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Array ( [post_title] => Startups – Tech in Asia [post_content] => Startups – Tech in AsiaDidi makes first move outside mainland China with Taiwan launchSea, Razer IPOs will get more startups to go public, but when will SGX attract them?Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last yearVideo: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startupsHow Grab runs its data science team4 rising startups in JapanIn China, millions are tuning into an online game show in the hope of winning moneyHow a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in ThailandSleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startupsShe runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averseHow Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customerChina sees record tech funding in 2017WeWork to open first of 4 Tokyo locations on February 1India’s top tech investments in 2017 came from the eastChina’s 10 biggest investments in 2017Here are the 15 best-funded startups in Southeast Asia (infographic)Chinese startup beats Apple to the punch with its AR glassesAsia tech news roundup – Dec 27Look out, Mofo: new bike-share contender nabs $500mAmazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days6 rising startups in JapanAlibaba’s biggest investments in 2017Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye onDidi’s next trick is to go global10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this yearDidi pockets $4b to boost AIVideo: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space6 rising startups in JapanLine funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app8 startups in Asia that caught our eyeWeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soonIndonesia’s 10 best-funded startups this yearGo-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia paymentsAlibaba invests in electric car startupSingapore’s 10 best-funded startups this yearOxfordcaps gets 500 Startups backing to bring co-living to Asia’s universities

https://www.techinasia.com Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:43:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454321 Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei. Photo credit: Tommy / Unsplash

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, with 450 million users across mainland China, today embarked on its first expansion.

With its Taiwan launch, Didi is going after Uber, which first launched on the island of 24 million people back in 2013.

But Didi is being forced to do things differently in Taiwan, where the powerful taxi lobby has prevented ride-hailing apps from tapping into ordinary people driving their own cars. Didi is partnering with a Taiwanese firm, LEDI Technology, to run the franchise on the island using only taxi drivers.

Uber was forced to ditch its ordinary drivers in Taiwan in early 2017 after it suspended operations for two months. It now uses only official limo operators.

Carpooling

The Chinese firm is rolling out two Taiwanese services in its app – Didi Taxi and Didi Hitch for carpooling.

“Taiwanese taxi drivers will benefit from better operating efficiency, lower idle time, and higher income. Initially limited to cash payment, Didi Taxi will gradually bring in diversified third-party credit cards and mobile payment options,” said the startup in a statement this evening.

“During the beta launch, Hitch riders and drivers can split fuel costs, tolls, and other expenses through cash payments with more convenient mobile payment options to follow in the near future,” it added.

Didi’s Taiwan rollout comes ahead of a much-anticipated launch in Latin America. The startup earlier this month acquired Brazil’s 99, the ride-hail app that’s Uber’s biggest rival across the region.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 08:56:55 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454021

Sea chairman and CEO Forrest Li and president Nick Nash on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday / Photo credit: NYSE

Singapore’s gaming and ecommerce unicorn Sea announced a US$884 million initial public offering this past October, ultimately raising a total of US$989.3 million thanks to strong investor demand. US-headquartered Razer, another well-loved company with ties to the island nation, had a US$528 million listing in Hong Kong just a month later.

This double whammy wasn’t as impressive as some of Southeast Asia’s IPO blockbusters in 2017. For example, Netlink NBN Trust’s US$1.7 billion listing on SGX topped the IPO charts (Netlink is Singapore’s fiber broadband network owner and telco Singtel’s broadband unit). Cromwell European Real Estate also listed on SGX, raising US$1 billion.

[The Sea and Razer IPOs are] a data point that VCs and founders can point to.

But for the tech startup scene, the Sea and Razer IPOs were still a crackerjack. Not only were the trade debuts long-awaited milestones for both companies, they were also an effective bellwether for Southeast Asian companies with public market aspirations.

Companies in Southeast Asia were waiting to see how the Sea IPO would pan out, so there was subsequently a lot of interest from local and regional tech companies in US listings. Sharon Lau, the Singapore office managing partner of law firm Latham & Watkins, predicts that there will be more high-profile IPOs from the region in late 2018 or early 2019, although she doesn’t share any details.

Rajiv Gupta, also a partner at Latham & Watkins in Singapore, says that local advisors, including banks and lawyers, were asked by IPO candidates to wait and see how the Sea listing would go before going forward with their own. “It was almost seen as a litmus test for the appetite for an Asian tech company IPO in the US,” he says, adding that interest remains strong after the listing.

This holds true even though both companies’ stock prices have dropped since and are trading below their IPO price. Sea’s stock opened today at US$12.58 in NYSE, having started at US$16.26, and Razer’s stock price opened at HKD 3.79 in HKG, having started at HKD 4.58.

“I think it is a recent indicator – a data point that VCs and founders can point to,” says Ferish Patel, partner at law firm Gunderson Dettmer.

The bell tolls for IPOs

Because Sea and Razer listed outside of Singapore, the market they’re more closely associated with, it adds to the debate about the city-state bourse’s attractiveness to tech startups.

This is not so much an indictment of local markets – IPOs in the region are doing quite well, in fact. “2017 was a record year for ASEAN IPOs and technology listings was the second largest category,” says Nam Soon Liew, managing partner at ASEAN Financial Services for Ernst & Young.

According to the Transaction Trail 2017 Report by valuation and financial advisory firm Duff & Phelps, IPO capital value in Singapore doubled last year in comparison to 2016.

Singapore IPOs Duff & Phelps

But Sea will likely not be the last Southeast Asian tech company to reach out to the global market through a US listing. Lau and Gupta confirm that tech companies and investors are eager for US listings.

While it doesn’t bode well for local exchanges, it’s not hard to see why companies here covet New York City lights. “Investors in the US really understand technology, and they are willing to put in big money,” explains Srividya Gopalakrishnan, managing director at Duff & Phelps Singapore.

This will probably continue to be the case, as long as investors in Singapore have different priorities. “[They] are generally more inclined towards defensive and income-generating stocks,” says Philip Teo, founder and CEO of Traderwave, a Singapore-based startup that helps traders discover, analyze, and monitor stock trading opportunities.

Teo, who has prior public market experience at Singaporean bank OCBC and conducts seminars for retail investors at SGX’s trading academy, thinks that growth-focused companies like tech startups generally don’t appeal to local investors. Such investors are more used to Singapore’s real estate investment trust focus.

Raising money is of course a key motivation for founders going public, right next to increasing their company’s profile and providing exit opportunities for their private investors. But when it comes to raising funds, there’s a lot more private capital to go around these days.

Companies like Grab and Uber, for example, have managed to build up significant war chests without an IPO. As such, startups have one more thing to consider: is it perhaps better to delay a listing and continue raising money privately? “Definitely Razer and Sea’s IPOs offer founders some potential food for thought about whether they should be listing or holding out as long as possible,” Teo explains.

Several companies also have the added option of ICOs these days – the trend peaked this year, as this graph vividly shows.

“ICOs have already surpassed early-stage VC funding despite concerns by regulators and investors alike with money laundering and the inherent volatility,” Liew says. “We expect ICO as a business model to continue to be a source of funding but also evolve with a greater understanding of the risks with evolving regulations.”

SGX Centre in downtown Singapore

SGX Centre, downtown Singapore / Photo credit: tang90246 / 123RF

Singapore needs to do more

SGX has made efforts to become attractive to tech startup listings through a number of initiatives, like engaging with regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to discover promising companies and allowing for dual-class shares that allow founders to retain control of their company.

But aside from investors coming around to tech startups, SGX might also need to focus on the specific value it can offer local companies.

If the bulk of your customers are in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here.

Lau believes SGX should take advantage of its streamlined listing process and look more carefully at Southeast Asian and Indian companies, for whom the region is a significant chunk of their business. “A business that’s not going to have a China or North Asia angle is perhaps the kind of company [SGX] should be marketing to,” she says.

As Teo suggests, “a company will usually list on SGX only if their market or their main target audience is actually very near to, or in, Singapore itself.” If the bulk of a company’s customers and market are in Singapore or in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here instead of a high-profile foreign exchange where it will be just one more company among tens of thousands.

“This is clearly a journey and a continued focus on shortening the time to market and making it more cost- and process-effective for listing will help,” Liew observes. “We see a strong pipeline of potential technology listings and 2018 should prove to be another strong year, given the continuing strong economic growth and positive equity markets.”

Gopalakrishnan has confidence in Singapore’s potential as a market for tech listings. “If somebody asked last year, I don’t think anyone would have said that Hong Kong would be the next market for [such companies],” she says. “But Hong Kong has managed to show there are actually investors interested in putting money in tech. I have a very positive feeling that Singapore will do the same but it may take a little more time because Singapore is fairly conservative. If Hong Kong can do it, then Singapore can as well.”

(Update, 8:20pm SGT: Updated Sea IPO value.)

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 04:51:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453817

Carousell’s Singapore headquarters / Photo credit: Carousell

Carousell appears to have raised over US$45 million in new funding last year, according to financial documents reviewed by Tech in Asia, while the startup confirmed it has new backers. This could be a sign of investor confidence in Carousell’s ability to become profitable.

Filings submitted to Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) by the startup indicate that it had paid-up share capital totaling about US$87.1 million as of September 20 last year.

Tech in Asia’s database records Carousell as having raised a total of US$41.8 million as of August 2016, when its series B round was announced.

The difference between these two figures – US$45.3 million – appears to be the amount Carousell has brought in since then.

That falls short of the US$80 million it is reported to have raised at series C, but it’s possible that the remainder hasn’t been banked yet. The investment may be divided into two or more tranches.

We do have new investors.

EDBI, the Singapore Economic Development Board’s corporate investment arm, is named as a shareholder, though it had not been been listed as a Carousell investor before. Previously reported investors Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, and 500 Startups are also listed as owning stakes.

“Fundraising is an ongoing process,” a Carousell spokesperson told Tech in Asia when asked about series C fundraising. “We do have new investors, but we’ll announce further details when the time is right.”

EDBI responded to Tech in Asia‘s request for comment, but was unable to provide additional details at this time.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

With more than 100 million listings and users in 19 cities across seven countries, Carousell’s achievements since it launched its C2C platform in May 2012 cannot be understated. But monetizing what it has built – arguably the much harder task –  has only just begun.

Starting out as a community-driven marketplace to connect individual buyers and sellers, Carousell was run on a free-to-use basis, generating next to no income. But its latest available financial report indicates that Carousell might still be in the nascent stages of monetization. Its revenue in 2016 was negligible and decreased by over a third from 2015, although it’s not known if it improved last year.

Carousell did not share any figures related to its 2017 performance with Tech in Asia, but a spokesperson said that the company is starting to see positive results from monetization products released last year, such as Bumps, Carousell Coins, listing fees, Carousell Pro subscriptions, media sales, and advertising.

Bumps is a paid-for feature that allows sellers to enhance the visibility of their listings. Carousell Coins is a virtual currency for the marketplace that can be bought and used to cover listing fees or buy Bumps.

Soft-launched last October, Carousell Pro is a paid-for app designed to help professional sellers in the real estate and job recruitment segments to “create, manage, and analyze” their marketing efforts.

Carousell had earlier moved into listing cars and property, which brought commercial merchants onto its platform for the first time and heralded the introduction of paid-for premium ads. Job listings soon followed.

Carousell Motors, a dedicated car marketplace app

Photo credit: Carousell

“We also work with advertisers and brands who are looking to reach out to our users, through our media sales and advertising products,”  said the Carousell spokesperson, who mentioned AXA Insurance, DBS Bank, McDonalds, and Uber as among the brands that have run customized marketing campaigns with the startup.

The company also said that for 2018, it’s focusing on growth in its key markets. “Some of the initiatives we are working on include test-bedding exciting new product features and exploring opportunities to partner with local industry players to deepen our presence across our markets,” the spokesperson shared.

Carousell also explained how, like other classifieds businesses, many investments are made upfront with negative cash flow at first, but “they also enjoy healthy margins once monetization starts and operates at scale.”

The spokesperson continued: “We’ve invested heavily in putting the right pieces in place and have now started to roll out our monetization strategy. With healthy user growth in place, we started focusing on generating revenue to ensure sustainability.”

They should have been able to keep their operations lean.

While Carousell has yet to disclose its 2017 numbers, the fact that it managed to raise a significant sum in funding may be a sign that investors are bullish about its revenue-generation efforts. Tech in Asia reached out to Carousell shareholders Golden Gate Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and 500 Startups, but did not get a response at the time of publication.

A scan of the Carousell app shows that its Bumps feature is seeing significant usage among sellers. It is also ranking well on the iOS top grossing charts, which list apps according to the volume of in-app purchases.

As of January 18, Carousell is the highest-grossing app in the shopping category in four countries according to analytics provider AppLyzer, although it is unique among major ecommerce apps in its support for Apple Pay, which sellers can use to buy Bumps. As such, this may not be something to gloat about.

However,  its ranking (at time of publication) as the 41st highest-grossing app across all categories in Singapore – above games like Zynga Poker, Line: Disney Tsum Tsum, and Blizzard’s Hearthstone – is a positive sign.

Room for improvement

Jackie Lam, co-founder at startup consultancy Oddup, finds some of Carousell’s numbers worrying. For the most part, the startup is still an online classifieds marketplace that neither facilitates payments nor is legally capable of providing resolutions should a transaction go wrong, she pointed out.

“In essence, the only value that their platform provides is a space for people to post advertisements and chat. Therefore, the expenses they should have incurred would be minimal. They should have been able to keep their operations lean.”

Based on its financial statement, Carousell’s total pre-tax losses grew almost fivefold to US$22 million in 2016, mostly due to rising staff and marketing costs.

Carousell co-founders Quek Siu Rui (L), Lucas Ngoo (M), and Marcus Tan (R) / Photo credit: Carousell

It is not uncommon for startups to be running losses in their early years, so these metrics alone are not indicative of the company’s health, said Lawrence Cheok, senior research manager at IDC. But Carousell’s fall in revenue between 2015 and 2016 against a continuing trend of increasing losses may be a cause for concern, he added.

Cheok said that Carousell may be overlooking revenue opportunities on the buyer side of its business, such as bringing payment and fulfillment onto its platform rather than leaving it up to buyers and sellers to complete transactions between themselves.  

Carousell only suggests methods for customers to settle payment – through user-to-user bank transfers, cash on delivery, or third-party providers – rather than hosting a payments infrastructure on its site.

“This is a glaring gap in customer experience,” noted Cheok. “For example, eBay – through PayPal – guarantees the transaction as the trusted middleman. This underlying trust is mandatory for remote exchange of goods and services between two strangers.”

Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.

In contrast, Carousell’s regional rivals Lazada and Shopee allow customers to “checkout” on their sites or in their apps by using credit and debit cards, online banking, and a range of third-party payments gateways and mobile wallets.

Another strategic flaw of keeping payments off-platform is the inability to verify transactions. Without transactional data, consumer analytics efforts will be dubious at best, added Cheok.

“With high-value purchases like cars and properties, the fundamental trust issue becomes even more pressing. Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.”

Bringing payments on-platform could also help Carousell to collect enhanced pricing data, which may become a revenue stream in itself.

“I believe that companies like Apple would pay top dollar to figure out what the market value of their second-hand products in Singapore and other countries is, as it would help them with their pricing strategy,” said Lam.

Listed prices on Carousell are not final as they can still be negotiated between buyers and sellers outside of the platform. But the company can keep track of the offers made and accepted – and if payments were completed through the platform, it would have data on final sale prices, too.

Lam further suggested that Carousell upgrade or customize its user interface for certain product categories. She argued it’s not optimized for searching for vehicles or property, unlike specialized marketplaces such as SGCarMart and PropertyGuru.

“Since cars and property are big-ticket items which usually have more idiosyncrasies relative to consumer electronics or fashion products, a distinct platform dedicated to each would help them to differentiate effectively.”

What to look for in the 2017 statement

Below is Carousell’s consolidated income statement for 2016 – the most recent full year available – which is publicly accessible from ACRA. Note that figures in brackets are negative:

Source: ACRA

Here’s its consolidated cash flow statement for the same period:

Source: ACRA

The company’s FY 2017 filing will give a better idea of how the revenue generation initiatives are playing out.

Looking ahead, Carousell will need to demonstrate an increase in gross merchandise volume – that is, the value of all the goods sold across its platform – to show current and prospective investors that its user base continues to grow, said Cheok.

Carousell must show “a narrowing gap between revenue against operating cost – which may happen while absolute losses are still increasing.” This will indicate that the early years’ losses as seen in the above statements can be considered a worthwhile investment, allowing the startup to acquire users and thereby achieve scale, network effect, and monetization, he concluded.

This post Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 01:15:12 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453344 China is overflowing with deep learning and AI startups, and they’re doing things differently from deep learning startups in Silicon Valley.

This video features Dr. Chris Rowen, founder and principal of Cognite Ventures and co-founder and CEO of Babblabs.


Transcript:

Dr. Chris Rowen: “I think that there a set of common features and a set of distinct characteristics about what the Chinese neural network startups are doing relative to the US, relative to the rest of the world. Some of the clear themes are, number one, there’s lots of interest in video and especially in surveillance in China.Some of that comes from the level of investment that the Chinese government is making in public safety. Some of it, I think, comes from a long history of interest in imaging.

“Some of it comes from the fact that the Chinese electronics community really understands a lot about devices. Gadgets. Things that are widely deployed in high volume.

“And there is, on the flip side, relatively less activity in the cloud in China among startups. Certainly it’s true in the neural network area. In fact, worldwide in my Cognite Ventures 300 list roughly two-thirds of all of the neural network startups are deploying software for the cloud. In China, very few.

“So it’s almost as if the whole cloud segment is missing from the Chinese neural network community. Partly because I think the cloud is less well-developed as a commercial ecosystem. Certainly there are big players like Alibaba, for example, and Baidu, focused on the cloud. But it’s really percolated much less completely into the ecosystem of small, medium, and large players.

“I think some of it really reflects the fact that people see the value in these things where there’s a tangible element. It may go back historically to the question of intellectual property protection in that it’s much easier to be confident that you’re protecting the value of your product when all of the software and all of the hardware are bundled together in one thing. And so that tends to make the Chinese startup community much more oriented towards hardware/software systems.

“It’s much less about ‘Oh, I have a very specific algorithm or a very specific application or a very specific chip in mind’ but rather: ‘I am combining chips and software and algorithms and application insights together in a package which is salable.’ So in an ironic sense, the Chinese deep learning startups tend to be quite integrated and quite system-oriented in their perspective. Because, I think, it reflects in part this interest in delivering a more complete solution, in part to protect intellectual property; certainly to protect value in a world where there [is] a long history of clone makers of various kinds.

“In general, the level of activity and the level of sophistication is high in China just as it is in the other leading countries that are at the forefront of this. I think some of the unique characteristics of China are the things I’ve mentioned; this focus on embedded devices, this focus on surveillance, the relative immaturity of the cloud. You also, I think, have an environment where there’s actually quite a bit of venture money available. The level of enthusiasm, the kind of overt encouragement of the Chinese government for investment in this really leading-edge technology is [making] a lot of money available to teams so that, while it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison, my guess is that for a team of a given caliber they probably have the easiest time getting funded in China and get the highest valuations in China right now.

“I tend to be a big fan of the company DeePhi which is focused on really quite advanced neural network methods for vision, applying it, of course, in surveillance but in other areas as well. They are both developing new algorithms and optimizing them very effectively for FPGAs but also working to develop new silicon platforms.

“And they have, I think, a very significant history in working in a particularly interesting problem in neural networks which is how do you build much smaller, much leaner much more efficient neural networks than what people are typically implementing in the cloud. And they’re able to do things that have significantly lower compute requirements, fit into smaller chips, run at higher framerates and still keep very high accuracy. Accuracy comparable to what people have done in cloud-based computing, but now doing it in quite small devices.

“I think it’s a really interesting group of people out of a combination of Tsinghua University and Stanford who are the inspiration behind DeePhi and they’re doing quite remarkable things.”

This post Video: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:02:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452181 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Grab is now hiring on Tech in Asia Jobs.

While many are familiar with ride-hailing app Grab, few of us really know what happens after we hit “book.”

Different teams work the magic to deliver the ride, but I was interested in how data science fits into all of this. So I sat down with Lye Kong-wei, Grab’s head of data science, to find out more.

Making sense of the data Grab collects

Grab hails from Malaysia, starting off as MyTeksi in 2012. In six short years, it has grown into a billion-dollar startup and a top contender in Southeast Asia’s private car-hailing space.

Around 3.5 million rides are booked on the app daily, generating over 10 terabytes of data on the platform each day. More than 60 employees work in the data team in Singapore to make sense of the data and use insights gathered to improve the Grab experience.

The team is expected to expand by 50 percent at the end of 2018.

The data team at Grab

The data team at Grab is divided into two: the data engineering team and the data science team.

The data engineering team manages Grab’s data warehouses, builds its pipelines, and ensures that other data teams get data in a form they can readily use.

Headed by Lye, the data science team is made up mostly of researchers working on models and algorithms to translate research into product features.

“From the moment a passenger opens the Grab app to the time a vehicle arrives, data science powers the thinking and decision-making on the most efficient routes, travel time, and price point. These collectively work to make a safe and convenient commuting experience for both drivers and passengers,” says Lye.

There are around 30 people in the data science team. It’s currently based in Singapore, but there are plans to expand to other countries where Grab operates.

Grab’s data science team. Lye is at the back, on the far right. Photo credit: Grab

Team structure and dynamics

Grab’s data science team is made up of five groups focused on specific areas.

1. Machine learning

The machine learning team works on all kinds of predictions using traditional machine learning and new deep learning techniques. Most applications involve studying users’ behaviour to improve the experience for both passengers and drivers.

2. Markets

Working closely with the machine learning team, the markets team studies supply (driver) and demand (passengers). They are responsible for matching drivers and passengers by forecasting fixed fares amid price fluctuations. Their driver booking system is an example of this.

“We have learned our drivers’ preferences and behaviours, enabling us to predict which jobs drivers will take,” explains Lye. “For instance, many GrabBike drivers in Jakarta have a ‘home base’ which they prefer not to veer too far from, no matter how profitable a ride might be. Bookings are then sent to drivers with the highest probable booking rate. Because of this, our drivers now receive jobs they prefer and get better earning opportunities.”

3. Optimization

By developing and managing services like GrabHitch, GrabShare, and GrabShuttle, the optimization team helps put more people in fewer cars and make cities less congested.

“This team also forms the backbone of our collaboration with governments, which use travel and traffic data to improve transport and city planning,” notes Lye.

4. Simulation

The simulation team helps Grab’s country teams simulate how passengers and drivers would interact with new services and respond to tweaks in existing ones. The team constantly improves their services as a result of these simulations.

5. Architecture

Looking after the lower layers of the stack, the architecture team works mostly on experimenting and rapidly adopting new technologies to increase the speed at which Grab innovates. For example, it has used GPUs (graphics processing units) to reduce the data team’s processing times for even faster real-time insights.

Case study

A significant project the data science team is working on is GrabShare, Grab’s commercial service that enables passengers to carpool with another passenger heading in the same direction.

“To get passengers quickly to their destinations, GrabShare pairs just two passenger bookings with similar trip routes within a single trip,” says Lye.

Passengers will experience a maximum of two stops before reaching their destinations.

GrabShare focuses on maximizing drivers’ potential earnings by reducing the time and distance spent on a single GrabShare ride, allowing drivers to complete more jobs per hour to boost their income and reduce fuel consumption.

Two key metrics are involved in doing this:

  1. Match rate – This measures how well they match the first passenger with another passenger going in the same direction.
  2. Match quality – This measures the trade-off in time a passenger faces by choosing to share a ride with someone else.

The key is to strike a balance between match rate and match quality, while aiming for higher efficiency in putting more people in fewer cars.

“With this, it’s important to understand how passenger behavior differs from one market to another,” says Lye. “For example, GrabShare riders in Singapore are less willing to wait for a ride than GrabShare riders in Indonesia.”

GrabShare’s history

  1. The first version of the GrabShare algorithm was developed in 2015 when Grab launched their GrabHitch service. GrabHitch is GrabShare’s non-commercial ride-sharing counterpart.
  2. Once users got more familiar with ride-sharing on GrabHitch, the data science team started studying data related to driver and passenger behavior.
  3. The team then simulated the GrabShare user experience for drivers and passengers, and refined its features.
  4. GrabShare launched in December 2016.
  5. The teams then spent time on the ground to tweak the product for the next few markets before launching GrabShare in those markets.

“The GrabShare algorithm continuously evolves as every ride on our platform is logged, analyzed, and adjusted according to the local needs of each city,” says Lye.

Challenges

Communication

Lye says that it can sometimes be hard to explain their work to their colleagues outside the data science team, both in terms of its impact on the business and the opportunities it offers.

To address this, his team has started holding data science talks for all Grab personnel, highlighting specific projects and areas of focus for the data science team.

Hiring

Finding great data scientists at the volume that Grab needs is also a challenge.

One way the team deals with this is by engaging in more external activities, such as encouraging its data scientists to network, speak in technical forums, attend relevant courses, as well as to blog or publish their work.

Hiring data scientists at Grab

Grab data scientists in a discussion. Photo credit: Grab

Candidates are first screened for the basics, such as communication skills. They then typically go through three rounds of interviews.

The first round is with one or more of their peers, where candidates are assessed for their technical capabilities. They look out for good theoretical fundamentals, as well as relevant working or personal experience.

The next round is with the hiring manager, who evaluates if candidates are fit for the role in terms of potential performance and culture.

The final round is with the head of the data science department.

In addition, Lye says they look out for what they call the “hidden diamond” in every candidate: character.

“A diamond needs extreme heat, time, and pressure to be made,” he observes. “Similarly, character takes years to form. Integrity, tenacity, and humility are traits we try to elicit from the candidate’s personal stories.”

Lye also leaves potential candidates with some advice.

“Know your destination,” he recommends. “If it is on our way, hop on and share the ride.”

This post How Grab runs its data science team appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018#comments Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:47:50 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453582 New year, new roundup. Check out the latest in media, data security, drone technology, and more.

One Media

Video content media startup One Media recently secured around US$3 million from B Dash Ventures and Gree Corp. One Media makes videos that can be viewed through various social media platforms like Line and Facebook. So far, it has created over 1,200 videos, ranging from music festivals to craft whiskey drinks. The startup also collaborates with companies like automakers Honda and Toyota.

One Media’s funding comes as  Japanese media startups seem on the rise, with Lute and Candee also securing financing  in recent months.

ACSL

ACSL, which got its start  while CEO Kenzo Nonami was teaching at the University of Chiba, is a drone manufacturing company. The startup promotes a wide range of applications for its autonomous drones like building inspection, delivery services, and agriculture production support. Drones can be customized based on customers specific needs.

The company recently raised a sizeable amount of cash of US$19 million from Mirai Creation Fund, iGlobe Partners, Mizuho Capital, University of Tokyo Edge Capital, and Drone Fund.

Another Japanese drone company, Clue, received funding in November to develop similar drone and software- like capabilities.

Michael

Cartune, a community app for car enthusiasts, has achieved over 100,000 downloads since it was launched in May 2017 by Michael. Users must input their car model and photos in order to complete registration. They  can also browse through Cartune’s Instagram-like user interface or filter their searches by applying a specific tag.

As local transportation and electric vehicles become more popular, the future of cars seems to be headed towards the direction of sustainability and and energy efficiency. As such, people may wonder whether classic cars still have a purpose . However, Cartune founder Makoto Fukyama believes that older cars will remain relevant as a hobby. He also thinks that the after-parts market and exhibition culture are strong, and car companies are keen revive some of their older models.

Other than Cartune, other new companies like Garage have entered on the scene, as well as older legacy players such as Minkara.

For its seed round, Michael received approximately US$1 million from IGPI.

Caulis

Fraud Alert by Caulis took the stage in early December at the elite pitch contest, Japan’s Infinity Ventures Summit. Fraud Alert is a cloud-based fraud detection service that monitors suspicious  behavior and alerts clients. The service is being introduced in 10 companies, of which most are financial institutions.

The company, which also shares its database of malicious users, just raised over US$1.4 million in its series A from four investors. Participants included previous backers Sony Innovation Fund and iSiD as well as two new additions, Seven Bank and Revamp.

 

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:40:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453571

Photo credit: HQ Trivia

Combining quiz show entertainment and cash prizes, HQ Trivia was the surprise app sensation of 2017. And now a Chinese tech giant is jumping on the bandwagon.

Toutiao, a US$20 billion news app with 120 million readers each day, this week updated its mobile app to incorporate Millionaire Heroes, a live and interactive online trivia show which runs several times per day.

I joined the 1:00 pm quiz within Toutiao, where US$7,800 was up for grabs. Despite being working hours, the viewer count as the livestream started was at 2.5 million. Five minutes in as the first question hit the screen, just over 3 million people were tuned in.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Millionaire Heroes (right) looks very similar to HQ Trivia (left). On this first question, 998,000 Chinese viewers got the right answer – though I was one of the near 20,000 people to choose wrongly.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia, using one screenshot from HQ Trivia

If a news app seems an odd place for a game show, there is an explanation. A representative from Bytedance – the company behind Toutiao – told Tech in Asia this afternoon that the Millionaire Heroes quiz started earlier in the year inside its spinoff Xigua Video app, and now the startup has put the exact same game show inside the news app. The spokesperson said nobody was available to take further questions about its trivia quiz.

Bytedance has a growing entertainment empire that includes Musical.ly, Xigua Video, Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

The quiz is limited to friend referrals via an invitation code. Dishing out more referrals seems to get you more hearts, allowing you to answer more questions.

Bytedance’s reported US$20 billion valuation after raising US$1.1 billion in funding in the past few years is mainly due to the rocketing growth of Toutiao, but its other apps and acquisitions show that the Beijing-based firm wants to be a global force in web-based leisure and entertainment.

See: China has a problem with Toutiao

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = RMB 6.42.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:00:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452698

The ZmyHome team / Photo credit: ZmyHome

Thailand has many real estate portals, but it takes almost a year on average to sell a house in the country, says entrepreneur Natthapon Asswisessiwakul.

He blames this on at least two things. First, many of the houses on property listing sites carry sky-high price tags, no thanks to exorbitant broker commission and fees that are tucked into them. Second, the sites are filled with incomplete, fake, and outdated listings from brokers due to lack of verification. If you’re a buyer, this means you might be paying for a lot more than you should, while a bogus listing is a total waste of your time.

Asswisessiwakul knew these pain points, having worked at property research and consulting firm CBRE for seven years and founded his own brokerage firm after that. Seeing the opportunity, he launched ZmyHome in late 2015 as a way for people to sell, rent out, and buy houses without the help of a real estate agent.

With US$400,000 in fresh capital from KK Fund, ZmyHome aims to give home sellers and buyers the confidence to transact on their own by providing them accurate massive data. That’s how it intends to stand out from other property listing sites like PropertyGuru’s DDproperty. “We want a clean and well-organized platform similar to the hotel industry,” says Asswisessiwakul.

Bringing transparency to the market

Only property developers or home owners are allowed to post on ZmyHome to ensure that the information is true and up-to-date. They must provide a title, deed, or any government document that indicates the house’s identification number and names them as owner before a listing is approved. This minimizes the possibility of a fake listing, says the founder.

It also supposedly guarantees buyers the best prices by excluding the middlemen. Broker listings usually include commission and other fees charged to either the users or the sellers. And given that most sellers will figure the fees into their price, buyers pay indirectly too.

One thing that’s keeping individuals from selling direct is that they don’t know how to price their properties. ZmyHome offers data on sold homes in a specific location, allowing sellers to study it and compare. Buyers looking for properties get access to the data as well. Asswisessiwakul says they get owners to update the status of their properties as either “available” or “sold” on a monthly basis via Facebook and phone calls.

Once a seller and a buyer agree on a deal, they can use a free standard purchasing agreement on ZmyHome. Or they can opt for the startup’s legal processing service, which still costs “very low compared to the broker commission.”

Listing on ZmyHome is free, and the startup charges sellers per impression – they won’t have to pay if potential buyers don’t see their properties. “Most platforms in Thailand are dominated by agents because [the platforms] want to accumulate listings and charge a listing fee,” Asswisessiwakul contends.

The startup has 30,000 approved listings on its site, of which over 33 percent have been sold or rented.

Thai real estate developers such as LPN, Riche Place, CPLand, and Real Asset have also been using ZmyHome. So far, they’ve sold over US$3 million worth of properties on the site.

LPN director Suwattana Tang says, “we sold almost a hundred units to ZmyHome buyers with over 10 percent conversion, the highest rate among sources.”

Analysis: ZmyHome needs to catch up

Like other marketplaces, the company needs to attain network effects to succeed, meaning it must attract a critical mass of buyers and suppliers. These network effects create high barriers to entry – once many buyers and sellers are using a marketplace, it becomes harder for a new rival to lure them away.

That’s a challenge as ZmyHome still needs to get its name out there and faces off against strong rivals with more experience and funding.

Thailand’s real estate market is worth US$20 billion per year, according to Thai accelerator Dtac Accelerate, but it’s not clear how much online transactions account for in that figure. What’s certain is that the opportunity is huge enough that it created a crowded and competitive market.

Similarweb data shows ZmyHome is lagging behind its key rivals in terms of site visits. ZmyHome says it gets 1.2 million page views monthly, but Similarweb pegs it at over 625,200.

Achieving network effects is tough because for you to attract buyers, you need sellers – and vice versa. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. While there’s plenty of expert advice on how to break the impasse, ZmyHome’s model might initially face more difficulty building out the supply side.

ZmyHome’s no-brokers rule for posting limits its pool of suppliers, while the requirements needed for approving a listing could slow down the process of onboarding sellers.

Asswisessiwakul confirms this in a response to Tech in Asia. “We ask owners to provide more details and property images to help buyers investigate the market. It’s more difficult to post on our platform compared to competitors.” Listings get approved within 24 hours if they provide complete information, images, and supporting documents. If they don’t, it takes three to four days.

He adds, “We grew slowly during the first year since we have less listings than competitors who allow agents to post. We attract more users than other medium-sized platforms. However, big players are attracting more buyers who are just starting to search for properties.”

Yet network effects and having first-mover advantage aren’t enough to succeed, according to Andrei Hagiu, a former Harvard Business School professor, and Simon Rothman, partner at Greylock Partners. “Entrepreneurs should really focus on being the first to create a liquid market in their segment,” they write in the Harvard Business Review.

A marketplace must prove its value to both sides, or else it becomes vulnerable to later entrants. “If users do not derive significant value on a consistent basis, they will readily jump ship,” they say.

It seems this is what ZmyHome is hoping for by offering more transparency and competitive pricing to the market.

“Successful transactions are necessary for owners and buyers to learn about the platform,” notes Sompoat Chansomboon of Dtac, which also backs ZmyHome.

Moving forward, ZmyHome plans to accumulate more sellers with a “listing score.” The higher the score, the more priority a property will be given in searches. This means ZmyHome will set minimum requirements for approving a listing, but the seller who supplies more information will get a higher score.

It will also expand its user base to include banks (which sell foreclosed properties) and foreign property owners.

There are more challenges that ZmyHome needs to surmount as it grows, such as:

1. Speeding up transactions for more liquidity

Asswisessiwakul says listed properties situated in high-demand locations and priced correctly are able to sell within three months, while others remain on the site for over a year.

He plans to bring the average selling time down to three months – “similar to mature markets such as the US and UK” – by developing a price suggestion system. This way, sellers don’t have to research and compare prices or price properties on their own.

2. Making property verification more efficient

Calling sellers to get an update on the status of their homes is manageable when the pool of users is small, but what happens when you’re talking about millions of sellers?

We also asked how the team verifies the authenticity of the documents submitted to the site. Asswisessiwakul didn’t comment, except to say that buyers report listings that have wrong information or might have not come from the home owner.

Converted from Thai baht. Rate: US$1 = 31.93 baht.

This post How a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in Thailand appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 06:30:25 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452730

Money Forward team at the company’s October 2017 Tokyo IPO / Photo credit: Money Forward

Sleekr, an Indonesian HR and accounting management platform, has secured funding from Tokyo-based fintech firm Money Forward in its first investment outside of Japan.

The partnership is representative of growing interest in Southeast Asia from a newer generation of Japanese tech businesses, as they seek opportunities for growth beyond home shores – though this could change as more Chinese capital flows into the region. 

Sleekr started out by providing personnel management software as a service, and then diversified into cloud accounting services after acquiring fellow Indonesian startup Kiper in November 2016. It now has around 80 employees.

Sleekr’s only disclosed fundraise to date was a US$35,000 seed round in December 2014.

The size of the investment hasn’t been revealed, but Naoya Kanesaka, the Japanese company’s chief financial officer, told Tech in Asia that the amount is significant given the size of the parties and the extent of their partnership.

“Including Sleekr, we have invested between US$2 million and US$3 million into five companies so far. Sleekr is of a comparably larger size,” he said.

Aside from the investment, Money Forward will share know-how with Sleekr. Money Forward co-founder and CEO Yosuke Tsuji has also been appointed to the startup’s board of directors.

Money Forward, which went public in a US$25 million Tokyo IPO last October, walks the line between fintech and enterprise software. It offers a range of financial management products that include cloud-based accounts as well as payroll, invoice, and expenses processing features.

According to Kanesaka, Money Forward has a 60 percent market share and is the number one software choice among Japanese accounting firms.

Photo credit: Money Forward

There is clear overlap with Sleekr’s offering, but Money Forward sees this as an opportunity for synergy and a way to tap into the potentially lucrative Southeast Asian market.

Kanesaka noted that Money Forward already has an accounting and payroll product in Japan, so they don’t expect to bring Sleekr there. But, as he pointed out, “there are a lot of things we can learn about product strategy and marketing strategy.”

Partnering with a local player can also help Money Forward to better understand the market. While “in terms of environment,” there’s a basic difference between the culture in Southeast Asia and Japan, Kanesaka said there’s “a fundamental similarity in terms of how to be successful.”

Going south

The deal with Sleekr is part of the company’s “Money Forward Fund” program. It isn’t a separate, VC-style investment vehicle as the name may suggest, but rather a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing the company’s offerings through M&A activity.

Under Money Forward Fund, the company pledges to offer financial backing and know-how sharing, as well as tech assistance in areas such as APIs and network support with partners, investors, and service providers in return for equity.

Prior to making its first overseas investment with Sleekr, the program backed Japanese robo-advisor Money Design in December 2015, crowdfunding platforms Campfire and LIFULL Social Funding in October last year, and ecommerce platform developer BASE earlier this month.

Kanesaka said that he expects Money Forward to make further strategic investments in Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region, and could invest more than US$10 million given the right prospect.

They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking.

Japanese tech investors have been attracted to Southeast Asia partly because of proximity – in both geographic and cultural terms – and Japan’s soft power in the region, explained James Riney, who heads 500 Startups in Japan.

“Japanese VCs and corporates were one of the first groups to aggressively invest in Southeast Asian startups. The region is also experiencing strong GDP growth overall, and the mobile revolution is turning more people into accessible customers,” he adds.

Another important factor is that until recently, Southeast Asia has been largely overlooked by US and European investors.

Japanese investors are interested primarily because the region is not as competitive as Silicon Valley, observed Riney. “They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking, and local sources of capital were not as open-minded or sophisticated at the time to compete.” 

While Southeast Asia accounts for a seemingly small portion of overall Japanese VC investment – at around 2.9 percent in Q3 2017, according to research from Japan’s Venture Enterprise Center – it is notable how this is not too far from matching the figure for North America, while it beats that for the rest of Asia, including India and the Middle East.

But this state of affairs is undergoing rapid change, as increasingly well-capitalized Chinese players enter the scene.

“The region has matured quite a bit. There are much more local sources of capital, and my impression is that China is more aggressive than Japan these days,” said Riney. “Many in Japan still see potential in Southeast Asia, but it is less appealing than it used to be because it is becoming more competitive.”

This post Sleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 13:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=451415 Melanie Perkins, Canva

Melanie Perkins / Photo credit: Canva

Australia has yet another startup unicorn today.

Nearly five years after Melanie Perkins, a former graphic design software tutor, first launched Canva as a Photoshop-for-people-terrified-of-Photoshop online tool, the startup is worth US$1 billion dollars following its latest round of funding.

She has just pocketed US$40 million from investors including Sequoia Capital to further grow Canva, which has users designing graphics with its intuitive tools in 190 countries and 100 languages. Its 10 million users make 1 million new designs each day.

“Visual communication is becoming so much more prevalent across every single industry,” CEO and co-founder Perkins tells Tech in Asia. “In years gone by, sales people would create a sales letter, it’d be very text-heavy. But now they’re expected to create a beautiful, visual pitch-deck, perhaps customized for the customers they’re trying to reach.”

Screenshot credit: Canva

The shift to more visuals also applies to teachers, entrepreneurs, marketers, and non-profits, says Perkins. That’s why she wanted to make a tool that’s very different to heavyweight graphic design apps. “Simple, online, and collaborative” – those were three priorities when constructing Canva, she says. It works in your browser, or there are apps for mobile.

The three-year pitch

While some Canva features can be used for free, others – like the ability to collaborate with more than 10 team members – require a monthly subscription. The startup also makes money from a marketplace of add-ons for things like stock images, plus it offers printing services in 31 countries.

Perkins is happy that Canva is turning a profit. “It’s atypical if you compare to most Silicon Valley companies,” she chuckles. “But there’s so much more for us to do. We’re a baby unicorn. It’s early days for us yet.”

The marketing and management grad spent several years prior to Canva’s August 2013 launch chasing funding for her startup concept.

“A lot of trials and tribulations. A lot of time pitching in San Francisco, trying to get investors on board. Trying to get people to join my team. I had a lot of rejection along the way,” she recalls. “I think it was three years between meeting the first investor and actually landing the investment.”

She concedes there was a lot of initial pressure from those US investors to move across the Pacific, but Perkins resisted. Canva now has 250 staffers across its Sydney HQ and branch office in Manila.

“It’s been an incredible benefit being based in Australia. We’ve been able to attract incredible tech talent, from Australia and across the globe. We’ve also been able to get the best of both worlds – we have investors from Silicon Valley, we go there quite regularly, and we’ve been able to tap into their network.”

The recent fundraise marks Sequoia Capital’s first time backing Canva. Australia-based Blackbird Ventures led the round.

Perkins is keeping Canva’s number of active users and subscribers under her hat. But she says that everyone from small businesses to massive companies are designing items with the tool, with 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies having used it at some point. Free access to premium features is given to 17,000 non-profit organizations.

Canva is up against not only giants like Adobe (InDesign, Photoshop), Microsoft (PowerPoint), and Apple (Pages, Keynote), but also an array of slimmer and sleeker apps and tools from startups like Sketch, Figma, Easel.ly, Visual.ly, and Piktochart.

Update (Jan. 10, 3:00 pm): Added list of rivals

See: How Facebook is eating the internet with good design

This post She runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averse appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:38:28 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450886 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Looking for a job? Search thousands of jobs for free on Tech in Asia Jobs.

The mid-morning chatter trailed off as Airfrov CEO and co-founder Cai Li walked into the room and reached for a bell perched on a cabinet. 

The bell rings. 

The 10-odd members of the product and marketing teams rise to their feet for their daily standup meeting. I rise with them. 

A user joins in the daily standup meetings as far as possible. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

An Airfrov user joins the team’s daily standup meeting whenever schedules align. I was the user in the hot seat that day. After a brief round of introductions, Cai turns to me and asks, “So, what do you not like about Airfrov, and how can it be improved?”

The story of Airfrov

The name Airfrov represents the sharing economy enabled by frequent air travelers. It also plays on Cai’s inexplicable love for the Afro hairstyle. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

Airfrov is a C2C marketplace that connects travelers with buyers seeking goods from their destinations.

Founded in 2015 by Cai and Robi Ng, the concept was born from an opportunity that Cai spotted while working in a job that required frequent traveling. Every time he traveled, his friends and girlfriend would request for items exclusive to these countries. Through Airfrov, travelers can now get a small monetary incentive for purchasing items requested by buyers. In exchange, buyers get to enjoy imported products without having to pay hefty shipping fees.

The platform is now operational in Singapore and Indonesia, and processes over 800 requests daily.

Keeping users at the forefront of decision-making

Cai credits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ concept of “the empty chair” for Airfrov’s daily user sit-in sessions. Bezos is known to leave an empty seat at meetings to represent the Amazon customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Cai, however, tweaked that idea for Airfrov. “Instead of keeping the seat empty, I thought, why not invite a real customer?” he says.

Users are constantly dropping by the Airfrov office to deposit or collect items, allowing Cai to involve them in the research and development process.

Identifying user problems first-hand

By getting feedback directly from users, the product and marketing teams can gain insights and spot pain points that are easily overlooked by the UX team.

“Instead of looking into completing specific tasks, we get to see how people use Airfrov on a daily basis,” shares Cai.

One of the first things that Cai and the team noticed was the duplication of requests from other buyers.

Image credit: Airfrov

“We noticed users coming in to say that they wished that they could copy and paste what others were requesting, so they don’t have to go through the whole process of creating a new request,” explains Cai. “As such, we came up with the ‘I want this too!’ button, which has become a core feature of our product today.”

Motivation for the team

According to Cai, bringing in users gives the team strong motivation. “It lets them know that whatever they’re doing is going to impact the life of this user,” he adds.

Taking this approach, however, also means that users can see the nitty-gritty of the product development process. Doesn’t this kind of exposure bother Cai?

“Not really,” he laughs. “We want to involve the users as much as possible in this process. We want them to see how difficult decisions are made. And we would rather that they give us feedback early on.”

The next steps

The information gathered from this process either ends with a new feature in Airfrov’s future iteration, or in the idea graveyard. Here’s how the process looks like.

Image credit: Joshua Lim

Improvements to the product development process

Going forward, Cai wants Airfrov’s engineers to be more involved in the user experience side of the business. As he points out, “Part of our onboarding process requires everyone at Airfrov, including engineers, to be in customer service and learn to serve our customers. But after the onboarding process, they are no longer the ones speaking to users.”

Cai tries to get engineers to speak to users at least once a month, but their involvement is limited because of Airfrov’s resources.

“We have to set aside time for them to do that, but right now, we can’t afford to,” he says. “I wish that they would be able to speak more to our users and see the customer’s problems for themselves. This will give them a better idea of the big picture, and the role they’re playing to solve these problems.”

Can Airfrov retain its close relationship with users when the company scales, and one-to-one interactions become less feasible?

“Why not?” asks Cai. “All it takes is for us to continue to show care and concern, and seek honest feedback. If users truly enjoy the product, they will be more than happy to join us on this journey.”

This post How Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customer appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 04:40:04 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450620 China’s startups and tech giants pulled in a record US$58.8 billion from investors in 2017, according to the Tech in Asia database. That’s up a few billion from 2016’s tally.

There was no sign of the giant bubble that some dreaded in 2016 after an explosion of local tech funds poured new – and very inexperienced – cash sources into the market.

“I think there are always ups, downs, and bubbles for specific verticals and sectors of funding. That was the case for bike-sharing and autonomous cars in 2017,” said Edith Yeung, partner and China boss at US-based 500 Startups. “Investors are hopeful they would see a Didi for bike-sharing,” she added, referencing China’s dominant ride-hailing app.

2017’s bumper haul came despite fewer funding rounds, resulting in a record-high average round of US$33.6 million a pop.

The year’s largest single investment was worth US$5.5 billion, went to Didi Chuxing. The startup raised a total of US$9.5 billion in 2017 as it ploughs cash into AI, a self-driving car research lab, and its hotly anticipated plans to expand beyond mainland China. Its expansion manifested itself yesterday when Didi acquired a Brazilian ride-hail app to get a grip on the fast-growing Latin America market that Uber covets so much.

See: China’s 10 biggest investments in 2017

Top gear

Didi and the bike-share startups – especially Mobike and Ofo – contributed to the logistics and transportation sector attracting the most funding, just as it did in 2016. Here’s the top five this year:

Finance startups – aka “fintech” – raised half of what they did last year as China’s quick start in this sector in the past decade has resulted in several niches – online lending, insurance, etc – being dominated by big-name players. On top of that, a handful of Chinese fintech firms went public in 2017, led by insurer Zhong An. Money raised from an IPO is not shown in our data.

More moolah for mature startups

This year’s figures show a surprise resurgence in investor interest in more mature startups, particularly for series D investments.

As previous years have shown, funding for more established startups can fluctuate wildly.

But Azeem Azhar, author of the Exponential View newsletter, predicts that trend will persist and be seen globally in 2018. “More money will flow into technology but it will be concentrated at later stages. Following Softbank’s lead, funds bigger than US$5 billion will abound now that the investment case of platform monopolies is well understood. These will seek to back emerging winners at a regional and global level – look at Careem and Didi in ride-sharing, for example,” he writes.

“This may create funding gaps at earlier stages in the market, as already evidenced by the seed capital slowdown in Europe and the US,” added Azhar. That also seems to be happening in China.

But for very young startups seeking seed funding for initial growth, there’s a big new factor in play – ICOs, otherwise known as coin offerings.

“Many startups are raising ICOs rather than seed rounds,” said Yeung after getting a sneak peek at Tech in Asia‘s data. “I believe the ICO is here to stay. This is not necessarily reflected in the graph.” Indeed, our figures don’t include money raised through an ICO.

China saw 65 coin offerings raising over US$394 million in the first half of 2017, but September’s ban on ICOs brought that to a halt.

Despite that shutdown, Yeung believes blockchain and cryptocurrencies remain a “significant trend for the Chinese startup environment.” She continued: “I do believe China will make a huge comeback in the virtual currency space.”

See: As ecommerce steamrolls retail, China’s stores fight back with tech

Shop, shop, shop

2017 was the year a lot of China’s tech money poured into old-fashioned retail. Online shopping giant Alibaba was already doing this a few years before Amazon’s shock Whole Foods deal, but Jack Ma’s company accelerated its drive into brick-and-mortar stores this year by opening more of its own supermarkets.

Its chain, dubbed Hema, first appeared in 2015.

When a customer shops at a Hema store, their preferences are saved in its app. That makes it easier to order online and get deliveries if you prefer to do it that way next time.

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

Alibaba’s supermarkets put a lot of focus on fresh foods. It’s aliiiiive!

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

There are chefs in-store ready to cook up what you buy, which you can then eat in the canteen – as Ma and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang are doing here.

Alibaba, Jack Ma, Hema supermarket

Photo credit: Alibaba

Or you could order the food online and get the cooked meal delivered to your door.

Alibaba plans to open 30 more such stores across China in 2018.

In November, Alibaba invested US$2.9 billion into a massive supermarket chain as it seeks to improve real-world shopping by injecting it with a lot of tech.

Archrivals Tencent and JD also made their own tentative moves into grocery stores, though the ramifications of those actions won’t be seen until a little later in the new year.

JD started 2018 with a bang by showing off its 7Fresh stores, which feature these self-steering carts that follow you around.

JD 7Fresh smart shopping cart

Photo credit: JD

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post China sees record tech funding in 2017 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 13:58:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450907

Photo credit: WeWork

WeWork, the co-working space company from the US, is launching its first of four imminent locations in Japan on February 1, a spokesperson told Tech in Asia.

The US$20 billion startup is making a grand entrance into Japan, with three more Tokyo locations opening soon after Roppongi’s Ark Hills South space. The three others are in Ginza, Shinbashi, and Marunouchi Kitaguchi.

Prices start at US$490 per month for a seat – aka a “hot desk” – to US$1,145 per month for a private office.

The announcement comes five months after WeWork pocketed US$4.4 billion from Japan’s Softbank. WeWork has already indicated it eventually wants to open 10 to 20 locations in central Tokyo.

Photo credit: WeWork

One of many such startups running casual office facilities around the world, WeWork first hit Asia in mid-2016 when it appeared in Shanghai.

If WeWork’s Tokyo locations are anything like the one opened last month in Singapore, they’ll soon be filled by a mix of budding entrepreneurs, fast-growing startups, medium-sized business, and even major corporations.

Converted from Japanese yen. Rate: US$1 = JPY 112.55.

Watch: WeWork’s Southeast Asia ambitions

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:49:24 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450310 Mega-rounds of funding were back in India this year, after a lull in 2016. But this time they came from the east.

SoftBank honcho Masayoshi Son remains hugely bullish on India despite setbacks in a couple of big bets made on entering the market in late 2014. The Japanese giant announced a US$2.5 billion investment in Flipkart for the local ecommerce player to fight Amazon. Out of that, US$1.5 billion has already been invested. This came on top of US$1.4 billion Flipkart raised from Tencent, Microsoft, and eBay earlier in the year.

India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners.

“India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners in India because they are best positioned to leverage technology and help people lead better lives,” said Son.

SoftBank’s initial bet was on Snapdeal but it had to write down the investment as that ecommerce marketplace rapidly lost market share with the rise of Amazon India in 2016. The Snapdeal founders walked out of a merger with Flipkart after months of negotiation. Its Japanese backer then washed its hands of the deal and invested directly in Flipkart.

See: Ex-VP of Alibaba Porter Erisman on clash of ecommerce models, costly mistakes

SoftBank also made a solo investment of US$1.4 billion in leading payments app Paytm, and doubled down on Uber’s arch rival in India, Ola. The Japanese investor also picked up a large stake in Uber this year, which almost guarantees it will hold sway over ride-hailing in India.

SoftBank’s fourth big bet was to lead a US$250 million round in Oyo Rooms in a bid to win the budget accommodation space, after selling off real estate portal Housing to PropTiger.

The other big players in India this year were Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba. While the maker of WeChat is now a major stakeholder in Flipkart, Alibaba is helping to build out Paytm Mall on the lines of Tmall and Alipay supports Paytm’s payments app.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017/feed 4 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 00:30:34 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450136 China saw a bit of a slowdown in startup funding in 2017, with the US$51.6 billion ploughed into tech companies lower than 2016’s US$53.9 billion, according to the Tech in Asia database.

Despite the drop, the average deal size grew, reaching a record US$31.9 million a pop.

Here are the 10 biggest tech investments of the year, starting at the lower end of the scale.

10th: Cainiao

Created by Alibaba in 2013 in partnership with 15 Chinese delivery companies, the spinoff firm was designed to speed up online shopping.

Photo credit: Alibaba

Alibaba initially had a small stake in Cainiao, but this latest investment bumps that up to 51 percent, giving it the majority interest.

9th: Mobike

Mobike might’ve raised less than Ofo in 2017, but it still had a good year, matching its archrival’s tire print in reaching 200 cities around the globe.

Photo credit: luoxi / 123RF

Both Mobike and Ofo managed to squeeze out a few smaller Chinese rivals, with three competing startups collapsing in November.

Tencent and Foxconn are among Mobike’s investors.

8th: Ele.me

Ele.me does food delivery using a fleet of electric scooters. At the latest count, the service claims to have 260 million users across 2,000 Chinese cities, ordering meals from 1.3 million restaurants.

Alibaba and its payment wing Ant Financial are rumored to have led this latest round, repeating the US$1.3 billion the online shopping giant threw at Ele.me in April 2016.

7th: Bytedance

You’ve probably never heard of Bytedance, which is fine because neither have most people in China. They do, however, know Toutiao, the startup’s smash-hit news app.

Pulling together news from around China’s “innernette”, Toutiao has 120 million readers each day who spend an average 74 minutes flicking through the app – double the time spent on Snapchat.

The startup last month acquired Musical.ly, adding the social network to its growing global media empire that includes Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

music, teens, millennials

A Musical.ly user performs. GIF by Tech in Asia, from video by The Best Musical.ly.

Bytedance is said to be worth around US$20 billion.

See: China’s most addictive news app eyes world domination with AI

6th: Koubei

Koubei is yet another Alibaba spinoff. Jack Ma started it to ensure that his company doesn’t miss out on retail and restaurant spending.

Baked into its Alipay wallet app, the service combines local listings with deals. Although food is a big part of it, Koubei doesn’t do deliveries (in contrast to Ele.me and Meituan-Dianping, which are also on this list).

5th: Ofo

Just like Mobike, Ofo had a busy year with global expansion.

Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Didi Chuxing are among its investors.

