Investors race to win early-stage startup deals in India

India may be grappling with the second wave of the coronavirus, rising unemployment, and a dwindling economy, but the South Asian nation’s burgeoning startup ecosystem has never had it better.

High-profile investors in India have long aggressively chased growth-stage, and late-stage deals, pouring record amounts of capital into the country. But in a sign of the growing investor bullishness regarding Indian startups, even early-stage companies that have largely been bereft of much similar attention in recent years are now sharing the limelight.

More than 70 early-stage Indian startups are currently in advanced stages of talks to raise money, according to sources familiar with the matter. The size of the investments vary from a few million dollars to up to $100 million. TechCrunch is reporting some of the more notable deals today.

The usual caveat that many of deals haven’t yet closed, and that their terms could change or the talks may not materialize into an investment applies in our reporting. The deals described below have not been previously reported.

Sequoia Capital India, the most prolific investing firm in the country, is in talks to place capital in over two-dozen Indian startups including Register Book, a firm that operates an eponymous bookkeeping app; Vah Vah, which runs an app to educate people about makeup from artists; SaaS platform BambooBox, and email marketing software provider MailModo.

The firm is also in talks to back, alongside venture fund Nexus, OneCode, a startup that runs an app to connect digital-first brands with sellers. Sequoia Capital India, which launched a dedicated fund for early stage startups called Surge two years ago, is also in talks to invest in Probo, an app that rewards users for sharing their opinion; and Rattle.

Vaibhav Domkundwar, who runs Better Capital, said the early-stage startup scene in India has never been this hot.

“Pre-seed and seed stage momentum is at its peak, but we are also seeing pre-emptive rounds at Series As and Bs now,” he told TechCrunch.

Domkundwar, who has backed over 140 startups including Khatabook and neobank Open, attributed some excitement to the new generation of founders in India, who he said are building product-first and distribution-first companies. “We are seeing the fastest pace of investment in these teams,” he said.

A different investor, who requested anonymity, said second time founders are able to raise on a deck or a Notion doc from elite angels, unicorn founders and microVCs. The pace at which these founders are able to close the deal, the investor said, was “stunning.”

The frantic pace of investments in early-stage deals come as many of the more mature bets have become unicorns in India and many established startups are finally exploring taking the public markets.

India has birthed 14 unicorns this year, up from 11 last year and just 6 in 2019. High-profile investors such as Tiger Global and Falcon Edge Capital have increased their focus on India this year and winning founders with their large size of checks, higher valuation, access to resources, and quick turnaround time.

Many established firms are now chasing early-stage deals.

GSV is in talks to invest in Filo, a startup that operates an eponymous tutor app; and payments stack startup Inai has closed a new round from Better Capital and others and will be part of Y Combinator’s next batch. (Speaking of which, Y Combinator’s previous batch featured its largest cohort of Indian startups in history.)

One-year-old startup BrightCHAMPS, which has built a coding and math platform for kids, is currently in talks with GSV and Tiger Global to raise about $70 million.

Indiagold, a startup that allows people in the South Asian nation to access credit against their gold reserve, is in talks to close a new round with two high-profile foreign investors that have traditionally backed growth and late stage deals.

Germany’s Razor Group is in late stage talks to invest in Upscale, a startup that is attempting to replicate the Thrasio model in India.

Fintech investor RTP is in talks to invest in Fleek, a startup that is building “a payments system for subscription economy.” Falcon Edge’s AWI is in talks to invest in fitness subscription platform Ultrahuman, while SaaS platform AccelData has been approached by Bessemmer and WestBridge.

For high-profile investors with billions in dry powder, there are many rewards for spotting a promising startup in its initial years. One can buy a much larger stake in a startup for lower prices before the valuation of the startup — assuming things work out well — soars. Investing early also reduces the amount an investor may lose should things with the portfolio firm goes south.

But not everyone is happy with the new dynamics.

An investor with a micro fund told TechCrunch — on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly — that involvement of bigger investors in early stage deals has made it tougher for smaller firms to source new deals as the bigger investors are now aggressively trying to close entire rounds by themselves.

The investor said there is an additional competition in the market now: groups of high-profile founders, who tend to collectively back startups.

The investor cited earlier in the story termed these investments as “optionality cheques.” These optionality checks — that usually back second time founders or first time founders who previously worked at a unicorn or soonicorn — started with the Series A crowd such as Sequoia Capital India, Matrix, Lightspeed India Partners, he said. Now, the investor said, Tiger and Falcon / AWI are doing it, too.

There are two implications of these optionality checks, the investor said. “They make life more difficult for microVCs / seed VCs as they cannot compete with the Tigers or Falcons or Series A funds who can cut “smaller” checks with impunity, and perhaps even dilute less.”

But the investor cautioned the founders who are raising such optionality checks. “If the same fund doesn’t back them in the next round, then the negative signal can imperil their chances of raising from other VCs. Second, the excess money that they get can sometimes encourage faster expansion and higher spends.

Lightspeed India Partners, best known for its investments in unicorns Oyo Rooms and e-commerce platform Udaan, is in talks to back Vegrow, a startup that partners with farmers; 100ms.live, which operates an eponymous tool to help developers add video conferencing features to their apps, as well as edtech startup Kalaam Labs.

Dyte, which is building a “Stripe for live video calls,” is in talks with Nexus and Sequoia Capital India. Elevation Capital, which is also in talks to invest in VeGrow, is inching closer to investing in FamPay, which offers credit cards to teens at about $150 million valuation. Bangalore-based Chiratae Ventures is in the final stages of talks to invest in AeroLeap and analytics startup Locale.ai.

Fanplay, a platform for social media influencers to monetise via mobile games, has already raised from several American microVCs, but the round hasn’t closed yet. Mumbai-headquartered due diligence and monitoring platform Advarisk has been approached by “several investors” but has yet to close the round.

Trading signals provider Tradex is in talks to raise from Leo Capital. Audio social media app Frnd, radio and podcast aggregator app Kuku FM, and crop management platform Bharatagri are also in advanced stages of talks with investors to raise capital.

Plug and play payments provider Card91 has been approached by several investors, but hasn’t closed the round yet. Tournafest has closed a round from a clutch of angel investors, and so have Easy Eat and Stockgro. Kosh has raised from YC, and VentureSouq among others.

Tech veteran Nandan Nilekani’s firm Fundamentum is in talks to back Bijak, which operates a business-to-business marketplace to trade agricultural commodities, and supply chain startup Reshamandi.

A survey by InnoVen Capital, results of which were published on Thursday, said that over 80% of the investors it had surveyed said their dealflow for early-stage startups had increased this year, compared to last year.

Over 75% of the respondents in the same survey said the valuations in recent deals were on the “higher side” because of the “intense competition for high quality deals and entry of large established VCs in this space.”

“Early-stage investment activity has proven to be resilient despite the pandemic, with bigger transaction sizes and higher valuations, a clear sign of a maturing early-stage ecosystem,” said Tarana Lalwani, Senior Director at InnoVen Capital India.

#asia, #falcon-edge, #funding, #india, #lightspeed, #sequoia-capital-india, #tiger-global, #tiger-global-management

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Indian health insurance startup Plum raises $15.6 million in Tiger Global-led investment

The vast majority of people in India, the world’s second most populous nation, don’t have health insurance coverage. A significant portion of the population that does have coverage get it from their employers.

Plum, a young startup that is making it easier and more affordable for more firms in the nation to provide insurance coverage to their employees, said on Monday it has raised $15.6 million in its Series A funding to accelerate its growth. Tiger Global led the funding round.

Existing investors Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, Tanglin Venture Partners, Incubate Fund, Gemba Capital, also participated in the new round, which brings the one-a-half-year-old startup’s to-date raise to $20.6 million. TechCrunch reported earlier this year that Plum was in talks with Tiger Global for the new financing round.

Kunal Shah (founder of Cred), Gaurav Munjal, Roman Saini and Hemesh Singh (founders of Unacademy), Lalit Keshre, Harsh Jain and Ishan Bansal (founders of Groww), Ramakant Sharma and Anuj Srivastava (founders of Livspace), and Douglas Feirstein (founder of Hired) also participated in the new round.

Plum offers health insurance coverage on a B2B2C model. The startup partners with small businesses to provide health insurance coverage to all their employees (and their family members), charging as little as $1 a month for an employee.

The startup has developed the insurance stack from scratch and partnered with insurers to include additional coverage on pre-existing conditions and dental, said Abhishek Poddar, co-founder and chief executive of Plum, in an interview with TechCrunch.

(Like fintech firms, which partner with banks and NBFCs to provide credit to customers, online insurance startups have partnerships with insurers to provide health insurance coverage. Plum maintains partnerships with ICICI Lombard, Care Health, Star Health and New India Assurance.)

Poddar, who has worked at Google and McKinsey, said Plum is making it increasingly affordable and enticing for businesses to choose the startup as their partner. Most insurance firms and online aggregators in India today currently serve consumers. There are very few players that engage with businesses. Even among those that do, they tend to be costlier and not as flexible.

Plum offers its partnered client’s employees the option to top up their health insurance coverage or extend it to additional members of the family. Unlike its competitors that require all the premium to be paid annually, Plum gives its clients the ability to pay each month. And signing up an entire firm for Plum takes less than an hour. (The speed is a key differentiator for Plum. Small businesses have to typically spend months in negotiating with other insurers. Bangalore-based Razorpay has also partnered with Plum to give the fintech startup’s clients a three-click, one-minute option to sign up for insurance coverage.)

The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to further expand its offerings, making its platform open to smaller businesses with teams as small as seven employees to sign up, said Poddar. The startup plans to cover 10 million people in India with insurance by 2025, and eventually expand to international markets, he said.

India has an under-penetrated insurance market. Within the under-penetrated landscape, digital distribution through web-aggregators today accounts for just 1% of the industry, analysts at Bernstein wrote in a recent report.

“As India’s healthcare insurance industry rapidly expands and transforms, Plum is well positioned to make comprehensive health insurance accessible to millions of Indians. We are excited to partner with Abhishek, Saurabh and the Plum team as they scale their leading tech-enabled platform to employers across the country,” said Scott Shleifer, Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement.

Plum is the latest investment from Tiger Global in India this year. The hedge fund, which has backed over 20 Indian unicorns, has emerged as the most prolific investor in Indian startups in recent months, winning founders with its pace of investment, check size and favorable terms. Last week, the firm invested in Indian social network Koo.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #india, #plum, #sequoia-capital-india, #tc, #tiger-global, #tiger-global-management

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Atlan raises $16M led by Insight Partners to build a collaboration hub for data-driven teams

Young startup Atlan, which has built a SaaS data collaboration platform and is courting customers in international markets, has now won the trust of some high-profile investors.

Atlan said on Tuesday it has raised $16 million in its Series A financing round that was led by Insight Partners. Bob Muglia (former CEO of Snowflake), Bob Moore and Jake Stei (founders of Stitch) and Auren Hoffman (founder of Safegraph and Liveramp), and Akshay Kothari (co-founder and COO of Notion) also invested in the round, as did existing investors Sequoia Surge and Waterbridge Ventures.

