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daily roundup (Jan 27, 2022)

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Lenskart launches 73 retail stores across 46 Cities in a single day

Omni-channel eyewear brand Lenskart launched 73 stores on the occasion of India’s 73rd Republic Day across 46 cities and 19 states. Lenskart aims to set up a total of 400 stores in the FY 2022, with an aim to further expand and strengthen the network in the country.

Nearly 73 stores were launched predominantly in Tamil Nadu -17 stores, 10 in Karnataka and six each in Telangana and Kerala amongst others. With this, the company has started its countdown to successfully establish its landmark 1000th store in February this year.

The launches also include states like Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab along with several others.

Commenting on the Republic Day launch, Amit Chaudhary, Co-founder, Lenskart said, “We are delighted to launch 73 stores in the country on a single day on the 73rd Republic Day. We aim to enable vision for 1 billion people by 2027 globally and this is a positive step towards it.”

Lenskart currently serves over seven million customers yearly through its omni-channel shopping experience, which includes an online store, a mobile app, and over 900 omni-channel storefronts. Every new store opening is expected to increase the customer base.

CommerceIQ enters Indian market and enrolls its first customer

US-based CommerceIQ, an ecommerce decision management platform, on Thursday announced its expansion into India, to drive & support ecommerce growth for global partner brands and has already enrolled its first customer in the country. 

Based in California, USA, CommerceIQ supports global brands such as Kellogg’s, Mondelez International, Nestle, Whirlpool, and Colgate, Johnson & Johnson, and others in adopting algorithmic retail. It uses ML and AI to aggregate data across sales, marketing, and supply chain operations, helping companies gain shoppers and maintain customer loyalty. This technology was developed in  the company’s Bengaluru facilities.

“It is our mission to help our customers capture their consumer at the point of purchase, regardless of geography or retail channel,” said Guru Hariharan, CEO, and Founder of CommerceIQ said in a statement. “The Indian e-commerce market is exploding, and we intend to deliver the same results to regional operators here as we have for our customers based in the U.S. Whether in India or elsewhere, the challenges are the same – keeping up with the world of algorithmic retail through retail-aware, automated decision-making.”

To service the Indian market, CommerceIQ said that it  has tweaked its algorithmic components to optimally respond to shoppers  behavior on local retailers like Amazon.in and added support for local websites like Flipkart. The company is also building out its customer success, sales and marketing team in-country to support the expansion.

Guru Hariharan, CEO, CommerceIQ

ToneTag and Elocity partners to bring sound-based technology to solve payment processing challenges for the EV sector

Tonetag, a sound-based proximity communication and payments service provider on Thursday said it is collaborating with Elocity, an electric vehicle charging solutions provider, to solve the payment processing challenges in the EV sector.

The technology will be especially beneficial in rural areas and underground parking garages where online payments and network connectivity are challenging. This technology will be first offered in the Indian EV charging market and quickly scaled globally.

Through this strategic partnership, EV drivers with any mobile phone can now pay easily at Elocity HIEVTM and ToneTag enabled EV charging stations, irrespective of their location or network availability.

Commenting on this initiative from the Bangalore head office, Kumar Abhishek, Founder & CEO of ToneTag, said in a statement, “ With ToneTag, customers can make digital transactions just with their voice in their preferred language. With Elocity, we are extending our offline and voice-based payment services to EV drivers to improve their EV charging experience.”

 ToneTag has completed over 52 million consumer transactions and this strategic partnership with Elocity, will contribute hugely to speeding EV adoption

Sanjeev Singh, Founder & CEO of Elocity, commented, “The value of integrating our EV charging HIEVTM technology with ToneTag’s voice-based payment system is enormous. Working with ToneTag aligns with Elocity’s mission of “A Connected EV World ”.

Sanjeev further added that “Currently, Elocity is engaged with many leading companies and Government organizations in India, North America and globally. We will continue to collaborate with many specialist technology partners, businesses, Government organizations and EV drivers to unlock superior value for everyone involved.”

Human Life Management acquires Care24

Care24, a home healthcare platform operating in Mumbai and Delhi, said on Thursday that it has been acquired by Human Life Management(HLM), a leading Japanese home medical support corporation.

