STARTUP DIGEST: A look at top headlines from the startup space

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STARTUP DIGEST: A look at top headlines from the startup space
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Ixigo eyes mega IPO backed by Budget boost to rail infra, hospitality

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Travel tech major Ixigo is eyeing a strong stock market debut on the back of a forward-looking, infrastructure-focused Union Budget 2022-23.

According to the company, the announcement of new Vande Bharat trains over the next three years and further support for the hospitality sector under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) would support the travel industry and boost consumer demand in the industry.

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In December, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) approved Le Travenues Technology Limited, which manages the travel platform Ixigo, to raise Rs 1,600 crore through an initial public offering.

It plans to raise Rs 750 crore in a new issue and Rs 850 crore in an offer-for-sale. Elevation Capital, with a 24 percent interest in the company, is the largest shareholder in the travel booking company, followed by SCI Investments, with a 16.02 percent stake, and Gamnat, with a 9.89 percent stake. Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar, the company’s co-founders, own 9.18 percent and 8.79 percent of the company, respectively.

Global Tech News Daily

BharatPe board will take corrective measures soon: Sources

Days after Ashneer Grover, the embattled co-founder in exile of BharatPe, said he was arm-twisted into going on leave and sought Rs 4,000 crores to leave the company, sources in the company told CNBC-TV18 that the BharatPe board has started taking corrective measures to put the company on a strong corporate governance footing.

Sources added that the BharatPe board is yet to get a report of the investigation carried out by Alvarez and Marsal and PwC. Both firms are carrying out a full review of the functioning of BharatPe and are also probing allegations of financial irregularities against Grover and his family members.

The board expects the report on corporate governance in 10 to 12 days. Some of the board members that CNBC-TV18 spoke to said they are aware of the allegations against Grover and do not pose a challenge to the company.

They added that the corrective measures would address investor concerns in a few months, and the board was committed to putting in place the highest corporate governance measures, even beyond what may be statutorily required for a company like BharatPe. Sources reiterated Grover’s leave of absence was his voluntary decision.

Meesho allows employees to work from anywhere

Internet commerce giant Meesho will allow its employees to work from anywhere, as it joins a growing list of global companies that are future-proofing their organisations and realigning the workforce post the pandemic.

Adopting a ‘Boundaryless Workplace Model’, Meesho aims to decentralise the workplace, a statement said. The company will set up satellite offices at locations with higher talent density. The new model also allows the company to tap into a global workforce.

Meesho’s founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey explained the move in a series of tweets, saying that “leaders need to acknowledge that employees’ psychological and physical safety is more important than their location of work.”

Providing ample opportunities for teams to meet and collaborate in person, the company will introduce initiatives like trips to attend quarterly summits and an annual ‘workation’. It will also sponsor daycare facilities for employees with children below six years of age. 

The unicorn had earlier unveiled employee-friendly practices like the 30-week gender-neutral parental leave policy, gender reassignment leave, and 10-day reset and recharge policy. In November last year, Meesho announced a 10-day break for all its employees to “rejuvenate after a hectic festival season.” 

CoinSwitch Kuber launches crypto Recurring Buy Plan

Crypto investing app CoinSwitch Kuber has launched an added service called recurring buy plan (RBP), a systematic way to buy crypto assets.

The move comes days after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her Budget 2022 speech that virtual digital assets would be taxed at a rate of 30 percent.

With this launch, the unicorn aims to enable users to beat market volatility and avoid making impulsive buying or selling decisions. Users can sign up through a waitlist to get early access, it said.

CoinSwitch Kuber CEO and founder Ashish Singhal said that the RBP would allow users to make a distributed purchase. The early access application process to the RBP scheme will help users discover the feature and make systematic investments across more than 80 coins starting Monday, the firm said. 

Fitness startup Fitpage acquires India Running

Fitness-tech startup Fitpage has acquired race registration platform India Running for an undisclosed amount. India Running helps users search and register for running events.

