STARTUP DIGEST: Here are top stories of the week

STARTUP DIGEST: Here are top stories of the week

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There were several important developments in the startup space during the week, which include  Tata Digital’s shopping spree continues, will buy a majority stake in digital health startup 1MG and invest up to $75 million in health & fitness startup Cure.fit; IPO-bound Paytm invites shareholders to dilute stake; Swiggy seeks CCI approval for SoftBank investment; tech giants are hit by historic G7 deal; Google agrees to change some ad practices after French watchdog imposes fine; El Salvador becomes first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. Here are all the stories that hit headlines this week:

Tata Digital to acquire 1MG; company to be valued at $450 million

Tata Digital, the subsidiary of Tata Sons is set to acquire a majority stake of between 50-60 percent in digital health startup 1MG. The company will be valued at $450 million post-money, as per sources, with the deal also likely to mark exits for some early investors.

Prashant Tandon, the CEO of 1MG, told CNBC-TV18 in an exclusive interview that this is a significant milestone for the company in its journey. “1MG was started to make healthcare understandable, accessible, and affordable and in Tata Group we find a very unique alignment, a brand name that is trusted, a group that is known to do things the right way,” he said.

Started in 2015, 1MG is a leading player in the eHealth space and enables easy and affordable access to a wide range of products like medicines, health and wellness products, diagnostics services and tele-consultation to customers.

Tandon added that it perfectly suits 1MG to work with Tata as partners to take their startup to the next level and create India’s best healthcare company from here.

Tata Digital to invest up to $75 mn in CureFit

Tata Digital is all set to invest up to $75 million in health and fitness startup CureFit.

As part of the deal, CureFit’s founder and chief executive Mukesh Bansal will take charge as president of Tata Digital, and will continue in his leadership role at CureFit.

As per company’s statement, an MoU between the two companies has been inked, and the proposed investment would be cleared subject to completion of diligence process and other approvals.

Tata Digital explores Dunzo deal for ‘super app’ play

Tata Digital’s shopping spree continues as it builds its ‘super app’ platform.

After acquiring e-grocer BigBasket, investing in fitness platform Curefit, and in the process of closing a deal with e-pharmacy 1MG, the company is now eyeing the Google-backed hyper-local delivery platform Dunzo, which has become a popular concierge service in many metros.

Sources told CNBC TV18 that two rounds of talks have taken place between the Tatas and Dunzo for investment, though the talks are still exploratory in nature.

“Dunzo is growing at an unprecedented rate. In fact, we have doubled our business in the last 75 days and continue to grow 50 percent month-on-month. While we are currently in advanced discussions with multiple investors on raising additional capital to the tune of $150-200 million, a buyout or sale of controlling interest is definitely not up for discussion,” a company spokesperson told CNBC-TV18. Tata Digital did not respond to CNBC TV18’s queries.

BharatPe acquires loyalty platform PAYBACK, aims to expand merchant base to 20 million by 2023

Merchant payments provider BharatPe has made its first-ever acquisition by buying out loyalty platform PAYBACK from American Express and ICICI Investments Strategic Fund. The value of the deal remains undisclosed.

Post-acquisition, PAYBACK will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of BharatPe and will continue to offer its services to existing customers across India. PAYBACK allows users to earn and redeem points while shopping online or offline.

With this acquisition, BharatPe plans to help its 6 million small merchants and kirana store partners in attracting more customers through reward and loyalty programmes, the company said in a statement.

Cult.fit acquires fitness startup Tread

Making a foray into the fitness hardware segment, health and wellness startup Cult.fit has acquired Tread, a Bengaluru-based connected fitness start-up. The company however has not disclosed the amount.

The acquisition of Tread will help Cult.fit launch its hardware-at-home vertical, the company said. It plans to launch smart bikes in the India market. These smart bikes would be sold on the Cure.fit platform and offline stores in the next two to three months.

ED issues show-cause notice to WazirX

Enforcement Directorate has issued a show-cause notice to WazirX cryptocurrency exchange for contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 for transactions involving cryptocurrencies worth Rs 2,790.74 crore.

WazirX’s directors Nischal Shetty and Hanuman Mhatre, along with the company, have been named in the notice issued by the central probe agency after completion of an investigation.

