YC-backed Statiq wants to bootstrap India’s EV charging network

Electric vehicles (EVs) are spreading throughout the world. While Tesla has drawn the most attention in the United States with its luxurious and cutting-edge cars, EVs are becoming a mainstay in markets far away from the environs of California.

Take India for instance. In the local mobility market, two- and three-wheel vehicles are starting to emerge as a popular option for a rapidly expanding middle class looking for more affordable options. EV versions are popular thanks to their reduced maintenance costs and higher reliability compared to gasoline alternatives.

Two-wheeled electric scooters are a fast-growing segment of India’s mobility market.

There’s just one problem, and it’s the same one faced by every country which has attempted to convert from gasoline to electric: how do you build out the charging station network to make these vehicles usable outside a small range from their garage?

It’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem. You need EVs in order to make money on charging stations, but you can’t afford to build charging stations until EVs are popular. Some startups have attempted to build out these networks themselves first. Perhaps the most famous example was Better Place, an Israeli startup that raised $ 800 million in venture capital before dying from negative cash flow back in 2013. Tesla has attempted to solve the problem by being both the chicken and egg by creating a network of Superchargers.

That’s what makes Statiq so interesting. The company, based in the New Delhi suburb of Gurugram, is bootstrapping an EV charging network using a multi-revenue model that it hopes will allow it to avoid the financial challenges that other charging networks have faced. It’s in the current Y Combinator batch and will be presenting at Demo Day later this month.

Akshit Bansal and Raghav Arora, the company’s co-founders, worked together previously as consultants and built a company for buying photos online, eventually reaching 50,000 monthly actives. They decided to make a pivot — a hard pivot really — into EVs and specifically charging equipment.

Statiq founders Raghav Arora and Akshit Bansal. Photos via Statiq

“We felt the need to do something about the climate because we were living in Delhi and Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and India is home to a lot of the polluted cities in the world. So we wanted to do something about it,” Bansal said. As they researched the causes of pollution, they learned that automobile exhaust represented a large part of the problem locally. They looked at alternatives, but EV charging stations remain basically non-existent across the country.

Thus, they founded Statiq in October 2019 and officially launched this past May. They have installed more than 150 charging stations in Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai and the surrounding environs.

Let’s get to the economics though, since that to me is the most fascinating part of their story. Statiq as I noted has a multi-revenue model. First, end users buy a subscription from Statiq to use the network, and then users pay a fee per charging session. That session fee is split between Statiq and the property owner, giving landlords who install the stations an incremental revenue boost.

A Statiq charging station. Photo via Statiq

When it comes to installation, Statiq has a couple of tricks up its sleeves. First, the company’s charging equipment — according to Bansal — costs roughly a third of the equivalent cost of U.S. equipment. That makes the base technology cheaper to acquire. From there, the company negotiates installations with landlords where the landlords will pay the fixed costs of installation in exchange for that continuing session charge fee.

On top of all that, the charging stations have advertising on them, offering another income stream particularly in high-visibility locations like shopping malls which are critical for a successful EV charging network.

In short, Statiq hasn’t had to outlay capital in order to put in place their charging equipment — and they were able to bootstrap before applying to YC earlier this year. Bansal said the company had dozens of charging stations and thousands of paid sessions on its platform before joining their YC batch, and “we are now growing 20% week-over-week.”

What’s next? It’s all about deliberate scaling. The EV market is turning on in India, and Statiq wants to be where those cars are. Bansal and his co-founder are hoping to ride the wave, continuing to build out critical infrastructure along the way. India’s government will likely continue to help: its approved billions of dollars in incentives for EVs and for charging stations, tipping the economics even further in the direction of a clean car future.

Startups – TechCrunch

UK startup wants to hire – is it a scam?

My friend has been offered a job through Facebook, through a family friend. It's working for a startup that doesn't have much going in the way of websites, and the social media/linkedin presence of the three 'founders' is pretty small too.

