Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Bodhi Tree to buy stake in Allen Career Institute for $600 million
Bodhi Tree Systems, led by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, will buy a strategic stake in Kota-based Allen Career Institute for $600 million (around Rs 4,590 crore).
Allen Career Institute’s Managing Director Keshav Maheshwari said the majority of the investment will be utilised for the company’s foray into the edtech space, followed by expansion of offline centres, both in India and overseas.
“Our partnership with Bodhi Tree will not only help us scale our Indian operations through technology but also fuel our growth journey in the Middle East,” Maheshwari added.
Allen has a pan-India footprint with a growing presence in the Middle East through 138 classroom centres in 46 cities.
The transaction is expected to close within three months and is subject to closing conditions and requisite approvals.
Zilingo says board jointly suspended CEO Ankiti Bose, not individual investor
Fashion technology startup Zilingo has said the decision to suspend its co-founder and CEO Ankiti Bose over alleged discrepancies in the company’s accounts, was taken jointly by the board and not by any individual investor.
In a strongly-worded statement, the company said Bose made certain harassment-related allegations only after she was suspended on March 31 and no past or present investor nominees on the board were made aware of the harassment claims prior to that. It did not elaborate on the allegations against Bose.
Refuting claims of a big investor in the company being behind the decision to suspend Bose, it said, “this decision was taken jointly by the Board and the relevant shareholders pursuant to pre-agreed shareholders’ voting rights and does not reflect the decision of a single shareholder.”
On reports of Bose claiming that she was harassed, Zilingo said the suspended CEO told the board of the allegations only after March 31 and that the complaints do not allege harassment by any investor or board member.
“To clarify, no past or present investor nominees on the Board were made aware of the harassment claims, until after she was suspended.” It went on to state that “these complaints do not allege harassment by any investors or past/ current Board members.”
According to reports, Bose has lawyered up and disputed allegations of wrongdoing. She further contended that her suspension was due in part to her complaints about harassment.
Zilingo said for the avoidance of doubt, “no guilt on anyone’s part has yet been determined, as the investigations are still ongoing.”
Ashneer Grover mulls starting his own venture without investors: Report
Ashneer Grover, co-founder and former Managing Director of fintech platform BharatPe, said that he is planning to start his own venture without seeking funds from the investors.
Grover, who along with his wife Madhuri Jain Grover has been stripped of all company titles over alleged “extensive misappropriation of company funds” and using “company expense accounts” to “enrich themselves and fund their lavish lifestyles”, said he will not go back to investors again.
“I wish to start my own venture with my own money and make it profitable,” he said during the recently-held TiECon-2022 start-up and entrepreneurial event in Chandigarh, according to media reports.
“I don’t want to go to the investors again,” Grover told a panelist, adding that his tussle with BharatPe is a “badly fought corporate battle”.
Elon Musk could fire Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde who makes $17 million a year
Tesla CEO Elon Musk could fire Twitter’s legal head Vijaya Gadde, who makes about $17 million a year and is one of the highly paid executives at the micro-blogging platform, once he takes over.
Nevertheless, Gadde will get a severance package worth $12.5 million that includes Twitter shares, reports The New York Post.
“Gadde, who earned $17 million last year as Twitter’s top legal counsel, could be on the chopping block as Musk is reportedly planning to slash jobs and reduce executive pay as he looks to secure financing for his Twitter bid,” the report said.
The 48-year-old Gadde reportedly broke down in tears when addressing colleagues about the future of Twitter last week.
Govt calls for a meeting with cab aggregators on May 10: Sources
Amid mounting consumer complaints, the Centre has asked cab and two-wheeler aggregators Uber, Ola and Meru Cabs to come clean on the charges levied by them, including the algorithms used by them, sources told CNBC-TV18.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has called a meeting of cab aggregators on May 10 to discuss the algorithm used by them to calculate fares. The central government is also looking at cancelation charges and how reasonable are fares as per the destination.
In the past couple of months, consumers have complained about a host of issues including a recent spike in fares and arbitrariness of some of the levies, including the refusal of drivers to switch on the air conditioner (AC), citing an increase in oil and gas prices.
Meesho partners with Google Cloud to accelerate digital transformation
Social commerce unicorn Meesho has announced a strategic association with Google Cloud to drive its digital transformation journey.
With this collaboration, Meesho expects to generate a significant competitive advantage as it looks to build an AI-first supplier experience, better user acquisition strategies and a personalised shopping experience for the next billion e-commerce users in the country, according to a joint statement.
