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!
Lofty Dreams: How The Flying Taxi May Finally Realize Our Desire for the Flying Car
If you thought that the future of transportation was just electric cars and autonomous vehicles, well, there’s a push to take things a little higher.
Certainly, gasoline-free, self-driving cars are all the rage right now, and rightfully so. We are deep into the testing phase of cars that reach level four automation (level five means they are fully autonomous).
However, other transportation technologies are aiming to leave the road behind and take occupants above the fray of cars and traffic, delivering them to their destinations through the air versus across the ground.
While the promise of the flying car introduced in Back to the Future Part II may have missed the mark by a few years, the next decade will see a revolution unlike any since humans first took flight.
What is a Flying Taxi?
Traditionally, the term flying taxi is often confused with established transportation services known as Air Taxis. The latter evokes smallish airplanes or helicopters that shuttle occupants short distances, city to city, usually from one airport to another.
The modern iteration on a flying taxi, however, takes the terminology of a short-haul flight to a whole new level.
What makes the flying taxi concept both unique and potentially viable in a modern setting is the ability for the aircraft to take off and land anywhere – no airport is necessary.
Thanks to vertical ascent and descent capabilities the aircraft currently being tested are more akin to helicopters, but the design isn’t merely limited to well-known methods of flight. In fact, some prototypes now resemble oversized drones and gondola cabs with an array of small rotors attached to the roof.
Many of the designs carry only a handful of riders – from as few as two up to between five and seven, not including the pilot for the non-autonomous concepts. Indeed crewless flight is still one to two decades away, but much like the driverless automobile the drive for flying taxis to one day be pilotless is an aggressive one.
The small size though is the key to the technology proving a significant addition to an already crowded transportation network. So too is the plan for many of these crafts to be electric, eliminating the noise and nuisance of a gas powered engine.
In rising above gridlocked avenues and streets, flying taxis would utilize every aspect of the urban setting. From the ground level (in some areas) to the airspace in between or just above a cities mid and high rise buildings to the rooftops of those same structures, the tech would undoubtedly make the most of its operational field. Most proposals call for those rooftops to transition into launch and landing pads for the taxi network.
An actual airborne taxi service to get occupants from point A to point B within a densely packed city won’t just stop at the city limits though. There are also plans that would expand that reach, flying short haul, low occupant flights between closely networked cities.
Places within an hour’s drive of each other such as Dallas to Fort Worth or Baltimore to Washington DC are obvious candidates. However, taxi flights also offer the opportunity to bridge locales like Boston and New York or Los Angeles and San Francisco.
More Than Just Flying Cars
While on paper the whole enterprise seems ridiculously cool and simple enough, the reality is something different.
Uber, the peer to peer ridesharing behemoth, is one of the most visible players in the race to get the flying taxi up and running with its Elevate and UberAir programs.
In partnership with space agency NASA, Uber is working towards their taxis taking flight in 2020 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Dubai. It’s an aggressive goal considering that Uber remains in the design phase and have yet to produce an actual working, to scale prototype.
But they are undeterred.
Jeff Holden, head of product at Uber, has said, “there’s been a great deal of progress that’s been hard to see from the outside because a lot of this is just hard work at the drafting table.”
He goes on the to note, “we feel really good. It’s been a really interesting process getting our vehicle manufacturing partners aligned on performance specifications so that they’re building vehicles that align with what we need to make Elevate successful. So lots of good progress there.”
Expanding upon the ideas of their uncrewed traffic management protocols or UTM, NASA helps to nail down the infrastructure side of the endeavor.
The UTM system is currently helping to corral the unruly nature of the growing drone industry. In theory, NASA’s UTM would lead to the creation of an entirely new system of air traffic control to guide the taxi flights.
Although the push for localized flying transports has yet to generate the same publicity as that of their earthbound automobile counterparts, Uber is far from the only player in the field. More than 15 different companies are working towards similar goals, and in many cases, a lot of investment dollars are flowing into these efforts to get them off the ground.
For example, Kitty Hawk is a startup owned and fully funded by Larry Page, co-founder of Google. Kitty Hawk is currently testing a recreational hovercraft in New Zealand meant to dovetail into their flying taxi program over the next three years.
Others companies wanting to get in on the action include aviation heavyweights Boeing and Airbus.
Boeing bought Aurora Flight Service Corporation late last year to give both their commercial and military programs in electric and autonomous flight a shot in the arm. Greg Hyslop, the Chief Technology Office for Boeing noted the deal reflects that the “the aerospace industry is going to be changing” and Boeing is aiming to be ready “for whatever that future may be.”
