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    Startup digest: Zepto launches 10-min delivery Café: Report; Jack Dorsey slams Twitter's board

    Startup digest: Zepto launches 10-min delivery Café: Report; Jack Dorsey slams Twitter's board

    Startup digest: Zepto launches 10-min delivery Café: Report; Jack Dorsey slams Twitter's board
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    By Aishwarya Anand   IST (Updated)

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    Startup Digest brings you a quick wrap of news from the startup space

    Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
    Will continue to respond strongly when encountered with wilful misconduct or fraud: Sequoia India
    Sequoia Capital India has said that it would take “proactive steps” to drive corporate governance at startups it invests in and would ask for more disclosures and rigorously adopt internal audits and controls.
    The company's statement comes in the backdrop of three of its portfolio firms — BharatPe, Trell and Zilingo — being hit with corporate governance issues, including potential instances of fraud. BharatPe, of which Sequoia is the largest shareholder, first sacked Grover's wife Madhuri Jain for alleged misappropriation of company funds, following which Ashneer Grover resigned.
    "We will have zero tolerance towards proven wrongdoing. When whistleblowers call us to report on issues, we always take them seriously," the company said in a statement. The company added that it won't hesitate to act to protect the interest of shareholders and employees even if it costs them financially. "We will take tough calls where needed, in the interest of doing what is right," it added.
    "We reflect what we could have done to prevent situations of fraudulent behaviour. We can build enduring companies only if values are right and governance is strong," the company said. There is hardly a business to diligence at the seed stage, Late stage investors can face negative surprises, if there is wilful fraud, it said.
    "We are still a 'work-in-progress' as an ecosystem and we have to collectively drive better accountability," it said, adding that boards can only work with the information shared with them. The company said that the less transparency to the board, the lesser their ability to truly unearth errant behaviours.
    The company said better corporate governance is a shared responsibility between founders, the management and the Board.
    "We need better governance trainings, whistleblower policies, more independent board representation, more rigorous adoption of internal audits and controls," it said.
    Antler launches India residency programme for entrepreneurs
    Early-stage venture capital firm Antler India has launched Antler India Residency, a cohort-based programme for aspiring entrepreneurs.
    The platform is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs find their co-founders, collaborate, brainstorm, and ideate with them to translate an idea into a startup, the VC firm said in a statement.
    The Residency programme will bring together 60-70 individuals from business and engineering backgrounds to participate in an 8-week-long programme. The cohort will also attend dedicated sessions hosted by ex-CTOs and tech specialists who transitioned into being founders, specially designed for developers and engineers to further hone their business acumen and leadership skills, aimed to make the transition smoother for them.
    “Phase 1 of the Residency will focus on helping foster connections and create situations and challenges to aid the process. In this phase, founders will also spend time validating and developing their ideas. Phase 2 will see the successfully formed teams build out their idea, where we back them through coaching and access to resources,” said Nandini Vishwanath, program director, Antler India.
    The teams formed during the process will receive an additional 6 weeks of advisory support to help build out the first version of their product — from customer validation to MVP to thinking about go-to-market strategy, it added.
    In 2021, when Antler India launched, it announced plans to deploy $100-$150 million in over 100 Indian startups over the next three years.
    Zomato begins 10-minute food delivery pilot in Gurugram: Report
    Zomato has started its pilot of 10-minute food delivery with its employees in Gurugram, people aware of the matter told MoneyControl.
    The company had earlier said it will be delivering through ‘finishing stations’ which will be located in close proximity to high-demand customer neighbourhoods. It is not clear as to how many of these stations are now operational.
    However, a company spokesperson in an e-mailed response, said, “We are planning to launch a few stations in Gurugram in the next 30 days, and work towards improving our network based on our customers' feedback and demand. The finishing stations play a crucial role here specially in establishing shorter (less than 2 kms) and defined routes for our delivery partners. We plan to take Instant Live in other Indian cities soon.”
    As per the report, the food tech major plans to go live soon for its customers, but has not disclosed the exact timeline.
