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[Funding roundup] MinIO raises $103M, o9 Solutions raises $295M, Polygon invests in Hike, and more

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MinIO becomes a unicorn after a $103M Series B round

MinIO Inc, creators of the MinIO multi-cloud object storage suite, has raised $103 million in Series B funding round at a $1 billion valuation, according to an official statement. The company is the fourth unicorn of the year. 

The investment was led by Intel Capital, with participation from new investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2, and existing investors Dell Capital, General Catalyst and Nexus Venture Partners.

Today’s financing brings MinIO’s total funding raised to $126 million.

With headquarters in Palo Alto, California, MinIO has a subsidiary in Bengaluru, India and is rapidly expanding its engineering footprint in that geography. MinIO has dozens of customers across India, Asia and the Middle East.

o9 Solutions raises $295M from strategic investors to continue its growth 

o9 Solutions, an enterprise AI software platform provider for transforming planning and decision-making speed and quality in companies across industry verticals, on Thursday announced that it has received equity investments totalling $295 million from General Atlantic, including BeyondNetZero, its climate investing venture; Generation Investment Management, a pure-play sustainability investment manager; and existing investor KKR. 

This significant investment will help o9 build on its momentum and accelerate growth for its AI-powered integrated business planning platform it calls the “Digital Brain” across industry verticals and markets. It will also help o9 drive continued innovation in R&D, industry knowledge models and partner ecosystem development that will help companies implement o9’s platform faster.

Polygon invests in Hike to bring its play-to-earn Rush Gaming Universe to Web3

Hike Founder and CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal today announced Ethereum infrastructure scaling solution Polygon is investing in the Hike team to build Rush Gaming Universe (RGU) — a virtual world where players can play, compete, and win.

In a tweet thread, Kavin revealed Polygon — featuring an efficient Layer 2 Proof of Stake blockchain network — will be Hike’s “on-chain partner to bring this vision to life (i.e. we’re building on them).”

“Over the last few years, Ethereum has emerged as the TCP/IP for money for the internet. But it’s got big challenges (Gas Fees, TPS & more). Polygon, an L2 chain sitting on Ethereum solves all of this with their scalability architecture. Working with a vibrant ecosystem is important, and with Polygon we’re plugging into the vast Ethereum developer community,” he said.

Kavin did not disclose the funding amount.

Kissht raises Rs 100 Cr led by Trifecta Capital and Northern Arc

Kissht, which provides an instant line of credit for small business transactions and small ticket size personal loans to new to credit customers on the back of robust data analytics (Kissht score), has raised Rs 100 crore in funding led by Trifecta Capital and Northern Arc. The company has so far raised over Rs 270 crore in equity and over Rs 1,200 crore in debt investments. In the current round, Trifecta and Nothern Arc have each subscribed to Rs 50 crore of Non-Convertible Debentures (NCD’s).

The company will utilise the funds to expand its scale of operations, further enhance its product offerings including credit cards for small businesses/shops and further improve underwriting capabilities to extend credit to New to Credit (NTC) segment using AI and machine learning — even in smaller tier towns of India where instant credit is still a dream to many.

Kissht plans to expand its business to 10 million borrowers and total transaction-like credit volume to Rs 10,000 crore in FY2023 (3x higher than FY2022). The startup is projecting an overall revenue of over Rs 500 crore and a PBT of over Rs 50 crore for FY2022.

Founder of Kissht, Krishnan Vishwanathan

Growth School raises $5M in seed round led by Sequoia Capital India, Owl Ventures

Bengaluru-based Growth School, the community-led live learning platform, on Thursday announced that it has raised a $5 million seed round led by Sequoia Capital India and Owl Ventures. Over 80 angel investors also participated in the round, including reputed entrepreneurs like Kunal Shah, Nikhil Kamath, Ritesh Agarwal, and Tanmay Bhat as well as some international angels like Austen Allred (founder Lamda school), Shaan Puri, Eric Siu. 

In an official statement, Growth School said it plans to use the funds to expand its team and build a robust tech platform. The startup plans to venture into newer markets and as part of that foray, also explore metaverse for education.

Growth School fills the gap between industry requirements and the existing academic curriculum through its community-led cohort programmes. The programmes are curated to teach skills that are relevant on the job in a short period of time so students are employable immediately.

Aqgromalin secures $5.25M from Sequoia Capital India, Omnivore, others

Aqgromalin, an agtech platform for animal husbandry and aquaculture ecosystem, on Thursday announced a $5.25 million pre-Series A funding. The round saw participation from Sequoia Capital India’s – Surge and Venture funds, Omnivore Partners India, and Zephyr Peacock India. The round had received strong investor interest and was reportedly oversubscribed.