The agency issued a statement saying that it stumbled upon the transactions of the company during an ongoing money laundering probe into the “Chinese-owned” illegal online betting applications.

”It was seen that the accused Chinese nationals had laundered proceeds of crime worth about Rs 57 crore by converting Indian Rupee (INR) deposits into cryptocurrency tether (USDT) and then transferred it to Binance (exchange registered in the Cayman Islands) Wallets based on instructions received from abroad,” it said.

According to Sonam Chandwani, the Managing Partner at KS Legal & Associates, the ED’s issuance of a show-cause notice to WazirX on the basis of an ongoing money laundering probe sets a stringent tone for those exploiting the crypto market for malafide purposes.

IPO-bound Paytm invites shareholders to dilute stake; reports Rs 1,701 crore loss for FY21

Digital payment app Paytm has invited shareholders to tender their equity shares for sale in the initial public listing proposed to be held later this year. In a letter to its shareholders, Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications Ltd said that the company had received in-principle approval from the Board of Directors for the public listing.

CNBC-TV18 had reported on May 31 that the board of One97 Communications had given the in-principle approval for the listing. Paytm said that the proposed IPO is contemplated to include a fresh issue of equity shares by the company and an offer for the sale of equity shares by existing shareholders.

Meanwhile, Paytm reported another loss for FY21. As per the company’s annual report, Paytm narrowed its consolidated loss to Rs 1,704 crore in finacial year 2020-21 as against a loss of Rs 2,943.32 crore in 2019-20.

The company’s commerce and cloud revenues went down by about 38 per cent in which it gets a significant amount from entertainment and travel ticketing which have been severely impacted during the pandemic. The total revenue of the company declined about 10 per cent to Rs 3,186 crore in 2020-21 compared to Rs 3,540.77 crore in the previous year.

Open to IPO for Flipkart but no specific timeline: Walmart

Global retail giant Walmart has said it is “open to an IPO” for its Indian e-commerce arm Flipkart but there is “no specific timeline” for the share sale.

Both Flipkart and payment app PhonePe continue to do well, Walmart International President and CEO Judith McKenna said while speaking at the DB Access Global Consumer Conference on June 7.

“We always made it clear from the day we made the acquisition or the investment, that we would be open to an IPO,” said McKenna. However, she noted that there is no specific timeline for the IPO.

“But if we build a strong business, and we continue to do the things that we need to do to ensure that long-term and sustainable growth, that is a possible route that we would consider in the future, but certainly no specific timeline on that (IPO),” she added.

Walmart Inc owns a majority stake in Flipkart. It had invested $16 billion in 2018 in the Bengaluru-based e-commerce platform to pick up 77 per cent stake. In July last year, it led a $1.2-billion round in Flipkart, valuing the e-commerce firm at $24.9 billion.

According to sources, SoftBank Group is in discussions with Flipkart to pump in about $500-600 million into the Walmart-owned e-tailer. The transaction — which may also see participation from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and Canadian pension fund CPPIB — could value Flipkart at $30-32 billion, they added.

Delhivery expects to list in 6-8 months: Report

Logistics startup Delhivery plans to launch its public offer between December 2021 and March 2022, the company said in an interview to The Economic Times.

As per report, the startup is unlikely to postpone its IPO timeline unless there is a severe third wave of Covid-19 affecting market sentiment. Delhivery is still working out details of the issue, including its size, however the company expects it to be a primary issue in the $400-500 million range, report adds.

Just last week Delhivery raised $275 million in primary funding round from Fidelity Management and Research Company. The fresh capital has pushed Delhivery’s valuation to over $3 billion.

PhonePe pushes for full trial in battle with BharatPe

Digital payment platforms PhonePe and BharatPe are headed for a trial over the word “Pe”, pronounced as Pay, after two years of court proceedings.

The court proceedings gained momentum after Walmart-funded PhonePe withdrew an injunction plea it filed against BharatPe and instead requested a speedy disposal of the main lawsuit. The main lawsuit has not been withdrawn which was filed in 2019.

