Top tech startup news for Tuesday, February 14, 2023: Microsoft, Monad Labs, PhonePe, Roadzen, and Unisoc
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Tuesday, February 14, 2023.
Chinese chip design startup Unisoc seeks to raise $1.5 billion in private funding
Unisoc Technologies, a Chinese chip design startup, is seeking to raise 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in a new funding round that will value the firm at about 70 billion yuan ($10.3 billion), according to an exclusive report from Reuters, citing three people with knowledge of the deal.
Per the report, Unisoc has approached several of China’s state-backed investment funds for the round. One of the sources told Reuters that Unisoc aims to reach a shortlist of investors by the middle of March this year and close the round by the end of June on the way to an eventual domestic listing. However, all the sources declined to be identified as the information is confidential.
Just last week, Unisoc announced it was raising funds, with its board secretary, Jia Shaoxu, saying it would use the funds to enhance its technology and product competitiveness, according to its official WeChat account. It did not disclose the amount.
Unisoc is owned by private equity firm Wise Road Capital, which took over the company in 2022 after Tsinghua Unigroup after its former parent company went bankrupt.
Based in Shanghai, Unisoc competes against semiconductor giants including Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung Electronics. The company’s product portfolio includes mobile processors for smartphones, as well as simpler chips for Internet-connected devices. According to its website, Unisoc currently does business in 133 countries. Its share of the global market for mobile processors increased to roughly 10% by 2022, according to Counterpoint Research.
The fundraising comes at a time when China is trying to ramp up efforts to boost its domestic chip sector and Chinese President Xi Jinping urges the country to become more technologically self-sufficient.
Crypto startup Monad Labs lands $19 million in funding to create the next ‘Ethereum killer’
Monad Labs is a crypto startup that is “building a platform to optimize both consensus and execution […] which ultimately results in a system that can process a billion transactions per day and 10,000 transactions per second.”
Today, Monad Labs said it has raised $19 million in seed funding led by Dragonfly Capital, with participation from 70 investors, including Placeholder Capital, Lemniscap, Shima Capital, Finality Capital, as well as notable angel investors in the space such as Naval Ravikant, Cobie, and Hasu, the crypto startup announced in a news release.
Monad Labs will use the fresh capital infusion to further its commitment to building the next level of Layer1 smart contract platforms with Monad Blockchain
Founded in 2022 by Jump Trading alums CEO Keone Hon and CTO James Hunsaker, the Monad team is solving challenging problems in distributed systems engineering and low-latency optimization, an authoring novel open-source code to implement a new, high-performance decentralized system.
Monad Labs is an early-stage, venture-backed tech startup, whose team brings with them over seven years of experience in building low-latency, high-frequency-trading systems at Jump Trading. The co-founders of Monad Labs have roots in Jump Trading, where they worked together for seven years building low-latency high-frequency-trading (HFT) systems, and later contributing to R&D at Jump Crypto in 2021. This was the genesis of Monad — synthesizing learnings from HFT, as well as some new ideas, to build the most performant and robust smart-contract blockchain possible.
InsurTech startup Roadzen is going public in a $965 million SPAC deal
Insurance tech startup Roadzen announced today it has agreed to go public in the US with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Vahanna Tech Edge Acquisition I Corp in a deal valued at about $965 million. The deal values Roadzen at a pre-money equity valuation of $683 million and the combined company will be listed on the Nasdaq exchange, according to the joint statement.
According to the agreement reached by the two companies, existing Roadzen shareholders are expected to own 73.2% of the combined entity after the deal is completed, assuming none of the blank check firm’s shareholders elect to redeem their shares.
Roadzen is expected to generate about $59 million and $118 million in total consolidated revenues for the fiscal years ending March 31, 2023, and 2024, respectively, the statement added.
Founded in 2015 by Rohan Malhotra, the New York-based Roadzen uses advanced AI to provide data that helps insurers build auto insurance products. Insurers use Roadzen’s technology to launch new products, manage risk better and resolve claims faster. Roadzen’s products include a suite of products such as auto underwriting, claims and assistance, telematics, travel, mobile, and e-commerce insurance – all in an integrated, open, real-time platform.
Microsoft’s Bing AI made several factual errors during last week’s launch demo; “Completely made up some answers”
First, it was Google. Now, it turned out that Microsoft Bing even made the worse factual errors in last week’s launch demo of Bing AI. Microsoft wowed the audience after it showed off its new AI-Powered Bing as it attempts to challenge Google in search, of which Google currently controls over 90 % of the market. However, “Bing AI got some answers completely wrong during its demo and no one noticed.”
During the demo of its chatbot technology last week, the ChatGPT-like technology embedded in the company’s Bing search engine analyzed several earnings reports but produced some incorrect numbers for Gap and Lululemon. The demo received rave reviews from many people on social. Microsoft also said that more than one million people signed up to try Microsoft’s new AI tool in the first 48 hours.
However, in comparing Bing AI’s answers to the actual reports, the chatbot missed some numbers. Some other answers appear to have just been made up. In a Substack post on Monday titled “Bing AI Can’t Be Trusted,” independent search researcher Dmitri Brereton wrote: “Bing AI got some answers completely wrong during their demo. But no one noticed. Instead, everyone jumped on the Bing hype train.”
Brereton added. “Google’s Bard got an answer wrong during an ad, which everyone noticed. Now the narrative is “Google is rushing to catch up to Bing and making mistakes! That would be a fine narrative if Bing didn’t make even worse mistakes during its own demo,”
After carefully comparing answers from the Bing AI demo against the real-live data, Brereton identified possible factual issues in the Microsoft demo in its responses about vacuum cleaner specifications and travel plans to Mexico in addition to the financial errors.
Walmart-backed Indian payment startup PhonePe raises $100 million at $12 billion valuation
Late last year, we wrote about PhonePe after the Walmart-backed Indian payment startup announced it was seeking to raise a massive $1 billion in funding. It now appears the startup did not even come close, falling short by about 50% of its fundraising goal.
Today, PhonePe announced it has raised $100 million from Ribbit Capital, Tiger Global, and TVS Capital Funds in a funding round that valued the Walmart Inc-backed company at $12 billion, making the payment giant India’s most valuable payments company and among the country’s most highly-valued startups.
PhonePe will use the fresh capital infusion to scale up its payments and insurance businesses in India, as well as to launch and scale new businesses such as lending, stockbroking, and online shopping over the next few years. So far, PhonePe has raised a total of $450 million in just six weeks, the payment startup said it expects to raise the remainder from global and Indian investors in months to come.
Meanwhile, it turns out that the $100 million fund is part of PhonePe’s primary fundraise that took place in January through which the company raised $350 million from General Atlantic. PhonePe said the second tranche of investments is part of its target of raising up to $1 billion, which the company announced in December after shifting its headquarters to India from Singapore.
According to some reports, PhonePe is relocating back to India to ensure easier entry into the country’s highly-regulated financial services industry, especially lending.
Founded in 2015 by CEO Sameer Nigam, Husna Nc Engineer, and Rahul Chari, Maharashtra, India-based PhonePe is a UPI-based online payment system that provides a mobile payment app that enables users to transfer money instantly from their smartphones and devices.