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Startup Digest: GlobalBees and Mamaearth turn unicorn, Jupiter gets $86 million in Series C round, Teachmint acquires Airlearn & Flipkart's Rs 17,000 crore ESOP pool

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A busy end to a busy year. Here’s the last weekly Startup Digest wrap for 2021.

Startup Digest: GlobalBees and Mamaearth turn unicorn, Jupiter gets $86 million in Series C round, Teachmint acquires Airlearn &  Flipkart's Rs 17,000 crore ESOP pool
Roll-up firm GlobalBees joins unicorn club with $111.5 million funding
Thrasio-style e-commerce startup GlobalBees has entered the unicorn club after raising $111.5 in its Series B funding round led by Premji Invest. Steadview Capital, along with existing investors SoftBank and e-commerce baby products company FirstCry also participated in the funding round.
The investment pushed GlobalBees valuation at $1.1 billion, making it the 44th Indian company to join the unicorn club in 2021. The roll-up firm said it plans to use the fresh capital to strengthen its product portfolio and also for innovation, enhancing customer experience, hiring employees and scaling brands that it owns. The company added it is in advanced talks with 20 companies to acquire their brands.
Mamaearth turns unicorn after funding from Sequoia, Sofina & others
Personal care brand Mamaearth has entered the billion-dollar club after raising funds in a new round at unicorn valuation, as per data from Venture Intelligence. The funding was led by Sequoia Capital’s Sequoia Capital Growth Fund III, Sofina and Evolvence Fund. As per reports, Mamaearth has raised close to $80 million, at an estimated valuation of $1.07 billion.
It has approved the allotment of 1,741 Series F preference shares at an issue price of Rs 33,85,049 to raise Rs 589.3 crore or $79.5 million. This is the second round for the startup in 2021. In July, it had secured $50 million in a round led by Sofina at a valuation of $730 million.
Jupiter gets $86 million in Series C round from QED Investors & Sequoia Growth fund
Neobank Jupiter has secured $86 million as part of its Series C fundraise led by US-based QED Investors and Sequoia Growth fund, according to regulatory filings sourced through Tofler. The round also saw participation from other existing investors such as Tiger Global, Matrix Partners, 3one4 Capital and BEENEXT. This is Jupiter’s second round of fundraising in 2021.
Founder and CEO Jitendra Gupta told Moneycontrol that the valuation for the company now stands at $710 million. This is a jump of close to 2.5x in valuation from the previous round, which valued Jupiter at $293 million. As per the report, the startup will continue to invest in customer acquisition with an aim to have a million customers by April 2022 and is also looking at entering lending in the coming year.
MetaMap raises Rs 530 crore in Series B funding round led by Tribe Capital
MetaMap (formerly known as Mati), a startup that builds a merit-based trust and reputation infrastructure layer to help companies transition to a borderless economy, has raised Rs 530 crores in Series B funding led by Tribe Capital.
Craft Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), Titan Capital, and prominent angel investors including Jerry Murdock, founder of Insight Partners, also participated in the funding round. With this investment, the company’s total funding stands at Rs 630 crore. The firm said it will deploy the fresh capital in product development and furthering its international expansion.
Infra.Market gets Rs 200 crore in debt funding: Report
B2B construction materials marketplace, Infra.Market, has raised Rs 200 crore by issuing debentures to a group of investors led by financial institution Avendus, the Economic Times reported.
The funding is intended to help meet the working capital needs of the Tiger Global-backed company. This is debt funding with a three-year tenure. The company is also in talks to raise equity funding, the report added. Infra. Market became a unicorn—a privately held startup with a valuation of $1 billion or more in February.
Insurance broker SecureNow bags $6 million in Series B round
Insurance Broker SecureNow has raised $6 million in a Series B round led by Apis Insurtech Fund I, managed by Apis Partners, and Charan Singh, founder of SelectQuote. The firm will be using the fresh capital to develop the platform further, bundle value-added services for clients, and increase client outreach, it said in a statement.
