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Uber Confirms Billion Dollar Deal With SoftBank

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Uber the cab hailing startup, confirmed the company will receive a huge investment from SoftBank and other investors in the coming months.  Dragoneer Investment Group will lead the consortium to invest $ 1 billion to $ 1.25 billion in Uber. The venture capital firm will also buy up to 17% of the existing shares from investors and employees in a secondary transaction.  This investment could help resolve the on going legal battle between former CEO and founder Travis Kalanick and early investor, Benchmark.

In a statement released by Uber, the company confirmed the agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer on a potential investment. “We believe this agreement is a strong vote of confidence in Uber’s long term potential. Upon closing, it will help fuel our investments in technology and our continued expansion at home and abroad, while strengthening our corporate governance,” the statement further said.

Although the Uber board approved this investment a month ago, negotiations stalled due to the ongoing legal battle between Travis Kalanick and Benchmark. TechCrunch reported this round of investment will be labeled as an extension of its last Series G round. Bloomberg reported Dragoneer Investment Group, General Atlantic and SoftBank will directly invest $ 1 billion into Uber. This investment round will value the company at $ 70 billion. Along with directly investing into Uber, SoftBank will also purchase up to $ 9 billion worth of stock from existing Uber shareholders. These shares will be brought through a process called the tender offer which can take up to a month to complete. 

However, if investors refuse to sell their stock or if SoftBank is unable to secure 14% of Uber’s stock, SoftBank will have the option to walk away from the deal. In an attempt to locate the majority of the investors, SoftBank plans to buy newspaper advertisements to help spread the word that the tender offer will be launched soon.

As a part of the deal, Uber has agreed to undergo a series of sweeping changes in its governance including measures that reduce the influence of Travis Kalanick and other leadership changes. With shareholders selling billions of dollars worth of shares, this investment deal is slated to be the largest secondary transaction in history. The current Chief Executive Officer of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi also said the company plans on going public by next year.

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Amazon Opens Automated Grocery Store – Amazon Go

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Amazon.com Inc., the global ecommerce giant will launch the first of its kind supermarkets without checkouts, human or self service on Monday in Seattle. According to BBC, this revolutionary supermarket, Amazon Go, has been tested by Amazon staff for the past year.

Amazon Go store relies on cameras and sensors to track shoppers and maintain a list of what shoppers remove from the shelves and what they put back. Making cash registers and checkout lines superfluous, customers buying products from the Go store will be billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file.

A row of gates guards the entrance to the store and shoppers can only enter after they scan their Amazon Go app. The 1,800 square foot mini market is packed with shelves of food and will be open from 7 A.M. To 9 P.M. Monday to Friday. Speaking about the newest venture, the Vice President of Technology, Dilip Kumar said, “(the idea behind Amazon go is to) push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning and to create an effortless experience for customers.

According to Amazon, the technology used in the Amazon Go store is so accurate that the sensors can detect minute changes and distinguish between multiple people standing side by side at a shelf. The tracking is precise enough to detect which customer picked up a yogurt or a cupcake and track which customers are simply browsing. Technology website GeekWire reported, the system also knows when people pick up items and put them back in case customers simply wanted to read the label. While the company has remained tight lipped about the technology it’s using in its sensors and tracking devices, can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every item.

Amazon further added the technology will not replace employees but streamline the shopping process. Associates and employees will be put on different tasks including restocking shelves and helping customers troubleshoot any technical problems and help customers find items. According to people who have tested the store, Amazon sends an electronic receipt for purchases only a few minutes after walking out of the store. The Head of Amazon Go, Gianna Puerini, speaking about the technology said, “This technology didn’t exist, it was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.” The company has already released official Amazon Go apps on iOS and Android and customers can use their existing Amazon credentials to log in to the Amazon Go app.

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WhatsApp Launches Business Application

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WhatsApp, the global messaging service launched its flagship WhatsApp Business App in America, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico and the United Kingdom, yesterday. However, the app is currently available only for Android devices and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.

WhatsApp Business aims to enable better communication between businesses and their customers. Currently, a majority of WhatsApp’s 1 billion users base already use the app for their small businesses to connect with audiences and customers. According to the Facebook owned company, the Business app will be rolled out to businesses in the rest of the world in the coming weeks.

This standalone app will help businesses give their customers useful information such as business description, email or store addresses and website links. Along with the information, businesses will also be able to provide quick automated replies to frequently asked questions. The app will also have new features to send greeting messages that introduce customers to the business and away messages that let customers know if the executives are busy. Businesses using the app will also be able to check the statistics about messages that are read by the customers among other user metrics.

In order to separate the businesses from the customers, accounts will be identified as a business account and businesses will soon be able to have confirmed accounts when their account and business phone numbers match. The company also claims more than 80% of its small business users in Brazil and India say they find the WhatsApp messaging service helpful for communicating with their customers and grow their business.

At the same time, customers who already use the app to communicate with businesses won’t need to download the new application. WhatsApp said, “(Users will) continue to have full control over the messages they receive, with the ability to block any number, including businesses, as well as report spam.” While the current app is free to use, WhatsApp is reportedly planning to offer some business tools as paid services in the future, according to Chief Operating Officer Matthew Idema.

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Karnataka To Fund Startups From Across The Country

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The Karnataka Government will fund startups from pan India by calling them to register in Karnataka. According to IT Minister of Karnataka, Priyank Kharge, entrepreneurs and startups across the country seeking funds can soon look up to the Karnataka government.

The IT Minister further added, “We want to take our startup policy to the national level this year. We will support startups from across the country provided they pay taxes here.” For this purpose, entrepreneurs registered in Karnataka under the Shops and Commercial Establishment Act, 1961 can apply for funds and other initiatives. The Minister, however, did not elaborate on when this new phase will kick off and whether more funds will be allocated.

The Karnataka government was one of the first governments in India to launch their startup policy in 2015 in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Startup India initiative. Since then, the government has set up several funds with a corpus of over Rs. 300 crores to back startups across different sectors such as biotechnology, tourism and animation. In accordance with their five year startup plan, the State Government is aiming to boost 20,000 technology based startups by 2020 in Karnataka and create 6 lakh direct and 12 lakh indirect new jobs in the sector. In 2017 alone, 250 startups received funding from the from the Government while 5000 startups were registered under the policy.

In October last year, the Karnataka government also invested Rs. 40 crores in the construction of a state of the art artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities center. The Centre of Excellence for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence aims to help global companies create approximately 35,000 jobs over the next five years for data science and artificial intelligence professionals. In August, the State government also provided funding worth Rs. 35 crores to 100 innovative startups through its Elevate 100 program.

According to the data from research firm Tracxn, till date, Karnataka has funded 890 startups while Maharashtra funded 645 and Delhi NCR funded 419. Currently, 7909 startups were founded in Karnataka following Maharashtra with 8117 startups.

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