4th: NIO

After starting out as NextEV racing in the Formula E championship for electric single-seaters, NIO’s rebranding heralded the startup’s switch to being a proper automaker.

NIO this month unveiled its first production car, the ES8.

NIO, cars, electric cars

Photo credit: NIO

Starting at US$68,000, the electric SUV is a bold challenge to the luxo-barges so popular with China’s middle-class, such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. It’ll also go up against the Model X, although Tesla’s hyperspeed minivan costs twice as much. Now up for pre-order, the ES8 arrives sometime in the first half of 2018.

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu are among NIO’s backers.

3rd: Daikuan

Here’s another unfamiliar name. Daikuan is part of China’s huge boom in online financial services – aka “fintech” – that includes an array of loans startups where ordinary people can earn interest from offering up their cash to borrowers.

Daikuan is different from most fintech startups in that it focuses only on loans for buyers of secondhand cars.

2nd: Meituan-Dianping

This giant startup combines two sites – Meituan and Dianping – and does listings, deals, and deliveries, putting it on a collision course with Alibaba’s Koubei and Alibaba-backed Ele.me.

To make that rivalry even edgier, Tencent – Alibaba’s nemesis – is a major backer.

1st: Didi Chuxing

Even after getting money from Apple and forcing Uber to wave the white flag in 2016, Didi still managed to raise eyebrows this year with its US$5.5 billion in April – which at the time was the second biggest investment into a tech firm.

Apple's Tim Cook with Didi's Jean Liu, pictured in Beijing shortly after Apple's investment was announced. Photo credit: Tim Cook on Twitter.

Apple’s Tim Cook with Didi’s Jean Liu. Photo credit: Tim Cook’s Twitter

Didi repeatedly promised global expansion throughout the year, but that didn’t happen. Nonetheless, with the ride-hailing app said to be prepping a move into Brazil, 2018 could be the year that Didi steps onto the world stage to challenge Uber once again.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 03:00:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=222199 The year 2017 saw Southeast Asian startups strike a record US$7.8 billion in disclosed funding deals, according to the Tech in Asia Database. That’s a 212 percent jump from 2016’s US$2.5 billion.

This begs the question: who are the biggest all-time winners when it comes to raising money in the region? We’ve got you covered – in the glorious infographic below.


top funded startups southeast asia 2017 02
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 03
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 04
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 05
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 06
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 07
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 08
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 09
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 10

This article and graphic was updated December 28, 2017.

Design by Andre Gunawan

This post Here are the 15 best-funded startups in Southeast Asia (infographic) appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia/feed 13 https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 00:30:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450080 A startup from China is all set to reveal its augmented reality glasses – and take a shot at the big break that’ll help it expand to the US.

Rokid Glass, to be shown at CES 2018 next month in Las Vegas, is the team’s first wearable gadget after years of making gizmos for the home. Here’s a prototype:

AR glasses

Photo montage by Tech in Asia, using image from Rokid

Reynold Wu, product director at Rokid and the man charged with bringing the AR glasses to market, was an early adopter and big fan of Google Glass, the much-mocked headset that never really caught on. He feels that both technology and consumers have moved on a lot since Google’s effort was first made public in mid-2012.

“The battery… The components… The camera is much smaller,” says Wu, and these fast-moving changes should help the startup’s product be sleeker and funkier. “I can’t say it’s perfect timing, but it’s better timing now,” he tells Tech in Asia.

Also on Wu’s side is the fact that people are showing a decent amount of enthusiasm for AR right now, which can do a lot of useful and fun things. The success of Pokemon Go proves that beyond doubt.

However, that’s all happening on the phones that people already own, like this IKEA app for seeing how new furniture will look in your home.

IKEA AR app

GIF credit: Adweek

Getting people to fork out for a new gadget devoted entirely to AR will still be a big ask.

Rokid Glass takes voice inputs as well as heeds commands users make with their hands. It also has a touchpad, in case people feel more comfortable using that.

Between the eyes you’ll notice there’s a camera. The lenses are also OLED screens

AR glasses

Photo credit: Rokid

The wearable gadget will run a version of Android, making it open to apps. Wu sees Glass being suited to navigation and product recognition apps in particular.

“A lot of apps are too distracting,” he observes, thinking of how they’ll appear before your eyes in AR. He also wants to ensure its users stay safe as they walk along the street. And so Rokid will initially focus on getting useful apps onto Glass, though they’ll show off the gadget to CES 2018 visitors with a game controllable with gestures.

“We want to give you glasses that improve your life, not make you think you’re in a virtual world,” says the mechanical and electrical engineer.

Adding lightness

A big objective is to ensure that Rokid Glass is “light and fashionable,” adds Wu.

He points to Snapchat’s Spectacles – which were basically just a glorified webcam – as proof that crucial components have now shrunk down enough to allow firms to make more stylish wearables.

Snapchat Spectacles

GIF credit: Snapchat

And so Rokid Glass will be as slim as possible, avoiding the awkwardness of Magic Leap’s AR headset, which was shown off just before Christmas.

Magic Leap AR glasses

Photo credit: Magic Leap

There’s also the 900-pound gorilla in the room: Apple. The iPhone maker is rumored to be looking into AR glasses as its next wearable niche after pushing AR hard with its latest iPhones. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook in October said that at present, “the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way.” He added: “We don’t give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people’s experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.”

Established in 2014, Rokid makes the AI that goes with its gadgets, such as its Pebble smart speakers, which come with a voice assistant. That AI assistant is now busy learning English, as the startup aims first at the US with its AR glasses. There’s no set price or launch date yet, but it’s looking towards sales later in 2018.

During its CES debut, the startup intends to meet with potential customers as well as get feedback on Glass.

CES 2018 opens January 9.

This post Chinese startup beats Apple to the punch with its AR glasses appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:00:53 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449999

Photo credit: HelloBike.

In case you missed it, here’s the latest tech news from across Asia.

Transportation

New bike-sharing contender nabs funding (China). Hello Bike just scored a US$500 million funding round as it seeks to challenge the top two Chinese players, Mobike and Ofo. Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, however. (Tech in Asia)

‘Didi for bikes’ gets shut down (China). Inspired by motorcycle ride-hailing services such as Grab, an app called Lude Chuxing rolled out in China this month, enabling people to drive passengers on motorbikes and three-wheeled cars known as ‘sanlunche.’ But local authorities banned the app just three days after its launch due to violations of transport rules. (Technode)

Finance

Lendingkart raises US$3.8 million in debt (India). The financing from the State Bank of India will be mainly used to expand the New Delhi-based lending startup’s loan book. Lendingkart allows small businesses to easily apply for credit online, bypassing banks and other traditional institutions. It uses algorithms to score loan applications. (Inc42)

Big tech

Google may launch retail stores (India). Google is exploring the idea of physical retail stores in India to boost sales of its Pixel smartphones, according to sources familiar with the matter. The US firm has seen an encouraging response to more than a dozen pop-up stores that opened in malls to showcase the second-generation Pixel phones. India, the world’s second biggest mobile market, is currently dominated by Samsung and Chinese players like Xiaomi and Oppo. (Reuters)

This post Asia tech news roundup – Dec 27 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 05:55:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449974

Photo credit: Andrew Gook / Unsplash

Look out, Mobike and Ofo (or “Mofo,” as I like to call China’s top two bike-share apps). A new contender has just emerged, thanks to US$500 million in funding.

The huge injection into Hello Bike shows investors are not spooked by the collapse of three smaller dockless bike services in the past few months.

Hello Bike today announced US$153 million on top of the US$350 million it revealed December 12, making for a blockbuster half-billion bucks combined series D fundraising. Its aim is to stop being the third wheel in China’s growing bike-share market and thereby challenge the mighty Mofo.

The money “will be allocated toward diversifying our transportation solutions,” a Hello Bike representative tells Tech in Asia, along the lines of what’s dubbed its “3510” strategy. That means “bike-sharing, ebike-sharing, and car-sharing for three, five, and ten kilometers and above, respectively,” the representative adds. The startup has yet to announce what it’ll do on four wheels.

While Mobike is known for its orange steeds and Ofo for its yellow, HelloBike sticks to its fresh white-and-blue colorway:

Photo credit: Hello Bike

With 10 million daily rides across 150 Chinese cities, Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, reported New Seed today. Ofo has 5.1 million app users each day versus Mobike’s 4.9 million – but Hello Bike is way behind with just 750,000, according to a research group’s data.

Unlike Mobike and Ofo, Hello Bike has yet to expand beyond its home nation.

Fosun Group and GGV Capital led the US$153 million round.

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = 6.55 RMB.

(Updated December 28: Added investors. Updated December 29: Added comments from Hello Bike.)

See more:

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 02:30:29 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449717

Photo credit : jetcityimage / 123RF

Amazon rolled out its Prime subscription service in Singapore just in time for the Christmas holiday, following the launch of the Prime Now fast delivery app in July. But these moves might not have been enough to tempt shoppers away from local ecommerce options.

While neither Amazon nor its competitors like to get too descriptive with their numbers, the latest data shows that Amazon is ranking below local rivals like Lazada in the shopping category of both the Android and iOS app stores.

However, app rankings do not tell the whole story. Amazon is currently not firing on all cylinders in Southeast Asia. It still has a chance to catch up, if it decides to add heat to the simmer.

Just a scratch

According to data gathered by App Annie, Amazon Prime’s rank rose sharply on December 7, just after the service launched, before slipping back down to double digits a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, Lazada – Amazon’s Alibaba-backed competitor – has enjoyed a consistently high ranking throughout the month, peaking at no. 1 in the shopping category between December 12 and 15. This is likely due to the 12.12 promotion, a sales event similar to Singles Day and Black Friday, in which several other websites participated but Amazon skipped.

The app also wasn’t able to surpass the rankings of other competitors like Qoo10, Shopee, and Redmart.

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings Google Play

It’s a very different picture compared to July and August, when the Prime Now app enjoyed top-5 positions (although it was freely available to all users at the time).

The situation is similar in the entertainment category rankings, where Prime Video doesn’t quite reach the heights of global competitor Netflix and local streaming services Toggle and Viu. None of those apps show any dips in the rankings as a result of Amazon’s product availability.

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings Google Play

Android is the mobile platform of choice in Singapore. In 2017, it had a market share of 60 percent, while iOS captured 27.4 percent of the market, according to Statcounter.

Prime Video is part of Amazon Prime’s subscription, which costs S$8.99 per month (currently offered at S$2.99 per month). Amazon also offers a 30-day free trial period, which is probably ongoing for most users, considering the service launched in early December. For what’s effectively a free service, the low app ranking raises an eyebrow.

One possible reason for this is its readiness for the market. Much like Netflix when it launched in Singapore in early 2016, Amazon’s catalog is still not large or localized enough.

Netflix worked hard to rectify that in the past couple of years, so it follows that Amazon will be doing the same in the future. Bu the US giant needs to move fast – its rivals are not minnows.

Lazada CEO Max Bittner has previously said his company can fight off competitors, thanks to Alibaba’s deep pockets and its own emphasis on logistics and fulfillment. “Alibaba [is] here to stay. We’re here to stay. [We’ll focus] on what distinguishes us, and we’ll match whatever we can match,” he told the audience at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2017 in November.

Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore.

As part of NYSE-listed Sea, Shopee is also in a strong position to defend its turf, with its parent company raising US$894 million through its IPO, on top of more than US$1.5 billion across a number of private rounds.

In terms of sheer numbers, competitors like Lazada and Shopee have more to offer shoppers at the moment. “These two local marketplaces are well established with a lot more product options,” explains Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester. “Consumers don’t find strong motivations to switch, unless they have the urgency to go with Amazon Prime Now’s two-hour delivery.”

All’s not lost for the US giant

The fact that Amazon is lagging behind its rival at the moment is not surprising. “Amazon only has its mobile app, Prime Now, available in Singapore – not the marketplace,” says Wang.

Indeed, most Singaporean shoppers buying stuff on Amazon are used to the US site, which until recently would offer free shipping to the city-state for orders above a certain value. With the Prime subscription launch in Singapore, that’s now over.

Because Amazon’s offering in Singapore is at present confined in the Prime mobile and video apps, shoppers seem dissatisfied with the limited product range on offer.

That said, it seems that the sheer brand power of Jeff Bezos’ joint was enough to rank Prime among the country’s most popular ecommerce and entertainment apps.

Also, Amazon has not really engaged in sales and promotions so far. “Amazon hasn’t done much marketing and promotion campaigns in the local market since [launch], while Lazada and Shopee both participated in 12.12,” notes Wang.

Despite this, an Amazon spokesperson tells Tech in Asia the company is “thrilled with customer reaction to Amazon’s arrival in Singapore, including the launch of Prime.”

The US firm says it doesn’t focus on competitors – it obsesses over customers instead. “In every country where Amazon operates, there is a lot of competition. But we believe competition is good for customers. At the same time, we feel good about our ability to offer this unique and valuable program to our customers in Singapore,” adds the spokesperson.

Before Amazon landed in the Lion City, Lazada got busy launching a quasi-competitor to Prime. Called LiveUp, it’s a subscription service that combines Lazada and its online grocery Redmart, as well as Taobao, Netflix, and Uber. Subscribers get benefits like free shipping, discounts, rebates, and other freebies.

While Lazada doesn’t share figures on LiveUp subscriptions, the S$49.90 annual fee is an attractive proposition for users of the aforementioned services. The Prime subscription could be appealing as well, but not with several elements still missing, like Prime Music and Prime Reading.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Storming the castle

Wang believes Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore. “Consumers would be interested in Amazon’s unique products such as Echo, Kindle, digital books. Amazon should play by its strengths and provide the marketplace with more product options to local consumers,” she stresses.

Some industry watchers think Amazon could accelerate its presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia by acquiring local companies.

“With time running out for a full-fledged, organic entry into the high-growth markets of Southeast Asia, its stock trading at all-time high, and not too distant memories of failure in China, we expect Amazon to attempt at least one major acquisition in 2018 to accelerate its regional expansion,” writes Sheji Ho, group chief marketing officer at ecommerce enabler aCommerce.

Amazon does not discuss its plans for the region but there’s probably more services and products on the way. As the company spokesperson says, “While we can’t provide details yet about future Prime benefit additions, we can safely say that we aren’t done. We will keep making Prime better and better in Singapore, adding more selection, finding ways to make it faster, and adding more benefits including great quality entertainment.”

This post Amazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 08:28:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449858 This week’s roundup features horse-racing analytics, a platform that enables travel-related side gigs, and a fledgling enterprise focused on end-of-life preps for Japan’s aging population.

Gauss

AI-focused Gauss is collaborating with fashion brand ANAP  to create a site where users can upload images of clothes, allowing it to search the web for similar items.

Now in beta version, the startup is also working on another joint project: SIVA, a horse-racing predictive tool. Siva gathers information from tens of thousands of races every day to bring big data to the world of horse racing.

In addition, Gauss is developing other AI data analytic tools as well as natural language processing features.

Gauss recently received US$1.5 million from three companies, including ANAP and job portal DIP Corp.  

Sagojo

Sagojo enables travelers to turn their experiences into a side gig. The company lists jobs that people can apply for, such as uploading photo diaries, writing articles about unique travel experiences, and so on. Since its release a year and a half ago, the startup has acquired 7,500 registered users, of which 200 plus are using it for work purposes.

While Sagojo did not disclose details, it recently accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars from Anex Ventures, Apptli, and multiple angel investors.

Crowd Cast

Created by Crowd Cast, Staple is an app that simplifies expense reporting for small to medium-sized businesses. More than 10,000 companies are using the service, and the startup is acquiring new customers at a rate of about 300 per month. The service is partnered with more than 10 accounting softwares and other programs like Office 365 for seamless integration.

Crowd Cast just received US$880,000 from business partner MTI.  

New Revo 

Developed by New Revo, Logikura is looking to digitize Japan’s antiquated logistics industry by moving  it past analog forms of management like fax, paper, and email. Its cloud-based AI platform can do everything from creating barcodes and shipping labels to managing invoices.

The company estimates that in Japan alone, there is about US$480 billion of excess inventory sitting in warehouses. Logikura’s goal is to reduce time spent on logistics by 80 percent and cut excess inventory by 30 percent. To achieve the latter goal, it’s working on an AI analytics demand prediction tool.

Logikura is not yet available to the public, but about 50 companies have pre-registered since it started the process in mid-November.

The company recently secured US$440,000 from Genesia Ventures from its third round of fundraising.  

Baseconnect

After graduating from accelerator Code Republic’s second batch of startups in April, Baseconnect is ending 2017 by raising a seed round of over US$880,000 from several investors, including Genesia Capital, Mizuho Capital, Kyoto Startup Support Fund, User Local, YJ Capital, and East Ventures.

Baseconnect is developing BaseconnectList, a database of business contacts that can be used for sales. Thousands of businesses contact lists can be accessed in about 30 seconds.

A beta version of BaseconnectList is up and running, but it’s not open to the public for now.

Shuukatsu Netto

The brainchild of by 22-year-old University of Tokyo student Shota Iwasaki, Shuukatsu Netto is a website that zeroes in on end-of-life preparations for Japan’s ageing populace.

While lots of Japanese startups are addressing the inevitable problems that come post-population decline such as workforce deterioration, Shuukatsu Netto deals with more pressing issues in the now, such as elderly care. The site features articles about funeral ceremonies, grave sites, and other related concerns, written by a team of 20 people. Most of its readers are 40- to 50-year-olds who are making preparations for their parents.

Shuukatsu Netto just raised a round of US$730,000 from a round led by angel investor Yuto Kono of Genesia Ventures,This follows its seed round and brings its total funding to over US$880,000.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 01:15:20 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449268

Photo credit: Alibaba.

🎵You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why – Jack Ma is coming to town. 🎶

A bit like Santa Claus, Alibaba founder Ma each year draws up a list, checks it twice, finds out who’s naughty or nice – and then invests in the nicest startups.

In a good year for Alibaba – its valuation doubled to well over US$400 billion – it spent big on investments. In 2017, its top 10 payouts were worth US$11 billion – though that was nearly US$2 billion less than its record 2015 spending spree.

Three of this year’s were overseas, showing how the Chinese tech giant is advancing deeper into India and Southeast Asia.

Here’s this year’s top action. The indicated funding figure may include contributions from other investors.

1. Sun Art

Six months after Amazon acquired Whole Foods, Alibaba made its own bold move into groceries. Paying nearly US$3 billion for a one-third stake, Alibaba invested in Sun Art Retail, which operates several well-known supermarket brands including RT-Mart and the China-based stores of French chain Auchan.

However, the deal wasn’t Alibaba’s first move into offline stores…

2. Intime

Alibaba made its first serious push into brick-and-mortar retail back in early 2014 when it ploughed nearly US$700 million into department store and mall firm Intime. Alibaba started 2017 with a bang by coughing up a further US$2.6 billion to take control of Intime.

Photo credit: Intime.

On top of other moves – US$100 million this year for Lianhua Supermarkets and US$4.6 billion for gadgets and appliances store Suning in 2015 – this deal sees Alibaba shaking up shops by injecting “data-driven technology and personalized services […] integrating online and physical channels together,” in the words of Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

That basically means making offline retail more efficient and having it double as warehousing for ecommerce.

3. Tokopedia

2017 saw Alibaba make progressively bigger and ballsier bets outside its home nation, investing more in overseas startups than ever before.

In August, it doubled down on its 2016 Lazada acquisition – which gave the Chinese firm an online shopping empire across much of Southeast Asia – by throwing a lot of money at Indonesian ecommerce app Tokopedia.

4. Lazada

Alibaba upped its stake in Lazada in April, paying an extra billion bucks to go from 51 to 83 percent.

“The ecommerce markets in the region are still relatively untapped, and we see a very positive upward trajectory ahead of us,” said Zhang in a statement. “We will continue to put our resources to work in Southeast Asia through Lazada to capture these growth opportunities.”

5. Ele.me

24 up-and-coming tech founders to watch in China

Photo credit: Technode.

China’s growing hunger for food delivery led Alibaba to once again invest in Ele.me, which emerged as the leading meal-delivery app from the boom in local service startups across China in the past few years.

Archrival Tencent is also an investor.

6. Cainiao

Cainiao is Alibaba’s logistics wing, running a network of warehouses and trucking partners. The service handles 57 million deliveries a day.

This latest investment takes Alibaba’s Cainiao stake up to 51 percent.

A few months back, Cainiao showed off its first highly automated package sorting facility, where robots do most of the work.

7. Ofo

Ofo is one of China’s top two bike-share apps alongside Mobike.

In a year when many such services struggled – and at least three swerved towards bankruptcy – both Ofo and Mobike were bolstered by colossal funding rounds as they raced to expand overseas.

Ofo bike, Shanghai

Photo credit: Steven Millward / Tech in Asia.

Ofo operates in over 180 cities across 15 countries, generating more than 25 million daily rides.

8. Souche

Souche – literally “search car” in Chinese – lives up to its name as a search engine for secondhand car buyers. It also offers auto financing.

The startup is eyeing a US IPO at the end of 2018.

9. Yiguo

Fresh foods app Yiguo operates in more than 200 cities across China, with those in some of the largest cities getting same-day delivery.

This was Alibaba’s fourth time backing Yiguo. As with its investments in other retailers, the funding allows Alibaba to get a logistics boost – in this case, it taps into the startup’s well-developed network of refrigerated delivery trucks.

10. BigBasket

Over in India, Alibaba is in the late stages of a move to invest in groceries startup BigBasket, according to a number of sources. BigBasket is up against Amazon’s Now service.

If this goes through, it’ll be the Chinese firm’s biggest India bet since it backed shopping and mobile wallet app Paytm. Indeed, Paytm is said to be lining up to join this BigBasket round.

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia#respond Sat, 23 Dec 2017 08:43:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449230 These five entrepreneurs – aged 25 and under – are already building big things.

Transcript:

From deep learning to solar energy, we’ve lined up 5 entrepreneurs 25 and under who prove youth is no barrier to success.

Annabelle Kwok, 24

Annabelle’s university days were filled with hackathons and maker faires. The self-professed hobbyist soon took it more seriously and won a prestigious hackathon in Singapore. Along the way, Annabelle received numerous job offers – including from Microsoft. But the corporate life just wasn’t for her. She went on to work at Garena, but then took time off to join a circus. Yes – a circus. Annabelle started Smartcow to make a kind of Raspberry Pi for AI. The device, Tera, is an alternative to cloud computing, enabling users to store and process large amounts of data on hardware near them. It’s already being used to study rat movement in Singapore’s sewage system, where Tera is loaded with software to recognize and detect rat movements based on thermal images.

Leandro Leviste, 24

Out to solve the problem of pricey electricity in the Philippines, Leandro’s firm, Solar Philippines, develops rooftop solar plants. The Yale graduate was inspired by how companies in the US and Europe were quickly adopting solar power as an alternative energy source. The startup first put itself on the map with a project that turned a Manila mall into the biggest solar-powered mall in the world. These days, he’s shifting his focus to rural areas. Leandro is constructing a four megawatt solar-battery farm, which will become the world’s largest island solar-battery microgrid, bringing 24/7 power to up to 20,000 people at zero cost to the Philippines government and at a lower cost to consumers.

Joshua Kevin, 25

Joshua wants to kill off office paperwork with Talenta, a human resources service that helps streamline mundane processes such as payroll and employee database management. Leaping into Indonesia’s startup scene aged 18, Joshua worked with us at Tech In Asia, then at East Ventures and KakaoTalk before starting Talenta in 2013. His startup counts Go-Jek and Grab among its clients.

Shahab Shabibi, 22

Originally from Iran, Shahab already launched two startups – in music streaming and sports media – before moving to the Philippines. He founded the now defunct HeyKuya, a text messaging concierge service. These days, Shahab taps into his own experience of running businesses with Machine Ventures, an incubator that provides financial support and guidance to enterprises trying to start up in the Philippines.

Yao Song, 24

Little is known about Yao, a former Microsoft intern, except that he co-founded DeePhi Tech just over a year ago. Incorporating deep learning, DeePhi aims to increase the processing speed of AI chips and servers while lowering power usage and costs. The company looks to improve the AI efficiency of drones, surveillance cameras, and data centers. His startup secured two rounds of financing in 2017, counting Samsung and Jack Ma’s Ant Financial as early investors.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 08:50:10 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449668 Jean Liu, Didi Kuaidi, Didi Chuxing

Jean Liu is president of the ride-hailing startup. Photo credit: Didi Chuxing.

Updated January 4, 2018: Didi just confirmed it’s acquiring Brazil’s 99 in order to access Latin America. The original article below is unchanged.

Brazil is Uber’s third-largest market, with 17 million regular riders. And Sao Paulo is Uber’s biggest city on the planet in terms of rides.

That’s the prize eyed by China’s Didi, the ride-hailing startup that bought Uber’s China business in a shock 2016 deal.

Didi, which is yet to expand beyond its home country, is now plotting a move into Brazil by acquiring a local ride-hailing app, reported The Information yesterday, citing a person familiar with the talks.

Didi started 2017 by investing in 99, so the Chinese firm already has close alliances with the Brazilian startup it’s said to be buying a majority stake.

Formerly 99Taxi, 99 has 140,000 registered drivers in 550 cities across Brazil.

Not just Brazil

But wait, there’s more…

Didi is now plotting its launch in Taiwan, reported Bloomberg this week. The island’s strict stance on the use of private cars as a service means Didi will have to resort to working with cabbies and professional limo drivers.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei’s scooters. Photo credit: Andrew Haimerl / Unsplash.

Similarly, Uber operates in Taiwan in partnership with livery companies – an unusual situation the startup was forced into after being banned from the island for two months earlier in the year.

Yes, master

Behind all this transcontinental tussling is Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016. Photo credit: @SoftBank.

The Softbank supremo has emerged as the puppet master of tech in the past few years, pulling the strings on the numerous startups that his firm, Softbank, has invested in, thanks to its numerous funds – including its latest US$100 billion war chest.

Not coincidentally, Softbank has invested in both Didi and 99, so Son – worth US$22 billion, according to Forbes – has it in his interests to steer the two ride-hailing apps towards a deal.

As the biggest, strongest, and most valuable of the puppets startups linked to Son, Didi stands to benefit the most from consolidation as it will have more power to dictate terms over smaller firms like 99 and Southeast Asia’s Grab.

But the ebullient 60-year-old might be about to complicate the picture by investing in Uber, with Softbank reportedly keen to invest up to US$10 billion – so long as Uber drops its price. In that scenario, it could be Uber that would be strengthened by gobbling up a series of small rivals.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 05:00:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449173

Photo credit: Ion Chiosea / 123RF.

From Amazon’s entry to tech leaders’ market debuts and the region’s biggest investments, here’s the rundown of the top tech news that made a splash in Southeast Asia this year (in no particular order).

1. Dave McClure’s fall

The year saw a wave of sexual harassment stories sweep industries across the world. Before the scandal involving Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein broke out, a flood of women in tech came forward with their experiences at the hands of powerful men. Among them was entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh, who accused prolific Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure of sexual assault.

Yeoh, the former CEO of Malaysian innovation agency Magic, claimed McClure propositioned her several times, pushed himself against her, and kissed her against her will in her own apartment in 2014.

Yeoh broke her silence on the incident after another woman, who runs a fitness startup in the US, alleged in a New York Times exposé that McClure sexually harassed her.

The accusations led to a reduction of McClure’s responsibilities at 500 Startups, the VC firm he co-founded, and eventually forced him to quit.

2. Back-to-back public debuts

Southeast Asia’s startup community kept a close watch on the initial public offerings of PC gear maker Razer and Tencent-owned games company Sea late this year.

Based both in San Francisco and Singapore, Razer was well received at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) in November, surging on the first day of trading due to bullish outlook on the company’s sales.

The company, backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, raised US$530 million, which it would use to expand into new verticals, including mobile devices. It unveiled its first smartphone a week before its market debut.

It doesn’t seem like the company will end on a high note at HKEX this year however, as it currently trades below IPO price.

Razer’s listing quickly followed that of Sea’s, which has been viewed as a test of how public markets treat tech firms that have amassed users but are still waiting to turn profitable.

Sea listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October, raising US$884 million. The stock had a rocky start, falling below its IPO price of US$15. Analysts said investors might be jittery about Sea’s future given heavy losses.

Sea listed on NYSE. Photo credit: NYSE.

Formerly known as Garena, Sea started as an online gaming company in 2009 and then branched out to digital payments (AirPay) and ecommerce (Shopee). It previously declared that Shopee was the number one player in an area it defined as “Greater Southeast Asia”. This didn’t sit well with Alibaba-owned Lazada, which for quite sometime has asserted its claim to the throne.

Sea has seen a dramatic increase in its revenue, thanks to its core games business. Yet losses have also widened as the firm continues to spend to capture market share in ecommerce. Nevertheless, Sea believes that Shopee can become a lucrative business on its own over the long term.

3. Amazon’s grand entrance

Speaking of ecommerce, the sector just got a lot more exciting with US behemoth Amazon now in the picture.

After playing the “will they, won’t they” game for a long time, Amazon finally rolled out its two-hour delivery service Prime Now in Singapore last July. Five months later, it introduced the full Prime membership, offering faster and cheaper shipping of items as well as unlimited free international shipping, among others.

But the online retailer experienced growing pains. Prime Now was having trouble fulfilling orders during the first week of its launch and had to fall back on hiring private taxis at one point.

Nevertheless Prime’s arrival not only ups the stakes in Southeast Asia’s ecommerce market, where Amazon is facing off against Shopee, Lazada and another Alibaba-backed player Tokopedia, plus various smaller portals. It also brings Amazon into direct competition with local content streaming players such as iFlix, Hooq, and Viddsee, and global rivals like Netflix.

Anticipating Amazon’s much-talked-about foray, Lazada launched its own membership program as early as April – in collaboration with its online grocery delivery unit Redmart, and other brands like Netflix and Uber.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia.

4. Alibaba’s shopping spree

Jack Ma’s company continued its big push into Southeast Asia, this time leading a US$1.1 billion investment in Indonesia’s Tokopedia.

Alibaba now holds a minority stake in Tokopedia, which is a version of Taobao – the Chinese behemoth’s consumer-to-consumer marketplace. This marks Alibaba’s first direct investment in an Indonesian startup.

In the meantime, Ma’s firm this year hiked its stake in Lazada to 83 percent for roughly US$1 billion.

While Lazada and Tokopedia are competing in Indonesia, sharing the same investor has fueled rumors of a possible alliance.

5. US giant bets on Indonesia

Another mega deal happened in Indonesia in 2017: online travel startup Traveloka’s US$350 million funding round led by Expedia.

The amount brought Traveloka’s total disclosed funding to US$500 million, which included contributions from investors like East Ventures, Hillhouse Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, and Chinese ecommerce firm JD.

The round reportedly raised Traveloka’s valuation to US$2 billion, according to Bloomberg sources.

6. The first Filipino unicorn

The Philippines hit a huge milestone this year with the birth of its first billion-dollar startup. Revolution Precrafted, a developer of prefabricated designer homes, raised its series B round co-led by Singapore’s K2 VC last October, valuing the company at over US$1 billion, according to two Tech in Asia sources familiar with the deal.

A prefab home designed by David Salle. Photo credit: Revolution Precrafted.

That makes two-year-old Revolution one of, if not the fastest to achieve billion-dollar status in Southeast Asia, said one of the sources – a claim confirmed by Tech in Asia data.

The startup’s new prominent investor K2 was founded by venture capitalist Ozi Amanat, who’s known for his investments in Alibaba and Twitter before their public offerings. K2 counts several unicorns in its portfolio: Spotify, Magic Leap, Paytm, and Palantir.

Revolution sells prefab homes conceived by world-renowned architects and designers such as Zaha Hadid, David Salle, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders. The homes are priced at an average of US$120,000. They can be ordered from the company’s site and shipped anywhere in the globe in at least 90 days. As of March, it had US$110 million in orders.

500 Startups earlier admitted fighting hard to join the company’s first funding round announced in March.

7. Uber’s cunning tactics

2017 has been hell for the US ride-hailing juggernaut. It started in February, when former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a blog post detailing the sexism and harassment she experienced in the workplace. That post set into motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in the ouster of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO.

Uber had been accused of stealing trade secrets from Google to speed up its own self-driving car efforts, using possible illicit programs to undermine its competitors, including Singapore-based Grab, paying bribes in Asian markets, covering up a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of millions of its users, and more.

All the bad press supposedly prompted Japanese tech giant Softbank to bid for Uber shares at a steep discount, potentially cutting its valuation by another US$20 billion.

In one of many efforts to revamp the company’s culture, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi last month outlined new rules for Uber’s staff. Probably the most important among them – “Do the right thing. Period.”

Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo credit: Uber.

8. Uber gets in bed with Singapore’s largest taxi company

Uber signed a deal to sell 51 percent of its car rental unit to ComfortDelgro for US$218 million and form a joint venture with the city-state’s leading taxi firm.

The partnership will allow Uber’s Lion City Rentals to leverage ComfortDelGro’s fleet management and operations capabilities. Uber users will be able to directly book ComfortDelGro cabs via the US company’s app, while the taxi firm’s drivers will be able to accept ride requests through it, giving them an additional source of income.

The transaction appeared to be something of a coup for Uber, which has faced ferocious opposition from licensed taxi providers in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

9. Malaysia opens digital free trade zone

In November, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma opened the doors to a free trade zone in Malaysia that’s designed to tap into region’s ecommerce boom.

First announced in March, the Digital Free Trade Zone is now open to trade, with Malaysia’s government anticipating the joint venture with Alibaba to handle US$65 billion worth of goods once in full flow, and create 60,000 jobs by 2025. The goal is for small businesses to make use of the trade hub as easily as larger companies do. It will also be used for non-ecommerce purposes, such as global exports.

The hub will likely benefit Lazada, which has a mix of small merchants and big-name brands.

10. Grab’s massive war chest

The final big story of the year: Grab’s US$2 billion funding round from China’s Didi Chuxing and Masayoshi Son-led Softbank, the single largest financing in the history of Southeast Asia.

The new investment supposedly gave the firm a post-money valuation of over US$6 billion, making it the region’s most valuable startup.

anthony-tan-grab-launch

Grab boss Antony Tan is overseeing the startup’s bloody battle against Uber. Photo credit: Grab.

Grab will use the money to tighten its grip on the ride-hailing market in the region and invest in its mobile payments solution, GrabPay.

The company has made GrabPay available to use for payments at hawker center stalls and restaurants in Singapore, marking its biggest move yet outside of the transportation segment.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post 10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 04:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449425 Car maintenance startup in China gets $10M funding as on-demand services explode

Photo credit: llee_wu.

Didi Chuxing, China’s top – and pretty much only – ride-hailing app, today announced yet another big injection of funds.

Didi has pocketed an extra US$4 billion from investors “to support AI capacity-building, international expansion, and new business initiatives, including the development of new energy vehicle service networks,” said the gigantic startup in an announcement this morning.

With 450 million users and 25 million daily rides, Didi last month revealed its plan to build a China-wide network of charging stations for electric cars, which will be accessible to the public as well as its own 21 million signed-up drivers.

The company already has an AI research and development center devoted to autonomous cars in Mountain View, California, which opened earlier in the year. A Didi representative tells Tech in Asia that the funding will include but not be limited to hiring AI talent around self-driving vehicles.

The firm this month acquired a startup in order to nab a much-coveted online payments license, meaning it’s now able to launch a mobile wallet service, perhaps challenging China’s ubiquitous Alipay or WeChat. However, an all-out war over phone payments seems unlikely since the creators of China’s top two wallet apps – Alibaba and Tencent – are investors in Didi.

Didi did not disclose who invested in this round. It brings the firm’s total disclosed funding to US$23.3 billion.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

See more on Didi:

This post Didi pockets $4b to boost AI appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 07:41:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449183 WeWork’s first venue in Singapore is open for business, and the co-working company already has plans for more.

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Transcript:

Turochas “T” Fuad:

We are almost full to be honest. We’ve been very lucky, very blessed, knock on wood. I think there’s definitely a good following of WeWork as a brand.

Look, this is the 200th location for WeWork, the 20th country country that WeWork launches. I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment, 20 and 200.

But look, I think a lot of folks are very aware of what we’re doing as a company – we are developing a platform, just beyond space, a platform for all types of creators. Different sizes of companies, come together to really work together and collaborate.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company, and a smaller company wants to learn a lot from those larger enterprise companies. All of these guys are coming together nicely.

71 Robinson Rd will definitely be launched earlier, towards the early part of next year, and then Funan Center will launch sometime in early 2019. So 71 Robinson Rd will fit about 1,000 members for us, and Funan about 700, around the same as Beach Center here.

It will serve a different mix of potential members. I think Robinson Rd is very classic CBD, where you potentially have banks, folks in financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that will be interested in the space itself because it’s in that vicinity.

And in Funan, I think you see a lot of tech. You know how the mall and this mixed use space is now being very focused on technology, they have very modern, futuristic things all the way down to the car park, to the 24-hour retail mall, a bunch of other things.

I think we’ll serve very different types of segments there. It could be large enterprises in the tech field or it could one of those startups and freelancers as well.

Over the last few years, the enterprise segment has almost doubled. It now represents close to 20 percent of our global members, around the world. Given that Singapore is such a hub, it’s like a gateway city to Southeast Asia if you think about it, it’s a hub for a lot of financial companies, it’s also a hub for a lot of startups and entrepreneurs right now.

And that’s why Singapore has always been a starting forefront for us to enter the market, the whole Southeast Asian market, from that perspective.

HP wants to be here, I guess it’s an interesting story. They came by here, they looked at it for just, less than a day. They want to be able to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here. They felt that this particular division wanted to be away from what their typical office would be.

A lot of enterprise companies have come to us and said, “Hey WeWork, we really like the culture, the energy, the diversity that you’ve created here, how do we replicate that in our organization?” So that’s where we come in, we provide our hardware, our software, our know-how, and provide that service to companies to enable them to recreate a bit of the WeWork energy and vibe.

We will actually design, manage, build it for them, and now their own employees are able to experience what a WeWork would be at their own location. It really depends on how this enterprise wants to open it up to the public or keep it sort of private to themselves. Those options are made available to them.

Did they show you the secret room? I didn’t realize it was there until the designers kind of highlighted it to me.

“Oh yeah, there’s a little thing, I don’t know if you noticed.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right, there’s a little segment on the blueprint!”

We don’t tell our members exactly where… If you notice, all of our rooms have A and B and C and D, that one has nothing, that one’s just called the secret room. I don’t think our community members tell them where it is. They can book it if they can find it, right – once they find it, they’ll be able to use the room.

This post Video: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:40:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449193 This week, a funding record was broken in Japan. For more details and other news, read on!

Ispace

Space exploration startup Ispace just broke the record for a series A investment in Japan after it amassed US$90 million from 12 investors. The startup is behind the team Hakuto, a competitor in Google’s Lunar Xprize race. Five teams are vying to win  the grand prize of US$20 million: it will go to the first group to place a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send high-definition videos and images back to Earth. The Hakuto team is scheduled to launch on December 28.

Apart from this venture, Ispace is also planning two lunar launches in 2019 and 2020. They are looking to search the moon for resources and explore the possibilities of expanding life beyond Earth.

Mago Chaneru: Grandchildren Channel

Developed by Chikaku, Mago Chaneru – which means “grandchildren channel” in Japanese – enables grandparents to watch  videos and images of their grandchildren. The US$1,700 box device is designed to be installed to a TV.  When the latest pictures or videos arrive, a notification light turns on to alert users.

The company just raised US$1.3 million from Incubate Fund. This comes after it got US$900 thousand from 500 Startups from a round raised in December 2016. Total funding now is over US$2.5 million.

Kaizen Platform 

Kaizen Platform, which appeared in TIA’s first-ever Tokyo pitch battle, is a Japanese startup that developed Kaizen Ad – a solution for optimizing Facebook video advertisements. The word “kaizen” refers to the philosophy of continuous improvement, and this marketing tool  is designed to track the performance of ads made by Kaizen and improves upon them once KPIs show signs of decline. By simply sharing ideas and concepts, Kaizen Ad will develop a variety of options for ads and continue to monitor and alter them. Customers include several well-known Japanese corporations like Yahoo Japan, JAL, and Rakuten.

Kaizen Platform has just raised US$4.7 million in their series C from Mizuho Capital, YJ Capital, SBI Investment, and Dentsu. With this new infusion, total funding for Kaizen Platform rounds out to about US$23 million.

Candee

Candee, a media startup focused on livestreaming and talent management, just received US$21.5 million from seven investors, including Eight Roads Ventures Japan, YJ Capital, NTT Docomo, Opt Ventures, Gree, Daiichi Shokai, and Mizuho Capital. Candee produces advertisements as well as general video content, but it’s looking to use the raised funds to strengthen and expand its Live Shop! app.

Released in June 2016, Live Shop! is targeted at young women. The app allows popular Instagrammers and other social media influencers to post livestreams with a maximum running time of an hour. Viewers can write comments and send heart emojis as well as  purchase interesting products presented throughout the videos.

Aside from developing media, Candee  has also invested in early-stage Instagram media company LUTE. This puts Candee in a position to be a leader in digital-first marketing and talent management, disrupting the traditional leaders that are lagging behind.

Pear

Fukuoka-based Pear has developed Omni Core, an ecommerce support service site. The service will help users manage sales that are spread over multiple ecommerce sites like  Rakuten, Amazon, and Yahoo Japan, among others.  The startup is in the process of opening the beta version of Omni Core and plans to initially use a freemium model after its official release. Pear is also looking to charge customers who sell over approximately US$270,000 a month for consulting services.

The company has just raised its seed round of approximately US$311 thousand from BEENEXT, Daiwa, and FVentures.

With companies like Hamee and Item Robot sharing the market, Pear is operating in a competitive landscape. But Pear says that its ease of use and understandability will help it edge out rivals.

Rexit

Wedding services company Rexit has secured US$490 thousand from angel investors Shinichiro Sugiyama of Valetudo and Arai Motoki of Happy Elements. Rexit plans to use the money to expand their wedding-location selection platform, Gensen Wedding.

Apart from giving couples options for wedding venues, Gensen Wedding offers counseling and wedding plan ideas. According to Rexit, over 100 couples have used the service since it was rolled out.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:09:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449175

Photo credit: walkingsky / 123RF.

Chinese bike-share startup Mobike today got a boost from Japanese social media giant Line.

Line, maker of a messaging app popular in Japan, has invested in Mobike’s Japan subsidiary, taking a less than 20 percent stake for an undisclosed sum, the two firms announced this afternoon.

The move comes four months after Mobike rolled out its dockless bikes into select Japanese cities. The service now covers 200 cities around the world.

Line has 71 million users in Japan.

Mobike Line funding

Line boss Takeshi Idezawa (left) with Mobike founder Hu Weiwei. Photo credit: Mobike.

“Line users in cities where Mobike is present will be able to unlock a Mobike simply by scanning the QR code on the bike with their Line app, and pay using their Line Pay account or other payment methods,” said the Japanese firm in a statement.

Mobike is similarly accessible in China inside WeChat, the messaging app with nearly a billion users.

Mobike founder and president Hu Weiwei described Line as the “perfect partner” owing to its huge social media reach.

“Our ambition in Japan is to work with industry-leading Japanese partners like Line, as well as local governments and communities, to bring Mobike to more cities in Japan and to set the global standard for bike-sharing,” she added.

Ofo, Mobike’s archrival, has also expanded to Japan, where its local buddy is telco giant Softbank – though that partnership doesn’t involve financial backing. Ofo is aiming to be in 200 cities globally by the end of the year.

Updated 24 hours after publishing: “20 percent” is now changed to “less than 20 percent.”

Bike-share battle:

This post Line funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017#comments Sun, 17 Dec 2017 15:59:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448619 asian startups weekly list
Here’s our newest round-up of the featured startups on our site this week. If you have startup tips or story suggestions, feel free to email us. Enjoy this week’s list!

1. Biofourmis | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Health analytics platform Biofourmis uses AI-driven software to analyze medical data gathered from patients. Data is collected from a range of sources, including wearable health and fitness trackers, hospital databases, and individual lab reports. It claims to have analyzed data from over 100,000 patients.


2. EcoWorth Tech | Singapore (Startup Profile)

EcoWorth Tec has developed a technology for the sustainable treatment of wastewater. Its core product is a material called carbon fibre aerogel (CFA). Highly absorbent, non-toxic, and recyclable, CFA can be used to absorb organic waste materials from wastewater – in other words, contaminated water that typically results as a byproduct of certain industrial processes.


3. Venteny | Philippines (Startup Profile)

Established in 2015, Venteny is a combined human resources and fintech platform. The platform provides an outsourced-employee benefits scheme for local companies, allowing workers to get exclusive perks such as discounts at restaurants, gyms, and hotels that Venteny has partnered with.


4. Oxfordcaps | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Launched this year, Oxfordcaps wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model. It works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living. The startup manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.


Startup lists

5 – 8: 4 rising startups in Japan


Related startup stories


Like RSS? There’s always our Asia startups RSS feed!

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:45:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448354 WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: WeWork

Co-working dynamo WeWork has been hotly anticipated in Southeast Asia. The local ecosystem was jazzed to see the US company acquire Singapore-based Spacemob in August, preempting its arrival in the region as part of a US$500 million investment that also covers its expansion to Korea.

Five months later, Spacemob founder and CEO Turochas “T” Fuad is WeWork’s managing director for Southeast Asia, and the company’s first space is officially open for business in Singapore’s Beach Center. It also has two more confirmed Singapore spaces in the works.

This is the 200th location for the global co-working company, while Singapore is its 20th country – a nice set of round numbers for Beach Center. “I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment,” Fuad laughs.

The venue has been taking in tenants since the beginning of December. Now it’s almost at full capacity, Fuad tells Tech in Asia. The mix includes freelancers and individual entrepreneurs (what the company terms “creators”), startups and small businesses, and larger multinationals looking for flexible space and networking opportunities.

See: Co-working unicorn WeWork heading to Singapore, Tokyo next

Singaporean startups like Chope, PolicyPal, and StashAway are already housed at Beach Center, as well as larger companies like Twilio and HP. Freelancers include people working in a range of fields, from accounting and finance to animation.

The location is the first of several planned to open in Singapore as well as Southeast Asia. Fuad doesn’t share more details about WeWork’s regional plans at the moment, but the company has already announced its second and third locations in Singapore.

Early next year, a new space will open at 71 Robinson Road, in the heart of Singapore’s central business district (CBD). It will house around 1,000 people. “I think Robinson Road is very classic CBD,” Fuad says. “You have banks and financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that are interested in those spaces.”

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people.

The price points change slightly between the two initial venues – a private office at Robinson Road starts at US$906 per month and a desk starts from US$438 per month. The starting prices at Beach Road are US$817 and US$408, respectively, according to the website.

Together with Singapore-based real estate firm CapitaLand, WeWork also announced that it’s the first tenant of Funan, the upcoming re-imagined version of a tech-oriented shopping mall well known to Singaporeans.

Funan DigitalLife Mall was established in 1985 and closed down in late 2015. Its replacement will be a sizeable complex with shops, office space, and co-living facilities. True to its techie heritage, it will feature smart parking facilities, office entry through facial recognition, and robot-assisted shopping.

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people and focus more on high-tech startups and multinationals, Fuad says.

New Funan complex

Artist’s impression of the new Funan complex. Image credit: CapitaLand

Room to breathe

Fuad doesn’t reveal what the ratio is between startups, individuals, and big organizations at Beach Center, or how that impacts the company’s revenue. Globally, around 20 percent of WeWork members are larger businesses (or “enterprises” as WeWork calls them).

“Given that Singapore is a gateway city in Southeast Asia, a hub for a lot of financial companies and startups and entrepreneurs right now, we believe that the enterprise segment in Singapore will be an interesting one for us,” he says.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from them.

For example, HP decided really quickly they wanted office space at Beach Center. “They came by here, looked at it for less than a day, and decided to become a member,” Fuad says. “I think their whole idea is, they want to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here and they wanted this particular division to be away from where their typical office would be, to have a little more fun and innovative atmosphere.”

There’s no shortage of co-working spaces in Singapore, with independent facilities like the Great Room, Collision 8, and ecosystem staple The Hub, as well as corporate-run spaces like Level3. All these businesses are competing for similar clientele, which raises questions about their viability in a small market like Singapore. Regardless, WeWork appears confident there will be demand for its own offering.

Fuad says that’s because WeWork’s focus on its global network provides extra value for its members – the network effect, essentially. “Beyond just space, [WeWork is] a platform for all types of creators, for different sizes of companies, who come together and collaborate,” he suggests. “Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from [them].”

See: An encounter with WeWork co-founder reveals a tussle between money and mission

The company’s own staff play matchmaker with members. Community managers assess each client to understand their needs and then try to bring the right people together. An online marketplace, meanwhile, makes it easy for members to ply their trade to others in the network anywhere in the world.

WeWork will also offer its co-working-as-a-service product Powered by We. This is basically WeWork applying its know-how and network to large organizations in their own facilities, setting up and managing their working environments for them. According to Wired, the company is already managing offices like Airbnb in Berlin and Amazon in Boston.

“We will actually design, manage, and build it for them, and now their own employees can experience what a WeWork would be at their own real estate,” Fuad says.

This is an additional source of revenue for the company that could prove to be a more efficient path to greater growth. This way, WeWork expects to add more paying clients without having to source new spaces itself, while still getting its brand to more traditional workplaces.

WeWork at Beach Center

Conveniently, one of the pantries can be found at the lobby and common area. Beer on tap included.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

There are all kinds of cozy nooks and crannies where people can have meetings.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

But things can get more professional, too.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The design is partly inspired by Singaporean shophouses and food courts.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This cute nook looks very relaxing.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The common areas look par for the co-working course.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Office space takes up three floors in Beach Center.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Local treats await new tenants on their desks.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Several private offices are already occupied.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This classroom-looking area can also be used for game nights and yoga.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.35.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:30:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=424853 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, destroying last year’s US$2.6 billion as well as 2015’s US$1.6 billion, the Tech in Asia Database shows.

Indonesia’s Tokopedia contributed a big chunk of that with its US$1.1 billion injection over the summer. Alongside Traveloka’s substantial investment, it was a bumper year for Indonesia’s tech industry.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on September 7, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

Watch: Go-Jek’s Nadiem Makarim on being fearless

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017/feed 7 https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:57:08 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448312

Photo credit: Go-Jek.

Ride-hailing service Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first billion-dollar tech startup, has agreed to acquire three local fintech firms as it seeks to expand its grip on the digital payments market.

The deals involve Kartuku, a leading offline payments processing company in Indonesia; Midtrans, said to be the nation’s top online payment gateway; and Mapan, a community-based savings and lending network, Go-Jek announced in a statement today. The company declined to disclose the value of the deals.

Altogether, Go-Jek, which owns the mobile wallet Go-Pay, and the three companies process close to US$5 billion worth of credit and debit card transactions as well as digital payments for users, service providers, and merchants annually. Ecommerce spend in Indonesia this year amounts to over US$7 billion, shows Statista data.

“We are now taking Go-Jek to the next stage,” said its founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim.

The acquisitions – combined – are Go-Jek’s biggest so far, Makarim told Tech in Asia, and marks a significant step in the company’s plan to dominate the payments space, where it’s facing off against Southeast Asia juggernaut Grab.

Going beyond the Go-Jek app

Backed by investors KKR & Co, Warburg Pincus, and China’s Tencent, Go-Jek started out with rides, then later expanded into other on-demand services such as food and medicine deliveries, parcel couriers, cleaners, massages, and ticketing.

Now a household name, Go-Jek has 900,000 drivers, more than 125,000 partner merchants, 15 million weekly active users, and over 100 million transactions processed through its platform per month. That’s a fivefold jump from the 20 million transactions the company reported in June 2016.

While customers use Go-Pay to purchase Go-Jek services, Makarim previously said his goal was to allow people to pay for things outside the app system, like coffee and groceries. Today’s buys help fulfill that goal.

Kartuku claims to serve nearly all the top 100 enterprise retailers in Indonesia with its offline payment processing solutions, including point-of-sale devices. Midtrans, on the other hand, has tied up with more than 3,000 online merchants, processing their transactions through 18 different payment methods with a focus on fraud prevention. Both startups will work on getting Go-Pay accepted into their merchant networks.

Meanwhile, Mapan counts over a million families across 100 cities in Indonesia as members of its community-based savings and loan platform. The startup will help increase Go-Jek’s reach, particularly in rural areas where many of the latter’s services might not be widely available.

Fierce battle with Grab

Because it caters to the unbanked, Go-Pay plays a key role in Go-Jek’s continuous push in its home market and possibly new ones, Makarim had said.

Majority of Indonesia’s 260 million-strong population have no access to credit cards, while 64 percent have had no access to formal banking services for more than 15 years, according to a KPMG report.

Closest competitor Grab – also a unicorn and heavily funded – is betting on this space as well, although it seems to be playing catch-up with Go-Jek in Indonesia.

Go-Jek was the first to introduce non-bank top-up options for its digital wallet by letting users convert their cash into Go-Pay credit through Go-Jek drivers, resulting in a dramatic uptick in adoption. It also secured an e-money license ahead of Grab by snapping up payments startup MVCommerce. Grab got the license just this week (link in Indonesian) and was in fact forced to freeze top-ups back in October. While Grab acquired ecommerce payments startup Kudo in April, Go-Jek’s triple acquisitions will give it a huge boost.

“Grab will face tougher efforts to increase its market share in the platform economy,” which is very much a battle of scale, said IDC Handojo Triyanto, senior research manager at IDC Financial Insights (Asia Pacific & Indonesia). “Grab should take countermeasures.”

It’s too early to say who’s going to win though, he noted, as cash is still largely the preferred payment mode in Indonesia. “The battle is still a long journey […] it will take time to cover Indonesia’s huge market.”

Overseas, where Go-Jek has no presence yet, Grab has made some headway. In Singapore, it made GrabPay available for payment at third-party merchants, starting with hawker stalls. It also recently obtained an e-money license in Malaysia, giving it the green light to launch GrabPay services there. Grab aims to bring the same to other Southeast Asian countries next year.

Go-Jek is looking to foray into at least three new markets in the region, with the Philippines likely being first on the list.

Similar to Indonesia, the Philippines has one of the world’s most horrendous traffic conditions, and a large portion of its population remains unbanked.

What lies ahead

Once the deals are finalized, Go-Jek president Andre Soelistyo said the management teams and employees of the three newly acquired firms will “continue to operate as before,” but their CEOs will take senior positions at the parent company. Thomas Husted of Kartuku will become Go-Jek’s CFO, Mapan’s Aldi Haryopratomo will lead Go-Pay, and Midtrans’ Ryu Suliawan will head the group’s merchant platform.

Looking ahead to 2018, Makarim sees payments as a “core priority” and the possibility of Go-Pay’s spin-off.

Grab also plans to double down on GrabPay following its mega funding round in July.

(Update at 4:15 pm: Added more information on the deals, what they mean, and comments from Go-Jek and research firm.)

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans/feed 5 https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:45:32 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448223

Photo credit: Xpeng

Online shopping giant Alibaba has invested in an electric car startup, it said today.

Alibaba confirmed the move this evening to Tech in Asia following rumors in Chinese media about it funding Xpeng (also known as Xiaopeng), which last month launched its first vehicle, the all-electric Identy X SUV.

The funding amount isn’t disclosed, but several Chinese media outlets said Alibaba was taking a 10 percent stake in the fledgling carmaker.

“As a clean energy vehicle startup, the investment in Xiaopeng Motors fits with Alibaba’s strategic focus in the automotive sector. Under our open-platform approach, we will continue to work with a range of automotive manufacturing partners to benefit Chinese consumers,” an Alibaba spokesperson said.

The Xpeng Identy X has a lot of tech for a relatively cheap car, including this pop-up camera on the roof.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Inside, it looks a lot like the interior of a Tesla, as noted by Electrek – from the shape of the digital instrument cluster to that massive vertical screen in the center console.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Alibaba makes an Apple CarPlay-style system called AliOS, which it rolled out last year. Jack Ma’s company last week said it’s exploring a partnership with Ford that could see AliOS put onto the screens of Ford’s China-made vehicles.