HLM, led by Yoshiki Sasaki, has been a prime investor in Care24 for the past two years and holds multiple businesses in healthcare and other sectors. Care24 will extend its robust service delivery and agile technology platform for HLM and will cater to the evolving healthcare needs of the customers.

Post the acquisition, HLM and Care24 will closely work together to scale and strengthen medical service offerings in India and additionally expand to other southeast countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia. It will also play a pivotal role in launching new medical offerings for Care24 in the Indian market such as end of life care, critical care at home, family doctor subscription service, doctor on call, implementation of care plan and Training of doctors along with training materials. 

Care24 will expand its service offerings across multiple states in India,  while the international operations will be under the label of “Care24 international. 

On this acquisition, Vipin Pathak, Founder and CEO, Care24 said, “We are excited and highly enthusiastic with this new acquisition deal. Our team has been working with the HLM team for the past 2 years and we could feel the synergy and compatibility in the thought process of both the teams.”

He further added, “We aim to bridge the gaps of Global Medical expertise, best practices, capital and network in Japan, south-east Asia with HLM and Care24’s existing capabilities. All our investors are also excited and pleased with this acquisition and strongly believe that HLM is the right long term partner for us. Together, we envision an accelerated growth for company and plan to change the course of healthcare in India as well as globally.”

All earlier investors Elevation, IQ, DI, Start-up Health have received cash exit through this deal and all existing investors stands contented and aligned on the deal.

now.gg launches now.gg Fungible Games (NFGs)

Mobile cloud company now.gg on Thursday launched its now.gg Fungible Games (NFG) platform for mobile games developed on Unity, Unreal and Cocos engines. 

“This would be impossible to do today on a phone, but with the processing power of the mobile cloud and the dynamic compositing of games, this becomes possible,”  said Rosen Sharma, CEO and founder of now.gg. “We are very excited about this and you will see more games plug into the Metaverse.”

now.gg Fungible Games combines several unique technical capabilities to create a mobile Metaverse. The first is the ability to break down a game into game code, game events, and game art with different people owning different pieces of the game. The second is the real-time dynamic composition of these unbundled elements in the cloud streamed to the user with low latency. Third is the interlinking of the elements between games and also with the user’s own wallets and journey.

LEAD co-founders: Smita Deorah and Sumeet Mehta

LEAD elevates Ritwik Khare as COO

School edtech major LEAD, which recently turned unicorn, said on Thursday that its Chief Commercial Officer, Ritwik Khare, is now the Chief Operation Officer (COO) of the firm. 

This comes after Ritwik helped achieve a series of successes towards driving sales and spearheading the revenue function of the company, said the company in a statement. 

Ritwik has over 20 years of experience in leadership positions driving business successfully across industries. In his new role, Ritwik will take the lead in providing a unified customer experience to LEAD’s partner schools and ensure to deliver learning outcomes for students by bringing in synergy between the company’s Academic Excellence and Commercial teams. 

LEAD co-founder Sumeet Mehta said, “We are in the midst of a very exciting phase and Ritwik’s deep understanding of the evolving EdTech landscape with customer centricity at its core is remarkable. This makes him a perfect fit to lead our next wave of growth. I am delighted to have him take charge of the company’s overall operations and develop innovative sales models for scaling up at a rapid pace. “

Talking about his new role Ritwik Khare said, “I am thankful to Sumeet and Smita for their continued belief in me, as together we work towards LEAD’s mission of transforming core school education in India. I look forward to bringing my knowledge and experience to increase the agility of strategy execution and drive continued growth by overseeing the delivery of a unified customer experience to our partners.”

Ample partners with Capillary Technologies to revamp its CRM systems across India

Capillary, a B2B SaaS platform for customer loyalty and engagement, on Thursday announced its collaboration with Ample, an enterprise and retail technology solutions company to strategically revamp the company’s Customer Relations Management systems across India.

One of the country’s oldest premium retailers, Ample has partnered with brands including Apple, Bose, Under Armour and Asics to provide pioneering experience to consumers through a chain of exclusive brand stores. With an aim to boost its existing omnichannel commerce and to build on customer engagement, the company has entrusted Capillary Technologies with seamlessly integrating their existing offline business into a blended offline and online retail model.

