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Written by Manish Singh

India’s Unacademy raises $50 million to grow its online learning platform

Big money continues to flow in India’s growing education market. Bangalore-based Unacademy, which operates an online learning platform to help millions prepare for competitive exams in India, has raised $50 million to further scale its reach.

The Series D financing round was led by Steadview Capital, Sequoia India, Nexus Venture Partners and Blume Ventures, with Unacademy’s own co-founders Gaurav Munjal and Roman Saini also participating in it. The new round means the startup has raised close to $90 million to date.

The four-year-old startup is aimed at students who are preparing for competitive exams to get into a college and those who are pursuing graduation level courses. Unacademy allows students to watch live classes from educators and later engage in sessions engage to go over topics in more detail. It has 10,000 registered educators and 13 million learners — up from 3 million a year ago.

The startup said it will use the new fund to expand the number of educators it has on the platform, and also add more exam courses, Unacademy CEO Munjal told TechCrunch. It will also improve its product and expand the team.

Unacademy began its journey as a YouTube channel, but has since expanded to its own app where it offers some courses for free and others through a recently launched subscription business. The subscription service — called Unacademy Plus Subscription — has 50,000 users.

Unacademy also maintains an archive of all the classes, giving students the option to reference to older lectures at any time through the app. The startup says YouTube is still its largest distribution channel. Overall, the platform sees more than 100 million monthly views across the platforms.

“We are seeing unprecedented growth and engagement from learners in smaller towns and cities, and are also very humbled to see that top-quality educators are choosing Unacademy as their primary platform to reach out to students. In the last few months, we have taken bigger strides toward achieving this mission. We have more than 400 top educators from across the country taking live classes every day on Unacademy Plus. This is available to every student, irrespective of their location,” said Munjal.

Unacademy competes with unicorn Byju’s, which is widely believed to be the largest edtech startup in the world with its valuation nearing $4 billion. Byju’s, which has more than 2.4 million paid subscribers (and over 30 million users), offers courses for students in kindergarten to year 12, in addition to those preparing for competitive under graduation level courses.

India has the largest population in the world in the age bracket of 5 to 24 years. The education space in the nation is estimated to grow to $35 billion in next six years.

In recent months, Unacademy has grown more aggressive with marketing. Last year it tied up with web producing house The Viral Fever to fund a show called “Kota Factory”, which revolves around the lives of students who are preparing to go to an engineering college. In the midst of it, Unacademy also offered low-cost, discounted subscription plans to attract users to its subscription platform.

Unacademy has presence in Indonesia as well, where as of last year, it had about 30 educators. The startup did not offer an update on how its international ambitions are holding up. A representative of Unacademy told TechCrunch recently that the platform does not rely on ads for monetization.

India’s Open ‘neo-bank’ raises $30 million to help businesses automate their finances

Open, a Bangalore-based startup that operates a “neo-bank” to help businesses automate and run their finances, has bagged $30 million in a new funding round as investors look to replicate a globally tried and tested business idea in emerging markets.

The Series B financing round for the two-year-old startup was led by Tiger Global with Tanglin Venture Partners Advisors and existing investors 3one4 Capital, Speedinvest, BetterCapital AngelList Syndicate also participating in it. The new round valued Open at $150 million, a person familiar with the matter said. The startup has raised about $37 million to date.

Open operates as a neo-bank that offers nearly all the features of the bank with additional tools to serve the needs of a business. Millions of small and medium sized businesses in India struggle with maintaining multiple bank accounts, bookkeeping of their daily spending, and bandying out payments to employees.

Open offers them a platform that automates much of this task. It lets them keep track of each transaction — who it came from, where it is going, and what sales it made across accounts.

“We have a small business owner from Ahmedabad on our platform. They see 59 transactions from their customers in its bank account every few hours. Prior to using our service, they were juggling all day to figure out where these transactions originated from or went to,” he explained. “Because on their bank statement, they only see one-line description of a transaction’s detail.”

Traditional banks have either not addressed these small needs, or charge huge amount for their own solutions that is not feasible for a small business, he added.

The startup says it already has over 100,000 customers, with as many as 20,000 coming onboard each month of late. It processes about $5 billion in transactions each year.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Anish Achuthan, founder and CEO of Open, said the startup saw an opportunity to serve the businesses and wanted to open a better bank. “But building a bank in India comes with its own set of regulatory challenges, so we looked at what fintech startups were doing in other parts of the world for inspiration,” he said.

And it found that inspiration quickly enough. One of its early investors is Speedinvest, which has funded Tide and N26 ‘neo-banks’ in European markets. In India, Open has partnered with ICICI Bank, one of the biggest banks in the nation, for creation of accounts. On ICICI Bank’s internet banking website, Open has integrated its tools including a payment gateway, Achuthan explained.

Achuthan said the startup, which employs 85 people currently, will use the fresh capital to significantly expand its business — build more products, hire more people, and sign up more customers. Open will soon also launch Open+ card, a business credit card with a 30-day interest-free credit line for venture backed startups, and Layer, a programmable bank account for developers. In the next one year, the startup aims to grow its customer base to 1 million.

Open raised its Series A of $5 million earlier this year. When asked if it’s a very capital intensive business, Achuthan said they needed the money to get a first-mover advantage. The startup was in talks with another investor to raise an additional $20 million, but Achuthan said they did not need that much money at this stage.

Open today competes with a handful of startups including InstantPay, but Achuthan said much of the market remains untapped.

Indonesia’s KoinWorks raises $12 million to grow its P2P SME lending platform

KoinWorks, an Indonesian startup that helps small and medium-sized businesses secure financial services through its online peer-to-peer platform, has raised $16.5 million SGD ($12 million USD) in a new funding round as money continues to flow in what has become a hot space for investors.

The Series B round for the three-year-old startup was led by EV Growth and Quona Capital . Existing investors — Mandiri Capital Indonesia, Convergence Ventures, Gunung Sewu, Beeblebrox and Quona Capital — also participated in the round, the startup said in a statement. The new round means KoinWorks has raised more than $28.5 million to date.

SMEs have historically struggled with securing loan and other financial services from banks — creating a big opportunity for middlemen lending platforms. KoinWorks operates an online platform that uses machine learning to provide low interest loans to these small and medium sized enterprises. It identifies the businesses that are eligible to make the return eventually and connects them with lenders.

The platform has amassed more than 300,000 users, it claimed. More than 60% of the lenders are millennials and for 70%, it is their first time investment. Willy Arifin, a founder and CEO of KoinWorks said the startup aims to “democratize finance in Indonesia while fostering financial inclusion.”

Surprisingly, KoinWorks raised a bigger amount — $16.5 million (USD) in its Series A round in the second half of last year. Arifin insisted that the round was intentionally oversubscribed, suggesting that the existing shareholders of the startup were unwilling to overly dilute their stake. The new round “does not reflect the true appetite of investors in KoinWorks,” he added.

KoinWorks competes with a number of local startups including Akseleran, Investree, Reksadana, Amartha, and Modalku. It also fights with Funding Societies, which received $25 million last year to expand its business in several Southeast Asian markets. Soon, it will have a new competitor in Validus Capital, which raised $15 million earlier this year and announced its plan to enter Indonesia this quarter.

The new round comes at a time when Indonesia is pushing strict regulatory changes for peer-to-peer lending businesses in an attempt to ensure that the chaos in China does not seep into Indonesia.