Sequoia India and Accel back on-demand scooter startup in $12.2M deal

Two of India’s most prominent VCs are backing a motorbike on-demand service after Sequoia India and Accel led a $12.2 million investment in Metro Bikes. Sequoia India and Accel were joined in the round by Raghunandan G, who founded TaxiForSure which sold to Ola, among other investors.

Metro Bikes started out as a luxury bike rental service in 2014 — initially as “Wicked Rides” — and it launched scooters (motorbikes) and other two-wheel rentals in 2016. Now, the company is rebranding to Bounce and refocusing its business to on-demand scooter (that’s motorbike in U.S. parlance) rentals for first and last mile transportation. The idea is to appeal to commuters, who can pick up a bike at their nearest location and later leave it at an endzone. The cost is based on distance and time spent.

Bounce is currently present in Bangalore, where it has 2,000 scooters currently, and Hyderabad, where it has around 500. The plan is to increase those numbers but the company is waiting on a permit to operate electric scooters, once it gets that it will only deploy electric, CEO Vivekananda Hallekere told TechCrunch in an interview. Its current mix of vehicles also includes bicycles, electric bicycles and kick scooters available.

The startup is going to hone its focus on Bangalore and Hyderabad for now, with no new expansions for 6-10 months, he added. Looking further forward, Bounce is aiming to be nationwide by 2020, while Hallekere said he sees the potential for deployment in Southeast Asia in the future.

Bounce claims that it is currently seeing around four rides per vehicle per day on its on-demand platform, the company is targeting seven to twelve rides which it believes will bring it to a good level of revenue. Although Hallekere did stress that the core business is anchored in sustainability.

That’s down to the funding of the fleet, which the CEO said is financed by institutional investors who purchase the assets in exchange for a cut of revenue. That helps cover a significant portion of operating expenses, while in other cases Bounce works with OEMs who provide vehicles under similar terms.

Bounce’s founding team (left to right): Vivekananda H R, CEO; Varun Agni, CTO; Anil Giri Raju, COO

Bounce is entering a fairly congested market in India, with other startups include Wheelstreet — which TechCrunch wrote about earlier this year — ZipHop also competing with similar services. Hallekere, the Bounce CEO, said that the company’s history in the business and its technology can help it stand out.

Added to that, Bounce said it is working closely with authorities to help ease last mile congestion. For example, the company is one of a number to have a struck a deal with Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) to put rental bikes at 36 metro stations. It also landed a deal with corporate to enable parking across the city. The company said it plans to pursue similar arrangements with metro operators in Hyderabad and other cities when it expands.

“The first mile and last mile are essential to having public transport work in India,” Hallekere said. “It’s very natural for Indians to go on scooters and we started with metro bikes keeping this in mind. We want to make an impact and enable people to ditch cars.”

Bounce is also looking to introduce a pooling service that would enable scooter owners to add their vehicles to the company’s fleet and make money when they are used.

Big tech companies are looking at Hollywood as the next stage in their play for the cloud

This week, both Microsoft and Google made moves to woo Hollywood to their cloud computing platforms in the latest act of the unfolding drama over who will win the multi-billion dollar business of the entertainment industry as it moves to the cloud.

Google raised the curtain with a splashy announcement that they’d be setting up their fifth cloud region in the U.S. in Los Angeles. Keeping the focus squarely on tools for artists and designers the company talked up its tools like Zync Render, which Google acquired back in 2014, and Anvato, a video streaming and monetization platform it acquired in 2016.

While Google just launched its LA hub, Microsoft has operated a cloud region in Southern California for a while, and started wooing Hollywood last year at the National Association of Broadcasters conference, according to Tad Brockway, a general manager for Azure’s storage and media business.

Now Microsoft has responded with a play of its own, partnering with the provider of a suite of hosted graphic design and animation software tools called Nimble Collective.

Founded by a former Pixar and DreamWorks animator, Rex Grignon, Nimble launched in 2014 and has raised just under $10 million from investors including the UCLA VC Fund and New Enterprise Associates, according to Crunchbase.

