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    Startup Digest: PhonePe to acquire WealthDesk & OpenQ; 'Plan For The Worst', Y Combinator tells founders; Uber hikes fare for drivers & Andreessen Horowitz launches $600 mn gaming fund

    Startup Digest: PhonePe to acquire WealthDesk & OpenQ; 'Plan For The Worst', Y Combinator tells founders; Uber hikes fare for drivers & Andreessen Horowitz launches $600 mn gaming fund

    Startup Digest: PhonePe to acquire WealthDesk & OpenQ; 'Plan For The Worst', Y Combinator tells founders; Uber hikes fare for drivers & Andreessen Horowitz launches $600 mn gaming fund
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    By Aishwarya Anand   IST (Published)

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    Startup Digest brings you a quick wrap of all the news that matters in the startup space.

    Here are the top headlines from the startup space
    PhonePe set to acquire WealthDesk and OpenQ
    Fintech firm PhonePe is acquiring two wealth investment platforms — WealthDesk and OpenQ — for an undisclosed amount.
    "PhonePe is acquiring WealthDesk. The founder and the entire team will be working as a part of the PhonePe group and both the platforms will remain independent,” a company spokesperson told CNBC-TV18.
    The firm further stated that WealthDesk will continue to remain an open platform for all players, and that founder Ujjwal Jain will continue defining the vision for his company.
    The company also confirmed the acquisition of OpenQ (Quantech Capital Investment Advisors Private Limited), which is subject to necessary regulatory approvals.
    “Post-acquisition, OpenQ will be instrumental in creating the wealth ecosystem for the PhonePe Group," the company said. The OpenQ team will integrate with PhonePe's wealth management team.
    CleverTap acquires US-based Leanplum for an undisclosed sum
    Sequoia Capital-backed CleverTap, a user engagement and retention cloud startup, has acquired San Francisco-based Leanplum, a multichannel customer engagement platform, for an undisclosed amount.
    CleverTap now gets access to developed markets including North America and Europe, along with entry into newer business segments. The acquisition will enhance CleverTap’s capabilities and take its total customer base to over 1,200 customers in more than 100 countries. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022, a statement said.
    “Our combined strength will be a game-changing force for user engagement, retention and monetisation, creating tremendous value for our customers,” said Sunil Thomas, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, CleverTap.
    The company works with brands such as Jio, Meesho, PharmEasy, Dream11, Nykaa, Tata Cliq, Air Asia, and Indonesia's Gojek, among others.
    'Plan For The Worst', Y Combinator tells startup founders as global markets go into a tailspin
    Y Combinator has asked founders to buckle up and brace for a funding slowdown as venture capital firms start to sweat amid the global markets turmoil.
    The Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator, which has backed over 3,000 startups around the world, including India’s unicorns such as Razorpay, Meesho, Groww and others, wrote a letter to founders of startups in its portfolio, with a warning that “future fundraises will be much more difficult”.
    “If your plan is to raise money in the next 6-12 months, you might be raising at the peak of the downturn,” the letter said. “The safe move is to plan for the worst.”
    The note comes at a time when technology stocks have been hammered amid a wider market rout, which has led to a ‘mauling’ of the world’s leading venture capital investors — Tiger Global and SoftBank.
    Cars24 lays off 600 staff, joins the list of startups that fired employees
    In more news of layoffs, IPO-bound automobile marketplace Cars24 has fired close to 600 employees due to poor performance and not owing to any cost cuts.
    “This is business as usual — performance-linked exits that happen every year,” a company spokesperson told CNBC-TV18.
    With these layoffs, Cars24 has let go of 6.6 percent of its total employee count of around 9,000 staff. The company now joins the likes of a growing list of startups like Unacademy, Vedantu, Meesho, Furlenco, Trell and OkCredit which have fired employees amid a slowdown in funding and tough global markets scenario.
