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Tag Archives: india

Tinder To Test Extra Controls For Women Using Its App – Ubergizmo

Ubergizmo Tinder To Test Extra Controls For Women Using Its App Ubergizmo One of the ways Tinder changed online dating was that before that, most dating websites allowed users to message each other. This meant that even if you weren't interested in the other person, they could still talk to you. Tinder changed that by only ... and more »

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India’s budget hotel startup OYO raises $1B for international growth

OYO , the India-based startup that operates a network of budget hotels, has pulled in $1 billion in new funding to grow its business in China and expand into other international markets. The majority of the funding — $800 million, to be exact — was led by  SoftBank’s Vision Fund with participation from Lightspeed, Sequoia and Greenoaks Capital. OYO said there is also an additional $200 million that has been committed from as-yet-unnamed investors. The deal values the five-year-old company at $5 billion. Before today, OYO had raised $450 million from investors. Its previous financing was  a $250 million round last September which was led by the Vision Fund and included  a $10 million follow-on investment from China Lodging . OYO was started in May 2013 by Thiel Fellow Ritesh Agarwal, who was then aged 19. The company aggregates budget hotels and hostels in India, ensuring that they include minimum standards such as clean sheets, hot showers and free WiFi. It has since branched out into other kinds of lodgings, and verticals that include wedding planning . Today, OYO claims to have over 10,000 franchised or leased hotels in its network, which it says spans 350 cities across five countries.  The company announced an expansion beyond India into China this summer  and it is also present Nepal and Malaysia. More recently, it recently entered the UK market this month. Its plan for China — which OYO interestingly today said is a dual “home market” alongside India — is particularly ambitious, but already the company claims to have reached 87,000 rooms in 171 cities

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Seven reasons not to trust Facebook to play cupid

This week Facebook has launched a major new product play , slotting an algorithmic dating service inside its walled garden as if that’s perfectly normal behavior for an ageing social network. Insert your dad dancing GIF of choice right here. Facebook getting into dating looks very much like a mid-life crisis — as a veteran social network desperately seeks a new strategy to stay relevant in an age when app users have largely moved on from social network ‘lifecasting’ to more bounded forms of sharing, via private messaging and/or friend groups inside dedicated messaging and sharing apps. The erstwhile Facebook status update has long been usurped by the Snapchat (and now Instagram) Story as the social currency of choice for younger app users. Of course Facebook owns the latter product too, and has mercilessly cloned Stories. But it hardly wants its flagship service to just fade away into the background like the old fart it actually is in Internet age terms. Not if it can reinvigorate the product with a new purpose — and so we arrive at online dating. Facebook — or should that be ‘Datebook’ now?! — is starting its dating experiment in Colombia, as its beta market. But the company clearly has ambitious designs on becoming a major global force in the increasingly popular online dating arena — to challenge dedicated longtime players like eHarmony and OkCupid, as well as the newer breed of more specialized dating startups, such as  female-led app, Bumble . Zuckerberg is not trying to compete with online dating behemoth Tinder, though. Which Facebook dismisses as a mere ‘hook up’ app — a sub category it claims it wants nothing to do with. Rather it’s hoping to build something more along the lines of ‘get together with friends of your friends who’re also into soap carving/competitive dog grooming/extreme ironing’ than, for e.g., the raw spank in the face shock of ‘ Bang with Friends ‘. (The latter being the experimental startup which tried, some six years ago, to combine Facebook and sex — before eventually exiting to a Singapore-based dating app player, Paktor , never to be heard of again. Or, well, not until Facebook decided to get into the dating game and reminded us all how we lol’d about it.) Mark Zuckerberg’s company doesn’t want to get into anything smutty, though. Oh no, no, NO! No sex please, we’re Facebook! Facebook Dating has been carefully positioned to avoid sounding like a sex app

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Fresh out of Y Combinator, Leena AI scores $2M seed round

