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February 13 2014

Gartner: Smartphone Sales Finally Beat Out Dumb Phone Sales Globally In 2013, With 968M Units Sold
moto-g2013 was the year when the inevitable happened: worldwide sales of smartphones surpassed sales of the more basic (and generally cheaper) feature phone devices for the first time, according to Gartner’s latest market estimates – with 968 million smartphone device units sold to end users in 2013 out of a total of 1.8 billion mobiles sold. That overall global mobile device total was up 3.5% on 2012′s figure. The smartphone vs feature phone tipping point was reached in Q2 last year, according to the analyst, when Gartner previously noted smartphones had outstripped dumbphone sales globally for the first time. At that point Android was taking a 79% marketshare. Now, looking at 2013 performance as a whole, Gartner said sales of smartphones accounted for 53.6% of overall mobile phone sales for the year — cementing their majority position vs feature phones. Smartphone sales grew 36% in Q4, taking a 57.6% share of overall mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter, up from 44% year-over-year. That’s slightly lowered growth than smartphones were seeing in Q2 (46.5%) but sales of smarter portable handsets which let users download third party apps still outstripped sales of dumber mobiles throughout the year. Gartner notes that mobile sales in saturated mature regions fell due to weaker demand during 2013, with emerging markets providing the engine for growth. Smartphone growth for the year was led by adoption in Latin America (which had a 96.1% regional growth rate), the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe, where Gartner notes sales grew by more than 50% in Q4. The country with the highest individual smartphone sales growth was India, which exhibited a 166.8% increase in Q4. China also contributed significantly to global smartphone sales with a rise of 86.3% in sales during 2013.  Gartner pegged the still growing Android OS’s 2013 global marketshare at 78.4%; vs 15.6% for a continuing to shrink in marketshare iOS; and just 3.2% for Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform (although the ‘third ecosystem’ grew its global share). BlackBerry shrank to a marginal 1.9%. The analyst said it expects sales of Android phones alone in 2014 to approach the billion mark. In terms of the top smartphone vendors in Q4, Samsung still leads — taking a 29.5% share in the quarter, although that’s down on the year on year quarter when it bagged 31.1%. Apple’s second placed share — of 17.8% for Q4 — is also down on Q4 2012