Meesho will leverage Google Cloud’s scalable and reliable infrastructure to drive operational efficiency, modernisation and scale for growth while delivering better performance and experience to its users. Google Cloud will also enable Meesho to advance its AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) capabilities across its value chain to augment business operations by enhancing demand forecasting and inventory optimisation.
“This will enable further personalisation of shopping experience for a user base composed of about 50 percent new to e-commerce consumers,” it said.
San Francisco-based Rise Capital enters India, to invest in early-stage startups
San Francisco-based Rise Capital has announced its entry into the Indian startup ecosystem and and has hired Anuj Mehta as its India head to source opportunities from the region.
The VC firm will be investing in India through its global fund III. The firm will be looking to invest in early stage startups and will back the potential winners in the follow on rounds, it said in a statement. Rise Capital believes that tech startups in India will create well over $1 trillion in market cap by 2030.
Nazar Yasin, Managing Partner, Rise Capital, said, “We are quite bullish on the Indian venture space and remain committed as we are a long term player. Our ability to spot high potential startups as demonstrated in other emerging regions gives us the confidence to deploy a significant part of our global fund in India.”
“We will continue to focus on a digital disruption thesis, which we believe is still quite early across most sectors in India,” he added.
EaseMyTrip applies for RBI licence to launch a currency exchange service
Online travel platform EaseMyTrip is looking to launch a currency exchange service for which the company will apply for a full-fledged money changer license (FFMC) from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The company said that it is diversifying its portfolio especially to cater to the demands of international travel with the fresh license application to evolve into a complete travel ecosystem.
Through the introduction of this service, EaseMyTrip will be able to provide its more than 11 million customers and nearly 60,000 travel agents with a much-needed service of currency exchange. EasyMyTrip said that the fresh offering will allow the company mark its entry into the forex markets.
StanPlus appoints Gurjit SIngh as COO and Founding Member
Healthcare emergency response platform StanPlus has brought on board Gurjit Singh as chief operating officer and founding member, to build organisation capability for scalability.
Singh joins from Alvarez & Marsal, and has significant operational leadership experience in the healthcare delivery and consulting industry.
He will strengthen the company’s mission to provide quality and timely response technologies during medical emergencies across the country, the firm said in a statement.
Crypto exchange WazirX onboard Chunmun Gupta as chief of staff
Crypto exchange platform WazirX, has announced the appointment of Chunmun Gupta as the chief of staff.
Gupta will effectively augment the CEO’s office to execute daily business operations and drive key strategic initiatives in her new role. As per the company, she will also actively engage in dialogue management with key external stakeholders on critical issues and aid in business development activities.
The news of Gupta’s appointment comes at a time when there have been reports that WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and co-founder Siddharth Menon have shifted base to Dubai, UAE.
Practo elevates Siddhartha Nihalani as co-founder
Healthcare and diagnostics platform Practo has elevated long-time executive and growth head Siddhartha Nihalani as its co-Founder.
Nihalani will focus on building products for Practo’s digital first surgery business under his new role, the firm said in a statement. He will also help in developing the company’s new product that will further its mission of providing quality and affordable healthcare to its customers, it added.
Nihalani — who has been with the company since its inception — will be joining the other two co-founders, Shashank ND and Abhinav Lal, after the promotion.
ZinQ Technologies forays into the European market
ZinQ Technologies, an Amazon-exclusive lifestyle gadgets and accessories brand, has announced its expansion to the European market, tapping into the multi-fold growth by 2023.
To capitalise on the rising global demand for tech gadgets and to make its products more appealing to customers in Europe, the company has entered the market with its existing product range of audio, IT, gaming, and mobile accessories, it said in a statement.
ZinQ Technologies claims to have clocked Rs 35 crore in revenue in the 2021-22 fiscal. The company is now planning to enter the audio industry with a range of audio products like earbuds, neckbands, true wireless stereo, soundbars, party speakers, among others.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Amazon ends COVID paid leave for US workers
Amazon will end its paid time-off policy for employees with COVID-19 from May 2, the company told US-based staff.
The change follows the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and revised guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it said.
The US-based staff will now get five days of excused, unpaid leave following a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, Amazon told workers in a message it provided to Reuters.
“We can continue to safely adjust to our pre-COVID policies,” the company said, citing the sustained easing of the pandemic, the availability of vaccines and treatments, and updated public health guidance.
On Saturday, Amazon said it is halting site-wide notifications of positive cases in facilities, unless required by law, as well as efforts to encourage vaccination.
