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Startup Digest: Govt to ban pvt cryptos, Bigbasket opens first physical store, Myntra forays into social commerce & Apple files lawsuit against NSO

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These are the top headlines from the startup space.

Startup Digest: Govt to ban pvt cryptos, Bigbasket opens first physical store, Myntra forays into social commerce & Apple files lawsuit against NSO
India to ban all private cryptocurrencies in Parl's Winter session
India is set to ban private cryptocurrencies in the Winter session of the Parliament, however, it will allow some exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency.
The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, is expected to be tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament for consideration and passing. The bill will also seek to create a framework for the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
The cryptocurrency bill, however, allows certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology and its uses. The details about the exceptions are yet to be known.
The development comes after the first-ever parliamentary panel on cryptocurrencies led by BJP MP and former Union Minister Jayant Sinha gathered views from the representatives of crypto exchanges, Blockchain and Crypto Assets Council (BACC), industry bodies, and other stakeholders on crypto finance on November 16.
Bigbasket forays into offline retail; unveils Fresho store in Bengaluru
Tata-owned online grocery platform BigBasket has announced its foray into offline retail with the opening of a new technology-driven, self-service 'Fresho' store in Bengaluru.
The launch is part of the company's vision to open 200 physical outlets pan India by 2023 and 800 by 2026. The stores will offer high-quality products at extremely competitive prices, the company said in a statement.
The store in Basaveshwar Nagar in Bengaluru was inaugurated by three farmers, who are a part of BigBasket's Farmer Connect programme. BigBasket has adopted a channel-agnostic approach to connect with customers, the firm said. With Fresho stores, customers can handpick fresh fruits and vegetables as well as daily essentials like Bread and Eggs, it added.
“The stores will give access to the next 500 million customers who have not yet started buying grocery online and create a new significant growth opportunity for BigBasket," BigBasket co-founder and CEO Hari Menon said.
Myntra makes foray into social commerce at scale with 'M-Live'
Fashion e-commerce platform Myntra on Tuesday announced its foray into social commerce at scale with the launch of M-Live to cater to the rapidly evolving content consumption patterns and shopping preferences of consumers.
M-Live brings a first-of-its-kind, interactive and real-time live shopping experience to the fingertips of millions of shoppers in the country, according to the company. Myntra will target fashion and social media-savvy young men and women who are looking to have access to the best-in-class fashion advisory and in-demand trends, it added.
The startup’s social commerce business has three distinct propositions that add immense composite value to consumers, creators and brands M-Live, Myntra Studio and Myntra Fashion Superstar.
Social commerce, which is a $1.5-2 billion GMV (gross merchandise value) market in India currently, will be worth $16-20 billion in five years, with fashion and beauty commanding the lion's share of this market at over 50-60 percent, as per industry reports.
Open launches no-code embedded finance platform Zwitch
Open, an SME-focused neo-banking platform has announced the launch of Zwitch– an industry-first no-code embedded finance platform that allows fintechs, brands and enterprises to launch innovative fintech services using a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) drag and drop interface.
The platform is targeting an increasing number of fintech and non-fintech businesses, that are aiming to embed various fintech services in their existing products/services, through a Do-It-Yourself platform, the company said in a statement.
The suite of embeddable fintech products includes bank accounts, card issuance, payments and lending products. Zwitch takes care of the banking partnerships, compliance and technology through its network of over 14 partner banks in India.
Apart from the no-code platform, Zwitch also offers low-code competency and full stack APIs for digitally savvy businesses to integrate with, the firm added.
The platform, which has been in beta for the past 6 months, has powered over 10 startups and corporates to embed financial services on their platforms and partnered with Insurtech startup Fedo to launch Fedo HSA- India’s first-of-its-kind ‘Health Savings Account’.
OneTo11 partners with FireStarter to launch governance token
Blockchain-based gaming eco-system OneTo11 has announced an exclusive partnership for their first public sale with FireStarter – an IMO launchpad that incubates metaverse crypto projects to release its governance token.
All OneTo11 tokens will be released and complete governance rights will be transferred to the community over the next five years. The governance given to the token holders will allow them to vote on major decisions related to the future development and management of the OneTo11 ecosystem, the company said in a statement.
“Being an exclusive Blockchain gaming community in the world, we plan to utilise all the revenue collected from the sale of the OneTo11 governance tokens for further game development and community rewards.” Ravindra Kumar CEO OneTo11 said.
Incepted in September 2020, OneTo11 had launched a myriad of applications for gaming enthusiasts. In a short span of time, it has acquired over 1.5 million users and over 16+ million transactions on the platform.
The firm is also looking to add football, basketball, baseball and field hockey as fantasy sports with plans to expand to the Middle East, Europe, and American markets.
