Y Combinator-backed Kosh is a neobank for blue-collar workers in India

Dozens of startups have stepped up in India in recent quarters to improve banking experience for millions of users and businesses in the country. As a result, tens of thousands of people who could not get a loan or a credit card from a bank can now secure both from fintech startups.

But this push to bring financial inclusion to everyone still has many areas to cover. Blue-collar workers, for instance, are still facing challenges in availing some basic banking services.

Kosh, a Y Combinator-backed startup (W20), is beginning to tackle this challenge. It groups three or as many as ten blue-collar workers and gives them a loan.

“When a user logs into our Android app, they are able to apply for a loan. But before they do that, they need to add some of their colleagues and friends who are also looking for a loan,” explained Aayush Goel, co-founder of Kosh, in an interview with TechCrunch.

This way of banding together people allows Kosh to charge a lower rate of interest on the loan, said Goel.

“We have borrowed this from the world of microfinance. Essentially, we have a joint liability model. Let us say there were three people who were looking for a loan. We band them together and instead of giving each of them a separate loan, we give the group one loan” he said.

Aayush Goel (pictured above), and Sahil Bansal co-founded Kosh in March last year

In each group, at least one member is credit-worthy in the traditional sense, he explained. The startup also uses alternative data such as information gleaned from text messages to determine a person’s eligibility.

Such an arrangement has traditionally seen fewer people default (or fall behind paying their debt) because of social pressure from their colleagues and friends, as all of them are liable.

Kosh started to disburse loans in December. It currently offers loans up to twice the salary of an individual and over a tenure of up to 10 months, said Goel. The startup has disbursed close to 150 loans worth $35,000. It works with a Noida-based non-banking financial company to fund these loans.

The startup said it plans to broaden its neobanking offering this year by creating bank accounts for its customers. “There is a general lack of discipline in how these people spend their money. Having access to a bank account that works for them could prove very useful,” said Goel.

In recent years, a handful of startups such as Bangalore-based Open and NiYO Solutions have developed neobanks or alternative banks to serve businesses and individuals. In January, two former Google Pay executives announced their own neobank startup that aims to serve millennials.

GIGI Benefits, another Y Combinator-backed startup (W20), offers insurance and savings — perks that only full-time employees typically have — to gig-economy workers and freelancers.

“We help each worker set aside part of a paycheque to cover their costs of insurance, short-term expenses, and plan for their retirement,” said Sowmya Rao, founder and chief executive of GIGI Benefits, in a post.

YC-backed EduRev wants to democratize online learning in India

As edtech startups emerge and expand in India, millions of students in the country now have an additional option to choose from when they prepare for competitive exams.

But despite the proliferation of cheap Android handsets and availability of some of the world’s cheapest mobile data plans, online learning platforms in India are struggling to appeal to the masses because their offering is too expensive for many.

EduRev, a Y Combinator-backed startup (W20), thinks it can address this. The two-year-old startup offers an all-you-can watch catalog in a Netflix-esque fashion that costs between $20 to $50 a year — compared to anything between $300 to $4,000 that other platforms charge.

The startup has partnered with teachers around the country to make their classes — aimed at primary school to high-school and to students preparing for undergraduate-level course — available on the platform.

Students can come and consume some of this content — which includes notes, previous year exam papers, mock tests, and class videos — for no charge, but access to full-course and additional catalogs requires becoming a subscriber, explained Kunaal Satija, co-founder of EduRev, in an interview with TechCrunch.

“Most of the classes in India are not efficient. The vast majority of students are not really learning much. There is also a severe lack of good teachers in the country. And if offline to online transition did not already have a learning curve attached to it, it is also expensive,” he said.

To replicate the traditional learning experience, EduRev also has a social aspect to it. Students can follow their friends and track their progress and participate in helping other students clear their doubts and pose their own questions. These features are available to non-paying users as well.

The price and wider-catalog availability, Satija said, has helped the startup gain millions of users. The platform has amassed over 450,000 monthly active users.

He declined to share how many paying users EduRev currently has, but said the startup has been operationally profitable for last four months.

Tempo reveals $17M-funded $2000 weight lift training screen

Tempo wants to be the Peloton of barbells. It’s a 42-inch tall screen with 3D machine vision that tracks and teaches you as you workout. The giant upright HD display makes it feel like your personal trainer is right there with you while you compete with others in live and on-demand classes.

