Indian tech firm raises $50 mn from Zuckerberg arm, partners

Sep 8, 2016 0

Bengaluru– India’s leading education technology provider Byjus on Thursday announced raising $50 million (Rs 333 crore) from Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and four venture capital partners to fund its expansion plans.

The four partners are Sequoia, Sofina, Lightspeed and Times Internet.

“We will deploy the fund to fuel international expansion and inspire additional funding from leading companied the world over,” said Byju founder and Chief Executive Byju Raveendran in a statement here.

Byju Raveendran

Byju Raveendran

The investment by CZI, the philanthropic arm of the online social media network Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, is its first in an Asian firm.

The year-old start-up, however, did not disclose the amount of investment made by CZI and each of the four partners to its first round of funding.

“Our application (K-12 app), which has registered 5.5 million downloads, has 250,000 paid annual subscribers across the country,” said Raveendran.

The K-12 app offers learning programmes for students in classes 4-12 and competitive exams like JEE, NEET, CAT, IAS, GRE and GMAT.

“Our K-12 app is reinventing how students learn in the age of mobile devices, as our approach combines teachers, pedagogical methods and data science to deliver personalised learning, feedback and assessments for school students,” said Raveendran.

Noting that Indian families work hard to give their children education for a better future, CZI’s Vivian Wu said Byju’s represented an opportunity to help more students develop love for learning and unlock their potential.

“We support innovative models of learning wherever they are around the world,” said Wu, who will soon join Byju’s board.

With 40-miniute engagement rate per day and 90 percent of users renewing subscription, Byju’s is proving to be effective at improving learning outcomes.

“We are partnering with CZI to usher in the next stage of our growth, as our vision of advancing human potential and promoting equality aligns with it (CZI), added Raveendran.

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Uber co-founder invests in Ravi Ika’s health care startup RxAdvance

Aug 31, 2016 0

SOUTHBOROUGH, MA— RxAdvance, a pharmacy benefits management company, announced that Uber co-founder Oscar Salazar, and Walter Jin, founder of Carlyle Healthcare Group, have invested in Series-A funding round and join the RxAdvance board. The company did not disclose the amount.

Southborough, MA-based RxAdvance was founded by Ravi  Ika, who serves as the company’s President and the Chief Executive Officer. In addition Ika, there are several  Indian-Americans in the top executive positions at the company. They include Anand Tati, Chief Operating Officer;  Prakash Tallabattula, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer; Madu Narahari, Executive Vice President, Implementations;  and Bijendra Malik, Executive Vice President and Chief Security Officer.

Left to right: Ika, Sculley and Kota

Left to right: Ika, Sculley and Kota

Indian-American entrepreneur Subu Kota, president of the Boston Group USA, serves on the board of RxAdvance. Other Indian-American board members include Devaiah Pagidipati and Krishna Ika.

“It is a game-changer for RxAdvance with Uber c0-founder Oscar Salazar joining our team,” Kota told IndUS Business Journal.

“We are honored to have two of the leading minds in disruptive technology and business as our investment partners and board members. We at RxAdvance feel that their high-tech experience and guidance will help to transform the $770 billion PBM and associated avoidable drug-impacted medical spend that is long overdue for innovation,” Ika said in a statement.

Jin was the co-founder of The Healthcare Group at The Carlyle Group. Jin currently serves as the Executive Chairman of Pager and has over 20 years of investment and operational experience in the healthcare sector. He is the co-founder of Three Fields Capital and Pacific Healthcare Management, which manage a portfolio of private equity and venture capital healthcare investments. He is a graduate of Harvard University and currently serves as an Executive in Residence at Johns Hopkins Medicine and an Innovation Fellows Technical Advisor to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Our goal is to leverage disruptive technology and world-class design to reinvent healthcare and deliver cost savings and efficiencies,” said Salazar and Jin. “We are proud to join the RxAdvance board, as its accountable drug benefit management practice and risk-sharing business models are timely in this antiquated industry and are perfectly aligned with the healthcare investments in which we are involved.”

“In the recent years, several successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and blue chip companies have entered the healthcare vertical to disrupt and transform, in vain. This lack of success can be attributed to the absence of substantial business and revenue models, disruptive service offerings, and a proven track record in the complex healthcare eco-system,” says John Sculley, former Apple CEO and Vice Chairman of RxAdvance. “What impressed me about Ravi and his team at RxAdvance is that they have all the essential components for success – a widely proven and successful revenue model, a solid platform and innovative thinking, a proven track record, and deep healthcare domain expertise capable of disrupting traditional paradigms throughout the care continuum. Through its innovative Collaborative PBM Cloud.”

He said RxAdvance is challenging large incumbent PBMs by disrupting their decades-old business and revenue models, and their risk-sharing models are unheard of in the PBM market.

“I believe this model will pave the path for new entrants from Silicon Valley. Oscar and Walter’s participation is a great testament to the proven model established by RxAdvance,” said Sculley.

RxAdvance is a national full-service pharmacy benefit manager that leverages Collaborative PBM Cloud™ to deliver integrated PBM services that reduce overall pharmacy costs, optimize specialty spend by converting from “buy and bill” to “manage and authorize”, and reduce avoidable drug-impacted medical costs while improving patient’s quality of life with unmatched regulatory compliance and transparency. In addition, RxAdvance offers a global pharmacy risk partnership model standing shoulder-to-shoulder with plan sponsors.

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Venture capital funding to financial tech startups halves in April-June in India

Aug 17, 2016 0

Kolkata– Amid a difficult climate for marketplace lenders and a drop in mega-round activity, investment to venture capital (VC) backed fintech startups fell 49 percent in April-June period, a report said on Wednesday.

VC investment in fintech (financial technology), however, remains strong in India.

The report – Pulse of Fintech published jointly by KPMG International and CB Insights — said that overall global investment in fintech companies across both venture-backed and non-venture-backed companies totalled US$9.4 billion in the April-June quarter (Q2).

In the period under review, VC-backed fintech companies raised US$2.5 billion across 195 deals, a 12 percent drop in deal volume compared to January-March period of 2016.

“Despite VC backed funding to fintech decreasing in Q2, overall fintech funding remains on track to surpass 2015 levels.

“Traditional financial institutions and banks of all sizes are realising that the opportunities associated with fintech are not about who has the deepest pockets – and so they are intensifying their innovation efforts,” said Ian Pollari, Global Co-Leader of Fintech, KPMG International.

“The decline in fintech financing and deals is in line with what we’re seeing in the broader venture environment for startups, as VCs as well as crossover investors are pushing back harder on profitability and business model concerns,” said Anand Sanwal, CEO of CB Insights.

In India, lending companies in the SME and P2P space attracted investments this quarter with Bengaluru and Mumbai bagging the top deals.

“We continue to see investment in key areas such as payments and mobile wallet as well as increased momentum in emerging areas like robo advisory,” said Neha Punater, Partner and Head of Fintech, KPMG in India.

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Messenger app Hike raises $175 million

Aug 16, 2016 0

New Delhi– Instant messenger app Hike on Tuesday announced that it raised financing of over 175 million led by Chinese company Tencent Holdings and Taiwanese electronic manufacturing company Foxconn Technology Group.

This has led to the value of the company amounting to close to around 1.4 billion, with existing investors Tiger, Bharti and SoftBank also participating in this round.

“Tencent and Foxconn both have pedigrees that speak for themselves and such investment shows the strong foundation on which Hike is being built. The new fund-raise is going to allow us to push Hike to greater heights and invest in areas that will be key to our long-term vision and success,” said Hike Founder and CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal at an event held here.

This is the fourth venture capital round and the biggest to date for Hike, taking the total investment to over more than 250 million.

The company said it will be investing the raised fund in improving the technology of the app as well as for better service.

Talking about end-to-end encryption, Mittal said they were planning to introduce it soon and were in talks with the government.

