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Inside KRAFTON’s investment portfolio in India

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KRAFTON Inc., parent of PUBG Corporation, in 2020 said it will invest $100 million in India to support local video games, esports, entertainment, and IT industries.

“When you look at the Indian market from a KRAFTON perspective, we feel a pretty large whitespace overall interactive entertainment sector, which includes video games eSports, tech platforms, platforms, extending to overall media and entertainment sectors,” Anuj Tandon , Head (India and MENA regions) of Corporate Development at KRAFTON tells YourStory.

“We see a space where not enough investments are happening in the media and entertainment industry. We saw it and decided that we should take the lead,” says Anuj.

Krafton is the creator of games such as Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) and PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG). BGMI was launched in May 2021 after PUBG was banned by the Indian government a year earlier. It has over 70 million downloads so far.

Anuj joined KRAFTON in 2021, prior to which, he was with Nazara Games as Head of Mobile Game Publishing and Marketing and Indian CEO for Youzu games. He also founded a gaming startup Rolocule games in 2010 which got acquired by Dream11.

KRAFTON’s investment thesis

The company has so far invested close to $86 million from its $100 million fund.

“From Krafton’s perspective, 100 million was just the starting point of the thought process of our overall investment in India. For the right opportunities and areas of investment, we are absolutely ready to invest more,” says Anuj.

“We plan to keep investing in the right opportunities across our thesis and keep supporting entrepreneurs in the overall media and entertainment sector in 2022,” he further adds.

In March 2021, it made its first minority investment of $22.5 million in NODWIN Gaming. Later, it bet on the gaming live streaming platform Loco in June 2021 in a seed funding worth $9 million together with other investors.

A month later, it invested in Bengaluru-based storytelling platform Pratilipi in a Series D round of $48 million. In December 2021, it invested $6.5 million in Series A funding in audio romance and friend discovery startup, FRND.

“Our thesis is that, at a high level we are actually stage agnostic. So, we can invest in leading Series A, Series D, and even beyond. We look at the right strategic fit, we are not your typical financial investor. So in that way, we are very patient with capital, thinking from a mid to long-term perspective on growth and back founders in a long term perspective,” Anuj says.

What does KRAFTON look for in a startup?

KRAFTON’s investment ranges from investing in seed rounds to Series D rounds.

“Our investment thesis is slightly broad. Every startup has a micro thesis and broad thesis at a high level,” Anuj explains the alignment for investment.

Its investments in Loco and NODWIN are closely related to KRAFTON’s business as these startups are in the live streaming and esports ecosystem. Loco platform has quite a lot of BGMI streams taking place in its platform.

Pratilipi is one of the vernacular discovery platforms. It brings readers, writers and their stories written in 12 languages; Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, English, Urdu, Punjabi and Odia.

“Our thesis here is that India is going to be a massive exporter of Indian Intellectual property (IPs) globally as well as Indian and across regions in the country,” says Anuj. “Our long term belief is that IPs are going to be very important in the next five to six years in the media and entertainment sector.”

Its recent investment in a dating app FRND is different from gaming. Anuj says FRND enables social interaction, using games as well.

“It is one of the genres which is driving one of the largest consumer transactions in the digital ecosystem,” he says.

“So it is obviously an area of interest for us because for gaming, we have sufficient data to understand the networks. Social interaction is the second place, which we feel is going to be very high transaction business and is only going to increase,” adds Anuj.

Finally, the BGMI creator wants the founding team and its core capability to be forward looking, taking a bolder thought process of what they can achieve.

What does it offer a startup?

Anuj says that one of the biggest advantages is that KRAFTON’s product BGMI is one of the leading mobile games and biggest IPs in the Indian market.

“We have a lot of knowledge about how to make Indian consumers pay for digital content,” he says.

KRAFTON offers several unique consumer insights to its startups, including how to scale these digital products to a massive audience in India, how do you start making this sustainable, what are the engagement hooks, how social governance works, management of a massive social community, how do you build IPs to a large extent in the Indian market, among others.

“So these are some of the unique insights that we offer, apart from the patient capital and no exit timelines for a typical fund,” Anuj adds.

The rise of the Indian gaming market

The Indian gaming market is valued to cross $2 billion this year and set to become a $7 billion market in FY2026. It is the second-largest gaming population in the world with over 450 million gamers, set to grow to more than 700 million by FY2026, according to Report from Lumikai Fund.

“I believe this decade, the 2020s overall, is a game-changer for the startup ecosystem. We have multiple IPOs, the largest exits in any sector last year were in gaming and the two biggest M&A in the country,” says Anuj.

The Indian gaming sector has seen several large-ticket acquisitions in the past few years. In February 2021, Sweden-based free-to-play gaming studios Stillfront Group acquired Bengaluru-based Moonfrog Labs, the creator of Teen Patti Gold, Ludo Club, Rummy Gold to name a few, for over $90 million.

