PIO start-up bags UK's biggest funds injection... from Japan's Softbank

PIO start-up bags UKs biggest funds injection... from Japans Softbank
A London-based start-up co-founded by an Indian-origin entrepreneur has been valued at more than $1 billion after raising $502 million from Japan's SoftBank this week in one of the UK's largest venture capital deals.

Improbable, a virtual reality tech firm, was co-founded by Herman Narula with a Cambridge University friend in 2012.

SoftBank's investment in the firm, which uses cloud-based computing to create virtual worlds for use in games as well as large-scale simulations of the real world, is said to be the largest ever funds injection in a European tech start-up.

"This investment will allow us to take the big, bold steps needed to fully realise our vision. This investment reflects the potential size and importance of the market for this next generation of games and, ultimately, how massive- scale virtual worlds could become fundamental to how society works," said Narula, who is the CEO of the company.

He had founded the firm along with Rob Whitehead, the chief technology officer, when they studied computer science together at Cambridge University. They were joined by Peter Lipka, an Imperial College graduate who worked at Goldman Sachs prior to launching Improbable.

Their technology is focused on gaming but the company wants to expand it to solve problems in the real world such as modelling transport systems or power grids.

The firm employs some 200 staff and recently opened offices in San Francisco. The latest investment will be used to develop the company's Spatial OS operating system and to hire more people in London and San Francisco.

SoftBank has put managing director Deep Nishar on Improbable's board and will have only a minority stake in the business.

Infosys pushes salary hikes to July, even later for executives

Infosys has deferred salary hikes for employees to July and even later in case of senior executives as the Indian tech industry struggles to cope with uncertain environment and visa-related issues in key markets like the US.

Typically, the country's second-largest software services firm rolls out increments from April but this year the hikes have been pushed back to next quarter. Infosys has over two lakh employees.

In an e-mail to employees, Infosys Chief Operating Officer UB Pravin Rao said the compensation review for employees ranked JL5 (job level 5) and below will be effective from July.

For other employees, the same would be rolled out in subsequent quarters.

He also sought to assuage employee concerns over possible layoffs but cautioned there would be "some performance-based exits" as has been the case in the past.

When contacted, an Infosys spokesperson confirmed the development.

The decision comes at a time when there are reports of layoffs across the industry. While most companies have attributed the retrenchment to performance issues, many believe these steps are aimed at controlling costs.

However, Infosys isn't the only company that has deferred salary hike for employees. Tech Mahindra is yet to revise wages for employees with more than six years of experience.

Indian IT firms are facing intense pressure given an uncertain environment and stricter work permit regimes in countries like the US, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.


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