This acquisition will enable Fitpage to provide registration, nutrition, and training, all together and hence offer better value to the races, the company said.

“Most runners in India have grown visiting India Running to find running events, and it currently has more than 1.1 million visitors annually, looking at 1,700 plus listed events. We could not be happier to provide a more robust experience to them,” Vikas Singh, founder, and CEO of Fitpage, said.

Last year, Fitpage raised $3.7 million. The startup raised $3.5 million in a seed round from Astra Ventures at the beginning of 2021 and raised $300,000 in an angel round at the end of last year.

UK fintech firm Revolut invests Rs 340 crore in India ops: Report

British fintech giant Revolut has pumped Rs 340 crore into Revolut India as a part of its first tranche of investments in its Indian arm, a top executive told the Economic Times.

The investments are for Revolut’s first cross-border remittance product in India, which it plans to launch in the second half of 2022. The report added that the company is still in talks with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to procure the necessary licences for its products.

Revolut incorporated its Indian entity in April 2021 and kicked off operations by July. It is currently working to comply with RBI’s guidelines on data localisation, apart from ramping up its hires across engineering and innovation. The report claimed that the firm plans to increase its Indian team to 300 members over the next 12 months.

Privacy, data breach searches up more than 20% in 2021: Google

Google has said searches related to privacy and data breaches on its platform grew by more than 20 percent in 2021, across places as diverse as Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Singapore.

Over the past two years, millions of people throughout Asia-Pacific have started using the internet for the first time, lifting the region’s online population to more than 2.5 billion.

“As we mark Safer Internet Day on February 8, we’re focused on the ways Google can help protect people in Asia-Pacific as they go about more of their lives and work online,” said Scott Beaumont, President, Asia Pacific at Google.

He said that Google’s responsibility for Internet safety goes beyond its tools and technology.

This year, through Google.org, which is its philanthropic arm, the company is supporting non-profit organisations in Asia-Pacific with approximately $5 million in grant funding to raise awareness about security and media literacy and promote positive online habits among underserved communities.

This builds on the more than $11 million that Google.org has committed to digital responsibility initiatives over the past five years.

“Organisations Google.org has supported include Maarif Institute — whose Tular Nalar programme with MAFINDO and Love Frankie is helping educators and young people in Indonesia become more media-literate — and Internews in India, whose FactShala initiative with Data Leads is helping people evaluate online information critically,” said Beaumont.

Hero Electric partners with ReadyAssist to train 20,000 mechanics

Hero Electric has tied up with ReadyAssist, a 24X7 roadside assistance company, for training and upskilling 20,000 mechanics for servicing electric two-wheelers. The company has undertaken the initiative under its Private Garage Owners (PGO) programme.

The partnership will aid in identifying mechanics willing to upgrade their skill set and coaching them in the next two years. The training programme will have two stages divided among beginners and experts. Once the training is complete, both the partners will assess enrolled mechanics and give a Certificate of Merit to these mechanics.

Hero Electric has already trained 6,000 mechanics under the PGO initiative. The partnership with ReadyAssist will accelerate the company’s objective of empowering people with competency, Hero Electric CEO Sohinder Gill said.

ReadyAssist CEO and Founder Vimal Singh said this would be a strong market enabler for the upcoming EV mechanics and uplift existing mechanics’ skills and competency.

Betterhalf.ai launches matrimony app with ‘human matchmaking’ service

Matchmaking platform Betterhalf.ai has released its new user interface by adding a feature to hire a human matchmaker through the app.

The company said that the matchmaker would be involved throughout the process and help users with handpicked profile shortlisting and personalised partner search.

“With the launch of human matchmaker, we wanted to address the pain points of our users. Most of our users are working professionals who do not have time to find the right profiles,” said Pawan Gupta, CEO of Betterhalf.ai.

“We use our in-depth, personalised approach to understand their priorities and then use that information to curate profiles to match them with the right one. We believe that to make a life decision like this, human and emotional elements are essential because no one can understand the feeling and emotions of a human better than a human.”

