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Startup Digest: Mensa Brands to be the next unicorn? BetterPlace acquires Oust Labs, Google releases compliance report & whistleblower says Facebook put profit before reining in hate speech

Startup Digest: Mensa Brands to be the next unicorn? BetterPlace acquires Oust Labs, Google releases compliance report & whistleblower says Facebook put profit before reining in hate speech

Startup Digest: Mensa Brands to be the next unicorn? BetterPlace acquires Oust Labs, Google releases compliance report & whistleblower says Facebook put profit before reining in hate speech
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By Aishwarya Anand  Oct 4, 2021 10:47:10 PM IST (Published)

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Mensa Brands to be India's fastest unicorn?

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Thrasio-style startup Mensa Brands is in talks to raise funds at a billion-dollar valuation, less than six months after it launched, sources told Moneycontrol.
Mensa is in early-stage talks to raise $200 million from investors, including Accel Growth- the US-based fund. Another new investor may join the round in addition to existing investors Accel India, Norwest Venture Partners, Falcon Edge Capital and most recently Tiger Global Management.
The round may value Mensa at a billion dollars, making it India’s fastest startup to become a unicorn- surpassing blue-collar worker hiring platform Apna, which took a little less than two years to reach the mark, the report added.
Mensa is building a house of brands by acquiring online sellers in the apparel, home appliance, personal care and beauty space, similar to US-based breakout startup Thrasio.
US-based Thrasio earmarks $500 million for India; to start with Lifelong Online acquisition: Report
Thrasio, the US-based company that pioneered the model of acquiring private brands and scaling them up, may enter the Indian market with its first local acquisition of based home appliances startup Lifelong Online. According to an Economic Times report, the acquisition is valued between $30 million and $50 million. Meanwhile, Thrasio has also earmarked $500 million for acquisitions in India, and it might run the India operation through Lifelong Online, the report added.
Thrasio's India bet comes at a time when several startups replicating their model. Among the prominent startups in the space are Goat Brand Labs, Mensa Brands, 10Club and GlobalBees. Mensa Brands and GlobalBees have raised $50 million and $150 million, respectively, through a mix of equity and debt, while 10Club has raised one of the largest seed rounds, $40 million. Goat Brand Labs has scooped up $36 million. Recently, 10Club made its second acquisition with sports gear maker Skudgear after acquiring NewBorn. Meanwhile, GlobalBees has acquired the home care products brand The Better Home.
E-commerce firms see strong start to festive sale; tier-II, III cities drive momentum
E-commerce majors Flipkart and Amazon India have witnessed a strong start to this year's festive sale, with demand from tier-II and -III cities driving the momentum. Walmart-owned Flipkart said early access for its 'Flipkart Plus' programme (loyalty programme) saw a 40 percent growth this year compared to last year, while about 45 percent of customer demand has been from tier-III cities and beyond.
Meanwhile, Amazon India vice-president Manish Tiwary said the platform saw a 60 percent increase in sellers who received their highest-ever single-day sales year-on-year on Amazon. Tiwary noted that Prime subscription continues to be a customer favourite across India, with two out of three new Prime sign-ups coming from tier-II and -III cities and customers shopping in eight Indian languages. The competition between the two giants is expected to be intense, similar to previous years.
Flipkart's The Big Billion Days Sale and Amazon India's Great Indian Festival (GIF) has started on Sunday. Both the platforms offered early access to Plus (Flipkart) and Prime (Amazon) customers. While Flipkart's The Big Billion Days (TBBD) sale is an eight-day event that will end on October 10, Amazon India's GIF will be a month-long affair. Flipkart, in its statement, said the eighth edition of its TBBD started on a positive note, with early trends reflecting upbeat consumer sentiment in the country. Other players like Myntra, Snapdeal and others are also holding similar sale events on their platforms.
