Here are the top headlines from startup space.
‘Deeply aggrieved’: Zomato CEO on delivery man’s death; promises job to kin, medical, financial help worth Rs 22 lakh
Food delivery platform Zomato’s CEO Deepinder Goyal today expressed deep sorrow over the death of the company’s delivery partner Salil Tripathi in an unfortunate road incident.
Goyal said the company is extending all possible support to help the family get through this. “We are deeply aggrieved by the death of our delivery partner Salil Tripathi in an unfortunate road incident. We are extending all possible support to help the family get through this,” Goyal wrote on Twitter.
Tripathi died on Saturday night after he was hit by a speeding SUV–allegedly a police vehicle–while waiting to pick up an order.
Goyal said Zomato’s team is “personally assisting the family” and has been at the hospital with the family since the night of the accident. The Zomato founder added that the company is helping the delivery partner’s family with an “insurance grant of Rs 10 lakh, and depending on what the family needs going further, we will continue to support them in every possible way”.
In addition to this, Goyal said Zomato employees have collectively contributed Rs 12 lakh towards the family’s future.
Qatar Insurance Company, HNIs take stake in IPO-bound Oyo: Report
Doha-based insurer Qatar Insurance Company (QIC) and a few high networth individuals (HNIs) and family offices have purchased stakes in Oyo during November and December last year, according to the Economic Times.
The secondary transactions were executed at a price of approximately Rs 110 per share, and include nearly 1.43 crore equity shares as well as 2,500 preference shares. This would work out to a valuation of around $9.56 billion similar to the last round of funding by Microsoft for the company, the report added.
Oyo’s existing investors include SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Ventures, Greenoaks Capital, Airbnb, and Hindustan Media Ventures besides a 33% holding by founder Ritesh Agarwal.
India will not be pressured on a duty cut: Govt officials to Tesla
Hours after Elon Musk tweeted to say that he was unable to share launch plans for India as Tesla was still working through a lot of challenges with the government, Indian government officials have reacted sharply to his remarks.
“By such tweets, Tesla is trying to put pressure on government using social media, and this is not the first time,” a government source told CNBC-TV18.
Indian officials have made it clear that Tesla cannot ask for a duty cut without making a commitment on producing in India.
This is in reference to Musk’s tweet in which he said: “Tesla still working through a lot of challenges with the Indian government.”
It was in October, 2020 that Elon Musk thanked Indian Twitter users for waiting patiently for Tesla’s India entry and promised to launch the car in India in 2021. Fifteen months on, Tesla is yet to firm up its launch plans, even though it has completed local testing formalities, received ARAI approvals and appointed a core team for India across functions.
In July 2021, Elon Musk said that he was unable to bring Tesla cars into India due to duties which are by far the highest for any large country. The Indian government has considered Tesla’s request for a duty cut from 100 percent to 40 percent, but the message is clear, Tesla must first commit to manufacturing in India.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18 on Thursday, a government source said, “The company wants the government to reduce import duties on cars without any commitment of producing in India”. Officials have said that Tesla can already bring their cars in a CKD form, with zero duty and sell them in India.
Tesla however, is believed to have conveyed to the government that it cannot bring their cars in a CKD form to India and they would like to first test the market.
Sources have also said that Tesla could take advantage of the Rs 26,000 crore PLI scheme if it decides to manufacture in India. Senior officials have told CNBC-TV18 that Tesla has so far not shared any roadmap or commitment to manufacture in India
Sanfe forays into beauty segment; eyes Rs 25 cr revenue run-rate
Sanfe, feminine hygiene and intimate skincare brand, is now foraying into the beauty category by the name Sanfe Beauty.
The brand has launched 25 new products which are dermatologically tested for facial skin care and hair care, it said in a statement.
Primarily divided into three categories, namely ‘Promise’, ‘Glo’ and ‘Stunner’, Sanfe’s new beauty range is in the skin and hair care category, The products will be available on the company’s website as well as Nykaa, Amazon, and Flipkart, it added.
In 2021, Sanfe has raised a Series A funding of $1 million. The investment comes from LetsVenture, Ajay Garg, Tarun Sharma (Mcaffeine), Arjun Vaidya, Dhimant Parekh among other D2C founders.
Edtech startup Skill-Lync collaborates with Altair
Edtech startup Skill-Lync has announced its collaboration with Altair, a global technology company that provides software solutions in simulation, high-performance computing (HPC), and artificial intelligence (AI).
With this collaboration, Skill-Lync will incorporate Altair tools and software in its curriculum to upskill aspiring engineers with the industry-sought demand of Altair tools and nurture them through specifically designed programs and projects, keeping them up to date with the industry software trends, the company said in a statement.
Altair will offer academic licenses to all enrolled students of Skill Lync via Altair University for 12 months that can be used for academic / learning purposes, further giving students an edge, it added.
IIFL Securities ties-up with TradingView to offer users charting tools
Brokerage firm IIFL Securities has partnered with TradingView to offer its clients advanced charting tools.
TradingView is a global charting platform with over 30 million users. It offers numerous trading and charting tools for technical analysis along with effective back testing features, as per a press release. The platform can be used to analyse financial assets and spot opportunities across global markets, the firm said in a statement.