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WhatsApp co-founder invests in Indian firm to push ‘connected cars’

Jul 11, 2016 0

New Delhi– In a move to speed up the availability of internet-connected cars in India, WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton with other global business leaders on Monday announced they will invest an undisclosed amount in Trak N Tell — a Gurgaon-based car tracking telematics solutions startup.

Founded in 2007, Trak N Tell is owned and operated by automotive telematics technology company Bits N Bytes Soft Pvt. Ltd.

“We are happy to see rising interest in the ‘connected cars’ space in India. This funding is indicative of the same and a global appreciation of our attempt to endorse the Make In India initiative,” said Pranshu Gupta, CEO of Trak N Tell, in a statement.

“We will launch a superior safety solution for individual car and bike owners in the country. Our aim is to offer an Indian version of connected cars that are available in Europe and North America,” he added.

Trak N Tell will deploy the raised funds towards product development and business expansion.

The company currently provides a GPS product that enables car owners and fleet owners to track their vehicles. It also allows for predictive engine failure, preventive maintenance notification, fuel monitoring system and more.

“Pranshu has extremely interesting plans for the Indian automotive market and I’m very excited to help him scale his business further as an investor. It is great to be part of Trak N Tell,” added Acton.

According to the global research firm IHS Automotive, 60 percent of all cars sold in the US (about 10 million) will be connected to the internet by 2017.

Globally, it is estimated that there are 23 million connected cars on the road today with projections for 152 million by 2020.(IANS)

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Funding dips in Indian e-commerce sector

Jul 5, 2016 0

Bengaluru–Fund raising in the Indian e-commerce sector declined 50 per cent in the April-June quarter over the same period of last fiscal, investment bank and securities firm Jefferies Group said on Tuesday.

“Private funding in the Indian e-commerce sector has declined 50 per cent on yearly and quarterly basis, confirming the downward trend over the months,” the American firm said in a report.

Barring leading hotel rooms’ aggregator Oyo, which raised $100-million in April, there were fewer large transactions, indicating a slowdown in private funding in the emerging sector.

Arya Sen

Arya Sen

Data shows fund raising declined sharply to $500 million in the quarter (Q1) under review from $1 billion in the like period over the last two fiscal years, Jefferies said.

Oyo raised its equity fund from SoftBank, GreenOaks Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Observing that challenges were greater for larger firms looking for raising $100 million, Jefferies equity analyst Arya Sen said the revenue growth for Just Dial would be key for fund raising for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

“In response to the slowdown in funding, there has been a shift in focus to profitability by the larger e-tailers over the last 6-9 months from growth and general merchandise volume (GMV),” Sen recalled.

“Though most e-commerce firms are targeting to break even over the next 12-24 months by reducing discount, change in mix towards profitable categories and customers, change in strategy and loss of market share to the global e-tailer Amazon have slowed growth for many,” the report pointed out.

Funding into travel suggests that high burn will continue for MakeMytrip despite an overall slowdown in the category.

“Funding into travel space has remained strong with Goibigo, Oyo, Stayzilla and Fab Hotels raising money in the last five months,” the report noted.

Global multinational internet and media group Napsers is reported to have committed $250 million to Goibibo.

Jefferies expects 15 per cent revenue growth for Just Dial, with contribution from JD Omni, though its management indicated a gradual return to 20 percent revenue growth in this fiscal (FY 2017).

“Traction from JD will be key to look out for Just Dial guidance of 25,000 customers by this fiscal end and 10 per cent revenue growth contribution from Omni,” the report added. (IANS)

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Ratan Tata invests in chatbot

May 22, 2016 0

Kolkata–Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, has invested an undisclosed amount in niki.ai, an artificial intelligence-based chatbot, a company founded by four IIT-Kharagpur alumni.

It was founded in April 2015 by IIT Kharagpur alumni Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi and has now grown to a 21-member team.

Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata

“niki.ai, an artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbot, announced that Ratan N. Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, has invested in the company along with Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer that did a follow-up round to their first seed investment,” IIT-Kgp said in a statement on Saturday.

niki.ai leverages the technology of natural language processing and machine learning to converse with the customers over a simple chat interface, and places their orders within seconds with the partner businesses, the statement said.

