Startup news and updates: daily roundup (Dec 7, 2021)

YourStory presents this daily roundup of the latest startup news and updates from the Indian startup ecosystem and beyond. Here's the roundup for Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
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Funding News

RateGain Travel Technologies raises Rs 599 crore from anchor investors, opens for public subscription

Travel and hospitality Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company RateGain opened for subscription to raise Rs 1,336 crore from its Initial Public Offering (IPO) today. The price band has been fixed at Rs 405 to Rs 425 per share. Ahead of the opening for public subscription, the company announced raising Rs 598.83 crore from 34 marquee investors.

Founded in 2004 by Bhanu Chopra, RateGain provides hotels with a SaaS platform for revenue management, reputation management and online distribution. The platform also works with airlines, Online Travel Agents (OTAs), meta-search companies, vacation rental and package providers, car rental companies, and others.

Bhanu Chopra, Founder and Chairman, RateGain

Bizongo raises Rs 825 Cr in Series D round led by Tiger Global

Bizongo, the B2B startup focused on the packaging industry, has raised Rs 825 crore in its Series D round of funding led by Tiger Global, according to regulatory filings.

The startup's filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) reveal that it has issued 10 equity shares of 121,510 Series D2 Compulsorily Convertible Preference Shares (CCPS) at a price of Rs 67,890 per share to ten subscribers.

In this transaction, Tiger Global has infused Rs 337.5 crore by subscribing to this issue, followed by Rs 131.25 crore each by B Capital and CDC Group. IFC, the private sector arm of World Bank, subscribed by injecting Rs 118.23 crore, and Schroder Capital infused Rs 60 crore.

Earlier this year, Bizongo had closed its Series C round by raising $51 million, and now, the total funds garnered by the startup to date stand at $187 million.

AgroStar raises $70M Series D investment, will invest in tech and expansion

Agritech startup Agrostar has announced that it has raised $70 million in Series D funding in a round led by Evolvence, global asset manager Schroders Capital, Hero Enterprise, and UK’s development finance institution CDC.

The round also saw participation from existing investors Aavishkaar Capital, Accel, Bertelsmann, Chiratae Ventures, and Rabo Frontier Ventures. The Raine Group was the exclusive advisor for this transaction.

In a conversation with YourStoryShardul Sheth, Co-founder and CEO, AgroStar, said the amount of funding raised was significant.

"There is no upper limit, but we have been super prudent when it comes to raising capital. For us, it is about solving a problem. For the next phase of our growth, the idea is to look at exactly what farmers need, and we felt this amount of capital is needed. It gives us opportunities to go after acquisitions, which we are going to actively evaluate. It allows us to do everything we want. We are an operationally profitable business, and do not see the sense in burning money."

MoEngage raises $30M in Series D led by Steadview Capital

Bengaluru-based insights-led customer engagement platform Moengage on Tuesday said that it has raised Series D funding of $30 million, at double the valuation from its earlier Series C1 investment of $32.5 million in July. 

This round was led by Steadview Capital, with participation from the company’s existing investors Multiples Alternate Asset Management, Eight Roads Ventures, F-Prime Capital, and Matrix Partners

MoEngage said it will continue to invest in AI-powered and insights-driven cross-channel engagement solutions.

Edtech startup PlanetSpark raises $13.5M in Series B from Prime Venture Partners and others

Gurugram-based edtech startup PlanetSpark on Tuesday raised $13.5 million in a Series-B funding round from Prime Venture Partners and marquee global entrepreneurs including Binny Bansal, Deep Kalra, Dr Ashish Gupta, Gokul Rajaram, and Shirish Nadkarni.

PlanetSpark had earlier raised $3.7 million in previous rounds, from Prime Ventures, FIITJEE and several angel networks. The latest round takes the total amount raised by the edtech platform to $17.2 million to date.

PlanetSpark, Co-founders

LenDenClub raises $10M in Series A round; eyes new financial services

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending platform LenDenClub has raised $10 million in a Series A funding round co-led by Tuscan Ventures, Ohm Stock Brokers, Artha Venture Fund, and angel investors, including Kunal Shah (Founder, Cred), Alok Bansal (Co-founder, PolicyBazaar), Ramakant Sharma (Co-founder, Livspace), Hardik Pandya (Indian cricketer), and Krishna Bhupal (Co-founder of Promaxo).

With the latest round, the fintech startup now stands at a valuation of over $51 million. It had earlier raised $1.5 million as part of its pre-Series A round led by Micro VC fund Artha Venture Fund - I, Transworld Group, and Shuchi Kothari of the DSP Group. The latest round brings LenDenClub total funding raised to $11.5 million

CpaaS company CometChat raises $10M in Series A round

Denver and Mumbai-based CpaaS company CometChat on Tuesday announced that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding. 

The oversubscribed round, led by Signal Peak Ventures (SPV), also saw participation from existing investors including Matchstick Ventures, Range Ventures, Unbound VC among others.

Anuj Garg, Co-founder CEO, CometChat, said, “We are thrilled to add SPV as an investor and partner as we look to scale our platform offering and expand our growing customer base. This is an important milestone that we wouldn’t have reached without our incredible team. We look forward to further investing in our customers’ success.”

Insurtech firm Probus Insurance raises $6.7M from Switzerland’s BlueOrchard Investment Managers

Mumbai-based insurtech player Probus Insurance has raised $6.7 million in a funding round led by Switzerland-based BlueOrchard Impact Investment Managers.

In a media statement, the company said it will use the funds to deploy capital in technology and expand its presence across geographies. 

With this fundraise, Probus will strengthen its technology infrastructure and deep technology capabilities, enhancing the AI and ML experiences on its platform and further extending support to other languages. 

The company shall also focus on building a scalable business model keeping new geographies, especially Tier-II and Tier-III locations, in focus. 

9Unicorns leads $4M seed round in Kalagato

KalaGato has raised $4 million in seed funding led by 9Unicorns. Other marquee VCs and angels who participated in this round, include Village Global, SOSV, Venture Catalysts, PitchRight Ventures, Miten Sampat of Cred, Aakrit Vaish (Founder of Haptik), Vinay Singh (Partner at Fireside Ventures), Ishaan Ahuja of Everstone, Ankit Agarwal of Alteria Capital, Karthik Bhat of Force Ventures, Ridhish Talwar and Ashwin Sinha of AdvantEdge Partners, Prakhar Agarwal (Former COO of AngelList), and Utsav Somani of iSeed Ventures.

The startup will leverage the funding towards the acquisition of high growth mobile apps while driving a business built on solid fundamentals.

KekaHR raises $1.6M through trading subscriptions on Recur Club

HR tech platform for SMEs in India, KekaHR has raised $1.6 million in non-dilutive growth capital through Recur Club, a new-age subscription-based financing platform.

According to the company, the capital infusion on Recur Club took two days to get completed. Keka plans to use the funds for growth and customer acquisition by investing in marketing and sales.

Keka is looking at Recur Club as a long term growth partner to continue enabling HR teams to adapt, evolve, and scale by working more effectively.

Phyt.health secures seed fund of $1.5M from US-based angel investors

Phyt.health has raised a seed fund of $1.5 million from US-based private investment company Lunsford Capital. Other participants in the round include founders Darpan Saini and Snehal Fulzele.

The startup aims to use these funds to launch services and boost the rising digital healthcare sector in India. It plans to expand operations in major metros and Tier-II towns, and is also in talks with major healthcare providers for using their software.

Edtech startup Lernern secures $1M in a seed round led by social impact investor elea

Edtech startup ​Lernern has raised​ $1 million in​ a​ seed funding​ round​. The investors in the round include OOB Ventures Pte. Ltd.​ ​– a Singapore based company run by Ruchi Sihare, a seed investor ​and board member​,​ and Kunal​ ​Solanki, an ex-investment banker​,​ and elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization – a Swiss​ ​philanthropic impact investor, along with other individual investors. 

The newly infused capital will be deployed in three focus areas. ​Firstly, to ​develop​ the platform to meet the specific requirements of blue-collar workers in the workplace.

Secondly, to develop​ the content and academic partners across disciplines that will enable the blue-collar worker to acquire the knowledge, skills, and academic credits needed to work towards formal educational qualifications. 

Lastly, the team will look to ramp up its partnerships with relevant employers in the manufacturing and services sectors. 

Social media platform Explurger raises $1M funding

Explurger, a new-age social media app for a global audience, has raised $1 million in a Pre-Series A round from a clutch of investors. The first capital raised by the startup, which was bootstrapped until now, will power the team expansion, product features, and user acquisition. 

The current funding round was led by Ruchirans Jaipuria (Managing Director, Jaipuria Group), with participation from Lovkesh Arora (Founder & CEO, Phithos Technologies), Piyush Jain, and from other angel investors through LetsVenture.

Explurger, which went live during the pandemic, claims to have users from more than 40 countries. The AI-powered social media app uses gamification and travelogues to engage its users. 

Healthcare startup iThrive raises $350K in bridge round 

Pune-based healthcare startup Thrive Tribe Wellness Solutions broadly known as iThrive has raised Pre-Series A bridge funding of $350,000 from a group of investors led by Rajesh Ranavat, Executive Director at Fung Strategic Investments, and Neelesh Bhatnagar Managing Director at NB Ventures.

The funds will be mainly used to build the tech platform and support accelerated growth for its core business, including expanding the recently launched iThrive Academy, a single stop education platform for courses on health, wellness, and nutrition, and iThrive Essentials, an extensive line of researched, pure, and potent supplements to cover nutritional needs of every aspect of life.

ZiffyHealth raises $260K from KareKeba Ventures, and others

ZiffyHealth, a digital healthcare startup based in Pune, has raised $260,000 in a seed funding round led by KareKeba Ventures, a Patna-based angel investment platform with participation from Digital Futurists Angels Network, a New Delhi-based community-backed angel network, Jharkhand Angel Network (JAN), and O2 Angels.

The startup is aiming to achieve 100 e-clinics and a five-million user-base benchmark in the next 12-14 months, and to reach out to 75-80 percent of India in the next three to four years.

Incubated at Atal Innovation Mission-Pinnacle, ZiffyHealth was featured in the NITI AYOG Coffee-Table Magazine as a promising solution. Through its integrated LVAD (Live Vital Access Devices), the startup is partnering with pharmacies to disrupt the sector and convert chemist stores into e-Clinics. During the consultation, the doctor has access to not just historical health trends but also live vitals and the heartbeat.

Newly launched skincare brand Foxtale raises seed round funding of Rs 5.5 Cr

Foxtale, a newly launched D2C skincare brand, has raised a seed funding round of Rs 5.5 crore ahead of its entry into the market. The investors include Kae Capital, Kunal Shah (Founder of CRED), and Rohit M A(Co-founder of Cloudnine Hospitals), among other noted investors.

Founded by Romita Mazumdar, a UCLA graduate and a former investment banker from San Francisco, the startup aims to disrupt the skincare space through innovations in formulations and a unique ingredient sourcing process.

It claims to have spent over a year in research, product formulations, tests, and trials to develop its first range of products. Headquartered in Bombay, Foxtale is planning on expanding to multiple online outlets to ensure pan-India accessibility for all consumers. 

WayFr raises Rs 3 Cr in a seed round from 2am VC, Relentless Ventures, and others

WayFr has raised Rs 3 crore in a round led by 2am VC, along with Relentless Ventures and other marquee angel investors such as Dhruvil Sanghvi (Founder-CEO, LogiNext), Pravin Gandhi (redBus, Printo), Ambarish Jaipuria (Executive Director, Cosmo Ferrites LTD), and Kishore Ganji (Founder, Astir Ventures).

The SaaS startup will use the fresh capital to expand its salesforce in India targeting US clients. It had raised Rs 25 lakh from 100X.VC earlier this year in July and was part of its 05 Cohort. 

Founded in March 2021 by Poorna Reddy and Abhiram Deshpande, WayFr is a new-age mobile application that seamlessly allows shippers and freight brokers to create their own load posting platforms and avail low-cost financing.

SaaS platform for D2C ecommerce brands Corner raises funds from IAN Fund

Corner, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that provides data-driven customer engagement products for D2C ecommerce stores, has raised a funding round led by IAN Fund.

With this raise of Rs 50 lakh, it will start to expand its core engineering and customer success teams and further enhance its product features.

Arun Augustine co-founded Corner with Jovis Joseph in 2019 at IIM, Bangalore, during the Startup Launchpad programme organised by NSRCEL.

The startup is based in Kerala and was incubated by the Kerala StartUp Mission (KSUM), the state nodal agency of the Government of Kerala for entrepreneurship development.

The company caters to brands and online merchants owning their e-commerce stores. Corner provides a data-driven layer to improve customer engagement for such D2C brands.

Deep-science tech startup Uravu Labs raises pre-seed funding led by Speciale Invest

Uravu Labs, a water-tech startup based out of Bangalore, has raised a pre-seed round of funding led by Speciale Invest, for building a new kind of 100 percent renewable water infrastructure. 

The startup also saw participation from renowned angels and investors, Peter Yolles (EchoRiver Capital, US), Soren Schroder (US), Shigeru Sumimoto (Conselux Corporation, Japan), and Tomoki Kaneko (Kaneko Cord, Japan) in this round. 

The new infusion of capital will be utilized to bolster the technology, strengthen the patent portfolio, scale operations, and accelerate opportunities for deploying field pilots.

Fitness app FindYourFit raised undisclosed amount in seed funding

FindYourFit, a geo-social app that matches people based on their fitness interests, skill level, and location, has raised an undisclosed amount from angel investors. The company will use the funding towards product strengthening, growth marketing, and hiring the best talent out there. 

Launched on November 16, 2021 by Ankur Lohani and Arushi Lohani, FindYourFit has a presence in Delhi-NCR and Jaipur, with more than 1,500 downloads in two weeks. It will now be targeting all the Indian metros and Tier-I cities.

General News

Indian SaaS sector sees 170 pc jump in investments in one year: Bain and Company

The Indian Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has come of age as six new companies from the sector including Eightfold, Gupshup, BrowserStack, Chargebee, Innovaccer and MindTickle were valued at over $1 billion in 2021.

With this, the total number of SaaS unicorns in India grew to 13, according to the India SaaS Report 2021 by Bain and Company.

The report defines Indian SaaS companies as those being founded domestically by Indian founders or SaaS companies with founders of Indian origins who employ a majority workforce in India, serving both domestic and global customers.

Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog

Funding show aims to encourage startups to come up with unique ideas

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Monday launched a startup funding show that aims to encourage startups to come up with unique ideas and secure funds.

The show 'Horses Stable - Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar' is a joint effort by HPPL Founder Prashant Agarwal and Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty. The initiative is also supported by MSH under the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY).

According to a release, the show is one of its kind in the country where startups and SMEs can pitch to get the capital, and it aims to encourage startups to come up with unique ideas and secure funds.

BSE and HBF Direct Limited sign MoU to promote listing of SMEs and startups

Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) has signed an MoU with HBF Direct Ltd to encourage and promote the listing of MSMEs and startups across India. HBF Direct Limited is a management consultancy company, offers advisory services to SMEs and corporates in the areas of Corporate Finance & Legal Advisory, Fundraising and IPO Advisory, HR Management and Business consultancy.

Through this MoU, HBF Direct Ltd shall assist BSE in evaluating SMEs and startups for listing on BSE SME and Startups Platform and shall also refer curated SMEs and startups to BSE for listing on the platform. 

Further, HBF Direct Ltd and BSE shall host joint road-shows and events across India for creating awareness and to promote the listing of SMEs and startups on the BSE SME and BSE Startups Platform.

Citi announces grant for Indian startups for social impact ventures

American lender Citi has said it will be giving a grant to Indian startups for scaling up activities having a positive societal impact in the agriculture, healthcare and financial technologies space.

The lender has tied up with IIT-Kanpur and technology incubator T-Hub to launch a 'social innovation lab' which will carry the initiative ahead, as per an official statement.

The lab has invited applications from early and growth-stage startups across the country to share their proposals in December 2021 to get support including mentoring, business model development, go-to-market strategy, funding and scaling opportunities, it said.

"Approximately 25 early-stage startups will be provided a grant for incubation and five growth-stage startups will be provided a grant for scaling their business further," the statement said, without specifying an amount which will flow as grants to the companies.

Nium Elevates Chief Operating Officer, Pratik Gandhi, to Co-founder

Fintech startup Nium has elevated Chief Operating Officer, Pratik Gandhi, to Co-founder. Pratik joined Nium as Chief Business Officer in May 2016 as the startup began building its global business operations. 

As the Chief Business Officer, he led Nium’s consumer business before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Now as a Co-founder, he joins Nium’s CEO Prajit Nanu, and current Chief Business Officer Michael Bermingham as part of the company’s co-founding team.

Pratik will continue to lead the global finance, operations, and customer service teams. He remains responsible for driving focus on Nium’s financial activities and helping the company deliver exceptional experiences through its customer service centres and representatives.

Prior to Nium, he was Chief Financial Officer at Fullerton India Credit, a subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. He was also the Chief Finance Officer and Head of Portfolio Management at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, and the Regional Chief Finance Officer for the Consumer Finance Business at Citibank.

PayPal Partners with EarlySalary to help improve financial health and wellness of employees

PayPal today announced it is partnering with EarlySalary, a Pune-based fintech startup offering salaried employees instant cash advances against earned salary. This is to further the company's aim to improve the financial health of its employees.

In 2018, PayPal launched its employee financial wellness initiative after conducting an assessment, which examined the financial wellness of its entry-level employees. It found that despite market pay alignment, many employees were still struggling to pay their bills each month. 

PayPal set out to correct this in order to increase its employees’ net disposable income (NDI). Additionally, at the start of 2020, it rolled out a comprehensive financial health programme that included making every employee a shareholder, raising wages, and offering new financial learning and counselling programmes. 

Former Nazara CTO Vamsi Talasila joins RESET TECH as Co-founder & CTO

Former CTO of Nazara Technologies Vamsi Talasila has joined healthtech startup RESET TECH (K&L Wellness Technology Pvt. Ltd) as Co-founder and CTO. Vamsi’s role will be to build the technology platform of the business and expand its operations globally, the company said in a statement.

In his current role, Vamsi will be spearheading RESET's product and technology initiative, starting from product creation, AI platform development, and digital innovation. He will be actively involved in leadership and decision making along with the other co-founders Karan Talreja and Luke Coutinho.

Vamsi has nearly two decades of extensive experience in building greenfield technology platforms driving technology transformation across various industry domains. His gamut of experience further expands into leadership roles at companies like Contec Global, Telesoft Neutek, Tata Teleservices and XIUS among others.

Furlenco’s parent co House of Kieraya (HoK) forays into luxury with Prava

House of Kieraya (HoK), the parent company of Furlenco, has launched Prava, which offers luxurious limited-edition annual collections created by award-winning designers with sustainability at its core.

The brand aims to achieve 100 crores GMV in one year. The products currently available include sofas, beds, soft furnishings, dining, study tables, rugs and home decor items, with key categories priced in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 1,00,000.

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