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How did BYJU’S become a star before it got into trouble? With some help from Mark Zuckerberg

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How did BYJU’S become a star before it got into trouble? With some help from Mark Zuckerberg

Fortitude is an important trait investors look for in entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel exemplifies this when he says, “Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is even [in] shorter supply than genius,” in his famous lectures on entrepreneurship at Stanford. While growing, the entrepreneur faces multiple adversities – small, big, and terrible. However big the adversity, an entrepreneur can never give up. He cannot lose his cool, cannot panic and must fight it, and foray his organisation to a new dawn. Byju [Ravindran] epitomised this courage to fight all odds. For him, no problem is big enough to be a crisis, and I have never seen him panicking or taking pressure. It is this cool-headed approach that helped him resolve crisis after crisis.

One such crisis was looming in mid-2016 when the growth run rate was not accelerating as expected, thus increasing burn. By 2016, it was evident that whatever we were doing was working but not at the pace we had anticipated.

Byju, hence, went on a high drive trying to raise more cash to thread the bridge. While he spoke to our existing investors for a bridge round (financing which would help the company tide over till the next investment round), he also started meeting prospective investors, including the CEO and vice chairman of Times Internet, Satyan Gajwani. The Stanford-educated scion of the Bennett Coleman group is not only a successful CEO who is giving a new direction to the legacy print business of Times of India but also one of the most successful start-up investors in India today, with a knack for identifying entrepreneurs with calibre. He bought MX Player, then a lesser-known brand, for $140 million in 2018 and propelled it in the direction of an ad-based free OTT business model.

MX Player saw its series A valuation go up to $500 million in a year and during Covid-19 times, it was the largest OTT in India in terms of subscribers. There were talks of investments at a $1 billion valuation in 2021 for the combined entity of MX Player and MX TakaTak.

It is not surprising that the founder in Satyan saw a founder’s fire in Byju and decided to do a deal with him. But it didn’t end there. Seeing the unique digital model in education and the distance Byju had already traversed, Satyan did an introduction with the family office of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, and his wife Priscilla Chan. This was an unbelievable opportunity for an Indian start-up and the PR we could leverage from something like this was incredible.

Byju knew this well and started planning for the meeting with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). The opportunity finally came when Byju was on the way to the airport with his family for a trip to Kerala. He got a call asking if he could meet the founder of Facebook the next day in San Francisco. Without batting an eyelid, he said, “I will be in SF tomorrow, will meet as per convenience.”

Then he explained to his family the importance of this meeting and bought the fastest ticket to SF at the airport after sending his family to Kerala. Breaking his journey at multiple cities to find an earlier flight, he made it to SF in time and impressed the CZI team with the BYJU’S story. CZI is a unique fund because they do both non-profit and for-profit investments in two domains which the Zuckerberg family is passionate about – education and health. The idea of BYJU’S sat well with the theme of CZI ie, making a change in the world for better.

BYJU’S by then had kids from more than a thousand towns learning from our content. We were offering an opportunity to millions of kids from small towns to learn with the highest quality of content, truly making education accessible. Add to it the aura of a truly home-conceptualised and home-grown product unlike an idea copied from what was working in the US or China; BYJU’S quickly started becoming an investor’s favourite.

With all these investors now lined up, Byju was able to do our series B round at a much higher valuation. Valuation rounds are called series A, B, C, etc. because typically investors who come on board at various stages hold different rights and liquidation preferences. Though the same is not exactly true for most start-ups today, the series names stuck.

For instance, BYJU’S didn’t give investors any liquidity preferences. While we were engaged in some serious marketing and brand building, we knew clearly that the mileage we were going to get for the Zuckerberg story would be massive. So, we planned the PR well.

One of the things that came with CZI funding was a post by Zuckerberg on Facebook from his personal account announcing the thought behind the investment. This meant that in one shot, BYJU’S was going to be seen and read about by millions of the founder’s followers. Most importantly, it came with the credibility of Zuckerberg and Facebook and hence would be celebrated the world over.

The post hit the world on September 8, 2016, and quickly went viral. It hit the 50 million followers of Zuckerberg and got shared by thousands of people in India who took pride in the company. The post did more impressions and clicks than what Rs 10 crore of media money could have bought us on Facebook then. More importantly, the goodwill we got was priceless.

When I joined BYJU’S leaving TAS, my family found it tough to explain to people around them why their son left Tatas for an unknown and funny-sounding company. Of all the people, my sister was the angriest and refused to reveal the name of the new company I worked in. She kept telling her friends, “He used to work in TAS” and limited my introduction to that. When Zuckerberg posted, I took a snapshot of the post and WhatsApp-ed it to her along with the post link saying, “Now you can tell your friends I work for BYJU’S, the only company in Asia in which Mark Zuckerberg has invested.”

By the end of 2016, we were feeling good about ourselves. Our brand was surging ahead and had occupied a special place in our customer’s minds. Our paid customers were super happy, and we were seeing an unprecedented 80 per cent-plus repeat purchases, an important metric for sustainable business. Our marketing spending was optimised and we suddenly became a brand people wanted to be associated with. However, the conversions were still nowhere close to where we wanted them to be. This was putting a lot of pressure on all of us and more burn. Byju knew that he couldn’t keep raising money and the business needed to make money. For this, he was counting on us, and we were clueless. The business needed more ideas and like always, ideas finally came from my favourite people – the customers.

Excerpted with permission from Educating A Billion: How EdTech Start-ups, Apps, YouTube and AI Disrupted Education, Arjun Mohan, Penguin India.

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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