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Ola Strengthens War Chest: In Talks With Temasek For Investment

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Ola, India’s largest cab aggregator company is in talks with Singapore based sovereign wealth fund Temasek to add $500 million-$1 billion to its war chest. This round will also see participation from other investors, according to sources close to the development.

This move comes after rumors surfaced regarding a potential investment by SoftBank in the Indian ride hailing major. This deal will value Ola at $ 6-7 billion and would also include a secondary sale of shares by a slew of investors. According to sources, investors who were given Ola stock after Ola’s acquisition of Taxiforsure will be selling their shares along with angel investor Rehan Yar Khan.

The Economic Times reported venture firms Accel India, Bessemer Venture Partners, Helion Venture Partners and the Taxiforsure founders Aprameya Radhakrishna and Raghunandan G., will be selling their stock as well. A local investment firm has been mandated for the sale with the secondary sale pegged at $150 million for a 5% stake. However, sources add, both the primary and secondary sales will be conducted parallelly so that the incoming investor would gain a sizable stake in the company.

Currently, Ola holds a market share of close to 65% – 70% and is locked in an intense battle against global cab aggregator Uber. In 2017, Ola raised $1.1 billion in a funding round led by Tencent Holdings Ltd., and existing investor SoftBank. The company was also in advanced talks to raise an additional $1 billion as a part of the same financing round.  Both the spokespersons for Ola and Temasek said they “do not comment on market speculation.” Interestingly, Temasek, along with SoftBank have invested in Southeast Asia based cab hailing startup Grab.

At present, India’s ride hailing market is currently pegged to be valued at $ 10 billion. Founded in 2011, Ola currently has a presence in 110 cities in India and recently launched its services in Australia as well.

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Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool

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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.

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Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?

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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.

Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?

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Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity

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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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