There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Wednesday. Here’s a wrap of the top startup headlines.
More Paytm employees convert ESOPs to shares after shareholders' approval
An additional 40 current and former employees of Paytm have converted their ESOP grants to shares for monetising them in its upcoming Rs 16,600 crore IPO, the digital payments firm said in a regulatory filing.
This comes after shareholders of Paytm in an extraordinary general meeting on September 2 approved raising the share pool of its employees' stock option plan (ESOP) to over 6.1 crore from 2.4 crore under the existing scheme.
The Rs 16,600 crore initial public offering (IPO) of the company is touted to be the country's largest market debut at an expected valuation of around Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
Paytm has a total paid-up capital of Rs 607,274,082, as of September 2021.
Earlier, 166 former and current employees had converted their ESOPs to shares, taking the total to over 200 now.
Given that turning ESOPs to shares will cost employees heavily in terms of taxes etc, Paytm has proposed to help them get loans from its established lending partners.
"Paytm will facilitate loans of up to Rs 100 crore through its lending partners and will also bear the interest of these loans for six months, so that employees are able to handle their finances better and yet, become proud shareholders of the company," a source said.
According to the company's draft red herring prospectus (DRHP), it disbursed 14 lakh loans during January-March, almost 53 times higher than the 26,000 loans disbursed during the same period of the previous year.
Truecaller seeks to raise $116 mn in IPO
Caller identification firm Truecaller, which counts India as its largest market, aims to raise upto $116 billion (1 billion Swedish krona) in its initial public offering on Nasdaq Stockholm, according to Reuters.
The company said it was planning to list its Class B shares on Nasdaq Stockholm by the end of the fourth quarter of this year, depending on market conditions. After listing, founders Nami Zarringhalam and Alan Mamedi will control a majority of the company's voting power due to their ownership of Truecaller’s high-vote Class A shares.
Truecaller claims to have 205 million monthly active users in India as of second quarter of 2021, citing company estimates and App Annie data. It claims to be the third largest communication platform in the country by monthly active users behind WhatsApp and Facebook.
The Swedish firm plans to use the proceeds from the offering for future growth, explore potential acquisitions and for general corporate purposes.
Truecaller counts Sequoia, Atomico, OpenOcean and Kleiner Perkins among its investors, and more than 10% of the company was owned by its employees.
IPO-bound Oyo to become public limited company
Shareholders of Oravel Stays, the parent company of hospitality firm OYO, have approved the conversion of the company from a private limited company to a public limited company, according to a regulatory filing.
Subject to receipt of any necessary approvals from any government, statutory or regulatory authority, the name of the company be and is hereby changed from Oravel Stays Private Limited to Oravel Stays, as per a Registrar of Companies (RoC) filing by the company.
The company intends to list its equity shares on one or more stock exchanges to enable shareholders with a formal marketplace for dealing with equity shares.
For this purpose, the company proposes to undertake an initial public offering, it added.
"In order to undertake the offer, the status of the company is required to be changed from a private company limited by shares to a public company limited by shares," the filing said.
This seems to be the last significant permission from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, to enable OYO to apply to markets regulator Sebi an application for public listing.
Last week, the board of Oravel Stays Private Limited had approved an increase in the authorised share capital of the company from Rs 1.17 crore to Rs 901 crore.
OYO is likely to file its draft red herring prospectus (DRHP) with Sebi in the next couple of months, according to sources.
OYO has initiated discussion with investment banks like JPMorgan, Citi and Kotak Mahindra Capital to manage its $1.5-billion public issue, slated to raise $1.2-1.5 billion at a valuation range of $14 to 16 billion.
PharmEasy acquires Aknamed in $180-$190 mn stock deal: Report
IPO-bound online pharmacy PharmEasy has acquired cloud-based hospital supply chain management startup Aknamed in a largely stock deal worth about $180-$190 million.
The transaction also involved a small cash outgo, the sources added. The acquisition, which is similar to its purchase of Thyrocare in June, is part of the PharmEasy’s plans to position itself as a broader online healthcare firm, diversifying from being just an online medicine delivery platform, as per reports.
Lightrock, a common investor in both firms, will see its stake increase in API Holdings as part of the deal.
Akanamed offers procurement solutions to over 1,200 hospitals, including Manipal Hospitals, Columbia Asia, and Narayana Health.
Uber launches Uber Corporate shuttle service in India
Ride-hailing giant Uber has launched Uber Corporate Shuttle for companies to help employees get to and from work amid the pandemic times.
