Startup Digest: Zenda raises $9.4 mn in seed round, Swiggy launches accelerator programme & Twitter set to accept Musk's $43 bn offer


Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Startup Digest: Zenda raises $9.4 mn in seed round, Swiggy launches accelerator programme & Twitter set to accept Musk's $43 bn offer
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Fintech startup zenda raises $9.4M in seed round
Fintech app for school fees, Zenda has raised a $9.4 million oversubscribed seed round led by STV, COTU, Global Founders Capital, and VentureSouq.
The company will use the fresh capital for product development and market expansion in India, it said in a statement.
Zenda provides school fee payment services to students’ families. The firm claims to have crossed the $100 million in annual contracted total payments volume (TPV) by Q4 2021, across both markets.
“Over the past months in India we have built a pipeline of more than 1000+ institutions and are immensely grateful for their trust. It is gratifying to see the response from parents and seeing how they have embraced our service. zenda schools are witnessing a systematic increase in their collections,” said Raman Thiagarajan, CEO and Founder, Zenda.
Zypp Electric bags $1M in debt funding from Northern Arc; turns EBITDA positive
Zypp Electric, an EV-as-a-service platform has raised $1 million in debt funding from Northern Arc to expand its EV Fleet services.
The company aims to use debt as a new expansion funnel along with current leasing strategy as they plan to deploy 1.5 Lakhs e-scooters in India by 2025.
Zypp said that through its efforts to invest and strategize towards #MissionZeroEmission, it has turned EBITDA positive business while also recording a 5x revenue annually.
“Zypp turning profitable is proof that we are on the right path and utilising our resources efficiently in the right direction. The best part is that we have achieved the EBITDA positive milestone along with a 5x revenue growth in this FY vs. last FY, also the achievement has come in when we’ve raised a fraction of capital vs. the other players in the mobility industry,” said Akash Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO, Zypp Electric.
Zypp will be growing its user base on Zypp rentals at 300 percent month-on-month with the plans of expansion and investment on more scooters under its fleet, it said.
JITO Angel Network invests Rs 47 Cr in 28 startups in FY22
JITO Angel Network has announced that it invested around Rs 47 crores in fresh as well as follow-on investments in as many as 28 startups in FY22.  The investments supported companies with strong products and services in different early stages of funding, JITO said in a statement.
During the year, the edtech and fintech sector raked in maximum interest from JITO Angel Network investors. Other companies that garnered substantial interest were in the Media and IoT sector, followed by Healthcare, Defense, AR/VR, and E-commerce.  JITO Angel Network received over 1,250 applications and conducted more than 1,000 pre-screenings, it added.
So far, the network of over 360 angel investors has invested over Rs 106 crores in 56 companies. In FY22-23, JITO Angel Network aims to invest in Defence, Space Tech and Drone companies. Its current portfolio is valued upward of Rs 300 crores.
Swiggy launches accelerator programme for delivery partners
On-demand convenience platform Swiggy has launched an accelerator programme that allows its delivery executives to transition into full-time, managerial-level job roles with a fixed salary and additional benefits.
Under its 'Step-Ahead' programme, Swiggy said it is aiming to give an opportunity to those executives who want to move from their current flexible engagement with the company to a dedicated, managerial role. Swiggy is formalizing this process and intends to reserve at least 20 percent of all Fleet Manager hires for its delivery executives, Swiggy said in a statement.
Commenting on the programme for its delivery partners, Mihir Rajesh Shah, Swiggy Vice President, Operations, said, "While most may consider their association with the platform as a stop gap between jobs or an education, or even an additional source of income, we realise that there are some who want more." He added, "With 'Step Ahead', Swiggy is creating a unique opportunity for those interested to flip their collar from blue to white and take on a managerial role." Swiggy has over 2.7 lakh delivery partners across the country.
The company said, to be eligible for the role of a Fleet Manager, a Swiggy delivery executive "must hold a college degree, possess communication skills and basic computer knowledge and should have been delivering with Swiggy for a few years." Swiggy said it is also considering reducing the tenure requirement to around 2 years of association with the company.
Zomato’s Deepinder Goyal joins Urban Company as independent directors
Urban Company has announced the appointment of four new independent board members, Ireena Vittal, former partner at McKinsey & Co, Ashish Gupta, Co-founder of Helion, Shyamal Mukherjee, former chairman and senior partner of PwC India, and Deepinder Goyal, Co-founder and CEO of Zomato.
