top tech news: ETtech Evening Briefing on Feb. 23, 2021: Facebook ends Australia news blackout, Zomato zooms

Good evening,

Facebook, which switched off news sharing in Australia last week, will turn it back on in the next few days after the government agreed to amend legislation that requires Google and Facebook to pay local publishers for content. The blackout led to a 13% drop in traffic to Australian news sites, so it isn’t surprising the government was willing to negotiate.

Back home, Zomato is now valued at $5.4 billion after picking up a fresh $250 million from existing investors. The food delivery platform is also hiring again, after laying off hundreds last year.

Facebook refriends Australia


Facebook will end its news blackout in Australia “in the coming days” after striking a deal with the government to
amend its Media Bargaining Code, the company announced in a
blog post.

What are the changes?

  • Facebook will now get a two-month mediation period to cut deals with Australian publishers. Final-offer arbitration, in which each side proposes a compensation amount and the arbiter chooses one or the other, will be the last resort.
  • Australia will take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry while deciding whether to designate a platform under the code.
  • The government will give one month’s notice before reaching a final decision.

All rights reserved: Campbell Brown, VP, Global News Partnerships at Facebook
said the Australian government has clarified that the company “will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation”.

Recap: Australia is set to introduce landmark legislation to force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers and broadcasters for content.

The law would allow for both individual and collective bargaining by Australian media companies to determine payment for displaying news on Google and Facebook.

Last week, Facebook had blocked publishers and people from sharing news content on its platform in Australia, even as Google
struck deals with several big publishers there, including a three-year deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Total traffic to Australian news sites dropped by around 13% a few days after Facebook’s blackout, while traffic to these sites from outside the country fell by a staggering 30%, according to data from Chartbeat.

Meanwhile, Facebook has
joined its Big Tech peers to roll out a new code of practice aimed at curbing the spread of fake news in Australia.

What’s the plan? The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), which includes the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, TikTok and Redbubble, has committed protecting Australians against harm from online disinformation and misinformation by adopting a range of measures that reduce its spread and visibility.

  • Participating firms have also committed to releasing an annual transparency report about their efforts, with the first set of reports expected to be released in May 2021.

Zomato valuation zooms to $5.4 billion


Food ordering platform Zomato has
racked up $250 million in primary financing from existing investors Tiger Global, Kora, and Fidelity.

The funding round values the food delivery startup at $5.4 billion, a significant jump from the $3.9 billion valuation when it
raised $660 million in December last year.

The details: Kora has invested $115 million as part of this round, while Fidelity has contributed $55 million, and Tiger Global has pumped in $50 million, the company’s largest shareholder Info Edge disclosed in a stock exchange filing. Bow Wave has also ploughed $20 million into the company while Dragoneer has infused $10 million. With this fundraising, Info Edge now owns an 18.4% stake in Zomato.

ET reported last month that the online food delivery platform is
closing a $500 million fundraise.

Bullish investors: As Zomato inches closer to its public market debut, the highly successful IPO of SoftBank-backed DoorDash has created a lot of interest among investors.

With ordering volumes picking up in recent months, Zomato has also
resumed hiring, less than a year after it laid off a chunk of its staff to save on costs during the lockdown.

Tweet of the Day

The Catalysts | No, India should not buy Bitcoin


It’s hard to miss the sudden increase in chatter around Bitcoin. As the price of Bitcoin scales new heights,
there are calls in India not to ban it (and other cryptocurrencies) and instead embrace Bitcoin as a reserve currency. The arguments for India to embrace Bitcoin wholeheartedly are sensationalist. A large economy like India cannot embrace something that has so many unknowns, writes Fisdom’s Subramanya SV.
(read more)

Entrepreneur claims big stake in Paytm parent

Vijay Shekhar Sharma

A US-based Indian national has
demanded a significant stake in One97 Communications, Paytm’s parent, along with a board seat and recognition as a co-founder, accusing the company’s founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma of going back on his promise and allegedly misappropriating his investments.

What’s the matter? Ashok Kumar Saxena, aged around 70, who claims to be a founder-director of One97 Communications, lists initial investments of $27,500 between January 2001 and April 2002 towards his promised stake of 55% in the company through an agreement allegedly signed in September 2001. In a legal notice to Sharma, he has also alleged that he was “wrongfully removed” as director in February 2004.

Paytm’s response: Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma denied the charges. Through his law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, he has also sought a copy of the alleged agreement. “… our client does not admit the contents of the captioned notice and reserves his rights and remedies under law,” the firm said in response to the notice.

ETtech Done Deals

Sachin TendulkarETtech

VerSe Innovation, the parent company of news aggregator Dailyhunt and short-video platform Josh, has
acquired Bengaluru-based AI solutions provider
Cognirel Technologies for an undisclosed amount. Cognirel’s team of scientists will join the firm while founder Ram Prakash will head the company’s newly instituted artificial intelligence lab.

Impact Analytics, provider of AI-driven software-as-a-service solutions for planning and merchandising within the retail industry, has
raised $11 million in Series A from investors led by Argentum Capital Partners IV, LP.

Sachin Tendulkar has entered into a multilayer partnership with Bengaluru-based online education technology company
Unacademy to
pick up a small stake in the platform as well as to become its brand ambassador.

■ Agritech platform
DeHaat has completed a cash-and stock-deal to acquire
FarmGuide, B2B SaaS platform. This comes after DeHaat
picked up $30 million in a Series-C funding round early this year.

has acquired Jaipur-based ITR filing platform
Tax2Win, a move that will help the wealthtech platform foray into the tax solutions segment. Tax2Win will continue to operate as an independent identity, but both the companies will work together to provide a holistic experience to customers incorporating each other’s product portfolio.

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