others, a person aware of the development told Mint. Talks are at an “advanced” stage and the investment round is “expected soon,” they added.
According to the report, the development comes ahead of the company’s plans with Centrum Group to take over the troubled Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank.
Droom in talks with JP Morgan, I-Sec, HSBC & JM Fin as it prepares for $300-mn IPO: Report
Online automobile marketplace and the latest entrant in unicorn club Droom, has held active discussions with investment banks JP Morgan, ICICI Securities, HSBC and JM Financial as it looks to finalise advisors and raise around $300 million through an IPO in 2022, sources told Moneycontrol.
“The option for both an overseas or domestic listing is available,” the source added.
In response to an email query from Moneycontrol, Sandeep Aggarwal, Founder & CEO of Droom said, “Yes, we are looking at $300 million or so in the IPO and 100 percent of this will be primary and not secondary."
Earlier, the startup had closed the first leg of its ongoing pre-IPO growth funding round of up to $200 million taking its valuation to $1.2 billion.
CoinDCX plans to raise $100-120 mn: Report
Cryptocurrency exchange platform CoinDCX is in talks to raise $100-120 million, in a financing round that could value the company at over $1 billion.
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin's B Capital Group is likely to lead the investment, The Economic Times has reported. Existing investors Polychain Capital and Coinbase Ventures are also expected to participate in the fundraising.
If CoinDCX is valued at over $1 billion, it would become the first cryptocurrency exchange to enter the unicorn club.
Paytm to recruit over 20,000 sales executives ahead of IPO
Paytm is looking to increase its workforce significantly by adding over 20,000 sales executives.
The financial services company will be increasing its sales team ahead of its planned Rs 16,600-crore initial public offering (IPO) to compete with other payment platforms like PhonePe and GooglePay.
The sales executives will promote Paytm’s products, including QR codes, POS machines, Paytm Soundbox, Paytm wallet, UPI, Paytm Postpaid, merchant loans and insurance offerings, to various merchants.
The company has not released an official statement yet on the matter but the company has unveiled its Field Sales Executive (FSE) programme, built to provide jobs to undergraduates.
Paytm will reportedly open its IPO by October end. The company had filed its draft prospectus with regulator SEBI in July.
Unacademy announces Teacher Stock Options for its educators
Online learning firm Unacademy is planning to give stock options to educators on its platform, meant to motivate them and retain quality talent.
“We are announcing Teacher Stock Options (TSOPs) for all Unacademy Educators. Unacademy Educators will be eligible for fully vested Stock Grants on completion of 3, 4 and 5 years with Unacademy,” co-founder and CEO Gaurav Munjal tweeted.
Munjal added that over 300 educators on the platform are currently eligible for the grant, which they will get immediately. The company will give Grants of over $40 million to its Educators over the next few years.
Coralogix raises $55 mn in Series C
Israel-based tech startup Coralogix has raised $55 million in a Series C funding round led by Greenfield Partners. The latest round of funding also saw participation from Red Dot Capital Partners, StageOne Ventures, Eyal Ofer’s OG Tech, Janvest Capital Partners, Maor ventures, and 2B Angels.
In Octorber 2020, the company had raised $25 million in a Series B funding round, and had also announced a strategic expansion into India, with a commitment to invest over $30 million in the upcoming five years.
The company said it is currently pursuing its investment goals for the Indian market to provide sales and customer success support to India-based companies. As part of its expansion plans for India, Coralogix has set up a new Amazon Web Services (AWS) Mumbai region, offering superior server support and data storage capabilities to its India-based customers.
Easy raises $15 mn in Series-A round
Mortgage tech startup Easy has announced that it has raised $15 million as part of its Series A funding round.
The round was led by Xponentia Capital Partners and saw participation from global VC funds, existing investor Harbourfront Capital, Finsight VC, RaSa Future Fund, Navida Capital AB, Helena Wasserman Eriksson, and Integra Software.
Easy operates across geographies in a phygital model and provides instant decision on home loans. The firm aims to achieve $150 million assets under management over the next 24 months and will expand its network to more than 100 locations across the country.
The company is backed by more than a dozen banks and financial institutions, it said in a statement.
Vauld raises $25 mn in funding led by Valar Ventures
Vauld, a crypto platform for financial products, has raised $25 million in a Series A funding round led by PayPal founder Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures
Existing investors Pantera Capital, Coinbase Ventures, CMT Digital, Gumi Cryptos, Robert Leshner, and Cadenza Capital among others also participated in the round.
The company has raised $27 million total capital since inception.
The funding will be used to support the company’s international growth and licensing as well as expand its retail crypto banking and investing platform, the firm said.
Fintech startup Slice raises Rs 75.5 cr in debt round
Slice, a fintech startup has raised Rs 75.5 crore in debt in Q1FY22 from financial institutions such as Northern Arc Capital, Niyogin Fintech Limited, Credit Saison India, and Vivriti Capital among others.
