YC-backed travel startup Duffel inks $4.7M round led by Blossom Capital, but stays coy on the details

A new London-based travel-industry startup is slowly coming out of stealth mode, but although it’s releasing it’s funding round, it’s keeping the actual product close to its chest. For now.

Y Combinator -backed travel startup Duffel says it is working on “a new way to book travel online, aiming at the booking experience “end to end”. A hint at what this might mean is the fact that the team contains alumni from GoCardless and is objectively very experienced in the FinTech world.

So far, that’s all we’re getting. But what we do know is that Duffel is today today announcing an investment round of $4.7 million.

Blossom Capital is the lead investor in the round and has built a syndicate with other major investors: The Crankstart Foundation and Index Ventures. Crankstart is the charitable investment vehicle of Michael Moritz .

It’s also revealed that it’s currently participating in the Y Combinator S18 Cohort.

The UK headquartered company was founded by two former early GoCardless employees: Steve Domin and Tom Bates, as well as Vincent Pastor. Steve and Tom join the list of GoCardless-alumni startups, which include the founders of Monzo and Nested. They say the money will be used to expand their engineering team in London.

Steve Domin, founder of Duffel said: “We are building a platform from scratch that will completely redefine the nature of travel experiences booked on web or mobile. The travel industry hasn’t evolved its technology to service the demand and behaviours of its most important customers and the providers – airlines, hotels, transport companies – and their customers are hurting as a result. Travel agents still work on terminals that look like they’re from the 70s and travel buyers still have to browse 10 websites before finding that perfect fare. This shouldn’t be the case any more and we’re planning to solve this issue from the ground up.”

Commenting Blossom Capital founder Ophelia Brown said: “The Duffel team have very ambitious plans to completely reinvent the travel space, so we are very excited to support them in their mission. Similar to payments, before the emergence of next-gen companies like Adyen or Stripe, this is an industry that hasn’t witnessed innovation in decades, still running on antiquated rails and infrastructure. We see huge opportunity for innovation in this multi-trillion dollar industry.”

This is the second firm London-based Blossom has invested in straight out of Y Combinator. Recent investments include Fat Llama, an online marketplace for renting belongings like audio, video, sound and DJ equipment.

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Alexa routers are a thing now

Some things are inevitable — stock market fluctuations, thunderstorms, your favorite band reuniting to offset poor financial planning. And then there’s Alexa. Amazon’s smart assistant is slowly making its way onto every aspect of of the smart home, and Google’s own offering isn’t too far behind.

As far as these things go, routers make a lot of sense. They’re a key part of stay connected, and in the case of mesh ones, they’re everywhere. So why not have them do double duty, right? Clearly Huawei and Netgear were struck by the same thought, and Amazon was more than happy to oblige. 

Both companies debuted a take on the concept this week at IFA. Huawei’s AI Cube, which despite not being a cube at all, is the more straight forward of the two offerings. The device looks remarkably like a Google Home (and, by extension, a Glade air freshener, but I digress) and does LTE via a 4G SIM card, along with both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

The fabric bottom of the router is a larger speaker so Alexa can talk back, featuring a “400ml sound cavity and an aluminum diaphragm.” The “AI” appears to refer to the Alexa functionality. No word on what specific router skills Alexa will have here, but speed readings seem like a pretty good start.

Netgear, meanwhile, beat Huawei to the draw by a day with the Orbi Voice. The addition to the popular line takes advantage of the fact that mesh routers are designed to be placed throughout the home to help cover WiFi dead spots. It’s a bit like putting Echo Dots everywhere, except they’re helping keep your network covered in the process.

No word on price for the Huawei, but the Netgear’s gonna run you $300. Either one seems like a pretty solid addition for those looking to Alexa up the place.

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Apple will require all apps to have a privacy policy as of October 3

Apple is cracking down on apps that don’t communicate to users how their personal data is used, secured or shared. In an announcement posted to developers through the App Store Connect portal, Apple says that all apps, including those still in testing, will be required to have a privacy policy as of October 3, 2018.