Aqgromalin is building a full-stack agtech platform that helps farmers diversify into animal husbandry and aquaculture. The Chennai-based startup provides a data-backed, traceable, supply chain to farmers, butchers, meat companies and exporters for their poultry, seafood, and livestock needs. The startup has recorded a 10x revenue growth in the last six months, and has over 300,000 farmers and micro-entrepreneurs on its platform.

Aqgromalin was founded in Chennai by Bharani CL and Prasanna Manogaran in October 2020. It is part of Sequoia Capital India – Surge’s sixth cohort of 20 companies that build fresher, smarter solutions to help consumers and businesses adapt to a changing world.

ClickHouse infrastructure provider ChistaDATA raises $3M

ChistaDATA, which aims to build the fastest and the most scalable managed ClickHouse implementations in the world, has raised $3 million in a pre-Series A round of funding from Sequoia Capital India. The startup plans to use the funds raised to develop a fully open-source ClickHouse server among other orchestration tools that address automation and DevOps for enterprise-grade ColumnStore solutions. It will also focus on developing ChistaDATA Cloud — a completely autonomous and self-healing cloud-native ClickHouse offering that can be provisioned and paid for by data volume and without requiring customers to think about servers and DevOps. 

The funds raised will also be used to strengthen the team with research, engineering, marketing, and brand hires.

StreamAlive raises $1.53M in oversubscribed pre-seed funding led by Speciale Invest

StreamAlive, a tech-based audience engagement application for live stream events, recently announced raising an oversubscribed pre-seed investment of $1.53 million led by deeptech and early investor, Speciale Invest. Other marquee investors included micro VC funds, founders of private-company software unicorns, MIT professors, CEOs of public companies, and other angel investors and senior executives at various companies.

The fresh funds will be invested in engineering and product development to advance features of the tech-enabled platform and establish multiple signals of product-market fit.

Founded in 2021 by Lakshmanan (Lux) Narayan, Joseph (Joe) Varghese and Lakyntina (Tina) Lyngdoh, StreamAlive’s SaaS (software-as-a-service) application has been designed to work with all major streaming and meeting platforms from YouTube to Zoom and from Twitch to Teams. The app makes live streams highly interactive and engaging for wider audiences and works to get 95 percent of the audience involved, making audience engagement at scale truly possible. The company has also filed for a provisional patent for its cross-platform approach to live audience engagement.

Ekank Technologies raises $1M from 9Unicorns, Venture Catalysts, Titan Capital, others

Ekank Technologies, a vernacular storytelling platform, has raised $1 million from 9Unicorns, Venture Catalysts, Titan Capital, Bharat Founders Fund Syndicate, Sujeet Kumar (Co-founder of Udaan) with participation from Archana Priyadarshini, Amit Jain, Amit Hooja, and Deepak Jain (Partner at Bain).

The seed funding would be utilised towards supporting and strengthening the technological capability, and inviting more storytellers on the platform across different media formats (text, audio, illustrations, and comics), thereby expanding the company’s footprint in digital media. The organisation also plans to expand its team across all departments, particularly, product and technology.  

The idea is to revamp the way users discover and interact with historical content in an engaging way. Utilising a combination of design, gamification, and storyteller incentivisation, the company wants to bring a seemingly endless amount of stories to the users without them losing interest.

Broomees raises $600K led by 2 AM VC, Magic Fund, and US-based micro VCs 

Broomees, a Delhi-based startup for training and employing domestic workers, has raised $600,000 in the seed round, led by 2 AM VC and Magic Fund, two USA-based micro VCs, and 100X.VC from India. Broomees is the 100X.VC’s portfolio company and part of its Class 06 batch. 

The round also saw participation from angel investors like Puneet Deora (MD, Deoras Group), Gaurav Choksi (Exec. Director, Hindustan Platinum), Rupark Sarswat (CEO, India Glycols Ltd), Asad Daud (Director, SAT Industries Ltd), Archana Priyadarshini (General Partner, PointOne Capital), among others.

The startup plans to utilise the fresh funds in setting up training cum registration centres to impart job skills and soft skills to cooks, babysitters, house helps etc. The company will also focus on better user experience and automation of processes to further fuel every step with technology using its app and web platforms – available for its customers as well as workers. 

