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PayPal-backed money lender Tala raises $110M to enter India

Tala, a Santa Monica, California-headquartered startup that creates a credit profile to provide uncollateralized loans to millions of people in emerging markets, has raised $110 million in a new financing round to enter India’s burgeoning fintech space.

The Series D financing for the five year-old startup was led by RPS Ventures, with GGV Capital and previous investors IVP, Revolution Growth, Lowercase Capital, Data Collective VC, ThomVest Ventures, and PayPal also participating in the round.

The new round, which takes the startup’s total fundraising to $215 million, valued it above $500 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Tala has also raised an additional $100 million in debt, including a $50 million facility led by Colchis in last one year.

Tala looks at a customer’s data on texts and calls, merchant transactions, overall app usage, and other behavioral data through its Android app to build their credit profile. Based on these pieces of information, it provides instant loans in the range of $10 to $500 to customers.

The loans are approved within minutes and disbursed via mobile payment platforms. The startup has lent over $1 billion to more than 4 million customers to date — up from issuing $300 million in loan to 1.3 million customers last year, Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO of Tala, told TechCrunch in an interview.

The startup, which employs more than 550 people, will use the new capital to enter India, Siroya, who built Tala after interviewing thousands of small and micro-businesses, said. In the run up to launch in India, Tala began a 12-month pilot program in the country last year to conduct user research and understand the market. It has also set up a technology hub in Bangalore, she said.

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Shivani Siroya (Tala CEO) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

“The opportunity is very massive in India, so we spent some time customizing our service for the local market,” she said.

According to World Bank, more than 2 billion people globally have limited access to financial services and working capital. For these people, many of whom live in India, securing a small size loan is extremely challenging as they don’t have a credit score.

In recent years, several major digital payment platforms in India including Paytm and MobiKwik have started to offer small loans to users. Traditional banks are still lagging to serve this segment, industry executives say.

Tala goes a step further and takes liability for any unpaid returns, Siroya said. More than 90% of Tala customers pay back their loan in 20 to 30 days and are recurring customers, she added.

The startup also forwards the positive credit history and rankings to the local credit bureaus to help people secure bigger and long-term loans in the future, she added.

Tala, which charges a one-time fee that is as low as 5% for each loan, relies on referrals, and some marketing through radio and television to acquire new customers. “But a lot of these users come because they heard about us from their friends,” Siryoa said.

As part of the new financing round, Kabir Misra, Founding General Partner of RPS Ventures, has joined Tata’s board of directors, the startup said.

Tata will also use a portion of its new fund to expand its footprint and team in its existing markets — East Africa, Mexico, and the Philippines — and also build new solutions.

Siroya said the startup has identified some more markets where it plans to enter next. She did not disclose the names, but said she is eyeing more countries in South Asia and Latin America.

Google, Mozilla team up to block Kazakhstan’s browser spying tactics

Google and Mozilla have taken the rare step of blocking an untrusted certificate issued by the Kazakhstan government, which critics say it forced its citizens to install as part of an effort to monitor their internet traffic.

The two browser makers said in a joint statement Wednesday it deployed “technical solutions” to block the government-issued certificate.

Citizens had been told to install the government-issued certificate on their computers and devices as part of a domestic surveillance program. In doing so it gave the government ‘root’ access to the network traffic on those devices, allowing the government to intercept and snoop on citizens’ internet browsing activities.

Researchers found that only a few sites were being monitored, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

Although the Kazakh government is said to have stopped what it called “system testing” and allowed citizens to delete the certificate, both Google and Mozilla said its measures would stop the data-intercepting certificate from working — even if it’s still installed.

“We don’t take actions like this lightly,” said Marshall Erwin, Mozilla’s senior director of trust and security. But Google browser chief Parisa Tabriz said the company would “never tolerate any attempt, by any organization — government or otherwise — to compromise Chrome users’ data.”

The block went into effect invisibly and no action is needed by users.