Okinawa launches its second experience centre in Jaipur

Electric two-wheeler manufacturer Okinawa Autotech launched its second experience centre in Jaipur after opening one in Dehradun last December.

The company aims to open 40 more experience centres in the country by the end of 2022. Okinawa Autotech is also gearing up to launch two new electric two-wheelers this year, and the Galaxy Stores will exclusively feature these products, it said.

“Consumers have evolved and are now familiar with the benefits of going electric, and they must experience the excellent riding and ownership experience. We intend to expand to more cities,” said Jeetender Sharma, MD and founder of Okinawa Autotech.

RBL partners with Creditas for its ‘Neo Collections’ platform

RBL Bank has announced a partnership with delinquency management company Creditas Solutions for its ‘Neo Collections’ platform. RBL Bank will utilise the SaaS-based platform to accelerate efficiency in collections across the loan cycle.

According to a statement, the partnership will also enable the bank to offer its customers a convenient, seamless, and non-intrusive repayment experience. Customers can access their consolidated account information anytime on any device and choose the most suitable payment option for repayments in just a few clicks.

The intuitive platform will guide customers with personalised and meaningful insights to improve their credit scores.

HaystackAnalytics develops Universal Infectious Disease genomic test

Healthtech startup HaystackAnalytics has developed a Universal Infectious Disease (ID) genomic test that deploys Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology to identify existing and emerging infections.

The Universal ID test is a single test solution for the accurate and timely diagnosis of infectious diseases. As per a statement, the tests will be rolled out over the next three months in partnership with hospitals and diagnostic centres across the country, initially targeted at ICU patients in hospitals.

“At Haystack, while working on two of the most debilitating infectious diseases today, tuberculosis and COVID, we recognised the true burden of inaccurate diagnosis of infections in India and the world. Despite having a wide range of antibiotics and antifungal medicines, sepsis is known to cause almost 50 million deaths annually. A large proportion of these deaths can be avoided by early and accurate identification of the pathogen causing the infection. Haystack’s UID test has been developed to solve this exact problem,” said Anirvan Chatterjee, co-founder and CEO of HaystackAnalytics.

Turtlemint onboards MS Dhoni as brand ambassador

Insurtech platform Turtlemint has onboarded Mahendra Singh Dhoni as its brand ambassador.

It has also launched a 360-degree campaign #ActiveHoJao Turtlemint through which it aims to sensitise passive consumers about the importance of insurance and convert them into active ones.

 “I am excited to be a part of Turtlemint’s vision of getting maximum people in our country properly insured,” said Dhoni.

Through its user-friendly technology and over 1.4 lakh insurance advisors (PoSPs), Turtlemint claims to have already onboarded 34 lakh customers across 45+ insurers since its inception in 2015.

Wonderslate launches Game eBooks app for competitive exams

Edtech startup Wonderslate has launched the Game eBooks app for students to learn current affairs and practice MCQs in multiple modes such as games and tests as per their preferences.

The app comes with preparatory reading materials and videos from 150 premium publishers bundled for a superior learning experience, the company said in a statement.

Best-suited for students preparing for competitive exams and entrance tests like UPSC, banking, railways, state government job exams, NEET, JEE, the app is cost-effective and is available in both English and Hindi.

ZinQ Technologies forays into the West Asian market

ZinQ Technologies, a homegrown lifestyle gadgets and accessories brand, has announced its foray into the West Asian market with the range of its disruptive AV-IT gadgets.

To expand its international presence and cater to the increasing demand for consumer tech gadgets in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, the company entered the market with the existing product range in audio, IT, gaming and mobile accessories, it said in a statement.

“Dubai and Saudi Arabia are the markets that hold significant opportunity in terms of holding the right set of the target audience we cater to, and we expect a great consumer response from these countries,” said Arnav Mutneja, founder, ZinQ Technologies.