Payments and credit startup had launched an instant rewards programme, and 'slice in 3' feature in June 2021. Slice in 3 is a pioneer feature that allows users to convert their monthly bills into three months without any extra cost.
Post the launch, slice has robust growth in monthly new card issuance, making it the third-largest card issuer in the country, the firm claimed.
Kalaari Capital earmarks $10 mn yearly for women-led startups
Early-stage venture firm Kalaari Capital launched CXXO, an initiative as part of which it has set aside $10 million annually, to invest in startups led by women.
The CXXO programme will create a cohort of eight to 10 female founders and CEOs each year and will provide them with capital and support.
Vani Kola, managing director of Kalaari Capital is also part of the leadership team of CXXO. She has roped in Ankiti Bose, cofounder, Zilingo, Lathika Pai, country head, Microsoft Venture Capital, and PE Partnerships, Paroma Roy Chowdhury, chief communication and public affairs officer, Dream Sports, Priyanka Gill, founder and CEO of POPxo, and others.
Strata raises $6 million in Series-A round
Strata, a tech-enabled commercial real estate investment platform, has raised $6 million in Series-A round, co-led by Kotak Investment Advisors; Gruhas Proptech, a fund by Nikhil Kamath of Zerodha; Abhijeet Pai of Puzzolana Group for proptech investments; and special situations, and Sabre Investments, which is the investment arm of Rahul Talwar, who belongs to the promoter family of DLF.
This round also saw participation from Elevation Capital, Mayfield India and Gemba Capital.
The company said it will use this capital to expand aggressively in the next year, taking its current Asset under Management (AUM) of approx. Rs. 330 crore to Rs. 1500 crore by FY21-22.
The startup is also eyeing to spread its geographical footprint across key markets of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai Bengaluru, Delhi and, Pune and is looking to accelerate product development and introduce new investment offerings.
Sachin Tendulkar invests $2 mn in digital entertainment & technology firm JetSynthesys
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has made an equity investment of $2 million in JetSynthesys, a digital entertainment and technology company.
The investment further strengthens Tendulkar’s relationship with JetSynthesys. According to a statement, the duo already has an existing joint venture for a digital destination for all things cricket, 100MB, and the very popular immersive cricket games Sachin Saga Cricket Champions and Sachin Saga VR.
With this investment, Tendulkar joins the bandwagon of existing shareholders of JetSynthesys - Adar Poonawalla, Kris Gopalakrishnan, and family offices of the promoters of Thermax, Triveni Group, Yohan Poonawalla Group and DSP Group.
SaaS startup Murf.ai raises $1.5 million
Murf.ai, an AI-enabled voice-over startup, has raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round led by Elevation Capital.
The round also saw the participation of angel investors: Vidit Aatrey - CEO, Meesho, Sanjeev Barnwal - CTO, Meesho, Kashyap Deorahe - CEO, Hypertrack, and Ashish Goel - CEO, Urban Ladder.
Murf.ai said that the fresh funds will be deployed for hiring AI research talent for R&D and product development, building a voice synthesis technology and driving expansion across EMEA and the Americas.
Car body shop Fixcraft raises $1 million
Fixcraft, a cloud-based car servicing app, has raised $1 million in pre-Series A round led by Ubiquity Capital.
BharatPe’s cofounder Shashvat Nakrani, Oyo India CEO Rohit Kapoor, Oyo’s CSO Maninder Gulati and UrbanLadder founder Ashish Goel—also participated in the pre-Series A funding round, according to a statement.
Fixcraft said that the funds will be used in widening its presence in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The firm has provided services to 3,500 customers till date.
Fixcraft founder and CEO Vivek Sharma said it has witnessed 400% year-on-year growth and is targeting to maintain the momentum across our B2C and B2B channels equally by investing heavily in technology.
Swiggy rolls out emergency support services to assist delivery partners
Online food delivery platform Swiggy has introduced Emergency Support Services to o ensure the safety of delivery partners on the road.
The services announced by Swiggy include SOS button on the Swiggy Delivery Partner app, granting loss of pay support to partners unable to work due to medical emergency on-duty, training partners in immediate emergency assistance and emergency cards.
Food delivery app Swiggy's hotline service for its delivery partners will now be available round-the-clock at the tap of a button to provide assistance from the moment of receiving the call till the case is closed completely. Through this SOS button, a user can connect to the local police or ambulance services nearby.
Besides the SOS feature on its app for delivery partners, Swiggy's delivery partners who are unable to work due to medical emergencies while on duty will get loss of pay support apart from hospitalisation and insurance support.
Upraised partners with tech entrepreneurs to upskill youth
Ed-Tech Startup Upraised has collaborated with several tech entrepreneurs to create awareness about skilling for students. The startup announced the launch of the Embark Internship Programme 2021 with a primary goal to help college students land internships at high growth companies.
The company has collaborated with Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and CEO, Paytm, Tanmay Bhat, Comedian, YouTuber and Investor, Ankur Warikoo, Founder, Nearbuy.com, to sponsor the upskilling and placement of 150 interns each.