For their part, Airbus made a similar deal, with an investment in startup Blade, which already boasts a charter flight business that is, ironically enough, often cast as the Uber of charters. This in addition to Airbus’ in-house Vahana program.
Elsewhere, showing off at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, was an 18 rotor vehicle called the Volocopter, that until recently was flying around in the futuristic desert playground of Dubai, running test flights.
Straight out of a sci-fi movie, the Volocopter is a German designed pilotless drone that one must really see to believe and appreciate.
Dubai also has a partnership with Chinese firm EHang, whose own ambitions for flying taxis stems from the automation and delivery via drone aircraft of organ transplant materials.
Even part and component manufacturers are playing a pivotal role in making the sci-fi of flying vehicles real.
British engine maker Rolls-Royce has a propulsion system in development for use in flying taxis. They hope to have it available sometime within the next decade.
And yes, some auto manufacturers are getting into the game with Porsche in the early stages of exploring the possibility.
Just How Viable Is A Flying Vehicle?
As with any new technology, growing pains exist. Flying cars are no different. There will almost certainly be a level of turbulence before the population fully embraces the latest tech and its scalable for the masses.
Consider the now ubiquitous iPhone is less than 12 years old and was once a curiosity. The prevalence and the advancements of the device made in just over a decade are definitely remarkable. The hope is that a flying taxi can follow a similar fast-track path to success.
Of course, airborne taxis are a completely different realm. As much as humanity is yearning to see a car fly – and practically – it’s another thing when you ask those same people to take a ride. It will require a convincing sales pitch for commuters to trust a machine that has onboard parachutes as part of its standard equipment.
However, with cities more crowded and street-level gridlock a constant complaint of urban dwellers, it’s not difficult to envision city skies filled with swarms of on-demand taxis.
The CEO of Volocopter, Florian Reuter summarizes the ease of use autonomous flight offers. “Implementation would see you using your smartphone, having an app, and ordering a volocopter to the next voloport near you. The volocopter would come and autonomously pick you up and take you to your destination,” he said.
Discounting that level of simplicity and convenience is hard.
As cool as it all sounds, flying taxis – even with actual testing happening as we speak – remain a construct of the future. We noted that many of the target dates for these aerial taxi programs run between 2020 and 2030. For some, those timelines are highly ambitious.
Even those whose entire reputation derives from their lofty ambitions.
Elon Musk mused to Bloomberg during a recent interview his thoughts on flying cars, and it was less than favorable. “Obviously, I like flying things. But it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution,” he said.
Uber’s Holden, however, disagrees. “We’ve studied this carefully and we believe it is scalable,” he noted, also casting Musk’s comments as “off the cuff” and “random.”
Regardless of if it can actually happen anytime within the next few years, many are banking on it simply being a matter of time before we are living with the daily sight of flying taxi services buzzing over our heads.
While the initial product may prove a bit different from the original vision, few will argue should one of the longest held fantasies of future progress finally come true.
Written by – Anna Kučírková
CES 2019: The Best Innovations Announced
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES,) one of the largest tech shows held at Las Vegas every January, hosts over 180,000 people with ideas, innovations and new creations fit for a future world! With artificial intelligence (AI) playing the central theme at the show, different startups and tech establishments told us where technology is heading toward in the coming years. From self driving suitcases to flying taxis, here’s taking a look all the inventions which were on display at the CES this year!
1. Ovis Luggage
Developed by a Chinese company called Forward X Robotics, the idea behind Ovis Luggage is to help carry your luggage around without having to put in any physical effort. By using facial recognition and movement tracking algorithms, the bags come fully equipped with cameras which track the surroundings perfectly. To amp up the excitement level, the bags have also been designed to stick to their owners at the speed of 6 miles per hour and through the movement tracking algorithms, they can also avoid colliding into people beyond a certain radius! If by chance the bag does go missing, you can track the suitcase by using the inbuilt GPS system! Priced at $ 799, the bags are expected to go on sale within the next few months.
2. Lenovo Smart Clock
A little over a year after announcing their first invention together, Google and Lenovo came back with another cutting edge invention called the Lenovo Smart Clock. The AI enabled smart clock comes with touch sensors and is designed to map your schedule from sunrise to sunset. Starting half an hour before your alarm is scheduled to ring, the smart clock also functions as a Google smart speaker, which means the clock can send music and podcasts (among other things) to your phone through Chromecast. Priced at $ 80, the smart clock will go on sale this spring!
