Apple alum’s jobs app for India’s workers raises $12.5 million

A startup by an Apple alum that has become home to millions of low-skilled workers in India said on Tuesday it has raised an additional $ 12.5 million, just five months after securing $ 8 million from high-profile investors.

One-year-old Apna said Sequoia Capital India and Greenoaks Capital led the $ 12.5 million investment in the startup. Existing investors Lightspeed India and Rocketship VC also participated in the round. The startup, whose name is Hindi for “ours,” has now raised more than $ 20 million.

More than 6 million low-skilled workers such as drivers, delivery personnel, electricians and beauticians have joined Apna to find jobs and upskill themselves. But there’s more to this.

An analysis of the platform showed how workers are helping one another solve problems — such as a beautician advising another beautician to perform hair dressing in a particular way that tends to make customers happier and tip more, and someone sharing how they negotiated a hike in their salary from their employer.

“The sole idea of this is to create a network for these workers,” Nirmit Parikh, Apna founder and chief executive told TechCrunch in an interview. “Network gap has been a very crucial challenge. Solving it enables people to unlock more and more opportunities,” he said. Harshjit Sethi, principal at Sequoia India, said Apna was making inroads with “building a professional social network for India.”

The startup has become an attraction for several big firms, including Amazon, Flipkart, Unacademy, Byju’s, Swiggy, BigBasket, Dunzo, BlueStar and Grofers, which have joined as recruiters to hire workers. Apna offers a straightforward onboarding process — thanks to support for multiple local languages — and allows users to create a virtual business card, which is then shown to the potential recruiters. Parikh said Apna’s AI understands the cultural nuances, helping recruiters find the best candidates for their needs.

The past six months have been all about growth at Apna, said Parikh. The app, available on Android, had 1.2 million users in August last year, for instance. During this period, there have been 60 million interactions between recruiters and potential applicants, he said. The platform, which has amassed more than 80,000 employers, has a retention rate of over 95%, said Parikh.

“Apna has taken a jobs-centric approach to upskilling that we are very excited about. Lack of accountability has been the core issue with current skill / vocational learning alternatives for grey and blue-collar workers. Apna has turned the problem on its head by creating net-positive job outcomes for anyone who chooses to upskill on the platform,” said Vaibhav Agrawal, partner at Lightspeed India, in a statement.

Image Credits: Nirmit Parikh

Parikh got the idea of building Apna after he kept hearing about the difficulty his family and friends faced in India in hiring people. This was puzzling to Parikh, as he wondered how could there be a shortage of workers in India when there are hundreds of millions of people actively looking for such jobs. The problem, Parikh realized, was that there wasn’t a scalable networking infrastructure in place to connect workers with employers.

Before creating the startup, Parikh met workers and went undercover as an electrician and floor manager to understand the problems workers were facing. That journey has not ended. The startup talks to over 15,000 users each day to understand what else Apna could do for them.

“One of the things we heard was that users were facing difficulties with interviews. So we started groups to practice them with interviews. We also started upskilling users, which has made us an edtech player. We plan to ramp up this effort in the coming months,” said Parikh, who also started an AI firm more than a decade ago to solve challenges with electricity flux and then another startup to solve for information overload. (The first startup is now being run by family and friends, and the second firm was sold to Intel, Parikh said.)

Parikh said the startup is overwhelmed each day with the response it is getting from its customers and the industry. Each day, he said, people share how they were able to land jobs, or increase their earnings. In recent months, several high-profile executives from companies such as Uber and BCG have joined Apna to scale the startup’s vision, he said, adding that the problem Apna is solving in India exists everywhere and the startup’s hope is to eventually serve people across the globe.

The app currently has no ads, and Parikh said he intends to not change that. “Once you get in the ad business, you start doing things you probably shouldn’t be doing,” he said. The startup instead plans to monetize its platform by charging recruiters, and offering upskill courses. But Parikh maintained that Apna will always offer its courses to users for free. The premium version will target those who need extensive assistance, he said. The startup also plans to expand its team.

