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Main article: Vision Fund

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As a top manager leaves amid fundraising woes, SoftBank’s vision looks dimmer — and schadenfreude abounds

01:32 | 5 February

Every once in a while, an organization implodes so fantastically that it’s hard in retrospect to understand why another outcome once seemed possible. With every passing day, SoftBank — which shook up the investing world with the largest investment fund ever pooled, and then seemed to use its capital as a weapon — looks to become one such spectacular failure.

The very newest development centers on the departure of Michael Ronen, a former Goldman Sachs banker who joined SoftBank in 2017 and became the managing partner of U.S. investments at SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, where he led the firm’s transportation investments, including in Getaround, GM Cruise, Nuro, and Park Jockey.

Ronen tells the Financial Times that he has been “negotiating the terms of my anticipated departure” in recent weeks. Meanwhile, sources tell the FT that his departure is tied directly to the failure of SoftBank to raise any outside investment for the company’s second Vision Fund.

The FT further reports that other top lieutenants may also be on their way out, including SoftBank vice chairman Ron Fisher, who has been a part of SoftBank and a close advisor to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son since 1995.

SoftBank is denying that Fisher is “going anywhere.” We’ve meanwhile reached out to Ronen for further information, as well as to the Vision Fund’s press relations office.

It was in mid-summer last year that the first hints of trouble began to surface publicly. Son himself began raising questions when he announced in July that the Japanese conglomerate’s second Vision Fund had reached $108 billion in capital commitments based on a series of memoranda of understandings, according to the company.

It didn’t take long for industry observers to start wondering whether the money was real. When we asked SoftBank why it was counting unrealized gains as profits in its first fund, for example, or whether investors in its first fund would accept SoftBank’s plans to use proceeds from its fund to invest capital on behalf of fund two (mixing money from different funds is not kosher in the world of VC), two spokespersons declined to comment, pointing us instead to an online presentation by Son on SoftBank’s investor relations page that answered none of our questions.

Soon after, the WSJ reported that SoftBank planned to loan employees up to $20 billion so that they could buy stakes in its second fund. The news raised eyebrows. But when the Financial Times learned that some executives were being encouraged to borrow more than 10 times their base salary and that some employees worried that opting out might hurt their career, it was apparent the problems ran far deeper than outsiders had imagined.

Even still, few anticipated the speed with which the crown jewel of SoftBank’s first Vision Fund — WeWork — would fall apart. Though the coworking unicorn was thought wildly overvalued by many in both the real estate and tech industries, it was difficult to imagine a scenario in which SoftBank — to rescue its more than $18 billion investment in WeWork — would pay so richly to get rid of its founding CEO, scuttle its IPO plans, then try to run the company itself.

As it happens, those who’ve worked with Son in the past seem least surprised by what’s happening now. Last fall, a former associate didn’t mince words when it came to Son, telling us, not for attribution, “If you are dumb enough to hand your wallet to him, he’s a genius at making money on his own terms for him and by extension, I guess, a small circle of shareholders and advisers. But if you [disagree with him in way], you are chum.”

Another source described the first Vision Fund, which relied heavily on debt and promised its providers an annual coupon of 7%, as “akin to a check-kiting scheme, where you hope someone isn’t cashing that check at the bank before you’ve spent the money and earned more and can put it back.” Son has “parasitized Japanese banks,” added this person. (In November, the Nikkei Asian Review reported that SoftBank was in talks to raise billions of dollars more from Japanese banks, but that having lent so much money to SoftBank already, they were nervous about taking on more risk.)

Meanwhile, the first Vision Fund’s biggest backers — Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi — which contributed $45 billion and $15 billion, respectively — have become concerned about the perception of pouring any more money into SoftBank funds following “flops from the first Vision Fund,” reports the FT.

It’s a very different picture than one drawn by Vision Fund investor Caroline Brochada, who we interviewed on stage in December, and who was asked whether WeWork and other challenges would change either the scope of the mandate of the Vision Fund in 2020. At the time, just two months ago, she suggested it would not.

“The mission of investing in great teams, in mission-driven companies that are changing the way people live, will not change . . . SoftBank and Masa himself are very long-term thinkers, and hopefully, the message that founders took away from WeWork and the way SoftBank behaved after the IPO didn’t go forward is that we really will work with founders for a long time, and we will hold stock in the public markets, because we believe that this is a 10-, 20-, 100-year vision.”