Ample’s founder and CEO, Rajesh Narang, said, “We are confident that with Capillary Technology’s diversified loyalty and engagement product suite as well as AI-based technology platform, Ample can create real-time, omnichannel and personalised experience for customers, thus overcoming post-pandemic challenges.”

Aneesh Reddy, Executive Director and CEO of Capillary Technologies, agreed that brands needed to keep up with the best technology.  “With offerings like real-time incentivisation, Ample can now enable its partner brands to optimize discounts and delight the customers with instant rewards at the point of sale. While we work with prestigious partners like Ample, I believe Capillary is set to expand further into providing loyalty products across global brands.” he added. 

Shankar Prasad, Founder of PurePlay Skin Sciences

D2C brand Plum ropes in millennial sensation Mithila Palkar as brand ambassador

Plum, a beauty and personal care brand, said on Thursday that it has signed actress Mithila Palkar as their brand ambassador. This will be the first time that Plum is getting a brand ambassador on board.

The brand is available in over 250 towns and cities in India, through more than 900 assisted retail outlets, and over 10,000 unassisted outlets – growing month-on-month. 

Mithila is known for a wide variety of roles that she has portrayed in movies and web series such as, Chopsticks (A Netflix Original film), and Karwaan. She rose to fame after her roles in popular web series Little Things and Girl in the City. She is also a popular singer.

On being the brand’s first ambassador, actress Mithila Palkar shares, “I’m really excited to be the face of a brand like Plum that believes in spreading so much goodness around the world. I deeply resonate with the philosophy of the brand and their unique approach towards creating products which are truly good for your skin. I am truly glad to be associated with them.” 

Commenting on the announcement, Shankar Prasad, CEO and founder at Plum, said  “Our association with her is a step towards strengthening the connection with our customers and reaching out to millions of more women who will emotionally associate with our brand and love using our products. We are confident that her voice will inspire them to be comfortable in their skincare and beauty choices and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as the face of Plum.”

ATLAS SkillTech University announces its Advisory Board

ATLAS SkillTech University had its first Advisory Board meeting on Republic day 26th January 2022. It was launched on Independence Day 15th August last year. 

Its Advisory Board includes Deepak Parikh (HDFC) as Chairman, Dr. Indu Shahani (Founding President ATLAS), Ronnie Screwvala & Mayank Kumar (upGrad), Ram Raghavan (Colgate), Keshav Murugesh (WNS), Karan Singh (Bain), Vivek Pandit (McKinsey), Jamil Khatri (KPMG), Anant Goenka (CEAT), Anjali Bansal (Avana), Aryaman Birla (Aditya Birla group), Sanjay Gurbaxani (Mondelez), Prof Russ Winter (NYU-Stern), Prof Tim Marshall (RMIT), & Carol Kim (Parsons).

The board met to spell out the vision, scale and ambition to make this a premier institution in India in the next four years. 

ATLAS has committed to creating a curriculum, academic excellence, and experiential learning in five very critical and future-ready verticals namely: (A) Design & Creativity (B) Digital content & gamification (C) Media & Communication (D) Digital Technology and Data (E) Management and Entrepreneurship. 

The founding batch which commenced in August last year has students from across 22 states.

It has over 150 faculty members that are slated to double over the next 18 months.

upGrad has committed Rs 150 Cr ($20 million) in the first phase to build out ATLAS SkillTech University – a not-for-profit – and will continue to support its growth in the years to come.

“Our joint vision is to see ATLAS in the top 5 Universities in the country, a centre for global excellence and we are committed to build and to upskill our young adults for the careers of tomorrow as India heads into the Fourth Industrial Revolution – where innovation and Creativity not labour arbitrage will be at the core,” said Ronnie Screwvala Co-founder and Chairperson of upGrad.

LTI Partners with IIT Madras to Innovate in 5G Space

Larsen & Toubro Infotech, technology consulting and digital solutions company on Thursday said it is partnering with IIT Madras for collaborative research in the field of 5G. 

Through this collaboration, LTI and IIT Madras aim to innovate in the emerging 5G space and enable 5G frameworks validation, low frequency RF deployments and use case testing with 5G test bed.