“This partnership has enabled us to provide various charting features to IIFL Securities users. Our users will now be able to use multiple charting layouts, advanced drawing tools that are easy to draw, group and lock drawings, replay actions performed on the charts, customize appearance, and many more such features. Users will now have the option to select a charting platform at their convenience,” said Nandkishore Purohit, chief digital officer, IIFL Securities.
IIFL Securities claims to have over 2.4 million customers and 7 million app users and said it was integrating best products and services from across the world on its platform.
Indian startups raised $42 bn in 2021: Orios Venture Partners Report
Indian startups have raised $42 billion in 2021, up from $11.5 billion in the previous year, a report by Orios Venture Partners said.
The report titled ‘The Indian Tech Unicorn Report 2021’ said India saw 46 unicorns (companies with $1 billion valuations) in 2021 alone, more than doubling the total number of unicorns to 90.
These include ShareChat, Cred, Meesho, Nazara, Moglix, MPL, Grofers (now Blinkit), upGrad, Mamaearth, GlobalBees, Acko, Spinny and others.
India — with 90 unicorns — is the third-largest unicorn hub behind the US (487) and China (301), and ahead of the UK (39).
India has the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world with about 60,000 startups.
As per the report, Bengaluru was the city with the most unicorns. Fintech, e-commerce and SaaS (software as a service) have seen the maximum number of unicorns, while health-tech, ed-tech, D2C, Gaming and Crypto are also close behind.
Flipkart was the most valuable unicorn ($37.6 billion after raising $3.6 billion in July 2021), while Mensa Brands was the fastest to turn unicorn (took only 6 months to turn unicorn in November 2021 round after raising the first $50 million round in May 2021), it added.
India has seen four decacorns (companies with a valuation of $10 billion and above) so far — Flipkart, Paytm, Byju’s and Oyo Rooms, the report stated.
It said 2021 was a landmark year for Indian startups going public. Further, Zomato has the highest market capitalisation ($14.8 billion), among the listed Indian startups, followed by Nykaa ($13.5 billion) and Freshworks ($6.9 billion), the report added.
The report also noted that 20 percent of unicorn founders are non-engineers, two-thirds of the Indian unicorns have at least one or more founders from IITs, IIMs or ISB.
The report also highlighted that there are 13 female unicorn founders, 8 out of whom have emerged in the year 2021 — Falguni Nayar (Nykaa), Gazal Kalra (Rivigo), Ruchi Kalra (OfBusiness), Divya Gokulnath (Byju’s), Ghazal Alagh (MamaEarth) and Saritha Katikaneni (Zenoti), among others.
Scammers are using YouTube Shorts for posting stolen videos from TikTok: Tenable Report
Scammers are stealing existing short-form videos from TikTok and reposting them to YouTube Shorts, racking up millions of views and gaining tens of thousands of subscribers, according to a report compiled by cyber exposure firm Tenable’s research engineer Satnam Narang.
As per the report, these scams typically fall into three categories: Adult dating affiliate scams, promotion of dubious retail products and weight loss supplements and stealing TikTok videos to increase social currency.
Narang’s research states scammers are creating fake YouTube channels filled with videos stolen from TikTok, including dance challenges, to abuse affiliate marketing strategies employed by adult dating websites who offer payment based on a cost per action (CPA) or cost per lead (CPL) basis.
The report also identified scammers offering dubious products. As an example, he identified a number of scammers using stolen TikTok footage of women at the gym in order to promote gym leggings priced at $34.99. The concern with these scam advertisements is that there is no guarantee the item being purchased will arrive.
Scammers were also identified using stolen TikTok videos to increase the views and subscriber counts for their existing YouTube channels, in an effort to generate an income from advertisements and brand deals from their channels, the report added.
The report highlighted that the operators of these channels have received 3.2 billion views across at least 38,293 videos. In total, the channels had at least 3 million subscribers at the time this research was conducted. Scammers are able to achieve this success by capitalizing on the newness of YouTube Shorts and its existing user base of 2 billion monthly logins.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
White House will meet execs from Apple, IBM to discuss software security
The White House will meet executives from leading tech firms, including Alphabet-owned Google, Apple and Amazon, on Thursday to discuss software security after the United States suffered several major cyberattacks last year, Reuters reported.
In December, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan sent a letter to chief executives of tech firms after the discovery of a security vulnerability in open-source software called Log4j that organisations around the world use to log data in their applications.
In the letter, Sullivan noted that such open source software is broadly used and maintained by volunteers and is a ” key national security concern.”
The meeting, which will be hosted by deputy national security advisor for cyber & emerging technology, Anne Neuberger, will discuss concerns around the security of open-source software and how it can be improved, the White House said in a statement.
Other top tech companies in attendance at the meeting will include IBM, Microsoft, Meta Platforms which owns Facebook, and Oracle. Government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the Commerce Department, will also be in attendance.
Microsoft has stopped making Xbox One consoles: Report
Microsoft has stopped manufacturing all Xbox One consoles to focus on producing its current-generation consoles, the Verge reported.