Brochado, who joined SoftBank a year ago from Atomico, added at the time: “[T]he Vision Fund is two years old. And people sometimes forget that. So I think there’s a lot of learnings. There is definitely going to be a way forward. And the mission will remain the same.”

If there is a second Vision Fund, of course.

In addition to WeWork, SoftBank hasn’t seen the return it was expecting from Uber, whose market cap is currently $65 billion. (It invested in the company when it was still privately held at a $49 billion valuation, buying up a little more than 16 percent of the company’s shares.) SoftBank parted ways in December with the dog-walking company Wag, into which it had poured $300 million just two years earlier. Oyo, a SoftBank-backed, India-based, is also part of a “bubble that will burst,” according to a former operations manager at the company who talked earlier this month with the New York Times.

Another blow for Son: his high-profile wager on Sprint, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless provider, which he needs desperately to merge with T-Mobile, but which is stuck in a kind of limbo, sued by 13 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia over concerns that the merger would hurt competition and raise prices for users’ cell service.

In the meantime, layoffs at companies that raised huge amounts from the Vision Fund have become routine, including at Oyo, Rappi, Getaround, Zume, and Fair, to name just a handful.

All have led to a growing number of questions over Son’s deal-making prowess, questions that look to grow louder with Ronen’s departure.

It would undoubtedly be far worse if not for SoftBank’s 25% stake in Alibaba, whose market cap has reached $600 billion. Instead, the legend of Son as a visionary investor starts with his $20 million bet in 2000 on the Chinese conglomerate.

For now, at least, that’s also where it appears to stop.

 


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Uber’s self-driving unit starts mapping Washington D.C. ahead of testing

23:53 | 23 January

Uber Advanced Technologies Group will start mapping Washington D.C., ahead of plans to begin testing its self-driving vehicles in the city this year.

Initially, there will be three Uber vehicles mapping the area, a company spokesperson said. These vehicles, which will be manually driven and have two trained employees inside, will collect sensor data using a top-mounted sensor wing equipped with cameras and a spinning lidar. The data will be used to build high-definition maps. The data will also be used for Uber’s virtual simulation and test track testing scenarios.

Uber intends to launch autonomous vehicles in Washington D.C. before the end of 2020.

At least one other company is already testing self-driving cars in Washington D.C. Ford announced in October 2018 plans to test its autonomous vehicles in Washington, D.C. Argo AI is developing the virtual driver system and high-definition maps designed for Ford’s self-driving vehicles.

Argo, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen, started mapping the city in 2018. Testing was expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019.

Uber ATG has kept a low profile ever since one of its human-supervised test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona in March 2018. The company halted its entire autonomous vehicle operation immediately following the incident.

Nine months later, Uber ATG resumed on-road testing of its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh, following a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation decision to authorize the company to put its autonomous vehicles on public roads. The company hasn’t resumed testing in other markets such as San Francisco.

Uber is collecting data and mapping in three other cities in Dallas, San Francisco and Toronto. In those cities, just like in Washington D.C., Uber manually drives its test vehicles.

Uber spun out the self-driving car business in April 2019 after closing $1 billion in funding from Toyota, auto-parts maker Denso and SoftBank’s Vision Fund. The deal valued Uber ATG at $7.25 billion, at the time of the announcement. Under the deal, Toyota and Denso are providing $667 million, with the Vision Fund throwing in the remaining $333 million.

 


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Layoffs reach 23andMe after hitting Mozilla and the Vision Fund portfolio

22:10 | 23 January

Layoffs in the technology and venture-backed worlds continued today, as 23andMe confirmed to CNBC that it laid off around 100 people, or about 14% of its formerly 700-person staff. The cuts would be notable by themselves, but given how many other reductions have recently been announced, they indicate that a rolling round of belt-tightening amongst well-funded private companies continues.

Mozilla, for example, cut 70 staffers earlier this year. As TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois reported earlier in January, the company’s revenue-generating products were taking longer to reach market than expected. And with less revenue coming in than expected, its human footprint had to be reduced.