The company will focus on commercial insurance issuance by developing an end-to-end insurtech platform, that presently serves 25,000 small businesses in 150 locations. Over the next three years, the startup aims to grow to over one million enterprises, and the same timeframe in which it expects to reach profitability, it added.
Deep tech startup Metamall raises $ 4.6 million ahead of IDO
Blockchain startup Metamall has raised $4.6 million in a pre-IDO (a fundraising technique mediated by a decentralized trade) round. The funding round saw participation from new-age investors including 316VC, CSPDAO, MarsVC, WLI Capital, BullPerks, HVS Ventures, CCK ventures and others.
Metamall has sold $1 million worth of land on the Metaverse. Out of $2.5 million land available on pre-sales, $1 million has been sold in 3 days to investors, it said in a statement. The firm will use the proceeds to develop its technical capabilities, and strengthen cooperation with main websites and builders. It will allow Metamall to create essentially the most modern and enjoyable game-for-money (P2E) metaverse for customers.
OwO Tech gets $3 million seed capital from marquee investors to fuel growth
Water e-commerce start-up OwO Technologies has raised $3 million (about Rs 22.5 crore) seed funding from marquee investors. OwO is creating disruptions in the online essentials space (the drinking water market at large) by launching WaaS (water-as-a-service), the company said in a statement adding that the company aims to expand to 75 cities by March 2023. The funding will be used to scale its technology platform and to launch operations in Delhi, Noida, Jaipur and Pune.
Eximius Ventures launches gaming syndicate ‘The Gaming Lounge’, makes first investment in EsportsXO
Micro venture capital fund Eximius Ventures has launched a gaming syndicate ‘The Gaming Lounge’ to take more bets in the gaming sector outside of the fund and has made its first investment in EsportsXO.
The syndicate will invest exclusively in gaming companies in the seed stage and help them grow with the right capital, industry-specific guidance, and network access. Through this platform, Eximius aims to facilitate the flow of capital into the nascent-stage gaming industry and promote its growth, the VC fund said in a statement.
The syndicate plans to invest in sic-eight deals per annum exclusively with an equity cheque of up to $500,000. Within gaming, it plans to support several sub-segments such as esports, game development and publishing, and gaming infrastructure, Eximius Ventures added.
Hair Forever gets $150K in Pre-Seed round
Hair Extension Manufacturing startup Hair Forever has raised funds worth $150,000 from several angel investors in a pre-seed round. This is the third venture by the serial entrepreneur Ashish Tiwari, after Healthkhoj and Hair Originals.
The company has already set up the facility in Gurugram, Haryana, and is planning to go aggressive in the terms of manufacturing, to accomplish its target of cutting a thicker slice in the market share in the top 4 Indian markets- Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Pune, by mid of 2022, it said in a statement.
Tournament discovery platform EsportsXO raises $1.1 million 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.
Retail AI startup Tango Eye raises $1 million 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.
Mensa Brands adds home-grown denim brand High Star to its cart
E-commerce roll-up brand Mensa acquired High Star, a home-grown denim brand that caters to digital-first consumers. Mensa Brands has set a target of achieving a 10x gross turnover for the brand within the next 4 to 5 years.
"Our team has outlined a strategic roadmap for expanding the brand’s footprints in the domestic and international markets across channels to reach consumers and continue to improve customer experience,” Ananth Narayanan, founder and CEO of Mensa Brands said.
Mensa’s team will bring their expertise to expand the brand’s presence pan India and take it global. Within the first year of onboarding, Mensa will support High Star in areas such as digital marketing, technology, working capital management and channel expansion, a statement said.
'House of Brands’ IDAM acquires 60% stake in MeeSoGood
IDAM Natural Wellnes, the parent company of D2C personal care brand Bella Vita Organic, has picked up around 60 percent stake in MeeSoGood, a chocolate and coffee brand, for an undisclosed amount.
