The year 2017 has flown by with amazing speed and is quickly and surely winding down to a close. As we approach the end of the year with infinite speed, it is time to take stock and take a look at the different things that have happened in the Startup world in this past week.
Net neutrality has been an issue which has been involved in more discussions than one. From its benefits to its negative impact, net neutrality is one of the hottest topics being spoken about. Recently, the FCC banned net neutrality. This means that free speech on the internet is going to be a thing of the past. The question here is, is this ban a good thing or a bad thing?
Food delivery platform, Swiggy, just partnered with the employee’s benefits provider Sodexo. At present, according to reports, more than 3 million people are making use of the Sodexo Meal Card option. Through this partnership, Swiggy aims at providing its users with a wide array of restaurants. The focus of the company is to empower the technological segment, enhance user experience and increase the digital acceptance of Sodexo Meal Cards.
Ecommerce giant, Amazon, is all set to invest in the small and medium enterprise lending platform, Capital Float. This Seattle based company is getting ready to invest close to $ 10 million in the digital lending platform. Currently, the ecommerce giant has invested in online financial services platform, BankBazaar. At present, Amazon is facing major competition from its rival company, Flipkart and reports suggest that Flipkart is also in talks with several lending companies for partnerships.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Paytm, has pledged his personal stock in the ecommerce arm of Paytm, Paytm Mall for the employee stock option pool. Sharma will be pledging about 5% of his stock, which amounts to $ 50 million, to the ESOP corpus which will then become 10% of the overall company. This move to pledge personal stock to the ESOP corpus comes after Flipkart completed the largest buyback by a privately held Indian startup worth $ 100 million.
Just a little over a month ago, Flipkart announced the launch of its very own smartphone Billion Capture+. In an attempt to counter this move, Amazon went ahead and launched its own smartphone under the banner, Tenor. Private play labels like Amazon and Flipkart have raised the value of smartphones from beyond what they used to be, thereby creating a niche space for users.
Homegrown cab aggregator, Ola, acquired the food delivery startup Foodpanda. Ola said it is going to acquire Foodpanda from its parent company Hero, in return for a percentage of Ola’s shares. Further, Ola said that it will invest $ 200 million after a period of time. With this acquisition, Ola will be able to enter the online food delivery and ordering service.
The social media giant, Facebook, announced new tools in an attempt to curb online harassment on social media as well as on its messaging app. Facebook has created this new feature by taking input from people who have experienced higher levels of harassment like journalists and women. The social media company consulted over 150 safety experts around the world for these new features.
As of Sunday, Bitcoin slumped from its all time high of $ 19, 666 by a whopping 40%. Bitcoin’s monumental gains this year ensured that its price soared about 19 times. This has spurred both caution and alarm among some policymakers. According to reports, Bitcoin has experienced alternating levels of highs and lows. A rise in popularity of cryptocurrencies like Ether and Ripple is one of the main reason for this, according to reports.
In an attempt to expand its ever growing presence in the world, Alibaba launched its first cloud data center in India. According to reports, this Jack Ma led firm will go live in January 2018. The new Alibaba data center will have 33 zones, spanning over regions like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Australia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. This move comes in a fight against the likes of AWS, Microsoft, Azure and Google Cloud.
After launching its first data analytics brand, Billion, Flipkart is gearing up to create an Artificial Intelligence unit called AIForIndia. With a host of new additions, Flipkart has worked hard to secure its position as the number one ecommerce brand.
In an interesting move, Quikr India placed a bid to buy HDFC Developers and HDFC Realty from HDFC Ltd., for $ 56 million. Through the years, Quikr India has added a lot of verticals to its growing portfolio, thereby increasing its market value. At present, Quikr is one of the leading companies in India and has a market value of around $ 1.5 billion.
On Sunday, Bitcoin rose as much as $ 19,666 in the lead up to exchange giant CME Group’s launch of bitcoin futures. Nevertheless, the currency seems to have lost steam post the launch. The current plunge comes amid growing signs of mania among regulators and investors for anything cryptocurrency related. Although CME and its rival, Cboe Global Market have given this particular form of cryptocurrency perceived validation, a majority of policymakers are still skeptical and on the fence about the Bitcoin issue.
The Department of Industrial Policy and Development (DIPP,) stated that as of 1 December 2017, a total of 5,350 startups have been recognized under the Startup India Programme. Through this programme, about 40,000 people have been employed in the startup world. At present, India currently ranks third in the startup ecosystem, world over.
That’s all for this week! Subscribe to our portal to never miss updates from the startup world! If your startup has an exciting announcement coming up, you can even write to us at [email protected]. Catch up with the highlights of the week with our The News This Week section.
Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool
We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology. Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done. Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars. Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection. Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient. Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis. Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.
Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors. While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients. Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.
Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing. According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%. The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.
Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch. Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations. India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.
It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.
Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform. This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known. Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic. Originating in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse attracted some major names onto its platform like Elon Musk, Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse. There is however a catch as Clubhouse is currently limited to iOS.
Leher is an Indian made alternative to Clubhouse and is a similar audio sharing and listening startup. Leher also has video support unlike Clubhouse and is also available for both Android and iOS. However, Leher does not have the biggest names in the world on its platform but it does have significant micro influencers and is growing at a rapid pace. Within 180 days of its beta version launch, the company claimed to have its users spend about 44 minutes every day and 250,000 minutes per month for live video sessions.
We at Startup Stories are curious to see which among Leher or Clubhouse would our readers choose to take part in a virtual discussion. Please let us know your answer in the poll below.
Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity
Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to tackle the surging popularity of the Chinese video making app TikTok. As part of its redoubled efforts Facebook is launching a new app named BARS which could be used to create and share raps. The core idea behind the app is rappers could focus on creating content without having to worry about investing heavily in production and equipment.
Facebook said, “Audio production tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use. With BARS, you can select one of our professionally-created beats, write lyrics and record yourself dropping bars (sic.)” The company also added, “BARS auto-suggests rhymes as you’re writing to keep your flow going. You can also jump into Challenge mode and freestyle with auto-suggested word cues. Choose from a variety of audio and visual filters to take your creations to the next level (sic.)”
The app is now available in the Apple App Store in the United States of America. The invites for using BARS would be sent out in batches beginning in the USA and then expanded worldwide.
This would be the second app which Facebook is launching to counter TikTok’s growing popularity. Instagram Reels was the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram (owned by Facebook) and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok. TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus. However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others. This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void. Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database. These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and has gained a lot of popularity in India where Tik Tok continues to be banned.
ALSO READ: 4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels
Google also took advantage of the Indian Government’s ban of the viral application TikTok. Google introduced a new feature on YouTube called YouTube Shorts. The feature for all intents and purposes mimics the same features TikTok used to provide. The new feature mimics many of TikTok’s most popular features, allowing users to make and post 15 second videos with built in creative tools encouraging them to add licensed music and more.
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