23andMe and Mozilla are not alone, however. Playful Studios cut staff just this week, 2019 itself saw more than 300% more tech layoffs than in the preceding year and TechCrunch has covered a litany of layoffs at Vision Fund-backed companies over the past few months, including:

Scooter unicorns Lime and Bird have also reduced staff this year. The for-profit drive is firing on all cylinders in the wake of the failed WeWork IPO attempt. WeWork was an outlier in terms of how bad its financial results were, but the fear it introduced to the market appears pretty damn mainstream by this point. (Forsake hope, alle ye whoe require a Series H.)

The money at risk, let alone the human cost, is high. Zume has raised more than $400 million. 23andMe has raised an even sharper $786.1 million. Rappi? How about $1.4 billion. And Oyo? $3.2 billion so farEvery company that loses money eventually dies. And every company that always makes money lives forever. It seems that lots of companies want to jump over the fence, make some money and rebuild investor confidence in their shares.

It’s just too bad that the rank-and-file are taking the brunt of the correction.

 


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Rappi and Oyo pare staff as Vision Fund companies trim costs, target profits

23:09 | 10 January

This week we’ve covered layoffs at unicorns both inside the Vision Fund and out. This afternoon we add two more to our list: Oyo and Rappi.

The staff reductions are surprising — and not. They are surprising, as Oyo (India-based, low-cost hotels) and Rappi (Latin America-focused e-commerce) were bright lights in the Vision Fund’s crown. And the layoffs are not surprising as other famous unicorns have recently cut staff in a bid to reduce costs, diminish losses and aim closer to profitability.

Our net lack of shock is underscored by the Vision Fund itself, which signaled late last year that it wants portfolio companies to get profitable and get public. The cuts are therefore a little more than unsurprising; we should have anticipated them.

 


0

Lucky coffee, unicorn stumbles, and Sam Altman’s YC wager

17:00 | 10 January

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we had TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm and

on hand to dig into the news, with
on the dials and more news than we could possibly cram into 30 minutes. So we went a bit over; sorry about that.

We kicked off by running through a few short-forms to get things going, including:

  • Alex wanted to talk about his recent story on Lily AI’s $12.5 million Series A. Canaan led the round into the ecommerce-focused recommendation engine that has a cool take on what people care about.
  • Danny talked about the acquisition of Armis Security to Insight for $1.1 billion, the VC round for self-driving forklift startup Vecna, and an outside-the-Valley round for Houston-based HighRadius.

Turning to longer cuts, the team dug into the latest from SoftBank, its Vision Fund, and the successes and struggles of its enormous startup bets. Leading the news cycle this week were layoffs at Zume, a robotic pizza delivery venture that is no longer pursuing robotic pizza delivery. Now it’s working on sustainable packaging. Cool, but it’s going to be hard for the company to grow into its valuation while pivoting.

Other issues have come up — more here — that paint some cracks onto the Vision Fund’s sunny exterior. Don’t be too beguiled by the bad news, Danny says, venture funds run like J-Curves, and there are still winners in that particular portfolio.

After that, we turned to China, in particular its venture slowdown. The bubble, in Danny’s view, has burst. The story discussed is here, if you want to read it. The short version for the lazy is that not only has China’s venture scene slowed down dramatically, but startups — even those with ample capital raised — are dying by the hundred. But one highly caffeinated Chinese startup continues to find growth in the world’s greatest tea market.

Finally we hit on the Sam Altman wager and the latest from Sisense, which is now a unicorn. All that and we had some fun.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

 


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As Zume layoffs loom, a look back at SoftBank’s troubled investing year

20:56 | 7 January

Changing from the highest-flying conglomerate and most famous capital vehicle to troubled icons of misplaced exuberance, it’s tough to be SoftBank and its Vision Fund today. Despite the occasional good story, it’s been a tough run for the pair.

But lost in the continuous drip of bad news concerning the Japanese firm and its globally backed, gravity-bending fund is the scale of its myriad problems. When taken into account as a group, however, it’s easier to see how many things have go south in rapid succession. So let’s do that.

What follows is a semi-comprehensive list of what’s gone wrong for SoftBank and the Vision Fund recently, starting in the second quarter of last year. You could go back further, but by my estimation, we’re picking up when things began to go sideways for a number of Vision Fund bets at once.

