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    Startup Digest: Lenskart acquires Owndays, Ankiti Bose resigns from Zilingo board, Swiggy to buyback ESOPs worth $23 million & GetVantage raises $36 million

    Startup Digest: Lenskart acquires Owndays, Ankiti Bose resigns from Zilingo board, Swiggy to buyback ESOPs worth $23 million & GetVantage raises $36 million

    Startup Digest: Lenskart acquires Owndays, Ankiti Bose resigns from Zilingo board, Swiggy to buyback ESOPs worth $23 million & GetVantage raises $36 million
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    By Aishwarya Anand   IST (Updated)

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    Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

    Lenskart acquires majority stake in Japan-based Owndays
    Omnichannel eyewear retailer Lenskart has acquired a majority stake in Japanese eyewear brand Owndays to become the region's largest Omni-channel eyewear business via this strategic partnership.
    As per reports, the deal is valued at $400 million. However, the company did not disclose details of the deal. This acquisition will enable Lenskart to expand its presence to 13 markets in Asia including India, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan, a statement said.
    Owndays’ co-founders, CEO Shuji Tanaka, and COO Take Umiyama, will continue to be shareholders and lead the management team while the brand will continue operating independently, the firm added.
    "With OWNDAYS we move a step closer to democratizing eyewear. I have known Shuji-san and Take-san for over five years and have been an admirer of the disruptive brand and customer experience they have built with OWNDAYS.
    To bring about a revolutionary change such as the one the world needs in eyewear, we need to work with like-minded and complementary founders,” said Peyush Bansal, co-founder, and group CEO at Lenskart.
    B2B unicorn Zetwerk acquires 3 companies for Rs 100 crore
    B2B marketplace unicorn Zetwerk has acquired a majority stake in three companies for a cumulative sum of Rs 100 crore. The firm has acquired a majority stake in Pinaka Aerospace Solution, in a cash plus equity deal.
    Zetwerk would benefit from Pinaka's client portfolio, which includes government research facilities like DRDO and ISRO and enterprise clients like Carlisle, Tata, and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, , among others, it said in a statement.
    The unicorn has also acquired a majority stake in SharpTanks, an engineering and construction company operating in the oil and gas sector. The acquisition makes them one of the seven companies in the space, the firm said.
    Zetwerk also purchased the Wardha fabrication unit of Wheels India, in a bid to gain market share in the $1.5-billion market for the manufacture of critical fabricated parts used in power, roads and railway projects.
    Ankiti Bose resigns from B2B-fashion startup Zilingo’s board
    E-commerce fashion startup Zilingo's co-founder and former CEO Ankiti Bose resigned from the company's board, including the holding company and any of its subsidiaries.
    Taking to the social media platform Instagram, Bose said, "It is heartbreakingly clear to me that hundreds of employees and customers are also in a state of limbo and do not have any clarity on their future – just like me. Real lives and jobs have been at stake."
    "This is a difficult time for my Zilingo team, and I want to assure all my beloved Zilingo colleagues that my resignation as a board member is not in conflict with my commitment to save the company,” she added.
    Bose was fired on May 20 from the Singapore-based startup after she had been suspended due to alleged financial irregularities. She was told about mismanagement and accounting irregularities at the company when it was looking to raise funds.
    Zilingo said the decision to suspend her over financial irregularities was taken by the Board jointly. It added that the harassment allegations came only after her suspension on March 31.
    "Over the past few months, despite my many requests, the Zilingo board has failed to show me any report (issued by Kroll or Deloitte) which pertained to any investigations into the company or into my alleged misconduct, and why or how these were used to terminate my position as CEO,” Bose said.
    This, she added, was despite the fact that she was a director on the Board of Zilingo’s holding company and subsidiaries, and is a large shareholder. Other material information pertaining to the company was also concealed from her, Bose claimed.
    Swiggy to buyback ESOPs worth $23 million from 900 employees
    Online food-delivery giant Swiggy to buy back shares worth $23 million issued under its employee stock option program (ESOP) from about 900 employees. The foodtech decacorn has also announced that the next round of ESOP liquidity will be held in July 2023. This enables employees holding ESOPs to create wealth alongside the growth and success of the brand, it said in a statement.
    Swiggy has also rolled out a new program, named Buy Your Own Dollar (BYOD), wherein employees of the food delivery major can choose to invest in the company's ESOPs. ESOPs were earlier offered to employees above a certain grade and/or based on performance, the firm added. The BYOD program will be open to all permanent employees of the company.