Archrival Chinese tech giant Tencent has invested in Tesla, paying out around US$2 billion for a 5 percent stake. Tencent has also backed NIO, the Chinese startup that this week launched its electric SUV – though NIO’s will be a lot pricier than Xpeng’s.

See: China’s tech titans take the battle onto the screen in your car

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:40:01 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=418874 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, obliterating last year’s US$2.6 billion, according to the Tech in Asia Database. The region defied slowdowns in China and India’s tech industry.

Grab’s US$2 billion in July was Southeast Asia’s biggest fresh investment as the Malaysia-born, Singapore-based ride-hailing startup increased its war chest to fight Uber. Sea’s IPO also makes the list.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on August 17, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far/feed 11 https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:38:38 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448146

Photo credit: rawpixel / 123RF

Singapore’s Oxfordcaps has secured an undisclosed amount of funding in a seed round led by 500 Startups and ReadyVentures. Several unnamed angel investors also participated.

Launched in July, the startup wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model that’s already disrupting rental options for expat professionals in Asia’s biggest cities.

Companies like Singapore-based Hmlet and MetroResidences, itself a recipient of seed capital from 500 Startups, are transforming unused buildings into shared living spaces suited to the needs of modern tech workers and corporate executives.

See: Rakuten invests $2.8m in Singapore-based serviced apartment startup

The main target demographic is lone expatriate workers who prefer short-term rentals, the possibility of saving money by sharing accommodation, and the opportunity to socialize with people in a similar situation to their own.

Oxfordcaps co-founder and CEO Annu Talreja points out that international students who come to cities like Singapore to study have quite similar requirements.

Redesigning student accommodation

There is an undersupply of university-owned accommodation compared to the number of students admitted in each intake, meaning that most will have to seek out private rental options.

Like Hmlet, Oxfordcaps works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living.

“The owner typically has a property which is very good for students in terms of location and price,” Talreja tells Tech in Asia. But they may be skeptical to rent it out themselves because they fear the students couldn’t pay rent on time or might not keep the property in the best condition. Or they simply don’t want to take on the task of managing the rentals themselves.

Interested owners approach Oxfordcaps, which then kits out the property as “no-frills” student accommodation. Each room typically features two single beds, a study table with desk lamp, and a bookcase. There are also common areas where residents can mingle.

Oxfordcaps manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.

The ability to view the accommodation online and secure somewhere to stay before arriving in a new country is what makes the service particularly attractive to international students, Talreja suggests.

International students

Prior to leaving their home countries, foreign students will typically use property listings sites such as 99.co or PropertyGuru to contact agents and organize viewings after they arrive, which isn’t necessarily the most convenient way for them to get accommodation, says Talreja.

“On our site, we are going to provide 360-degree videos and pictures of every room. Details will be provided for the entire unit, down to what kind of mattress each bed has in each room, so that students can book before they get here.”

That can save them from paying for a costly hotel or Airbnb stay between their arrival in the country and when they eventually sign for a room, she adds.

What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community.

In addition, Oxfordcaps offers accommodation on a bed-by-bed basis, meaning that students don’t have to form houseshare groups themselves – a situation that’s particularly difficult for those coming from abroad with no existing contacts in the country.

The whole arrangement is meant to be conducive to bringing students together to socialize and form new friendship groups. Like Hmlet and other co-living players, Oxfordcaps runs on-site events, which it sees as an opportunity for future revenue generation.

“What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community,” explains Talreja. “These are often very fragmented and limited to the school they are going to, but these students are all in a similar demographic. They’re all in the same boat – going to a new country for their education. We want to create this community and monetize it at some point, but right now, the focus is on creating the community and keeping them engaged on a regular basis.”

See: Tech workers need lower rents and more friends. These guys help with both.

She says that Oxfordcaps will use the seed funding to further develop its tech offering and introduce new features on its site, as well as to increase the number of beds and properties under its management.

It has already booked over 1,000 bed-months since July (a bed-month measures the occupancy of one person in one bed for one month, and is a variation on the bed-night metric used in the hospitality industry).

Looking ahead, the startup wants to enhance its presence in Singapore before expanding “into at least one or two more Asian geographies,” with India, Indonesia, and Australia among the likely targets, Talreja shares.

“Within Asia Pacific there are over 100 million mobile students. Singapore is relatively smaller, with only 200,000 to 300,000 international students coming here [each year]. But it’s our Asia gateway market, since it’s the region’s education hub and the real estate regulations are pretty clear compared to a lot of neighbouring markets. But our aim is to be an Asia-Pacific brand.”

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed/feed 0
[post_excerpt] => Startups – Tech in AsiaDidi makes first move outside mainland China with Taiwan launchSea, Razer IPOs will get more startups to go public, but when will SGX attract them?Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last yearVideo: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startupsHow Grab runs its data science team4 rising startups in JapanIn China, millions are tuning into an online game show in the hope of winning moneyHow a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in ThailandSleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startupsShe runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averseHow Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customerChina sees record tech funding in 2017WeWork to open first of 4 Tokyo locations on February 1India’s top tech investments in 2017 came from the eastChina’s 10 biggest investments in 2017Here are the 15 best-funded startups in Southeast Asia (infographic)Chinese startup beats Apple to the punch with its AR glassesAsia tech news roundup – Dec 27Look out, Mofo: new bike-share contender nabs $500mAmazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days6 rising startups in JapanAlibaba’s biggest investments in 2017Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye onDidi’s next trick is to go global10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this yearDidi pockets $4b to boost AIVideo: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space6 rising startups in JapanLine funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app8 startups in Asia that caught our eyeWeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soonIndonesia’s 10 best-funded startups this yearGo-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia paymentsAlibaba invests in electric car startupSingapore’s 10 best-funded startups this yearOxfordcaps gets 500 Startups backing to bring co-living to Asia’s universities

https://www.techinasia.com Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:43:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454321 Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei. Photo credit: Tommy / Unsplash

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, with 450 million users across mainland China, today embarked on its first expansion.

With its Taiwan launch, Didi is going after Uber, which first launched on the island of 24 million people back in 2013.

But Didi is being forced to do things differently in Taiwan, where the powerful taxi lobby has prevented ride-hailing apps from tapping into ordinary people driving their own cars. Didi is partnering with a Taiwanese firm, LEDI Technology, to run the franchise on the island using only taxi drivers.

Uber was forced to ditch its ordinary drivers in Taiwan in early 2017 after it suspended operations for two months. It now uses only official limo operators.

Carpooling

The Chinese firm is rolling out two Taiwanese services in its app – Didi Taxi and Didi Hitch for carpooling.

“Taiwanese taxi drivers will benefit from better operating efficiency, lower idle time, and higher income. Initially limited to cash payment, Didi Taxi will gradually bring in diversified third-party credit cards and mobile payment options,” said the startup in a statement this evening.

“During the beta launch, Hitch riders and drivers can split fuel costs, tolls, and other expenses through cash payments with more convenient mobile payment options to follow in the near future,” it added.

Didi’s Taiwan rollout comes ahead of a much-anticipated launch in Latin America. The startup earlier this month acquired Brazil’s 99, the ride-hail app that’s Uber’s biggest rival across the region.

This post Didi makes first move outside mainland China with Taiwan launch appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 08:56:55 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454021

Sea chairman and CEO Forrest Li and president Nick Nash on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday / Photo credit: NYSE

Singapore’s gaming and ecommerce unicorn Sea announced a US$884 million initial public offering this past October, ultimately raising a total of US$989.3 million thanks to strong investor demand. US-headquartered Razer, another well-loved company with ties to the island nation, had a US$528 million listing in Hong Kong just a month later.

This double whammy wasn’t as impressive as some of Southeast Asia’s IPO blockbusters in 2017. For example, Netlink NBN Trust’s US$1.7 billion listing on SGX topped the IPO charts (Netlink is Singapore’s fiber broadband network owner and telco Singtel’s broadband unit). Cromwell European Real Estate also listed on SGX, raising US$1 billion.

[The Sea and Razer IPOs are] a data point that VCs and founders can point to.

But for the tech startup scene, the Sea and Razer IPOs were still a crackerjack. Not only were the trade debuts long-awaited milestones for both companies, they were also an effective bellwether for Southeast Asian companies with public market aspirations.

Companies in Southeast Asia were waiting to see how the Sea IPO would pan out, so there was subsequently a lot of interest from local and regional tech companies in US listings. Sharon Lau, the Singapore office managing partner of law firm Latham & Watkins, predicts that there will be more high-profile IPOs from the region in late 2018 or early 2019, although she doesn’t share any details.

Rajiv Gupta, also a partner at Latham & Watkins in Singapore, says that local advisors, including banks and lawyers, were asked by IPO candidates to wait and see how the Sea listing would go before going forward with their own. “It was almost seen as a litmus test for the appetite for an Asian tech company IPO in the US,” he says, adding that interest remains strong after the listing.

This holds true even though both companies’ stock prices have dropped since and are trading below their IPO price. Sea’s stock opened today at US$12.58 in NYSE, having started at US$16.26, and Razer’s stock price opened at HKD 3.79 in HKG, having started at HKD 4.58.

“I think it is a recent indicator – a data point that VCs and founders can point to,” says Ferish Patel, partner at law firm Gunderson Dettmer.

The bell tolls for IPOs

Because Sea and Razer listed outside of Singapore, the market they’re more closely associated with, it adds to the debate about the city-state bourse’s attractiveness to tech startups.

This is not so much an indictment of local markets – IPOs in the region are doing quite well, in fact. “2017 was a record year for ASEAN IPOs and technology listings was the second largest category,” says Nam Soon Liew, managing partner at ASEAN Financial Services for Ernst & Young.

According to the Transaction Trail 2017 Report by valuation and financial advisory firm Duff & Phelps, IPO capital value in Singapore doubled last year in comparison to 2016.

Singapore IPOs Duff & Phelps

But Sea will likely not be the last Southeast Asian tech company to reach out to the global market through a US listing. Lau and Gupta confirm that tech companies and investors are eager for US listings.

While it doesn’t bode well for local exchanges, it’s not hard to see why companies here covet New York City lights. “Investors in the US really understand technology, and they are willing to put in big money,” explains Srividya Gopalakrishnan, managing director at Duff & Phelps Singapore.

This will probably continue to be the case, as long as investors in Singapore have different priorities. “[They] are generally more inclined towards defensive and income-generating stocks,” says Philip Teo, founder and CEO of Traderwave, a Singapore-based startup that helps traders discover, analyze, and monitor stock trading opportunities.

Teo, who has prior public market experience at Singaporean bank OCBC and conducts seminars for retail investors at SGX’s trading academy, thinks that growth-focused companies like tech startups generally don’t appeal to local investors. Such investors are more used to Singapore’s real estate investment trust focus.

Raising money is of course a key motivation for founders going public, right next to increasing their company’s profile and providing exit opportunities for their private investors. But when it comes to raising funds, there’s a lot more private capital to go around these days.

Companies like Grab and Uber, for example, have managed to build up significant war chests without an IPO. As such, startups have one more thing to consider: is it perhaps better to delay a listing and continue raising money privately? “Definitely Razer and Sea’s IPOs offer founders some potential food for thought about whether they should be listing or holding out as long as possible,” Teo explains.

Several companies also have the added option of ICOs these days – the trend peaked this year, as this graph vividly shows.

“ICOs have already surpassed early-stage VC funding despite concerns by regulators and investors alike with money laundering and the inherent volatility,” Liew says. “We expect ICO as a business model to continue to be a source of funding but also evolve with a greater understanding of the risks with evolving regulations.”

SGX Centre in downtown Singapore

SGX Centre, downtown Singapore / Photo credit: tang90246 / 123RF

Singapore needs to do more

SGX has made efforts to become attractive to tech startup listings through a number of initiatives, like engaging with regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to discover promising companies and allowing for dual-class shares that allow founders to retain control of their company.

But aside from investors coming around to tech startups, SGX might also need to focus on the specific value it can offer local companies.

If the bulk of your customers are in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here.

Lau believes SGX should take advantage of its streamlined listing process and look more carefully at Southeast Asian and Indian companies, for whom the region is a significant chunk of their business. “A business that’s not going to have a China or North Asia angle is perhaps the kind of company [SGX] should be marketing to,” she says.

As Teo suggests, “a company will usually list on SGX only if their market or their main target audience is actually very near to, or in, Singapore itself.” If the bulk of a company’s customers and market are in Singapore or in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here instead of a high-profile foreign exchange where it will be just one more company among tens of thousands.

“This is clearly a journey and a continued focus on shortening the time to market and making it more cost- and process-effective for listing will help,” Liew observes. “We see a strong pipeline of potential technology listings and 2018 should prove to be another strong year, given the continuing strong economic growth and positive equity markets.”

Gopalakrishnan has confidence in Singapore’s potential as a market for tech listings. “If somebody asked last year, I don’t think anyone would have said that Hong Kong would be the next market for [such companies],” she says. “But Hong Kong has managed to show there are actually investors interested in putting money in tech. I have a very positive feeling that Singapore will do the same but it may take a little more time because Singapore is fairly conservative. If Hong Kong can do it, then Singapore can as well.”

(Update, 8:20pm SGT: Updated Sea IPO value.)

This post Sea, Razer IPOs will get more startups to go public, but when will SGX attract them? appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 04:51:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453817

Carousell’s Singapore headquarters / Photo credit: Carousell

Carousell appears to have raised over US$45 million in new funding last year, according to financial documents reviewed by Tech in Asia, while the startup confirmed it has new backers. This could be a sign of investor confidence in Carousell’s ability to become profitable.

Filings submitted to Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) by the startup indicate that it had paid-up share capital totaling about US$87.1 million as of September 20 last year.

Tech in Asia’s database records Carousell as having raised a total of US$41.8 million as of August 2016, when its series B round was announced.

The difference between these two figures – US$45.3 million – appears to be the amount Carousell has brought in since then.

That falls short of the US$80 million it is reported to have raised at series C, but it’s possible that the remainder hasn’t been banked yet. The investment may be divided into two or more tranches.

We do have new investors.

EDBI, the Singapore Economic Development Board’s corporate investment arm, is named as a shareholder, though it had not been been listed as a Carousell investor before. Previously reported investors Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, and 500 Startups are also listed as owning stakes.

“Fundraising is an ongoing process,” a Carousell spokesperson told Tech in Asia when asked about series C fundraising. “We do have new investors, but we’ll announce further details when the time is right.”

EDBI responded to Tech in Asia‘s request for comment, but was unable to provide additional details at this time.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

With more than 100 million listings and users in 19 cities across seven countries, Carousell’s achievements since it launched its C2C platform in May 2012 cannot be understated. But monetizing what it has built – arguably the much harder task –  has only just begun.

Starting out as a community-driven marketplace to connect individual buyers and sellers, Carousell was run on a free-to-use basis, generating next to no income. But its latest available financial report indicates that Carousell might still be in the nascent stages of monetization. Its revenue in 2016 was negligible and decreased by over a third from 2015, although it’s not known if it improved last year.

Carousell did not share any figures related to its 2017 performance with Tech in Asia, but a spokesperson said that the company is starting to see positive results from monetization products released last year, such as Bumps, Carousell Coins, listing fees, Carousell Pro subscriptions, media sales, and advertising.

Bumps is a paid-for feature that allows sellers to enhance the visibility of their listings. Carousell Coins is a virtual currency for the marketplace that can be bought and used to cover listing fees or buy Bumps.

Soft-launched last October, Carousell Pro is a paid-for app designed to help professional sellers in the real estate and job recruitment segments to “create, manage, and analyze” their marketing efforts.

Carousell had earlier moved into listing cars and property, which brought commercial merchants onto its platform for the first time and heralded the introduction of paid-for premium ads. Job listings soon followed.

Carousell Motors, a dedicated car marketplace app

Photo credit: Carousell

“We also work with advertisers and brands who are looking to reach out to our users, through our media sales and advertising products,”  said the Carousell spokesperson, who mentioned AXA Insurance, DBS Bank, McDonalds, and Uber as among the brands that have run customized marketing campaigns with the startup.

The company also said that for 2018, it’s focusing on growth in its key markets. “Some of the initiatives we are working on include test-bedding exciting new product features and exploring opportunities to partner with local industry players to deepen our presence across our markets,” the spokesperson shared.

Carousell also explained how, like other classifieds businesses, many investments are made upfront with negative cash flow at first, but “they also enjoy healthy margins once monetization starts and operates at scale.”

The spokesperson continued: “We’ve invested heavily in putting the right pieces in place and have now started to roll out our monetization strategy. With healthy user growth in place, we started focusing on generating revenue to ensure sustainability.”

They should have been able to keep their operations lean.

While Carousell has yet to disclose its 2017 numbers, the fact that it managed to raise a significant sum in funding may be a sign that investors are bullish about its revenue-generation efforts. Tech in Asia reached out to Carousell shareholders Golden Gate Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and 500 Startups, but did not get a response at the time of publication.

A scan of the Carousell app shows that its Bumps feature is seeing significant usage among sellers. It is also ranking well on the iOS top grossing charts, which list apps according to the volume of in-app purchases.

As of January 18, Carousell is the highest-grossing app in the shopping category in four countries according to analytics provider AppLyzer, although it is unique among major ecommerce apps in its support for Apple Pay, which sellers can use to buy Bumps. As such, this may not be something to gloat about.

However,  its ranking (at time of publication) as the 41st highest-grossing app across all categories in Singapore – above games like Zynga Poker, Line: Disney Tsum Tsum, and Blizzard’s Hearthstone – is a positive sign.

Room for improvement

Jackie Lam, co-founder at startup consultancy Oddup, finds some of Carousell’s numbers worrying. For the most part, the startup is still an online classifieds marketplace that neither facilitates payments nor is legally capable of providing resolutions should a transaction go wrong, she pointed out.

“In essence, the only value that their platform provides is a space for people to post advertisements and chat. Therefore, the expenses they should have incurred would be minimal. They should have been able to keep their operations lean.”

Based on its financial statement, Carousell’s total pre-tax losses grew almost fivefold to US$22 million in 2016, mostly due to rising staff and marketing costs.

Carousell co-founders Quek Siu Rui (L), Lucas Ngoo (M), and Marcus Tan (R) / Photo credit: Carousell

It is not uncommon for startups to be running losses in their early years, so these metrics alone are not indicative of the company’s health, said Lawrence Cheok, senior research manager at IDC. But Carousell’s fall in revenue between 2015 and 2016 against a continuing trend of increasing losses may be a cause for concern, he added.

Cheok said that Carousell may be overlooking revenue opportunities on the buyer side of its business, such as bringing payment and fulfillment onto its platform rather than leaving it up to buyers and sellers to complete transactions between themselves.  

Carousell only suggests methods for customers to settle payment – through user-to-user bank transfers, cash on delivery, or third-party providers – rather than hosting a payments infrastructure on its site.

“This is a glaring gap in customer experience,” noted Cheok. “For example, eBay – through PayPal – guarantees the transaction as the trusted middleman. This underlying trust is mandatory for remote exchange of goods and services between two strangers.”

Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.

In contrast, Carousell’s regional rivals Lazada and Shopee allow customers to “checkout” on their sites or in their apps by using credit and debit cards, online banking, and a range of third-party payments gateways and mobile wallets.

Another strategic flaw of keeping payments off-platform is the inability to verify transactions. Without transactional data, consumer analytics efforts will be dubious at best, added Cheok.

“With high-value purchases like cars and properties, the fundamental trust issue becomes even more pressing. Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.”

Bringing payments on-platform could also help Carousell to collect enhanced pricing data, which may become a revenue stream in itself.

“I believe that companies like Apple would pay top dollar to figure out what the market value of their second-hand products in Singapore and other countries is, as it would help them with their pricing strategy,” said Lam.

Listed prices on Carousell are not final as they can still be negotiated between buyers and sellers outside of the platform. But the company can keep track of the offers made and accepted – and if payments were completed through the platform, it would have data on final sale prices, too.

Lam further suggested that Carousell upgrade or customize its user interface for certain product categories. She argued it’s not optimized for searching for vehicles or property, unlike specialized marketplaces such as SGCarMart and PropertyGuru.

“Since cars and property are big-ticket items which usually have more idiosyncrasies relative to consumer electronics or fashion products, a distinct platform dedicated to each would help them to differentiate effectively.”

What to look for in the 2017 statement

Below is Carousell’s consolidated income statement for 2016 – the most recent full year available – which is publicly accessible from ACRA. Note that figures in brackets are negative:

Source: ACRA

Here’s its consolidated cash flow statement for the same period:

Source: ACRA

The company’s FY 2017 filing will give a better idea of how the revenue generation initiatives are playing out.

Looking ahead, Carousell will need to demonstrate an increase in gross merchandise volume – that is, the value of all the goods sold across its platform – to show current and prospective investors that its user base continues to grow, said Cheok.

Carousell must show “a narrowing gap between revenue against operating cost – which may happen while absolute losses are still increasing.” This will indicate that the early years’ losses as seen in the above statements can be considered a worthwhile investment, allowing the startup to acquire users and thereby achieve scale, network effect, and monetization, he concluded.

This post Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 01:15:12 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453344 China is overflowing with deep learning and AI startups, and they’re doing things differently from deep learning startups in Silicon Valley.

[embedded content]

This video features Dr. Chris Rowen, founder and principal of Cognite Ventures and co-founder and CEO of Babblabs.


Transcript:

Dr. Chris Rowen: “I think that there a set of common features and a set of distinct characteristics about what the Chinese neural network startups are doing relative to the US, relative to the rest of the world. Some of the clear themes are, number one, there’s lots of interest in video and especially in surveillance in China.Some of that comes from the level of investment that the Chinese government is making in public safety. Some of it, I think, comes from a long history of interest in imaging.

“Some of it comes from the fact that the Chinese electronics community really understands a lot about devices. Gadgets. Things that are widely deployed in high volume.

“And there is, on the flip side, relatively less activity in the cloud in China among startups. Certainly it’s true in the neural network area. In fact, worldwide in my Cognite Ventures 300 list roughly two-thirds of all of the neural network startups are deploying software for the cloud. In China, very few.

“So it’s almost as if the whole cloud segment is missing from the Chinese neural network community. Partly because I think the cloud is less well-developed as a commercial ecosystem. Certainly there are big players like Alibaba, for example, and Baidu, focused on the cloud. But it’s really percolated much less completely into the ecosystem of small, medium, and large players.

“I think some of it really reflects the fact that people see the value in these things where there’s a tangible element. It may go back historically to the question of intellectual property protection in that it’s much easier to be confident that you’re protecting the value of your product when all of the software and all of the hardware are bundled together in one thing. And so that tends to make the Chinese startup community much more oriented towards hardware/software systems.

“It’s much less about ‘Oh, I have a very specific algorithm or a very specific application or a very specific chip in mind’ but rather: ‘I am combining chips and software and algorithms and application insights together in a package which is salable.’ So in an ironic sense, the Chinese deep learning startups tend to be quite integrated and quite system-oriented in their perspective. Because, I think, it reflects in part this interest in delivering a more complete solution, in part to protect intellectual property; certainly to protect value in a world where there [is] a long history of clone makers of various kinds.

“In general, the level of activity and the level of sophistication is high in China just as it is in the other leading countries that are at the forefront of this. I think some of the unique characteristics of China are the things I’ve mentioned; this focus on embedded devices, this focus on surveillance, the relative immaturity of the cloud. You also, I think, have an environment where there’s actually quite a bit of venture money available. The level of enthusiasm, the kind of overt encouragement of the Chinese government for investment in this really leading-edge technology is [making] a lot of money available to teams so that, while it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison, my guess is that for a team of a given caliber they probably have the easiest time getting funded in China and get the highest valuations in China right now.

“I tend to be a big fan of the company DeePhi which is focused on really quite advanced neural network methods for vision, applying it, of course, in surveillance but in other areas as well. They are both developing new algorithms and optimizing them very effectively for FPGAs but also working to develop new silicon platforms.

“And they have, I think, a very significant history in working in a particularly interesting problem in neural networks which is how do you build much smaller, much leaner much more efficient neural networks than what people are typically implementing in the cloud. And they’re able to do things that have significantly lower compute requirements, fit into smaller chips, run at higher framerates and still keep very high accuracy. Accuracy comparable to what people have done in cloud-based computing, but now doing it in quite small devices.

“I think it’s a really interesting group of people out of a combination of Tsinghua University and Stanford who are the inspiration behind DeePhi and they’re doing quite remarkable things.”

This post Video: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:02:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452181 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Grab is now hiring on Tech in Asia Jobs.

While many are familiar with ride-hailing app Grab, few of us really know what happens after we hit “book.”

Different teams work the magic to deliver the ride, but I was interested in how data science fits into all of this. So I sat down with Lye Kong-wei, Grab’s head of data science, to find out more.

Making sense of the data Grab collects

Grab hails from Malaysia, starting off as MyTeksi in 2012. In six short years, it has grown into a billion-dollar startup and a top contender in Southeast Asia’s private car-hailing space.

Around 3.5 million rides are booked on the app daily, generating over 10 terabytes of data on the platform each day. More than 60 employees work in the data team in Singapore to make sense of the data and use insights gathered to improve the Grab experience.

The team is expected to expand by 50 percent at the end of 2018.

The data team at Grab

The data team at Grab is divided into two: the data engineering team and the data science team.

The data engineering team manages Grab’s data warehouses, builds its pipelines, and ensures that other data teams get data in a form they can readily use.

Headed by Lye, the data science team is made up mostly of researchers working on models and algorithms to translate research into product features.

“From the moment a passenger opens the Grab app to the time a vehicle arrives, data science powers the thinking and decision-making on the most efficient routes, travel time, and price point. These collectively work to make a safe and convenient commuting experience for both drivers and passengers,” says Lye.

There are around 30 people in the data science team. It’s currently based in Singapore, but there are plans to expand to other countries where Grab operates.

Grab’s data science team. Lye is at the back, on the far right. Photo credit: Grab

Team structure and dynamics

Grab’s data science team is made up of five groups focused on specific areas.

1. Machine learning

The machine learning team works on all kinds of predictions using traditional machine learning and new deep learning techniques. Most applications involve studying users’ behaviour to improve the experience for both passengers and drivers.

2. Markets

Working closely with the machine learning team, the markets team studies supply (driver) and demand (passengers). They are responsible for matching drivers and passengers by forecasting fixed fares amid price fluctuations. Their driver booking system is an example of this.

“We have learned our drivers’ preferences and behaviours, enabling us to predict which jobs drivers will take,” explains Lye. “For instance, many GrabBike drivers in Jakarta have a ‘home base’ which they prefer not to veer too far from, no matter how profitable a ride might be. Bookings are then sent to drivers with the highest probable booking rate. Because of this, our drivers now receive jobs they prefer and get better earning opportunities.”

3. Optimization

By developing and managing services like GrabHitch, GrabShare, and GrabShuttle, the optimization team helps put more people in fewer cars and make cities less congested.

“This team also forms the backbone of our collaboration with governments, which use travel and traffic data to improve transport and city planning,” notes Lye.

4. Simulation

The simulation team helps Grab’s country teams simulate how passengers and drivers would interact with new services and respond to tweaks in existing ones. The team constantly improves their services as a result of these simulations.

5. Architecture

Looking after the lower layers of the stack, the architecture team works mostly on experimenting and rapidly adopting new technologies to increase the speed at which Grab innovates. For example, it has used GPUs (graphics processing units) to reduce the data team’s processing times for even faster real-time insights.

Case study

A significant project the data science team is working on is GrabShare, Grab’s commercial service that enables passengers to carpool with another passenger heading in the same direction.

“To get passengers quickly to their destinations, GrabShare pairs just two passenger bookings with similar trip routes within a single trip,” says Lye.

Passengers will experience a maximum of two stops before reaching their destinations.

GrabShare focuses on maximizing drivers’ potential earnings by reducing the time and distance spent on a single GrabShare ride, allowing drivers to complete more jobs per hour to boost their income and reduce fuel consumption.

Two key metrics are involved in doing this:

  1. Match rate – This measures how well they match the first passenger with another passenger going in the same direction.
  2. Match quality – This measures the trade-off in time a passenger faces by choosing to share a ride with someone else.

The key is to strike a balance between match rate and match quality, while aiming for higher efficiency in putting more people in fewer cars.

“With this, it’s important to understand how passenger behavior differs from one market to another,” says Lye. “For example, GrabShare riders in Singapore are less willing to wait for a ride than GrabShare riders in Indonesia.”

GrabShare’s history

  1. The first version of the GrabShare algorithm was developed in 2015 when Grab launched their GrabHitch service. GrabHitch is GrabShare’s non-commercial ride-sharing counterpart.
  2. Once users got more familiar with ride-sharing on GrabHitch, the data science team started studying data related to driver and passenger behavior.
  3. The team then simulated the GrabShare user experience for drivers and passengers, and refined its features.
  4. GrabShare launched in December 2016.
  5. The teams then spent time on the ground to tweak the product for the next few markets before launching GrabShare in those markets.

“The GrabShare algorithm continuously evolves as every ride on our platform is logged, analyzed, and adjusted according to the local needs of each city,” says Lye.

Challenges

Communication

Lye says that it can sometimes be hard to explain their work to their colleagues outside the data science team, both in terms of its impact on the business and the opportunities it offers.

To address this, his team has started holding data science talks for all Grab personnel, highlighting specific projects and areas of focus for the data science team.

Hiring

Finding great data scientists at the volume that Grab needs is also a challenge.

One way the team deals with this is by engaging in more external activities, such as encouraging its data scientists to network, speak in technical forums, attend relevant courses, as well as to blog or publish their work.

Hiring data scientists at Grab

Grab data scientists in a discussion. Photo credit: Grab

Candidates are first screened for the basics, such as communication skills. They then typically go through three rounds of interviews.

The first round is with one or more of their peers, where candidates are assessed for their technical capabilities. They look out for good theoretical fundamentals, as well as relevant working or personal experience.

The next round is with the hiring manager, who evaluates if candidates are fit for the role in terms of potential performance and culture.

The final round is with the head of the data science department.

In addition, Lye says they look out for what they call the “hidden diamond” in every candidate: character.

“A diamond needs extreme heat, time, and pressure to be made,” he observes. “Similarly, character takes years to form. Integrity, tenacity, and humility are traits we try to elicit from the candidate’s personal stories.”

Lye also leaves potential candidates with some advice.

“Know your destination,” he recommends. “If it is on our way, hop on and share the ride.”

This post How Grab runs its data science team appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018#comments Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:47:50 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453582 New year, new roundup. Check out the latest in media, data security, drone technology, and more.

One Media

Video content media startup One Media recently secured around US$3 million from B Dash Ventures and Gree Corp. One Media makes videos that can be viewed through various social media platforms like Line and Facebook. So far, it has created over 1,200 videos, ranging from music festivals to craft whiskey drinks. The startup also collaborates with companies like automakers Honda and Toyota.

One Media’s funding comes as  Japanese media startups seem on the rise, with Lute and Candee also securing financing  in recent months.

ACSL

ACSL, which got its start  while CEO Kenzo Nonami was teaching at the University of Chiba, is a drone manufacturing company. The startup promotes a wide range of applications for its autonomous drones like building inspection, delivery services, and agriculture production support. Drones can be customized based on customers specific needs.

The company recently raised a sizeable amount of cash of US$19 million from Mirai Creation Fund, iGlobe Partners, Mizuho Capital, University of Tokyo Edge Capital, and Drone Fund.

Another Japanese drone company, Clue, received funding in November to develop similar drone and software- like capabilities.

Michael

Cartune, a community app for car enthusiasts, has achieved over 100,000 downloads since it was launched in May 2017 by Michael. Users must input their car model and photos in order to complete registration. They  can also browse through Cartune’s Instagram-like user interface or filter their searches by applying a specific tag.

As local transportation and electric vehicles become more popular, the future of cars seems to be headed towards the direction of sustainability and and energy efficiency. As such, people may wonder whether classic cars still have a purpose . However, Cartune founder Makoto Fukyama believes that older cars will remain relevant as a hobby. He also thinks that the after-parts market and exhibition culture are strong, and car companies are keen revive some of their older models.

Other than Cartune, other new companies like Garage have entered on the scene, as well as older legacy players such as Minkara.

For its seed round, Michael received approximately US$1 million from IGPI.

Caulis

Fraud Alert by Caulis took the stage in early December at the elite pitch contest, Japan’s Infinity Ventures Summit. Fraud Alert is a cloud-based fraud detection service that monitors suspicious  behavior and alerts clients. The service is being introduced in 10 companies, of which most are financial institutions.

The company, which also shares its database of malicious users, just raised over US$1.4 million in its series A from four investors. Participants included previous backers Sony Innovation Fund and iSiD as well as two new additions, Seven Bank and Revamp.

 

This post 4 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:40:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453571

Photo credit: HQ Trivia

Combining quiz show entertainment and cash prizes, HQ Trivia was the surprise app sensation of 2017. And now a Chinese tech giant is jumping on the bandwagon.

Toutiao, a US$20 billion news app with 120 million readers each day, this week updated its mobile app to incorporate Millionaire Heroes, a live and interactive online trivia show which runs several times per day.

I joined the 1:00 pm quiz within Toutiao, where US$7,800 was up for grabs. Despite being working hours, the viewer count as the livestream started was at 2.5 million. Five minutes in as the first question hit the screen, just over 3 million people were tuned in.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Millionaire Heroes (right) looks very similar to HQ Trivia (left). On this first question, 998,000 Chinese viewers got the right answer – though I was one of the near 20,000 people to choose wrongly.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia, using one screenshot from HQ Trivia

If a news app seems an odd place for a game show, there is an explanation. A representative from Bytedance – the company behind Toutiao – told Tech in Asia this afternoon that the Millionaire Heroes quiz started earlier in the year inside its spinoff Xigua Video app, and now the startup has put the exact same game show inside the news app. The spokesperson said nobody was available to take further questions about its trivia quiz.

Bytedance has a growing entertainment empire that includes Musical.ly, Xigua Video, Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

The quiz is limited to friend referrals via an invitation code. Dishing out more referrals seems to get you more hearts, allowing you to answer more questions.

Bytedance’s reported US$20 billion valuation after raising US$1.1 billion in funding in the past few years is mainly due to the rocketing growth of Toutiao, but its other apps and acquisitions show that the Beijing-based firm wants to be a global force in web-based leisure and entertainment.

See: China has a problem with Toutiao

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = RMB 6.42.

This post In China, millions are tuning into an online game show in the hope of winning money appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:00:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452698

The ZmyHome team / Photo credit: ZmyHome

Thailand has many real estate portals, but it takes almost a year on average to sell a house in the country, says entrepreneur Natthapon Asswisessiwakul.

He blames this on at least two things. First, many of the houses on property listing sites carry sky-high price tags, no thanks to exorbitant broker commission and fees that are tucked into them. Second, the sites are filled with incomplete, fake, and outdated listings from brokers due to lack of verification. If you’re a buyer, this means you might be paying for a lot more than you should, while a bogus listing is a total waste of your time.

Asswisessiwakul knew these pain points, having worked at property research and consulting firm CBRE for seven years and founded his own brokerage firm after that. Seeing the opportunity, he launched ZmyHome in late 2015 as a way for people to sell, rent out, and buy houses without the help of a real estate agent.

With US$400,000 in fresh capital from KK Fund, ZmyHome aims to give home sellers and buyers the confidence to transact on their own by providing them accurate massive data. That’s how it intends to stand out from other property listing sites like PropertyGuru’s DDproperty. “We want a clean and well-organized platform similar to the hotel industry,” says Asswisessiwakul.

Bringing transparency to the market

Only property developers or home owners are allowed to post on ZmyHome to ensure that the information is true and up-to-date. They must provide a title, deed, or any government document that indicates the house’s identification number and names them as owner before a listing is approved. This minimizes the possibility of a fake listing, says the founder.

It also supposedly guarantees buyers the best prices by excluding the middlemen. Broker listings usually include commission and other fees charged to either the users or the sellers. And given that most sellers will figure the fees into their price, buyers pay indirectly too.

One thing that’s keeping individuals from selling direct is that they don’t know how to price their properties. ZmyHome offers data on sold homes in a specific location, allowing sellers to study it and compare. Buyers looking for properties get access to the data as well. Asswisessiwakul says they get owners to update the status of their properties as either “available” or “sold” on a monthly basis via Facebook and phone calls.

Once a seller and a buyer agree on a deal, they can use a free standard purchasing agreement on ZmyHome. Or they can opt for the startup’s legal processing service, which still costs “very low compared to the broker commission.”

Listing on ZmyHome is free, and the startup charges sellers per impression – they won’t have to pay if potential buyers don’t see their properties. “Most platforms in Thailand are dominated by agents because [the platforms] want to accumulate listings and charge a listing fee,” Asswisessiwakul contends.

The startup has 30,000 approved listings on its site, of which over 33 percent have been sold or rented.

Thai real estate developers such as LPN, Riche Place, CPLand, and Real Asset have also been using ZmyHome. So far, they’ve sold over US$3 million worth of properties on the site.

LPN director Suwattana Tang says, “we sold almost a hundred units to ZmyHome buyers with over 10 percent conversion, the highest rate among sources.”

Analysis: ZmyHome needs to catch up

Like other marketplaces, the company needs to attain network effects to succeed, meaning it must attract a critical mass of buyers and suppliers. These network effects create high barriers to entry – once many buyers and sellers are using a marketplace, it becomes harder for a new rival to lure them away.

That’s a challenge as ZmyHome still needs to get its name out there and faces off against strong rivals with more experience and funding.

Thailand’s real estate market is worth US$20 billion per year, according to Thai accelerator Dtac Accelerate, but it’s not clear how much online transactions account for in that figure. What’s certain is that the opportunity is huge enough that it created a crowded and competitive market.

Similarweb data shows ZmyHome is lagging behind its key rivals in terms of site visits. ZmyHome says it gets 1.2 million page views monthly, but Similarweb pegs it at over 625,200.

Achieving network effects is tough because for you to attract buyers, you need sellers – and vice versa. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. While there’s plenty of expert advice on how to break the impasse, ZmyHome’s model might initially face more difficulty building out the supply side.

ZmyHome’s no-brokers rule for posting limits its pool of suppliers, while the requirements needed for approving a listing could slow down the process of onboarding sellers.

Asswisessiwakul confirms this in a response to Tech in Asia. “We ask owners to provide more details and property images to help buyers investigate the market. It’s more difficult to post on our platform compared to competitors.” Listings get approved within 24 hours if they provide complete information, images, and supporting documents. If they don’t, it takes three to four days.

He adds, “We grew slowly during the first year since we have less listings than competitors who allow agents to post. We attract more users than other medium-sized platforms. However, big players are attracting more buyers who are just starting to search for properties.”

Yet network effects and having first-mover advantage aren’t enough to succeed, according to Andrei Hagiu, a former Harvard Business School professor, and Simon Rothman, partner at Greylock Partners. “Entrepreneurs should really focus on being the first to create a liquid market in their segment,” they write in the Harvard Business Review.

A marketplace must prove its value to both sides, or else it becomes vulnerable to later entrants. “If users do not derive significant value on a consistent basis, they will readily jump ship,” they say.

It seems this is what ZmyHome is hoping for by offering more transparency and competitive pricing to the market.

“Successful transactions are necessary for owners and buyers to learn about the platform,” notes Sompoat Chansomboon of Dtac, which also backs ZmyHome.

Moving forward, ZmyHome plans to accumulate more sellers with a “listing score.” The higher the score, the more priority a property will be given in searches. This means ZmyHome will set minimum requirements for approving a listing, but the seller who supplies more information will get a higher score.

It will also expand its user base to include banks (which sell foreclosed properties) and foreign property owners.

There are more challenges that ZmyHome needs to surmount as it grows, such as:

1. Speeding up transactions for more liquidity

Asswisessiwakul says listed properties situated in high-demand locations and priced correctly are able to sell within three months, while others remain on the site for over a year.

He plans to bring the average selling time down to three months – “similar to mature markets such as the US and UK” – by developing a price suggestion system. This way, sellers don’t have to research and compare prices or price properties on their own.

2. Making property verification more efficient

Calling sellers to get an update on the status of their homes is manageable when the pool of users is small, but what happens when you’re talking about millions of sellers?

We also asked how the team verifies the authenticity of the documents submitted to the site. Asswisessiwakul didn’t comment, except to say that buyers report listings that have wrong information or might have not come from the home owner.

Converted from Thai baht. Rate: US$1 = 31.93 baht.

This post How a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in Thailand appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 06:30:25 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452730

Money Forward team at the company’s October 2017 Tokyo IPO / Photo credit: Money Forward

Sleekr, an Indonesian HR and accounting management platform, has secured funding from Tokyo-based fintech firm Money Forward in its first investment outside of Japan.

The partnership is representative of growing interest in Southeast Asia from a newer generation of Japanese tech businesses, as they seek opportunities for growth beyond home shores – though this could change as more Chinese capital flows into the region. 

Sleekr started out by providing personnel management software as a service, and then diversified into cloud accounting services after acquiring fellow Indonesian startup Kiper in November 2016. It now has around 80 employees.

Sleekr’s only disclosed fundraise to date was a US$35,000 seed round in December 2014.

The size of the investment hasn’t been revealed, but Naoya Kanesaka, the Japanese company’s chief financial officer, told Tech in Asia that the amount is significant given the size of the parties and the extent of their partnership.

“Including Sleekr, we have invested between US$2 million and US$3 million into five companies so far. Sleekr is of a comparably larger size,” he said.

Aside from the investment, Money Forward will share know-how with Sleekr. Money Forward co-founder and CEO Yosuke Tsuji has also been appointed to the startup’s board of directors.

Money Forward, which went public in a US$25 million Tokyo IPO last October, walks the line between fintech and enterprise software. It offers a range of financial management products that include cloud-based accounts as well as payroll, invoice, and expenses processing features.

According to Kanesaka, Money Forward has a 60 percent market share and is the number one software choice among Japanese accounting firms.

Photo credit: Money Forward

There is clear overlap with Sleekr’s offering, but Money Forward sees this as an opportunity for synergy and a way to tap into the potentially lucrative Southeast Asian market.

Kanesaka noted that Money Forward already has an accounting and payroll product in Japan, so they don’t expect to bring Sleekr there. But, as he pointed out, “there are a lot of things we can learn about product strategy and marketing strategy.”

Partnering with a local player can also help Money Forward to better understand the market. While “in terms of environment,” there’s a basic difference between the culture in Southeast Asia and Japan, Kanesaka said there’s “a fundamental similarity in terms of how to be successful.”

Going south

The deal with Sleekr is part of the company’s “Money Forward Fund” program. It isn’t a separate, VC-style investment vehicle as the name may suggest, but rather a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing the company’s offerings through M&A activity.

Under Money Forward Fund, the company pledges to offer financial backing and know-how sharing, as well as tech assistance in areas such as APIs and network support with partners, investors, and service providers in return for equity.

Prior to making its first overseas investment with Sleekr, the program backed Japanese robo-advisor Money Design in December 2015, crowdfunding platforms Campfire and LIFULL Social Funding in October last year, and ecommerce platform developer BASE earlier this month.

Kanesaka said that he expects Money Forward to make further strategic investments in Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region, and could invest more than US$10 million given the right prospect.

They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking.

Japanese tech investors have been attracted to Southeast Asia partly because of proximity – in both geographic and cultural terms – and Japan’s soft power in the region, explained James Riney, who heads 500 Startups in Japan.

“Japanese VCs and corporates were one of the first groups to aggressively invest in Southeast Asian startups. The region is also experiencing strong GDP growth overall, and the mobile revolution is turning more people into accessible customers,” he adds.

Another important factor is that until recently, Southeast Asia has been largely overlooked by US and European investors.

Japanese investors are interested primarily because the region is not as competitive as Silicon Valley, observed Riney. “They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking, and local sources of capital were not as open-minded or sophisticated at the time to compete.” 

While Southeast Asia accounts for a seemingly small portion of overall Japanese VC investment – at around 2.9 percent in Q3 2017, according to research from Japan’s Venture Enterprise Center – it is notable how this is not too far from matching the figure for North America, while it beats that for the rest of Asia, including India and the Middle East.

But this state of affairs is undergoing rapid change, as increasingly well-capitalized Chinese players enter the scene.

“The region has matured quite a bit. There are much more local sources of capital, and my impression is that China is more aggressive than Japan these days,” said Riney. “Many in Japan still see potential in Southeast Asia, but it is less appealing than it used to be because it is becoming more competitive.”

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 13:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=451415 Melanie Perkins, Canva

Melanie Perkins / Photo credit: Canva

Australia has yet another startup unicorn today.

Nearly five years after Melanie Perkins, a former graphic design software tutor, first launched Canva as a Photoshop-for-people-terrified-of-Photoshop online tool, the startup is worth US$1 billion dollars following its latest round of funding.

She has just pocketed US$40 million from investors including Sequoia Capital to further grow Canva, which has users designing graphics with its intuitive tools in 190 countries and 100 languages. Its 10 million users make 1 million new designs each day.

“Visual communication is becoming so much more prevalent across every single industry,” CEO and co-founder Perkins tells Tech in Asia. “In years gone by, sales people would create a sales letter, it’d be very text-heavy. But now they’re expected to create a beautiful, visual pitch-deck, perhaps customized for the customers they’re trying to reach.”

Screenshot credit: Canva

The shift to more visuals also applies to teachers, entrepreneurs, marketers, and non-profits, says Perkins. That’s why she wanted to make a tool that’s very different to heavyweight graphic design apps. “Simple, online, and collaborative” – those were three priorities when constructing Canva, she says. It works in your browser, or there are apps for mobile.

The three-year pitch

While some Canva features can be used for free, others – like the ability to collaborate with more than 10 team members – require a monthly subscription. The startup also makes money from a marketplace of add-ons for things like stock images, plus it offers printing services in 31 countries.

Perkins is happy that Canva is turning a profit. “It’s atypical if you compare to most Silicon Valley companies,” she chuckles. “But there’s so much more for us to do. We’re a baby unicorn. It’s early days for us yet.”

The marketing and management grad spent several years prior to Canva’s August 2013 launch chasing funding for her startup concept.

“A lot of trials and tribulations. A lot of time pitching in San Francisco, trying to get investors on board. Trying to get people to join my team. I had a lot of rejection along the way,” she recalls. “I think it was three years between meeting the first investor and actually landing the investment.”

She concedes there was a lot of initial pressure from those US investors to move across the Pacific, but Perkins resisted. Canva now has 250 staffers across its Sydney HQ and branch office in Manila.

“It’s been an incredible benefit being based in Australia. We’ve been able to attract incredible tech talent, from Australia and across the globe. We’ve also been able to get the best of both worlds – we have investors from Silicon Valley, we go there quite regularly, and we’ve been able to tap into their network.”

The recent fundraise marks Sequoia Capital’s first time backing Canva. Australia-based Blackbird Ventures led the round.

Perkins is keeping Canva’s number of active users and subscribers under her hat. But she says that everyone from small businesses to massive companies are designing items with the tool, with 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies having used it at some point. Free access to premium features is given to 17,000 non-profit organizations.

Canva is up against not only giants like Adobe (InDesign, Photoshop), Microsoft (PowerPoint), and Apple (Pages, Keynote), but also an array of slimmer and sleeker apps and tools from startups like Sketch, Figma, Easel.ly, Visual.ly, and Piktochart.

Update (Jan. 10, 3:00 pm): Added list of rivals

See: How Facebook is eating the internet with good design

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:38:28 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450886 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Looking for a job? Search thousands of jobs for free on Tech in Asia Jobs.

The mid-morning chatter trailed off as Airfrov CEO and co-founder Cai Li walked into the room and reached for a bell perched on a cabinet. 

The bell rings. 

The 10-odd members of the product and marketing teams rise to their feet for their daily standup meeting. I rise with them. 

A user joins in the daily standup meetings as far as possible. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

An Airfrov user joins the team’s daily standup meeting whenever schedules align. I was the user in the hot seat that day. After a brief round of introductions, Cai turns to me and asks, “So, what do you not like about Airfrov, and how can it be improved?”

The story of Airfrov

The name Airfrov represents the sharing economy enabled by frequent air travelers. It also plays on Cai’s inexplicable love for the Afro hairstyle. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

Airfrov is a C2C marketplace that connects travelers with buyers seeking goods from their destinations.

Founded in 2015 by Cai and Robi Ng, the concept was born from an opportunity that Cai spotted while working in a job that required frequent traveling. Every time he traveled, his friends and girlfriend would request for items exclusive to these countries. Through Airfrov, travelers can now get a small monetary incentive for purchasing items requested by buyers. In exchange, buyers get to enjoy imported products without having to pay hefty shipping fees.

The platform is now operational in Singapore and Indonesia, and processes over 800 requests daily.

Keeping users at the forefront of decision-making

Cai credits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ concept of “the empty chair” for Airfrov’s daily user sit-in sessions. Bezos is known to leave an empty seat at meetings to represent the Amazon customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Cai, however, tweaked that idea for Airfrov. “Instead of keeping the seat empty, I thought, why not invite a real customer?” he says.

Users are constantly dropping by the Airfrov office to deposit or collect items, allowing Cai to involve them in the research and development process.

Identifying user problems first-hand

By getting feedback directly from users, the product and marketing teams can gain insights and spot pain points that are easily overlooked by the UX team.

“Instead of looking into completing specific tasks, we get to see how people use Airfrov on a daily basis,” shares Cai.

One of the first things that Cai and the team noticed was the duplication of requests from other buyers.

Image credit: Airfrov

“We noticed users coming in to say that they wished that they could copy and paste what others were requesting, so they don’t have to go through the whole process of creating a new request,” explains Cai. “As such, we came up with the ‘I want this too!’ button, which has become a core feature of our product today.”

Motivation for the team

According to Cai, bringing in users gives the team strong motivation. “It lets them know that whatever they’re doing is going to impact the life of this user,” he adds.

Taking this approach, however, also means that users can see the nitty-gritty of the product development process. Doesn’t this kind of exposure bother Cai?

“Not really,” he laughs. “We want to involve the users as much as possible in this process. We want them to see how difficult decisions are made. And we would rather that they give us feedback early on.”

The next steps

The information gathered from this process either ends with a new feature in Airfrov’s future iteration, or in the idea graveyard. Here’s how the process looks like.

Image credit: Joshua Lim

Improvements to the product development process

Going forward, Cai wants Airfrov’s engineers to be more involved in the user experience side of the business. As he points out, “Part of our onboarding process requires everyone at Airfrov, including engineers, to be in customer service and learn to serve our customers. But after the onboarding process, they are no longer the ones speaking to users.”

Cai tries to get engineers to speak to users at least once a month, but their involvement is limited because of Airfrov’s resources.

“We have to set aside time for them to do that, but right now, we can’t afford to,” he says. “I wish that they would be able to speak more to our users and see the customer’s problems for themselves. This will give them a better idea of the big picture, and the role they’re playing to solve these problems.”

Can Airfrov retain its close relationship with users when the company scales, and one-to-one interactions become less feasible?

“Why not?” asks Cai. “All it takes is for us to continue to show care and concern, and seek honest feedback. If users truly enjoy the product, they will be more than happy to join us on this journey.”

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 04:40:04 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450620 China’s startups and tech giants pulled in a record US$58.8 billion from investors in 2017, according to the Tech in Asia database. That’s up a few billion from 2016’s tally.

There was no sign of the giant bubble that some dreaded in 2016 after an explosion of local tech funds poured new – and very inexperienced – cash sources into the market.

“I think there are always ups, downs, and bubbles for specific verticals and sectors of funding. That was the case for bike-sharing and autonomous cars in 2017,” said Edith Yeung, partner and China boss at US-based 500 Startups. “Investors are hopeful they would see a Didi for bike-sharing,” she added, referencing China’s dominant ride-hailing app.

2017’s bumper haul came despite fewer funding rounds, resulting in a record-high average round of US$33.6 million a pop.

The year’s largest single investment was worth US$5.5 billion, went to Didi Chuxing. The startup raised a total of US$9.5 billion in 2017 as it ploughs cash into AI, a self-driving car research lab, and its hotly anticipated plans to expand beyond mainland China. Its expansion manifested itself yesterday when Didi acquired a Brazilian ride-hail app to get a grip on the fast-growing Latin America market that Uber covets so much.

See: China’s 10 biggest investments in 2017

Top gear

Didi and the bike-share startups – especially Mobike and Ofo – contributed to the logistics and transportation sector attracting the most funding, just as it did in 2016. Here’s the top five this year:

Finance startups – aka “fintech” – raised half of what they did last year as China’s quick start in this sector in the past decade has resulted in several niches – online lending, insurance, etc – being dominated by big-name players. On top of that, a handful of Chinese fintech firms went public in 2017, led by insurer Zhong An. Money raised from an IPO is not shown in our data.

More moolah for mature startups

This year’s figures show a surprise resurgence in investor interest in more mature startups, particularly for series D investments.

As previous years have shown, funding for more established startups can fluctuate wildly.

But Azeem Azhar, author of the Exponential View newsletter, predicts that trend will persist and be seen globally in 2018. “More money will flow into technology but it will be concentrated at later stages. Following Softbank’s lead, funds bigger than US$5 billion will abound now that the investment case of platform monopolies is well understood. These will seek to back emerging winners at a regional and global level – look at Careem and Didi in ride-sharing, for example,” he writes.

“This may create funding gaps at earlier stages in the market, as already evidenced by the seed capital slowdown in Europe and the US,” added Azhar. That also seems to be happening in China.

But for very young startups seeking seed funding for initial growth, there’s a big new factor in play – ICOs, otherwise known as coin offerings.

“Many startups are raising ICOs rather than seed rounds,” said Yeung after getting a sneak peek at Tech in Asia‘s data. “I believe the ICO is here to stay. This is not necessarily reflected in the graph.” Indeed, our figures don’t include money raised through an ICO.

China saw 65 coin offerings raising over US$394 million in the first half of 2017, but September’s ban on ICOs brought that to a halt.

Despite that shutdown, Yeung believes blockchain and cryptocurrencies remain a “significant trend for the Chinese startup environment.” She continued: “I do believe China will make a huge comeback in the virtual currency space.”

See: As ecommerce steamrolls retail, China’s stores fight back with tech

Shop, shop, shop

2017 was the year a lot of China’s tech money poured into old-fashioned retail. Online shopping giant Alibaba was already doing this a few years before Amazon’s shock Whole Foods deal, but Jack Ma’s company accelerated its drive into brick-and-mortar stores this year by opening more of its own supermarkets.

Its chain, dubbed Hema, first appeared in 2015.

When a customer shops at a Hema store, their preferences are saved in its app. That makes it easier to order online and get deliveries if you prefer to do it that way next time.

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

Alibaba’s supermarkets put a lot of focus on fresh foods. It’s aliiiiive!

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

There are chefs in-store ready to cook up what you buy, which you can then eat in the canteen – as Ma and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang are doing here.

Alibaba, Jack Ma, Hema supermarket

Photo credit: Alibaba

Or you could order the food online and get the cooked meal delivered to your door.

Alibaba plans to open 30 more such stores across China in 2018.

In November, Alibaba invested US$2.9 billion into a massive supermarket chain as it seeks to improve real-world shopping by injecting it with a lot of tech.

Archrivals Tencent and JD also made their own tentative moves into grocery stores, though the ramifications of those actions won’t be seen until a little later in the new year.

JD started 2018 with a bang by showing off its 7Fresh stores, which feature these self-steering carts that follow you around.

JD 7Fresh smart shopping cart

Photo credit: JD

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 13:58:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450907

Photo credit: WeWork

WeWork, the co-working space company from the US, is launching its first of four imminent locations in Japan on February 1, a spokesperson told Tech in Asia.

The US$20 billion startup is making a grand entrance into Japan, with three more Tokyo locations opening soon after Roppongi’s Ark Hills South space. The three others are in Ginza, Shinbashi, and Marunouchi Kitaguchi.

Prices start at US$490 per month for a seat – aka a “hot desk” – to US$1,145 per month for a private office.