With the appointment of these industry leaders, Urban Company’s board will now comprise three executive directors, three non-executive directors and four independent directors, the company said in a statement.
Urban Company is committed to having a board with at least 50% independent directors, it added.
“We have esteemed industry leaders joining our board as independent directors, as we step into our next phase of growth. They bring in a lot of experience and industry expertise that will guide us in our company building journey. We look forward to their mentorship in the years to come,” Abhiraj Singh Bhal, co-founder and CEO, Urban Company, said.
Ola Electric to recall 1,441 units of its e-scooters
Ola Electric will recall 1,441 units of its electric two-wheelers in backdrop of the incidents of EVs catching fire.
The company said that it was conducting the probe into the March 26 incident of the EV catching fire in Pune and the preliminary assessment revealed that the thermal incident was likely an isolated one.
"As a pre-emptive measure, we will be conducting a detailed diagnostics and health check of the scooters in that specific batch and therefore are issuing a voluntary recall of 1,441 vehicles," the company said.
The company's service engineers will inspect the vehicles and will conduct a thorough diagnostic across all the thermal systems, battery systems and safety systems.
"Our battery pack already complies with and is tested for AIS 156, the latest proposed standard for India. In addition to being complaint with the European standard ECE 136," the company stated.
India Accelerator, Gujarat’s i-Hub partner to nurture startups
India Accelerator has announced its partnership with Gujarat government’s vibrant incubation setup, i-Hub to fuel and foster the startup ecosystem in India, with a special focus on Gujarat.
India Accelerator and i-Hub have both agreed to develop joint programs and initiatives. As per the MoU, both of them will jointly develop a pipeline of early-stage startups in India that can be mentored and prepared for funding by investors.
i-Hub, will facilitate alliances between potential investable startups and the India Accelerator. It aims to create more awareness about financing innovation and startups by joining hands with organizations like India Accelerator.
Blockchain solution provider TRST01 launches carbon offset NFT
Blockchain solution provider TrayamBhu Tech Solutions has launched a carbon offset NFT token Bhu to commemorate Earth Day. TRST01 listed homegrown ‘Bhu’ NFT on the OpenSea marketplace.
Bhu is an NFT representing 1000 kg of carbon sequestration or one carbon credit, which is a real-world tradable asset. The size of the carbon offset market is expected to grow from the current $4-5 billion to $400-650 billion by 2030, the company said.
Based on Polygon blockchain, Bhu NFT aims to address an important pain point of the carbon offset business through the use of blockchain technology. Previously, carbon offset was only used by the industry players who wanted to offset their carbon emissions. Now people can buy and sell carbon credits through this non-fungible token, the firm added.
SuperBot to increase talent pool by 300% in this Fiscal
SuperBot, an AI-powered voice agent SaaS startup, has announced that it will increase its manpower by around 300 percent by the end of fiscal 22-23.
The firm currently boasts a strength of 55 and targets to take this number up to 200. The company is also looking to onboard 20% of the new recruits for senior level, and the rest of the profiles will be with the ratio of 50% for mid-level and 30% for entry-level positions, it said in a statement.
The hiring will be conducted across departments including Marketing & Sales, Operations, Tech, Customer Success, and HR Operations.
“We are expanding and wish to add fresh talent to our workforce which will bring new skill sets to the table. We understand that the market is very challenging for talented professionals right now, and this might actually be an opportunity to acquire skilled manpower which will strengthen the company’s backbone for a longer run,” said Mr. Sarvagya Mishra, co-founder, and director, SuperBot.
Grene Robotics partners with Technologix Global to deliver Autonomous Enterprise Solutions
Grene Robotics has partnered with Technologix Global, a Texas-based technology company, to deliver its autonomous enterprise solutions in the US market. With this partnership, customers will benefit from a TSP that maintains high standards in enterprise technology solutions.
Under this engagement, the two companies agree to work together to deliver Grene Robotics’ autonomous solutions developed on the GreneOS platform for enterprise customers in the US market. The autonomous technology will help organisations with revenue augmentation and OPEX reduction, a statement said.