Tempo’s Microsoft Kinect-esque motion sensors scan you 30 times per second and notify you if your form is wrong. It’s all housed in a sleekly designed free-standing cabinet that neatly stores the included barbells, dumbbells, attachable weights, workout mat, recovery foam roller, and heartrate monitor.

Tempo opens for pre-orders today for $1995, requiring a $250 deposit and $39 monthly content subscription before shipping this summer.

Every single product in the market took a piece of equipment out of a gym and slapped a screen on it” says Tempo CEO and co-founder Moawia Eldeeb. “You need to be able to see a user to actually be able to give them guidance so they can work out safely. We wanted to build a fitness experience from the ground up with training and form feedback at the core of it.”

I demo’d Tempo this week and found the in-home convenience, motivational on-screen personal trainers, and the real-time posture corrections gave me the confidence to lift weights without the fear of injury. It might not feel quite as fun and addictive as Peloton, but it offers a facsimile of personal training that’s more affordable than in-person classes that cost $100 or more.

The idea of democratizing access to trainers is what convinced Eldeeb and the Tempo team to stretch its initial $1.8 million in seed funding for four years. While collecting data from its SmartSpot in-gym weight lifting assessment device, Tempo survived long enough to build this prototype.

“Most investors had given up on us. We built this product and had just $700,000 left” Eldeeb recalls. But once people could try Tempo, “we pitched 10 investors and got 9 term sheets. It got very competitive.” The startup recently walked away with a $17.5 million Series A round from Founders Fund, DCM, and Khosla Ventures. Now Tempo will pour that cash into marketing, retail distribution, R&D, and content production.

A founder’s journey out of homelessness

Tempo’s mission is to change people’s lives for the better like personal training did for Eldeeb. “Training is what took me out of a homeless shelter and got me to where I am I today” he reflects.

Tempo co-founder, CEO, and CPO Moawia Eldeeb

Eldeeb’s family immigrated to the US from Egypt when he was nine. But after an explosion leveled their building, they wound up in a homeless shelter. Eldeeb eventually dropped out of middle school to work in a pizza parlor and help pay the bills. But personal trainers at a local YMCA took him under their wing. He eventually paid his way through a computer science degree at Columbia University by working as a personal trainer to his eventual co-founder and CTO Josh Augustin. “Having trainers say you’re getting stronger taught me I could do something for myself.”

While at school, Eldeeb was developing an idea for a physical therapy wearable while Augustin was building 3D sensors for guiding robot perception. They soon realized that a combination of these ideas “offered us the possibility to deliver on the promise of guiding your form and tracking your progress accurately.”

In 2015, they started a company called Pivot to build SmartSpot — a similar looking upright screen that was designed for gyms. It could track users, but only output raw data about their form, like how bent a user’s knees were during a squat. It then worked with trainers to annotate the data to determine what movement patterns were safe and which were dangerous.

Gym owners bought in because it let them track which trainers were actually helping customers improve. “It held trainers accountable. If you weren’t delivering results, it’d be obvious” Eldeeb tells me. The company built up a dataset of over from over 1 million 3D tagged workouts, from hundreds of gyms, overseen by thousands of trainers. That formed the basis of the artificial intelligence that would let Pivot pivot into Tempo.

Pumping Iron With Tempo

At first, Tempo’s giant screen and black or white armoire can feel a bit daunting. The thing is about six feet tall, though it only takes up as much room as a large chair. It makes efficient use of space, with the barbell and dumbbells racked on the back, an internal shelf for the foam roller and mat, and a soft-closing cabinet on the front with the rubber-coated weight set. Keeping everything together means you won’t have to go digging in your closet to start a work out.

Tempo walks users through an initial computer-vision fitness assessment to understand your strength and flexibility so it can set base levels for its exercises. If you have an injury it needs to nurse, Tempo connects you to a human personal trainer that helps customize your workout plan. Otherwise, it uses your goals and data to set out a progressive regimen that gets a little tougher each day. It even blocks you from jumping into later classes so you don’t strain yourself.