T-Hub selects 11 startups for T-Angel third cohort
Startup innovation ecosystem builder T-Hub has selected 11 startups for its third edition of its funding program, T-Angel. The startups represent sectors such as real estate, SaaS (software-as-a-service), e-commerce, healthcare, education and Internet of Things.
The firm claims that with a mix of investment learning, mentorship, and evaluation for 90 days, these startups will be able to know their investors better and connect with other startups, advisors, partners and the well-networked T-Hub ecosystem.
T-Hub will help them connect with interested angel investors in the region. The startups selected in this batch are Weedeo, PropertyAdviser.in, Feemonk, Ucchvas Technologies, Ginzer Technologies, TriDE Moblity, Gravton, Roligt Foods, Huemn, PayNet Systems and Swap Dietetics Private Limited among others.
The start-ups from the second cohort of the programme have raised an aggregate Rs 4 crore from five investors based in India and the US.
Eximius Ventures launches program to support student-led startups
Micro venture capital firm Eximius Ventures has launched its first cohort of the ‘Student Venture Partner program.
Eximius Ventures will allocate up to $500,000 for this programme will help undergraduate students participate in deal sourcing and invest in emerging startups from their campuses, the firm said in a statement. It will also enable each of them to present deals to Eximius’ internal committee (IC) and gain hands-on experience of working at a VC.
Through this program, the company aims to accelerate the success of nascent-stage student-led businesses but also groom the Student Venture Partners to become a part of the VC ecosystem, it added.
The program has selected three students, Aryan Mittal from IIT Delhi, Bhargav Chaudhari from IIT Bombay, and Parth Goel from IIT Kharagpur, and is scheduled to start in December 2021.
Launched in 2020, Eximius invests in pre-seed stage companies across gaming, healthtech, and fintech.
Infomo announces a merger with adtech platform TorcAI
Singapore-based adtech startup Infomo has announced a strategic merger with Indian adtech platform – TorcAI.
This partnership will enable its alliance partners to offer an integrated ecosystem that addresses the emerging needs of large publishers, publisher consortiums, telecom carriers, agencies, and brands across the global marketplace, the company said in a statement.
As per the firm, TorcAI’s advanced Artificial and Machine Learning technologies will enhance Infomo’s global strategy of providing private media exchanges and walled garden solutions to reduce the global dependence on the GDN/Programmatic duopoly.
According to research authority, Magna, the global ad spends in 2020 was $569 billion, of which traditional media was estimated to be $233 billion. In India, digital advertising is still in its infancy with 2020 data revealing that digital advertising accounted for only 11% of the $12.2 billion yearly ad spend.
Infomo designs and deploys plug and play publisher-centric platforms that enable publishers to leverage performance marketing. Meanwhile, TorcAI leverages advanced data sciences and machine learning to stitch together legacy marketing and advertising technology platforms with new breed tech.
Harappa looks to double its headcount in FY22 by onboarding 500 more people
Homegrown edtech startup Harappa is looking to grow its team by 2X by adding nearly 150 new employees in FY 2022 across verticals, ahead of strategic expansion plans.
With a specific focus on product innovation, 30% of new hires will be onboarded into Harappa’s engineering and product teams. The has already brought together a strong team of 150 people in the last quarter, including leadership at the CXO level, it said in a statement.
“Harappa’s vision and our unique Thrive Skills pedagogy has unlocked tremendous growth and momentum across our B2B and B2C offerings over the course of the last two years. To support our ambitious goals and bridge India’s professional learning need-gaps, we plan to accelerate our hiring in FY22 by building even more capability in-house," said Shreyasi Singh, founder and CEO, Harappa.
The talent that the company is looking to bring in will support its B2C bets and strengthen its B2B presence across distinct learning experiences, the firm claimed.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Apple files lawsuit against NSO Group, saying US citizens were targets
Apple has filed a lawsuit against Israeli cyber firm NSO Group and its parent company OSY Technologies for alleged surveillance and targeting of US Apple users with its Pegasus spyware.
According to Reuters, the iPhone maker said it is also seeking to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services or devices to prevent further abuse.
Apple is the latest in a string of companies and governments to come after NSO, the maker of the Pegasus hacking tool that watchdog groups say targeted human rights workers and journalists. Earlier this month, US officials placed the company on a trade blacklist. NSO has also faced either legal action or criticism from Microsoft, Meta Platforms, Alphabet, and Cisco Systems.
Several hundred Google employees sign manifesto against widened Covid vaccine mandate: Report
Several hundred Google employees have signed and circulated a manifesto opposing the company’s Covid vaccine mandate, posing the latest challenge for leadership as it approaches key deadlines for returning workers to offices in person.
The Biden administration has ordered US companies with 100 or more workers to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid-19 by January 4.