The announcement comes five months after WeWork pocketed US$4.4 billion from Japan’s Softbank. WeWork has already indicated it eventually wants to open 10 to 20 locations in central Tokyo.

Photo credit: WeWork

One of many such startups running casual office facilities around the world, WeWork first hit Asia in mid-2016 when it appeared in Shanghai.

If WeWork’s Tokyo locations are anything like the one opened last month in Singapore, they’ll soon be filled by a mix of budding entrepreneurs, fast-growing startups, medium-sized business, and even major corporations.

Converted from Japanese yen. Rate: US$1 = JPY 112.55.

Watch: WeWork’s Southeast Asia ambitions

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017

This post WeWork to open first of 4 Tokyo locations on February 1 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:49:24 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450310 Mega-rounds of funding were back in India this year, after a lull in 2016. But this time they came from the east.

SoftBank honcho Masayoshi Son remains hugely bullish on India despite setbacks in a couple of big bets made on entering the market in late 2014. The Japanese giant announced a US$2.5 billion investment in Flipkart for the local ecommerce player to fight Amazon. Out of that, US$1.5 billion has already been invested. This came on top of US$1.4 billion Flipkart raised from Tencent, Microsoft, and eBay earlier in the year.

India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners.

“India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners in India because they are best positioned to leverage technology and help people lead better lives,” said Son.

SoftBank’s initial bet was on Snapdeal but it had to write down the investment as that ecommerce marketplace rapidly lost market share with the rise of Amazon India in 2016. The Snapdeal founders walked out of a merger with Flipkart after months of negotiation. Its Japanese backer then washed its hands of the deal and invested directly in Flipkart.

See: Ex-VP of Alibaba Porter Erisman on clash of ecommerce models, costly mistakes

SoftBank also made a solo investment of US$1.4 billion in leading payments app Paytm, and doubled down on Uber’s arch rival in India, Ola. The Japanese investor also picked up a large stake in Uber this year, which almost guarantees it will hold sway over ride-hailing in India.

SoftBank’s fourth big bet was to lead a US$250 million round in Oyo Rooms in a bid to win the budget accommodation space, after selling off real estate portal Housing to PropTiger.

The other big players in India this year were Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba. While the maker of WeChat is now a major stakeholder in Flipkart, Alibaba is helping to build out Paytm Mall on the lines of Tmall and Alipay supports Paytm’s payments app.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017/feed 4 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 00:30:34 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450136 China saw a bit of a slowdown in startup funding in 2017, with the US$51.6 billion ploughed into tech companies lower than 2016’s US$53.9 billion, according to the Tech in Asia database.

Despite the drop, the average deal size grew, reaching a record US$31.9 million a pop.

Here are the 10 biggest tech investments of the year, starting at the lower end of the scale.

10th: Cainiao

Created by Alibaba in 2013 in partnership with 15 Chinese delivery companies, the spinoff firm was designed to speed up online shopping.

Photo credit: Alibaba

Alibaba initially had a small stake in Cainiao, but this latest investment bumps that up to 51 percent, giving it the majority interest.

9th: Mobike

Mobike might’ve raised less than Ofo in 2017, but it still had a good year, matching its archrival’s tire print in reaching 200 cities around the globe.

Photo credit: luoxi / 123RF

Both Mobike and Ofo managed to squeeze out a few smaller Chinese rivals, with three competing startups collapsing in November.

Tencent and Foxconn are among Mobike’s investors.

8th: Ele.me

Ele.me does food delivery using a fleet of electric scooters. At the latest count, the service claims to have 260 million users across 2,000 Chinese cities, ordering meals from 1.3 million restaurants.

Alibaba and its payment wing Ant Financial are rumored to have led this latest round, repeating the US$1.3 billion the online shopping giant threw at Ele.me in April 2016.

7th: Bytedance

You’ve probably never heard of Bytedance, which is fine because neither have most people in China. They do, however, know Toutiao, the startup’s smash-hit news app.

Pulling together news from around China’s “innernette”, Toutiao has 120 million readers each day who spend an average 74 minutes flicking through the app – double the time spent on Snapchat.

The startup last month acquired Musical.ly, adding the social network to its growing global media empire that includes Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

music, teens, millennials

A Musical.ly user performs. GIF by Tech in Asia, from video by The Best Musical.ly.

Bytedance is said to be worth around US$20 billion.

See: China’s most addictive news app eyes world domination with AI

6th: Koubei

Koubei is yet another Alibaba spinoff. Jack Ma started it to ensure that his company doesn’t miss out on retail and restaurant spending.

Baked into its Alipay wallet app, the service combines local listings with deals. Although food is a big part of it, Koubei doesn’t do deliveries (in contrast to Ele.me and Meituan-Dianping, which are also on this list).

5th: Ofo

Just like Mobike, Ofo had a busy year with global expansion.

Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Didi Chuxing are among its investors.

4th: NIO

After starting out as NextEV racing in the Formula E championship for electric single-seaters, NIO’s rebranding heralded the startup’s switch to being a proper automaker.

NIO this month unveiled its first production car, the ES8.

NIO, cars, electric cars

Photo credit: NIO

Starting at US$68,000, the electric SUV is a bold challenge to the luxo-barges so popular with China’s middle-class, such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. It’ll also go up against the Model X, although Tesla’s hyperspeed minivan costs twice as much. Now up for pre-order, the ES8 arrives sometime in the first half of 2018.

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu are among NIO’s backers.

3rd: Daikuan

Here’s another unfamiliar name. Daikuan is part of China’s huge boom in online financial services – aka “fintech” – that includes an array of loans startups where ordinary people can earn interest from offering up their cash to borrowers.

Daikuan is different from most fintech startups in that it focuses only on loans for buyers of secondhand cars.

2nd: Meituan-Dianping

This giant startup combines two sites – Meituan and Dianping – and does listings, deals, and deliveries, putting it on a collision course with Alibaba’s Koubei and Alibaba-backed Ele.me.

To make that rivalry even edgier, Tencent – Alibaba’s nemesis – is a major backer.

1st: Didi Chuxing

Even after getting money from Apple and forcing Uber to wave the white flag in 2016, Didi still managed to raise eyebrows this year with its US$5.5 billion in April – which at the time was the second biggest investment into a tech firm.

Apple's Tim Cook with Didi's Jean Liu, pictured in Beijing shortly after Apple's investment was announced. Photo credit: Tim Cook on Twitter.

Apple’s Tim Cook with Didi’s Jean Liu. Photo credit: Tim Cook’s Twitter

Didi repeatedly promised global expansion throughout the year, but that didn’t happen. Nonetheless, with the ride-hailing app said to be prepping a move into Brazil, 2018 could be the year that Didi steps onto the world stage to challenge Uber once again.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post China’s 10 biggest investments in 2017 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 03:00:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=222199 The year 2017 saw Southeast Asian startups strike a record US$7.8 billion in disclosed funding deals, according to the Tech in Asia Database. That’s a 212 percent jump from 2016’s US$2.5 billion.

This begs the question: who are the biggest all-time winners when it comes to raising money in the region? We’ve got you covered – in the glorious infographic below.


top funded startups southeast asia 2017 02
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 03
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 04
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 05
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 06
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 07
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 08
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 09
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 10

This article and graphic was updated December 28, 2017.

Design by Andre Gunawan

This post Here are the 15 best-funded startups in Southeast Asia (infographic) appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia/feed 13 https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 00:30:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450080 A startup from China is all set to reveal its augmented reality glasses – and take a shot at the big break that’ll help it expand to the US.

Rokid Glass, to be shown at CES 2018 next month in Las Vegas, is the team’s first wearable gadget after years of making gizmos for the home. Here’s a prototype:

AR glasses

Photo montage by Tech in Asia, using image from Rokid

Reynold Wu, product director at Rokid and the man charged with bringing the AR glasses to market, was an early adopter and big fan of Google Glass, the much-mocked headset that never really caught on. He feels that both technology and consumers have moved on a lot since Google’s effort was first made public in mid-2012.

“The battery… The components… The camera is much smaller,” says Wu, and these fast-moving changes should help the startup’s product be sleeker and funkier. “I can’t say it’s perfect timing, but it’s better timing now,” he tells Tech in Asia.

Also on Wu’s side is the fact that people are showing a decent amount of enthusiasm for AR right now, which can do a lot of useful and fun things. The success of Pokemon Go proves that beyond doubt.

However, that’s all happening on the phones that people already own, like this IKEA app for seeing how new furniture will look in your home.

IKEA AR app

GIF credit: Adweek

Getting people to fork out for a new gadget devoted entirely to AR will still be a big ask.

Rokid Glass takes voice inputs as well as heeds commands users make with their hands. It also has a touchpad, in case people feel more comfortable using that.

Between the eyes you’ll notice there’s a camera. The lenses are also OLED screens

AR glasses

Photo credit: Rokid

The wearable gadget will run a version of Android, making it open to apps. Wu sees Glass being suited to navigation and product recognition apps in particular.

“A lot of apps are too distracting,” he observes, thinking of how they’ll appear before your eyes in AR. He also wants to ensure its users stay safe as they walk along the street. And so Rokid will initially focus on getting useful apps onto Glass, though they’ll show off the gadget to CES 2018 visitors with a game controllable with gestures.

“We want to give you glasses that improve your life, not make you think you’re in a virtual world,” says the mechanical and electrical engineer.

Adding lightness

A big objective is to ensure that Rokid Glass is “light and fashionable,” adds Wu.

He points to Snapchat’s Spectacles – which were basically just a glorified webcam – as proof that crucial components have now shrunk down enough to allow firms to make more stylish wearables.

Snapchat Spectacles

GIF credit: Snapchat

And so Rokid Glass will be as slim as possible, avoiding the awkwardness of Magic Leap’s AR headset, which was shown off just before Christmas.

Magic Leap AR glasses

Photo credit: Magic Leap

There’s also the 900-pound gorilla in the room: Apple. The iPhone maker is rumored to be looking into AR glasses as its next wearable niche after pushing AR hard with its latest iPhones. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook in October said that at present, “the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way.” He added: “We don’t give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people’s experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.”

Established in 2014, Rokid makes the AI that goes with its gadgets, such as its Pebble smart speakers, which come with a voice assistant. That AI assistant is now busy learning English, as the startup aims first at the US with its AR glasses. There’s no set price or launch date yet, but it’s looking towards sales later in 2018.

During its CES debut, the startup intends to meet with potential customers as well as get feedback on Glass.

CES 2018 opens January 9.

This post Chinese startup beats Apple to the punch with its AR glasses appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:00:53 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449999

Photo credit: HelloBike.

In case you missed it, here’s the latest tech news from across Asia.

Transportation

New bike-sharing contender nabs funding (China). Hello Bike just scored a US$500 million funding round as it seeks to challenge the top two Chinese players, Mobike and Ofo. Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, however. (Tech in Asia)

‘Didi for bikes’ gets shut down (China). Inspired by motorcycle ride-hailing services such as Grab, an app called Lude Chuxing rolled out in China this month, enabling people to drive passengers on motorbikes and three-wheeled cars known as ‘sanlunche.’ But local authorities banned the app just three days after its launch due to violations of transport rules. (Technode)

Finance

Lendingkart raises US$3.8 million in debt (India). The financing from the State Bank of India will be mainly used to expand the New Delhi-based lending startup’s loan book. Lendingkart allows small businesses to easily apply for credit online, bypassing banks and other traditional institutions. It uses algorithms to score loan applications. (Inc42)

Big tech

Google may launch retail stores (India). Google is exploring the idea of physical retail stores in India to boost sales of its Pixel smartphones, according to sources familiar with the matter. The US firm has seen an encouraging response to more than a dozen pop-up stores that opened in malls to showcase the second-generation Pixel phones. India, the world’s second biggest mobile market, is currently dominated by Samsung and Chinese players like Xiaomi and Oppo. (Reuters)

This post Asia tech news roundup – Dec 27 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 05:55:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449974

Photo credit: Andrew Gook / Unsplash

Look out, Mobike and Ofo (or “Mofo,” as I like to call China’s top two bike-share apps). A new contender has just emerged, thanks to US$500 million in funding.

The huge injection into Hello Bike shows investors are not spooked by the collapse of three smaller dockless bike services in the past few months.

Hello Bike today announced US$153 million on top of the US$350 million it revealed December 12, making for a blockbuster half-billion bucks combined series D fundraising. Its aim is to stop being the third wheel in China’s growing bike-share market and thereby challenge the mighty Mofo.

The money “will be allocated toward diversifying our transportation solutions,” a Hello Bike representative tells Tech in Asia, along the lines of what’s dubbed its “3510” strategy. That means “bike-sharing, ebike-sharing, and car-sharing for three, five, and ten kilometers and above, respectively,” the representative adds. The startup has yet to announce what it’ll do on four wheels.

While Mobike is known for its orange steeds and Ofo for its yellow, HelloBike sticks to its fresh white-and-blue colorway:

Photo credit: Hello Bike

With 10 million daily rides across 150 Chinese cities, Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, reported New Seed today. Ofo has 5.1 million app users each day versus Mobike’s 4.9 million – but Hello Bike is way behind with just 750,000, according to a research group’s data.

Unlike Mobike and Ofo, Hello Bike has yet to expand beyond its home nation.

Fosun Group and GGV Capital led the US$153 million round.

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = 6.55 RMB.

(Updated December 28: Added investors. Updated December 29: Added comments from Hello Bike.)

See more:

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 02:30:29 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449717

Photo credit : jetcityimage / 123RF

Amazon rolled out its Prime subscription service in Singapore just in time for the Christmas holiday, following the launch of the Prime Now fast delivery app in July. But these moves might not have been enough to tempt shoppers away from local ecommerce options.

While neither Amazon nor its competitors like to get too descriptive with their numbers, the latest data shows that Amazon is ranking below local rivals like Lazada in the shopping category of both the Android and iOS app stores.

However, app rankings do not tell the whole story. Amazon is currently not firing on all cylinders in Southeast Asia. It still has a chance to catch up, if it decides to add heat to the simmer.

Just a scratch

According to data gathered by App Annie, Amazon Prime’s rank rose sharply on December 7, just after the service launched, before slipping back down to double digits a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, Lazada – Amazon’s Alibaba-backed competitor – has enjoyed a consistently high ranking throughout the month, peaking at no. 1 in the shopping category between December 12 and 15. This is likely due to the 12.12 promotion, a sales event similar to Singles Day and Black Friday, in which several other websites participated but Amazon skipped.

The app also wasn’t able to surpass the rankings of other competitors like Qoo10, Shopee, and Redmart.

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings Google Play

It’s a very different picture compared to July and August, when the Prime Now app enjoyed top-5 positions (although it was freely available to all users at the time).

The situation is similar in the entertainment category rankings, where Prime Video doesn’t quite reach the heights of global competitor Netflix and local streaming services Toggle and Viu. None of those apps show any dips in the rankings as a result of Amazon’s product availability.

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings Google Play

Android is the mobile platform of choice in Singapore. In 2017, it had a market share of 60 percent, while iOS captured 27.4 percent of the market, according to Statcounter.

Prime Video is part of Amazon Prime’s subscription, which costs S$8.99 per month (currently offered at S$2.99 per month). Amazon also offers a 30-day free trial period, which is probably ongoing for most users, considering the service launched in early December. For what’s effectively a free service, the low app ranking raises an eyebrow.

One possible reason for this is its readiness for the market. Much like Netflix when it launched in Singapore in early 2016, Amazon’s catalog is still not large or localized enough.

Netflix worked hard to rectify that in the past couple of years, so it follows that Amazon will be doing the same in the future. Bu the US giant needs to move fast – its rivals are not minnows.

Lazada CEO Max Bittner has previously said his company can fight off competitors, thanks to Alibaba’s deep pockets and its own emphasis on logistics and fulfillment. “Alibaba [is] here to stay. We’re here to stay. [We’ll focus] on what distinguishes us, and we’ll match whatever we can match,” he told the audience at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2017 in November.

Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore.

As part of NYSE-listed Sea, Shopee is also in a strong position to defend its turf, with its parent company raising US$894 million through its IPO, on top of more than US$1.5 billion across a number of private rounds.

In terms of sheer numbers, competitors like Lazada and Shopee have more to offer shoppers at the moment. “These two local marketplaces are well established with a lot more product options,” explains Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester. “Consumers don’t find strong motivations to switch, unless they have the urgency to go with Amazon Prime Now’s two-hour delivery.”

All’s not lost for the US giant

The fact that Amazon is lagging behind its rival at the moment is not surprising. “Amazon only has its mobile app, Prime Now, available in Singapore – not the marketplace,” says Wang.

Indeed, most Singaporean shoppers buying stuff on Amazon are used to the US site, which until recently would offer free shipping to the city-state for orders above a certain value. With the Prime subscription launch in Singapore, that’s now over.

Because Amazon’s offering in Singapore is at present confined in the Prime mobile and video apps, shoppers seem dissatisfied with the limited product range on offer.

That said, it seems that the sheer brand power of Jeff Bezos’ joint was enough to rank Prime among the country’s most popular ecommerce and entertainment apps.

Also, Amazon has not really engaged in sales and promotions so far. “Amazon hasn’t done much marketing and promotion campaigns in the local market since [launch], while Lazada and Shopee both participated in 12.12,” notes Wang.

Despite this, an Amazon spokesperson tells Tech in Asia the company is “thrilled with customer reaction to Amazon’s arrival in Singapore, including the launch of Prime.”

The US firm says it doesn’t focus on competitors – it obsesses over customers instead. “In every country where Amazon operates, there is a lot of competition. But we believe competition is good for customers. At the same time, we feel good about our ability to offer this unique and valuable program to our customers in Singapore,” adds the spokesperson.

Before Amazon landed in the Lion City, Lazada got busy launching a quasi-competitor to Prime. Called LiveUp, it’s a subscription service that combines Lazada and its online grocery Redmart, as well as Taobao, Netflix, and Uber. Subscribers get benefits like free shipping, discounts, rebates, and other freebies.

While Lazada doesn’t share figures on LiveUp subscriptions, the S$49.90 annual fee is an attractive proposition for users of the aforementioned services. The Prime subscription could be appealing as well, but not with several elements still missing, like Prime Music and Prime Reading.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Storming the castle

Wang believes Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore. “Consumers would be interested in Amazon’s unique products such as Echo, Kindle, digital books. Amazon should play by its strengths and provide the marketplace with more product options to local consumers,” she stresses.

Some industry watchers think Amazon could accelerate its presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia by acquiring local companies.

“With time running out for a full-fledged, organic entry into the high-growth markets of Southeast Asia, its stock trading at all-time high, and not too distant memories of failure in China, we expect Amazon to attempt at least one major acquisition in 2018 to accelerate its regional expansion,” writes Sheji Ho, group chief marketing officer at ecommerce enabler aCommerce.

Amazon does not discuss its plans for the region but there’s probably more services and products on the way. As the company spokesperson says, “While we can’t provide details yet about future Prime benefit additions, we can safely say that we aren’t done. We will keep making Prime better and better in Singapore, adding more selection, finding ways to make it faster, and adding more benefits including great quality entertainment.”

This post Amazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 08:28:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449858 This week’s roundup features horse-racing analytics, a platform that enables travel-related side gigs, and a fledgling enterprise focused on end-of-life preps for Japan’s aging population.

Gauss

AI-focused Gauss is collaborating with fashion brand ANAP  to create a site where users can upload images of clothes, allowing it to search the web for similar items.

Now in beta version, the startup is also working on another joint project: SIVA, a horse-racing predictive tool. Siva gathers information from tens of thousands of races every day to bring big data to the world of horse racing.

In addition, Gauss is developing other AI data analytic tools as well as natural language processing features.

Gauss recently received US$1.5 million from three companies, including ANAP and job portal DIP Corp.  

Sagojo

Sagojo enables travelers to turn their experiences into a side gig. The company lists jobs that people can apply for, such as uploading photo diaries, writing articles about unique travel experiences, and so on. Since its release a year and a half ago, the startup has acquired 7,500 registered users, of which 200 plus are using it for work purposes.

While Sagojo did not disclose details, it recently accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars from Anex Ventures, Apptli, and multiple angel investors.

Crowd Cast

Created by Crowd Cast, Staple is an app that simplifies expense reporting for small to medium-sized businesses. More than 10,000 companies are using the service, and the startup is acquiring new customers at a rate of about 300 per month. The service is partnered with more than 10 accounting softwares and other programs like Office 365 for seamless integration.

Crowd Cast just received US$880,000 from business partner MTI.  

New Revo 

Developed by New Revo, Logikura is looking to digitize Japan’s antiquated logistics industry by moving  it past analog forms of management like fax, paper, and email. Its cloud-based AI platform can do everything from creating barcodes and shipping labels to managing invoices.

The company estimates that in Japan alone, there is about US$480 billion of excess inventory sitting in warehouses. Logikura’s goal is to reduce time spent on logistics by 80 percent and cut excess inventory by 30 percent. To achieve the latter goal, it’s working on an AI analytics demand prediction tool.

Logikura is not yet available to the public, but about 50 companies have pre-registered since it started the process in mid-November.

The company recently secured US$440,000 from Genesia Ventures from its third round of fundraising.  

Baseconnect

After graduating from accelerator Code Republic’s second batch of startups in April, Baseconnect is ending 2017 by raising a seed round of over US$880,000 from several investors, including Genesia Capital, Mizuho Capital, Kyoto Startup Support Fund, User Local, YJ Capital, and East Ventures.

Baseconnect is developing BaseconnectList, a database of business contacts that can be used for sales. Thousands of businesses contact lists can be accessed in about 30 seconds.

A beta version of BaseconnectList is up and running, but it’s not open to the public for now.

Shuukatsu Netto

The brainchild of by 22-year-old University of Tokyo student Shota Iwasaki, Shuukatsu Netto is a website that zeroes in on end-of-life preparations for Japan’s ageing populace.

While lots of Japanese startups are addressing the inevitable problems that come post-population decline such as workforce deterioration, Shuukatsu Netto deals with more pressing issues in the now, such as elderly care. The site features articles about funeral ceremonies, grave sites, and other related concerns, written by a team of 20 people. Most of its readers are 40- to 50-year-olds who are making preparations for their parents.

Shuukatsu Netto just raised a round of US$730,000 from a round led by angel investor Yuto Kono of Genesia Ventures,This follows its seed round and brings its total funding to over US$880,000.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 01:15:20 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449268

Photo credit: Alibaba.

🎵You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why – Jack Ma is coming to town. 🎶

A bit like Santa Claus, Alibaba founder Ma each year draws up a list, checks it twice, finds out who’s naughty or nice – and then invests in the nicest startups.

In a good year for Alibaba – its valuation doubled to well over US$400 billion – it spent big on investments. In 2017, its top 10 payouts were worth US$11 billion – though that was nearly US$2 billion less than its record 2015 spending spree.

Three of this year’s were overseas, showing how the Chinese tech giant is advancing deeper into India and Southeast Asia.

Here’s this year’s top action. The indicated funding figure may include contributions from other investors.

1. Sun Art

Six months after Amazon acquired Whole Foods, Alibaba made its own bold move into groceries. Paying nearly US$3 billion for a one-third stake, Alibaba invested in Sun Art Retail, which operates several well-known supermarket brands including RT-Mart and the China-based stores of French chain Auchan.

However, the deal wasn’t Alibaba’s first move into offline stores…

2. Intime

Alibaba made its first serious push into brick-and-mortar retail back in early 2014 when it ploughed nearly US$700 million into department store and mall firm Intime. Alibaba started 2017 with a bang by coughing up a further US$2.6 billion to take control of Intime.

Photo credit: Intime.

On top of other moves – US$100 million this year for Lianhua Supermarkets and US$4.6 billion for gadgets and appliances store Suning in 2015 – this deal sees Alibaba shaking up shops by injecting “data-driven technology and personalized services […] integrating online and physical channels together,” in the words of Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

That basically means making offline retail more efficient and having it double as warehousing for ecommerce.

3. Tokopedia

2017 saw Alibaba make progressively bigger and ballsier bets outside its home nation, investing more in overseas startups than ever before.

In August, it doubled down on its 2016 Lazada acquisition – which gave the Chinese firm an online shopping empire across much of Southeast Asia – by throwing a lot of money at Indonesian ecommerce app Tokopedia.

4. Lazada

Alibaba upped its stake in Lazada in April, paying an extra billion bucks to go from 51 to 83 percent.

“The ecommerce markets in the region are still relatively untapped, and we see a very positive upward trajectory ahead of us,” said Zhang in a statement. “We will continue to put our resources to work in Southeast Asia through Lazada to capture these growth opportunities.”

5. Ele.me

24 up-and-coming tech founders to watch in China

Photo credit: Technode.

China’s growing hunger for food delivery led Alibaba to once again invest in Ele.me, which emerged as the leading meal-delivery app from the boom in local service startups across China in the past few years.

Archrival Tencent is also an investor.

6. Cainiao

Cainiao is Alibaba’s logistics wing, running a network of warehouses and trucking partners. The service handles 57 million deliveries a day.

This latest investment takes Alibaba’s Cainiao stake up to 51 percent.

A few months back, Cainiao showed off its first highly automated package sorting facility, where robots do most of the work.

7. Ofo

Ofo is one of China’s top two bike-share apps alongside Mobike.

In a year when many such services struggled – and at least three swerved towards bankruptcy – both Ofo and Mobike were bolstered by colossal funding rounds as they raced to expand overseas.

Ofo bike, Shanghai

Photo credit: Steven Millward / Tech in Asia.

Ofo operates in over 180 cities across 15 countries, generating more than 25 million daily rides.

8. Souche

Souche – literally “search car” in Chinese – lives up to its name as a search engine for secondhand car buyers. It also offers auto financing.

The startup is eyeing a US IPO at the end of 2018.

9. Yiguo

Fresh foods app Yiguo operates in more than 200 cities across China, with those in some of the largest cities getting same-day delivery.

This was Alibaba’s fourth time backing Yiguo. As with its investments in other retailers, the funding allows Alibaba to get a logistics boost – in this case, it taps into the startup’s well-developed network of refrigerated delivery trucks.

10. BigBasket

Over in India, Alibaba is in the late stages of a move to invest in groceries startup BigBasket, according to a number of sources. BigBasket is up against Amazon’s Now service.

If this goes through, it’ll be the Chinese firm’s biggest India bet since it backed shopping and mobile wallet app Paytm. Indeed, Paytm is said to be lining up to join this BigBasket round.

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia#respond Sat, 23 Dec 2017 08:43:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449230 These five entrepreneurs – aged 25 and under – are already building big things.

Transcript:

From deep learning to solar energy, we’ve lined up 5 entrepreneurs 25 and under who prove youth is no barrier to success.

Annabelle Kwok, 24

Annabelle’s university days were filled with hackathons and maker faires. The self-professed hobbyist soon took it more seriously and won a prestigious hackathon in Singapore. Along the way, Annabelle received numerous job offers – including from Microsoft. But the corporate life just wasn’t for her. She went on to work at Garena, but then took time off to join a circus. Yes – a circus. Annabelle started Smartcow to make a kind of Raspberry Pi for AI. The device, Tera, is an alternative to cloud computing, enabling users to store and process large amounts of data on hardware near them. It’s already being used to study rat movement in Singapore’s sewage system, where Tera is loaded with software to recognize and detect rat movements based on thermal images.

Leandro Leviste, 24

Out to solve the problem of pricey electricity in the Philippines, Leandro’s firm, Solar Philippines, develops rooftop solar plants. The Yale graduate was inspired by how companies in the US and Europe were quickly adopting solar power as an alternative energy source. The startup first put itself on the map with a project that turned a Manila mall into the biggest solar-powered mall in the world. These days, he’s shifting his focus to rural areas. Leandro is constructing a four megawatt solar-battery farm, which will become the world’s largest island solar-battery microgrid, bringing 24/7 power to up to 20,000 people at zero cost to the Philippines government and at a lower cost to consumers.

Joshua Kevin, 25

Joshua wants to kill off office paperwork with Talenta, a human resources service that helps streamline mundane processes such as payroll and employee database management. Leaping into Indonesia’s startup scene aged 18, Joshua worked with us at Tech In Asia, then at East Ventures and KakaoTalk before starting Talenta in 2013. His startup counts Go-Jek and Grab among its clients.

Shahab Shabibi, 22

Originally from Iran, Shahab already launched two startups – in music streaming and sports media – before moving to the Philippines. He founded the now defunct HeyKuya, a text messaging concierge service. These days, Shahab taps into his own experience of running businesses with Machine Ventures, an incubator that provides financial support and guidance to enterprises trying to start up in the Philippines.

Yao Song, 24

Little is known about Yao, a former Microsoft intern, except that he co-founded DeePhi Tech just over a year ago. Incorporating deep learning, DeePhi aims to increase the processing speed of AI chips and servers while lowering power usage and costs. The company looks to improve the AI efficiency of drones, surveillance cameras, and data centers. His startup secured two rounds of financing in 2017, counting Samsung and Jack Ma’s Ant Financial as early investors.

This post Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye on appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 08:50:10 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449668 Jean Liu, Didi Kuaidi, Didi Chuxing

Jean Liu is president of the ride-hailing startup. Photo credit: Didi Chuxing.

Updated January 4, 2018: Didi just confirmed it’s acquiring Brazil’s 99 in order to access Latin America. The original article below is unchanged.

Brazil is Uber’s third-largest market, with 17 million regular riders. And Sao Paulo is Uber’s biggest city on the planet in terms of rides.

That’s the prize eyed by China’s Didi, the ride-hailing startup that bought Uber’s China business in a shock 2016 deal.

Didi, which is yet to expand beyond its home country, is now plotting a move into Brazil by acquiring a local ride-hailing app, reported The Information yesterday, citing a person familiar with the talks.

Didi started 2017 by investing in 99, so the Chinese firm already has close alliances with the Brazilian startup it’s said to be buying a majority stake.

Formerly 99Taxi, 99 has 140,000 registered drivers in 550 cities across Brazil.

Not just Brazil

But wait, there’s more…

Didi is now plotting its launch in Taiwan, reported Bloomberg this week. The island’s strict stance on the use of private cars as a service means Didi will have to resort to working with cabbies and professional limo drivers.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei’s scooters. Photo credit: Andrew Haimerl / Unsplash.

Similarly, Uber operates in Taiwan in partnership with livery companies – an unusual situation the startup was forced into after being banned from the island for two months earlier in the year.

Yes, master

Behind all this transcontinental tussling is Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016. Photo credit: @SoftBank.

The Softbank supremo has emerged as the puppet master of tech in the past few years, pulling the strings on the numerous startups that his firm, Softbank, has invested in, thanks to its numerous funds – including its latest US$100 billion war chest.

Not coincidentally, Softbank has invested in both Didi and 99, so Son – worth US$22 billion, according to Forbes – has it in his interests to steer the two ride-hailing apps towards a deal.

As the biggest, strongest, and most valuable of the puppets startups linked to Son, Didi stands to benefit the most from consolidation as it will have more power to dictate terms over smaller firms like 99 and Southeast Asia’s Grab.

But the ebullient 60-year-old might be about to complicate the picture by investing in Uber, with Softbank reportedly keen to invest up to US$10 billion – so long as Uber drops its price. In that scenario, it could be Uber that would be strengthened by gobbling up a series of small rivals.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

This post Didi’s next trick is to go global appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 05:00:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449173

Photo credit: Ion Chiosea / 123RF.

From Amazon’s entry to tech leaders’ market debuts and the region’s biggest investments, here’s the rundown of the top tech news that made a splash in Southeast Asia this year (in no particular order).

1. Dave McClure’s fall

The year saw a wave of sexual harassment stories sweep industries across the world. Before the scandal involving Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein broke out, a flood of women in tech came forward with their experiences at the hands of powerful men. Among them was entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh, who accused prolific Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure of sexual assault.

Yeoh, the former CEO of Malaysian innovation agency Magic, claimed McClure propositioned her several times, pushed himself against her, and kissed her against her will in her own apartment in 2014.

Yeoh broke her silence on the incident after another woman, who runs a fitness startup in the US, alleged in a New York Times exposé that McClure sexually harassed her.

The accusations led to a reduction of McClure’s responsibilities at 500 Startups, the VC firm he co-founded, and eventually forced him to quit.

2. Back-to-back public debuts

Southeast Asia’s startup community kept a close watch on the initial public offerings of PC gear maker Razer and Tencent-owned games company Sea late this year.

Based both in San Francisco and Singapore, Razer was well received at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) in November, surging on the first day of trading due to bullish outlook on the company’s sales.

The company, backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, raised US$530 million, which it would use to expand into new verticals, including mobile devices. It unveiled its first smartphone a week before its market debut.

It doesn’t seem like the company will end on a high note at HKEX this year however, as it currently trades below IPO price.

Razer’s listing quickly followed that of Sea’s, which has been viewed as a test of how public markets treat tech firms that have amassed users but are still waiting to turn profitable.

Sea listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October, raising US$884 million. The stock had a rocky start, falling below its IPO price of US$15. Analysts said investors might be jittery about Sea’s future given heavy losses.

Sea listed on NYSE. Photo credit: NYSE.

Formerly known as Garena, Sea started as an online gaming company in 2009 and then branched out to digital payments (AirPay) and ecommerce (Shopee). It previously declared that Shopee was the number one player in an area it defined as “Greater Southeast Asia”. This didn’t sit well with Alibaba-owned Lazada, which for quite sometime has asserted its claim to the throne.

Sea has seen a dramatic increase in its revenue, thanks to its core games business. Yet losses have also widened as the firm continues to spend to capture market share in ecommerce. Nevertheless, Sea believes that Shopee can become a lucrative business on its own over the long term.

3. Amazon’s grand entrance

Speaking of ecommerce, the sector just got a lot more exciting with US behemoth Amazon now in the picture.

After playing the “will they, won’t they” game for a long time, Amazon finally rolled out its two-hour delivery service Prime Now in Singapore last July. Five months later, it introduced the full Prime membership, offering faster and cheaper shipping of items as well as unlimited free international shipping, among others.

But the online retailer experienced growing pains. Prime Now was having trouble fulfilling orders during the first week of its launch and had to fall back on hiring private taxis at one point.

Nevertheless Prime’s arrival not only ups the stakes in Southeast Asia’s ecommerce market, where Amazon is facing off against Shopee, Lazada and another Alibaba-backed player Tokopedia, plus various smaller portals. It also brings Amazon into direct competition with local content streaming players such as iFlix, Hooq, and Viddsee, and global rivals like Netflix.

Anticipating Amazon’s much-talked-about foray, Lazada launched its own membership program as early as April – in collaboration with its online grocery delivery unit Redmart, and other brands like Netflix and Uber.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia.

4. Alibaba’s shopping spree

Jack Ma’s company continued its big push into Southeast Asia, this time leading a US$1.1 billion investment in Indonesia’s Tokopedia.

Alibaba now holds a minority stake in Tokopedia, which is a version of Taobao – the Chinese behemoth’s consumer-to-consumer marketplace. This marks Alibaba’s first direct investment in an Indonesian startup.

In the meantime, Ma’s firm this year hiked its stake in Lazada to 83 percent for roughly US$1 billion.

While Lazada and Tokopedia are competing in Indonesia, sharing the same investor has fueled rumors of a possible alliance.

5. US giant bets on Indonesia

Another mega deal happened in Indonesia in 2017: online travel startup Traveloka’s US$350 million funding round led by Expedia.

The amount brought Traveloka’s total disclosed funding to US$500 million, which included contributions from investors like East Ventures, Hillhouse Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, and Chinese ecommerce firm JD.

The round reportedly raised Traveloka’s valuation to US$2 billion, according to Bloomberg sources.

6. The first Filipino unicorn

The Philippines hit a huge milestone this year with the birth of its first billion-dollar startup. Revolution Precrafted, a developer of prefabricated designer homes, raised its series B round co-led by Singapore’s K2 VC last October, valuing the company at over US$1 billion, according to two Tech in Asia sources familiar with the deal.

A prefab home designed by David Salle. Photo credit: Revolution Precrafted.

That makes two-year-old Revolution one of, if not the fastest to achieve billion-dollar status in Southeast Asia, said one of the sources – a claim confirmed by Tech in Asia data.

The startup’s new prominent investor K2 was founded by venture capitalist Ozi Amanat, who’s known for his investments in Alibaba and Twitter before their public offerings. K2 counts several unicorns in its portfolio: Spotify, Magic Leap, Paytm, and Palantir.

Revolution sells prefab homes conceived by world-renowned architects and designers such as Zaha Hadid, David Salle, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders. The homes are priced at an average of US$120,000. They can be ordered from the company’s site and shipped anywhere in the globe in at least 90 days. As of March, it had US$110 million in orders.

500 Startups earlier admitted fighting hard to join the company’s first funding round announced in March.

7. Uber’s cunning tactics

2017 has been hell for the US ride-hailing juggernaut. It started in February, when former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a blog post detailing the sexism and harassment she experienced in the workplace. That post set into motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in the ouster of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO.

Uber had been accused of stealing trade secrets from Google to speed up its own self-driving car efforts, using possible illicit programs to undermine its competitors, including Singapore-based Grab, paying bribes in Asian markets, covering up a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of millions of its users, and more.

All the bad press supposedly prompted Japanese tech giant Softbank to bid for Uber shares at a steep discount, potentially cutting its valuation by another US$20 billion.

In one of many efforts to revamp the company’s culture, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi last month outlined new rules for Uber’s staff. Probably the most important among them – “Do the right thing. Period.”

Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo credit: Uber.

8. Uber gets in bed with Singapore’s largest taxi company

Uber signed a deal to sell 51 percent of its car rental unit to ComfortDelgro for US$218 million and form a joint venture with the city-state’s leading taxi firm.

The partnership will allow Uber’s Lion City Rentals to leverage ComfortDelGro’s fleet management and operations capabilities. Uber users will be able to directly book ComfortDelGro cabs via the US company’s app, while the taxi firm’s drivers will be able to accept ride requests through it, giving them an additional source of income.

The transaction appeared to be something of a coup for Uber, which has faced ferocious opposition from licensed taxi providers in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

9. Malaysia opens digital free trade zone

In November, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma opened the doors to a free trade zone in Malaysia that’s designed to tap into region’s ecommerce boom.

First announced in March, the Digital Free Trade Zone is now open to trade, with Malaysia’s government anticipating the joint venture with Alibaba to handle US$65 billion worth of goods once in full flow, and create 60,000 jobs by 2025. The goal is for small businesses to make use of the trade hub as easily as larger companies do. It will also be used for non-ecommerce purposes, such as global exports.

The hub will likely benefit Lazada, which has a mix of small merchants and big-name brands.

10. Grab’s massive war chest

The final big story of the year: Grab’s US$2 billion funding round from China’s Didi Chuxing and Masayoshi Son-led Softbank, the single largest financing in the history of Southeast Asia.

The new investment supposedly gave the firm a post-money valuation of over US$6 billion, making it the region’s most valuable startup.

anthony-tan-grab-launch

Grab boss Antony Tan is overseeing the startup’s bloody battle against Uber. Photo credit: Grab.

Grab will use the money to tighten its grip on the ride-hailing market in the region and invest in its mobile payments solution, GrabPay.

The company has made GrabPay available to use for payments at hawker center stalls and restaurants in Singapore, marking its biggest move yet outside of the transportation segment.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post 10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 04:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449425 Car maintenance startup in China gets $10M funding as on-demand services explode

Photo credit: llee_wu.

Didi Chuxing, China’s top – and pretty much only – ride-hailing app, today announced yet another big injection of funds.

Didi has pocketed an extra US$4 billion from investors “to support AI capacity-building, international expansion, and new business initiatives, including the development of new energy vehicle service networks,” said the gigantic startup in an announcement this morning.

With 450 million users and 25 million daily rides, Didi last month revealed its plan to build a China-wide network of charging stations for electric cars, which will be accessible to the public as well as its own 21 million signed-up drivers.

The company already has an AI research and development center devoted to autonomous cars in Mountain View, California, which opened earlier in the year. A Didi representative tells Tech in Asia that the funding will include but not be limited to hiring AI talent around self-driving vehicles.

The firm this month acquired a startup in order to nab a much-coveted online payments license, meaning it’s now able to launch a mobile wallet service, perhaps challenging China’s ubiquitous Alipay or WeChat. However, an all-out war over phone payments seems unlikely since the creators of China’s top two wallet apps – Alibaba and Tencent – are investors in Didi.

Didi did not disclose who invested in this round. It brings the firm’s total disclosed funding to US$23.3 billion.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

See more on Didi:

This post Didi pockets $4b to boost AI appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 07:41:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449183 WeWork’s first venue in Singapore is open for business, and the co-working company already has plans for more.

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Transcript:

Turochas “T” Fuad:

We are almost full to be honest. We’ve been very lucky, very blessed, knock on wood. I think there’s definitely a good following of WeWork as a brand.

Look, this is the 200th location for WeWork, the 20th country country that WeWork launches. I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment, 20 and 200.

But look, I think a lot of folks are very aware of what we’re doing as a company – we are developing a platform, just beyond space, a platform for all types of creators. Different sizes of companies, come together to really work together and collaborate.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company, and a smaller company wants to learn a lot from those larger enterprise companies. All of these guys are coming together nicely.

71 Robinson Rd will definitely be launched earlier, towards the early part of next year, and then Funan Center will launch sometime in early 2019. So 71 Robinson Rd will fit about 1,000 members for us, and Funan about 700, around the same as Beach Center here.

It will serve a different mix of potential members. I think Robinson Rd is very classic CBD, where you potentially have banks, folks in financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that will be interested in the space itself because it’s in that vicinity.

And in Funan, I think you see a lot of tech. You know how the mall and this mixed use space is now being very focused on technology, they have very modern, futuristic things all the way down to the car park, to the 24-hour retail mall, a bunch of other things.

I think we’ll serve very different types of segments there. It could be large enterprises in the tech field or it could one of those startups and freelancers as well.

Over the last few years, the enterprise segment has almost doubled. It now represents close to 20 percent of our global members, around the world. Given that Singapore is such a hub, it’s like a gateway city to Southeast Asia if you think about it, it’s a hub for a lot of financial companies, it’s also a hub for a lot of startups and entrepreneurs right now.

And that’s why Singapore has always been a starting forefront for us to enter the market, the whole Southeast Asian market, from that perspective.

HP wants to be here, I guess it’s an interesting story. They came by here, they looked at it for just, less than a day. They want to be able to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here. They felt that this particular division wanted to be away from what their typical office would be.

A lot of enterprise companies have come to us and said, “Hey WeWork, we really like the culture, the energy, the diversity that you’ve created here, how do we replicate that in our organization?” So that’s where we come in, we provide our hardware, our software, our know-how, and provide that service to companies to enable them to recreate a bit of the WeWork energy and vibe.

We will actually design, manage, build it for them, and now their own employees are able to experience what a WeWork would be at their own location. It really depends on how this enterprise wants to open it up to the public or keep it sort of private to themselves. Those options are made available to them.

Did they show you the secret room? I didn’t realize it was there until the designers kind of highlighted it to me.

“Oh yeah, there’s a little thing, I don’t know if you noticed.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right, there’s a little segment on the blueprint!”

We don’t tell our members exactly where… If you notice, all of our rooms have A and B and C and D, that one has nothing, that one’s just called the secret room. I don’t think our community members tell them where it is. They can book it if they can find it, right – once they find it, they’ll be able to use the room.

This post Video: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:40:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449193 This week, a funding record was broken in Japan. For more details and other news, read on!

Ispace

Space exploration startup Ispace just broke the record for a series A investment in Japan after it amassed US$90 million from 12 investors. The startup is behind the team Hakuto, a competitor in Google’s Lunar Xprize race. Five teams are vying to win  the grand prize of US$20 million: it will go to the first group to place a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send high-definition videos and images back to Earth. The Hakuto team is scheduled to launch on December 28.

Apart from this venture, Ispace is also planning two lunar launches in 2019 and 2020. They are looking to search the moon for resources and explore the possibilities of expanding life beyond Earth.

Mago Chaneru: Grandchildren Channel

Developed by Chikaku, Mago Chaneru – which means “grandchildren channel” in Japanese – enables grandparents to watch  videos and images of their grandchildren. The US$1,700 box device is designed to be installed to a TV.  When the latest pictures or videos arrive, a notification light turns on to alert users.

The company just raised US$1.3 million from Incubate Fund. This comes after it got US$900 thousand from 500 Startups from a round raised in December 2016. Total funding now is over US$2.5 million.

Kaizen Platform 

Kaizen Platform, which appeared in TIA’s first-ever Tokyo pitch battle, is a Japanese startup that developed Kaizen Ad – a solution for optimizing Facebook video advertisements. The word “kaizen” refers to the philosophy of continuous improvement, and this marketing tool  is designed to track the performance of ads made by Kaizen and improves upon them once KPIs show signs of decline. By simply sharing ideas and concepts, Kaizen Ad will develop a variety of options for ads and continue to monitor and alter them. Customers include several well-known Japanese corporations like Yahoo Japan, JAL, and Rakuten.

Kaizen Platform has just raised US$4.7 million in their series C from Mizuho Capital, YJ Capital, SBI Investment, and Dentsu. With this new infusion, total funding for Kaizen Platform rounds out to about US$23 million.

Candee

Candee, a media startup focused on livestreaming and talent management, just received US$21.5 million from seven investors, including Eight Roads Ventures Japan, YJ Capital, NTT Docomo, Opt Ventures, Gree, Daiichi Shokai, and Mizuho Capital. Candee produces advertisements as well as general video content, but it’s looking to use the raised funds to strengthen and expand its Live Shop! app.

Released in June 2016, Live Shop! is targeted at young women. The app allows popular Instagrammers and other social media influencers to post livestreams with a maximum running time of an hour. Viewers can write comments and send heart emojis as well as  purchase interesting products presented throughout the videos.

Aside from developing media, Candee  has also invested in early-stage Instagram media company LUTE. This puts Candee in a position to be a leader in digital-first marketing and talent management, disrupting the traditional leaders that are lagging behind.

Pear

Fukuoka-based Pear has developed Omni Core, an ecommerce support service site. The service will help users manage sales that are spread over multiple ecommerce sites like  Rakuten, Amazon, and Yahoo Japan, among others.  The startup is in the process of opening the beta version of Omni Core and plans to initially use a freemium model after its official release. Pear is also looking to charge customers who sell over approximately US$270,000 a month for consulting services.

The company has just raised its seed round of approximately US$311 thousand from BEENEXT, Daiwa, and FVentures.

With companies like Hamee and Item Robot sharing the market, Pear is operating in a competitive landscape. But Pear says that its ease of use and understandability will help it edge out rivals.

Rexit

Wedding services company Rexit has secured US$490 thousand from angel investors Shinichiro Sugiyama of Valetudo and Arai Motoki of Happy Elements. Rexit plans to use the money to expand their wedding-location selection platform, Gensen Wedding.

Apart from giving couples options for wedding venues, Gensen Wedding offers counseling and wedding plan ideas. According to Rexit, over 100 couples have used the service since it was rolled out.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:09:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449175

Photo credit: walkingsky / 123RF.

Chinese bike-share startup Mobike today got a boost from Japanese social media giant Line.

Line, maker of a messaging app popular in Japan, has invested in Mobike’s Japan subsidiary, taking a less than 20 percent stake for an undisclosed sum, the two firms announced this afternoon.

The move comes four months after Mobike rolled out its dockless bikes into select Japanese cities. The service now covers 200 cities around the world.

Line has 71 million users in Japan.

Mobike Line funding

Line boss Takeshi Idezawa (left) with Mobike founder Hu Weiwei. Photo credit: Mobike.

“Line users in cities where Mobike is present will be able to unlock a Mobike simply by scanning the QR code on the bike with their Line app, and pay using their Line Pay account or other payment methods,” said the Japanese firm in a statement.

Mobike is similarly accessible in China inside WeChat, the messaging app with nearly a billion users.

Mobike founder and president Hu Weiwei described Line as the “perfect partner” owing to its huge social media reach.

“Our ambition in Japan is to work with industry-leading Japanese partners like Line, as well as local governments and communities, to bring Mobike to more cities in Japan and to set the global standard for bike-sharing,” she added.

Ofo, Mobike’s archrival, has also expanded to Japan, where its local buddy is telco giant Softbank – though that partnership doesn’t involve financial backing. Ofo is aiming to be in 200 cities globally by the end of the year.

Updated 24 hours after publishing: “20 percent” is now changed to “less than 20 percent.”

Bike-share battle:

This post Line funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017#comments Sun, 17 Dec 2017 15:59:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448619 asian startups weekly list
Here’s our newest round-up of the featured startups on our site this week. If you have startup tips or story suggestions, feel free to email us. Enjoy this week’s list!

1. Biofourmis | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Health analytics platform Biofourmis uses AI-driven software to analyze medical data gathered from patients. Data is collected from a range of sources, including wearable health and fitness trackers, hospital databases, and individual lab reports. It claims to have analyzed data from over 100,000 patients.


2. EcoWorth Tech | Singapore (Startup Profile)

EcoWorth Tec has developed a technology for the sustainable treatment of wastewater. Its core product is a material called carbon fibre aerogel (CFA). Highly absorbent, non-toxic, and recyclable, CFA can be used to absorb organic waste materials from wastewater – in other words, contaminated water that typically results as a byproduct of certain industrial processes.


3. Venteny | Philippines (Startup Profile)

Established in 2015, Venteny is a combined human resources and fintech platform. The platform provides an outsourced-employee benefits scheme for local companies, allowing workers to get exclusive perks such as discounts at restaurants, gyms, and hotels that Venteny has partnered with.


4. Oxfordcaps | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Launched this year, Oxfordcaps wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model. It works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living. The startup manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.


Startup lists

5 – 8: 4 rising startups in Japan


Related startup stories


Like RSS? There’s always our Asia startups RSS feed!

This post 8 startups in Asia that caught our eye appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:45:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448354 WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: WeWork

Co-working dynamo WeWork has been hotly anticipated in Southeast Asia. The local ecosystem was jazzed to see the US company acquire Singapore-based Spacemob in August, preempting its arrival in the region as part of a US$500 million investment that also covers its expansion to Korea.

Five months later, Spacemob founder and CEO Turochas “T” Fuad is WeWork’s managing director for Southeast Asia, and the company’s first space is officially open for business in Singapore’s Beach Center. It also has two more confirmed Singapore spaces in the works.

This is the 200th location for the global co-working company, while Singapore is its 20th country – a nice set of round numbers for Beach Center. “I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment,” Fuad laughs.

The venue has been taking in tenants since the beginning of December. Now it’s almost at full capacity, Fuad tells Tech in Asia. The mix includes freelancers and individual entrepreneurs (what the company terms “creators”), startups and small businesses, and larger multinationals looking for flexible space and networking opportunities.

See: Co-working unicorn WeWork heading to Singapore, Tokyo next

Singaporean startups like Chope, PolicyPal, and StashAway are already housed at Beach Center, as well as larger companies like Twilio and HP. Freelancers include people working in a range of fields, from accounting and finance to animation.

The location is the first of several planned to open in Singapore as well as Southeast Asia. Fuad doesn’t share more details about WeWork’s regional plans at the moment, but the company has already announced its second and third locations in Singapore.

Early next year, a new space will open at 71 Robinson Road, in the heart of Singapore’s central business district (CBD). It will house around 1,000 people. “I think Robinson Road is very classic CBD,” Fuad says. “You have banks and financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that are interested in those spaces.”

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people.

The price points change slightly between the two initial venues – a private office at Robinson Road starts at US$906 per month and a desk starts from US$438 per month. The starting prices at Beach Road are US$817 and US$408, respectively, according to the website.

Together with Singapore-based real estate firm CapitaLand, WeWork also announced that it’s the first tenant of Funan, the upcoming re-imagined version of a tech-oriented shopping mall well known to Singaporeans.

Funan DigitalLife Mall was established in 1985 and closed down in late 2015. Its replacement will be a sizeable complex with shops, office space, and co-living facilities. True to its techie heritage, it will feature smart parking facilities, office entry through facial recognition, and robot-assisted shopping.

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people and focus more on high-tech startups and multinationals, Fuad says.

New Funan complex

Artist’s impression of the new Funan complex. Image credit: CapitaLand

Room to breathe

Fuad doesn’t reveal what the ratio is between startups, individuals, and big organizations at Beach Center, or how that impacts the company’s revenue. Globally, around 20 percent of WeWork members are larger businesses (or “enterprises” as WeWork calls them).

“Given that Singapore is a gateway city in Southeast Asia, a hub for a lot of financial companies and startups and entrepreneurs right now, we believe that the enterprise segment in Singapore will be an interesting one for us,” he says.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from them.

For example, HP decided really quickly they wanted office space at Beach Center. “They came by here, looked at it for less than a day, and decided to become a member,” Fuad says. “I think their whole idea is, they want to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here and they wanted this particular division to be away from where their typical office would be, to have a little more fun and innovative atmosphere.”

There’s no shortage of co-working spaces in Singapore, with independent facilities like the Great Room, Collision 8, and ecosystem staple The Hub, as well as corporate-run spaces like Level3. All these businesses are competing for similar clientele, which raises questions about their viability in a small market like Singapore. Regardless, WeWork appears confident there will be demand for its own offering.

Fuad says that’s because WeWork’s focus on its global network provides extra value for its members – the network effect, essentially. “Beyond just space, [WeWork is] a platform for all types of creators, for different sizes of companies, who come together and collaborate,” he suggests. “Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from [them].”

See: An encounter with WeWork co-founder reveals a tussle between money and mission

The company’s own staff play matchmaker with members. Community managers assess each client to understand their needs and then try to bring the right people together. An online marketplace, meanwhile, makes it easy for members to ply their trade to others in the network anywhere in the world.

WeWork will also offer its co-working-as-a-service product Powered by We. This is basically WeWork applying its know-how and network to large organizations in their own facilities, setting up and managing their working environments for them. According to Wired, the company is already managing offices like Airbnb in Berlin and Amazon in Boston.

“We will actually design, manage, and build it for them, and now their own employees can experience what a WeWork would be at their own real estate,” Fuad says.

This is an additional source of revenue for the company that could prove to be a more efficient path to greater growth. This way, WeWork expects to add more paying clients without having to source new spaces itself, while still getting its brand to more traditional workplaces.

WeWork at Beach Center

Conveniently, one of the pantries can be found at the lobby and common area. Beer on tap included.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

There are all kinds of cozy nooks and crannies where people can have meetings.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

But things can get more professional, too.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The design is partly inspired by Singaporean shophouses and food courts.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This cute nook looks very relaxing.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The common areas look par for the co-working course.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Office space takes up three floors in Beach Center.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Local treats await new tenants on their desks.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Several private offices are already occupied.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This classroom-looking area can also be used for game nights and yoga.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.35.

This post WeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soon appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:30:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=424853 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, destroying last year’s US$2.6 billion as well as 2015’s US$1.6 billion, the Tech in Asia Database shows.

Indonesia’s Tokopedia contributed a big chunk of that with its US$1.1 billion injection over the summer. Alongside Traveloka’s substantial investment, it was a bumper year for Indonesia’s tech industry.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on September 7, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

Watch: Go-Jek’s Nadiem Makarim on being fearless

This post Indonesia’s 10 best-funded startups this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017/feed 7 https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:57:08 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448312

Photo credit: Go-Jek.

Ride-hailing service Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first billion-dollar tech startup, has agreed to acquire three local fintech firms as it seeks to expand its grip on the digital payments market.

The deals involve Kartuku, a leading offline payments processing company in Indonesia; Midtrans, said to be the nation’s top online payment gateway; and Mapan, a community-based savings and lending network, Go-Jek announced in a statement today. The company declined to disclose the value of the deals.

Altogether, Go-Jek, which owns the mobile wallet Go-Pay, and the three companies process close to US$5 billion worth of credit and debit card transactions as well as digital payments for users, service providers, and merchants annually. Ecommerce spend in Indonesia this year amounts to over US$7 billion, shows Statista data.

“We are now taking Go-Jek to the next stage,” said its founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim.

