STARTUP DIGEST: Top stories of the day

There were many important updates in the startup space during the day on Tuesday, which include credit card payment platform Cred has turned a unicorn, nearly trebling its valuation in just three months to $2.2 billion with a new round of funding of $215 million; Ather Energy sees sales 250 percent jump  in the last quarter and edtech company upGrad clocks $100 crore monthly revenues in March. Here’s all that hit headlines today:

Cred valued at $2.2 billion with new round, Kunal Shah says ‘conscious call’ to not monetise in first 2 years

Credit card payment platform Cred has turned a unicorn, nearly trebling its valuation in just three months to $2.2 billion with a new round of funding of $215 million. The company is among the few startups to achieve a unicorn status at a very early stage, having begun operations only 2.5 years ago.

The Series D round was led by Falcon Edge Capital (new investor) and Coatue Management LLP (existing investor), while Insight Partners (new investor) is also joining the cap table.

Existing investors DST Global, RTP Global, Tiger Global, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Sofina are also investing in this round, the company said. In early January 2021, Cred had announced a $80 million round of funding, which had valued the company at $804 million.

“Valuation is not something we celebrate. More fundraise is more responsibility to deliver returns to investors,” Kunal Shah told CNBC-TV18. “The focus that we took on affluent customers, contrary to many startups building for the rest of India, has paid off,” Shah said.

Cred currently has about 6 million members (it selects members only with credit scores above 750), and the company claims over 35 percent of premium credit card holders in India are on Cred.

While Shah said there were several secondary transactions in the round, he did not confirm on which investors made exits. A Moneycontrol report last week had said Chinese investors in the company such as Hillhouse Capital and Morningside Ventures were exiting in the round. “Chinese investors had no meaningful ownership. Secondary transactions are part of every round and all investors have the option to sell,” Shah said.

Further, the company has announced another ESOP buyback up to $5 million. In January, Cred had announced an ESOP buyback.

Cred was recently a talking point on social media for its operating revenue of Rs 52 lakh in FY20 while losses stood at Rs 363 crore. Entrackr on Tuesday cited regulatory filings stating that Cred has projected revenues of Rs 108 crore for FY21, while losses are projected at Rs 562 crore.

Shah did not comment on the Entrackr report, but said the company is seeing good revenue growth, “Revenue per user is looking very sound, and that is giving us confidence that as we get to monetising more percentage of users, the revenue will be better.”

“We took a conscious call to not monetise in the first couple of years. Many companies monetise 5-8 years after building distribution,” he added.

Cred runs multiple products, including rewards on credit card payments; Rentpay (monthly rent on credit card for a small transaction fee); CRED Cash (Instant credit line), STORE (an ecommerce marketplace to use CRED coins); and CRED PAY (merchant payments ).

“It is too early to talk of winners among these products. It is largely a platform play,” Shah added.

KKR closes $15 billion Asian PE fund

Private equity giant KKR announced the close of its Asia-focused private equity fund – KKR Asian Fund IV, with a corpus of $15 billion.

KKR will invest approximately $1.3 billion in capital alongside fund investors through the firm and its employees’ commitments, a statement said.

According to PE firm, KKR Asian Fund IV is the company’s largest private equity fund for the Asia Pacific region. The fund, which exceeded its target size to reach its hard cap for fund investors’ commitments, received strong support from a diverse group of new and existing global investors, including strong representation by Asia Pacific-based investors, the statement said. KKR launched its Asia Pacific platform in 2005, and today has over $30 billion in assets under management in the region across strategies, including private equity, infrastructure, real estate, and credit. Asia Pacific Private Equity portfolio currently includes investments in approximately 60 companies in 11 countries across the region.

upGrad hits ARRs of Rs 1,200 crore with a monthly revenue of Rs 100 cr

Riding high on the online learning boom. edtech platform upGrad reports monthly earnings of Rs 100 crore as Annual Revenue Run rate (ARR) hits the Rs 1,200 crore mark. The company is now targeting 25 percent revenue growth in the next quarter with profitability in sight, a statement read.

upGrad’s revenues grew 100 percent in 2020 as it serviced 1 million learners in 50-plus countries.

Ather Energy clocks best quarter as sales surge

EV startup Ather Energy has seen its “best ever” quarter as sales surged 250 percent as it reported positive margins for the first time. The company said it expanded into 10 cities from 4 and saw a 6x increase in test rides in the quarter.