The strategic acquisition was made by IDAM to primarily help MeeSoGood cater to the increased demand in volumes and access different markets across India, the firm said in a statement. This was IDAM’s second acquisition so far. In October, IDAM announced the acquisition of pet wellness firm Petveda.
Teachmint acquires Airlearn to expand developer offerings
Education infrastructure startup Teachmint has announced the acquisition of Airlearn, a video engagement platform for education businesses, in a cash-and-stock deal to expand its developer offerings.
With this deal, Teachmint strengthens its developer offering called Teachstack, enabling edtech companies across the globe to build state-of-the-art classroom solutions for their users, the company said in a statement. This comes following Teachmint's acquisitions of course-selling platform Teachmore and Singapore-based Teachee's India team.
Flipkart creates ESOP pool of Rs 17,000 crore; highest in India: Report
E-commerce platform Flipkart has created a Rs 17,000-crore ESOP pool, the highest stock options allocated to employees among Indian technology companies. The Walmart-owned homegrown e-tailer joins new-age companies like Oyo, Paytm, Nykaa and Zomato which also created a high ESOP pool, the Economic Times reported quoting data exclusively sourced from search firm Longhouse Consulting.
Oyo created an ESOP pool of Rs 7,569 crore, Zomato had Rs 5,639 crore, Paytm Rs 4,571 crore and Nykaa Rs 4,280 crore. Zomato and Nykaa, which debuted on the Indian bourses earlier this year, generated a windfall for employees and investors with the listing.
Learning platforms UpGrad and Byju's put together ESOP pools of Rs 427 crore and Rs 3,092 crore, respectively. ShareChat, a social media platform in regional languages which entered the unicorn club in April, created an ESOP pool of Rs 462 crore.
With more companies conducting buyback programmes, Indian start-ups have seen a record year for ESOPs. Between July 2020 and November 2021, 40 Indian start-ups bought back ESOPs worth Rs 3,200 crore, an earlier ET report said.
In July, Flipkart announced one of the largest buybacks of the year worth Rs 600 crore. Around 6,000 employees of the e-commerce platform were said to have the option to liquidate up to 10 percent of their vested ESOPs, a Times of India report said.
Ola Electric kick-starts setting up Hyperchargers for e-scooters, aims to hit 4,000 by 2022
Ola Electric has started to install its charging network called Hypercharger across the country days after it started to roll out its electric scooters S1 and S1 Pro to its customers. Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder of Ola Electric, shared the update while revealing the EV maker's plans to increase the charging infrastructure in the coming days.
Aggarwal took to Twitter to announce that Ola Electric aims to set up more than 4,000 such charging points for its electric scooters across India by the end of the year.
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 e-commerce 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 e-commerce law, and penalties for violations. It will cover all e-commerce companies - Indian as well as foreign-funded ones.
Removed 61,114 content pieces in November in India: Google compliance report
Google received 26,087 complaints from users and removed 61,114 pieces of content based on those complaints in November, the tech giant said in its monthly transparency report. In addition to reports from users, Google also removed 3,75,468 pieces of content in November as a result of automated detection.
Google had received 24,569 complaints from users and removed 48,594 pieces of content based on those complaints in October, while 3,84,509 pieces of content were removed as a result of automated detection. The US-based company has made these disclosures as part of compliance with India's IT rules that came into force in May this year.
Google, in its latest report, said it had received 26,087 complaints in the month of November (November 1-30, 2021) from individual users located in India via designated mechanisms, and the number of removal actions as a result of user complaints stood at 61,114. These complaints relate to third-party content that is believed to violate local laws or personal rights on Google's significant social media intermediaries (SSMI) platforms, the report said.
Under the IT rules, large digital platforms - with over 5 million users - have to publish periodic compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken thereon.