 

The company was founded in 2021 and has played the role of a local superhero for hundreds of workers, especially women, in Delhi. Broomees is a worker-focused company that doesn’t charge a single penny from its workers to upskill and employ them.

Hatica emerges from stealth with $900K pre-seed funding

Engineering Analytics platform Hatica has emerged from stealth with $900,000 pre-seed funding, led by Kae Capital and followed by Titan Capital, iSeed Ventures, and angel investor GBS Bindra (CEO of Charmboard). Hatica was founded by former Uber engineers Naomi Chopra and Haritabh Singh, who incubated the idea as part of The Accel Founderstack Program.

 

Hatica, a SaaS startup based out of San Francisco and Gurugram, provides a software engineering analytics platform to help boost developer productivity. Hatica equips engineering leaders, managers and software developers with software development dashboards, alongside team productivity and workflow insights, to help them drive team effectiveness, alignment and well-being. 

As You Are, homegrown matchmaking and social networking app for LGBTQ+ community, raises $250K

As You Are, a homegrown social networking and matchmaking app exclusively for Indian queer people of various gender identities and sexual orientations, has raised a funding of $250,000 in Compulsorily Convertible Debentures (CCDs; a form of capital that must be converted to equity after the maturity time) from queer couples who are angel investors and also Indian-origin entrepreneurs from the marketing space. 

 

The startup was founded by Chandigarh-based entrepreneur Sunali Aggarwal in June 2020.

 

Sunali is a UX designer and ex-co-founder of Mobikwik. After the landmark 2018 judgment striking down Section 377, she heard from a few friends about the lack of safe online dating space for Indian LGBTQ+ people. These conversations prompted her to embark on a new venture – As You Are, a matchmaking app exclusively built for the Indian queer community.

 

‘As You Are’ already has over 25,000 downloads who are using this judgment-free platform to date, strike friendships, network, and interact with others who share the same interests and values. 

Agility Ventures invests in Good Fettle’s low-calorie ice cream

Agility Venture Partners has invested an undisclosed amount as a seed round in Good Fettle, a Mumbai-based F&B brand. The company pioneered the concept of low-calorie ice cream in India in April 2019.

A brainchild of cousin-duo Akhil Gupta and Ayush Gupta to satiate their weakness for something sweet and healthy, Good Fettle taps into the increasing health awareness trend of low-calorie ice creams. In August 2018, the founders started off their entrepreneurial journey by ordering an ice cream maker and learning to make regular ice creams on YouTube. They then hired a consultant who introduced them to a commercial facility where they could run trials on a larger scale. After eight months of R&D and a few blasts in the kitchen, they cracked the perfect product and launched Good Fettle in April of 2019, to become the first low-calorie ice cream brand in the country. 

Each 125ml scoop of this ice cream consists of about 65-75 calories vis-à-vis traditional ice creams, which are about 200 calories per scoop. It does not compromise on taste and is a source of fibre and protein.

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Get a Discount on Training Courses to Help You Finally Master Excel

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Just about everybody in the business world claims to know Microsoft Excel. A fraction of them actually know just how much Excel can do. Therefore, if you’re looking for a practical gift for yourself or someone else this year that is actually useful, look no further than The 2022 Complete Microsoft Excel Expert Bundle.



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The bundle includes 12 courses from StreamSkill (4.4/5-star instructor rating), part of the Simon Sez IT family that has taught more than one million students over the past 15 years.

Here, you’ll start out with the basics of Excel 2021, learning what’s new and how to navigate the Excel 2021 interface. You’ll start learning useful keyboard shortcuts, understand how to format cells and use conditional formatting, analyze data using charts, and more. As you progress through the courses, you’ll explore advanced formulas in Excel, touch on macros, and much more.

There are several courses on some of Excel’s more unique tools, too. You’ll learn how to use the VBA editor, VBA syntax, keywords, and more. You’ll discover how to define and manage variables, set up subroutines, and create functions to automate your most repetitive and frustrating tasks. Additionally, you’ll get started with Power Query, learning how to connect Excel to multiple workbooks to crunch numbers across sheets. You’ll learn how to set up and manage data relationships in a data model, create PivotTables to display your data, and use functions like CALCULATE, DIVIDE, and DATESYTD in DAX. Before you know it, you’ll have a business analyst education that will help you in all of your business ventures.

It’s about time you finally learned Excel. Right now, you can get this Microsoft Excel Expert Bundle on sale for just $24.99 (reg. $4,788).

Prices subject to change.

