Author: Sheldon

India’s unicorn startup, Cars24 cuts 600 jobs

The used car e-commerce platform, Cars24 backed by investors in the likes of SoftBank and Alpha Wave Innovation, has asked 600 of its employees to leave, even as it pushes ahead with its international expansion plans and attempts to steer through the gloomy market conditions. 

The Cars24 layoff, which represents about 6% of the startup’s workforce, affects staff across multiple divisions. A spokesperson for Cars24 insisted in a statement that “THis is business as usual as these are performance-linked exits that happen every year.”

In December last year, Cars24 closed a $400-million round of funding, including a $300-million Series G equity round alongside a $100-million debt from diversified financial institutions such as SoftBank, Alpha Wave Global, and DST Global among its backers. 

The $400-million injection of funding saw the platform being valued at $3.3-billion, about double its previous round in September 2021. 

The company has recently announced the launch of seven ‘Mega Refurbishment Labs’ (MRLs) in India which is an industry first, and one MRL in the UAE which is among Dubai’s largest ever commercial leasing deals. 

Vikram Chopra, Co-founder & CEO of Cars24 said that “As we continue to build the best infrastructure for the future with an end-to-end digital customer experience, we are confident that this will delight our customers with our high-touch industry experience.”

The recent layoff by Cars24, however, did not come as a surprise as investors are advising startups to cut their costs and increase the runway by as much as three years as plenty of funding rounds that were getting finalized a few weeks ago are increasingly being renegotiated, stalled or canned.

This sentiment by investors saw Indian edtech Vedantu letting go over 620 people in recent weeks, whereas Cars24’s chief rival, Unacademy, has fired about 1000 individuals. Other startups like Meesho, OkCredit, Trell, Furlenco, and Lido have also cut several roles within their firms in recent weeks. 

Japanese payment processing firm Opn obtains unicorn status after raising $120-million

Digital payment processor Opn, which was formerly known as Synqa, said it has raised $120-million in a Series C+ funding round, earning itself a unicorn status. 

Some investors that have participated in the funding round include government-backed JIC Venture Growth Investments, Mitsubishi UFG Financial Group, and tech investors Mars Growth Capital which has brought Opn’s total raised capital to date to $222-million. 

Opn, which has its registered headquarters in Tokyo and operational headquarters in Bangkok, said that the fresh capital will support the firm to continue developing services and product line-up while also pushing further into Southeast Asia as it rides the growth of digital payments in the region. 

The company while targeting to expand its geography also targets Japan, where digital transformation is a buzzword in government circles and companies are looking for help in processing cross-border payments. Jun Hasegawa, Opn founder, and CEO stated that: “They need a one-stop solution…that’s something we can provide.”“We are extremely excited and proud to bring on board this high-quality investment, allowing us to accelerate the development of our core payment solutions, while also expanding into new territories within our core markets of Southeast Asia and Japan and beyond,” as stated by Jun Hasegawa.

He also continued to state: “As we approach 10 years since we started as a payment gateway company, and now customized fintech solutions to help businesses grow, we have continued to obsess over how to make payments ever more seamless for both businesses and the people they serve. Through our fintech solutions, we are realizing our vision of enabling access to the digital economy for everyone.” 

Opn, was founded in 2013 in Bangkok by Jun Hasegawa and co-founder Ezra Don Harinsut. The company is one of Japan’s five unicorns, including news app operator SmartNews and biotech firm Spiber. Japan has a growing number of startups and foreign investors are becoming more common in funding round. However, it still lags behind countries like South Korea and Singapore with 12 and India which has more than 60 unicorns.

Indian instant grocery startup nears unicorns status after raising $200-million

In the latest funding round led by Y Combinator, an instant grocery startup – Zepto has raised $200-million in a Series D fundraise, which takes its valuation to around $900-million just shy of a unicorn status within nine months of operations. 

The funding round was participated by new investors by the likes of Kaiser Permanente and existing investors such as Nexus Venture Partners, Glade Brook Capital, and Lachy Groom, increasing their investments in the startup. 

Childhood friends Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra, who dropped out of Standford University’s computer science program at 19 to become e-commerce entrepreneurs in India, started Zepto.

The startup, which offers a 10-minute grocery delivery service, operates in 11 cities across Inda with hundreds of thousands of orders each day. With the new funding round, the startup will be looking to expand its 10-minutes delivery service to more cities in India and grow its network.