They will promote research towards development of low-cost, low-frequency 5G network setup for better connectivity in rural India and design low-cost base stations and networks for rural connectivity. LTI will also provide expertise for research capabilities and offer relevant infrastructure support for this initiative.

Speaking about the R&D capabilities of IIT Madras, Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras, said, “IITM’s 5G testbed project is an effort to encourage Indian startups and the industry to take an early lead in 5G. The goal of the project is to build a test bed that closely resembles a real-world 5G deployment.” 

Highlighting the need for such projects, Mr. Nachiket Deshpande, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Board Member, LTI, said, “LTI’s partnership with IIT Madras reflects our commitment to leverage this technology to connect people from remote parts of India in a better way.”

Shadowfax Technologies appoints Pawan Pandey as the Chief Marketing Officer

Shadowfax Technologies, crowdsourced platform for last-mile deliveries, on Thursday said that it appointed Pawan Pandey as the Chief Marketing Officer. He will be responsible for ensuring the company’s strategic growth and encouraging marketing process optimisation, facilitating efficiency and expansion. 

Pawan has more than 16 years of experience in diversified categories such as Food & Beverage, Personal Care, Healthcare/OTC, Home décor, and Media & Entertainment. Prior to Joining Shadowfax, he has worked with companies like The Walt Disney Company, Dabur India Limited, and Nippon Paint.  

Sharing his vision on his new journey, Pawan Pandey, Chief Marketing Officer, Shadowfax Technologies, said, “Shadowfax Technologies is on its mission to transform last-mile delivery experiences using cutting edge AI/ML technology, and I am delighted to be part of their journey. As a CMO, I shall be working towards building Shadowfax as an aspirational and a purpose-driven brand.”

“I shall be focusing on widening the top funnel by increasing brand awareness & consideration through POV-driven marketing campaigns. And will strengthen our performance marketing efforts to improve ROI of marketing campaigns by bringing in efficiency and process optimisation,” he added. 

Abhishek Bansal, Co-founder & CEO, Shadowfax Technologies, said, “We are delighted to welcome Pawan to our Team along with his experienced approach to lead our marketing efforts in the journey ahead. Pawan’s experience and commitment will help drive our next phase of growth as we expand our platform and services further in 2022 and the years to come.”

BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer

BharatPe expands the reach of its POS business by 25X: Records the fastest-ever scale up in the industry

BharatPe on Thursday said that it has ramped up the reach of its POS business (BharatSwipe) by 25X to over 250 cities in the last 12 months. The company has deployed more than 1.25 lakh BharatSwipe machines across offline shops since the launch of its POS business in the second half of 2020. 

BharatPe also said that the company has witnessed 200 percent growth in the annualised transaction value from its POS business, over the last 12 months. BharatSwipe now contributes about 25 percent to the overall payments Transaction Processed Value (TPV) of the company. 

BharatSwipe has been universally adopted by small merchants and retailers across categories including grocery, food & beverage, electronics and durables, among others with more than 50 percent of BharatSwipe machines being deployed in Tier II/ Tier III towns and cities since 2021. 

Speaking about the aggressive expansion, Mr. Suhail Sameer, CEO, BharatPe, said “BharatSwipe has been the biggest growth story in India’s POS industry- from making a humble beginning with 10 cities in the middle of COVID in 2020, to processing $4B payments annually today. Over the course of last year, we have witnessed multi-fold growth in our POS business, led by our aggressive expansion plans in Tier II, III and IV towns and cities.”

He further added, “We were able to take POS to several small merchants in last-mile areas with low digital penetration like Alappuzha, Azamgarh and Chalisgaon. In fact, over 60 percent of our merchants are first time POS users.”

BharatPe will continue to ramp up strategic partnerships with banks, financial institutions and brands with the objective of enhancing the customer experience on its POS devices. The company targets to reach $30 billion TPV on payments through both QR and Swipe by March 2023.

API Holdings Docon sees Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission Recognition and Successful Integration

API Holdings on Thursday said that Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) has approved Docon for the integration and deployment of Doctors Health IDs.

Docon is a platform that enables doctors to digitise their practices using a user-friendly interface, intending to provide quality treatment to patients. The integration, which took place in December. Patients can create their Health IDs on the ABDM official website and will now be able to share their unique IDs with the doctors.