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Ocho wants to rethink (and rebrand) personal finance for business owners • TechCrunch

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When Ankur Nagpal sold Teachable for a quarter of a billion dollars, he felt lucky. Then, he quickly felt lost when trying to navigate the financial systems of a country he wasn’t born in and learn the institutional language often only spoken fluently by the historically wealthy.

It would be a few years of self-employment, and building a venture firm later, before Nagpal returned to the moment as one of the early catalysts for his newest startup, Ocho. The company, launching publicly today, wants to make it easier for business owners to set up and manage their own 401(k) retirement accounts.

Personal finance is hard – and that’s a tale as old, and difficult to disrupt, as time. And while Nagpal agrees that there’s no “north star” company that has shown how to tackle finance literacy at scale, he’s hoping that Ocho’s 10-person team may just have a not-so-boring wedge that changes that.

Ocho is joining the several fintech companies out there that aim to modernize, and really rebrand, the retirement account away from traditional providers like Charles Schwab or Fidelity, or expensive solutions like lawyers and consultants.

“I’ve started exploring the space, and we realize everyone – like Robinhood to Coinbase – is just spending unsustainable amounts of money to acquire customers, but are making no money themselves and continually sort of need these large funding rounds just to exist,” Nagpal said. “I’m actually expecting there to be a very rough 6, 12 or 18 months for fintech companies specifically.”

Ocho’s twist from competition, he thinks, is in its market focus. “There’s so many companies targeting startup founders and their wealth – there’s literally a new one launching every month or two all backed by big name VCs, but no one is focused on the business owner that is otherwise doing well but is not a startup founder or a startup employee,” he said.

Instead, Ocho is leaning into Nagpal’s background of working with creators when he was building Teachable. Teachable helped creators build revenue streams, Ocho wants to help those same creators take their earnings and invest, harvest and scale them in a smart way.

“At Teachable, we helped these people make money online and now there’s lots of places for creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs to make money online – but how do we help them think about building wealth?” Nagpal said. The long-term vision for Ocho is to offer products, beyond solo 401(k)s, that help business owners build wealth.

Human Interest is one of Ocho’s closest competitors; raising $200 million at a $1 billion valuation last year. Nagpal says that Ocho differentiates itself because its focused more on individuals, freelancers and creators, instead of Human Interest’s target of small and medium-sized businesses.

For now, Ocho is charging a flat $199 annual fee to help individuals start their retirement account. It takes about 10 minutes to set up, and 48 hours to get final confirmation.

The big challenge for the startup is getting the right solopreneurs to care about their retirement accounts. Its look for people who have income-generating businesses, but don’t have any full-time employees. If you have a side gig alongside your full-time job, you can create a 401(k) just for the side hustle, but can’t put full-time income into the retirement account.

ocho-interface-fintech

Image Credits: Ocho

Nagpal thinks he can nail early adoption through smart education material and outreach, referring to personal finance trends on TikTok as an example of consumer demand for more information. He says that 40% of the Ocho staff is working on marketing or education, and that the balance will be retained even as the company scales.

If education is so important to getting Ocho to work, one may wonder why it’s launching with a fintech product. The answer is simple: deadlines. Users need to make a retirement account by December 31, 2022, if they want one for 2023 – which puts the fintech in a relevant, but time pressed, position.

Nagpal isn’t worried about the seasonality of the 401(k) product because of the upcoming product roadmap, which includes the education product, investment flows into the retirement product like being able to invest in startups and ETFs, and even HSAs, often described as a 401(k) for healthcare.

To power that ambitious product spree, Ocho has raised $2.5 million from Nagpal’s own venture firm, Vibe Capital. The entrepreneur says that he raised the $60 million debut fund for Vibe Capital with the idea that he would incubate a startup or two out of the firm, which materialized today now that it owns 20% of Ocho.

Nagpal admitted that the idea of a founder using his own venture firm to seed his own startup may appear to be the “mother of all conflicts of interest” but reasoned that it was everything but. He emailed all LPs in his fund about the investment, got a unanimous yes, and ended up raising at a much lower price for the startup than if they had gone out into the fair market. It’s still uncommon to see founders sell a company, start a venture firm and then use that same venture firm to seed their next company.

Perhaps the unique connection between Nagpal’s first company, to his firm, to his newest startup, could hint at what his approach to personal finance may be: diversify across multiple vehicles, redefine what a supercharged investment could look like, and keep on learning.

Ocho-team

Ocho’s starting team.



