Indian online learning giant Unacademy in talks to acquire Rheo TV

Indian online learning platform Unacademy is in advanced talks to acquire Rheo TV, a less than two-year-old startup founded by two former Unacademy employees, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The current deal values Rheo TV, a startup that has built a platform to help professional game streamers live stream their gameplays and monetize those feeds, at over $10 million, one of the sources said. The deal proposes Rheo TV’s team of fewer than a dozen people to join Unacademy.

The younger startup counts Lightspeed India Partners, Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, as well as the founding team of Unacademy — Gaurav Munjal, Hemesh Singh, and Roman Saini — among its existing investors.

Munjal and Sequoia Capital India declined to comment. A founder of Rheo TV didn’t immediately respond.

As tens of millions of college students come online and play games, the startup is betting that many of them, provided platforms are able to help them make a living, will consider streaming their gameplays as a viable career option.

Streamers on Rheo TV, which offers several features similar to those of Twitch, are currently rewarded based on their gameplays, followerbase, and past performance in different tournaments.

If the deal materializes, it would be the latest acquisition by Unacademy, the Bangalore-based startup that has amassed over 5 million monthly active users in over 10,000 cities in India.

In the past two years, the Facebook, Tiger Global, and SoftBank-backed startup has acquired WiFi Study, PrepLadder, Coursavy, and led a strategic investment in Mastree.

The startup, which also operates creator platform Graphy, this week unveiled a fund worth over $13 million to help applicants kickstart their online school.

India’s online education market is estimated to grow to $19.7 billion by 2030, up from $1 billion last year, analysts at Bernstein wrote in a recent report.

Why do products fail?

Most products fail, even in the best companies — and for every AdWords there’s a Google Glass. The failure rate for digital products could be as high as 90%, depending on which report you read. It’s a metric that hasn’t moved much in the last few years, despite all we know about the benefits of [...] Read more »

The post Why do products fail? appeared first on Mind the Product.

Storytelling — Matthew Dicks

I recently finished, Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks, a quintessentially American storyteller in the Mark Twain tradition. It is perhaps the most unique book on narrative structure and theory I’ve read, after Keith Johnstone’s Impro. Dicks appears to have lived a very colorful, eventful life that supplies all the raw material you might ever want, to […]

Gotrade gets $7M led by LocalGlobe to let investors around the world buy fractional shares of U.S. stocks

Stock in many American companies, like Amazon, Alphabet or Tesla, can host hundreds or thousands of dollars per share. Fractional trading, or buying part of a single share through a brokerage, makes them more accessible—at least to people within the United States. Investors in other countries, however, often have to pay high fees through interactive brokers. Gotrade makes fractional trading of U.S. stocks available to people in 150 countries, and charges a minimum of just one dollar.

The Singapore-based startup announced it has raised $7 million in seed funding led by LocalGlobe, with participation from Social Leverage, Y Combinator, Picus Capital and Raptor Group. The round also included angel investors like Matt Robinson, co-founder of GoCardless; Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, former chief product officer of Skyscanner; Frank Strauss, former head of Deutsche Bank’s global digital business; and Joel Yarbrough, Asia-Pacific head at Rapyd.

GoTrade was founded in 2019 by David Grant, Norman Wanto and Rohit Mulani. Its app launched three months ago and is currently invite-only. Gotrade claims sign-ups have grown 20% week-on-week, and it now has more than 100,000 users spread across the world. About 65% of Gotrade’s users have traded stocks before, while the rest are first-time investors.

Mulani, the company’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch that the idea for Gotrade was planted when he became interested in American stocks, but discovered many barriers to trading.

“When I was 18, I actually looked to get access in Singapore, and banks were charging $30 per trade. Effectively, the market taught me that I could not get into the market. Fast forward ten years, I decided to look into it again, and the banks were still charging $25 a trade,” he said. “On top of that, their user interfaces were something I didn’t want to look at. So we decided to build a brokerage platform where anyone can get access.”

“Fractional trading actually came a bit later,” he added. “That was the real MVP for us because fractional really makes investing accessible to anyone globally since all you need is one dollar.”

