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STARTUP DIGEST: Gaurav Gupta bids adieu to Zomato, Freshworks to raise up to $912M from IPO, Uber hit by Dutch ruling and more

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Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup universe

STARTUP DIGEST: Gaurav Gupta bids adieu to Zomato, Freshworks to raise up to $912M from IPO, Uber hit by Dutch ruling and more
Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup universe
Zomato co-founder Gaurav Gupta quits after 6 years to 'start a new chapter'
Zomato’s co-founder Gaurav Gupta has decided to take an exit from the food tech platform.
In an internal email, Gupta, who was also the head of supply at Zomato, said he is 'starting a new chapter' after six years at the food delivery platform.
"I am taking a new turn in my life and will be starting a new chapter, taking a lot from this defining chapter of my life – the last 6 years at Zomato. We have a great team now to take Zomato forward and it is time for me to take an alternate path in my journey," Gupta’s email said.
Along with Zomato's blog in which he shared Gupta's parting email, founder Deepinder Goyal tweeted, "Thank you Gaurav– the last 6 years have been amazing and we have come very far. There's so much of our journey still ahead of us, and I am thankful that we have a great team and leadership to carry us forward."
Gupta's exit comes days after Zomato shut down its grocery delivery and nutraceutical business.
Gupta was the face of the company in the run-up to its IPO in July this year. In an interview post the listing, Gupta had told CNBC-TV18, “For our business, it is important to understand the opportunity we are tapping today and the opportunity that lies out there. A lot of meals today come from homes and not from restaurants and that is where the real opportunity lies.”
He had joined Zomato in 2015 and was elevated as Chief Operating Officer in 2018 and as co-founder in 2019.
Snapdeal's investor looks for partial exit ahead of IPO; secondary round to fetch around $50M: Report
One of the existing investors of IPO-bound Snapdeal is exploring a secondary transaction for a partial exit from the company, which could be valued at $30-50 million, according to Moneycontrol.
Bank of America is scouting for investors for this round. Besides Softbank, Snapdeal counts Nexus, Alibaba, eBay, and BlackRock among top investors on its cap table, the report added.
The company, which is targeting a $400 million IPO at a valuation of $2-2.5 billion, has also appointed Bank of America besides Axis Bank and JM Financial for the public listing. The transaction is at an early stage.
Freshworks to raise up to $912M from the IPO
SaaS firm Freshworks, which competes with Salesforce, is looking to raise up to $912 million via its initial public offering (IPO), Reuters reported.
The company will sell 28.5 million of its Class A common stock between the price range of $28 to $32 per share, translating to $798 million- $912 million.
The company is also seeking a valuation of almost $9 billion, on the upper end of the price band, as a part of the listing, its regulatory filings show.
This will make Freshworks the most valuable SaaS startup from India, post-listing, zooming past the likes of application program interface (API) development platform, Postman, which recently was valued at $5.6 billion and mobile application testing platform, BrowserStack valued at $4 billion this year.
Freshworks was valued at around $3.5 billion during its last funding round in November 2019.
Zenoti buysout SuperSalon, sets aside $100M+ for acquisitions: Report
SaaS unicorn Zenoti that makes software for large spas and salon chains has acquired US-based SuperSalon to bolster its revenue, ET reported.
While Zenoti works with large salon and spa chains across the US, this acquisition will strengthen its presence among large standalone salons in the country that have been using SuperSalon.
Zenoti founder Sudheer Koneru Koneru told ET that this is the first of its several planned acquisitions and that the company has set aside around $120 million for inorganic growth.
As part of the deal, SuperSalon’s chief executive Raj Mahajan will join Zenoti as its SVP—corporate development.
India, Singapore to link fast payment systems UPI & PayNow
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has partnered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to link its UPI with Singapore’s PayNow for instant money transfer.
The linkage is targeted to be operationalised by July 2022. It will enable users to make instant, low-cost fund transfers on a reciprocal basis without the need to onboard onto the other payment system, the RBI said.
“The UPI-PayNow linkage is a significant milestone in the development of infrastructure for cross-border payments between India and Singapore, and closely aligns with the G20’s financial inclusion priorities of driving faster, cheaper and more transparent cross-border payments,” the RBI said in a statement.
The UPI-PayNow tie-up builds upon the earlier efforts of NPCI International Private Limited and Network for Electronic Transfers to foster cross-border interoperability of payments using cards and QR codes between India and Singapore, the RBI said. It will further anchor trade, travel and remittance flow between the two countries.