ON PURPOSE introduces new inclusive parental policy

ON PURPOSE, a creative communications consultancy, has launched a new parental leave policy offering inclusive employee benefits to new parents, primary and secondary caregivers as well as pet parents.

While the industry standard for paternity leave is just two weeks, the agency has introduced a new 12-week leave policy for fathers and partners. Through the #TwoIsTooLittle campaign, ON PURPOSE hopes to inspire other workplaces to adopt similar inclusive policies, it said in a statement.

The new parental policy aims to cover all instances of new parenthood as it extends to new parents who choose birth, adoption, surrogacy, or IVF and compassionate leave for parents who experience loss during pregnancy.

Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw flags off NITI Aayog’s Fintech Open Summit

NITI Aayog has launched a three-week-long virtual summit, ‘Fintech Open’, from February 7–28 to showcase the importance of the fintech industry.

The summit was inaugurated by Union Minister for Railways, Communications, and Electronics and IT Ashwini Vaishnaw in the presence of NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar.

“The fintech industry is playing a critical role in facilitating financial inclusion across the country. We look forward to the next few weeks, where we will get an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across the industry, to innovate and build meaningful frameworks for the ecosystem,” said Sameer Nigam, Founder and CEO, PhonePe.

A key highlight of the summit will be India’s biggest fintech hackathon ever, which will provide an opportunity to individual developers and the startup community to present breakthrough ideas with the potential to solve real-world problems. Additionally, to foster creativity, innovation, and an entrepreneurial mindset among children, another hackathon for school students will also be organised via Atal Innovation Mission’s Atal Tinkering Labs network.

The summit will have distinguished speakers such as Nandan Nilekani, Co-Founder and non-executive Chairman of Infosys; and Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, along with several business leaders such as Kunal Shah, Cred; Yashish Dahiya, PolicyBazaar; and Anuj Gulati, Founding MD and CEO, Care Health Insurance.

GLOBAL STARTUP & TECHNOLOGY NEWS

PriceRunner sues Google for 2.1 bn Euros, prepares for long fight

On Monday, Swedish price comparison firm PriceRunner said it was suing Alphabet-owned Google for about 2.1 billion euros ($2.4 billion), the latest firm to take legal action alleging the search giant manipulated search results.

In November, as per Reuters, Google lost an appeal against a 2.42 billion-euro fine it received in 2017, which found that using its own price comparison shopping service gave the company an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals.

“They are still abusing the market to a very high extent and haven’t changed anything,” PriceRunner CEO Mikael Lindahl told Reuters.

PriceRunner, which is in the process of being bought by Swedish fintech Klarna, said a lawsuit it filed in Sweden aimed to make Google pay compensation for the profit it had lost in Britain since 2008 and in Sweden and Denmark since 2013.

A Google spokesperson said the company would defend the lawsuit in court. “The changes we made to shopping ads back in 2017 are working successfully … PriceRunner chose not to use shopping ads on Google, so may not have seen the same successes that others have,” the Google spokesperson said.

Lindahl said PriceRunner was prepared to fight for many years, had secured tens of millions of euros in external financing and had steps in place in the event it did not win.

Tesla receives subpoena from SEC over 2018 settlement

Tesla received a subpoena from the US securities regulator in November related to the SEC settlement that required top boss Elon Musk’s tweets on material information to be vetted, Reuters has reported.

The disclosure in an annual filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission comes after Musk triggered a stock sell-off after asking his Twitter followers if he should sell 10 percent of his stake in the company in November.

As of the last close, the electric-car maker’s shares fell by nearly a fourth since the tweet. Tesla in December was hit by a lawsuit over Musk’s social media posts, including his Twitter poll on stock sales that pulled down its stock prices.

In 2018, Musk settled a lawsuit by the SEC over his tweet on taking the company private, agreeing to have the company’s lawyers pre-approve tweets with material information about the company.

Tesla said on Monday the fair market value of the electric-vehicle maker’s bitcoin holdings as of December 31 was $1.99 billion.