Your workout plan begins with tutorial sessions that teach you to do the exercises with safe and proper form. When I was hunching forward during my squats, Tempo’s computer vision would ding me with instant feedback to keep my knees back and chest up. Then once I’d corrected the issue, it congratulated me with little green checkmarks. “Any product that doesn’t offer that is no better than a DVD or YouTube videos” Eldeeb remarks.

From there I could choose between a variety of class styles and lengths, ranging from high intensity interval training circuits to isolated sessions focused on particular muscle groups. In each, you watch a near life-size personal trainer doing the routines right in front of you while they demonstrate form and drop inspirational quotes.

Tempo is producing seven live classes per day from its San Francisco studio which you can also watch on-demand. You can compete against friends or strangers, and Tempo compares you rep for rep so it’s more about perfect form than reckless speed or weight. The live trainers can actually see all your data and your mistakes on a dashboard as they lead classes, and can call you out for screwing up (though you can deactivate this shame mode). Eldeeb says “knowing the trainer can possibly see your numbers will motivate you to actually do this right.”

The class selection interface is suspiciously similar to Peloton’s, though that at least will make it familiar for some. Over time, you build up an immense collection of data on your performance in each work out, excercise, and muscle. Unlike hitting the gym by yourself, you’ll never struggle to remember how much weight to use or whether you’re improving. Classes are soundtracked with dancey remixes sourced from a partnership with Feed.fm to avoid the royalty issues with original songs that slapped Peloton.

Tempo gives feedback when you’re doing exercises wrong, and when you correct yourself

For a 14-person startup, Tempo is trying to do a ton and that can leave some rough edges. The bluetooth armband heartrate monitor can have connectivity issues and the computer vision doesn’t always register every rep, especially if your posture is off. Classes also fail to include enough stretching to prevent strains, instead devoting the start of classes to warmups that ease you in but might not protect your muscles well enough. My quads were destroyed after my demo.

Tempo still achieves its primary objective: it makes weight lifting accessible. No need to drag yourself to the gym or be beholden to a trainer’s schedule, where I’d always end up arriving late and wasting 25% of my session. The form feedback fixes my core complaint about remote personal training app Future I’ve been using for nine months, which can’t see you. That’s led to minor injuries from bad sit-up posture and other incorrect movements. Tempo can’t catch everything, but it can nip some of the most common mistakes in the bud.

Eldeeb was blunt when asked why Tempo is better than well-funded competitors like $3000 Tonal’s wall-mounted resistance cable-based training system or the $1500 Mirror’s massive screen.

“The biggest problem with Tonal is two-fold. Cables and motors do not last. I want this product to be in your house for 10-plus years. [Tempo] is in gyms running 24/7 in for 3 years and it’s still working. The second biggest thing is just feedback.” While Tonal does include a camera and microphone it might employ in the future, it’s not scanning you to detect when you’re lifting weights crooked like Tempo.

As for Mirror, “What is the difference between ClassPass Live and Mirror? It doesn’t come with any equipment, and there’s no training. It’s just a two-way mirror and a Samsung LED panel behind it with an arduino board” Eldeeb rails. He claims it can’t actually monitor your workouts and that his team’s tests found Mirror would say they’d burned 500 calories when they were literally just sitting on their couch in front of it.

Eldeeb demos Tempo

If the software proves to have high retention so people actually recommend Tempo to friends, the biggest hurdle will be its price. You can buy a couple dumbbells for $50 or get a barbell weight bench for a few hundred. Even if Tempo’s $55 per month financing option plus $39 subscription makes it cheaper than a single personal training session or on-par with a gym membership, it could still seem like a serious commitment.

That feeling is magnified by how all of its equipment and classes and data can feel a bit overwhelming. The startup might have to spend a fortune on retail establishments that can guide users through their first Tempo experience. There’s also no mobile version yet, so you can’t bring the work outs on the road with you.

Eldeeb seems guinely motivated to keep improving the product so it’s better than commuting to work out. “Getting to the gym or class is often half the battle. By bringing the gym to you and structuring the classes to be as efficient as possible, Tempo not only makes improving your health more convenient, but it gives you back your most precious resource: time.”

For those comfortable lifting the cheap weights they have at home or hitting up a budget gym, Tempo might seem needlessly overwrought and expensive. But for anyone who needs more instruction or wants to get a Barry’s Bootcamp-worthy workout at home, Tempo might be just their speed.