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Hyundai puts $1 billion into AV startup Motional, and Elon pulls the plug on Tesla Supercharger team



Welcome back tabout TechCrunch Mobility – Your central hub for news and insights on the way forward for transport.

Before I get to all the news – and there was a whole lot of it! — I actually have a very important update for all my lovely readers. TechCrunch Mobility Moves to Thursdays! This might be the same newsletter crammed with industry news and insights that may land in your inboxes on Thursday morning. Register here free of charge – just click TechCrunch Mobility!

Starting an electrical vehicle Fisker laid off more employees to “preserve cash” as bankruptcy loomed; transport company Ola fired about 180 employees and ousted CEO Hemant Bakshi just 4 months after he was appointed to the position; and Lidar company shine reduced its 700-person workforce by 20% as a part of a restructuring to adopt an asset light business model.

Oh, and then it was Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which laid off the automaker’s global Supercharger network team. This perplexing decision comes just as drivers of non-Tesla electric vehicles gain access to the grid.

This will not be to say that the entire transportation sector was surrounded by economic storm clouds. There were also brighter moments. Let’s go test it out!

Little bird

In the wake of the big Tesla Supercharger culling, we talked to a number of people small birds, including those that were laid off and people working for other automotive manufacturers. As I discussed above, Elon Musk gutted Tesla’s global supercharging organization of about 500 people. Insiders at several different automakers – all of that are implementing Tesla’s charging technology – said they do not expect this to occur. “Shocked” and “stunned” are the most typical expressions I actually have heard.

For employees, there was an absence of communication from HR in the hours immediately following the mass layoff. Some told me that neither they nor their former co-workers received details about the severance package and that communication had completely fallen through. Several of those people received severance emails by Friday. Everyone I contacted still couldn’t understand why Musk fired the Supercharger team, a corporation that is prime to Tesla and its electric vehicle sales. Others surmised that only Elon and perhaps the former Supercharger team principal, Rebecca TinucciI’ll ever know the answer.


money for the station

It’s been a minute since we heard about an autonomous vehicle startup raising a big amount of cash – or any money in any respect. Everything modified this week when Moving due to the company’s kindness, he achieved a big, multi-million victory Hyundai.

Hyundai’s total commitment is $1 billion, but there are necessary details. Here’s the way it breaks down. Hyundai invested $475 million directly in Motional as a part of a broader deal that included the buyout of three way partnership partner Aptiv. Hyundai is spending one other $448 million to purchase Aptiv’s 11% stake in Motional.

Slightly history: Motional was founded in 2019 as a $4 billion three way partnership between Hyundai and Aptiv. Motional has spent the last several years developing autonomous vehicle technology, working toward a goal of launching a robotaxi service using Hyundai Ioniq 5 autonomous vehicles in 2024. As Motional and Hyundai grow closer, the corporations announced production-ready co-development plans in November versions of the all-electric robotaxi Ioniq 5 – it looks like Aptiv has begun to grasp its own financial constraints. In January, Aptiv president and CEO Kevin Clark signaled that the company would scale back its stake in Motional and stop allocating capital to the enterprise on account of the high costs of commercializing a robotics business and the long path to profits.

This decision, although not particularly surprising to the industry insiders I talked to, still put Motional and Hyundai in a difficult situation. Will Hyundai raise the bar? Would outside investors step in? Hyundai answered the call.

My query is: will Motional, with Hyundai’s blessing, search for other investors? It will all depend on how much capital Motional burns through and whether it continues to pursue the same robotics goals. If so, it appears the company will eventually need more capital.

Other offers that caught my attention…

LiNova EnergyCalifornia-based startup developing polymer cathode batteries has raised $15.8 million in a Series A financing round led by Catalus Capital, joined by Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergys, Chevron Technology Ventures and a consortium of investors.

Rivian received a powerful $827 million incentive package from the state of Illinois, which might be used to construct production lines for its next-generation electric vehicle, the R2.

Viking holdingsa luxury cruise operator backed by private equity firm TPG and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, raised $1.54 billion in its IPO.

Brzeg XSwedish electric boat manufacturer founded in 2016, collected EUR 8.5 million recent funding from several anonymous existing donors, including founder Konrad Bergström.

Noteworthy reading and other interesting facts


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiated an investigation into Ford BlueCruise hands-free driver assistance system after it was found to be lively during two recent crashes that resulted in multiple deaths.