The company, which had invested $1.50 billion in bitcoin last year, said it registered about $101 million in impairment losses previous year due to the value of bitcoin. A drop in the value of bitcoin resulted in the company recording losses as the value of its holdings fell.

Tesla had also briefly accepted cryptocurrency as payment for sales of certain products. However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stopped taking the digital currency, citing environmental concerns around bitcoin mining.

The company said it gained $128 million on bitcoin sales after selling a portion of its holdings in March. Tesla has not disclosed any change to its bitcoin holdings since.

Musk’s SpaceX working to restore Tonga’s internet: Fiji official

According to an official in Fiji, Elon Musk’s satellite internet venture SpaceX is helping to restore connectivity to the Pacific Island nation of Tonga where the work is underway.

Tonga’s sole optic-fibre link to the internet and the rest of the world was severed by a volcanic eruption on January 15, and only limited connectivity has been possible since.

“A SpaceX team is now in Fiji establishing a Starlink gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world,” Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said on Twitter.

The timing of SpaceX’s work is not clear, although the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation, citing Sayed-Khaiyum, said engineers would operate a ground station in Fiji for six months.

Dating app owner Bumble buys France’s Fruitz in first acquisition

Bumble has bought France’s Fruitz in its first acquisition, as the dating app company tries to strengthen its foothold in Europe, where it plays catch-up with Tinder owner Match Group.

As per Reuters, the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Launched in 2017, Fruitz is a freemium dating app popular with Gen Z and used across Europe. It allows users to convey their dating preferences through four fruit metaphors – cherries, grapes, watermelons, and peaches.

The deal sets the stage for Bumble to take on rival Match Group in an arena where the Hinge owner has the advantage of an earlier start. Bumble currently operates its dating app Badoo in Western Europe, competing with the likes of eHarmony and CharmDate.com.

“Badoo is one of the most downloaded dating apps in Western Europe, and Bumble has seen strong growth there as well,” Bumble Chief Executive Officer Whitney Wolfe Herd said in a statement.

Match also expects to begin launching its Hinge app in select European countries in the second quarter, it said earlier this month.

Data from research firm Apptopia showed that Bumble was downloaded about 2.4 million times in the United States during the fourth quarter, while Match reached 10.5 million downloads.

Uber’s Careem looking to fill over 200 jobs, LinkedIn post says

Uber’s West Asian business Careem said on Monday it was looking to fill more than 200 roles in the company, according to a LinkedIn post by the company.

Careem said it was looking to fill jobs that spanned across the ride-hailing firm, “from engineers to data analysts, operations managers to platform designers, and everything in between.”

Bought by Uber in 2019 for $3.1 billion, Careem has been working on a further rollout of its Super App, which offers services outside its core ride-hailing business, such as food delivery, digital payments, and courier services.

Uber’s 2019 acquisition of Careem gave the US company market dominance across West Asia and Pakistan before Uber’s initial public offering in the same year that raised $8.1 billion from investors and valued the company at $82.4 billion.

Dutch antitrust watchdog studying if Apple has complied with order

The Dutch antitrust watchdog is studying whether a new round of changes Apple has announced to its App Store terms and conditions in the Netherlands will bring it into compliance with national law, as per a Reuters report.

The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has been levying weekly fines of 5 million euros ($5.7 million) on Apple since January 24, saying the company had failed to open its app store to allow dating app providers in the Netherlands to use alternative payment methods.

Apple is under pressure in many countries over the commissions it charges on in-app purchases, with the US Senate approving a bill on Thursday that would bar Apple and Google from requiring users to use their payment systems.

On January 15, Apple asserted it had complied with the Dutch regulator’s December order covering only dating apps like Match Group’s Tinder. Still, the regulator responded that Apple hadn’t yet made changes — it had just indicated it would.