As is the case elsewhere, millions of people lost their livelihood in India in the past year as coronavirus shut many businesses and workers migrated to their homes. There are over 250 million blue and grey-collar workers in India, and providing them meaningful employment opportunities is one of the biggest challenges in our country, said Sethi.

Startups – TechCrunch

Newsletter: Tech jobs soar + Sweeter berries

  • 400% hiring boom at OurCrowd companies
  • Driscoll’s calls in SCiO to rate berries
  • SPACs become main event for Israeli startups
  • BioCatch gets US patent for user credential verification
  • NBA’s Russell Westbrook leads Varo Bank to $ 63M raise
  • mPrest joins Microsoft Azure for energy companies
  • Superpedestrian readies for New York rollout
  • Introductions
  • Jobs

400% hiring boom at OurCrowd companies


“Startups backed by influential Israel-based equity crowdfunding group OurCrowd are looking to hire in greater numbers, despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic,” Red Herring reports on the release of the first Quarterly OurCrowd Jobs Index this week. “Pandemic or not, the Israeli tech industry continued its rapid growth in 2020,” says Gil Press in Forbes, noting that the number of open positions listed by OurCrowd’s portfolio companies rose from 350 in June 2020 to 912 in December 2020. “Startups surveyed by OurCrowd predict that job growth would continue through 2021,” he adds. The Index shows the number of job openings in Israel rose by 400% during the same period, advertised by 100 of OurCrowd’s portfolio companies and funds. “Despite the lingering pandemic and fears that the economy would take a long time to recover, many of the startups backed by OurCrowd are already emerging strongly from the downturn,” Laly David, OurCrowd’s Business Development Partner tells Crowdfund Insider, while The Times of Israel notes that most CEOs surveyed expect to maintain a mix of in-person and remote working. “Only 14% of OurCrowd companies are expecting to return to the office full-time,” reports Calcalist’s CTech. To read the full OurCrowd Jobs Index Q4 2020, click here.

Driscoll’s calls in SCiO to rate berries


US fresh berry market leader Driscoll’s is partnering with OurCrowd portfolio company Consumer Physics to use its SCiO technology to innovate quality measurement of its produce. Driscoll’s will rely exclusively on the SCiO Cup device for Brix (sugar content) measurements for some 2 million quality inspections it conducts every year in North America. The Near Infrared technology and breakthrough design offered through the SCiO Cup will allow Driscoll’s to measure the Brix of its berries more effectively. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the flavor of our berries,” Brie Reiter Smith, Driscoll’s Director of Quality Systems Design and Technology, Supply Chain, tells Fresh Fruit Portal. “Partnering with Consumer Physics was an easy decision. Their impressive and novel brix measurement device allows us to reward the independent growers across our network who provide the ripest and best tasting berries.”

SPACs became the main event for Israeli startups 
Otonomo, a startup in the Maniv Mobility portfolio, plans to enter the Nasdaq through a SPAC merger, listing at an implied value of $ 1.4 billion. They follow OurCrowd portfolio company Innoviz and several more could be coming. In the US, there are almost 300 SPACS waiting to find a company and they raised almost $ 90 billion in 2020, a sixfold increase over 2019,  told The Times of Israel. SPACs have become a huge part of the public market. Where before it was a small sideshow, now it is one of the main events.

Top Tech News

BioCatch gets US patent for user credential verification
BioCatch, which uses behavioral biometrics to spot financial crimes that escape notice with more traditional security tools, acquired a US patent for the method it uses to verify a user’s identity and for detecting fraud, Crowdfund Insider reports. The verification process is based on the manner in which the user holds and accesses their mobile device.The company expanded its headcount and global footprint in 2020 by establishing a business office in Singapore and extending its operations in India. BioCatch now maintains an active presence on five continents and serves more than 40 clients, many of them leading financial institutions. It maintains a database of more than 200 million individual behavioral profiles and analyzes over 2 billion digital sessions every month. OurCrowd was an early investor in BioCatch in 2014 and invested in the recent $ 168M lead by Bain Capital.

