Blackrock, a minority investor in Byju’s, cuts startup valuation to $8.4 billion

Blackrock, a minority investor in Byju’s, has yet again cut the valuation of its holding in the Bengaluru-based startup, this time to about $8.4 billion, even as the most Indian valuable startup continues to raise capital at a better price.

Blackrock cut the value of Byju’s share by 62% in the quarter ending March this year, from a year ago, it disclosed in a filing.

Nonetheless, a series of qualifications merit attention: Blackrock is not a substantial stakeholder in Byju’s, and owns less than 1% equity in the startup.

A similar move from Prosus, one of the more prominent investors in Byju’s, would have raised greater alarms for the Indian edtech leader. Additionally, it’s worth noting that valuation methodologies may vary across different investors. Thus, other portfolio investors could potentially hold vastly contrasting views.

Furthermore, Byju’s recently secured a $250 million in fresh funding at a valuation cap of $22 billion earlier this month, indicating that the startup continues to be valued higher by other backers.

Blackrock’s price adjustment is the latest in a series of valuation markdowns for the Indian startup ecosystem. Invesco has cut the valuation of Swiggy by half, and Pine Labs and Pharmeasy have also seen their values being cut by some investors.

Blackrock, a minority investor in Byju’s, cuts startup valuation to $8.4 billion by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Generation Prime launches to make fertility services more accessible in Asia

Generation Prime, a startup that wants to make IVF and other fertility services more accessible to patients in Asia, is launching its first two clinics in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. The company also announced seed funding led by Recharge Capital, which incubated it, with participation from Thiel Capital, Shamrock Holdings, the Disney family’s investment vehicle and Blue Lion Global.

Generation Prime describes itself as the first “full-stack, closed-loop IVF health services clinic” in Southeast Asia, which means that IVF services will be provided through digital and physical channels, starting with initial consultations and including egg and sperm freezing, diagnosis, testing, IVF and surrogacy. The clinics expect to serve both patients who live locally, as well as those traveling from other countries, like China, for fertility services.

Over the next three years, Generation Prime plans to open a total of 15 clinics in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Lorin Gu, a founding partner at Recharge Capital, said the firm incubated Generation Prime because people in Asia want options and flexibility for family planning, but often do not have access to fertility services in the countries where they live.

Recharge Capital founding partner Lorin Gu

Recharge Capital founding partner Lorin Gu

“Across Asia and Southeast Asia, the different legal structures have created a highly fragmented industry,” he said. He added that studies show by 2045, close to half of couples are expected to use IVF to start their families. “Despite these markers, female health conditions totaled just 1% of pharmaceutical research funding in 2020.”

Generation Prime expects about 70% of its clients to be medical tourists from China, and 30% to be local patients. “This is not because local patients are not actively using IVF services, but mainly because of the sheer population of China and the unmet demands that exists in the country,” said Gu. “In addition, China does not allow many of the IVF procedures that are currently desired by patients seeking more robust family planning services, and as a result, a large number of patients have been pushed into the Southeast Asian market.”

Generation Prime launches to make fertility services more accessible in Asia by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Top Indian tech advocacy group replaces Big Tech execs following criticism

The Internet and Mobile Association of India, an influential tech industry body, has appointed Dream Sports co-founder and chief executive Harsh Jain as the new chairperson of the association, bucking the tradition of giving the top roles to Big Tech executives after receiving criticism from many Indian startups.

Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group chief executive of MakeMyTrip, will now serve as the Vice Chairman of IAMAI, whereas Times Internet’s Satyan Gajwani has been appointed as the industry body’s treasurer. Magow steps into the role previously held by Meta’s Shivnath Thukral, while Jain takes over from Google India head Sanjay Gupta.

The appointments, result of an internal election, come in the wake of numerous top Indian entrepreneurs asserting that the IAMAI had lost credibility due to the positions it adopted on regulations and policies being drafted by New Delhi.

Anupam Mittal of claimed that IAMAI’s viewpoints, which largely echoed those of Big Tech, indicated that the influential lobby group had become a “mouthpiece” of American tech giants.

The recent strain is the newest indication of a fracture in the relationship between Google, Amazon, and other major U.S. corporations, and Indian companies.

Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft have poured tens of billions of dollars into India in the past decade. This investment has been aimed at transforming the world’s most populated country into a key international market, particularly as user growth has been decelerating in other parts of the globe.