Timeline

April, 2019: Layoffs at Wag! One of the SoftBank Vision Fund’s oddest bets, a $300 million bet on a dog-walking startup, ran into trouble last April when it executed its second round of layoffs.

May, 2019: Uber’s IPO disappoints. Uber’s IPO did not go well. After setting an initial $44 to $50 per-share IPO price range, the company failed to boost the interval, instead pricing at $45 per share. That valued the company at $75.46 billion (undiluted), far under what the company had hoped and bankers had intimated it might be worth. Uber then opened down, and is worth just $31.95 per share today, or about $54.5 billion. SoftBank had invested in the company at both $48 billion and $70 billion.

June, 2019: New CEO at Brandless Another huge bet by SoftBank, Brandless, got a new CEO after losing its preceding chief executive in March due to “tensions with SoftBank.” That long of a CEO gap and the implied executive turmoil wasn’t great news for the company that SoftBank had purchased 40% of for $240 million.

August-October, 2019: WeWork files, falls apart. WeWork fell apart during the third and fourth quarters of 2019. The company’s IPO filing was a hot mess, its management conflicted, its investors oddly passive until the car was out past the cliff and over the water, and the real estate business was overvalued, to boot. It also lost a lot of money. After pulling the IPO and taking a huge loss, WeWork bailed out its former star investment and is working to save it.

September: Compass loses several executives. Compass, another SoftBank-backed startup that had raised more than $1 billion, lost a number of executives that Crunchbase News summarized as follows: “Compass Execs Leave In Another SoftBank-Fueled Real Estate Exodus.”

October, 2019: Layoffs at Fair. Fair, valued at $1.2 billion after raising a half billion from SoftBank and others, laid off 40% of its staff, TechCrunch reported in October. And it lost its CFO.

December, 2019: Layoffs at Katerra. There were layoffs at SoftBank-backed, modular construction startup Katerra a few times during 2019 it seems, but the one we recalled best was the decision to cut 200 jobs and shutter a factory. That happened in December.

December, 2019: OneConnect IPO goes poorly. OneConnect, a SoftBank-backed, China-based company that provides tech to banks, priced its IPO at $10 per share in December, under the $12 to $14 per share range it had hoped for. The company went public worth $3.7 to $3.8 billion, depending on your sums. Both figures were drastically under the Vision Fund’s $7.45 billion post-money valuation that was affixed during a huge private investment. The value of the company has risen since, however, to just over $12 per share.

December, 2019: SoftBank gives up on Wag. SoftBank gives up on Wag, selling its stake back to the company at a loss.

Earlier on and January, 2019: Problems at OYO. It’s hard to draw a start and end to OYO’s problems. You could point to the odd banking behind its latest funding round, which raised eyebrows. Or this from October. But it seems that lately things have been even more worrisome. A New York Times piece published at the start of the year noted that “at least part of Oyo’s rise in India was built on practices that raise questions about the health of its business.” SoftBank is a heavy backer of Oyo.

December, 2019: Brandless revenue down by half. The Wall Street Journal reports that Brandless’s “sales volume as of August had fallen by about half from a year earlier.”

January, 2019: Knives out for Uber CEO. A piece in The Information makes it clear that some folks historically associated with Uber are not pleased with its CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. The company’s share price remains depressed and the company’s unprofitability appears stickier than some anticipated. Including the CEO.

January, 2019: Layoffs at Zume Pizza. This was not a surprise. But it was sad all the same (layoffs impact working people who have bills to pay; fret not for the capital class). Zume intends to shed 80% of its staff, despite having raised $375 million from the Vision Fund. Perhaps robotic pizza cars, or whatever their last idea was, were a bit far off.

January, 2019: The Vision Fund dinged for breaking term sheets. Finally, Axios recently reported that the Vision Fund was breaking term sheets with founders, a big no-no in venture. This led to

, an almost unthinkable occurrence back when the Vision Fund was hot — and feared.

And that’s just what I recalled this morning. I’m sure there are other, recent examples of issues with SoftBank and Vision Fund investments.

Will there be a Vision Fund 2 as it was originally detailed? If not, who is going to keep the Vision Fund’s unicorns afloat? Is there enough capital in the market to do so, without a Vision Fund 2?