NBA’s Russell Westbrook leads Varo Bank to $ 63M raise
A year after becoming the first US neobank to be granted a national bank charter, Varo Bank raised $ 63M in new funding led by NBA star Russell Westbrook, who will also join the startup as an advisor, TechCrunch reports. Westbrook will advise on the direction of Varo Bank’s programs aimed at underserved communities, including communities of color. Westbrook’s investment came through Russell Westbrook Enterprises. Existing Varo Bank investors include Warburg Pincus, The Rise Fund, Gallatin Point Capital, HarbourVest Partners and funds managed by BlackRock. Varo Bank last year raised $ 241 million in Series D funding. With the additional funds, Varo Bank’s total raise to date is now $ 482.4 million.

mPrest joins Microsoft Azure for energy companies
mPrest has joined forces with Microsoft to bring its energy software solutions to Microsoft Azure for the energy industry, supporting the goal of zero emissions and sustainability, AIthority reports. mPrest, which serves major utility companies worldwide, joins Microsoft’s global independent software vendor partner ecosystem which includes sales and go-to-market support. The collaboration will leverage the flexibility of cloud capabilities and the power of SaaS to deliver mPrest’s orchestration and optimization platform on Azure to leading energy companies. “We are pleased to work with mPrest to help advance and support the industry’s commitment to sustainability and a goal of zero emissions,” says Darryl Willis, vice president of Energy at Microsoft Corp.‎ “Offering mPrest’s DERMS on Microsoft Azure will accelerate the digital transformation across energy markets.”

Superpedestrian readies for New York rollout
Superpedestrian, whose smart LINK escooters last longer and return profits in markets where others cannot compete, is getting ready to roll in New York City. A pilot program in the spring will test escooter share systems for at least a year in an 18-square-mile section of the East Bronx. “In a lot of ways it’s the perfect place to use scooters to improve transit equity,” Paul Steely White, director of public affairs at Superpedestrian, which applied to participate in the program, tells the Wall Street Journal. White noted that the area, home to 570,000 people, is popular with many essential workers who struggle with some of the city’s longest commutes because of poor mass-transit connections.

Introductions

Your portfolio gets stronger when the OurCrowd network gets involved. Visit our Introductions page to see which of our companies are looking for connections that you may be able to help with.

Job Vacancies

Read the OurCrowd Quarterly Jobs Index here.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there are hundreds of open positions at our global portfolio companies. See some opportunities below:

Search and filter through Portfolio Jobs to find your next challenge.

The post Newsletter: Tech jobs soar + Sweeter berries appeared first on OurCrowd Blog.

OurCrowd Blog

If you want to work from home, these are some of the hottest freelancing jobs in high demand – Business Insider India

If you want to work from home, these are some of the hottest freelancing jobs in high demand  Business Insider India
“startups when:1d” – Google News

[Jobs Roundup] Here’s how you can work with AI-driven autonomous voice agent startup Agara Labs – YourStory

[Jobs Roundup] Here’s how you can work with AI-driven autonomous voice agent startup Agara Labs  YourStory
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Feb. 26 – Bluffton eye care tech startup LensQuote to create 23 high-wage jobs, Fort Wayne headquarters – FW Business

Feb. 26 – Bluffton eye care tech startup LensQuote to create 23 high-wage jobs, Fort Wayne headquarters  FW Business
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‘It’s a pivotal year.’ Raleigh startup Pendo plans hiring spree of 400 new jobs – Raleigh News & Observer

‘It’s a pivotal year.’ Raleigh startup Pendo plans hiring spree of 400 new jobs  Raleigh News & Observer
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Edtech, logistics and gig-economy to drive jobs as startups step up hiring – Business Standard

Edtech, logistics and gig-economy to drive jobs as startups step up hiring  Business Standard
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[OurCrowd in Red Herring] OurCrowd Jobs Index Shows Startup Hires Growing Despite Pandemic

The number of jobs listed by OurCrowd’s global portfolio companies more than doubled from 350 in June 2020 to 912 in December 2020. The number of job openings in Israel rose by 400% during the same period to more than 200. The positions were advertised by 100 of OurCrowd’s portfolio of companies and funds.

Read more here.

The post [OurCrowd in Red Herring] OurCrowd Jobs Index Shows Startup Hires Growing Despite Pandemic appeared first on OurCrowd Blog.

OurCrowd Blog