Leena AI , a recent  Y Combinator graduate focusing on HR chatbots to help employees answer questions like how much vacation time they have left, announced a $2 million seed round today from a variety of investors including Elad Gil and Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal. Company co-founder and CEO Adit Jain says the seed money is about scaling the company and gaining customers. They hope to have 50 enterprise customers within the next 12-18 months. They currently have 16. We wrote about the company in June when it was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2018 class. At the time Jain explained that they began in 2015 in India as a company called Chatteron. The original idea was to help others build chatbots, but like many startups, they realized there was a need not being addressed, in this case around HR, and they started Leena AI last year to focus specifically on that. As they delved deeper into the HR problem, they found most employees had trouble getting answers to basic questions like how much vacation time they had or how to get a new baby on their health insurance. This forced a call to a help desk when the information was available online, but not always easy to find. Jain pointed out that most HR policies are defined in policy documents, but employees don’t always know where they are. They felt a chatbot would be a good way to solve this problem and save a lot of time searching or calling for answers that should be easily found

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Ola raises $50M at a $4.3B valuation from two Chinese funds

Ola , the arch-rival of Uber in India, has raised $50 million at a valuation of about $4.3 billion from Sailing Capital, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, and the China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund (CEECF), a state-backed Chinese fund. The funding was disclosed in regulatory documents sourced by Paper.vc and reviewed by Indian financial publication Mint . According to Mint, Sailing Capital and CEECF will hold a combined stake of more than 1% in Ola . An Ola spokesperson said the company has no comment. Ola’s last funding announcement was in October , when it raised $1.1 billion (its largest funding round to date) from Tencent and returning investor SoftBank Group. Ola also said it planned to raise an additional $1 billion from other investors that would take the round’s final amount to about $2.1 billion. At the time, a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch that Ola was headed toward a post-money valuation of $7 billion once the $2.1 bllion raise was finalized. So while the funding from Sailing Capital and CEECF brings it closer to its funding goal, the latest valuation of $4.3 billion is still lower than the projected amount. Ola needs plenty of cash to fuel its ambitious expansion both within and outside of India. In addition to ride hailing, Ola got back into the food delivery game at the end of last year by acquiring Foodpanda’s Indian operations to compete with UberEats, Swiggy, Zomato and Google’s Areo.

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Africa’s Jumo raises $52M led by Goldman to bring its fintech services to Asia

Asia’s fintech scene is poised to get a little larger after Jumo , a company that offers loans to the unbanked in Africa, revealed plans to expand into the continent. To get the ball rolling,  Jumo has opened an office in Singapore to lead the way and landed a massive $52 million investment led by banking giant Goldman Sachs to fuel the growth. The new round takes Jumo to $90 million raised from investors. While Goldman is the lead — and standout name — the round also saw participation from existing backers that include Proparco — which is attached to the French Development Agency — Finnfund, Vostok Emerging Finance, Gemcorp Capital, and LeapFrog Investments. Jumo launched in 2014 and it specializes in social impact financial products. That means loans and saving options for those who sit outside of the existing banking system, and particularly small businesses. To date, it claims to have helped nine million consumers across its six markets in Africa and originated over $700 million in loans. The company, which has some 350 staff across 10 offices in Africa, Europe and Asia, was part of Google’s Launchpad accelerator last year and it is led by CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball, who has close to two decades in finance and investing. Watkins-Ball told TechCrunch that he believes Jumo’s experience working in Africa sets it up perfectly to offer similar services in markets across Asia. “We grew up in a very tough play yard,” he said in an interview. “We built our initial success in Tanzania which is probably one of the hardest financial markets in the world. A lot of these environments in Asia look more attractive.” Unlike the West, where challengers are trying to unseat banks, fintech startups in emerging markets work with the existing system. That isn’t some cop-out, it actually makes perfect sense. Banks simply aren’t equipped to deal with customers seeking small loans in the hundreds of U.S. dollar bracket.

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OnePlus is developing its own smart TV