Kazakhstan has a population of 18 million. Researchers said that the Kazakh government’s efforts to intercept the country’s internet traffic only hit a “fraction” of the connections passing through the country’s largest internet provider.

The Central-Asian country currently ranks as one of the least free countries on the internet freedom score, based off data collected by watchdog Freedom House, trailing just behind Russia and Iran.

A spokesperson for the Kazakhstan consulate in New York did not respond to a request for comment.

Kobiton raises a $5.2M Series A round for its mobile testing platform

Kobiton, an Atlanta-based mobile testing platform that helps developers test their apps on real devices using the open-source Appium automation framework, today announced that it has raised a $5.2 million Series A round. The round was led by BIP Capital, with support from seed investors KMS Technology and Kinetic Ventures, as well as BetterCloud executive chairman Jon Hallett, former Infor COO Ken Walters and Kevin Lee, the CEO of Kobiton. Previously, the company raised $3 million in seed funding.

KMS Technology actually incubated Kobiton before it was spun out into its own company in 2016.

Current customers include Cap Gemini, Frontier Airlines, GreenSky, Office Depot and Q2.

One thing that sets Kobiton apart from other on-device testing services like Microsoft’s App Center Test Cloud, the AWS Device Farm and Google’s Firebase Test Lab is that it offers a cloud-based lab but also allows you to test set up your own private and local labs as needed. In total, Kobiton supports over 350 devices  and, of course, provides detailed logs for all tests, including full video, screenshots, system metrics and more.

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“Our own survey of over 1500 organizations confirm the trends we’re seeing in the industry: First, companies have greatly advanced on the maturity testing model with more and more realization that extensive real-device testing is necessary to create flawless user experiences for all users on all devices,” Kobiton CEO Kevin Lee told me. “Second, organizations of all sizes have acknowledged that moving to automated testing is imperative to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced world. Time-to-market is becoming a critical measure of overall quality and the only way to get there is through extensive automated testing.”

Lee argues that until now, it too a lot of developer-level expertise to write the test scrips necessary to run automated tests. The Appium project has made this easier, but it’s not a trivial undertaking to set up tests with it either. He also argues that automated test scripts tend to be brittle. “They break when the underlying App changes, and worse, tend to break for the same App being tested on different device types,” he said.

Kobiton allows developers to create tests without having to write scripts by using tis “record and playback” feature. This still creates regular Appium code in the background, but developers don’t have to interact with it. Because that code is there, though, the company can then work its magic and add an abstraction layer (“Appium Anywhere”) that allows those tests to run on any device.

“What that means is that your test script will run the same on every device without requiring changes to your test script,” explains Lee. “Combined, these technologies will allow organizations to adopt mobile automation, at scale, in a cost effective and time efficient manner.”

Like most companies at this stage, Kobiton plans to use the new funding to expand its sales, marketing customer support and product development efforts. On the product side, a lot of that work will go into the “Record and Playback” tools.

5 ways parents can teach kids to combat bullying

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In our Back to School series, Mashable tackles the big issues students face, from mental health to representation to respectful communication. Because returning to the classroom is about more than buying school supplies. 


As your child heads back to school, it’s important that they learn how to deal with a prevalent problem that extends beyond the classroom: bullying.

Whether they’re experiencing it first-hand or witnessing it from afar, children should understand that it’s not uncommon. In 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 20 percent of U.S. students between 12 and 18 reported being bullied at school.  Read more…

More about Back To School, Social Good, and Kids

Gerard Butler’s story of accidentally flashing 400 people is wonderfully awkward

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If you happen to be giving a speech at a family member’s wedding, the last thing you want to do is accidentally flash the entire congregation. That’s basically the stuff of nightmares.

It’s exactly what Gerard Butler did, though. In the clip above from Conan, he tells the story of his disastrous first reading at his sister’s wedding — and how his mother basically had to alert him to the fact he was sitting with his legs completely spread.

“I definitely, that day, was not wearing underwear,” explains Butler.

Oh dear. Read more…

More about Conan O Brien, Gerard Butler, Entertainment, Talk Show, and Celebrities