The startup — which was founded in India and now has teams across the U.S., Singapore, Philippines, and Nigeria — operates an eponymous data stack that brings together diverse data from internal and external sources such as Snowflake and Databricks to one interface and allows teams to collaborate easily.

The thesis behind Atlan is that the way most people in enterprises deal with data is inefficient. This is because of the fundamental diversity of people involved — scientists, analysts, engineers, business users — who all have their own skill sets and tool preferences.

This makes collaboration between the teams a challenge as they struggle to find the right data at the right time, for instance.

It’s a challenge that the founders of Atlan — Prukalpa Sankar and Varun Banka (pictured above) — faced first hand at their first venture, SocialCops. The venture was behind several data science for social good projects including India’s National Data Platform and SDGs global monitoring in collaboration with the United Nations.

Atlan started out as an internal tool to help the data team at SocialCops carry out projects more efficiently, before being opened up to teams around the world.

“We are reimagining the human experience with data — why can’t data assets be shared as easily as sharing a link on Google Docs, or if Google Analytics can tell you usage on a website, why can’t we do the same for our data?” said Sankar.

Teddie Wardi, Managing Director at Insight Partners, likened Atlan’s relevance to companies just as Figma is crucial to design teams and Github is important to engineering teams.

Atlan Discovery 2

Dashboard of Atlan (Atlan)

In an interview with TechCrunch, Sankar said more than 60% of Atlan’s clients today are in the U.S., and the market will be a big focus as the startup scales. She declined to reveal the number of clients the startup has amassed, but said the startup has grown 16X times in the last two quarters.

Some of its clients include giants such as Unilever, Scripps Health, Postman, and Techstyle, one of the world’s largest membership-based fashion firms with a diverse portfolio of brands including Fabletics, Savage X Fenty, JustFab, FabKids, and ShoeDazzle.

“As we rolled-out our modern data platform, we were looking for a product that made it easier to democratize our data and was less dependent on someone central answering each individual analyst’s questions on a one-off basis. Legacy solutions in the market were tailored to legacy systems and approaches where IT or a single data stewardship team owns the data,” said Danielle Boeglin Ragan, Vice President of Data & Analytics at Techstyle, in a statement.

“Atlan was the only solution that was built for a collaborative, bottom-up approach. With native integrations with our modern analytics stack like Snowflake and Tableau, Atlan was very easy to set-up – we had all of our data sources flowing within the first day.”

The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its team of 40 people across marketing, sales, and customer success, said Banka.

“Atlan has become a valuable resource for the data team to get context about data. In the long run, for our data democratization vision, we see the entire organization working towards analyzing the data and taking actions in a coherent, seamless fashion. Having Atlan in the mix of our toolchains opens the possibility of providing data context at scale, thereby enabling the entire org to be data aware and data driven.” said Prudhvi Vasa, Analytics Leader at Postman, in a statement.

#atlan, #auren-hoffman, #bob-moore, #bob-muglia, #funding, #liveramp, #saas, #safegraph, #sequoia-capital-india, #snowflake, #stitch, #waterbridge-ventures

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Merchant commerce platform Pine Labs valued at $3 billion in new fundraise

Pine Labs, a startup that offers merchants payments terminals, invoicing tools and working capital, said on Monday it is raising $285 million in a new financing round as the nearly two-decade-old firm looks to expand its business.

Baron Capital Group, Duro Capital, Marshall Wace, Moore Strategic Ventures and Ward Ferry Management financed the new funding round, while existing investors Temasek, Lone Pine Capital and Sunley House Capital also participated in it, the Indian startup said.

The new round valued Pine Labs at $3 billion, up from about $2 billion in a December round last year. Pine Labs operates in several Southeast Asian markets as well.

“We’re thrilled to welcome marquee investors like Marshall Wace, Baron Capital Group, Ward Ferry Management, Duro Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures to the already pristine cap table of Pine Labs. This is an exciting phase in our journey as we enter newer markets. We excel in enterprise merchant payments and now want to scale new frontiers in the online space as well, at the same time continue to power the credit and commerce needs of our offline merchant partners,” said B. Amrish Rau, CEO of Pine Labs, in a statement.

The startup, which also counts PayPal among its investors, serves over 140,000 merchants. Its payments terminal — also known as point-of-sale machines — are connected to the cloud, and offer a range of additional services to the merchants. One of which is working capital.

Pine Labs runs an analytics app on debit card base of banks it tied up to determine the extent of credit to be made available to every cardholder. PineLabs then converts large payments into EMIs (equated monthly instalment) using its Pine Pay Later application. Amid the pandemic late last year, the startup was onboarding over 10,000 new businesses to the platform each month.

Pine Labs is the market leader in many categories. The startup — which acquired Qwikcilver in 2019 — assumed over 95% of the market share in gift cards in the financial year that ended in March 2020. Its point-of-sale machines are some of the most widely used in the industry.

FinTechs expanding into newer segments to increase engagement, the addressable market and drive monetisation (Image: Credit Suisse; Data: Company, Credit Suisse)

“We are very excited to be a part of the technological transformation that Pine Labs is driving on the ground in payments and the multiple interlinkages and efficiencies it is able to create by providing faster, cost effective consumer access to a broader range of financial products such as BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later), where it is driving a pioneering effort on behalf of the financial system. We are also excited about an Indian business being able to drive regional and potentially global adoption of its Intellectual Property and this represents significant optionality for the future,” said Amit Rajpal, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Marshall Wace Asia, in a statement.

#asia, #funding, #india, #pine-labs, #sequoia-capital-india

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Bibit raises another growth round led by Sequoia Capital India, this time for $65M

Four months after leading a $30 million growth round in Bibit, Sequoia Capital India has doubled down on its investment in the Indonesian robo-advisor app. Bibit announced today that the firm led a new $65 million growth round that also included participation from Prosus Ventures, Tencent, Harvard Management Company and returning investors AC Ventures and East Ventures.

This brings Bibit’s total funding to $110 million, including a Series A announced in May 2019. Its latest round will be used on developing and launching new products, hiring and increasing Bibit’s financial education services.

Bibit was launched in 2019 by Stockbit, a stock investing platform and community, and is part of a crop of Indonesian investment apps focused on new investors. Others include SoftBank Ventures-backed Ajaib, Bareksa, Pluang and FUNDtastic. Bibit runs robo-advisor services for mutual funds, investing users’ money based on their risk profiles, and claims that 90% of its users are millennials and first-time investors.

According to Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (Otoritas Jasa Keuangan), the number of retail investors grew 56% year-over-year in 2020. For mutual funds in particular, Bibit said investors grew 78% year-over-year to 3.2 million, based on data from the Indonesia Stock Exchange and Central Securities Custodian.

Despite the economic impact of COVID-19, interest in stock investing grew as people took advantage of market dips (the Jakara Composite Index fell in the first quarter of 2020, but is now recovering steadily). Apps like Bibit and its competitors want to make capital investing more accessible with lower fees and minimum investment amounts than traditional brokerages like Mandiri Sekuritas, which also saw an increase in new retail investors and average transaction value last year.

But the percentage of retail investors in Indonesia is still very low, especially compared to markets like Singapore or Malaysia, presenting growth opportunities for investment services.

Apps like Bibit focus on content that helps make capital investing less intimidating to first-time investors. For example, Ajaib also presents its financial educational features as a selling point.

In press statement, Sequoia Capital India vice president Rohit Agarwal said, “Indonesian mutual fund customers have grown almost 10x in the past five years. Savings via mutual funds is the first step towards investing and Bibit has helped millions of consumers start their investing journey in a responsible manner. Sequoia Capital India is excited to double down on the partnership as the company brings the same customer focus to stock investing with Stockbit.”

 

#asia, #bibit, #indonesia, #investment-app, #robo-advisor, #sequoia-capital-india, #southeast-asia, #tc

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Investment app for millennials Groww raises $83 million at over $1 billion valuation

More than 200 million people in India transact money digitally, but fewer than 30 million invest in mutual funds and stocks.

An Indian startup that is attempting to change this figure by courting millennials announced a new financing round on Wednesday and turned into the newest unicorn in the world’s second largest internet market.

Bangalore-based Groww has raised $83 million in its Series D financing round, which valued the Indian startup at more than $1 billion, up from $250 million in $30 million Series C in September last year.

Tiger Global led the new round, and existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Ribbit Capital, YC Continuity and Propel Venture Partners participated in it, said the four-year-old Indian startup, which has raised $142 million to date.

On a side note, Groww is the eighth Indian startup to attain the unicorn status this year — and fourth this week. Social commerce Meesho turned a unicorn on Monday, fintech firm CRED on Tuesday, and earlier today epharmacy firm PharmEasy announced a new financing round that valued the firm at about $1.5 billion.

Groww allows users to invest in mutual funds, including systematic investment planning (SIP) and equity-linked savings, gold, as well as stocks, including those listed at U.S. exchanges. The app offers every fund that is currently available in India.

The startup has amassed over 8 million registered users, two-thirds of whom are first-time investors, Lalit Keshre, co-founder and chief executive of Groww, told TechCrunch in an interview. Keshre and other former Flipkart executives — Harsh Jain, Neeraj Singh and Ishan Bansal — co-founded Groww in 2017.

Keshre said the startup will deploy the fresh funds to accelerate its growth, and hire more talent. “We now have fuel for longer-term thinking and faster growth,” he said.

More than 60% of Groww users come from smaller cities and towns of India and 60% of these have never made such investments before, said Keshre. The startup said it has conducted workshops in several small cities to educate people about the investment world.

Comparison of fintech market share in brokerage (BCG)

The coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated the startup’s growth as youngsters explore new hobbies. The startup competes with a handful of firms including Zerodha, Paytm Money, Upstox, ET Money, Smallcase, and traditional firms.

“We started Groww almost five years back to make investing accessible and transparent to everyone in India. We have made good progress, but it feels we have just got started,” said Keshre.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #groww, #india, #propel-venture-partners, #ribbit-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #tiger-global, #yc-continuity

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Sequoia Capital India on its early investment in Appier, the fund’s latest exit

Chih-Han Yu, chief executive officer and co-founder of Appier Group Inc., right, holds a hammer next to a bell during an event marking the listing of the company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, at the company's office in Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chih-Han Yu, chief executive officer and co-founder of Appier Group Inc., right, holds a hammer next to a bell during an event marking the listing of the company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, at the company’s office in Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Appier’s initial public offering on the Tokyo Stock Exchange yesterday was a milestone not only for the company, but also Sequoia Capital India, one of its earliest investors. Founded in Taiwan, Appier was the fund’s first investment outside of India, and is now also the first company in its portfolio outside of India to go public. In an interview with TechCrunch, Sequoia Capital managing director Abheek Anand talked about what drew the firm to Appier, which develops AI-based marketing software.