February 12 2014

With $5M In Fresh Funding From Amex Ventures, Capillary Wants to be Salesforce Of Social CRM
photo-9Capillary Technologies, the social CRM startup based in Bangalore, has raised additional funding of around $4 million from American Express Ventures. The startup plans to expand into the U.S., Middle East, China and Australia with this fresh funding, which takes the total capital raised so far to around $20 million. Norwest Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital and Qualcomm Ventures are among other existing investors in the startup. The funding from American Express Ventures follows a marketing alliance with the bank signed by Capillary last month, which will offer the startup’s SaaS-based CRM to small and medium businesses in the U.S. Amex and Capillary did a similar pilot in Singapore over past one year. Capillary is among a small, but promising breed of Indian software product firms that are beginning to make a mark globally. Capillary for instance, has around 100 million customers on its cloud CRM for over 150 brands, and across 10,000 stores globally. The startup still gets nearly half of its revenues from India market, which could change with growth in other markets as more customers from the U.S. and Europe adopt Capillary’s simpler solution. The startup competes with bigger enterprise vendors such as Oracle, Salesforce and SAP on one hand, and smaller, niche startups including Mobiquest, Swiply and Punchd at the other end. Its product — InTouch — gathers real time customer data, applies predictive analysis, and helps retailers such as Nike, Puma, Marks & Spencer and Nokia contact potential customers with personalized offers on-the-go. “We would want to be best Retail Customer Engagement solution targetting mid sized retailers ($500m in revenues) developed markets like US, UK, Europe and be leaders across retailer sizes in developing markets like Asia and Africa – in one line we want to the for retail CRM’s,” Aneesh Reddy, one of the co-founders told me. Reddy, along with his IIT batch mates Krishna Mehra and Ajay Modani, launched Caoillary with a round $3,500 in seed funding from their college. Since then, the startup has come a long way, now being seen as one of the truly India-made enterprise products. “We are not yet profitable thanks to the investments being made in the newer markets. We should be cash positive and continue to grow at a 100%+ CAGR in the next 12 months,” Reddy added. Capillary’s story is of an emerging market solution built for SMS environment and low-cost cloud networks, which is
India Raises Concerns On Bitcoin’s Credibility, But Doesn’t Call It Illegal Yet
highkartBitcoin traders are having a roller coaster ride everywhere and India is no exception. After initial momentum that saw several Bitcoin exchanges emerge in India, the Reserve Bank of India issued a warning that sent many traders into a tizzy last year. Now, Raghuram Rajan, the RBI’s new governor has reiterated the central bank’s concerns about the credibility of Bitcoin. Addressing a technology conference in Mumbai earlier today, Rajan said there are ambiguities about who controls the value of Bitcoin. “As a currency, I do worry a little bit when the underlying (value) fluctuates tremendously. One of the values of a currency is stability and the extent (to which) a currency is target of speculation as opposed to primarily a means of exchange,” he said addressing a conference organized by technology industry body Nasscom. I do think we have to understand the role of virtual currencies and how they will interact with the paper currency that you have…There are questions that need to be asked, one of them being, who will maintain value? Can we have confidence in unseen, unknown centres who maintain the value of the currency, or an algorithm that will maintain the value of the currency – we need more credibility there But Bitcoin traders in India are not giving up yet. Last month, Highkart became the first (and the only) e-commerce site in India to start accepting payment in Bitcoin. Its co-founder Amit Kumar told me that one of the challenges facing growth of Bitcoin in India is that many early adopters are still hoarding the currency and not trading them. Highkart sold a pair of shoes from Provogue in exchange for Bitcoin as its first transaction. It has currently 150 products and the startup does not charge anything extra for shipping the products. “There’s nothing illegal in accepting Bitcoin — the RBI will take more time to come up with clarity,” Kumar added. Highkart and other Bitcoin traders in India say they are following all banking regulations prescribed by the RBI, leaving no room for any illegal activities. Benson Samuel, a Bitcoin developer and consultant said nothing much has changed for Bitcoin in India since the last time RBI issued the warning. Last month, an Indian lawyer even sent a legal notice to RBI asking for clarity on Bitcoin trading in India.  A major concern for policymakers and regulators about Bitcoin is that it could be used

February 06 2014

Myntra Confirms $50M Fund Raise Led By Premji Invest
myntraAs we reported on January 31, Indian fashion portal Myntra has just confirmed raising $50 million in fresh funding from investors led by Premji Invest. The new funding comes after Myntra preferred to invest in its own growth and did not pursue a merger offer from India’s biggest e-commerce company Flipkart. “We are confident of achieving $1 billion GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) by 2016 and will be by far the largest fashion destination in India,” said Mukesh Bansal, co-founder and CEO of Myntra. The startup said there’s enough and more opportunities to grow in India’s $3.1 Billion e-commerce market (excluding online travel), which is expected to reach $22 billion in five years, according to a CLSA report. “We have been growing steadily, increasing our product offerings and attracting new users from different corners of the country. This round of funding will allow us to scale up, attract and retain superior talent, ramp up our technology infrastructure and strengthen the Myntra brand,” Bansal added in a statement. Since its launch in 2007, Myntra has raised close to $75 million from investors, including Accel Partners and Tiger Global. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden wrote in January, Myntra now has the funds to continue to invest in its business for the next stage of growth as a standalone company. The company is on track to have gross merchandise value — the total value of goods sold via Myntra’s portal — of $100 million for the current fiscal year. But it has been growing at a rapid rate. In April 2013 the rate was 100% every six months, and Myntra believes that GMV will be $1 billion by 2016. As a point of comparison, Flipkart is projecting a GMV of $1 billion by 2015. We will be updating this post with details of Myntra’s latest funding and comments from other investors.

