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China gets serious about antitrust, fines Alibaba $2.75B

Chinese regulators have hit Alibaba with a record fine of 18 billion yuan (about $2.75 billion) for violating anti-monopoly rules as the country seeks to rein in the power of its largest internet conglomerates.
In November, China proposed sweeping antitrust regulations targeting its interent economy. In late December, the State Administration for Market Regulation said it had launched an antitrust probe into Alibaba, weeks after the authorities called off the initial public offering of Ant Group, the financial affiliate of Alibaba.
SAMR, the country’s top market regulator, said on Saturday it had determined that Alibaba had been “abusing market dominance” since 2015 …

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The StockX EC-1

Societies are defined by their markets. What people value, what they actually buy, how they transact and who they purchase from determine not just the goods in their possession, but the very society and culture they construct. It might seem that after thousands of years of evolution and refinement, concepts like quality, authenticity, value and price would be static. Nothing could be further from the truth.
StockX is a unique company at the nexus of two radical transitions that isn’t just redefining markets, but our culture as well. E-commerce upended markets, diminishing the physical experience by intermediating and aggregating …

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Facebook-backed Indian social commerce Meesho raises $300M at $2.1B valuation

Meesho said on Monday it has raised $300 million in a new financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 as the Indian social commerce startup works to become the “single ecosystem that will enable all small businesses to succeed online.”
The new round — a Series E — gives the five-year-old startup a valuation of $2.1 billion, up from about $600 million – $700 million in 2019 Series D investment. The Indian startup, which has raised about $490 million to date, said existing investors Facebook, Prosus Ventures, Shunwei Capital, Venture Highway, and Knollwood Investment also participated in the new round.
This appears to be Shunwei Capital’s first investment …

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Daily Crunch: Amazon makes PR push ahead of union vote

Amazon pushes back against unionization, WeWork eyes the SPAC route and there’s new spyware on Android. This is your Daily Crunch for March 26, 2021.
The big story: Amazon makes PR push ahead of union vote
Workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama (a suburb of Birmingham) will vote next week on whether to unionize. In the meantime, Amazon is waging an aggressive PR campaign against the effort and the politicians who support it.
For example, in a response to news that Senator Bernie Sanders would be visiting Amazon workers, executive Dave Clark tweeted, “I welcome @SenSanders to Birmingham …

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Headless commerce startup Swell raises $3.4M

While new headless commerce platforms are emerging all the time, Swell CEO Eric Ingram told me that it remains “really hard to do something new in e-commerce.”
Specifically, he told me that most headless platforms (which offer back-end infrastructure separate from the front-end shopping experience) allow businesses to build a faster shopping experience, but they’re largely designed for marketplaces where you search, browse and purchase from a traditional product catalog.
“The most interesting ideas in e-commerce aren’t just another catalog,” Ingram said.
Swell, which is announcing that it has raised $3.4 million in seed funding, was designed to offer …

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Benitago Group raises $55M in combined debt and equity to buy and grow Amazon brands

Benitago Group, a startup looking to build a big portfolio of Amazon brands, is announcing that it has raised $55 million in new funding — most of it in the form of credit lines to fund acquisitions, plus an equity investment.
“We want to take these brands and growth them and run them a lot more efficiently,” said co-founder Santiago Nestares.
Other startups have also raised big rounds to roll up Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) businesses, but Nestares told me that Benitago is different because it’s not just focused on “financial arbitrage.” Instead, it has created a detailed, repeatable blueprint …

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Indian beauty e-commerce Purplle raises $45 million

Purplle, an e-commerce platform for beauty products in India, said on Monday it has raised $45 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its presence in the world’s second largest internet market.
The new round, a Series D, was financed by Sequoia Capital India and existing investors Verlinvest, Blume Ventures, and JSW Ventures. The new round values the Indian startup — which has raised $95 million to date — at about $300 million, up from $150 million in its 2019 Series C round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
The new round gave partial exit to IvyCap Ventures, which had …

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Social shopping-focused Chums announces $3.5M raise ahead of YC Demo Day

With Y Combinator Demo Day kicking off tomorrow morning, startups in the current batch are hurrying to make a little news before they show off their recent growth to investors. The list includes Runway, Mono, Pangea and Flux.
Add Chums to the mix. Chums is a social shopping service that helps friends suggest products to their pals. And the startup has put together a total of $3.5 million across two pre-seed investments.
TechCrunch spoke with Noah Elion, one of Chums’ founders, about the round. He said that his company closed $1 million in December, later looking to raise another $1.5 million. Interest ran …

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Extra Crunch roundup: AI eats fintech, fundraising visas, no-code transition tips, more

Most American retail banks are designed the same way: Customers must pass several desks set aside for loan and mortgage officers before they can talk to a customer representative.
I only step inside a bank a few times each year, but even pre-pandemic, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone sitting at one of those desks. Everyone I know who’s obtained a home or business loan in the recent past started with an online application process.
For this morning’s column, Alex Wilhelm interviewed Dave Girouard, CEO of Upstart, an AI-powered fintech lender that expects to …

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Cymbio raises $7M to help brands expand to more e-commerce markets

Cymbio, a Tel Aviv-based startup focused on what it calls “brand-to-retailer connectivity,” announced today that it has raised $7 million in Series A funding.
CEO Roy Avidor, who founded the company with Mor Lavi and Gilad Zirkel, told me that the platform is designed to help brands sell their products on any e-commerce marketplace that they want. Whereas adding a new market might normally require a cost-benefit analysis (“How much money will it cost me to set up this retailer? How much sales will this retailer drive? Will the margins justify this?”), Avidor said Cymbio turns the process into a “no …

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