“The new 24-member Governing Council and the new Executive Council of the IAMAI will take charge from the present councils at the upcoming Annual General Meeting. The IAMAI Governing Council election is held every two years. Eighty-three members of the IAMAI contested the elections this year following the end of the two-year tenure of the previous council,” IAMAI said in a statement Thursday.

More to follow.

Top Indian tech advocacy group replaces Big Tech execs following criticism by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Indonesia’s Skorlife gets funding to give Indonesians power over their credit scores

Skorlife, the fintech that wants to give Indonesians more transparency into their credit scores, has raised $4 million in seed funding. The round was led by Hummingbird Ventures with participation from QED Investors, and returning investors AC Ventures and Saison Capital.

The startup’s last funding round was $2.2 million in pre-seed funding announced in September. Co-founded by Ongki Kurniawan and Karan Khetan,  Skorlife launched to the public around the same time.

Since then, it has reached 100,000 downloads. Other milestones Skorlife has hit over the past eight months include being the only credit builder admitted by the Financial Services Authority (OJK) of Indonesia into a regulatory sandbox, and receiving ISO 27001 and ISO 27701 certifications.

Skorlife’s app shows users their credit scores and reports from Indonesia’s credit bureaus and gives personalized advice on how they can improve their credit and keep safe from identity theft. For example, it will remind them to pay bills on them, improve their credit mix and watch the age of their credit. It also provides an Identity Monitoring feature, which alerts users when someone tries to use their identity to apply for a loan.

Skorlife founders Ongki Kurniawan and Karan Khetan

Skorlife founders Ongki Kurniawan and Karan Khetan

Kurniawan told TechCrunch that many Indonesians have limited access to fair credit because banks and financial institutions tend to be very conservative about approvals due to lack of a robust credit scoring infrastructure and data. As a result, low interest credit products, including credit cards, are usually only accessible to people with the highest credit scores, or super primes. On the other end, subprime lenders are served by peer-to-peer lending and buy now, pay later platforms, but those tend to have high interest rates.

This leaves people in the middle, with prime or near-prime credit, who have good repayment histories but still don’t make the cut for affordable credit products. Skorlife helps by giving Indonesian consumers access to their scores from Indonesian credit bureaus, along with personalized advice on how to improve them.

Skorlife will work with local regulators as part of the OJK’s regulatory sandbox, which gives it more flexibility to plan its business model. Its new funding will be used on product development, marketing and hiring.

Indonesia’s Skorlife gets funding to give Indonesians power over their credit scores by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Singapore-based BandLab Technologies raises $25M at $415M valuation

Singapore-based BandLab Technologies, the parent company of social music creation platform BandLab, has raised $25 million in Series B1 funding that bumps its post-money valuation to $425 million. The round was led by returning investor Cercano Management (formerly Vulcan Capital), with super-pro rata participation from Prosus Ventures.

The new funding adds to BandLab Technologies’ $65 million Series B, which it raised at a $315 million post-money valuation and announced in April 2022. The company is the digital division of Caldecott Music Group, which also includes Vista Musical Instruments and NME Networks.

In total, BandLab Technologies has 60 million registered users. BandLab’s suite of features include a digital audio workstation called Studio, royalty-free sample and loops service Sounds and AI music generator tool SongStarter. BandLab Technologies’ other properties are Cakewalk, a digital audio workstation for professional musicians, ReverbNation, a professional services site for indie musicians and producers, and beat marketplace Airbit.

The new funding will be used on hiring and developing new music creation tools, as well as initiatives like BandLab for Education.

Singapore-based BandLab Technologies raises $25M at $415M valuation by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Matrix Partners expands new India fund to $525 million

Matrix Partners India has extended the target size for its current fund to $525 million, from $450 million it disclosed earlier, joining a burgeoning roster of venture capital funds intending to deploy in excess of half a billion dollars for new investment initiatives in the South Asian market.

The Indian firm, whose portfolio includes Razorpay and Ofbusiness, has raised $518 million for its new fund, fourth for India, and is targeting to raise another $7 million, it disclosed in an SEC filing.

The firm’s new fund comes at a time when scores of other investors have raised new capital — and nearly all at a much faster pace. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Sequoia India and Southeast Asia unveiled a $2.85 billion fund last year, after raising at least three funds in the past three years. Lightspeed Venture Partners, which closed a $275 million fund in 2020, unveiled a new $500 million fund last year. Accel, Elevation Capital and Nexus Venture Partners have also unveiled large new India funds in the past one year.

