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Ola Investor To Buy Stake in Rival Uber?

Ramya GovindRaj

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Cab aggregator Uber Technologies Inc., has reportedly discussed selling a stake to SoftBank Group Corp and other potential investors. Media company Bloomberg reported Uber’s shareholders and board have discussed a potential sale to the Japan based Internet corporation, citing people familiar with the matter.

Early backer Benchmark led the talks for fresh capital infusion into the company, the report said. This year Uber faced multiple issues from all directions which led to the eviction of CEO Travis Kalanick and a complete leadership upheaval.

So far there are more than 500 investors who own stock in this highly valuable company. But, according to Bloomberg, early investors reducing their stake suggests the Uber scandals have affected the company negatively. The report further added the former CEO was not aware of the proposed sale until recently and generally opposes selling early shareholder stocks. But the Uber board has allowed occasional exceptions to this rule.

According to a person close to the Japanese company, which has already invested in Uber’s prime rivals in India, Southeast Asia and China, SoftBank has no interest in buying Uber stock. They currently back Didi Chuxing in China and are also planning to invest in the Southeast Asia startup Grab. SoftBank have also recently launched a $ 93 billion technology fund with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia along with Mubadala Investment Company of the United Arab Emirates, Apple Inc., Foxconn Technology Group, Qualcomm Incorporated and Sharp Corporation.

Uber has had to cut deals with overseas competitors in China and Russia, due to intense competition and financial issues. Indian taxi aggregator and chief competition for Uber, Ola secured Rs. 1,675 crores in fresh funding from SoftBank in April this year. Softbank would have to face anti competition concerns in India if they had decided to invest in Uber.

The Bloomberg report however, did not state how big the deal would be or what size stake would Uber shareholders sell and at what valuation. 

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Marissa Mayer Creates Tech Startup Incubator

Smruthi Kishore

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Marissa Mayer, the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Yahoo, is starting a brand new business incubator called Lumi Labs in partnership with long time colleague, Enrique Munoz Torres. According to reports, the new business incubator will aim to focus on consumer media and artificial intelligence.

While the incubator in itself is extremely intriguing, what makes the idea all the more exciting is the fact that Mayers is going back to the roots of her work. It is a homecoming of sorts for her as Mayer has rented out Google’s original office in Palo Alto, California, where she had started her career as a 24 year old Stanford University graduate.

This particular Google office has a lot of special things attached to its name. The office was home to online payments company, PayPal, which was started by a host of co founders including Tesla founder, Elon Musk. Marrisa was selected as the 20th employee of Google in the year 1999 and was in fact, the first female engineer to get a job at the largest search engine!

Mayer left the Google office after 13 long years and joined Yahoo in the year 2012 for five long years! Despite being regarded as the Geek Goddess at Google, she failed to revive Yahoo’s stalled business even after trying her best. While not a lot has been revealed about the new business incubator Mayer’s and Torres are working on, the premise in itself looks extremely exciting. With more and more people venturing into the field of artificial intelligence, the fact that Mayer’s business will be combined with consumer media is what will eventually make all the difference!

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Facebook Embroiled In Yet Another Controversy

Smruthi Kishore

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Just days after Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of the Senate, our favourite CEO seems to have gotten himself involved in yet another controversy. The two days of hearing confirmed that Zuckerberg would make sure the Cambridge Analytica data leaks issue would be resolved as soon as possible. While this may have temporarily satiated the growing unrest faced by Facebook, a seemingly off handed made by Zuckerberg sparked off yet another serious issue.

Zuckerberg while responding to U.S. Representative Ben Luján sparked another controversy, as he revealed, “For security reasons, Facebook also collects data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.” While the concerns over the security of WhatsApp’s payment based data appear to be settling down, Facebook’s scenario is different. The matter seems too deep to settle down.

Clarifying the issue, Zuckerberg made a statement saying, “When you make a payment, WhatsApp creates the necessary connection between the sender and recipient of the payment, using Facebook infrastructure. We pass the transaction information to the bank partner, which is called a PSP (payment service provider) and to the NPCI (National Payment Corporation of India,) so they can facilitate the movement of funds between the sender’s and receiver’s bank accounts.”

Furthermore, WhatsApp said it does not divulge all the data revealed by the users and said in a statement, “In some cases, we may share limited data to help provide customer support to you or keep payments safe and secure.” While this may seem like a tender coating on a serious issue, the controversies just seem to keep increasing for Zuckerberg. During the two days Congressional grilling session, it became very apparent that Facebook is primarily owned by the founder.

Thanks to the firm’s stock structure, its public investors, even those with $1 billion (£ 70 million) holdings, do not have much say on the company’s future. So far, the investors haven’t raised their voice over the structuring of the shares. However, with the Cambridge Analytica issue blowing up in his face like it has, the time is now ripe to on the tyranny that has become Zuckerberg. By the looks of things, however, it seems the eccentric founder isn’t ready to give up control just yet. Now, only time will tell about the online social media’s platforms future.

 

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Ola Launching 100,000 Electric Vehicles In The Next 12 Months

Smruthi Kishore

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The SoftBank backed cab aggregator, Ola, announced its plan of adding 100,000 electric cars to its existing fleet. With a majority of these e vehicles being electric rickshaws, the cab aggregator wants to get this process sorted within the next 12 months as a part of the Mission Electric program.

The Bengaluru based company is aiming to get one million electric vehicles on its platform by 2021, to boost the electric vehicle ecosystem in the Country. “Three wheelers are a vital means of transportation and a source of livelihood for millions of people every day. It also represents an immediate opportunity to improve outcomes for all stakeholders while reducing pollution across towns and cities,” Bhavish Aggarwal, Ola co founder and CEO said in a statement.

Ola launched its first pilot electric vehicle program on 26 May, 2017. These pilot vehicles included electric cabs, electric auto rickshaws, electric buses, rooftop solar installations, charging stations, and battery swapping experiments. However, the pilot vehicles failed to take off when they were launched. According to several reports, Ola cab drivers did not like the long waiting time and said the charging centres were not sufficient.

Furthermore, the report also said the drivers wanted to go back to the electric vehicles. More than a dozen electric car drivers of the 20 drivers interviewed in Nagpur, have either returned their electric taxis and switched to diesel, or are planning to do so. Ola also faced several other hurdles with electric vehicles and was even forced to close one following protests from residents angered by traffic jams caused by the taxi drivers.

“The EV program in Nagpur has provided Ola with significant insights into effectively managing vehicles, batteries, and operations. The company plans to continue its experimentation with ways to optimize batteries and charging, to develop a strong business model for EV deployment in the country” the company said in a statement.

The Bengaluru based cab aggregator has also said it is in talks with several state governments to make sure the electric vehicles are deployed properly. The policies used are going to make sure the electric three wheelers are going to be as per the environmental regulations.

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