Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
India's aim is to become world's largest startup destination: Piyush Goyal
India aspires to become the largest startup ecosystem in the world, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said, while addressing a session on "Gateway to Growth - Roundtable on Indian Startup Ecosystem" in Abu Dhabi.
"Today we are the third largest startup ecosystem, but our aspiration is to be the world's number one startup destination,” Goyal said. "The startup bug has caught India's imagination. The entire innovation ecosystem that the startup industry represents is giving a new direction, new momentum to India," he said.
According to Goyal, India offers one of the best ecosystems for startups with a special 'jugalbandi', or blend between investors and entrepreneurs to get a balanced outcome and achieve a win-win solution for all.
"I have seen tremendous response from the Dubai Expo where our startups have got the opportunity to raise finances, sign MoUs and get angel investments. All these aspects will help strengthen India's strong bond of friendship with the UAE."
The Minister also said that startups need to experiment, fail and learn from their experiences. "I would urge all of you from the startup world to go the extra mile and take the startup story to all the remote places, villages, small towns, northeastern India and other regions," he added.
On the government's role in promoting startups, he said that India aims to provide a level playing field and the best business ecosystem.
"We have recently finalized the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE, which is expected to further enhance bilateral trade, B2B engagement and explore attractive investment opportunities.
Government says Rs 95.86 crore recovered from 11 cryptocurrency exchanges for GST evasion
The government said Rs 95.86 crore has been recovered from 11 cryptocurrency exchanges for evasion of Goods and Services Tax (GST). The total amount includes penalty and interest.
Zanmai Labs (WAZIRX), Coin DCX, CoinSwitch Kuber, Buy Ucoin, UnoCoin and Flitpay were among the exchanges that were involved in GST evasion cases. Others were Zeb IT Services, Secure Bitcoin Traders, Giottus Technologies, Awlencan Innovations India (Zebpay) and Discidium Internet Labs, according to the finance ministry.
In a written reply to Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary said 11 cases of evasion of GST by cryptocurrency exchanges have been detected by Central GST formations. Evasion of Rs 81.54 crore was detected and Rs 95.86 crore was recovered (including interest and penalty), he said.
As per the reply, Rs 49.18 crore was recovered from Zanmai Labs (WAZIRX), Rs 17.1 crore from Coin DCX, and Rs 16.07 crore from CoinSwitch Kuber.
FloBiz forays into banking services for SMBs with the launch of Smart Collect on myBillBook
Neobank FloBiz has forayed out into banking services for Small and Micro Businesses (SMBs) with the launch of Smart Collect on its flagship GST invoicing and accounting product myBillBook.
Smart Collect is part of the smart banking module of the company. With the feature, businesses will be able to collect payments from their customers instantaneously via UPI and bank transfers and automatically reconcile them against pending invoices, the company said in a statement.
The Smart Collect feature has already been rolled out to an exclusive set of current myBillBook users both, on mobile and desktop applications. FloBiz said it plans to extend the rollout in the coming few weeks to a wider user base who meet certain eligibility criteria.
Smart Collect has an intuitive design, which is easy to enable and begin using, the firm added.
“In January 2022, the total monthly trade recorded by the 1M+ active SMBs on myBillBook stood at $1.5B and continues to grow steadily. We’re extremely excited about the launch of Smart Collect, which is our first step towards the neobanking roadmap. The broader Smart Banking module will allow SMBs to collect payments from customers and make outward transactions towards suppliers, vendors and day-to-day business expenses. It will also bring Current Account management capabilities directly on myBillBook, making it a one-stop solution for all invoicing, accounting, inventory management, business reporting and banking needs for businesses,” said Rahul Raj, co-founder and CEO of FloBiz.
As per the firm, since the controlled roll out of Smart Collect feature on myBillBook, the transaction processed volume has already hit an annualized run rate of over $50 million and is growing over 30% WoW.
nurture.farm ties-up with Digisafe to offer weather cover to farmers
Agritech start-up nurture.farm has partnered with Digisafe insurance brokers to offer KAVACH, a weather-based cash guarantee program for farmers.