February 04 2014

Can India Create A $100B Software Products Industry?
Screen shot 2014-02-04So far, India’s over $100 billion IT industry has been built mostly on software services and back office projects delivered by TCS, Infosys and Wipro for the likes of Citibank and GE, who have been outsourcing non-core work to save costs over the last two decades. Now, the newly formed software product think-tank iSpirt says software products can be a $100 billion industry in India by 2025, an ambition that may sound too bullish on the face of it, but not overly aggressive if you consider the progress of startups including InMobi, Zoho, Druva, FusionCharts, QuickHeal and Eka Software. InMobi, for instance, has been growing its revenue by over 3-4 times every year, its founder Naveen Tewary told me. The startup’s ad network already has over 700 million users on its network – second only to Facebook. Currently, these companies report over $2 billion in annual revenues, according to Nasscom. iSpirt has released an interesting report today that covers some of the important details about the current state of India’s software product industry — where are the founders coming from, how are they building these startups, challenges in raising money, average valuation, etc. First of all, it’s tough to raise seed money for a product startup in India because many angels and VCs are still shying away from making such investments. The report also highlights the rise of SaaS startups such as Freshdesk that are looking to tap into markets potentially worth over $500 billion globally. But India’s software product startups face a massive challenge in terms of providing exits to investors. While these companies are around 2.5 years old on average, India offers very poor returns in terms of M&A exits, according to an iSpirt and Signal Hill analysis done last year. “In Israel the M&A exit value was 7X of the VC/PE investment during the same period. In US the multiple was 5X. In India it was only 1.1X (and this too was inflated because it counted IT Services M&A exits as well). “ With more senior industry executives quitting their cushy jobs to become entrepreneurs, and even angel investors, things have started changing for the Indian product ecosystem. There are over 3,000 small and mid-sized product startups in the country now, and it’s easier to get seed funding for a product idea today than what it was until few years ago. As pointed out earlier, Facebook’s acquisition of Little Eye Labs could

January 31 2014

India Fashion Portal Myntra Raises $50M On A $200M Pre-Money Valuation As Amazon And Flipkart Circle
myntraIndia's e-commerce market is projected to grow sevenfold to $22 billion in the next five years, and investors and global e-commerce companies want to have a piece of the action. We have learned that Myntra, one of the bigger fashion portals in the country focusing both on traditional and more western fashion, has closed a $50 million round of funding. And, as that round closed, it got approached by both Amazon and Flipkart (known informally as "the Amazon of India"), with Flipkart making an acquisition offer in the region of $200 million.
After Little Eye Labs Exit, India’s GSF Accelerator Goes Global
gsfGSF, the Indian startup accelerator behind Little Eye Labs, which was acquired by Facebook earlier this year, is launching a cross-border program with increased seed funding and global exposure for its third cohort starting April this year. The GSF Global Accelerator is partnering with AngelList, a platform that helps startups find funding and employees, to manage the application and selection process for its next batch. GSF’s next batch will have eight startups from India, and the remaining four from across South East Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. “Little Eye Labs acquisition was the trigger for us to start thinking about a new model where startups could be exposed globally,” said Rajesh Sawhney who started GSF Accelerator in 2012 with support from investors including Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, InMobi founder Naveen Tewary, Blume Ventures and Kae Capital.  The next batch starting mid-April will have four stopovers — starting with four weeks in Delhi, Bangalore, followed by two weeks at Singapore’s The Hub, then two weeks on the East Coast, and the final four weeks in the Silicon Valley. All this would also mean more funding for the selected startups. GSF’s next cohorts will get $40,000-$60,000 each in seed funding as part of the new program. Earlier, the startups received $30,000 in funding after getting selected. Out of the company’s two batches of 24 startups so far, nine have have gone on to raise additional funding, and two of them have been acquired. Many Indian accelerators started with the idea of modeling on the kind of incubation provided by TechStars and Y Combinator in the U.S. But the Indian startup ecosystem is still nascent in terms of getting the global exposure. As Sharad Sharma, co-founder of iSpirt told me recently, Indian startups really need to get on the radar of newer Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter who are more acquisitive. This is an area where more investors, accelerators and think-tanks in India are beginning to focus. For its part, GSF took several of its cohorts including Little Eye Labs for a World Expedition last year, which helped exposing them to potential acquirers including Facebook and Twitter.  This year, GSF is planning demo days across important tech hubs in the world. “We’ll have four demo days — two in the U.S. and one each in Singapore and India,” said Sawhney.  Clearly, the $10-$15 million acquisition of Little Eye Labs by Facebook is