Allowing apps without privacy policies is something of an obvious hole that Apple should have already plugged, given its generally protective nature over user data. But the change is even more critical now that Europe’s GDPR regulations have gone into effect. Though the app makers themselves would be ultimately responsible for their customers’ data, Apple, as the platform where those apps are hosted, has some responsibility here, too.

Platforms today are being held accountable for the behavior of their apps, and the data misuse that may occur as a result of their own policies around those apps.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, was dragged before the U.S. Senate about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data from 87 million Facebook users was inappropriately obtained by way of Facebook apps.

Apple’s new requirement, therefore, provides the company with a layer of protection – any app that falls through the cracks going forward will be able to be held accountable by way of its own privacy policy and the statements it contains.

Apple also notes that the privacy policy’s link or text cannot be changed until the developer submits a new version of their app. It seems there’s still a bit of loophole here, though – if developers add a link pointing to an external webpage, they can change what the webpage says at any time after their app is approved.

The new policy will be required for all apps and app updates across the App Store as well as through the TestFlight testing platform as of October 3, says Apple.

What’s not clear is if Apple itself will be reviewing all the privacy policies themselves as part of this change, in order to reject apps with questionable data use policies or user protections. If it does, App Store review times could increase, unless the company hires more staff.

Apple has already taken a stance on apps it finds questionable, like Facebook’s data-sucking VPN app Onavo, which it kicked out of the App Store earlier this month. The app had been live for years, however, and its App Store text did disclose the data it collected was shared with Facebook. The fact that Apple only booted it now seems to indicate it will take a tougher stance on apps which are designed to collect user data as one of their primary functions going forward.

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Google and Mastercard reportedly partner to track offline purchases

According to a report from Bloomberg, Google and Mastercard have signed a secret deal so that Google could track retail sales using Mastercard transaction data. This is yet another proof that Google’s true customers are its advertising partners.

Online advertising have now overtaken all other advertising methods. Companies spend more on online ads than TV ads, newspaper ads and more.

And the reason why online ads have become so popular is that it’s much easier to track the effectiveness of your ad campaign. If you spend money on Google or Facebook ads, you can directly track the number of customers who end up on your online store because of your campaign. You can even see what they end up buying.

And yet, what if you see an online ad for a TV and then you buy a TV in store? Tech companies have tried for years to bridge the gap between online ads and offline sales. That’s why Google tracks your location all the time, even if you turn off location history. And that’s also why Google and Mastercard may have signed a deal.

According to Bloomberg, all Mastercard transaction data in the U.S. is encrypted and transmitted to Google. Google is paying Mastercard, and potentially other card networks, to access this information.

Google can’t see individual transactions. But the company can extract relevant information from this pile of data. For instance, it could match offline purchases with user profiles. And the company knows if a user clicked on an ad.

Advertisers can upload an email database to match up offline sales with Google profiles and ad clicks. Google sends them reports with total offline sales. Advertisers then see how much money they generated thanks to their online ad campaign.

It’s a good way to convince advertising clients that their campaign was effective. When those companies are thinking about their advertising budget, chances are they will end up spending more money on Google if they see that it leads to a lot sales.

This strategy shows once again that building an advertising business at scale requires some privacy concessions. It’s even more offensive that Google doesn’t talk about these deals more publicly. Users deserve to know what happens.

You can reportedly opt out of this Mastercard deal by turning off “Web and App Activity” in your Google account. But this setting is hard to find and encompasses a ton of stuff. Offline purchases are neither “web” nor “app” data for instance.

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Tesla’s drama, China-based companies are listing in the U.S., and SurveyMonkey is (finally) going public

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week, we were a man down, with the excellent Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase News on a vacation that someone seems to have sanctioned, though it was not us, as we don’t believe in vacations. (Wilhelm, get back here.) We did, happily, have the very knowledgeable Kirsten Korosec of TechCrunch join us on the line; we were also joined by this week’s personable in-studio guest: Lauren Kolodny, a partner at the San Francisco-based, early-stage venture firm Aspect Ventures.