In July 2021, Bengaluru-based game developing startup PlaySimple was acquired by Sweden-based Modern Times Group (MTG) for $360 million — one of the largest deals among gaming startups in India.

“So, this trend is only going to continue, this is a transformational decade. This will see young companies blossoming in every sector. Media and entertainment gaming and deep tech, these are not going to be alien to those transformational changes,” adds Anuj.

India in mobile gaming has a lot of potential, but as far as revenue was concerned it did not deliver as compared to the other big consumption markets such as America, China to name a few.

However, this trend seems to be changing now.

“In 2021, we actually saw a big shift happening. People were comfortable paying for digital content in the mobile unit. This is now only going to grow, not stall or stop,” says Anuj. “I personally believe that Indian users would spend more than 100 million dollars annually in four to five years in India.”

“This number was unheard of two years back. So in my opinion, this is a big data point, which proves that this change is pretty transformational and big. It will open a large opportunity for him to start focusing on the India market for revenue operation and not just downloads,” he further explains.

“Indian gamers’ propensity to pay is actually growing faster than any other country in the world,” says Justin Keeling, General Partner at Lumikai Fund during a panel discussion on Gamecon 2021 held in November. The NPU, (new paying users) first-time gamers coming into the ecosystem paying for the first time, grew by 40 percent last year and would cross 50 percent in 2021, he adds.

But the challenge overall related to video games is that even with the excitement, the game development startup ecosystem is in infancy.

“Majority are in a very early stage, but they need a lot of guidance, which we’re happy to ask often to give them knowledge and share. But it’s just slightly immature as a game development ecosystem,” said Anuj.

“I think it’s going to improve the success of the gaming industry. More and more entrepreneurs are going to be sort of coming in building great quality content for the game ecosystem. But as of now, it’s still slightly immature,” he says.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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The FTC files suit to block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition

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The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. It contends that the acquisition, if completed, would give Microsoft an unfair advantage over its competitors.

This morning, the four-person commission voted to issue the lawsuit. The three Democrat members (chair Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya) voted in favor and the Republican (Christine Wilson) voted against. The commission allegedly met with Microsoft the day prior to discuss concessions, according to a report from The Washington Post.

If its news release is anything to go by, the commissioners weren’t convinced that Microsoft wouldn’t withhold Activision Blizzard’s popular games from competing services. The FTC cited Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax, and how games such as Starfield and Redfall became exclusive following its close.

Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement, “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals. Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”

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The FTC is not the only government body to express concern about the implications of the acquisition. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating. It recently closed Phase One of the investigation, and expressed concerns in its issues statement.

The history of the planned acquisition

Microsoft announced its intention to acquire the publisher in January. Through this acquisition, it would become the regent of popular gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and many others. Reportedly, it offered around $69 billion for Activision Blizzard.

The concerns about the scale of the acquisition emerged almost as soon as it was announced. The FTC reportedly moved to investigate the deal almost immediately. Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said at the time that Microsoft would have to pay Activision $3 billion if the deal was blocked.

The current focal point of the antitrust concerns is the Call of Duty franchise. Sony has repeatedly contended, in public statements primarily aimed at the CMA’s investigation, that Microsoft could undermine its competition via these popular and lucrative games. It could, according to Sony, either outright stop publishing them on Sony’s platforms, or it could offer them on its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Sony claims Call of Duty on Game Pass would diminish demand for Sony consoles even if Call of Duty is still published on them.

Microsoft has, in turn, responded that its competitors have plenty of exclusive titles of their own. It’s also offered to sign 10-year deals with Sony, Nintendo and Valve (the company behind PC games store Steam) to offer Call of Duty titles on their platforms. It announced earlier this week that it has inked such a deal with Nintendo.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, said in a statement to The Verge, “We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers. We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court.”



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Airtable chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are out • TechCrunch

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As part of Airtable’s decision to cut 20% of staff, or 254 employees, three executives are “parting ways” with the company as well, a spokesperson confirmed over email. The chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are no longer with the company.

Airtable’s chief revenue officer, Seth Shaw, joined in November 2020 just one month before Airtable’s chief producer officer Peter Deng came on board. Airtable’s chief people officer, Johanna Jackman, joined Airtable in May 2021 with an ambitious goal to double the company’s headcount to 1,000 in 12 months. The three executives are departing today as a mutual decision with Airtable, but will advise the company through the next phase of transition, the company says. All three executives were reached out to for further comment and this story will be updated with their responses if given.

An Airtable spokesperson declined to comment on if the executives were offered severance pay. The positions will be succeeded by internal employees, introduced at an all-hands meeting to be held this Friday.

Executive departures at this scale are rare, even if the overall company is going through a heavy round of cuts. But CEO and founder Howie Liu emphasized, in an email sent to staff but seen by TechCrunch, that the decision – Airtable’s first-ever lay off in its decade-long history – was made following Airtable’s choice to pivot to a more “narrowly focused mode of execution.”

