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STARTUP DIGEST: Investments in Indian SaaS rose $4.5 bn in FY21: Bain Report, IPO bound Snapdeal goes omnichannel & Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 Bn.

STARTUP DIGEST: Investments in Indian SaaS rose $4.5 bn in FY21: Bain Report, IPO-bound Snapdeal goes omnichannel & Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 Bn.

By Dec 7, 2021 7:40:52 PM IST (Published)

Startup Digest brings you the day's roundup of all the movers and shakers in the startup space.

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Indian SaaS startups raise record $4.5 bn in 2021: Bain report
Indian software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups have raised a record $4.5 billion from investors in 2021, nearly three times the previous year, led by innovation, access to capital, and a larger market size, according to a report from consultancy firm Bain and Co.
The year also created six SaaS unicorns being valued at over a billion dollars or more. This was as many as the last two years put together, indicating an increased momentum in the space as they address global markets, predominantly in the US and Europe, the report added.
Newer SaaS startups are also a result of employees at older SaaS firms leaving to start up, with over 500 such employee turned founders. Indian SaaS companies currently employ 62,000 people. 250 new companies have been set up by former SaaS employees, which employ about 5,000 people, the report said.
India has the third largest SaaS ecosystem globally, after USA and China; 100% growth in exits in 2021 over 2018 and is showing strong ARR-to-funding ratio in line with global SaaS peers.
The report added that SaaS companies are poised to reach $30 billion in revenue, capturing 8-9% share of the global SaaS market by 2025.
Snapdeal goes omnichannel to target ‘Bharat’ ahead of IPO: Report
Ahead of its $250 million initial public offering (IPO), e-commerce firm Snapdeal is all set to venture into the offline domain with the launch of partner stores across small cities of the country with an aim to attract and cater to ‘Bharat’, according to Moneycontrol.
The first Snapdeal partner store will be launched in January. The company plans to gradually expand the number to around 25 by the end of the next year.
Snapdeal will partner with existing or aspiring retailers for an asset-light focused rollout under which the company will help retailers procure goods of its power brands through its very own sellers, the report added.
Snapdeal which of late has expanded focus on non-branded categories and non-metros, currently gets over 80% of its business from smaller cities across the country.  The omnichannel strategy will help it get further traffic and also act as a physical touchpoint for the brand. It will also enable the buyers to examine the merchandise before they make an online purchase.
As per the report, Snapdeal has also hired former chief operating officer of Iconic Fashion, Priyaranjan Kumar, to lead this initiative.
Urban Company allots ESOPs worth Rs 42 cr to its employees: Report
Home service marketplace Urban Company has initiated fresh allotment of equity shares under its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to 181 employees including a clutch of former and current top-level executives, Entrackr reported.
The company has allotted 1,543 equity shares under its ESOP scheme to 181 employees at an exercise price of Re 1 per share, regulatory filings show. The full allotment is worth around Rs 42-46 crore, the report added.
The fresh allotment has come after six months of the $255 million funding round raised by Urban Company at around $2.1 billion valuation.
T-Hub on-boards 23 startups for Lab32 accelerator
T-Hub, a startup incubator, has on-boarded 23 startups for the seventh edition of Lab32, its seed accelerator programme
The programme helps startups refine their products for market fitness. The three-month programme, which commenced on Tuesday, has on-boarded startups from verticals such as edutech, direct-to-consumer, media, fintech, agritech and blockchain.
The shortlisted startups include Skillarthi, SmartchargeEV, Zerotouch, BeaversIn Technology, Rozgarkart, Pompah, Parking Mantra and Patasala.
“The programme will prepare startups for rapid growth, making them investment-ready,” T-Hub CEO M Srinivasa Rao said.
The three-year-old Lab32 has conducted six cohorts and helped 225 startups scale their businesses quickly and strategically.
Ikonz comes out of stealth with Iconic IP Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle for its NFT and Metaverse Foray
Ikonz, a platform for digital IP monetisation, is looking to ramp up IP aggression and bring together 50% of India’s premium entertainment IPs under a single banner in 12-18 months.
