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STARTUP DIGEST: ElasticRun gets $330 mn, BYJU’S to open 500 tuition centres & Google to stop apps from tracking Android users

STARTUP DIGEST: ElasticRun gets $330 mn, BYJU’S to open 500 tuition centres & Google to stop apps from tracking Android users

STARTUP DIGEST: ElasticRun gets $330 mn, BYJU’S to open 500 tuition centres & Google to stop apps from tracking Android users
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By Aishwarya Anand  Feb 17, 2022 8:23:44 PM IST (Updated)

Startup Digest brings you a recap of all the movers, shakers and headline-makers in this space.

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FUNDING NEWS
SoftBank & Goldman Sachs invest $330M in ElasticRun, firm turns unicorn
B2B logistics and e-commerce startup ElasticRun has bagged $300 million from Japanese investment giant SoftBank's Vision Fund 2 and Goldman Sachs in a Series E funding round.
As per regulatory filings sourced from Tofler, with this investment, the company has turned unicorn at a valuation of $1.4 billion.
The deal also marks SoftBank's first Indian investment this year. Softbank’s investment in other B2B Indian startups includes logistics firm Delhivery and commerce and lending firm OfBusiness.
The investment will help the company expand its rural reach, enabling over a million kirana shops to conveniently access big consumer brands and food brands through its e-commerce platform, the startup said in a statement.
“Through the pandemic, our robust logistics and channel framework ensured uninterrupted supply and support to our rural kirana partners. We have been growing at a rapid pace and are consistently expanding our store network across India,” said Sandeep Deshmukh, ElasticRun co-founder and CEO.
ElasticRun will also use the funds to expand its services nationally like credit facilities for retailers to enhance the value and experience offered by the kirana stores to their customers, it added.
The firm estimates that sales in kirana stores across rural markets will grow to $600 billion over the next five years. The platform currently provides more than 300 brands with actionable insights on rural commerce.
Social e-commerce unicorn DealShare gets $45 mn from ADIA, aims to reach $3 bn gross revenue run-rate in 12 months
Social e-commerce startup DealShare has raised another $45 million as part of its series E funding round from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), at a valuation of $1.7 bn.
The firm had turned unicorn last month after bagging $165 million in the first close of its Series E fundraise from Dragoneer Investments Group, Kora Capital, Unilever Ventures, and existing commitments investors, Tiger Global and Alpha Wave Global (Falcon Edge). This brings the total amount fund raised by the company to $393 million.
The startup will use the funds to power product innovation and technology to support its rapid growth and expanding customer base.
"We will be utilizing the funds from our Series E round to strengthen our customer base and technology capabilities. We aim to democratise online shopping for Bharat users with unmatched service and experience by developing innovative products and tech solutions. This will be supported by building our teams across the country and hiring new tech talent at all levels.” said Vineet Rao, Founder and CEO, DealShare.
Talking about the expansion plan, Rao added “There is an immense opportunity for our business outside India as well, and we would be exploring international expansion in the coming years.”
The firm said it is close to hitting $1 billion of gross revenue run-rate with just three years in operation. It is now aiming to touch $3 billion in gross revenue run rate in the next 12 months.
Elevation Capital invests $10 mn in Ashton Kutcher-backed Nanonets
Nanonets, an AI-based document workflow automation platform, has raised a $10 million Series A investment from Elevation Capital, with participation from early investors Ashton Kutcher, Y Combinator, SV Angel, and Soma Capital.
Angel investors including Amar Goel (Founder & Chairman, PubMatic), Gautam Kumar and Kushal Nahata (Co-founders, FarEye), Krish Subramanian, Rajaraman Santhanam (Co-founders, Chargebee Inc.), Vara Kumar Namburu and Khadim Batti (Co-founders, Whatfix), Ashish Gupta (Co-founder, Helion), Nakul Aggarwal and Ritesh Arora (Co-founders, BrowserStack), and Vetri Vellore (Founder and CEO, Ally), too participated in the funding round.
The funds will be used to expand engineering and AI/ML teams, scale up operations and go-to-market teams in new geographies, the startup said in a statement.