3. Obsbot Tail AI Camera
While the last major innovative improvement (when it came to cameras,) was in the form of the 360 degrees video, the CES summit saw a new breakthrough in this field. China based startup Obsbot built a camera which uses artificial intelligence in the best way possible. Called the Tail, not only can this camera take extremely smooth pictures and videos, it identifies subjects in the shoot and tracks them using AI. With the ability to switch without friction between different models, this camera is perfect for people looking at making videos without the requirement of someone operating the camera manually. Equipped with the ability to shoot up to 4K/60 fps videos and to support HDR 10, the Tail is going to be priced at $ 500 and will be available at Kickstarter.
4. Riding High
At a time when ride sharing cabs like Ola, Uber and Lyft are at the peak of their performance levels, it comes as no surprise, people are looking at creating new ways of sharing rides. A partner of Uber, Bell Helicopters, launched a brand new flying taxi called Nexus Air Taxi. AI empowered, the taxi will seat four passengers and a pilot and will have a range of 150 miles, with the highest speed being 150 mph. Expected to launch next year, the Nexus is looking at being available in major cities by mid 2020.
5. Magic Mirror
Looking at yourself in the mirror and checking yourself out can never be boring! Developed by Electric Mirror Inc., in Everett, Washington, the Savvy Smart Mirror is perhaps the most interesting development in this mix. Designed to resemble a massive touchscreen, the Savvy Smart Mirror is not only a looking glass, but also can be used to show weather reports, play music and connect to your social media accounts as well. Apart from the other features available, the Savvy Smart Mirror also lets you control and adjust the thermostat controls in your room. Initially designed for hotels, the mirror is also going to be designed for homes. Priced at a whopping $ 2,500, the mirror is expected to go on the market soon.
With so many exciting innovations being introduced, the year is definitely dedicated to innovation and creations. What invention are you looking forward to owning the most? Comment and let us know!
Startups Which Achieved The Unicorn Status In 2018
The word unicorn started trending in the beginning of 2018 and to define the term simply, it refers to startups which have a valuation of more than $ 1 billion. As this year comes to a close, here’s taking a look at all the different startups which entered the billion dollar club and earned themselves the unicorn status.
Zomato, a food delivery and restaurant discovery startup based out of Gurugram, raised over $ 200 million in a funding round held in February 2018 and since then, there is no stopping the growth of this particular startup. With multiple rounds of investment from various areas, the valuation of Zomato increased by leaps and bounds and right now, toward the close of 2018, this particular food tech startup has an estimated valuation of $ 1.1 billion!
Founded in the year 2013, service apartment provider Oyo entered the Unicorn Club in September by raising $ 1 billion from existing investor, SoftBank. Founded by Ritesh Agarwal, Oyo has grown so much over the years in the last five years that it is now extremely popular in places like India, China, west Asia, the UK and the UAE.
When Byju’s was initially founded, the startup barely had a major presence in India. However, through the years, Byju’s grew to become the next Indian startup to enter the Unicorn Club! Standing at a valuation of approximately $ 2 billion, Byju’s became the first startup in the edutech field in India to be valued at more than a billion dollars!
4. Paytm Mall
A subset of Paytm, Paytm Mall came to be in 2016 and with an investment of $ 450 million from existing investors, Paytm Mall is now valued at more than one billion dollars! Using the investments to improve their existing features and to better the customer experience, Paytm Mall will likely achieve $ 10 billion in merchandise volume. Furthermore, with the investment Paytm received, the app is looking at allowing customers to walk into offline stores, scan products through QR codes, go through information about the products and finally, purchase the product through the app.
Food delivery startup Swiggy raised $ 1 billion from Naspers and post that, the startup has grown to stand at a valuation of over 3.3 billion dollars! Not only is Swiggy the second food tech startup to enter the billion dollar club, it is also the fastest startup in India which grew to reach that place. The startup entered the Unicorn Club in just under four years, a feat which is truly commendable.
Based out of Chennai, Freshworks is a software as a service (SaaS) provider, which entered the billion dollar club in August this year. Freshworks entered the Unicorn Club post securing a $ 100 million investment from Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners and CapitalG!
With so many startups achieving the unicorn status through sheer hard work and dedication to innovation, the unicorn status is truly a coveted symbol to achieve. If you think we missed out on other startups in this field, comment and let us know!
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