He was thinking of quitting his job anyway, and is living with parents so has no major fiscal responsibilities, so it'd only be his time lost, if he doesn't get paid in the end.

What can you suggest to him to make sure he has in place before he starts work (contracts etc), and what legal recourse he has if it goes south and he doesn't get paid or gets "fired" after a month (I've seen other posts here mention this scam)?

Another point which seems very fishy and unusual is the founders want their "employees" to create their own companies and they get paid that way. I guess it's like hiring freelancers and means the startup won't have to provide NI and sort out tax etc, but is this common or perhaps an indication of another scam?

Thanks!

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Does Your Puppy Google? Pet Wants In Order To Definitely Work In Your Own Home!

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Point wants to provide credit card rewards with debit cards

Point, a new challenger bank in the U.S., is launching publicly today with an invite system. While Point is technically providing a bank account, the company focuses on rewards associated with a debit card.

“I started Point as a solution about everything that is frustrating and complicated about credit cards. The incentives between credit card companies and cardholders are misaligned,” Point co-founder and CEO Patrick Mrozowski told me.

When Mrozowski first got a credit card, he was spending a ton of money to reach a certain level of spending and unlock the sign-up bonus. At the end of the month, he ended up with credit card debt for no valid reason.

“What would American Express look like today?” he says to sum up Point’s vision. It comes down to two important principles — being in charge of your budget so that you don’t end up with debt and unlocking rewards from brands that you actually interact with.

Many challenger banks want to provide a simple banking experience for the underbanked. Point doesn’t have the same positioning. Creating a Point account is more like joining a membership program.

When you sign up, you get a debit card with some level of insurance as it’s a Mastercard World Debit card. You can expect some trip cancellation insurance, rental car insurance, purchase insurance, etc.

As the name of the startup suggests, you earn points with each purchase. You get 5x points on subscriptions, such as Spotify and Netflix, 3x points on food, grocery deliveries and ride sharing, and 1x points on everything else. Points can be redeemed for dollars — each point is worth $ 0.01. In addition to that, Point is going to create a feed of offers with discounts, content, events and more.

Due to its premium positioning, Point isn’t free. You have to pay $ 6.99 per month or $ 60 per year to join Point. Point doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

You can connect your Point account with another bank account using Plaid. It lets you top up your account using ACH transfers. Behind the scenes, Point works with Radius Bank for the banking infrastructure, an FDIC-insured bank.

The company announced earlier this month that it has raised a $ 10.5 million Series A led by Valar Ventures with Y Combinator, Kindred Ventures, Finventure Studio and business angels also participating.

Image Credits: Point

Startups – TechCrunch

Singapore-based Volopay wants to be the “Brex of Southeast Asia”

Volopay founders Rajith Shaji and Rajesh Raikwar

Small- to medium-sized companies that do a lot of international business have to deal with two big headaches: high foreign exchange fees and corporate expense tracking. Volopay, a Singapore-based financial tech startup with offices in Bangalore, wants to help by integrating prepaid multi-currency corporate cards, expense tracking and accounting tools into one free-to-use platform.

Volopay is currently taking part in Y Combinator and is also part of Antler and Nium’s Bolt, two other accelerator programs. It now has about 40 clients in Singapore, mostly tech startups like Dathena, Tookitaki and Appknox, and plans to launch in Indonesia and Australia within the next six months.

The company was founded last year by chief executive officer Rajith Shaji and chief technology officer Rajesh Raikwar, who met while working at MoneySmart, a financial services comparison platform. Before joining MoneySmart, Shaji also held positions at fintech companies like CompareAsiaGroup, MatchMove and BankBazaar.com.

Shaji spent most of his time working in India, but often traveled to offices abroad. Dealing with corporate expenses after every trip was a “nightmare,” Shaji told TechCrunch.

“Each time I went back home, I had to make a list of all my expenses on behalf of the company. First of all, it often ran up to a few thousand dollars and I had to put in all these receipts and everything,” he said.