    Zepto launches 10-minute food delivery service 'Cafe' in Mumbai: Report
    Zepto, a 10-minute grocery delivery app, has started food delivery in Mumbai on its own app through an offering called 'Cafe', as per a MoneyControl report.
    The startup is currently providing a free delivery on an order value of Rs 99.
    The Mumbai-headquartered firm has tied up with restaurants such as Blue Tokai Coffee, Chaayos, Gurukripa snacks and Sassy Teaspoon. Some of the items being delivered in 10 minutes include tea, croissants, samosa and coffee, the report added.
    "We launched the Zepto Cafe format as a pilot a few weeks ago, and we've seen an incredible response from customers. We're going to continue tweaking the model for quite some time so we can perfect the customer experience and unit economics before scaling,” said Aadit Palicha, CEO and Co-Founder, Zepto.
    Palicha also clarified that the company is not doing food delivery.
    “This is a Café format, with ready-to-drink coffee, chai, and packaged snacks (like biscuits and sandwiches). We don't want to get distracted from our core business by building a complex supply chain for food delivery, where it's difficult to control quality,” Palicha added.
    This comes at a time when larger rivals such as Zomato, Swiggy and Ola are all testing 10-min food delivery.
    BYJU's faces litmus test as edtech bubble bursts in India
    As India reopens amid 'hybrid normal' and schools and colleges return to normal, edtech platforms see a significant dip in the demand for online learning and some of such firms have either shut shops or fired employees in recent days.
    BYJU's is also facing the heat to keep up with the changing times. Reliable industry sources told IANS that its global expansion plans have not yet reached the scale it had planned.
    Most notable startup under its umbrella that is facing trouble is online coding platform WhiteHat Jr, bought in July 2020 for $300 million. With WhiteHat Jr, BYJU's aimed to take coding to the world from India, hiring teachers on contractual-basis.
    The fact is that the platform earned just Rs 12.34 crore and Rs 11.07 crore from its Australia and UK markets, respectively. WhiteHat Jr posted a massive Rs 1,690 crore loss in the financial year 2021, while generating an operating revenue of Rs 484 crore in the same period.
    The platform's losses skyrocketed in FY21 and its expenses reached Rs 2,175 crore — compared to Rs 69.7 crore in FY20.
    Sources close to the company told IANS that WhiteHat Jr has asked its nearly 3,000 sales and support employees to report to either Mumbai or Gurugram (out of its 5,000-strong workforce that includes teachers which are on contractual-basis hence not full-time employees), from April 18.
    It has also shut its schools division that last year targeted to take its flagship coding curriculum to 10 lakh school students by the next academic year.
    WhiteHat Jr's also forayed into teaching music online, offering Guitar and Piano. It later launched a specially-curated course to offer immersive learning opportunities for music aspirants across all age groups. However, this move has also yielded no fruitful results to date, said sources.
    In a statement, a WhiteHat Jr spokesperson told IANS that as part of its back-to work drive, "most of our Sales and Support employees have been asked to report to Gurugram and Mumbai offices from April 18."
    "Our teachers will continue to work from home. We understand that some of our employees may voluntarily choose not to return to work, in Gurugram and Mumbai. In such cases, the employees are advised to get in touch with HR for next steps," the company added.
    ReshaMandi opens silk cocoon mandi in Ramanagara
    ReshaMandi, a B2B marketplace digitising the natural fibre supply chain, has set up a cocoon mandi in Ramanagara. As per the company, this is Asia's second-largest cocoon mandi.
    The cutting-edge processing plant and warehouse will benefit over 30,000 sericulture farmers and serve over 6000 reelers with an aim to optimize silk value chain and achieve high quality of raw silk through interventions, the firm said in a statement.
    The facility at Ramanagara will consist of systems that will enable time series computation on the live bidding and enable statistical computation on the edge of the network while securing the bidding by setting up a geo fence perimeter. Bidding and purchasing will be delivered with the company's unique cart management solution, offering payments through Mobile Application or working capital being given to reelers, the firm added.
