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Facebook addresses political controversy in India, monetization opportunities, startup investments – TechCrunch

At the beginning of the previous decade, Facebook had a tiny presence in India. It had just started to slowly expand its team in the country and was inking deals with telecom operators to make access to its service free to users and even offer incentives such as free voice credit. India’s internet population, now the second largest with more than 500 million connected users, itself was very small. In early 2011, the country had fewer than 100 million internet users. But Facebook ended up playing a crucial role in the last decade. So much so that by the end of it, the social juggernaut was reaching nearly every internet user in the country. WhatsApp alone reaches more than 400 million internet users in India, more than any other app in the country, according to mobile insight firm App Annie. This reach of Facebook in India didn’t go unnoticed. Politicians in the country today heavily rely on Facebook services, including WhatsApp, to get their message out. But it has also complicated things. Rumors have spread on WhatsApp that cost lives, and politicians from both the large political parties in India in recent weeks have accused the company of showing favoritism to the other side. To address these issues, and the role Facebook wishes to play in India, Ajit Mohan, the head of the company’s business in the country, joined us at Disrupt 2020. Following are some of the highlights. On controversy A recent report in WSJ claimed that Ankhi Das,…Continue readingFacebook addresses political controversy in India, monetization opportunities, startup investments – TechCrunch

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Bank-as-a-service startup Swan helps other companies issue cards, accounts and IBANs – TechCrunch

Meet Swan, a new French startup that wants to let other companies offer financial services by issuing cards, bank accounts and IBANs with just a few lines of codes. The company could be considered as a bank-as-a-service platform, like Treezor or solarisBank. Originally founded by startup studio eFounders, the startup just raised a $5.9M million (€5 million) seed round led by Creandum with Bpifrance’s Digital Venture fund also participating. Swan has obtained an e-money license from the French regulator, which lets them operate payment services and hold user funds. Unlike a bank, it can’t issue credit lines. The company also handles risk, which means that it handles KYC processes (“know your customer”). Essentially, if you’re working with Swan, they take care of all the risky aspects of managing money. Compared to other bank-as-a-service companies, Swan doesn’t necessarily want to power neobanks and help them get started. The startup thinks a ton of companies touch on financial services but can’t offer those services because it’s such a big investment. For instance, you can imagine an invoicing product that generates IBANs for you so that it automatically matches incoming transactions to the right invoice (like Upflow). On-demand companies could issue cards to their delivery employees partners so that they can pay for groceries and food directly using a Swan-powered card. Marketplace companies could handle pay-ins and pay-outs at a more granular level with each client managing their own e-money wallet. This vision is part of a bigger trend called embedded finance. By…Continue readingBank-as-a-service startup Swan helps other companies issue cards, accounts and IBANs – TechCrunch

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Quantum startup CEO suggests we are only five years away from a quantum desktop computer – TechCrunch

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, leaders from three quantum computing startups joined TechCrunch editor Frederic Lardinois to discuss the future of the technology. IonQ CEO and president Peter Chapman suggested we could be as little as five years away from a desktop quantum computer, but not everyone agreed on that optimistic timeline. “I think within the next several years, five years or so, you’ll start to see [desktop quantum machines]. Our goal is to get to a rack-mounted quantum computer,” Chapman said. But that seemed a tad optimistic to Alan Baratz, CEO at D-Wave Systems. He says that when it comes to developing the super-conducting technology that his company is building, it requires a special kind of rather large quantum refrigeration unit called a dilution fridge, and that unit would make a five-year goal of having a desktop quantum PC highly unlikely. Itamar Sivan, CEO at Quantum Machines, too, believes we have a lot of steps to go before we see that kind of technology, and a lot of hurdles to overcome to make that happen. “This challenge is not within a specific, singular problem about finding the right material or solving some very specific equation, or anything. It’s really a challenge, which is multidisciplinary to be solved here,” Sivan said. Chapman also sees a day when we could have edge quantum machines, for instance on a military plane, that couldn’t access quantum machines from the cloud efficiently. “You know, you can’t rely on a system which is sitting in…Continue readingQuantum startup CEO suggests we are only five years away from a quantum desktop computer – TechCrunch

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In a startup reprise, Courtne Smith launches NewNew, a social network based on shared content – TechCrunch