According to The Verge, Microsoft originally discontinued its Xbox One X and the digital Xbox One S ahead of the Xbox Series X launch in 2020.
The software giant had launched two models of its Xbox Series X in November 2020, seven years after the debut of the previous generation, to capture a pandemic-driven boom in consumer spending on games.
However, several industries across the world are facing the brunt of an unprecedented shortage in semiconductor microchips, causing a delay in delivery for several products.
Microsoft hires key Apple engineer to design server chips: Report
Microsoft has hired a key Apple engineer to design its own chips for its servers, Bloomberg News reported.
The software giant hired chip industry veteran Mike Filippo, who worked for Apple for over two years, the report said.
Microsoft is working on in-house processors for the servers running its cloud-computing services and Surface line of personal computers, a source told Reuters in December 2020.
The cloud computing heavy-weight relies heavily on Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to supply chips for its Azure cloud computing services as well as Surface PCs.
The move to hire Filippo implies that Microsoft is accelerating a push to create homegrown chips for its servers powering Azure cloud computing services, the report added.
Filippo, who started his career as a CPU designer at chip designer AMD in 1996, has previously worked at Intel and UK-based ARM Ltd before joining Apple, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Apple pulls Wordle knockoffs from App Store
Apple said that it has removed from its App Store several knockoffs of Wordle, a website-only word game that has seen a recent surge in popularity thanks to celebrities like Jimmy Fallon.
The once-a-day online word game, originally created in October by former Reddit software engineer Josh Wardle, can only be played on his website and does not have a mobile app.
However, several developers have created identical app versions to cash in on surging demand for the game, with unsuspecting users driving up downloads of the clone apps.
As of Wednesday, the only remaining product on the App Store with that title was Wordle!, a time-based game created by Steven Cravotta more than four years ago, Reuters reported.
Josh Wardle’s game has flooded Twitter and Facebook timelines in recent weeks as players posted their scores. It gives a player six chances to guess the day’s secret word, which has five letters, and the aim is to figure out the secret word with the fewest guesses.
The game is a free-to-use, ad-less experience on a simple website that does not have to be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or Google’s PlayStore.
Nigeria lifts Twitter ban from midnight, government official says
Nigeria will lift a ban on Twitter from midnight after the social media platform agreed to open a local office, among other agreements with authorities in the West African country, a senior government official told.
The Nigerian government suspended Twitter on June 4 after it removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists. Telecoms companies subsequently blocked access to users in Nigeria.
Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general of the National Information Technology Development Agency said in a statement that Buhari had given approval to lift the suspension, as per Reuters.
“Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built,” Abdullahi’s statement said.
The company would work with the federal government and the broader industry “to develop a Code of Conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries,” it said.
“Therefore, the (federal government) lifts the suspension of the Twitter operations in Nigeria from midnight of 13th January 2022.”
Abdullahi, who also chaired a joint technical committee of Nigerian and Twitter officials, said the US company agreed to appoint a country representative to engage with Nigerian authorities and comply with local tax obligations.
NASA begins process of bringing new space telescope into focus
NASA on Wednesday embarked on a months-long, painstaking process of bringing its newly launched James Webb Space Telescope into focus, a task due for completion in time for the revolutionary eye in the sky to begin peering into the cosmos by early summer, as per Reuters.
Mission control engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, began by sending their initial commands to tiny motors called actuators that slowly position and fine-tune the telescope’s principal mirror.
Consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-plated beryllium metal, the primary mirror measures 21 feet 4 inches (6.5 m) in diameter — a much larger light-collecting surface than Webb’s predecessor, the 30-year-old Hubble Space Telescope.
The 18 segments, which had been folded together to fit inside the cargo bay of the rocket that carried the telescope to space, were unfurled with the rest of its structural components during a two-week period following Webb’s launch on December 25.
Those segments must now be detached from fasteners that held them in place for the launch and then moved forward half an inch from their original configuration — a 10-day process — before they can be aligned to form a single, unbroken, light-collecting surface.
The alignment will take an additional three months, Lee Feinberg, the Webb optical telescope element manager at Goddard, told Reuters by telephone.
If all goes as planned, the telescope should be ready to capture its first science images in May, which would be processed over about another month before they can be released to the public, Feinberg said.
The $9-billion telescope, described by NASA as the premier space-science observatory of the next decade, will mainly view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to gaze through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born. Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.
Webb is about 100 times more powerful than Hubble, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.
The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp was the primary contractor.
Weibo bars Chinese economist’s posts after suggestion to boost birth rate
A high-profile Chinese economist has been banned from posting on the Weibo social media platform after drawing controversy over suggestions that the central bank set up a $314 billion “fertility fund” to encourage people to have more babies, Reuters reported.
The Weibo account of Ren Zeping, a former chief economist for debt-laden property giant China Evergrande Group, where he has 3.6 million followers, carries a notice saying that “due to violations of related laws and regulations, the user is currently banned from posting.”
It did not elaborate on what particular law or regulation he was deemed to have violated. The birthrate in the world’s most populous country has been a concern of authorities for generations.
The ban, imposed on Wednesday, will last two weeks, according to the state-run Securities Times newspaper.