Uber Corporate Shuttle is a customized commute service for companies, offering seating capacity for anywhere between 10-50 employees in a single vehicle.
Using Uber’s core technology to ensure a reliable, safe and cost-effective ride, the service helps companies deliver on their sustainability goals by helping decongest cities, reduce pollution and free up office parking spaces, the company said in a statement.
It also includes a set of safety measures, including a Go Online Checklist, a mandatory mask policy for both riders and drivers, pre-trip mask verification selfies for drivers and mandatory driver education on safety SOPs.
The service will be available across Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
“At Uber, we are focused on meeting the changing needs of our customers. Uber Corporate Shuttle helps companies put their employees first. They get to and from work safely, without the stress of traffic jams, expense of parking and car maintenance. And by making it easy for employees to give up their cars, the service can reduce congestion, pollution and emissions in our cities. It is an honour to help India get back to work safely after a tough 20 months,” said Abhinav Mittoo, Head of Uber for Business, India & South Asia.
BimePe shuts down; founder announces focus on new platform ‘Verak’
Insuretech startup founder Rahul Mathur on Wednesday said that he is scrapping his company Engaged InsureTech’s flagship brand and product, BimaPe. The move comes 10 months after building it, and Mathur unveiled a new brand, Verak Insurance.
BimaPe, a product that aims to simplify insurance for working professionals and helps users manage their family's insurance, is owned by Engaged InsurTech, the parent company. Verak Insurance, Mathur’s new focus, will remain a part of the broader parent entity.
"BimaPe is shutting down. We've had an incredible 10 months building the Wallet product - we had the privilege of speaking with 500+ users, maintained an organic 30% MoM growth rate for 6+’ months and built some industry first features," Mathur said in a Twitter post.
In a blog post, Mathur said, "Our team started working on the ‘Verak’ offering in July. We won’t be disclosing details of the same until March 2022 or later. The product recently crossed the $20,000 monthly net revenue milestone." Mathur also said it was unable to reach its Market-product fit (PMF) metrics set in March 2021.
"Over a three-month window — we fell short of the targets for each of these three input metrics despite executing ~15 changes (one per week)," he added.
BimaPe's backers included Y-Combinator, Titan Capital, iSeed, and Gemba Capital.
BuyUcoin launches SIP facility for 10 crypto assets
Cryptocurrency exchange BuyUcoin has launched systematic investment plan (SIP) facility for 10 crypto assets. Investment via BuyUcoin SIP can be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.
The SIPs are offered through bundled plans, which spreads the investment across crypto assets such as bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), litecoin (LTC), chainlink (LINK), and polkadot (DOT).
According to the exchange, a bundled SIP insulates the investments against the market fluctuations and ensures maximum safety for the investors. There is no entry or exit load for investing in BuyUcoin SIP.
“There was a growing demand from our existing users for a crypto SIP product and our team has delivered a very unique crypto SIP platform which caters to the needs of new as well as veteran investors. Our SIP plans enable users to spread their investments across stable coins, bitcoin, DeFi, NFTs, and altcoins to minimize the risk. Investors can earn interest up to 1,800% in a five-year plan," Shivam Thakral, chief executive officer, BuyUcoin, said.
Founded in 2016, BuyUcoin claims to have more than one million customers.
T-Hub’s capacity building initiative ‘T-Tribe’ graduates 5 startups from its MasterClass Program
Startup incubator T-Hub through its capacity-building initiative T-Tribe, today announced the graduation of idea-stage startups from its MasterClass program.
The five startups are Kshemin Labs, PolluShun, Bliss Extracts, AadhaTrip and InfinitIQ.
In this edition, five startups graduated out of eight idea-stage incubated startups. These startups were selected from a pool of more than 135 applications from different sectors ranging from automobile to healthcare, the company said in a statement.
Some of the selected startups have been featured in All India Radio, reached the second stage of the Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE) 2.0 grant and have also given a product demo to KT Rama Rao, Minister for IT, Industries & Commerce and Municipal Administration & Urban Development, the incubator added.
The graduated startups received the following benefits through the program: Recognition by Startup India, Technical expertise and industry-level management support, Five-stage certified startup, IP, trademark, and patent support, Opportunities of seed funding and Manpower support.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Biden to meet executives from Microsoft, Disney on vaccine mandate
US President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with business leaders and CEOs, as he pushes companies to require workers to be vaccinated amid a surge in COVID-19 infections among those not yet inoculated.