The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission was launched in August 2020 to develop the country’s integrated digital health infrastructure. Docon was amongst the first organisations chosen by the National Digital Health Mission and it is now one of India’s first one-stop digital clinics, to enable Health IDs for doctors. This integration will enable doctors and patients to seamlessly connect with India’s Digital Health Ecosystem.

The unique Health ID will be useful for authenticating patients’ health records across the country, allowing them to share their past medical history with the healthcare providers. The patients are being offered plenty of benefits, including digitised health information, personal health records and easy sign-up, to mention a few. It also lets patients revoke access as per their choice – making this a flexible opt-in opt-out ecosystem.

Akash Valia, Head of Docon said, “Just as UPI and online payments changed the way consumers transact, Health ID-enabled Docon will change the way doctors and patients interact, providing deep patient health history and understanding to the doctors, allowing them to deliver the best patient outcome.”

TerraPay partners with NPCI International to boost cashless transactions for Indian customer

TerraPay, a payments infrastructure company, on Thursday said that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL), the International arm of National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). This association with NIPL will allow Indians with an active UPI ID to receive real-time, international payments into their bank accounts via TerraPay’s adaptive and secure payments technology.

Globally, TerraPay processes payouts into over 4.5Bn bank accounts and into more than 1.5Bn mobile wallets. With the vision to foster financial inclusion, residents, POI’s, Indian diaspora will be able to send money to India by using TerraPay’s agile, transparent and real-time payment channel.

“India is a strategic market for TerraPay and our collaboration with NIPL is a true testament of our vision to create a financially inclusive ecosystem. This alliance will allow us to expand and optimize our payment capabilities, and open up the Indian market for our global partner networks.” said Ambar Sur, Founder and CEO, TerraPay.

Mr. Ritesh Shukla, CEO, NIPL shares his views, “This partnership with TerraPay is aimed at enabling seamless and convenient cross-border remittances experience powered by UPI platform’s best in class real-time capabilities.”

Gautam Kshatriya, CEO of UpScalio

UpScalio invests in home & gardening brand Truphe

UpScalio on Thursday said it has invested in Truphe, an NCR-based home and gardening brand, continuing its rapid pace of investing in and scaling online-first brands. This is UpScalio’s ninth investment since its inception in June’21. 

It plans to work on key levers including inventory regionalisation, sourcing, and brand marketing to scale the brand. Truphe has been well received on marketplaces such as Amazon and Flipkart, and UpScalio will leverage the existing presence to grow the brand to a Rs 50 crore ARR in 1-2 years.

Truphe is a leading manufacturer and distributor of gardening tools, seeds, planters and other accessories. Mr Honey Gupta started Truphe in 2015, prior to which he had founded a profitable B2B lead generation platform. 

Speaking on the investment, Saaim Khan, Co-founder and COO, UpScalio, said “The Home and Gardening category in India has quickly grown to become a $900M space, and we plan to capture a large chunk of it with Truphe. Honey has done a great job of catering to the passionate community of hobbyists that use Truphe’s products and we’re thrilled to partner with him to grow Truphe exponentially.”

Mr Honey Gupta, Founder, Truphe, said “I needed to partner with someone who understood the human side of the work we do. UpScalio checked both of those boxes for us, and I firmly believe that their strategy for expanding Truphe will realise all of our shared goals.”

The roll-up ecommerce company has had an incredible year, recording over Rs 210 crore in Annualised Revenue. The company plans to acquire five more brands by the end of FY21, and is projecting a consolidated revenue run rate of Rs 750 crore for the same period.

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Snowflake 101: 5 ways to build a secure data cloud 

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Today, Snowflake is the favorite for all things data. The company started as a simple data warehouse platform a decade ago but has since evolved into an all-encompassing data cloud supporting a wide range of workloads, including that of a data lake

More than 6,000 enterprises currently trust Snowflake to handle their data workloads and produce insights and applications for business growth. They jointly have more than 250 petabytes of data on the data cloud, with more than 515 million data workloads running each day.