Matrix Partners India is still a notable venture fund. Out of India’s 102 unicorn startups, 10 of them are among Matrix Partners India’s portfolio. Comparatively, Elevation Partners is an investor in 12 of them, Accel has invested in 21, and Sequoia leads the pack with 31, according to data insight platform Venture Intelligence.

Matrix Partners expands new India fund to $525 million by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

India’s Chalo raises $45 million in fresh funding to digitize bus commutes

Indian startup Chalo, which is working to transform bus commutes, has raised $45 million in a new funding round and secured an additional $12 million in debt as it works on deepening its mobility offerings and launches in more international markets.

The Series D funding round was led by Avataar Ventures. Existing investors Lightrock India, WaterBridge Ventures and former Google executive Amit Singhal also participated in the funding. Trifecta and Stride Ventures financed the debt. This injection of capital brings Chalo’s cumulative fundraise to $119 million.

Mohit Dubey, the brain behind Chalo, previously founded CarWale, an online platform for trading new and used vehicles. After a decade at CarWale, Dubey realized that his startup — and many other similar firms — served a mere 3% of India’s population, he told TechCrunch in an earlier interview.

Chalo’s business, on the other hand, revolves around empowering bus operators to transition to digital payments and facilitate commute tracking. Despite the paucity of buses in India, the country’s bus market holds a potential $20 billion opportunity, nearly double the size of the taxi market.

A lack of buses, with only three for every 10,000 residents, creates a ripe opportunity for disruption in a space that remains largely underserved. Chalo is attempting to solve inefficiencies such as cash-based fare payments, limited availability of monthly passes and unpredictability of bus schedules.

The eight-year-old startup installs GPS systems on buses, enabling customers to track their commute in real-time through their eponymous app, which also sells tickets and monthly passes.

Chalo, now operating in over 50 cities and tracking more than 15,000 buses across India, has seen a consistent increase in ridership thanks to the efficiency its platform provides, the startup said. Over time, the company has also expanded its offerings to cater to premium clientele through the acquisition of Amazon-backed Shuttl, and ventured into e-bikes via the Vogo brand.

“In the last two years, our capabilities have grown significantly. We have strengthened our core business of city buses, and now offer a multi-modal public transport network solution to cities, encompassing city buses, premium buses, and first and last mile connectivity,” said Dubey in a statement Monday.

Chalo, which also has a presence in Southeast Asia, plans to boost e-vehicles in its fleet and continue expanding into additional international markets.

India’s Chalo raises $45 million in fresh funding to digitize bus commutes by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Insurtech bolttech gets $196M at $1.6B valuation from investors like MetLife

Embedded insurtech is still hot, as the $196 million in funding landed by bolttech proves. The company, which started in Singapore but now has operations around the world, said it is now valued at $1.6 billion. The funding was led by Tokio Marine, Japan’s first insurance company, and life insurance leader MetLife through its subsidiary MetLife Next Gen Ventures. Other participants included new and existing shareholders, and Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional.

Bolttech earlier announced that Tokio Marine will lead its Series B funding round, which then valued the company at an up-round valuation of $1.5 billion. Group CEO Rob Schimek said the current funding is part of the same round. “Bolttech’s Series B is closed to new interest from the market, but we continue to engage with the investor community in case of future opportunities,” he told TechCrunch.

Founded three years ago, bolttech says its Series B funding is the largest straight equity Series B for an insurtech in the last year, and that its Series A round, announced in 2021, was also the largest ever for an insurtech.

Embedded means insurance or protection products that are embedded into the customer experience as they buy a product or sign up for a service. For example, someone purchasing a smartphone might be prompted to purchase a protection plan that that offers repair, device replacement or trade-ins.

Schimek said bolttech’s model uses a B2B2C approach, which means it connects more than 700 distribution partners around the world with 230 insurance providers, who offer 6,000 products to consumers.

Bolttech bills itself as one of the world’s leading embedded insurance providers. Its customers include LibertyMutual, PayMaya, Progressive, Lazada, Samsung and HomeCredit. It has licenses to operate throughout Asia, Europe and all 50 United States states. The startup currently quotes about $55 billion worth of annualized premiums.