    Amid layoffs in startups, Zoho's enterprise IT firm ManageEngine to hire 1,000 in India this year
    At a time of mass layoffs in the Indian startup ecosystem, ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of tech company Zoho Corporation, announced its plans to hire 1,000 employees in 2022 in India.
    The hiring will happen for development, research and development, and customer-facing roles. Since 2002, the company claims to have served over 2.8 lakh organisations in more than 190 countries.
    “Planning to expand by opening centres in North India, to work on details. Will look to hire talent in metros like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. New talent to be hired in metros to support customers based in these cities. Planning to open five new centres this year as part of hub-and-spoke model,” Sridhar Vembu, CEO and Co-founder, Zoho told CNBC-TV18.
    Vembu further added that the IT and Enterprise Management is expected to be $10-billion market in 10 years. ManageEngine is aiming to grow at 25 percent yearly, in line with conservative estimates, and is expecting to double revenues over the next 3-4 years, he added.
    Uber ups fare, to now show trip destinations to drivers before they decide to accept
    Ride-hailing giant Uber has announced new features including showing trip destinations to drivers before they decide to accept. The feature comes at a time when riders have complained about drivers canceling trips, said the company.
    Drivers who meet a predefined trip acceptance threshold will be eligible to get destination information, it added. The upfront destination feature is already live across 20 cities and will be expanded to all others," said Uber in a statement.
    Uber said it has introduced additional earnings for drivers in case they have to travel a long distance to pick up riders.
    Meanwhile, as per an ET report, the cab-hailing firm has also hiked fares by 10-15 percent across multiple cities to enhance driver earnings amid soaring fuel rates.
    MakeMyTrip ties up with banks, NBFCs, fintech players for 'book now pay later' option
    Online travel firm MakeMyTrip has partnered with 15 banks, NBFCs and fintech players, including HDFC Bank, IDFC Bank, Capital float and Zest Money, for its 'book now pay later' option while booking flight or hotel rooms.
    The company's fintech arm TripMoney has established a marketplace attracting 15 banks, NBFCs and fintech players, which also include Kissht, Lazypay and Simpl, among others, to offer easy travel credit to travellers, MakeMyTrip said in a statement.
    The book now pay later (BNPL) payment has been introduced on bookings for travel, flight or hotels, on MakeMyTrip as well as on the Goibibo app, it added.
    "The BNPL and EMI options will help provide easy and quick access to short-term credit for our customers on attractive terms. This will help travellers meet their aspirations to travel more frequently and to newer destinations," MakeMyTrip Co-Founder and Group CEO Rajesh Magow said.
    Apollo.io commits $30 million in India over the next 2 years
    Apollo.io, a B2B sales intelligence and engagement platform, has announced its investment commitment of over $30 million in India over the next two years.
    As a part of its recent Series C funding of $110 Million led by Sequoia, the firm announced its first office space in Bengaluru, to house its growing R&D team. Additionally, the company will hire over 100 R&D engineers in the coming months, it said in a statement.
    “We look forward to scaling our India team rapidly; it will play an important role in bolstering our core R&D team, our business growth and global expansion,” said Tim Zheng, Co-founder, and CEO, Apollo.io.
    Camp K12 launches metaverse, AR/VR creation platform for kids
    Camp K12, an edtech startup building a global online school for 21st-century skills has launched Hatch Kids, a metaverse and AR/VR creation platform for young learners.
    Hatch Kids is a free online 3D creation platform for kids aged between 6-18 to design, code and publish 3D games, Augmented Reality (AR) apps, interactive Virtual Reality (VR) worlds, and metaverse experiences without any prior design or coding experience.
    Over the past six months, the platform has grown organically to over 1.1 million users across 150 countries via school, government, and edtech partnerships, with 75% of the consumption coming from US and Canada. Other top geographies include UK, Australia, and India. Students have created more than 3.6 million projects on the platform to date, in the classroom and beyond.
    Fintech platform Slice enters UPI payments market
    Accelerating its journey in creating a one-stop payment platform, fintech company Slice has launched the integration of unified payments interface (UPI) into its app for all its existing and waitlisted users.