January 30 2014

India’s Flipkart In Merger Talks With Fashion Retailer Myntra, As Common Investors Push For Consolidation
flipkart screenshotTwo of India’s biggest e-commerce retailers — Flipkart and Myntra — are apparently in talks to merge, a proposal being pushed by their common investors Accel Partners and Tiger Global. The Times of India reported this morning that Flipkart has already approached Myntra, and a decision on whether to go with the merger would be taken in two weeks. Flipkart has been looking to expand in newer categories such as fashion retailing, its co-founder Binny Bansal had told me recently. By merging with Myntra, Filpkart can add another category, and also widen the gap with everybody else even further. Flipkart is aiming to achieve $1 billion in gross merchandise value by next year. Flipkart has raised $540 million so far from investors including Accel, Tiger, Dragoneer Investment Group and Morgan Stanley Investment Management. In October last year, it raised $160 million, taking its Series E funding to be the largest ever by any Indian Internet company. India’s nearly $3.1 billion e-commerce market (excluding online travel industry) is dwarfed in size by China’s nearly $200 billion market for online sales, but it’s expected to grow by over seven times to $22 billion in five years, according to a CLSA report published in November 2013. Myntra, one of India’s biggest online clothing and footwear retailers, has been in discussions with several investors to raise around $50 million, sources are telling us. These discussions included a proposal to merge with Flipkart or acquire another e-commerce company to gain certain size, but nothing has been finalized yet, the source added. Clearly, the signs of consolidation are very visible in India’s e-commerce sector. An intense battle for market share is being fought among Flipkart, eBay-backed Snapdeal and Amazon. A lot is riding for investors backing Flipkart, so any proposals that help it garner a larger share of the market cannot be ruled out. We have reached out to Flipkart, Myntra and their investors for reactions and we will update after hearing from them.

January 17 2014

Apple Turns To Old iPhone Models, And Lower Prices, To Woo Users In India
india-iphone4Executives at Apple in India are preparing to celebrate passing $1 billion in annual revenue in the country for the first time this financial year. But Apple today remains a small player in India, accounting for less than 2% of all mobile sales in 2013 according to one estimate. In a market where more than 90% of the 224 million phones sold in 2014 will be bought by first-time users, Samsung, Nokia and Micromax phones are expected to take the lion’s share, leaving Apple a bit-player. According to several estimates, including some sources at Apple India, the company shipped 1 million iPhones in 2013. As a point of comparison, newly minted iPhone carrier China Mobile has clocked up 1 million in pre-orders alone. There have been reports that Apple is now considering a drastic strategy: according to the Economic Times, Apple plans to push a legacy model, the 8GB iPhone 4, at a price of about $250 to get more aggressive in India. We have heard from reliable sources that nothing like this is on the cards because there is “no way Apple would sell phones that cheap.” But it is correct that it wants to use an older model to target new, aspirational consumers who are ready to pay an extra $100-$150 to own an iPhone. Our source tells us that Apple is planning to sell 8GB iPhone 4 models in India at around RS 22,000 (about $358). That’s about $70 less than the previous retail price of around RS 26,500 (about $431) when it was launched, if not quite $250. The pricing dilemma India will account for nearly a quarter of the 1.03 billion smartphones that will be sold in 2014 globally according to Mediacells. But iPhones will only be a small proportion of that. Even the most aggressive estimates do not expect iPhone sales to cross 1.5 million units this year. So far, Apple has attempted to make up for its premium pricing by throwing in extra offers such as buyback offers and option to pay in monthly installments. Part of the problem has been that India’s average phone pricing runs almost at complete odds with Apple’s bigger pricing strategy. In the last launch of new models, the “cheaper” 5C variant works out as more expensive ($525) to many top end smartphone models from Samsung (around $400) and Nokia (about $300), and that contrast is even greater