 


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Startups Weekly: Oyo’s toxicity + A farewell

16:00 | 4 January

Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week I wrote about the startups we lost in 2019. Before that, I noted the defining moments of VC in 2019.

Unfortunately, this will be my last newsletter, as

for a new opportunity. Don’t worry, Startups Weekly isn’t going anywhere. We’ll have a new writer taking over the weekly update soon enough; in the meantime, TechCrunch editor Henry Pickavet will be at the helm. You can still get in touch with me on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

If you’re new here, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here. Lots of good content will be coming your way in 2020.


India’s WeWork?

TechCrunch reporter Manish Singh penned an interesting piece on the state of Indian startups this week: As Indian startups raise record capital, losses are widening (Extra Crunch membership required). In it, he claims the financial performance of India’s largest startups are cause for concern. Gems like Flipkart, BigBasket and Paytm have lost a collective $3 billion in the last year.

“What is especially troublesome for startups is that there is no clear path for how they would ever generate big profits,” he writes. “Silicon Valley companies, for instance, have entered and expanded into India in recent years, investing billions of dollars in local operations, but yet, India has yet to make any substantial contribution to their bottom lines. If that wasn’t challenging enough, many Indian startups compete directly with Silicon Valley giants, which while impressive, is an expensive endeavor.”

Manish’s story came one day after The New York Times published an in-depth report on Oyo, a tech-enabled budget hotel chain and rising star in the Indian tech community. The NYT wrote that Oyo offers unlicensed rooms and has bribed police officials to deter trouble, among other toxic practices.

Whether Oyo, backed by billions from the SoftBank Vision Fund, will become India’s WeWork is the real cause for concern. India’s startup ecosystem is likely to face a number of barriers as it grows to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley.

Follow Manish here or on Twitter for more of TechCrunch’s growing India coverage.


Venture capital highlights (it’s been a slow week)


How to find the right reporter to pitch your startup

If you’ve still not subscribed to Extra Crunch, now is the time. Longtime TechCrunch reporter and editor Josh Constine is launching a new series to teach you how to pitch your startup. In it he will examine embargoes, exclusives, press kit visuals, interview questions and more. The first of many, How to find the right reporter to pitch your startup, is online now.

Subscribe to Extra Crunch here.


#EquityPod

tc equity podcast ios 2 1

Another week, another new episode of TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, Equity. This week, we discussed a few of 2019’s largest scandals, Peloton’s strange holiday ad and the controversy over at the luggage startup Away. Listen here and be sure to subscribe, too.

For anyone wondering about changes at Equity following my departure from TechCrunch, the lovely Alex Wilhelm (founding Equity co-host) will keep the show alive and, soon enough, there will be a brand new co-host in my place. Please keep supporting the show and be sure to recommend it to all your podcast-adoring friends.

 


0

SoftBank Vision Fund invests $275M in India’s Lenskart

13:46 | 20 December

Lenskart, an omni-channel retailer in India that sells eyewear products, said on Friday that it has raised $275 million in a new financing round from SoftBank Vision Fund as it looks to expand its business in the nation.

The nine-year-old startup said as part of the new financing round, Series G, some of its existing investors are selling their stake, said Peyush Bansal, founder and chief executive Lenskart, in a statement.

SoftBank Vision Fund’s investment pushes Lenskart’s all-time raise to $456 million. A person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that the new round values Lenskart at over $1.5 billion.

The nine-year-old startup, which began as an e-commerce service to sell spectacles, contact lenses and eye care products, has expanded to brick and mortar stores in recent years. Today, the startup has presence in over 500 stores across more than 100 cities in India, it said.

Bansal said the startup will use the fresh capital to improve its technology infrastructure and supply chain. “We are thrilled to have Softbank Vision Fund with us in our journey. Their understanding of consumer and technology will help us build the next edition of Lenskart,” he said.

According to industry estimates, more than half a billion people in India are affected by poor vision and need eyeglasses, but only 170 million of them have opted to get their vision corrected. Lenskart said it sees immense potential in reaching out these people in the coming years.

