Tag Archives: startup news

Notion, a startup that operates a workplace productivity platform

Two years ago, Notion partnered with dozens of accelerators and incubators to provide free credits for its work collaboration platform to its portfolio startups. The firm is now aggressively making the program open to all startups.

Notion is launching a new startup program Tuesday to offer a credit of at least $500 to any startup globally to try its product for free — regardless of its size and funding status. Based on the size of the team, the credit could give startups access to Notion’s premium offerings at no cost for as long as a year — if not longer.

When Notion originally launched the program, it was attempting to “make sure that startups around the world adopt Notion,” said Akshay Kothari, chief operating officer of the startup, in an interview.

Things have changed dramatically for the work collaboration platform in the past two years. The startup, valued at $2 billion in its most recent financing round, has emerged as the productivity suite of choice for many startups (Figma, Substack, Modern Health, Mixpanel, Buffer and Headspace to name a few), developers, creatives, and designers among others.

The number of startups using Notion has surged 4x in the last year as businesses around the globe embraced remote working, it said. Over 50% of startups in Y Combinator’s recent batch have a Notion workspace, and 90 of Forbes’ Cloud 100 companies have a Notion team workspace, and about 28% of startups globally listed on Crunchbase that have raised over $1 million are also using the platform.

It’s become quite common to see even startup founders in India — a market Notion has admittedly not particularly focused a lot on — share their pitch decks created and stored on Notion to potential investors. Many are writing announcements on Notion, taking and sharing notes with their teams on Notion pages.

Kothari said as part of the new push, Notion is also developing new templates to remove friction from such use cases. Additionally, it’s also launching what it calls a startup starter pack, which will feature guides, tutorials, Livestream opportunities, customer stories, and frequently asked questions.

“Our goal is to get to a point where Notion becomes a tool that every startup in the world goes to without even having to think about it,” he said.

To reach that level of scale, Notion is also partnering with two infrastructure giants that are widely admired by startups: AWS and Stripe. The two firms will now provide Notion’s premium offerings — to a certain limit of credits — to hundreds of thousands of startups in their programs, Kothari said.

Just as significant AWS and Stripe have become to startups, “we think Notion can become the information infrastructure with them,” he said. “Now that we have launched this, we will continue to look at forming more partnerships.”

“Notion has been a boon for the Stripe Atlas Community, helping businesses of all sizes stay organized and aligned through all of their key milestones, and bringing employees closer than ever before,” said Krithika Muthukumar, Startups Business Lead at Stripe, in a statement. “We’re happy to bring Notion into the Atlas program and explore new ways we can support our community together.” (In a statement, AWS said its customers “rave” about Notion and it will explore more ways to strategically collaborate with Notion.)

YouTube acquires Indian social commerce startup Simsim

YouTube has acquired social commerce startup Simsim, the Google-owned firm said on Tuesday. Neither of the firms disclosed the terms of the deal, but two people with knowledge of the matter told the Indian startup was valued at over $70 million.

Two-year-old Simsim had raised about $17 million before today’s announcement and was valued at $50.1 million in its 2020 Series B financing round.

The Gurgaon-headquartered startup helps small businesses in India transition to e-commerce by using the power of video and creators. The startup’s eponymous app acts as a platform to connect local businesses, influencers, and customers.

The thesis, according to Rohan Malhotra of Good Capital, an early backer of Simsim, is: “micro-influencers are more effective at building a targeted audience (growth), creating entertaining experiences (retention), building trust (higher value) and personalizing messaging (conversion). Consumer social platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) cannot meaningfully monetize via advertising-financed models in India; this unlocks the opportunity for more deeply integrated transactional platforms. New internet users in India need an interactive seller-led experience to replicate the offline e-commerce experience this market is used to.”

He, like everyone else, declined to comment on the size of the deal. The Simsim chief executive didn’t respond to a query about the acquisition Monday evening (IST).

“We started Simsim with the mission of helping users across India shop online with ease, enabled through small sellers and brands showcasing and selling their products using the power of content by trusted influencers. Being a part of the YouTube and Google ecosystem furthers simsim in its mission,” Simsim cofounders Amit Bagaria, Kunal Suri, and Saurabh Vashishtha said in a joint statement. Bagaria and Vashishtha previously worked together at Paytm.

