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Startup Digest: Mensa Brands acquires Pebble, BYJU’s auditor yet to sign off on financials for two years: Report & Coinbase slashes 1,100 jobs

Startup Digest: Mensa Brands acquires Pebble, BYJU’s auditor yet to sign off on financials for two years: Report & Coinbase slashes 1,100 jobs

Startup Digest: Mensa Brands acquires Pebble, BYJU’s auditor yet to sign off on financials for two years: Report & Coinbase slashes 1,100 jobs
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By Aishwarya Anand  Jun 14, 2022 10:44:30 PM IST (Published)

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Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Mensa Brands acquires wearables brand Pebble
E-commerce roll-up unicorn Mensa Brands has acquired the wearables brand Pebble for an undisclosed sum, marking its foray into the smart wearables segment.
This will strengthen Pebble's online footprint and amplify its marketing and branding efforts to become a household digital brand, Mensa Brands said in a statement.
"In the fast growing smart wearables segment, we believe Pebble stands apart as it perfectly combines fashion with cutting-edge technology. Our collaboration with Pebble is set to write the next chapter in the brand's journey, one which will take it to wider audiences and geographies, scaling its business exponentially in the process," said Ananth Narayanan, Founder and CEO, Mensa Brands.
BYJU’s auditor yet to sign off on financials for two years: The Ken report
Edtech giant BYJU’s is yet to file its financial statements for FY21 and FY22 as auditor Deloitte is hesitant to put its signature due to concerns around refunds, loan guarantees and unusual revenue recognition practices, according to a report by The Ken.
In response to the publication’s questions, a spokesperson from BYJU’s reportedly said that the delay was caused by multiple reasons, including its series of aggressive acquisitions. The edtech startup made at least 10 acquisitions for a cumulative transaction value of around $2.5 billion in 2021.
Given the rapid growth of BYJU’s in size and scale, the spokesperson also blamed a lack of audit bandwidth, according to The Ken. BYJU’s has declined to comment on queries sent by CNBC-TV18.
As per sources cited by The Ken, how BYJU’s records its revenue from sales of hardware (memory cards, tablets etc.) and software (apps and online classes) could have caused a discrepancy in the edtech firm’s financial statements.
Unacademy opens learning centres in Kota amid threats from Allen
Unacademy has launched two offline learning centres in Kota of Rajasthan. Kota is the hub of coaching institutes with lakhs of students preparing for JEE Main, NEET, UPSC, SSC and other entrances residing there to prepare for their exams.
Many traditional institutes including Allen are the traditional hubs there. Unacademy, predominantly an edtech player, enrolled teachers from Kota-based institutes.
The hiring of teachers from Kota-based institutes had not gone down well with Allen. Recently, head of Allen Coaching in a video message had threatened the teachers leaving the institute by stating that it would blacklist them.
The company has onboarded over 30 top educators for its Kota Centres. Unacademy Centres will offer coaching in NEET-UG, JEE Main and Advanced, and Foundation (9-10) courses in its Kota centres. The company aims to enrol up to 15,000 learners in the first batch across all the upcoming Unacademy Centres in the nine cities.
Google India launches startup accelerator program for women founders
Google has launched its new startups accelerator programme which aims to help about 20 startups led by women founders in India.
The tech giant said that the program will help the startup founders address challenges unique to their experience, which primarily includes fundraising and hiring among others.
Google’s first batch of the Startups Accelerator - India Women Founders programme is going to enroll up to 20 women-founded/ co-founded startups in the country. This includes startups which are at the early product stage, and support them through a three-month programme.
The programme will place special focus on areas like access to networks, access to capital, hiring challenges, mentorship and many others which, for a variety of social reasons and low representation, prove challenging for female founder.
WRMS gets Euro 2.1M grant to provide solutions for yield guarantee to small farmers
Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS), an agriculture risk management company, has received 2.1 million euros (Rs 17 crore) from InsuResilience Solutions Fund to provide solutions for yield guarantee to small farmers.
The company will use the fresh capital to develop and implement the yield guarantee solution to improve the resilience of 1,00,000 smallholder farmers against climate risks and incentivise smart agricultural risk management practices, WRMS said in a statement.
InsuResilience Solutions Fund (ISF), managed by the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management (FS), and financed by KfW Development Bank, signed a grant agreement with WRMS and INGEN Technologies, a data provider of weather stations, to co-fund the project development and implementation of the yield guarantee solution. The project also aims to scale up the yield guarantee solution for crops such as cotton, chili, paddy, wheat and potato.
Mumbai Angels onboards DLabs as Co-Investment Partner
Mumbai Angels, a private investments platform, has signed an MoU with DLabs Incubator Association (DLabs) at the Indian School of Business to strengthen the needed infrastructure for the entrepreneurs to interact, engage and collaborate with mentors, investors and academia.