Robinhood, SoFi and Stash all feature fractional trading, but Mulani said those apps are primarily used by U.S. residents. On the other hand, Gotrade is not available to U.S. residents because of financial regulations, so its main competitors are interactive brokers, Saxo Bank and eToro.

Gotrade does not charge commission, custody, inactivity or dividend fees. Instead, it monetizes by collecting a small fee on the currency exchange from deposits, and interest generated from uninvested cash in brokerage accounts. The app is free to use, but plans to add a premium paid subscription program and virtual debit card that users can link to their accounts.

Many of Gotrade’s users are people who have invested in their local stock markets, but weren’t able to trade U.S. stocks before. They vary widely in age, but 25 to 34-year-olds are the app’s biggest segment, and the average account size is about $500.

Gotrade acts as an introducing broker to Alpaca Securities LLC, a U.S. stock brokerage that is regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and serves as an intermediary. Alpaca Securities splits its stock inventory into fractions, and Gotrade users can decide how many fractions they want to buy. The app also allows them to set a budget, and automatically calculates the amount of fractional shares they can afford through notional value trading.

User accounts are protected up to $500,000 by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), and money goes through counterparties regulated in Singapore, like Rapyd, and the United States, including Alpaca and First Republic Bank. To protect users, Gotrade works only with fully-funded cash accounts without any margin facility. Mulani explained that a margin account effectively means people are borrowing money to invest, while a fully-funded account means that a user can only invest the money they have already deposited in their account. FINRA and Securities Exchange Commission regulations also mean accounts under $25,000 can only day trade, or buy and sell a security on the same day, up to three times every five trading days.

Like many investment apps aimed at first-time or relatively new traders, Gotrade includes educational content, like pop-ups with definitions for investment terms, and news articles about publicly-traded companies. Its new funding will be used for hiring and product development, with a strong focus on adding more in-app content.

In a statement, LocalGlobe partner Remus Brett said, “Over the past 100 years, U.S. stocks have delivered average annual returns of 10%. With compounding, an investment of $1,000 back then would be worth $13 million today. These returns have fueled wealth creation in the U.S. and other developed markets but most of the world has missed out. We believe Gotrade has the potential to help the world’s 99% gain access the same benefits that the 1% have. We are incredibly excited to be joining Rohit, David and Norman on this journey.”

Kayak co-founder Paul English just launched Moonbeam, a podcast discovery app

Podcast downloads have boomed over the last year, and Kayak co-founder and tech entrepreneur Paul English became an avid, daily listener. But anyone who loves podcasts knows that podcast discovery can be challenging. Even the top streaming apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify lack robust discovery tools — so last week, when Spotify acquired the podcast discovery app Podz, it validated the industry’s growing need for an easier way to uncover new shows.

Today, English launched Moonbeam, a podcast discovery app that blends machine learning and human curation to present personalized recommendations. This might sound like what Podz is doing, creating a newsfeed-style stream of content that users might like. But Moonbeam ups the ante by creating a creator-friendly platform, allowing podcast hosts to select clips of their show to feature on the app, too. The app also lets fans send a tip to the creator if they like their show enough (Moonbeam won’t take a cut, but there’s still that pesky in-app purchase fee for podcasters to consider).

“Podz is one approach for discovery, but I think that there needs to be a lot of people working on this problem,” English told TechCrunch. “One thing that I think differentiates Moonbeam from Podz is that we have human editors.”

English was inspired by TikTok, which has become so ubiquitous in part because of its sophisticated discovery algorithm. As an engineer, he would often redesign apps for fun, like Instagram or Twitter. But as he became interested in podcasting, he wanted to create an app that works like TikTok, but helps people find new podcasts. On the Beam section of the app, which is the equivalent of the For You page on TikTok, users are presented with clips of about a few minutes long. Based on how you interact with them, the algorithm learns what kind of podcasts you might want to see.

