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Google cracks down on personal loan apps in India following abuse and outcry

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Google said on Thursday it has pulled some personal loan apps from Play Store in India and was implementing stronger measures to prevent abuse following reports that said several firms were targeting vulnerable borrowers in the country and then going to extreme lengths to recover their money.

The Android-maker said users and government agencies in India recently flagged several personal loan apps and the company reviewed hundreds of them. The review found an identified number of apps violated Play Store’s safety policies and were immediately removed from the Store.

Google said it has asked the developers of the remaining identified apps to demonstrate that their apps are in compliance with applicable local laws and regulations. “Apps that fail to do so will be removed without further notice. In addition, we will continue to assist the law enforcement agencies in their investigation of this issue,” the company said.

Users have identified several lending apps including 10MinuteLoan and Ex-Money in India in recent months that granted small ticket loans (typically in the range of $100 to $200) to people for short tenures and then charged steep processing fees.

To avoid such abuse, Google said Play Store will only allow personal apps that require customers to make their repayment in 60 days or longer.

When borrowers struggled to repay their debt in the short period, collection agents on behalf of some lending apps threatened to embarrass them in front of their friends, colleagues, and family, among other tactics. In November, local newspaper Indian Express reported that a 23-year-old man committed suicide after being bullied by a money lending app.

 

“To protect user privacy, developers must only request permissions that are necessary to implement current features or services. They should not use permissions that give access to user or device data for undisclosed, unimplemented, or disallowed features or purposes. Developers must also only use data for purposes that the user has consented to, and if they later want to use the data for other purposes, they must obtain user permission for the additional uses,” wrote Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy, in a blog post.

More to follow…

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Unpacking Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC deals for Latch and Sunlight Financial

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This morning, investor and SPAC raconteur Chamath Palihapitiya announced two new blank-check deals involving Latch and Sunlight Financial.

Latch, an enterprise SaaS company that makes keyless entry systems, has raised $152 million in private capital, according to Crunchbase. Sunlight Financial, which offers point of sale financing for residential solar systems, has raised north of $700 million in venture capital, private equity and debt.

We’re going to chat about the two transactions.

There’s no escaping SPACs for a bit, so if you are tired of watching blind pools rip private companies into the public markets, you are not going to have a very good next few months. Why? There are nearly 300 SPACs in the market today looking for deals, and many will find one.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Think of SPACs are increasingly hungry sharks. As a shark get hungrier while the clock winds down on its deal-making window, it may get less choosy about what it eats (take public). There are enough SPACs on the hunt today that they would be noisy even if they were not time-constrained investment vehicles. But as their timers tick, expect their dealmaking to get all the more creative.

This brings us back to Chamath’s two deals. Are they more like the Bakkt SPAC, which led us to raise a few questions? Or more akin to the Talkspace SPAC, which we found pretty reasonable? Let’s find out.

Keyless locks = Peloton for real estate

Let’s start with the Latch deal.

New York-based Latch sells “LatchOS,” a hardware and software system that works in buildings where access and amenities matter. Latch’s hardware works with doors, sensors and internet connectivity.

The company has raised a number of private rounds, including a $126 million deal in August of 2019 which valued the company at $454.3 million on a post-money basis, according to PitchBook data. The company raised another $30 million in October of 2020, though its final private valuation is not known.

As Chamath tweeted this morning, Latch is merging with TS Innovation Acquisitions Corp, or $TSIA. The SPAC is associated with Tishman Speyer, a commercial real estate investor. You can see the synergies, as Latch’s products fit into the commercial real estate space.

Up front, Latch is not a company that is only reporting future revenues. It has a history as an operating entity. Indeed, here’s its financial data per its investor presentation:

Doing some quick match, Latch grew 50.5% from 2019 to 2020. Its software revenues grew 37.1%, while its hardware top line expanded over 70% during the same period. So, the company’s revenue mix shifted more towards hardware incomes in 2020.

That could be due to strong hardware installation fees, which could later result in software revenues; the company claims an average of a six-year software deal, so hardware revenues that are attached to new software incomes could lowkey declaim long-term SaaS revenues.

While some were quick to note that the company is far from pure-SaaS — correct — I suspect that the model that will get some traction amongst investors is that this feels a bit like Peloton for real estate. How so? Peloton has large hardware incomes up-front from new users, which convert to long-term subscription revenues. Latch may prove similar, albeit for a different customer base and market.

Per the deal’s reported terms, Latch will be worth $1.56 billion after the transaction. And the combined entity will have $510 million in cash, including $190 million from a PIPE — a method of putting private money into a public entity — from “BlackRock, D1 Capital Partners, Durable Capital Partners LP, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Chamath Palihapitiya, The Spruce House Partnership, Wellington Management, ArrowMark Partners, Avenir and Lux Capital.”

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Calling Swedish VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

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TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our survey of VCs in Stockholm, and Sweden generally, will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline is the end of this week.

We’d like to know how Sweden’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Sweden, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

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Goalsetter raises $3.9 million to teach financial literacy to kids

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Goalsetter, a platform that helps parents teach their kids financial literacy, announced the raise of a $3.9 million seed round this morning, led by Astia.

PNC Bank, Mastercard, US. Bank, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Elevate Capital, Portfolia’s First Step and Rising America Fund and Pipeline Angels also participated in the round. The round also saw participation from a handful of individual investors including Robert F Smith, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Sterling K. Brown, Ryan Bathe, CC Sabathia and Amber Sabathia.

Goalsetter launched in 2019 out of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator. Founded by Tanya Court, who lost over $1 million in the 2001 bubble burst, the platform teaches financial literacy to children of all ages, helping them learn economic concepts, lingo and the principles of financial health.

After long stints at Nickelodeon and ESPN, Court understands deeply how kids learn and what keeps their attention. She vowed to make sure that her children were never ignorant of what it takes to protect their wealth and create more.

The app also allows parents to give allowance through the app, and even pay out their own specified amount for every quiz question the kid gets right in the app. Plus, family and friends can give ‘goal cards’ instead of gift cards, helping kids save for the things they really want in the future.

The company recently launched a debit card for kids, as well, letting parents control the way the card is used and even lock it until their kids have passed the week’s financial literacy quiz.

Families save an average of $120 a month on the platform, and Court says that two families saved over $10,000 in the last year.

The company is also launching a massive campaign next week for Black History Month with the goal of closing the wealth gap among Black children and kids of color through financial education.

“It’s one thing to put a debit card into your teenager’s hands,” said Court. “That’s great. That teaches them how to spend money. It’s another thing to teach kids the core concepts about how to build wealth, or to know the difference between putting your money into an investment account, or putting your money into a CD versus a mutual fund versus a savings account. We teach what interest rates are, and what compound interest means. Our focus is on is financial education because it’s not enough to teach kids how to spend.”

Goalsetter raised $2.1 million in 2019 and now adds this latest round to that for a total of $6 million raised. This latest round was oversubscribed, giving Court the opportunity to be super selective about her investors.

“Every single one of these investors has a demonstrated commitment prior to people marching in the streets in April, to social justice and to investing in diversity and inclusion initiatives and people,” said Court. “Every single one of them. That was really important because we were oversubscribed and we had the luxury of being able to pick who our investors were. Every one of the investors that we invited to our table were investors who we knew invited folks who look like us in 2019 and 2018 and 2017 to their table.”

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