In the email, Liu described Airtable’s goal – first unveiled in October – to capture enterprise clients with connected apps. Now, instead of the bottom-up adoption that first fueled Airtable’s rise, the company wants to be more focused in this new direction. Liu’s e-mail indicates that the startup will devote a majority of its resources toward “landing and expanding large enterprise companies with at least 1k FTEs – where our connected apps vision will deliver the most differentiated value.”

The lean mindset comes after Airtable reduced spend in marketing media, real estate, business technology and infrastructure, the e-mail indicates. “In trying to do too many things at once, we have grown our organization at a breakneck pace over the past few years. We will continue to emphasize growth, but do so by investing heavily in the levers that yield the highest growth relative to their cost,” Liu wrote.

Airtable seems to be emphasizing that its reduced spend doesn’t come with less ambition, or ability to execute. A spokesperson added over e-mail that all of Airtable’s funds from its $735 million Series F are “still intact.” They also said that the startup’s enterprise side, which makes up the majority of Airtable’s revenue, is growing more than 100% year over year; the product move today just doubles down on that exact cohort.

Current and former Airtable employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 



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Kubernetes Gateway API reality check: Ingress controller is still needed

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No doubt the new Kubernetes excitement is the Gateway API. One of the more significant changes in the Kubernetes project, the Gateway API is sorely needed. More granular and robust control over Kubernetes service networking better addresses the growing number of use cases and roles within the cloud-native paradigm.

Shared architecture — at all scales — requires flexible, scalable and extensible means to manage, observe and secure that infrastructure. The Gateway API is designed for those tasks. Once fully matured, it will help developers, SREs, platform teams, architects and CTOs by making Kubernetes infrastructure tooling and governance more modular and less bespoke.

But let’s be sure the hype does not get ahead of today’s needs.

The past and future Kubernetes gateway API

There remains a gap between present and future states of Ingress control in Kubernetes. This has led to a common misconception that the Gateway API will replace the Kubernetes Ingress Controller (KIC) in the near term or make it less useful over the longer term. This view is incorrect for multiple reasons.

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Ingress controllers are now embedded in the functional architecture of most Kubernetes deployments. They have become de facto. At some point, the Gateway API will be sufficiently mature to replace all functionality of the Ingress API and even the implementation-specific annotations and custom resources that many of the Ingress implementations use, but that day remains far off.

Today, most IT organizations are still either in the early adoption or the testing stage with Kubernetes. For many, just getting comfortable with the new architecture, networking constructs, and application and service management requirements requires considerable internal education and digestion.

Gateway API and Ingress controllers are not mutually exclusive

As we’ve done at NGINX, other Ingress maintainers will presumably implement the Gateway API in their products to take advantage of the new functionality and stay current with the Kubernetes API and project. Just as RESTful APIs are useful for many tasks, the Kubernetes API underpins many products and services, all built on the foundation of its powerful container orchestration engine.

The Gateway API is designed to be a universal component layer for managing service connectivity and behaviors within Kubernetes. It is expressive and extensible, making it useful for many roles, from DevOps to security to NetOps.

As a team that has invested considerable resources into an open source Ingress controller, NGINX could have chosen to integrate the Gateway API into our existing work. Instead, we elected to leverage the Gateway API as a standalone, more open-ended project. We chose this path so as not to project the existing constraints of our Ingress controller implementation onto ways we might hope to use the Gateway API or NGINX in the future. With fewer constraints, it is easier to fail faster or to explore new designs and concepts. Like most cloud-native technology, the Gateway API construct is designed for loose coupling and modularity ­— even more so than the Ingress controller, in fact.

We are also hopeful that some of our new work around the Gateway API is taken back into the open-source community. We have been present in the Kubernetes community for quite some time and are increasing our open-source efforts around the Gateway API.

It could be interpreted that the evolving API provides an invaluable insertion point and opportunity for a “do-over” on service networking. But that does not mean that everyone is quick to toss out years of investment in other projects. Ingress will continue to be important as Gateway API matures and develops, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Plan for a hybrid future

Does it sound like we think the Kubernetes world should have its Gateway API cake and eat its Ingress controller too? Well, we do. Guilty as charged. Bottom line: We believe Kubernetes is a big tent with plenty of room for both new constructs and older categories. Improving on existing Ingress controllers —which were tethered to a limited annotation capability that induced complexity and reduced modularity — remains critical for organizations for the foreseeable future.

Yes, the Gateway API will help us improve Ingress controllers and unleash innovation, but it’s an API, not a product category. This new API is not a magic wand nor a silver bullet. Smart teams are planning for this hybrid future, learning about the improvements the Gateway API will bring while continuing to plan around ongoing Ingress controller improvement. The beauty of this hybrid reality is that everyone can run clusters in the way they know and desire. Every team gets what they want and need.

Brian Ehlert is director of product management at NGINX.

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