"Our international partnership with Technologix Global will show how companies responding to regulatory overhaul, geopolitical uncertainty, technology disruption, market scaling, and demographic shifts are going to push such partnerships beyond their traditional limits. The idea is to combine and connect expertise to expand the companies’ reach, drive growth, and cope with rising competition. A strong focus on partnerships – rather than purely transactional relationships, traditional mergers and acquisitions, sales or market exits – brings much more expertise and value to the table, no matter how large or small the organization,” said Vamsi Vellanki, Executive Director - Strategic Global Partnerships at Grene Robotics.
ValetEZ partners Lighthouse Mall Management to roll out ‘Destination charging’ for EVs
ValetEZ, a smart parking and EV charging provider, announces its partnership with Lighthouse Mall management, a mall management firm to roll out its ‘ChargeEZ’ EV charging network.
Under the partnership, ValetEZ will roll out ChargeEZ across the mall and retail properties managed by Lighthouse in five Indian cities, it said in a statement.
“India faces a shortage of reliable EV charging infrastructure. However, with the growing demand for electric vehicles in the country, the scenario is gradually improving. We are excited to partner with Lighthouse which has always been at the forefront of driving innovations in consumer experience in the malls sector in the country. We already have more than 20 charging stations deployed with them in Bangalore and plan to install close to 500 charging stations across five cities over the coming months, covering regular and fast EV AC charging for 2 wheelers, and fast charging for 4 wheelers,” said Smit Kant Raturi, CEO of ValetEZ. partners with TTC Labs by Meta, a matrimonial app has announced an exclusive partnership with TTC Labs – experimental data design and data governance initiatives, initiated and supported by Meta.
Meta’s TTC Labs conducts collaborative research with and select leading startup and scaleup companies in the Asia Pacific and Europe for responsibly utilizing AI/ML in their digital products, a statement said.
Under the collaboration, focuses on innovative product development around AI/ML practices. It has also received support from industry and government leaders, including Meta, Open Loop, TTC Labs, including design partner Craig Walker, and Singapore’s IMDA, the firm added.
"The hypothetical prototype that was co-created for as part of our project demonstrates some of the key possibilities of designing for Al explainability. Their solution is embedded in the user flow and introduces Al product controls early in the user journey. The solution helps cultivate their users' understanding of how the Al works and builds trustworthiness in the recommendations it makes.", said Adam Bargroff, Public & Privacy policy manager, Meta, on this collaboration.
Twitter set to accept Musk's $43Bn offer, sources tell Reuters
Twitter is poised to agree a sale to Elon Musk for around $43 billion in cash, the price the chief executive of Tesla has called his "best and final" offer for the social media company, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Twitter may announce the $54.20-per-share deal later on Monday once its board has met to recommend the transaction to Twitter shareholders, the sources said. It is always possible that the deal collapses at the last minute, the sources added.
Musk, the world's richest person according to a tally by Forbes, is negotiating to buy Twitter in a personal capacity and Tesla is not involved in the deal.
Twitter has not been able to secure so far a 'go-shop' provision under its agreement with Musk that would allow it to solicit other bids once the deal is signed, the sources said. Still, Twitter would be allowed to accept an offer from another party by paying Musk a break-up fee, the sources added.
Twitter shares were up 4.5% in pre-market trading in New York on Monday at $51.15. The deal would come just four days after Musk unveiled a financing package to back the acquisition.
Elon Musk says he confronted Bill Gates about shorting Tesla
Elon Musk has accused Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates of shorting Tesla. In a tweet, the Tesla CEO admitted that he asked Gates if he was short-selling shares of the electric carmaker. When investors short a stock, they are betting that the price of the asset will fall.
“I heard from multiple people at TED that Gates still had half billion short against Tesla, which is why I asked him, so it’s not exactly top secret,” Musk said in the tweet.
He was responding to a Twitter user’s question on whether a screengrab of a supposed text conversation between the two billionaires was real.
The Tesla chief’s response was: “Yeah, but I didn’t leak it to NYT. They must have got it through friends of friends.”
The account that inquired about the text messages, @wholemarsblog, heavily promotes Tesla and Elon Musk, and is among the few handles that Musk most interacts with on Twitter.
The person who runs @wholemarsblog, Omar Qazi, is a co-defendant with Elon Musk in a libel and harassment lawsuit brought by Aaron Greenspan, founder of the public records database Plainsite, who has also shorted Tesla stock and been a vocal critic of Elon Musk.
