Wishful spending 💰

Uber’s autonomy, RIL’s bid, and SaaS raise.

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What a steal… 🤯

The Reliance cyclone has swallowed its newest victim, Urban Ladder. The retail arm of RIL swooped the startup for a dismal $24 million, an unbelievable discount compared to the $115 million plus the company had raised from VCs to date.

Logic behind the deal is really simple for Reliance—Urban Ladder gives them a live, best of breed marketplace with decent tech expertise and design chops, securing RIL’s entry into the online furniture arena, and further bolstering Reliance’s broad digital portfolio. Imagine how expensive scaling something like this from the scratch could be!

As far as Urban Ladder goes—despite literally helping pioneer a category, India’s growing digital consumer base was a bit cautious about spending on bulky ticket items online, and took time to warm up to their product offerings. Outcome? The company spent money on marketing, logistics, operations but failed to drive retention. Investors seemed reluctant to pour more money and so here we are.

Anyway, once the deal is wrapped, Reliance will own 96% stake in the venture and has promised to invest another ₹75 crores into the company by 2023.

Promises made, but undelivered 🚕

Uber is apparently in talks to sell its autonomous driving unit, Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), to a prominent self-driving car startup Aurora. The talks have been going on since October and a deal could be reached at any moment. 

Uber’s autonomous unit literally suffers from bad fortune. Off to a banger start under Travis Kalanick’s watch, the company was soon sued by industry leader Waymo for stealing trade secrets. Then in the following years, Travis Kalanick himself  ended up losing his job as CEO and an IPO-bound Uber deprioritized self-driving to cut costs and “appear” more like an established company. Then in 2018, a self driving Uber hit and killed a pedestrian in the US, which led to regulators banning their initiative altogether for a while.

Anyway, as things were starting to look better for the company financially earlier this year, Uber managed to raise from Toyota, Denso and Softbank—some $1 billion at a $7.25 billion valuation to keep autonomy dreams alive. But then COVID slapped them right in the face, again demanding autonomy be pushed down on the list of important things.

Moreover, the autonomous driving industry has broadly hit a wall, as getting cars to the lassssstttt bit of accuracy is taking researchers a LOT more time than earlier imagined. 

Back to the deal—Uber knows it needs focus right now, and autonomy is the last thing they should worry about. Aurora on the other hand has no other business, and is 100% focused on making autonomy work and hopes to build a broad self-driving stack that it can license to auto makers and whoever else is buying. 

Uber’s tech + data assets + talent will give them a HUGE advantage over other emerging startups and considering how eager Uber appears to offload this unit, odds are Aurora gets it all for a huge discount.

Sassy YC raise 💰

By now, it's fair to say that India is one of the hottest SaaS markets in the world. Or perhaps THE hottest, and YC backed InFeedo highlights that. The people analytics software venture raised a promising $3.2 million in an oversubscribed round following Demo Day, led by Bling Capital.

InFeedo has built a chatbot that interacts with employees to gauge their mood, tone, thoughts, to help enterprises at a high-level understand and predict employee churn, dissatisfaction etc. and allocate resources accordingly. Particularly in a remote environment, where minus the physical presence, it's hard for managers to understand how talent feels and thinks, and such tools are emerging to fill a critical gap. 

Anyway, the company has helped more than 300,000 employees engage better with their employers, with the customer list including biggies like GE, MakeMyTrip, Dunkin, & Dominos. InFeedo plans on spending majority of the capital to beef up tech, including experimenting with new technologies such as GPT-3. Sounds lit 🔥

Closing out... 🧐

Bloomberg is reporting that India’s consumer spend on the occasion of dhanteras has squarely disappointed. People seemed reluctant to spend on jewels and other expensive items, and poor demand has left merchants wishing for more. Some thoughts:

  • Merchants surveyed note demand was roughly about ~80% of earlier years

  • Although foot traffic was higher this time, per person spending was lower

Couple reasons for this could be 1. Higher prices of gold and other items this year 2. Savings drying up or consumers building reserves for near term uncertainty 3. Just plain lack of celebrations this time around. 

Anyway, it's hard to judge the market’s mood and implications given soooooo many shifting dynamics right now. Not to forget, COVID cases have been increasing again as well which is weighing on consumers. 

Regardless, 2020 finally does appear like a washout with the much anticipated Diwali recovery spending failing to deliver the HUGE surprise markets were kinda counting on.

What else are we snackin’ 🍿

😎 NFLX readies next assault - Netflix is planning to experiment with the concept of short form video with its latest experiment being First Laughs, the online streaming service will offer a new feed of short form comedy clips drawn from its full catalog. The feed will include videos from both original and licensed programming.

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