Indian edtech giant Byju’s raises $250 million, on track to close another $700 million

Byju’s has raised $250 million in fresh funding and is close to securing an additional $700 million, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch, as the Indian edech giant builds up its war chest ahead of the highly-anticipated IPO of its subsidiary Aakash.

The New York-headquartered investment firm Davidson Kempner has invested $250 million in Byju’s via structured instruments, the people said, requesting anonymity as the information is not public.

The Bengaluru-headquartered startup, India’s most valuable, is finalizing remainder of the capital from a sovereign fund, the people said. That capital, expected to arrive in two weeks, will come into the startup as part of a convertible note that caps the valuation at $22 billion.

Byju’s has maintained its $22 billion valuation throughout the past year even as numerous high-profile startups globally have had severe corrections in their value.

Davidson Kempner declined to comment while Byju’s did not immediately respond. TechCrunch could not identify the sovereign fund. Indian news outlet Moneycontrol earlier reported about Byju’s plans for fresh funding.

The large financing round in Byju’s comes at a time when the Indian startup ecosystem is reeling from a funding crunch amid weakening global economy.

Byju’s is in advanced discussions with bankers including Citi and Goldman Sachs to go ahead with the IPO of Aakash, a physical tutor chain it acquired for nearly $1 billion more than a year ago, TechCrunch reported earlier.

Byju’s has received the approval from its board of directors to go ahead with the IPO of Aakash, and it’s gearing up to file the paper work.

The startup — which prepares students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level courses, and in recent years has expanded to serve all school-going students — has amassed 150 million users who use its learning app while hundreds of thousands of students visit the firm’s brick-and-mortar centres.

Byju’s, like many other edtechs, benefited from the lockdown as more parents explored digital supplementary to continue their kids’ education. The startup spent over $2.5 billion in the past two and a half years to acquire startups globally as the Indian firm expanded and broadened its offerings in several international markets, Prosus Ventures, a backer of Byju’s, disclosed in a filing last year.

The startup generated a gross revenue of $1.258 billion (unaudited) in the financial year that ended in March last year year. Between April and July, the startup logged revenue of $570 million, it said. Byju’s counts Prosus Ventures, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Sequoia Capital India, Silver Lake, Owl Ventures, UBS and Blackrock among its backers and has raised over $6 billion to date.

Indian edtech giant Byju’s raises $250 million, on track to close another $700 million by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Linda Yaccarino leaves NBCUniversal, adding fuel to the Twitter CEO fire

Linda Yaccarino, the woman hotly tipped as the next CEO of Twitter, has not made any statements confirming or denying the rumors. But she is definitely open to work: today, NBCUniversal, where she had been the chairman of its advertising and partnerships group, announced that she is leaving the company, effective immediately.

“It has been an absolute honor to be part of Comcast NBCUniversal and lead the most incredible team,” she said in a statement. “We’ve transformed our company and the entire industry—and I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and grateful to my colleagues and mentors, especially Brian Roberts, Mike Cavanagh and the entire NBCU leadership team.”

Mark Marshall, currently president of ad sales and client partnerships, is taking over the role on an interim basis.

The speculation over who would take over the CEO role Twitter kicked off yesterday, when Elon Musk, Twitter’s owner and current CEO, announced (on Twitter) that he’d found someone to take over the job, noting that “she will be starting in [about] six weeks.”

NBCU’s announcement will be seen by many as an indirect confirmation of the reports that Yaccarino will be the executive in question. It may even mean that an official Twitter announcement might come as soon as today.

(The fact that Musk played by at least some semblance of rules here is interesting: is that the new CEO’s influence at play already? NBCU was once a key media partner for Twitter in its heyday, so playing nice here and coordinating with their own media strategy might be a nod to that too.)

Putting an advertising supremo at the top of the company — Musk says he will stay on as chairman and “CTO, overseeing product, software & sysops” — is a no-brainer and a smart move, considering how dire things have been for the company on the business front since Musk took over last year.