“Machine learning can find better content for you than your friends can. We might find someone in Germany who has the same funny sense of humor you do, which might be a bit different than even your closet friends,” said English. “Machine learning is all about user clustering, where we find users that interacted with Moonbeam in ways similar to you. If we find users who like similar things that you like, we can share shows that they listen to on Moonbeam.”

But what’s tricky about apps like Moonbeam is that it will only get better as more people use the app. In its early stages — to be fair, the app launched today — many of the podcast recommendations come from relatively established shows. But with so many podcasts in existence (not every show is produced by NPR!), the challenge isn’t discovering “This American Life.” It’s finding emerging creators that might not get a shot in the podcasting industry without the backing of a major production studio. That’s what makes TikTok so valuable for creators — it’s very possible to become a viral sensation over night. What if there was an app that did that for podcasters?

Moonbeam plans to roll out software updates every two weeks, which will introduce a series of tools that allow listeners to interact with the teams behind their favorite podcasts. The first of these features — which is already in-app — is tipping. Soon, fans and podcasters alike will be able to make their own clips to share on the app. For now, podcast hosts who navigate to Moonbeam’s website can claim their show and create clips of it. It’s a bit clunkier to navigate than an app like Headliner, but it’s functional.

“There’s going to be a whole bunch of other tools we’re adding between the listener and the host,” said English. “Building that relationship is really important, and we want to do it directly in the player. We don’t want you to have to go to Facebook or some other site.”

Moonbeam can also function as a podcatcher, since you can listen to full episodes in the app and search for specific shows, even if they don’t appear on your Beam – but while podcatchers are abundant, good discovery apps aren’t. Hopefully, Moonbeam can help change that.

Archer Aviation hits back against rival Wisk Aero’s request for injunction in trade secret suit

Archer Aviation is ramping up its defense against claims by rival Wisk Aero that it misappropriated trade secrets. Archer, which unveiled its Maker eVTOL earlier this month, alleged in a court filing late Wednesday that Wisk learned of Archer’s aircraft design weeks before it filed its patent design application – effectively reversing claims that it stole Wisk’s design.

Wisk claimed in its April lawsuit that its design is nearly identical to Archer’s, and that the similarities are the result of a former Wisk employee (who was later hired by Archer) stealing proprietary work files. In this new filing, Archer alleged that it shared its plans for a 12-rotor tilting design with Geoff Long, a senior engineer at Wisk, whom Archer was considering recruiting. Archer alleges that Long shared Archer’s plans with Wisk executives weeks before Wisk filed its patent application.

Still following? Archer also says that it hired a third party to conduct a forensic analysis, which found no evidence of any of the allegedly stolen documents on Archer’s systems or the devices belonging to the former Wisk-now-Archer employee.

The filing was made in response to an injunction Wisk filed in May, requesting that the court immediately prohibit its rival from using any of the 52 trade secrets it alleges were stolen. It’s a request that could have potentially catastrophic effects on Archer, as the company itself admits in the filing. Archer argues that approving the injunction would take it “offline indefinitely” and pose a “grave danger” to Archer and its network of partners and suppliers.

“Wisk’s legal and media blitz is threatening to derail Archer’s anticipated merger and its business partnerships and compelling Archer to redirect significant resources to defend this lawsuit,” Archer says in the filing. The company further requested that if an injunction should be granted, it should also require a $1.1 billion bond – which Wisk would have to pay should the court ultimately side with Archer.

Wisk, in response to the filing, sent the following statement to TechCrunch: “Archer’s latest filing is full of inaccuracies and attempts to distract from the serious and broad scope of misappropriation claims it faces. The filing changes nothing. We look forward to continuing our case in court to demonstrate Archer’s improper use of Wisk’s intellectual property.”

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California under case no. 5:21-cv-2450.

