At a time when fake news is considered to be real news and when people are pointing out flaws in every aspect, it comes as no surprise that controversies and scam haven’t spared even the startup world! While this year saw major acquisitions and mishaps, it also saw controversies of a different kind. Here’s our yearly wrap up of what happened in the controversial world of 2018!
1. Everything about the Walmart and Flipkart deal
Even before the Walmart takeover, Flipkart was already doing really well. From securing $ 5 billion through multiple investments in 2017, to doing really well in different investment series in a given time, Flipkart’s market position was quite strong at the time. While Sachin Bansal stepping down as CEO was written in the cards from the very beginning, Binny Bansal’s exit came as a result of an issue which took place over 2 years. Binny Bansal, the ex CEO of Flipkart, was being blackmailed by a co worker he was involved with and the only way he saw fit to resolve the problem was by stepping away from the company. To make matters interesting, prior to the takeover by Walmart, the Flipkart CEOs were also accused of evading tax!
2. The Paytm Data Leak Controversy
Ranked number two on the list of the most successful startups in India, Paytm has been embroiled in its fair share of controversies. Primarily formed as a digital payments company, Paytm grew by 10 times since the day it was founded to where it is today. However, despite being one of the first Indian startups to secure an investment from Berkshire Hathaway, Paytm stayed on the headlines for being involved in multiple controversies. The first major issue was Vijay Shekhar Sharma admitting on video he had shared data with the Prime Minister of India without obtaining consent from the users. While this issue cleared in due time, another one promptly popped up. Paytm again hit the headlines because of the data extortion case levied against the Vice President of Corporate Communications, Paytm, Sonia Dhawan, her husband Roopak Jain, another Paytm employee, Devendra Kumar and his friend, Rohit Chomal. The four of them were accused of creating a plan to extort $1.4 million from Vijay, threatening to release the “personal data” in public otherwise. A typical case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire, right? Three of the four accused are still in jail and are waiting for their case to be heard.
3. The Huawei controversy
Over the last few years, Huawei has been trying to expand all over the United States. However, in the beginning of 2018, a lot of almost sure deals started falling through, citing international political concerns as a major issue. Initially expected to sign major deals with major telecommunication companies like Verizon, Wireless and AT&T, the deals fell through without a warning of any kind. The reasons are attributed to Huawei’s alleged ties with the Chinese Government, which a lot of people saw as a threat, especially in the United States.
4. The Apple affair
Despite being all about introducing a series of new phones in this last year, Apple was involved in quite a heated controversy. Recently, Apple was in the headlines not for the phones released by the company, but for the fact that Apple was accused of “throttling.” Simply defined, throttling is defined as a process wherein the makers slow down the performance of older iPhones to save the phones’ battery life. Although Apple CEO Tim Cook came forward with a public statement saying they should have been more forward and transparent about the practice, the response was considered to be less than satisfactory. Furthermore, one of the major reasons throttling was a concern was the indirect push it gave people to constantly upgrade to new iPhones. The status of this issue now is, two federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Services, are investing the case.
5. The Xerox and Fujifilm Holdings deal
Early in the year (on January 31, 2018, to be precise,) Xerox agreed to enter a merger with Fujifilm Holdings wherein Fujifilm would have a major stake in Xerox. Furthermore, the deal was expected to touch the $ 18 billion mark in the printer industry. However, the deal quickly turned sour with all the fights and quarrels that took place over the deal. Finally, after a long drawn out battle, the reinstated board of Xerox backed off from the deal. Now, Fujifilm is filing a lawsuit of $ 1 billion against Xerox, saying they were facing major damages with regards to the breach of contract!
The year 2018 certainly was interesting, especially when related to all the controversies in the startup world. If you think we missed out on any other issues such as these, comment and let us know!
Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool
We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology. Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done. Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars. Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection. Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient. Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis. Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.
Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors. While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients. Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.
Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing. According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%. The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.
Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch. Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations. India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.
It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.
Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform. This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known. Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic. Originating in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse attracted some major names onto its platform like Elon Musk, Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse. There is however a catch as Clubhouse is currently limited to iOS.
Leher is an Indian made alternative to Clubhouse and is a similar audio sharing and listening startup. Leher also has video support unlike Clubhouse and is also available for both Android and iOS. However, Leher does not have the biggest names in the world on its platform but it does have significant micro influencers and is growing at a rapid pace. Within 180 days of its beta version launch, the company claimed to have its users spend about 44 minutes every day and 250,000 minutes per month for live video sessions.
We at Startup Stories are curious to see which among Leher or Clubhouse would our readers choose to take part in a virtual discussion. Please let us know your answer in the poll below.
Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity
Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to tackle the surging popularity of the Chinese video making app TikTok. As part of its redoubled efforts Facebook is launching a new app named BARS which could be used to create and share raps. The core idea behind the app is rappers could focus on creating content without having to worry about investing heavily in production and equipment.
Facebook said, “Audio production tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use. With BARS, you can select one of our professionally-created beats, write lyrics and record yourself dropping bars (sic.)” The company also added, “BARS auto-suggests rhymes as you’re writing to keep your flow going. You can also jump into Challenge mode and freestyle with auto-suggested word cues. Choose from a variety of audio and visual filters to take your creations to the next level (sic.)”
The app is now available in the Apple App Store in the United States of America. The invites for using BARS would be sent out in batches beginning in the USA and then expanded worldwide.
This would be the second app which Facebook is launching to counter TikTok’s growing popularity. Instagram Reels was the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram (owned by Facebook) and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok. TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus. However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others. This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void. Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database. These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and has gained a lot of popularity in India where Tik Tok continues to be banned.
ALSO READ: 4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels
Google also took advantage of the Indian Government’s ban of the viral application TikTok. Google introduced a new feature on YouTube called YouTube Shorts. The feature for all intents and purposes mimics the same features TikTok used to provide. The new feature mimics many of TikTok’s most popular features, allowing users to make and post 15 second videos with built in creative tools encouraging them to add licensed music and more.
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