The initiative is also in line with the vision of reviewing corridors and charges for inbound cross-border remittances outlined in the Payment Systems Vision Document 2019-2, the RBI said.
ToneTag completes RBI’s first cohort of voice-based retail payments
Voice-based financial transaction is soon going to become a reality as RBI has given approval to ToneTag, a hardware-agnostic sound wave tech solutions provider for such payments.
ToneTag has completed the first cohort under the central bank sandbox for retail payments, the company said in a statement. Testing was done in rural and urban areas in Karnataka and Bihar, involving transactions up to ₹1,000.
ToneTag has successfully executed offline voice-based payments via feature phones and smartphones in areas with inconsistent internet connectivity, it said.
It further noted that "the technology is already in place, we have received the approval from the RBI, now the regulated entities can easily adopt this technology."
It will benefit the people who are not digitally savvy or find it difficult to use apps for banking or payments, thereby making digital payments a reality for all, the company said, adding that the voice-based retail payment technology is now ready for adoption by the service providers.
With the successful completion of the cohort, ToneTag is now poised to enable digital payments for more than 600 million feature phone users, the company claimed.
ToneTag said it has received multiple Indian and global patents, giving it IP moat to scale up in India and other geographies.
It has also launched RetailPods, a device that allows retailers or other vendors to accept payments through any feature or smartphone and receive voice-based acknowledgement or payment confirmation.
Hero Electric partners with Massive Mobility to install 10,000 EV chargers: Report
Hero Electric, a two-wheeler electric vehicle maker, has signed an agreement with Massive Mobility to install 10,000 two-wheeler EV chargers across the country in a bid to increase its charging infrastructure by nearly tenfold, sources told Entrackr.
Massive Mobility, a startup that offers end-to-end EV charging solutions, will install these 10,000 EV chargers in the next 12 months across cities where Hero Electric sees the highest numbers of sales, the report added.
The charging stations installed as part of the agreement will have a simple 16 amp charging connection, a Wi-Fi network and a metre. Importantly, the network will be open for all EV’s, not just Hero vehicles.
Suumaya Industries picks up minority stake in 1-India Family Mart
Suumaya Industries has acquired a minority stake in value retail chain startup Nysaa Retail, which operates stores under the brand name 1-India Family Mart. However, it has not disclosed the deal value.
The investment will help Suumaya Industries to expand its presence in smaller towns and cities in India as it will get access to over 100 retail stores of 1-India Family Mart, the companies said in a statement.
By gaining access to 100 + retail stores of 1-India Family Mart, the strategic partnership will help Suumaya Industries. increase its geographical footprint in tier-2, tier-3 and tier-4 towns in India. Besides, Suumaya Industries will also help 1-India Family Mart in developing its own private label in the fast-growing women''s apparel category, the company claimed.
1-India Family Mart offers fashion apparels, lifestyle products and general merchandise through its retail outlets.
Nysaa Retail, which was established in November 2012, had raised its first institutional round of funding from Carpediem Capital in 2018. In 2019, 1-India Family Mart had raised $2.8 million in debt funding in a transaction led by APAC Financial Services.
MyGate launches property search marketplace, ‘MyGate Homes’
MyGate, a community app, has launched ‘MyGate Homes’, a property search marketplace. By attracting listings from 3 million homes across 20,000 gated communities on MyGate, ‘Homes’ is well positioned to cater to buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants with a strong focus on transparency, accuracy of information, the company said in a statement.
According to the firm, a successful pilot in Bengaluru, which attracted over 10,000 property listings, cleared the way for a nationwide release late last month.
In June, MyGate launched ‘Homes’ for 2,300 societies on its app in Bengaluru. Over the next three months, the company claims to have logged over 10,000 listings with over 40,000 connections taking place. More recently, company took the product live across the country, with listings moving over 10,000 in a brief period.
“Property search remains a time-consuming struggle even online due to the number of information gaps. Being deeply embedded in the gated community ecosystem, we’re able to bridge many of these. We are able to provide buyers and tenants with all the information they need about a particular community to speed up their decision," said Shreyans Daga, CTO and co-founder of MyGate.
The company is targetting 25,000 listings per month by December 2021.
Over the past month, 10 integrated services such as digital rent agreement with e-signing, legal assistance, movers and packers, property management, cleaning, painting and pest control have gone live on the app. In the coming months, solutions like interior decor, furniture and appliance rental, rental deposit and home loans will also join the list, the company said.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY AND STARTUP NEWS
Uber drivers are employees, not contractors, says Dutch court
Uber drivers are employees, not contractors, and so entitled to greater workers' rights under local labour laws, a Dutch court ruled, handing a setback to the US company's European business model.