Smartphone upstart OnePlus’s upcoming 6T flagship promises to bring changes — it’ll see it  ditch the headphone jack and sport an in-screen fingerprint reader  — but first there’s something else. OnePlus is developing its first smart TV. CEO Pete Lau revealed the details today , explaining that the device will mark the five-year-old company’s next step to “building a connected human experience.” “For most of us, there are four major environments we experience each day: the home, the workplace, the commute, and being on-the-move. The home – perhaps the most important environment experience – is just starting to enjoy the benefits of intelligent connectivity,” he wrote on the company’s website . “We want to bring the home environment to the next level of intelligent connectivity. To do this, we are building a new product of OnePlus’ premium flagship design, image quality and audio experience to more seamlessly connect the home,” Lau added. Excited to take the next step forward together! What would you like to see in the OnePlus TV? Have ideas for a name? Let us know here: https://t.co/IpSnDtPxkT — Pete Lau (@petelau2007) September 17, 2018 Shenzhen-based OnePlus has distinguished itself from a raft of Chinese mobile wannabees with some beautifully designed and well-functioning devices — eight phones to date — while it has developed its own Android-based OS and branched out into headphones. It has seen particular success in India , where it has beaten Samsung and Apple to become the country’s top ‘premium’ smartphone brand, and it has also landed a carrier distribution deal in the U.S. — something that has alluded larger rivals Huawei and Xiaomi. That’s impressive for such a young business. It has tinkered around before. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei previously told TechCrunch that the company had developed (and then abandoned) a number of prototype devices outside of phones before, but the TV project is very real. That said, the company is opening it up to its community of five million registered users who will be given the opportunity to name it

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Uber fires up its own traffic estimates to fuel demand beyond cars

If the whole map is red and it’s a short ride, maybe you’d prefer taking an Uber JUMP Bike instead of an UberX. Or at least if you do end up stuck bumper-to-bumper, the warning could make you less likely to get mad mid-ride and take it out on the driver’s rating. This week TechCrunch spotted Uber overlaying blue, yellow, and red traffic condition bars on your route map before you hail. Responding to TechCrunch’s inquiry, Uber confirmed that traffic estimates have been quietly testing for riders on Android over the past few months and the pilot program recently expanded to a subset of iOS users. It’s already live for all drivers. The congestion indicators are based on Uber’s own traffic information pulled from its historic trip data about 10 billion rides plus real-time data from its drivers’ phones, rather than estimates from Google that already power Uber’s maps. If traffic estimates do roll out, they could make users more tolerant of longer ETAs and less likely to check a competing app since they’ll know their driver might take longer to pick them up because congestion is to blame rather than Uber’s algorithm. During the ride they might be more patient amidst the clogged streets. Uber’s research into traffic in India But most interestingly, seeing traffic conditions could help users choose when it’s time to take one of Uber’s non-car choices. They could sail past traffic in one of Uber’s new electric JUMP Bikes , or buy a public transportation ticket from inside Uber thanks to its new partnership with Masabi for access to New York’s MTA plus buses and trains in other cities. Cheaper and less labor intensive for Uber, these options make more sense to riders the more traffic there is

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Facebook is hiring a director of human rights policy to work on “conflict prevention” and “peace-building”

Facebook is advertising for a human rights policy director to join its business, located either at its Menlo Park HQ or in Washington DC — with “conflict prevention” and “peace-building” among the listed responsibilities. In the job ad, Facebook writes that as the reach and impact of its various products continues to grow “so does the responsibility we have to respect the individual and human rights of the members of our diverse global community”, saying it’s: … looking for a Director of Human Rights Policy to coordinate our company-wide effort to address human rights abuses, including by both state and non-state actors. This role will be responsible for: (1) Working with product teams to ensure that Facebook is a positive force for human rights and apply the lessons we learn from our investigations, (2) representing Facebook with key stakeholders in civil society, government, international institutions, and industry, (3) driving our investigations into and disruptions of human rights abusers on our platforms, and (4) crafting policies to counteract bad actors and help us ensure that we continue to operate our platforms consistent with human rights principles. Among the minimum requirements for the role, Facebook lists experience “working in developing nations and with governments and civil society organizations around the world”. It adds that “global travel to support our international teams is expected”. The company has faced fierce criticism in recent years over its failure to take greater responsibility for the spread of disinformation and hate speech on its platform. Especially in international markets it has targeted for business growth via its Internet.org initiative which seeks to get more people ‘connected’ to the Internet (and thus to Facebook). More connections means more users for Facebook’s business and growth for its shareholders. But the costs of that growth have been cast into sharp relief over the past several years as the human impact of handing millions of people lacking in digital literacy some very powerful social sharing tools — without a commensurately large investment in local education programs (or even in moderating and policing Facebook’s own platform) — has become all too clear. In Myanmar Facebook’s tools have been used to spread hate and accelerate ethic cleansing and/or the targeting of political critics of authoritarian governments — earning the company widespread condemnation, including a rebuke from the UN  earlier this year  which blamed the platform for accelerating ethnic violence against Myanmar’s Muslim minority. In the Philippines  Facebook also played a pivotal role in the election of president Rodrigo Duterte — who now stands accused of plunging the country into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and 80s. While in India the popularity of the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging platform has been blamed for accelerating the spread of misinformation — leading to mob violence and the deaths of several people . Facebook famously failed even to spot mass manipulation campaigns going on in its own backyard — when in 2016 Kremlin-backed disinformation agents injected masses of anti-Clinton, pro-Trump propaganda into its platform and garnered hundreds of millions of American voters’ eyeballs at a bargain basement price