Daily Crunch: Google and Jio Platforms unveil ‘extremely optimized Android’ phone for Indian consumers

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for June 24, 2021. There’s an ocean of tech news to get through today, but up top if you care about the advertising market, head here first. Google is pushing back cookiegeddon, and the decision could impact companies from the smallest startup to, well, Google. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Instagram’s slow embrace of computers continues: After a long history of being a mobile-first, or mobile-only product, Instagram is now testing the “ability to create a Feed post on Instagram with [a] desktop browser,” the company told TechCrunch. As a PC user, huzzah.
  • BuzzFeed is going public: Digital media company BuzzFeed is going public via a SPAC at a valuation of $1.5 billion. Want to know why it’s worth that much? We’ve got you covered. (Don’t forget that BuzzFeed raised hundreds of millions of dollars while private.)
  • How some companies are working on vaccine passports despite the controversy: TechCrunch’s Ron Miller dove into the world of vaccine passports, the tech companies that are backing them and how they’re handling a dicey political environment. It’s a great read.

Startups/VC

  • Doubling down on crypto: The a16z investing house is redoubling its bet in the crypto economy with a new $2.2 billion fund. And the venture capital firm is going to do more than just write checks: It intends to take part in crypto projects and even help clear regulatory brush for the sector. It’s a big commitment.
  • Visa tries again: After Visa’s deal to acquire fintech API provider Plaid died, you might have thought that the American payments giant would have thrown in the towel on big deals. Nope. Visa is dropping $2.15 billion to buy Tink, a company that TechCrunch described as “a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interfaces,” or APIs.
  • Don’t trip about Tripp’s (virtual) trips: Tripp, a startup that wants to provide mental-health services via VR that mimic psychedelic experiences sans drugs, has just raised $11 million. If that sounds far out, understand that some startups are flat-out working with psychedelic drugs for different therapeutic approaches to mental health. So, this is the less aggressive version of the idea. Because VR is pretty neat, we dig it.
  • The intersection of no-code, automation and humans: That’s where Tonkean plays. The company’s software helps ops teams at startups build automated business logic across applications, allowing data to flow between them. And it allows for humans to be in the loop, separating its offerings from what UiPath and other RPA companies offer. Oh, and Tonkean just closed a $50 million round.
  • The online video boom powers JW Player to $100M in new capital: While not quite yet a unicorn, JW Player’s nine-figure round caught TechCrunch’s attention. The company sells a video platform for publishers and others, and it had a good 2020. COVID led to a boom in video watching, so the company’s recent growth is not a huge surprise. And now it has a tower of new capital to fuel even more expansion.

Reform your startup’s meeting culture

Meetings should have a clear purpose, but at many startups, they’ve become a way to perform in front of a crowd instead of share information.

Workplace politics can make the matter even more complicated: How secure do you feel declining a meeting invitation from a co-worker, or worse yet, from a manager?

“Every time a recurring meeting is added to a calendar, a kitten dies,” says Chuck Phillips, co-founder of MeetWell. “Very few employees decline meetings, even when it’s obvious that the meeting is going to be a doozy.”

Changing your meeting culture is difficult, but given that 26% of workers plan to look for a new job when the pandemic ends, startups need to do all they can to retain talent. Here are four actionable steps that will help you boost productivity and say goodbye to poorly run, lazily planned meetings.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Today was a big day for Microsoft, so we’ll start there, yeah? Here are TechCrunch’s notes from the day’s Windows 11 event:

  • Android apps are coming to Windows: Via the Amazon store, but still. Microsoft’s effort over time to make its operating system more open reached a new zenith today with the news that Windows 11 will support a host of Android apps. We want to play with it before we grade it, but the idea is super neat.
  • We hope you like Teams: Microsoft is all-in on Teams, so much so that it’s getting the Windows treatment. TechCrunch reports that “Windows 11 will have Microsoft Teams built in, in a bid to compete more directly with communication platforms like Apple’s FaceTime.” Honestly, Teams is way better than Skype was, so that sounds fine. It does prickle our antitrust early warning system, however.
  • It’ll be a Windows Christmas: Per Microsoft, Windows 11 should land later this year. In time for Christmas, it turns out. So if you are a gamer or a corporate drone or merely someone who prefers the Microsoft approach to computing, get hyped. The new build is coming your way, and quickly. If you can’t wait, there are leaks out there. But don’t install those on a computer with data you actually need.

