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Vezeeta, the leading MENA healthcare startup, secures $12M Series C led by STV

One of the major structural issues in the Middle East is the lack of consistent healthcare across the region. So this market was clearly waiting to be disrupted by technology. In 2011 Vezeeta came along to change that. Launched initially in Cairo as a sort of “Uber for Ambulances”, it has since expanded to cover a wide area of the MENA population across several cities, and now provides a much wider range of health services to both patients and healthcare professionals. By solving the ambulance problem, it reversed backwards inside the healthcare systems to provide a free of charge medical search platform for end users by integrating information about medical practices and doctors’ individual schedules. This scheduling system is provided on a paid subscription basis for medical personnel, allowing users to find a free slot in a doctor’s schedule and make appointments. And it’s gradually going well beyond that. Vezeeta, has today announced a Series C investment of $12M led by Saudi Technology Ventures , the largest VC fund in the region. Joining the round are existing investors: BECO Capital (UAE), Vostok New Ventures (Sweden) and Silicon Badia (Jordan), along with new investor Crescent Enterprises’ CE-Ventures (UAE). Vezeeta says the financing will be used to fund its continued expansion primarily in (the increasingly more open) Saudi Arabia and for further investments in key new products. Competition-wise Vezeeta is in a good place with only smaller players like Dabadoc in Morocco which are usually very region-locked. Vezeeta has alone succeeded in expanding across the whole region. Amir Barsoum, founder and CEO of Vezeeta said in a statement: “We could not find a better investment team or strategic partner to help us take Vezeeta to its next stage in the region

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Lyft hits 1 billion rides a couple of months after Uber hit 10 billion trips

Today marks a big milestone for Lyft — one billion rides. That’s a milestone Uber hit in December 2015 . Uber has since grown to 10 billion trips completed — including Eats deliveries — as of this past July . Uber, of course, had a bit of head start given it launched in 2009 while Lyft first launched in 2012. This milestone for Lyft comes about a year after it announced it was completing one million rides a day . To celebrate it, Lyft employees are surprising 3,500 drives with a free tank of gas. Earlier this month, Lyft officially entered the scooter sharing space when it launched electric scooters in Denver, Colo. Lyft has since deployed its scooters in Santa Monica, Calif . as part of the city’s pilot program. Lyft’s entrance into scooters came close after its acquisition of bike-share company Motivate . We’ll be watching closely to see how Lyft’s additional modes of transportation impacts number of trips completed.

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Go-Jek plans to raise $2B more for Southeast Asia ride-hailing battle

Indonesia’s Go-Jek is planning to raise $2 billion from investors to fuel its ride-hailing battle with Grab in Southeast Asia. Go-Jek raised $1.5 billion earlier this year from investors that include Chinese trio Tencent, Meituan and JD.com, as well as Google, Allianz and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek. Now it is planning to raise a further $2 billion, two sources with knowledge of details told TechCrunch, as it seeks to expand on numerous fronts. Those plans include both extending the scope of its services in Indonesia — where beyond rides it offers services on demand and financial products — and moving into new markets. The company recently went live in Vietnam , its first expansion, and it has plans to enter Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore this year. Bloomberg first reported the fundraising plans , although a source told TechCrunch that the deal is far from being done. Existing investors — which also include KKR and Warburg Pincus — are likely to provide the new capital. Word of Go-Jek’s financing plan comes after Grab raised $2 billion this summer, including a $1 billion contribution from Toyota . The Singapore-based company — which bought out Uber’s business earlier this year — recently said it plans to raise a further $1 billion before 2018 is out. That money is likely to be spent on Grab’s ongoing strategy to broaden into services. That’s seen Grab follow Go-Jek’s lead and move into groceries, on-demand services and fintech as part of a desire to be Southeast Asia ‘super app’ for a broad range of local services. Grab is also doubling down on Indonesia, where it recently announced plans to invest $250 million in local startups .