KAVACH offers farmers a cashback up to Rs 500 per acre against unseasonal rainfall. Farmers using nurture.farm’s services can enroll in the program, the company said in a statement.
As a pilot, farmers of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh can buy this coverage at a nominal fee. Highly customized as per local weather data, the KAVACH will transfer payouts directly to a farmer’s bank account if rainfall breaches a pre-set limit. The farmers would not need to intimate for claims. Instead, the payouts will be automatically triggered based on the IMD weather data, the firm added.
Within three weeks of its launch, more than 1,21,000 KAVACH have been availed by over 30,000 farmers across nine states, covering 280 districts, the company claimed.
Crypto exchange platform CrossTower launches NFT platform
Cryto exchange platform CrossTower has announced the launch of its global non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace in partnership with Antara, a Hollywood movie; Terrain Art, the first blockchain-powered global art ecosystem; Shannon Rose, abstract artists Shannon Rose and Alejandro Glatt as well as newswire ANI and actor Mike Boornazian.
The platform said it would provide a diverse set of NFT collection drops across various segments. It would allow users to trade in NFT drops of Hollywood movies’ IP rights and other niche art collections, in fiat as well as in cryptocurrency holdings. The exchange also aims to tap into the sports NFTs and celebrities’ personal collectibles.
To ensure authenticity and due diligence, CrossTower has set up selection committees for NFT drops of the premium and exclusive collections it is offering on its marketplace, it added.
Eve World announces Web3 social community platform for women
Eve World has announced the launch of ‘coto’ — a Web3 social community platform exclusively for women.
'coto' is a new digital space for women that enables creativity without bounds and is built on the promise of consent and continual ownership. It will enable women to focus on building on Web3 principles.
‘coto’ will allow decentralized autonomous organizations or DAOs who are governed by its community, which help members decide on new features and functionality. These self-governed DAOs can make use of governance tokens, which financially incentivize members to vote and participate, the firm added.
House of Gaming partners with Polygon through ‘Hefty Games’
House of Gaming has partnered with Ethereum Layer 2 scaling solution Polygon to launch its NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) collection through Hefty Games.
With this launch, the firm intends to promote the blockchain gaming and NFT ecosystem in India by offering exclusive P2E (Play to Earn) games. The company will launch trading cards that will allow gaming aficionados to own a collectible from their favourite gamer.
To promote the blockchain gaming ecosystem, Hefty Games has announced its collaboration with influencers from the gaming industry including Lokesh Gamer, Gyan Gaming, and Two Side Gamers. The company intends to provide gamers with access to the metaverse.
The gamers will join the IGL — Indian Gaming League, a competitive esports platform, and the winners will be rewarded and whitelisted for the NFT drop. In addition to this, the firm has also partnered with eDAO, an entertainment, and creator-focused organization, that intends to promote the Hefty ecosystem by allowing users to interact and engage with their favourite games and artists.
“With today’s announcement, we have been able to expand the horizon for the gaming community of India. Through Hefty Games, we have enabled gamers to monetize their worth further, and engage their followers better,” said Sandeep Nailwal, Co-founder of Polygon.
Signzy invents the future of banking in Metaverse
Signzy Technologies has received a US patent for new customer signup and onboarding in metaverse, using Virtual and Augmented Reality.
The patent has been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is one of the first commercial patent grants in metaverse, as per the firm.
Signzy’s patent marks a breakthrough innovation for banking in the metaverse as it describes a methodology for real-time onboarding of customers in virtual reality, across devices, by any financial institution. The company’s solution comes with advanced scalability protocols that allow a large number of concurrent users to navigate inside the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) models of one or more financial institutions.
Once deployed, banks and financial institutions can leverage Signzy’s patented technology across varied financial products, both existing as well as those still to be invented in the future for metaverse, with the assurance of industry-leading scalability and security. The technology also supports metaverse currencies and financial instruments, including crypto currencies, it added.