Some examples of how bolttech’s embedded insurance works include device protection, which Schimek describes as a “hero product” for bolttech. Both white-labelled and cobranded protection products are offered to end-customers through partners like Samsung, Windtre, LG U+, BackMarket and HomCredit.

Device protection isn’t the only product bolttech offers. For example, it enables JKOPay in Taiwan and Maya in the Philippines to offer insurance marketplaces through their apps.

“Overall, we can help any kind of business—whether they are insurers, brokers, agents or non-insurance businesses like telcos, e-commerce, retailers, fintech—to embed insurance at the point of need for their customers,” Schimek said.

Bolttech launched in Singapore in April 2020 and was able to establish an international presence for several reasons. The key one was the partnerships it forged with 700 distribution partners and over 230 insurers around the world.

“We were very intentional about making sure that we have established the right partnerships for success in specific geographies. We generally follow our partners into a geography with business already established,” said Schimek. “We were also able to grow our international footprint as we established greenfield operations in several markets and completed a number of acquisitions that helped us accelerate our expansion.”

He added that bolttech now has 1,500 team members around the world, including insurance and tech experts, and that helps them find innovative new ways to distribute insurance products.

The Series B will be used on bolttech proprietary technology, with plans to pioneer the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in its operations and the insurance and protection value chain, including computer vision, generative AI/natural language processing, advanced analytics and robotic automation.

Schimek said bolttech also plans to enhance its insurance distribution tech, including its purchasing experiences and quoting engines, optimizing claims automation, fraud detection and inventory management.

Insurtech bolttech gets $196M at $1.6B valuation from investors like MetLife by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Singapore’s Ora takes a vertically-integrated approach to telehealth

According to the founder of Singapore-based telehealth platform Ora, 90% of its patients are less than 39 years old and have not been treated for their conditions offline. That puts the onus on Ora to make sure its patients, mostly millennials who live in cities, have a good experience. Ora wants to perform with verticals focused on specific health issues, like women’s and men’s health and skincare. They also run an end-to-end platform that handles everything from consultations to prescription delivery and post-care.

Today, Ora announced it has raised $10 million in Series A funding, which it says is the biggest telehealth Series A round in Southeast Asia. The investment was co-led by TNB Aura and Antler, with participation from Gobi Partners, Kairous Capital and GMA Ventures.

This brings Ora’s total raised since its inception in 2020 to $17 million. Ora was founded by Elias Pour, the former CMO of Zalora, and says it has had uninterrupted >20% month-over-month growth since it launched last year.

Pour told TechCrunch that while working at Zalora, he “saw a very clear trend from customers investing in looking good, driven by fashion buys that allowed them to express themselves, to feeling good, which is connected to physical appearance such as skin, hair, weight and overall well-being.” He started looking for segments that were underserved and found a major opportunity in healthcare.

Ora founder and CEO Elias Pour

Ora founder and CEO Elias Pour

Pour added that Southeast Asia has one of the highest out-of-pocket health expenditures globally, so there didn’t need to be a behavioral change in order to convince people to move to direct payments. “People are already used to paying out of pocket for their healthcare costs, suiting this category well for DTC.”

Ora says it has delivered over 250,000 doctor consultations since its launch in 2021. It has an end-to-end model, meaning it covers consultations, pharmacy, medication delivery and post-purchase care. Ora monetizes with subscriptions, with subscriptions accounting for more than 70% of its revenue.

Ora is vertically-integrated, and currently operates three brands. The first, called Modules, is focused on online dermatology consultations and prescription skincare. The second, andSons, offers male health care, and the third, OVA, treats female reproductive healthcare.

The platform primarily treats a young clientele. The company says that 90% of its patients are first to condition, under 38 years old and have never been treated before online. Younger patients demand flexibility and speed, which is why Ora’s telemedicine model is attractive to them.

Pour said that one of the challenges healthcare providers face in Southeast Asia is the “large disconnect between the patient population,” which skews young, and the legacy experience of healthcare. He believes that over the next decade, about 80% of healthcare services will be brought online.

“Today, men and women in their 20s and 30s living in capital cities represent 36% of the total population. It’s the fastest growing segment, forecasted to represent half of the population in most markets by 2030,” he said. Pour added that Ora is “establishing a strong relationship with them at this early stage, to earn their trust, remaining relevant to address the healthcare needs they will have as they age.”