“We cannot think of a better ecosystem in which to build simsim, in terms of technology, reach, creator networks, and culture. We can’t wait to be part of YouTube and are excited to build simsim within the most admired tech company in the world.”

For YouTube, the acquisition will enable the video streaming giant to help small businesses and retailers in India reach new customers in even more powerful ways, wrote Gautam Anand, VP of YouTube APAC, in a blog post.

The video streaming service, which reaches over 450 million monthly active users in India, doesn’t plan to make any immediate changes to Simsim and the startup’s app will continue to operate independently “while we work on ways to showcase Simsim offers to YouTube viewers,” he added.

Tuesday’s announcement is Google’s latest push in India, where it has committed to invest $10 billion in the next couple of years. The internet giant has also backed Indian startups Glance and DailyHunt, both of which operate short-video apps.

“With over 2500 YouTube creators with over one million subscribers, and the success of YouTube Shorts, which we launched in India first, we’re committed to bringing the best of YouTube to India and growing the creator community by making it even easier for the new generation of mobile-first creators to get started,” he added.

Uber Freight business

Uber has offloaded its air taxi business Elevate to Joby Aviation, the last of several moonshots to be sold by the ride-hailing company in a pursuit to stick to its core business and reach profitability.

The transaction announced Tuesday is part of a complex deal that includes Uber investing $75 million into Joby and an expanded partnership between the two companies. Last year, Uber and Joby, which is developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft, signed on as a vehicle partner for Uber’s Elevate initiative. Joby was the first partner to commit to deploying air taxi services by 2023.

The $75 million investment comes in addition to a previously undisclosed $50 million investment made as part of Joby’s Series C financing round in January 2020, Uber said. To date, Joby Aviation has raised $820 million. Uber has invested a total of $125 million into the startup.

Under the deal, which is expected to close in early 2021, the two parent companies have agreed to integrate their respective services into each other’s apps.

“Advanced air mobility has the potential to be exponentially positive for the environment and future generations,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “This deal allows us to deepen our partnership with Joby, the clear leader in this field, to accelerate the path to market for these technologies.”

While Joby is considered one of the leaders, Elevate did play a role in shaping the nascent industry, including establishing some of the benchmarks used by competitors.

“The team at Uber Elevate has not only played an important role in our industry, but they have also developed a remarkable set of software tools that build on more than a decade of experience enabling on-demand mobility,” Joby Aviation CEO JoeBen Bevirt said in a statement.” These tools and new team members will be invaluable to us as we accelerate our plans for commercial launch.”

One year ago, Uber’s business model could be categorized as an “all of the above approach,” a strategy to generate revenue from all forms of transportation, including ride-hailing, micro-mobility, logistics, and package and food delivery. The COVID-19 pandemic and Khosrowshahi’s focus on profitability prompted the company to dump its moonshots and double down on delivery with its acquisition of Postmates.

Today, Uber is a company focused on ride-hailing and delivery while keeping its hand in micro-mobility, logistics, and autonomous vehicles through a series of deals struck in 2020.

Read Primer, The UK Fintech Raises £14M Series A Funding

The Joby-Elevate terms are similar to two other Uber deals this year. In the spring, Uber led a $170 million funding round in micro-mobility startup Lime. As part of the deal, Lime acquired Uber’s micro-mobility subsidiary Jump. The majority of Jump’s 400 employees were laid off. Earlier this week, autonomous vehicle startup Aurora Innovation reached an agreement with Uber to buy the ride-hailing firm’s self-driving unit in a complex deal that will value the combined company at $10 billion.

Just like Uber’s deals with Lime and now Joby, Aurora isn’t paying cash for Uber ATG, a company that was last valued at $7.25 billion. Instead, Uber is handing over its equity in ATG and investing $400 million into Aurora, which will give it a 26% stake in the combined company, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Uber said in October that it sold off a $500 million stake in its Uber Freight business to an investor group led by New York-based investment firm Greenbriar Equity Group. The deal valued the unit at $3.3 billion on a post-money basis. Uber has maintained its majority stake in Uber Freight, unlike the Jump, Elevate, and ATG deals.