NHTSA has taken one other big step for the industry and finalized a brand new one Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard which is able to enable automatic emergency braking, including the possibility of detects and mechanically brakes in front of a pedestrian, which might be standard on all passenger cars and light trucks by September 2029. The agency said this safety standard will significantly reduce rear-end collisions and pedestrian accidents. NHTSA doesn’t select the technology that automakers must use. Many computer vision and lidar corporations have contacted me to find out how this may benefit their business models.

Autonomous vehicles

Co-author of the most lively contributor Tim Stevens takes us behind the scenes of the first part Autonomous Racing League an event in Abu Dhabi during which an autonomous automotive faced a Formula 1 driver. His approach? Yes, there have been fights; he also noticed a whole lot of progress.

Electric vehicles, charging and batteries

Think back to last yr Henry Fisher proudly debuted two prototypes that may catapult his eponymous electric vehicle startup into the mainstream? TC reporter Sean O’Kane has learned that the engineering company that helped develop the vehicles is suing Fisker for $13 million in damages. Read more to find out about this process and some others.

This week’s wheels

Image credits: Emma Hall

I passed the baton to the associate of the most lively contributor Emma Hall this week for a test drive of the recent, fully electric Acura ZDX Type S. You can read the entire review here and I also suggest you watch her video advanced hands-free driver assistance system in the vehicle. For those that want to try an extended read, here’s the gist.

Hall expected joy and delight. Instead, it was more meh. Here’s one reason. The Type S weighs over 6,000 kilos. Even if the weight is evenly distributed from front to back, it’s a whole lot of weight to barter a corner. She liked the firm controls, but there wasn’t much feedback.

“Torque is always good coming out of corners and body roll is controlled, but I don’t feel the delight,” she wrote, adding that the Type S’s 275/40 Continental Premium Contact 6 summer tires offer loads of grip, but the low-profile sidewall combined with the harder run-flat rubber compound meant the ride was a bit harsh.

Hall’s pursuit of a totally electric SUV that is fun to drive around the corners continues.

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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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From sperm freezing to accounting tools: Finaloop founder earns $35 million to solve e-commerce sellers’ accounting problems




Yellow Calculator On Purple Background; financial model to forecast fundraising

For consumers, one in all the most important benefits of e-commerce is convenience: you may shop anytime, anywhere, and now you pay with the faucet of your finger (and pay almost any way you would like). But underneath that there is loads of fragmentation and complexity, and it’s always retailers who take it on the chin. The so-called startup Final goals to improve this example for e-commerce corporations – using accounting software – and has raised $35 million in funding thanks to strong growth.

Lightspeed Venture Partners is leading the Series A, which also includes participation from Vesey Ventures, Commerce Ventures and former backers Accel and Aleph. Finaloop, based in New York but with roots (and R&D) in Tel Aviv, previously raised $20 million. It doesn’t disclose the valuation.

CEO and Founder of Finaloop Lioran Pinchevski is an accountant by training, but an entrepreneur at heart. Before founding the corporate, he worked in senior positions at PwC for nearly a decade, mainly coping with sensitive accounting issues arising within the strategy of mergers and acquisitions. He built startups on the side.

The latest was a direct-to-consumer health tech startup focused on sperm freezing, which has scaled to “seven-figure” sales, he said. It was a hard-won success:

This is what inspired Pinchevski to use his accounting knowledge and located Finaloop.

E-commerce has exploded over the previous couple of years and is predicted to proceed to accomplish that exceed $6 trillion in global sales this yr, says eMarketer. This is thanks to changing consumer shopping habits and the ubiquity of smartphones and other screens, but in addition the event of marketplaces like Amazon, social media platforms and platforms like Shopify that make it easier to open online storefronts.

But under the hood, retailers have loads of work to do to run their businesses, and that is what Pinchevski found to be burdensomely time-consuming and never leveraging the identical skills and interests that led them to turn into e-commerce founders in the primary place.

“Every online seller needs to keep accounting, both from a compliance and business visibility perspective,” he said. Typically, small e-commerce corporations either do their very own accounting or work with a 3rd party to accomplish that. In each cases, accounting could be performed using software equivalent to QuickBooks, NetSuite or Xero and would potentially be very complex, not least because e-commerce sellers currently use many various channels to source, sell and distribute goods.