The acquisitions – combined – are Go-Jek’s biggest so far, Makarim told Tech in Asia, and marks a significant step in the company’s plan to dominate the payments space, where it’s facing off against Southeast Asia juggernaut Grab.

Going beyond the Go-Jek app

Backed by investors KKR & Co, Warburg Pincus, and China’s Tencent, Go-Jek started out with rides, then later expanded into other on-demand services such as food and medicine deliveries, parcel couriers, cleaners, massages, and ticketing.

Now a household name, Go-Jek has 900,000 drivers, more than 125,000 partner merchants, 15 million weekly active users, and over 100 million transactions processed through its platform per month. That’s a fivefold jump from the 20 million transactions the company reported in June 2016.

While customers use Go-Pay to purchase Go-Jek services, Makarim previously said his goal was to allow people to pay for things outside the app system, like coffee and groceries. Today’s buys help fulfill that goal.

Kartuku claims to serve nearly all the top 100 enterprise retailers in Indonesia with its offline payment processing solutions, including point-of-sale devices. Midtrans, on the other hand, has tied up with more than 3,000 online merchants, processing their transactions through 18 different payment methods with a focus on fraud prevention. Both startups will work on getting Go-Pay accepted into their merchant networks.

Meanwhile, Mapan counts over a million families across 100 cities in Indonesia as members of its community-based savings and loan platform. The startup will help increase Go-Jek’s reach, particularly in rural areas where many of the latter’s services might not be widely available.

Fierce battle with Grab

Because it caters to the unbanked, Go-Pay plays a key role in Go-Jek’s continuous push in its home market and possibly new ones, Makarim had said.

Majority of Indonesia’s 260 million-strong population have no access to credit cards, while 64 percent have had no access to formal banking services for more than 15 years, according to a KPMG report.

Closest competitor Grab – also a unicorn and heavily funded – is betting on this space as well, although it seems to be playing catch-up with Go-Jek in Indonesia.

Go-Jek was the first to introduce non-bank top-up options for its digital wallet by letting users convert their cash into Go-Pay credit through Go-Jek drivers, resulting in a dramatic uptick in adoption. It also secured an e-money license ahead of Grab by snapping up payments startup MVCommerce. Grab got the license just this week (link in Indonesian) and was in fact forced to freeze top-ups back in October. While Grab acquired ecommerce payments startup Kudo in April, Go-Jek’s triple acquisitions will give it a huge boost.

“Grab will face tougher efforts to increase its market share in the platform economy,” which is very much a battle of scale, said IDC Handojo Triyanto, senior research manager at IDC Financial Insights (Asia Pacific & Indonesia). “Grab should take countermeasures.”

It’s too early to say who’s going to win though, he noted, as cash is still largely the preferred payment mode in Indonesia. “The battle is still a long journey […] it will take time to cover Indonesia’s huge market.”

Overseas, where Go-Jek has no presence yet, Grab has made some headway. In Singapore, it made GrabPay available for payment at third-party merchants, starting with hawker stalls. It also recently obtained an e-money license in Malaysia, giving it the green light to launch GrabPay services there. Grab aims to bring the same to other Southeast Asian countries next year.

Go-Jek is looking to foray into at least three new markets in the region, with the Philippines likely being first on the list.

Similar to Indonesia, the Philippines has one of the world’s most horrendous traffic conditions, and a large portion of its population remains unbanked.

What lies ahead

Once the deals are finalized, Go-Jek president Andre Soelistyo said the management teams and employees of the three newly acquired firms will “continue to operate as before,” but their CEOs will take senior positions at the parent company. Thomas Husted of Kartuku will become Go-Jek’s CFO, Mapan’s Aldi Haryopratomo will lead Go-Pay, and Midtrans’ Ryu Suliawan will head the group’s merchant platform.

Looking ahead to 2018, Makarim sees payments as a “core priority” and the possibility of Go-Pay’s spin-off.

Grab also plans to double down on GrabPay following its mega funding round in July.

(Update at 4:15 pm: Added more information on the deals, what they mean, and comments from Go-Jek and research firm.)

This post Go-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia payments appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans/feed 5 https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:45:32 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448223

Photo credit: Xpeng

Online shopping giant Alibaba has invested in an electric car startup, it said today.

Alibaba confirmed the move this evening to Tech in Asia following rumors in Chinese media about it funding Xpeng (also known as Xiaopeng), which last month launched its first vehicle, the all-electric Identy X SUV.

The funding amount isn’t disclosed, but several Chinese media outlets said Alibaba was taking a 10 percent stake in the fledgling carmaker.

“As a clean energy vehicle startup, the investment in Xiaopeng Motors fits with Alibaba’s strategic focus in the automotive sector. Under our open-platform approach, we will continue to work with a range of automotive manufacturing partners to benefit Chinese consumers,” an Alibaba spokesperson said.

The Xpeng Identy X has a lot of tech for a relatively cheap car, including this pop-up camera on the roof.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Inside, it looks a lot like the interior of a Tesla, as noted by Electrek – from the shape of the digital instrument cluster to that massive vertical screen in the center console.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Alibaba makes an Apple CarPlay-style system called AliOS, which it rolled out last year. Jack Ma’s company last week said it’s exploring a partnership with Ford that could see AliOS put onto the screens of Ford’s China-made vehicles.

Archrival Chinese tech giant Tencent has invested in Tesla, paying out around US$2 billion for a 5 percent stake. Tencent has also backed NIO, the Chinese startup that this week launched its electric SUV – though NIO’s will be a lot pricier than Xpeng’s.

See: China’s tech titans take the battle onto the screen in your car

This post Alibaba invests in electric car startup appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:40:01 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=418874 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, obliterating last year’s US$2.6 billion, according to the Tech in Asia Database. The region defied slowdowns in China and India’s tech industry.

Grab’s US$2 billion in July was Southeast Asia’s biggest fresh investment as the Malaysia-born, Singapore-based ride-hailing startup increased its war chest to fight Uber. Sea’s IPO also makes the list.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on August 17, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post Singapore’s 10 best-funded startups this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far/feed 11 https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:38:38 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448146

Photo credit: rawpixel / 123RF

Singapore’s Oxfordcaps has secured an undisclosed amount of funding in a seed round led by 500 Startups and ReadyVentures. Several unnamed angel investors also participated.

Launched in July, the startup wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model that’s already disrupting rental options for expat professionals in Asia’s biggest cities.

Companies like Singapore-based Hmlet and MetroResidences, itself a recipient of seed capital from 500 Startups, are transforming unused buildings into shared living spaces suited to the needs of modern tech workers and corporate executives.

See: Rakuten invests $2.8m in Singapore-based serviced apartment startup

The main target demographic is lone expatriate workers who prefer short-term rentals, the possibility of saving money by sharing accommodation, and the opportunity to socialize with people in a similar situation to their own.

Oxfordcaps co-founder and CEO Annu Talreja points out that international students who come to cities like Singapore to study have quite similar requirements.

Redesigning student accommodation

There is an undersupply of university-owned accommodation compared to the number of students admitted in each intake, meaning that most will have to seek out private rental options.

Like Hmlet, Oxfordcaps works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living.

“The owner typically has a property which is very good for students in terms of location and price,” Talreja tells Tech in Asia. But they may be skeptical to rent it out themselves because they fear the students couldn’t pay rent on time or might not keep the property in the best condition. Or they simply don’t want to take on the task of managing the rentals themselves.

Interested owners approach Oxfordcaps, which then kits out the property as “no-frills” student accommodation. Each room typically features two single beds, a study table with desk lamp, and a bookcase. There are also common areas where residents can mingle.

Oxfordcaps manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.

The ability to view the accommodation online and secure somewhere to stay before arriving in a new country is what makes the service particularly attractive to international students, Talreja suggests.

International students

Prior to leaving their home countries, foreign students will typically use property listings sites such as 99.co or PropertyGuru to contact agents and organize viewings after they arrive, which isn’t necessarily the most convenient way for them to get accommodation, says Talreja.

“On our site, we are going to provide 360-degree videos and pictures of every room. Details will be provided for the entire unit, down to what kind of mattress each bed has in each room, so that students can book before they get here.”

That can save them from paying for a costly hotel or Airbnb stay between their arrival in the country and when they eventually sign for a room, she adds.

What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community.

In addition, Oxfordcaps offers accommodation on a bed-by-bed basis, meaning that students don’t have to form houseshare groups themselves – a situation that’s particularly difficult for those coming from abroad with no existing contacts in the country.

The whole arrangement is meant to be conducive to bringing students together to socialize and form new friendship groups. Like Hmlet and other co-living players, Oxfordcaps runs on-site events, which it sees as an opportunity for future revenue generation.

“What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community,” explains Talreja. “These are often very fragmented and limited to the school they are going to, but these students are all in a similar demographic. They’re all in the same boat – going to a new country for their education. We want to create this community and monetize it at some point, but right now, the focus is on creating the community and keeping them engaged on a regular basis.”

See: Tech workers need lower rents and more friends. These guys help with both.

She says that Oxfordcaps will use the seed funding to further develop its tech offering and introduce new features on its site, as well as to increase the number of beds and properties under its management.

It has already booked over 1,000 bed-months since July (a bed-month measures the occupancy of one person in one bed for one month, and is a variation on the bed-night metric used in the hospitality industry).

Looking ahead, the startup wants to enhance its presence in Singapore before expanding “into at least one or two more Asian geographies,” with India, Indonesia, and Australia among the likely targets, Talreja shares.

“Within Asia Pacific there are over 100 million mobile students. Singapore is relatively smaller, with only 200,000 to 300,000 international students coming here [each year]. But it’s our Asia gateway market, since it’s the region’s education hub and the real estate regulations are pretty clear compared to a lot of neighbouring markets. But our aim is to be an Asia-Pacific brand.”

This post Oxfordcaps gets 500 Startups backing to bring co-living to Asia’s universities appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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Decide filter: Returning post, everything seems orderly :Startups – Tech in Asia

Array ( [post_title] => Startups – Tech in Asia [post_content] => Startups – Tech in AsiaDidi makes first move outside mainland China with Taiwan launchSea, Razer IPOs will get more startups to go public, but when will SGX attract them?Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last yearVideo: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startupsHow Grab runs its data science team4 rising startups in JapanIn China, millions are tuning into an online game show in the hope of winning moneyHow a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in ThailandSleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startupsShe runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averseHow Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customerChina sees record tech funding in 2017WeWork to open first of 4 Tokyo locations on February 1India’s top tech investments in 2017 came from the eastChina’s 10 biggest investments in 2017Here are the 15 best-funded startups in Southeast Asia (infographic)Chinese startup beats Apple to the punch with its AR glassesAsia tech news roundup – Dec 27Look out, Mofo: new bike-share contender nabs $500mAmazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days6 rising startups in JapanAlibaba’s biggest investments in 2017Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye onDidi’s next trick is to go global10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this yearDidi pockets $4b to boost AIVideo: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space6 rising startups in JapanLine funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app8 startups in Asia that caught our eyeWeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soonIndonesia’s 10 best-funded startups this yearGo-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia paymentsAlibaba invests in electric car startupSingapore’s 10 best-funded startups this yearOxfordcaps gets 500 Startups backing to bring co-living to Asia’s universities

https://www.techinasia.com Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:43:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454321 Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei. Photo credit: Tommy / Unsplash

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, with 450 million users across mainland China, today embarked on its first expansion.

With its Taiwan launch, Didi is going after Uber, which first launched on the island of 24 million people back in 2013.

But Didi is being forced to do things differently in Taiwan, where the powerful taxi lobby has prevented ride-hailing apps from tapping into ordinary people driving their own cars. Didi is partnering with a Taiwanese firm, LEDI Technology, to run the franchise on the island using only taxi drivers.

Uber was forced to ditch its ordinary drivers in Taiwan in early 2017 after it suspended operations for two months. It now uses only official limo operators.

Carpooling

The Chinese firm is rolling out two Taiwanese services in its app – Didi Taxi and Didi Hitch for carpooling.

“Taiwanese taxi drivers will benefit from better operating efficiency, lower idle time, and higher income. Initially limited to cash payment, Didi Taxi will gradually bring in diversified third-party credit cards and mobile payment options,” said the startup in a statement this evening.

“During the beta launch, Hitch riders and drivers can split fuel costs, tolls, and other expenses through cash payments with more convenient mobile payment options to follow in the near future,” it added.

Didi’s Taiwan rollout comes ahead of a much-anticipated launch in Latin America. The startup earlier this month acquired Brazil’s 99, the ride-hail app that’s Uber’s biggest rival across the region.

This post Didi makes first move outside mainland China with Taiwan launch appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 08:56:55 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454021

Sea chairman and CEO Forrest Li and president Nick Nash on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday / Photo credit: NYSE

Singapore’s gaming and ecommerce unicorn Sea announced a US$884 million initial public offering this past October, ultimately raising a total of US$989.3 million thanks to strong investor demand. US-headquartered Razer, another well-loved company with ties to the island nation, had a US$528 million listing in Hong Kong just a month later.

This double whammy wasn’t as impressive as some of Southeast Asia’s IPO blockbusters in 2017. For example, Netlink NBN Trust’s US$1.7 billion listing on SGX topped the IPO charts (Netlink is Singapore’s fiber broadband network owner and telco Singtel’s broadband unit). Cromwell European Real Estate also listed on SGX, raising US$1 billion.

[The Sea and Razer IPOs are] a data point that VCs and founders can point to.

But for the tech startup scene, the Sea and Razer IPOs were still a crackerjack. Not only were the trade debuts long-awaited milestones for both companies, they were also an effective bellwether for Southeast Asian companies with public market aspirations.

Companies in Southeast Asia were waiting to see how the Sea IPO would pan out, so there was subsequently a lot of interest from local and regional tech companies in US listings. Sharon Lau, the Singapore office managing partner of law firm Latham & Watkins, predicts that there will be more high-profile IPOs from the region in late 2018 or early 2019, although she doesn’t share any details.

Rajiv Gupta, also a partner at Latham & Watkins in Singapore, says that local advisors, including banks and lawyers, were asked by IPO candidates to wait and see how the Sea listing would go before going forward with their own. “It was almost seen as a litmus test for the appetite for an Asian tech company IPO in the US,” he says, adding that interest remains strong after the listing.

This holds true even though both companies’ stock prices have dropped since and are trading below their IPO price. Sea’s stock opened today at US$12.58 in NYSE, having started at US$16.26, and Razer’s stock price opened at HKD 3.79 in HKG, having started at HKD 4.58.

“I think it is a recent indicator – a data point that VCs and founders can point to,” says Ferish Patel, partner at law firm Gunderson Dettmer.

The bell tolls for IPOs

Because Sea and Razer listed outside of Singapore, the market they’re more closely associated with, it adds to the debate about the city-state bourse’s attractiveness to tech startups.

This is not so much an indictment of local markets – IPOs in the region are doing quite well, in fact. “2017 was a record year for ASEAN IPOs and technology listings was the second largest category,” says Nam Soon Liew, managing partner at ASEAN Financial Services for Ernst & Young.

According to the Transaction Trail 2017 Report by valuation and financial advisory firm Duff & Phelps, IPO capital value in Singapore doubled last year in comparison to 2016.

Singapore IPOs Duff & Phelps

But Sea will likely not be the last Southeast Asian tech company to reach out to the global market through a US listing. Lau and Gupta confirm that tech companies and investors are eager for US listings.

While it doesn’t bode well for local exchanges, it’s not hard to see why companies here covet New York City lights. “Investors in the US really understand technology, and they are willing to put in big money,” explains Srividya Gopalakrishnan, managing director at Duff & Phelps Singapore.

This will probably continue to be the case, as long as investors in Singapore have different priorities. “[They] are generally more inclined towards defensive and income-generating stocks,” says Philip Teo, founder and CEO of Traderwave, a Singapore-based startup that helps traders discover, analyze, and monitor stock trading opportunities.

Teo, who has prior public market experience at Singaporean bank OCBC and conducts seminars for retail investors at SGX’s trading academy, thinks that growth-focused companies like tech startups generally don’t appeal to local investors. Such investors are more used to Singapore’s real estate investment trust focus.

Raising money is of course a key motivation for founders going public, right next to increasing their company’s profile and providing exit opportunities for their private investors. But when it comes to raising funds, there’s a lot more private capital to go around these days.

Companies like Grab and Uber, for example, have managed to build up significant war chests without an IPO. As such, startups have one more thing to consider: is it perhaps better to delay a listing and continue raising money privately? “Definitely Razer and Sea’s IPOs offer founders some potential food for thought about whether they should be listing or holding out as long as possible,” Teo explains.

Several companies also have the added option of ICOs these days – the trend peaked this year, as this graph vividly shows.

“ICOs have already surpassed early-stage VC funding despite concerns by regulators and investors alike with money laundering and the inherent volatility,” Liew says. “We expect ICO as a business model to continue to be a source of funding but also evolve with a greater understanding of the risks with evolving regulations.”

SGX Centre in downtown Singapore

SGX Centre, downtown Singapore / Photo credit: tang90246 / 123RF

Singapore needs to do more

SGX has made efforts to become attractive to tech startup listings through a number of initiatives, like engaging with regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to discover promising companies and allowing for dual-class shares that allow founders to retain control of their company.

But aside from investors coming around to tech startups, SGX might also need to focus on the specific value it can offer local companies.

If the bulk of your customers are in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here.

Lau believes SGX should take advantage of its streamlined listing process and look more carefully at Southeast Asian and Indian companies, for whom the region is a significant chunk of their business. “A business that’s not going to have a China or North Asia angle is perhaps the kind of company [SGX] should be marketing to,” she says.

As Teo suggests, “a company will usually list on SGX only if their market or their main target audience is actually very near to, or in, Singapore itself.” If the bulk of a company’s customers and market are in Singapore or in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here instead of a high-profile foreign exchange where it will be just one more company among tens of thousands.

“This is clearly a journey and a continued focus on shortening the time to market and making it more cost- and process-effective for listing will help,” Liew observes. “We see a strong pipeline of potential technology listings and 2018 should prove to be another strong year, given the continuing strong economic growth and positive equity markets.”

Gopalakrishnan has confidence in Singapore’s potential as a market for tech listings. “If somebody asked last year, I don’t think anyone would have said that Hong Kong would be the next market for [such companies],” she says. “But Hong Kong has managed to show there are actually investors interested in putting money in tech. I have a very positive feeling that Singapore will do the same but it may take a little more time because Singapore is fairly conservative. If Hong Kong can do it, then Singapore can as well.”

(Update, 8:20pm SGT: Updated Sea IPO value.)

This post Sea, Razer IPOs will get more startups to go public, but when will SGX attract them? appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 04:51:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453817

Carousell’s Singapore headquarters / Photo credit: Carousell

Carousell appears to have raised over US$45 million in new funding last year, according to financial documents reviewed by Tech in Asia, while the startup confirmed it has new backers. This could be a sign of investor confidence in Carousell’s ability to become profitable.

Filings submitted to Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) by the startup indicate that it had paid-up share capital totaling about US$87.1 million as of September 20 last year.

Tech in Asia’s database records Carousell as having raised a total of US$41.8 million as of August 2016, when its series B round was announced.

The difference between these two figures – US$45.3 million – appears to be the amount Carousell has brought in since then.

That falls short of the US$80 million it is reported to have raised at series C, but it’s possible that the remainder hasn’t been banked yet. The investment may be divided into two or more tranches.

We do have new investors.

EDBI, the Singapore Economic Development Board’s corporate investment arm, is named as a shareholder, though it had not been been listed as a Carousell investor before. Previously reported investors Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, and 500 Startups are also listed as owning stakes.

“Fundraising is an ongoing process,” a Carousell spokesperson told Tech in Asia when asked about series C fundraising. “We do have new investors, but we’ll announce further details when the time is right.”

EDBI responded to Tech in Asia‘s request for comment, but was unable to provide additional details at this time.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

With more than 100 million listings and users in 19 cities across seven countries, Carousell’s achievements since it launched its C2C platform in May 2012 cannot be understated. But monetizing what it has built – arguably the much harder task –  has only just begun.

Starting out as a community-driven marketplace to connect individual buyers and sellers, Carousell was run on a free-to-use basis, generating next to no income. But its latest available financial report indicates that Carousell might still be in the nascent stages of monetization. Its revenue in 2016 was negligible and decreased by over a third from 2015, although it’s not known if it improved last year.

Carousell did not share any figures related to its 2017 performance with Tech in Asia, but a spokesperson said that the company is starting to see positive results from monetization products released last year, such as Bumps, Carousell Coins, listing fees, Carousell Pro subscriptions, media sales, and advertising.

Bumps is a paid-for feature that allows sellers to enhance the visibility of their listings. Carousell Coins is a virtual currency for the marketplace that can be bought and used to cover listing fees or buy Bumps.

Soft-launched last October, Carousell Pro is a paid-for app designed to help professional sellers in the real estate and job recruitment segments to “create, manage, and analyze” their marketing efforts.

Carousell had earlier moved into listing cars and property, which brought commercial merchants onto its platform for the first time and heralded the introduction of paid-for premium ads. Job listings soon followed.

Carousell Motors, a dedicated car marketplace app

Photo credit: Carousell

“We also work with advertisers and brands who are looking to reach out to our users, through our media sales and advertising products,”  said the Carousell spokesperson, who mentioned AXA Insurance, DBS Bank, McDonalds, and Uber as among the brands that have run customized marketing campaigns with the startup.

The company also said that for 2018, it’s focusing on growth in its key markets. “Some of the initiatives we are working on include test-bedding exciting new product features and exploring opportunities to partner with local industry players to deepen our presence across our markets,” the spokesperson shared.

Carousell also explained how, like other classifieds businesses, many investments are made upfront with negative cash flow at first, but “they also enjoy healthy margins once monetization starts and operates at scale.”

The spokesperson continued: “We’ve invested heavily in putting the right pieces in place and have now started to roll out our monetization strategy. With healthy user growth in place, we started focusing on generating revenue to ensure sustainability.”

They should have been able to keep their operations lean.

While Carousell has yet to disclose its 2017 numbers, the fact that it managed to raise a significant sum in funding may be a sign that investors are bullish about its revenue-generation efforts. Tech in Asia reached out to Carousell shareholders Golden Gate Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and 500 Startups, but did not get a response at the time of publication.

A scan of the Carousell app shows that its Bumps feature is seeing significant usage among sellers. It is also ranking well on the iOS top grossing charts, which list apps according to the volume of in-app purchases.

As of January 18, Carousell is the highest-grossing app in the shopping category in four countries according to analytics provider AppLyzer, although it is unique among major ecommerce apps in its support for Apple Pay, which sellers can use to buy Bumps. As such, this may not be something to gloat about.

However,  its ranking (at time of publication) as the 41st highest-grossing app across all categories in Singapore – above games like Zynga Poker, Line: Disney Tsum Tsum, and Blizzard’s Hearthstone – is a positive sign.

Room for improvement

Jackie Lam, co-founder at startup consultancy Oddup, finds some of Carousell’s numbers worrying. For the most part, the startup is still an online classifieds marketplace that neither facilitates payments nor is legally capable of providing resolutions should a transaction go wrong, she pointed out.

“In essence, the only value that their platform provides is a space for people to post advertisements and chat. Therefore, the expenses they should have incurred would be minimal. They should have been able to keep their operations lean.”

Based on its financial statement, Carousell’s total pre-tax losses grew almost fivefold to US$22 million in 2016, mostly due to rising staff and marketing costs.

Carousell co-founders Quek Siu Rui (L), Lucas Ngoo (M), and Marcus Tan (R) / Photo credit: Carousell

It is not uncommon for startups to be running losses in their early years, so these metrics alone are not indicative of the company’s health, said Lawrence Cheok, senior research manager at IDC. But Carousell’s fall in revenue between 2015 and 2016 against a continuing trend of increasing losses may be a cause for concern, he added.

Cheok said that Carousell may be overlooking revenue opportunities on the buyer side of its business, such as bringing payment and fulfillment onto its platform rather than leaving it up to buyers and sellers to complete transactions between themselves.  

Carousell only suggests methods for customers to settle payment – through user-to-user bank transfers, cash on delivery, or third-party providers – rather than hosting a payments infrastructure on its site.

“This is a glaring gap in customer experience,” noted Cheok. “For example, eBay – through PayPal – guarantees the transaction as the trusted middleman. This underlying trust is mandatory for remote exchange of goods and services between two strangers.”

Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.

In contrast, Carousell’s regional rivals Lazada and Shopee allow customers to “checkout” on their sites or in their apps by using credit and debit cards, online banking, and a range of third-party payments gateways and mobile wallets.

Another strategic flaw of keeping payments off-platform is the inability to verify transactions. Without transactional data, consumer analytics efforts will be dubious at best, added Cheok.

“With high-value purchases like cars and properties, the fundamental trust issue becomes even more pressing. Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.”

Bringing payments on-platform could also help Carousell to collect enhanced pricing data, which may become a revenue stream in itself.

“I believe that companies like Apple would pay top dollar to figure out what the market value of their second-hand products in Singapore and other countries is, as it would help them with their pricing strategy,” said Lam.

Listed prices on Carousell are not final as they can still be negotiated between buyers and sellers outside of the platform. But the company can keep track of the offers made and accepted – and if payments were completed through the platform, it would have data on final sale prices, too.

Lam further suggested that Carousell upgrade or customize its user interface for certain product categories. She argued it’s not optimized for searching for vehicles or property, unlike specialized marketplaces such as SGCarMart and PropertyGuru.

“Since cars and property are big-ticket items which usually have more idiosyncrasies relative to consumer electronics or fashion products, a distinct platform dedicated to each would help them to differentiate effectively.”

What to look for in the 2017 statement

Below is Carousell’s consolidated income statement for 2016 – the most recent full year available – which is publicly accessible from ACRA. Note that figures in brackets are negative:

Source: ACRA

Here’s its consolidated cash flow statement for the same period:

Source: ACRA

The company’s FY 2017 filing will give a better idea of how the revenue generation initiatives are playing out.

Looking ahead, Carousell will need to demonstrate an increase in gross merchandise volume – that is, the value of all the goods sold across its platform – to show current and prospective investors that its user base continues to grow, said Cheok.

Carousell must show “a narrowing gap between revenue against operating cost – which may happen while absolute losses are still increasing.” This will indicate that the early years’ losses as seen in the above statements can be considered a worthwhile investment, allowing the startup to acquire users and thereby achieve scale, network effect, and monetization, he concluded.

This post Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 01:15:12 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453344 China is overflowing with deep learning and AI startups, and they’re doing things differently from deep learning startups in Silicon Valley.

This video features Dr. Chris Rowen, founder and principal of Cognite Ventures and co-founder and CEO of Babblabs.


Transcript:

Dr. Chris Rowen: “I think that there a set of common features and a set of distinct characteristics about what the Chinese neural network startups are doing relative to the US, relative to the rest of the world. Some of the clear themes are, number one, there’s lots of interest in video and especially in surveillance in China.Some of that comes from the level of investment that the Chinese government is making in public safety. Some of it, I think, comes from a long history of interest in imaging.

“Some of it comes from the fact that the Chinese electronics community really understands a lot about devices. Gadgets. Things that are widely deployed in high volume.

“And there is, on the flip side, relatively less activity in the cloud in China among startups. Certainly it’s true in the neural network area. In fact, worldwide in my Cognite Ventures 300 list roughly two-thirds of all of the neural network startups are deploying software for the cloud. In China, very few.

“So it’s almost as if the whole cloud segment is missing from the Chinese neural network community. Partly because I think the cloud is less well-developed as a commercial ecosystem. Certainly there are big players like Alibaba, for example, and Baidu, focused on the cloud. But it’s really percolated much less completely into the ecosystem of small, medium, and large players.

“I think some of it really reflects the fact that people see the value in these things where there’s a tangible element. It may go back historically to the question of intellectual property protection in that it’s much easier to be confident that you’re protecting the value of your product when all of the software and all of the hardware are bundled together in one thing. And so that tends to make the Chinese startup community much more oriented towards hardware/software systems.

“It’s much less about ‘Oh, I have a very specific algorithm or a very specific application or a very specific chip in mind’ but rather: ‘I am combining chips and software and algorithms and application insights together in a package which is salable.’ So in an ironic sense, the Chinese deep learning startups tend to be quite integrated and quite system-oriented in their perspective. Because, I think, it reflects in part this interest in delivering a more complete solution, in part to protect intellectual property; certainly to protect value in a world where there [is] a long history of clone makers of various kinds.

“In general, the level of activity and the level of sophistication is high in China just as it is in the other leading countries that are at the forefront of this. I think some of the unique characteristics of China are the things I’ve mentioned; this focus on embedded devices, this focus on surveillance, the relative immaturity of the cloud. You also, I think, have an environment where there’s actually quite a bit of venture money available. The level of enthusiasm, the kind of overt encouragement of the Chinese government for investment in this really leading-edge technology is [making] a lot of money available to teams so that, while it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison, my guess is that for a team of a given caliber they probably have the easiest time getting funded in China and get the highest valuations in China right now.

“I tend to be a big fan of the company DeePhi which is focused on really quite advanced neural network methods for vision, applying it, of course, in surveillance but in other areas as well. They are both developing new algorithms and optimizing them very effectively for FPGAs but also working to develop new silicon platforms.

“And they have, I think, a very significant history in working in a particularly interesting problem in neural networks which is how do you build much smaller, much leaner much more efficient neural networks than what people are typically implementing in the cloud. And they’re able to do things that have significantly lower compute requirements, fit into smaller chips, run at higher framerates and still keep very high accuracy. Accuracy comparable to what people have done in cloud-based computing, but now doing it in quite small devices.

“I think it’s a really interesting group of people out of a combination of Tsinghua University and Stanford who are the inspiration behind DeePhi and they’re doing quite remarkable things.”

This post Video: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:02:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452181 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Grab is now hiring on Tech in Asia Jobs.

While many are familiar with ride-hailing app Grab, few of us really know what happens after we hit “book.”

Different teams work the magic to deliver the ride, but I was interested in how data science fits into all of this. So I sat down with Lye Kong-wei, Grab’s head of data science, to find out more.

Making sense of the data Grab collects

Grab hails from Malaysia, starting off as MyTeksi in 2012. In six short years, it has grown into a billion-dollar startup and a top contender in Southeast Asia’s private car-hailing space.

Around 3.5 million rides are booked on the app daily, generating over 10 terabytes of data on the platform each day. More than 60 employees work in the data team in Singapore to make sense of the data and use insights gathered to improve the Grab experience.

The team is expected to expand by 50 percent at the end of 2018.

The data team at Grab

The data team at Grab is divided into two: the data engineering team and the data science team.

The data engineering team manages Grab’s data warehouses, builds its pipelines, and ensures that other data teams get data in a form they can readily use.

Headed by Lye, the data science team is made up mostly of researchers working on models and algorithms to translate research into product features.

“From the moment a passenger opens the Grab app to the time a vehicle arrives, data science powers the thinking and decision-making on the most efficient routes, travel time, and price point. These collectively work to make a safe and convenient commuting experience for both drivers and passengers,” says Lye.

There are around 30 people in the data science team. It’s currently based in Singapore, but there are plans to expand to other countries where Grab operates.

Grab’s data science team. Lye is at the back, on the far right. Photo credit: Grab

Team structure and dynamics

Grab’s data science team is made up of five groups focused on specific areas.

1. Machine learning

The machine learning team works on all kinds of predictions using traditional machine learning and new deep learning techniques. Most applications involve studying users’ behaviour to improve the experience for both passengers and drivers.

2. Markets

Working closely with the machine learning team, the markets team studies supply (driver) and demand (passengers). They are responsible for matching drivers and passengers by forecasting fixed fares amid price fluctuations. Their driver booking system is an example of this.

“We have learned our drivers’ preferences and behaviours, enabling us to predict which jobs drivers will take,” explains Lye. “For instance, many GrabBike drivers in Jakarta have a ‘home base’ which they prefer not to veer too far from, no matter how profitable a ride might be. Bookings are then sent to drivers with the highest probable booking rate. Because of this, our drivers now receive jobs they prefer and get better earning opportunities.”

3. Optimization

By developing and managing services like GrabHitch, GrabShare, and GrabShuttle, the optimization team helps put more people in fewer cars and make cities less congested.

“This team also forms the backbone of our collaboration with governments, which use travel and traffic data to improve transport and city planning,” notes Lye.

4. Simulation

The simulation team helps Grab’s country teams simulate how passengers and drivers would interact with new services and respond to tweaks in existing ones. The team constantly improves their services as a result of these simulations.

5. Architecture

Looking after the lower layers of the stack, the architecture team works mostly on experimenting and rapidly adopting new technologies to increase the speed at which Grab innovates. For example, it has used GPUs (graphics processing units) to reduce the data team’s processing times for even faster real-time insights.

Case study

A significant project the data science team is working on is GrabShare, Grab’s commercial service that enables passengers to carpool with another passenger heading in the same direction.

“To get passengers quickly to their destinations, GrabShare pairs just two passenger bookings with similar trip routes within a single trip,” says Lye.

Passengers will experience a maximum of two stops before reaching their destinations.

GrabShare focuses on maximizing drivers’ potential earnings by reducing the time and distance spent on a single GrabShare ride, allowing drivers to complete more jobs per hour to boost their income and reduce fuel consumption.

Two key metrics are involved in doing this:

  1. Match rate – This measures how well they match the first passenger with another passenger going in the same direction.
  2. Match quality – This measures the trade-off in time a passenger faces by choosing to share a ride with someone else.

The key is to strike a balance between match rate and match quality, while aiming for higher efficiency in putting more people in fewer cars.

“With this, it’s important to understand how passenger behavior differs from one market to another,” says Lye. “For example, GrabShare riders in Singapore are less willing to wait for a ride than GrabShare riders in Indonesia.”

GrabShare’s history

  1. The first version of the GrabShare algorithm was developed in 2015 when Grab launched their GrabHitch service. GrabHitch is GrabShare’s non-commercial ride-sharing counterpart.
  2. Once users got more familiar with ride-sharing on GrabHitch, the data science team started studying data related to driver and passenger behavior.
  3. The team then simulated the GrabShare user experience for drivers and passengers, and refined its features.
  4. GrabShare launched in December 2016.
  5. The teams then spent time on the ground to tweak the product for the next few markets before launching GrabShare in those markets.

“The GrabShare algorithm continuously evolves as every ride on our platform is logged, analyzed, and adjusted according to the local needs of each city,” says Lye.

Challenges

Communication

Lye says that it can sometimes be hard to explain their work to their colleagues outside the data science team, both in terms of its impact on the business and the opportunities it offers.

To address this, his team has started holding data science talks for all Grab personnel, highlighting specific projects and areas of focus for the data science team.

Hiring

Finding great data scientists at the volume that Grab needs is also a challenge.

One way the team deals with this is by engaging in more external activities, such as encouraging its data scientists to network, speak in technical forums, attend relevant courses, as well as to blog or publish their work.

Hiring data scientists at Grab

Grab data scientists in a discussion. Photo credit: Grab

Candidates are first screened for the basics, such as communication skills. They then typically go through three rounds of interviews.

The first round is with one or more of their peers, where candidates are assessed for their technical capabilities. They look out for good theoretical fundamentals, as well as relevant working or personal experience.

The next round is with the hiring manager, who evaluates if candidates are fit for the role in terms of potential performance and culture.

The final round is with the head of the data science department.

In addition, Lye says they look out for what they call the “hidden diamond” in every candidate: character.

“A diamond needs extreme heat, time, and pressure to be made,” he observes. “Similarly, character takes years to form. Integrity, tenacity, and humility are traits we try to elicit from the candidate’s personal stories.”

Lye also leaves potential candidates with some advice.

“Know your destination,” he recommends. “If it is on our way, hop on and share the ride.”

This post How Grab runs its data science team appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018#comments Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:47:50 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453582 New year, new roundup. Check out the latest in media, data security, drone technology, and more.

One Media

Video content media startup One Media recently secured around US$3 million from B Dash Ventures and Gree Corp. One Media makes videos that can be viewed through various social media platforms like Line and Facebook. So far, it has created over 1,200 videos, ranging from music festivals to craft whiskey drinks. The startup also collaborates with companies like automakers Honda and Toyota.

One Media’s funding comes as  Japanese media startups seem on the rise, with Lute and Candee also securing financing  in recent months.

ACSL

ACSL, which got its start  while CEO Kenzo Nonami was teaching at the University of Chiba, is a drone manufacturing company. The startup promotes a wide range of applications for its autonomous drones like building inspection, delivery services, and agriculture production support. Drones can be customized based on customers specific needs.

The company recently raised a sizeable amount of cash of US$19 million from Mirai Creation Fund, iGlobe Partners, Mizuho Capital, University of Tokyo Edge Capital, and Drone Fund.

Another Japanese drone company, Clue, received funding in November to develop similar drone and software- like capabilities.

Michael

Cartune, a community app for car enthusiasts, has achieved over 100,000 downloads since it was launched in May 2017 by Michael. Users must input their car model and photos in order to complete registration. They  can also browse through Cartune’s Instagram-like user interface or filter their searches by applying a specific tag.

As local transportation and electric vehicles become more popular, the future of cars seems to be headed towards the direction of sustainability and and energy efficiency. As such, people may wonder whether classic cars still have a purpose . However, Cartune founder Makoto Fukyama believes that older cars will remain relevant as a hobby. He also thinks that the after-parts market and exhibition culture are strong, and car companies are keen revive some of their older models.

Other than Cartune, other new companies like Garage have entered on the scene, as well as older legacy players such as Minkara.

For its seed round, Michael received approximately US$1 million from IGPI.

Caulis

Fraud Alert by Caulis took the stage in early December at the elite pitch contest, Japan’s Infinity Ventures Summit. Fraud Alert is a cloud-based fraud detection service that monitors suspicious  behavior and alerts clients. The service is being introduced in 10 companies, of which most are financial institutions.

The company, which also shares its database of malicious users, just raised over US$1.4 million in its series A from four investors. Participants included previous backers Sony Innovation Fund and iSiD as well as two new additions, Seven Bank and Revamp.

 

This post 4 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:40:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453571

Photo credit: HQ Trivia

Combining quiz show entertainment and cash prizes, HQ Trivia was the surprise app sensation of 2017. And now a Chinese tech giant is jumping on the bandwagon.

Toutiao, a US$20 billion news app with 120 million readers each day, this week updated its mobile app to incorporate Millionaire Heroes, a live and interactive online trivia show which runs several times per day.

I joined the 1:00 pm quiz within Toutiao, where US$7,800 was up for grabs. Despite being working hours, the viewer count as the livestream started was at 2.5 million. Five minutes in as the first question hit the screen, just over 3 million people were tuned in.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Millionaire Heroes (right) looks very similar to HQ Trivia (left). On this first question, 998,000 Chinese viewers got the right answer – though I was one of the near 20,000 people to choose wrongly.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia, using one screenshot from HQ Trivia

If a news app seems an odd place for a game show, there is an explanation. A representative from Bytedance – the company behind Toutiao – told Tech in Asia this afternoon that the Millionaire Heroes quiz started earlier in the year inside its spinoff Xigua Video app, and now the startup has put the exact same game show inside the news app. The spokesperson said nobody was available to take further questions about its trivia quiz.

Bytedance has a growing entertainment empire that includes Musical.ly, Xigua Video, Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

The quiz is limited to friend referrals via an invitation code. Dishing out more referrals seems to get you more hearts, allowing you to answer more questions.

Bytedance’s reported US$20 billion valuation after raising US$1.1 billion in funding in the past few years is mainly due to the rocketing growth of Toutiao, but its other apps and acquisitions show that the Beijing-based firm wants to be a global force in web-based leisure and entertainment.

See: China has a problem with Toutiao

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = RMB 6.42.

This post In China, millions are tuning into an online game show in the hope of winning money appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:00:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452698

The ZmyHome team / Photo credit: ZmyHome

Thailand has many real estate portals, but it takes almost a year on average to sell a house in the country, says entrepreneur Natthapon Asswisessiwakul.

He blames this on at least two things. First, many of the houses on property listing sites carry sky-high price tags, no thanks to exorbitant broker commission and fees that are tucked into them. Second, the sites are filled with incomplete, fake, and outdated listings from brokers due to lack of verification. If you’re a buyer, this means you might be paying for a lot more than you should, while a bogus listing is a total waste of your time.

Asswisessiwakul knew these pain points, having worked at property research and consulting firm CBRE for seven years and founded his own brokerage firm after that. Seeing the opportunity, he launched ZmyHome in late 2015 as a way for people to sell, rent out, and buy houses without the help of a real estate agent.

With US$400,000 in fresh capital from KK Fund, ZmyHome aims to give home sellers and buyers the confidence to transact on their own by providing them accurate massive data. That’s how it intends to stand out from other property listing sites like PropertyGuru’s DDproperty. “We want a clean and well-organized platform similar to the hotel industry,” says Asswisessiwakul.

Bringing transparency to the market

Only property developers or home owners are allowed to post on ZmyHome to ensure that the information is true and up-to-date. They must provide a title, deed, or any government document that indicates the house’s identification number and names them as owner before a listing is approved. This minimizes the possibility of a fake listing, says the founder.

It also supposedly guarantees buyers the best prices by excluding the middlemen. Broker listings usually include commission and other fees charged to either the users or the sellers. And given that most sellers will figure the fees into their price, buyers pay indirectly too.

One thing that’s keeping individuals from selling direct is that they don’t know how to price their properties. ZmyHome offers data on sold homes in a specific location, allowing sellers to study it and compare. Buyers looking for properties get access to the data as well. Asswisessiwakul says they get owners to update the status of their properties as either “available” or “sold” on a monthly basis via Facebook and phone calls.

Once a seller and a buyer agree on a deal, they can use a free standard purchasing agreement on ZmyHome. Or they can opt for the startup’s legal processing service, which still costs “very low compared to the broker commission.”

Listing on ZmyHome is free, and the startup charges sellers per impression – they won’t have to pay if potential buyers don’t see their properties. “Most platforms in Thailand are dominated by agents because [the platforms] want to accumulate listings and charge a listing fee,” Asswisessiwakul contends.

The startup has 30,000 approved listings on its site, of which over 33 percent have been sold or rented.

Thai real estate developers such as LPN, Riche Place, CPLand, and Real Asset have also been using ZmyHome. So far, they’ve sold over US$3 million worth of properties on the site.

LPN director Suwattana Tang says, “we sold almost a hundred units to ZmyHome buyers with over 10 percent conversion, the highest rate among sources.”

Analysis: ZmyHome needs to catch up

Like other marketplaces, the company needs to attain network effects to succeed, meaning it must attract a critical mass of buyers and suppliers. These network effects create high barriers to entry – once many buyers and sellers are using a marketplace, it becomes harder for a new rival to lure them away.

That’s a challenge as ZmyHome still needs to get its name out there and faces off against strong rivals with more experience and funding.

Thailand’s real estate market is worth US$20 billion per year, according to Thai accelerator Dtac Accelerate, but it’s not clear how much online transactions account for in that figure. What’s certain is that the opportunity is huge enough that it created a crowded and competitive market.

Similarweb data shows ZmyHome is lagging behind its key rivals in terms of site visits. ZmyHome says it gets 1.2 million page views monthly, but Similarweb pegs it at over 625,200.

Achieving network effects is tough because for you to attract buyers, you need sellers – and vice versa. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. While there’s plenty of expert advice on how to break the impasse, ZmyHome’s model might initially face more difficulty building out the supply side.

ZmyHome’s no-brokers rule for posting limits its pool of suppliers, while the requirements needed for approving a listing could slow down the process of onboarding sellers.

Asswisessiwakul confirms this in a response to Tech in Asia. “We ask owners to provide more details and property images to help buyers investigate the market. It’s more difficult to post on our platform compared to competitors.” Listings get approved within 24 hours if they provide complete information, images, and supporting documents. If they don’t, it takes three to four days.

He adds, “We grew slowly during the first year since we have less listings than competitors who allow agents to post. We attract more users than other medium-sized platforms. However, big players are attracting more buyers who are just starting to search for properties.”

Yet network effects and having first-mover advantage aren’t enough to succeed, according to Andrei Hagiu, a former Harvard Business School professor, and Simon Rothman, partner at Greylock Partners. “Entrepreneurs should really focus on being the first to create a liquid market in their segment,” they write in the Harvard Business Review.

A marketplace must prove its value to both sides, or else it becomes vulnerable to later entrants. “If users do not derive significant value on a consistent basis, they will readily jump ship,” they say.

It seems this is what ZmyHome is hoping for by offering more transparency and competitive pricing to the market.

“Successful transactions are necessary for owners and buyers to learn about the platform,” notes Sompoat Chansomboon of Dtac, which also backs ZmyHome.

Moving forward, ZmyHome plans to accumulate more sellers with a “listing score.” The higher the score, the more priority a property will be given in searches. This means ZmyHome will set minimum requirements for approving a listing, but the seller who supplies more information will get a higher score.

It will also expand its user base to include banks (which sell foreclosed properties) and foreign property owners.

There are more challenges that ZmyHome needs to surmount as it grows, such as:

1. Speeding up transactions for more liquidity

Asswisessiwakul says listed properties situated in high-demand locations and priced correctly are able to sell within three months, while others remain on the site for over a year.

He plans to bring the average selling time down to three months – “similar to mature markets such as the US and UK” – by developing a price suggestion system. This way, sellers don’t have to research and compare prices or price properties on their own.

2. Making property verification more efficient

Calling sellers to get an update on the status of their homes is manageable when the pool of users is small, but what happens when you’re talking about millions of sellers?

We also asked how the team verifies the authenticity of the documents submitted to the site. Asswisessiwakul didn’t comment, except to say that buyers report listings that have wrong information or might have not come from the home owner.

Converted from Thai baht. Rate: US$1 = 31.93 baht.

This post How a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in Thailand appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 06:30:25 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452730

Money Forward team at the company’s October 2017 Tokyo IPO / Photo credit: Money Forward

Sleekr, an Indonesian HR and accounting management platform, has secured funding from Tokyo-based fintech firm Money Forward in its first investment outside of Japan.

The partnership is representative of growing interest in Southeast Asia from a newer generation of Japanese tech businesses, as they seek opportunities for growth beyond home shores – though this could change as more Chinese capital flows into the region. 

Sleekr started out by providing personnel management software as a service, and then diversified into cloud accounting services after acquiring fellow Indonesian startup Kiper in November 2016. It now has around 80 employees.

Sleekr’s only disclosed fundraise to date was a US$35,000 seed round in December 2014.

The size of the investment hasn’t been revealed, but Naoya Kanesaka, the Japanese company’s chief financial officer, told Tech in Asia that the amount is significant given the size of the parties and the extent of their partnership.

“Including Sleekr, we have invested between US$2 million and US$3 million into five companies so far. Sleekr is of a comparably larger size,” he said.

Aside from the investment, Money Forward will share know-how with Sleekr. Money Forward co-founder and CEO Yosuke Tsuji has also been appointed to the startup’s board of directors.

Money Forward, which went public in a US$25 million Tokyo IPO last October, walks the line between fintech and enterprise software. It offers a range of financial management products that include cloud-based accounts as well as payroll, invoice, and expenses processing features.

According to Kanesaka, Money Forward has a 60 percent market share and is the number one software choice among Japanese accounting firms.

Photo credit: Money Forward

There is clear overlap with Sleekr’s offering, but Money Forward sees this as an opportunity for synergy and a way to tap into the potentially lucrative Southeast Asian market.

Kanesaka noted that Money Forward already has an accounting and payroll product in Japan, so they don’t expect to bring Sleekr there. But, as he pointed out, “there are a lot of things we can learn about product strategy and marketing strategy.”

Partnering with a local player can also help Money Forward to better understand the market. While “in terms of environment,” there’s a basic difference between the culture in Southeast Asia and Japan, Kanesaka said there’s “a fundamental similarity in terms of how to be successful.”

Going south

The deal with Sleekr is part of the company’s “Money Forward Fund” program. It isn’t a separate, VC-style investment vehicle as the name may suggest, but rather a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing the company’s offerings through M&A activity.

Under Money Forward Fund, the company pledges to offer financial backing and know-how sharing, as well as tech assistance in areas such as APIs and network support with partners, investors, and service providers in return for equity.

Prior to making its first overseas investment with Sleekr, the program backed Japanese robo-advisor Money Design in December 2015, crowdfunding platforms Campfire and LIFULL Social Funding in October last year, and ecommerce platform developer BASE earlier this month.

Kanesaka said that he expects Money Forward to make further strategic investments in Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region, and could invest more than US$10 million given the right prospect.

They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking.

Japanese tech investors have been attracted to Southeast Asia partly because of proximity – in both geographic and cultural terms – and Japan’s soft power in the region, explained James Riney, who heads 500 Startups in Japan.

“Japanese VCs and corporates were one of the first groups to aggressively invest in Southeast Asian startups. The region is also experiencing strong GDP growth overall, and the mobile revolution is turning more people into accessible customers,” he adds.

Another important factor is that until recently, Southeast Asia has been largely overlooked by US and European investors.

Japanese investors are interested primarily because the region is not as competitive as Silicon Valley, observed Riney. “They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking, and local sources of capital were not as open-minded or sophisticated at the time to compete.” 

While Southeast Asia accounts for a seemingly small portion of overall Japanese VC investment – at around 2.9 percent in Q3 2017, according to research from Japan’s Venture Enterprise Center – it is notable how this is not too far from matching the figure for North America, while it beats that for the rest of Asia, including India and the Middle East.

But this state of affairs is undergoing rapid change, as increasingly well-capitalized Chinese players enter the scene.

“The region has matured quite a bit. There are much more local sources of capital, and my impression is that China is more aggressive than Japan these days,” said Riney. “Many in Japan still see potential in Southeast Asia, but it is less appealing than it used to be because it is becoming more competitive.”

This post Sleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 13:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=451415 Melanie Perkins, Canva

Melanie Perkins / Photo credit: Canva

Australia has yet another startup unicorn today.

Nearly five years after Melanie Perkins, a former graphic design software tutor, first launched Canva as a Photoshop-for-people-terrified-of-Photoshop online tool, the startup is worth US$1 billion dollars following its latest round of funding.

She has just pocketed US$40 million from investors including Sequoia Capital to further grow Canva, which has users designing graphics with its intuitive tools in 190 countries and 100 languages. Its 10 million users make 1 million new designs each day.

“Visual communication is becoming so much more prevalent across every single industry,” CEO and co-founder Perkins tells Tech in Asia. “In years gone by, sales people would create a sales letter, it’d be very text-heavy. But now they’re expected to create a beautiful, visual pitch-deck, perhaps customized for the customers they’re trying to reach.”

Screenshot credit: Canva

The shift to more visuals also applies to teachers, entrepreneurs, marketers, and non-profits, says Perkins. That’s why she wanted to make a tool that’s very different to heavyweight graphic design apps. “Simple, online, and collaborative” – those were three priorities when constructing Canva, she says. It works in your browser, or there are apps for mobile.

The three-year pitch

While some Canva features can be used for free, others – like the ability to collaborate with more than 10 team members – require a monthly subscription. The startup also makes money from a marketplace of add-ons for things like stock images, plus it offers printing services in 31 countries.

Perkins is happy that Canva is turning a profit. “It’s atypical if you compare to most Silicon Valley companies,” she chuckles. “But there’s so much more for us to do. We’re a baby unicorn. It’s early days for us yet.”

The marketing and management grad spent several years prior to Canva’s August 2013 launch chasing funding for her startup concept.

“A lot of trials and tribulations. A lot of time pitching in San Francisco, trying to get investors on board. Trying to get people to join my team. I had a lot of rejection along the way,” she recalls. “I think it was three years between meeting the first investor and actually landing the investment.”

She concedes there was a lot of initial pressure from those US investors to move across the Pacific, but Perkins resisted. Canva now has 250 staffers across its Sydney HQ and branch office in Manila.

“It’s been an incredible benefit being based in Australia. We’ve been able to attract incredible tech talent, from Australia and across the globe. We’ve also been able to get the best of both worlds – we have investors from Silicon Valley, we go there quite regularly, and we’ve been able to tap into their network.”

The recent fundraise marks Sequoia Capital’s first time backing Canva. Australia-based Blackbird Ventures led the round.

Perkins is keeping Canva’s number of active users and subscribers under her hat. But she says that everyone from small businesses to massive companies are designing items with the tool, with 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies having used it at some point. Free access to premium features is given to 17,000 non-profit organizations.

Canva is up against not only giants like Adobe (InDesign, Photoshop), Microsoft (PowerPoint), and Apple (Pages, Keynote), but also an array of slimmer and sleeker apps and tools from startups like Sketch, Figma, Easel.ly, Visual.ly, and Piktochart.

Update (Jan. 10, 3:00 pm): Added list of rivals

See: How Facebook is eating the internet with good design

This post She runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averse appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:38:28 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450886 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Looking for a job? Search thousands of jobs for free on Tech in Asia Jobs.

The mid-morning chatter trailed off as Airfrov CEO and co-founder Cai Li walked into the room and reached for a bell perched on a cabinet. 

The bell rings. 

The 10-odd members of the product and marketing teams rise to their feet for their daily standup meeting. I rise with them. 

A user joins in the daily standup meetings as far as possible. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

An Airfrov user joins the team’s daily standup meeting whenever schedules align. I was the user in the hot seat that day. After a brief round of introductions, Cai turns to me and asks, “So, what do you not like about Airfrov, and how can it be improved?”

The story of Airfrov

The name Airfrov represents the sharing economy enabled by frequent air travelers. It also plays on Cai’s inexplicable love for the Afro hairstyle. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

Airfrov is a C2C marketplace that connects travelers with buyers seeking goods from their destinations.

Founded in 2015 by Cai and Robi Ng, the concept was born from an opportunity that Cai spotted while working in a job that required frequent traveling. Every time he traveled, his friends and girlfriend would request for items exclusive to these countries. Through Airfrov, travelers can now get a small monetary incentive for purchasing items requested by buyers. In exchange, buyers get to enjoy imported products without having to pay hefty shipping fees.

The platform is now operational in Singapore and Indonesia, and processes over 800 requests daily.

Keeping users at the forefront of decision-making

Cai credits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ concept of “the empty chair” for Airfrov’s daily user sit-in sessions. Bezos is known to leave an empty seat at meetings to represent the Amazon customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Cai, however, tweaked that idea for Airfrov. “Instead of keeping the seat empty, I thought, why not invite a real customer?” he says.

Users are constantly dropping by the Airfrov office to deposit or collect items, allowing Cai to involve them in the research and development process.

Identifying user problems first-hand

By getting feedback directly from users, the product and marketing teams can gain insights and spot pain points that are easily overlooked by the UX team.

“Instead of looking into completing specific tasks, we get to see how people use Airfrov on a daily basis,” shares Cai.

One of the first things that Cai and the team noticed was the duplication of requests from other buyers.

Image credit: Airfrov

“We noticed users coming in to say that they wished that they could copy and paste what others were requesting, so they don’t have to go through the whole process of creating a new request,” explains Cai. “As such, we came up with the ‘I want this too!’ button, which has become a core feature of our product today.”

Motivation for the team

According to Cai, bringing in users gives the team strong motivation. “It lets them know that whatever they’re doing is going to impact the life of this user,” he adds.

Taking this approach, however, also means that users can see the nitty-gritty of the product development process. Doesn’t this kind of exposure bother Cai?

“Not really,” he laughs. “We want to involve the users as much as possible in this process. We want them to see how difficult decisions are made. And we would rather that they give us feedback early on.”

The next steps

The information gathered from this process either ends with a new feature in Airfrov’s future iteration, or in the idea graveyard. Here’s how the process looks like.

Image credit: Joshua Lim

Improvements to the product development process

Going forward, Cai wants Airfrov’s engineers to be more involved in the user experience side of the business. As he points out, “Part of our onboarding process requires everyone at Airfrov, including engineers, to be in customer service and learn to serve our customers. But after the onboarding process, they are no longer the ones speaking to users.”

Cai tries to get engineers to speak to users at least once a month, but their involvement is limited because of Airfrov’s resources.

“We have to set aside time for them to do that, but right now, we can’t afford to,” he says. “I wish that they would be able to speak more to our users and see the customer’s problems for themselves. This will give them a better idea of the big picture, and the role they’re playing to solve these problems.”

