23 Mar 2020
Venture capital hustle on hold

Startup NEWS, Mar 23, 2020

1. Govt launches chatbot on WhatsApp to create awareness about coronavirus

  • The Ministry of Health and MyGov, along with WhatsApp, have launched a helpline number to raise awareness and answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Starting Saturday, WhatsApp users across the country can reach out to the ministry of health on +91 9013151515 for credible information and to verify any uncertain information on precautionary measures or treatment practices.
  • To contact the helpline, citizens should save the WhatsApp number in their phone, and then start a chat by typing “Hi” and sending it to the number, which will prompt them to either type in a query or choose from a list of frequently asked questions. Depending on the question, users will receive verified information in the form of a video, infographic or text.
  • “In times of global crisis such as the COVID 19 Pandemic, it is imperative that we rely only on factually correct and verified information. I commend Facebook for this great effort to synergise facts from credible sources and put it in the public domain through a popular messaging platform like WhatsApp. It shall definitely have a resounding positive impact on public health. When facts are incorrect, it leads to panic and takes the form of a vicious cycle. I appeal to people, transcending all borders, to use precautions that are being given out through official sources and to NOT get misled by myths that are circulated by mischievous elements,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, union minister for health and family welfare, science and technology, earth sciences.

2. Lilium raises another $240M to design, test and run an electric aircraft taxi service

  • Lilium, a Munich-based startup that is designing and building vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft with speeds of up to 100 km/h that it plans eventually to run in its own taxi fleet, has closed a funding round of “over” $240 million — money that it plans to use to keep developing its aircraft, and to start building manufacturing facilities to produce more of them, for an expected launch date of 2025.
  • “We’re working to deliver a brand new form of emissions-free transport,” said a spokesperson. “Doing something like that takes significant time and investment, but the outcome is a valuable business and a chance to have a genuinely positive impact on the way we travel.”
  • This latest investment was an inside round (involving existing, not new, investors) and it closed last month. It was led by Tencent, with participation from other previous backers that included Atomico, Freigeist and LGT. The valuation is not being disclosed, but the company confirms that it is significantly higher than it was in its Series B in 2017. (For some more context, PitchBook estimates that last year the company was valued at around $470 million.)

3. IBM, Amazon, Google and Microsoft partner with White House to provide compute resources for COVID-19 research

  • AWS has already dedicated $20 million to support COVID-19 research while Microsoft has already announced a number of different initiatives, though mostly around helping businesses cope with the fallout of this crisis. Google has now launched its own coronavirus website (though it’s very different from the one Trump once promised) and Alphabet’s Verily is helping Bay Area residents find testing sites if needed.
  • After today’s announcement, the White House shared statements from Microsoft, Google and other partners. “We know that high-performance computing can reduce the time it takes to process massive data sets and perform complex simulations from days to hours,” said Mike Daniels, Vice President, Global Public Sector at Google Cloud, in his statement. “We look forward to participating in this initiative alongside leaders in technology, academia, and the public sector to make more resources available to COVID-19 researchers and to apply Google Cloud computing capabilities toward the development of potential treatments and vaccines.”

4. Curefit scoops up Rs 832 crore funding led by Singapore’s Temasek

  • Integrated health, wellness, and fitness startup Curefit has raised an estimated Rs 832 crore in fresh funding led by Temasek, the Singapore government-backed investment company.
  • The financing round has also seen the entry of two new investors to the Bengaluru-headquartered company’s investor cap table, GableHorn Investments and Ascent Capital.
  • Additionally, several existing investors of Curefit, which include venture capital firms Accel Partners and Chiratae Ventures, along with the investment arm of global consumer goods giant Unilever, have also participated in the latest funding round.
  • Accel, one of the early backers of Curefit, has invested about Rs 107 crore in the company, which was founded in 2016 by Mukesh Bansal, the founder of Myntra, and Ankit Nagori, formerly the chief business officer at Flipkart.

5. Venture capital hustle on hold as video calls replace coffees

  • Cristina Vila was supposed to be in Silicon Valley on Wednesday morning for one of the most important meetings of her career. Instead, the entrepreneur was hunkered down in a vacation home in a remote mountain village in the Pyrenees filled with sacks of rice and dried fruits.
  • She was forced to pitch her two-year-old company, London-based startup Cledara, to a group of investors over a video conference. Vying with other finalists in the Female Founders Competition, Vila presented a demo of her company’s software management tools and fielded questions from a venture capital firm led by philanthropist Melinda Gates using Microsoft Teams. She expects to hear whether she won the $2 million in funding in early April.
  • “First and foremost, we are focused on the safety of our team in the pandemic,” Vila, 37, said via email. “But we have not experienced a slowdown in conversations with investors or put the brakes on our fundraising process.”
  • While governments race to suppress the spread of Covid-19 by restricting travel and discouraging meetups, startup founders are pressing ahead. Tom Hulme, the head of Europe for Google Ventures, said in a tweet on Thursday that he’d just closed its first “fully remote deal” and planned to do more.
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Philomathes (pronounced as fillo-MAY-thus) is a fictional character at VAYUZ (https://www.vayuz.com), who is on a never ending journey called “LEARNING”. In a way, Philomathes embodies VAYUZ - Way of life, which is if you are not learning then you are not breathing. The word Philomathes, comes from the Greek roots philo and philein meaning "to love" and the Greek roots mathos (MAH-thos) and mathesis (muh-THAYSIS) meaning “learning”. Philomathes through his Blogs and Vlogs (Video Blogs) will share his experience, learnings and thoughts. In his tryst to learn and understand, he would also seek answers to questions. So if you would like to join him in this incredible journey called “ life” then feel free to write to him on philomathes.jigyasu@vayuz.com. Always remember, knowledge is all around us, we just need to keep our guards down and senses on.

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