Participants in the meeting will include Walt Disney, Microsoft and Walgreens Boots Alliance, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Biden said that he had seen "positive support for mandates, by and large," although he conceded that there would always be a small percentage of people who would refuse to get a shot. Biden said he would meet with major employers on Wednesday at the White House to discuss the mandate issue.
The president last week announced policies requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly.
The new measures would apply to about two-thirds of all US employees, those who work for businesses with more than 100 workers.
Microsoft to buyback up to $60 bn shares; names Brad Smith vice-chair
Microsoft has said it will conduct an up to $60 billion share buyback programme, raise its quarterly dividend by 11%, and appoint company President Brad Smith as vice chair, as per Reuters.
Microsoft said the buyback programme has no expiration date and may be terminated at any time, and that it would pay a dividend of $0.62 per share - 6 cents over the previous quarter.
The US technology giant also called the vice chair position an updated executive role for Smith, who currently leads a team of over 1,500 staff in 54 countries, according to his biography on Microsoft's website.
Smith joined Microsoft in 1993 from law firm Covington & Burling to run corporate and legal affairs operations in Europe. He became general counsel in 2002 and, over the next decade, handled the resolution of antitrust cases, the biography showed.
Smith will continue to report to chief executive officer Satya Nadella, Microsoft said.
Uber CTO Sukumar Rathnam to step down after less than a year on the job
Ride-hailing giant Uber’s chief technology officer has stepped down after less than a year on the job, according to Reuters.
The spokesperson did not specify the reason for Uber CTO Sukumar Rathnam's departure but Business Insider reported earlier that he had been increasingly at odds with the Chief Product Officer Sundeep Jain. Rathnam plans to leave in early October.
It remains unclear how Uber's engineering teams will be structured after Rathnam leaves.
Apple's new iPhone 13 touts faster 5G, sharper cameras to spur trade-ins
Apple has unveiled the iPhone 13 and a new iPad mini, expanding 5G connectivity and showing off faster chips and sharper cameras without raising the phone's price.
As per Reuters, the company did not announce any blockbuster features or products, but analysts expect customers hanging onto older models like the iPhone X will be eager to upgrade. To encourage trade-ins, participating wireless carriers are offering incentives ahead of the year-end holiday season that to make the new phones free to some customers.
The iPhone 13 will have a new chip called the A15 Bionic that enables features like automatically translating text. The phone also has a better display, longer battery life and a Cinematic mode for automatically changing focus while taking videos. Apple said the iPhone 13 will have custom 5G antennas and radio components for faster speeds and will come in five colors.
The phone will start at $699, and participating wireless carriers will offer up to $700 off for qualifying trade-ins. The iPhone 13 Pro starts at $999 and the Pro Max starts at $1,099, with trade-in offers of up to $1,000.
The company also updated its iPad Mini with 5G connectivity and a reworked design that makes it look like the higher-end iPad Air and Pro models.
Apple also updated its base-model iPad with a new camera. The new iPad will start at $329 and the Mini at $499.
Russia fines Facebook, Twitter for not deleting banned content
A Russian court has fined social media companies Facebook and Twitter for failing to delete content that Moscow deems illegal, part of a wider crackdown by Russia on the internet and Big Tech.
As per Reuters, the Tagansky district court said Facebook had been handed five fines totalling 21 million roubles ($287,850) and Twitter received two fines of a total 5 million roubles.
Popular messaging app Telegram had been fined 9 million roubles, the court said.
Russia's federal bailiff service said on Tuesday it wanted to force Google to comply with a court order banning references to the phrase "smart voting" in its keyword search system, the Interfax news agency reported.
State bailiffs came to an office block to confront local Google staff late on Monday, the Kommersant newspaper reported.
Google says it offers more than $10 bn in consumer benefits in S Korea
Google said on Wednesday its presence in South Korea equates to nearly 12 trillion won ($10.16 billion) in economic benefits for its users, as the US tech giant faces increased scrutiny from regulators and politicians.
Google's announcement came a day after South Korea's antitrust agency fined Google 207 billion won for blocking customised versions of its Android operating system, in the company's second setback in the country in less than a month.
The Korea Fair Trade Commission said this could be the ninth-biggest fine it has ever imposed.
As per Reuters, Google said that it annually provides 5.1 trillion won worth of benefits for South Koreans through its Play Store, 4.2 trillion won through its search engine service, and 2.5 trillion won through its productivity apps, including Google Docs, citing a report from consulting firm AlphaBeta.
Google added that it also annually provides 10.5 trillion won in economic benefits for South Korean companies. Google did not provide how such assessments were made.
