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Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
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China COVID protest: Xi Jinping can't blame the protesters — the world will be watching
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Zomato board to sign off Blinkit acquisition on June 17: Report
The Zomato board will meet on June 17 to sign off the acquisition of quick commerce company Blinkit, sources told Moneycontrol.
Although the deal discussions earlier valued Blinkit at USD 700 million, the value of the final deal is expected to come down as it involves a stock swap of a definite number of shares in the ratio of 1:10 where Zomato would get 10 shares of Blinkit for every one of its shares, the report added.
Moneycontrol had reported earlier that the food delivery major may not need the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) nod to acquire the online grocer as it plans to use the so-called 'de minimis' exemption, which applies to deals below a certain size.
Ivy Homes raises $7M in seed funding round
Ivy Homes, a prop-tech startup that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide instant liquidity to sellers, has raised USD 5.75 million in equity and USD 1.3 million in debt in a seed round of funding.
The round saw participation from Khosla Ventures, Venture Highway, Y Combinator, GFC, Foundamental, Better Capital and Titan Capital. The funds will be utilised to build product and expand the team, a statement said.
“The funding that we have raised is a big step toward realising our mission to deliver transparent solutions to the real estate sector. With our unique data and pricing engine, we aim to transform what is a complex, painful and month-long ordeal into a transparent and predictable process,” said Abhilash Narahari, Co-founder, Ivy Homes.
Text Mercato raises $2.6M in Pre-Series A funding led by 1Crowd and others
Text Mercato, a cataloging and content technology company, has bagged USD 2.6 million in Pre-Series A funding round led by 1Crowd, Mount Judi Ventures and US-based Innospark Ventures.
The round also saw participation from Modulor Capital, Tremis Capital, ah! Ventures and other angel investors. The company had previously raised over USD 1 million bringing the total raise to USD 4 million till date.
“The capital raised will be used invested in technology in enhancing automation capabilities and category coverage, as well as launch of an exciting DIY (Do-it-Yourself) platform named Rubick.ai, that will support end-to-end cataloging for small and medium brands," said Subhajit Mukherjee, Founder, Text Mercato.
The company is currently processing over 1 million SKUs per month, with a 3X increase in revenue run rate of last year, and this revenue is expected to grow quadruple in the current financial year, it said in a statement.
MS Dhoni invests an undisclosed sum in Garuda Aerospace
Former Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni bats for Chennai based drone company, Garuda Aerospace by investing an undisclosed sum in the startup.
Dhoni will also be the face and brand ambassador of the company. The investment is part of a bridge round, ahead of a USD 30-million Series A funding round, which the company is currently in the process of closing.
"I’m happy to be a part of Garuda Aerospace and look forward to witnessing their growth story with the unique drone solutions they have to offer,” said Dhoni.
Garuda Aerospace deploys 300 drones and 500 pilots across 26 cities. In a conversation with CNBC-TV18, Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Founder and CEO of Garuda Aerospace said that the enterprise was on its way to become India's first-ever drone unicorn startup.
NBFC Moneyboxx Finance raises over Rs 20 crore from HNI investors
Moneyboxx Finance, a Non-Banking Finance Company has raised Rs 20.77 crore equity capital by private placement from non-promoter investors. This comes after the NBFC had raised ₹14.42 crore of equity in December 2021.
The company has strengthened its capital position with the recent equity fund raises. It plans to utilise the funds for expanding its scale of operations and tap growth opportunities, the firm said in a statement. The company’s AUM stood at Rs119 crore in March 2022, growing by 92 percent over last year, supported by growing business at existing branches.
The company plans to expand its current network of 30 branches across five states to 60 by FY23 and over 100 by FY24. It plans to expand its operations in existing states and enter new states to build AUM of over Rs 400 crore by FY23 and of over Rs 1,000 crore by FY24. The company is planning to raise an additional Rs 120 crore in FY23.
OTHER STARTUP NEWS
Eruditus lays off 80 employees to focus on profitability: Report
SoftBank-backed Eruditus has become the latest edtech company to lay off employees as it looks to improve profitability.
The edtech unicorn has let go off about 80 employees from its marketing and talent acquisition teams over the last one month, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ashwin Damera told Moneycontrol. He said that out of the 80, about 40 have resigned voluntarily.
"We see attrition of about 40 employees every month, and it's normal. We see 40 people leaving us every month, but we add another 40 also," Damera said.
"The other 40, we had to let go off, of which about 15 were from the talent acquisition team and the rest from other teams including marketing," he added.
Damera also said that the company has hired about 1,300 people over the last 12 months. This year, it plans to hire about 100-150 people, especially in tech and products teams.
Sequoia ends ties with legal firm founded by its ex-general counsel: Report
Venture capital firm Sequoia Capital has sent out a note to a bunch of its portfolio companies informing them that it has ended ties with Algo Legal, a legal firm founded by its former general counsel Sandeep Kapoor due to ‘concerning incidents,’ sources aware of the matter told Moneycontrol.
