Thursday 05 October, 2023

This A16z-backed firm draws the curtain on India operations

We look at why Carta has made a swift exit from India and peek into a Singaporean upcycling firm’s fight against food waste.

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Hello reader,

Life has a funny way of working its magic, often leaving us scratching our heads. Rarely do matters turn out exactly as planned. A wave of its wand and, just like that, your vacation is cut short. Another, and the buffet is closed as you begin to dig in.

With so many things out of our control, we must constantly adapt to the ebb and flow of daily life. As a result, sometimes matters end prematurely. Wagner Group’s aborted mutiny in Russia and the tragic tale of OceanGate’s Titan submersible are some recent examples.

Similarly, few at A16z-backed Carta could have foreseen the financial software company, which was valued at US$7.4 billion in August 2021, shutting down its operations in India less than a year after entering the country. But that is exactly what is happening.

Today’s featured piece makes sense of the US-based firm’s unexpected decision to shut its doors in the world’s fifth-largest economy and shift client accounts to its Singapore office.

Today we look at:

US-based Carta closing doors in India Ento bagging growth funding to expand food waste upcycling in SG Other newsy highlights such as Patrick Walujo officially becoming GoTo’s new CEO as Andre Soelistyo exits, and Southeast Asian firms jumping on the AI bandwagon Premium summary Shutting shop

Image credit: Timmy Loen

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is perhaps the proverbial phrase of choice when the going gets tough. But it’s still scant consolation for the 22 employees whom Carta fired as a result of its downsizing and closure in India.

Making matters worse is that the employees had not anticipated layoffs as Carta had just conducted performance appraisals a week before, according to a source, who told Tech in Asia under the condition of anonymity.

Some recourse: Tech in Asia understands that the company will give retrenched staff a severance package of two and half months salary plus any restricted stock options issued to them that have vested. Swift exit: Henry Ward, CEO and co-founder of Carta, broke the news during a town hall meeting with the India staff on May 31. “The announcement was kept pretty short and as soon as the town hall ended, the company logged us out from our laptops,” a person affected by the job cuts told Tech in Asia. Not the first, hopefully the last: This isn’t the first round of layoffs at Carta this year. The California-based firm shed 10% or about 200 of its staff in January, but people with knowledge of the matter said those affected were part of the US operations. According to the sources, the retrenchments in India weren’t a part of the round announced in January.

Read more: A16z-backed Carta to shut India operations, lays off staff

Startup spotlight Fight against food waste

Image credit: Timmy Loen

As if something straight out of an anime, Ento Industries banks on black soldier flies to upcycle food waste and produce sustainable protein for animal feed. This Singapore-based startup has raised fresh funding from private investors focused on ESG initiatives and plans to move to a larger facility and expand its production capabilities with the new capital.

That’s one incredible fly: The process of leveraging black soldier flies to upcycle food waste also generates a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer known as insect frass, which can be used in gardening and crop farming. Feeding off grants: Founded in June 2020, Ento Industries said it has gained financial grants, such as the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant and the Enterprise Singapore Enterprise Development Grant. Expert tie-ups: It has also formed strategic partnerships with various institutions and organizations, including the National University of Singapore and Singapore Agrotechnologies, to develop new products and streamline operations.

See also: After pandemic growth, Indonesian biotech startup tests post-Covid waters

Tech in Asia’s Founders Meetup: Thailand Jump in and share the ups and downs that you’ve experienced as a founder

Do you wish there was a collaborative platform for founders to exchange their insights on overcoming setbacks during their startup journeys? We’ve got just the event for you.

Mark your calendar for July 26 and join us in the heart of Bangkok at theCOMMONS for our networking event with founders from the Tech in Asia community. Learn how others dealt with challenges in their businesses and share your own experiences.

Limited seats are available – act fast and secure yours here. Tickets are on sale at US$12.50 each, inclusive of light bites and one complimentary drink. Avoid FOMO and claim your spot today!

Special thanks to our official event partners – AWS, CleverTap, Cooley, D.Camp, Sinarmas Land, Singapore Global Network (SGN), and Quest Ventures – and our community partners – WeWork, Gobi Partners, Antler, The Sentry, Vietcetera, Golden Gate Ventures, and Purple Quarter – for making this meetup possible.

Quick bytes

1️⃣ It’s official GoTo shareholders approved the resignation of Andre Soelistyo from his position as president director of the Indonesian tech firm. Following the development, which Soelistyo announced earlier this month, he will assume a new role as a GoTo commissioner. Patrick Walujo, managing partner of Northstar Group, was appointed as the new president director and CEO of GoTo.

2️⃣ A whole lot of Nothing Ahead of its Phone (2) launch next month, Nothing has raised US$96 million in funding in its latest round led by Highland Europe. According to co-founder and CEO Carl Pei, the London-based firm has sold over 1.5 million devices worldwide to date. Nothing previously raised US$70 million in its series B round in March 2022.

3️⃣ All for AI There is a surge in the adoption of AI among businesses in Asia Pacific, according to an IDC InfoBrief commissioned by Dataiku. The proportion of APAC businesses using AI in their operations jumped from 39% in 2020 and 2021 to 76% last year. In Southeast Asia, spending on AI solutions is predicted to increase from US$174 million in 2022 to US$646 million in 2026.

4️⃣ On the up OneDegree, an insurtech firm, has raised US$27 million in the second tranche of its series B funding round. The Hong Kong-based startup will use the funds to further expand in Asia and invest in its AI capabilities. The company aims to turn profitable by the end of 2024 and has brought down its loss ratio by about 40% by using data to fix premium prices and detect fraud.

5️⃣ No closer to public markets Shein has reportedly registered for a US listing that could value the firm at over US$60 billion, sources told Reuters. However, the company has denied these rumors and said it has no IPO plans. According to the sources, the financial debut could come as early as before the end of 2023. The Chinese online ultra-fast fashion giant was valued at US$100 billion in 2022.

6️⃣ Getting bigger and better RTP Global, a venture capital firm that has backed unicorns like Datadog, DeliveryHero, and Cred, is launching its fourth fund – worth US$1 billion. The fund will be deployed across Europe, the US, India, and Southeast Asia. RTP Global will split the new fund into two, with US$660 million earmarked for early-stage investments and US$340 million for “breakout” portfolio companies.


Shravanth Vijayakumar

Fascinated by all things tech, business and sport. Always down for a healthy discussion on these topics. Feel free to reach me at [email protected]

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