PhonePe had earlier filed an injunction plea in Delhi High Court but a single judge bench denied it last month. As per The Economic Times report, PhonePe has told the court it does not wish to press the present appeal on injunction but wants an “expeditious disposal of the suit”.

PhonePe had filed a lawsuit claiming trademark rights over the suffix – “Pe” against Delhi-based BharatPe which is being used in English and Hindi in text and graphic description.

Swiggy seeks CCI approval for SoftBank investment

Food delivery platform Swiggy has sought approval from the Competition Commission of India for a proposed investment by Softbank. The Japanese tech giant is investing about $450-500 million in Swiggy via its SoftBank Vision Fund II, CNBC-TV18 learns from sources.

The investment from SoftBank will come on top of the $800 million series J round that Swiggy recently closed, with Falcon Edge, Amansa, Think Investments, Carmignac and Goldman Sachs at a valuation of $5 Billion.

Groww seeks CCI nod for Indiabulls AMC

Online investment platform Groww has sought CCI approval for acquisition of Indiabulls AMC’s mutual funds business from Indiabulls Housing Finance. Groww added that proposed transaction will mark its entry in asset management space of managing mutual fund schemes.

CNBC TV18 had earlier reported that the digital platform will acquire Indiabulls Asset Management Company and the trustee company for Rs 175 crore, which includes a cash and equivalent component of Rs 100 crore.

Vedanta plans to invest Rs 100 crore in startup initiative: Report

Vedanta is planning to invest about Rs 100 crore in the launch of Vedanta Spark, an initiative aimed at building technological capabilities by partnering with startups, reports ET.

As per the report, the initiative has attracted over 1,350 registrations from across 19 countries with more than 250 overseas startup. The winning 23 startups have been selected.

The company told ET that the selected startups have the potential to deliver a business impact of around $45-50 million in this current financial year.

As part of Vedanta Spark, the winners will be offered various opportunities including partnerships and collaborations, funding and investments, capacity and resources, adds ET report.

SBI invests in digital payment firm Cashfree

Digital payments and banking technology Company Cashfree has received an undisclosed funding from the State Bank of India (SBI).

As per the official statement, the company has raised $42 million since its inception and is currently valued at $200 million.

Incubated by PayPal, Cashfree is backed by Apis Partners, Smilegate and Y Combinator. It is also used by companies like Zomato, CRED, Nykaa, Delhivery, Acko and Shell for various business payment. Apart from India, Cashfree’s products are used in eight other countries including the USA, Canada, and the UAE.

Education startup Masai School acquires Design Shift Academy

Coding bootcamp startup Masai School has acquired Design Shift Academy, a Bengaluru-based design institute. However the details of the deal haven’t been disclosed by the company.

The deal will boost Masai School’s course offering by adding learning programmes on UI/UX Design and Product Management. The takeover comes after Masai recently closed its Series-A round of funding at $5 million in March, the company added.

FUNDING

> SaaS startup Whatfix has raised a $90 Million Series D round backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The startup has now trebled its valuation since 2020. Eight Roads Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, Dragoneer Investment Group, F-Prime Capital and Cisco Investments also participated in the round. The company plans to use the funding to continue growing its stronghold in the U.S. market while accelerating global expansion into new markets.

> Real estate startup, Flyhomes, has raised $150 million as part of its series C financing co-led by Norwest Venture Partners and Battery Ventures. The round also saw participation from Fifth Wall, Camber Creek, Balyasny Asset Management, Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff, and existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Canvas Partners. The company plans to use the funds to fuel its growth and expand its presence.

> Hygiene and wellness startup Pee Safe has raised $250 million in Pre-Series B funding in a round led by entrepreneur and investor Shaival Desai and existing Series A investor Alkemi Growth Capital. Through this funds, Pee Safe aims to accelerate its personal care brand FURR as well as allocate funds for further R&D and product launches.

> U.S. private equity major TPG is set to lead a funding of $80 million in SaaS startup Zenoti, reported ET. The startup is likely to be valued anywhere between $1.5 billion post this funding. This as Zenoti continues to see increased adoption of digitisation from the beauty and salon industry in the U.S.

> Software startup Slintel has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding led by GGV Capital. Existing investors including Accel, Sequoia Capital India, and Stellaris Venture Partners also participated in the funding round.