Shaji did not have access to most of the accounting software used by the companies’ accounting departments and communicating with them across different time zones made the process even more cumbersome and time-consuming.

Volopay addresses those issues by combining prepaid multi-currency corporate cards (available as physical or virtual cards), domestic and international bank transfers, automated payments, and expense and accounting software on one platform. Volopay’s app lets employees ask for more funds for their prepaid cards from managers, who can approve or reject the request instantly.

Shaji said this saves companies money on foreign exchange fees, which are typically about 3% of a transaction on a traditional credit card, and gives them real-time visibility into spending.

Volopay is free to use and earns money through the interchange fees credit cards charge merchants. Interchange fees also enable Volopay to offer perks like cashback deals.

Shaji said the company aspires to be the “Brex of Southeast Asia.” Like Brex, it offers an alternative to traditional financial services for startups and other small- to mid-sized businesses. But it needs to compete with several companies that also want to solve some of the same problems, like high fees for cross-border banking and corporate expense tracking. For example, Transferwise and Revolut both have operations in Singapore, while Neat and Aspire, based in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively, offer online business accounts.

Shaji said Volopay’s integration of multiple services on one platform gives it a competitive edge, adding that a better comparison to his startup is YouTrip, a multi-currency wallet for consumers that is popular in Singapore.

With accounts linked to a prepaid Mastercard, YouTrip users can make payments in 150 currencies without fees and it also supports in-app foreign currency exchanges. When explaining Volopay to potential clients, Shaji often refers to it as “YouTrip for companies.”

“YouTrip is a well-known brand [in Singapore], everyone knows they can load their money on it and save money on foreign exchange,” he said. Volopay gives the same functionality to companies, with accounting software added.

Volopay currently focuses on serving small businesses with 25 or more employees, especially tech startups that are scaling their operations and therefore need to manage increasing numbers of online payments and expenses. Shaji said Volopay has also signed up several marketing agencies, because many work on multiple projects, and therefore have to juggle multiple budgets at once.

Startups – TechCrunch

Does Canine Google? Pet Wants You To Work From Home!

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Chinese small company I am working for wants to make a debut in the foreign market, how can I attract b2b customers with a lower budget?

So we are still a pretty small company selling bathtub parts and we are active in the Chinese market at the moment, but we are planning on making a debut in foreign markets also. We don't have that much of a budget, how can we with a lower budget attract b2b customers overseas?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

huddl.ai wants to bring more intelligence to online meetings

As the pandemic has shut down in-person meetings, and pushed us online, products like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams have become part of our daily lives. Into the fray jumps huddl.ai, a 3.5-year-old startup from a serial entrepreneur who wants to bring a dose of artificial intelligence to meeting technology.

Company co-founder and CEO Krishna Yarlagadda says while these companies have introduced the video meeting concept, his startup has a vision of taking it further. “As we move forward. I think the next [era] is going to be about intelligence,” Yarlagadda told TechCrunch.

That involves using AI tools to transcribe the meeting, pull out the salient points and help users understand what happened without poring over notes to find the key information in a long session. “Primarily there’s a purpose for every meeting, or essentially we’re meeting for outcomes, and that’s where Huddl comes in,” he said.

Yarlagadda said that current solutions simply give you a link to a cloud room and everyone involved clicks and enters. Huddl wants to bring some more structure to that whole process. “We’ve developed a very user-centric architecture and also added a layer called meeting memory, which essentially captures the core aspects of the meeting — the agenda, action items and moments and then added search,” he explained.

They call these meeting elements moments, and they involve capturing three key aspects of the meeting: the agenda and collaborative notes participants take during the meeting, screen captures the user takes using a built-in tool and, finally, audio, which captures a recording of the meeting. Users can search across these elements to find the parts of the meeting that are most relevant to them.

Image Credits: huddl.ai

Further, it integrates with other enterprise applications like Slack or Salesforce to move to applicable tools items discussed during these meetings when it makes sense. “Essentially what we’re trying to do is create a five-minute version of your 60-minute meeting that is stored in your memory and that becomes part of your search. Post-meeting this content has a life, and through APIs and integrations, we can [share it with the right programs],” he said.