Before shifting its focus to marketing, Appier’s founders—chief executive officer Chih-Han Yu, chief operating officer Winnie Lee and chief technology officer Joe Su—worked on a startup called Plaxie to develop AI-powered gaming engines. Yu and Su came up with the idea when they were both graduate students at Harvard, but found there was little demand at the time. Anand met them in 2013, soon after their pivot to big data and marketing, and Sequoia Capital India invested in Appier’s Series A a few months later.

“It’s easy to say in retrospect what worked and what didn’t work. What really stands out without trying to write revisionist history is that this was just an incredibly smart team,” said Anand. “They had probably the most technical core DNA of any Series A company that we’ve met in years, I would argue.” Yu holds a PhD in computer science from Harvard, Wu earned a PhD in immunology at Washington University in St. Louis and Su has a M.S. in computer science from Harvard. The company also filled its team with AI and machine learning researchers from top universities in Taiwan and the United States.

At the time, Sequoia Capital “had a broad thesis that there would be adoption of AI in enterprises,” Anand said. “What we believed was there were a bunch of people going after that problem, but they were trying to solve business problems without necessarily having the technical depth to do it.” Appier stood out because they “were swinging at it from the other end, where they had an enormous amount of technical expertise.”

Since Appier’s launch in 2012, more companies have emerged that use machine learning and big data to help companies automate marketing decisions and create online campaigns. Anand said one of the reasons Appier, which now operates in 14 markets across the Asia-Pacific region, remains competitive is its strategy of cross-selling new products and focusing on specific use cases instead of building a general purpose platform.

Appier’s core product is a cross-platform advertising engine called CrossX that focuses on user acquisition. Then it has products that address other parts of their customers’ value chain: AiDeal to help companies send coupons to the customers who are most likely to use them; user engagement platform AIQUA; and AIXON, a data science platform that uses AI models to predict customer actions, including the likelihood of repeat purchases.

“I think the number one thing that the company has spent a lot of time on is focusing on efficiency,” said Anand. “Customers have tons of data, both external and first-party, that they’re processing to drive business outcomes. It’s a very hard technical problem. Appier starts with a solution that is relatively easy to break into a customer, and then builds deeper and deeper solutions for those customers.”

Appier’s listing is also noteworthy because it marks the first time a company from Taiwan has listed in Japan since Trend Micro’s IPO in 1998. Japan is one of Appier’s biggest markets (customers there include Rakuten, Toyota and Shiseido), making the Tokyo Stock Exchange a natural fit, Anand said, even though most of Sequoia Capital India’s portfolio companies list in India or the United States.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange also stood out because of its retail investor participation, liquidity and total volume. Some of Appier’s other core investors, including JAFCO Asia and SoftBank Group Corp., are also based in Japan. But though it has almost $30 billion in average trading volume, the vast majority of listings are domestic companies. In a recent report, Nikkei Asia cited a higher corporate tax rate and lack of potential underwriters, especially for smaller listings, as a potential obstacles for foreign companies.

But Appier’s debut may lead the way for other Asian startups to chose the Tokyo Stock Exchange, said Anand. “Getting ready for the Japanese exchange meant having the right accounting practices, the right reporting, a whole bunch of compliance stuff. It was a long process. In some ways we were leading the charge for external companies to get there, and I’m sure over time it will keep getting easier and easier.”

#appier, #asia, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #japan, #marketing, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups, #taiwan, #tc

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MobiKwik investigating data breach after 100M user records found online

MobiKwik said on Tuesday it was investigating claims of data breach after a website claimed to have exposed private information of nearly 100 million users of the Indian mobile payments startup.

Over the weekend, a site on the dark web claimed it had 8.2 terabytes of MobiKwik user data. The data included phone numbers, email addresses, scrambled passwords, transactions logs, and partial payment card numbers.

The website also claimed that it had “know your customer” (KYA) documents of 3.5 million users, and each visit to the website displayed four random images from the data dump. KYC documents are required in India for users who want to access certain services without any limitations. Local law requires a mobile wallet firm in India, for instance, to support monthly transactions exceeding a certain limit.

The dark web site features a searchable database that allows users to look up their phone number or email to verify the authenticity of the data breach claim. TechCrunch was able to verify the accuracy of the data in several cases.

A seller on a well-known cybercrime forum claims to be selling access to the database for 1.2 bitcoin — about $70,000.

The Sequoia Capital India-backed startup says it can’t yet prove if the data actually belongs to MobiKwik users. “It is incorrect to suggest that the data available on the darkweb has been accessed from MobiKwik or any identified source,” the startup wrote in a blog post.

Rajshekhar Rajaharia, a security researcher, told TechCrunch that he alerted MobiKwik about this alleged security breach last month. In a statement, MobiKwik said the company had conducted a thorough investigation and did not find any evidence of a breach.

However, a screenshot leaked to TechCrunch shows a MobiKwik official asking an Amazon representative last month for logs relating to its cloud service after the startup “came to know that our S3 [cloud storage] data is downloaded by some other person outside the organization.”

The startup said its legal team will take “strict action against the so-called security researcher.” Rajaharia told TechCrunch that it’s his right as a user to know if his financial data is safe and that he doesn’t have the resources to fight legal battles.

MobiKwik said it was closely working with authorities and was confident that security protocols to store sensitive data are “robust and have not been breached.” It added that it was getting a third-party to conduct a forensic data security audit. “We are committed to a safe and secure Digital India.”

#asia, #india, #mobikwik, #security, #sequoia-capital-india

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Indian beauty e-commerce Purplle raises $45 million

Purplle, an e-commerce platform for beauty products in India, said on Monday it has raised $45 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its presence in the world’s second largest internet market.

The new round, a Series D, was financed by Sequoia Capital India and existing investors Verlinvest, Blume Ventures, and JSW Ventures. The new round values the Indian startup — which has raised $95 million to date — at about $300 million, up from $150 million in its 2019 Series C round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The new round gave partial exit to IvyCap Ventures, which had invested about $2 million in Purplle in 2015. The venture firm said in a statement that Purplle delivered a 22X return and 1.35x of its entire Fund 1.

“We continue to believe in the growth of the company and therefore we have retained our stake for Fund 2,” said Vikram Gupta, Founder and Managing Partner of IvyCap Ventures.

Eight-year-old Purplle.com, which counts Goldman Sachs among its investors, says it sells nearly 50,000 products from over 1,000 brands. The startup said it has amassed 7 million monthly active users.

“Purplle has been on a robust growth trajectory. Even with a Covid year, we have delivered >90% GMV CAGR for the last 3 years. This, while scaling our private brands successfully; Good Vibes is already an INR 150 Cr [$20.7 million] brand. The investment will help to shape Purplle into a multibillion-dollar, digital-first, beauty and personal care enterprise,” said Manish Taneja (pictured above), co-founder and chief executive of Purplle, in a statement late Monday.

The growth of Purplle is indicative of the growing e-commerce space in India, where users are beginning to purchase fashion and beauty products online. MyGlamm, an omnichannel direct-to-consumer Indian brand, last week raised $24.2 million in a round co-led by Amazon.

“We are excited to partner with Purplle as we believe they have cracked the beauty playbook of value retailing with 3 key tenets – a business built on high retention and low customer acquisition cost (CAC), a wide assortment of brands offering quality at best prices, and an attractive private label portfolio mix. We see Purplle emerging as a dominant beauty destination as the online beauty penetration grows from 10% to 25%+ over the next decade,” said Sakshi Chopra, Principal, Sequoia India.

#asia, #blume-ventures, #ecommerce, #funding, #goldman-sachs, #india, #nykaa, #sequoia-capital-india

0

Leap raises $17 million to help Indian students study abroad

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults get on flights each year from India to a foreign land to pursue higher education. Upon landing, they face a myriad of challenges: They don’t have a local credit history, so they can’t avail a range of financial services including a loan or a credit card — at least not without paying a premium for it.

For banks and other financial institutions, there is an increased risk when they engage with foreigners, so they charge more. An Indian student studying in the U.S., for instance, borrows money at an interest rate over 13%, compared to their local peers who can secure the same amount of credit, if not more, at less than half of that interest rate.

Leap, a two-year-old startup with headquarters in San Francisco and Bangalore, is attempting to solve this problem and many others. The startup grants loans to students at fair interest rate by evaluating the data they generated — alternative and derived — in India itself.

Since the last time we wrote about Leap, the startup has evolved to address several other problems students face, explained Arnav Kumar, co-founder of Leap, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Kumar said Leap today is helping students with guidance on admission, visa, as well as test preparation. Leap has also developed a social network of sorts where over half a million students are talking to one another and use the platform’s other services to get admission in a college abroad.

About ten years ago, when I was looking to join an engineering college, I reached out to several individuals who were already studying in the colleges I had shortlisted. Turns out, over a million students in India do the exact same thing each year when they are about to begin their college life. (If I may complete the loop, I did graduate and have a bachelor’s degree in CSE somewhere in the house.)

Kumar, who previously served an Associate VP at venture firm Elevation Capital, said Leap’s community today is replicating the offline-behavior. Some students, to be sure, reach out to others on LinkedIn, or Facebook. But by just focusing on one problem, Leap is attempting to become the community for students who are looking to pursue higher education. (Its pages are indexed on Google search for better visibility.)

Leap Finance founders pose for a picture

There is a massive opportunity for startups to better solve these problems.

“India is the second-largest market globally for overseas enrolment, and in just a decade higher education enrolments are up by 8 million. This presents a huge opportunity in an otherwise fragmented landscape. Leap is addressing this huge opportunity through its end-to-end tech platform and a community-first approach,” said Amit Anand, Founding Partner of Jungle Ventures, in a statement.

Vaibhav Singh, the other co-founder of Leap, said in an interview that students from India take admission in over 5,000 schools and universities abroad each year to study tens of thousands of courses.

“So the choice spectrum is really, really wide and you need experts who can help you make the right choice. This is the most important decision you or your family will make,” he said.

Investors have spotted an opportunity in this space, too — and are backing Leap. The startup said on Tuesday that it has raised $17 million in its Series B round. The new financing round was led by Singapore-based Jungle Ventures, along with Sequoia Capital India and Owl Ventures. The startup has to-date raised $22.5 million.

The global pandemic prevented many Indian students from traveling abroad. This year, more than 700,000 students are estimated to leave India to pursue higher education. Leap co-founders said they are working to serve 150,000 of such students this year.

Leap said it plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its tech team and reach more geographies. The startup currently helps students join colleges in several countries including the U.S., Canada, UK, and Australia. Singh said Leap is also looking to hire some tech and business talent.

“2020 was a tough year for international education with Covid related travel restrictions. We are impressed by the resilience of the Leap team during the last year, where not only have they served hundreds of students with their financing solutions but have also expanded with Leap Scholar providing counselling to thousands of Indian students looking to study abroad. This vertically integrated strategy has materially strengthened the moats for Leap,” said Ashish Agrawal, Principal at Sequoia India, which wrote its first check to Leap before the startup had a product.