> D2C brand servicing daily workplace consumption, F5 has raised Rs 2.5 Crores as the first tranche of its Pre-Series A round from angel investors. These include Mohit Satyanand-Chairman Teamwork Arts who led through Lets Venture Platform, Gurgaon based Accelerator Huddle, AngelList, Venture Catalysts,Top Forbes Indian Angel Investor- Rohit Chanana, Dr. Jeevak Gupta- VP, Private Equity, InvAscent among others.

> Tech startup Capital Float has raised Rs 50 Cr in debt for a period of 3 years from Triodos Microfinance Fund and Triodos Fair Share Fund, financial inclusion funds managed by Triodos Investment Management. Triodos IM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Netherlands-based Triodos Bank.

> Green energy technology firm, Greenjoules has raised $4.5 million from Blue Ashva Capital’s Blue Ashva Sampada Fund. The fund raised will be used by the companyto set up waste-to-energy plants and invest into R&D.

> D2C home appliance brand Candes has raised $3 million from various marquee family offices in Delhi. The round was led by Anuraag and Ruchirans Jaipuria along with Lotus Group Joint MD Nitin Passi and Redcliffe’s Dheeraj Jain.

> AI-enabled logistics platform Shyplite has raised $1 million from revenue-based growth capital firm N+1 capital.The company said it will utilise the funds to support its expansion plans to enter the new segments like fulfilment centres and hyperlocal deliveries to become an end-to-end logistics player and add more experts on board

BookMyShow lays off 200 staff

Online ticketing platform BookMyShow has laid off 200 employees as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect businesses.

Taking to Twitter, Ashish Hemrajani, CEO and co-founder of Bigtree Entertainment Pvt Ltd, which operates BookMyShow, said, “COVID19 has taught me many lessons & I learnt another one today. As we let go of 200 of the most incredibility talented & performance driven individuals, each & everyone has messaged, thanking me for the opportunity, the love for BookMyShow and asking me if they could help me in any way possible.”

Hemrajani further said that he would support the affected staff to get new jobs and also asked for information on any available job opportunities.

BYJU’S receives $1 mn funds for its COVID initiatives

Edtech giant Byju’s has received $1 million in funding from the Breakthrough Global Foundation and and DST Global Managing Partner Saurabh Gupta to support its Covid-19 initiatives in India.

Byju’s will utilise the funds under its social impact initiative ‘Education for All’ to support children who have lost their families due to Covid-19, the company said in a statement. With ‘Education for All’, Byju’s will provide equal learning opportunities and empower children across the country through its tech-enabled learning programmes.

Swiggy’s ‘Suraksha’ from Covid-19 to partners

Food delivery platform Swiggy has launched ‘Swiggy Suraksha initiative, a special care package for its delivery partners affected with Covid-19.

The Covid relief package will include a support of Rs 14,000 for two weeks, so that the infected employees don’t have to worry about their livelihood during the recovery period, the company said in a statement.

Swiggy’s Covid-19 affected partners can choose doorstep delivery of meals prepared in the company’s cloud kitchens in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. Additionally, delivery partners and their families who test positive will receive enhanced hospitalisation cover of up to Rs 1.5 lakh, the company said. In addition, Swiggy has also enhanced life insurance cover to Rs 5 lakh in the event of death of a delivery partner due to Covid-19.

Oyo, AirBnB, EaseMyTrip & Yatra join hands to launch a new industry body for tourism sector sector

Hospitality and travel companies Oyo, Airbnb, EaseMyTrip and Yatra have joined hands to launch a new industry body for tourism sector — Confederation of Hospitality, Technology and Tourism Industry (CHATT).

CHATT, the tourism body will help small and medium hotels and homeowners across the country to adopt technology in order to revive their businesses.

Every member will be able to access all CHATT resources and benefits. These members include Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager, Airbnb – India, Southeast Asia, EaseMyTrip co-founder and CEO Nishant Pitti, Oyo India and Southeast Asia CEO Rohit Kapoor, Yatra co-founder and CEO Dhruv Shringi.

