Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Overseas education startup Leap bags $75M in Series D round
Overseas education platform Leap has raised $75 million in its Series D funding round led by Owl Ventures. New investors Steadview Capital and Paramark Ventures also joined the company’s cap table.
Existing investors Jungle Ventures and Sequoia Capital India, too pitched in the funding round. Since inception in 2019, the startup has raised over $150 million in equity.
Leap, which runs LeapScholar, LeapFinance, and Yocket, is a full-stack international student mobility platform. The company claimed to have helped over 175,000 students in their study abroad journey in the past 12 months.
“Having built the underlying infrastructure for global student mobility, we are now able to scale rapidly across multiple dimensions. We have launched many industry-first products and experiences to make the student journey seamless. Ensuring student success has been our mission and we will continue to deepen our existing offerings and launch newer ones in the months ahead,” said Arnav Kumar, Co-founder, Leap.
57 Stars invests $40M in WayCool
WayCool, a food and agri-tech platform has received an investment of $40 million in a funding round led by 57 Stars, an independent global alternative investment firm.
The investment is the first transaction for 57 Stars’ Direct Impact Fund and the second investment for 57 Stars Global Innovation Fund 2 (“GIF 2”).
“We are happy to partner with 57 Stars in the next phase of our journey. This investment illustrates the continuing confidence of mature global investors in fundamentally sound businesses delivering lasting impact,” said Chinna Pardhasaradhi, CFO, WayCool.
Lumikai Fund leads $1.25M Seed round in CloudFeather Games
CloudFeather Games, a provider of plug and play real-money gaming and web3 tools for game developers, has raised $1.25 million in its seed funding round led by Lumikai.
Venture Highway and strategic angels including Maninder Gulati (Global Chief Strategy Officer, OYO) and Manish Agrawal (CEO, Nazara Technologies) also participated in the round.
The company intends to use the fresh capital to make key hires in business development, product and tech as it scales its developer outreach programs both for domestic and global game studios.
GIVA raises Series B round from Aditya Birla Ventures, A91 Partners & Sixth Sense Ventures
Online Silver jewellery startup GIVA has raised an undisclosed capital in its Series B round of funding led by Aditya Birla Ventures and A91 Partners along with the participation of Sixth Sense Ventures.
The firm said it will use the raised capital for channel expansion and further diversifying its range of beautifully crafted jewellery pieces to enter new categories.
The company claims to have achieved a revenue of Rs100 crore in FY2021-22.
OTHER STARTUP NEWS
FIXCRAFT forays in automotive market by acquiring VMotive
Fixcraft, a one-stop car repair and service startup, has acquired VMotive, an automotive spares brand of Vogo, along with its trademark for an undisclosed amount.
The team of V-Motive will also join Fixcraft as part of this deal. With this acquisition, Fixcraft will be able to strategically deepen its play in the Indian post-sales automotive market, the third largest in the world at $24 billion, a statement said.
“VMotive in Fixcraft’s portfolio of offerings makes our play in the post-sales car repair and service segment deeper across the entire value chain,” said Vivek Sharma, Founder and CEO, Fixcraft.
Zomato investors await blueprint for Blinkit acquisition
Food delivery giant Zomato said its board will meet on June 24 to consider an acquisition through issuance of equity.
The Zomato board will “discuss a potential acquisition transaction, the consideration for which may be discharged through issuance of equity shares by way of a preferential issue”, according to a regulatory filing.
Moneycontrol had reported earlier citing sources that a deal between Zomato and Blinkit was likely in June. The value of the deal with quick commerce company Blinkit is is expected to come down from an earlier $700 million.
IAMAI forms VC committee; Sequoia India, SoftBank and others join
The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has announced the formation of a Venture Capital (VC) Committee with marquee venture funds like Sequoia India, SoftBank, and Multiples Alternate Asset Management, among others as members.
Vikas Agnihotri, Operating Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers will chair the VC Committee and Shweta Rajpal Kohli, Chief Public Policy Officer of Sequoia India and Southeast Asia, will be the co-chair.
The new committee will work on public policy consultations, stakeholder engagement, ecosystem enhancement, and building a strong industry network for VC firms.