#apps, #asia, #education, #finance, #funding, #india, #jungle-ventures, #leap-finance, #owl-ventures, #sequoia-capital-india

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India’s CRED in talks to raise $200 million at $2 billion valuation

Bangalore’s fintech startup ecosystem is inching closer to delivering a new unicorn: CRED.

Two-year-old CRED is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $200 million at about $2 billion valuation, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The new funding round, like this January’s Series C, will be largely financed by existing investors, the sources said, requesting anonymity as talks are private. The round is expected to close within a month, one of them said.

CRED, founded by Kunal Shah, has become one of the most talked-about startups in India, in part because of the pace at which its valuation has soared.

Backed by high-profile investors including DST Global, Sequoia Capital India, Tiger Global, Ribbit Capital, and General Catalyst, CRED was valued at $806 million when it closed its Series C round in January this year and $450 million in August 2019. (TechCrunch also scooped the Series C round of CRED.)

If the new deal goes through, CRED will be the fastest startup in the world’s second largest internet market to attain a $2 billion valuation. Prior to the upcoming Series D round, CRED had raised about $228 million.

Reached by TechCrunch early last week, CRED declined to comment. Sequoia Capital India didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Indian startup operates an eponymous app that rewards customers for paying their credit card bills on time and offers deals from online brands such as Starbucks, Nykaa, and Vahdam Teas. It had over 5.9 million customers as of January — or about 20% of the credit card holder population in the country.

The startup, unlike most others in India, doesn’t focus on the usual TAM of India — hundreds of millions of users of the world’s second most populated nation — and instead caters to some of the most premium audiences.

“India has 57 million credit cards (vs 830 million debit cards) [that] largely serves the high-end market. The credit card industry is largely concentrated with the top 4 banks (HDFC, SBI, ICICI and Axis) controlling about 70% of the total market. This space is extremely profitable for these banks – as evident from the SBI Cards IPO,” analysts at Bank of America wrote in a recent report to clients.

“Very few starts-ups like CRED are focusing on this high-end base and [have] taken a platform-based approach (acquire customers now and look for monetization later). Credit card in India remains an aspirational product. The under penetration would likely ensure continued strong growth in coming years. Overtime, the form-factor may evolve (i.e. move from plastic card to virtual card), but the inherent demand for credit is expected to grow,” they added.

Consumer segmentation and addressable market for fintech firms in India (BofA Research)

CRED says it is trying to help customers improve their financial behavior. An individual needs a credit score of at least 750 to join CRED. In a recent newsletter to customers, CRED said the median credit score of its customers was 830 and at “any given point in time” more than 375,000 individuals are on the app’s waiting list, many of whom have demonstrably improved their score to join CRED.

“It’s easy to be responsible when you’re empowered. 80% CRED Protect members got visibility on extra interest charges and avoided late payment fees by tracking their dues on CRED. Ignorance is not always bliss. CRED members detected additional charges worth over ₹145 Crores [$20.1 million] on their statements. CRED members avoided over ₹43.5 Crores [$6 million] worth of late payment fees,” it wrote in the newsletter.

“With the help of regular bill payment reminders, and a seamless credit card management experience; 160,000 CRED members improved their credit scores last month. CRED members know it pays to be good as they earned cash-back worth ₹12 Crores [$1.65 million] by paying their bills on time. There’s always something to look forward to on CRED. Our members got access to over 750 new rewards and products.”

The startup makes money by cross-selling financing products — for which it has a revenue-sharing arrangement with banks and other financial institutions — and levies a similar cut from merchants who are on the platform, Shah, who is also one of the most prolific angel investors in India, told TechCrunch in an interview in January this year.

#asia, #cred, #dst-global, #funding, #general-catalyst, #india, #kunal-shah, #payments, #ribbit-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #tiger-global

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Apple alum’s jobs app for India’s workers raises $12.5 million

A startup by an Apple alum that has become home to millions of low-skilled workers in India said on Tuesday it has raised an additional $12.5 million, just five months after securing $8 million from high-profile investors.

One-year-old Apna said Sequoia Capital India and Greenoaks Capital led the $12.5 million Series B investment in the startup. Existing investors Lightspeed India and Rocketship VC also participated in the round. The startup, whose name is Hindi for “ours,” has now raised more than $20 million.

More than 6 million low-skilled workers such as drivers, delivery personnel, electricians and beauticians have joined Apna to find jobs and upskill themselves. But there’s more to this.

An analysis of the platform showed how workers are helping one another solve problems — such as a beautician advising another beautician to perform hair dressing in a particular way that tends to make customers happier and tip more, and someone sharing how they negotiated a hike in their salary from their employer.

“The sole idea of this is to create a network for these workers,” Nirmit Parikh, Apna founder and chief executive told TechCrunch in an interview. “Network gap has been a very crucial challenge. Solving it enables people to unlock more and more opportunities,” he said. Harshjit Sethi, principal at Sequoia India, said Apna was making inroads with “building a professional social network for India.”

The startup has become an attraction for several big firms, including Amazon, Flipkart, Unacademy, Byju’s, Swiggy, BigBasket, Dunzo, BlueStar and Grofers, which have joined as recruiters to hire workers. Apna offers a straightforward onboarding process — thanks to support for multiple local languages — and allows users to create a virtual business card, which is then shown to the potential recruiters.

The past six months have been all about growth at Apna, said Parikh. The app, available on Android, had 1.2 million users in August last year, for instance. During this period, there have been 60 million interactions between recruiters and potential applicants, he said. The platform, which has amassed more than 80,000 employers, has a retention rate of over 95%, said Parikh.

“Apna has taken a jobs-centric approach to upskilling that we are very excited about. Lack of accountability has been the core issue with current skill / vocational learning alternatives for grey and blue-collar workers. Apna has turned the problem on its head by creating net-positive job outcomes for anyone who chooses to upskill on the platform,” said Vaibhav Agrawal, partner at Lightspeed India, in a statement.

Image Credits: Nirmit Parikh

Parikh got the idea of building Apna after he kept hearing about the difficulty his family and friends faced in India in hiring people. This was puzzling to Parikh, as he wondered how could there be a shortage of workers in India when there are hundreds of millions of people actively looking for such jobs. The problem, Parikh realized, was that there wasn’t a scalable networking infrastructure in place to connect workers with employers.

Before creating the startup, Parikh met workers and worked with them to understand where are the core challenges they faced. That journey has not ended. The startup talks to over 15,000 users each day to understand what else Apna could do for them.

“One of the things we heard was that users were facing difficulties with interviews. So we started groups to practice them with interviews. We also started upskilling users, which has made us an edtech player. We plan to ramp up this effort in the coming months,” he said.

Parikh said the startup is overwhelmed each day with the response it is getting from its customers and the industry. Each day, he said, people share how they were able to land jobs, or increase their earnings. In recent months, several high-profile executives from companies such as Uber and BCG have joined Apna to scale the startup’s vision, he said, adding that the problem Apna is solving in India exists everywhere and the startup’s hope is to eventually serve people across the globe.

The app currently has no ads, and Parikh said he intends to not change that. “Once you get in the ad business, you start doing things you probably shouldn’t be doing,” he said. The startup instead plans to monetize its platform by charging recruiters, and offering upskill courses. But Parikh maintained that Apna will always offer its courses to users for free. The premium version will target those who need extensive assistance, he said.

As is the case elsewhere, millions of people lost their livelihood in India in the past year as coronavirus shut many businesses and workers migrated to their homes. There are over 250 million blue and grey-collar workers in India, and providing them meaningful employment opportunities is one of the biggest challenges in our country, said Sethi.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#apna, #apps, #asia, #funding, #greenoaks-capital, #india, #lightspeed-india, #recent-funding, #rocketship-vc, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups

0

James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems leads $31 million investment in India’s Doubtnut

Doubtnut, an Indian startup that helps students learn and master concepts from math and science using short videos, has raised $31 million in a new financing round, months after it rejected an acquisition offer from India’s largest edtech firm Byju’s.

The three-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered startup said SIG and James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems led the $31 million Series B funding round. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Omidyar Network India and Waterbridge Ventures also participated in the round, which brings the startup’s to-date raise to about $50 million to date.

The Doubtnut app allows students to take a picture of a problem, and uses machine learning and image recognition to deliver their answers through short-videos. These videos offer students step-by-step instructions to solve a problem.

The app supports multiple languages, and has amassed over 2.5 million daily active users who spend 600 million minutes a month on the app, the startup said. More than half of the users have come online for the first time in last 12 months, the startup said.

The startup said it has developed a bank of over 65 million questions in nine languages for students from sixth grade to high-school. Unlike several other popular edtech firms, Doubtnut said its app reaches students in smaller towns and cities. “85% of the current base comes from outside of the top 15 Indian cities, and 60% users study in state boards where typical medium of instruction is the local vernacular language,” the startup said.

TechCrunch reported last year that Byju’s was in talks to acquire Doubtnut for as much as $150 million. Byju’s later lowered its deal offer, after which the two firms ended their talks.

James Murdoch last month announced he was reuniting with Uday Shankar, an executive who helped him build the Murdoch family’s Star business in India, which was later sold to Disney. Shankar will work with Murdoch to “accelerate” Lupa’s efforts in India, Murdoch said last month. Lupa has backed nearly a dozen startups so far, including Indian news aggregator and social app DailyHunt.

“Doubtnut has been built with a vision to improve learning outcomes for all students, especially those outside the major Indian cities. We specialize in developing content in vernacular languages and use technology to create affordable solutions for people in this large target segment,” said Tanushree Nagori, co-founder and CEO of Doubtnut, adding,

“We are pleased to welcome onboard SIG and Lupa; SIG brings in strong experience of investing in ed-tech companies globally and Lupa Systems brings unparalleled experience of building world-class businesses and harnessing high-impact technologies,” she added.

The startup said it will deploy the fresh capital to add support for more language and broaden the scope of subjects it covers today. Doubtnut is also planning to introduce paid courses.

#apps, #asia, #byjus, #doubtnut, #edtech, #education, #funding, #india, #lupa-systems, #sequoia-capital-india, #sig, #unacademy, #waterbridge-ventures

0

India’s Zetwerk raises $120 million to scale its B2B marketplace for manufacturing parts

When you want to buy a refrigerator or a television, you can walk to the nearby electronics store or visit an e-commerce website like Amazon. But where do you go when you’re looking for parts of a crane, a door or chassis of different machines?

For several businesses globally, the answer to that question is increasingly Zetwerk, a Bangalore-based startup.

The three-year-old startup runs a business-to-business marketplace for manufacturing items that connects OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and EPC (engineering procurement construction) customers with manufacturing small-businesses and enterprises.

All the products it sells today are custom-made. “Nobody has a stock of such inventories. You get the order, you find manufacturers and workshops that make them,” explained Amrit Acharya, co-founder and chief executive of Zetwerk, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Its customers — there are over 250 of them, up from 100 a year ago — operate across two-dozen industries (including process plants, oil & gas, steel, aerospace, medical devices, apparel and luxury goods) in the infrastructure space, and approach Zetwerk with digital designs they wish to be translated into physical products.