IPO-bound Zomato elevates Akriti Chopra as co-founder

Ahead of its IPO, Zomato has elevated former chief finance officer (CFO) Akriti Chopra as founder.

“Akriti, I know this doesn’t mean much to you, because you have always been a founder at Zomato.

Sometimes more than me, but never less than me. Thank you. Congratulations for now officially being a founder at Zomato,” Deepinder Goyal, Zomato Founder wrote in an internal email to employees.

This is not the first time Zomato is elevating an employee to the position of a founder of the company. Previously it elevated Mohit Gupta, the CEO of its food delivery business and Gaurav Gupta, the chief operating officer of the company were also made co-founders. Now with Akriti Chopra, Zomato has five co-founders currently.

Cuemath partners with Google for Education

Cuemath has partnered with Google for Education to help transform the teaching and learning experience. The partnership is aimed at giving students the opportunity to gain knowledge, build on capabilities that focus on real-world skills.

As part of the partnership, Cuemath teachers and students will be given a Google for Education certificate. Teachers will be given a Google Certified Educator Level 1 Certificate, and students who take a 12 to 18 months Cuemath program will be awarded the Google CS First Creator Coder Certificate. In addition to this, Cuemath is enhancing its curriculum to expand globally.

Virender Sehwag launches experiential cricket learning app – CRICURU

India’s star cricketer and opener Virender Sehwag has launched CRICURU, an experiential learning app aimed at redefining and revolutionising the cricket coaching experience in the country.

CRICURU claims to be a pioneer in AI-based cricket coaching in India and offers a personalised learning experience to its users. The curriculum for each player is developed personally by Virender Sehwag along with Sanjay Bangar, former Indian player and batting coach of the Indian cricket team (2015-19).

With international cricket attaining new heights in terms of technology-led innovation, Sehwag believes there was a need for India to join the bandwagon and offer a similar experience for aspiring cricketers.

Record private equity investment of $62 billion into India in 2020: Bain & Co report

Private equity investors pumped a record $62 billion into Indian companies last year, according to the Bain & Company’s India Private Equity Report 2021.

Nearly 40% of this inflow came through $26.5 billion worth of investments made in Reliance Industries’ subsidiaries Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail. Excluding the Reliance transactions, the total deal value fell by 20% in 2020 (YoY). That’s because large volume deals of more than $100 million slumped by 25%.

As the pandemic put a stop to all economic activity in the first half of the year, private equity investments too tapered off. However, the second half of the year saw a surge in investments as investor confidence returned. Thus, the number of deals went up by 5% from 1,053 in 2019 to 1,106 in 2020, according to the report.

Last year, healthcare saw the highest growth of 60% (YoY). However, consumer tech and IT/ITES were the clear favourites, becoming the largest sectors in terms of investment value.

The virus outbreak moved the world from offline to online and created a large base of digital-friendly and health conscious users. This led to a deal surge in edtech, fintech, verticalized e-commerce and foodtech with big-ticket investments in Byju’s, Zomato, and FirstCry.

On the B2B front, IT and ITES were popular investment avenues due to accelerated growth in digital channels. The increasing interest in Software as a Service (SaaS) and greater corporate focus on digital readiness led to multiple $100 million deals in the segment. Zenoti and Postman in SaaS. Virtusa and Majesco in IT services.

GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS

Tech giants hit by historic G7 deal

The world’s biggest tech companies are facing a corporate tax avoidance crackdown after the Group of Seven most developed economies agreed a historic deal on Saturday.

The G-7 backed a U.S. proposal that calls for corporations around the world to pay a minimum 15% tax on profits. The reforms, if finalized, would affect the largest companies in the world with profit margins of at least 10% , reported CNBC.

Reacting on the development, Amazon told CNBC that’s they welcome the step in a bid to bring stability to the international tax system. “We hope to see discussions continue to advance with the broader G20 and Inclusive Framework alliance,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC by email.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs also welcomed the G-7 deal. In a tweet, he said the agreement is a “significant first step towards certainty for businesses and strengthening public confidence in the global tax system.”

Key details remain to be negotiated over the coming months. Saturday’s agreement says only “the largest and most profitable multinational enterprises” would be affected. The G7 includes the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada.

