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Tiger Global backs Indian crypto startup Coinswitch Kuber at over $500M valuation

Coinswitch Kuber, a startup that allows young users in India to invest in cryptocurrencies, said on Thursday it has raised $25 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its reach in India, the world’s second largest internet market and also the place where the future of private cryptocurrencies remains uncertain for now.

Tiger Global financed the entire Series B funding round of Coinswitch Kuber and valued the three-year-old Indian startup at over $500 million. The announcement of Series B comes just three months after Coinswitch closed its $15 million Series A round from Ribbit Capital, Sequoia Capital India, and Kunal Shah. The Bangalore-based startup has raised $41.5 million to date.

TechCrunch reported earlier this month that the New York-headquartered technology hedge fund had led or was in advanced stages of talks to lead investments in many Indian startups including Coinswitch.

Coinswitch Kuber is one of the handful of startups operating in the cryptocurrency space today. The startup allows users to buy slivers of several popular cryptocurrencies. A user on Coinswitch, for instance, can buy as small as 100 Indian rupees ($1.3)-worth of Bitcoin.

The startup said it has amassed over 4.5 million users, more than half of whom are aged 25 or younger. In less than a year, Coinswitch Kuber processed transactions over $5 billion.

But how the startup performs in the future is not entire in its hand.

While trading of private cryptocurrency such as bitcoin is currently legal in India, New Delhi is widely expected to introduce a law that bans all private cryptocurrency.

Ashish Singhal, co-founder and chief executive of Coinswitch Kuber, said he is optimistic that India will not ban private cryptocurrencies, and said the startup closed the financing round with Tiger Global before New Delhi’s indication to formulate a law.

“This investment round brings us at par with some of the most sought after cryptocurrency companies in the world and sets us up for the long run,” said Singhal.

In recent months, some startups in India have started to explore a contingency plan in case India does end up banning cryptocurrency trading in the country. Many startups are today building in India, but focusing on serving customers overseas.

“As they build India’s leading cryptocurrency platform, CoinSwitch is well positioned to capture the tremendous growing interest in crypto among retail investors. We are excited to partner with CoinSwitch as they innovate in this emerging asset class,” said Scott Shleifer, Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement.

Apple and Google pressed in antitrust hearing on whether app stores share data with product development teams

In today’s antitrust hearing in the U.S. Senate, Apple and Google representatives were questioned on whether they have a “strict firewall” or other internal policies in place that prevent them from leveraging the data from third-party businesses operating on their app stores to inform the development of their own competitive products. Apple, in particular, was called out for the practice of copying other apps by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who said the practice had become so common that it earned a nickname with Apple’s developer community: “sherlocking.”

Sherlock, which has its own Wikipedia entry under software, comes from Apple’s search tool in the early 2000’s called Sherlock. A third-party developer, Karelia Software, created an alternative tool called Watson. Following the success of Karelia’s product, Apple added Watson’s same functionality into its own search tool, and Watson was effectively put out of business. The nickname “Sherlock” later became shorthand for any time Apple copies an idea from a third-party developer that threatens to or even destroys their business.

Over the years, developers claimed Apple has “sherlocked” a number of apps including Konfabulator (desktop widgets), iPodderX (podcast manager), Sandvox (app for building websites), Growl (a notification system for Mac OS X), and in more recent years, F.lux (blue light reduction tool for screens) Duet and Luna (apps that makes iPad a secondary display), as well as various screen time management tools. Now Tile claims Apple has also unfairly entered its market with AirTag.

During his questioning, Blumenthal asked Apple and Google’s representatives at the hearing — Mr. Kyle Andeer, Apple’s
Chief Compliance Officer and Mr. Wilson White, Google’s Senior Director Public Policy & Government Relations, respectively — if they employed any sort of “firewall” in between their app stores and their business strategy.

Andeer somewhat dodged the question, saying, “Senator, if I understand the question correctly, we have separate teams that manage the App Store and that are engaged in product development strategy here at Apple.”

Blumenthal then clarified what he meant by “firewall.” He explained that it doesn’t mean whether or not there are separate teams in place, but whether there’s an internal prohibition on sharing data between the App Store and the people who run Apple’s other businesses.

Andeer then answered, “Senator, we have controls in place.”

He went on to note that over the past twelve years, Apple has only introduced “a handful of applications and services,” and in every instance, there are “dozens of alternatives” on the App Store. And, sometimes, the alternatives are more popular than Apple’s own product, he noted.

“We don’t copy. We don’t kill. What we do is offer up a new choice and a new innovation,” Andeer stated.

His argument may hold true when there are strong rivalries, like Spotify versus Apple Music, or Netflix versus Apple TV+, or Kindle versus Apple Books. But it’s harder to stretch it to areas where Apple makes smaller enhancements — like when Apple introduced Sidecar, a feature that allowed users to make their iPad a secondary display. Sidecar ended the need for a third-party app, after apps like Duet and Luna first proved the market.

Another example was when Apple built screen time controls into its iOS software, but didn’t provide the makers of third-party screen time apps with an API so consumers could use their preferred apps to configure Apple’s Screen Time settings via the third-party’s specialized interface or take advantage of other unique features.

Blumenthal said he interpreted Andeer’s response as to whether Apple has a “data firewall” as a “no.”

Posed the same question, Google’s representative, Mr. White said his understanding was that Google had “data access controls in place that govern how data from our third-party services are used.”

Blumenthal pressed him to clarify if this was a “firewall,” meaning, he clarified again, “do you have a prohibition against access?”

“We have a prohibition against using our third-party services to compete directly with our first-party services,” Mr. White said, adding that Google has “internal policies that govern that.”

The Senator said he would follow up on this matter with written questions, as his time expired.

Figma introduces a whiteboard tool called FigJam

Figma spent years in stealth before launching its web-based collaborative design tool. Since coming into the light, the company has been iterating quickly. Today, Figma launches its biggest product update to date.

Meet FigJam, Figma’s new whiteboarding tool.

The entire concept of Figma stemmed from the fact that designers were taking up much more space at the figurative table, and needed a place to collaborate efficiently. That is only more true today, especially during the last year of working from home, which is why Figma is extending itself throughout the workflow of designers with whiteboarding.

Not only does FigJam give designers a place to come up with ideas together, but it also gives non-designers a place to participate in the brainstorm.

FigJam functionality includes sticky notes, emojis and drawing tools, as well as shapes, pre-built lines and connectors, stamps and cursor chats. As expected, FigJam works with Figma so components or other design objects breathed into life on FigJam can easily be moved into Figma.

“Our point of view here was focusing on how to make FigJam work as the first step in the design process, before you go into actually doing design work,” said Figma founder and CEO Dylan Field. “We see people looking for a better, more fluid experience, but we also wanted to make it simple enough to bring other people into the tool.”

To take that a step further, Figma is also introducing voice chat into all of its products. That means users who are designing alongside one another in Figma or brainstorming in Figjam don’t need to hop into a separate Zoom call or Google Meet, but can just toggle on chat in Figma to use audio.

Figma didn’t build its voice chat from scratch, but rather worked with a partner to bring this to market. Figma did not specify which partner/tech it’s working with on voice chat.

Alongside the release of Figjam and voice chat, Figma is also releasing a more full-featured mobile app, which will be in beta as a Testflight at launch.

Image Credits: Figma

One final update that Figma is announcing today is branching and merging in Figma. This allows designers who are updating the design system, for example, to branch out and do their work and then merge that work with the existing design system, rather than updating a shared component or resource and affecting everyone else’s workflow.