The committee will help in highlighting sector-specific challenges faced by portfolio companies of the member VC firms, IAMAI said. It plans to provide a platform for the VC community where it can highlight the collective issues faced by such firms like direct foreign listing of Indian startups, clarification on gift tax, taxation on ESOPs, among others.
Macquarie says banks will benefit from tighter regulations on fintechs
Financial services group Macquarie in a report said that the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) tougher regulations for fintech companies will be advantageous to banks.
Macquarie’s comments come after the RBI, through a clarification on wallets and prepaid cards, on June 20 said that non-bank institutions cannot load credit lines into these instruments, as reported by Moneycontrol. This will give banks the upper hand which have no such restrictions.
RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das while addressing an event in Mumbai had rejected plans for digital-only banks.
“At the moment, there is no proposal as such because we feel existing banks and NBFCs can adopt more technology to capitalise on the opportunities which new technologies offer. At this moment, we don’t intend to set up what may be called neobanks because we feel existing architecture is sufficient to enable existing players to leverage the innovations,” Das had said.
RBI has been coming down heavily on fintechs and has been advocating tighter regulations over the past several months. Macquarie believes that the message is clear that fintechs will increasingly be regulated more.
VMentor.ai and Wadhwani Foundation to set up MSME incubator
VMentor.ai and Wadhwani Foundation have partnered for strategic collaboration to help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) by launching an accelerator programme.
The MSME-accelerator alliance will offer subsidised mentoring by industry veterans to eligible MSMEs, with a revenue turnover between Rs 5 crore and Rs 100 crore, unlocking their potential for growth quicker and with a more strategic outlook than what the MSMEs’ own capacities would have allowed. The combined frameworks and tools of the two mentor organisations would allow a Do-It-Yourself (DIY), a high-impact delivery model for smaller companies and an adviser-led consulting and project management delivery model for larger companies, a statement said.
“This alliance is an important step towards creating India’s first MSME incubator that will help the MSME growth trajectory through structured and well-established methodology aptly aided by technology. Leveraging other platforms of VMentor.ai such as Yugma (Platform for Students of Engineering and MBA) will help create the right ecosystem for MSME growth,” said Srinivas Chunduru, Founder, VMentor.ai.
Zoom launches Zoom Apps SDK to expand developer platform
Zoom has announced the general availability of the Zoom Apps SDK, which provides developers with the resources and support infrastructure needed to build Zoom Apps within the Zoom client.
By building on the Zoom Apps SDK, developers can reach Zoom customers, and users can discover and add new apps within the same client they use every day. Over 100 Zoom Apps have been published by developer partners to enrich meeting experiences ranging from meeting productivity, team collaboration, and social networking to gaming, as per a company statement.
“With the launch of the Zoom Apps SDK, the Zoom Developer Platform continues to expand and offer developers new ways to incorporate video communications and collaboration into their creations, transforming business workflows forever,” said Brendan Ittelson, Chief Technology Officer, Zoom.
73% sellers in India use sales tech once a week: LinkedIn Report
Top sellers use the technology stack to humanise interactions with buyers, which is why they’re thriving, according to LinkedIn’s latest 2022 State of Sales (Asia Pacific edition covering Australia, India and Singapore) report.
The survey showed that the pandemic and the increase of remote work have hastened the proliferation of sales technology, with 87 percent of sellers at large organisations (with 1,000+ employees) in Asia Pacific now using it once a week.
Across the board, Singapore had the largest cohort of sellers who use technology at least once a week at 89 percent, versus 81 percent in Australia and 73 percent in India. The top performers across the three countries identified the primary advantages of sales tech differently. In Australia, 32 percent of top performers chose flexibility; in Singapore, 29 percent chose efficiency; and in India, 23 percent chose real-time data accuracy.
Debt marketplace CredAvenue rebrands to Yubi
Debt marketplace startup CredAvenue has rebranded itself as Yubi two years after its inception.
Founded in August 2020, CredAvenue, now Yubi, acts as a marketplace to connect enterprises to lenders and investors. It also helps businesses and lenders to access primary as well as secondary bonds.