Here’s Ather Energy’s quarterly report card:

Sales: Up 250%
Test rides: Up 6X
Cities: Expanded from 4 to 10
Fast chargers: Increased from 79 to 129

Assembly times: Down 32%

Lendingkart’s NBFC arm raises $15 mn funding from FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank

Lendingkart has raised $15 million in a new round of debt funding raising from the FMO, Dutch entrepreneurial Development Bank. With this deal, Lendingkart strengthens its 3-year relationship with the bank receiving funds through NCDs and increases its cumulative exposure to $19 million with this transaction, the company said.

FMO – the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank supports sustainable private sector growth in developing countries and emerging markets. The funds will be used to expanding the reach of financial products to the MSMEs through Lendingkart’s digital platform, the statement added.

Pitstop raises $3.5 M in pre Series B funding led by Ventureast

Tech enabled multi-brand car service provider, Pitstop has raised $3.5 million in a Pre-series-B funding round. Ventureast led the funding with participation from ACKO Technologies, LetsVenture, AngelList India, Blume Ventures, among others.

The company had earlier raised funding from a marquee list of investors which includes Landmark Cars (one of India’s largest car dealership chain), Anuj Srivastava and Ramakant Sharma from Livspace, Rahul Garg from Moglix, Shailesh Rao to name a few.

The start-up had raised $6.2 million, including $2.5 million series-A in 2020. The total funding raised with the current infusion amounts to $9.7 million.

Pitstop will use the new funds to strengthen its end-to-end car maintenance operations in the existing cities and further expand to 20 additional cities by the end of the year.

As part of this expansion, Pitstop will be adding 250 service vans, which are its primary mode of delivering car maintenance and service. Pitstop will also be enrolling 350 garages to build the required geographical penetration into each new city added. Pitstop is operational in 5 cities including the NCR region.

Matrix India invests in AntWak

Experiential learning platform AntWak has raised its seed round of funding led by Matrix Partners India. Better Capital and Kunal Shah, founder, CRED Club also participated in this round.

Antwak today offers 1000+ free, bite-sized professional learning courses in 15+ domains such as cybersecurity, digital marketing, data engineering, user experience, sales & BD, data engineering, powered by 2,500+ experts from 500+ brands & corporates across 30+ countries, a statement read. In addition, Antwak also offers a 16 week long premium live courses targeted at the billion Bharat dreams, at one-fifth the cost of peer firms and is again led by industry experts, the firm said.

Through this infusion of capital, AntWak plans to invest deeper in content and education infrastructure, and build an excellent marketing and inside sales team, as per the company.

Deep-tech healthcare startup NIRAMAI receives CE Mark approval

Niramai, a deep-tech healthcare company offering an innovative AI-based, radiation-free breast cancer-screening test has now received the prestigious CE Mark Approval, ISO 13485 and MDSAP (Medical Device Single Audit Program) International Certifications. The CE mark Approval indicates that the product may be sold freely in any part of the European Economic Area. The ISO 13485 and MDSAP certifications endorse medical device manufacturers for their compliance with the international medical device quality standards and regulatory requirements.

This CE mark approval shows that the product meets EU requirements for medical devices under MDD93/42/EEC for safety, and performance. With these quality certifications, NIRAMAI‘s Thermalytix solution can now be applied to all countries of Europe, as well as applicable to many Asian, African and Middle East countries.

Blacksoil Capital invests Rs 20 cr in Mahaveer Finance

Asset Financing NBFC Mahaveer Finance has raised Rs 20 crore bridge equity through structured funding from Blacksoil Capital before its Series C funding of 100 crore in the current year, the company said.

The funds will be utilized to achieve its target AUM of Rs 500 cr for the year.

BlackSoil is a sector agnostic alternative credit platform & has deployed Rs 1,100 crs in the last 4.5 years across 80+ transactions. Blacksoil’s past deals include OYO, Spinny, Purplle, Zetwerks, Vogo, LetsTransport, EarlySalary and iNurture amongst others. Blacksoil has recently raised Rs 126 crores for the first close for its maiden secured Credit Fund.

Mahaveer Finance finances used commercial & passenger vehicles in the First time Buyer/New to credit vehicle segment.

Urban Company to provide free COVID-19 vaccination to all its 30,000+ service partners

Home services marketplace Urban Company will cover COVID-19 vaccination costs for all service partners on its platform. Urban Company will collaborate with local government authorities and healthcare providers to ensure that its fleet of service partners are fully vaccinated over the next few months, a statement said.

PayPal partners with FlexiLoans.com to offer MSMEs and freelancers’ collateral-free term loans

FlexiLoans.com, homegrown MSME focused digital lending platform announces its partnership with PayPal, a global leader in digital payments to provide freelancers, women entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, and MSME’s with collateral-free business loans.