Zepto faces competition from players such as Dunzo, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, and Flipkart, which are also putting their stakes on the country’s rapidly growing online grocery market. Zepto co-founder and CEO Aadit Palicha said that “The way we do that (10-minute deliveries) is through a network of highly optimized delivery centers. We have scaled to millions of customers across the country. Today, we’re doing hundreds of thousands of orders a day. We have achieved a scale that took food delivery players years to achieve, and we did that in a few months. The business continues to grow at a very fast pace.” 

Additionally, Palicha defended Zepto’s practices which have previously raised concerns due to drivers resorting to speeding to meet delivery deadlines for fear of being rebuked by store managers. Palicha said that drivers travel only short distances of 1.8 kilometers to deliver orders and don’t rush. 

He also said that Zepto’s revenue had grown 800% quarter-on-quarter, and it has slashed its cash burn by five times on a per-order basis. 

Zepto is also carving out a new category within their firm termed ‘Zepto Café,’ which early customers receive pretty well. The new category pilots a service to deliver Coffee, Chai, and other Café items in 10 minutes across select areas in Mumbai. 


Singapore-founded Biofourmis raised a whopping $300 million in Series D funding to earn a unicorn status

Biofourmis, a startup developing digital therapeutics and artificial intelligence to remotely monitor patients conducted a Series D funding round led by General Atlantic which raised $300-million to bring its valuation to $1.3-billion. 

The funding round which was participated by existing investors as well as New York-listed CVS Health Corporation brings the total raised funds for the startup to $445-million after it raised $100-million in a Series C round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 in 2020. From the time of the Series C to the present funding round, the company has grown from 150 employees to 500 employees. 

Originally based in Singapore, the company moved its headquarters to the United States in 2019. The company’s Co-founder and CEO Kuldeep Singh Rajput said the company turned offers of a higher valuation in favor of U.S.-based investors “who understand this market extremely well” and “understand the payor landscape and value-based care,” which are key to future growth.

The company’s core business is using artificial intelligence to monitor patients and predict disease, which includes hardware sensors paired with software that continually analyzes biomarkers, like heart rate, temperature, and respiration rate. 

The company also develops and delivers digital therapeutics, which allow the personalization of the treatment to meet specific patient needs. The company also plans to fund clinical trials to advance the development of digital therapies that work in conjunction with high-value drugs. 

The company’s competitor in the virtual at-home care space, Athelas become a unicorn in February this year after raising $132-million across two funding rounds backed by Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator.

Chinese work automation startup, Laiye bags US$160-million funding as the company nears unicorn status

Chinese intelligent automation solutions developer, Laiye has recently announced that they picked up US$160-million from a Series C funding round to expand overseas. 

The Beijing-based company’s financing came in three tranches, with the latest tranche bringing it US$70-million, an oversubscribed round led by Chinese private equity firm Hopu Magnolia. The funding round was also co-led by the likes of VMS Group from Hong Kong and private equity company Youshan Capital with participation from existing shareholders such as Lightspeed Partners. 

Laiye looks to use the new capital to speed up expansions in Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The startup believes that these regions have the most significant growth opportunity to offer one-stop solutions that automate office tasks of varying degrees of complexity. 

The startup has wasted no time in realizing its expansion plans as it picked Paris as its springboard for entering the rest of Europe. This saw Laiye announce the acquisition of Paris-based chatbot service provider Mindsay for an undisclosed amount and transaction type concurrent with the fundraising announcement.

Chairman and CEO of Laiye, Wang Guanchun, stated that “Laiye has made great strides in expanding its success in China to the Asia Pacific, the Americas, and EMEA. We envision a future where all organizations and people are transformed, emboldened, and made better by the power of intelligent automation.”

He also added that “This new round of funding will continue to fuel our relentless product innovation and triple-digit year-over-year revenue growth in the years to come.”

Laiye was founded in 2015, and it currently delivers end-to-end intelligent automation solutions to corporate clients across a wide range of industries like insurance, communications, electric power, finance, retail, and healthcare. It hosts an array of domestic clients such as state-owned grid operator China Southern Power Grid, oil & gas firm PetroChina, commercial banks Bank of China and China Construction Bank, and telecom companies such as China Unicorn, China Mobile, and China Telecom. 

The startup also boasts foreign clients, including German auto manufacturer Porche, French luxury group LVMH, pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson Medical, and Roche Pharmaceuticals. 

Laiye’s team consists of more than 600 employees in China while surpassing 100 employees outside of China, including 30 newly added employees from Mindsay. The startup’s overseas revenue is expected to account for more than half by 2025.

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