Since her departure from Drake’s entourage (where she worked as his longtime personal assistant) Courtne Smith has launched a line of hair products; a giveaway game that dropped swag like Yeezy shoes and Kardashian beauty products called Suprize; and now, NewNew, a social network based on the videos its users like and share. Think of the pitch as TikTok meets Facebook, where users congregate and create networks based on the videos, memes, and images they share. When Suprize launched in 2018 with the promise of tickets to a Drake show and an exclusive offer for a jacket from the artist’s Scorpion tour, sites like Complex and Refinery 29 took notice. After a year in operation, so did investors. The company Smith co-founded with Filip Diarra, a graphic designer and developer, attracted the attention of Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Canaan, Dreamers VC and Shrug Capital.  “We raised it really to transition Suprize into a social discovery platform based on ranking sharing and connecting over cool things that you connect and that you agree with,” said Smith. “After time running Suprize we saw NewNew taking over as the smarter, more scalable and more mature product to focus on really.” Social media businesses have tried to use ranking, list-making and sharing to develop a following with companies like Wishbone and The Tylt using lists and voting to generate traffic and as the hook for the site. NewNew, by contrast, intends to create a social graph around shared interest in videos or visual content,…Continue readingIn a startup reprise, Courtne Smith launches NewNew, a social network based on shared content – TechCrunch

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Drew Houston will talk about building a startup and digital transformation during COVID at TechCrunch Disrupt – TechCrunch

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston will be joining us for a one-on-one interview at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt happening next week from September 14-18. Houston has been there and done that as a startup founder. After attending Y Combinator in 2007 and launching at the TechCrunch 50 (the precursor to TechCrunch Disrupt) in 2008, he went on to raise $1.7 billion from firms like Blackrock, Sequoia and Index Ventures before taking his company public in 2018. Houston and his co-founder Arash Ferdowsi had a simple idea to make it easier to access your stuff on the internet. Instead of carrying your files on a thumb drive or emailing them to yourself, as was the norm at that time, you could have a hard drive in the cloud. This meant that you could log on wherever you were, even when you were not on your own computer, and access your files. Houston and Ferdowsi wanted to make it dead simple to do this, and in the days before smart phones and tablets, they achieved that goal and grew a company that reported revenue of $467.4 million — or a run rate of over $1.8 billion — in its most recent earning’s report. Today, Dropbox has a market cap of over $8 billion. As we find ourselves in the midst of pandemic, businesses like Houston’s are suddenly hotter than ever, as companies are accelerating their move to the cloud with employees working from home needing access to work files and the ability to…Continue readingDrew Houston will talk about building a startup and digital transformation during COVID at TechCrunch Disrupt – TechCrunch

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Dutch payments startup Mollie raises $106M at $1B+ valuation – TechCrunch

E-commerce has seen a huge jump in the last eight months, driven by consumers shopping more for goods online while spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, a payments startup out of Amsterdam that has itself seen a surge of growth this year as a result of that is announcing a big round of funding to help it continue expanding its products and international footprint to meet that demand. Mollie, a startup that offers a simple, API-based way to integrate payments into a site or an app, has raised €90 million ($106 million) in a round of funding led by TCV. The Series B brings the total raised by Mollie to €115 million and notably catapults the startup’s valuation to over $1 billion, founder and CEO Adriaan Mol confirmed in an interview with TechCrunch. Mollie has been around since 2004 and this is only the second time it’s raised funding — the first was a €25 million round a year ago — which is possibly one reason why it has not been much on the startup radar. “It built the backend and front end by myself when I still lived with my parents,” Mol said. “It’s the Dutch way. Bootstrap your idea for a pretty long time. I think that’s the foundation of the company.” Yet Mollie has hit a number of milestones over the last several years that provide some explanation for why it has now arrived on the scene, seemingly out of nowhere, with such…Continue readingDutch payments startup Mollie raises $106M at $1B+ valuation – TechCrunch

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Fresh off $200M Series D, Gong acquires early stage startup Vayo – TechCrunch

Gong announced a $200 million Series D investment just last month, and loaded with fresh cash, the company wasted no time taking advantage. Today, it announced it was buying early stage Isreali sales technology startup Vayo. The companies did not share terms of the deal, but Gong CEO Amit Bendov said the deal closed a couple of weeks ago. The two companies match up quite well from a tech standpoint. While Gong searches unstructured data like emails and phone call transcripts and finds nuggets of data, Vaya looks at structured data, which is essentially the output of the Gong search process. What’s more, it handles large amounts of data at scale. “Vayo helps find customer interactions at a large scale to identify trends like customers likely to churn or usage is going up, or your deals are starting to slow down — and they do this for structured data at scale,” Bendov told TechCrunch. He said this ability to identify trends was really what attracted him to the company, even though it was still at an early stage of development. “It’s a perfect fit for Gong. We take unstructured data —  emails, audio calls video calls — and extract insights. Customers, especially with a large organization, don’t want to see individual interactions but high order insights […] and they’ve developed [a solution] to identify trends on large data volumes for customer interactions,” he said. Vayo was founded in 2018 and raised $1.7 million in seed capital, according to Crunchbase. Joining…Continue readingFresh off $200M Series D, Gong acquires early stage startup Vayo – TechCrunch

