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STARTUP DIGEST: EsportsXO raises $1.1 mn in seed round, SpaceX raises over $337 mn & Amazon’s Alexa tells a child to do a potentially lethal challenge

STARTUP DIGEST: EsportsXO raises $1.1 mn in seed round, SpaceX raises over $337 mn & Amazon’s Alexa tells a child to do a potentially lethal challenge

STARTUP DIGEST: EsportsXO raises $1.1 mn in seed round, SpaceX raises over $337 mn & Amazon’s Alexa tells a child to do a potentially lethal challenge
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By Aishwarya Anand  Dec 30, 2021 7:15:34 PM IST (Published)

From Amazon's Alexa to Elon Musk's SpaceX, here's what made waves in the startup space.

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

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Local businesses, HNIs pile into IPO-bound Snapdeal, as Alibaba exits the firm: Report
Domestic businesses and high net worth individuals have invested in Snapdeal ahead of its initial public offering, buying out Chinese giant Alibaba from the e-commerce firm amid heightened scrutiny of bets originating from the east Asian country, as per a Moneycontrol report.
Promoters of Havells India and Asian Paints, such as QRG Investments, Rupen Investment and Centaurus Trading, have invested in Snapdeal, as per the draft documents filed for the Rs 1,250 crore IPO.
Chinese ecommerce entity Alibaba sold 4.4% stake in the round that saw participation of individuals including Borosil managing director Priyanka Shreevar Kheruka, Edelweiss Mutual Fund MD Radhika Gupta, and former Snapdeal executive Jason Kothari, the report added.
Snapdeal founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal marginally increased their stake in the Indian e-commerce company through the round.
According to the report, Chinese investors are exiting fearing scrutiny of a single bet may have repercussions for their shareholdings in other companies as well.
SoftBank Group's Starfish I Pte will sell a part of its 35.41% stake in the e-commerce firm during the IPO. Others will also sell shares in the offering including Foxconn, Sequoia Capital and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board.
Collectively, this amounts to around eight percent of the company’s pre-offer equity share capital. Earlier this month, Snapdeal sold 30% of subsidiary Unicommerce to SoftBank.
Snapdeal filed draft documents for its IPO on December 21.
Tournament discovery platform EsportsXO raises $1.1 mn in seed round
EsportsXO, a tournament discovery platform for gaming enthusiasts, has raised $1.1 million from We Founder Circle and Wami Capital.
SOSV, Mumbai Angels Network, SucSEED Indovation Fund, The Gaming Lounge and FAAD Network, also participated in the seed funding round.
“EsportsXO’s USP lies in the SaaS tool, built to focus on their product strategy, with other aspects creating a flywheel effect for the platform. This funding is a testament to their growth and progress, and we believe that it will help the platform reach greater heights,” added Nandini Mansinghka, co-founder & CEO, Mumbai Angels Network.
The firm plans to invest the fresh funds into tech and non-tech talent acquisition, aggressive marketing and operations.
The startup enables game publishers and brands to launch custom tournaments for users. The platform claims to have registered over 1,50,000 users in a span of 90 days and is witnessing a 20 percent month-on-month growth, it said in a statement.
Retail AI startup Tango Eye raises $1 mn from Lenskart, eyes global expansion
Software startup Tango Eye has raised $1 million in a pre-series A funding round led by direct-to-consumer (D2C) eyewear brand Lenskart.
The firm will use the funds for product development activities, expansion, and to increase manpower in the technology and business space, it said in a statement.
Lenskart launched Vision Fund in June 2021 and plans to invest up to $20 million in select entities across eyewear, eye care and omnichannel retail sectors.
Tango Eye is an AI-based computer vision company, focused on deep learning technology that provides solutions to physical spaces by converting video footage into meaningful insights. It is planning to expand its retail outlets to 10,000 from the current 2,000, the company added.
Draft e-commerce policy, rules to be released together soon: Report
The government will soon circulate revised versions of the e-commerce policy and e-commerce rules to spell out comprehensive guidelines for all online transactions, covering all digital commerce and service providers, including marketplaces, ride-hailing companies, ticketing and payment companies, sources told the Economic Times.
The idea is that the two drafts will be released at the same time and be in sync with each other, reducing the scope for misunderstanding.
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), under the ministry of commerce, will release the draft e-commerce policy, which will lay down the ground rules for online trade and address gaps in overall digital commerce policy. The ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution will release the draft ecommerce rules aimed at ensuring consumer interest is protected, the report added.
The latest draft of the policy by the DPIIT is expected to focus on setting up a regulator, framing an ecommerce law, and penalties for violations. It will cover all ecommerce companies -- Indian as well as foreign-funded ones.
Elon Musk's SpaceX raises over $337 mn in fresh funding
Billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX has raised $337.4 million in equity financing, the rocket company disclosed in a regulatory filing.
SpaceX, which counts Alphabet and Fidelity Investments among its investors, hit $100 billion in valuation following a secondary share sale in October, according to CNBC. It had raised about $1.16 billion in equity financing in April.
Musk, who also leads several futuristic companies including Tesla, Neuralink and The Boring Company, said earlier this year that SpaceX will be landing its Starship rockets on Mars well before 2030.
Didi revenue falls as China's regulatory crackdown hits business
China's ride-hailing firm Didi Global has reported a 1.7% decline in third-quarter revenue, as its domestic business took a hit from a regulatory crackdown, according to Reuters.
Daniel Zhang, the chief executive officer of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, who had served as a director on Didi's board since 2018, has resigned, the company said. He is succeeded by Yi Zhang, a senior legal director of Alibaba Group.