    Following its trial in 2021, the company said it is now rolling out the integration in a phased manner for its users.
    Similar to other UPI apps, users can now create a UPI account on the Slice app by linking it to their bank accounts. With the unique ID on Slice, users will be able to make payments just by searching for the ID.
    T-Hub partners with FalconX to provide Indian startups access to the US market
    T-Hub, a startup ecosystem enabler, has partnered with US-based accelerator FalconX for the ‘Global Startup Immersion Programmme’ in the Silicon Valley
    The programme will help Indian startups launch their products in the US market. The five-week programme has been designed to select and help high-impact startups expand their businesses in new markets, particularly in the US, a statement said.
    The top three startups from the immersion programme will receive $ 100,000 funding each from FalconX. The selected startups will gain access to numerous funding opportunities, one-on-one curated deal flow sessions and multiple face-to-face networking opportunities with trusted advisers and potential partners from T-Hub and FalconX. The offline programme, to be organised in the Silicon Valley, will commence in July 2022.
    E42 launches a marketplace for hiring AI workers
    E42, a no-code AI NLP platform, has launched an AI Marketplace, a showcase of all click-to-hire AI workers. The marketplace will soon be available for enterprises.
    “E42 Marketplace has been thoughtfully created keeping the interest of our partners and customers in mind. A single platform to list all the AI workers that we and our partners built that can be hired by any enterprise in a few clicks is what sets our marketplace apart. It is a first-of-its-kind ‘Naukri’ or ‘Monster’ for hiring AI workers. As many studies show that by 2026, at least 50 percent of the enterprise workforce will be AI workers. This is an over $800 billion opportunity that we can target along with our partners,” said Animesh Samuel, Co-Founder & CEO, E42.
    E42 is an end-to-end AI-NLP-based cognitive process automation (CPA) platform to build AI workers that can be deployed for automating processes across functions and industry verticals.
    Pepper Content partners with Skillshare to grow the creator economy
    Software as a Service (SaaS) marketplace Pepper Content has announced its partnership with Skillshare, an online learning creative community, to empower creators.
    Together these two platforms aim to help creators upgrade their skill sets and deliver engaging in-depth content. With the total size of the creator economy estimated to be a little over $100 billion, this partnership will further build credibility for the content ecosystem, a statement said.
    Under this partnership, Skillshare will provide a special discount coupon code on its annual subscription and scholarships to 10 Pepper Content creators every month.
    Rooter onboards cricketer Riyan Parag as an exclusive game streamer
    Game streaming and e-sports platform Rooter has partnered with Indian cricketer Riyan Parag in an effort to augment its gaming content creation.
    The collaboration will bring Parag as a content creator on Rooter’s platform.
    “Keeping in mind our country’s young audiences’ relatability to cricket, we got the most promising player on our platform to stream his high-quality gaming content. Our community will get the opportunity to watch Riyan, engage with him on his unique gaming tactics while he streams live on the platform and even discuss his journey as a cricketer,” said Dipesh Agarwal, Co-Founder and COO, Rooter.
    Crypto bank Cashaa exits from Unicas in India
    Cashaa, a fiat and crypto neo bank, has announced its exit from Unicas, Cashaa’s maiden attempt to enter the personal crypto-banking market after becoming a market leader in B2B crypto banking.
    The compensation from the buyout will contribute to a $20 million investment fund to develop the fast-growing Web 3.0 market. The complete details will be out soon, the statement said.
    In 2020, Unicas offered crypto-friendly savings accounts to its customers in partnership with the United Multistate Co-op. Recently, Cashaa holding company Crypto Innovations UAB was granted a European virtual assets license from Lithuania.
    Cashaa is expected to soon release its expansion plan for India. “The Indian market offers tremendous potential, especially after the recent clarity regarding cryptocurrency taxation and legal infrastructure. We at Cashaa welcome this decision," said Kumar Gaurav, Cashaa CEO.
    GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
    Netflix losing long-term paid subscribers: Report
    Netflix is fast losing long-term subscribers — who have been with the streaming service for more than three years — further adding to its woes as the company faces stalled growth amid revenue slowdown.
    According to a survey report by The Information, new data shows that people who have been subscribers of Netflix for more than three years accounted for 13 percent of cancellations in the first quarter of this year.
    The Information received data from US-based analytics firm Antenna. The data showed that overall cancellations hit 3.6 million in the January-March period — a massive jump from 2.5 million cancellations spread over the previous five quarters.
    Nearly 60 percent of cancellations were by new subscribers in the last quarter, according to the report that came out on Wednesday. Amid slow revenue growth, Netflix has laid off nearly 150 employees, primarily in the US.
    Andreessen Horowitz launches $600 million gaming fund
    Venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz has launched a new $600 million gaming fund, according to a report by Techcrunch.
    Called Games Fund One, the new fund will look to make bets in the fast-growing gaming world. It is being led by general partners Andrew Chen, Jon Lai, and James Gwertzman.
    “With (Games Fund One), we will continue to add more functions and develop deeper networks that are tailored to the games ecosystem so we can help our portfolio companies with everything from building digital communities to managing their virtual economies, to IP licensing best practices, to helping build their development teams,” read the blog post announcing the fund’s formation. It said the fund was nearly a decade in the making and born out of the belief that investments in gaming requires a specialised focus.
    Several big-name executives from gaming companies such as King, Discord, Roblox, and Twitch are backing the new fund. Andreessen Horowitz already holds investments in popular gaming platforms such as Zynga and Meta’s Oculus.
    TikTok plans big push into gaming, conducting tests in Vietnam, sources tell Reuters
    TikTok has been conducting tests so users can play games on its video-sharing app in Vietnam, part of plans for a major push into gaming, sources told Reuters.
    Featuring games on its platform would boost advertising revenue as well as the amount of time users spend on the app - one of the world's most popular with more than 1 billion monthly active users.
    Boasting a tech-savvy population with 70 percent of its citizens under the age of 35, Vietnam is an attractive market for social media platforms such as TikTok, Meta Platforms’ Facebook and Alphabet’s YouTube and Google.
    TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance, also plans to roll out gaming more widely in Southeast Asia, the sources said. That move could come as early as the third quarter, said two of them.
    Tesla whale calls for $15 bn stock buyback after share price craters
    Billionaire Leo Koguan, who claims to be the third-largest individual shareholder of Tesla stock, is calling on the carmaker to announce a $15 billion stock buyback as the company’s share price continues to fall.
    In a tweet to Martin Viecha, Tesla’s senior director of investor relations, Koguan said the company should immediately announce it plans to buy back $5 billion of Tesla shares this year and $10 billion next year. He added that Tesla should use its free cashflow to fund the buyback and that it shouldn’t affect its existing $18 billion cash reserves.
    In a follow-up tweet, Koguan said Tesla’s free cash flow amounted to $2.2 billion in the first quarter of the year. He added that he expects it to climb to $8 billion this year and $17 billion next year, after capital expenditures have been factored in.
    In another tweet, he said Tesla can invest in full self-driving, its Optimus bot, and new factories while also buying back its “undervalued stocks”.
    Labour group accuses Apple of interrogating, surveilling staff: Report
    Communications Workers of America is accusing Apple of violating federal labour law at its World Trade Center store in New York City, as per a CNBC report.
    CWA alleged in an Unfair Labor Practice filing with the National Labor Relations Board that Apple interrogated and surveilled staff, restricted them from posting union flyers and made them attend mandatory anti-union speeches.
    The charge, filed Wednesday evening, comes as Apple employees at several stores around the country are taking steps to unionise, including in New York’s Grand Central Station, Atlanta and Maryland. They follow a wave of unionization efforts at companies like Amazon and Starbucks.
    The union filed a separate charge on Tuesday, accusing Apple of violating federal labour law by holding captive audience meetings at its Cumberland Mall store in Atlanta.
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