It was the perfect mix to talk about car makers and more car makers, including Tesla and CEO Elon Musk’s seemingly ill-planned plans to take the publicly traded company private, then vacillating a bit before changing his mind again, much to the chagrin of his board, the company’s shareholders, and poor Kirsten, who was trying to enjoy her evening last Friday when Musk decided (for now) to leave well enough alone and drop the whole cockamamie idea of switching out Tesla’s investor base.

We also talked about Toyota’s announcement this week that it’s sinking $500 million into Uber and forming an intriguing if confusing driverless-car pact in the process. And we lingered on Nio, a four-year-old, Shanghai-based electric car vehicle that, if it has its way, will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange in roughly two weeks — even though it only made $7 million in the first half of this year and reported a net loss of $503 million. Who’s counting, though? Not U.S. investors, it hopes.

Speaking of IPOs, we knew we’d be remiss not to talk about the IPO filing this week of SurveyMonkey, a now 19-year-old, San Mateo, Ca., company that’s beloved by both personal and business users of its analytical tools and surveys, but which is still not making money, owing in part to expensive debt that the company is currently servicing (and will pay down using its IPO proceeds). Will public shareholders embrace the company, which was last valued at $2 billion during its last private round in 2014 but whose value has subsequently been marked down by fully 25 percent since by fund manager Fidelity? Stay tuned!

We did not get to our favorite topic of scooters, running out time to chat about this major development and also this one. Knowing how much we love to toot about les scoots, rest assured that they will back next week, as will we, so tune in again then!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

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SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Nyoka

Software AG is aiming to bring the burgeoning world of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, machine learning and deep learning in line with the statistical and data mining industry standard of the Predictive Model Markup Language (PMML).

Nyoka is a Python library, compatible with Python 3.5+, which features full support for the PMML XML-based predictive model and provides data preprocessing, script execution and deep neural networks through extensions. Through Nyoka, Software AG explains users can export PMML implementations of a large number from popular machine learning and deep learning Python frameworks. For any that aren’t supported out of the box, users can create their own exporters.

“Besides about 500 Python classes which each cover a PMML tag and all constructor parameters/attributes as defined in the standard, Nyoka also provides an increasing number of convenience classes and functions that make the Data Scientist’s life easier for example by reading or writing any PMML file in one line of code from within your favorite Python environment,” the company wrote on the project’s GitHub repository. “Nyoka comes to you with the complete source code in Python, an extended HTML documentation for the classes/functions and a growing number of Jupyter Notebook tutorials that help you familiarizing yourself with the way how Nyoka supports you to use PMML as your favorite Data Science transport file format.”

The project aims to make the life of data scientists easier by making deployment of AI solutions like Software AG’s own Zementis predictive analysis more accessible via a well-known, industry-standard framework.

“To address the challenges that organizations face with complex AI solutions, frequent model updates, cross-platform execution as well as data integration, Software AG emphasizes a vendor neutral approach that provides users plug-and-play simplicity with a wide range of components,” Michael Zeller, senior vice president of AI strategy and innovation with Software AG, said in the release announcement. “Nyoka streamlines the work of data scientists, reduces the complexities of deploying machine learning models, and gives them more time to focus on creating new models that deliver increased business value.”

The post SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Nyoka appeared first on SD Times.

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Chat app Line hopes its own crypto token can solve its user growth problem

Line, the Japanese messaging app firm that’s best known for its cutesy characters and stickers, is pushing deeper into crypto after it launched its own token to help grow its stagnant user base.

Line went public two years ago with 218 million monthly active users, but it hasn’t been able to kick on. The company no longer gives out its worldwide user number, but the number of active users in its four biggest markets has fallen from 169 million in Q2 2017 to 164 million in its recent Q2 2018 period.

Link — Line’s token — isn’t being minted through an ICO, instead, it’ll be given out to Line users as an incentive for using certain services. Line hasn’t said exactly how it can be earned yet, although it is likely that it’ll be tied to specific activities to promote engagement.

Line plans to use Link to incentive user activity on its messaging app and other services

The token will be listed on Bitbox — Line’s crypto exchange — and it’ll be used it to buy content like stickers and webcomics, as well as other Line services. It’ll also be possible to use Link to get a lower commission rate on trading in the same way that Binance, the world’s largest exchange, uses its BNB token.

