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Kubik, an Ethiopian plastics upcycling startup, is receiving new funding and plans to license its technology



Cubic, a plastics upcycling startup, has raised $1.9 million to extend its seed contract a couple of months after announcing its initial capital investment. The startup’s latest investment comes from African Renaissance Partners, an East African enterprise capital firm; Endgame Capital, an investor favoring climate change technologies; and King Philanthropies, a climate and extreme poverty investor.

The fresh capital comes because the startup scales its operations in Ethiopia after organising a factory in Addis Ababa, where it converts plastic waste into related constructing materials similar to bricks, columns, beams and jambs. Co-founder and CEO of Kubika Kidusa Asfawtold TechCrunch that the startup goals to double its operations in Addis Ababa because it lays the inspiration for pan-African growth from 2025.

Kubik’s approach is to convert plastic waste into “low-carbon, sustainable and affordable” constructing materials using proprietary technology that Asfaw says it should forfeit license to speed up pan-African development and eventual global growth.

“We want to solve the problems of cities, so we are thinking about making our business model truly circular. The way we have developed our business strategy is that we are currently in a focused phase of proving this model here in Ethiopia. We will expand it to several more markets to prove the variety of contexts in which this business model can operate. But over time, what we really want to do is evolve into a company that licenses this technology,” said Asfaw, who co-founded Kubik with Penda Marre in 2021

“This is how we feel like we are able to really scale. “It’s not about having factories around the world, but about the industry adopting a new way of producing materials globally,” he said.

He said their product allows developers to construct partitions without using cement, aggregates or steel, speeding up construction and reducing costs by “at least 40% less per square meter.” Cost is a key barrier in construction, and the supply of inexpensive or lower-cost constructing materials provides a greater option for developers of inexpensive housing projects.

Asfaw said Kubik’s materials had passed safety tests conducted by the European standards agency Intertek, which checked, amongst other things, strength, toxicity and flammability.

“We don’t want to sell something that is harmful to people. We did not start selling until these reports were available,” he said.

The startup currently processes 5,000 kilograms (with a capability of 45,000) of plastic waste per day. It has signed partnerships with corporations and the Addis Ababa Municipality for normal supplies of plastic waste. In the near future, it is considering product diversification to include paving stones and flooring materials.

It is estimated that on the planet produces 430 million tons of plastic per yr, two thirds intended for short-term use. Clearly, the world is choking on plastic waste, and while the situation is made worse by consumption trends in developed countries, in regions facing rapid urbanization and economic growth, similar to African citiesplastic waste is also getting uncontrolled, requiring urgent motion. In the approaching days, startups like Kubik will play a number one role in providing sustainable solutions to the threat.

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Zal Bilimoria just raised its fourth $50 million Refactor Capital fund and continues to enjoy the status of a stand-alone GP




Venture capital or financial support for startup and entrepreneur company, make money idea or idea pitching for fund raising concept, businessman and woman connect lightbulb with money dollar sign.

Zal Bilimoria has been a solo complementist since 2018 and has no plans to stop. And he attributes this decision to former colleague David Lee, who co-founded Refactor Capital with him in 2016.

He said he would not have been able to start the Burlingame-based company if it weren’t for Lee, a former Google executive who led Ron Conway’s seed-stage enterprise capital fund, SV Angel, for several years. Together, they raised a seed fund of $50 million. When Lee decided to retire in 2018, he wanted Bilimoria to stay Refactoring as an independent family doctor.

Zal Bilimoria, sole general partner of Refactor Capital (Image source: Refractor Capital
Image credits: Refactoring capital / Refactoring capital

Being an independent GP means having full authority to make your personal investment decisions, while also having full responsibility for things similar to fundraising. And while this level of freedom may sound great, it also means there aren’t any vesting partners to push and force VCs to analyze investment decisions in ways that will not have occurred to them. Even though business angels do that, they spend their very own money. The sole investor invests on behalf of the limited partners, who trust that this person will make their money grow.

“He convinced me to stay on my own, and this was at a time when stand-alone primary care physicians were not in vogue,” Bilimoria told TechCrunch. “He told me that since I loved my independence and power and loved spending time with the founders, I should stay alone. I was very nervous, but the more I thought about it and talked to other people, I realized this was what I wanted to do and I haven’t looked back. If I can help it, I will be an independent GP for the rest of my career.”

Bilimoria will not be without its own unique lineage. Prior to joining Refactor, Bilimoria spent almost three years as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, where he helped launch the $200 million Bio Fund. Before a16z, Bilimoria spent ten years constructing technology products for tech giants including Google, Netflix, LinkedIn and Microsoft. He was also the founder of the consumer mobile startup Sniply.

With Refactor, it invests in corporations “solving the biggest challenges facing society,” he said. In fact, the term “refactor” comes from computer science and refers to making code more efficient.

Being an independent GP hasn’t slowed down Bilimoria one bit. It has subsequently raised three additional funds and has now closed a fourth fund value $50 million in capital commitments to put money into the biotech, climate and hard tech startup spaces.

