Bengaluru based artificial intelligence startup Niki.ai has raised Rs. 13 crores from San Francisco based fund SAP.io in a Series A funding round. Existing investor Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures along with Haresh Chawla, Partner at True North and Arihant Patni also participated in this round besides some US and German based investors.
The AI startup was found in 2015 by IIT Kharagpur alumni Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi. The startup provides a conversational interface to shop for products and services and tries to make artificial intelligence accessible to everyone. Niki.ai uses a chat interface ‘Niki’ with machine learning technologies to converse with customers.
According to CEO Sachin Jaiswal, this new capital will be used to further strengthen machine learning capabilities, building voice and multilingual functionalities and expanding distribution network.
Presently the 32 member team is working with companies like BookMyShow, OYO, RedBus, Ola, Uber, JustRechargeIt and others, covering over 20 categories. The startup also raised an undisclosed amount in May 2016, from Ratan Tata.
San Francisco based SAP.io was launched by software giant SAP in March this year with an initial investment of $35 million. They seek to expand the SAP ecosystem by making early stage investments in software startups. The managing director of SAP.io Ram Jambunathan, managing director of SAO.io has stated that Niki.ai, with its innovative technical approach, is capable of building a scalable product that can change commerce industry as a whole.
In recent times artificial intelligence based startups have gained significance in the startup ecosystem. Bengaluru based Boxx.ai also raised $500,000 from Unicorn India Ventures and product discovery platform Unbxd raised $12.5 million in Series C funding round.
Carl Pei’s Nothing Invites Retail Investors
Carl Pei said the time came for him to leave OnePlus and focus on other interests, following which he resigned from OnePlus in October 2020. Since then, Pei had been working on his new startup in the audio hardware sector. Carl Pei unveiled the name of his startup which is now called as Nothing, on January 27th, 2021. Since the unveiling of Nothing, Pei’s startup has attracted a lot of attention from Silicon Valley and venture capitalists.
Carl Pei now seems to be emulating his success formula at OnePlus with his new startup Nothing. OnePlus is highly customer centric, because as a company they take in inputs from their consumers and adapt them to their products. Pei seems to be using the same strategy with Nothing, as he invited retail investors to invest in his new startup. Normally a startup raises Series A funding to begin product development and then goes on to Series B and so on. For a normal retail investor to invest in a stock, they could only do it at the time of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) at the time of which the company would be valued highly. However, Carl Pei is letting in investors from the beginning.
Usually the community has to wait for an IPO to invest, but by that time, the valuation is already high. We are inviting you to own Nothing from the very beginning, at the same price as our Series A, and be on board for the entire ride.🚀 https://t.co/mnQtoiJwOV
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) February 16, 2021
This lets the investors be a part of the product development process and makes Nothing more personalised. Moreover the investors would also act as promoters for the products. Currently, there are $ 1.5 million worth of shares available. Users can invest a minimum of € 50 and a maximum of € 20,000. However, the demand to invest is off the charts and was unexpected as Carl Pei confirmed there was an interest worth of $ 10 million from 8,700 users.
WOW we have just reached $10m USD of registered interest in just 7 hours from over 8,700 people! So grateful for the amazing community behind @nothing ! 🥰🥰
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) February 16, 2021
Nothing’s first wireless earphones will be unveiled in the summer of 2021. Nothing aims to build an ecosystem of listening devices which talk to each other. Initial investors of Nothing include the likes of Tony Fadell (Principal at Future Shape and the Inventor of the iPod,) Casey Neistat (YouTuber,) Kevin Lin (Co founder of Twitch,) Steve Huffman (CEO of Reddit,) Liam Casey (Founder and CEO, PCH,) Paddy Cosgrave (Founder of Web Summit,) Kunal Shah (CEO of CRED) and Josh Buckley (CEO of Product Hunt.) Alphabet’s investment arm Google Ventures was the latest investor in Nothing as they invested $ 15 million.
Startup India Seed Fund To Be Disbursed From April 1st
There is no doubt India has a strong foothold in the startup ecosystem. India currently ranks third in the world for the number of startups, next only to the United States of America and China. This was possible due to the Indian Government’s initiatives to develop the startup ecosystem and also due to a strong presence of unicorn startups like PayTM, Zomato, Unacademy and many more.
The Government of India announced it would begin to disburse INR 945 crores seed capital from April 1st, 2021 under the Startup India Seed Fund Scheme in a bid to boost the startup ecosystem in India. These funds would be distributed through select incubator partners all over the country. This scheme will be implemented by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT.)
In a gazette notification, DPIIT announced that Startup India Seed Fund Scheme will provide financial assistance to startups that have been recognised by the DPIIT and incorporated not more than two years ago at the time of application.
— Anil Agrawal (@anilarch) January 29, 2021
The Startup India Seed Fund Scheme will have a common central application on the Startup India portal for startups on an ongoing basis. An Experts Advisory Committee (EAC) will be formulated to oversee and monitor the overall execution of the scheme. The EAC will evaluate and select the incubators for allotment of the seed funds and place measures for the efficient disbursement of funds.
The government also mentioned preference will be given to startups working in the areas of agriculture, education, food processing, healthcare, social impact, waste management, water management, financial inclusion, biotechnology, energy, mobility, defence, space, railways, textiles and oil and gas.
CRED’s Kunal Shah Invests In One Plus Founder Carl Pei’s Startup
Carl Pei is one of the most well known names in the startup circles considering he gave the world one its best smartphone brands OnePlus. Since the debut of OnePlus One. The smartphone maker earned the moniker ‘flagship killer’ and has grown in leaps and bounds. Today OnePlus boasts on an impressive product line up apart from its smartphones and is one of the leading electronic brands in the world. In October 2020, Carl Pei said the time came for him to leave OnePlus and focus on other interests. Since then, Pei had been working on his new startup in the audio hardware sector.
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) October 16, 2020
The name of Carl Pei’s new startup will be unveiled on January 27th, 2021 but in the past three months the unnamed startup received almost $ 7 million in seed funding. The investors include Tony Fadell (Principal at Future Shape & Inventor of the iPod,) Casey Neistat (YouTuber,) Kevin Lin (Co-founder of Twitch,) Steve Huffman (CEO of Reddit,) Liam Casey (Founder and CEO, PCH,) Paddy Cosgrave (Founder of Web Summit) and Josh Buckley (CEO of Product Hunt.)
The latest to invest in Carl Pei’s startup is Indian based CRED founder Kunal Shah who invested an undisclosed amount. Shah is not new to being an angel investor as he already has a portfolio of investing in almost 80 startups. “Carl is working on a new consumer electronics company that I am sure will be a disruptor in the tech industry. I am excited to be part of this journey (sic,)” the CRED founder said in a statement.
While Pei’s startup is headquartered in London, more details will be known on January 27th, 2021.
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