Line currently has a virtual currency for its in-app content and services, and you’d imagine that Link will replace it in the future.

It’s worth noting, however, that Link hasn’t launched in Japan yet. That’s because Line is awaiting regulatory approval for its token and exchange, so, for now, those in Japan — which is Line’s largest market — will earn virtual tokens which can be traded for Link in the future.

Line is struggling to grow its user numbers

Link will launch next month, and it follows the announcement of BitBox in July and the launch of a dedicated crypto fund in early August.

Line has dodged the legal questions around token sales by not holding an ICO, and the fact it is using the currency to incentivize user engagement and activity isn’t a huge surprise. Line went public in a dual U.S-Japan IPO that raised over $1 billion in 2016 but, despite user numbers declining, it has grown its revenue through additional services.

Increased competition from the likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp is likely its biggest threat, so incentivizing users is a logical strategy. Of course, that depends on how useful Link becomes. If users can exchange it for a decent amount of cash or credits inside Line’s platform it may gain appeal, but if they just pick up trivial amounts, it may be less interesting to them. The bigger picture will be when Link replaces Line’s virtual currency for all purchases but that alone isn’t likely to boost user engagement.

Despite declining user numbers, Line has grown revenue by pushing out services that connect to its messaging platform.

Line also plans to use Link — and the blockchain it has developed to power it — to host decentralized applications (dapps) that will connect to its messaging platform. The company already does a lot more than messaging — for example payments, ride-hailing, music and videos — and it plans to tap third-party developers to build dapps. Generally, though, dapps haven’t taken off. The collectibles game Cryptokitties did blow up late last year, but studies have suggested user activity is massively down this year as the fad has slowly worn off.

Crypto enthusiasts will no doubt take positives from Line’s latest move — it is arguably the largest company to embrace crypto, in terms of end-user audience reach — but it remains to be seen whether Link and its dapps platform can help it crack its user growth and retention issues.

“Over the last seven years, Line was able to grow into a global service because of our users, and now with Link, we wanted to build a user-friendly reward system that gives back to our users. With Link, we would like to continue developing as a user participation-based platform, one that rewards and shares added value through the introduction of easy-to-use dapps for people’s daily lives,” said Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa in a statement.

Unlike Bitcoin, which is mined, Line has minted a total of one billion Link tokens which it said will be “gradually issued according to how this ecosystem develops.” The company plans to keep 200 million tokens, with the remaining 800 million made available as user rewards.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

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Scientists make a touch tablet that rolls and scrolls

Research scientists at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have built a prototype touchscreen device that’s neither smartphone nor tablet but kind of both — and more besides. The device, which they’ve christened the MagicScroll, is inspired by ancient (papyrus/paper/parchment) scrolls so it takes a rolled-up, cylindrical form factor — enabled by a flexible 7.5inch touchscreen housed in the casing.

This novel form factor, which they made using 3D printing, means the device can be used like an erstwhile rolodex (remember those?!) for flipping through on-screen contacts quickly by turning a physical rotary wheel built into the edge of the device. (They’ve actually added one on each end.)

Then, when more information or a deeper dive is required, the user is able to pop the screen out of the casing to expand the visible display real estate. The flexible screen on the prototype has a resolution of 2K. So more mid-tier mobile phone of yore than crisp iPhone Retina display at this nascent stage.

 

 

The scientists also reckon the scroll form factor offers a pleasing ergonomically option for making actual phone calls too, given that a rolled up scroll can sit snugly against the face.

Though they admit their prototype is still rather large at this stage — albeit, that just adds to the delightfully retro feel of the thing, making it come over like a massive mobile phone of the 1980s. Like the classic Motorola 8000X Dynatac of 1984.

While still bulky at this R&D stage, the team argues the cylindrical, flexible screen form factor of their prototype offers advantages by being lightweight and easier to hold with one hand than a traditional tablet device, such as an iPad. And when rolled up they point out it can also fit in a pocket. (Albeit, a large one.)