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Uber’s complex relationship with diversity

Since Dara Khosrowshahi came to Uber as CEO about a year ago, there has certainly been less drama, but drama remains. Over the last few months, there were reports of Uber COO Barney Harford making insensitive comments about women and racial minorities, as well as Uber’s now-former Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey making denigrating comments toward Uber’s global diversity and inclusion lead Bernard Coleman and Bozoma Saint John, the chief brand officer who left in June . At TechCrunch Disrupt SF earlier this month, I sat down with both Khosrowshahi and Uber’s new, first-ever Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee, who joined in March . Believe it or not, there are still bad actors at the company, so Uber still has work to do. What surprised me, however, was Khosrowshahi’s defense of Harford, not only saying that he’s “an incredible person” but that he’s also “one of the good people” as it relates to diversity and inclusion. “This is an issue that everyone is fighting, and I will tell you Barney takes it personally,” Khosrowshahi told me. “And he is a champion and he will be a champion as it relates to these matters. He’s one of the good people.” Lee, when I asked her if she agreed with Khosrowshahi, said at Disrupt, “absolutely, 100 percent.” Lee, on a call ahead of Disrupt, described the importance of internal diversity champions who find ways to bake diversity and inclusion into their everyday workflow. Onstage, Lee described how she had been aware of the allegations against Harford and had already been working with him around inclusion. In fact, she said, Harford had reached out to her, admitting that he knew there’s a lot to learn and that he’d like for her to help him. Harford also wrote, in Khosrowshahi’s words, “a really heartfelt apology letter to the company,” but it’s still hard for me to get on board with the idea that Harford is one of the “good” ones. This is not to say people can’t be imperfect and can’t change — an idea Khosrowshahi made quite clear, and one that I generally believe as well — but I would just hope that there are some better “good” ones out there. “I don’t think that a comment that might have been taken as insensitive and happened to report by large news organizations should mark a person,” Khosrowshahi said . “ I don’t think that’s fair . And I’m sure I’ve said things that have been insensitive and you take that as a learning moment . And the question is , does a person want to change, does a person wants to improve

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Former Uber exec alleges ex-PR chief ‘destroyed his reputation’

A nasty legal battle is set to play out between two former Uber executives. Eric Alexander, the ride-hailing company’s former president of business in Asia-Pacific, has filed suit against former Uber PR chief Rachel Whetstone . Alexander blames Whetstone for his firing from Uber in June 2017, claiming her “grossly misleading statements” both internally at Uber and to the media, “destroyed his reputation.” He claims she “harbored deep seated personal animosity” against him, was jealous of his close relationship with then-CEO Travis Kalanick and frequently made racist comments about several minority groups during her tenure. Whetstone, well-known in Silicon Valley for her comms prowess, also left Uber in 2017 and has since gone on to lead PR efforts at Facebook and now Netflix . We’ve reached out to Whetstone, Alexander and Uber for comment. Backstory Last year, Alexander was very publicly ousted from Uber  after obtaining the medical records of a female passenger who was raped by an Uber driver in India. Alexander had reportedly been investigating the case himself because he believed the Indian ride-hailing business Ola was behind the incident and that the competitor was trying to damage Uber’s reputation in India. Alexander spent just over three years at the company and was a close confidant of Kalanick’s. Uber exec is out after violating rider’s privacy The allegations The allegations outlined in the lawsuit, first reported by Business Insider , don’t seem to be connected, but rather are an attempt by Alexander to portray Whetstone as a vicious, jealous and racist former colleague out for his career: Ms.  Whetstone  harbored  deep  seated  personal  animosity  against  Mr.  Alexander  over his perceived higher status within Uber, as well as Mr. Alexander’s repeated efforts to curtail Ms. Whetstone’s ongoing racist comments (culminating in Mr

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Uber drivers in Denmark could face fines for every ride they offered

