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STARTUP DIGEST: Sequoia India selects first cohort of women-led startups & WhatsApp to allow crypto payments in US

STARTUP DIGEST: Sequoia India selects first cohort of women-led startups & WhatsApp to allow crypto payments in US

STARTUP DIGEST: Sequoia India selects first cohort of women-led startups & WhatsApp to allow crypto payments in US
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By Aishwarya Anand  Dec 10, 2021 7:36:12 PM IST (Updated)

Here's a wrap of all the news from the startup space

Here are the top headlines from the startup space this week:

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Byju's acquires Austria's GeoGebra, appoints former Bain & Co Partner to lead global expansion plans


Continuing its aggressive acquisition spree, Byju’s on Wednesday said it has acquired Austria-headquartered GeoGebra.
The acquisition will help the homegrown edtech company – which has 115 million students on its learning platform – integrate GeoGebra’s capabilities to enable the creation of new product offerings and learning formats to its existing mathematics portfolio, a statement said.
The company, however, did not disclose the value of the deal.
Meanwhile, the edtech major has appointed former Bain & Company partner Rachna Bahadur as the senior vice-president to lead its global expansion plans.
In this role, Bahadur will lead the overall planning, strategy, and roadmap for Byju's expansion in new and existing markets. In addition to designing Byju's next growth phase, creating new partnerships, reinforcing sales, and solidifying the company's market positioning across the globe, she will also be responsible for strengthening the footprint of Byju's recent acquisition of Epic in the US market, the firm said.

Delhivery acquires US-based drone maker Transition Robotics

IPO-bound logistics services player Delhivery has acquired US-based Transition Robotics that is focused on developing Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) platforms, for an undisclosed sum.
The acquisition will strengthen Delhivery's capabilities in a wide range of applications, including aerial photography, remote sensing, inspection and surveys.
Transition Robotics offers all aspects of small UAS, from hardware and software design to testing, validation, and manufacturing.

Mensa Brands acquires its 13th brand home décor label Folkulture

Mensa Brands has acquired its 13th brand, which is home decor brand Folkulture.
The brand, founded in 2015, retails largely on Amazon in the US, Canada & UK, apart from other online platforms. Some of its product categories include kitchen & dining linen, home décor, incense holders, mandala tapestry and more.
The move comes after Mensa recently became India's fastest unicorn after raising $135 million in Series B funding.

Purplle in talks to acquire Faces Canada: Report

Online beauty marketplace Purplle is in talks with D2C cosmetics brand Faces Canada for a potential acquisition, according to Entrackr.
Purplle has given a definitive term sheet to Faces Canada and terms of the deal are almost accepted. If nothing goes south from here, the deal will be announced soon, the report added.
“Sequoia has also given a green signal for the deal,” a source told Entrackr. Purplle had said it will go for acquisitions in the direct to consumer space when it raised over $100 million a few weeks ago.

Sequoia India selects first cohort of women-led startups for Sequoia Spark Fellowship

Sequoia India has announced the list of 15 women-led, early-stage startups that have made it to the first cohort of the Sequoia Spark Fellowship Programme.
The venture capital firm will offer a $1,00,000 equity-free grant to cover the early costs of starting up and provide mentorship to women entrepreneurs selected to the fellowship. 
The programme seeks to bridge the gender gap in the startup ecosystem by encouraging more women in Southeast Asia and India to become entrepreneurs.

T-Hub on-boards 23 startups for Lab32 accelerator

T-Hub, a startup ecosystem enabler, has on-boarded 23 start-ups for the seventh edition of Lab32, its seed accelerator programme
The programme helps startups refine their products for market fitness. The three-month programme, commenced on Tuesday, has onboarded start-ups from verticals such as edtech, direct-to-consumer, media, fintech, agritech and blockchain.
The shortlisted start-ups include Skillarthi, SmartchargeEV, Zerotouch, BeaversIn Technology, Rozgarkart, Pompah, Parking Mantra and Patasala.

RPSG Capital Ventures announces first D2C Accelerator

Early-stage consumer venture capital fund RPSG Capital Ventures has announced the companies that are a part of its first D2C accelerator.
The first cohort of the accelerator includes companies like CurryIt, Born Good, Eat with Better, Bartisans, Plow, House This and Vivinkaa. This programme was held in partnership with Little Black Book (LBB). The seven Basecamp companies are eligible for an initial seed investment of up to Rs 1.5 crore, the company said in a statement.
RPSG Capital Ventures plans on doing more such D2C accelerators over the next two years. A few of these companies are expected to be eligible for future investments to the tune of $4-5 million each, the firm added.

Amazon, Flipkart slash seller commissions: Report

E-commerce companies Amazon and Flipkart have slashed the commissions they earn from sellers on their platform, amidst rising competition in the space, sources told Moneycontrol.
While Flipkart has promised sellers zero commissions for products priced below Rs 300, Amazon is offering flat 2% commissions for products in that range.
Certain products in the range of Rs 500 for Flipkart and Rs 1,000 for Amazon are also included under this offering. The categories covered are mostly clothes, home, fashion, jewellery and toys. As per the report, the two companies launched this soon after the festive sale got over a month ago, during which younger rival, SoftBank-backed Meesho, witnessed a rise in volumes in the unbranded fashion category.