They also imagine it being used as a dictation device or pointing device, as well as a voice phone. And the prototype includes a camera — which allows the device to be controlled using gestures, similar to Nintendo’s ‘Wiimote’ gesture system.

In another fun twist they’ve added robotic actuators to the rotary wheels so the scroll can physically move or spin in place in various scenarios, such as when it receives a notification. Clocky eat your heart out.

“We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” said Roel Vertegaal, professor of human-computer interaction and director of the lab, in a statement.

“Another source of inspiration was the old rolodex filing systems that were used to store and browse contact cards. The MagicScroll’s scroll wheel allows for infinite scroll action for quick browsing through long lists. Unfolding the scroll is a tangible experience that gives a full screen view of the selected item. Picture browsing through your Instagram timeline, messages or LinkedIn contacts this way!”

“Eventually, our hope is to design the device so that it can even roll into something as small as a pen that you could carry in your shirt pocket,” he added. “More broadly, the MagicScroll project is also allowing us to further examine notions that ‘screens don’t have to be flat’ and ‘anything can become a screen’. Whether it’s a reusable cup made of an interactive screen on which you can select your order before arriving at a coffee-filling kiosk, or a display on your clothes, we’re exploring how objects can become the apps.”

The team has made a video showing the prototype in action (embedded below), and will be presenting the project at the MobileHCI conference on Human-Computer Interaction in Barcelona next month.

While any kind of mobile device resembling the MagicScroll is clearly very, very far off even a sniff of commercialization (especially as these sorts of concept devices have long been teased by mobile device firms’ R&D labs — while the companies keep pumping out identikit rectangles of touch-sensitive glass… ), it’s worth noting that Samsung has been slated to be working a a smartphone with a foldable screen for some years now. And, according to the most recent chatter about this rumor, it might be released next year. Or, well, it still might not.

But whether Samsung’s definition of ‘foldable’ will translate into something as flexibly bendy as the MagicScroll prototype is highly, highly doubtful. A fused clamshell design — where two flat screens could be opened to seamlessly expand them and closed up again to shrink the device footprint for pocketability — seems a much more likely choice for Samsung designers to make, given the obvious commercial challenges of selling a device with a transforming form factor that’s also robust enough to withstand everyday consumer use and abuse.

Add to that, for all the visual fun of these things, it’s not clear that consumers would be inspired to adopt anything so different en masse. Sophisticated (and inevitably) fiddly devices are more likely to appeal to specific niche use cases and user scenarios.

For the mainstream six inches of touch-sensitive (and flat) glass seems to do the trick.

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To boost Amazon Pay in India, Amazon reportedly acquired Tapzo, an ‘all-in-one’ aggregator app, for $40M

On the heels of Google rebranding Tez to Google Pay in India, and Walmart acquiring a majority stake in e-commerce marketplace Flipkart, Amazon is also making a run in India to hone in on the country’s growing economy.

According to multiple reports, Amazon has paid around $40 million to acquire Tapzo, a startup that aggregates a number of app-based services — such as Uber, Ola, food delivery services Swiggy and Zomato, Book My Show, bill payment service BillDesk and more — into a single app. Amazon is reportedly paying between $30 million and $40 million, and its intention is to leverage Tapzo’s one-stop services app to help grow Amazon Pay usage in the country.

Amazon Pay has reportedly been seeing a wider global push to spur adoption of the service. But in India, the drive to get people to use Apple Pay may be particularly strong. Rival wallet services like Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Mobikwik and others have swooped in a market where payment card usage is not that widespread, and consumers are conducting a growing number of transactions on their mobile devices. If you can get traction for your mobile wallet, that puts you into a strong position for dominating in all kinds of commerce and transactions in Asia’s second-largest economy.

We’d heard talks between Tapzo and Amazon have been in the works for a while, but now that a deal has been done, the two seem to be downplaying the details.

Messages sent to Tapzo founder and CEO, Ankur Singla, did not get responses. Another Tapzo executive we reached on the phone said he could not comment but also didn’t deny the report. And in a statement provided to TechCrunch, Amazon also did not explicitly confirm the deal, nor did Amazon deny it.

