Illustrations of pizza are displayed in the window of a restaurant. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Startup Street: Masayoshi Son Is Now Interested In Pizza-Making Robots

This week on Startup Street, Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank is considering investing in a pizza-making robotics startup. India’s largest payment wallet Paytm, is looking to improve on its financial advisory skills and Google has partnered with a community of 8,000 entrepreneurs to help skill India’s female innovators. JPMorgan has also pledged support towards the Bharat Inclusion Initiative. Here’s what went on.

SoftBank Is Interested In Zume Inc.

Would you eat a pizza cooked by a robot operating out of a delivery truck? Masayoshi Son seems to think so.

SoftBank Group Corp. may invest $500 million to $750 million in Zume Inc., a startup that is working on automating the pizza-making and delivery processes, people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg.

Silicon Valley-based Zume's trucks have robots and ovens which can be switched on remotely through cloud. "If you cook your pizza while it is being delivered, you only get the freshest pizza possible," co-founded Alex Garden told Bloomberg in an interaction. "You also save a bunch of time that way."

Robots and pizzas are not a new combination though. Household names like Dominos Pizza and Pizza Hut -- have tinkered with the idea in the past. While Pizza Hut has attempted using SoftBank's humanoid robot Pepper to take orders at certain locations, Dominos has developed an autonomous delivery bot.

The plan also underscores Masayoshi Son's ambition to invest in the food-delivery space through SoftBank's Vision Fund. Earlier this year, SoftBank led a $535 million funding round in meal-delivery app DoorDash. It is also a serious stakeholder in Uber, which too has a meal-delivery business in UberEats. He is also planning to invest in China's Ele.me, the food delivery giant owned by the Alibaba Group.

Paytm’s Latest Acquisition

File photo of Vijay Shekhar Sharma at the Paytm headquarters. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg) 
File photo of Vijay Shekhar Sharma at the Paytm headquarters. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg) 

Vijay Shekhar Sharma-led Paytm is going deeper into financial services with its latest acquisition. The payment wallet just acquired a savings management startup called Balanced Technology.

Founded in 2016, Balance Technology helps users invest money as per their goals, allowing them to earn returns of up to 8.7 percent, without a lock-in period. Paytm, however, says that the acquisition is to improve its user and merchant interfaces.

"We are excited to welcome... the Balance Technology team to Paytm. They have created a fantastic product with real user engagement. As we constantly look to create customised and intuitive user experiences, the Balance Technology team will be an invaluable part of this journey", Paytm Chief Financial Officer and SVP Madhur Deora said in a statement.

The six-member team of Balance Technology will now join Paytm's design and product team, the statement added. The company will use its capabilities in computational intelligence, design and proprietary algorithms to help Paytm users.

While Paytm declined to comment on the deal size, the transaction is expected to be about $2 million, news agency PTI reported citing industry sources.

Google's Bid To Support Female Tech Entrepreneurs

Women work on their laptops at an office in India. (Source: Bloomberg)
Women work on their laptops at an office in India. (Source: Bloomberg)

U.S. technology giant Google has partnered with 91springboard - a community of over 8,000 entrepreneurs - to provide various skills to female founders.

The partnership is aimed at nurturing India's next generation of innovative female entrepreneurs, and empower them to build for the future, Google said in a statement. The partnership will drive one training programme in a month, led by 91springboard in tier-II cities.

"These events are directly focused on educating and upskilling female entrepreneurs over a period of two years, with 24 engagements planned across the country," the statement said.

The training will focus on sharpening leadership skills, running design sprints, fostering tech-focused discussions, and will also include one-on-one mentorship for female entrepreneurs, it added.

Google will also set up a Google for Entrepreneurs Lounge at the community's hub in New Delhi. "With Google for Entrepreneurs building its presence in India, we now have an end-to-end mentoring and support program helping entrepreneurs across all stages of their startups," Google Vice President for Southeast Asia and India, Rajan Anandan said.

The programme will "help thousands of women jumpstart in their entrepreneurial journeys", he added.

Bharat Inclusion Initiative Bags Support From JPMorgan

Banking giant JPMorgan has paired up with the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad's Centre for Innovation to set up a Financial Inclusion Lab that aims at bettering lives of Indians in the lower and middle income strata.

The $9.5 million fund will identify and bring to scale early-stage fintech startups that are aimed at helping Indians in the lower income bracket, JPMorgan said in a statement.

This is the largest philanthropic commitment made by JPMorgan outside of the U.S.

"India’s vision of creating digital technology driven access to financial services will be incomplete unless we bring these offerings to the lower and middle income segments who are in urgent need of these financial products and services," Kalpana Morparia, chief executive officer of South and South East Asia at JPMorgan said.

The startups will be selected through a host of accelerator programmes, applications for which have already begun. Leading ideas will be supported with start-up capital, market access, technical assistance, mentoring and sector expertise.

The collaborations falls under IIMA-CIIE's Bharat Inclusion Initiative, which earlier annolunced support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Omidyar Network.