According to the company, the new brand captures its long-term ambition of being ubiquitous in the debt ecosystem as an invisible infrastructure layer powering credit globally and ensuring frictionless access to capital.
“Yubi represents the beginning of our global ambitions as we prepare to launch our first international office in UAE, successfully debuting in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region,” said Gaurav Kumar, founder and CEO, Yubi.
Delhivery expands infrastructure across Greater Mumbai, Bengaluru
Logistics service provider Delhivery will expand its infrastructure in Bhiwandi in Greater Mumbai and Bengaluru by setting up fully-automated large integrated trucking terminals.
For Greater Mumbai, it has partnered with Welspun for a seven lakh square-feet mega gateway. The Bengaluru facility developed in partnership with GMR over one million square feet includes a warehouse for multi-channel order fulfilment for its customers. The facilities will be operational by 2023, the company said in a statement.
The infrastructure expansion will help Delhivery increase its processing capacity to meet customer demand in the South and West of India, it added.
We aim Rs 500 Cr revenue run rate in a year: Furlenco CEO
Online furniture rental platform Furlenco on Wednesday said that it has doubled its revenues in the past 12 months and despite global headwinds, it is on course to become free cash positive by the first quarter of next year and become profitable.
The startup said it has started generating positive cash flows from operations and aims to reach Rs 500 crore revenue run rate in a year.
House of Kieraya (HoK), the parent company of Furlenco, last year doubled its annualised revenue run rate (ARR) from Rs 100 crore to an ARR of Rs 200 crore.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Meta will not take commission from creators until 2024
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the company will “hold off on any revenue sharing” until 2024, a one-year extension of his prior pledge to not charge a commission until 2023.
According to Engadget, creators on Instagram and Facebook will have another year to make money from the apps without Meta taking a cut from their earnings.
The move will cover monetisation features where creators directly charge their fans — paid online events, subscriptions, newsletters and badges sold during livestreams, reports Engadget. It does not apply to Meta’s advertising-related revenue sharing features for Reels or other video products, the report said.
The company also plans to integrate NFTs into Facebook and Instagram Stories “soon,” the report said.
Meta and other tech giants form metaverse standards body, without Apple
Meta, Microsoft and other tech giants racing to build the emerging metaverse concept have formed a group to foster development of industry standards that would make the companies’ nascent digital worlds compatible with each other, Reuters reported.
Participants in the Metaverse Standards Forum include many of the biggest companies working in the space, from chip makers to gaming companies, as well as established standards-setting bodies like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the group said in a statement announcing its creation.
Conspicuously missing from the member list for now however is Apple which analysts expect to become a dominant player in the metaverse race once it introduces a mixed reality headset this year or next.
SoftBank overseas business chief exits in latest churn
Japan’s SoftBank has appointed Alex Clavel as chief executive of its SoftBank Group International (SBGI) unit, replacing Michel Combes who leaves after just six months in the role, Reuters reported.
SoftBank transformed the tech industry with big bets on late-stage startups but the conglomerate has turned over much of its executive team and has been forced to radically scale back investing activity through its Vision Fund as its portfolio slumps.
Clavel takes charge of a hodgepodge of assets including chip designer Arm, which SoftBank hopes to list, and stakes in satellite company OneWeb, telco T-Mobile US and robotics firm Boston Dynamics.
The recent exits underscore the dominance by Chief Executive Masayoshi Son of the Japanese conglomerate and its board at a time of strategic drift. Son will address shareholders on Friday.
Ant, Alibaba plan for less intertwined future after China crackdown
Ant Group and Alibaba are untangling their operations from each other and independently seeking new business as the Jack Ma-founded companies navigate China’s devastating regulatory crackdown, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
E-commerce giant Alibaba Group created what would become payments and financial services provider Ant and spun it off in 2011, although it still retains a 33% stake and the two companies have some overlap in leadership.
However, the duo have begun to unwind some of their collaborative arrangements as they try to recover from a sweeping technology sector clampdown that has sliced hundreds of billions of dollars off their value, shrunk revenue, and led to a record $2.8 billion fine for Alibaba.
In moves that would have been inconceivable two years ago, the affiliates have started to restrict access to each other’s services, compete for clients and even strike alliances with rivals, said the sources.