Currently, Niki chatbot offers bill payments, cab booking, recharge, food ordering, home services, cricket scores, with many more applications in the pipeline, the statement said. (IANS)

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Fitness app HealthifyMe raises $6 million in funding

May 10, 2016 0

Bengaluru– App-based health and fitness startup HealthifyMe on Tuesday announced receiving $6 million Series A funding from IDG Ventures India, Inventus Capital and Blume Ventures.

“With these funds we plan to impact five million users and tie up with over 500 corporate and healthcare partners,” said HealthifyMe CEO Tushar Vashisht.

HealthifyMe is a freely downloadable app which analyses a user’s food intake, weight, physical activity and hydration to suggest a healthy regimen for the user to stay healthy and fit.

“A user can take a picture of what he is eating and send it to HealthifyMe to know the amount of calories he is taking in and receive instructions from qualified trainers, nutritionists and yoga instructors to lose weight,” said Vashisht.

The funds will be used to further develop its digital coaching platform and accelerate growth in India.

“It is a $2 billion opportunity with a few hundreds of millions of people looking for fitness and health solutions,” he said.

VLCC, Talwalkars and unorganised gyms and fitness centres are currently catering to the fitness needs of people which can be digitised and taken online with a cloud-based mobile first and highly scalable solution like HealthifyMe, said Vashisht.

The app has devliered corporate wellness programmes to Philips, GE, Cognizant and Manipal Hospitals and also offers chargeable personalised coaching.

It syncs with wearable devices like Fitbit, Yufit and MiBand, among others.

Founded in 2012 by Tushar Vashisht, Sachin Shenoy and Mathew Cherian, Healthifyme is currently being used by 5,00,000 people being served by 100 coaches.

“With HealthifyMe we want to be that company in India for wellness what MakeMyTrip has done to travelling and Uber and Ola to cab service,” added Vashisht.

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Lenskart gets Rs.400 crore funding led by IFC

May 4, 2016 0

New Delhi– Eyewear e-tailer Lenskart on Wednesday said it has received Rs.400 crore Series D funding from a host of investors, led by IFC.

“IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is investing Rs.171 crore in Indian eyewear company Lenskart to help the company expand access to high-quality and affordable eye-care products in tier-3, tier-4 cities,” said a statement from Lenskart.

IFC was the lead investor for the Rs.400 crore Series D investment round which also saw participation from TPG Growth, Adveq Management and IDG Ventures. In addition, Ratan Tata and Kris Gopalakrishnan (co-founder of Infosys) invested in their personal capacity as part of this round.

Avendus Capital was the exclusive financial advisor to this transaction.

“IFC is a long-term partner with global knowledge and a broad network of Internet, technology and healthcare clients, including in the eye care space. We appreciate IFC for their support to our vision of ‘Lenskart glasses in every home’,” said Peyush Bansal, founder and CEO of Lenskart.

“The Lenskart investment is a part of IFC’s Venture Capital group’s strategy to invest in innovative Internet, Healthcare and Technology companies across emerging markets,” said Pravan Malhotra, IFC’s co-lead for Global Internet Investments and lead for venture capital investments in South and Southeast Asia. (IANS)

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MobiKwik gets $50 million investment from strategic investors

May 3, 2016 0

New Delhi–Mobile payments network MobiKwik on Tuesday said it had received $50 million investment from Japan’s payment gateway GMO and semiconductor company Mediatek.

The latest round of funding will be used for rapid product innovation, ramping up the team and user growth, MobiKwik said in a statement here.

“We are very excited to live up to the investors’ expectations and raise the funding,” MobiKwik Founder and CEO Bipin Preet Singh said.

MobiKwik’s existing investors include Sequoia Capital and Treeline Asia.

MobiKwik’s GMV (gross merchandise value) has grown by 250 percent year on year for the last four years, the company said.

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