For instance, if it’s an action item in a sales meeting, it would go to Salesforce, and if it is a software bug in an engineering meeting, it could be shared with Jira.

The company was started in 2017, and has raised $ 8.7 million in seed money to date. It has 50 employees, with 10 in the U.S. and the others in India, and has plans to hire 15-20 additional people this year between the U.S. and India offices.

Startups – TechCrunch

Reflect wants to help you automate web testing without writing code

Reflect, a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2020 class, is building a tool to automate website and web application testing, making it faster to get your site up and running without waiting for engineers to write testing code, or for human testers to run the site through its paces.

Company CEO and co-founder Fitz Nowlan says his startup’s goal is to allow companies to have the ease of use and convenience of manual testing, but the speed of execution of automated or code-based testing.

“Reflect is a no-code tool for creating automated tests. Typically when you change your website, or your web application, you have to test it, and you have the choice of either having your engineers build coded tests to run through and ensure the correctness of your application, or you can hire human testers to do it manually,” he said.

With Reflect, you simply teach the tool how to test your site or application by running through it once, and based on those actions, Reflect can create a test suite for you. “You enter your URL, and we load it in a browser in a virtual machine in the cloud. From there, you just use your application just like a normal user would, and by using your application, you’re telling us what is important to test,” Nowlan explained.

He adds, “Reflect will observe all of your actions throughout that whole interaction with that whole browser session. And then from those actions, it will distill that down into a repeatable machine executable test.”

Nowlan and co-founder Todd McNeal started the company in September 2019 after spending five years together at a digital marketing startup near Philadelphia, where they experienced problems with web testing first-hand.

They launched a free version of this product in April, just as we were beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic in the U.S, a point that was not lost on him. “We didn’t want to delay any longer and we just felt like, you know you got to get up there and swing the bat,” he said.

Today, the company has 20 paying customers, and he has found that the pandemic has helped speed up sales in some instances, while slowing it down in others.

He says the remote YC experience has been a positive one, and in fact he couldn’t have participated had they had to show up in California as they have families and homes in Pennsylvania.  He says that the remote nature of the current program forces you to be fully engaged mentally to get the most out of the program.

“It’s just a little more mental work to prepare yourself and to have the mental energy to stay locked in for a remote batch. But I think if you can get over that initial hump, the information flow and the knowledge sharing is all the same,” he said.

He says as technical founders, the program has helped them focus on the sales and marketing side of the equation, and taught them that it’s more than building a good product. You still have to go out there and sell it to build a company.

He says his short-term goal is to get as many people as he can using the platform, which will help them refine their ability to automate the test building. For starters, that involves recording activities on-screen, but over time they plan to layer on machine learning and that requires more data.

“We’re going to focus primarily over the next six to 12 months on growing our customer base — both paid and unpaid — and I really mean that we want people to come in and create tests. Even if they [use the free product], we’re benefiting from that creation of that test,” he said.

Startups – TechCrunch

Kibbo wants to remake the RV park so #vanlife can be a life and not a lifestyle

Colin O’Donnell was already rethinking the notion of what makes cities and communities function even before the COVID-19 epidemic swept through the U.S. and revealed some of the cracks in centuries-old structures of urban life.

O’Donnell was part of the early wave of urban tech innovation, which began to rise about six years ago. He co-founded Intersection, a company manufacturing digital kiosks for public transportation services, which was eventually rolled up in one of the first big acquisitions from the Alphabet-owned subsidiary Sidewalk Labs .

While the initial optimism for — and interest in — technology’s ability to reshape the built environment has stumbled thanks to both Sidewalk’s data collection overreach in its initial Toronto project and the financial stresses that the COVID-19 epidemic has placed on cities across the country, experiments with how to integrate technology into society more intelligently continue on the margins. And investments in real estate technology continue to rise.