Now, when the scale is this big, cybersecurity concerns are bound to come across. Snowflake recognizes this and offers scalable security and access control features that ensure the highest levels of security for not only accounts and users but also the data they store. However, organizations can miss out on certain basics, leaving data clouds partially secure. 

Here are some quick tips to fill these gaps and build a secure enterprise data cloud.

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1. Make your connection secure

First of all, all organizations using Snowflake, regardless of size, should focus on using secured networks and SSL/TLS protocols to prevent network-level threats. According to Matt Vogt, VP for global solution architecture at Immuta, a good way to start would be connecting to Snowflake over a private IP address using cloud service providers’ private connectivity such as AWS PrivateLink or Azure Private Link. This will create private VPC endpoints that allow direct, secure connectivity between your AWS/Azure VPCs and the Snowflake VPC without traversing the public Internet. In addition to this, network access controls, such as IP filtering, can also be used for third-party integrations, further strengthening security.

2. Protect source data

While Snowflake offers multiple layers of protection – like time travel and fail-safe – for data that has already been ingested, these tools cannot help if the source data itself is missing, corrupted or compromised (like malicious encrypted for ransom) in any way. This kind of issue, as Clumio’s VP of product Chadd Kenney suggests, can only be addressed by adopting measures to protect the data when it is resident in an object storage repository such as Amazon S3 – before ingest. Further, to protect against logical deletes, it is advisable to maintain continuous, immutable, and preferably air-gapped backups that are instantly recoverable into Snowpipe.

3. Consider SCIM with multi-factor authentication

Enterprises should use SCIM (system for cross-domain identity management) to help facilitate automated provisioning and management of user identities and groups (i.e. roles used for authorizing access to objects like tables, views, and functions) in Snowflake. This makes user data more secure and simplifies the user experience by reducing the role of local system accounts. Plus, by using SCIM where possible, enterprises will also get the option to configure SCIM providers to synchronize users and roles with active directory users and groups.

On top of this, enterprises also should use multi-factor authentication to set up an additional layer of security. Depending on the interface used, such as client applications using drivers, Snowflake UI, or Snowpipe, the platform can support multiple authentication methods, including username/password, OAuth, keypair, external browser, federated authentication using SAML and Okta native authentication. If there’s support for multiple methods, the company recommends giving top preference to OAuth (either snowflake OAuth or external OAuth) followed by external browser authentication and Okta native authentication and key pair authentication.

4. Column-level access control

Organizations should use Snowflake’s dynamic data masking and external tokenization capabilities to restrict certain users’ access to sensitive information in certain columns. For instance, dynamic data masking, which can dynamically obfuscate column data based on who’s querying it, can be used to restrict the visibility of columns based on the user’s country, like a U.S. employee can only view the U.S. order data, while French employees can only view order data from France.

Both features are pretty effective, but they use masking policies to work. To make the most of it, organizations should first determine whether they want to centralize masking policy management or decentralize it to individual database-owning teams, depending on their needs. Plus, they would also have to use invoker_role() in policy conditions to enable unauthorized users to view aggregate data on protected columns while keeping individual data hidden.

5. Implement a unified audit model

Finally, organizations should not forget to implement a unified audit model to ensure transparency of the policies being implemented. This will help them actively monitor policy changes, like who created what policy that granted user X or group Y access to certain data, and is as critical as monitoring query and data access patterns. 

To view account usage patterns, use system-defined, read-only shared database named SNOWFLAKE. It has a schema named ACCOUNT_USAGE containing views that provide access to one year of audit logs.

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WhatsApp rolls out new ‘Message Yourself’ feature globally • TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

We’re joining the Cyber Monday fun with 25% off annual subscriptions to TechCrunch+ content and analysis starting today until Wednesday, November 30. Plus, today only, get 50% off tickets to discover the vast unknown and attend TechCrunch Sessions: Space in Los Angeles!