This means going after not just actors, athletes, and other celebrities, but also engaging with social media icons, content producers, and even media houses that specialize in rights ownership, the company said in a statement.
Operating in stealth mode since August 2021, the Ikonz platform will now facilitate collaborations with global artists, brands, and fashion designers to work on Iconic IP and have distribution into numerous NFT platforms and metaverses just with a few clicks. The company is bringing characters from Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, such as Suppandi, Shambu and others, to the world of NFTs and the metaverse
Ikonz has a dedicated advisory panel of experts who have been one of the earliest investors in blockchain, crypto, NFT platforms, and other veterans from virtual reality, gaming and design.
Backed by Anthill Ventures and actor Rana Daggubati, Ikonz is a wealth-building platform that supports IP owners, artists, and other established icons managing their digital assets
Totality Corp launches its very first playable NFT on Goddess Lakshmi
Playable NFT gaming startup Totality Corp has launched its first Playable NFT, Goddess Lakshmi NFT Lootbox, which focuses on giving monetary reward incentives, a robust community, and gameplay.
Users will be able to earn monetary rewards and gain access to the gaming platform, which will include play-to-earn games, through the NFT. The company is also launching a brand campaign about ZionVerse, a fully decentralised metaverse gaming ecosystem that includes DeFi, playable NFTs, play-to-earn, and a planetary DAO.
“In India, the NFT gaming industry is relatively young, and with more and more people flocking to cryptocurrencies, there is enormous potential for employing NFTs in gaming to build and extend the country’s NFT gaming ecosystem,” said Anshul Rustaggi, founder, Totality Corp.
Fashinza and BlackSoil partner to provide global demand and credit to small manufacturers in India
B2B apparel manufacturing company Fashinza has announced a strategic partnership with alternative credit platform, BlackSoil Capital to finance small manufacturers.
Through this partnership, both the companies will empower local manufacturers to work directly with the biggest fashion brands, both domestic and international, and deliver world-class solutions, a statement said.
Fashinza will provide a one-stop solution and streamlined experience to fashion brands by connecting their demand to MSME manufacturers while handling end-to-end production from design to delivery. On the other hand, BlackSoil has invested $2.7 million to further support the company’s high growth and their potential to scale demand, the firm said.
Mystifly launches MystiPay in tie-up with Diners Club International
Mystifly, a specialist in airline retailing technology and payments, is launching MystiPay, a new payment and settlement solution for the travel industry, in partnership with Diners Club International.
Under the new tie-up, Diners Club International will act as the payment facilitator for purchases made through MystiPay. MystiPay coupled with Mystifly’s ASRHub drives cost-efficiency and opens new revenue opportunities for travel sellers, the company said in a statement.
“The partnership with Diners Club International complements our goal to reduce airline payment costs and settlement time for bookings done through Mystifly’s airline retailing platform,” said Rajeev Kumar, founder and CEO, Mystifly.
Diners Club International, part of the Discover Global Network, is a global payments network accepted at nearly 40 million merchant locations and nearly 1.3 million ATMs in more than 200 countries and territories.
YouTube app rolls out 'listening controls' for all videos on Android, iOS
YouTube has reportedly started rolling out a 'listening controls' feature for Android and iOS users who are YouTube Premium subscribers.
Listening controls replace everything underneath the video window with a sparse sheet. play/pause, next/previous, and 10-second rewind/forward are the main buttons, reports 9to5Google.
Using the listening controls, YouTube app users can also save new songs to a playlist. The feature is now available for YouTube Android and iOS users widely and it is only rolling out to YouTube Premium users.
YouTube app for Android users has already surpassed a whopping 10 billion downloads on the Google Play Store. As the largest and most well-known streaming platform globally, it was always likely that YouTube would become the first "proper" user-facing Android app to hit such a download milestone on the Play Store.
Given that the app comes pre-installed on almost all devices, it is marginally bolstered and could even include some activations from back before the Play Store even existed.