Google approaches Karnataka HC against CCI's probe into Play Store rules
Google has filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court, seeking more time to respond to the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) questions into its Play Store rules. "We have filed a writ in Karnataka High Court regarding the interim relief application in the Google Play probe by the CCI, seeking to move forward in line with established due process principles. We respect the CCI’s investigative process and will continue to engage cooperatively and constructively in the interest of a fair investigation," Google said in a statement.
Google has also sought that CCI share the identity of complainants, and add a judicial member to the panel. Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) had approached CCI in October seeking interim relief from Google’s Play Store policy. ADIF said app developers, especially those selling digital goods and services, have been unhappy and vocal about their objections to the policy ever since it was announced back in September 2020. Google has been tinkering with the policy since moving the deadline and then lowering the percentage of its app store fees to make it more palatable to the app developers, it noted.
Google had previously stated that apps that choose to sell digital content through its Play Store have to use the Google Play billing system and pay a percentage of the in-app purchase as a fee. It had given time until September 30, 2021, to complete the necessary updates. However, it extended the deadline to March 31, 2022, after concerns were raised by the developer community in India.
Nexus co-founder Naren Gupta passes away
Naren Gupta, the co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners and a pioneer of venture capital in India, passed away on December 26 at the age of 73. Gupta founded Nexus Venture Partners along with Suvir Sujan and Sandeep Singhal in 2006 and has been actively investing in Indian startups for the last 15 years. Nexus is one of India's earliest and largest homegrown venture capital firms, managing over $1.2 billion.
He was credited with turning Nexus around after its bets in Housing, ShopClues and Snapdeal went awry a few years ago. Nexus’ unicorns from only the last one year- startups valued at over a billion dollars include Unacademy, enterprise software firm Postman and B2B marketplace Infra.market, while IPO-bound Delhivery and software firm Druva’s valuations have doubled to about $3 billion as well.
Entrepreneur Pankhuri Shrivastava passes away
Pankhuri Shrivastava, the 32-year old founder of women-focused social community platform ‘Pankhuri’and rental startup Grabhouse, passed away on December 24 due to a cardiac arrest. "With profound grief and sorrow, we regret to inform the sad demise of our CEO Pankhuri Shrivastava. We lost her on 24th December 2021 due to a sudden cardiac arrest. May her soul obtain Sadgati. Om Shanti," Shrivastava's company tweeted. Venture capitalists and top executives mourned her untimely demise on social media.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
TikTok dethrones Google to become most popular website: Report
Popular short video-sharing platform TikTok has surpassed tech giant Google as the most popular website of the year, says a report. According to a report by IT security company Cloudflare, the viral video app gets more hits than the US-based search engine, reports BBC.
The rankings show that TikTok knocked Google off the top spot in February, March and June this year, and has held the number one position since August. In 2020, Google was first, and a number of other sites, including TikTok, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Netflix, were all in the top 10.
Starboard acquires stake worth $800 million in GoDaddy - WSJ
Activist investor Starboard Value LP has purchased a 6.5 percent stake in web services firm GoDaddy worth about $800 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. Shares of GoDaddy, which have dropped 8 percent so far this year, rose 2.6% in premarket market trading. According to the report, Starboard plans to push the company to improve its performance.
Apple issues rare $180K bonuses for top talent in a bid to prevent defections to Meta: Report
Apple has issued unusual and significant stock bonuses to some engineers in an effort to retain talent, looking to stave off defections to tech rivals such as Facebook owner Meta Platforms, according to a Bloomberg News report.
The bonuses have ranged from about $50,000 to as much as $180,000 in some cases. Many of the engineers received amounts of roughly $80,000, $100,000 or $120,000 in shares, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the program isn’t public. The perk was presented by managers as a reward for high performers.
Last week, the company informed some engineers in silicon design, hardware, and select software and operations groups of the out-of-cycle bonuses, which are being issued as restricted stock units. The shares vest over four years, providing an incentive to stay at the iPhone maker.