Earlier, in late August, parliament passed an amendment to South Korea's Telecommunications Business Act - popularly dubbed the "anti-Google law" to ban major app store operators such as Google from forcing software developers to use their payment systems and effectively stopping developers from charging commission on in-app purchases.
TikTok's lead EU regulator opens two data privacy probes
TikTok's lead data privacy regulator in the European Union has opened two inquiries into the Chinese-owned short-video platform related to the processing of children's personal data and transfers of personal data to China.
Ireland's Data Protection Commission, which is lead EU regulator for many of the world's top internet firms due to the location of their regional headquarters in Ireland, is allowed to impose fines of up to 4% of global revenue, as per Reuters.
TikTok in August announced stricter privacy controls for teenagers, seeking to address criticism that it has failed to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.
The first of the probes relates "to the processing of personal data in the context of platform settings for users under age 18 and age verification measures for persons under 13," the Data Protection Commission said in a statement.
The second probe will focus on transfers by TikTok of personal data to China and whether the company complies with EU data law in its transfers of personal data to countries outside the bloc, the statement said.
Ford, Walmart & Argo AI team up to launch autonomous vehicle delivery service
Self-driving startup Argo AI, automaker Ford Motor and Walmart will together launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Miami, Austin, and Washington, D.C., Reuters reported.
Initial integration testing is expected to begin later this year, the companies said.
The move comes as consumer expectations shift to next-day or same-day delivery, particularly in urban areas with a higher concentration of deliveries.
The multi-city service will allow Walmart customers to place online orders of groceries and other popular items for autonomous delivery to their homes.
Argo's cloud-based system will integrate with Walmart's online ordering platform to route orders and schedule package deliveries. Ford's self-driving test vehicles with Argo's self-driving system will then deliver the orders to customers.
Snap hires first global head of platform safety
Snapchat's owner has hired a longtime online safety advocate as its first global head of platform safety, Snap told Reuters on Wednesday, as the company continues to ramp up efforts around user safety and as social media firms face mounting global pressure from regulators and lawmakers.
Snap said that after a long search it hired Jacqueline Beauchere, who will represent its safety work to regulators, lawmakers and partners and help advise on new policies and initiatives.
Beauchere was at Microsoft for more than 20 years including as its chief online safety officer.
Child safety advocates and US lawmakers have raised alarms on a wide range of issues faced by users of online platforms including mental health impacts and potential abuses from bullying to child sexual exploitation.
"We are committed to helping parents, stakeholders and advocates understand how young people experience our products and how we approach critical issues around safety and trust," Snap's vice president of global policy Jen Stout said in a statement.
"There is no one better suited to help us accomplish this than Jacqueline, and this work will only become more important as we deepen our focus into augmented reality and the future of computing," she said. Beauchere will report to Stout.
Pinterest accused of not paying female 'co-creator': NYT
A Pinterest influencer has filed a lawsuit against the company and its cofounders, saying she helped start the business but was cut out of any financial rewards, New York Times reported.
In a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court in California, Christine Martinez accused Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra, two of Pinterest’s three co-founders, of breach of implied contract, idea theft, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices.
Martinez created Pinterest alongside Silbermann and Sciarra, the lawsuit said, contributing ideas that were “core organizing concepts,” such as organizing images on boards and enabling e-commerce.
Martinez was never formally employed by Pinterest nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given stock, though she said Pinterest’s founders had verbally agreed to compensate her many times, as per the report.
Martinez argued that she and the founders had an implied contract, based on their discussions. Pinterest even named a section of its source code after her, according to the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, Martinez gave the co-founders the idea of organizing images on “boards,” a core feature of the site; created its call-to-action phrase, “Pin it”; and established its main categories including home décor, fashion and DIY (do-it-yourself). She also helped Silbermann persuade top design and lifestyle bloggers to use Pinterest and promote it. She took him to conferences, gathered feedback from the community and honed the pitch, she said.
Martinez said she realized she would not be compensated only after Pinterest went public in 2019.
A Pinterest spokeswoman said that Martinez’s allegations were without merit and that the company would defend its position in court.
The lawsuit renews questions about whether Pinterest, which caters primarily to female users, is hostile to women and minorities in its workplace.
Earlier, two former Pinterest employees, wrote on Twitter about the pay disparities, retaliation and sexist, racist comments they had experienced at the company. Shortly after, Francoise Brougher, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, sued the company, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation.
In December, the company agreed to a $22.5 million settlement with Brougher, including a $2.5 million donation toward charities for women.