“But e-commerce creators can be young and dynamic people who are digital-first, so they hate it,” he said.

The Finaloop solution is a platform that uses background automation to track transactions with three different functions in a single: a business ledger that records all transactions; accounting work to detail these transactions; and inventory spreadsheets, that are used not only to track what’s being sold, but in addition to create future projections of what could also be needed.

This integrates with a big selection of platforms an organization can sell on – equivalent to Amazon, Walmart, and even TikTok – or use for payments, shipping, or other services. While there are indeed many accounting tools available for smaller businesses today, Pinchevski said that is the one tool designed specifically for smaller e-commerce businesses and covering your complete scope of their accounting and bookkeeping needs.

SaaS price list starts at $65 monthly and drops monthly for an annual subscription, or increases for those who add tax solution.

The growth of corporations like Finaloop is notable within the context of the innovation cycle we’re observing.

While the frontiers proceed to shift in areas equivalent to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and food technology, and what may come tomorrow, there may be a growing interest in solving rather more pressing problems for corporations operating on today’s platforms.

At the identical time, Finaloop has a probability to attract more users due to the subsequent technological change. E-commerce rollups, financed by lots of of thousands and thousands of dollars, once promised smaller e-commerce corporations higher economies of scale in the event that they sold to them. This is identical highly fragmented market that Finaloop wants to consolidate because lots of these rollups have struggled and disappeared. Finaloop potentially gives smaller e-commerce corporations one other avenue to exist on their very own as independent corporations.

It is showing some signs of success, growing its customer base by 400% last yr, reaching $13 billion in GMV managed on its platform by 1000’s of consumers. The numbers will help seal the deal on this funding round.

“Finaloop is disrupting an industry that has not seen significant change in over 30 years. They are leading the way in transforming accounting and bookkeeping for e-commerce, solving the biggest problems,” Lightspeed partner Tal Morgenstern said in a press release. “We are excited to support the Finaloop team in their quest to provide e-commerce companies with real-time financial data, giving them an invaluable competitive advantage.”

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India’s Oyo, once valued at $10 billion, finalizes new financing at $2.5 billion valuation




Masayoshi Son Delivers Keynote At Annual SoftBank World Event

Oyo, an Indian budget hotel chain startup, is finalizing a new fundraising of around $100 million to $125 million, bringing its valuation right down to $2.5 billion, two people conversant in the matter told TechCrunch.

This marks a pointy decline in the worth of the Gurgaon-based startup, which was price $10 billion in 2019. The startup, struggling to draw institutional investors, has been aggressively acquiring wealthy individuals in recent months.

“We really think this asset makes a whole lot of sense today. Profitability and discount @70% in comparison with the previous valuation. IPO expected in 18-24 months – a representative of InCred, a financial company cooperating with Oyo, forwarded a message (displayed by TechCrunch) to the startup’s founder.

Early last month, TechCrunch reported that Oyo was looking for to boost funding of $3 billion or less. Oyo vehemently denied the “rumours, including valuation rumors” at the time. The size of the new round is more likely to be larger, said the above-mentioned sources, who asked to not be identified since the matter will not be public.

The new funding comes after Oyo shelved its IPO plan last month. The startup – which counts SoftBank, Peak XV Ventures, Lightspeed, Airbnb and Microsoft amongst its backers – has withdrawn its IPO application from India’s markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, twice within the last 4 years.

Oyo initially filed papers with SEBI for a 2021 listing but withdrew it and re-filed in 2023. The company, which has raised over $3 billion thus far, sought to boost $1.2 billion at a valuation of $12 billion as a part of an initial public offering in 2021.

Oyo, once considered one of India’s hottest startups, runs an operating system of sorts that helps hoteliers accept digital bookings and payments. The startup once operated in dozens of markets, including the US and Europe, but has since limited its international presence.

Observed net profit of $12 million within the fiscal 12 months ending March, based on founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal.

Agarwal took out $2 billion in debt in 2019 to extend his stake in Oyo, then valued at $10 billion. It invested $700 million as core capital in Oyo and spent $1.3 billion on secondary purchase of Oyo shares. The startup has not commented on its debt status since then.

Indian newspaper Economic Times also reported in regards to the new financing on Monday, adding that the startup will seek approval from current shareholders for the financing this week.

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