Can Airfrov retain its close relationship with users when the company scales, and one-to-one interactions become less feasible?

“Why not?” asks Cai. “All it takes is for us to continue to show care and concern, and seek honest feedback. If users truly enjoy the product, they will be more than happy to join us on this journey.”

This post How Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customer appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 04:40:04 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450620 China’s startups and tech giants pulled in a record US$58.8 billion from investors in 2017, according to the Tech in Asia database. That’s up a few billion from 2016’s tally.

There was no sign of the giant bubble that some dreaded in 2016 after an explosion of local tech funds poured new – and very inexperienced – cash sources into the market.

“I think there are always ups, downs, and bubbles for specific verticals and sectors of funding. That was the case for bike-sharing and autonomous cars in 2017,” said Edith Yeung, partner and China boss at US-based 500 Startups. “Investors are hopeful they would see a Didi for bike-sharing,” she added, referencing China’s dominant ride-hailing app.

2017’s bumper haul came despite fewer funding rounds, resulting in a record-high average round of US$33.6 million a pop.

The year’s largest single investment was worth US$5.5 billion, went to Didi Chuxing. The startup raised a total of US$9.5 billion in 2017 as it ploughs cash into AI, a self-driving car research lab, and its hotly anticipated plans to expand beyond mainland China. Its expansion manifested itself yesterday when Didi acquired a Brazilian ride-hail app to get a grip on the fast-growing Latin America market that Uber covets so much.

See: China’s 10 biggest investments in 2017

Top gear

Didi and the bike-share startups – especially Mobike and Ofo – contributed to the logistics and transportation sector attracting the most funding, just as it did in 2016. Here’s the top five this year:

Finance startups – aka “fintech” – raised half of what they did last year as China’s quick start in this sector in the past decade has resulted in several niches – online lending, insurance, etc – being dominated by big-name players. On top of that, a handful of Chinese fintech firms went public in 2017, led by insurer Zhong An. Money raised from an IPO is not shown in our data.

More moolah for mature startups

This year’s figures show a surprise resurgence in investor interest in more mature startups, particularly for series D investments.

As previous years have shown, funding for more established startups can fluctuate wildly.

But Azeem Azhar, author of the Exponential View newsletter, predicts that trend will persist and be seen globally in 2018. “More money will flow into technology but it will be concentrated at later stages. Following Softbank’s lead, funds bigger than US$5 billion will abound now that the investment case of platform monopolies is well understood. These will seek to back emerging winners at a regional and global level – look at Careem and Didi in ride-sharing, for example,” he writes.

“This may create funding gaps at earlier stages in the market, as already evidenced by the seed capital slowdown in Europe and the US,” added Azhar. That also seems to be happening in China.

But for very young startups seeking seed funding for initial growth, there’s a big new factor in play – ICOs, otherwise known as coin offerings.

“Many startups are raising ICOs rather than seed rounds,” said Yeung after getting a sneak peek at Tech in Asia‘s data. “I believe the ICO is here to stay. This is not necessarily reflected in the graph.” Indeed, our figures don’t include money raised through an ICO.

China saw 65 coin offerings raising over US$394 million in the first half of 2017, but September’s ban on ICOs brought that to a halt.

Despite that shutdown, Yeung believes blockchain and cryptocurrencies remain a “significant trend for the Chinese startup environment.” She continued: “I do believe China will make a huge comeback in the virtual currency space.”

See: As ecommerce steamrolls retail, China’s stores fight back with tech

Shop, shop, shop

2017 was the year a lot of China’s tech money poured into old-fashioned retail. Online shopping giant Alibaba was already doing this a few years before Amazon’s shock Whole Foods deal, but Jack Ma’s company accelerated its drive into brick-and-mortar stores this year by opening more of its own supermarkets.

Its chain, dubbed Hema, first appeared in 2015.

When a customer shops at a Hema store, their preferences are saved in its app. That makes it easier to order online and get deliveries if you prefer to do it that way next time.

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

Alibaba’s supermarkets put a lot of focus on fresh foods. It’s aliiiiive!

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

There are chefs in-store ready to cook up what you buy, which you can then eat in the canteen – as Ma and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang are doing here.

Alibaba, Jack Ma, Hema supermarket

Photo credit: Alibaba

Or you could order the food online and get the cooked meal delivered to your door.

Alibaba plans to open 30 more such stores across China in 2018.

In November, Alibaba invested US$2.9 billion into a massive supermarket chain as it seeks to improve real-world shopping by injecting it with a lot of tech.

Archrivals Tencent and JD also made their own tentative moves into grocery stores, though the ramifications of those actions won’t be seen until a little later in the new year.

JD started 2018 with a bang by showing off its 7Fresh stores, which feature these self-steering carts that follow you around.

JD 7Fresh smart shopping cart

Photo credit: JD

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 13:58:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450907

Photo credit: WeWork

WeWork, the co-working space company from the US, is launching its first of four imminent locations in Japan on February 1, a spokesperson told Tech in Asia.

The US$20 billion startup is making a grand entrance into Japan, with three more Tokyo locations opening soon after Roppongi’s Ark Hills South space. The three others are in Ginza, Shinbashi, and Marunouchi Kitaguchi.

Prices start at US$490 per month for a seat – aka a “hot desk” – to US$1,145 per month for a private office.

The announcement comes five months after WeWork pocketed US$4.4 billion from Japan’s Softbank. WeWork has already indicated it eventually wants to open 10 to 20 locations in central Tokyo.

Photo credit: WeWork

One of many such startups running casual office facilities around the world, WeWork first hit Asia in mid-2016 when it appeared in Shanghai.

If WeWork’s Tokyo locations are anything like the one opened last month in Singapore, they’ll soon be filled by a mix of budding entrepreneurs, fast-growing startups, medium-sized business, and even major corporations.

Converted from Japanese yen. Rate: US$1 = JPY 112.55.

Watch: WeWork’s Southeast Asia ambitions

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:49:24 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450310 Mega-rounds of funding were back in India this year, after a lull in 2016. But this time they came from the east.

SoftBank honcho Masayoshi Son remains hugely bullish on India despite setbacks in a couple of big bets made on entering the market in late 2014. The Japanese giant announced a US$2.5 billion investment in Flipkart for the local ecommerce player to fight Amazon. Out of that, US$1.5 billion has already been invested. This came on top of US$1.4 billion Flipkart raised from Tencent, Microsoft, and eBay earlier in the year.

India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners.

“India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners in India because they are best positioned to leverage technology and help people lead better lives,” said Son.

SoftBank’s initial bet was on Snapdeal but it had to write down the investment as that ecommerce marketplace rapidly lost market share with the rise of Amazon India in 2016. The Snapdeal founders walked out of a merger with Flipkart after months of negotiation. Its Japanese backer then washed its hands of the deal and invested directly in Flipkart.

See: Ex-VP of Alibaba Porter Erisman on clash of ecommerce models, costly mistakes

SoftBank also made a solo investment of US$1.4 billion in leading payments app Paytm, and doubled down on Uber’s arch rival in India, Ola. The Japanese investor also picked up a large stake in Uber this year, which almost guarantees it will hold sway over ride-hailing in India.

SoftBank’s fourth big bet was to lead a US$250 million round in Oyo Rooms in a bid to win the budget accommodation space, after selling off real estate portal Housing to PropTiger.

The other big players in India this year were Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba. While the maker of WeChat is now a major stakeholder in Flipkart, Alibaba is helping to build out Paytm Mall on the lines of Tmall and Alipay supports Paytm’s payments app.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017/feed 4 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 00:30:34 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450136 China saw a bit of a slowdown in startup funding in 2017, with the US$51.6 billion ploughed into tech companies lower than 2016’s US$53.9 billion, according to the Tech in Asia database.

Despite the drop, the average deal size grew, reaching a record US$31.9 million a pop.

Here are the 10 biggest tech investments of the year, starting at the lower end of the scale.

10th: Cainiao

Created by Alibaba in 2013 in partnership with 15 Chinese delivery companies, the spinoff firm was designed to speed up online shopping.

Photo credit: Alibaba

Alibaba initially had a small stake in Cainiao, but this latest investment bumps that up to 51 percent, giving it the majority interest.

9th: Mobike

Mobike might’ve raised less than Ofo in 2017, but it still had a good year, matching its archrival’s tire print in reaching 200 cities around the globe.

Photo credit: luoxi / 123RF

Both Mobike and Ofo managed to squeeze out a few smaller Chinese rivals, with three competing startups collapsing in November.

Tencent and Foxconn are among Mobike’s investors.

8th: Ele.me

Ele.me does food delivery using a fleet of electric scooters. At the latest count, the service claims to have 260 million users across 2,000 Chinese cities, ordering meals from 1.3 million restaurants.

Alibaba and its payment wing Ant Financial are rumored to have led this latest round, repeating the US$1.3 billion the online shopping giant threw at Ele.me in April 2016.

7th: Bytedance

You’ve probably never heard of Bytedance, which is fine because neither have most people in China. They do, however, know Toutiao, the startup’s smash-hit news app.

Pulling together news from around China’s “innernette”, Toutiao has 120 million readers each day who spend an average 74 minutes flicking through the app – double the time spent on Snapchat.

The startup last month acquired Musical.ly, adding the social network to its growing global media empire that includes Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

music, teens, millennials

A Musical.ly user performs. GIF by Tech in Asia, from video by The Best Musical.ly.

Bytedance is said to be worth around US$20 billion.

See: China’s most addictive news app eyes world domination with AI

6th: Koubei

Koubei is yet another Alibaba spinoff. Jack Ma started it to ensure that his company doesn’t miss out on retail and restaurant spending.

Baked into its Alipay wallet app, the service combines local listings with deals. Although food is a big part of it, Koubei doesn’t do deliveries (in contrast to Ele.me and Meituan-Dianping, which are also on this list).

5th: Ofo

Just like Mobike, Ofo had a busy year with global expansion.

Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Didi Chuxing are among its investors.

4th: NIO

After starting out as NextEV racing in the Formula E championship for electric single-seaters, NIO’s rebranding heralded the startup’s switch to being a proper automaker.

NIO this month unveiled its first production car, the ES8.

NIO, cars, electric cars

Photo credit: NIO

Starting at US$68,000, the electric SUV is a bold challenge to the luxo-barges so popular with China’s middle-class, such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. It’ll also go up against the Model X, although Tesla’s hyperspeed minivan costs twice as much. Now up for pre-order, the ES8 arrives sometime in the first half of 2018.

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu are among NIO’s backers.

3rd: Daikuan

Here’s another unfamiliar name. Daikuan is part of China’s huge boom in online financial services – aka “fintech” – that includes an array of loans startups where ordinary people can earn interest from offering up their cash to borrowers.

Daikuan is different from most fintech startups in that it focuses only on loans for buyers of secondhand cars.

2nd: Meituan-Dianping

This giant startup combines two sites – Meituan and Dianping – and does listings, deals, and deliveries, putting it on a collision course with Alibaba’s Koubei and Alibaba-backed Ele.me.

To make that rivalry even edgier, Tencent – Alibaba’s nemesis – is a major backer.

1st: Didi Chuxing

Even after getting money from Apple and forcing Uber to wave the white flag in 2016, Didi still managed to raise eyebrows this year with its US$5.5 billion in April – which at the time was the second biggest investment into a tech firm.

Apple's Tim Cook with Didi's Jean Liu, pictured in Beijing shortly after Apple's investment was announced. Photo credit: Tim Cook on Twitter.

Apple’s Tim Cook with Didi’s Jean Liu. Photo credit: Tim Cook’s Twitter

Didi repeatedly promised global expansion throughout the year, but that didn’t happen. Nonetheless, with the ride-hailing app said to be prepping a move into Brazil, 2018 could be the year that Didi steps onto the world stage to challenge Uber once again.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 03:00:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=222199 The year 2017 saw Southeast Asian startups strike a record US$7.8 billion in disclosed funding deals, according to the Tech in Asia Database. That’s a 212 percent jump from 2016’s US$2.5 billion.

This begs the question: who are the biggest all-time winners when it comes to raising money in the region? We’ve got you covered – in the glorious infographic below.


top funded startups southeast asia 2017 02
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 03
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 04
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 05
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 06
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 07
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 08
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 09
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 10

This article and graphic was updated December 28, 2017.

Design by Andre Gunawan

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia/feed 13 https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 00:30:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450080 A startup from China is all set to reveal its augmented reality glasses – and take a shot at the big break that’ll help it expand to the US.

Rokid Glass, to be shown at CES 2018 next month in Las Vegas, is the team’s first wearable gadget after years of making gizmos for the home. Here’s a prototype:

AR glasses

Photo montage by Tech in Asia, using image from Rokid

Reynold Wu, product director at Rokid and the man charged with bringing the AR glasses to market, was an early adopter and big fan of Google Glass, the much-mocked headset that never really caught on. He feels that both technology and consumers have moved on a lot since Google’s effort was first made public in mid-2012.

“The battery… The components… The camera is much smaller,” says Wu, and these fast-moving changes should help the startup’s product be sleeker and funkier. “I can’t say it’s perfect timing, but it’s better timing now,” he tells Tech in Asia.

Also on Wu’s side is the fact that people are showing a decent amount of enthusiasm for AR right now, which can do a lot of useful and fun things. The success of Pokemon Go proves that beyond doubt.

However, that’s all happening on the phones that people already own, like this IKEA app for seeing how new furniture will look in your home.

IKEA AR app

GIF credit: Adweek

Getting people to fork out for a new gadget devoted entirely to AR will still be a big ask.

Rokid Glass takes voice inputs as well as heeds commands users make with their hands. It also has a touchpad, in case people feel more comfortable using that.

Between the eyes you’ll notice there’s a camera. The lenses are also OLED screens

AR glasses

Photo credit: Rokid

The wearable gadget will run a version of Android, making it open to apps. Wu sees Glass being suited to navigation and product recognition apps in particular.

“A lot of apps are too distracting,” he observes, thinking of how they’ll appear before your eyes in AR. He also wants to ensure its users stay safe as they walk along the street. And so Rokid will initially focus on getting useful apps onto Glass, though they’ll show off the gadget to CES 2018 visitors with a game controllable with gestures.

“We want to give you glasses that improve your life, not make you think you’re in a virtual world,” says the mechanical and electrical engineer.

Adding lightness

A big objective is to ensure that Rokid Glass is “light and fashionable,” adds Wu.

He points to Snapchat’s Spectacles – which were basically just a glorified webcam – as proof that crucial components have now shrunk down enough to allow firms to make more stylish wearables.

Snapchat Spectacles

GIF credit: Snapchat

And so Rokid Glass will be as slim as possible, avoiding the awkwardness of Magic Leap’s AR headset, which was shown off just before Christmas.

Magic Leap AR glasses

Photo credit: Magic Leap

There’s also the 900-pound gorilla in the room: Apple. The iPhone maker is rumored to be looking into AR glasses as its next wearable niche after pushing AR hard with its latest iPhones. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook in October said that at present, “the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way.” He added: “We don’t give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people’s experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.”

Established in 2014, Rokid makes the AI that goes with its gadgets, such as its Pebble smart speakers, which come with a voice assistant. That AI assistant is now busy learning English, as the startup aims first at the US with its AR glasses. There’s no set price or launch date yet, but it’s looking towards sales later in 2018.

During its CES debut, the startup intends to meet with potential customers as well as get feedback on Glass.

CES 2018 opens January 9.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:00:53 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449999

Photo credit: HelloBike.

In case you missed it, here’s the latest tech news from across Asia.

Transportation

New bike-sharing contender nabs funding (China). Hello Bike just scored a US$500 million funding round as it seeks to challenge the top two Chinese players, Mobike and Ofo. Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, however. (Tech in Asia)

‘Didi for bikes’ gets shut down (China). Inspired by motorcycle ride-hailing services such as Grab, an app called Lude Chuxing rolled out in China this month, enabling people to drive passengers on motorbikes and three-wheeled cars known as ‘sanlunche.’ But local authorities banned the app just three days after its launch due to violations of transport rules. (Technode)

Finance

Lendingkart raises US$3.8 million in debt (India). The financing from the State Bank of India will be mainly used to expand the New Delhi-based lending startup’s loan book. Lendingkart allows small businesses to easily apply for credit online, bypassing banks and other traditional institutions. It uses algorithms to score loan applications. (Inc42)

Big tech

Google may launch retail stores (India). Google is exploring the idea of physical retail stores in India to boost sales of its Pixel smartphones, according to sources familiar with the matter. The US firm has seen an encouraging response to more than a dozen pop-up stores that opened in malls to showcase the second-generation Pixel phones. India, the world’s second biggest mobile market, is currently dominated by Samsung and Chinese players like Xiaomi and Oppo. (Reuters)

This post Asia tech news roundup – Dec 27 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 05:55:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449974

Photo credit: Andrew Gook / Unsplash

Look out, Mobike and Ofo (or “Mofo,” as I like to call China’s top two bike-share apps). A new contender has just emerged, thanks to US$500 million in funding.

The huge injection into Hello Bike shows investors are not spooked by the collapse of three smaller dockless bike services in the past few months.

Hello Bike today announced US$153 million on top of the US$350 million it revealed December 12, making for a blockbuster half-billion bucks combined series D fundraising. Its aim is to stop being the third wheel in China’s growing bike-share market and thereby challenge the mighty Mofo.

The money “will be allocated toward diversifying our transportation solutions,” a Hello Bike representative tells Tech in Asia, along the lines of what’s dubbed its “3510” strategy. That means “bike-sharing, ebike-sharing, and car-sharing for three, five, and ten kilometers and above, respectively,” the representative adds. The startup has yet to announce what it’ll do on four wheels.

While Mobike is known for its orange steeds and Ofo for its yellow, HelloBike sticks to its fresh white-and-blue colorway:

Photo credit: Hello Bike

With 10 million daily rides across 150 Chinese cities, Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, reported New Seed today. Ofo has 5.1 million app users each day versus Mobike’s 4.9 million – but Hello Bike is way behind with just 750,000, according to a research group’s data.

Unlike Mobike and Ofo, Hello Bike has yet to expand beyond its home nation.

Fosun Group and GGV Capital led the US$153 million round.

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = 6.55 RMB.

(Updated December 28: Added investors. Updated December 29: Added comments from Hello Bike.)

See more:

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 02:30:29 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449717

Photo credit : jetcityimage / 123RF

Amazon rolled out its Prime subscription service in Singapore just in time for the Christmas holiday, following the launch of the Prime Now fast delivery app in July. But these moves might not have been enough to tempt shoppers away from local ecommerce options.

While neither Amazon nor its competitors like to get too descriptive with their numbers, the latest data shows that Amazon is ranking below local rivals like Lazada in the shopping category of both the Android and iOS app stores.

However, app rankings do not tell the whole story. Amazon is currently not firing on all cylinders in Southeast Asia. It still has a chance to catch up, if it decides to add heat to the simmer.

Just a scratch

According to data gathered by App Annie, Amazon Prime’s rank rose sharply on December 7, just after the service launched, before slipping back down to double digits a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, Lazada – Amazon’s Alibaba-backed competitor – has enjoyed a consistently high ranking throughout the month, peaking at no. 1 in the shopping category between December 12 and 15. This is likely due to the 12.12 promotion, a sales event similar to Singles Day and Black Friday, in which several other websites participated but Amazon skipped.

The app also wasn’t able to surpass the rankings of other competitors like Qoo10, Shopee, and Redmart.

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings Google Play

It’s a very different picture compared to July and August, when the Prime Now app enjoyed top-5 positions (although it was freely available to all users at the time).

The situation is similar in the entertainment category rankings, where Prime Video doesn’t quite reach the heights of global competitor Netflix and local streaming services Toggle and Viu. None of those apps show any dips in the rankings as a result of Amazon’s product availability.

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings Google Play

Android is the mobile platform of choice in Singapore. In 2017, it had a market share of 60 percent, while iOS captured 27.4 percent of the market, according to Statcounter.

Prime Video is part of Amazon Prime’s subscription, which costs S$8.99 per month (currently offered at S$2.99 per month). Amazon also offers a 30-day free trial period, which is probably ongoing for most users, considering the service launched in early December. For what’s effectively a free service, the low app ranking raises an eyebrow.

One possible reason for this is its readiness for the market. Much like Netflix when it launched in Singapore in early 2016, Amazon’s catalog is still not large or localized enough.

Netflix worked hard to rectify that in the past couple of years, so it follows that Amazon will be doing the same in the future. Bu the US giant needs to move fast – its rivals are not minnows.

Lazada CEO Max Bittner has previously said his company can fight off competitors, thanks to Alibaba’s deep pockets and its own emphasis on logistics and fulfillment. “Alibaba [is] here to stay. We’re here to stay. [We’ll focus] on what distinguishes us, and we’ll match whatever we can match,” he told the audience at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2017 in November.

Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore.

As part of NYSE-listed Sea, Shopee is also in a strong position to defend its turf, with its parent company raising US$894 million through its IPO, on top of more than US$1.5 billion across a number of private rounds.

In terms of sheer numbers, competitors like Lazada and Shopee have more to offer shoppers at the moment. “These two local marketplaces are well established with a lot more product options,” explains Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester. “Consumers don’t find strong motivations to switch, unless they have the urgency to go with Amazon Prime Now’s two-hour delivery.”

All’s not lost for the US giant

The fact that Amazon is lagging behind its rival at the moment is not surprising. “Amazon only has its mobile app, Prime Now, available in Singapore – not the marketplace,” says Wang.

Indeed, most Singaporean shoppers buying stuff on Amazon are used to the US site, which until recently would offer free shipping to the city-state for orders above a certain value. With the Prime subscription launch in Singapore, that’s now over.

Because Amazon’s offering in Singapore is at present confined in the Prime mobile and video apps, shoppers seem dissatisfied with the limited product range on offer.

That said, it seems that the sheer brand power of Jeff Bezos’ joint was enough to rank Prime among the country’s most popular ecommerce and entertainment apps.

Also, Amazon has not really engaged in sales and promotions so far. “Amazon hasn’t done much marketing and promotion campaigns in the local market since [launch], while Lazada and Shopee both participated in 12.12,” notes Wang.

Despite this, an Amazon spokesperson tells Tech in Asia the company is “thrilled with customer reaction to Amazon’s arrival in Singapore, including the launch of Prime.”

The US firm says it doesn’t focus on competitors – it obsesses over customers instead. “In every country where Amazon operates, there is a lot of competition. But we believe competition is good for customers. At the same time, we feel good about our ability to offer this unique and valuable program to our customers in Singapore,” adds the spokesperson.

Before Amazon landed in the Lion City, Lazada got busy launching a quasi-competitor to Prime. Called LiveUp, it’s a subscription service that combines Lazada and its online grocery Redmart, as well as Taobao, Netflix, and Uber. Subscribers get benefits like free shipping, discounts, rebates, and other freebies.

While Lazada doesn’t share figures on LiveUp subscriptions, the S$49.90 annual fee is an attractive proposition for users of the aforementioned services. The Prime subscription could be appealing as well, but not with several elements still missing, like Prime Music and Prime Reading.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Storming the castle

Wang believes Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore. “Consumers would be interested in Amazon’s unique products such as Echo, Kindle, digital books. Amazon should play by its strengths and provide the marketplace with more product options to local consumers,” she stresses.

Some industry watchers think Amazon could accelerate its presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia by acquiring local companies.

“With time running out for a full-fledged, organic entry into the high-growth markets of Southeast Asia, its stock trading at all-time high, and not too distant memories of failure in China, we expect Amazon to attempt at least one major acquisition in 2018 to accelerate its regional expansion,” writes Sheji Ho, group chief marketing officer at ecommerce enabler aCommerce.

Amazon does not discuss its plans for the region but there’s probably more services and products on the way. As the company spokesperson says, “While we can’t provide details yet about future Prime benefit additions, we can safely say that we aren’t done. We will keep making Prime better and better in Singapore, adding more selection, finding ways to make it faster, and adding more benefits including great quality entertainment.”

This post Amazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 08:28:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449858 This week’s roundup features horse-racing analytics, a platform that enables travel-related side gigs, and a fledgling enterprise focused on end-of-life preps for Japan’s aging population.

Gauss

AI-focused Gauss is collaborating with fashion brand ANAP  to create a site where users can upload images of clothes, allowing it to search the web for similar items.

Now in beta version, the startup is also working on another joint project: SIVA, a horse-racing predictive tool. Siva gathers information from tens of thousands of races every day to bring big data to the world of horse racing.

In addition, Gauss is developing other AI data analytic tools as well as natural language processing features.

Gauss recently received US$1.5 million from three companies, including ANAP and job portal DIP Corp.  

Sagojo

Sagojo enables travelers to turn their experiences into a side gig. The company lists jobs that people can apply for, such as uploading photo diaries, writing articles about unique travel experiences, and so on. Since its release a year and a half ago, the startup has acquired 7,500 registered users, of which 200 plus are using it for work purposes.

While Sagojo did not disclose details, it recently accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars from Anex Ventures, Apptli, and multiple angel investors.

Crowd Cast

Created by Crowd Cast, Staple is an app that simplifies expense reporting for small to medium-sized businesses. More than 10,000 companies are using the service, and the startup is acquiring new customers at a rate of about 300 per month. The service is partnered with more than 10 accounting softwares and other programs like Office 365 for seamless integration.

Crowd Cast just received US$880,000 from business partner MTI.  

New Revo 

Developed by New Revo, Logikura is looking to digitize Japan’s antiquated logistics industry by moving  it past analog forms of management like fax, paper, and email. Its cloud-based AI platform can do everything from creating barcodes and shipping labels to managing invoices.

The company estimates that in Japan alone, there is about US$480 billion of excess inventory sitting in warehouses. Logikura’s goal is to reduce time spent on logistics by 80 percent and cut excess inventory by 30 percent. To achieve the latter goal, it’s working on an AI analytics demand prediction tool.

Logikura is not yet available to the public, but about 50 companies have pre-registered since it started the process in mid-November.

The company recently secured US$440,000 from Genesia Ventures from its third round of fundraising.  

Baseconnect

After graduating from accelerator Code Republic’s second batch of startups in April, Baseconnect is ending 2017 by raising a seed round of over US$880,000 from several investors, including Genesia Capital, Mizuho Capital, Kyoto Startup Support Fund, User Local, YJ Capital, and East Ventures.

Baseconnect is developing BaseconnectList, a database of business contacts that can be used for sales. Thousands of businesses contact lists can be accessed in about 30 seconds.

A beta version of BaseconnectList is up and running, but it’s not open to the public for now.

Shuukatsu Netto

The brainchild of by 22-year-old University of Tokyo student Shota Iwasaki, Shuukatsu Netto is a website that zeroes in on end-of-life preparations for Japan’s ageing populace.

While lots of Japanese startups are addressing the inevitable problems that come post-population decline such as workforce deterioration, Shuukatsu Netto deals with more pressing issues in the now, such as elderly care. The site features articles about funeral ceremonies, grave sites, and other related concerns, written by a team of 20 people. Most of its readers are 40- to 50-year-olds who are making preparations for their parents.

Shuukatsu Netto just raised a round of US$730,000 from a round led by angel investor Yuto Kono of Genesia Ventures,This follows its seed round and brings its total funding to over US$880,000.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 01:15:20 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449268

Photo credit: Alibaba.

🎵You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why – Jack Ma is coming to town. 🎶

A bit like Santa Claus, Alibaba founder Ma each year draws up a list, checks it twice, finds out who’s naughty or nice – and then invests in the nicest startups.

In a good year for Alibaba – its valuation doubled to well over US$400 billion – it spent big on investments. In 2017, its top 10 payouts were worth US$11 billion – though that was nearly US$2 billion less than its record 2015 spending spree.

Three of this year’s were overseas, showing how the Chinese tech giant is advancing deeper into India and Southeast Asia.

Here’s this year’s top action. The indicated funding figure may include contributions from other investors.

1. Sun Art

Six months after Amazon acquired Whole Foods, Alibaba made its own bold move into groceries. Paying nearly US$3 billion for a one-third stake, Alibaba invested in Sun Art Retail, which operates several well-known supermarket brands including RT-Mart and the China-based stores of French chain Auchan.

However, the deal wasn’t Alibaba’s first move into offline stores…

2. Intime

Alibaba made its first serious push into brick-and-mortar retail back in early 2014 when it ploughed nearly US$700 million into department store and mall firm Intime. Alibaba started 2017 with a bang by coughing up a further US$2.6 billion to take control of Intime.

Photo credit: Intime.

On top of other moves – US$100 million this year for Lianhua Supermarkets and US$4.6 billion for gadgets and appliances store Suning in 2015 – this deal sees Alibaba shaking up shops by injecting “data-driven technology and personalized services […] integrating online and physical channels together,” in the words of Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

That basically means making offline retail more efficient and having it double as warehousing for ecommerce.

3. Tokopedia

2017 saw Alibaba make progressively bigger and ballsier bets outside its home nation, investing more in overseas startups than ever before.

In August, it doubled down on its 2016 Lazada acquisition – which gave the Chinese firm an online shopping empire across much of Southeast Asia – by throwing a lot of money at Indonesian ecommerce app Tokopedia.

4. Lazada

Alibaba upped its stake in Lazada in April, paying an extra billion bucks to go from 51 to 83 percent.

“The ecommerce markets in the region are still relatively untapped, and we see a very positive upward trajectory ahead of us,” said Zhang in a statement. “We will continue to put our resources to work in Southeast Asia through Lazada to capture these growth opportunities.”

5. Ele.me

24 up-and-coming tech founders to watch in China

Photo credit: Technode.

China’s growing hunger for food delivery led Alibaba to once again invest in Ele.me, which emerged as the leading meal-delivery app from the boom in local service startups across China in the past few years.

Archrival Tencent is also an investor.

6. Cainiao

Cainiao is Alibaba’s logistics wing, running a network of warehouses and trucking partners. The service handles 57 million deliveries a day.

This latest investment takes Alibaba’s Cainiao stake up to 51 percent.

A few months back, Cainiao showed off its first highly automated package sorting facility, where robots do most of the work.

7. Ofo

Ofo is one of China’s top two bike-share apps alongside Mobike.

In a year when many such services struggled – and at least three swerved towards bankruptcy – both Ofo and Mobike were bolstered by colossal funding rounds as they raced to expand overseas.

Ofo bike, Shanghai

Photo credit: Steven Millward / Tech in Asia.

Ofo operates in over 180 cities across 15 countries, generating more than 25 million daily rides.

8. Souche

Souche – literally “search car” in Chinese – lives up to its name as a search engine for secondhand car buyers. It also offers auto financing.

The startup is eyeing a US IPO at the end of 2018.

9. Yiguo

Fresh foods app Yiguo operates in more than 200 cities across China, with those in some of the largest cities getting same-day delivery.

This was Alibaba’s fourth time backing Yiguo. As with its investments in other retailers, the funding allows Alibaba to get a logistics boost – in this case, it taps into the startup’s well-developed network of refrigerated delivery trucks.

10. BigBasket

Over in India, Alibaba is in the late stages of a move to invest in groceries startup BigBasket, according to a number of sources. BigBasket is up against Amazon’s Now service.

If this goes through, it’ll be the Chinese firm’s biggest India bet since it backed shopping and mobile wallet app Paytm. Indeed, Paytm is said to be lining up to join this BigBasket round.

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia#respond Sat, 23 Dec 2017 08:43:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449230 These five entrepreneurs – aged 25 and under – are already building big things.

Transcript:

From deep learning to solar energy, we’ve lined up 5 entrepreneurs 25 and under who prove youth is no barrier to success.

Annabelle Kwok, 24

Annabelle’s university days were filled with hackathons and maker faires. The self-professed hobbyist soon took it more seriously and won a prestigious hackathon in Singapore. Along the way, Annabelle received numerous job offers – including from Microsoft. But the corporate life just wasn’t for her. She went on to work at Garena, but then took time off to join a circus. Yes – a circus. Annabelle started Smartcow to make a kind of Raspberry Pi for AI. The device, Tera, is an alternative to cloud computing, enabling users to store and process large amounts of data on hardware near them. It’s already being used to study rat movement in Singapore’s sewage system, where Tera is loaded with software to recognize and detect rat movements based on thermal images.

Leandro Leviste, 24

Out to solve the problem of pricey electricity in the Philippines, Leandro’s firm, Solar Philippines, develops rooftop solar plants. The Yale graduate was inspired by how companies in the US and Europe were quickly adopting solar power as an alternative energy source. The startup first put itself on the map with a project that turned a Manila mall into the biggest solar-powered mall in the world. These days, he’s shifting his focus to rural areas. Leandro is constructing a four megawatt solar-battery farm, which will become the world’s largest island solar-battery microgrid, bringing 24/7 power to up to 20,000 people at zero cost to the Philippines government and at a lower cost to consumers.

Joshua Kevin, 25

Joshua wants to kill off office paperwork with Talenta, a human resources service that helps streamline mundane processes such as payroll and employee database management. Leaping into Indonesia’s startup scene aged 18, Joshua worked with us at Tech In Asia, then at East Ventures and KakaoTalk before starting Talenta in 2013. His startup counts Go-Jek and Grab among its clients.

Shahab Shabibi, 22

Originally from Iran, Shahab already launched two startups – in music streaming and sports media – before moving to the Philippines. He founded the now defunct HeyKuya, a text messaging concierge service. These days, Shahab taps into his own experience of running businesses with Machine Ventures, an incubator that provides financial support and guidance to enterprises trying to start up in the Philippines.

Yao Song, 24

Little is known about Yao, a former Microsoft intern, except that he co-founded DeePhi Tech just over a year ago. Incorporating deep learning, DeePhi aims to increase the processing speed of AI chips and servers while lowering power usage and costs. The company looks to improve the AI efficiency of drones, surveillance cameras, and data centers. His startup secured two rounds of financing in 2017, counting Samsung and Jack Ma’s Ant Financial as early investors.

This post Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye on appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 08:50:10 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449668 Jean Liu, Didi Kuaidi, Didi Chuxing

Jean Liu is president of the ride-hailing startup. Photo credit: Didi Chuxing.

Updated January 4, 2018: Didi just confirmed it’s acquiring Brazil’s 99 in order to access Latin America. The original article below is unchanged.

Brazil is Uber’s third-largest market, with 17 million regular riders. And Sao Paulo is Uber’s biggest city on the planet in terms of rides.

That’s the prize eyed by China’s Didi, the ride-hailing startup that bought Uber’s China business in a shock 2016 deal.

Didi, which is yet to expand beyond its home country, is now plotting a move into Brazil by acquiring a local ride-hailing app, reported The Information yesterday, citing a person familiar with the talks.

Didi started 2017 by investing in 99, so the Chinese firm already has close alliances with the Brazilian startup it’s said to be buying a majority stake.

Formerly 99Taxi, 99 has 140,000 registered drivers in 550 cities across Brazil.

Not just Brazil

But wait, there’s more…

Didi is now plotting its launch in Taiwan, reported Bloomberg this week. The island’s strict stance on the use of private cars as a service means Didi will have to resort to working with cabbies and professional limo drivers.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei’s scooters. Photo credit: Andrew Haimerl / Unsplash.

Similarly, Uber operates in Taiwan in partnership with livery companies – an unusual situation the startup was forced into after being banned from the island for two months earlier in the year.

Yes, master

Behind all this transcontinental tussling is Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016. Photo credit: @SoftBank.

The Softbank supremo has emerged as the puppet master of tech in the past few years, pulling the strings on the numerous startups that his firm, Softbank, has invested in, thanks to its numerous funds – including its latest US$100 billion war chest.

Not coincidentally, Softbank has invested in both Didi and 99, so Son – worth US$22 billion, according to Forbes – has it in his interests to steer the two ride-hailing apps towards a deal.

As the biggest, strongest, and most valuable of the puppets startups linked to Son, Didi stands to benefit the most from consolidation as it will have more power to dictate terms over smaller firms like 99 and Southeast Asia’s Grab.

But the ebullient 60-year-old might be about to complicate the picture by investing in Uber, with Softbank reportedly keen to invest up to US$10 billion – so long as Uber drops its price. In that scenario, it could be Uber that would be strengthened by gobbling up a series of small rivals.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

This post Didi’s next trick is to go global appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 05:00:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449173

Photo credit: Ion Chiosea / 123RF.

From Amazon’s entry to tech leaders’ market debuts and the region’s biggest investments, here’s the rundown of the top tech news that made a splash in Southeast Asia this year (in no particular order).

1. Dave McClure’s fall

The year saw a wave of sexual harassment stories sweep industries across the world. Before the scandal involving Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein broke out, a flood of women in tech came forward with their experiences at the hands of powerful men. Among them was entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh, who accused prolific Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure of sexual assault.

Yeoh, the former CEO of Malaysian innovation agency Magic, claimed McClure propositioned her several times, pushed himself against her, and kissed her against her will in her own apartment in 2014.

Yeoh broke her silence on the incident after another woman, who runs a fitness startup in the US, alleged in a New York Times exposé that McClure sexually harassed her.

The accusations led to a reduction of McClure’s responsibilities at 500 Startups, the VC firm he co-founded, and eventually forced him to quit.

2. Back-to-back public debuts

Southeast Asia’s startup community kept a close watch on the initial public offerings of PC gear maker Razer and Tencent-owned games company Sea late this year.

Based both in San Francisco and Singapore, Razer was well received at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) in November, surging on the first day of trading due to bullish outlook on the company’s sales.

The company, backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, raised US$530 million, which it would use to expand into new verticals, including mobile devices. It unveiled its first smartphone a week before its market debut.

It doesn’t seem like the company will end on a high note at HKEX this year however, as it currently trades below IPO price.

Razer’s listing quickly followed that of Sea’s, which has been viewed as a test of how public markets treat tech firms that have amassed users but are still waiting to turn profitable.

Sea listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October, raising US$884 million. The stock had a rocky start, falling below its IPO price of US$15. Analysts said investors might be jittery about Sea’s future given heavy losses.

Sea listed on NYSE. Photo credit: NYSE.

Formerly known as Garena, Sea started as an online gaming company in 2009 and then branched out to digital payments (AirPay) and ecommerce (Shopee). It previously declared that Shopee was the number one player in an area it defined as “Greater Southeast Asia”. This didn’t sit well with Alibaba-owned Lazada, which for quite sometime has asserted its claim to the throne.

Sea has seen a dramatic increase in its revenue, thanks to its core games business. Yet losses have also widened as the firm continues to spend to capture market share in ecommerce. Nevertheless, Sea believes that Shopee can become a lucrative business on its own over the long term.

3. Amazon’s grand entrance

Speaking of ecommerce, the sector just got a lot more exciting with US behemoth Amazon now in the picture.

After playing the “will they, won’t they” game for a long time, Amazon finally rolled out its two-hour delivery service Prime Now in Singapore last July. Five months later, it introduced the full Prime membership, offering faster and cheaper shipping of items as well as unlimited free international shipping, among others.

But the online retailer experienced growing pains. Prime Now was having trouble fulfilling orders during the first week of its launch and had to fall back on hiring private taxis at one point.

Nevertheless Prime’s arrival not only ups the stakes in Southeast Asia’s ecommerce market, where Amazon is facing off against Shopee, Lazada and another Alibaba-backed player Tokopedia, plus various smaller portals. It also brings Amazon into direct competition with local content streaming players such as iFlix, Hooq, and Viddsee, and global rivals like Netflix.

Anticipating Amazon’s much-talked-about foray, Lazada launched its own membership program as early as April – in collaboration with its online grocery delivery unit Redmart, and other brands like Netflix and Uber.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia.

4. Alibaba’s shopping spree

Jack Ma’s company continued its big push into Southeast Asia, this time leading a US$1.1 billion investment in Indonesia’s Tokopedia.

Alibaba now holds a minority stake in Tokopedia, which is a version of Taobao – the Chinese behemoth’s consumer-to-consumer marketplace. This marks Alibaba’s first direct investment in an Indonesian startup.

In the meantime, Ma’s firm this year hiked its stake in Lazada to 83 percent for roughly US$1 billion.

While Lazada and Tokopedia are competing in Indonesia, sharing the same investor has fueled rumors of a possible alliance.

5. US giant bets on Indonesia

Another mega deal happened in Indonesia in 2017: online travel startup Traveloka’s US$350 million funding round led by Expedia.

The amount brought Traveloka’s total disclosed funding to US$500 million, which included contributions from investors like East Ventures, Hillhouse Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, and Chinese ecommerce firm JD.

The round reportedly raised Traveloka’s valuation to US$2 billion, according to Bloomberg sources.

6. The first Filipino unicorn

The Philippines hit a huge milestone this year with the birth of its first billion-dollar startup. Revolution Precrafted, a developer of prefabricated designer homes, raised its series B round co-led by Singapore’s K2 VC last October, valuing the company at over US$1 billion, according to two Tech in Asia sources familiar with the deal.

A prefab home designed by David Salle. Photo credit: Revolution Precrafted.

That makes two-year-old Revolution one of, if not the fastest to achieve billion-dollar status in Southeast Asia, said one of the sources – a claim confirmed by Tech in Asia data.

The startup’s new prominent investor K2 was founded by venture capitalist Ozi Amanat, who’s known for his investments in Alibaba and Twitter before their public offerings. K2 counts several unicorns in its portfolio: Spotify, Magic Leap, Paytm, and Palantir.

Revolution sells prefab homes conceived by world-renowned architects and designers such as Zaha Hadid, David Salle, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders. The homes are priced at an average of US$120,000. They can be ordered from the company’s site and shipped anywhere in the globe in at least 90 days. As of March, it had US$110 million in orders.

500 Startups earlier admitted fighting hard to join the company’s first funding round announced in March.

7. Uber’s cunning tactics

2017 has been hell for the US ride-hailing juggernaut. It started in February, when former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a blog post detailing the sexism and harassment she experienced in the workplace. That post set into motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in the ouster of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO.

Uber had been accused of stealing trade secrets from Google to speed up its own self-driving car efforts, using possible illicit programs to undermine its competitors, including Singapore-based Grab, paying bribes in Asian markets, covering up a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of millions of its users, and more.

All the bad press supposedly prompted Japanese tech giant Softbank to bid for Uber shares at a steep discount, potentially cutting its valuation by another US$20 billion.

In one of many efforts to revamp the company’s culture, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi last month outlined new rules for Uber’s staff. Probably the most important among them – “Do the right thing. Period.”

Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo credit: Uber.

8. Uber gets in bed with Singapore’s largest taxi company

Uber signed a deal to sell 51 percent of its car rental unit to ComfortDelgro for US$218 million and form a joint venture with the city-state’s leading taxi firm.

The partnership will allow Uber’s Lion City Rentals to leverage ComfortDelGro’s fleet management and operations capabilities. Uber users will be able to directly book ComfortDelGro cabs via the US company’s app, while the taxi firm’s drivers will be able to accept ride requests through it, giving them an additional source of income.

The transaction appeared to be something of a coup for Uber, which has faced ferocious opposition from licensed taxi providers in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

9. Malaysia opens digital free trade zone

In November, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma opened the doors to a free trade zone in Malaysia that’s designed to tap into region’s ecommerce boom.

First announced in March, the Digital Free Trade Zone is now open to trade, with Malaysia’s government anticipating the joint venture with Alibaba to handle US$65 billion worth of goods once in full flow, and create 60,000 jobs by 2025. The goal is for small businesses to make use of the trade hub as easily as larger companies do. It will also be used for non-ecommerce purposes, such as global exports.

The hub will likely benefit Lazada, which has a mix of small merchants and big-name brands.

10. Grab’s massive war chest

The final big story of the year: Grab’s US$2 billion funding round from China’s Didi Chuxing and Masayoshi Son-led Softbank, the single largest financing in the history of Southeast Asia.

The new investment supposedly gave the firm a post-money valuation of over US$6 billion, making it the region’s most valuable startup.

anthony-tan-grab-launch

Grab boss Antony Tan is overseeing the startup’s bloody battle against Uber. Photo credit: Grab.

Grab will use the money to tighten its grip on the ride-hailing market in the region and invest in its mobile payments solution, GrabPay.

The company has made GrabPay available to use for payments at hawker center stalls and restaurants in Singapore, marking its biggest move yet outside of the transportation segment.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post 10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 04:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449425 Car maintenance startup in China gets $10M funding as on-demand services explode

Photo credit: llee_wu.

Didi Chuxing, China’s top – and pretty much only – ride-hailing app, today announced yet another big injection of funds.

Didi has pocketed an extra US$4 billion from investors “to support AI capacity-building, international expansion, and new business initiatives, including the development of new energy vehicle service networks,” said the gigantic startup in an announcement this morning.

With 450 million users and 25 million daily rides, Didi last month revealed its plan to build a China-wide network of charging stations for electric cars, which will be accessible to the public as well as its own 21 million signed-up drivers.

The company already has an AI research and development center devoted to autonomous cars in Mountain View, California, which opened earlier in the year. A Didi representative tells Tech in Asia that the funding will include but not be limited to hiring AI talent around self-driving vehicles.

The firm this month acquired a startup in order to nab a much-coveted online payments license, meaning it’s now able to launch a mobile wallet service, perhaps challenging China’s ubiquitous Alipay or WeChat. However, an all-out war over phone payments seems unlikely since the creators of China’s top two wallet apps – Alibaba and Tencent – are investors in Didi.

Didi did not disclose who invested in this round. It brings the firm’s total disclosed funding to US$23.3 billion.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

See more on Didi:

This post Didi pockets $4b to boost AI appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 07:41:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449183 WeWork’s first venue in Singapore is open for business, and the co-working company already has plans for more.

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Transcript:

Turochas “T” Fuad:

We are almost full to be honest. We’ve been very lucky, very blessed, knock on wood. I think there’s definitely a good following of WeWork as a brand.

Look, this is the 200th location for WeWork, the 20th country country that WeWork launches. I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment, 20 and 200.

But look, I think a lot of folks are very aware of what we’re doing as a company – we are developing a platform, just beyond space, a platform for all types of creators. Different sizes of companies, come together to really work together and collaborate.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company, and a smaller company wants to learn a lot from those larger enterprise companies. All of these guys are coming together nicely.

71 Robinson Rd will definitely be launched earlier, towards the early part of next year, and then Funan Center will launch sometime in early 2019. So 71 Robinson Rd will fit about 1,000 members for us, and Funan about 700, around the same as Beach Center here.

It will serve a different mix of potential members. I think Robinson Rd is very classic CBD, where you potentially have banks, folks in financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that will be interested in the space itself because it’s in that vicinity.

And in Funan, I think you see a lot of tech. You know how the mall and this mixed use space is now being very focused on technology, they have very modern, futuristic things all the way down to the car park, to the 24-hour retail mall, a bunch of other things.

I think we’ll serve very different types of segments there. It could be large enterprises in the tech field or it could one of those startups and freelancers as well.

Over the last few years, the enterprise segment has almost doubled. It now represents close to 20 percent of our global members, around the world. Given that Singapore is such a hub, it’s like a gateway city to Southeast Asia if you think about it, it’s a hub for a lot of financial companies, it’s also a hub for a lot of startups and entrepreneurs right now.

And that’s why Singapore has always been a starting forefront for us to enter the market, the whole Southeast Asian market, from that perspective.

HP wants to be here, I guess it’s an interesting story. They came by here, they looked at it for just, less than a day. They want to be able to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here. They felt that this particular division wanted to be away from what their typical office would be.

A lot of enterprise companies have come to us and said, “Hey WeWork, we really like the culture, the energy, the diversity that you’ve created here, how do we replicate that in our organization?” So that’s where we come in, we provide our hardware, our software, our know-how, and provide that service to companies to enable them to recreate a bit of the WeWork energy and vibe.

We will actually design, manage, build it for them, and now their own employees are able to experience what a WeWork would be at their own location. It really depends on how this enterprise wants to open it up to the public or keep it sort of private to themselves. Those options are made available to them.

Did they show you the secret room? I didn’t realize it was there until the designers kind of highlighted it to me.

“Oh yeah, there’s a little thing, I don’t know if you noticed.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right, there’s a little segment on the blueprint!”

We don’t tell our members exactly where… If you notice, all of our rooms have A and B and C and D, that one has nothing, that one’s just called the secret room. I don’t think our community members tell them where it is. They can book it if they can find it, right – once they find it, they’ll be able to use the room.

This post Video: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:40:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449193 This week, a funding record was broken in Japan. For more details and other news, read on!

Ispace

Space exploration startup Ispace just broke the record for a series A investment in Japan after it amassed US$90 million from 12 investors. The startup is behind the team Hakuto, a competitor in Google’s Lunar Xprize race. Five teams are vying to win  the grand prize of US$20 million: it will go to the first group to place a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send high-definition videos and images back to Earth. The Hakuto team is scheduled to launch on December 28.

Apart from this venture, Ispace is also planning two lunar launches in 2019 and 2020. They are looking to search the moon for resources and explore the possibilities of expanding life beyond Earth.

Mago Chaneru: Grandchildren Channel

Developed by Chikaku, Mago Chaneru – which means “grandchildren channel” in Japanese – enables grandparents to watch  videos and images of their grandchildren. The US$1,700 box device is designed to be installed to a TV.  When the latest pictures or videos arrive, a notification light turns on to alert users.

The company just raised US$1.3 million from Incubate Fund. This comes after it got US$900 thousand from 500 Startups from a round raised in December 2016. Total funding now is over US$2.5 million.

Kaizen Platform 

Kaizen Platform, which appeared in TIA’s first-ever Tokyo pitch battle, is a Japanese startup that developed Kaizen Ad – a solution for optimizing Facebook video advertisements. The word “kaizen” refers to the philosophy of continuous improvement, and this marketing tool  is designed to track the performance of ads made by Kaizen and improves upon them once KPIs show signs of decline. By simply sharing ideas and concepts, Kaizen Ad will develop a variety of options for ads and continue to monitor and alter them. Customers include several well-known Japanese corporations like Yahoo Japan, JAL, and Rakuten.

Kaizen Platform has just raised US$4.7 million in their series C from Mizuho Capital, YJ Capital, SBI Investment, and Dentsu. With this new infusion, total funding for Kaizen Platform rounds out to about US$23 million.

Candee

Candee, a media startup focused on livestreaming and talent management, just received US$21.5 million from seven investors, including Eight Roads Ventures Japan, YJ Capital, NTT Docomo, Opt Ventures, Gree, Daiichi Shokai, and Mizuho Capital. Candee produces advertisements as well as general video content, but it’s looking to use the raised funds to strengthen and expand its Live Shop! app.

Released in June 2016, Live Shop! is targeted at young women. The app allows popular Instagrammers and other social media influencers to post livestreams with a maximum running time of an hour. Viewers can write comments and send heart emojis as well as  purchase interesting products presented throughout the videos.

Aside from developing media, Candee  has also invested in early-stage Instagram media company LUTE. This puts Candee in a position to be a leader in digital-first marketing and talent management, disrupting the traditional leaders that are lagging behind.

Pear

Fukuoka-based Pear has developed Omni Core, an ecommerce support service site. The service will help users manage sales that are spread over multiple ecommerce sites like  Rakuten, Amazon, and Yahoo Japan, among others.  The startup is in the process of opening the beta version of Omni Core and plans to initially use a freemium model after its official release. Pear is also looking to charge customers who sell over approximately US$270,000 a month for consulting services.

The company has just raised its seed round of approximately US$311 thousand from BEENEXT, Daiwa, and FVentures.

With companies like Hamee and Item Robot sharing the market, Pear is operating in a competitive landscape. But Pear says that its ease of use and understandability will help it edge out rivals.

Rexit

Wedding services company Rexit has secured US$490 thousand from angel investors Shinichiro Sugiyama of Valetudo and Arai Motoki of Happy Elements. Rexit plans to use the money to expand their wedding-location selection platform, Gensen Wedding.

Apart from giving couples options for wedding venues, Gensen Wedding offers counseling and wedding plan ideas. According to Rexit, over 100 couples have used the service since it was rolled out.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:09:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449175

Photo credit: walkingsky / 123RF.

Chinese bike-share startup Mobike today got a boost from Japanese social media giant Line.

Line, maker of a messaging app popular in Japan, has invested in Mobike’s Japan subsidiary, taking a less than 20 percent stake for an undisclosed sum, the two firms announced this afternoon.

The move comes four months after Mobike rolled out its dockless bikes into select Japanese cities. The service now covers 200 cities around the world.

Line has 71 million users in Japan.

Mobike Line funding

Line boss Takeshi Idezawa (left) with Mobike founder Hu Weiwei. Photo credit: Mobike.

“Line users in cities where Mobike is present will be able to unlock a Mobike simply by scanning the QR code on the bike with their Line app, and pay using their Line Pay account or other payment methods,” said the Japanese firm in a statement.

Mobike is similarly accessible in China inside WeChat, the messaging app with nearly a billion users.

Mobike founder and president Hu Weiwei described Line as the “perfect partner” owing to its huge social media reach.

“Our ambition in Japan is to work with industry-leading Japanese partners like Line, as well as local governments and communities, to bring Mobike to more cities in Japan and to set the global standard for bike-sharing,” she added.

Ofo, Mobike’s archrival, has also expanded to Japan, where its local buddy is telco giant Softbank – though that partnership doesn’t involve financial backing. Ofo is aiming to be in 200 cities globally by the end of the year.

Updated 24 hours after publishing: “20 percent” is now changed to “less than 20 percent.”

Bike-share battle:

This post Line funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017#comments Sun, 17 Dec 2017 15:59:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448619 asian startups weekly list
Here’s our newest round-up of the featured startups on our site this week. If you have startup tips or story suggestions, feel free to email us. Enjoy this week’s list!

1. Biofourmis | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Health analytics platform Biofourmis uses AI-driven software to analyze medical data gathered from patients. Data is collected from a range of sources, including wearable health and fitness trackers, hospital databases, and individual lab reports. It claims to have analyzed data from over 100,000 patients.


2. EcoWorth Tech | Singapore (Startup Profile)

EcoWorth Tec has developed a technology for the sustainable treatment of wastewater. Its core product is a material called carbon fibre aerogel (CFA). Highly absorbent, non-toxic, and recyclable, CFA can be used to absorb organic waste materials from wastewater – in other words, contaminated water that typically results as a byproduct of certain industrial processes.


3. Venteny | Philippines (Startup Profile)

Established in 2015, Venteny is a combined human resources and fintech platform. The platform provides an outsourced-employee benefits scheme for local companies, allowing workers to get exclusive perks such as discounts at restaurants, gyms, and hotels that Venteny has partnered with.


4. Oxfordcaps | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Launched this year, Oxfordcaps wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model. It works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living. The startup manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.


Startup lists

5 – 8: 4 rising startups in Japan


Related startup stories


Like RSS? There’s always our Asia startups RSS feed!

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:45:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448354 WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: WeWork

Co-working dynamo WeWork has been hotly anticipated in Southeast Asia. The local ecosystem was jazzed to see the US company acquire Singapore-based Spacemob in August, preempting its arrival in the region as part of a US$500 million investment that also covers its expansion to Korea.

Five months later, Spacemob founder and CEO Turochas “T” Fuad is WeWork’s managing director for Southeast Asia, and the company’s first space is officially open for business in Singapore’s Beach Center. It also has two more confirmed Singapore spaces in the works.

This is the 200th location for the global co-working company, while Singapore is its 20th country – a nice set of round numbers for Beach Center. “I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment,” Fuad laughs.

The venue has been taking in tenants since the beginning of December. Now it’s almost at full capacity, Fuad tells Tech in Asia. The mix includes freelancers and individual entrepreneurs (what the company terms “creators”), startups and small businesses, and larger multinationals looking for flexible space and networking opportunities.

See: Co-working unicorn WeWork heading to Singapore, Tokyo next

Singaporean startups like Chope, PolicyPal, and StashAway are already housed at Beach Center, as well as larger companies like Twilio and HP. Freelancers include people working in a range of fields, from accounting and finance to animation.

The location is the first of several planned to open in Singapore as well as Southeast Asia. Fuad doesn’t share more details about WeWork’s regional plans at the moment, but the company has already announced its second and third locations in Singapore.

