The funding glut continues 💰
Also in today’s edition: The fall of Ashneer Grover; Meta’s mega troubles; Apple makes music with AI; How do we put nuclear waste to bed?
Good morning! Gautam Adani has dethroned Mukesh Ambani as Asia’s richest person. Adani’s business empire extends from air and sea ports in India to coal mines in Australia. The tycoon’s wealth more than doubled to $88.5 billion in just a year. He had come close to overtaking Ambani at the top of the rich list in June last year but the valuation of his companies fell abruptly on news reports that a depository had frozen the accounts of three foreign funds that were invested in the Adani group.
In the latest episode of The Signal Daily, we discuss the sudden surge in demand in nuclear power. France, the US and India seem to be determined to reboot the nuclear power industry. We also look at Polygon, a blockchain tech company, which raised $450 million.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Benchmark indices broke their three-day losing streak to end in the green. Adani Wilmar shares rose more than 16% on debut. Tata Steel and Bajaj Finance were among the top Nifty gainers.
Crypto: Bitcoin broke through $44,000 in early Asian trade. It has now recouped ground it lost since December. Bitcoin funds reported good inflows last week. The XRP token used in Ripple network rose 22% in 24 hours on positive developments in a court battle.
The Shark That Was Eaten
There’s a new tale in the BharatPe saga in which its controversial celebrity co-founder Ashneer Grover landed himself in a soup. The company has appointed BharatPe investors’ lawyer, John Weinstein, to its board as an additional director.
Go down the rabbit hole: In case you want to, we recommend these stories (in no particular order) to brush up on the goings on at BharatPe: The Ken, The Morning Context, Mint, Moneycontrol (a Grover interview), The CapTable and The Economic Times.
Scooped out: Another CEO, ScoopWhoop’s Sattvik Mishra is also seemingly in trouble, courtesy Samdish Bhatia, a former anchor, who filed a case against him alleging sexual assault. That’s not too dissimilar from happenings at Axel Springer, where allegations of sexual harassment against a senior editor were silenced with lies and secret payments.
$1 Billion In 24 Hours
It's almost as if 2021 never ended. The last twenty-four hours have seen Indian startups mopping up over a billion dollars in funding, according to Entrackr. This cuts across early, growth, and late stage funding rounds, and in sectors such as crypto, fintech and kirana tech, among others.
Who raised? The streak began with blockchain company Polygon raising a whopping $450 million on Monday, and continued on Tuesday with Pune-based kirana tech company ElasticRun scoring a $300 million round to turn into a unicorn. Home renovation platform LivSpace, also raised $180 milllion, joining ElasticRun in the hallowed, fast-growing unicorn club.
And then, some more: Among the growth stage deals, digital lending platform Mintifi added $40 million to its money chest, while virtual events platform Airmeet raised $35 million. Crypto investing platform Mudrex scooped up $6.5 million in a pre-funding round.
Growing wings: The Indian startup ecosystem seems to be on track to break records, much like last year when it welcomed 44 unicorns into its midst. It surpassed the total number of unicorns created in the country ever.
The Many Troubles Of Meta
Facebook’s early backer and influential power broker, Peter Thiel, is leaving the company’s board of directors to become a full-time Donald Trump-eter.
Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, was a mentor to Zuckerberg until the relationship soured and he started funding Facebook-baiting politicians.
Call or fold? Meta’s threat (bluff, we think) to exit Europe because of rules it doesn’t want to play by might also fizzle out with Germany and France saying good riddance.
Core fix: Stung by earnings setbacks, Meta is putting more trust in professional creators to revive its fortunes. Despite losing $10 billion in the metaverse project, it is trying to convince businesses that the future of advertising is nigh.
In the Chinese Internet industry there is a frequently used term: operations. The reliance on operations, or growth hacks, is a defining characteristic of the Chinese Internet, argues Mathew Brennan in his book Attention Factory, The Story of TikTok & China’s Bytedance. Operations are manual, labour intensive methods, including relying on relationships with outside stakeholders, creators and promotional partners.
Throwing money at creators does not always work, as Spotify found out with Joe Rogan. Yet, Meta is employing tricks used by rival ByteDance many years ago in China, a market very different from the rest of the world. It finds itself in the same place as Tencent. The Chinese giant was woefully short on ideas to compete with TikTok’s Chinese sibling Douyin and ended up first following and then miserably failing with its short video app Weishi.
Meta’s problem is not that Thiel is leaving, rules are tough or users are ageing. It is that the leadership is jaded, craven and lacks ideas.
Up And Atom
India is embracing nuclear energy in order to achieve its 2030 goal of meeting half of all energy requirements with renewable power. In their scramble to meet emissions targets, countries, including India, are increasing their investments in nuclear power. This is despite questions over nuclear waste and safety measures, which remain global concerns years after the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters.
But as a report in The Financial Times shows, the issue of nuclear waste disposal will come home to roost.
Laid to waste: Countries have mulled over whether nuclear waste should be blasted into space or buried in the seabed. Now, France—which is one of few European Union countries to support the Union’s classification of nuclear power as green energy—is now building subterranean tunnels to seal off waste. Unsurprisingly, this prototype is not without its critics.
Apple Buys Music That Listens To You
Apple has acquired a startup that generates soundtracks using AI. Simply put, the engine can compile variations in songs to suit the listener’s mood. There are speculations as to how Apple will employ the technology. For one, Apple could mesh AI Music into its music-making software to help artists. Spotify invested in music-making AI by hiring an AI music pioneer. That was in 2017.
Lately, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has been dealing with a PR crisis.
Rock rocks: Dwayne Johnson has withdrawn support for Joe Rogan. Rock musician Neil Young is urging Spotify employees to quit working for Ek. But Ek won’t stop rallying behind Rogan. This time, he made half-baked apologies for the podcaster’s liberal use of the n-word. Rogan’s $100 million exclusivity contract stays.
In waiting: The podcaster needn’t worry. Video "no-censorship" or "free speech" streaming platform Rumble has proposed moving his podcast with a $100-million offer.
Fined: On the flip side, Apple has got a $5.7 million fine for the third time by a Dutch regulator for refusing to allow alternative App Store payments to dating apps.
Declined: The Indian government rejected Tesla's request for reduction in import duties on EVs, given that jobs will be created for China.
Game on: Accounting giant KPMG has added cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether to its corporate balance sheet.
Bust: Sri Lanka is expected to restructure its debt and call on the IMF for assistance as its financial crisis worsens.
Out! Nvidia has called off a $40 billion deal to acquire chip group Arm, citing regulatory roadblocks.
Debut: Reddit is getting into the stock market with advertising business.
Up in arms: Scarlett Johansson seems to have started a revolution. Village Roadshow has sued Warner Bros for releasing the sci-fi sequel The Matrix Resurrections on the big screen, and HBO Max on the same day. Village Roadshow maintains that the decision crimped its box office revenues. Christopher Nolan has similar views.
Winter-sports enthusiast: Skiing is the new cool in the desert cities of West Asia. Winter sports season is thriving in Lebanon, a first in the pandemic. Ziplining, zorb balling, and hanging out with penguins—it’s all happening at Dubai’s indoor ski resort. Saudi Arabia recorded historic first-time participation in the Winter Olympic Games since its inception in 1924.
Into the blue: Blue whales are under constant threat from tankers and container ships. Their habitat coincides with the artery that connects East Asia to the Suez Canal. Scientists and marine conservationists are convincing Sri Lanka to reroute its shipping lanes to save the animal.
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