Primer, the fintech helping merchants consolidate the payments stack, raises £14M Series A and The round was led by Accel, who I understand was very aggressive in persuading Primer to take the money from the VC firms.

Gabs and Paul, Co-founders @ Primer

Primer, the UK Fintech that wants to help merchants simplify their payments stack and easily support new payment methods in the future, has raised £14 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Accel, who I understand was very aggressive in persuading Primer to take the money from the VC firms.

The young company wasn’t aggressively fund-raising, having quietly raised 3.8 million pounds of funding announced in May. Instead, the team set out to build up the product and woo potential buyers by hosting technical workshops and in-depth Zoom interviews with 100 merchants—an activity that didn’t go unnoticed.

Existing investors are also participating in Series A: Balderton, SpeedInvest, and Seedcamp, who was joined in the round by the new backer RTP Global. Sonali De Rycker, partner at Accel, will join the board of Primer.

Founded by former PayPal employees – via the acquisition of Braintree by PayPal – Primer wants to offer one payment API to hopefully) rule them all with the clear aim of bringing greater transparency to the merchant’s payment stack.

The view is that larger merchants, particularly those operating in more than one geography, need to support a variety of payment methods that carry significant technical overheads, poor user interface, and lack of transparency.

Primer, now described as a “low-code” platform, carries out a lot of this heavy-lifting on behalf of merchants while remaining steadfastly payment method agnostic. By doing so the idea is to minimize friction by introducing new payment methods as they come onto the market and to be able to provide more visibility into things like how well each checkout option is performing.

As well as payment service providers (PSPs), the platform has connectors for fraud providers, charging systems, subscription billing engines, BI tools, loyalty, and reward platforms. Both payments and non-payment services can be “seamlessly connected to checkout experience and payments flow via workflows, enabling merchants to unify their fraud migration activities, create sophisticated transaction routing, and solve complex flows – all without a code” says Primer.

Primer says that additional funding will be used for the growth of international business and the expansion of its team. Billed as a remote-first company, Primer has 23 employees across six countries and says that it has already gained traction across mid-market and large e-commerce enterprise merchants across Europe.

You may read: Fundraising, productivity critical this year for co-working startups

Comments Paul Anthony, Primer’s co-founder and Head of Product and Engineering: “During our time at PayPal, we saw first-hand the technical burden that online merchants face in trying to provide the best payment experience to their customers worldwide. Our low-code approach enables merchant payment teams to control and extend their payment ecosystems and maintain a sophisticated payment logic with a familiar UI workflow.”

In the meantime, the new investment takes Primer’s total funding to £17.8 million and comes just a few weeks after the initial launch of the company’s platform.

As the world is increasingly dependent on digital technologies, more creative ideas for online start-ups are coming to the table. This is evident in Startups 100 Top 5, which sees five web-based companies taking top spots.

  • Trouva
  • Neos
  • Cudoni
  • Perlego
  • Tempo

1. Trouva

Helping over 900 independent boutiques around the world compete with eCommerce giants, Trouva fills the gap between the high street and people’s living rooms. In reality, Trouva has been a lifeline for its partners in the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling 70% of them to continue trading. This dedication, along with its super-strong finances, won it the top spot in the Startups 100.

2. Neos

Snatching the second position overall on the first-ever Startups 100 application is no mean feat, which demonstrates that having a distinctive and disruptive product will make a difference. Neos allows consumers to buy their smart home gadgets and integrates smart home insurance with leading insurance firms. This combined product offering saw customer acquisitions surpassing 150,000 in less than a year – amazing stuff.

3. Cudoni

Buying and selling luxury products is very different from the regular eBay listing, which is why Cudoni has seen a lot of early-stage growth.  It offers ‘total comfort’ by taking care of everything, from photography to fulfillment. And its figures speak for themselves – working on the commission, Cudoni expects to sell more than 100,000 luxury goods to 100 countries in 2020.  No wonder celebrities like  Millie Mackintosh trust it.