Since its launch in 2016, Refactor has invested in greater than 100 corporations, 4 of which have turn out to be unicorns, including Solugen, which uses synthetic biology to remove hydrocarbons from the chemical industry, and Astranis, which produces microsatellites.

Last week, Solugen received approx $214 million loan from the Department of Energy’s Office of Loan Programs to construct one other Solugen Bioforge in Minnesota, which can produce chemicals from corn sugar somewhat than crude oil. DOE award given to a small number of startups made a similar loan to Tesla in 2010.

He added that Bilimoria was able to raise the latest fund in lower than 90 days. Ninety percent of the fund was raised by existing limited partners, including firms similar to Knollwood Investment Advisory. The majority of LPs are institutional investors, and the entire group of LPs are U.S. investors.

“I feel very lucky to have this group of LPs,” he said. “I’ve been chasing one institutional investor for the last four funds and I finally got them into this fund, so they’re part of my new 10%.”

Bilimoria is ending investments from the third fund, but has already committed part of the capital from the fourth fund.

This latest fund will proceed to lead pre-seed and seed investments in startups operating in areas similar to novel battery technologies, cancer therapies, in vitro fertilization advances and chemicals. The checks are typically value between $1 million and $2 million and will probably be distributed amongst 20 to 25 corporations over the next three years, Bilimoria said.

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Google is bringing its Gemini mobile app to India with support for nine Indian languages




Google has launched its dedicated Gemini AI mobile app in India – greater than 4 months after its US debut – supporting nine Indian languages ​​alongside English.

The Gemini India mobile app supports nine Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. This allows users in a given country to write or chat in any supported language to receive assistance from the corporate’s AI he said on Tuesday.

Google confirmed to TechCrunch that the Gemini mobile app is supported by Gemini 1.0 Pro by default. However, there is a paid option to access Gemini Advanced, which is based on Gemini 1.5 Pro and offers a 1 million token context window to process and understand a big selection of data, from documents of up to 1,500 pages to complex data evaluation tasks. Gemini Advanced also supports nine Indian languages ​​available on the Gemini mobile app.

Apart from the India rollout, Google has quietly done so released Gemini mobile application in Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Android users in eligible countries can achieve this charge Gemini application within the Play Store. You may also set Gemini as your default AI assistant within the Google Assistant app. Over the subsequent few weeks, iPhone users in India will even give you the chance to access Gemini through the Google app.

At its I/O developer conference in May, Google showed off some extensions of its Gemini AI assistant into apps like Gmail, Google News and YouTube, in addition to deep integration with the Android operating system. Some of those features shall be rolled out to supported devices over the subsequent few months. However, Google has said that it’s going to be rolling out Gemini on Google News in English for Indian users from today.

The Gemini mobile app was first introduced within the US in February fired in European markets equivalent to Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Great Britain. In April, the app received support for languages ​​including Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese to reach more users.

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Can high-speed commerce overtake e-commerce in India?




Even as high-speed trading startups exit, consolidate or close down in many parts of the world, the model is showing encouraging signs in India. Urban consumers benefit from the convenience of getting groceries delivered to their homes in as little as 10 minutes. The corporations that make these deliveries – Blinkit, Zepto and Swiggy’s Instamart – are already charting a path to profitability.

Analysts are intrigued by the potential for 10-minute deliveries to disrupt e-commerce. Goldman Sachs recently estimated that Blinkit, acquired by Zomato in 2022 for slightly below $600 million, is already more priceless than its parent company that delivers decacorn food.

According to HSBC, earlier this 12 months Blinkit had a 40% share of the fast trading market, followed by Swiggy’s Instamart and Zepto. Walmart-owned Flipkart plans to enter the fast commerce space next month, further proving the industry’s potential.

Investors are also showing great interest in the industry. Zomato boasts a valuation of $19.7 billion despite minimal profitability, fulfilling around 3 million orders a day. By comparison, the market capitalization of Chinese giant Meituan, which processes greater than 25 times more orders per day, is $93 billion. Zepto, which achieved unicorn status lower than a 12 months ago, is finalizing recent financing value greater than $3 billion, in response to people conversant in the matter.

Consumers are also buying the convenience of fast trading. According to a recent study by Bernstein, adoption was highest amongst millennials aged 18 to 35, with 60% of those aged 18 to 25 preferring fast trading platforms over other channels. Even the 36+ age group uses digital channels – over 30% prefer fast trading.

UBS’s estimate for the Indian market.
Image credits: UBS (screenshot)

While India’s rapid urbanization makes it a first-rate high-speed trading destination, the industry’s unique operating model and infrastructure needs may limit its long-term growth and profitability. As competition intensifies, the impact of high-speed trading is more likely to be felt more acutely by India’s e-commerce giants. But what makes the Indian retail market so attractive to fast trading players and what are the challenges it faces?

Possibility of fast trading in India

According to industry estimates, e-commerce sales in India were between $60 billion and $65 billion last 12 months. That’s lower than half of the sales generated by e-commerce corporations throughout the last Singles’ Day in China and represents lower than 7% of India’s total retail market value greater than $1 trillion.