“Our commitment to the vision of a less-cash India remains the same,” a spokesperson said. “Our goal is to make it easier than ever before for customers to make digital payments by improving the customer experience, affordability and daily routines.”

An email to one of Tapzo’s investors, Sequoia, also did not get a response. Tapzo had in all raised about $23 million, with other investors including Ru-Net, American Express and RB Investments.

The deal pairs together a startup that has had held a lot of promise but has also has been through several rebrands and pivots in search of a viable business model; with an e-commerce leviathan that has already invested billions of dollars money into India but is looking for a way of expanding its reach in beyond its own marketplace.

Tapzo has attempted to address a particular niche in the Indian market: Smartphone usage has taken off in India, with many using mobile handsets as their primary “computer” for getting online. That creates an opportunity for companies looking to connect with customers, but also a challenge: there is a lot of app churn, and an added pressure on publishers to provide lasting value to consumers whose devices might be space-constrained and wallets cash-constrained to use and pay for anything but the most top-priority data services.

“One of the worst-kept secrets of the mobile app industry is that almost all apps (except for the top 5-8 apps) see 60-80 percent uninstall rate within 90 days of users installing the app,” Singla wrote in a blog post when explaining the challenge in the market. “India probably has the highest uninstall rate in the world, so when an app says it has 20 million installs, you can do your math.”

Enter Tapzo: the idea is that by loading the Tapzo app with multiple services, it makes the whole app much more valuable to users, and having all the services existing within one app also means that a users of Tapzo do not need to dedicate as much space to multiple apps that could be more likely to get uninstalled on their own.

That formula appears to have hit the right note in the market: Tapzo claims to have over 5 million users across some 100 cities in India turning to Tapzo to connect with more than 40 different services. It says that to date it’s enabled over 25 million transactions.

But Tapzo’s success has not come quickly nor smoothly. The company has been through a number of pivots and rebrands since 2010, starting first as Akosha, a platform for businesses to communicate with customers; then becoming Helpchat, a personal assistant and chatbot; and lastly its most recent pivot to Tapzo. (And the company owning all three of these has yet a different name, Coraza Technologies.) VC Circle earlier this year reported that Coraza’s last round in January this year was a down round, from a peak valuation of about $85 million in 2016.

Tapzo in its latest incarnation potentially plays directly into Amazon’s strategy to build out its presence in India by way of Amazon Pay, Amazon’s payment processing service that competes against the likes of Google Pay, PayPal and the rest.

Tapzo and Amazon Pay had already been working together on promotional efforts: to encourage more people to integrate and use Amazon Pay for transactions on Tapzo, the two have run multiple promotions where users could get money back and discounts on a wide range of services you can access through Tapzo.

A closer relationship by way of acquisition could not only see Amazon Pay becoming a (the only?) default payment option, but it could give Amazon the chance to use the app to promote its own network of services and merchants, whether it’s for restaurant delivery or for a deal on a new mixing bowl to cook it yourself — a twist on the company’s classic marketplace model.

Amazon could also use it as a loyalty and points service: book your next Ola car through Tapzo, pay for it with Amazon Pay, and get money towards your next purchase on Amazon.in. That could be one way of fulfilling Amazon’s goal “to make digital payments by improving the customer experience, affordability and daily routines,” with Amazon getting a cut on those payments.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

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To boost Amazon Pay in India, Amazon reportedly acquired Tapzo, an ‘all-in-one’ aggregator app, for $40M

On the heels of Google rebranding Tez to Google Pay in India, and Walmart acquiring a majority stake in e-commerce marketplace Flipkart, Amazon is also making a run in India to hone in on the country’s growing economy.

According to multiple reports, Amazon has paid around $40 million to acquire Tapzo, a startup that aggregates a number of app-based services — such as Uber, Ola, food delivery services Swiggy and Zomato, Book My Show, bill payment service BillDesk and more — into a single app. Amazon is reportedly paying between $30 million and $40 million, and its intention is to leverage Tapzo’s one-stop services app to help grow Amazon Pay usage in the country.