In the text exchange, which couldn’t be independently verified by CNBC, Musk asked Gates: “Do you still have a half billion dollar short position against Tesla?”
To which Gates replied: “Sorry to say I haven’t closed it out. I would like to discuss philanthropy possibilities.”
Musk shot back: “Sorry, I cannot take your philanthropy on climate change seriously when you have a massive short position against Tesla, the company doing the most to solve climate change.”
The New York Times has not reported on Gates’ Tesla trades yet, or the text messages referenced in @wholemarsblog’s tweet.
EU sets new online rules for Google, Meta to curb illegal content
Google, Meta and other large online platforms will have to do more to tackle illegal content or risk hefty fines under new internet rules agreed between European Union countries and EU lawmakers, Reuters reported.
The agreement came after more than 16 hours of negotiations. The Digital Services Act (DSA) is the second prong of EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager's strategy to rein in Google, Meta and other US tech giants.
Under the DSA, the companies face fines up to 6% of their global turnover for violating the rules while repeated breaches could see them banned from doing business in the EU. The new rules ban targeted advertising aimed at children or based on sensitive data such as religion, gender, race and political opinions. Dark patterns, which are tactics that mislead people into giving personal data to companies online, will also be prohibited.
Very large online platforms and online search engines will be required to take specific measures during a crisis. The move was triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the related disinformation. The companies could be forced to hand over data related to their algorithms to regulators and researchers.
The companies also face a yearly fee up to 0.05% of worldwide annual revenue to cover the costs of monitoring their compliance. The DSA will be enforced in 2024.
TikTok owner ByteDance appoints lawyer Julie Gao as new CFO
TikTok-owner ByteDance has appointed corporate attorney Julie Gao as its new chief financial officer (CFO), according to an internal memo sent to staff and seen by Reuters.
Gao, currently a Hong Kong-based capital markets attorney at law firm Skadden, will be based in Hong Kong and Singapore once she joins ByteDance, according to the memo sent by ByteDance chief executive Liang Rubo.
Gao will join ByteDance in May, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Gao has advised on ByteDance's acquisitions of, which was later integrated into TikTok, and Shanghai-based gaming studio Moonton, according to her biography page on Skadden's official website.
The move comes after ByteDance's former CFO Shou Zi Chew, who joined the company in March 2021, stepped down in November from the CFO role to focus on being TikTok's CEO.
Activision Blizzard sales miss as 'Call of Duty' sees weak demand
Videogame publisher Activision Blizzard missed estimates for first-quarter adjusted sales on Monday, hurt by low demand for its latest title "Call of Duty: Vanguard".
Activision's performance has taken a hit from lower premium sales for "Call of Duty: Vanguard" and weaker engagement in "Call of Duty: Warzone", with a return to pre-pandemic habits pressing gamers to spend less time on their consoles, as per a Reuters report. The company, which is being taken over by Microsoft has also been facing backlash over its response to allegations of internal sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees. read more
The Santa Monica, California-based company's quarterly adjusted sales stood at $1.48 billion, compared with analysts' estimates of $1.80 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
Net income for the quarter ended March 31 fell to $395 million, or 50 cents per share, from $619 million, or 79 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding items, Activision earned 64 cents per share.
Alibaba's Freshippo adds more couriers, still unable to meet Shanghai demand
Alibaba's supermarket chain Freshippo said it was adding more couriers to meet high demand in Shanghai but this was not yet catching up with the rising needs of locked-down residents as the city battles a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Reuters.
Shen Li, a vice president at Alibaba’s Freshippo, told reporters that while the company's delivery capacity had recovered to about 60-70% of pre-outbreak levels as more couriers were allowed back on the roads, many difficulties remained.
"The biggest challenge we are facing now is that the demand and numbers of orders from consumers has increased by about two to three times compared with pre-outbreak levels," she said.
China's most important economic hub has locked down most of its 25 million residents for more than three weeks in an effort to stamp out the country's largest outbreak since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.
Freshippo as of Sunday had 47 stores open for online deliveries in Shanghai and it also had set up six additional ad hoc warehouses for the city, due to issues with inter-province supply chains. About 5,000 staff were working in these stores and its warehouses while a further 1,000 were working online from home.
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