Using APIs and no-code customisation custom capabilities, Nanonets gives organisations the ability to write their own business rules, connect to varied business data sources, and update internal systems to automate document workflows and financial controls.
According to a Bain & Co report, automation platforms with broader capabilities and technologies have an addressable market of over $65 billion.
AGRIM gets $10 mn from Kalaari and others; aims to clock $100 mn GMV in 2022
B2B platform for agri-inputs AGRIM has secured $10 million in Series A funding led by Kalaari Capital.
Existing investors Omnivore, India Quotient, and Accion Venture Labs also participated in the funding round. Axis Bank also joined as part of their Bharat Banking initiative.
The startup plans to use the funds for talent acquisition, embedded fintech product development, and scaling up operations. It is also looking to increase stock-keeping units by 10x, to reach 2,50,000 SKUs across agri-input categories, providing retailers with a vast selection on the platform.
As agri-input retailers and manufacturers suffer from steep working capital requirements, AGRIM will soon be launching financial services to ease their burden while ensuring optimum stocking, the firm said in a statement.
The startup is expecting to clock annualized GMV (gross merchandising value) of $100 million in 2022.
Dairytech startup Stellapps raises funds from IDH FarmFit
Farm-to-consumer digital platform Stellapps has raised an undisclosed amount in a funding round led by equity investment fund IDH FarmFit.
Freshly raised funds will be utilised by Stellapps to develop advanced technologies to transform the Agri supply chain, it said in a statement.
As per the company, women constitute 83 percent of dairy farmers in India. Stellapps said it will also use the capital to promote female leadership throughout the dairy value chain as it expands its reach in India.
Agri-business drives India's economy and dairy is its aorta, since it employs more than 40 percent of the agri-workforce and contributes the greatest percentage to its agricultural GDP. The Indian dairy sector is the largest in the world, contributing 22 percent of global milk production. The Indian dairy and livestock sector is a $225 billion industry and contributes to 7.6 percent of India’s GDP, as per the firm.
“The investment will contribute towards building out our vision of creating a digital ecosystem that enables smallholder farmers to become entrepreneurs. This involves enabling easy and timely access to extension services, quality cattle nutrition, financial services, market linkage,” said Ranjith Mukundan, CEO, Stellapps.
OTHER STARTUP NEWS
BYJU’S forays into offline tuition classes, makes $200 mn bet on hybrid model
Edtech decacorn BYJU’S has announced the launch of offline coaching classes for schoolchildren.
The firm has decided to open 500 physical tuition centres across 200 cities in 2022 after a pilot. The edtech giant said the offline classes would be available for pupils in classes 4 to 10. The centres were launched after positive feedback on the first 80 centres, which were part of a pilot programme, it said in a statement.
“BYJU’S Tuition Centre will also create employment opportunities for over 10,000 plus people across India within a year of operations,” the edtech firm said.
The firm is also looking to invest $200 million in offline tuition centres over the next 12-18 months, as per a report by the Economic Times. BYJU’s, which was last valued at $21 billion, is looking to onboard close to 3,000-4,000 new teachers for its tuition centres over the course of this year, the report added.
The company said it aims to enroll one million students via this initiative in the next two years.
Mamaearth parent launches new skin and hair care brand along with Shilpa Shetty
Honasa Consumer, the parent company of Mamaearth and The Derma Co, has announced the launch of a new skin and hair care brand Ayuga based on ayurvedic recipes.
Honasa has collaborated with Shilpa Shetty Kundra to craft the brand ideology, it said in a statement. The brand has already launched its first skincare range.
“The company was founded with the vision of building a ‘House of Brands’ that identify and resolve concerns of the millennials with a digital-first approach. "We actively research trends, understand consumer sentiments and create brands that serve our consumers best," said Varun Alagh, Co-founder and CEO, Honasa Consumer.
Google to restrict apps from tracking Android users, but not immediately
Google will adopt new privacy restrictions that will curtail advertisers’ ability to track users of Android phones and other devices.
The Alphabet-owned company follows Apple in taking steps to strengthen privacy by putting restrictions on advertising practices that covertly collect data from mobile devices.
Google will develop other ways for businesses to reach mobile users and gather information while restricting sharing of personal data of the individual. A similar “privacy sandbox” initiative was introduced in the Chrome browser in 2019.