On February 3, Apple commented on its blog, apparently laying out how developers could now implement the alternative payment methods. One crucial footnote was that Apple said it would still charge a 27% commission on in-app payments it does not process, only slightly below the 30% it currently charges. The company said that it is “consistent with the ACM order”.

Apple is separately appealing the ACM’s original December decision, arguing that alternative payment systems pose a security risk to users.

Spotify report sought by New York pension official

New York State’s top pension official has asked streaming music platform Spotify for details about the effectiveness of its new content rules, citing complaints including that podcaster Joe Rogan has spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees funds that hold Spotify shares, requested the report in a letter sent to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on February 2, which was shown to Reuters.

The letter urged Spotify to give users an easy mechanism to report content that could violate its rules and define how its board oversees content risks and enforcement.

DiNapoli cited reports of Spotify hosting content that has included COVID-19 misinformation and racist and antisemitic material. Last month, prominent rock musician Neil Young left the platform because he said Rogan had misled people about vaccines, followed by other stars.

“As we have seen with other technology and media companies who host or publish content, the failure to successfully moderate content on a company’s platforms can lead to various reputational, regulatory, legal, and financial risks,” DiNapoli wrote.

Rogan, former host of the TV reality show Fear Factor and mixed martial arts commentator who signed a $100 million deal giving Spotify exclusive rights to his podcast, has pledged more balance on his show. The company said it would add a content advisory to any episode with a discussion of COVID to try to quell the controversy.

Crypto firms launch coalition to promote market integrity

Reuters reported that a group of significant cryptocurrency firms, including Circle, Anchorage Digital, and Huobi Global, are forming a new partnership to crack down on market manipulation to instil trust in the burgeoning digital asset industry.

The Crypto Market Integrity Coalition, which risk-monitoring software company Solidus Labs convened, also urges digital currency companies to sign a “market integrity” pledge that acknowledges the potential for fraud in the space and the need for the industry to do so protect investors.

The new alliance and pledge come as regulators remain concerned the new market is safe for investors, despite its surge in popularity. The Securities and Exchange Commission has cited the potential for market manipulation as one of the primary reasons for rejecting several applications for spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds.

The other founding members of the coalition are CrossTower, BitMex, GSR, Bitstamp, Elwood, CryptoCompare, Securrency, MV Index Solutions, the Chamber of Digital Commerce, Global Digital Finance and CryptoUK.

CMIC eventually hopes to engage with regulators, promote training programs, and endorse data-sharing frameworks that can help address concerns about transparency in the cryptocurrency space.

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Rockies' Bryant closer to return after cortisone shot

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant took swings in the cage Friday for the first time since he was sidelined with a sore back nearly three weeks ago ... Read more »

Mariners demote Jarred Kelenic to minors after poor start

NEW YORK (AP) — Rather than make his Citi Field debut against the team that traded him, Jarred Kelenic was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners on Friday ... Read more »

Biden: ASEAN partnership 'critical' in this moment

Looking to strengthen ties, President Joe Biden welcomes leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to Washington for the first time. “We’re launching a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations,” ... Read more »

Phil Mickelson will not defend his title at next week's PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson caught lightning in a bottle last year at Kiawah Island, winning a major championship at 50 years of age. The fairways flooded, and the golf world stood and ... Read more »

Tennessee Titans' Malik Willis on Ryan Tannehill's mentorship comments: 'Everything is cool'

The Tennessee Titans didn’t take issue with Ryan Tannehill’s comments about mentoring third-round rookie Malik Willis. Willis and coach Mike Vrabel were asked about Tannehill’s scrutinized remarks following the first ... Read more »

Lawyers plan suit against Lufthansa over Jewish passengers

Lawyers for 26 passengers said Friday they told Lufthansa that they will sue the German airline for refusing to let members of a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers board ... Read more »

Wild face offseason after yet another early ouster

While the Minnesota Wild were stacking up franchise records and securing the extra home game for the first round, general manager Bill Guerin carefully acknowledged a “great year” for the ... Read more »