Amazon Pay has reportedly been seeing a wider global push to spur adoption of the service. But in India, the drive to get people to use Apple Pay may be particularly strong. Rival wallet services like Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Mobikwik and others have swooped in a market where payment card usage is not that widespread, and consumers are conducting a growing number of transactions on their mobile devices. If you can get traction for your mobile wallet, that puts you into a strong position for dominating in all kinds of commerce and transactions in Asia’s second-largest economy.

We’d heard talks between Tapzo and Amazon have been in the works for a while, but now that a deal has been done, the two seem to be downplaying the details.

Messages sent to Tapzo founder and CEO, Ankur Singla, did not get responses. Another Tapzo executive we reached on the phone said he could not comment but also didn’t deny the report. And in a statement provided to TechCrunch, Amazon also did not explicitly confirm the deal, nor did Amazon deny it.

“Our commitment to the vision of a less-cash India remains the same,” a spokesperson said. “Our goal is to make it easier than ever before for customers to make digital payments by improving the customer experience, affordability and daily routines.”

An email to one of Tapzo’s investors, Sequoia, also did not get a response. Tapzo had in all raised about $23 million, with other investors including Ru-Net, American Express and RB Investments.

The deal pairs together a startup that has had held a lot of promise but has also has been through several rebrands and pivots in search of a viable business model; with an e-commerce leviathan that has already invested billions of dollars money into India but is looking for a way of expanding its reach in beyond its own marketplace.

Tapzo has attempted to address a particular niche in the Indian market: Smartphone usage has taken off in India, with many using mobile handsets as their primary “computer” for getting online. That creates an opportunity for companies looking to connect with customers, but also a challenge: there is a lot of app churn, and an added pressure on publishers to provide lasting value to consumers whose devices might be space-constrained and wallets cash-constrained to use and pay for anything but the most top-priority data services.

“One of the worst-kept secrets of the mobile app industry is that almost all apps (except for the top 5-8 apps) see 60-80 percent uninstall rate within 90 days of users installing the app,” Singla wrote in a blog post when explaining the challenge in the market. “India probably has the highest uninstall rate in the world, so when an app says it has 20 million installs, you can do your math.”

Enter Tapzo: the idea is that by loading the Tapzo app with multiple services, it makes the whole app much more valuable to users, and having all the services existing within one app also means that a users of Tapzo do not need to dedicate as much space to multiple apps that could be more likely to get uninstalled on their own.

That formula appears to have hit the right note in the market: Tapzo claims to have over 5 million users across some 100 cities in India turning to Tapzo to connect with more than 40 different services. It says that to date it’s enabled over 25 million transactions.

But Tapzo’s success has not come quickly nor smoothly. The company has been through a number of pivots and rebrands since 2010, starting first as Akosha, a platform for businesses to communicate with customers; then becoming Helpchat, a personal assistant and chatbot; and lastly its most recent pivot to Tapzo. (And the company owning all three of these has yet a different name, Coraza Technologies.) VC Circle earlier this year reported that Coraza’s last round in January this year was a down round, from a peak valuation of about $85 million in 2016.

Tapzo in its latest incarnation potentially plays directly into Amazon’s strategy to build out its presence in India by way of Amazon Pay, Amazon’s payment processing service that competes against the likes of Google Pay, PayPal and the rest.

Tapzo and Amazon Pay had already been working together on promotional efforts: to encourage more people to integrate and use Amazon Pay for transactions on Tapzo, the two have run multiple promotions where users could get money back and discounts on a wide range of services you can access through Tapzo.

A closer relationship by way of acquisition could not only see Amazon Pay becoming a (the only?) default payment option, but it could give Amazon the chance to use the app to promote its own network of services and merchants, whether it’s for restaurant delivery or for a deal on a new mixing bowl to cook it yourself — a twist on the company’s classic marketplace model.

Amazon could also use it as a loyalty and points service: book your next Ola car through Tapzo, pay for it with Amazon Pay, and get money towards your next purchase on Amazon.in. That could be one way of fulfilling Amazon’s goal “to make digital payments by improving the customer experience, affordability and daily routines,” with Amazon getting a cut on those payments.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

via Click on the link for the full article