Meanwhile, D2C brand The Sleep Company also launched a slew of sleep accessories along with its festive season, mega-sale - The Great Indian Sleep Sale. The company has offered a 45% discount on all products across its website, Amazon as well as Flipkart. The company is aiming to achieve its projected run rate of 100 crores by November. According to consulting firm RedSeer, e-commerce platforms are expected to potentially clock over $9 billion GMV (gross merchandise value) during the festive season this year as against $7.4 billion last year - a growth of 23 percent.
BetterPlace acquires Oust Labs to digitally upskill 100 million workers
Blue-collar workforce management platform Betterplace has acquired a US-based micro-learning SaaS platform tailor Oust Labs in an all-cash deal.
This development comes after BetterPlace’s recent Series C fundraise of $24 million from CX Partners, Jungle Ventures, CDC Group, Capria Ventures, 3One4 Capital among others. The startup will use Oust Labs' expertise to digitally upskill about 100 million workers, according to the company.
"We will make it available to 1,000+ of our enterprise customers and their massive distributed workforce,” Pravin Agarwala, CEO and Co-founder, BetterPlace. Oust Labs is a micro-learning platform that provides learning solutions through mobile-first gamified applications across enterprises operating in gig-economy, banking, and logistics, among other sectors. The company said it is targeting to upskill 20 million users in the next 24 months and has skilled more than one million users across India and South-East Asian countries.
ChrysCapital buys ResultsCX from One Equity Partners for $400 million
Private equity firm ChrysCapital has acquired Florida-based business process management service provider ResultsCX from One Equity Partners, the outsourcing company said on Monday. The acquisition is the largest-ever deal done by ChrysCapital and sources estimate it to be around $400 million. ResultsCX has a footprint across several countries and ChrysCapital expects the firm to enter India within a year to capitalise on the country's talent pool.
Google removes 93,550 content pieces in August in India, shows compliance report
Google has received 35,191 complaints from users and removed 93,550 pieces of content based on those complaints in the month of August, the tech giant said in its monthly transparency report. In addition to reports from users, Google also removed 651,933 pieces of content in August as a result of automated detection.
Google had received 36,934 complaints from users and removed 95,680 pieces of content based on those complaints in July. It had removed 5,76,892 pieces of content in July as a result of automated detection. Google, in its latest report, said it had received 35,191 complaints in August from individual users located in India via designated mechanisms, and the number of removal actions as a result of user complaints stood at 93,550.
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. The company has made these disclosures as part of compliance with India’s IT rules that came into force on May 26.
24SEVEN launches plant-based sausages made by BVeg Foods
In another push for the rapidly increasing ‘smart protein’ category, 24Seven, a twenty-four-hour convenience store chain has announced the launch of plant-based hot dogs and sausages, in association with plant-based meats manufacturing company BVeg Foods. The launch will make plant-based sausages available across 90+ locations in Delhi-NCR and Chandigarh.
BVeg Foods is also working on a variety of other product categories such as burger patties, nuggets, kebabs, and many more. The company said in a statement that an integrated plant-based meat processing facility will be equipped with the latest high moisture extrusion technology from Europe, capable of creating a variety of different textures such as chicken, lamb, fish, and more.
Data from the Good Food Institute India shows that $3.1 billion was invested in the smart protein sector globally in 2020, up 3x from the year prior as enthusiasm and demand for sustainable and secure protein supply chains deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jupitice launches digital court to resolve disputes in MSME sector
India digital court, developed by Jupitice Justice Technologies, has now launched an MSME court to resolve the rising disputes in this sector.
The AI-driven platform will resolve disputes that include civil, commercial, personal, consumers under the Private Justice System.
In order to build a better relationship across businesses for MSMEs, Jupitice is planning to enhance the liquidity of MSMEs by providing fast, cost-effective and efficient dispute resolution. It has also been working towards reducing the litigation rate and consequently reducing the burden on the judiciary/public justice system.