“Sequoia India and Southeast Asia came to be informed of concerning incidents involving Algo Legal, a service provider associated with a former senior Sequoia India employee, and related entities,” Sequoia said in the note, which was accessed by Moneycontrol.
“A recently concluded investigation in a portfolio company has also brought concerning details to light regarding such entities. Sequoia India and Southeast Asia (and affiliate entities) have terminated all arrangements pursuant to which any services were being provided to the firm by Algo Legal and related entities and has referred the matter to legal advisors to seek their counsel on actions, if any, to be taken,” Sequoia said.
Sequoia Capital further requested the select portfolio companies to inform legal firm AZB & Partners or its INSEA team if any of its companies is a client of or has had dealings with Algo Legal or its related entities including Themis, Quant LegalTech India, OneDelta Technology Solutions and OneDelta Synergies Singapore.
PhonePe will list in India, says CEO Sameer Nigam
Payments and financial services company PhonePe has clear plans to list on the stock exchanges some day, and when ready the company will launch an initial public offering (IPO) in India, founder and CEO Sameer Nigam said.
Speaking in an episode of CNN News18, Nigam said that the company is also in the process of moving its registered entity from Singapore to India.
"We are moving our holding company to India, and we will list here. Our board has already signed off on it, it's just a matter of time now," he said.
"We are a made in India company. Every office, data centre, and employee of ours is here. There is no reason why we should not contribute to wealth creation in this market."
Nigam said that the Walmart and Flipkart-owned startup will go public once its core businesses turn profitable and its new-age initiatives achieve good scale.
Earth Rhythm registers 500% jump in revenues in FY21-22
Earth Rhythm, a smart and safe skincare brand said it has grown by over 500 percent between FY21-22 and is targeting a 150 crore ARR for FY22–23. The brand has also witnessed exponential growth on the customer acquisition side.
For comparison, the number of customers for FY22 increased by 533 percent vs. FY21. In addition, it saw a 500 percent increase in orders per month, along with a 3x increase in website visits, the company said.
The company will be focusing on line expansion of the Beauty and Bath & Body category. Earth Rhythm also plans to venture into retail and is targeting to open 100+ kiosks PAN India along with exploring global markets like Middle East and US markets.
“In the long run, we will continue to innovate and invest in product launches as we believe that our products are the biggest moat in our business. In addition to that, tech and finding efficiencies to be a profitable brand will be our key internal priorities,” said Harini Sivakumar, Founder, and CEO, Cosmetic Chemist.
Mumbai Angels witness a 3x jump in fund deployment in FY22
Investment platform Mumbai Angels Network, said it has invested over Rs 100 crores across 56 deals, and saw 18 Portfolio Exits and Next rounds in FY 2021-22.
The private investment platform is looking forward to investing in seed to growth-stage ventures, solving real problems with unique approaches, across diverse sectors, it said.
As per the firm, the Asset Under Management during this period touched $130 million across 200+ companies. The sectors that attracted maximum investments in 2022 included Technology, Food & Beverage, Life Sciences, Education and Marketplaces.
Mumbai Angels plans to double its investment deployment to Rs 200 crore and ramp up the deployment in subsequent years.
Lumikai strengthens leadership team
Gaming and interactive media venture capital fund Lumikai has announced the expansion of its leadership team with the appointments of Devadatta Rajadhyaksha as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Kislay Shashwat as VP of investments.
While Devdatta will oversee all finance, fund admin and operations, lead on regulatory and compliance, and support future growth initiatives including setup of future Lumikai funds, Kislay will play a key role across the entire investment stack. His role will also be extended to deal flow sourcing, transaction negotiation and management, portfolio management and support, thesis development, and leveraging his deep relationships on the ground across Bangalore's startup and investment communities.
The key hires will strengthen the senior foundation of Lumikai operations as the fund scales up its investments pipeline and launches future funds, a statement said.
Tata Motors to deliver 10,000 EVs to BluSmart Electric Mobility
Tata Motors has signed an agreement with BluSmart Electric Mobility for delivering 10,000 XPRES T EVs to the company. The company said that this deployment of 10,000 units is the biggest ever EV fleet order in India.
With deliveries starting soon, these vehicles will be added to the 3,500 XPRES-T EV order that was signed by both companies in October of last year. They will be used by commuters across the country, which will help reduce the carbon footprint, the firm said in a statement.
“With our USD 50M in Series A fundraise, we are supercharged to rapidly expand across Delhi-NCR and the metro cities. We are building a large-scale integrated EV mobility ecosystem in India–from the country’s largest fully-electric ride-hailing service to the largest network of EV charging super hubs,” said Anmol Singh Jaggi, Co-Founder, BluSmart Electric Mobility.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Cybersecurity firm Perimeter 81 hits unicorn status with $100M fundraising
Perimeter 81 said its backers now value the Israeli cybersecurity company at USD 1 billion, giving it unicorn status after the firm raised USD 100 million to fund product development, as per a report by Reuters.
The round, led by B Capital, marked a jump in valuation from its last raise in August 2020, when the company was valued at USD 200 million. ION Crossover Ventures and existing investor Insight Partners also participated in the round.