Applying erratic policies to moderation, verification, and other important aspects of Twitter’s user environment; and laying off an enormous proportion of its staff focused on all of those areas plus others critical to revenue generation (including its sales teams) the site has bled advertisers, and with that, revenues.

Now, the big question is whether it will be able to claw some of that back, and if so how it will do so without falling afoul of Musk, and Musk’s accounting priorities.

Musk and Yaccarino already seem to have a bit of a rapport. Last month, Yaccarino interviewed Musk at an advertising conference in Miami, where she seemed complimentary of the business mogul.

“Elon has committed to being accessible to everyone for continual feedback,” she said on stage. “He’s also opened up himself to also participate in the new transparency and safety rules he posted yesterday. Just remember, freedom of speech does not mean freedom of reach.”

She also pointed out to Elon that “the people in this room are [Twitter’s] path to profitability.” Since its inception, Twitter’s most effective way to make money has been advertising, and Musk’s attempts to monetize the blue check have not been successful.

We don’t know whether the two of them were in negotiations at the time, but Yaccarino seemed motivated to sanitize the Twitter brand, encouraging audience members to voice their concerns to Musk in an Q&A.

Yaccarino could appear like a breath of fresh air compared to Musk, who is known to post weed jokes (and worse) late into the night. She knows the advertising business, and advertisers know her well, too. So, large brands would very likely be more comfortable advertising on a Twitter that she operates, rather than Musk. But per her own Twitter follows list, she seems to interface with the same controversial media brands that Musk promotes and follows, like conservative satire outlet The Babylon Bee (once suspended from Twitter for its transphobic jokes) and Chaya Raichik, who runs the anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok. This doesn’t necessarily mean Yaccarino endorses these views, but it’s an interesting data point given the impact Musk’s takeover has had on the safety of LGBTQ+ individuals on Twitter. And under Donald Trump’s presidency, Yaccarino was appointed to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

“If freedom of speech, as he says, is the bedrock of this country, I’m not sure there’s anyone in this room who could disagree with that,” Yaccarino said when interviewing Musk. “Could I get a round of applause for that?”

Updated, 5/12/23, 10:15 AM ET with additional context.

Linda Yaccarino leaves NBCUniversal, adding fuel to the Twitter CEO fire by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

Reddit will allow users to upload NSFW images from desktop

Reddit announced Thursday that it will now allow users to upload NSFW images from desktops in adult communities. The feature was already available on the social network’s mobile app.

The company made the announcement on the r/modnews subreddit, saying that this step will bring feature parity across platforms.

“This now gives us feature parity with our mobile apps, which (as you know) already has this functionality. You must set your community to 18+ if your community’s content will primarily be not safe for work (NSFW),” the company said.

Reddit’s announcement comes days after Imgur said that the image hosting platform was banning explicit photos from May 15. At that time, the company said that explicit content formed a risk to Imgur’s “community and its business”. Banning this type of content would “protect the future of the Imgur community.”

Many of Reddit’s communities rely on Imgur’s hosting services. However, the social network allowing native NSFW uploads through desktop might be the most logical solution going forward.

Image hosting is not the only hurdle for NSFW communities. Last month, when Reddit announced that it will start charging for its API, the company also said that it will limit access to mature content available through its API. This would directly impact the experience on third-party Reddit apps. In yesterday’s announcement about desktop upload for NSFW images, a Reddit staff members

usechatgpt init success

Reddit will allow users to upload NSFW images from desktop by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

TechCrunch Disrupt early-bird sale ends today

It’s all come down to this, the final day of our TechCrunch Disrupt 2023 early-bird sale. We’re not here to judge; we’re simply here to remind you that procrastination is neither your friend nor kind to your wallet.

Last day to early-bird your way to TechCrunch Disrupt 2023

Your last chance to save up to $800 on Disrupt passes ends tonight, Friday May 12, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. You’ll pay less for every pass level, but only if you buy your pass before the deadline. Like, right now. Look how much you’ll save:

  • General Admission: $450. Full Price: $1,250
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  • Expo+: $45. Full Price: $195

Available for select pass types: Save 15% when you purchase for a group of four to nine people. Need passes for a group of 10 or more? Email for assistance.