It was another court victory for unions fighting for better pay and benefits for those employed in the gig economy as it followed a similar decision this year about Uber in Britain, Reuters reported.
The Amsterdam District Court sided with the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), which had argued that Uber's roughly 4,000 drivers in the capital are employees of a taxi company and should be granted benefits in line with the taxi sector.
Uber told Reuters it would appeal against the decision and "has no plans to employ drivers in the Netherlands".
"We are disappointed with this decision because we know that the overwhelming majority of drivers wish to remain independent," said Maurits Schönfeld, Uber's general manager for northern Europe. "Drivers don’t want to give up their freedom to choose if, when and where to work."
The court found drivers who transport passengers via the Uber app are covered by the collective labour agreement for taxi transportation.
"The legal relationship between Uber and these drivers meets all the characteristics of an employment contract," the ruling said.
The FNV hailed the ruling. "Due to the judge's ruling, the Uber drivers are now automatically employed by Uber," said Zakaria Boufangacha, FNV's deputy chairman. "As a result, they will receive more wages and have more rights in the event of dismissal or illness, for example."
The judges also ordered Uber to pay a fine of 50,000 euros ($58,940) for failing to implement the terms of the labour agreement for taxi drivers.
In March, Uber said it would improve workers' rights, including the minimum wage, for all of its more than 70,000 British drivers after it lost a Supreme Court case in February.
Uber recorded $600 million in first-quarter charges to account for the UK benefits, highlighting the financial toll of wider changes to its contractor model.
S.Korea fines Google $177M for blocking Android customisation
South Korea's antitrust regulator has fined Google 207 billion won ($176.64 million) for blocking customised versions of its Android operating system (OS), Reuters reported.
The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said Google's contract terms with device makers amounted to an abuse of its dominant market position that restricted competition in the mobile OS market.
Google said in a statement it intends to appeal the ruling, saying it ignores the benefits offered by Android's compatibility with other programs and undermines advantages enjoyed by consumers.
"The Korea Fair Trade Commission's decision is meaningful in a way that it provides an opportunity to restore future competitive pressure in the mobile OS and app market markets," KFTC Chairperson Joh Sung-wook said in a statement.
The antitrust regulator said this could be the ninth-biggest fine it has ever imposed.
KFTC said Google hampered competition by making device producers abide by an "anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA)" when signing key contracts with it regarding app store licences.
Under the ruling, Google is banned from forcing device makers to sign AFA contracts, allowing manufacturers to adopt modified versions of Android OS on their devices.
The fine comes on the day that an amendment to South Korea's Telecommunications Business Act - popularly dubbed the "anti-Google law" - came into effect. The bill was passed in late August and it bans app store operators such as Google from requiring software developers to use their payment systems.
Amazon hikes starting pay to $18 an hour
Amazon has increased its average starting wage in the United States to more than $18 an hour and plans to hire another 125,000 warehouse and transportation workers, an executive told Reuters.
The world’s largest online retailer has raised pay from around $17 since May. In some locations, the company is giving signing bonuses of $3,000, said Dave Bozeman, vice president of Amazon Delivery Services, or triple of what the company offered four months ago.
Bozeman attributed Amazon's latest compensation increase to fierce competition. Amazon did not give exact figures, but a $1 raise on a $17-per-hour wage would amount to about a 6 percent hike.
Amazon had set a $15 an hour minimum wage in 2018. Walmart recently touted average hourly wages of $16.40, while Walgreens Boots Alliance said it would raise its minimum to $15 in October.
Amazon is hiring workers to help run 100 logistics facilities launching this month in the United States, on top of more than 250 that opened earlier this year. Some workers will aid in Amazon's long-in-the-works effort to roll out one-day delivery for Prime loyalty club members.
Earlier this month Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told Reuters the company would recruit people for over 55,000 tech and corporate jobs globally.
Alibaba leads $300M investment into Chinese autonomous driving startup DeepRoute.ai
Alibaba has led investments worth more than $300 million into Chinese autonomous driving start-up DeepRoute.ai, CNBC reported.
Alibaba’s involvement in the funding round underscores the ambitions of China’s technology giants to get a foothold in the area of driverless cars. Alibaba is already an investor in another Chinese autonomous driving car startup called AutoX and is backing electric vehicle maker Xpeng.
Maxwell Zhou, CEO of DeepRoute.ai, told CNBC that “most of the money is being spent to develop the technology and the rest is to scale up the fleet size” of its robotaxis.
