What’s Up: Week of November 30th

Uber in advanced talks to sell air taxi unit

Uber is in advanced talks to sell its air taxi business, “Uber Elevate”, to aerospace firm Joby Aviation, news website Axios reported.

With Uber’s business rattled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company cut 23% of its workforce in May as part of aggressive cost cuts and vowed to focus on its core ride-hailing and food-delivery businesses. Uber has been working on various other businesses, including the development of self-driving cars, the Elevate project and a freight logistics network. The company is also in talks to sell its self-driving business.

Flipkart’s digital payments firm PhonePe to raise $700 million  

PhonePe, the digital payments unit of Walmart’s Indian e-commerce arm Flipkart, will sell a stake to existing investors for $700 million, reports Reuters. It will help fuel growth in a crowded market that includes Google and Amazon.

PhonePe’s fundraising, from Flipkart investors led by Walmart, will give it a valuation of $5.5 billion. PhonePe is also using the opportunity to assert its independence from the Flipkart Group which runs a successful e-commerce business in India rivalling Amazon’s local unit.

PhonePe will also have employee stock ownership plans separate from Flipkart, which will continue to be its majority shareholder. PhonePe is eyeing profitability by 2022 and a public listing the following year.

The fintech firm has more than 100 million monthly active users which helped it clock nearly one billion digital payment transactions in October. India’s digital payments market, expected to more than double in size to $135 billion in 2023 from 2019 levels. That rapid growth in fintech has driven India’s flagship payments processor, the National Payments Corp of India (NPCI), to cap the share of digital transactions some companies can account for.

Amazon in talks to buy podcast firm Wondery

Amazon is going to buy podcast startup Wondery with a valuation of over $300 million, reports the Wall Street Journal. Deal talks are ongoing and negotiations could still fall apart, while the potential deal demonstrates a high interest to the content projects. Last month, Bloomberg News reported  that both Apple and Sony Music Entertainment have held talks about potentially buying Wondery, which is seeking $300 million to $400 million in a possible sale.

Salesforce to buy workplace app Slack in $27.7 billion deal

Salesforce.com has agreed to buy workplace messaging app Slack Technologies in a $27.7 billion deal, the biggest by the cloud-computing pioneer as it bets on an extended run for remote working and sharpens its rivalry with Microsoft.

The deal allows Salesforce to provide a unified platform for businesses to connect their employees, customers and partners with each other and the apps they use, bolstering its enterprise portfolio. For Slack, the deal comes as it struggles to fully capitalize on the switch to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Slack changed workplace communications by focusing on real-time messaging that could be broken into conversations with groups assembled on the fly. But the messaging style that Slack helped create has become an extremely competitive space, with larger, older competitor Microsoft aggressively promoting its similar Teams product with integrated video and voice calling. Microsoft has also bundled Teams with many of its office software packages, an added attraction for companies looking to save costs during the disruption caused by the outbreak.

Slack shareholders will receive $26.79 in cash and 0.0776 shares of Salesforce common stock for each Slack share. The offer represents a premium of 54% since the first report emerged last week about the deal talks.

Teen banking app Step raised $50 million

Teen banking app Step has raised $50 million from investors led by Coatue Management alongside celebrities such as singer Justin Timberlake, influencer Charli D’Amelio and former quarterback Eli Manning, reports Reuters.  Step, which offers teenagers a bank account connected to a secured spending card and peer-to-peer payments, also said it had secured funding from existing backers including Stripe, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, CrossLink Capital and Collaborative Fund.

San Francisco-based Step allows parents to view balances and real-time activity, add money to their teens’ accounts and manage and freeze cards. The project’s business model is based on the card interchange. The startup, which has attracted more than 500,000 users since launching two months ago, will use the funding to grow the team and invest in its technology.

Step is one of several new banking apps focused on children and teens in the U.S., as companies seek to capitalise on a global surge in digital payments and ecommerce.