Pour said Ora differentiates from other telehealth players like Doctor Anywhere, Speedoc and Alodokter because it focuses on specific health issues. Ora is also combining prescription, OTC and strong consumer products to provide post-treatment service and clinical continuity.

Ora’s new funding will be used to expand into new markets and brings its brands to more than 1,300 retail stores.

In a statement, TNB Aura founding partner Charles Wong said, “[Ora’s] combined focus on specialized, and often taboo, healthcare verticals as well as a direct-to-patient approach has led the team to clearly differentiate itself while delivering market-leading unit economics that meet the tailored needs of patients across the full value chain.”

Singapore’s Ora takes a vertically-integrated approach to telehealth by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Jenfi raises more funding for its “growth capital as a service” platform

Jenfi, a “growth-capital-as-a-service” platform, can provide online businesses with revenue-based financing in a little as a day. The Singapore-based startup announced today it has raised $6.6 million in pre-Series B funding, led by Headline Asia. Participation came from returning investor Monk’s Hill Ventures, which led Jenfi’s Series A two years ago, ICU Ventures, Granite Oak, Korea Investment Partners & Golden Equator Capital and Atlas Ventures.

Since Jenfi’s inception four years ago, it has deployed more than $25 million in non-dilutive capital to about 600 companies. Its customers include Gushcloud, Ralali, Hello Health, Lamer Fashion, Buy2sell and Mystifly. The new funding will be used to grow its customer base in Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, and expand into new markets in Southeast Asia, like Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. It will also enable Jenfi to refine its credit underwriting and risk assessment capabilities, including its proprietary risk assessment engine.

The fintech was founded in 2019 by Jeffrey Liu and Justin Louie, who exited from their previous startup, fitness marketplace GuavaPass, when it was acquired by ClassPass. Jenfi’s “growth capital as a service” model was developed after the two realized that online business owners, like e-commerce sellers, SaaS and consumer tech providers, often had trouble getting capital to fund their growth expenses from traditional financial institutions.

Jenfi co-founders Jeffrey Liu and Justin Louie

Jenfi co-founders Jeffrey Liu and Justin Louie

Businesses that apply to Jenfi can get financing ranging from $10,000 to $1 million to spend on marketing, inventory and growth campaigns. Liu told TechCrunch that aggregate sales generated by companies in Jenfi’s portfolio is now more than $150 million.

Decisions about what businesses to lend to are made with Jenfi’s proprietary risk assessment engine, which integrates into data sources like accounting software, payment gateways, e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces and digital advertising. This lets Jenfi continuously monitor its borrowers’ business activity, including revenue growth and marketing return on investment.

As Jenfi grows, it is adding more local market data sources, including selling management platform Haravan and POS management software KiotViet in Vietnam, and almost all banks in Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Jenfi’s proprietary risk engine is one of the main ways it differentiates from other companies offering revenue-based financing to digital-native businesses, said Liu, because it means more comprehensive assessments of creditworthiness and tailored financing solutions.

Since its Series A was announced, Jenfi has deployed its first machine learning-assisted underwriting system, which Liu said enables it to make faster underwriting decisions, with better accuracy and less human involvement.

In the future, Jenfi will work with synthetic data to get a better understanding of client behavior and possible future outcomes. The company also plans to develop a tech platform to allow third-parties to use its proprietary scoring models in their own native infrastructure.

Another way Jenfi differentiates from competitors is the flexibility of its repayment plans, said Liu. They range from three to twelve months and are designed to flexible, taking the needs of each business in mind. Repayment amounts are based on a pre-determined percentage of revenue, but that varies widely depending on business type. For example, a high-margin software business may be granted a higher revenue share percentage than businesses in another sector.

The total amount of fees that a company pays depends on the credit score generated by its proprietary risk engine. Liu said rates are transparent and competitive, with no hidden fees or charges.

Jenfi’s plans for the near future include offering growth capital to more clients through the use of dynamic limits, which can be adjusted based on client needs and creditworthiness. It will also launch an on-demand financing product to cover recurring growth capital needs like variable monthly ad spend.

In a statement, Headline Asia partner Aki Okamoto and principal Jonathan M. Hayashi, said “We have been continuously conducting research on revenue-based financing, and have talked to almost every single player in this field in Asia. Jenfi absolutely stood out to us. Their technology, product, operation and traction are significantly better than their peers.”

Jenfi raises more funding for its “growth capital as a service” platform by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch