Friday! [Clouds part, rainbows appear in background.] Hope you have a fantastic weekend, everyone.:)
Friends in Texas, we’re thinking of you!
Top News in the A.M.
A South Korean court just found 49-year-old Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong guilty of bribery and sentenced him to five years in prison. The decision could freeze up decision-making at the global electronics powerhouse, suggests the Associated Press.
Uber just abandoned its plans to move into a massive, 380,000-square-foot building in Oakland.
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Racing Against Big Rivals, India’s Ezetap Raises $16M
There are more than 1 billion cellphone users in India. The country also abruptly went cashless last November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that millions of high-denomination currency notes would no longer be legal tender.
These two developments play nicely into the vision of Ezetap, a six-year-old, Bangalore-based startup whose software as a service is used by more than 200,000 merchants; they’re using its technology to transact payments via everything from physical cards to online payments to wallets to one-click payments in applications via India’s new UPI system.
Indeed, Ezetap and its ilk, which were once seen as innovators, are quickly becoming mainstream, with Indians being forced to switch to electronic payments quickly. The company’s biggest challenge now: capturing market share as fast as possible from its better-known and more richly funded regional competitors, including the Alibaba and SoftBank-backed outfit Paytm, whose parent company was recently valued at $7 billion; and MobiKwik, which reportedly raised around $35 million earlier this month from the non-bank finance company Bajaj Auto Finance.
Investors seem to think Ezetap has a shot against its deeper-pocketed rivals. The company just closed on $16 million in new funding led by JS Capital Management, which is the venture firm of Jonathan Soros, with participation from Jeff Skoll Group and earlier backers Social Capital and Horizons Ventures.
“India is on the brink of a massive surge in consumer consumption, but not until the underlying payments infrastructure is securely in place,” Social Capital founder Chamath Palihapitiya said in a statement to the press about Ezetap, whose $3.5 million Series A round Social Capital led back in 2012.
That puts the company “in an incredible position,” Palihapitiya said.
Time will tell what Ezetap is able to make of it.
(Other) New Fundings
Amitree, a nearly five-year-old, San Francisco-based online platform that helps home buyers navigate the process of buying a house, has raised $7 million in funding led by Vertical Venture Partners, with participation from Accel Partners and Seven Peaks Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
Ember Technologies, a five-year-old, Westlake Village, Ca.-based maker of temperature-controlled mugs, has raised $13 million in fresh capital from a long list of private individuals. Ember has now raised more than $20 million altogether, including from StubHub CEO Scott Cutler, eBay Chief Product Officer RJ Pitman, singer Demi Lovato, and Robert Brunner, chief designer of Beats by Dre and the former head of design at Apple. L.A. Biz has more here.
Go-Jek, a seven-year-old, Jakarta, Indonesia-based ride-hailing startup that rivals Uber and Grab regionally, has raised $100 million from JD.com according to Reuters. The money is part of a $1.2 billion round that Go-Jek is trying to close and which will give the company a $3 billion post-money valuation, says TechCrunch. More here.
Mirador, a three-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based digital small business lending platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from CMFG Ventures. More here.
Revive Kombucha, a seven-year-old, Petaluma, Ca.-based employee and family-owned brewery, has raised $7.5 million in Series B funding led by Peet’s Coffee. A long list of individual investors also joined the round. More here.
Stride Health, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based benefits startup for independent workers, has raised $23.5 million in Series B funding led by F-Prime Capital Partners, with participation from Portage3 Ventures and earlier backers Venrock and New Enterprise Associates. More here.
Baidu, along with the biggest life insurer in China, China Life, are forming a 7 billion yuan ($1 billion) private equity fund to target internet and other technology investments, the companies said earlier today. VentureBeat has more here.
Primus Capital, a 34-year-old, Cleveland, Oh.-based venture capital and private equity firm, is looking to raise up to $500 million for its eighth fund, according to an SEC filing.
Melinda Gates: I spent my career in technology. I wasn’t prepared for its effect on my kids.
Early Uber investor Shervin Pishevar — who was introduced to Uber by Benchmark’s Bill Gurley and Matt Cohler — has penned a letter to Uber’s board, demanding that Benchmark Capital drop its lawsuit against former CEO Travis Kalanick. Pishevar has also filed a legal motion, asking for Benchmark’s case to be dismissed. More here.
Verve, an ad tech firm that has raised at least $64 million, has quietly laid off staff in recent weeks in a sign of the company’s struggles.
Also Sponsored By . . .
Nicky Goulimis is a fast-talking, smart-as-a-whip Brit who came to America for a Stanford MBA. But something she found surprised her: In spite of her great UK credit history, she had a hard time getting a car, apartment, and credit card in the U.S. So she co-founded Nova, which enables immigrants to bring their credit “passport” with them — unlocking a world of quality customers for lenders. (And yes, they’re a Financial Solutions Lab company, today’s sponsor.)
There are more unicorns in the startup world than ever before, but fewer companies are reaching a $1 billion valuation than in years past, says Pitchbook. More here.
These former Apple engineers just built a $700 door lock.
Uber‘s board is gathering today to talk CEOs; there will be plenty of bickering, too.
Google is issuing refunds to advertisers over fake traffic, though some are questioning the level of those refunds.
Turd Reich: San Francisco dog owners are laying a minefield of dog poop for some out-of-town guests.
The innovation that changed fashion forever.
UFC champion Conor McGregor or a pretentious barista?
Crosley Rocket Jukebox. (It would not suck to have this in your office.)