    Vedantu follows BYJU's, Unacademy to offset online losses, launches tuition centre
    As the online learning space continues to shrink in India, edtech platform Vedantu on Thursday announced it has opened a 'hybrid' learning centre in Bihar's Muzaffarpur.
    The tuition centre will primarily cater to students preparing for IIT-JEE and NEET exams. The courses will cover preparation for IIT-JEE and NEET, a two-year course for students of Class 11, and a one-year course for the dropper batch.
    "These hybrid centres are well equipped with hi-tech technology, the teaching model offers learning from the most inspiring master teachers across the country enabled by innovation to offer best-in-class live and interactive features in tier 3 and tier 4 cities," said Vamsi Krishna, CEO, and co-founder, Vedantu.
    The move comes as edtech platforms like BYJU's and Unacademny have forayed into physical coaching centres nationwide amid a severe crunch in the online learning market.
    GetVantage raises $36 million led by Varanium Nexgen, DMI Sparkle Fund, eyes Southeast Asia expansion
    GetVantage, a revenue-based lending platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has raised $36 million in a growth funding round led by Varanium Nexgen Fintech Fund, DMI Sparkle Fund, and existing investors Chiratae Ventures and Dream Incubator Japan. New investors including Sony Innovation Fund, InCred Capital, and Haldiram’s Family Office amongst others, also participated in the funding round.
    The company will use the proceeds of the fundraise for growing its financing solution and embedded finance product, enhance technology infrastructure, scale its product suite, expand their growing portfolio of B2B SaaS and subscription-driven businesses and will also explore new-market opportunities across Southeast Asia, a statement said.
    In 2021, GetVantage saw 300 percent year-on-year (YoY) growth. According to the company, it also helped brands achieve 1.8x revenue growth post-funding on average. Going forward, the startup is aiming to scale its embedded finance solution by 30x.
    Urvann raises Rs 3 crore in seed round from Inflection Point Ventures
    Gardening-focused hyperlocal marketplace Urvann has raised Rs 3 crore in a seed round of funding led by Inflection Point Ventures (IPV). The funds raised will be utilised for the expansion of operations across the country, the company said in a statement.
    The firm claims to have catered to 15,000+ orders, delivered 100,000 plants in Delhi, and served more than 6,000 happy customers. It is now aiming to expand its operations in major Indian cities including Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, and Chennai by the end of this year. The startup is also looking to increase its monthly GMV by 10X by the year-end.
    Venture Catalysts invests an undisclosed amount in NOTO
    NOTO, a packaged food brand, has bagged an undisclosed investment in its Pre-Series A round led by Venture Catalysts. The company said it will utilize the funds to scale up its operations and venture into new product categories.
    Backed by key investors like actor John Abraham, Titan Capital, Rockstud Capital and WEH Ventures, NOTO offers a range of ice creams that are less than 95 Calories and 5 grams Protein per serving and popsicles which is 45 calories or less. Noto has also released a Vegan range to target the ever-growing plant-based and lactose-free consumer segment.
    Metastable Materials raises Pre-Seed round from Angels
    Urban mining startup Metastable Materials has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from a clutch of angel investors and venture capital firms.
    The pre-seed round was led by Akshay Singhal and Kartik Hajela, co-founders of Log9 Materials, Archana Priyadarshini, General Partner, PointOne and Sanjiv Rangrass, Ex-Group Head at ITC, among other angels.
    The firm will use the fresh capital to build Lithium-ion battery supply chain infra, scale-up Metastable’s patented process, and develop corresponding supply chains. In addition, the amount raised will be deployed in team, operations, and infrastructure expansion for Metastable, the company said.
    IN-SPACe gives green signal to Dhruva Space to launch payloads
    Indian Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) has approved Dhruva Space for the testing and space-qualification of its Satellite Orbital Deployers for the PSLV C53 mission by ISRO.
    This is the first time that a privately-owned Indian enterprise will be launching payloads in space. Earlier, ISRO was the only government body that was permitted to launch in space. Dhruva’s payload Dhruva Space Satellite Orbital Deployer will be launched on June 30.
    Spocto hires former Zomato, Google, Amazon executives to bolster its tech team
    Spocto, an AI-powered collect tech platform, has on-boarded former Zomato, Google, and Amazon tech leaders to bolster its capabilities in debt collection through innovation in Big Data, ML and Conversational AI.
    The newly appointed leaders, Vivek Srikantan, Ashish Khurana and Sudarshan Radhakrishnan, will take on the responsibilities of vice president, engineering, senior director, engineering, and head of product excellence respectively.
    With a cumulative experience of 47 years among the three, these tech leaders will boost deeper tech synergies while making its offerings more robust in debt collection and recovery mechanisms, a statement said.