    “With this mandi, we will ensure that a comprehensive set of actions are implemented onsite for the farmers’ ease and monetary gain,” said Mayank Tiwari, CEO and Founder, ReshaMandi.
    Getafix Technologies launches document digitisation platform Scanroid
    New-age technology and development firm, Getafix Technologies has launched an AI-powered data extractor and complete data mapping solution, Scanroid, that automates manual data entry process.
    The newly launched document digitisation solution can scan and read documents, categorise them automatically and ensure data validation and accuracy, the firm said in a statement.
    Scanroid automates error-prone and time-consuming data digitisation processes and brings down the cost of manual document digitisation.
    Scanroid can parse documents in over 200 languages and reduces errors by 52 percent and manual document processing costs by 35 percent.
    PrepInsta launches OTT learning platform PrepInsta Prime
    PrepInsta, an edtech startup has announced the launch of a new platform — PrepInsta Prime, which will follow an OTT format enabling learning material and techniques for college students and working professionals.
    PrepInsta prime will offer 150+ courses under a single subscription plan. It will cover UpSkilling Courses, Coding Courses, Placement Preparation courses, among others to widen the scope of job opportunities for the aspirants.
    “We target upskilling around 100K learners by the end of 2022. Additionally, PrepInsta prime shall continue adding new courses in sync with the market demand. By the end of the current calendar year, we plan to have at least 300 courses on its portfolio,” said Manish Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer, PrepInsta.
    Wingreens appoints Ramesh Menon as Group CEO
    Packaged food company Wingreens Farms has appointed Ramesh Menon as Group CEO. Menon will head the Group with over 1000 employees, including all subsidiaries and brands.
    His role will be to drive the Group’s growth in the next phase of the evolution of the F&B industry in India and globally, the firm said in a statement.
    Menon brings over three decades of experience in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry as well as in the Retail Media & Entertainment industry.
    Prior to joining Wingreens, Menon served as the CEO of Radio and Digital innovation businesses at HT Media.
    “We are building a world class enterprise with an omni-channel play that is relevant to the Indian market and I can think of no one better than Ramesh to guide the group towards these goals,” said Anju C Srivastava, Managing Director of Wingreens Group.
    Wingreens boasts of marquee investors like Sequoia Capital India, responsAbility, Investcorp, and Omidyar Network.
    Ola, Uber go on strike to protest rising CNG prices
    Uber and Ola drivers went on a strike in Delhi NCR on Monday to protest the sharp rise in CNG prices and high commissions charged by cab aggregators.
    According to people in the know, the protests began from Majnu Ka Tila and went on to the police checkpoint near Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence.
    The Delhi Sarvodaya Drivers Association (DSDA) has demanded subsidies on CNG and fares to be regulated by the government. "The commission paid to aggregators to be fixed at 10 percent," said the spokesperson.
    The DSDA also claims that it has received letters of support from taxi associations in Lucknow, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata.
    "We know that the Delhi government is forming some committee but we need solutions to our problems which are not in sight. We are demanding that the government (Centre and Delhi) provide Rs 35 per kg subsidy on CNG prices," he said.
    According to the associations, there are over 90,000 autos and more than 80,000 registered taxis complementing the public transport system in Delhi.
    Global Technology & startup news 
    Jack Dorsey slams Twitter's board amid Musk’s takeover push
    As Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk puts pressure on the board of Twitter to let him acquire the micro-blogging platform for $43 billion, its cofounder Jack Dorsey has finally broken the silence, labeling the board as "consistently the dysfunction of the company".
    Dorsey, who left Twitter in November last year — handing over the baton to Indian-origin Parag Agrawal — remains a board member until next month with his 2.2 percent share.
    Reacting to a Twitter user, Dorsey said late on Sunday: "It (the board) has consistently been the dysfunction of the company". The former Twitter chief also agreed with venture capitalist Gary Tan, who posted that a badly run board "can literally make a billion dollars in value disappear."
    When another Twitter user asked Dorsey if he was allowed to speak publicly about the board, he replied, "No".