“DLabs offers the ideal platform to interact and engage with one another as startups, and with founders and academia. Their fostering infrastructure has enabled several student entrepreneurs and startups to rise, and there are yet many more ventures that need nurturing,” said Nandini Mansinghka, Co-Founder and CEO of Mumbai Angels.
“This partnership enables us to further help the startups in our portfolio reach out to more investors and pitch their ideas to them, and also get more varied sector-specific mentorship,” added Saumya Kumar, I-Venture @ISB and CEO of DLabs.
C-CAMP, SELCO Foundation to support neonatal health in tribal areas of Karnataka
Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms or C-CAMP has partnered with SELCO Foundation, a sustainable technology foundation, to launch the pilot deployment of a long-supported portfolio technology in maternal and neonatal health monitoring.
The technology’s USP is non-invasive diagnosis and management of neonatal sepsis. The deployment of this technology developed by C-CAMP startup and former incubatee Spotsense in the tribal majority Sargur, Mysore district, Karnataka is expected to significantly improve these numbers and make quality healthcare accessible to socially and economically vulnerable communities, a statement said.
SELCO Foundation, with C-CAMP, will support Spotsense for pilot deployments with seven different partners providing healthcare services to vulnerable communities.
Euler Motors to deploy 1,000 e3Ws with LetsTransport
Euler Motors, an electric vehicle company, has partnered with LetsTransport, an urban logistics aggregator to deploy 1,000 HiLoad EVs in the 3-wheeler commercial segment.
Both companies will collaborate to deploy these EVs in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi-NCR and cover other cities across India over the next 12 months, a statement said.
“We will place 300 EVs in 2022, and plan to deploy 3000 EVs by the end of 2025”, said Pushkar Singh, Founder and CEO, LetsTransport.
Euler Motors will oversee deployment of these vehicles via its full stack ecosystem of charging infrastructure and service support, while LetsTransport will enable customer mobilization and retail deliveries. With load capacity at 688 kg, on road range of more than 151 km and a 12.4 KwH liquid cooled battery, HiLoad, offers low total-cost-of-ownership, the statement added.
B2B fintech company EnKash to hire 120 employees
All-in-one spends management and corporate cards company EnKash is looking to double its team size by hiring over 120 employees over the next few months. The fintech firm will hire across three major categories: Technology, Business, and Support.
The company will mass-hire high potential talent from across cities. There will be an equal emphasis on fresh talent, people with career breaks, as well as experienced professionals. Presently, EnKash plans to continue operating in the hybrid work model in its offices in NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, it said in a statement.
This recruitment drive will take EnKash’s total employee strength to over 250 members by March 2023. The company currently employs 120+ people and recently ramped-up its team size by over 100 percent. It now plans to strategically increase its team strength to 500 within FY 23-24.
“EnKash has witnessed an unprecedented growth of 10X in its user base. This potential talent will further help us innovate, solve and create a competitive advantage for us in the payments industry,” said Hemant Vishnoi, Co-founder, EnKash.
Relocation startup HappyLocate to hire 600 employees this fiscal
Tech-based one-stop relocation platform HappyLocate is planning to hire over 600 employees this financial year in line with its expansion plans. This hiring will be across six departments: sales, HR, accounts, operations, marketing and technology, it said in a statement.
With these expansion plans, HappyLocate intends to expand its presence across the country and has mapped out a plan to create new employment opportunities for 600 employees in FY23, it added.
"As a company, we strive to promote equality and continue to unlock the great talent that exists inside and outside our organisation. We are looking to hire people, both from metros or tier II and III cities, who can fit perfectly in our dynamic culture, said Sainadh Duvvuru, CBO and Co-Founder, HappyLocate.
Smytten to double down its employee strength by end of 2022
Smytten-a tech-enabled product discovery and trial platform is planning to expand its resource strength across functions like supply chain, marketing and other key functions.
The company currently employs more than 300 people with a very vibrant culture and a strong focus on talent retention. It is scaling up its leadership team to fuel the next phase of growth across its offices in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, the firm said in a statement.
“We are aiming to double our current employee strength and hire across many key functions. A large part of the hiring will be for our offices across Ahmedabad & Bengaluru. We are also open to young talent fresh out of universities to join us along the journey and grow with us,” said Siddhartha Nangia, Co-founder, of Smytten.
Zingbus to expand its services to South India
Intercity travel company, zingbus, has announced the expansion of its services to the southern region of India, starting with Karnataka and Telangana. With the new territories, zingbus plans to connect 400 cities, bridging the gap between the South, West and North regions.
To start with, Bengaluru and Hyderabad will serve as the major hubs. Starting with 10 cities, the company plans to scale up to 35 for this region and connect zingbus’s existing network of Maharashtra, Goa and Chattisgarh. The startup plans to launch 30 routes with over 200 buses while also broadening the operator network to over 25 within six months, a statement said.