    Srikantan has over two decades of experience in building core tech platforms at companies such as HP, Amazon, and Google. Khurana has previously transformed Zomato’s food value chain into a more effective and scalable one. Meanwhile, Radhakrishnan has worked across organizations such as Standard Chartered and Tata Consultancy where he led efforts on voice AI and data science.
    Apna partners with Google to optimize upskilling and job opportunities
    apna.co, a jobs and professional networking platform has partnered with Google Cloud to optimize upskilling and job opportunities pan-India.
    The professional networking platform is using a combination of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), BigQuery, and Vertex AI and will provide targeted networking and seamless matchmaking for job seekers across the country.
    The company also aims to strengthen its scalability provided by Kubernetes-based micro-services, it said in a statement.
    GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
    Coinbase looks to expand in Europe: Report
    Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global has renewed focus on its expansion in Europe and is in the process of registering in markets including Italy, Spain, France, and the Netherlands, Bloomberg News reported.
    "In all these markets our intention is to have retail and institutional products," the report quoted Nana Murugesan, Coinbase's vice president of business development and international, as saying in an interview. The company is already registered in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Germany, and recently hired its first employee in Switzerland, Murugesan said.
    A US FCC commissioner urges Apple, Google to boot TikTok from app stores
    A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission has urged the chief executives of Apple and Google to kick Chinese-owned TikTok out of its app stores, Reuters reported.
    Brendan Carr, the FCC commissioner, said in a letter to the CEOs, dated June 24 and sent on FCC letterhead, that video-sharing app TikTok has collected vast troves of sensitive data about US users that could be accessed by ByteDance staff in Beijing. ByteDance is TikTok's Chinese parent.
    "TikTok is not just another video app. That's the sheep's clothing," Carr said on Twitter. "It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing. "Carr asked the companies to either remove TikTok from their app stores by July 8 or explain to him why they did not plan to do so.
    EU seeks deal on ground-breaking rules to regulate crypto
    The European Union will seek agreement on ground-breaking rules for regulating crypto assets as the rout in bitcoin piles pressure on authorities to rein in the sector, according to a Reuters report.
    Globally, crypto assets are largely unregulated, with national operators in the EU only required to show controls for combating money laundering. A deal would put the EU ahead of the global regulatory pack by giving issuers of crypto assets and providers of related services a "passport" to serve clients across the EU from a single base, while meeting added capital and consumer protection rules.
    Representatives from the European Parliament and EU states meet to thrash out a deal on the markets in crypto assets (MiCA) law, which would come into force around the end of 2023.
    Google targeted in fresh EU consumer groups' privacy complaints
    Google has been targeted by a French consumer group and its peers in complaints to privacy watchdogs over its vast trove of users' personal data harvested via their Google accounts, European consumer organisation BEUC said.
    As per Reuters, in addition to the French consumer group, others in Greece, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Slovenia have taken their complaints to their data protection authorities, BEUC said.
    It said the German consumer body had sent a letter to Google, a unit of Alphabet that could lead to a civil lawsuit, while consumer agencies in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have written to their privacy regulators alerting them about Google's practices. BEUC said the issue was Google's account sign-up process.
    Chinese tech giants vow to stop NFT secondary trading: Report
    Chinese tech giants including Tencent and Ant Group have signed a pact to stop the secondary trading of digital collectibles and "self-regulate" their activities in the market, Chinese state media reported.
    The companies were among 30 firms and institutes that have agreed to the "Digital Collectible Industry Self-Discipline Development Initiative" in which they will help prevent secondary trading and speculation in digital collectibles, according to a report by the Shanghai Securities News.
    The newspaper added that the initiative was led by the Chinese Cultural Industry Association and that other signatories included Baidu and JD.com.
    Apple eyes fuel purchases from dashboard as it revs up car software
    Apple wants you to start buying gas directly from your car dashboard as early as this fall, when the newest version of its CarPlay software rolls out, accelerating the company's push to turn your vehicle into a store for goods and services.
    As per a Reuters report, a new feature quietly unveiled at Apple's developer conference this month will allow CarPlay users to tap an app to navigate to a pump and buy gas straight from a screen in the car, skipping the usual process of inserting or tapping a credit card. Details of Apple's demo for developers have not previously been reported.
    Apple currently does not charge automakers, developers or users for CarPlay; the business interest is putting Apple at the forefront as cars transform into rolling computers, said Horace Dediu, an analyst with Asymco and founder of Micromobility Industries. The new feature will hit hundreds of car models already compatible with CarPlay when Apple releases software updates this fall.
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