Through this partnership, PayPal will bring its global best practices and credit solution capabilities to Indian merchants who sell cross border using PayPal. PayPal with FlexiLoans.com will aim to offer MSME’s with working capital for business expansion, purchasing stock, inventory, and other business-related expenditures.

Flipkart partners with Mahindra Logistics for electric vehicles

Homegrown e-commerce marketplace Flipkart has partnered with Mahindra Logistics to help fast track deployment of electric vehicles across its logistics fleet in the country, the company said. Flipkart has committed to 100 percent electric mobility in its logistics fleet and will deploy more than 25,000 electric vehicles by 2030.

The partnership with Mahindra Logistics will help Flipkart build a green supply chain by deploying a large fleet of EVs. The deal also includes building supporting infrastructure and technology such as charging stations and parking lots, training workforce, route planning and even battery swapping stations in the near future. Another key focus area will be technology and control tower operations to enable greater efficiency and cost competitiveness, the statement said.

MPL renews RCB sponsorship in a two-year deal

Esports and skill gaming platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) will renew its partnership with IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for a period of two years as a Principal Sponsor.

The partnership will see MPL continue to be featured on the RCB kit for the upcoming edition of the T20 tournament this year, as well as the 2022 edition, a statement said.

Ola Electric hires Hyundai veteran Yongsung Kim as global sales head

Ola Electric, the ride-hailing firm’s electric vehicle arm, said it has appointed Yongsung Kim as head of global sales and distribution, overseeing India and international markets.

A 35-year veteran with Hyundai Motor and Kia, Yongsung brings global automotive sales experience from around the world, including North America, Europe, UK, Middle East, Africa, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Asia Pacific. In India he had spent several years, first with Hyundai Motor and then with Kia, to build their market-leading presence in India.

Crypto market cap surges to record $2 trillion, bitcoin at $1.1 trillion

The cryptocurrency market capitalization hit an all-time peak of $2 trillion on Monday, according to data and market trackers CoinGecko and Blockfolio, as gains over the last several months attracted demand from both institutional and retail investors.

By mid-afternoon, the crypto market cap was at $2.02 trillion. The surge was led by bitcoin, which hit its own milestone by holding at a $1 trillion market cap for one week. Bitcoin was last up 1.4 percent at $59,045. Since hitting a lifetime peak of more than $61,000 in mid-March, bitcoin has traded in a relatively narrow range. Analysts said as long as bitcoin stays above $53,000, it will be able to maintain its $1 trillion market cap.

Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency in terms of market cap, was up 1.3 percent at $2,103. Its market cap was $244 billion on Monday. It hit a record high of $2,144.99 last Friday.

“Momentum and interest have begun to expand beyond bitcoin and ethereum,” said Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer at crypto exchange Bitfinex.

“As the industry continues to mature, we expect more blockchain-based applications to be introduced to the world, and coinciding with that, a surge of interest around other alternative assets… as they become more market-ready,” he added.

Bezos, Musk top Forbes’ record-setting billionaire list

Forbes’ annual world’s billionaires list includes a record-breaking 2,755 billionaires, with Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos topping it for the fourth consecutive year, the company said on Tuesday.

The ranks of the ultra-wealthy are expanding after a year in which the coronavirus pandemic upended world economies and threatened the livelihoods of people across the globe.

This year’s billionaires are worth a combined $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion last year, Forbes said.

“The very, very rich got very, very richer,” said Forbes’ Chief Content Officer Randall Lane, in an interview with Reuters Video News.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk jumped into second spot on the list, up from 31st last year.

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods firm LVMH, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg round out the top five of the world’s richest billionaires.

Investor and business tycoon Warren Buffett fell out of the top five for the first time in over two decades, as tech executives dominate the Forbes rankings.

This year’s list has 493 newcomers, including Whitney Wolfe Herd, chief executive of dating app Bumble, which went public this year.

Silicon Valley self-driving startup Gatik works with Isuzu to build delivery trucks

Silicon Valley self-driving startup Gatik and Isuzu North America Corp said they will work together to build autonomous delivery trucks that Gatik will use to serve its retailer customers, Reuters reported.

Gatik, which works with Walmart Inc in Arkansas and Louisiana and Loblaw Companies Ltd in Canada to deliver goods to stores from warehouses using autonomous trucks with safety drivers, has seen a boom in business as the pandemic has boosted sales at grocery stores.

Gatik, which has raised nearly $30 million so far, said its trucks are owned by a major fleet operator which it isn’t yet disclosing. So far it has been using the Ford Transit chassis for its existing fleet of autonomous delivery trucks.