Reliance Retail, India’s largest retailer, posted revenue of about $36.7 billion in the fiscal 12 months ending March, at a valuation of $100 billion. The unorganized retail sector – neighborhood stores (popularly referred to as kirana), that are positioned in hundreds of Indian cities, towns and villages – continues to dominate the market.

“The market is huge and, on paper, ripe for disruption. So far, nothing has been done to significantly harm the industry. So every time a new model shows signs of functioning, all stakeholders shower it with love,” said a seasoned entrepreneur who helped construct a supply chain for one in every of the leading retail ventures.

In other words, there is no such thing as a shortage of room for growth.

Modern retail’s share of total grocery spending in India stays significantly lower than in most other large countries and HSBC believes that is more likely to remain in order customers migrate directly from unorganized to high-speed retail (HSBC).
Image credits: HSBC (screenshot)

Fast trading corporations are borrowing many features from Kirana stores to develop into relevant to Indian consumers. They have developed a brand new supply chain system, creating tons of of inconspicuous warehouses, or “dark stores”, strategically placed inside a couple of kilometers of residential and business areas, from where a lot of orders are placed. This allows corporations to make deliveries inside minutes of placing an order.

This approach differs from that of e-commerce players akin to Amazon and Flipkart, which have fewer but much larger warehouses in town, often positioned in towns where rent is cheaper and farther from residential areas.

The unique characteristics of Indian households further enhance the attractiveness of fast trading. Indian kitchens typically have a bigger variety of SKUs in comparison with their Western counterparts, requiring frequent replenishment purchases which might be higher served by local stores and fast-trade relatively than modern retail. Additionally, limited space for storing in most Indian homes makes monthly bulk grocery purchases less practical, with customers preferring to buy fresh food, which easily enables quick trade.

According to Bernstein, quick-trade platforms can price products 10 to fifteen percent cheaper than brick-and-mortar stores while still maintaining a gross margin of about 15 percent by eliminating middlemen. Dark fast-trade stores quickly increased their SKU count from 2,000 to six,000, with plans to further increase it to 10,000 to 12,000. According to store managers, these stores restock their inventory two to 3 times a day.

Fight against e-commerce

Zepto, Blinkit and Swiggy’s Instamart are increasingly expanding beyond the grocery category, selling a wide range of products including clothing, toys, jewelry, skincare and electronics. TechCrunch evaluation found that almost all of the products listed on Amazon India bestseller list can be found on fast trading platforms.

FSR has also develop into a crucial distribution channel for major food brands in India. Consumer goods giant Dabur India expects high-speed trading to account for 25% to 30% of the corporate’s sales. Hindustan Unilever, the Indian arm of British Unilever, described fast trading as “an opportunity we will not let go of.” And for Nestle India, “Blinkit is becoming as important as Amazon.”

While high-speed commerce may not expand beyond the grocery category, itself a market value greater than half a trillion dollars in India, their expansion into electronics and fashion is more likely to be limited. According to analyst estimates, electronics account for 40% to 50% of all sales on Amazon and Flipkart. If high-speed trading manages to crack this market, it is going to pose a major and immediate challenge to e-commerce giants. Goldman Sachs estimates that the entire market addressed to grocery and non-food stores for quick-trade corporations in the 40-50 largest cities is roughly $150 billion.

According to an e-commerce entrepreneur, selling smartphones and other expensive items is more of a marketing gimmick that can not be carried out on a big scale.

Blinkit sells high-end smartphones and the PlayStation 5 console, its founder and CEO announced on social media.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Fast trading is sweet for forward trading. However, smartphones and other expensive products are inclined to have quite a low rate of return. … They do not have the infrastructure to accommodate reverse logistics,” he said, requesting anonymity because he’s one in every of the early investors in the leading high-speed trading company.

The current fast trade infrastructure also doesn’t allow the sale of huge devices. This means you may’t buy a fridge, air conditioner or TV via flash trade. “But that’s what some of these companies are suggesting and analysts confirm,” the investor said.

Falguni Nayar, founding father of skincare platform Nykaa, highlighted at a recent conference that fast commerce is principally taking share from Kirana stores and is not going to find a way to keep up as much inventory and assortment as specialist customer education platforms.

The history of high-speed trade in India stays an urban phenomenon concentrated in the 25–30 largest cities. In a recent evaluation, Goldman Sachs wrote that demand in smaller cities is probably going making the fresh food economy tougher to appreciate.

E-commerce giant Flipkart will launch its fast commerce service in limited cities next month, seeing a possibility to draw Amazon India customers. Most of Flipkart’s customers are positioned in smaller Indian cities and towns.

Amazon – increasingly limiting its e-commerce investments in India – has thus far shown no interest in high-speed commerce in the country. The company, which offers same-day delivery to Prime members on certain items, has questioned the standard of products from “fast” delivery corporations in a few of its marketing campaigns.

A recent survey of Indian consumers by Bank of America (BofA)
Image credits: BofA Global Research (screenshot)

As brands increasingly give attention to fast commerce as their fastest-growing channel, and more consumers appreciate the convenience and value of 10-minute deliveries, the stage is ready for a fierce battle between India’s fast commerce and e-commerce giants.

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