Indian SaaS startups raise record $4.5Bn 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, with 100% growth in exits in 2021 over 2018 and is showing strong ARR-to-funding ratio in line with global SaaS peers.

Google’s Year in Search 2021 shares a glimpse of what India searched for this year

Google India has announced the results for its Year in Search 2021, recapping the top search trends of 2021 in India.
The listing reveals what Indians searched for the most throughout the year across news, sports, entertainment, and other categories.
Cricket continued to be a major search trend this year, with the Indian Premier League, CoWIN and the ICC T20 World Cup filling the top three spots in the overall list of search queries. The Euro 2020 and Toyko Olympics were numbers four and five in the list, respectively.  The Covid vaccine, Free Fire redeem code, Neeraj Chopra, Aryan Khan and Copa America were other notable searches in the top ten list.

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 is only rolling out to YouTube Premium users.
RBI proposes discussion paper on digital payment charges: fintech cos, Paytm may see impact
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will soon release a discussion paper on digital payment charges to ensure they are both affordable to users, and economically remunerative to providers, governor Shaktikanta Das said on Wednesday.
While announcing the monetary policy decision of the central bank, Das said, "There have, however, been some concerns on the reasonableness of various charges incurred by customers for digital payments through credit cards, debit cards, prepaid payment instruments (cards and wallets), Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and the like. It is proposed to release a discussion paper on various charges in the payment system to have a holistic view of the issues involved and possible approaches to mitigating the concerns so as to make digital transactions more affordable."
RBI will come out with a discussion paper on digital payment charges in a month’s time. Entities involved in providing digital payment services incur costs, which are generally recovered from the merchant or the customer or is borne by one or more of the participants.

GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS

Alibaba overhauls e-commerce businesses, names new CFO

Alibaba Group Holding will reorganise its international and domestic e-commerce businesses and replace its CFO -- changes that come as the tech giant grapples with an onslaught of competition, a slowing economy and a regulatory crackdown, Reuters reported.
It will form two new units -- international digital commerce and China digital commerce --- which it said was part of efforts to become more agile and accelerate growth. The international digital commerce unit will include AliExpress which sells to retail buyers particularly in Europe and South America, its Southeast Asian e-commerce business Lazada and Alibaba.com which is more focused on selling to overseas business customers.
Alibaba also announced that deputy chief financial officer Toby Xu will succeed Maggie Wu as CFO from April, describing his appointment as part of the company's leadership succession plan. Xu joined Alibaba from PWC three years ago.

Apple inches closer to $3 trillion market cap

Apple is within striking distance of a $3 trillion market capitalisation, a milestone that would make it as big as the world's fifth-largest economy after Germany, just over a year after breaching the $2 trillion mark.
Shares of Apple were up 1.6% at $174. They need to trade at $182.85 to hit the mark and cap a strong rally that has been powered by investors betting on its brand and viewing it as a comparative safe haven.  The stock has jumped about 30% this year on top of an 80% surge in 2020. In comparison, the S&P 500 has risen 25% for the period, Reuters reported.
Its peers in the trillion-dollar club -- Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Tesla -- have all gained between 10% and 70%. Apple hit the $1 trillion in market capitalization in 2018 and took two years to double that valuation.

Microsoft leads $27M funding in crypto startup Palm NFT Studio

Crypto startup Palm NFT Studio has raised $27 million in an early-stage funding round led by Microsoft Corp's venture fund M12 with participation from venture firm Griffin Gaming Partners.
Other investors in the latest Series B round included investment firms RRE, Third Kind Venture Capital, NFT investor Sfermion, and The LAO. Palm NFT offers services for artists to establish NFT marketplaces.
Palm NFT Studio's CEO Dan Heyman told Reuters in an interview that the company intends to use the capital to scale its platform by investing in research and development and hiring new talent.

Meta to ban all Myanmar-army controlled businesses from platforms

Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, said it would ban all Myanmar-military controlled businesses from having a presence on its platforms in an expansion of its earlier curbs on the country's security forces, Reuters reported.
The US tech giant had already announced in February it would stop all entities linked to the military, known as the Tatmadaw, from advertising on its platforms.
"This action is based on extensive documentation by the international community and civil society of these businesses' direct role in funding the Tatmadaw," said Rafael Frankel, Meta's Pacific director of public policy for emerging countries, Asia Pacific.
Frankel said Meta was identifying the companies based on a 2019 report from a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, research from activist groups Justice for Myanmar and Burma Campaign UK, as well consultations with civil society. He told Reuters it had already taken down over 100 accounts, pages, and groups linked to military-controlled businesses.
The platform is also facing a $150 billion lawsuit from Rohingya refugees over allegations that it did not take action against hate speech targeted at the Muslim Rohingya minority that contributed to violence.