Chinese authorities have come down hard on Didi, after its New York Stock Exchange listing in June, demanding that it take down its app from mobile app stores while the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) investigated its handling of customer data.
SenseTime shares jump as much as 23% on debut after $740 million Hong Kong IPO
SenseTime Group shares surged as much as 23% from their IPO price on Thursday, adding billions of dollars to the artificial intelligence startup's market value as it debuted in Hong Kong in the city's final major float for the year.
As per Reuters, some analysts had expected the shares to struggle due to weak demand during the IPO process and worries about SenseTime's inclusion on a US investment blacklist that prompted the Chinese firm to shelve its first attempt to list.
"The main reason that support is coming to the share price is that the market had already digested the US sanction issue," said Kenny Ng, Everbright Sun Hung Kai analyst.
"SenseTime set the IPO price at the lower end of the range which left room for the price performance after listing."
The Chinese company raised $740 million in its initial public offering and priced its shares at HK$3.85 ($0.4937) each.
The deal valued SenseTime at $16.4 billion, while at the session's high its market capitalisation had added some $3.8 billion.
SenseTime ended at HK$4.13 in its debut session, up 7.3% from its IPO price. It was the fifth most actively traded stock by turnover with 329.97 million shares changing hands worth HK$1.406 billion.
China’s tech moguls see $80 bn of wealth evaporate in 2021: Report
It’s been a record year for China’s internet moguls, but not in the way most would have hoped.
The country’s 10 richest tech tycoons lost $80 billion in combined net worth in 2021, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, amid widescale crackdowns by Chinese regulators. The drop represents almost a quarter of their total wealth and is the largest one-year decline since 2012, when the index started tracking the world’s richest people.
Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang lost the most this year -- $42.9 billion, or two-thirds of his fortune -- as shares of the e-commerce platform plunged nearly 70%. Alibaba Group Holding’s Jack Ma, who has been keeping a low-profile since authorities clamped down on his sprawling business empire, has seen his wealth cut by about $13 billion.
ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming is a rare Chinese internet tycoon to see his fortune grow this year, gaining $19.5 billion based on a valuation in a SoftBank Group Corp. filing this year. That’s partly due to his keeping the parent of TikTok a closely held company, insulated from the swings of market turbulence.
China to tighten copyright protection in livestreaming, e-commerce platforms by 2025
China will improve copyright protection live-streaming, e-commerce and sports events by 2025, Reuters reported.
Copyright protection will be strengthened and improved in new industries and new areas, according to the 14th Five-Year Plan for Copyright Work issued by the National Copyright Administration.
The plan said the development and application of new technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain will be strengthened, and copyright protection in sports events, variety shows, live-streamings and e-commerce platforms will be improved.
Waymo and China's Zeekr partner to develop driverless taxis
China's Geely Holding said its premium electric mobility brand, Zeekr, will make electric vehicles for Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving unit, to be deployed as fully autonomous ride-hailing vehicles across the United States.
The vehicles will be designed and developed at Zeekr's facility in Sweden, and later integrated with Waymo's self-driving technology, Reuters reported.
Waymo said it would introduce the vehicles to US roads "in the years to come".
Concept images Waymo published show a roomy, low-to-the-ground minivan with seating for about five riders and sliding doors on each side serving as the lone entryways.
The partnership with Zeekr will help Waymo expand its driverless ride-hailing service in the face of increased competition, and also create inroads for Chinese brand Geely into the US market.
Amazon’s Alexa assistant told a child to do a potentially lethal challenge
Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, is not designed to endanger human lives but that’s exactly what it did over the weekend when it told a 10-year-old girl to touch a live electrical plug with a penny.
The suggestion was given out via an Echo smart speaker after the girl asked Alexa for a “challenge to do.”
“Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” Alexa said.
An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that the error had been fixed.
Kristin Livdahl, the girl’s mother who reportedly lives in the US, described the incident in a tweet Sunday, which included a screenshot of the event as it appeared in the Alexa smartphone app.
“We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a
It was then that Alexa suggested the girl attempt the challenge that it had “found on the web.” Alexa pulled the challenge from an online news publication called Our Community Now.
“Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers,” the Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. “As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”
Europe’s $12 bn battery startup produces its first lithium-ion cell
Swedish battery maker Northvolt announced Wednesday it has produced its first lithium-ion battery cell at its factory in Skelleftea, meeting its deadline to start production at the plant before the end of 2021.
Northvolt, which was valued at $12 billion by investors in June, said it’s the first battery of its kind to have been fully designed, developed and assembled at a so-called gigafactory by a homegrown European battery company, CNBC reported.
A gigafactory can be classed as a large-scale battery plant where the yearly output is measured in gigawatt-hours (GWh). The facility, Northvolt Ett in Skelleftea, is expected to have a yearly output of 60 GWh.
The battery cell came off the production line at the gigafactory on Tuesday, Northvolt said.
Despite being less than six years old, Northvolt has signed more than $30 billion worth of contracts with customers including carmakers BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo and Polestar.
Northvolt said commercial deliveries will begin in 2022, adding that production capacity will increase to 60 gigawatt-hours in the coming years, which is enough to supply batteries for around 1 million electric vehicles.
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