Read 10 Best Startup Tools for 2020

4. Perlego

College, university, even online courses – these are costly activities that are much more costly when you take into account the reading material you need to complete the course.  Perlego saw a gap that had to be filled. Offering subscription-based access to a large digital library of academic books, the start-up has seen a 116% monthly rise in new subscribers and has just raised $9 million in funding.  Certainly a worthy 4th place winner.

5. Tempo

We should all agree that recruiting is hard work.  It’s taking time, money, and a lot of patience. Luckily, Tempo exists to up the pace. Claiming to shorten the ‘time to recruit’ to only four days and to reduce  costs by 65%, the machine learning pairs applicants and companies based on ‘rich-format CVs.’  With the likes of Monzo, Bulb, and ASOS on board with their smart recruiting strategy, Tempo’s third Startups 100 entry sees it cruise to 5th place.

Learning App

Tiger Global invests BYJU’s $200 million; the value jumps to $8 billion

  • The investment will increase the valuation of India’s third-largest startup by around 45% to around $8 billion.
  • The company is on track to double its revenue in the current financial year to about ₹3,000 crores, Raveendran says.

Tiger Global Fund, based in New York, will invest $200 million in Think and Learn Pvt. Ltd, the learning technology firm owned and operated by Byju’s learning app, the startup said on Thursday. The investment will raise the valuation of India’s third-largest startup by about 45 percent to about $8 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The latest investment from Tiger Global is stand-alone financing, unlike previous rounds when multiple investors bought into Byju’s together. Its last funding round saw an infusion of $150 million led by the Qatar Investment Authority in July last year, the above-mentioned person said on anonymity condition.

Byju’s has raised approximately $995 million from investors like Naspers, Tencent, Verlinvest, Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Aarin Capital since its founding in 2011.

“We are delighted to partner with a powerful Tiger Global Management investor. They share our sense of purpose and this partnership will accelerate our long-term dream of making an impact by changing the way students learn,” said in a statement founder & CEO Byju Raveendran.

Tiger Global is one of the most active investors in consumer internet space and has supported around 14 companies in India till date.

The investment firm has also begun to focus on the Business-to-Business (B2B) segment and has recently invested $90 million in Ninjacart’s agri-tech startup. It has also invested in companies like NestAway, Grofers, and Razorpay payment company.

Raveendran, a former school teacher, was one of the early entrants when he started the company into the online learning space in India. Byju’s learning apps offer kindergarten-wide programs for high school students.

The company’s apps target students for a variety of programs including competitive exams such as the Common Aptitude Test and the Indian Administrative Services entrance. The cost of such online courses ranges from ₹5,000 to ₹100,000.

Its registered users have risen to 42 million, while it has another 3 million paid subscribers, a level that, according to industry officials, will allow the company and its subsidiaries to break into profits early

Byju’s says that in the financial year ended March it turned profitable, with revenue tripling year-on-year to a crore of ₹1,480. However, the company still recorded a net loss of some ₹15 crores in FY19, including its subsidiaries, compared to a loss of some ₹37 crores in the previous fiscal year.

Founder Raveendran said the company is on track to double its revenue in the current financial year to about ₹3,000 crores and is working on Indian language programs to make it accessible to learners in smaller towns. Additionally, in the coming months, the startup will launch’ Byju’s Online Tutoring.’

The company faces a number of challenges despite its positive track record, an analyst said.

“The biggest issue facing Byju’s is customer acquisition and customer retention,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, analyst and chief executive officer at Greyhound Research.

“While there may be an increasing number of registered users, the percentage of renewals is significant. Most learners have a tendency to drop out,” said Gogia.

“Secondly, the content assumes a certain knowledge standard, so it is necessary to improve the applicability of the content,” added Gogia. “For example, the level of all students in the sixth grade may not be the same, but the content is standard.”

Byju’s need to enhance student engagement as it “has not figured out individual learning paths,” the analyst said.

Scott Schlifer, Tiger Global’s partner, said the firm is optimistic about the company as it “has emerged as the leader in the Indian education technology sector” and is “pioneering technology that shapes the future of learning for millions of school students in India.”

According to the government-backed India Brand Equity Foundation, India’s online learning market is expected to double to $5.7 billion by 2020.

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