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Vishal Makhijani steps down as chief executive of Udacity

Vishal Makhijani, the long time chief executive of online education company Udacity, is stepping down as its chief executive officer, TechCrunch has learned. Makhijani first joined the company in 2013 as chief operating officer under Sebastian Thrun, the company’s founder and chief executive at the time. In 2016, Thrun, the original architect of Alphabet’s self-driving car initiatives and a storied entrepreneur and engineer in Silicon Valley, handed the reins of his online education startup over to Makhijani, who assumed the mantle of CEO while Thrun became chairman and president of the company. In an interview, Makhijani declined to disclose his next steps, but Thrun praised the executive for taking Udacity to new heights and hailed him as a key contributor to the company’s continuing gro...

Lessons from building Brex into a billion-dollar startup

Henrique Dubugras Contributor Henrique Dubugras is the founder Brex, the billion-dollar corporate credit provider for startups. When I think about my experience as an immigrant and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, I remember growing up in Brazil and how we saw tech founders and CEOs as kings. We imagined what it would be like to assume the throne. But these weren’t just any kings. Silicon Valley was the kingdom of nerds and underdogs. We identified with these guys, they were just like us. We were fed the myth of a Silicon Valley meritocracy, and the illusion that all you needed was ambition, determination, and a good idea to meet the right person and get funded. What we didn’t understand was that this myth was not completely rooted in reality. Not everyone has access to the American Dream, ...

Gogoprint raises $7.7M to expand its online printing business in Asia Pacific

Gogoprint, a startup that is aiming to disrupt the traditional printing industry in Southeast Asia, has pulled in a $7.7 million investment as it prepares to expand its business in Asia Pacific. We first profiled Gogoprint in 2016 soon after its launch the previous year, and since then the Bangkok-based company has expanded beyond Thailand and into Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Now, the company is looking to go beyond Southeast Asia and enter Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and other markets over the coming 12 months. Those moves will be funded by this Series A round, which is led by existing Gogoprint backer OPG (Online Printing Group), an investment firm from Kai Hagenbuch who was an early backer of Brazil-based Printi. Printi previously sold a chunk of its business to printing ...

Nubank is now worth $4 billion after Tencent’s $180 million investment

Nubank, the Brazilian financial services company, has raised $180 million from the Chinese internet giant, Tencent. Tencent has long been interested in financial services startups, and with its $90 million direct investment and another $90 million investment in the secondary market, the company now has access to what is arguably the largest digital banking company in the world. With the $4 billion valuation, it also makes Nubank one of the most highly valued privately held startups in Latin America. News of the investment was first reported by The Information, which included the $4 billion figure. For Nubank co-founders David Velez and Cristina Junqueira, the investment from Tencent means the addition of a strategic partner whose financial services products and transaction platform is unma...

How the 22-year-old founders of Brex built a billion-dollar business in less than 2 years

When Brazilian-born Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi met at 16 years old, they bonded over a love of coding and mutual frustrations with their strict mothers, who didn’t understand their Mark Zuckerberg-esque ambitions.  To be fair, their moms’ fear of their hacking habits only escalated after their pre-teen sons received legal notices of patent infringements in the mail. A legal threat from Apple, which Franceschi received after discovering the first jailbreak to the iPhone, is enough to warrant a grounding, at the very least. Their parents implored them to quit the hacking and stop messing around online. They didn’t listen. Today, the now 22-year-olds are announcing a $125 million Series C for their second successful payments business, called Brex, at a $1.1 billion valuation. Gree...

India’s Uber rival Ola is headed to Europe with ride-hailing launch in the UK

The UK is getting a new alternative to Uber after India-based ride-hailing company Ola announced plans to expand to the country, which will become its first market in Europe. Ola was founded in 2010 and it covers over 110 cities in India where it offers licensed taxis, private hire cars and rickshaws through a network of over one million drivers. The company has raised around $3 billion from investors that include SoftBank, Chinese duo Tencent and Didi Chuxing and DST Global . It was last valued at $7 billion. Ola ventured overseas for the first time when it launched in Australia earlier this year — it is now in seven cities there — and its move into the UK signals a further expansion into Europe. Ola’s UK service isn’t live right now, but the company said it will begin offering licensed t...