In response, Google asked its more than 150,000 employees to upload their vaccination status to its internal systems by December 3, whether they plan to come into the office or not, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC. The company has also said that all employees who work directly or indirectly with government contracts must be vaccinated — even if they are working from home.
The manifesto within Google, which has been signed by at least 600 Google employees, asks company leaders to retract the vaccine mandate and create a new one that is “inclusive of all Googlers,” arguing leadership’s decision will have outsize influence in corporate America. It also calls on employees to “oppose the mandate as a matter of principle” and tells employees to not let the policy alter their decision if they’ve already chosen not to get the Covid vaccine.
Although only a tiny portion of Google’s overall workforce has signed the document, momentum could grow as the return-to-work deadline nears. Most of the company’s employees are expected to return to physical offices three days a week starting January 10.
NASA launches test mission of asteroid-deflecting spacecraft
The world’s first planetary defense system called the DART spacecraft was successfully launched by NASA at 10:21 pm Pacific time on Tuesday (11:51 am IST Wednesday) from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base. It was carried aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
NASA tweeted that about 55 minutes into its flight, the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 second stage, and will soon begin to orient itself toward the Sun. DART will fly under the guidance of NASA's flight directors until the last hours of its odyssey, when control will be handed over to an autonomous on-board navigation system.
The target of the spacecraft is a small moonlet called Dimorphos which is about 160-metre in diameter. The spacecraft will collide with it at a speed of about 6.6 kilometres per second or 24,000 kilometres per hour. The collision is expected to take place between September 26 and October 1, 2022. The DART team expects to shorten Dimorphos' orbital track by 10 minutes but would consider at least 73 seconds a success.
Warburg cuts Ant valuation by 15% to below $200Bn, sources tell Reuters
Warburg Pincus, a major global investor in Ant Group, has cut its valuation of the Chinese fintech company by 15% to below $200 billion due to risks from a restructuring at the Hangzhou-based firm, sources told Reuters.
There are also no signs that Ant's botched mega IPO will be revived anytime soon, the report added.
US private equity firm Warburg, which was a big investor in Ant's 2018 private fundraising, lowered the company's valuation to $191 billion at end-September from the $224 billion at end-June.
Warburg's cutting of Ant's worth comes after some other global investors have already slashed their valuations and shows skepticism about its prospects is rising as the payments-to-loans behemoth remodels itself under regulatory pressure.
Warburg's latest valuation of Ant, an affiliate of Alibaba Group, is far short of $315 billion that was touted one year ago at its planned IPO, which would have been the world's largest if it were not derailed at the last minute.
Ant's $37 billion IPO was called off by regulators two days before its scheduled dual-listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai, leaving investors guessing about their return prospects.
BlackRock joins e-car charging venture Ionity in $788M funding round
BlackRock, a money manager, has joined electric vehicle charging (EV) venture Ionity in a 700 million euro ($788 million) funding round, providing a much-needed cash injection to speed up construction of high-power loading sites.
The investment, which also includes contributions from existing shareholders, will enable Ionity to more than quadruple the number of high-power 350 kilowatt charging points to 7,000 by 2025, Reuters reported.
Ionity did not provide a detailed breakdown of the funding round, in which existing investors Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, Ford and Hyundai also participated.
Sources said last month that BlackRock alone was close to investing around 500 million euros in Ionity.
Tesla's Musk exercises more options, sells shares worth $1.05Bn
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk sold another 934,091 shares of the electric vehicle maker worth $1.05 billion after exercising options to buy 2.15 million shares, as per Reuters.
The world's richest person had on November 6 tweeted that he would sell 10% of his stock if users of the social media platform approved. A majority of them had agreed with the sale.
Since then, he has sold 9.2 million shares worth $9.9 billion. Last Tuesday, Musk sold 934,091 shares to meet tax withholding obligations related to the exercise of stock options.
Stripe says it’s open to accepting crypto for payments, three years after ending bitcoin support: Report
Stripe isn’t ruling out accepting cryptocurrency as a method of payment in the future, according to co-founder John Collison.
The online payments company ended support for bitcoin payments in 2018, citing the digital coin’s notoriety for volatile price swings and a lack of efficiency in making everyday transactions.
“Crypto obviously means a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Collison said at a CNBC-moderated panel at the Fintech Abu Dhabi festival on Tuesday.
Collison said there were some aspects to crypto — such as its use as a speculative investment — that are “not that relevant to what we do at Stripe.”
But, he added: “There have been a lot of developments of late with an eye to making cryptocurrencies better and, in particular, scalable and acceptable cost as a payment method.”
The company recently formed a team dedicated to exploring crypto and “Web3,” a buzzword in tech that refers to a new, decentralized version of the internet.
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