Customers aren’t alone in seeing value in Zetwerk. On Wednesday, the Indian startup said it has raised $120 million in a Series D financing round led by existing investors Greenoaks Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Existing investors Sequoia Capital and Kae Capital also participated in the Series D round.

The new round, which brings Zetwerk’s to-date raise to $193 million, gives the firm a post-money valuation of somewhere between $600 million to $700 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. (A quick side note: Zetwerk announced a $21 million Series C round last year, but ended up raising $31 million in that round.)

Zetwerk was co-founded by Acharya, Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary. Long before Acharya and Ramakkrushnan joined forces to tackle this space, they had been contemplating this idea.

Both of them studied at IIT Madras, went to the same exchange program in Singapore, and were colleagues at Kolkata-headquartered conglomerate ITC. While working there, they realized that part of a product manager’s job at the firm was dealing with gazillions of suppliers and the manufacturing items they offered.

The process was archaic: There were no databases, and people couldn’t track shipments.

The early version of Zetwerk, which was a database of suppliers, was a direct response to this. But after listening to requests from customers, the startup saw a bigger opportunity and transformed itself into a full-fledged marketplace with integrations with third-party vendors. Once a firm has placed an order, Zetwerk allows them to keep tabs on the progress of manufacturing and then the shipping. There are also quality checks in place.

Zetwerk website

Zetwerk operates in such a unique space today — Shailesh Lakhani, managing director at Sequoia India, says the startup has defined a new category of marketplace — that by and large it’s not competing with any other firm in India — or South Asia. (The startup competes with domain project consultants in the offline world.)

The opportunity in India itself is gigantic. According to industry reports, manufacturing today accounts for 14% of India’s GDP. Vaibhav Agarwal, a partner at Lightspeed, estimates that the market is as large as $40 billion to $60 billion in India and global trade-tailwinds that creates opportunity to serve international demand.

As more and more companies expand or shift their manufacturing to India — in part due to import duties imposed by India and geo-political tension with China, the global hub for manufacturing — this opportunity has only grown bigger in recent years.

“India has a lot of depth in manufacturing, but much of it has not been tapped well,” said Acharya.

Zetwerk — which grew 3X last year and reported revenue of $43.9 million in the financial year that ended in March, a 20X growth from the year prior — plans to deploy the new capital to expand to more areas of categories, and broaden its technology stack. Consumer goods (which covers items such as mixer grinders and TVs) is an area Zetwerk expanded to last year, and said it accounts for 15% of the revenue it generated in the last six months.

Currently 25 of its customers are in the U.S., Canada, Europe and other international markets. Acharya said the startup plans to open offices overseas this year as it scouts for more international customers. 

“We are excited to partner with Zetwerk on the next leg of their journey, as they expand their value proposition globally. Zetwerk’s operating system for manufacturing has digitized multiple supply chains end-to-end, ensuring on-time delivery and high quality standards. This has led to rapid growth in India and internationally, with the potential to quickly become one of the most important manufacturing platforms globally,” said Neil Shah, partner at Greenoaks Capital, in a statement.

#asia, #ecommerce, #funding, #greenoaks-capital, #india, #kae-capital, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups, #zetwerk

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India’s insurance platform Turtlemint raises $30 million

Turtlemint, an Indian startup that is helping consumers identify and purchase the most appropriate insurance policies for them, has raised $30 million in a new financing round as it looks to reach more users in small cities and towns in the world’s second largest internet market.

The new round, the five-year-old Mumbai-headquartered startup’s Series D, was led by GGV Capital . American Family Ventures, MassMutual Ventures and SIG, and existing investors Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, Nexus Venture Partners, Dream Incubator and Trifecta Capital also participated in the round, which brings Turtlemint’s total to-date raise to $55 million.

Only a fraction of India’s 1.3 billion people currently have access to insurance. Insurance products had reached less than 3% of the population as of 2017, according to rating agency ICRA. An average Indian makes about $2,100 a year, according to the World Bank. ICRA estimated that of those Indians who had purchased an insurance product, they were spending less than $50 on it in 2017.

A range of startups in India are trying to disrupt this market. Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated the online insurance market in India — which in recent years has attracted several major giants including Amazon and Paytm — to be worth $3 billion in a report they recently sent to clients.

Another major reason why existing insurance firms are struggling to sell to consumers is because they are too reliant on on-ground advisors.

Turtlemint co-founders Anand Prabhudesai (left) and Dhirendra Mahyavanshi pose for a picture (Turtlemint)

Instead of bypassing these advisors, Turtlemint is embracing them. It works with over 100,000 such agents, equipping them with digital tools to offer wider and more relevant recommendations to consumers and speed-up the onboarding process, which has traditionally required a lot of paperwork.

These advisors, who continue to command over 90% of all insurance sales in the country, “play a critical role in bridging the gap in tier 2 and 3 towns and cities, where low physical presence of insurance companies greatly impacts seamless access to insurance products and information,” the startup said.

Turtlemint works with over 40 insurance companies in India and serves as a broker, charging these firms a commission for policies it sells. The startup said it has amassed more than 1.5 million customers.

“By developing products for the micro-entrepreneurs and the rising middle class, Turtlemint has an opportunity to have a positive impact on India’s economy,” said Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, in a statement. “Dhirendra, Anand, and their team built an incredible platform that enables over 100,000 mom-and-pop financial advisors to serve consumers’ best interests with digital tools, helping middle-class families in India get insured with the best products available.”

In an interview with TechCrunch, Turtlemint co-founder Anand Prabhudesai said the startup will deploy the fresh capital to grow its network of advisors and improve its technology stack to further improve the experience for consumers. The startup today also offers training to these advisors and has built tools to help them digitally reach potential customers.

“Continuous education is a very important aspect of being a successful financial entrepreneur. To this end, we have created an online education product with a wide range of courses on financial products, advice-based sales techniques and other soft skills. Our content is now available in seven regional languages and over 20,000 learners are active each month on our edtech platform. A lot of these are first-time advisors who are taking their first steps towards starting their advisory business. Our target is to create a million successful financial entrepreneurs over the next 3-5 years,” he said.

#american-family-ventures, #apps, #asia, #blume-ventures, #dream-incubator, #finance, #funding, #ggv-capital, #india, #massmutual-ventures, #nexus-venture-partners, #payments, #sequoia-capital-india, #sig

0

Video creation and editing platform InVideo raises $15 million

InVideo, a Mumbai-based startup that has built a video creation and editing platform, has raised $15 million as it looks to court more users and customers worldwide.

The startup offers a freemium web-based editing tool that allows users to create videos that are fit to be published on popular social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). It has amassed over 800,000 users in a year since its launch who have created videos in over 75 languages.

It has also courted several high-profile customers including Reuters, AT&T, Dropbox, and P&G, Sanket Shah, co-founder and chief executive of InVideo, told TechCrunch in an interview earlier this week. Some of these customers are white-labeling InVideo platform to their own clients.

InVideo’s $15 million Series A financing round was led by Sequoia Capital India. Tiger Global, Hummingbird, RTP Global, and Base also participated in the round.

Prateek Sharma, VP at Sequoia Capital India, said that InVideo is part of a growing number of startups in India that are building a SaaS platform for the world. “With their stellar product, design and tech capabilities, InVideo is well-placed to become the platform of choice for video creation in a potentially $10 billion market,” he said.

Unlike most SaaS startups that are emerging from India, InVideo is currently not fully monetizing its platform. InVideo app offers a range of functionalities at no charge, and charges only $10 a month for premium clients such as a marketing agency.

Shah acknowledged that the startup could charge these business customers much more, but he said the startup first wishes to reach more users before it looks into monetization opportunities. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that InVideo platform should not cost much in the first place. (During the conversation, it became clear that services such as Notion that offer a range of features to users at no charge have influenced how Shah is thinking about building InVideo.)

To that effect, InVideo plans to remove one of the biggest limitations for free users: the persistent watermark on videos.

InVideo currently does not have any mobile or desktop app. Users go to a web browser, where the startup’s own tech stack allows them to upload the video, make the editing and then process it, Shah said. (Once the video has processed, users see a one-click option to publish it on their social media platforms.) But InVideo plans to release mobile apps by early next year, he said.

Other than this, there are a number of more features including ability for users to collaborate that InVideo is working on, and the new financing around will help accelerate that, he said. The startup, which also has teams in the U.S. and several other countries, also plans to hire more people.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #india, #invideo, #sequoia-capital-india, #social

0

ShopUp raises $22.5 million to digitize millions of mom-and-pop shops in Bangladesh

A startup that is aiming to digitize millions of neighborhood stores in Bangladesh just raised the country’s largest Series A financing round.

Dhaka-headquartered ShopUp said on Tuesday it has raised $22.5 million in a round co-led by Sequoia Capital India and Flourish Ventures. For both the venture firms, this is the first time they are backing a Bangladeshi startup. Veon Ventures, Speedinvest, and Lonsdale Capital also participated in the four-year-old ShopUp’s Series A financing round. ShopUp has raised about $28 million to date.

Like its neighboring nation, India, more than 95% of all retail in Bangladesh goes through neighborhood stores in the country. There are about 4.5 million such mom-and-pop stores in the country and the vast majority of them have no digital presence.

ShopUp is attempting to change that. It has built what it calls a full-stack business-to-business commerce platform. It provides three core services to neighborhood stores: a wholesale marketplace to secure inventory, logistics (including last mile delivery to customers), and working capital, explained Afeef Zaman, co-founder and chief executive of ShopUp​, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Image Credits: ShopUp

These small shops are facing a number of challenges. They are not getting inventory on time or enough inventory and they are paying more than what they should, said Zaman. And for these businesses, more than 73% (PDF) of all their sales rely on credit instead of cash or digital payments, creating a massive liquidity crunch. So most of these businesses are in dire need of working capital.

Zaman declined to reveal how many mom-and-pop shops today use ShopUp, but claimed that the platform assumes a clear lead in its category in the country. That lead has widened amid the global pandemic as more physical shops explore digital offerings to stay afloat, he said.

The number of neighborhood shops transacting weekly on the ShopUp platform grew by 8.5 times between April and August this year, he said. The pandemic also helped ShopUp engage with e-commerce players to deliver items for them.

“Sequoia India has been a strong supporter of the company since it was part of the first Surge cohort in early 2019 and it’s been exciting to see the company become a trailblazer facilitating digital transformation in Bangladesh,” said ​Klaus Wang, VP, Sequoia Capital, in a statement.

The startup has no intention to become an e-commerce platform like Amazon that directly engages with consumers, Zaman said. E-commerce is still in its nascent stage in Bangladesh. Amazon has yet to enter the country and increasingly Facebook is filling that role.

ShopUp sees immense opportunity in serving neighborhood stores, he said. The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to deepen its partnerships with manufacturers and expand its tech infrastructure.

It opened an office in Bengaluru earlier this year to hire local tech talent in the nation. Indian e-commerce platform Voonik merged with ShopUp this year and both of its co-founders have joined the Bangladeshi startup. Zaman said the startup will hire more engineering talent in India.