Meta offers deferral program for employees unready to return to office

Meta Platforms will fully reopen its US offices on January 31 next year while giving its employees an opportunity to delay their scheduled return by three to five months.
The social media giant’s new "office deferral program" will ensure that its employees have flexibility in returning back to offices, as per Reuters. Meta said it will also stick to its earlier plans that employees who can work remotely can request for full-time remote work.
Meta’s decision comes at a time when many companies in the United States are pushing back their office return date due to concerns over the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Google to give additional staff bonus this year

Google will give an additional bonus to its employees globally this year, as the tech giant pushes back its return-to-office plan.
Google will give all employees, including the company's extended workforce and interns, a one-time cash bonus of $1,600 or equivalent value in their country this month, a company spokesperson told Reuters.
The latest benefit is in addition to Google's work-from-home allowance and wellbeing bonus, to support its employees during the coronavirus pandemic, the spokesperson said, without giving details on how much the company has set aside in total for the purpose.

WhatsApp will allow crypto payments through Novi wallet in US

Meta Platforms' cryptocurrency wallet Novi will allow users to send and receive money through the social media giant's messaging app, WhatsApp.
The pilot programme is open to a limited number of people in the United States, Novi head Stephane Kasriel said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Using Novi does not change the privacy of WhatsApp personal messages and calls, he said. Meta Platforms has been working on the wallet app for several months, while scaling back its global plans for rolling out a digital currency called Diem on regulatory concerns.

US to put Chinese firm SenseTime on blacklist ahead of $767M listing: FT

The United States will put Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime on an investment blacklist on Friday, the Financial Times reported, as the company is finalising its Hong Kong IPO.
The startup had not been aware it could be added to a US blacklist, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, adding the news also caught bankers working on the $767 million deal by surprise.
The Financial Times said that the US Treasury will place SenseTime on a list of "Chinese military-industrial complex companies".

Apple starts legal action against Russian regulator in App Store dispute: RIA

Apple has started legal proceedings against Russia's anti-monopoly regulator in a dispute concerning alternative payment options on its App Store platform, the RIA news agency reported, citing court filings.
Russia opened an antitrust case against Apple in late October, accusing it of failing to allow app developers to tell customers about alternative payment options when using its App Store. It said Apple could face a fine based on its revenue in Russia if found guilty.
In documents published on December 1, the Moscow Arbitration Court listed Apple as a claimant and Russia's Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) as a defendant in "economic disputes over administrative legal relations."
Apple has demanded that additional documents be added to the case on December 2, RIA reported.

Italy fines Amazon record $1.3 Bn for abuse of market dominance

Italy's antitrust watchdog has fined Amazon 1.13 billion euros ($1.28 billion) for alleged abuse of market dominance, in one of the biggest penalties imposed on a US tech giant in Europe.
Amazon said it "strongly disagreed" with the Italian regulator's decision and would appeal, according to Reuters.
Italy's watchdog said in a statement that Amazon had leveraged its dominant position in the Italian market for intermediation services on marketplaces to favour the adoption of its own logistics service -- Fulfilment by Amazon -- by sellers active on Amazon.it.
The authority said Amazon tied to the use of FBA access to a set of exclusive benefits, including the Prime label, that help increase visibility and boost sales on Amazon.it. The antitrust authority also said it would impose corrective steps that will be subject to review by a monitoring trustee.
Amazon said FBA "is a completely optional service" and that the majority of third-party sellers on Amazon do not use it.

EU targets Uber, Deliveroo model with gig workers' rights plan

The European Commission announced draft rules on Thursday to give many drivers for online firms such as Uber and Deliveroo employee benefits, a move labour unions say is overdue but some companies argue will lead to job losses.
As per Reuters, the proposal, a global first that needs to be thrashed out with EU countries and lawmakers before it can become law, marks the latest attempt by the European Union to regulate tech companies and ensure a level playing field between online and traditional firms.
The EU executive said the draft rules could apply to around 4.1 million of the 28 million workers at online platform companies across the 27-country bloc.
Internet firms that set pay and standards of conduct for their couriers would have to classify them as employees entitled to a minimum wage, paid holidays and pension rights, according to the draft rules.
Online food ordering and delivery companies, which are generally loss-making in an industry seen as ripe for consolidation, have fought court cases around Europe and the United States to have riders and drivers classified as self-employed contractors, rather than employees -- with mixed results.

Musk says he is 'thinking of' quitting his jobs, sells Tesla shares worth $963.2M

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is "thinking of" leaving his jobs and becoming an influencer, the world's richest man tweeted on Thursday.
Musk said during a conference call in January that he expects to be the CEO of Tesla for "several years". 
"It would be nice to have a bit more free time on my hands as opposed to just working day and night, from when I wake up to when I go to sleep seven days a week. Pretty intense."
Last month, he asked his followers on Twitter whether he should sell 10% of his stake in the electric-car maker, to which the majority agreed.
Musk has sold another 934,091 shares of the electric vehicle maker worth $963.2 million, Reuters reported. He also exercised stock options to buy 2.17 million shares of Tesla.
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