Amazon faces potential $425 million EU privacy fine – WSJ

Amazon could be fined more than $425 million under the European Union’s privacy law, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Luxembourg’s data-protection commission, CNPD, has circulated a draft decision and proposed a fine highlighting Amazon’s privacy practices among the bloc’s 26 national data-protection authorities, according to the report.

The case relates to Amazon’s collection and use of individuals’ personal data and violations under EU’s landmark data privacy rules known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a source told the Journal.

GDPR requires companies to seek people’s consent before using their personal data or face steep fines. Amazon declined to comment on the matter.

Google agrees to change some Ad practices after antitrust French regulator imposes fine

Google has agreed to make changes to some of its widely-used online advertising services under a settlement with France’s antitrust watchdog released on Monday. The authority also fined the company $267.48 million after a probe found Google guilty of abusing its market power in the intricate ad business online.

“The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it’s the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies,” said Isabelle de Silva, France’s antitrust chief.

Reuters had reported last week that Google may follow in Apple’s footsteps and won’t allow Android users to get tracked by advertisers. The change is coming through a new version of Google Play services that will roll out in a phased manner starting later this year.

Google loosens its search engine grip on Android devices in Europe

Google has bowed to pressure from rivals and will let them compete for free to be the default search engines on Android devices in Europe, widening a pledge to EU antitrust regulators two years ago, Reuters report.

The move by the world’s most popular internet search engine comes as the 27-country bloc considers rules that could be introduced next year to force Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook to ensure a level playing field for competitors.

Google’s Android mobile operating system runs on about four-fifths of the world’s smartphones. The U.S. tech giant said in 2019 that rivals would have to pay via an auction for appearing on a choice screen on new Android devices in Europe from which users select their preferred search engine.

Google’s change of heart followed a $5.16 billion fine handed out by the European Commission, the EU antitrust authority, in 2018 for unfairly using Android to cement the dominance of its search engine.

“We are now making some final changes to the Choice Screen including making participation free for eligible search providers. We will also be increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen,” Oliver Bethell, director at Google, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

Google said the five most popular eligible search engines in each EU country according to Stat Counter, including Google,would be displayed in random order at the top of the screen while up to seven will be shown at the bottom.

The changes will come into effect in September, the blog added.

Top US antitrust lawmaker targets big tech with new bills

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are working on drafts of five antitrust bills, Reuters report. 4 of these antitrust bills are aimed directly at reining in Big Tech, and may introduce them within days, Reuters rrported quoting sources.

The process may be changed before they are introduced. They may be introduced this week but that may be delayed, as per the report.

Among the five bills being considered, two address the problems of platforms, like Amazon creating a space for businesses to sell products and then competing against those products.

One of the two would make it illegal in most cases for a platform to advantage its own products on its platform with potentially a fine of 30% of the U.S. revenues of the affected business if they violate the measure. A second requires platforms to sell any business if owning it creates an incentive for the platform to advantage its own products or lines of business.

A third bill would require a platform to refrain from any merger unless it can show the acquired company does not compete with any product or service the platform is in.

A fourth would require platforms to set up a way for users to transfer data if they desire, including to a competing business. A fifth is similar to a Senate measure that would raise what the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charge to assess the biggest companies to ensure their mergers are legal and increase the budget of the agencies.

The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel wrote a report that was issued in October 2020 that spelled out abuses by four big technology companies, Alphabet Inc’s , Google, Apple Inc , Amazon.com and Facebook . The report — which was scathing — suggested expansive changes to antitrust law.

Amazon to ask staff to return to office for 3 days a week

Amazon.com has said some corporate employees will be offered the option to return to office for three days a week and work remotely for the other two days.

As per Reuters, employees in frontline roles such as hardware engineers will continue to work onsite. Amazon will also give employees the choice to work up to four weeks per year fully remote from a domestic location.

Apple and Google have made similar announcements of moving to a hybrid work week this year.

Facebook remote work made permanent as offices re-open

Facebook has said it will give employees the option of sticking with remote work for the long term. The company even offered to help some interested in moving to other countries.