#asia, #bangladesh, #ecommerce, #flourish-ventures, #funding, #sequoia-capital-india, #speedinvest

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India’s Razorpay becomes unicorn after new $100 million funding round

Bangalore-headquartered Razorpay, one of the handful of Indian fintech startups that has demonstrated accelerated growth in recent years, has joined the coveted unicorn club after raising $100 million in a new financing round, the payments processing startup said on Monday.

The new financing round, a Series D, was co-led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, and Sequoia India, the six-year-old Indian startup said. The new round valued the startup at “a little more than $1 billion,” co-founder and chief executive Harshil Mathur told TechCrunch in an interview.

Existing investors Ribbit Capital, Tiger Global, Y Combinator, and Matrix Partners also participated in the round, which brings Razorpay’s total to-date raise to $206.5 billion.

Razorpay accepts, processes, and disburses money online for small businesses and enterprises. In recent years, Razorpay has expanded its offerings to provide loans to businesses and also launched a neo-banking platform to issue corporate credit cards, among other products.

Mathur and Shashank Kumar (pictured above), who met each other at IIT Roorkee, started Razorpay in 2014. They began to explore opportunities around payments processing business after realizing just how difficult it was for small businesses such as young startups to accept money online less than a decade ago. There were very few payment processing firms in India then and startups needed to produce a long-list of documents.

The early team of about 11 people at Razorpay shared a single apartment as the co-founders rushed to meet with over 100 bankers to convince banks to work with them. The conversations were slow and stuck in a deadlock for so long that the co-founders felt helpless explaining the same challenge to investors numerous times, they recalled in an interview last year.

To say things have changed for Razorpay would be an understatement. It’s become the largest payments provider for business in India, said Mathur. Razorpay accepts a wide-range of payment options including credit cards, debit cards, mobile wallets, and UPI.

“Razorpay has established itself as a clear leader, with its strong focus on customer experience and product innovation,” said Choo Yong Cheen, Chief Investment Officer for Private Equity at GIC, in a statement. “GIC has a long track record of partnering with leading fintech companies globally and is delighted to partner with Razorpay in its journey to transform payments and banking.”

Some of Razorpay’s clients include budget lodging decacorn Oyo, e-commerce giant Tokopedia, top food delivery startups Zomato and Swiggy, online learning platform Byju’s, ride-hailing giant Gojek, supply chain platform Zilingo, caller ID service Truecaller, travel ticketing firms Yatra and Goibibo, and telecom giant Airtel.

The startup expects to process about $25 billion for nearly 10 million of its customers this year, said Mathur.

He attributed some of the growth to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said has accelerated the digital adoption among many businesses.

On the neo-banking and capital side, Mathur said, Razorpay expects RazorpayX and Razorpay Capital to account for about 35% of the startup’s revenue by the end of March next year.

Mathur said the startup’s payment processing service continues to be its fastest growing business and does not need much capital to grow, so the startup will be deploying the fresh funds to expand its neo-banking offerings to include vendor payment, and expense and tax management and other features.

The startup, which aims to work with over 50 million businesses by 2025, may also acquire a few firms as it explores opportunities around inorganic expansion in the neo-banking category, said Mathur.

“We will continue to make an impactful contribution to the growth of the industry, aid adoption in the under-served markets and drive new practices and a new thinking for the industry to follow. And this investment fits perfectly with our growth strategy,” he said.

#airtel, #asia, #byjus, #finance, #funding, #gic, #india, #oyo, #razorpay, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #swiggy, #tokopedia, #truecaller, #zomato

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Virtual events platform Airmeet raises $12M

Airmeet, a startup that offers a platform to host virtual events, said on Tuesday it has raised $12 million in a new financing round as the Bangalore-headquartered firm demonstrates accelerating growth in its user base.

Sequoia Capital India led the $12 million Series A financing round in one-year-old Airmeet. Redpoint Ventures and existing investors Accel India, Venture Highway, Global Founders Capital (GFC), and Gokul Rajaram (Caviar Lead at Doordash) also participated in the round.

Airmeet allows users and businesses to host interactive virtual events. Its platform intuitively replicates aspects of a physical event, offering a backstage, clubbing people to a table, allowing participants to network with each other, and even enable event organizers to work with sponsors.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Lalit Mangal, co-founder of Airmeet, said the startup’s today hosts more than 1,000 events a day. The platform’s usage has grown 2,000% over the last quarter without any investment in advertisement, he said.

In recent months, Airmeet has worked to expand the use cases of the platform. In addition to hosting large conferences, Airmeet is now also being used for professional meetups at large film festivals, he said. Recently it held university resource fairs and technical industry summits.

“Covid-19 has accelerated a permanent behavioral shift across many industries. With digitization of largely traditional spaces leapfrogging by years, the $800+ billion global offline events space is up for grabs. There is massive potential for players who drive the industry’s transition towards online-events,” said Abhishek Mohan, VP at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.

Airmeet is built on top of WebRTC, a standard that most modern browsers follow. This has enabled Airmeet to be fully accessible through Chrome and Firefox. All the sessions are also end-to-end encrypted, said Mangal. It does not have a mobile app. Mangal said people tend to use their laptop or desktop or their iPads for professional events. (Users can consume a session through their mobile browser, however.)

The startup, which is in the same space as Hopin and Andreessen Horowitz-backed Run the World, will use the fresh capital to add new features to Airmeet and also scale globally, said Mangal.

“Airmeet’s mission is to create a global platform to enable millions of community managers and event organizers across the world to engage with and expand their audience. And with Lalit and team’s focus, execution and innovative thinking, they are strongly placed to achieve their goal,” said Mohan.

#accel-india, #airmeet, #apps, #asia, #funding, #global-founders-capital, #redpoint-ventures, #sequoia-capital-india, #venture-highway

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Groww, an investment app for millennials in India, raises $30M led by YC Continuity

Even as more than 150 million people are using digital payment apps each month in India, only about 20 million of them invest in mutual funds and stocks. A startup that is attempting to change that by courting millennials has just received a big backing.

Bangalore-headquartered Groww said on Thursday it had raised $30 million in its Series C financing round. YC Continuity, the growth-stage investment fund of Y Combinator, led the round, while existing investors Sequoia India, Ribbit Capital and Propel Ventures participated in it. The new round brings three-year-old startup Groww’s total raise-to-date to $59 million.

Groww allows users to invest in mutual funds, including systematic investment planning (SIP) and equity-linked savings. The app maintains a very simplified user interface to make it easier for its largely millennial customer base to comprehend the investment world. It offers every fund that is currently available in India.

In recent months, the startup has expanded its offerings to allow users to buy stocks of Indian firms and digital gold, said Lalit Keshre, co-founder and chief executive of Groww, in an interview with TechCrunch. Keshre and other three co-founders of Groww worked at Flipkart before launching their own startup.

Groww has amassed over 8 million registered users for its mutual fund offering, and over 200,000 users have bought stocks from the platform, said Keshre. The new fund will allow Groww to further expand its reach in the country and also introduce new products, he said.

One of those products is the ability to allow users to buy stocks of U.S.-listed firms and derivatives, he said. The startup is already testing this with select users, he said.

“We believe Groww is building the largest retail brokerage in India. At YC, we have known the founders since the company was just an idea and they are some of the best product people you will meet anywhere in the world. We are grateful to be partners with Groww as they build one of the largest retail financial platforms in the world,” said Anu Hariharan, partner at YC Continuity, in a statement.

More than 60% of Groww users come from smaller cities and towns of India and 60% of these have never made such investments before, said Keshre. The startup is conducting workshops in several small cities to educate people about the investment world. And that’s where the growth opportunities lie.

“India is seeing increased participation of retail investors in financial markets — with 2 million new stock market investors added in the last quarter alone,” said Ashish Agrawal, principal at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.

Scores of startups such as Zerodha, INDWealth and Cube Wealth have emerged and expanded in India in recent years to offer wealth management platforms to the country’s growing internet population. Many established financial firms such as Paytm have also expanded their offerings to include investments in mutual funds. Amazon, which has aggressively expanded its financial services catalog in India in recent months, also sells digital gold in the country.

#apps, #asia, #finance, #funding, #groww, #india, #recent-funding, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups, #yc-continuity

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Apple alum’s jobs app for India’s workers secures $8 million

Javed, a middle-aged man, worked as a driver before losing that job earlier this year as coronavirus spread across India, prompting New Delhi to enforce a nationwide lockdown and temporarily curb several business activities.

There are millions of people like Javed in India today who have lost their livelihood in recent months. They are low-skilled workers and are currently struggling to secure another job.

An Apple alum thinks he can help. Through his app startup Apna, Nirmit Parikh is helping India’s workers learn new skills, connect with one another, and find jobs.

Parikh’s app is already changing lives. Javed, who could barely speak a few words in English before, recently posted a video on Apna app where he talked about his new job — processing raisins — in English.

In less than one year of its existence, Apna app — available on Android — has amassed over 1.2 million users.

The startup announced on Tuesday it has raised $8 million in its Series A financing round led by Lightspeed India and Sequoia Capital India . Greenoaks Capital and Rocketship VC also participated in the round.

In an interview with TechCrunch last week, Parikh said that these workers lack an organized community. “They are daily-wage workers. They rely on their friends to find jobs. This makes the prospects of them finding a job very difficult,” he said.

Apna app comprises of vertical communities for skilled professionals like carpenters, painters, field sales agents and many others.

“The most powerful thing for me about Apna is its communities — I’ve seen people help each other start a business, learn a new language or find a gig! Communities harbinger trust and make the model infinitely scalable,” said Vaibhav Agrawal, a Partner at Lightspeed India, in a statement.

The other issue they struggle with is their skillset. “An electrician would end up working decades doing the same job. If only they had access to upskilling courses — and just knew how beneficial it could be to them — they would stand to broaden their scope of work and significantly increase their earnings,” said Parikh.

Apna is addressing this gap in multiple ways. In addition to establishing a community, and rolling out upskilling courses, the startup allows users — most of whom are first time internet users — easily generate a virtual business card. The startup then shares these profiles with prospective employers. (Some of the firms that have hired from Apna app in recent weeks include Amazon, Big Basket, and HDFC Bank.)

In the last one month, Parikh said Apna has facilitated more than 1 million job interviews — up more than 3X month-on-month. During the same period, more than 3 million professional conversations occurred on the platform.

Parikh said he plans to use the fresh capital to expand Apna’s offerings, and help users launch their own businesses. He also plans to expand Apna, currently available in five Indian cities, outside of India in the future.

There are over 250 million blue and grey collar workers in India and providing them meaningful employment opportunities is one of the biggest challenges in our country, said Harshjit Sethi, Principal at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.

“With internet usage in this demographic growing rapidly, further catalysed by the Jio effect, apps such as Apna can play a meaningful role in democratizing access to employment and skilling. Apna has built a unique product where users quickly come together in professional communities, an unmet need so far,” he added.