January 08 2014

Medypal Raises $400K In Seed Round To Help Patients Buy Affordable Healthcare In India
MedypalCommerzpoint Networks, an Indian startup that owns healthcare marketplace Medypal, has raised around $400,000 in seed funding from Unitus Seed Fund. With this funding, Medypal will help patients find trustworthy service providers who will bid against each other for their spend on medical procedures. Medypal will use a “reverse auction” method to ensure that the services are competitively priced and patients are able to pick the service provider they want. The Medypal service will go live February 1. Healthcare is a booming industry in India and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2016. The challenge, though, is to provide affordable services to millions, many of whom are not even covered under any medical insurance. Moreover, a majority of healthcare consumers in India rely on friends and family to select a service provider. By offering information on-the-go, and getting online quotes from service providers in real time, Medypal wants to change that. Commerzpoint founders P Rammohan and Brahmesh Jain are no strangers to finding opportunities in India’s healthcare sector. They founded the country’s first and the largest health insurance exchange, Healthsprint, in 2006. The startup plans to make money on leads generated and passed on to healthcare service providers. “We are in the final process of signing up with 300 health care providers in Bangalore ranging from large hospitals, diagnostic centre chains to dental clinics and cosmetic surgical centres,” said Rammohan. “There is no easy way to get objective information on service provider availability, quality and pricing,” Commerzpoint said in a statement announcing the funding. ”This is especially challenging for low-income families who have even less information, education, connections and financial reserves.” With more than half of India’s 160 million users accessing Internet on their mobiles, there is an opportunity to be tapped in delivering healthcare services. Medypal will be offering a free mobile app to healthcare consumers. “Using the app, patients can search for healthcare procedures, go through the list of hospitals offering those procedures, browse through the profiles of the doctors, and check the facilities offered by hospitals before finally shortlisting the hospitals,” said Rammohan. ”The app will also allow patients to ask for proposals from the hospitals and book appointments while on the move.” As we reported last month, Unitus raised its second fund of $3.3 million to help people at the bottom of the economic pyramid access basic necessities in India. The new fund invests in for-profit startups in India. ”We are investing in a team,
Indian Startup Little Eye Labs Confirms Its Acquisition By Facebook, Deal Worth $10-$15M
Little Eye Labs FacebookLast month, we reported that Facebook was planning to buy Little Eye Labs, an Indian startup that makes a software tool for analyzing the performance of Android apps. Now the Bangalore-based company has confirmed it acquisition by the social media giant. A direct source told us that the deal is in the range of $10 million to $15 million. Little Eye Labs' investors have included VenturEast and GSF.

January 06 2014

eBay-Backed Snapdeal Introduces Same-Day Delivery In India
Same Day Express Delivery Screenshot[3]On Monday morning, the Indian online marketplace, Snapdeal, introduced its same-day delivery service, putting pressure on rivals Flipkart and Amazon who launched their next-day delivery service few weeks ago. To start out, Snapdeal is rolling out the service in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) without charging any additional fee. If an eligible item is ordered before 1 p.m. Snapdeal will have it delivered on the same day, Rohit Bansal, co-founder of the company told Techcrunch. This is what Bansal said when asked if this service has any takers among Snapdeal’s current user base of over 20 million. More than 90% of the orders placed on are shipped within 24 hours. However, we do understand that sometimes customers want the products urgently. The Same Day Express Delivery Service has been launched to meet such customers’’ wish India’s e-commerce market (excluding online travel industry) is worth nearly $3.1 billion, and it’s expected to grow by over seven times to $22 billion in five years, according to a CLSA report published in November 2013. The service also means putting more pressure on existing supply chains of e-commerce companies, but with customers looking for newer choices and an intense battle for positioning differently among the startups playing on, there are not many other innovations left on the delivery side. It’s still very early to judge whether same-day delivery makes any financial sense for e-commerce companies in India, but the latest move from Snapdeal clearly underscores an intense battle between Amazon, Flipkart and others in the country. Last year in April, eBay outbid Amazon and several others to lead a $50 million funding round in Snapdeal, as it pushed aggressively to gain share in the country’s growing e-commerce market. Since the beginning of 2010, venture capital worth $1.3 billion has been invested in Indian e-commerce startups. Bansal of Snapdeal said ‘thousands of products’ will be covered under the new service. “Thousands of product SKUs (stock keeping units) from across categories including electronics, general merchandise and fashion are being covered under this,” he said. The Indian e-commerce market is beginning to witness increased rivalry among domestic startups such as Flipkart and new entrants including Amazon. The real question is whether these e-commerce companies will be able to back newer features such as same-day delivery with increased investments in their back-end delivery infrastructure, an area of concern for many online shoppers in the country.