Google News re-opens in Spain after eight-year shutdown
Alphabet reopened Google News in Spain on Wednesday, eight years after it shut down the service because of a Spanish rule forcing the company and other news aggregators to pay publishers for using snippets of their news.
Madrid last year transposed European Union copyright rules, revamped in 2020, into legislation, allowing media outlets to negotiate directly with the tech giant.
The move prompted an announcement from Google last year that it would re-open Google News in the following year.
“Today, on the global 20th anniversary of Google News, and after an almost eight-year hiatus, Google News is returning to Spain,” Fuencisla Clemares, vice president for Iberia, said in a blogpost.
She said the company also planned to launch Google News Showcase, its vehicle for paying news publishers, as soon as possible in Spain.
Uber, Lyft drivers claim price-fixing in lawsuit against companies
A group of drivers for Uber and Lyft have accused the companies of unfairly controlling how much passengers are charged for rides in an antitrust lawsuit in California state court, as per a Reuters report.
The lawsuit seeking class action status in San Francisco Superior Court alleged violations of California antitrust law, and state law prohibiting unfair business practices.
The drivers claimed that if they were able to offer lower prices to the consumers, it would provide drivers with “the most competitive compensation.”
“By preventing drivers from doing so, Uber and Lyft harm competition in both the labor market as well as the consumer market,” the complaint alleged. “Customers pay more, and drivers earn less.”
An Uber spokesperson said in a statement that the “complaint misconstrues both the facts and the applicable law and we intend to defend ourselves accordingly.”
Crypto giant Tether to launch sterling-pegged stablecoin
Major crypto firm Tether will launch next month a “stablecoin” pegged to the British pound, a move that comes as London draws up plans to regulate the fast-growing type of digital currency, Reuters reported.
As the demise of terraUSD sparked a sell-off in crypto markets, Tether broke its 1:1 peg with the dollar, shaking investors’ faith in a key cog in the crypto economy.
Britain plans to legislate to bring some stablecoins under the oversight of regulators, part of a plan to exploit the potential of crypto and blockchain technology to help consumers make payments more efficiently.
German Gorillas grocery app seeks big retail partners to boost profit
German grocery delivery app Gorillas, which announced job cuts last month, is looking to collaborate with large retailers and may also use private-brand products to try to secure group-level profitability within 12 months, its chairman said.
As per Reuters, the Berlin-based startup said last month it would lay off 300 people as it changes its focus from rapid expansion to turning a profit after the boost from COVID-19 lockdowns fizzled out.
“We realised that okay, we need to adapt, course correct and we have to do it fast, so there were really tough decisions and now the whole focus is actually going towards profitability,” Ugur Samut, co-founder and chairman told the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit conference.
“Now 65% of the customers are profitable, 25 percent of the warehouses are profitable and we believe we will be operation profitable in three months and group profitable in 12 months,” he said.
Buy now, pay later firm Zip to raise fees amid surging inflation
Australian buy now, pay later company Zip would raise fees for customers and merchants, as it tries to weather an onslaught from soaring inflation and rising interest rates on its business, according to a Reuters report.
The company’s shares have cratered by almost 90 percent this year as higher rates and reduced consumer spending have pushed up the industry’s funding costs, while tighter regulation has made for trickier credit conditions.
Zip said it was well placed to offset the effects of rising rates through measures “including consumer fee increases, merchant repricing, increased customer repayment velocity”.
The company, which is yet to post an annual profit, has also been cutting its cost base with the aim of turning a profit in fiscal 2024.
Telegram: few paid subscribers needed to cover costs
The Telegram messaging app, used by a wide range of Russian and Ukrainian officials during the war, only needs a small number of paid subscribers to cover its costs, founder Pavel Durov said.
Telegram Premium service users will get a higher limit for chats, media and file uploads, Durov said on June 10, noting that paid subscriptions would ensure the app remains funded primarily by users and not advertisers.
“The beauty of Telegram Premium is that if just 2.5 percent to 3 percent of our users sign up for this subscription, Telegram will cover its costs, supported purely by its users,” he said on Telegram.