Why startups love TechCrunch Disrupt

What do you stand to gain from going to Disrupt? Here’s what your contemporaries have to say about their experience:

“Disrupt is laser focused on startups. I’m just starting my own company, and attending Disrupt was an incredible opportunity to connect with companies and learn from the best people in the industry.” — Anirudh Murali, co-founder and CEO, Economize.

“Disrupt is highly valuable for anyone in the idea stage all the way through to having raised angel money. Soak up the pitch deck teardowns and the VC presentations. They’re telling you what they’re looking for, what motivates them, what pushes them to contact you for a meeting. And that’s exactly what every startup raising capital needs to know.” — Michael McCarthy, CEO, Repositax.

“At its heart, Disrupt brings companies together, it allows people to share ideas, talk about them and explore opportunities. If you’re thinking about attending Disrupt, I say go. It’s an important part of growing as a startup.” — Jessica McLean, director of marketing and communications, Infinite-Compute.

TechCrunch Disrupt will take place in San Francisco on September 19–21. This is your last chance to save up to $800. Buy your pass by 11:59 p.m. PDT today, May 12! C’mon, early-bird your way to Disrupt!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

TechCrunch Disrupt early-bird sale ends today by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

China’s phone giant Oppo disbands chip design unit as shipment slumps

Chinese smartphone giant Oppo is disbanding its young chip design unit Zeku as weak global demand forces major handset manufacturers to cut costs and restrategize.

The decision comes as a surprise to those who believe the phone maker is bolstering its in-house chip development as rising geopolitical tensions with the U.S. threatens to cut Chinese firms off key suppliers. In the foreseeable future, Oppo will have to revert back to relying on third-party chip partners.

While Oppo managed to finish Q1 2023 as the world’s fourth-largest smartphone vendor, its shipment dropped 8%, according to market research firm Canalys. Other than Apple, all five of the top phone makers saw a decline in shipments. All in all, the global smartphone market shrank by 13% in the quarter.

Oppo explained its decision to cut its once-promising chip team in a statement issued today: “Due to the uncertainties in the global economy and the smartphone industry, we have to make difficult adjustments for long-term development. Therefore, the company has decided to cease the operation of Zeku.”

In December 2021, Zeku revealed its first self-developed chipset, MariSilicon X, a neural processing unit designed to boost photo and video performance through machine learning, following Apple’s path to bring chip design in-house. Zeku also set up a research base in Palo Alto.

The end of Zeku comes off as abrupt given Zeku was still hiring over 100 positions a month ago, according to its LinkedIn page.

It’s unclear how the move will affect the over 2,000 employees at Zeku, which has been offering competitive salaries to attract talent from other established chip firms. Oppo is reticent about the whereabouts of the team for now, saying only “the company will properly arrange related matters and continue to deliver great products and service to users worldwide.”

Oppo’s retreat from chips signals another struggle from Chinese phone companies to strengthen their control over the semiconductor supply chain. Huawei lost access to advanced chips from the U.S. due to Trump-era sanctions, and its attempt to design its own high-end chips through HiSilicon floundered after the U.S. cut it off major foundries. The company resorted to spinning out its budget handset brand Honor, a move seen as a way to help the subsidiary circumvent the sanctions that have decimated Huawei’s consumer business.

China’s phone giant Oppo disbands chip design unit as shipment slumps by Rita Liao originally published on TechCrunch

Twitch’s new clip editor makes sharing vertical video on YouTube and TikTok a snap

Twitch clip editor for vertical short form video clips

Twitch released a small but mighty product update on Thursday, introducing a new tool that lets streamers craft and share short, vertical video clips in seconds.