Signzy has so far filed six AI patents in the USA and five in India. The company works with over 250 FIs globally including the 4 largest banks in India, a Top 3 acquiring Bank in the US, and strong global partnership with Mastercard and Microsoft.
Moveworks opens first office in India to strengthen its leadership in conversational AI
Moveworks, an AI platform that automates support at work, has announced the opening of its first location outside the United States.
The new office, located in Bengaluru, will serve as its second headquarters, where team members will conduct research and development, establish strategic partnerships, and rise into senior leadership roles, the firm added.
“Our India team is making our platform even more powerful by building deep integrations with other systems, and by providing customers with total visibility over their employee experience. Ultimately, we’ll give every employee the support they need — the moment they need it,” said Mihir Gore, Moveworks’ Director of Engineering and India Site Leader.
Founded in 2016, Moveworks has raised $315 million in funding to date. The firm is hiring aggressively in India as it plans to double the size of its team in the next six months, with a focus on roles in research and development (R&D) as well as general and administration (G&A).
Higher attrition driving higher increments: Naukri Hiring Outlook Survey 2022
Rising attrition and talent shortage will drive higher increments in the months ahead, according to a survey by jobs portal Naukri.com.
As per the report, 57% of recruiters indicated both new and replacement hiring in their organizations in the coming months till June’22 vis-a-vis 51% in last year’s survey. 62% of the recruiters expect the hiring to go back to pre-COVID levels in their organizations by June 2022.
The top functional areas in which active hiring is expected in the coming months are IT (59%), Business Development (43%), and Marketing (36%), as per Naukri Hiring Outlook Survey. From an experience standpoint, recruiters foresee maximum hiring to take place for the experience band of 3-5 years (67%), followed by 1-3 years (53%), and 5-8 years (53%).
“7% recruiters indicated a surge in both new and replacement hiring in their organizations. Only 2% recruiters foresee a hold on hiring, while just 1% indicate layoffs for the coming months which indicates re-stabilization after a turbulent period,” said Pawan Goyal, Chief Business Officer, Naukri.com.
Buoyant bitcoin helps market cruise past $2 trillion
As a bleak first quarter draws to a close, crypto seems to have the wind in its sails. It has pushed through the $2 trillion barrier and is proving surprisingly resilient amid global chaos.
At Monday's high of $47,765, market leader bitcoin broke above the narrow $34,000-$44,000 range it's traded in for most of 2022. Through a steady grind higher from a low just above $40,000 on March 21, it has gained 18%, as per a Reuters report.
Its comparative steadiness, versus previous performance at least, contrasts with stock markets, traditional currencies and even safe-haven gold, which have been shaken by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as the Federal Reserve's tightening.
Bitcoin's jumpiness has waned of late.
Its 30-day volatility is around 4%, about two-thirds the level it was in June 2021, according to futures trading platform Coinglass. The highest this year was 4.56% on March 16.
The total value of the cryptocurrency market rose above $2 trillion on Friday, according to analytics platform CoinMarketCap. To put that in context, the market briefly hit $3 trillion on Nov. 10, when bitcoin reached $69,000.
Bitcoin's market capitalisation has reached $902 billion, but it still has ways to go to reclaim the $1 trillion it commanded in November.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Tesla adds $84Bn to valuation on stock-split signal: Report
Tesla has added about $84 billion to its stock-market value on Monday, more than Ford Motor’s entire market capitalization, after the electric-vehicle maker said it is planning a second stock split in about two years, as per Bloomberg News.
Stocks splits for large companies have returned to the spotlight recently with Amazon saying earlier this month that it will do a 20-for-1 stock split, followed by Alphabet’s own plan announced in February, as these companies try to make their lofty stocks more attractive for individual investors.
The news, announced via a tweet, helped to add further fuel to a recent rally in Tesla’s stock. The company is the biggest gainer on the NYSE FANG+ Index this year.
The last time Tesla split its stock was in August 2020. Its share price rose a staggering 743 percent that year, and the split was often cited among one of the reasons that drove the gains.