December 27 2013

Asia’s Richest Man Invests In BitPay
flickr-5041935327_6488ac8eff_oAfter some serious drubbing in two of the world’s largest countries during past few weeks, the Bitcoin ecosystem may have found its biggest individual backer yet in Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man. Li is now an investor in Atlanta-based BitPay, the startup with ambitions to become the PayPal for the virtual currency world. He has made this investment through his venture capital company, Horizons Ventures, an early investor in companies such as Facebook, Waze, Skype and Summly, which manages $150 million in 3 different funds. A BitPay spokeswoman told me that Horizons Ventures and the Founders Fund are among a group of investors including Shakil Khan, Barry Silbert, Jimmy Furland, Roger Ver and Ben Davenport, who have put around $2.7 million in the startup so far. Founders Fund is the VC group run by people who founded and were early employees at PayPal. In May this year, BitPay raised $2 million from the Founders Fund. The South China Morning Post reported earlier today that Li has invested in BitPay through Horizons Ventures, but didn’t give any specific details on the amount invested. Li’s investment in BitPay comes at a time, when regulators in India and the People’s Bank of China, have issued advisories against the virtual currency, and even questioned the legitimacy of Bitcoin. Overall, the environment for Bitcoin seems more conducive the in U.S. where Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently said that despite risks, there are areas where virtual currencies hold long-term promise. Indeed, BitPay said earlier this month that it has processed over $100 million in transactions this year, and has increased its merchant base to over 15,500. It’s been a very busy month for Bitcoin, mostly filled with bad news in two of the world’s biggest countries. While China’s biggest Bitcoin exchange, BTCChina, stopped accepting deposits in Chinese Yuan earlier this month, exchanges dealing with the virtual currency in India are shutting down after a warning from the country’s banking regulator, RBI. The 85-years old Hong Kong-based billionaire, who is also the chairman of Hutchison Whampoa, is buying into Bitcoin growth in the U.S. amid uncertainties in Asia. John Greenwood, the chief economist of London-based Invesco, told the South China Morning Post that Li’s strategy of investing in a startup that provides enabling infrastructure for the virtual currency, offers lessons for investors looking to make money from Bitcoin. This is what Greenwood told the newspaper: “Just like investors in days gone by made more money out of selling
Bitcoin Exchanges In India Shut Down After Regulator Warning
BuysellbitcoBitcoin exchanges in India are shutting down days after the country’s banking regulator warned users of virtual currency against security and financial risks associated with them. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had remained silent on Bitcoin over past few weeks, even as China started clamping down on the exchanges, sending the virtual currency into a downward spin earlier this month. A week after India’s small, but growing Bitcoin community organized its first conference, and made an appeal to the country’s banking regulators for recognizing the virtual currency, the RBI said the Bitcoin users have not obtained any regulatory approvals yet, which poses several risks to anybody associated with them. This is what the RBI said: There have been several media reports of the usage of VCs, including Bitcoins, for illicit and illegal activities in several jurisdictions. The absence of information of counterparties in such peer-to-peer anonymous/ pseudonymous systems could subject the users to unintentional breaches of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws However, the wording of the announcement from RBI leaves a question mark over the legality of not just the exchanges but also of the people who trade on them. As we had reported earlier this month, India was just beginning to see a rise in Bitcoin exchanges and the country’s 1000-member strong Bitcoin community was hoping to get more merchant endorsements., an Indian website offering Bitcoin exchange in the local currency, has already suspended its operations. The founder of, Mahim Gupta, who had previously mentioned that his monthly turnover was around $200,000, but he could also not be reached for comments for this post. Other bitcoin traders, perhaps cautious that the RBI’s statements threw their own legal situation into question, were also unavailable.