The new clip editor is accessible through the clips manager in the creator dashboard. Clicking “edit and share clip” opens the slick editing tool, which keeps things simple. You can select a split view that captures two rectangular portions of a clip at once (the game stream and the camera, usually) or keep it streamlined with a full vertical snippet from the clip. The only other option is a toggle for including your channel name, which slots in on the upper portion of the clip.

Within the clip editor, Twitch offers direct integration for social sharing to YouTube Shorts. Direct sharing to TikTok or Instagram Reels isn’t supported for now — and it’s easy enough to do manually — but Twitch plans to add more integrations in the future.

“We’re committed to helping streamers grow and this is just one piece of our larger strategy to help streamers find new viewers while making it easier to promote their content on and off Twitch,” the company said of the update.

Twitch streamers will likely be relieved that a workflow that previously sent them to third-party tools like StreamLadder is now built into the platform itself. The feature update ultimately makes Twitch feel more connected to the broader social media ecosystem, a boon for a platform that plays well with others and one for the streamers who rely on cross-promotion to build their audiences.

Unlike other social media platforms suffering from multi-year identity crises (looking at you, Instagram), Twitch has long been single-mindedly committed to its core product: long form livestreaming. Twitch’s fresh embrace of vertical, short form video is a small thing, but it’s easy to imagine how the company could further leverage clips to help new streamers get discovered.

Twitch’s emphasis on livestreaming is a double-edged sword. Discovery remains a pain point on the platform — and one that keeps creators bound to strenuous streaming schedules, incentivizing more time live above everything. But the company’s leadership seems well aware of that fact, realizing that keeping streaming sustainable over the long haul is one of the biggest challenges facing the platform today.

Even with its laser-focus on livestreaming, there’s nothing stopping Twitch from getting creative with short form video to solve some of its discovery woes. For now, the new clip editor is just a handy solution for overworked creators, but Twitch might be smart to build it into something much bigger down the road.

Twitch’s new clip editor makes sharing vertical video on YouTube and TikTok a snap by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

Tinder will remove social handles from bios as part of its updated community guidelines

Tinder is updating its community guidelines in a bid to keep the dating app safe and respectful, the company announced today. As part of the updates, Tinder will automatically remove social handles from bios and discourage users from posting private conversations with their matches on other platforms.

Tinder says its platform is not a place where users should be looking to gain followers on their social channels, which is why it will remove handles from public bios and profiles. Although you can no longer display your social handles, you will still be able to share your Instagram profiles with matches using Tinder’s Instagram integration.

The platform has never allowed users to promote their business on Tinder, but is now introducing a firmer policy that makes it clear that Tinder is for making personal connections, not business ones.

“Tinder is not a place to promote businesses to try making money,” the company wrote in a press release. “Members shouldn’t advertise, promote, or share social handles or links to gain followers, sell things, fundraise, or campaign. To help combat this, Tinder will remove social handles from public bios.”

As for the updates about sharing private Tinder chats on other platforms, the company outlines that users should never post private chats they’ve had with matches unless they have been given consent to do so. The updated policy comes as Tinder chats often go viral on platforms like Twitter or TikTok, as people like to share their funny, strange or wholesome interactions with others on the dating app. However, Tinder believes that “conversations on Tinder are meant to be just that — conversations on Tinder.”

In addition, Tinder is making it clear that an account should be for a single person, and that users in poly and open relationships should create separate accounts for each partner. This means that a couple should not use a single account to find a potential partner. Tinder also notes that users should use its recently released Relationship Types profile feature to indicate if they’re looking for ethical non-monogamy, open relationships or polyamory.

The updated guidelines outline that users should never create fake personas or pretend to be someone else, or file false reports against others. Tinder is also reminding users to respect others’ boundaries, noting that users shouldn’t overshare on the platform. The company is encouraging users to take advantage of its in-app features to be clear about their goals and relationship types.

“The majority of Tinder’s members are 18-25, and Tinder is often their first dating experience,” said Ehren Schlue, SVP of Member Strategy at Tinder, in a press release. “To guide these younger daters as they start their dating journey, Tinder is using this policy refresh to remind and educate members about healthy dating habits — both online and in real life.”