More to follow…

 


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OneConnect’s drastic IPO value cut underscores the risk of high-growth, high-burn companies

17:28 | 16 December

OneConnect’s US-listed IPO flew under our radar last week, which won’t do. The company’s public offering is both interesting and important, so let’s take a few minutes this morning to understand what we missed and why we care.

The now-public company sells financial technology that banks in China and select foreign countries can use to bring their services into the modern era. OneConnect charges mostly for usage of its products, driving over three-quarters of its revenue from transactions, including API calls.

After pricing its shares at $10 apiece, the SoftBank Vision Fund-backed company wrapped last week worth the same: $10 per share.

One one hand, OneConnect is merely another China-based IPO listing domestically here in the United States, making it merely one member of a crowd. So, why do we care about its listing?

A few reasons. We care because the listing is another liquidity event for SoftBank and its Vision Fund. As the Japanese conglomerate revs up its second Vision Fund cycle (Vision Fund 2, more here), returns and proof of its ability to pick winners and fuel them with capital are key. OneConnect’s success as a public company, therefore, matters.

And for us market observers, the debut is doubly-exciting from a financial perspective. No, OneConnect doesn’t make money (very much the opposite). What’s curious about the company is that it brought huge losses to sale when it was pitching its equity. Which, in a post-WeWork world, are supposed to be out of style. Let’s see how well it priced.

What’s it worth?

OneConnect targeted a $9 to $10 per-share IPO price. That makes its final, $10 per-share pricing the top of its range. That said, given how narrow its range was, the result doesn’t look like much of a coup for the company. That’s doubly true when we recall that OneConnect lowered its IPO price range from $12 to $14 per share (a more standard price band) to the lower figures. So, the company managed to price at the top of its expectations, but only after those were cut to size.

When it all wrapped, OneConnect was worth about $3.7 billion at its IPO price according to math from the New York Times. TechCrunch’s own calculations value the firm at a slightly richer $3.8 billion . Regardless, the figure was a disappointment.

When OneConnect raised from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in early 2018, $650 million was invested at a $6.8 billion pre-money valuation according to Crunchbase data. That put a $7.45 billion post-money price tag on the Ping An-sourced business. To see the company forced to cut its IPO valuation so far is difficult for OneConnect itself, its parent Ping An, and its backer SoftBank.

Why so little?

I promised to be brief when we started, so let’s stay curt: OneConnect’s business was worth far less than expected because while it posted impressive revenue gains, the company’s deep unprofitability made it less palatable than expected to public investors.

OneConnect managed to post revenue growth of over 70 percent in the first three quarters of 2019, expanding top line to $217.5 million in the period. However, during that time it generated just $70.9 million in gross profit, the sum it could use to cover its operating costs. The company’s cost structure, however, was far larger than its gross profit.

Over the same nine-month period, OneConnect’s sales and marketing costs alone outstripped its total gross profit. All told OneConnect posted operating costs of $227.6 million in the first three quarters of 2019, leading to an operating loss of $156.6 million in the period.

The company will, therefore, burn lots of cash as grows; OneConnect is still deep in its investment motion, and far from the sort of near-profitability that we hear is in vogue. In a sense OneConnect bears the narrative out. It had to endure a sharp valuation reduction to get out. You can see the market’s changed mood in that fact alone.

Photo by Roberto Júnior on Unsplash

 


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India’s financial services firm Paytm raises $1B

02:10 | 25 November

Paytm said on Monday it has raised $1 billion in a new financing round as the Noida-headquartered firm, which once dominated the local mobile payments market, attempts to fight back giants Google, Walmart’s PhonePe, and soon-to-arrive Facebook.

The company said the new financing round was led by U.S. asset manager T Rowe Price. Existing investors Ant Financials (contributed $400 million), SoftBank Vision Fund (contributed $200 million), and Discovery Capital also participated in the round, which valued the company at about $16 billion — higher than some of the high-profile Asian startups such as Grab and Gojek.

Paytm founder and chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the firm will use the fresh capital to court merchants, and expand its financial offerings such as lending and insurance. The company has amassed 15 million merchants, he said.

The big buck comes as India becomes the newest payments battleground for major global giants Google, Walmart, and Facebook . According to Credit Suisse, the digital payments market in India will be worth $1 trillion in the next four years, up from about $200 billion currently.

More to follow…

 


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CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short