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A Simple Brain Trick To Guarantee Success

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As entrepreneurs, most of us are goal-driven, and we’ve learned how to set clear, juicy goals and then break them down into game plans of smaller projects and tasks. The challenge comes when it’s time for you and your team actually to follow those game plans.

After the thrill of setting that awesome goal comes the day-to-day work that is often not so exciting. So how do you keep yourself and your team moving forward? How can you stay on track and consistently hit your daily, weekly and quarterly goals? One of the answers is in the simple brain hack that psychologists call “implementation intention.”

Related: Brain Hacks to Boost Motivation and Beat the Work From Home Blues

What the research shows

A psychology professor at NY University, Peter Gollwitzer, first coined the term in the 1990s. He realized that many people set goals, but not many achieved them because they didn’t take the action they needed to take. Dr. Gollwitzer showed that the difference was not just motivation, as some people were highly motivated and still didn’t do what they needed to do. But people were much more likely to reach their goals by figuring out “pre-determined goal-directed behaviors” and turning them into habits.

Rather than just coming up with a strategy to achieve a goal and then breaking it down into tasks, Dr. Gollwitzer found that people were more likely to succeed if they trained their brains to choose to do the things that they needed to do by using “if-then” statements (you can also use “when-then” statements).

He and his colleagues ran over 400 studies using every type of goal — quitting smoking, voting, healthy eating, exercising and even using condoms! All the studies showed that implementation intentions made a massive difference in the results people got.

Related: Setting Measurable Goals Is Critical to Your Strategic Plan (and Your Success). Here’s Why.

Get to your goal using “when-then”

How does it work? For example, let’s say that you want to grow your business and that getting lots of 5-star testimonials will help. So, you decide to get 100 testimonials this quarter (about eight per week), and you’ll get them by calling 20 past clients per week, just four every day.

Sounds simple, right? But this kind of project easily gets lost in the shuffle. You mean to do it; you know it’s important, but other things that seem more urgent pop up. Eventually, you might even forget about
getting those testimonials completely.

With implementation intention, you start with the statement, “When _________, then I will ______.” You not only say what you will do but also give it a specific time and place. In this case, you might say, “When I get to the office, and before I even look at my emails, I’ll call four past clients for testimonials.” This tells your brain exactly when to be ready to make the calls. It sets up your energy and focus. By doing it over and over, your brain is automatically triggered to sit down and make calls as soon as you walk into your office.

James Clear talks about this in his book Atomic Habits. He points out that setting up implementation intention keeps you from deciding whether to do something every single time. You don’t need to be super motivated that day, and you don’t need to use your willpower to get yourself to do it. You just do it because, after a while, it would feel weird not to do it, just like not brushing your teeth before bed would feel strange.

Related: Your Problem Isn’t Laziness

Overcome obstacles using “if-then”

Implementation intention also helps you pre-plan for obstacles you might encounter and helps get you through them. Say you know that your morning calls will often get interrupted by team members who need your input. You know something like this is bound to happen, so before it does, you figure out, “If ___________, then I will ___________.”

“If I get interrupted, I will ask the person (unless they are bleeding to death) to give me 15-20 minutes.” Or maybe you decide, “If I get interrupted in the morning, I will close the door and eat lunch at my desk to make my calls.” The strategy you use to handle the obstacle is up to you. The point is that you already have it figured out and know exactly how to stay on track despite anything that tries to get in the way.

Athletes have used this for years. Marathon runners know they’ll run into “the wall” at about 18 to 20 miles. Rather than getting blindsided, they figure out ways to handle it before the race. They’ll slow their pace and take some sports gel. They’ll pay attention to the cheering crowd or focus on a certain mantra. They don’t try to figure out how to deal with the wall when it’s happening. They have a plan, so it doesn’t throw them off their goal.

Related: 5 Things About Overcoming Adversity That Athletes Can Teach Entrepreneurs

When I started coaching, I realized that many of my students hit a wall about three months in. They were learning and implementing different marketing strategies. But these strategies take some time, so they didn’t see any results yet. We learned to warn them ahead of time. “Hey, you might not see results for 4-5 months. That doesn’t mean you aren’t on track. If you’re doing the work, results will come soon.”

Then we help them with “if-then” strategies. “If you feel stuck or discouraged, then call in
during office hours.” An implementation intention is a brain-hack tool that helps you take the steps you need to take whether you’re feeling motivated or not. You set up the implementation intention by saying what you’ll do and precisely when you’ll do it, and you pre-plan how you’ll deal with obstacles to stay on track.

James Clear wrote: “Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.”

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