“Microsoft is committed to helping content creators achieve more using the cloud with a partner-focused approach to this industries transformation,” said Tad Brockway, General Manager, Azure Storage, Media and Edge at Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re excited to work with innovators like Nimble Collective to help them transform how animated content is produced, managed and delivered.”

There’s a lot at stake for Microsoft, Google and Amazon as entertainment companies look to migrate to managed computing services. Tech firms like IBM have been pitching the advantages of cloud computing for Hollywood since 2010, but it’s only recently that companies have begun courting the entertainment industry in earnest.

While leaders like Netflix migrated to cloud services in 2012 and 21st Century Fox worked with HP to get its infrastructure on cloud computing, other companies have lagged. Now companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are competing for their business as more companies wake up to the pressures and demands for more flexible technology architectures.

As broadcasters face more demanding consumers, fragmented audiences, and greater time pressures to produce and distribute more content more quickly, cloud architectures for technology infrastructure can provide a solution, tech vendors argue.

Stepping into the breach, cloud computing and technology service providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are trying to buy up startups servicing the entertainment market specifically, or lock in vendors like Nimble through exclusive partnerships that they can leverage to win new customers. For instance, Microsoft bought Avere Systems in January, and Google picked up Anvato in 2016 to woo entertainment companies.

The result should be lower cost tools for a broader swath of the market, and promote more cross-pollination across different geographies, according to Grignon, Nimble’s chief executive.

“That worldwide reach is very important,” Grignon said. “In media and entertainment there are lots of isolated studios around the world. We afford this pathway between the studio in LA and the studio in Bangalore. We open these doorways.”

There are other, more obvious advantages as well. Streaming — exemplified by the relationship between Amazon and Netflix is well understood — but the possibility to bring costs down by moving to cloud architectures holds several other distribution advantages as well as simplifying processes across pre- and post-production, insiders said.

 

TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield is coming soon to Beirut, São Paolo and Lagos

Everyone knows there are thriving startup communities outside of obvious hubs, like San Francisco, Berlin, Bangalore and Beijing, but they don’t always get the support they deserve. Last year, TechCrunch took a major page from its playbook, the Startup Battlefield competition, and staged the event in Nairobi, Kenya to find the best early stage startup in Sub-Saharan Africa, and also to Sydney, Australia, to find the same for Australia and New Zealand. Both were successes, thanks to talented founders and the hard traveling TechCrunch team. And now we’re pleased to announce that we’re stepping up our commitment to emerging ecosystems.

TechCrunch is once again teaming up with Facebook, our partner for last year’s Nairobi event, to bring the Startup Battlefield to three major cities representing regions with vital, emerging startup communities. In Beirut, TechCrunch’s editors will strive to find the best early stage startup in the Middle East and North Africa. In São Paolo, the hunt is for the best in Latin America. And in Lagos, Nigeria, TechCrunch will once again find the top startup in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Early stage startups are welcome to apply. We will choose 15 companies in each region to compete, and we will provide travel support for the finalists to reach the host city. The finalists will also receive intensive coaching from TechCrunch’s editors to hone their pitches to a razor’s edge before they take the stage in front of top venture capitalists from the region and around the world. Winners will receive $25,000 plus a trip for two to the next TechCrunch Disrupt event, where they can exhibit free of charge, and, if qualified, have a chance to be selected to participate in the Startup Battlefield competition associated with that Disrupt. In the world of founders, the Startup Battlefield finalists are an elite; the more than 750 Startup Battlefield alums have raised over $8 billion and produced 100+ exits to date.

What are the dates? They will be finalized shortly but Beirut is on track for early October, São Paolo for early November, and Lagos in early December.  In the meantime, founders eager start an application for one of these Startup Battlefields may do so 
by visiting apply.techcrunch.com . Look for more details next week.

Interested in sponsoring one of the events? Email us at Sponsors@TechCrunch.com