A handful of other players are also looking for ways to help. Last month, Google rolled out a feature in its search engine in India that allows users to create their virtual business card. The Android-maker also launched its jobs app Kormo in the country.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #google, #greenoaks-capital, #india, #lightspeed-india, #sequoia-capital-india

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India’s OneCard credit card-maker FPL Technologies lands $10 million

A 20-month-old startup in India founded by a group of banking veterans that has built a mobile-first credit card and is improving the experience users have with credit cards has secured $10 million in a new financing round.

Pune-based FPL Technologies’ $10 million Series A financing round was funded by Matrix Partners India, Sequoia Capital India and Hummingbird Ventures, Anurag Sinha, co-founder and chief executive of the startup, said in an interview with TechCrunch.

We wrote about FPL Technologies last year when the startup had closed a $4.5 million Seed financing round. At the time, the startup had developed an app called OneScore that was helping people find and understand their credit score.

At the time, Sinha had said that FPL Technologies was working on a credit card. In June this year, the startup launched its credit card, called OneCard.

More than 5,000 people across the country are currently using this metal-made credit card, which has been certified by Visa and a number of security firms, and over 75,000 people are on a waiting list to get it.

fpl team

Banking veterans Vibhav Hathi, Anurag Sinha, and Rupesh Kumar co-founded FPL Technologies last year

Its app, OneScore, has amassed over 2 million users. Scores of firms in India offer users with the ability to find their credit score at no charge. But in return, they sell their customers’ info to other parties, which sets off a chain of events that ends up these users getting more than a dozen calls each month from firms — usually their middlemen partners — that offer credit cards and loans.

OneScore does not share its users’ data with anyone. Why it chooses not to do that explains what this startup is attempting to achieve: Make customers’ experience with their credit card more delightful — a concept that is almost unheard of for most credit card holders in India.

The startup has built a technology stack that makes common sense features such as transparency on transactions, the due date to pay the credit card bill, and rewards more easily accessible.

“Their powerful, proprietary in-house tech-stack will define the future of digital consumer credit in India and this conviction has led to Sequoia India increasing its commitment in FPL,” said Shailesh Lakhani, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.

The OneCard also does not charge customers any joining fee or annual fee. It allows customers to control the rewards they wish to avail. For instance, if your spendings largely entails purchasing gadgets and ordering coffee online, you can set your OneCard to get 5X rewards on those two categories.

These categories are controlled by the customers and can be changed by switching a toggle on the mobile app. The app also lets users quickly lock their card, disable online or offline transactions with a few taps, and supports contact-less payment — a feature that has gained more popularity amid the global pandemic. Speaking of which, Sinha said customers’ spendings are nearly back to the pre-coronavirus days.

FPL Technologies plans to use the fresh capital to bring its credit card to more users, said Sinha, and also expand its product offerings.

One product that he is exploring is making it possible for users to track all their subscriptions. Once that is live, the startup will work on creating bundles for some of these services that helps users save money. He is hopeful that several companies, looking to aggressively expand into India, will be interested in it.

#apps, #asia, #finance, #fpl-technologies, #funding, #hummingbird-ventures, #india, #matrix-partners-india, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups

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Singapore’s trade finance startup Incomlend raises $20M led by Sequoia Capital India

Incomlend, a Singapore-headquartered startup that operates a trading platform to connect exporters and importers with investors, has raised $20 million in a new financing round, it said on Tuesday.

Sequoia India, the India and SEA investment arm of the storied U.S. headquartered venture firm, led the Series A round in four-year-old Incomlend. The CMA CGM Group, one of the world’s largest shipping and logistics firms, also participated in the round.

Incomlend’s invoice trading platform is solving three pain points. Exporters typically get paid weeks or months after shipping goods and lack working capital to move to service other orders until they have received the due. Incomlend says its platform employs AI-powered underwriting technology to enable exporters to receive early payment.

Similarly, the startup says importers on its platform are able to minimize the risk of supply chain disruption and set more favorable payment terms. And investors have found a new alternative asset class to invest in through Incomlend that offers returns in shorter durations.

These roadblocks have prompted traditional banks to pull back from financing such deals, creating a cash crunch among cross-border trading firms worldwide. “This has led to a $1.5 trillion trade finance gap, hitting mid-cap companies hard. This gap has worsened with Covid-19,” the startup said, citing its own research.

“The impact is acute in high-growth Asia where SMEs — which account for more than 95% of all businesses and provide two out of three private-sector jobs in the region — need more financing options to meet their growing demand. Further, low-interest rates in Asia — and negative rates in Europe — are prompting many global investors to seek alternative asset classes,” the startup said.

Morgan Terigi, co-founder and chief executive of Incomlend, said the startup’s trading platform is able to onboard clients and process deals in a more timely fashion with higher flexibility. Incomlend has facilitated over $330 million in financing and covered invoice finance trades across 50 countries to date.

“The massive trade finance gap, combined with declining global interest rates and the high credit quality of Incomlend’s customers, has helped them create a compelling business that helps solve one of the most important challenges faced by global SMEs,” said Abheek Anand, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.

Terigi said the startup will deploy the fresh capital to expand into Europe, Southeast Asia, and North Asia and bulk up its technology stack.

#apps, #asia, #finance, #funding, #sequoia, #sequoia-capital-india, #sequoia-india, #singapore

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Sequoia announces $1.35 billion venture and growth funds for India and Southeast Asia

Sequoia Capital India on Monday announced it has secured $1.35 billion from LPs for two new funds as the storied venture firm looks to ramp up its investments in the world’s second-largest internet market and Southeast Asia.

The two new funds — a $525 million venture fund and a $825 million growth fund — will help the VC firm, which operates in India and Southeast Asia through one arm, more comprehensively serve the startup ecosystem in the region, said Shailendra Singh, a managing director at Sequoia Capital India.

“A fundraise represents a massive responsibility to deliver attractive returns to Sequoia’s Limited Partners, the majority of which are nonprofits, foundations and charities. We do this by partnering with outstanding founders who are building category defining companies,” he said.

Sequoia Capital India, which roped in former Google India head Rajan Anandan and former Uber India head Amit Jain last year, made more than 50 investments in 2019, more than any other firm in the country.

Top VC firms in India last year based on the number of investments they made. Image Credits: InnoVen

The firm, which began investing in India 14 years ago, closed its last fund, of $695 million, for India and Southeast Asia in 2018. That was its sixth fund for the region.

The VC firm’s India and SEA arm has made several high-profile investments over the years, including in edtech giant Byju’s, which is now valued at $10.5 billion, ride-hailing giant GoJek, e-commerce platform Tokopedia, Singapore e-commerce startup Zilingo, and fintech startup PineLabs, online learning startup Unacademy, fintech firm RazorPay and Khatabook, which offers bookkeeping services to merchants. Last year, Sequoia Capital India sold most of its stake in budget hotel startup Oyo. It has backed 11 unicorns in India and Southeast Asia to date.

The new funds from Sequoia come at a time when several investors have lost appetite as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts businesses. The per capita income of Indians, which remains some of the lowest across the globe, has also not improved over the years.

“Due to frequent cycles of intense competition, startups in our region have struggled to grow rapidly with good unit economics, often posting very high losses for the scale of business. This has prevented very large profitable technology businesses in our region from emerging. To add to these challenges, startups in India do not have the benefit of a regulatory framework that allows listing on foreign exchanges like Nasdaq. In this market context, most startups have chosen to remain private, and raising capital has become a proxy for success,” said Sequoia’s Singh.

“We believe there is an opportunity to choose a different path. Our ecosystem has arrived at a fork in the road.”

Image Credits: Sequoia India

Last year Sequoia Capital India launched an accelerator program, called Surge, for early-stage startups. Since then about 50 startups have participated in Surge, which some analysts told TechCrunch has reduced Y Combinator’s appeal in the region.

Several venture firms have ramped up their efforts in India, where startups raised a record $14.5 billion last year. Much of the infrastructure is still being built in India, giving giants an opportunity to make early bets on what could become major firms in the future.

Tiger Global, which made an early investment in Flipkart, has written several checks in the past one year to Indian startups building business-to-business. So have General Atlantic, which recently made a sizeable bet on the nation’s top telecom operator Reliance Jio Platforms; Prosus Ventures, an early investor in top food delivery startup Swiggy; and Accel, which closed its sixth venture fund — of size $550 million — for India late last year.

That is great news for Indian startups that are currently facing challenges in raising capital from Chinese investors. Zomato, which counts Sequoia as an early investor, announced in January that it had raised $150 million in a new financing round from Ant Financial. The food delivery startup has yet to receive $100 million of that capital, Info Edge, another investor in Zomato, said in an earnings call two weeks ago.

#asia, #byjus, #india, #oyo, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #venture-capital, #zilingo

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Zetwerk, an Indian B2B marketplace for manufacturing items, raises $21 million

Zetwerk, an Indian business-to-business marketplace for manufacturing items, has raised $21 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its operations in the nation and help local businesses find customers overseas.

San Francisco-based investment firm Greenoaks led the two-year-old Indian startup’s Series C financing round. Existing investors Accel, Kae Capital, Lightspeed and Sequoia Capital India also participated in the round, which brings Zetwerk’s to-date raise to $62 million.

Founded by Amrit Acharya, Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary in 2018, Zetwerk connects OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and EPC (engineering procurement construction) customers with manufacturing small-businesses and enterprises.

Unlike the more typical e-commerce firms, Zetwerk sells goods such as parts of a crane, doors, chassis of different machines and ladders. The startup operates to serve customers in fabrication, machining, casting and forging businesses.

These are all custom-made products. “Nobody has a stock of such inventories. You get the order, you find manufacturers and workshops that make them. Our customers are companies that are in the business of building infrastructure,” said Acharya, who serves as Zetwerk’s chief executive.

“We index these small workshops and understand the kinds of products they have built before. These indexes help bigger companies discover and work with them,” he added. Once a firm has placed an order, Zetwerk allows them to track the progress of manufacturing and then its shipping. In this line of business, this “hand-holding” is crucial as manufacturing and shipping of these items typically take more than two to three months.

Currently, Zetwerk works with more than 150 enterprises and 2,500 small and medium-sized businesses, it told TechCrunch. The startup delivers more than 30,000 parts each month, up 100% since December last year, and has enabled several manufacturers in India to discover clients overseas.

“Zetwerk is bringing Indian manufacturing to the global stage, and I’m proud to be part of their story,” said Prayank Swaroop of Accel.

Zetwerk has developed “unique software to enable an enormous global manufacturing marketplace connecting OEMs and EPCs with industrial suppliers,” said Neil Shah of Greenoaks Capital.

“Increasingly, companies are looking to diversify their supply chain globally and Zetwerk’s platform allows them to identify and collaborate with supplier partners to deliver projects on-time and with high quality. We are thrilled to continue to partner with the Zetwerk team,” he said.

Manufacturing contributes to 14% of India’s GDP, but the nation lacks a supporting ecosystem to execute projects more efficiently, said Acharya. The startup will deploy the fresh capital to fund its international expansion and launch new categories, he said.