Clever Harvey launches Startup Incubation Program
Edtech startup Clever Harvey has launched a startup incubation programme that aims to give high school students a real-life startup experience and help them build their ideas into a full-fledged business. As part of the program, 20 teams selected will receive 1:1 mentorship and funding from startup founders and entrepreneurs at every milestone they achieve.
The mentorship sessions, funds, and advice will help teens translate their ideas into prototypes and launches, the company said in a statement. Out of the 20 selected startups, the top 5 that shows the most traction will receive a seed grant of Rs. 25,000 each from Clever Harvey.
Teachmint zooms past the 10 million user mark
Edtech platform Teachmint has crossed the 10 million users mark - registering exponential growth since its launch in May 2020, the company said in a statement. The company claims to have teachers and students from over 5000 cities, with the platform powering over 1 million hours of live classes every single day. Teachmint has clocked 5 million and has now doubled its user base to 10 million teachers and students, the company said. With this, the firm plans on growing its base to 50 million teachers and students in the next 12 months.
Biomoneta demonstrates 99.9999% efficiency against COVID-19
C-CAMP COVID-19 Innovations Deployment Accelerator C-CIDA cohort Biomoneta, has shown that their innovative air decontamination technology, ZeBox can eliminate airborne COVID-19 virus with 99.9999 percent efficiency in any closed setting. The biotech startup aims to reduce the risk of airborne infections through its patent-pending indoor air decontamination device, ZeBox, which traps and kills viruses, bacteria, fungi, and spores.
A validation analysis from IISc Bangalore found that the device showed an efficiency of 99.99999 percent in five minutes, which means the device could remove 10 million live COVID-19 viruses in five minutes, the company said in a statement.
Dyson launches latest air-purifiers to combat pollution ahead of festive season
India is the most polluted country in the world, with more than 480 million people or about 40 percent of its population living in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north where pollution levels regularly exceed those found anywhere else in the world by an order of magnitude, as per the University of Chicago's Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report.
While courts and state governments ban Diwali firecrackers in a bid to control pollution and talks of controlling stubble burning have already started, Dyson India has introduced its improved set of air-purifiers in India. The company has launched two new air purifiers – both with HEPA H13 standard air filtration claiming to remove 99.5% of impurities (above 0.1 micrograms), allergens, bacteria, viruses, pollen and mould spores from the air.
The new Dyson Air Purifiers come in two different variants - Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool, Dyson Purifier Cool. Both the air purifiers have similar features but the Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool comes with an additional capability of projecting purified hot air across the room and finds utility in places, especially in northern India, where you experience extreme winters.
Dyson Purifier Cool is better suited to use in warm areas, where the heating feature isn't particularly needed. Dyson has reengineered the airflows pathways that have a fully sealed HEPA 13 filtration process. It says that the improved sealing now restricts any incoming, unfiltered air from bypassing the filters.
Whistleblower says Facebook put profit before reining in hate speech
A Facebook whistleblower has accused the social media giant of repeatedly prioritizing profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation, and said her lawyers have filed at least eight complaints with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Frances Haugen, who worked as a product manager on the civic misinformation team at Facebook, appeared on Sunday on the CBS television program "60 Minutes," revealing her identity as the whistleblower who provided the documents that underpinned a Wall Street Journal investigation and a Senate hearing on Instagram's harm to teen girls.
Haugen said Facebook has lied to the public about the progress it made to clamp down on hate speech and misinformation on its platform. She added that Facebook was used to help organise the Capitol riot on January 6, after the company turned off safety systems following the US presidential elections. While she believed no one at Facebook was "malevolent," she said the company had misaligned incentives. Haugen will testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday in a hearing titled "Protecting Kids Online," about the company's research into Instagram's effect on young users. Facebook published a statement disputing the points that Haugen made after the televised interview. "We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content," said Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch. "To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true."