Money will also go toward hiring more talent, Zhou added.
The startup makes self-driving systems for vehicles that involve hardware and software. DeepRoute.ai runs a fleet of autonomous taxis with some operated by its partners including ride-hailing firm CaoCao and automaker Dongfeng Motors. But the company is also developing technology for logistics.
Zhou said the company currently operates around 70 robotaxis and wants to expand its fleet to between 150 to 160. Half of the robotaxis will be operated by DeepRoute.ai, while the other half will be run by its partners, Zhou said.
The company said its long-term strategy includes developing medium-duty trucks for urban logistics, improving transit for shipments as well as freight delivery.
China’s autonomous driving industry is getting very competitive. Chinese internet giant Baidu and ride-hailing app Didi are investing in autonomous driving. Last week, WeRide launched a new product called Robovan designed for urban logistics, an area that Deeproute.ai is also exploring.
TurboTax maker Intuit to buy Mailchimp for about $12Bn in a data play
Intuit, known for its small-business accounting and DIY tax-filing software, said on Monday it will acquire digital marketing company Mailchimp for about $12 billion in a cash-and-stock deal.
According to Reuters, the deal is expected to close by the second quarter of fiscal 2022 and is also Intuit's biggest-ever acquisition. It will be financed through cash on hand and new debt of about $4.5 billion to $5.0 billion, Intuit said. Last year, the company bought the personal finance portal Credit Karma for just over $7 billion.
The deal for Atlanta-based Mailchimp, which operates a marketing platform for small- and mid-market businesses, will help Intuit add insights to its Quickbooks platform that tracks spending.
"There is incredible power in combining the customer data and the purchase data, and we wanted to put the power of the data in our customers hands," said Sasan Goodarzi, Chief Executive at Intuit told Reuters.
The deal comes at a time when fintech companies like Intuit are benefiting from a recovery from the pandemic-induced slump among small businesses. The company has projected profit and revenue levels above estimates for fiscal 2022.
Mailchimp reported $800 million in revenue in 2020, a 20% year-over-year growth. Half of its revenue comes from outside the United States. The company will continue to be based in Atlanta, Georgia, and operate under its current brand following the acquisition.
Universal to list as music streaming picks up
Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, whose artists include Lady Gaga and the Rolling Stones, published its prospectus ahead of a 33 billion euro ($39 billion) stock market flotation this month.
Vivendi's investors, including its controlling shareholder Vincent Bollore, are due to receive 60% of the shares of the company once Universal lists in Amsterdam, with trading due to start on September 21, according to Reuters.
The company is aiming for a market capitalisation of 33 billion euros ($39 billion). No new shares are being issued.
Vivendi will continue to hold 10 percent of Universal after the transaction. A consortium led by China's Tencent will have 20 percent and billionaire hedge fund investor William Ackman's Pershing Square Holdings (PSH.AS) will hold 10 percent.
By revenue, Universal Music Group or UMG is the largest of the "big three" record labels. It represents a huge range of musicians and song catalogs, from Billie Eilish to The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
For the mid-term, Universal forecasts sales growth in the high single digits, with an EBITDA margin in the mid 20 percent range. UMG is benefiting from a music industry rebound, underpinned by booming streaming revenues but also a recent surge in sales of vinyl records and CDs.
Fox Entertainment acquires TMZ from AT&T-owned WarnerMedia
Fox Corp-owned Fox Entertainment has acquired the TMZ entertainment platform and its media properties from AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, Reuters reported. However, the financial terms were not disclosed.
As part of the deal, Fox will own and operate all TMZ-branded media properties, including the syndicated TV shows “TMZ” and “TMZ Live,” both of which air on network affiliates owned by Fox Television Stations; the sports site TMZ Sports and program “TMZ Sports,” celebrity and culture website TooFab.com and TMZ.com, and celebrity tour operations in Los Angeles and New York.
TMZ founder and Managing Editor Harvey Levin will remain with TMZ and continue to oversee day-to-day operations for the brand, Fox said in a news release. He will report to Rob Wade, Fox Entertainment’s president of Alternative Entertainment and Specials.
AT&T is in the process of unwinding its expensive media investments to focus on its original business of providing phone and internet services.
It is combining WarnerMedia’s media assets with Discovery to create a proposed stand-alone company, Warner Bros. Discovery, in a deal expected to close next year.
Last December, AT&T agreed to sell its Crunchyroll Inc anime business to Sony’s Funimation Global Group, in a $1.18 billion deal.