Reid Hoffman’s new startup poaches first staff from Google and Meta: Report
Inflection AI, the startup launched earlier this month by LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman and DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, has poached artificial intelligence gurus from Google and Meta, according to CNBC analysis.
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Inflection’s aim is to develop AI software products that make it easier for humans to communicate with computers.
When the company was launched, the only three team members that were made public were Suleyman, Hoffman and former DeepMind researcher Karén Simonyan. However, others have now joined the fold.
Heinrich Kuttler left his research engineering manager role at Meta AI in London this month to become a member of the founding team at Inflection, working on the technical side of the business, according to his LinkedIn page. He is one of many people to have left Meta since CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a pivot to the so-called metaverse.
Elsewhere, Joe Fenton left his senior product manager role at Google in February to become a member of the founding team at Inflection AI, working on the product side of the business.
Inflection is the first company Hoffman has co-founded since he sold LinkedIn to Microsoft for $26.2 billion in 2016. It is also the first company Suleyman has co-founded since he sold DeepMind to Google in 2014 for around $600 million. The pair are also investors at venture capital firm Greylock.
Sequoia leads $80M funding round for Swiss expense management startup Yokoy: Report
Yokoy, a Swiss startup helping companies manage their expenses, has raised $80 million in a financing round led by Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm told CNBC.
Previous investors Left Lane and Balderton Capital also took part in the round.
The deal values the Zurich-based company at more than $500 million, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC. The person preferred to remain anonymous discussing commercially sensitive information.
Yokoy will use the fresh cash to pursue expansion in Europe — it recently opened up an office in the Netherlands — and hire more staff. With the help of Sequoia, the company aims to eventually enter the US.
US Chamber sides with Facebook in antitrust appeal
The powerful US Chamber of Commerce has filed a brief, urging a D.C. appeals court to reject an appeal by a big group of US states to revive their antitrust lawsuit against Meta Platform's Facebook.
The Chamber, along with the Computer and Communications Industry Association and Business Roundtable, argued that the district court judge hearing the case was right to toss it out because the states had waited too long to file their case, as per Reuters.
Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia last July dismissed the states' lawsuit against Facebook, saying they delayed in challenging the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
Boasberg, who also dismissed a lawsuit filed by the US Federal Trade Commission, allowed the agency to refile its complaint but did not do so for the states.
The group, made up of 46 states, Guam and the District of Columbia, argued that Boasberg erred in ruling they had waited too long to file the lawsuit and asked an appeals court to reinstate the case. The business organizations argued further that the states were wrong in arguing that Facebook broke the law with exclusionary conduct, in executing what the states called a "buy-or-bury strategy." The business groups' brief called this position "dubious and dangerous."
EU's Vestager says no antitrust concerns yet about cloud computing
Cloud computing, in which Amazon and Microsoft are the biggest players followed by Google, doesn't pose competition concerns yet because of Europe's Gaia-X initiative, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said.
Cloud computing services have seen demand soar, driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have become a big driver of growth at the big tech companies, with AWS generating 13% of Amazon's revenue last year and 74% of its operating income while Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud unit, of which Azure is a big chunk, brought in 37% of its overall sales.
"No, so far we've had no concerns," Vestager told Reuters in an interview when asked if she was worried about companies potentially abusing their dominance.
She said Gaia-X, a project to create secure and efficient cloud data that seeks to reduce the EU bloc's dependence on Silicon Valley giants, would boost competition.
Steven Mnuchin's fund buys major stake in security startup Zimperium for $525M
Liberty Strategic Capital, a Washington D.C.-based private equity fund founded by former US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has acquired a controlling stake in enterprise security firm Zimperium for $525 million, both told Reuters.
The deal is Liberty Strategic Capital's first majority stake acquisition since its launch last year. It has also led late-stage funding rounds in cybersecurity firms BlueVoyant and Cybereason.
SoftBank, which has been an investor in Zimperium since 2017, will continue as a minority owner.
The Dallas, Texas-headquartered firm has raised over $100 million in equity and debt financing from investors including Warburg Pincus, according to PitchBook data.