The Danish Supreme Court has upheld large fines issued to several Uber drivers for operating without a taxi license, at a time when the ride-hailing giant was still running its non-licensed p2p driver UberPop service in the market. The decision could mean more than a thousand additional Uber drivers who sold rides in Denmark could also be faced with a big bill. The four drivers had appealed fines issues by the national court — of between DKK 40,000 (~$6,270) and DKK 486,500 (~$76,200) — but the Supreme Court judged the amounts to be appropriate. The level of fines is based on the number of Uber rides each driver carried out. In the case of the largest fine the unnamed individual had apparently run up 5,427 Uber rides. Uber drivers in Denmark have also faced demands for unpaid taxes this year, after Danish tax authorities found tax avoidance among almost all of them. Meanwhile Uber pulled out of Denmark early last year , blaming a new taxi law which includes requirements such as mandatory fare meters and seat sensors. Though it says it continues to engage with local authorities to lobby for the kind of tech-friendly reform which would enable it to return. When it left Denmark the company said it had more than 2,000 drivers in the market and 300,000 users. According to AP , today’s Supreme Court judgement paves the way for fines to be issued against a further 1,500 people who had also driven for Uber without a taxi license. A spokesman for the Copenhagen police told Reuters it would assess the verdict and decide how to proceed next week. At the end of 2016 Danish prosecutors sought to bring a test case against Uber’s European business, seeking to indict it on charges of assisting two drivers of breaking local taxi laws — likely contributing to Uber’s decision to shut up shop there. In November of the same year the Danish Supreme Court also ruled Uber to be an illegal taxi service, rather than a ride-sharing platform as the company’s lawyers had sought to argue. Since then Europe’s supreme court, the ECJ, has cemented that view of the business in the region, ruling at the end of last year that Uber is a transport company, not a platform — and locking the company into a new era of needing to work with local authorities to try to reform taxi laws, rather than just burning rubber over their rulebooks. Under its current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber is certainly trying to put founder Travis Kalanick’s legacy way of doing business behind it — dispensing apologies and emollient words. And seeking to enact a pivot to become a multi-modal transport platform — to be able to offer cities something other than just more traffic and congestion on already clogged and polluted roads

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Uber appoints Coca-Cola veteran Rebecca Messina as its chief marketing officer

Uber announced today that it has hired Coca-Cola veteran Rebecca Messina to serve as its chief marketing officer. Messina is the first person to hold that title at Uber and will work with its international marketing teams on Uber’s branding and marketing strategies. Messina will oversee marketing for Uber as it gets ready for an initial public offering that is expected to take place next year. Messina’s appointment is another sign that Uber is building its roster for a stock market debut. Last month, it announced that Nelson J. Chai, former CEO of Warranty Group, will be its new chief financial officer after a long search . Messina’s tasks include helping to repair Uber’s reputation, which is still smarting from last year’s upheaval, including the resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick and accusations of a toxic work culture. While Messina is the first person to hold the CMO title at Uber, Bozoma Saint John previously served as Uber’s first chief brand officer for about a year after joining in June 2017. At that point, Uber was in the midst of a crisis, including numerous reports about sexual harassment, that contributed to the resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO . Saint John left Uber in June 2018 after being offered the chief marketing officer position at entertainment industry giant Endeavor . Prior to joining Uber, Messina was global chief marketing officer at spirits company Beam Suntory, a position she had held since 2014

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After Math: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

This has been quite the "disruptive" week with TechCrunch's marquee event going on at the San Francisco Moscone Center, and not just for startups. InfoWars was disinvited from yet another social media platform, Walmart is drastically expanding its se...

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Didi makes more safety changes — and will pause night services while it does

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi has detailed further safety measures incoming to its platform following a second murder of a female passenger last month . The 20-year-old woman had been using Didi’s Hitch carpooling service in Zhejiang, a province in the east of China, during the day. Another female user of the p2p service was murdered in May , after getting a late night ride back from her job as an air stewardess. The unverified driver had apparently been using an account belonging to his father (who had been verified by Didi). The new safety features, which include a button to call the police, are set to be phased in over the coming days. Didi says it will temporarily suspend late-night Taxi, Express, Uber China, Didi Select, Didi Express Pool, Premier and Luxe services each day, between 23:00 until 5:00 — from September 8 to 15 — on the Chinese mainland while it does this. So it’s temporarily shutting down a large swathe of its mainland China services overnight for a week on safety grounds. During this time, it says its Bike, Designated Driving, Bus, overseas Car Rental and used-car services will remain operational, and it urges users to plan their travel accordingly. After the first murder Didi made some changes to how the Hitch service operates, temporarily suspending late night rides before resuming them in June  — but only allowing drivers to pick up passengers of the same sex. The second murder in August triggered a nationwide service suspension, and a spokeswoman confirmed to TechCrunch today that the Hitch service remains indefinitely suspended (“until there is a safety protection mechanism that is accepted by our users”). In the wake of the murders, Didi’s handling of passenger safety has come in for acute criticism. In the second case, it emerged that the driver had been flagged to Didi’s safety team by another female passenger the day before the murder — yet the customer service representative had failed to follow the new company policy of initiating an investigation within two hours — a policy that had been instigated after the earlier murder in May. Didi fired the general manager for the Hitch service and its vice president of customer services.