The updated community guidelines come as Tinder recently introduced an AI-powered update to its Photo Verification feature that allows users prove to others they’re neither a bot nor a catfisher. In the past, users would take pictures of themselves to become verified on the dating app and receive a blue check. Now, Tinder is strengthening this process by requiring a video selfie instead of photos. It will also soon allow users to restrict their chats to only those members who are also Photo Verified.

Tinder will remove social handles from bios as part of its updated community guidelines by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Getaround aims to scale car-sharing platform with HyreCar acquisition

Peer-to-peer car sharing company Getaround said Thursday it will acquire the assets of HyreCar, another car sharing marketplace, for $9.45 million. Getaround expects to realize up to $75 million of run rate annualized gross booking value from the deal, which the company says will contribute to positive adjusted EBITDA profitability.

“At this acquisition price point, we believe this deal will deliver strong long-term value for Getaround stakeholders,” said Sam Zaid, CEO and founder of Getaround, in a statement.

Getaround’s stock soared 135% in after hours trading on the news, reaching a high of $0.80. That spike was still not enough to bring Getaround back into compliance with the New York Stock Exchange, which issued a delisting warning in January because the company’s stock price was trading below the $1 mark over a 30 trading-day period.

Getaround first debuted on the public markets in December after merging with a special purpose acquisition company. The combined company’s stock began trading at around $10 per share, but promptly plummeted. To date, Getaround’s stock has lost 96% of its value.

Since the start of 2023, Getaround has received separate delisting warnings from the NYSE because its global market capitalization over a 30 trading-day period was less than $50 million and because it did not file timely earnings reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Getaround still hasn’t reported fourth-quarter and full year 2022 earnings, despite the fact that we are well into the second-quarter of 2023 and other companies are now reporting first-quarter earnings. A spokesperson for the company said the delay is because Getaround is “finalizing a very technical post-SPAC accounting process and audit” and expects to report “in the coming weeks.”

Until then, the best insight we have into Getaround’s financials is the “selected preliminary unaudited financial results” for 2022 that the company shared on March 31, which say Getaround closed the year with $64.3 million in cash and cash equivalents. That money will likely be used to fund the HyreCar acquisition; Getaround said it will pay for the startup with cash on hand and expects the deal to close May 16.

Getaround has historically pursued a strategy of scaling aggressively, which has given it a network that Getaround claims is 20x larger than its nearest competitor. That scale, however, has come at the cost of sustainability. According to Getaround’s third-quarter 2022 earnings, the company’s revenue declined and operating costs increased for the first three quarters of 2022 compared to the year prior.

The HyreCar acquisition might result in a similar outcome, providing Getaround with scale and reach while ultimately increasing costs of operations.

HyreCar’s assets include access to its community of tens of thousands of gig drivers, but that healthy demand was part of why HyreCar declared bankruptcy. The company reportedly had more demand than it did access to vehicles, and had been attempting to solve that problem by forming a joint venture with AmeriDrive, a large fleet operator. That deal fell through, followed by an $8 million debenture transaction that never closed and mounting legal fees from an array lawsuits and investigations. HyreCar filed for bankruptcy in February.

Used car rental dealership Holmes Auto had agreed to buy HyreCar for $7.75 million, but Getaround outbid the company at auction earlier this week.

HyreCar brings other assets to the table, including extensive user data and strong risk management solutions, according to Zaid. We’ll keep our eyes on how the buy contributes to Getaround’s financials and operational costs in the long run.

Getaround aims to scale car-sharing platform with HyreCar acquisition by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

Nexon takes 20-year-old MapleStory into web3 with Haechi’s help

Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, is wading into web3 like some of its peers in Asia. The developer of MapleStory is creating a blockchain-powered ecosystem based on the twenty-year-old massively multiplayer online game, where players can trade in-game assets like outfits, equipment and virtual pets in the form of non-fungible tokens.