China’s Didi pumps $1B into its rebranded driver services business

Didi Chuxing is going pedal to the metal for its automobile services business after it announced it will invest $1 billion into the division, which is also getting a rebrand. The Chinese ride-hailing firm had been tipped to spin out the business and raise $1.5 billion from investors ahead of an IPO, according to a recent Reuters report. The business itself hasn’t spun out, however, but it has been renamed to Xiaoju Automobile Solutions and given more autonomy with the introduction of its own general manager. The division handles services for registered Didi drivers, such as leasing and purchase financing, insurance, repairs, refueling, car-sharing and more. Essentially, with its huge army of drivers, Didi can get preferential rates from service providers, which means better deals for its d...

Korean hotel firm Yanolja moves into Southeast Asia with $15M investment in Zen Rooms

Zen Rooms, the budget hotel network startup founded by Rocket Internet, had faced the deadpool earlier this year after a prospective funding deal collapsed, but now the business appears to have found a home. Korea’s Yanolja, a popular motel brand that has branched out into app-based hotel bookings, has made a strategic investment that could see it fully acquire the business. Ten-year-old Yanolja is initially paying $15 million for an undisclosed “strategic non-controlling stake,” but it will retain the rights to buy 100 percent of the Zen Rooms business. Zen Rooms clarified that the acquisition is an option and not based on performance or financial metrics. Founded by a former hotel worker, Lee Su-jin, Yanolja is best known for its lovel hotels although it is trying to clean up the general...

A new $124 million for Brazil’s Movile proves that investors still see promise in Latin American tech

Brazil’s macroeconomic picture may be gloomy, but technology investors still see hope in the nation’s burgeoning technology sector — and a recent $124 million financing for the mobile conglomerate Movile is the latest proof that that the pace of investment isn’t slowing down. Brazil was already the hottest spot for technology investment throughout Latin America — with Sao Paulo drawing in the majority of the record-breaking $1 billion in financing that the region’s startups attracted in 2017. And with this latest funding for Movile, led by Naspers, that trend looks likely to continue. Indeed, Naspers investments in Movile (supplemented by co-investors like Innova, which participated in the most recent round) have been one of the driving forces sustaining the Brazilian startup community. In...

Using tech and $100m, Dr Consulta transforms healthcare for the poorest

Healthcare delivery is an incredibly complex topic, but one that has a simple truth: health security is key to living a good life, and ultimately, for developing a strong economy. Unfortunately, billions worldwide suffer from lack of access to even the most basic of medical diagnostics and treatments, since doctors often aren’t available and the costs when they are can be exorbitant. That’s the world that Thomaz Srougi grew up with in his native Brazil. Brazil has made health security a major priority, offering comprehensive and free medical coverage to every citizen, a right enshrined in its constitution. That simple right though is riven with challenges, from a lack of public funding, to long queues for services, to geographic disparities between urban cores and rural areas. Those with t...

Latin America’s Movile is quietly building a mobile empire

By 2020, Brazilian mobile giant, Movile, wants to improve the lives of more than one billion people through its apps. The company began its mission in 1998 selling gaming, news and SMS messaging services to mobile operators in Brazil. After receiving its first investment from South African-based global investor Naspers 10 years ago, Movile grew into one of the largest and most successful mobile companies in Latin America, with more than 150 million monthly active users of its apps and estimated revenues over $240 million. Movile’s app, PlayKids, propelled the company to the global stage. A platform that offers educational products and content for children, PlayKids in 2014 reached more than 6 million downloads within a year of launching, and 5 million active users per month. From there, Mo...

Global tech firms and investors are reshaping Latin America’s startup environment

Latin America is emerging as the new battleground for the global tech giants, and some of Silicon Valley and Asia’s biggest investors—from Sequoia Capital to SoftBank—are taking notice. International investment in Latin American startups has more than doubled since 2013, with 25 new investors entering the region in 2017 alone, including SoftBank, Didi Chuxing and TPG’s US$1B global impact fund, The Rise Fund. Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are now active in Latin America, including Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, and Y Combinator, choosing deals opportunistically across financing stages and sectors: Andreessen Horowitz made its inaugural investment in Latin America in Rappi, a last-mile delivery service operating in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, ...