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Didi makes more safety changes — and will pause night services while it does

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi has detailed further safety measures incoming to its platform following a second murder of a female passenger last month . The 20-year-old woman had been using Didi’s Hitch carpooling service in Zhejiang, a province in the east of China, during the day. Another female user of the p2p service was murdered in May , after getting a late night ride back from her job as an air stewardess. The unverified driver had apparently been using an account belonging to his father (who had been verified by Didi). The new safety features, which include a button to call the police, are set to be phased in over the coming days. Didi says it will temporarily suspend late-night Taxi, Express, Uber China, Didi Select, Didi Express Pool, Premier and Luxe services each day, between 23:00 until 5:00 — from September 8 to 15 — on the Chinese mainland while it does this. So it’s temporarily shutting down a large swathe of its mainland China services overnight for a week on safety grounds. During this time, it says its Bike, Designated Driving, Bus, overseas Car Rental and used-car services will remain operational, and it urges users to plan their travel accordingly. After the first murder Didi made some changes to how the Hitch service operates, temporarily suspending late night rides before resuming them in June  — but only allowing drivers to pick up passengers of the same sex. The second murder in August triggered a nationwide service suspension, and a spokeswoman confirmed to TechCrunch today that the Hitch service remains indefinitely suspended (“until there is a safety protection mechanism that is accepted by our users”). In the wake of the murders, Didi’s handling of passenger safety has come in for acute criticism.

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Tesla’s drama, China-based companies are listing in the U.S., and SurveyMonkey is (finally) going public

Hello and welcome back to Equity , TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week, we were a man down, with the excellent Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase News on a vacation that someone seems to have sanctioned, though it was not us, as we don’t believe in vacations. (Wilhelm, get back here.) We did, happily, have the very knowledgeable Kirsten Korosec of TechCrunch join us on the line; we were also joined by this week’s personable in-studio guest: Lauren Kolodny , a partner at the San Francisco-based, early-stage venture firm Aspect Ventures. It was the perfect mix to talk about car makers and more car makers, including Tesla and CEO Elon Musk’s seemingly ill-planned plans to take the publicly traded company private, then vacillating a bit before changing his mind again, much to the chagrin of his board, the company’s shareholders, and poor Kirsten, who was trying to enjoy her evening last Friday when Musk decided (for now) to leave well enough alone and drop the whole cockamamie idea of switching out Tesla’s investor base. We also talked about Toyota’s announcement this week that it’s sinking $500 million into Uber and forming an intriguing if confusing driverless-car pact in the process. And we lingered on Nio, a four-year-old, Shanghai-based electric car vehicle that, if it has its way, will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange in roughly two weeks — even though it only made $7 million in the first half of this year and reported a net loss of $503 million. Who’s counting, though? Not U.S. investors, it hopes. Speaking of IPOs, we knew we’d be remiss not to talk about the IPO filing this week of SurveyMonkey, a now 19-year-old, San Mateo, Ca., company that’s beloved by both personal and business users of its analytical tools and surveys, but which is still not making money, owing in part to expensive debt that the company is currently servicing (and will pay down using its IPO proceeds). Will public shareholders embrace the company, which was valued at $2 billion during its last private round in 2014 but whose value has subsequently been marked down by fully 25 percent since by fund manager Fidelity? Stay tuned! We did not get to our favorite topic of scooters, running out time to chat about this  major development and also this one .

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