The company recently rolled out a new tool, Super Thanks, that will let users tip their favourite creators on the platform.
UKG brings earned wage access to Indian employees via Rain partnership
UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), a global provider of human capital management (HCM), payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions, today announced a strategic partnership with Rain India, an earned wage access (EWA) and financial wellness provider to the Indian market.
This collaboration will enable organisations leveraging UKG Dimensions to empower their employees with real-time visibility into hours worked and on-demand earned wage access — minimising the stress employees experience while waiting for salary to cover unbudgeted or emergency expenses and improving overall employee experience and retention, the company said.
UKG Dimensions provides in-the-moment insight into workforce data for business-critical decisions, putting the right people in the right place at the right time. The integration of the Rain mobile app will leverage this data — more specifically, the days and hours worked by an employee regardless of their status (full-time or contract) — and provide on-demand earned wage access to the employee before their scheduled pay date to meet their financial obligations.
Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 bn over Myanmar violence
Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence, according to Reuters.
A US class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company's failures to police content and its platform's design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook's London office.
The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm.
The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report last month, that Myanmar's military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as "information combat."
Facebook has said it was "too slow to prevent misinformation and hate" in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the February 1 coup.
Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defence.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation that year, cited in the US complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook.
Instagram tightens teen protection measures ahead of Senate hearing
Instagram said on Tuesday it will be stricter about the types of content it recommends to teens in the photo-sharing app and will nudge them toward different areas if they dwell on one topic for a long time.
In a blog post, the social media service announced a slew of changes for teen users. Instagram head Adam Mosseri is due to testify in a Congressional hearing on Wednesday about protecting kids online.
In the post, Mosseri also said Instagram was switching off the ability for people to tag or mention teens who do not follow them on the app. He said that starting January, teen Instagram users would be able to bulk delete their content and previous likes and comments.
He said Instagram was exploring controls to limit potentially harmful or sensitive material suggested to teens through its search function, hashtags, short-form video Reels and its 'Suggested Accounts' feature, as well as on its curated 'Explore' page.
The blog also said that on Tuesday, Instagram was launching its 'Take a Break' feature in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, which reminds people to take a brief pause from the app after using it for a certain amount of time.
It said in March next year Instagram would launch its first tools for parents and guardians to see how much time their teens spend on the app and set time limits.
EU antitrust regulator seeks input on Microsoft's Nuance deal
EU's antitrust regulator is taking a deeper look into Microsoft’s $16 billion deal for transcription technology company Nuance Communications, asking customers and competitors to draw up a list of concerns, according to a questionnaire from last month seen by Reuters.
The previously unreported outreach is the most extensive by an antitrust authority since the companies announced the acquisition in April, according to a person familiar with the matter.
After minimal review, the US Department of Justice in June and the Australian Competition Commission in October said they would not contest the deal. The companies filed for approval from the European Commission's competition bureau last month, and the regulator has until December 21 to clear the deal or open a bigger investigation.
The companies had expected to close the deal by the end of this year, but said last month the timeline could slip to early next year.
The questionnaire asks whether Microsoft and Nuance are competitors and whether a tie-up could affect clients and rivals, including whether Microsoft could favor Nuance over competing services.
Apple's 'hands-off' approach with Roblox draws focus in DOJ antitrust probe: The Information
US prosecutors are looking for instances in which Apple is unevenly enforcing rules for app developers such as gaming firm Roblox and some others, the Information reported.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is probing key revelations from the antitrust trial between Apple and Epic Games in May, according to the report, in which the Fortnite maker had argued that Apple had given a free pass to Roblox, whose app lets people pick from a selection of games to play.
Following this, Roblox had removed reference to the word "game" and changed it to "experiences", the Information reported.
The DOJ recently asked Roblox why it made the language change and also wants to know whether Apple's 2019 launch of its Arcade game app store made it more difficult for game developers to compete with the iPhone maker, according to the report.