Around 160,000 people in South Korea are still playing MapleStory today, the company wrote recently in a blog citing data from KMS.

Blockchain games have been cropping up everywhere in the past two years, but few have entered the mainstream and even the popular ones, like the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, have been short-lived.

Nexon pledges to create more sustainable crypto games. “There was a time when the perception of ‘blockchain = P2E’ was widely accepted, and there was a lot of talk about using blockchain to make games that make money,” Angela Son, Nexon’s blockchain business development and partnership lead, told TechCrunch in a text message.

“But since, the market has changed, and there are more creators who want to use blockchain to seriously develop games.”

It’s still too early to say if MapleStory N, Nexon’s first blockchain game, and MapleStory Universe, the NFT ecosystem based on the classic game’s IP, will ever reach the heights of their web2 version. Nexon has a rosy outlook, of course.

“MapleStory has more than 180 million accumulative global users, and there are even more people who love the MapleStory IP. We anticipate that MapleStory N and MapleStory Universe will be enjoyed by many players,” said Son.

The main criticism of play-to-earn games is their flawed economies, where gamers purchase NFTs only to create and sell these digital goods to those who buy in after them. Nexon isn’t going down the pyramid scheme-like path.

In MapleStory N, there is no cash shop and players acquire items through gameplay like completing quests and defeating monsters. If people don’t get what they want, they can acquire items from others through the ecosystem’s secondary NFT marketplace. Eventually, players can also trade their in-game assets on external marketplaces, according to Son.

Onboarding the masses

Nexon is working with a handful of partners to enable its transition into web3. The firm already announced that the digital goods of MapleStory Universe will trade on Polygon, an Ethereum scaling solution that’s popular amongst game developers. Today, the South Korean gaming firm said it’s teaming up with another web3 company, Haechi Labs, a crypto auditing and wallet solution provider used by over 500 companies.

“A host of gaming companies started knocking on our door after seeing Axie Infinity’s success since Haechi Labs has been offering smart contract security auditing and wallet solutions in the past 5 years,” the company’s CEO Geon-gi Moon told TechCrunch in a written response.

“Nowhere else do you see such a high number of executives at AAA game companies so bullish on integrating their games with blockchain, but South Korea.”

Most existing decentralized applications require users to log in via their crypto wallets. But what if people have no prior web3 experience? Haechi is touting Face Wallet, which allows users to log into crypto games like MapleStory N through their existing accounts with Google, Facebook, Apple, Discord and Kakao.

Once logged in, users will gain access to their Face Wallet accounts. Anyone who’s used a self-custodial wallet like MetaMask knows the stress of trying to keep their 16-word seed phrase safe. Losing one’s seed phrase means losing access to the wallet permanently. Custodial solutions are easy to use, but on the other hand, asset owners are exposed to the risk the platform could get hacked or go bust.

Face Wallet is trying to solve the custodian dilemma by offering a self-custodial wallet that allows users to log in with a six-digit password and gives them the option to recover passcodes.

This is how it works: When a user creates a wallet via Face Wallet, its key is split into two encrypted “shares”, explained Moon. Share 1 is stored in a secure infrastructure environment and, usually, also in the user’s device. Share 2 is kept in the Face Wallet team’s repository. The decrypted keys are never shared with Haechi; nor can Haechi decrypt either of the encrypted keys, added Moon.

Haechi isn’t the only one trying to make self-hosted wallets more user-friendly. The Ethereum community itself is tackling this issue through a major technical upgrade called “account abstraction” and developers, such as venture-backed Soul Wallet, are racing to introduce wallets powered by smart contract capabilities.

Nexon takes 20-year-old MapleStory into web3 with Haechi’s help by Rita Liao originally published on TechCrunch

NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino Is in Talks to Become Twitter CEO

Yaccarino is chairman of global advertising and partnerships at NBCU. Twitter owner Elon Musk said earlier he had picked a new chief executive without naming the person.