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Inside Planet Labs’ new satellite manufacturing site

Satellite imaging and analytics company Planet is taking the wraps off its new manufacturing space in San Francisco. Founded by ex-NASA employees, Planet is leveraging some of the $183 million in funding it’s amassed to expand. In the basement of a nondescript office building in the middle of Harrison Street in San Francisco, Planet is hard at work building low-orbit satellites that take images of our changing planet, and now the aerospace imaging company has more room to do so, claiming that the new facility is the most prolific satellite manufacturing spot in the world.  Inside the  new 27,000-square-foot manufacturing  site are satellite-building stations where Planet engineers piece together “doves,” as the machines are called internally.  The new site is six times the size of their old factory, and with that new space Planet claims its engineers will produce up to 40 satellites/week. Fluorescent panels illuminate the industrial work stations, and the small satellites sit plugged into their “dove nests.” Planet says their satellites can be built using only 10 tools The way Planet builds satellites is different from how NASA or Lockheed Martin does. Planet operates off the idea that instead of building large, cumbersome machines that sit in space taking images with outdated technology and old sensors, many smaller satellites with a one to three-year lifespan can get the job done faster and provide better images of the Earth’s surface. With the new site, Planet will bring all aspects of spacecraft production — from R&D to manufacturing to testing — under one roof. California is ‘launching our own damn satellite’ to track pollution, with help from Planet So what exactly do these satellites do? Each satellite can take two images per second, and Planet’s systems then work to  classify images as water, coral, rivers, roads, infrastructure and forests.  Doves in the dove nest Planet’s philosophy is that “you can’t fix what you can’t see.” Partners in the defense, humanities and agriculture sectors are using data from Planet’s satellite fleet for projects like classifying deforestation in Brazil and detecting urban change in Tanzania. The satellites derive images from lesser traveled parts of the planet. The imaging systems have gathered data on the destruction of roads in Syria, and even recently detected the sudden appearance of a chemical lab in North Korea.

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Indonesian fintech startup Moka raises $24M led by Sequoia India

Indonesia’s Moka , a startup that helps SMEs and retailers manage payment and other business operations, has pulled in a $24 million Series B round for growth. The investment is led by Sequoia India and Southeast Asia — which recently announced a new $695 million fund — with participation from new backers SoftBank Ventures Korea, EDBI — the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board — and EV Growth, the later stage fund from Moka seed investor East Ventures. Existing investors Mandiri Capital, Convergence and Fenox also put into the round. The deal takes Moka to $27.9 million raised to date, according to data from Crunchbase . Moka was started four years ago primarily as a point-of-sale (POS) terminal with some basic business functionality. Today, it claims to work with 12,500 retailers in Indonesia and its services include sales reports, inventory management, table management, loyalty programs, and more. Its primary areas of focus are retailers in the F&B, apparel and services industries. It charges upwards of IDR 249,000 ($17) per month for its basic service and claims to be close to $1 billion in annual transaction volume from its retail partners. That’s the company’s core offering, a mobile app that turns any Android or iOS device into a point-of-sale terminal, but CEO and co-founder Haryanto Tanjo — who started the firm with CTO Grady Laksmono — said it harbors larger goals. “Our vision is to be a platform, we want to be an ecosystem,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. That’s where much of this new capital will be invested. Tanjo said the company is opening its platform up to third-party providers, who can use it to reach merchants with services such as accounting, payroll, HR and more

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