Commenting on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted Zetwerk, Acharya told TechCrunch that the startup works across multiple industries, some of which are still growing. “Overall, we are doing well,” he said.

#accel, #asia, #funding, #india, #kae-capital, #lightspeed, #sequoia-capital-india, #zetwerk

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Horizon Quantum raises $3.23M for its quantum software development tools

Horizon Quantum is part of a new crop of startups that focus on building new tools for building software for quantum computers. The Singapore-based company, which is hardware-agnostic but also launched a close partnership with Rigetti Computing in 2018, today announced that it has raised a $3.23 million funding round led by Sequoia Capital India. Previous investors SGInnovate, Abies Ventures, DCVC, Qubit Protocol, Summer Capital and Posa CV also participated.

At its core, Horizon Quantum aims to democratize quantum development. Because there is very little about quantum computing that is intuitive, the company argues, it will take a new set of tools to help today’s developers tackle quantum. What makes Horizon unique is that it takes conventional source code and then automatically analyzes that to figure out where a quantum computer could speed up an algorithm. Right now, the company can identify potential speedups in code written for Matlab and Octave.

“The conventional approach to developing quantum applications is to explicitly specify the individual steps of a quantum algorithm, or to use a library where such explicit steps are specified. What makes our approach unique is that we construct quantum algorithms directly from conventional source code, automatically identifying places where it can be sped up,” explained Si-Hui Tan, the chief science officer at Horizon Quantum. “Everything that relates to quantum mechanics happens under-the-hood and on-the-fly in our compiler. This automation is what alleviates the need for any quantum knowledge. All our users have to do is to provide their program in a conventional programming language.”

Horizon Quantum’s Joe Fitzsimons (CEO) and Si-Hui Tan (CSO).

At the same time, the company’s tools also make life for experienced quantum software developers easier by giving them the tools to write more succinct code that is also automatically optimized for the underlying quantum processors.

“We’re building a compiler that can go all the way from conventional, classical, code down to the control signals sent to the quantum hardware,” Quantum Horizon CEO Joe Fitzsimons told me in an email. “We’re still building, and we have a lot still to do, but we’ve demonstrated key parts of the technology, from identifying speedups in classical code down to characterising and mitigating errors in quantum processors. Our hope is that it will make quantum computing more easily accessible for the millions of software developers out there, and will allow us to leverage quantum computing in new domains (we specifically think about domains like geophysics for the energy sector and computational fluid dynamics for aerospace and automotive sectors).”

The company says it will use the new funding to help bring its technology to market and engage with its early customers.

#computing, #emerging-technologies, #horizon-quantum, #quantum-computing, #quantum-development, #quantum-mechanics, #recent-funding, #rigetti-computing, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups, #tc

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Tonik raises $21 million to launch digital bank in the Philippines

A wave of digital banks, or neo-banks, has flourished in recent years in Western nations as people begin to flee megabanks.

While most of these startups are yet to prove they can turn a profit, entrepreneurs are beginning to replicate similar ideas in South Asian markets, where most people don’t have accounts with traditional banks at all. And for now, venture capitalists are backing this attempt.

Tonik Financial, a two-year-old startup in the Philippines, said on Monday it has raised $21 million in a new financing round to launch its digital bank aimed at the Southeast Asian market by September this year.

Sequoia Capital India and Point72 Ventures led Tonik’s Series A round, while existing investors Insignia and Credence participated in it, the startup said, which has raised $27 million to date.

Tonik, which recently received the license to operate a digital bank in the Philippines, said it will commercially launch the digital bank in the third quarter of this year.

Greg Krasnov, the founder and chief executive of Tonik, said according to the his estimates the retail savings market in the Philippines is worth $140 billion and the Southeast Asian nation also presents a $100 billion opportunity in unsecured consumer lending. TechCrunch could not independently corroborate these market estimations.

Krasnov, who has previously incubated four financial services startups in Asia, said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted people to double down on their savings and has made it apparent that the vast majority of people in the Philippines need access to a digital bank.

“In the Philippines, where over 70% of the population remains unbanked, we are observing a rapid jump in consumer demand for digital banking and digital transfers since the start of the year,” he said.

“We are preparing to bring a highly differentiated experience to the Filipino consumer to address these needs and are honored to be supported in this by the regulators who have encouraged innovation and welcomed technology solutions to bolster financial inclusion,” he added.

In several South Asian markets, where like the Philippines, much of the population remains unbanked, startups are racing to fill the void. But interestingly, most of them are serving startups and other small and medium businesses — and not individuals.

In India, for instance, Bangalore-based NiYo Solutions, and Open are two of the heavily-backed startups have amassed over a million businesses on their platforms.

RazorPay, another Bangalore-based startup, last year launched a range of features such as corporate credit cards, and a single dashboard to help businesses manage transactions and provided them with the ability to automate recurring payouts. Some of these features are currently not offered by a traditional bank.

#apps, #asia, #epifi, #finance, #funding, #microfinance, #niyo-solutions, #open, #philippines, #point72-ventures, #razorpay, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india

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Singapore’s micromobility startup Beam raises $26 million

Beam, a Singapore-headquartered micromobility firm that offers shared e-scooters, has raised $26 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint in Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.

Sequoia India and Hana Ventures led the two-and-a-half-year-old startup’s Series A financing round, while several more investors from Asia Pacific region participated, Beam said without disclosing their names. The startup has raised $32.4 million to date, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Beam, like Bounce and Yulu in India, offers electric scooters in the aforementioned five markets. Electric and gasoline scooters have become popular in several Asian nations and elsewhere as people look for alternative transportation mediums to move around faster and at less cost.

While these vehicles make inroads into various markets, it’s also not uncommon to find these scooters abandoned carelessly in the streets. Beam said unlike other startups, it incentivizes its riders through in-app offers to park the scooters at predetermined spots.

“I’m really excited about our new technology and its ability to reduce the problems associated with randomly scattered scooters around a city. This helps us to further improve our industry-leading vehicle retention rates, reduce operational costs, and most importantly, benefits communities by keeping city streets neater,” said Beam co-founder and chief executive Alan Jiang.

Beam, which did not disclose how many customers it has amassed, will use the fresh capital to grow its operational and engineering focus and grow deeper in its existing markets, it said. It will also “accelerate” the launch of its third-generation e-scooter, the Beam Saturn, which features swappable batteries, improved build, to more markets, it said.

Abheek Anand, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India, said Beam’s collaboration with regulators, technology, and insights into the transportation landscape stand to give it an edge in the Asia Pacific region.

The startup’s fundraising comes at a time when many young firms, especially those operating in transportation category, in Asia are struggling to raise capital. Beam said it had implemented stringent cleaning and operations practices to limit the possibility of virus transmission to allay riders’ concern.

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Investors, startup founders in India pool $13M to fund projects that fight coronavirus

More than 150 investors and entrepreneurs in India are funding dozens of projects in a bid to help millions better combat the COVID-19 epidemic and help the nation’s booming startup ecosystem withstand the economic devastation it has caused.

The investors said they have contributed 1 billion Indian rupees — or $13 million — of their own money to the ACT Grants initiative, which was unveiled late last month.

The group — which includes several prominent industry figures including Nandan Nilekani, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Flipkart’s Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Oyo’s Ritesh Agarwal, Udaan’s Sujeet Kumar, Freshworks’ Girish Mathrubootham, CRED’s Kunal Shah, and Times Internet’s Miten Sampat — has funded 32 projects to date.

These projects span six themes, including solutions that could help curtail the spread of the Covid-19 disease, development of testing and detection kits, building medical equipment such as ventilators, and taking care of mental health.

The group came together last month when India had just begun to see cases of the coronavirus disease.

“As governments across the globe started to take measures to combat this pandemic, one thing that came up in our conversations with other investors, startup founders, and startup employees was this urgency to not sit and watch what the government does but help and pitch in as an industry,” said Dev Khare, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, in an interview with TechCrunch.

There have been 29,435 known cases of coronavirus in India, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. As of Tuesday evening, at least 886 people had died.

Investors from dozens of venture capital and private equity firms including Accel, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Matrix Partners India, Kalaari Capital, Eight Roads Ventures, 3One4Capital, Sequoia Capital India, and Tiger Global have personally participated in the initiative.

VCs in India moved quickly last month to warn startups in the country to be aware of the effect the pandemic might have on their businesses — despite the record $14.5 billion Indian startups raised in the past year.

In a joint letter earlier this month, several prominent tech investment funds told startup founders that they may find it especially challenging to raise fresh capital in the next few months as they enter the “worst period.” (They have also requested the government to provide a relief package.)

Several trade bodies including Nasscom and TIE Global that count American tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon among their members are also supporting ACT Grants. Amazon’s AWS additionally is helping these projects with infrastructure services.

On left, some of the startup founders and other industry figures who have contributed to ACT Grants. On right, names of VC and PE funds whose partners have contributed in their personal capacity

One of the projects to receive the grant has been developed by Pune-based MyLab, a startup that has emerged as one of the biggest manufacturers of test kits in India.

“They manufactured between 20,000 to 25,000 test kits last year. In the past few weeks, the number has ballooned to 300,000,” said Abhiraj Singh Bhal, co-founder and chief executive of Urban Company, which runs an online marketplace for freelance labor.

“We offered them the grant money, but also our expertise in scaling their operation,” said Bhal. ACT Grants also went to another six testing projects, he said.

Grants aren’t going solely to testing projects. StepOne, another grant-winning project, has built a cloud infrastructure to handle over 30,000 calls a day and offer telemedicine services to complement helpline numbers run by state governments that are struggling to keep up with high traffic.

And some of the projects that have received grants are developing masks and other items to supply enough protective gears to the healthcare workers. (A full list of the funded projects and the grant amounts they have received is here.)

There are no strings attached to these grants. Funding a project does not give investors any equity in the developer’s startup, said Prashanth Prakash, a partner at Accel in an interview. And there is a large team that screens and selects projects for providing grants, he said. They have received more than 1,500 applications to date.

An investor, who is not part of ACT Grants, said though the initiative is commendable, he believed this group could have made a bigger impact if they chose to help put food in front of hundreds of millions of Indians who don’t know where their next meal would come from. “There are better ways to be resourceful,” he said, requesting anonymity as he did not want to upset the community.

“That said, the fact that all of these people, many of whom aggressively compete for deals, have come together at all and contributed their own money — and not of their LPs — is unprecedented and they deserve all the praise and support,” he said.

The group’s influence and connection in the industry also means that these projects have better odds of seeing deployment at scale. The group is already engaging with various state governments and the federal government to explore ways to work together — and have started to make inroads, said Accel’s Prakash.

But as the projects scale, the group is seeking for more individuals from across the globe to contribute. “Anyone who wants to help India, one sixth of the world’s population, fight Covid-19 is welcome to contribute,” said Lightspeed’s Khare.

There’s even an international component for people outside of India to contribute. ACT Grants has partnered with United Way, a Virginia-based nonprofit that enables people outside of India to make charitable, tax-deductible donations.

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