"India has a large pool of youngsters that need training to build great careers. Excited to support Upraised as they skill students and get them internships at startups. I encourage students to participate in Embark and get the best internships in India," said Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
Over 1 lakh drivers have received at least one dose of vaccine: Uber
Ride-hailing platform Uber today announced that more than 100,000 drivers on its platform have received at least one COVID vaccine shot. This is part of the company’s Rs 18.5 crore initiative to have 150,000 of the drivers on its platform vaccinated by year-end.
Once this vaccination process is completed, drivers receive Rs 400 for each of the two shots for time spent getting the jabs.
The company said it is fighting vaccine hesitancy among drivers by using in-app messages, videos and virtual meetings with medical experts to bust myths and spread awareness on vaccination benefits.
“I am pleased to note that Uber India has taken a number of welfare measures towards the health and security of drivers on their platform. In particular, I would like to appreciate the initiative of cash incentives for drivers for two vaccine doses,” said Nitin Gadkari, Union Transport Minister.
Ecommerce rules could be detrimental to sellers, says Amazon as Prime Day turns more sellers into crorepatis
Amazon India wrapped up its Prime Day 2021 this week on July 26-July 27 in the shadows of proposed ecommerce rules that could restrict flash sales and could also prevent platforms from selling their private labels.
The ecommerce industry, including Amazon and Flipkart, has already shared feedback with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on the draft rules that were released last month, highlighting concerns over several such aspects.
"There are certain aspects of draft ecommerce rules which might be detrimental to sellers. Amazon has shared that feedback on draft rules with the government," Akshay Sahi, Director - Prime and Fulfillment Experience, Amazon India, told CNBC-TV18. "Amazon always complies with the law, and we will comply with policies that the Indian government brings."
The draft rules look to ban flash sales, and will only allow conventional sales, though the definition is vague, industry associations pointed out. The rules could also restrict platforms such as Amazon, Reliance, Flipkart and Tata from selling their own private labels on their platforms.
Amazon's Prime Day saw more sellers turn crorepatis, and more shoppers from Tier 2 and beyond. Nearly 25% more sellers’ grossed sales over Rs 1 crore as compared to the last Prime Day, the company said.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Twitter, Apple, Google impose mandatory mask policy, vaccination for staff
Big tech companies are making it mandatory for employees in the United States to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering campuses, as the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus drives a resurgence in cases across regions.
Google and Facebook said on Wednesday all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. Google is also planning to expand its vaccination drive to other regions in the coming months. The company has also extended its work-from-home policy through October 18.
Apple plans to restore its mask requirement policy at most of its US retail stores, both for customers and staff, even if they are vaccinated, Bloomberg News reported.
Twitter is once again shutting its reopened offices in the US after a spike in cases. Twitter also paused future office re-openings. It had started allowing employees back to its campuses in San Francisco and New York at 50 percent capacity about a fortnight ago after keeping them shut for more than 16 months.
According to a Deadline report, streaming giant Netflix has also implemented a policy mandating vaccinations for the cast and crew on all its US productions.
SoftBank sells 45 million shares in Uber
Japanese investment giant SoftBank is selling about 45 million of its shares in Uber, Reuters reported quoting sources.
Uber shares fell 4.6 percent at $44 in extended trading before erasing most of its losses. Any buyer will have a 30-day lockup period, the source said.
The Japanese investment giant's motive was unrelated to the performance of Didi Global and Alibaba and SoftBank just thought it was a good time to cash out partially on its Uber stake and take some profit.
CNBC had first reported the sale, saying it was to cover for losses seen in its investment in Didi and Alibaba.
SoftBank's stake in Uber is now down to less than 100 million shares, CNBC added.
SoftBank shares have been under pressure in recent weeks on an unrelenting stream of crackdowns out of Beijing on fast-growing Chinese firms, ranging from Didi to edtech firms.
Duolingo enters 'major leagues' with $6.5 bn valuation in strong debut
Language learning app Duolingo notched a valuation of $6.5 billion after its shares surged nearly 40% in the company's Nasdaq debut on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Duolingo's stock opened at $141.4 per share, blowing past the initial public offering price (IPO) of $102 per share, which crossed the top end of its target range. The stock later pared some gains to trade at $130.92 in the afternoon.
Following the IPO, the company will focus on improving its flagship app and getting more active users to switch to paying subscribers. Duolingo offers courses in 40 languages to about 40 million monthly active users.
Robinhood raises $2.1 billion in IPO
Robinhood Markets, the owner of the trading app has raised $2.1 billion in its initial public offering on Wednesday.
Robinhood's monthly active users surged from 11.7 million at the end of December to 21.3 million as of the end of June.
The IPO valued Robinhood at $31.8 billion, making it greater as a function of its revenue than many of its traditional rivals such as Charles Schwab Corp (SCHW.N), but the offering priced at the bottom of the company's indicated range.