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RealPage acquires real estate IoT startup Stratis – TechCrunch

RealPage, a publicly traded full-service property management technology firm with over 12,200 clients worldwide, today announced that it has acquired Stratis IoT,  a startup that provides IoT services to the real estate industry, with a focus on access and energy management tools. “RealPage aims to become a leading provider in the burgeoning rental property automation market, and thereby create significant opportunity for operators to increase rents, improve sustainability, add operational efficiencies, reduce operating costs and enhance the customer experience for the company’s approximately 19 million units throughout the United States,” said RealPage CEO Steve Winn. “The smart building technology also provides a launching pad for expanded international operations, thanks to Stratis’ existing international presence.” Stratis is currently installed in about 380,000 homes in the U.S., Japan, UK and several countries in Europe and Latin America. Both Stratis and RealPage target a wide range of the real estate industry, ranging from multifamily units to student housing, vacation homes and commercial real estate. Image Credits: Stratis Traditionally, the real estate market wasn’t always the first to adopt modern technologies. That’s quickly changing now, though, in part because of the promise of IoT, which isn’t just a boon to renters looking for modern solutions in their apartments but also represents the possibility of significant cost savings for the industry. RealPage argues that smart technology can generate a revenue lift of $55 per unit, for example, and that’s the kind of saving (and higher revenues) that will push even legacy B2B platforms to modernize.…Continue readingRealPage acquires real estate IoT startup Stratis – TechCrunch

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Passion Capital has backed Fronted, the startup that wants to offers loans to cover rent deposits – TechCrunch

Fronted, the new London-based startup aiming to make life easier for renters, including lending the cash needed for a deposit, has picked up seed investment from Passion Capital. The investment showed up in a recent regulatory filing for the company. The exact cheque size isn’t yet disclosed, but what we do know is that Passion Capital partner Eileen Burbidge has joined Fronted’s board. That’s unsurprising, given that Fronted co-founder Simon Vans-Colina was an early and important employee of Monzo, the challenger back of which Passion Capital and Burbidge are original backers. Confirming Passion Capital’s investment, Fronted co-founder and CEO Jamie have TechCrunch the following statement: “Like a lot of businesses we have been finding our feet in post-pandemic world, we are grateful to have supporting investors like Passion Capital who have supported us from the very beginning and who believe in our vision to help renters move”. The company, founded late last year by Campbell, Vans-Colina and Anthony Mann — former employees at Bud, Monzo and Apple, respectively — is planning to launch later this year with a fintech product to help renters finance their rental deposits. The nascent company is currently in the FCA “sandbox” program (run by the U.K. financial services regulator) to begin lending cash that can only be used for a rental deposit. By using open banking and other financial technology, and offering a credit product designed to finance deposits directly, Fronted believes it can lend more cheaply than existing options — such as credit cards,…Continue readingPassion Capital has backed Fronted, the startup that wants to offers loans to cover rent deposits – TechCrunch

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Tech Radar

India picks tiny video conferencing start-up to replace Zoom

After banning Zoom earlier this year, India’s tech ministry decided to hold a competition in order to find a home-grown video conferencing solution that could be used by the country’s public sector. The country’s IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced in a recent tweet that the competition has come to a close and a winner has been decided, saying: “Happy to share that Vconsol, a product of Techgentsia Software Technologies Pvt. Ltd. from Alappuzha (Kerala) has won the grand challenge. My congratulations to the entire team of Vconsol for coming up with such a wonderful video conference solution.” Home-grown video conferencing solution Techgentsia Software Technologies, which developed Vconsol, will receive $133,000 for winning the competition, $53,000 over the next three years and contracts that will see its video conferencing app rolled out across the public sector for four years. India’s competition to find a home-grown video conferencing solution began in April of this year after the country’s government banned Zoom from being used in the public sector citing security concerns. While almost 2,000 applicants participated in the competition, Vconsol was the first to reach a longlist of 12 and then to make it to a shortlist of five before eventually winning the competition beating out HCL and even Zoho. In addition to Techgentsia, India’s IT ministry also chose Sarv Webs, people Link Unified Communications and Intrisive Softlabs that will each receive $33,000 to continue developing their video conferencing products over the next three months. Via The Register Source linkContinue readingIndia picks tiny video conferencing start-up to replace Zoom