Apple closes New York City stores to shoppers as COVID-19 cases rise
Apple has closed all of its 12 New York City stores to indoor shopping as cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant surged across the United States. Customers will be able to pick up online orders at the stores, an Apple spokesperson told Reuters. The affected stores include outlets at Fifth Avenue, Grand Central and SoHo.
"We regularly monitor conditions and we will adjust both our health measures and store services to support the wellbeing of customers and employees," the company said in a statement.
Alphabet CEO Pichai can be questioned in privacy lawsuit, judge rules
Plaintiffs who accused Alphabet’s Google of unlawfully tracking their internet use while on "Incognito" browsing mode can question Chief Executive Sundar Pichai for up to two hours, a California federal judge has ruled.
In the lawsuit filed in June 2020, users accused Google of illegally invading their privacy by tracking internet use while Google Chrome browsers were set in "private" mode. The plaintiffs are arguing that Pichai has "unique, personal knowledge" of issues relating to the Chrome browser and privacy concerns, a Monday court filing showed.
Russian court fines Alphabet's Google and Meta Platforms
A Moscow court has fined Alphabet's Google 7.2 billion roubles ($98 million) for what it said was a repeated failure to delete content Russia deems illegal, the first revenue-based fine of its kind in Russia.
According to Reuters, Moscow has increased pressure on big tech this year in a campaign that critics characterise as an attempt by the Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the internet, something they say threatens individual and corporate freedom. Google said in an email it would study the court ruling before deciding on further steps.
Chinese citizens slam Musk online after space station near-misses
Chinese citizens lashed out online against billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk's space ambitions after China complained that its space station was forced to take evasive action to avoid collision with satellites launched by Musk's Starlink programme, Reuters reported.
The satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of Musk's SpaceX aerospace company, had two "close encounters" with the Chinese space station on July 1 and October 21, according to a document submitted by China earlier this month to the U.N.'s space agency.
"For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control," China said in a document published on the website of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. The complaints have not been independently verified.
US space agency NASA was forced to abruptly call off a spacewalk at the end of November, citing risks posed by space debris. Musk tweeted in response that some Starlink satellite orbits had been adjusted to reduce the possibility of collisions.
Riot Games agrees to pay $100 million to settle gender discrimination lawsuit
Tencent Holdings' Riot Games has agreed to pay $100 million to settle a 2018 gender-based discrimination class-action lawsuit with California state agencies and current and former women employees, Reuters reported.
The company said it will pay $80 million to the members of the class-action suit, comprising all current and former full-time women employees and temporary agency contractors in California who worked from November 2014 to the present. An additional $20 million will be paid towards attorneys’ fees and miscellaneous expenses, Riot Games said in a statement.
Didi bars employees from selling shares indefinitely: FT
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has barred current and former employees from selling shares of the company indefinitely, the Financial Times reported. The 180-day lockup period post the company's initial public offering during which current and former staff were not permitted to sell shares was supposed to end on December 27, but the prohibition has been extended without a new end date, the report said. Employees will not be able to sell shares until after the company has been listed in Hong Kong, according to the report.
China's Didi plans Hong Kong 'listing by introduction', picks banks, sources tell Reuters
China's ride-hailing giant Didi Global plans to use a mechanism that will allow it to list shares in Hong Kong without raising capital or issuing new stock as it seeks to delist from New York, sources told Reuters.
The plans come as Didi is moving towards withdrawing from the New York Stock Exchange under pressure from Beijing after running foul of Chinese authorities by pushing ahead with an initial public offering (IPO) there earlier this year despite being asked to put it on hold while a review of its data practices was conducted.
The Hong Kong mechanism, known as 'listing by introduction', would allow owners of Didi US shares to transfer them to the city's bourse gradually. Didi aims to file for the Hong Kong listing by the end-April and list by June.
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