Early next year, a new space will open at 71 Robinson Road, in the heart of Singapore’s central business district (CBD). It will house around 1,000 people. “I think Robinson Road is very classic CBD,” Fuad says. “You have banks and financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that are interested in those spaces.”

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people.

The price points change slightly between the two initial venues – a private office at Robinson Road starts at US$906 per month and a desk starts from US$438 per month. The starting prices at Beach Road are US$817 and US$408, respectively, according to the website.

Together with Singapore-based real estate firm CapitaLand, WeWork also announced that it’s the first tenant of Funan, the upcoming re-imagined version of a tech-oriented shopping mall well known to Singaporeans.

Funan DigitalLife Mall was established in 1985 and closed down in late 2015. Its replacement will be a sizeable complex with shops, office space, and co-living facilities. True to its techie heritage, it will feature smart parking facilities, office entry through facial recognition, and robot-assisted shopping.

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people and focus more on high-tech startups and multinationals, Fuad says.

New Funan complex

Artist’s impression of the new Funan complex. Image credit: CapitaLand

Room to breathe

Fuad doesn’t reveal what the ratio is between startups, individuals, and big organizations at Beach Center, or how that impacts the company’s revenue. Globally, around 20 percent of WeWork members are larger businesses (or “enterprises” as WeWork calls them).

“Given that Singapore is a gateway city in Southeast Asia, a hub for a lot of financial companies and startups and entrepreneurs right now, we believe that the enterprise segment in Singapore will be an interesting one for us,” he says.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from them.

For example, HP decided really quickly they wanted office space at Beach Center. “They came by here, looked at it for less than a day, and decided to become a member,” Fuad says. “I think their whole idea is, they want to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here and they wanted this particular division to be away from where their typical office would be, to have a little more fun and innovative atmosphere.”

There’s no shortage of co-working spaces in Singapore, with independent facilities like the Great Room, Collision 8, and ecosystem staple The Hub, as well as corporate-run spaces like Level3. All these businesses are competing for similar clientele, which raises questions about their viability in a small market like Singapore. Regardless, WeWork appears confident there will be demand for its own offering.

Fuad says that’s because WeWork’s focus on its global network provides extra value for its members – the network effect, essentially. “Beyond just space, [WeWork is] a platform for all types of creators, for different sizes of companies, who come together and collaborate,” he suggests. “Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from [them].”

See: An encounter with WeWork co-founder reveals a tussle between money and mission

The company’s own staff play matchmaker with members. Community managers assess each client to understand their needs and then try to bring the right people together. An online marketplace, meanwhile, makes it easy for members to ply their trade to others in the network anywhere in the world.

WeWork will also offer its co-working-as-a-service product Powered by We. This is basically WeWork applying its know-how and network to large organizations in their own facilities, setting up and managing their working environments for them. According to Wired, the company is already managing offices like Airbnb in Berlin and Amazon in Boston.

“We will actually design, manage, and build it for them, and now their own employees can experience what a WeWork would be at their own real estate,” Fuad says.

This is an additional source of revenue for the company that could prove to be a more efficient path to greater growth. This way, WeWork expects to add more paying clients without having to source new spaces itself, while still getting its brand to more traditional workplaces.

WeWork at Beach Center

Conveniently, one of the pantries can be found at the lobby and common area. Beer on tap included.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

There are all kinds of cozy nooks and crannies where people can have meetings.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

But things can get more professional, too.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The design is partly inspired by Singaporean shophouses and food courts.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This cute nook looks very relaxing.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The common areas look par for the co-working course.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Office space takes up three floors in Beach Center.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Local treats await new tenants on their desks.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Several private offices are already occupied.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This classroom-looking area can also be used for game nights and yoga.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.35.

This post WeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soon appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:30:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=424853 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, destroying last year’s US$2.6 billion as well as 2015’s US$1.6 billion, the Tech in Asia Database shows.

Indonesia’s Tokopedia contributed a big chunk of that with its US$1.1 billion injection over the summer. Alongside Traveloka’s substantial investment, it was a bumper year for Indonesia’s tech industry.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on September 7, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

Watch: Go-Jek’s Nadiem Makarim on being fearless

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017/feed 7 https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:57:08 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448312

Photo credit: Go-Jek.

Ride-hailing service Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first billion-dollar tech startup, has agreed to acquire three local fintech firms as it seeks to expand its grip on the digital payments market.

The deals involve Kartuku, a leading offline payments processing company in Indonesia; Midtrans, said to be the nation’s top online payment gateway; and Mapan, a community-based savings and lending network, Go-Jek announced in a statement today. The company declined to disclose the value of the deals.

Altogether, Go-Jek, which owns the mobile wallet Go-Pay, and the three companies process close to US$5 billion worth of credit and debit card transactions as well as digital payments for users, service providers, and merchants annually. Ecommerce spend in Indonesia this year amounts to over US$7 billion, shows Statista data.

“We are now taking Go-Jek to the next stage,” said its founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim.

The acquisitions – combined – are Go-Jek’s biggest so far, Makarim told Tech in Asia, and marks a significant step in the company’s plan to dominate the payments space, where it’s facing off against Southeast Asia juggernaut Grab.

Going beyond the Go-Jek app

Backed by investors KKR & Co, Warburg Pincus, and China’s Tencent, Go-Jek started out with rides, then later expanded into other on-demand services such as food and medicine deliveries, parcel couriers, cleaners, massages, and ticketing.

Now a household name, Go-Jek has 900,000 drivers, more than 125,000 partner merchants, 15 million weekly active users, and over 100 million transactions processed through its platform per month. That’s a fivefold jump from the 20 million transactions the company reported in June 2016.

While customers use Go-Pay to purchase Go-Jek services, Makarim previously said his goal was to allow people to pay for things outside the app system, like coffee and groceries. Today’s buys help fulfill that goal.

Kartuku claims to serve nearly all the top 100 enterprise retailers in Indonesia with its offline payment processing solutions, including point-of-sale devices. Midtrans, on the other hand, has tied up with more than 3,000 online merchants, processing their transactions through 18 different payment methods with a focus on fraud prevention. Both startups will work on getting Go-Pay accepted into their merchant networks.

Meanwhile, Mapan counts over a million families across 100 cities in Indonesia as members of its community-based savings and loan platform. The startup will help increase Go-Jek’s reach, particularly in rural areas where many of the latter’s services might not be widely available.

Fierce battle with Grab

Because it caters to the unbanked, Go-Pay plays a key role in Go-Jek’s continuous push in its home market and possibly new ones, Makarim had said.

Majority of Indonesia’s 260 million-strong population have no access to credit cards, while 64 percent have had no access to formal banking services for more than 15 years, according to a KPMG report.

Closest competitor Grab – also a unicorn and heavily funded – is betting on this space as well, although it seems to be playing catch-up with Go-Jek in Indonesia.

Go-Jek was the first to introduce non-bank top-up options for its digital wallet by letting users convert their cash into Go-Pay credit through Go-Jek drivers, resulting in a dramatic uptick in adoption. It also secured an e-money license ahead of Grab by snapping up payments startup MVCommerce. Grab got the license just this week (link in Indonesian) and was in fact forced to freeze top-ups back in October. While Grab acquired ecommerce payments startup Kudo in April, Go-Jek’s triple acquisitions will give it a huge boost.

“Grab will face tougher efforts to increase its market share in the platform economy,” which is very much a battle of scale, said IDC Handojo Triyanto, senior research manager at IDC Financial Insights (Asia Pacific & Indonesia). “Grab should take countermeasures.”

It’s too early to say who’s going to win though, he noted, as cash is still largely the preferred payment mode in Indonesia. “The battle is still a long journey […] it will take time to cover Indonesia’s huge market.”

Overseas, where Go-Jek has no presence yet, Grab has made some headway. In Singapore, it made GrabPay available for payment at third-party merchants, starting with hawker stalls. It also recently obtained an e-money license in Malaysia, giving it the green light to launch GrabPay services there. Grab aims to bring the same to other Southeast Asian countries next year.

Go-Jek is looking to foray into at least three new markets in the region, with the Philippines likely being first on the list.

Similar to Indonesia, the Philippines has one of the world’s most horrendous traffic conditions, and a large portion of its population remains unbanked.

What lies ahead

Once the deals are finalized, Go-Jek president Andre Soelistyo said the management teams and employees of the three newly acquired firms will “continue to operate as before,” but their CEOs will take senior positions at the parent company. Thomas Husted of Kartuku will become Go-Jek’s CFO, Mapan’s Aldi Haryopratomo will lead Go-Pay, and Midtrans’ Ryu Suliawan will head the group’s merchant platform.

Looking ahead to 2018, Makarim sees payments as a “core priority” and the possibility of Go-Pay’s spin-off.

Grab also plans to double down on GrabPay following its mega funding round in July.

(Update at 4:15 pm: Added more information on the deals, what they mean, and comments from Go-Jek and research firm.)

This post Go-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia payments appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans/feed 5 https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:45:32 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448223

Photo credit: Xpeng

Online shopping giant Alibaba has invested in an electric car startup, it said today.

Alibaba confirmed the move this evening to Tech in Asia following rumors in Chinese media about it funding Xpeng (also known as Xiaopeng), which last month launched its first vehicle, the all-electric Identy X SUV.

The funding amount isn’t disclosed, but several Chinese media outlets said Alibaba was taking a 10 percent stake in the fledgling carmaker.

“As a clean energy vehicle startup, the investment in Xiaopeng Motors fits with Alibaba’s strategic focus in the automotive sector. Under our open-platform approach, we will continue to work with a range of automotive manufacturing partners to benefit Chinese consumers,” an Alibaba spokesperson said.

The Xpeng Identy X has a lot of tech for a relatively cheap car, including this pop-up camera on the roof.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Inside, it looks a lot like the interior of a Tesla, as noted by Electrek – from the shape of the digital instrument cluster to that massive vertical screen in the center console.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Alibaba makes an Apple CarPlay-style system called AliOS, which it rolled out last year. Jack Ma’s company last week said it’s exploring a partnership with Ford that could see AliOS put onto the screens of Ford’s China-made vehicles.

Archrival Chinese tech giant Tencent has invested in Tesla, paying out around US$2 billion for a 5 percent stake. Tencent has also backed NIO, the Chinese startup that this week launched its electric SUV – though NIO’s will be a lot pricier than Xpeng’s.

See: China’s tech titans take the battle onto the screen in your car

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:40:01 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=418874 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, obliterating last year’s US$2.6 billion, according to the Tech in Asia Database. The region defied slowdowns in China and India’s tech industry.

Grab’s US$2 billion in July was Southeast Asia’s biggest fresh investment as the Malaysia-born, Singapore-based ride-hailing startup increased its war chest to fight Uber. Sea’s IPO also makes the list.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on August 17, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far/feed 11 https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:38:38 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448146

Photo credit: rawpixel / 123RF

Singapore’s Oxfordcaps has secured an undisclosed amount of funding in a seed round led by 500 Startups and ReadyVentures. Several unnamed angel investors also participated.

Launched in July, the startup wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model that’s already disrupting rental options for expat professionals in Asia’s biggest cities.

Companies like Singapore-based Hmlet and MetroResidences, itself a recipient of seed capital from 500 Startups, are transforming unused buildings into shared living spaces suited to the needs of modern tech workers and corporate executives.

See: Rakuten invests $2.8m in Singapore-based serviced apartment startup

The main target demographic is lone expatriate workers who prefer short-term rentals, the possibility of saving money by sharing accommodation, and the opportunity to socialize with people in a similar situation to their own.

Oxfordcaps co-founder and CEO Annu Talreja points out that international students who come to cities like Singapore to study have quite similar requirements.

Redesigning student accommodation

There is an undersupply of university-owned accommodation compared to the number of students admitted in each intake, meaning that most will have to seek out private rental options.

Like Hmlet, Oxfordcaps works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living.

“The owner typically has a property which is very good for students in terms of location and price,” Talreja tells Tech in Asia. But they may be skeptical to rent it out themselves because they fear the students couldn’t pay rent on time or might not keep the property in the best condition. Or they simply don’t want to take on the task of managing the rentals themselves.

Interested owners approach Oxfordcaps, which then kits out the property as “no-frills” student accommodation. Each room typically features two single beds, a study table with desk lamp, and a bookcase. There are also common areas where residents can mingle.

Oxfordcaps manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.

The ability to view the accommodation online and secure somewhere to stay before arriving in a new country is what makes the service particularly attractive to international students, Talreja suggests.

International students

Prior to leaving their home countries, foreign students will typically use property listings sites such as 99.co or PropertyGuru to contact agents and organize viewings after they arrive, which isn’t necessarily the most convenient way for them to get accommodation, says Talreja.

“On our site, we are going to provide 360-degree videos and pictures of every room. Details will be provided for the entire unit, down to what kind of mattress each bed has in each room, so that students can book before they get here.”

That can save them from paying for a costly hotel or Airbnb stay between their arrival in the country and when they eventually sign for a room, she adds.

What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community.

In addition, Oxfordcaps offers accommodation on a bed-by-bed basis, meaning that students don’t have to form houseshare groups themselves – a situation that’s particularly difficult for those coming from abroad with no existing contacts in the country.

The whole arrangement is meant to be conducive to bringing students together to socialize and form new friendship groups. Like Hmlet and other co-living players, Oxfordcaps runs on-site events, which it sees as an opportunity for future revenue generation.

“What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community,” explains Talreja. “These are often very fragmented and limited to the school they are going to, but these students are all in a similar demographic. They’re all in the same boat – going to a new country for their education. We want to create this community and monetize it at some point, but right now, the focus is on creating the community and keeping them engaged on a regular basis.”

See: Tech workers need lower rents and more friends. These guys help with both.

She says that Oxfordcaps will use the seed funding to further develop its tech offering and introduce new features on its site, as well as to increase the number of beds and properties under its management.

It has already booked over 1,000 bed-months since July (a bed-month measures the occupancy of one person in one bed for one month, and is a variation on the bed-night metric used in the hospitality industry).

Looking ahead, the startup wants to enhance its presence in Singapore before expanding “into at least one or two more Asian geographies,” with India, Indonesia, and Australia among the likely targets, Talreja shares.

“Within Asia Pacific there are over 100 million mobile students. Singapore is relatively smaller, with only 200,000 to 300,000 international students coming here [each year]. But it’s our Asia gateway market, since it’s the region’s education hub and the real estate regulations are pretty clear compared to a lot of neighbouring markets. But our aim is to be an Asia-Pacific brand.”

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[post_excerpt] => Startups – Tech in AsiaDidi makes first move outside mainland China with Taiwan launchSea, Razer IPOs will get more startups to go public, but when will SGX attract them?Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last yearVideo: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startupsHow Grab runs its data science team4 rising startups in JapanIn China, millions are tuning into an online game show in the hope of winning moneyHow a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in ThailandSleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startupsShe runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averseHow Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customerChina sees record tech funding in 2017WeWork to open first of 4 Tokyo locations on February 1India’s top tech investments in 2017 came from the eastChina’s 10 biggest investments in 2017Here are the 15 best-funded startups in Southeast Asia (infographic)Chinese startup beats Apple to the punch with its AR glassesAsia tech news roundup – Dec 27Look out, Mofo: new bike-share contender nabs $500mAmazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days6 rising startups in JapanAlibaba’s biggest investments in 2017Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye onDidi’s next trick is to go global10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this yearDidi pockets $4b to boost AIVideo: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space6 rising startups in JapanLine funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app8 startups in Asia that caught our eyeWeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soonIndonesia’s 10 best-funded startups this yearGo-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia paymentsAlibaba invests in electric car startupSingapore’s 10 best-funded startups this yearOxfordcaps gets 500 Startups backing to bring co-living to Asia’s universities

https://www.techinasia.com Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:43:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454321 Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei. Photo credit: Tommy / Unsplash

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, with 450 million users across mainland China, today embarked on its first expansion.

With its Taiwan launch, Didi is going after Uber, which first launched on the island of 24 million people back in 2013.

But Didi is being forced to do things differently in Taiwan, where the powerful taxi lobby has prevented ride-hailing apps from tapping into ordinary people driving their own cars. Didi is partnering with a Taiwanese firm, LEDI Technology, to run the franchise on the island using only taxi drivers.

Uber was forced to ditch its ordinary drivers in Taiwan in early 2017 after it suspended operations for two months. It now uses only official limo operators.

Carpooling

The Chinese firm is rolling out two Taiwanese services in its app – Didi Taxi and Didi Hitch for carpooling.

“Taiwanese taxi drivers will benefit from better operating efficiency, lower idle time, and higher income. Initially limited to cash payment, Didi Taxi will gradually bring in diversified third-party credit cards and mobile payment options,” said the startup in a statement this evening.

“During the beta launch, Hitch riders and drivers can split fuel costs, tolls, and other expenses through cash payments with more convenient mobile payment options to follow in the near future,” it added.

Didi’s Taiwan rollout comes ahead of a much-anticipated launch in Latin America. The startup earlier this month acquired Brazil’s 99, the ride-hail app that’s Uber’s biggest rival across the region.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-taiwan-launch/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 08:56:55 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=454021

Sea chairman and CEO Forrest Li and president Nick Nash on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday / Photo credit: NYSE

Singapore’s gaming and ecommerce unicorn Sea announced a US$884 million initial public offering this past October, ultimately raising a total of US$989.3 million thanks to strong investor demand. US-headquartered Razer, another well-loved company with ties to the island nation, had a US$528 million listing in Hong Kong just a month later.

This double whammy wasn’t as impressive as some of Southeast Asia’s IPO blockbusters in 2017. For example, Netlink NBN Trust’s US$1.7 billion listing on SGX topped the IPO charts (Netlink is Singapore’s fiber broadband network owner and telco Singtel’s broadband unit). Cromwell European Real Estate also listed on SGX, raising US$1 billion.

[The Sea and Razer IPOs are] a data point that VCs and founders can point to.

But for the tech startup scene, the Sea and Razer IPOs were still a crackerjack. Not only were the trade debuts long-awaited milestones for both companies, they were also an effective bellwether for Southeast Asian companies with public market aspirations.

Companies in Southeast Asia were waiting to see how the Sea IPO would pan out, so there was subsequently a lot of interest from local and regional tech companies in US listings. Sharon Lau, the Singapore office managing partner of law firm Latham & Watkins, predicts that there will be more high-profile IPOs from the region in late 2018 or early 2019, although she doesn’t share any details.

Rajiv Gupta, also a partner at Latham & Watkins in Singapore, says that local advisors, including banks and lawyers, were asked by IPO candidates to wait and see how the Sea listing would go before going forward with their own. “It was almost seen as a litmus test for the appetite for an Asian tech company IPO in the US,” he says, adding that interest remains strong after the listing.

This holds true even though both companies’ stock prices have dropped since and are trading below their IPO price. Sea’s stock opened today at US$12.58 in NYSE, having started at US$16.26, and Razer’s stock price opened at HKD 3.79 in HKG, having started at HKD 4.58.

“I think it is a recent indicator – a data point that VCs and founders can point to,” says Ferish Patel, partner at law firm Gunderson Dettmer.

The bell tolls for IPOs

Because Sea and Razer listed outside of Singapore, the market they’re more closely associated with, it adds to the debate about the city-state bourse’s attractiveness to tech startups.

This is not so much an indictment of local markets – IPOs in the region are doing quite well, in fact. “2017 was a record year for ASEAN IPOs and technology listings was the second largest category,” says Nam Soon Liew, managing partner at ASEAN Financial Services for Ernst & Young.

According to the Transaction Trail 2017 Report by valuation and financial advisory firm Duff & Phelps, IPO capital value in Singapore doubled last year in comparison to 2016.

Singapore IPOs Duff & Phelps

But Sea will likely not be the last Southeast Asian tech company to reach out to the global market through a US listing. Lau and Gupta confirm that tech companies and investors are eager for US listings.

While it doesn’t bode well for local exchanges, it’s not hard to see why companies here covet New York City lights. “Investors in the US really understand technology, and they are willing to put in big money,” explains Srividya Gopalakrishnan, managing director at Duff & Phelps Singapore.

This will probably continue to be the case, as long as investors in Singapore have different priorities. “[They] are generally more inclined towards defensive and income-generating stocks,” says Philip Teo, founder and CEO of Traderwave, a Singapore-based startup that helps traders discover, analyze, and monitor stock trading opportunities.

Teo, who has prior public market experience at Singaporean bank OCBC and conducts seminars for retail investors at SGX’s trading academy, thinks that growth-focused companies like tech startups generally don’t appeal to local investors. Such investors are more used to Singapore’s real estate investment trust focus.

Raising money is of course a key motivation for founders going public, right next to increasing their company’s profile and providing exit opportunities for their private investors. But when it comes to raising funds, there’s a lot more private capital to go around these days.

Companies like Grab and Uber, for example, have managed to build up significant war chests without an IPO. As such, startups have one more thing to consider: is it perhaps better to delay a listing and continue raising money privately? “Definitely Razer and Sea’s IPOs offer founders some potential food for thought about whether they should be listing or holding out as long as possible,” Teo explains.

Several companies also have the added option of ICOs these days – the trend peaked this year, as this graph vividly shows.

“ICOs have already surpassed early-stage VC funding despite concerns by regulators and investors alike with money laundering and the inherent volatility,” Liew says. “We expect ICO as a business model to continue to be a source of funding but also evolve with a greater understanding of the risks with evolving regulations.”

SGX Centre in downtown Singapore

SGX Centre, downtown Singapore / Photo credit: tang90246 / 123RF

Singapore needs to do more

SGX has made efforts to become attractive to tech startup listings through a number of initiatives, like engaging with regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to discover promising companies and allowing for dual-class shares that allow founders to retain control of their company.

But aside from investors coming around to tech startups, SGX might also need to focus on the specific value it can offer local companies.

If the bulk of your customers are in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here.

Lau believes SGX should take advantage of its streamlined listing process and look more carefully at Southeast Asian and Indian companies, for whom the region is a significant chunk of their business. “A business that’s not going to have a China or North Asia angle is perhaps the kind of company [SGX] should be marketing to,” she says.

As Teo suggests, “a company will usually list on SGX only if their market or their main target audience is actually very near to, or in, Singapore itself.” If the bulk of a company’s customers and market are in Singapore or in Southeast Asia, perhaps it makes more sense to list here instead of a high-profile foreign exchange where it will be just one more company among tens of thousands.

“This is clearly a journey and a continued focus on shortening the time to market and making it more cost- and process-effective for listing will help,” Liew observes. “We see a strong pipeline of potential technology listings and 2018 should prove to be another strong year, given the continuing strong economic growth and positive equity markets.”

Gopalakrishnan has confidence in Singapore’s potential as a market for tech listings. “If somebody asked last year, I don’t think anyone would have said that Hong Kong would be the next market for [such companies],” she says. “But Hong Kong has managed to show there are actually investors interested in putting money in tech. I have a very positive feeling that Singapore will do the same but it may take a little more time because Singapore is fairly conservative. If Hong Kong can do it, then Singapore can as well.”

(Update, 8:20pm SGT: Updated Sea IPO value.)

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/tech-ipo-boom-sea-razer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 04:51:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453817

Carousell’s Singapore headquarters / Photo credit: Carousell

Carousell appears to have raised over US$45 million in new funding last year, according to financial documents reviewed by Tech in Asia, while the startup confirmed it has new backers. This could be a sign of investor confidence in Carousell’s ability to become profitable.

Filings submitted to Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) by the startup indicate that it had paid-up share capital totaling about US$87.1 million as of September 20 last year.

Tech in Asia’s database records Carousell as having raised a total of US$41.8 million as of August 2016, when its series B round was announced.

The difference between these two figures – US$45.3 million – appears to be the amount Carousell has brought in since then.

That falls short of the US$80 million it is reported to have raised at series C, but it’s possible that the remainder hasn’t been banked yet. The investment may be divided into two or more tranches.

We do have new investors.

EDBI, the Singapore Economic Development Board’s corporate investment arm, is named as a shareholder, though it had not been been listed as a Carousell investor before. Previously reported investors Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, and 500 Startups are also listed as owning stakes.

“Fundraising is an ongoing process,” a Carousell spokesperson told Tech in Asia when asked about series C fundraising. “We do have new investors, but we’ll announce further details when the time is right.”

EDBI responded to Tech in Asia‘s request for comment, but was unable to provide additional details at this time.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

With more than 100 million listings and users in 19 cities across seven countries, Carousell’s achievements since it launched its C2C platform in May 2012 cannot be understated. But monetizing what it has built – arguably the much harder task –  has only just begun.

Starting out as a community-driven marketplace to connect individual buyers and sellers, Carousell was run on a free-to-use basis, generating next to no income. But its latest available financial report indicates that Carousell might still be in the nascent stages of monetization. Its revenue in 2016 was negligible and decreased by over a third from 2015, although it’s not known if it improved last year.

Carousell did not share any figures related to its 2017 performance with Tech in Asia, but a spokesperson said that the company is starting to see positive results from monetization products released last year, such as Bumps, Carousell Coins, listing fees, Carousell Pro subscriptions, media sales, and advertising.

Bumps is a paid-for feature that allows sellers to enhance the visibility of their listings. Carousell Coins is a virtual currency for the marketplace that can be bought and used to cover listing fees or buy Bumps.

Soft-launched last October, Carousell Pro is a paid-for app designed to help professional sellers in the real estate and job recruitment segments to “create, manage, and analyze” their marketing efforts.

Carousell had earlier moved into listing cars and property, which brought commercial merchants onto its platform for the first time and heralded the introduction of paid-for premium ads. Job listings soon followed.

Carousell Motors, a dedicated car marketplace app

Photo credit: Carousell

“We also work with advertisers and brands who are looking to reach out to our users, through our media sales and advertising products,”  said the Carousell spokesperson, who mentioned AXA Insurance, DBS Bank, McDonalds, and Uber as among the brands that have run customized marketing campaigns with the startup.

The company also said that for 2018, it’s focusing on growth in its key markets. “Some of the initiatives we are working on include test-bedding exciting new product features and exploring opportunities to partner with local industry players to deepen our presence across our markets,” the spokesperson shared.

Carousell also explained how, like other classifieds businesses, many investments are made upfront with negative cash flow at first, but “they also enjoy healthy margins once monetization starts and operates at scale.”

The spokesperson continued: “We’ve invested heavily in putting the right pieces in place and have now started to roll out our monetization strategy. With healthy user growth in place, we started focusing on generating revenue to ensure sustainability.”

They should have been able to keep their operations lean.

While Carousell has yet to disclose its 2017 numbers, the fact that it managed to raise a significant sum in funding may be a sign that investors are bullish about its revenue-generation efforts. Tech in Asia reached out to Carousell shareholders Golden Gate Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and 500 Startups, but did not get a response at the time of publication.

A scan of the Carousell app shows that its Bumps feature is seeing significant usage among sellers. It is also ranking well on the iOS top grossing charts, which list apps according to the volume of in-app purchases.

As of January 18, Carousell is the highest-grossing app in the shopping category in four countries according to analytics provider AppLyzer, although it is unique among major ecommerce apps in its support for Apple Pay, which sellers can use to buy Bumps. As such, this may not be something to gloat about.

However,  its ranking (at time of publication) as the 41st highest-grossing app across all categories in Singapore – above games like Zynga Poker, Line: Disney Tsum Tsum, and Blizzard’s Hearthstone – is a positive sign.

Room for improvement

Jackie Lam, co-founder at startup consultancy Oddup, finds some of Carousell’s numbers worrying. For the most part, the startup is still an online classifieds marketplace that neither facilitates payments nor is legally capable of providing resolutions should a transaction go wrong, she pointed out.

“In essence, the only value that their platform provides is a space for people to post advertisements and chat. Therefore, the expenses they should have incurred would be minimal. They should have been able to keep their operations lean.”

Based on its financial statement, Carousell’s total pre-tax losses grew almost fivefold to US$22 million in 2016, mostly due to rising staff and marketing costs.

Carousell co-founders Quek Siu Rui (L), Lucas Ngoo (M), and Marcus Tan (R) / Photo credit: Carousell

It is not uncommon for startups to be running losses in their early years, so these metrics alone are not indicative of the company’s health, said Lawrence Cheok, senior research manager at IDC. But Carousell’s fall in revenue between 2015 and 2016 against a continuing trend of increasing losses may be a cause for concern, he added.

Cheok said that Carousell may be overlooking revenue opportunities on the buyer side of its business, such as bringing payment and fulfillment onto its platform rather than leaving it up to buyers and sellers to complete transactions between themselves.  

Carousell only suggests methods for customers to settle payment – through user-to-user bank transfers, cash on delivery, or third-party providers – rather than hosting a payments infrastructure on its site.

“This is a glaring gap in customer experience,” noted Cheok. “For example, eBay – through PayPal – guarantees the transaction as the trusted middleman. This underlying trust is mandatory for remote exchange of goods and services between two strangers.”

Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.

In contrast, Carousell’s regional rivals Lazada and Shopee allow customers to “checkout” on their sites or in their apps by using credit and debit cards, online banking, and a range of third-party payments gateways and mobile wallets.

Another strategic flaw of keeping payments off-platform is the inability to verify transactions. Without transactional data, consumer analytics efforts will be dubious at best, added Cheok.

“With high-value purchases like cars and properties, the fundamental trust issue becomes even more pressing. Without transactions, sellers have little reason to pay for premium listings.”

Bringing payments on-platform could also help Carousell to collect enhanced pricing data, which may become a revenue stream in itself.

“I believe that companies like Apple would pay top dollar to figure out what the market value of their second-hand products in Singapore and other countries is, as it would help them with their pricing strategy,” said Lam.

Listed prices on Carousell are not final as they can still be negotiated between buyers and sellers outside of the platform. But the company can keep track of the offers made and accepted – and if payments were completed through the platform, it would have data on final sale prices, too.

Lam further suggested that Carousell upgrade or customize its user interface for certain product categories. She argued it’s not optimized for searching for vehicles or property, unlike specialized marketplaces such as SGCarMart and PropertyGuru.

“Since cars and property are big-ticket items which usually have more idiosyncrasies relative to consumer electronics or fashion products, a distinct platform dedicated to each would help them to differentiate effectively.”

What to look for in the 2017 statement

Below is Carousell’s consolidated income statement for 2016 – the most recent full year available – which is publicly accessible from ACRA. Note that figures in brackets are negative:

Source: ACRA

Here’s its consolidated cash flow statement for the same period:

Source: ACRA

The company’s FY 2017 filing will give a better idea of how the revenue generation initiatives are playing out.

Looking ahead, Carousell will need to demonstrate an increase in gross merchandise volume – that is, the value of all the goods sold across its platform – to show current and prospective investors that its user base continues to grow, said Cheok.

Carousell must show “a narrowing gap between revenue against operating cost – which may happen while absolute losses are still increasing.” This will indicate that the early years’ losses as seen in the above statements can be considered a worthwhile investment, allowing the startup to acquire users and thereby achieve scale, network effect, and monetization, he concluded.

This post Carousell raised over $45m in new funding last year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/carousell-2017-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 01:15:12 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453344 China is overflowing with deep learning and AI startups, and they’re doing things differently from deep learning startups in Silicon Valley.

[embedded content]

This video features Dr. Chris Rowen, founder and principal of Cognite Ventures and co-founder and CEO of Babblabs.


Transcript:

Dr. Chris Rowen: “I think that there a set of common features and a set of distinct characteristics about what the Chinese neural network startups are doing relative to the US, relative to the rest of the world. Some of the clear themes are, number one, there’s lots of interest in video and especially in surveillance in China.Some of that comes from the level of investment that the Chinese government is making in public safety. Some of it, I think, comes from a long history of interest in imaging.

“Some of it comes from the fact that the Chinese electronics community really understands a lot about devices. Gadgets. Things that are widely deployed in high volume.

“And there is, on the flip side, relatively less activity in the cloud in China among startups. Certainly it’s true in the neural network area. In fact, worldwide in my Cognite Ventures 300 list roughly two-thirds of all of the neural network startups are deploying software for the cloud. In China, very few.

“So it’s almost as if the whole cloud segment is missing from the Chinese neural network community. Partly because I think the cloud is less well-developed as a commercial ecosystem. Certainly there are big players like Alibaba, for example, and Baidu, focused on the cloud. But it’s really percolated much less completely into the ecosystem of small, medium, and large players.

“I think some of it really reflects the fact that people see the value in these things where there’s a tangible element. It may go back historically to the question of intellectual property protection in that it’s much easier to be confident that you’re protecting the value of your product when all of the software and all of the hardware are bundled together in one thing. And so that tends to make the Chinese startup community much more oriented towards hardware/software systems.

“It’s much less about ‘Oh, I have a very specific algorithm or a very specific application or a very specific chip in mind’ but rather: ‘I am combining chips and software and algorithms and application insights together in a package which is salable.’ So in an ironic sense, the Chinese deep learning startups tend to be quite integrated and quite system-oriented in their perspective. Because, I think, it reflects in part this interest in delivering a more complete solution, in part to protect intellectual property; certainly to protect value in a world where there [is] a long history of clone makers of various kinds.

“In general, the level of activity and the level of sophistication is high in China just as it is in the other leading countries that are at the forefront of this. I think some of the unique characteristics of China are the things I’ve mentioned; this focus on embedded devices, this focus on surveillance, the relative immaturity of the cloud. You also, I think, have an environment where there’s actually quite a bit of venture money available. The level of enthusiasm, the kind of overt encouragement of the Chinese government for investment in this really leading-edge technology is [making] a lot of money available to teams so that, while it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison, my guess is that for a team of a given caliber they probably have the easiest time getting funded in China and get the highest valuations in China right now.

“I tend to be a big fan of the company DeePhi which is focused on really quite advanced neural network methods for vision, applying it, of course, in surveillance but in other areas as well. They are both developing new algorithms and optimizing them very effectively for FPGAs but also working to develop new silicon platforms.

“And they have, I think, a very significant history in working in a particularly interesting problem in neural networks which is how do you build much smaller, much leaner much more efficient neural networks than what people are typically implementing in the cloud. And they’re able to do things that have significantly lower compute requirements, fit into smaller chips, run at higher framerates and still keep very high accuracy. Accuracy comparable to what people have done in cloud-based computing, but now doing it in quite small devices.

“I think it’s a really interesting group of people out of a combination of Tsinghua University and Stanford who are the inspiration behind DeePhi and they’re doing quite remarkable things.”

This post Video: What’s unique about China’s deep learning startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-unique-ai-startups/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:02:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452181 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Grab is now hiring on Tech in Asia Jobs.

While many are familiar with ride-hailing app Grab, few of us really know what happens after we hit “book.”

Different teams work the magic to deliver the ride, but I was interested in how data science fits into all of this. So I sat down with Lye Kong-wei, Grab’s head of data science, to find out more.

Making sense of the data Grab collects

Grab hails from Malaysia, starting off as MyTeksi in 2012. In six short years, it has grown into a billion-dollar startup and a top contender in Southeast Asia’s private car-hailing space.

Around 3.5 million rides are booked on the app daily, generating over 10 terabytes of data on the platform each day. More than 60 employees work in the data team in Singapore to make sense of the data and use insights gathered to improve the Grab experience.

The team is expected to expand by 50 percent at the end of 2018.

The data team at Grab

The data team at Grab is divided into two: the data engineering team and the data science team.

The data engineering team manages Grab’s data warehouses, builds its pipelines, and ensures that other data teams get data in a form they can readily use.

Headed by Lye, the data science team is made up mostly of researchers working on models and algorithms to translate research into product features.

“From the moment a passenger opens the Grab app to the time a vehicle arrives, data science powers the thinking and decision-making on the most efficient routes, travel time, and price point. These collectively work to make a safe and convenient commuting experience for both drivers and passengers,” says Lye.

There are around 30 people in the data science team. It’s currently based in Singapore, but there are plans to expand to other countries where Grab operates.

Grab’s data science team. Lye is at the back, on the far right. Photo credit: Grab

Team structure and dynamics

Grab’s data science team is made up of five groups focused on specific areas.

1. Machine learning

The machine learning team works on all kinds of predictions using traditional machine learning and new deep learning techniques. Most applications involve studying users’ behaviour to improve the experience for both passengers and drivers.

2. Markets

Working closely with the machine learning team, the markets team studies supply (driver) and demand (passengers). They are responsible for matching drivers and passengers by forecasting fixed fares amid price fluctuations. Their driver booking system is an example of this.

“We have learned our drivers’ preferences and behaviours, enabling us to predict which jobs drivers will take,” explains Lye. “For instance, many GrabBike drivers in Jakarta have a ‘home base’ which they prefer not to veer too far from, no matter how profitable a ride might be. Bookings are then sent to drivers with the highest probable booking rate. Because of this, our drivers now receive jobs they prefer and get better earning opportunities.”

3. Optimization

By developing and managing services like GrabHitch, GrabShare, and GrabShuttle, the optimization team helps put more people in fewer cars and make cities less congested.

“This team also forms the backbone of our collaboration with governments, which use travel and traffic data to improve transport and city planning,” notes Lye.

4. Simulation

The simulation team helps Grab’s country teams simulate how passengers and drivers would interact with new services and respond to tweaks in existing ones. The team constantly improves their services as a result of these simulations.

5. Architecture

Looking after the lower layers of the stack, the architecture team works mostly on experimenting and rapidly adopting new technologies to increase the speed at which Grab innovates. For example, it has used GPUs (graphics processing units) to reduce the data team’s processing times for even faster real-time insights.

Case study

A significant project the data science team is working on is GrabShare, Grab’s commercial service that enables passengers to carpool with another passenger heading in the same direction.

“To get passengers quickly to their destinations, GrabShare pairs just two passenger bookings with similar trip routes within a single trip,” says Lye.

Passengers will experience a maximum of two stops before reaching their destinations.

GrabShare focuses on maximizing drivers’ potential earnings by reducing the time and distance spent on a single GrabShare ride, allowing drivers to complete more jobs per hour to boost their income and reduce fuel consumption.

Two key metrics are involved in doing this:

  1. Match rate – This measures how well they match the first passenger with another passenger going in the same direction.
  2. Match quality – This measures the trade-off in time a passenger faces by choosing to share a ride with someone else.

The key is to strike a balance between match rate and match quality, while aiming for higher efficiency in putting more people in fewer cars.

“With this, it’s important to understand how passenger behavior differs from one market to another,” says Lye. “For example, GrabShare riders in Singapore are less willing to wait for a ride than GrabShare riders in Indonesia.”

GrabShare’s history

  1. The first version of the GrabShare algorithm was developed in 2015 when Grab launched their GrabHitch service. GrabHitch is GrabShare’s non-commercial ride-sharing counterpart.
  2. Once users got more familiar with ride-sharing on GrabHitch, the data science team started studying data related to driver and passenger behavior.
  3. The team then simulated the GrabShare user experience for drivers and passengers, and refined its features.
  4. GrabShare launched in December 2016.
  5. The teams then spent time on the ground to tweak the product for the next few markets before launching GrabShare in those markets.

“The GrabShare algorithm continuously evolves as every ride on our platform is logged, analyzed, and adjusted according to the local needs of each city,” says Lye.

Challenges

Communication

Lye says that it can sometimes be hard to explain their work to their colleagues outside the data science team, both in terms of its impact on the business and the opportunities it offers.

To address this, his team has started holding data science talks for all Grab personnel, highlighting specific projects and areas of focus for the data science team.

Hiring

Finding great data scientists at the volume that Grab needs is also a challenge.

One way the team deals with this is by engaging in more external activities, such as encouraging its data scientists to network, speak in technical forums, attend relevant courses, as well as to blog or publish their work.

Hiring data scientists at Grab

Grab data scientists in a discussion. Photo credit: Grab

Candidates are first screened for the basics, such as communication skills. They then typically go through three rounds of interviews.

The first round is with one or more of their peers, where candidates are assessed for their technical capabilities. They look out for good theoretical fundamentals, as well as relevant working or personal experience.

The next round is with the hiring manager, who evaluates if candidates are fit for the role in terms of potential performance and culture.

The final round is with the head of the data science department.

In addition, Lye says they look out for what they call the “hidden diamond” in every candidate: character.

“A diamond needs extreme heat, time, and pressure to be made,” he observes. “Similarly, character takes years to form. Integrity, tenacity, and humility are traits we try to elicit from the candidate’s personal stories.”

Lye also leaves potential candidates with some advice.

“Know your destination,” he recommends. “If it is on our way, hop on and share the ride.”

This post How Grab runs its data science team appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/grab-runs-data-science-team/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018#comments Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:47:50 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453582 New year, new roundup. Check out the latest in media, data security, drone technology, and more.

One Media

Video content media startup One Media recently secured around US$3 million from B Dash Ventures and Gree Corp. One Media makes videos that can be viewed through various social media platforms like Line and Facebook. So far, it has created over 1,200 videos, ranging from music festivals to craft whiskey drinks. The startup also collaborates with companies like automakers Honda and Toyota.

One Media’s funding comes as  Japanese media startups seem on the rise, with Lute and Candee also securing financing  in recent months.

ACSL

ACSL, which got its start  while CEO Kenzo Nonami was teaching at the University of Chiba, is a drone manufacturing company. The startup promotes a wide range of applications for its autonomous drones like building inspection, delivery services, and agriculture production support. Drones can be customized based on customers specific needs.

The company recently raised a sizeable amount of cash of US$19 million from Mirai Creation Fund, iGlobe Partners, Mizuho Capital, University of Tokyo Edge Capital, and Drone Fund.

Another Japanese drone company, Clue, received funding in November to develop similar drone and software- like capabilities.

Michael

Cartune, a community app for car enthusiasts, has achieved over 100,000 downloads since it was launched in May 2017 by Michael. Users must input their car model and photos in order to complete registration. They  can also browse through Cartune’s Instagram-like user interface or filter their searches by applying a specific tag.

As local transportation and electric vehicles become more popular, the future of cars seems to be headed towards the direction of sustainability and and energy efficiency. As such, people may wonder whether classic cars still have a purpose . However, Cartune founder Makoto Fukyama believes that older cars will remain relevant as a hobby. He also thinks that the after-parts market and exhibition culture are strong, and car companies are keen revive some of their older models.

Other than Cartune, other new companies like Garage have entered on the scene, as well as older legacy players such as Minkara.

For its seed round, Michael received approximately US$1 million from IGPI.

Caulis

Fraud Alert by Caulis took the stage in early December at the elite pitch contest, Japan’s Infinity Ventures Summit. Fraud Alert is a cloud-based fraud detection service that monitors suspicious  behavior and alerts clients. The service is being introduced in 10 companies, of which most are financial institutions.

The company, which also shares its database of malicious users, just raised over US$1.4 million in its series A from four investors. Participants included previous backers Sony Innovation Fund and iSiD as well as two new additions, Seven Bank and Revamp.

 

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-01-17-2018/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:40:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=453571

Photo credit: HQ Trivia

Combining quiz show entertainment and cash prizes, HQ Trivia was the surprise app sensation of 2017. And now a Chinese tech giant is jumping on the bandwagon.

Toutiao, a US$20 billion news app with 120 million readers each day, this week updated its mobile app to incorporate Millionaire Heroes, a live and interactive online trivia show which runs several times per day.

I joined the 1:00 pm quiz within Toutiao, where US$7,800 was up for grabs. Despite being working hours, the viewer count as the livestream started was at 2.5 million. Five minutes in as the first question hit the screen, just over 3 million people were tuned in.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Millionaire Heroes (right) looks very similar to HQ Trivia (left). On this first question, 998,000 Chinese viewers got the right answer – though I was one of the near 20,000 people to choose wrongly.

Photo credit: Tech in Asia, using one screenshot from HQ Trivia

If a news app seems an odd place for a game show, there is an explanation. A representative from Bytedance – the company behind Toutiao – told Tech in Asia this afternoon that the Millionaire Heroes quiz started earlier in the year inside its spinoff Xigua Video app, and now the startup has put the exact same game show inside the news app. The spokesperson said nobody was available to take further questions about its trivia quiz.

Bytedance has a growing entertainment empire that includes Musical.ly, Xigua Video, Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

The quiz is limited to friend referrals via an invitation code. Dishing out more referrals seems to get you more hearts, allowing you to answer more questions.

Bytedance’s reported US$20 billion valuation after raising US$1.1 billion in funding in the past few years is mainly due to the rocketing growth of Toutiao, but its other apps and acquisitions show that the Beijing-based firm wants to be a global force in web-based leisure and entertainment.

See: China has a problem with Toutiao

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = RMB 6.42.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-quiz-app-inside-toutiao/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:00:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452698

The ZmyHome team / Photo credit: ZmyHome

Thailand has many real estate portals, but it takes almost a year on average to sell a house in the country, says entrepreneur Natthapon Asswisessiwakul.

He blames this on at least two things. First, many of the houses on property listing sites carry sky-high price tags, no thanks to exorbitant broker commission and fees that are tucked into them. Second, the sites are filled with incomplete, fake, and outdated listings from brokers due to lack of verification. If you’re a buyer, this means you might be paying for a lot more than you should, while a bogus listing is a total waste of your time.

Asswisessiwakul knew these pain points, having worked at property research and consulting firm CBRE for seven years and founded his own brokerage firm after that. Seeing the opportunity, he launched ZmyHome in late 2015 as a way for people to sell, rent out, and buy houses without the help of a real estate agent.

With US$400,000 in fresh capital from KK Fund, ZmyHome aims to give home sellers and buyers the confidence to transact on their own by providing them accurate massive data. That’s how it intends to stand out from other property listing sites like PropertyGuru’s DDproperty. “We want a clean and well-organized platform similar to the hotel industry,” says Asswisessiwakul.

Bringing transparency to the market

Only property developers or home owners are allowed to post on ZmyHome to ensure that the information is true and up-to-date. They must provide a title, deed, or any government document that indicates the house’s identification number and names them as owner before a listing is approved. This minimizes the possibility of a fake listing, says the founder.

It also supposedly guarantees buyers the best prices by excluding the middlemen. Broker listings usually include commission and other fees charged to either the users or the sellers. And given that most sellers will figure the fees into their price, buyers pay indirectly too.

One thing that’s keeping individuals from selling direct is that they don’t know how to price their properties. ZmyHome offers data on sold homes in a specific location, allowing sellers to study it and compare. Buyers looking for properties get access to the data as well. Asswisessiwakul says they get owners to update the status of their properties as either “available” or “sold” on a monthly basis via Facebook and phone calls.

Once a seller and a buyer agree on a deal, they can use a free standard purchasing agreement on ZmyHome. Or they can opt for the startup’s legal processing service, which still costs “very low compared to the broker commission.”

Listing on ZmyHome is free, and the startup charges sellers per impression – they won’t have to pay if potential buyers don’t see their properties. “Most platforms in Thailand are dominated by agents because [the platforms] want to accumulate listings and charge a listing fee,” Asswisessiwakul contends.

The startup has 30,000 approved listings on its site, of which over 33 percent have been sold or rented.

Thai real estate developers such as LPN, Riche Place, CPLand, and Real Asset have also been using ZmyHome. So far, they’ve sold over US$3 million worth of properties on the site.

LPN director Suwattana Tang says, “we sold almost a hundred units to ZmyHome buyers with over 10 percent conversion, the highest rate among sources.”

Analysis: ZmyHome needs to catch up

Like other marketplaces, the company needs to attain network effects to succeed, meaning it must attract a critical mass of buyers and suppliers. These network effects create high barriers to entry – once many buyers and sellers are using a marketplace, it becomes harder for a new rival to lure them away.

That’s a challenge as ZmyHome still needs to get its name out there and faces off against strong rivals with more experience and funding.

Thailand’s real estate market is worth US$20 billion per year, according to Thai accelerator Dtac Accelerate, but it’s not clear how much online transactions account for in that figure. What’s certain is that the opportunity is huge enough that it created a crowded and competitive market.

Similarweb data shows ZmyHome is lagging behind its key rivals in terms of site visits. ZmyHome says it gets 1.2 million page views monthly, but Similarweb pegs it at over 625,200.

Achieving network effects is tough because for you to attract buyers, you need sellers – and vice versa. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. While there’s plenty of expert advice on how to break the impasse, ZmyHome’s model might initially face more difficulty building out the supply side.

ZmyHome’s no-brokers rule for posting limits its pool of suppliers, while the requirements needed for approving a listing could slow down the process of onboarding sellers.

Asswisessiwakul confirms this in a response to Tech in Asia. “We ask owners to provide more details and property images to help buyers investigate the market. It’s more difficult to post on our platform compared to competitors.” Listings get approved within 24 hours if they provide complete information, images, and supporting documents. If they don’t, it takes three to four days.

He adds, “We grew slowly during the first year since we have less listings than competitors who allow agents to post. We attract more users than other medium-sized platforms. However, big players are attracting more buyers who are just starting to search for properties.”

Yet network effects and having first-mover advantage aren’t enough to succeed, according to Andrei Hagiu, a former Harvard Business School professor, and Simon Rothman, partner at Greylock Partners. “Entrepreneurs should really focus on being the first to create a liquid market in their segment,” they write in the Harvard Business Review.

A marketplace must prove its value to both sides, or else it becomes vulnerable to later entrants. “If users do not derive significant value on a consistent basis, they will readily jump ship,” they say.

It seems this is what ZmyHome is hoping for by offering more transparency and competitive pricing to the market.

“Successful transactions are necessary for owners and buyers to learn about the platform,” notes Sompoat Chansomboon of Dtac, which also backs ZmyHome.

Moving forward, ZmyHome plans to accumulate more sellers with a “listing score.” The higher the score, the more priority a property will be given in searches. This means ZmyHome will set minimum requirements for approving a listing, but the seller who supplies more information will get a higher score.

It will also expand its user base to include banks (which sell foreclosed properties) and foreign property owners.

There are more challenges that ZmyHome needs to surmount as it grows, such as:

1. Speeding up transactions for more liquidity

Asswisessiwakul says listed properties situated in high-demand locations and priced correctly are able to sell within three months, while others remain on the site for over a year.

He plans to bring the average selling time down to three months – “similar to mature markets such as the US and UK” – by developing a price suggestion system. This way, sellers don’t have to research and compare prices or price properties on their own.

2. Making property verification more efficient

Calling sellers to get an update on the status of their homes is manageable when the pool of users is small, but what happens when you’re talking about millions of sellers?

We also asked how the team verifies the authenticity of the documents submitted to the site. Asswisessiwakul didn’t comment, except to say that buyers report listings that have wrong information or might have not come from the home owner.

Converted from Thai baht. Rate: US$1 = 31.93 baht.

This post How a startup aims to beat PropertyGuru in Thailand appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/how-zmyhome-aims-to-beat-propertyguru-in-thailand/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 06:30:25 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=452730

Money Forward team at the company’s October 2017 Tokyo IPO / Photo credit: Money Forward

Sleekr, an Indonesian HR and accounting management platform, has secured funding from Tokyo-based fintech firm Money Forward in its first investment outside of Japan.

The partnership is representative of growing interest in Southeast Asia from a newer generation of Japanese tech businesses, as they seek opportunities for growth beyond home shores – though this could change as more Chinese capital flows into the region. 

Sleekr started out by providing personnel management software as a service, and then diversified into cloud accounting services after acquiring fellow Indonesian startup Kiper in November 2016. It now has around 80 employees.

Sleekr’s only disclosed fundraise to date was a US$35,000 seed round in December 2014.

The size of the investment hasn’t been revealed, but Naoya Kanesaka, the Japanese company’s chief financial officer, told Tech in Asia that the amount is significant given the size of the parties and the extent of their partnership.

“Including Sleekr, we have invested between US$2 million and US$3 million into five companies so far. Sleekr is of a comparably larger size,” he said.

Aside from the investment, Money Forward will share know-how with Sleekr. Money Forward co-founder and CEO Yosuke Tsuji has also been appointed to the startup’s board of directors.

Money Forward, which went public in a US$25 million Tokyo IPO last October, walks the line between fintech and enterprise software. It offers a range of financial management products that include cloud-based accounts as well as payroll, invoice, and expenses processing features.

According to Kanesaka, Money Forward has a 60 percent market share and is the number one software choice among Japanese accounting firms.

Photo credit: Money Forward

There is clear overlap with Sleekr’s offering, but Money Forward sees this as an opportunity for synergy and a way to tap into the potentially lucrative Southeast Asian market.

Kanesaka noted that Money Forward already has an accounting and payroll product in Japan, so they don’t expect to bring Sleekr there. But, as he pointed out, “there are a lot of things we can learn about product strategy and marketing strategy.”

Partnering with a local player can also help Money Forward to better understand the market. While “in terms of environment,” there’s a basic difference between the culture in Southeast Asia and Japan, Kanesaka said there’s “a fundamental similarity in terms of how to be successful.”

Going south

The deal with Sleekr is part of the company’s “Money Forward Fund” program. It isn’t a separate, VC-style investment vehicle as the name may suggest, but rather a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing the company’s offerings through M&A activity.

Under Money Forward Fund, the company pledges to offer financial backing and know-how sharing, as well as tech assistance in areas such as APIs and network support with partners, investors, and service providers in return for equity.

Prior to making its first overseas investment with Sleekr, the program backed Japanese robo-advisor Money Design in December 2015, crowdfunding platforms Campfire and LIFULL Social Funding in October last year, and ecommerce platform developer BASE earlier this month.

Kanesaka said that he expects Money Forward to make further strategic investments in Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region, and could invest more than US$10 million given the right prospect.

They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking.

Japanese tech investors have been attracted to Southeast Asia partly because of proximity – in both geographic and cultural terms – and Japan’s soft power in the region, explained James Riney, who heads 500 Startups in Japan.

“Japanese VCs and corporates were one of the first groups to aggressively invest in Southeast Asian startups. The region is also experiencing strong GDP growth overall, and the mobile revolution is turning more people into accessible customers,” he adds.

Another important factor is that until recently, Southeast Asia has been largely overlooked by US and European investors.

Japanese investors are interested primarily because the region is not as competitive as Silicon Valley, observed Riney. “They saw potential where hardly anyone else was looking, and local sources of capital were not as open-minded or sophisticated at the time to compete.” 

While Southeast Asia accounts for a seemingly small portion of overall Japanese VC investment – at around 2.9 percent in Q3 2017, according to research from Japan’s Venture Enterprise Center – it is notable how this is not too far from matching the figure for North America, while it beats that for the rest of Asia, including India and the Middle East.

But this state of affairs is undergoing rapid change, as increasingly well-capitalized Chinese players enter the scene.

“The region has matured quite a bit. There are much more local sources of capital, and my impression is that China is more aggressive than Japan these days,” said Riney. “Many in Japan still see potential in Southeast Asia, but it is less appealing than it used to be because it is becoming more competitive.”

This post Sleekr’s latest funding signifies Japanese appetite for Southeast Asian startups appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/sleekr-moneyforward-investment/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 13:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=451415 Melanie Perkins, Canva

Melanie Perkins / Photo credit: Canva

Australia has yet another startup unicorn today.

Nearly five years after Melanie Perkins, a former graphic design software tutor, first launched Canva as a Photoshop-for-people-terrified-of-Photoshop online tool, the startup is worth US$1 billion dollars following its latest round of funding.

She has just pocketed US$40 million from investors including Sequoia Capital to further grow Canva, which has users designing graphics with its intuitive tools in 190 countries and 100 languages. Its 10 million users make 1 million new designs each day.

“Visual communication is becoming so much more prevalent across every single industry,” CEO and co-founder Perkins tells Tech in Asia. “In years gone by, sales people would create a sales letter, it’d be very text-heavy. But now they’re expected to create a beautiful, visual pitch-deck, perhaps customized for the customers they’re trying to reach.”

Screenshot credit: Canva

The shift to more visuals also applies to teachers, entrepreneurs, marketers, and non-profits, says Perkins. That’s why she wanted to make a tool that’s very different to heavyweight graphic design apps. “Simple, online, and collaborative” – those were three priorities when constructing Canva, she says. It works in your browser, or there are apps for mobile.

The three-year pitch

While some Canva features can be used for free, others – like the ability to collaborate with more than 10 team members – require a monthly subscription. The startup also makes money from a marketplace of add-ons for things like stock images, plus it offers printing services in 31 countries.