Warren Buffett says he wouldn’t pay $25 for all the bitcoin in the world: Report
Warren Buffett opened fire at bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry during Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting.
“If you told me you owned all the bitcoin in the world and you offered it to me for $25, I wouldn’t take it,” Buffett told CNBC. “What would I do with it?”
Hinting at his distrust of Bitcoin, he said there’s a certain magic to Bitcoin and people attach magic to a lot of things
The billionaire then explained that even if he bought Bitcoins he would have to sell them back to a willing investor to recover his investment.
Buffett said Bitcoin has “got magic to it” and people attach magic to a lot of things. He said he is not sure whether Bitcoin will go up or down in the coming years. “But the one thing I’m pretty sure of is that it doesn’t produce anything.”
Google urges court to scrap $1.6 bn EU antitrust fine
Google has urged Europe’s second-highest court to dismiss a 1.49-billion-euro ($1.6 billion) fine imposed by EU antitrust regulators three years ago for hindering rivals in online search advertising, Reuters reported.
The case is one of three that has resulted in a total of 8.25 billion euros in European Union antitrust fines on the world’s most popular internet search engine.
The European Commission in its 2019 decision said Google had abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than its AdSense platform which provided search adverts. The Commission said the illegal practices occurred from 2006 to 2016.
Google subsequently challenged the EU finding in the Luxembourg-based General Court. The company will set out its case during a three-day hearing starting on Monday.
Apple hit with EU antitrust charge over its payment technology
EU antitrust regulators charged Apple with restricting rivals’ access to its NFC chip technology in a move that could result in a hefty fine for the iPhone maker and force it to open its mobile payment system to competitors.
As per a Reuters report, the European Commission said it had sent a charge sheet known as a statement of objections to Apple, detailing how the company had abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices.
“We have indications that Apple restricted third-party access to key technology necessary to develop rival mobile wallet solutions on Apple’s devices,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
“In our statement of objections, we preliminarily found that Apple may have restricted competition, to the benefit of its own solution Apple Pay,” she said.
Apple said it would continue to engage with the Commission. “Apple Pay is only one of many options available to European consumers for making payments, and has ensured equal access to NFC while setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security,” the company said in a statement.
The Commission’s decision to send a charge sheet known as a statement of objections to Apple confirmed a Reuters story in October last year.
Lyft, Uber will cover legal fees for drivers sued under Oklahoma abortion law: Report
Lyft and Uber said they will fully cover legal fees for their respective drivers who are sued under Oklahoma’s anticipated restrictive abortion law, as per a CNBC report.
The Oklahoma House on Thursday passed the Texas-style ban that prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a time period before many women have even discovered they’re pregnant. The so-called Oklahoma Heartbeat Act now goes to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it within days.
“Women’s access to health care is under attack again, this time in Oklahoma,” Lyft CEO Logan Green said in a tweeted statement.
“Lyft drivers are once again caught in the middle just for getting people where they need to go. We believe transportation shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing health care and it’s our duty to support both our rider and driver communities.”
Lyft and Uber first announced protections for drivers in Texas after its restrictive abortion law took effect in September. Now, the rideshare companies are extending that help to drivers in Oklahoma.
“Like in TX, we intend to cover all legal fees for any driver sued under this law while they’re driving,” an Uber spokesman told CNBC in an email.
Trump finally posts on Truth Social: “I’M BACK!”
Former US president Donald Trump posted a brief message on Truth Social for the first time since the app he founded launched two months ago, saying “I’M BACK!”
Trump broke his silence as Elon Musk sealed a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, which last year permanently banned Trump citing a risk of further violence following the January 6, 2021 siege by a pro-Trump mob on the US Capitol.
According to Reuters, in the message, called a “truth” on the app, Trump wrote, “I’M BACK! #COVFEFE”, referencing a typo on a Twitter message he sent while president that complained about the press and was widely memed.
Disney executive Geoff Morrell leaves company after three months
Geoff Morrell, the chief corporate affairs officer who helped architect Disney’s public response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, has decided to leave the company.
“After three months in this new role, it has become clear to me that for a number of reasons it is not the right fit,” Morrell said in a letter to his team that CNBC has obtained. “After talking this over with
Kristina Schake, who Disney hired earlier this month, will lead Disney’s communications efforts and report directly to Chapek. Schake will have “oversight for corporate and segment communications and continue to be our chief spokesperson,” Chapek said in a note to Disney staff obatined by CNBC.