In a blog post, Anthony Chavez, vice-president of product management for Android security and privacy, said Google would try to create “new, more private advertising solutions” on Android.
The changes would impact big companies such as Meta-owned Facebook, which used codes in apps to track consumer behaviour.
Last year, Cupertino-based tech giant Apple introduced privacy changes, which slammed Facebook-parent Meta with losses. Earlier this month, Meta said Apple changes would bring down sales of the social media company this year by about $10 billion. The admission contributed to a record stock price drop, wiping out $232 billion from the company’s market cap in a single day and taking the total to below $600 billion. Last year, the social media giant was worth over $1 trillion.
While last year Meta fought against Apple changes, the company has voiced its support for the privacy tweaks that Google plans to introduce.
Graham Mudd, vice-president of product marketing, ads and business at Facebook, tweeted that “the company was looking forward to continuing working with Google and the industry on privacy-enhancing tech.”
China expresses serious concerns on India banning apps
China has expressed serious concerns regarding Central government’s ban of Chinese apps over security reasons.
As per a Reuters report, China added that it hopes India would treat all foreign investors, including Chinese firms, in a transparent, fair and non-discriminatory manner.
"We hope India can take concrete measures to maintain the sound development momentum of bilateral economic and trade cooperation," said Gao Feng, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce.
India has blocked access to 54 mobile apps, mainly Chinese, government sources told Reuters.
JetSynthesys on-boards Sharan Tulsiani and Yash Baid for its global gaming investments venture
Gaming firm JetSynthesys has announced two key appointments to its leadership team--Sharan Tulsiani and Yash Baid.
While Tulsiani has joined as head, gaming investments venture at JetSynthesys, Yash Baid has been roped in to lead strategies for gaming investments venture at the company.
The duo will work closely with the core leadership team which comprises Rajan Navani and Kris Gopalakrishnan, among others, as per the firm.
“The gaming ecosystem is currently at its exciting best, and there could not have been a better timing to add two of the sharpest minds in this space to our team,” said Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, JetSynthesys.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Bill Gates and Chris Sacca invest in energy storage startup Antora: Report
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates through investing arm Breakthrough Energy Ventures has invested $50 million in energy storage startup Antora to help heavy industry go green.
As per CNBC, Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital co-led the round and it also saw participation from Energy giant Shell’s venture arm.
For now, Antora is still a lab project. CEO Andrew Ponec said he doesn’t expect deployments to begin until late 2023.
The company takes zero emissions energy from renewable energy sources, like wind and solar farms, and converts that to heat, which it stores in solid carbon blocks that are insulated in a kind of thermal battery. From there, the stored energy is used as heat in industrial processes needed to make materials like cement and steel, or it’s converted into electricity.
Trump app opens to hundreds of testers ahead of expected launch, sources tell Reuters
Details about former US President Donald Trump's new social media app are trickling out as about 500 beta testers have begun using an early version of “Truth Social,” sources told Reuters.
The testing of Truth Social comes a year after Trump was banned from Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet's YouTube. His new media and technology venture, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), has pledged to deliver an “engaging and censorship-free experience” on the app, which Chief Executive Devin Nunes has said will launch by the end of March.
TMTG remains shrouded in secrecy and is regarded with scepticism by some in tech and media circles. It remains unclear whether the app's goal of freedom of expression can co-exist with Apple's and Google's app store policies.
By late Wednesday, Trump's account on Truth Social had 317 followers, according to a screenshot viewed by Reuters. Trump had 88 million followers before Twitter banned him.
Truth Social allows users to post and share a “truth” the same way they would do so with a tweet. There are no ads, according to Liz Willis, a correspondent and vice president of operations at Right Side Broadcasting Network and a second source familiar with TMTG.
DoorDash revenue beats as food-delivery boom continues, shares soar 24 percent
DoorDash reported quarterly revenue that beat estimates as food delivery demand showed no sign of slowing, indicating ordering habits have changed permanently, sending the company's shares up 24 percent after the bell.