O’Donnell’s new company, Kibbo, takes advantage of both trends. The San Francisco-based startup aims to upgrade the American trailer park, making it a network of intentional communities for the remote-working, previously urban professionals (PUPs?).

To ensure that these remote working puppies (I’m going with it) can navigate the American roadways in the manner to which they’re accustomed, Kibbo pitches exclusive RV parks outfitted with amenities like kitchen supplies and basic staples like coffee and snacks, a gym and recreational facilities for congregating. The company is now taking applications for membership and will be charging $ 1,000 per month to access its locations of sites near major national parks across the West Coast.

For members who don’t have their own vehicles, Kibbo offers access to top-of-the-line Mercedes Sprinters outfitted with the latest in #vanlife amenities. The vans cost roughly $ 1,000 per month to rent.

Beginning in the fall, members who get past Kibbo’s virtual velvet rope and gain access to the company’s communities will be able to visit spots in Ojai, Zion, Black Rock Desert and Big Sur. Those locations will be complemented by spots in urban cores in Los Angeles, San Francisco and somewhere in Silicon Valley, according to a statement from O’Donnell.

“With the pressure of months of quarantine fueling the desire for people to get out of their expensive apartments in the city to explore nature and connect with people, we now have the demand and opportunity to rethink how we live, work, have fun and find meaning,” he said. “We get to rethink the urban experience and define what we want cities of the future to really look like.”

With Kibbo’s launch, would-be puppies (still going with it) attracted to its vision of a network of community spaces shared by professionals whose companies have embraced remote work can now pay $ 100 to apply to be part of the network.

Image Credit: Kibbo

The company is tapping into a part of the American zeitgeist that’s nearly as old as the country itself. From its inception, people came (and colonized) the country in an effort to create communities that would reflect their values and beliefs and afford them an opportunity to flourish (at the expense of others).

It’s also working off of the glamping phenomenon that netted Hipcamp a valuation over $ 100 million and grabbed Tentrr an $ 11 million round of financing. Hipcamp offers a database of campsites that earns money by taking a commission from the bookings it facilitates to moe than 300,000 sites across the U.S.

Like Tentrr, Kibbo is using private land to set up sites accessible to membership. But unlike Tentrr, Kibbo owns its own real estate and is setting up its sites to be part of a community rather than just an experience for travelers looking for a different option from a city vacation or competing for campsites at national parks.

Kibbo also thinks of itself as developing a new kind of roving cities comprised of a certain kind of membership.

“Unlike traditional top-down designed and built real estate developments, Kibbo is setting out to build the first of the next generation of cities: flexible, reconfigurable, designed and defined by the people that live in it, off the grid and sustainable,” O’Donnell said. 

That’s what attracted Urban.us investor Shaun Abrahamson.

“In the short and medium term, I think this looks like a specialty part of the RV market. However, our sense is that RV experience was designed for vacations or retirees and trends like remote work and van life suggest there is demand for different kind of infrastructure and experience… Our longer term interest is climate and affordable housing,” Abrahamson said.  

Climate change and the resulting flooding, fires and rising sea levels are going to change the kinds of infrastructure to support permanent housing, Abrahamson said.

Van life is benefiting from mobile infrastructure — solar + batteries make off-grid easier. As prices come down, mobile housing and infrastructure will become more attractive. And Kibbo is filling in other lightweight pieces of infrastructure related to things like sanitation and security and, yes, they’ll layer in experiences, too,” he said.  

Both Abrahamson and O’Donnell think there will be more nomadic communities far beyond vacations and retirement, and Kibbo is the firm’s attempt to tap into that trend. It’s a vision for a future of cities that doesn’t include them, and one that O’Donnell, a New York transplant living in a communal space in San Francisco, embraces.

“While Kibbo offers an exciting lifestyle from day one, we’re making a bet that the future of cities is electric, autonomous, distributed, renewable and user-generated,” O’Donnell said.

Image Credit: Kibbo

Startups – TechCrunch