'Consumers aren't stupid': Google lawyer rejects EU market abuse ruling
Billions of people use Google because it's the best, not because of deals the company made to stay competitive, Google's lawyer said while wrapping up testimony as the US tech giant fights a record $5 billion antitrust fine. The European Commission hit Google with a 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) fine in 2018 for using its Android mobile operating system to thwart rivals and cement its dominance in general internet searching from 2011. As per Reuters, at issue are deals requiring phone makers to pre-install the Google Search app and the Chrome browser app together with Google Play as well deals blocking some variants of Android.
"The reason why billions of people choose Google as their search tool every day is not because of an abuse of dominance. It's because it's the best," lawyer Meredith Pickford told the EU's General Court, the bloc's second-highest.
Pickford said the deals were far from being anti-competitive tools, rather they were to ensure Google stayed competitive.
Apple's iPhone privacy changes signal desire to enter advertising: RBC
Apple’s recent privacy changes for iPhones are signs it may look to tap into an internet advertising market dominated by Facebook and Google, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets said. Since an April software update, most iPhones have allowed users to decide which apps can track user activity – crucial information that helps companies like Facebook deliver tailored ads to users and measure their impact.
The feature, which Apple calls App Tracking Transparency (ATT), has worried many digital advertising and mobile gaming companies including Facebook, which says it has made it more expensive and difficult for brands to advertise on its platforms.
Trump asks US judge to force Twitter to restart his account
Former US President Donald Trump asked a federal judge in Florida to ask Twitter to restore his account, which the company removed in January citing a risk of incitement of violence.
According to Reuters, Trump filed a request for a preliminary injunction against Twitter in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, arguing the social media company was “coerced” by members of the US Congress to suspend his account. Twitter and several other social media platforms banned Trump from their services after a mob of his supporters attacked the US Capitol in a deadly riot on January 6.
Jeff Bezos makes first-ever investment in southeast Asia's e-commerce: Report
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos participated in an $87 million Series B funding for Indonesian startup Ula, marking his first-ever investment in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce space, Bloomberg News reported. Bezos Expeditions, Northstar group, AC Ventures and Citius joined the round co-led by Prosus Ventures, Tencent and B-Capital. The previous fundraising included a $10.5 million seed round in June 2020 and an additional $20 million Series A round in January this year.
The startup that offers technology solutions to small retailers is seeking to expand its base to include more cities in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, explore overseas expansion across the region, develop the buy-now-pay-later offering, as well as building local supply chain and logistics infrastructure.
Tesla vehicle deliveries hit another record in Q3, beats analysts' estimates
Tesla said it had delivered a record electric cars in the third quarter, beating Wall Street estimates after chief executive Elon Musk asked staff to "go super hardcore" to make a quarter-end delivery push. Tesla has weathered the chip crisis better than rivals, with its overall deliveries surging 20% in the July to September period from its previous record in the second quarter, marking the sixth consecutive quarter-on-quarter gains, Reuters reported.
Musk said Tesla suffered an extremely severe parts shortage earlier in the third quarter and had urged employees to make quarter-end delivery push, Reuters reported last month, citing an internal company email. Tesla delivered 241,300 vehicles globally in the July to September quarter, up 73% from a year earlier. Analysts had expected the electric-car maker to deliver 229,242 vehicles, according to Refinitiv data.
Tesla said it delivered 232,025 of its Model 3 compact cars and Model Y sport-utility vehicles and 9,275 of its flagship Model S and Model X cars to customers in the quarter. Total production in the third quarter rose over 15% to 237,823 vehicles from the prior quarter.
Coinbase says hackers stole cryptocurrency from at least 6,000 customers
Hackers stole from the accounts of at least 6,000 customers of Coinbase Global, according to a breach notification letter sent by the cryptocurrency exchange to affected customers. The hack took place between March and May 20 of this year, according to a copy of the letter posted on the website of California's Attorney General. Unauthorised third parties exploited a flaw in the company's SMS account recovery process to gain access to the accounts, and transfer funds to crypto wallets not associated with Coinbase, the company said.
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