As per Reuters, analysts have said people have grown accustomed to having food delivered to their doorsteps after frequently ordering in during the peak of the pandemic. They expect DoorDash and rivals Uber Eats and Grubhub to show strong growth for several years even as people venture out more.
"It's very possible to eat at a restaurant and get delivery because we eat three times or more maybe per day, and that's over 100 shopping moments per month," Chief Executive Officer Tony Xu said on an earnings call.
In the fourth quarter ended December 31, higher-than-expected consumer retention and new customer growth helped DoorDash's revenue jump 34 percent to $1.30 billion and beat estimates of $1.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
San Francisco-based DoorDash also forecast first-quarter marketplace gross order value, the total value of all app orders and subscription fees, between $11.4 billion and $11.8 billion, versus $11.2 billion in the reported quarter.
DoorDash also forecast core earnings in a range of break-even to $500 million for fiscal 2022, compared with estimates of $455.1 million.
Spotify acquires Podsights and Chartable to advance its podcasting business
Spotify has deepened its investment in podcasting with the acquisitions of Podsights and Chartable, two services that provide greater insights for advertisers and podcasting publishers, Reuters reported.
Podsights helps marketers gauge the effectiveness of their ads, one area that Spotify said has been a major challenge. Chartable provides audience insights that help podcast publishers measure the effectiveness of their growth campaigns.
Financial details of the transactions were not available.
"Our acquisitions of podcast technology players Podsights and Chartable are helpful in our pursuit of up leveling digital audio measurement insights," said Khurrum Malik, head of ads business marketing at Spotify.
Visa, Amazon reach global deal over payment fees
Visa cards will be accepted at all Amazon stores and sites as part of a global agreement, the companies said.
The retail giant also said it will not turn off Visa credit cards from Amazon's UK website and customers in Australia and Singapore will no longer pay a surcharging fee to use a Visa credit card.
"We've recently reached a global agreement with Visa that allows all customers to continue using their Visa credit cards in our stores," an Amazon spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
Amazon had said that it would stop accepting Visa credit cards issued in the UK because of the high transaction fees charged by the payment processor. Earlier this year, the e-commerce giant eventually said it would not stop accepting UK-issued Visa credit cards on its British website, adding that it was working with Visa to resolve a dispute over payment fees. read more
An EU-enforced cap on fees charged by card issuers is no longer in place in the UK following Brexit.
"Visa is pleased to have reached a broad, global agreement with Amazon. This agreement includes the acceptance of Visa at all Amazon stores and sites today, as well as a joint commitment to collaboration on new product and technology initiatives to ensure innovative payment experiences for our customers in the future," a Visa spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
Tesla sued over alleged suspension failure in fatal Florida crash
Tesla has been sued over an alleged suspension failure in a crash that killed the driver and a passenger in Florida last year and sparked a federal probe, Reuters reported.
The 2021 Model 3 vehicle had a "defective and unreasonably dangerous suspension that may cause loss of control during ordinary and foreseeable driving conditions", according to the lawsuit filed by the driver's family in a Florida state court last week.
The case was first reported by legal information site Plainsite.
The lawsuit said that four days before the accident in September, the driver, Nicholas G. Garcia, brought the vehicle to a Tesla Store due to problems with "controllability/steering, suspension, battery and electronic system, and an ability to open the doors."
The lawsuit accused a Tesla service manager of "negligently" inspecting the affected model.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is probing the accident, said in a preliminary report in November that the car was speeding before crashing into two trees and catching fire.
Garcia, 20, and front-seat passenger Jazmin Alcala, 19, sustained injuries and "traumatic life ending burns," according to a Coral Gables Police Department report.
The lawsuit seeks damages of over $30,000 each from Tesla and the service manager.
The vehicle's under-body struck the roadway after going over a "hump" in the center of an intersection, according to the police report seen by Reuters. The driver lost control and drove off the roadway before the collision.
In October, Tesla recalled nearly 3,000 2020-2021 Model Y and 2019-2021 Model 3 vehicles in the United States over a suspension issue. Tesla recalled 21,599 China-made Model Ys in December, saying a suspension link may fall out of the steering knuckle under extreme stress conditions.
In 2020, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into around 115,000 Model S and Model X vehicles over a front suspension safety issue.
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