Next up, a little from Google:

  • Google and Jio team up for a budget smartphone: The JioPhone Next, a low-cost Android smartphone, could help the next few hundred million folks in India get online with faster service if the telco and American tech giant have their way. Jio wants more mobile subscribers, and Google wants more internet users, period. Call it a match made in heaven, provided that the hardware is good.

And to close out, one for the Zoomers:

  • Ephemeral tunes? In today’s TikTok world, having access to popular music is a must for social networks. So it’s not a surprise to see Snap close a multiyear deal with Universal Music Group. Snapper, rejoice!

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch is building a shortlist of the top growth marketers in tech. If you’re a founder, we’d love to hear who you’ve worked with. Fill out the survey here.

Here’s one of the many excellent recommendations we’ve received:

Name of marketer: Dylan Max

Name of recommender: Kris Rudeegraap, Sendoso

Recommendation: “Dylan Max’s creativity is what sets him apart from 99% of those that practice growth marketing. One of his first campaigns went viral on LinkedIn. We ran a special campaign where we sent real cans of Spam to the best marketers and salespeople (our target demographic), with the idea that traditional spamming has become impersonal and we’re out to change that. Those that were nominated could “spam” other marketers or salespeople in their network, leading to a viral sensation that took over LinkedIn. We got a ton of business from it and our sales team still lists it as one of the most creative ways to leverage direct mail and gifting. Today it is still LinkedIn’s most viral grassroots campaign in the B2B space. Dylan is part of a rare breed of growth marketers, excelling in many different marketing channels including SEO, paid search, conversion rate optimization (CRO) and A/B testing. Dylan also spun up our first ever ABM campaign where we leveraged hypertargeted social media ads to earn seven-figure revenue on less than $20,000 of ad spend. I love his hackiness and he needs to be on this list.”

Nixie’s drone-based water sampling could save cities time and money

Regularly testing waterways and reservoirs is a never-ending responsibility for utility companies and municipal safety authorities, and generally — as you might expect — involves either a boat or at least a pair of waders. Nixie does the job with a drone instead, making the process faster, cheaper, and a lot less wet.

The most common methods of testing water quality haven’t changed in a long time, partly because they’re effective and straightforward, and partly because really, what else are you going to do? No software or web platform out there is going to reach into the middle of the river and pull out a liter of water.

But with the advent of drones powerful and reliable enough to deploy in professional and industrial circumstances, the situation has changed. Nixie is a solution by the drone specialists at Reign Maker, involving either a custom-built sample collection arm or an in-situ sensor arm.

The sample collector is basically a long vertical arm with a locking cage for a sample container. You put the empty container in there, fly the drone out to the location, then submerge the arm. When it flies back, the filled container can be taken out while the drone hovers and a fresh one put in its place to bring to the next spot. (This switch can be done safely in winds up to 18 MPH and sampling in currents up to 5 knots, the company said.)

A drone dips a sample container in a river.

Image Credits: Reign Maker

This allows for quick sampling at multiple locations — the drone’s battery will last about 20 minutes, enough for two to four samples depending on the weather and distance. Swap the battery out and drive to the next location and do it all again.

For comparison, Reign Maker pointed to New York’s water authority, which collects 30 samples per day from boats and other methods, at an approximate cost (including labor, boat fuel, etc) of $100 per sample. Workers using Nixie were able to collect an average of 120 samples per day, for around $10 each. Sure, New York is probably among the higher cost locales for this (like everything else) but the deltas are pretty huge. (The dipper attachment itself costs $850, but doesn’t come with a drone.)

It should be mentioned that the drone is not operating autonomously; it has a pilot who will be flying with line of sight (which simplifies regulations and requirements). But even so, that means a team of two, with a handful of spare batteries, can cover the same space  that would normally take a boat crew and more than a little fuel. Currently the system works with the M600 and M300 RTK drones from DJI.

Mockup of the Nixie water testing app showing readings for various locations.