Okay, we haven’t done a newsletter since Wednesday, and while the U.S. team was chillin’ like villains, the rest of the team was hard at work, so here’s some of the highlights from the last half-week of TechCrunchy goodness! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Talking to yourself just went digital: Instead of having that internal monologue stay in your head, now you can play out all of your thoughts to yourself in WhatsApp, Jagmeet writes. The messaging platform began rolling out an easier way to talk to yourself today after completing beta testing.
  • Great Wall of porn: That’s how Rita and Catherine describe the bot surge in China that is making it difficult to get any legitimate Twitter search results when trying to find out something about Chinese cities. Why, you ask? Rita writes that “the surge in such bot content coincides with an unprecedented wave of (COVID) protests that have swept across major Chinese cities and universities over the weekend.”
  • Your calendar, only more productive: Get ready for your calendar to be more than just a place to record things you have to do that day. Romain writes about Amie, a startup that grabbed $7 million to link your unscheduled to-do list with your calendar. The app also enables users to be social with coworkers.

Startups and VC

Dubai-based mass transit and shared mobility services provider SWVL has carried out its second round of layoffs, affecting 50% of its remaining headcount, Tage reports. The news is coming six months after SWVL laid off 32% (over 400 employees) of its workforce in a “portfolio optimization program” effort geared toward achieving positive cash flow next year.

There’s a couple of new funds in town, too! Harri reports that Early Light Ventures plots a second, $15 million fund for software ‘underdogs,’ while Mike writes that BackingMinds raises a new €50 million fund to fund normally overlooked entrepreneurs. He also writes about Pact, an all-women led VC for mission-driven startups, backed by Anne Hathaway.

And we have five more for you:

Lessons for raising $10M without giving up a board seat

Blackboard showing soccer strategy

Image Credits: Ihor Reshetniak (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Over the last two years, intelligent calendar platform Reclaim.ai raised $10 million “using a more incremental approach,” writes co-founder Henry Shapiro.

“We’ve done all this without giving up a single board seat, and Reclaim employees continue to own over two-thirds of the company’s equity,” rejecting conventional wisdom that founders should “raise as much as you can as fast as you can.”

In a TC+ post, Shapiro reviews the process they used to identify follow-on investors, shares the email template used to pitch the SAFE, and explains why “a larger cap table means more founder control.”

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Amazon’s recent cost-cutting measures seem to be affecting more than just its delivery business. Manish writes that the company is shutting down its wholesale distribution business, called Amazon Distribution, in India. Amazon had started this unit to help neighborhood stores secure inventory. The company didn’t say why it was closing this particular business down, but Manish notes that this is the third such Amazon unit to be shuttered in India.

Meanwhile, Natasha L reports that Meta has gotten itself into trouble again with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (aka, the agency that regulates data protection). Facebook’s parent company is being hit with $275 million in penalties for what the agency said was breaches in data protection that resulted in some 530 million users’ personal information being leaked.

Now enjoy six more:



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French Court Says Man Was Wrongfully Fired For Not Being ‘Fun’

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You can’t be fired because a company doesn’t think you’re “fun” enough.



Frédéric Soltan I Getty Images

The Court of Cassation in Paris.

At least, that’s according to France’s highest court, The Court of Cassation, which ruled earlier this month that a man who was fired for not wanting to participate in certain company activities billed as part of their “fun” culture was wrongfully terminated, according to The Washington Post.

The man’s legal team said their client wasn’t seen as “fun” because he refused to engage in corporate events with large amounts of drinking. The man also claimed a work culture where people did activities such as miming sexual acts, sharing beds with other employees at work events, and giving people uncouth nicknames, per the outlet.

A Google translation of the court documents characterized these acts as “practices advocated by the associates linking promiscuity, bullying, and incitement to various excesses.”

The decision says the man was fired in March 2015 for not embracing the company’s “fun” culture (calling it “professional incompetence,”) as well as being more rigid of personality, the documents claim.

The company in question is Cubik Partners, a management consulting firm. It did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

France is known for its pro-employee labor laws and well-known jokes about how it’s impossible to get fired there. That is also generally true for other countries in Europe, including Ireland, where Elon Musk’s Twitter has already faced a temporary injunction for firing an executive based there.

In this case, the court ruled that firing an employee for not doing the activities in question constituted a violation of “his freedom of expression,” and that it is a “fundamental freedom” to not engage in some sort of social activity.

The fired employee had asked for over $400,000 USD, which the Paris Court of Appeals rejected last year. This ruling turned over that court’s rejection in part, ordered the company to give the former employee $3,000 euros, and said it would look at his demand for damages at some point in the future, per Insider.

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