Perimeter 81 offers secure network solutions for the hybrid workforce on its cloud-based platform, including Zero Trust Network Access, Firewall as a Service, and VPN as a Service.
The fresh capital will be invested in product development to help achieve the company's goal to build a platform that offers one-stop solutions for corporate network security, said Amit Bareket, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Perimeter 81.
Musk says he may drop Twitter deal if fake-account data not provided
Elon Musk has warned that he might walk away from his USD 44 billion offer to acquire Twitter if the social media network failed to provide data on spam and fake accounts.
In a letter to Twitter, the billionaire reiterated his request for details on bot accounts and said he reserved all rights to terminate the merger as the company was in a "clear material breach" of its obligations by not providing him with the information.
This is the first time Musk has threatened to walk away from the deal in writing as opposed to airing it on Twitter's social media platform.
"Musk believes Twitter is transparently refusing to comply with its obligations under the merger agreement, which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data," according to the letter seen by Reuters.
Google ordered to pay Australian politician over defamatory YouTube videos
An Australian court has ordered Google to pay a former lawmaker A$715,000 ($515,000), saying its refusal to remove a YouTuber's "relentless, racist, vilificatory, abusive and defamatory" videos drove him out of politics.
The Federal Court found the Alphabet company intentionally made money by hosting two videos on its YouTube website attacking the then-deputy premier of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, that have been viewed nearly 800,000 times since being posted in 2020, as per a Reuters report.
The ruling revives the question of how much culpability technology firms have for defamation conveyed by users on their websites in Australia, one of few Western nations where online platforms have the same legal responsibility as publishers.
The judgment showed Google had denied the videos carried defamatory imputations, and said the YouTuber had the right to an honestly held opinion and should be protected by the right to criticise a politician.
China to conclude cybersecurity probe, Didi app to be restored: WSJ
Chinese regulators are concluding probes into ride-hailing giant Didi Global and two other firms and are preparing to allow their apps back on domestic app stores as early as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The report, citing unnamed people familiar with the issues, is the latest signal to investors that official promises to ease pressure on China's internet sector may be gaining traction.
Regulators are also planning to allow apps of logistics platform Full Truck Alliance and online recruitment services company Kanzhun back on app stores this week, the WSJ said, citing people familiar with the discussions.
The CAC had ordered app stores to remove 25 apps operated by Didi last year as part of a wider crackdown drawing in some of China's biggest corporate names.
The three companies are still expected to face financial penalties, along with offering 1 percent equity stakes to the state and give the government a direct role in corporate decisions, WSJ reported.
US Supreme Court seeks Biden views on WhatsApp 'Pegasus' spyware dispute
The US Supreme Court has asked President Joe Biden's administration to weigh in on whether the justices should hear a case on whether Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp can pursue a lawsuit accusing Israel's NSO Group of exploiting a bug in the messaging app to install spy software.
The justices are considering NSO's appeal of a lower court's decision allowing the lawsuit to move forward. NSO has argued that it is immune from being sued because it was acting as an agent for unidentified foreign governments when it installed the "Pegasus" spyware, Reuters reported.
WhatsApp has said the software was used for the surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents. The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Justice Department to file a brief offering its views on the legal issue.
Crypto scam victims lose more than $1Bn since 2021: FTC
More than 46,000 people reported losing over $1 billion in cryptocurrency scams since the start of 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said in a report. Nearly half the people who reported losing digital currencies in a scam said it started with an ad, post or a message on a social media platform, according to the FTC.
The craze for cryptocurrencies was at a fever pitch last year with bitcoin hitting a record high of $69,000 in November.
Reports point to social media and crypto as a combustible combination for fraud, the agency said, adding that about $575 million of all losses related to digital currency frauds were about "bogus investment opportunities".
Nearly four out of every 10 dollars lost in a fraud originating on social media was lost in crypto, far more than any other payment method, with Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram being the top social media platforms in such cases, according to the report.
Amazon executive behind its massive delivery operation to leave after 23 years
Dave Clark, the executive who made Amazon into a worldwide delivery behemoth, is stepping down as Chief Executive of the online retailer's consumer business to pursue other opportunities, Reuters reported.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said he expects to name a replacement in the next few weeks and that the company has work ahead "to get to where we ultimately want to be" in the division Clark ran. Clark's last day will be July 1, after 23 years with the company.
The departure further solidifies a changing of the guard at Amazon, which for years had veteran ranks under founder Jeff Bezos. A string of management departures including vice presidents and Bezos himself have shaken up the e-commerce and cloud company, though executives have aimed to maintain the customer focus and startup mentality of their founder.
The online retailer is also girding for economic challenges, recently reporting a USD 2 billion hit from having built too much warehousing and transportation capacity, vowing now to reduce the costs of fulfilling orders.
In a statement on Twitter, Clark said he wanted to get back to building. "It's what drives me," he said, adding he leaves Amazon with "a solid multi-year plan to fight the inflationary challenges we are facing in 2022."
Clark no longer wanted Jassy, his new manager, to second-guess him, a person familiar with the matter said.