Beginning on June 15, the company will let any employee whose job can be done remotely ask to work that way permanently, Facebook told AFP. As of June 15, Facebook will also expand remote work across international borders, supporting moves from the United States to Canada as well as shifts to Britain from other parts of Europe.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects the shift to remote work to be a lasting one at the leading social network.

Apple adds virtual IDs on iPhone, video plans that rival Zoom, Teams

Apple on Monday outlined plans to increase user privacy and keep consumer data out of other companies’ hands, laying out features including expanded video conferencing and storing virtual government IDs on iPhones, reports Reuters.

Many of the new features allow users to safeguard data, trusting the information to the Apple brand. Users will be able to scan ID cards in participating U.S. states, and the cards will be encrypted in a user’s digital wallet, along with credit cards and transit cards in some U.S. cities. It is working with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to accept the digital IDs at airports.

This comes amid allegations on the company that it has too much control over its App Store.

The changes came at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for software developers, some of whom have started to complain about Apple’s grip over which apps can appear on its devices, as well as its 15% to 30% commissions on digital sales.

Apple has said its App Store practices increase the market for mobile software by creating an environment for paid apps that consumers trust, and Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook and his team did not address frayed developer relations during the presentation.

Apple also tweaked some of its apps and services in ways that could intensify its rivalries with Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Apple launches new iOS 15 at WWDC, official release in September

Apple has announced at the WWDC their much-awaited iOS 15 operating system with new features and privacy as its focal point. The first developer beta of iOS 15 will be rolled out shortly, but the official release will coincide with the iPhone launch scheduled for September.

The new iOS 15 will support every iPhone device that supports iOS 14. The new OS will be compatible with the iPhone 6s to the latest iPhone model. Apple as a company policy has always dropped one generation of iPhone every year from its support list but has not done so this year. The reason for this has not been provided by the company.

A list of iPhone devices that can be compatible with the new iOS 15 are: iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, iPhone SE (1st gen), iPhone SE (2nd gen) and iPod touch (7th gen).

As per a report by Gadgets360, a feature that was not mentioned in the WWDC 2021 opening keynote presentation, but had appeared in a background slide, was the Hindi language support for the iOS Quickpath swipe keyboard. Other features such as the new FaceTime in iOS 15 which is easier and more spontaneous, the new iMessage will allow users to quickly locate articles, photos, chats etc. A host of new features have also been added.

Apple in talks with China’s CATL, BYD over battery supplies for its EV

Apple is in early-stage talks with China’s CATL and BYD about the supply of batteries for its planned electric vehicle, Reuters reported. However, it’s not clear if agreements with either CATL or BYD will be reached.

Apple has made building manufacturing facilities in the United States a condition for potential battery suppliers, sources told Reuters.

As per Reuters, CATL, which supplies major car makers including Tesla, is reluctant to build a U.S. factory due to political tensions between Washington and Beijing. Apple, which has yet to make a public announcement about its car plans, declined to comment. CATL, the world’s biggest automotive battery maker, and BYD also declined to comment.

Apple hires former BMW executive for its rebooted car project

Apple has hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive at BMW AG’s electric car division, to help its vehicle initiatives, Reuters reported.

Kranz, who was most recently the chief executive of electric vehicle startup Canoo will report to Apple veteran Doug Field, who led development of Tesla mass-market Model 3 and now runs Apple’s car project, the report said.

In December, Reuters reported that Apple was moving forward with its self-driving car technology and targeting to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology by 2024.

Zukerberg takes potshot at Apple; says Facebook won’t take a cut from creators until 2023

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that the social media company will not take a cut revenue from creators who make money on its platforms until 2023.

The company will not take a cut of any revenue generated by paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges and Facebook’s upcoming independent news product, Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook.

Zuckerberg also used his post to jab at its rival Apple by saying that it would be less than what the iPhone maker will take.

“When we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take,” Zuckerberg wrote, referring to the cut Apple takes on all products sold through apps that users have downloaded through its App Store.

Zuckerberg added that Facebook is also launching a new payout interface so creators can see how different companies’ fees and taxes are impacting their earnings.

Amazon boss is going to space!

Shortly after resigning as CEO of Amazon in July, Jeff Bezos will be flying to space. The billionaire will fly on the first passenger flight of his space company Blue Origin, which the company plans to launch on July 20, Bezos announced on Monday.