The tech news website had reported in late October that the DOJ was accelerating its two-year-old antitrust probe on Apple in the last several months, increasing the likelihood of a lawsuit.
Russia fines Google over content, bigger penalty looms
Russia fined Alphabet's Google 9 million rubles ($1,21,000), a Moscow court said on Tuesday, in the latest in a string of penalties against the technology giant for failing to delete content the government deems illegal.
Moscow has increased pressure on foreign tech companies this year in a campaign that critics characterise as an attempt by the authorities to exert tighter control over the Internet, something they say threatens to stifle individual and corporate freedom.
Google and Meta Platforms both face court cases this month for repeated violations of Russian legislation on content and could be fined a percentage of their annual revenue in Russia.
Moscow's Tagansky District Court on Tuesday said Google had been fined a total of 9 million rubles in three separate administrative cases for not deleting content. The court cited legislation which said this may include posts containing extremist activities, child pornography or the promotion of drug use.
Google has paid more than 32 million rubles in fines this year and has significantly reduced the number of posts prohibited by Moscow, the company and Russia have said.
Uber in talks with Mideast unit over outside investment, sources tell Reuters
Uber Technologies is in talks with the management of its Middle East unit Careem to bring outside investors into the business, sources told Reuters.
Careem's ownership structure following the planned investment was not immediately clear, though sources said Uber would remain a shareholder while giving Careem's management greater decision-making power over its strategy.
The investment would help finance the further roll-out of Careem's so-called Super App, two of the sources said, which offers services outside its core ride-hailing business such as food delivery, digital payments and courier services.
One of the sources said Careem's management wanted to build on its Super App, of which co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha has long been a proponent, while Uber was focused on ride-hailing.
The planned move comes just over two years after Uber bought its Dubai-headquartered rival, which operates predominantly in the Middle East, for $3.1 billion, keeping the brand and app intact.
Food delivery shares rise ahead of EU draft rules on gig workers
Shares in ride-sharing and food delivery companies rebounded on Tuesday, ahead of a European Commission proposal expected December 9 that will define when couriers should be considered employees and when they should be considered independent contractors.
The Financial Times reported that the proposal, under development for years, will as expected put the burden of proof on companies, rather than workers, to show when their delivery people are self-employed.
Shares in the Netherlands' Just Eat rose 6.3% by 1030 GMT, Germany's Delivery Hero rose 4.5%, and Britain's Deliveroo was up 1.9%, reversing similar declines on Monday, in an apparent relief rally to recover some on Monday's losses. Uber shares closed at $38.49 in the United States.
At present, gig economy workers in Europe have typically been considered self-employed, relieving companies of the obligation to pay them minimum wage or giving them sick leave or holiday pay. However, court decisions in the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and Spain in the past two years have challenged that.
The FT, citing from the unpublished proposal, said it could mean the reclassification of 4.1 million contractors as employees, leading to 484 million euros ($545 million) in extra annual pay and entitling them to the same "rights and protections" as other employees under European law.
Tesla's Musk says Biden's EV bill shouldn't pass
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that the US Congress should not approve the Biden administration's bill to boost subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs), claiming the proposal would worsen the country's budget deficit.
The billionaire entrepreneur is escalating criticism about the administration and Democrats for a proposal to give union-made, US-built electric vehicles an additional $4,500 tax incentive. Tesla and foreign automakers do not have unions at their US factories.
"Honestly, it might be better if the bill doesn't pass," Musk said at the WSJ CEO Council Summit. "I'm literally saying get rid of all subsidies," he said, adding that the government should "I think just try to get out of the way and not impede progress".
He also reiterated opposition to a proposal by the Democrats to tax billionaires. "It does not make sense to take the job of capital allocation away from people who have demonstrated great skill ... and give it to, you know, an entity that has demonstrated very poor skill in capital allocation, which is the government."
Musk also said his brain-chip startup, Neuralink, hopes to begin human trials next year pending approval of the US Food and Drug Administration. "I think we have a chance with Neuralink of being able to restore full body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury."
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