December 20 2013

Facebook Eyeing Up A $10-$15M Acquisition Of India’s Little Eye Labs
Little Eye LabsWe now have more details on Facebook’s plans to acquire Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs, an Indian startup whose primary product is a software tool for analyzing Android apps’ performance. Multiple sources have told us that the two companies exchanged the term sheets few weeks ago, and that a final announcement could be made by mid-January. The deal size is expected to be in the range of $10-15 million. Overall, the Little Eye Labs acquisition fits right into in Facebook’s mobile ambitions, an area where it has lagged rivals like Twitter, despite having some 874 million of its 1.19 billion-strong (September figures) user base logged on via mobile devices. And Facebook has been on the lookout for startups that could potentially help it gain a greater foothold on mobile devices. As part of its aggressive mobile strategy, Facebook acquired Parse, a mobile-backend-as-a-service startup in April of this year. A Facebook acquisition of Little Eye Labs would mean a lot for an Indian startup that’s less than one-and-a-half years old, and it would mean much more for the Indian startup ecosystem as a whole, where acquisitions of this profile have been tough to come by. While exploring potential acquirers, Little Eye Labs also pitched to Twitter, but Facebook seemed to offer a better deal, another source added. One of the sources who shared some details about this proposed acquisition said that if the deal closes, most of the Little Eye Labs’ founding team will move to Facebook’s U.S. headquarters, and work there as part of the mobile engineering team. Little Eye Labs caught the attention of potential acquirer(s) in Seedcamp, London, where the startup was refining its product along with 20 other companies. Gaurav Lochan, who joined Little Eye labs from India’s largest e-commerce company, Flipkart, earlier this year, had this to say about using the startup’s tool for fixing a bug in Google’s official I/Q app at the event. Flipkart, was also the first customer for Little Eye Labs. Kumar Rangarajan, co-founder of Little Eye labs, had even acknowledged that the company was in discussions with Facebook earlier this month, after reports of the acquisition first surfaced. However, Rangarajan could not be reached at the time of publication. A Facebook spokesperson, who had earlier declined to offer any comments, has also not responded. The Little Eye founders — Kumar Rangarajan, Satyam Kandula, Lakshman Kakkirala and Giridhar Murthy, all worked together previously at IBM.

December 17 2013

Unitus Raises New $3.3M Fund To Back Startups That Fight Poverty In India
istar-training-class-640x480Unitus Seed Fund, which invests in for-profit startups in India to help people at the bottom of the economic pyramid access basic necessities, has raised its second fund of $3.3 million. The new fund, called Unitus Seed Fund India, has been approved by India’s market watchdog SEBI to raise up to $9-12 million from local investors, making it the first such seed-stage impact fund in the country. The new fund comes at a time when India’s wealthy, first generation technology entrepreneurs and senior executives are actively seeking ways to contribute to their society. Unitus announced that former Microsoft India chairman Ravi Venkatesan along with former Asia head of Khosla Venture Advisory Services, Atul Bindal, are joining the new India fund to oversee its investment decisions. Among the fund’s founding investors are ‘Bala’ V. Balakrishnan, board member of the country’s second biggest software company Infosys, T.V. Mohandas Pai (co-founder of Aarin Capital) and Ranjan Pai (CEO of Manipal Education and Medical Group). Since January this year, Unitus Seed Fund has invested in nine startups in the areas of healthcare, education and livelihood. Engineers in India are making a solid living but exist in a parallel world where millions live on less than $5 a day. Clearly, there is an opportunity to combine all India’s engineering and entrepreneurial talent to solve the problems of providing affordable education, healthcare and other technology-enabled services. Unitus is not the only fund helping startups fight poverty in India. Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Impact Fund, has been investing in Indian startups focused on solving the local problems. Last year, Vinod Khosla established Khosla Labs, a technology product incubator based in India’s tech capital Bangalore, to create products that will help the country’s poor access formal banking services and even empower smaller grocery shops with software solutions to compete better with large, organized retailers. Will Poole, co-founder and managing partner of Unitus Seed Fund, said by involving domestic investors in backing these startups, a lot more could be achieved. Unitus defines this market as the base of the economic pyramid, or BoP, in India. “We anticipate investing in up to 40 of these BoP Startups over the next 4 years. There is a dearth of seed capital in this segment of the market, making the investment opportunities very attractive,” Poole said. Unitus also announced two fresh investments along with the new fund. They are: GoCoop Solutions – provides a social marketplace for co-operatives and
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