“I want to go on this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Bezos said in a video posted to his Instagram. Bezos’ brother Mark will join him, Amazon founder announced in his video, calling it a “remarkable opportunity”.

If all goes according to plan, Bezos —world’s richest person— will be the first of the billionaire space tycoons to experience a ride aboard the rocket technology that he’s poured millions into developing. Not even Elon Musk, whose SpaceX builds rockets powerful enough to enter orbit around Earth, has announced plans to travel to space, CNBC reported.

Mark Cuban-backed banking app Dave to go public in $4 bn SPAC merger

Billionaire Mark Cuban-backed Dave said it would go public through a merger with a blank-check firm sponsored by investment firm Victory Park Capital. This will hike the value of the banking app at $4 billion.

Financial services startup Chime has also held preliminary talks with investment banks about launching a stock market flotation, which could value it at more than $30 billion, Reuters reported in March.

The deal with special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings III Inc (VPCC.N), includes a $210 million investment led by Tiger Global Management, with additional participation from Wellington Management and Corbin Capital Partners.

The merger, which comes after a lull in dealmaking due to weak investor appetite and greater regulatory scrutiny, is expected to close later this year.

Launched in 2017, Dave is an app used to help Americans avoid billions of dollars in overdraft fees charged by traditional banks. It currently has 10 million customers.

El Salvador becomes 1st country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender

El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as a legal tender after Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace cryptocurrency. Bitcoin’s use as a legal tender will become law within three months.

Lawmakers in the South American country voted by a “supermajority” in favour of the Bitcoin Law. With 62 out of 84 possible votes, a majority of lawmakers voted in favour of the initiative to create a law that will formally adopt bitcoin as a legal currency.

“This is a historic moment. The code (Bitcoin) Satoshi wrote is now a legal tender of a country. Bitcoin is the soundest asset and one of the biggest technological innovations the world has ever seen. We are looking forward to how El Salvador incorporates Bitcoin into its economy,” Avinash Shekhar, Co-CEO of ZebPay said.

President Bukele has touted the use of Bitcoin for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home. He added that the U.S. dollar will also continue as legal tender.

He added that the use of bitcoin will be optional and will not bring risks to users. “The government will guarantee the convertibility to the exact value in dollars at the moment of each transaction,” Bukele said.

The country intends to use ‘cheap and clear’ volcano energy to mine the digital coin.

SoftBank-backed DoorDash enters Japan

U.S. food delivery firm DoorDash, which is backed by SoftBank Group, announced the launch of services in Japan on Wednesday, joining an increasingly crowded market that has grown during the pandemic.

Services will be initially limited to the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, the money losing delivery firm told reporters, in a step that follows its expansion to Canada and Australia.

“Our strategy has always been to empower local economies, especially in the suburban markets that are historically underserved, yet the appetite for connectivity between merchants and customers is high,” Chief Executive Tony Xu said in a statement.

DoorDash, which has also branched out into delivery from grocery and convenience stores last year, reported a near three-fold jump in quarterly revenue to $1.08 billion.

Didi Chuxing, China’s ride-hailing giant, unveils US IPO filing

China’s version of Uber and the biggest ride-hailing firm, Didi Chuxing on Thursday made public the filing for its long-anticipated U.S. stock market listing. With this, the company has set the stage for what is expected to be the world’s biggest initial public offering this year.

The company backed by SoftBank, Alibaba and Tencent did not reveal the size of the offering, but sources familiar with the matter had previously told Reuters that it could raise around $10 billion and seek a valuation of close to $100 billion.

At that valuation, Didi’s listing would be the biggest Chinese share offering in the United States since Alibaba raised $25 billion in 2014.

In its filing on Thursday, Didi revealed slower revenue growth in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hammered ride-hailing companies including Uber and Lyft.

Revenue of 141.7 billion yuan was down from 154.8 billion yuan a year earlier, whilenet loss was 10.6 billion yuan, compared with 9.7 billion yuan a year earlier, reports Reuters. Didi filed for its IPO in April and as per Reuters the company is aiming to go public in July.



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