As part of the strategy, the travel company claims that it will enable small and medium-size bus owners & operators to leverage the technology platform and services with maximum transparency and minimum overheads to increase their bottom line.
This is part of the plan where the company aims to deploy over 700 buses by the end of this year and aims to have over 2,000 buses on the road by the end of next year.
Chingari announces GARI Mining program to empower creators
Chingari, an on-chain social app has announced the GARI Mining program to empower 40 million monthly average users (MAU).
Under this Create-2-Earn, Watch-2-Earn and Engage-2-earn program, creators and users can earn GARI, the social token for doing in-app activities including creating, liking, and sharing videos.
The GARI tokens will be distributed to the creators from a daily pool of 50,000 tokens, out of which 5,000 tokens will be set aside for the daily login bonus. The remaining 45,000 GARI will be rewarded to the users/creators for enjoying in-app activities including watching, liking, and sharing videos on the app, a statement said.
Elon Musk to address Twitter employees for first time in Town Hall
Elon Musk will speak to Twitter employees this week for the first time at a company-wide meeting since launching his $44 billion bid in April, a source said told Reuters, citing an email from Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal to staff.
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, and Musk will take questions directly from Twitter employees, the source added.
The news, first reported by Business Insider, comes after Twitter said last week that it anticipated a shareholder vote on the sale by early August. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Musk would attend the company all-hands meeting this week.
Coinbase slashes 1,100 jobs as crypto winter sets in
Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase will cut about 1,100 jobs, or 18% of its workforce, the latest company preparing to ride out a downturn in the cryptosphere, Reuters reported.
The cryptocurrency market has been roiled by extreme volatility as investors dumped risky assets on fears that higher inflation readings would force the US Federal Reserve to turn more aggressive in raising interest rates and tip the economy into a recession.
"We appear to be entering a recession after a 10+ year economic boom. A recession could lead to another crypto winter, and could last for an extended period," Chief Executive Officer Brian Armstrong said in a blogpost.
Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency, tumbled as much as 14 percent on Monday after crypto lender Celsius Network froze withdrawals and transfers.
Armstrong said employees would receive an email informing them if they had been affected, without giving further details.
Google, Facebook, Twitter to tackle deepfakes or risk EU fines
Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies will have to take measures to counter deepfakes and fake accounts on their platforms or risk hefty fines under an updated European Union code of practice, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.
The European Commission is expected to publish the updated code of practice on disinformation on Thursday as part of its crackdown against fake news.
Introduced in 2018, the voluntary code will now become a co-regulation scheme, with responsibility shared between the regulators and signatories to the code.
The updated code spells out examples of manipulative behaviour such as deepfakes and fake accounts which the signatories will have to tackle.
"Relevant signatories will adopt, reinforce and implement clear policies regarding impermissible manipulative behaviours and practices on their services, based on the latest evidence on the conducts and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) employed by malicious actors," the documentsaid.
Google offers to let ad rivals place YouTube ads in EU antitrust probe
Google parent Alphabet has offered to let rival ad intermediaries place ads on YouTube to address a crucial part of an EU antitrust investigation that could pave the way for it to settle the case without a fine, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The European Commission opened a probe last year to examine whether the world's largest provider of search and video was giving itself an unfair advantage in digital advertising by restricting rivals' and advertisers' access to user data.
The EU competition watchdog singled out Google's requirement that advertisers use its Ad Manager to display ads on YouTube and potential restrictions on the way in which rivals serve ads on YouTube.
It is also looking into Google's requirement that advertisers use its services Display & Video 360 and Google Ads to buy YouTube ads. YouTube posted $6.9 billion in sales in the first quarter of this year.
Nigeria to require social media platforms to open local offices
Online platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok will be required to register and open offices in Nigeria and appoint contact persons with the government, as per draft regulations from the information technology development agency seen by Reuters.
The code of practice for "interactive computer service platforms/internet intermediaries" was meant to curb online abuse, including disinformation and misinformation, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said in the regulations posted on its website.
A statement from the agency's spokesperson said the regulations were developed with input from Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google and TikTok, among others.
German cartel office examining Apple's tracking rules
Germany's cartel office is looking into Apple's rules on tracking for third-party apps to see whether they give the US tech giant preferential treatment or hinder other companies, Reuters reported.
"We welcome data-friendly business models that give users choices about how their data is used," said cartel office president Andreas Mundt. "However, a company like Apple, which can unilaterally set the rules in its ecosystem and especially in the App Store, should make them in line with competition."
In question is Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, which requires users to give additional consent to having their data collected through tracking on apps that are not from Apple, according to the cartel office.
A spokesperson for Apple said the company would work constructively with the cartel office to resolve any issues and discuss its approach to tracking rules.
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