    Musk had said that "With Jack departing, the Twitter board collectively owns almost no shares!" Musk also said that the Twitter board should be more concerned about other potential bidders than him who has made a fair offer to acquire 100 percent of the micro-blogging platform for $43 billion.
    With 9.2 percent stake, Musk is one of the largest shareholders in Twitter.
    Asset management firm Vanguard Group disclosed last week that its funds now own a 10.3 percent stake in Twitter which makes it the largest shareholder. Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who rejected Elon Musk's offer, has about 5.2 percent share in Twitter.
    The board of Twitter has adopted the 'poison pill' strategy to stop Musk from forcefully buying it.
    Buyout firm Thoma Bravo approaches Twitter with acquisition interest
    Buyout firm Thoma Bravo LP has contacted Twitter to express interest in putting together an acquisition offer that would rival Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk's $43 billion bid, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
    Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm that had more than $103 billion in assets under management as of the end of December, has informed Twitter that it is exploring the possibility of putting together a bid, the sources said.
    It is not clear how much Thoma Bravo would be prepared to offer and there is no certainty that such a rival bid will materialize, the sources cautioned, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
    The New York Post reported on Thursday that Thoma Bravo was considering a bid for Twitter.
    Didi sets shareholder meeting on May 23 to vote on US delisting plans
    Didi Global will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on May 23 to vote on its delisting plans in the United States, Reuters reported.
    The company said it will not apply to list its shares on any other stock exchange before the delisting of its American Depositary Shares from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was complete.
    It added that it will continue to explore appropriate measures that include exploring a potential listing on another internationally recognized exchange.
    Didi announced in December that it would delist from the NYSE and pursue a listing in Hong Kong after it ran foul of Chinese regulators by pushing ahead with its $4.4 billion US IPO last year.
    Chinese regulators had urged the firm to put its listing on hold while a cybersecurity review of its data practices was conducted, sources have told Reuters.
    Days after it went ahead, the country's powerful cyberspace watchdog ordered app stores to remove 25 mobile apps operated by Didi and told the company to stop registering new users, citing national security and the public interest.
    China's securities regulator, in a statement noting Didi's Saturday announcement, said the decision was one that the company had made independently and had nothing to do with other US-listed Chinese stocks or ongoing efforts between Chinese regulators and their US counterparts to resolve an audit dispute affecting US-listed Chinese firms.
    Activision says it is cooperating with federal insider trading probes
    Activision Blizzard is cooperating with federal investigations into trading by friends of its chief executive shortly before the gaming company disclosed its sale to Microsoft, it said in a securities filing seen by Reuters.
    It received requests for information from the US Securities and Exchange Commission and received a subpoena from a Department of Justice grand jury, the maker of "Call of Duty" said in an amended proxy filing.
    The requests "appear to relate to their respective investigations into trading by third parties — including persons known to Activision Blizzard's CEO — in securities prior to the announcement of the proposed transaction," it said.
    Microsoft in January agreed to acquire Activision for $95 a share, or $68.7 billion in total, in the biggest video-gaming industry deal in history.
    Gaming platforms FlickPlay, The Sandbox take steps toward metaverse
    Gaming companies FlickPlay and The Sandbox announced a new partnership that will allow players to use a blockchain asset on both platforms, representing a key step in the building of the metaverse.
    FlickPlay is an app where players can unlock digital collectibles by using an interactive map of their actual surroundings, and then use their phone's camera to overlay the collectibles onto the real world and interact with the objects to make videos and other content.
    On Monday, the app announced its first collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) called Flicky, which will feature designs of an anthropomorphic chameleon wearing different clothes.
    A portion of people who acquire a Flicky will be able to use the NFT as their avatar on The Sandbox, a web and mobile game where players can build a three-dimensional virtual world.
    Initially, Flicky owners will unlock a version of the chameleon to use on The Sandbox, but soon they will be able to use the exact version of the digital asset that is stored on the blockchain in both games, said Pierina Merino, founder and chief executive of FlickPlay, adding that the company is working with The Sandbox to reach interoperability by the end of the year.
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