A worker sorts plastic household waste at a warehouse in a recycling facility operated by Mysuru City Corp. in Mysuru, Karnataka, India (Photographer: Samyukta Lakshmi/Bloomberg)  

Startup Street: Indian Plastic Recycling Startup Bags People’s Choice Award At Davos 

An Indian recycling startup won the Circular Economy Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Facebook’s latest acquisition suggests that biometric identity verification might be on its mind. Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp is reportedly in talks with India’s leading insurance aggregator and a $30-million moonshot prize goes unclaimed. Here’s all that happened on Startup Street this week.

Plastic Recycler Banyan Nation Honoured At WEF Davos

Plastic recycling startup Banyan Nation became India’s first firm to feature among the winners of Dell's Circular Economy People's Choice Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this week.

The Hyderabad-based startup won the honours for “using data intelligence to integrate a largely informal supply chain to maximise plastics recovery and reuse”, said a statement by Accenture, a co-sponosor of the awards.

To date, Banyan has recycled more than seven million pounds of plastics and integrated more than 2,000 informal sector waste workers in their value chain.
Accenture Media Release

Founded in 2013, Banyan Nation was mentored in its early stage by global private equity firm KKR. It has partnered with T-Hub, the country's largest startup incubator, and the Telangana government for waste management. The startup collects consumer and industrial plastic waste and converts it into recycled granules called “Better Plastic”, which it claims is as good as the widely used virgin plastic.

Banyan Nation worked with Tata Motors Ltd. to make new car bumpers from discarded ones. Even French cosmetics giant L'Oreal has used shampoo bottles made by Banyan Nation from old plastic bottles.

“The platform has now been extended to help cash-strapped municipalities understand waste flows through their cities and use a data-centric approach to make waste management more efficient, effective, and economical,” the startup says on its website.

It had raised $800,000 in seed funding in March 2016 from Artha Capital, according to Crunchbase.

The Annual Circulars at Davos had nearly 300 entrants from 45 countries. The awards are to recognise the firms that have made contributions to the circular economy—using resources for as long as possible and extracting the maximum out of them.

The other winners were:

  • Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership: Frans van Houten, CEO, Philips.
  • Accenture Strategy Award for Circular Economy Multinational: IKEA.
  • Young Global Leaders Award for Circular Economy SME: Apto Solutions.
  • Award for Circular Economy Public Sector: Sitra.
  • Ecolab Award for Circular Economy Digital Disruptor: AMP Robotics.

Biometric ID Verification On Facebook’s Mind?

(Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)  
(Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)  

Social media giant Facebook acquired Confirm.io, which built a software that lets customers digitally verify the authenticity of an individual’s government-issued ID card. The three-year-old Boston-based startup confirmed the acquisition.

“When we launched Confirm, our mission was to become the market’s trusted identity origination platform for which other multifactor verification services can build upon,” a statement on Confirm’s website said. “Now, we're ready to take the next step on our journey with Facebook.”

Facebook hasn’t disclosed the details of the deal yet. “Their technology and expertise will support our ongoing efforts to keep our community safe,” a Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg in an email.

Facebook has been trying to curb activity by fake accounts on the social media website after it had to testify before U.S. lawmakers as part of a congressional probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential elections.

Confirm said all its digital ID authentication software offerings would be wound down.

SoftBank To Back Policybazaar?

Softbank stores (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg)
Softbank stores (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg)

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp is said to be in talks with Policybazaar, India's leading online insurance aggregator, for an investment, Bloomberg reported quoting people familiar with the matter.

SoftBank invested $120-million in New-York based home insurance startup Lemonade Inc. in December.

Policybazaar is backed by investors like Intel Capital, Tiger Management and Temasek Holdings, which control 48 percent of the startup's equity, last valued at $800 million. As per India's foreign direct investment rules, only 49 percent of a company can be held by foreign entities.

“The [foreign direct investment] cap will not be a challenge as we have firm offers from domestic investors with ready capital who can balance out any foreign investment,” Yashish Dahiya, Policybazaar's chief executive officer, told Bloomberg. He said the company had not received any offers yet.

Low penetration of insurance in India is expected to aid growth. At least five state-run and private insurers went public in the last one year.

$30-Million Google Lunar XPRIZE Goes Unclaimed

View of the earth from the moon. (GIF Courtesy: <a href="https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11.html">NASA</a>)
View of the earth from the moon. (GIF Courtesy: NASA)

THE $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE went unclaimed this week as the challenge organisers decided that none of the five finalist teams were ready to reach the moon by March 31, 2018.

“This literal ‘moonshot’ is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed,” Peter H Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of XPRIZE, said in a joint statement with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Marcus Shingles.

XPRIZE is now exploring options to keep the competition alive, including finding a new sponsor after the 10-year partnership with Google, or continuing this as a non-cash competition, the statement said.

As of now, the teams and their companies have raised more than $300 million through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital. One of their teams also received the first-ever 'Mission Approval' from the U.S. government to send a private spacecraft beyond the Earth's orbit and to the Moon.