Image Credits: Reign Maker

The drone method has the added benefits of having precise GPS locations for each sample and of not disturbing the water when it dips in. No matter how carefully you step or pilot a boat, you’re going to be pushing the water all over the place, potentially affecting the contents of the sample, but that’s not the case if you’re hovering overhead.

In development is a smarter version of the sampler that includes a set of sensors that can do on-site testing for all the most common factors: temperature, pH, troubling organisms, various chemicals. Skipping the step of bringing the water back to a lab for testing streamlines the process immensely, as you might expect.

Right now Reign Maker is working with New York’s Department of Environmental Protection and in talks with other agencies. While the system would take some initial investment, training, and getting used to, it’s probably hard not to be tempted by the possibility of faster and cheaper testing.

Ultimately the company hopes to offer (in keeping with the zeitgeist) a more traditional SaaS offering involving water quality maps updating in real time with new testing. That too is still in the drawing-board phase, but once a few customers sign up it starts looking a lot more attractive.

Sneaker marketplace GOAT hits $3.7 billion valuation in Series F raise

Sneaker and streetwear empire GOAT just doubled its valuation in a massive new raise.

The GOAT Group parent company shared today that it has raised $195 million in a Series F raise valuing the fashion giant at some $3.7 billion. The raise was led by a handful of hedge funds and P/E firms including Park West Asset Management, Franklin Templeton, Adage Capital Management, Ulysses Management and funds & accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates.

GOAT has surgically defined a corner of fashion commerce outside of Amazon’s purview while growing the appeal of street wear and sneakers to a broader audience of consumers. GOAT Group has now raised just shy of $500 million in total.

This round more than doubles the $1.8 billion valuation GOAT Group reached in its Series E fundraise last year. Like other online marketplaces, GOAT saw major growth last year, expanding its audience of buyers and sellers while seeing 100% year-over-year growth in its sneaker business and 500% year-over-year growth for its newer apparel business.

GOAT details some 30 million “members” and 600,000 sellers across its platform. In a press release, the company detailed its peer-to-peer marketplace has reached some $2 billion in gross merchandise volume.

Databricks co-founder and CEO Ali Ghodsi is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS

In many industries, Databricks has become synonymous with modern data warehousing and data lakes. Since it’s exactly these technologies that are at the core of what modern businesses are doing around operationalizing their data, data engineering and building machine-learning models — and since Databricks is at the forefront of startups that offer these services on a SaaS-like platform, who better to join us at TC Sessions: SaaS on October 27 than Databricks co-founder and CEO Ali Ghodsi.

Ghodsi co-founded Databricks together with a handful of partners in 2013 with the idea of commercializing the open-source Apache Spark analytics engine for big data processing. As is the case with so many open-source companies, Ghodsi, who has a Ph.D. from KTH/Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and whose research focused on distributed computing, was one of the original developers of the Spark engine. At Databricks, he first served as the company’s VP of Engineering and Product Management before being named CEO in 2016.

Under his leadership, Databricks has reached a $28 billion valuation and has now raised a total of $1.9 billion. The company’s bets on open source, data and AI are clearly paying off and unlike some of its competitors, Databricks has done a good job staying ahead of the trends (and had a bit of luck given that some of those trends, including the rise of machine learning, really benefitted the company, too).

Despite consistent rumors of Microsoft and others trying to acquire the company in recent years, Ghodsi and his board have clearly decided that they want to remain independent. Instead, Databricks has shrewdly partnered with all of the big cloud players, starting with Microsoft, which actually gave the service the kind of prime placement in its Azure cloud computing service and user interface that was previously unheard of. Most recently, the company brought its platform to Google Cloud.

Ghodsi will join us at TC Sessions: SaaS to talk about building his company, raising funding at crazy valuations and what the future of data management in the AI space looks like.

$75 Early Bird ticket sales end October 1. Grab your ticket today and gain insights on how to scale your B2B and B2C company from CEOs who have done it themselves. Meet the founders building with low code/no code, meet the investors cutting the checks, and discover the next generation of SaaS startups bridging data with new technologies.