Perkins is happy that Canva is turning a profit. “It’s atypical if you compare to most Silicon Valley companies,” she chuckles. “But there’s so much more for us to do. We’re a baby unicorn. It’s early days for us yet.”

The marketing and management grad spent several years prior to Canva’s August 2013 launch chasing funding for her startup concept.

“A lot of trials and tribulations. A lot of time pitching in San Francisco, trying to get investors on board. Trying to get people to join my team. I had a lot of rejection along the way,” she recalls. “I think it was three years between meeting the first investor and actually landing the investment.”

She concedes there was a lot of initial pressure from those US investors to move across the Pacific, but Perkins resisted. Canva now has 250 staffers across its Sydney HQ and branch office in Manila.

“It’s been an incredible benefit being based in Australia. We’ve been able to attract incredible tech talent, from Australia and across the globe. We’ve also been able to get the best of both worlds – we have investors from Silicon Valley, we go there quite regularly, and we’ve been able to tap into their network.”

The recent fundraise marks Sequoia Capital’s first time backing Canva. Australia-based Blackbird Ventures led the round.

Perkins is keeping Canva’s number of active users and subscribers under her hat. But she says that everyone from small businesses to massive companies are designing items with the tool, with 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies having used it at some point. Free access to premium features is given to 17,000 non-profit organizations.

Canva is up against not only giants like Adobe (InDesign, Photoshop), Microsoft (PowerPoint), and Apple (Pages, Keynote), but also an array of slimmer and sleeker apps and tools from startups like Sketch, Figma, Easel.ly, Visual.ly, and Piktochart.

Update (Jan. 10, 3:00 pm): Added list of rivals

See: How Facebook is eating the internet with good design

This post She runs Australia’s newest unicorn, a design tool for the Photoshop-averse appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/canva-funding-becomes-unicorn/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:38:28 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450886 The Inside series is a column where the Tech in Asia Jobs team gives an insider’s glimpse into interesting companies and professions. Looking for a job? Search thousands of jobs for free on Tech in Asia Jobs.

The mid-morning chatter trailed off as Airfrov CEO and co-founder Cai Li walked into the room and reached for a bell perched on a cabinet. 

The bell rings. 

The 10-odd members of the product and marketing teams rise to their feet for their daily standup meeting. I rise with them. 

A user joins in the daily standup meetings as far as possible. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

An Airfrov user joins the team’s daily standup meeting whenever schedules align. I was the user in the hot seat that day. After a brief round of introductions, Cai turns to me and asks, “So, what do you not like about Airfrov, and how can it be improved?”

The story of Airfrov

The name Airfrov represents the sharing economy enabled by frequent air travelers. It also plays on Cai’s inexplicable love for the Afro hairstyle. / Photo credit: Sim Yanting

Airfrov is a C2C marketplace that connects travelers with buyers seeking goods from their destinations.

Founded in 2015 by Cai and Robi Ng, the concept was born from an opportunity that Cai spotted while working in a job that required frequent traveling. Every time he traveled, his friends and girlfriend would request for items exclusive to these countries. Through Airfrov, travelers can now get a small monetary incentive for purchasing items requested by buyers. In exchange, buyers get to enjoy imported products without having to pay hefty shipping fees.

The platform is now operational in Singapore and Indonesia, and processes over 800 requests daily.

Keeping users at the forefront of decision-making

Cai credits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ concept of “the empty chair” for Airfrov’s daily user sit-in sessions. Bezos is known to leave an empty seat at meetings to represent the Amazon customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Cai, however, tweaked that idea for Airfrov. “Instead of keeping the seat empty, I thought, why not invite a real customer?” he says.

Users are constantly dropping by the Airfrov office to deposit or collect items, allowing Cai to involve them in the research and development process.

Identifying user problems first-hand

By getting feedback directly from users, the product and marketing teams can gain insights and spot pain points that are easily overlooked by the UX team.

“Instead of looking into completing specific tasks, we get to see how people use Airfrov on a daily basis,” shares Cai.

One of the first things that Cai and the team noticed was the duplication of requests from other buyers.

Image credit: Airfrov

“We noticed users coming in to say that they wished that they could copy and paste what others were requesting, so they don’t have to go through the whole process of creating a new request,” explains Cai. “As such, we came up with the ‘I want this too!’ button, which has become a core feature of our product today.”

Motivation for the team

According to Cai, bringing in users gives the team strong motivation. “It lets them know that whatever they’re doing is going to impact the life of this user,” he adds.

Taking this approach, however, also means that users can see the nitty-gritty of the product development process. Doesn’t this kind of exposure bother Cai?

“Not really,” he laughs. “We want to involve the users as much as possible in this process. We want them to see how difficult decisions are made. And we would rather that they give us feedback early on.”

The next steps

The information gathered from this process either ends with a new feature in Airfrov’s future iteration, or in the idea graveyard. Here’s how the process looks like.

Image credit: Joshua Lim

Improvements to the product development process

Going forward, Cai wants Airfrov’s engineers to be more involved in the user experience side of the business. As he points out, “Part of our onboarding process requires everyone at Airfrov, including engineers, to be in customer service and learn to serve our customers. But after the onboarding process, they are no longer the ones speaking to users.”

Cai tries to get engineers to speak to users at least once a month, but their involvement is limited because of Airfrov’s resources.

“We have to set aside time for them to do that, but right now, we can’t afford to,” he says. “I wish that they would be able to speak more to our users and see the customer’s problems for themselves. This will give them a better idea of the big picture, and the role they’re playing to solve these problems.”

Can Airfrov retain its close relationship with users when the company scales, and one-to-one interactions become less feasible?

“Why not?” asks Cai. “All it takes is for us to continue to show care and concern, and seek honest feedback. If users truly enjoy the product, they will be more than happy to join us on this journey.”

This post How Airfrov keeps its eyes on the customer appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/airfrov-eyes-customer/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 04:40:04 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450620 China’s startups and tech giants pulled in a record US$58.8 billion from investors in 2017, according to the Tech in Asia database. That’s up a few billion from 2016’s tally.

There was no sign of the giant bubble that some dreaded in 2016 after an explosion of local tech funds poured new – and very inexperienced – cash sources into the market.

“I think there are always ups, downs, and bubbles for specific verticals and sectors of funding. That was the case for bike-sharing and autonomous cars in 2017,” said Edith Yeung, partner and China boss at US-based 500 Startups. “Investors are hopeful they would see a Didi for bike-sharing,” she added, referencing China’s dominant ride-hailing app.

2017’s bumper haul came despite fewer funding rounds, resulting in a record-high average round of US$33.6 million a pop.

The year’s largest single investment was worth US$5.5 billion, went to Didi Chuxing. The startup raised a total of US$9.5 billion in 2017 as it ploughs cash into AI, a self-driving car research lab, and its hotly anticipated plans to expand beyond mainland China. Its expansion manifested itself yesterday when Didi acquired a Brazilian ride-hail app to get a grip on the fast-growing Latin America market that Uber covets so much.

See: China’s 10 biggest investments in 2017

Top gear

Didi and the bike-share startups – especially Mobike and Ofo – contributed to the logistics and transportation sector attracting the most funding, just as it did in 2016. Here’s the top five this year:

Finance startups – aka “fintech” – raised half of what they did last year as China’s quick start in this sector in the past decade has resulted in several niches – online lending, insurance, etc – being dominated by big-name players. On top of that, a handful of Chinese fintech firms went public in 2017, led by insurer Zhong An. Money raised from an IPO is not shown in our data.

More moolah for mature startups

This year’s figures show a surprise resurgence in investor interest in more mature startups, particularly for series D investments.

As previous years have shown, funding for more established startups can fluctuate wildly.

But Azeem Azhar, author of the Exponential View newsletter, predicts that trend will persist and be seen globally in 2018. “More money will flow into technology but it will be concentrated at later stages. Following Softbank’s lead, funds bigger than US$5 billion will abound now that the investment case of platform monopolies is well understood. These will seek to back emerging winners at a regional and global level – look at Careem and Didi in ride-sharing, for example,” he writes.

“This may create funding gaps at earlier stages in the market, as already evidenced by the seed capital slowdown in Europe and the US,” added Azhar. That also seems to be happening in China.

But for very young startups seeking seed funding for initial growth, there’s a big new factor in play – ICOs, otherwise known as coin offerings.

“Many startups are raising ICOs rather than seed rounds,” said Yeung after getting a sneak peek at Tech in Asia‘s data. “I believe the ICO is here to stay. This is not necessarily reflected in the graph.” Indeed, our figures don’t include money raised through an ICO.

China saw 65 coin offerings raising over US$394 million in the first half of 2017, but September’s ban on ICOs brought that to a halt.

Despite that shutdown, Yeung believes blockchain and cryptocurrencies remain a “significant trend for the Chinese startup environment.” She continued: “I do believe China will make a huge comeback in the virtual currency space.”

See: As ecommerce steamrolls retail, China’s stores fight back with tech

Shop, shop, shop

2017 was the year a lot of China’s tech money poured into old-fashioned retail. Online shopping giant Alibaba was already doing this a few years before Amazon’s shock Whole Foods deal, but Jack Ma’s company accelerated its drive into brick-and-mortar stores this year by opening more of its own supermarkets.

Its chain, dubbed Hema, first appeared in 2015.

When a customer shops at a Hema store, their preferences are saved in its app. That makes it easier to order online and get deliveries if you prefer to do it that way next time.

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

Alibaba’s supermarkets put a lot of focus on fresh foods. It’s aliiiiive!

GIF by Tech in Asia, from Alibaba’s video

There are chefs in-store ready to cook up what you buy, which you can then eat in the canteen – as Ma and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang are doing here.

Alibaba, Jack Ma, Hema supermarket

Photo credit: Alibaba

Or you could order the food online and get the cooked meal delivered to your door.

Alibaba plans to open 30 more such stores across China in 2018.

In November, Alibaba invested US$2.9 billion into a massive supermarket chain as it seeks to improve real-world shopping by injecting it with a lot of tech.

Archrivals Tencent and JD also made their own tentative moves into grocery stores, though the ramifications of those actions won’t be seen until a little later in the new year.

JD started 2018 with a bang by showing off its 7Fresh stores, which feature these self-steering carts that follow you around.

JD 7Fresh smart shopping cart

Photo credit: JD

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-tech-funding-record-high-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 13:58:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450907

Photo credit: WeWork

WeWork, the co-working space company from the US, is launching its first of four imminent locations in Japan on February 1, a spokesperson told Tech in Asia.

The US$20 billion startup is making a grand entrance into Japan, with three more Tokyo locations opening soon after Roppongi’s Ark Hills South space. The three others are in Ginza, Shinbashi, and Marunouchi Kitaguchi.

Prices start at US$490 per month for a seat – aka a “hot desk” – to US$1,145 per month for a private office.

The announcement comes five months after WeWork pocketed US$4.4 billion from Japan’s Softbank. WeWork has already indicated it eventually wants to open 10 to 20 locations in central Tokyo.

Photo credit: WeWork

One of many such startups running casual office facilities around the world, WeWork first hit Asia in mid-2016 when it appeared in Shanghai.

If WeWork’s Tokyo locations are anything like the one opened last month in Singapore, they’ll soon be filled by a mix of budding entrepreneurs, fast-growing startups, medium-sized business, and even major corporations.

Converted from Japanese yen. Rate: US$1 = JPY 112.55.

Watch: WeWork’s Southeast Asia ambitions

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-opens-first-of-4-japan-locations-february-1-2018/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:49:24 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450310 Mega-rounds of funding were back in India this year, after a lull in 2016. But this time they came from the east.

SoftBank honcho Masayoshi Son remains hugely bullish on India despite setbacks in a couple of big bets made on entering the market in late 2014. The Japanese giant announced a US$2.5 billion investment in Flipkart for the local ecommerce player to fight Amazon. Out of that, US$1.5 billion has already been invested. This came on top of US$1.4 billion Flipkart raised from Tencent, Microsoft, and eBay earlier in the year.

India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners.

“India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners in India because they are best positioned to leverage technology and help people lead better lives,” said Son.

SoftBank’s initial bet was on Snapdeal but it had to write down the investment as that ecommerce marketplace rapidly lost market share with the rise of Amazon India in 2016. The Snapdeal founders walked out of a merger with Flipkart after months of negotiation. Its Japanese backer then washed its hands of the deal and invested directly in Flipkart.

See: Ex-VP of Alibaba Porter Erisman on clash of ecommerce models, costly mistakes

SoftBank also made a solo investment of US$1.4 billion in leading payments app Paytm, and doubled down on Uber’s arch rival in India, Ola. The Japanese investor also picked up a large stake in Uber this year, which almost guarantees it will hold sway over ride-hailing in India.

SoftBank’s fourth big bet was to lead a US$250 million round in Oyo Rooms in a bid to win the budget accommodation space, after selling off real estate portal Housing to PropTiger.

The other big players in India this year were Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba. While the maker of WeChat is now a major stakeholder in Flipkart, Alibaba is helping to build out Paytm Mall on the lines of Tmall and Alipay supports Paytm’s payments app.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/softbank-tencent-dominate-startup-funding-in-india-in-2017/feed 4 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 00:30:34 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450136 China saw a bit of a slowdown in startup funding in 2017, with the US$51.6 billion ploughed into tech companies lower than 2016’s US$53.9 billion, according to the Tech in Asia database.

Despite the drop, the average deal size grew, reaching a record US$31.9 million a pop.

Here are the 10 biggest tech investments of the year, starting at the lower end of the scale.

10th: Cainiao

Created by Alibaba in 2013 in partnership with 15 Chinese delivery companies, the spinoff firm was designed to speed up online shopping.

Photo credit: Alibaba

Alibaba initially had a small stake in Cainiao, but this latest investment bumps that up to 51 percent, giving it the majority interest.

9th: Mobike

Mobike might’ve raised less than Ofo in 2017, but it still had a good year, matching its archrival’s tire print in reaching 200 cities around the globe.

Photo credit: luoxi / 123RF

Both Mobike and Ofo managed to squeeze out a few smaller Chinese rivals, with three competing startups collapsing in November.

Tencent and Foxconn are among Mobike’s investors.

8th: Ele.me

Ele.me does food delivery using a fleet of electric scooters. At the latest count, the service claims to have 260 million users across 2,000 Chinese cities, ordering meals from 1.3 million restaurants.

Alibaba and its payment wing Ant Financial are rumored to have led this latest round, repeating the US$1.3 billion the online shopping giant threw at Ele.me in April 2016.

7th: Bytedance

You’ve probably never heard of Bytedance, which is fine because neither have most people in China. They do, however, know Toutiao, the startup’s smash-hit news app.

Pulling together news from around China’s “innernette”, Toutiao has 120 million readers each day who spend an average 74 minutes flicking through the app – double the time spent on Snapchat.

The startup last month acquired Musical.ly, adding the social network to its growing global media empire that includes Flipagram, Topbuzz, and Tik Tok.

music, teens, millennials

A Musical.ly user performs. GIF by Tech in Asia, from video by The Best Musical.ly.

Bytedance is said to be worth around US$20 billion.

See: China’s most addictive news app eyes world domination with AI

6th: Koubei

Koubei is yet another Alibaba spinoff. Jack Ma started it to ensure that his company doesn’t miss out on retail and restaurant spending.

Baked into its Alipay wallet app, the service combines local listings with deals. Although food is a big part of it, Koubei doesn’t do deliveries (in contrast to Ele.me and Meituan-Dianping, which are also on this list).

5th: Ofo

Just like Mobike, Ofo had a busy year with global expansion.

Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Didi Chuxing are among its investors.

4th: NIO

After starting out as NextEV racing in the Formula E championship for electric single-seaters, NIO’s rebranding heralded the startup’s switch to being a proper automaker.

NIO this month unveiled its first production car, the ES8.

NIO, cars, electric cars

Photo credit: NIO

Starting at US$68,000, the electric SUV is a bold challenge to the luxo-barges so popular with China’s middle-class, such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. It’ll also go up against the Model X, although Tesla’s hyperspeed minivan costs twice as much. Now up for pre-order, the ES8 arrives sometime in the first half of 2018.

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu are among NIO’s backers.

3rd: Daikuan

Here’s another unfamiliar name. Daikuan is part of China’s huge boom in online financial services – aka “fintech” – that includes an array of loans startups where ordinary people can earn interest from offering up their cash to borrowers.

Daikuan is different from most fintech startups in that it focuses only on loans for buyers of secondhand cars.

2nd: Meituan-Dianping

This giant startup combines two sites – Meituan and Dianping – and does listings, deals, and deliveries, putting it on a collision course with Alibaba’s Koubei and Alibaba-backed Ele.me.

To make that rivalry even edgier, Tencent – Alibaba’s nemesis – is a major backer.

1st: Didi Chuxing

Even after getting money from Apple and forcing Uber to wave the white flag in 2016, Didi still managed to raise eyebrows this year with its US$5.5 billion in April – which at the time was the second biggest investment into a tech firm.

Apple's Tim Cook with Didi's Jean Liu, pictured in Beijing shortly after Apple's investment was announced. Photo credit: Tim Cook on Twitter.

Apple’s Tim Cook with Didi’s Jean Liu. Photo credit: Tim Cook’s Twitter

Didi repeatedly promised global expansion throughout the year, but that didn’t happen. Nonetheless, with the ride-hailing app said to be prepping a move into Brazil, 2018 could be the year that Didi steps onto the world stage to challenge Uber once again.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/top-10-tech-investments-china-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 03:00:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=222199 The year 2017 saw Southeast Asian startups strike a record US$7.8 billion in disclosed funding deals, according to the Tech in Asia Database. That’s a 212 percent jump from 2016’s US$2.5 billion.

This begs the question: who are the biggest all-time winners when it comes to raising money in the region? We’ve got you covered – in the glorious infographic below.


top funded startups southeast asia 2017 02
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 03
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 04
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 05
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 06
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 07
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 08
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 09
top funded startups southeast asia 2017 10

This article and graphic was updated December 28, 2017.

Design by Andre Gunawan

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/15-most-wellfunded-startups-southeast-asia/feed 13 https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 00:30:07 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=450080 A startup from China is all set to reveal its augmented reality glasses – and take a shot at the big break that’ll help it expand to the US.

Rokid Glass, to be shown at CES 2018 next month in Las Vegas, is the team’s first wearable gadget after years of making gizmos for the home. Here’s a prototype:

AR glasses

Photo montage by Tech in Asia, using image from Rokid

Reynold Wu, product director at Rokid and the man charged with bringing the AR glasses to market, was an early adopter and big fan of Google Glass, the much-mocked headset that never really caught on. He feels that both technology and consumers have moved on a lot since Google’s effort was first made public in mid-2012.

“The battery… The components… The camera is much smaller,” says Wu, and these fast-moving changes should help the startup’s product be sleeker and funkier. “I can’t say it’s perfect timing, but it’s better timing now,” he tells Tech in Asia.

Also on Wu’s side is the fact that people are showing a decent amount of enthusiasm for AR right now, which can do a lot of useful and fun things. The success of Pokemon Go proves that beyond doubt.

However, that’s all happening on the phones that people already own, like this IKEA app for seeing how new furniture will look in your home.

IKEA AR app

GIF credit: Adweek

Getting people to fork out for a new gadget devoted entirely to AR will still be a big ask.

Rokid Glass takes voice inputs as well as heeds commands users make with their hands. It also has a touchpad, in case people feel more comfortable using that.

Between the eyes you’ll notice there’s a camera. The lenses are also OLED screens

AR glasses

Photo credit: Rokid

The wearable gadget will run a version of Android, making it open to apps. Wu sees Glass being suited to navigation and product recognition apps in particular.

“A lot of apps are too distracting,” he observes, thinking of how they’ll appear before your eyes in AR. He also wants to ensure its users stay safe as they walk along the street. And so Rokid will initially focus on getting useful apps onto Glass, though they’ll show off the gadget to CES 2018 visitors with a game controllable with gestures.

“We want to give you glasses that improve your life, not make you think you’re in a virtual world,” says the mechanical and electrical engineer.

Adding lightness

A big objective is to ensure that Rokid Glass is “light and fashionable,” adds Wu.

He points to Snapchat’s Spectacles – which were basically just a glorified webcam – as proof that crucial components have now shrunk down enough to allow firms to make more stylish wearables.

Snapchat Spectacles

GIF credit: Snapchat

And so Rokid Glass will be as slim as possible, avoiding the awkwardness of Magic Leap’s AR headset, which was shown off just before Christmas.

Magic Leap AR glasses

Photo credit: Magic Leap

There’s also the 900-pound gorilla in the room: Apple. The iPhone maker is rumored to be looking into AR glasses as its next wearable niche after pushing AR hard with its latest iPhones. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook in October said that at present, “the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way.” He added: “We don’t give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people’s experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.”

Established in 2014, Rokid makes the AI that goes with its gadgets, such as its Pebble smart speakers, which come with a voice assistant. That AI assistant is now busy learning English, as the startup aims first at the US with its AR glasses. There’s no set price or launch date yet, but it’s looking towards sales later in 2018.

During its CES debut, the startup intends to meet with potential customers as well as get feedback on Glass.

CES 2018 opens January 9.

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-startup-shows-off-rokid-glass-ar-glasses/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:00:53 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449999

Photo credit: HelloBike.

In case you missed it, here’s the latest tech news from across Asia.

Transportation

New bike-sharing contender nabs funding (China). Hello Bike just scored a US$500 million funding round as it seeks to challenge the top two Chinese players, Mobike and Ofo. Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, however. (Tech in Asia)

‘Didi for bikes’ gets shut down (China). Inspired by motorcycle ride-hailing services such as Grab, an app called Lude Chuxing rolled out in China this month, enabling people to drive passengers on motorbikes and three-wheeled cars known as ‘sanlunche.’ But local authorities banned the app just three days after its launch due to violations of transport rules. (Technode)

Finance

Lendingkart raises US$3.8 million in debt (India). The financing from the State Bank of India will be mainly used to expand the New Delhi-based lending startup’s loan book. Lendingkart allows small businesses to easily apply for credit online, bypassing banks and other traditional institutions. It uses algorithms to score loan applications. (Inc42)

Big tech

Google may launch retail stores (India). Google is exploring the idea of physical retail stores in India to boost sales of its Pixel smartphones, according to sources familiar with the matter. The US firm has seen an encouraging response to more than a dozen pop-up stores that opened in malls to showcase the second-generation Pixel phones. India, the world’s second biggest mobile market, is currently dominated by Samsung and Chinese players like Xiaomi and Oppo. (Reuters)

This post Asia tech news roundup – Dec 27 appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/apac-news-27-12-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 05:55:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449974

Photo credit: Andrew Gook / Unsplash

Look out, Mobike and Ofo (or “Mofo,” as I like to call China’s top two bike-share apps). A new contender has just emerged, thanks to US$500 million in funding.

The huge injection into Hello Bike shows investors are not spooked by the collapse of three smaller dockless bike services in the past few months.

Hello Bike today announced US$153 million on top of the US$350 million it revealed December 12, making for a blockbuster half-billion bucks combined series D fundraising. Its aim is to stop being the third wheel in China’s growing bike-share market and thereby challenge the mighty Mofo.

The money “will be allocated toward diversifying our transportation solutions,” a Hello Bike representative tells Tech in Asia, along the lines of what’s dubbed its “3510” strategy. That means “bike-sharing, ebike-sharing, and car-sharing for three, five, and ten kilometers and above, respectively,” the representative adds. The startup has yet to announce what it’ll do on four wheels.

While Mobike is known for its orange steeds and Ofo for its yellow, HelloBike sticks to its fresh white-and-blue colorway:

Photo credit: Hello Bike

With 10 million daily rides across 150 Chinese cities, Hello Bike has a lot of catching up to do, reported New Seed today. Ofo has 5.1 million app users each day versus Mobike’s 4.9 million – but Hello Bike is way behind with just 750,000, according to a research group’s data.

Unlike Mobike and Ofo, Hello Bike has yet to expand beyond its home nation.

Fosun Group and GGV Capital led the US$153 million round.

Converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = 6.55 RMB.

(Updated December 28: Added investors. Updated December 29: Added comments from Hello Bike.)

See more:

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/china-hellobike-huge-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 02:30:29 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449717

Photo credit : jetcityimage / 123RF

Amazon rolled out its Prime subscription service in Singapore just in time for the Christmas holiday, following the launch of the Prime Now fast delivery app in July. But these moves might not have been enough to tempt shoppers away from local ecommerce options.

While neither Amazon nor its competitors like to get too descriptive with their numbers, the latest data shows that Amazon is ranking below local rivals like Lazada in the shopping category of both the Android and iOS app stores.

However, app rankings do not tell the whole story. Amazon is currently not firing on all cylinders in Southeast Asia. It still has a chance to catch up, if it decides to add heat to the simmer.

Just a scratch

According to data gathered by App Annie, Amazon Prime’s rank rose sharply on December 7, just after the service launched, before slipping back down to double digits a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, Lazada – Amazon’s Alibaba-backed competitor – has enjoyed a consistently high ranking throughout the month, peaking at no. 1 in the shopping category between December 12 and 15. This is likely due to the 12.12 promotion, a sales event similar to Singles Day and Black Friday, in which several other websites participated but Amazon skipped.

The app also wasn’t able to surpass the rankings of other competitors like Qoo10, Shopee, and Redmart.

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG shopping apps rankings Google Play

It’s a very different picture compared to July and August, when the Prime Now app enjoyed top-5 positions (although it was freely available to all users at the time).

The situation is similar in the entertainment category rankings, where Prime Video doesn’t quite reach the heights of global competitor Netflix and local streaming services Toggle and Viu. None of those apps show any dips in the rankings as a result of Amazon’s product availability.

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings iOS

Amazon vs SG entertainment apps rankings Google Play

Android is the mobile platform of choice in Singapore. In 2017, it had a market share of 60 percent, while iOS captured 27.4 percent of the market, according to Statcounter.

Prime Video is part of Amazon Prime’s subscription, which costs S$8.99 per month (currently offered at S$2.99 per month). Amazon also offers a 30-day free trial period, which is probably ongoing for most users, considering the service launched in early December. For what’s effectively a free service, the low app ranking raises an eyebrow.

One possible reason for this is its readiness for the market. Much like Netflix when it launched in Singapore in early 2016, Amazon’s catalog is still not large or localized enough.

Netflix worked hard to rectify that in the past couple of years, so it follows that Amazon will be doing the same in the future. Bu the US giant needs to move fast – its rivals are not minnows.

Lazada CEO Max Bittner has previously said his company can fight off competitors, thanks to Alibaba’s deep pockets and its own emphasis on logistics and fulfillment. “Alibaba [is] here to stay. We’re here to stay. [We’ll focus] on what distinguishes us, and we’ll match whatever we can match,” he told the audience at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2017 in November.

Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore.

As part of NYSE-listed Sea, Shopee is also in a strong position to defend its turf, with its parent company raising US$894 million through its IPO, on top of more than US$1.5 billion across a number of private rounds.

In terms of sheer numbers, competitors like Lazada and Shopee have more to offer shoppers at the moment. “These two local marketplaces are well established with a lot more product options,” explains Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester. “Consumers don’t find strong motivations to switch, unless they have the urgency to go with Amazon Prime Now’s two-hour delivery.”

All’s not lost for the US giant

The fact that Amazon is lagging behind its rival at the moment is not surprising. “Amazon only has its mobile app, Prime Now, available in Singapore – not the marketplace,” says Wang.

Indeed, most Singaporean shoppers buying stuff on Amazon are used to the US site, which until recently would offer free shipping to the city-state for orders above a certain value. With the Prime subscription launch in Singapore, that’s now over.

Because Amazon’s offering in Singapore is at present confined in the Prime mobile and video apps, shoppers seem dissatisfied with the limited product range on offer.

That said, it seems that the sheer brand power of Jeff Bezos’ joint was enough to rank Prime among the country’s most popular ecommerce and entertainment apps.

Also, Amazon has not really engaged in sales and promotions so far. “Amazon hasn’t done much marketing and promotion campaigns in the local market since [launch], while Lazada and Shopee both participated in 12.12,” notes Wang.

Despite this, an Amazon spokesperson tells Tech in Asia the company is “thrilled with customer reaction to Amazon’s arrival in Singapore, including the launch of Prime.”

The US firm says it doesn’t focus on competitors – it obsesses over customers instead. “In every country where Amazon operates, there is a lot of competition. But we believe competition is good for customers. At the same time, we feel good about our ability to offer this unique and valuable program to our customers in Singapore,” adds the spokesperson.

Before Amazon landed in the Lion City, Lazada got busy launching a quasi-competitor to Prime. Called LiveUp, it’s a subscription service that combines Lazada and its online grocery Redmart, as well as Taobao, Netflix, and Uber. Subscribers get benefits like free shipping, discounts, rebates, and other freebies.

While Lazada doesn’t share figures on LiveUp subscriptions, the S$49.90 annual fee is an attractive proposition for users of the aforementioned services. The Prime subscription could be appealing as well, but not with several elements still missing, like Prime Music and Prime Reading.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Storming the castle

Wang believes Amazon should focus on its ecosystem to provide a meaningful alternative to its competitors in Singapore. “Consumers would be interested in Amazon’s unique products such as Echo, Kindle, digital books. Amazon should play by its strengths and provide the marketplace with more product options to local consumers,” she stresses.

Some industry watchers think Amazon could accelerate its presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia by acquiring local companies.

“With time running out for a full-fledged, organic entry into the high-growth markets of Southeast Asia, its stock trading at all-time high, and not too distant memories of failure in China, we expect Amazon to attempt at least one major acquisition in 2018 to accelerate its regional expansion,” writes Sheji Ho, group chief marketing officer at ecommerce enabler aCommerce.

Amazon does not discuss its plans for the region but there’s probably more services and products on the way. As the company spokesperson says, “While we can’t provide details yet about future Prime benefit additions, we can safely say that we aren’t done. We will keep making Prime better and better in Singapore, adding more selection, finding ways to make it faster, and adding more benefits including great quality entertainment.”

This post Amazon Prime hasn’t made a huge dent in Singapore, but it’s early days appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/amazon-prime-singapore-december-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 08:28:37 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449858 This week’s roundup features horse-racing analytics, a platform that enables travel-related side gigs, and a fledgling enterprise focused on end-of-life preps for Japan’s aging population.

Gauss

AI-focused Gauss is collaborating with fashion brand ANAP  to create a site where users can upload images of clothes, allowing it to search the web for similar items.

Now in beta version, the startup is also working on another joint project: SIVA, a horse-racing predictive tool. Siva gathers information from tens of thousands of races every day to bring big data to the world of horse racing.

In addition, Gauss is developing other AI data analytic tools as well as natural language processing features.

Gauss recently received US$1.5 million from three companies, including ANAP and job portal DIP Corp.  

Sagojo

Sagojo enables travelers to turn their experiences into a side gig. The company lists jobs that people can apply for, such as uploading photo diaries, writing articles about unique travel experiences, and so on. Since its release a year and a half ago, the startup has acquired 7,500 registered users, of which 200 plus are using it for work purposes.

While Sagojo did not disclose details, it recently accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars from Anex Ventures, Apptli, and multiple angel investors.

Crowd Cast

Created by Crowd Cast, Staple is an app that simplifies expense reporting for small to medium-sized businesses. More than 10,000 companies are using the service, and the startup is acquiring new customers at a rate of about 300 per month. The service is partnered with more than 10 accounting softwares and other programs like Office 365 for seamless integration.

Crowd Cast just received US$880,000 from business partner MTI.  

New Revo 

Developed by New Revo, Logikura is looking to digitize Japan’s antiquated logistics industry by moving  it past analog forms of management like fax, paper, and email. Its cloud-based AI platform can do everything from creating barcodes and shipping labels to managing invoices.

The company estimates that in Japan alone, there is about US$480 billion of excess inventory sitting in warehouses. Logikura’s goal is to reduce time spent on logistics by 80 percent and cut excess inventory by 30 percent. To achieve the latter goal, it’s working on an AI analytics demand prediction tool.

Logikura is not yet available to the public, but about 50 companies have pre-registered since it started the process in mid-November.

The company recently secured US$440,000 from Genesia Ventures from its third round of fundraising.  

Baseconnect

After graduating from accelerator Code Republic’s second batch of startups in April, Baseconnect is ending 2017 by raising a seed round of over US$880,000 from several investors, including Genesia Capital, Mizuho Capital, Kyoto Startup Support Fund, User Local, YJ Capital, and East Ventures.

Baseconnect is developing BaseconnectList, a database of business contacts that can be used for sales. Thousands of businesses contact lists can be accessed in about 30 seconds.

A beta version of BaseconnectList is up and running, but it’s not open to the public for now.

Shuukatsu Netto

The brainchild of by 22-year-old University of Tokyo student Shota Iwasaki, Shuukatsu Netto is a website that zeroes in on end-of-life preparations for Japan’s ageing populace.

While lots of Japanese startups are addressing the inevitable problems that come post-population decline such as workforce deterioration, Shuukatsu Netto deals with more pressing issues in the now, such as elderly care. The site features articles about funeral ceremonies, grave sites, and other related concerns, written by a team of 20 people. Most of its readers are 40- to 50-year-olds who are making preparations for their parents.

Shuukatsu Netto just raised a round of US$730,000 from a round led by angel investor Yuto Kono of Genesia Ventures,This follows its seed round and brings its total funding to over US$880,000.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-26-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 01:15:20 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449268

Photo credit: Alibaba.

🎵You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why – Jack Ma is coming to town. 🎶

A bit like Santa Claus, Alibaba founder Ma each year draws up a list, checks it twice, finds out who’s naughty or nice – and then invests in the nicest startups.

In a good year for Alibaba – its valuation doubled to well over US$400 billion – it spent big on investments. In 2017, its top 10 payouts were worth US$11 billion – though that was nearly US$2 billion less than its record 2015 spending spree.

Three of this year’s were overseas, showing how the Chinese tech giant is advancing deeper into India and Southeast Asia.

Here’s this year’s top action. The indicated funding figure may include contributions from other investors.

1. Sun Art

Six months after Amazon acquired Whole Foods, Alibaba made its own bold move into groceries. Paying nearly US$3 billion for a one-third stake, Alibaba invested in Sun Art Retail, which operates several well-known supermarket brands including RT-Mart and the China-based stores of French chain Auchan.

However, the deal wasn’t Alibaba’s first move into offline stores…

2. Intime

Alibaba made its first serious push into brick-and-mortar retail back in early 2014 when it ploughed nearly US$700 million into department store and mall firm Intime. Alibaba started 2017 with a bang by coughing up a further US$2.6 billion to take control of Intime.

Photo credit: Intime.

On top of other moves – US$100 million this year for Lianhua Supermarkets and US$4.6 billion for gadgets and appliances store Suning in 2015 – this deal sees Alibaba shaking up shops by injecting “data-driven technology and personalized services […] integrating online and physical channels together,” in the words of Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

That basically means making offline retail more efficient and having it double as warehousing for ecommerce.

3. Tokopedia

2017 saw Alibaba make progressively bigger and ballsier bets outside its home nation, investing more in overseas startups than ever before.

In August, it doubled down on its 2016 Lazada acquisition – which gave the Chinese firm an online shopping empire across much of Southeast Asia – by throwing a lot of money at Indonesian ecommerce app Tokopedia.

4. Lazada

Alibaba upped its stake in Lazada in April, paying an extra billion bucks to go from 51 to 83 percent.

“The ecommerce markets in the region are still relatively untapped, and we see a very positive upward trajectory ahead of us,” said Zhang in a statement. “We will continue to put our resources to work in Southeast Asia through Lazada to capture these growth opportunities.”

5. Ele.me

24 up-and-coming tech founders to watch in China

Photo credit: Technode.

China’s growing hunger for food delivery led Alibaba to once again invest in Ele.me, which emerged as the leading meal-delivery app from the boom in local service startups across China in the past few years.

Archrival Tencent is also an investor.

6. Cainiao

Cainiao is Alibaba’s logistics wing, running a network of warehouses and trucking partners. The service handles 57 million deliveries a day.

This latest investment takes Alibaba’s Cainiao stake up to 51 percent.

A few months back, Cainiao showed off its first highly automated package sorting facility, where robots do most of the work.

7. Ofo

Ofo is one of China’s top two bike-share apps alongside Mobike.

In a year when many such services struggled – and at least three swerved towards bankruptcy – both Ofo and Mobike were bolstered by colossal funding rounds as they raced to expand overseas.

Ofo bike, Shanghai

Photo credit: Steven Millward / Tech in Asia.

Ofo operates in over 180 cities across 15 countries, generating more than 25 million daily rides.

8. Souche

Souche – literally “search car” in Chinese – lives up to its name as a search engine for secondhand car buyers. It also offers auto financing.

The startup is eyeing a US IPO at the end of 2018.

9. Yiguo

Fresh foods app Yiguo operates in more than 200 cities across China, with those in some of the largest cities getting same-day delivery.

This was Alibaba’s fourth time backing Yiguo. As with its investments in other retailers, the funding allows Alibaba to get a logistics boost – in this case, it taps into the startup’s well-developed network of refrigerated delivery trucks.

10. BigBasket

Over in India, Alibaba is in the late stages of a move to invest in groceries startup BigBasket, according to a number of sources. BigBasket is up against Amazon’s Now service.

If this goes through, it’ll be the Chinese firm’s biggest India bet since it backed shopping and mobile wallet app Paytm. Indeed, Paytm is said to be lining up to join this BigBasket round.

Thanks to Queena Wadyanti for help with the data.

2017 in review - BANNER

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]]> https://www.techinasia.com/2017-alibaba-investments/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia#respond Sat, 23 Dec 2017 08:43:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449230 These five entrepreneurs – aged 25 and under – are already building big things.

Transcript:

From deep learning to solar energy, we’ve lined up 5 entrepreneurs 25 and under who prove youth is no barrier to success.

Annabelle Kwok, 24

Annabelle’s university days were filled with hackathons and maker faires. The self-professed hobbyist soon took it more seriously and won a prestigious hackathon in Singapore. Along the way, Annabelle received numerous job offers – including from Microsoft. But the corporate life just wasn’t for her. She went on to work at Garena, but then took time off to join a circus. Yes – a circus. Annabelle started Smartcow to make a kind of Raspberry Pi for AI. The device, Tera, is an alternative to cloud computing, enabling users to store and process large amounts of data on hardware near them. It’s already being used to study rat movement in Singapore’s sewage system, where Tera is loaded with software to recognize and detect rat movements based on thermal images.

Leandro Leviste, 24

Out to solve the problem of pricey electricity in the Philippines, Leandro’s firm, Solar Philippines, develops rooftop solar plants. The Yale graduate was inspired by how companies in the US and Europe were quickly adopting solar power as an alternative energy source. The startup first put itself on the map with a project that turned a Manila mall into the biggest solar-powered mall in the world. These days, he’s shifting his focus to rural areas. Leandro is constructing a four megawatt solar-battery farm, which will become the world’s largest island solar-battery microgrid, bringing 24/7 power to up to 20,000 people at zero cost to the Philippines government and at a lower cost to consumers.

Joshua Kevin, 25

Joshua wants to kill off office paperwork with Talenta, a human resources service that helps streamline mundane processes such as payroll and employee database management. Leaping into Indonesia’s startup scene aged 18, Joshua worked with us at Tech In Asia, then at East Ventures and KakaoTalk before starting Talenta in 2013. His startup counts Go-Jek and Grab among its clients.

Shahab Shabibi, 22

Originally from Iran, Shahab already launched two startups – in music streaming and sports media – before moving to the Philippines. He founded the now defunct HeyKuya, a text messaging concierge service. These days, Shahab taps into his own experience of running businesses with Machine Ventures, an incubator that provides financial support and guidance to enterprises trying to start up in the Philippines.

Yao Song, 24

Little is known about Yao, a former Microsoft intern, except that he co-founded DeePhi Tech just over a year ago. Incorporating deep learning, DeePhi aims to increase the processing speed of AI chips and servers while lowering power usage and costs. The company looks to improve the AI efficiency of drones, surveillance cameras, and data centers. His startup secured two rounds of financing in 2017, counting Samsung and Jack Ma’s Ant Financial as early investors.

This post Video: 5 very young entrepreneurs you should keep an eye on appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/video-5-entrepreneurs-25-and-under-in-asia/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 08:50:10 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449668 Jean Liu, Didi Kuaidi, Didi Chuxing

Jean Liu is president of the ride-hailing startup. Photo credit: Didi Chuxing.

Updated January 4, 2018: Didi just confirmed it’s acquiring Brazil’s 99 in order to access Latin America. The original article below is unchanged.

Brazil is Uber’s third-largest market, with 17 million regular riders. And Sao Paulo is Uber’s biggest city on the planet in terms of rides.

That’s the prize eyed by China’s Didi, the ride-hailing startup that bought Uber’s China business in a shock 2016 deal.

Didi, which is yet to expand beyond its home country, is now plotting a move into Brazil by acquiring a local ride-hailing app, reported The Information yesterday, citing a person familiar with the talks.

Didi started 2017 by investing in 99, so the Chinese firm already has close alliances with the Brazilian startup it’s said to be buying a majority stake.

Formerly 99Taxi, 99 has 140,000 registered drivers in 550 cities across Brazil.

Not just Brazil

But wait, there’s more…

Didi is now plotting its launch in Taiwan, reported Bloomberg this week. The island’s strict stance on the use of private cars as a service means Didi will have to resort to working with cabbies and professional limo drivers.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei’s scooters. Photo credit: Andrew Haimerl / Unsplash.

Similarly, Uber operates in Taiwan in partnership with livery companies – an unusual situation the startup was forced into after being banned from the island for two months earlier in the year.

Yes, master

Behind all this transcontinental tussling is Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016.

Masayoshi Son at SoftBank World 2016. Photo credit: @SoftBank.

The Softbank supremo has emerged as the puppet master of tech in the past few years, pulling the strings on the numerous startups that his firm, Softbank, has invested in, thanks to its numerous funds – including its latest US$100 billion war chest.

Not coincidentally, Softbank has invested in both Didi and 99, so Son – worth US$22 billion, according to Forbes – has it in his interests to steer the two ride-hailing apps towards a deal.

As the biggest, strongest, and most valuable of the puppets startups linked to Son, Didi stands to benefit the most from consolidation as it will have more power to dictate terms over smaller firms like 99 and Southeast Asia’s Grab.

But the ebullient 60-year-old might be about to complicate the picture by investing in Uber, with Softbank reportedly keen to invest up to US$10 billion – so long as Uber drops its price. In that scenario, it could be Uber that would be strengthened by gobbling up a series of small rivals.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

This post Didi’s next trick is to go global appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-going-global/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 05:00:16 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449173

Photo credit: Ion Chiosea / 123RF.

From Amazon’s entry to tech leaders’ market debuts and the region’s biggest investments, here’s the rundown of the top tech news that made a splash in Southeast Asia this year (in no particular order).

1. Dave McClure’s fall

The year saw a wave of sexual harassment stories sweep industries across the world. Before the scandal involving Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein broke out, a flood of women in tech came forward with their experiences at the hands of powerful men. Among them was entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh, who accused prolific Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure of sexual assault.

Yeoh, the former CEO of Malaysian innovation agency Magic, claimed McClure propositioned her several times, pushed himself against her, and kissed her against her will in her own apartment in 2014.

Yeoh broke her silence on the incident after another woman, who runs a fitness startup in the US, alleged in a New York Times exposé that McClure sexually harassed her.

The accusations led to a reduction of McClure’s responsibilities at 500 Startups, the VC firm he co-founded, and eventually forced him to quit.

2. Back-to-back public debuts

Southeast Asia’s startup community kept a close watch on the initial public offerings of PC gear maker Razer and Tencent-owned games company Sea late this year.

Based both in San Francisco and Singapore, Razer was well received at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) in November, surging on the first day of trading due to bullish outlook on the company’s sales.

The company, backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, raised US$530 million, which it would use to expand into new verticals, including mobile devices. It unveiled its first smartphone a week before its market debut.

It doesn’t seem like the company will end on a high note at HKEX this year however, as it currently trades below IPO price.

Razer’s listing quickly followed that of Sea’s, which has been viewed as a test of how public markets treat tech firms that have amassed users but are still waiting to turn profitable.

Sea listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October, raising US$884 million. The stock had a rocky start, falling below its IPO price of US$15. Analysts said investors might be jittery about Sea’s future given heavy losses.

Sea listed on NYSE. Photo credit: NYSE.

Formerly known as Garena, Sea started as an online gaming company in 2009 and then branched out to digital payments (AirPay) and ecommerce (Shopee). It previously declared that Shopee was the number one player in an area it defined as “Greater Southeast Asia”. This didn’t sit well with Alibaba-owned Lazada, which for quite sometime has asserted its claim to the throne.

Sea has seen a dramatic increase in its revenue, thanks to its core games business. Yet losses have also widened as the firm continues to spend to capture market share in ecommerce. Nevertheless, Sea believes that Shopee can become a lucrative business on its own over the long term.

3. Amazon’s grand entrance

Speaking of ecommerce, the sector just got a lot more exciting with US behemoth Amazon now in the picture.

After playing the “will they, won’t they” game for a long time, Amazon finally rolled out its two-hour delivery service Prime Now in Singapore last July. Five months later, it introduced the full Prime membership, offering faster and cheaper shipping of items as well as unlimited free international shipping, among others.

But the online retailer experienced growing pains. Prime Now was having trouble fulfilling orders during the first week of its launch and had to fall back on hiring private taxis at one point.

Nevertheless Prime’s arrival not only ups the stakes in Southeast Asia’s ecommerce market, where Amazon is facing off against Shopee, Lazada and another Alibaba-backed player Tokopedia, plus various smaller portals. It also brings Amazon into direct competition with local content streaming players such as iFlix, Hooq, and Viddsee, and global rivals like Netflix.

Anticipating Amazon’s much-talked-about foray, Lazada launched its own membership program as early as April – in collaboration with its online grocery delivery unit Redmart, and other brands like Netflix and Uber.

Amazon’s Singapore fulfillment center, which opened in July with the launch of Prime Now. Photo credit: Tech in Asia.

4. Alibaba’s shopping spree

Jack Ma’s company continued its big push into Southeast Asia, this time leading a US$1.1 billion investment in Indonesia’s Tokopedia.

Alibaba now holds a minority stake in Tokopedia, which is a version of Taobao – the Chinese behemoth’s consumer-to-consumer marketplace. This marks Alibaba’s first direct investment in an Indonesian startup.

In the meantime, Ma’s firm this year hiked its stake in Lazada to 83 percent for roughly US$1 billion.

While Lazada and Tokopedia are competing in Indonesia, sharing the same investor has fueled rumors of a possible alliance.

5. US giant bets on Indonesia

Another mega deal happened in Indonesia in 2017: online travel startup Traveloka’s US$350 million funding round led by Expedia.

The amount brought Traveloka’s total disclosed funding to US$500 million, which included contributions from investors like East Ventures, Hillhouse Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, and Chinese ecommerce firm JD.

The round reportedly raised Traveloka’s valuation to US$2 billion, according to Bloomberg sources.

6. The first Filipino unicorn

The Philippines hit a huge milestone this year with the birth of its first billion-dollar startup. Revolution Precrafted, a developer of prefabricated designer homes, raised its series B round co-led by Singapore’s K2 VC last October, valuing the company at over US$1 billion, according to two Tech in Asia sources familiar with the deal.

A prefab home designed by David Salle. Photo credit: Revolution Precrafted.

That makes two-year-old Revolution one of, if not the fastest to achieve billion-dollar status in Southeast Asia, said one of the sources – a claim confirmed by Tech in Asia data.

The startup’s new prominent investor K2 was founded by venture capitalist Ozi Amanat, who’s known for his investments in Alibaba and Twitter before their public offerings. K2 counts several unicorns in its portfolio: Spotify, Magic Leap, Paytm, and Palantir.

Revolution sells prefab homes conceived by world-renowned architects and designers such as Zaha Hadid, David Salle, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders. The homes are priced at an average of US$120,000. They can be ordered from the company’s site and shipped anywhere in the globe in at least 90 days. As of March, it had US$110 million in orders.

500 Startups earlier admitted fighting hard to join the company’s first funding round announced in March.

7. Uber’s cunning tactics

2017 has been hell for the US ride-hailing juggernaut. It started in February, when former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a blog post detailing the sexism and harassment she experienced in the workplace. That post set into motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in the ouster of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO.

Uber had been accused of stealing trade secrets from Google to speed up its own self-driving car efforts, using possible illicit programs to undermine its competitors, including Singapore-based Grab, paying bribes in Asian markets, covering up a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of millions of its users, and more.

All the bad press supposedly prompted Japanese tech giant Softbank to bid for Uber shares at a steep discount, potentially cutting its valuation by another US$20 billion.

In one of many efforts to revamp the company’s culture, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi last month outlined new rules for Uber’s staff. Probably the most important among them – “Do the right thing. Period.”

Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo credit: Uber.

8. Uber gets in bed with Singapore’s largest taxi company

Uber signed a deal to sell 51 percent of its car rental unit to ComfortDelgro for US$218 million and form a joint venture with the city-state’s leading taxi firm.

The partnership will allow Uber’s Lion City Rentals to leverage ComfortDelGro’s fleet management and operations capabilities. Uber users will be able to directly book ComfortDelGro cabs via the US company’s app, while the taxi firm’s drivers will be able to accept ride requests through it, giving them an additional source of income.

The transaction appeared to be something of a coup for Uber, which has faced ferocious opposition from licensed taxi providers in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

9. Malaysia opens digital free trade zone

In November, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma opened the doors to a free trade zone in Malaysia that’s designed to tap into region’s ecommerce boom.

First announced in March, the Digital Free Trade Zone is now open to trade, with Malaysia’s government anticipating the joint venture with Alibaba to handle US$65 billion worth of goods once in full flow, and create 60,000 jobs by 2025. The goal is for small businesses to make use of the trade hub as easily as larger companies do. It will also be used for non-ecommerce purposes, such as global exports.

The hub will likely benefit Lazada, which has a mix of small merchants and big-name brands.

10. Grab’s massive war chest

The final big story of the year: Grab’s US$2 billion funding round from China’s Didi Chuxing and Masayoshi Son-led Softbank, the single largest financing in the history of Southeast Asia.

The new investment supposedly gave the firm a post-money valuation of over US$6 billion, making it the region’s most valuable startup.

anthony-tan-grab-launch

Grab boss Antony Tan is overseeing the startup’s bloody battle against Uber. Photo credit: Grab.

Grab will use the money to tighten its grip on the ride-hailing market in the region and invest in its mobile payments solution, GrabPay.

The company has made GrabPay available to use for payments at hawker center stalls and restaurants in Singapore, marking its biggest move yet outside of the transportation segment.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post 10 tech stories that rocked Southeast Asia this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/biggest-tech-stories-southeast-asia-2017/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 04:01:39 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449425 Car maintenance startup in China gets $10M funding as on-demand services explode

Photo credit: llee_wu.

Didi Chuxing, China’s top – and pretty much only – ride-hailing app, today announced yet another big injection of funds.

Didi has pocketed an extra US$4 billion from investors “to support AI capacity-building, international expansion, and new business initiatives, including the development of new energy vehicle service networks,” said the gigantic startup in an announcement this morning.

With 450 million users and 25 million daily rides, Didi last month revealed its plan to build a China-wide network of charging stations for electric cars, which will be accessible to the public as well as its own 21 million signed-up drivers.

The company already has an AI research and development center devoted to autonomous cars in Mountain View, California, which opened earlier in the year. A Didi representative tells Tech in Asia that the funding will include but not be limited to hiring AI talent around self-driving vehicles.

The firm this month acquired a startup in order to nab a much-coveted online payments license, meaning it’s now able to launch a mobile wallet service, perhaps challenging China’s ubiquitous Alipay or WeChat. However, an all-out war over phone payments seems unlikely since the creators of China’s top two wallet apps – Alibaba and Tencent – are investors in Didi.

Didi did not disclose who invested in this round. It brings the firm’s total disclosed funding to US$23.3 billion.

Watch: Meet the two drivers behind China’s ride-hailing giant

See more on Didi:

This post Didi pockets $4b to boost AI appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/didi-4-billion-funding-to-boost-ai/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 07:41:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449183 WeWork’s first venue in Singapore is open for business, and the co-working company already has plans for more.

Inside WeWork's first Singapore spaceWe spoke with WeWork's Southeast Asia MD "T" at WeWork Singapore's first location to understand more about the co-working giant's ambitions and plans in the country and region.

Posted by Tech in Asia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Transcript:

Turochas “T” Fuad:

We are almost full to be honest. We’ve been very lucky, very blessed, knock on wood. I think there’s definitely a good following of WeWork as a brand.

Look, this is the 200th location for WeWork, the 20th country country that WeWork launches. I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment, 20 and 200.

But look, I think a lot of folks are very aware of what we’re doing as a company – we are developing a platform, just beyond space, a platform for all types of creators. Different sizes of companies, come together to really work together and collaborate.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company, and a smaller company wants to learn a lot from those larger enterprise companies. All of these guys are coming together nicely.

71 Robinson Rd will definitely be launched earlier, towards the early part of next year, and then Funan Center will launch sometime in early 2019. So 71 Robinson Rd will fit about 1,000 members for us, and Funan about 700, around the same as Beach Center here.

It will serve a different mix of potential members. I think Robinson Rd is very classic CBD, where you potentially have banks, folks in financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that will be interested in the space itself because it’s in that vicinity.

And in Funan, I think you see a lot of tech. You know how the mall and this mixed use space is now being very focused on technology, they have very modern, futuristic things all the way down to the car park, to the 24-hour retail mall, a bunch of other things.

I think we’ll serve very different types of segments there. It could be large enterprises in the tech field or it could one of those startups and freelancers as well.

Over the last few years, the enterprise segment has almost doubled. It now represents close to 20 percent of our global members, around the world. Given that Singapore is such a hub, it’s like a gateway city to Southeast Asia if you think about it, it’s a hub for a lot of financial companies, it’s also a hub for a lot of startups and entrepreneurs right now.

And that’s why Singapore has always been a starting forefront for us to enter the market, the whole Southeast Asian market, from that perspective.

HP wants to be here, I guess it’s an interesting story. They came by here, they looked at it for just, less than a day. They want to be able to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here. They felt that this particular division wanted to be away from what their typical office would be.

A lot of enterprise companies have come to us and said, “Hey WeWork, we really like the culture, the energy, the diversity that you’ve created here, how do we replicate that in our organization?” So that’s where we come in, we provide our hardware, our software, our know-how, and provide that service to companies to enable them to recreate a bit of the WeWork energy and vibe.

We will actually design, manage, build it for them, and now their own employees are able to experience what a WeWork would be at their own location. It really depends on how this enterprise wants to open it up to the public or keep it sort of private to themselves. Those options are made available to them.

Did they show you the secret room? I didn’t realize it was there until the designers kind of highlighted it to me.

“Oh yeah, there’s a little thing, I don’t know if you noticed.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right, there’s a little segment on the blueprint!”

We don’t tell our members exactly where… If you notice, all of our rooms have A and B and C and D, that one has nothing, that one’s just called the secret room. I don’t think our community members tell them where it is. They can book it if they can find it, right – once they find it, they’ll be able to use the room.

This post Video: Inside WeWork’s first Singapore space appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-beach-center-video/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:40:18 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449193 This week, a funding record was broken in Japan. For more details and other news, read on!

Ispace

Space exploration startup Ispace just broke the record for a series A investment in Japan after it amassed US$90 million from 12 investors. The startup is behind the team Hakuto, a competitor in Google’s Lunar Xprize race. Five teams are vying to win  the grand prize of US$20 million: it will go to the first group to place a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send high-definition videos and images back to Earth. The Hakuto team is scheduled to launch on December 28.

Apart from this venture, Ispace is also planning two lunar launches in 2019 and 2020. They are looking to search the moon for resources and explore the possibilities of expanding life beyond Earth.

Mago Chaneru: Grandchildren Channel

Developed by Chikaku, Mago Chaneru – which means “grandchildren channel” in Japanese – enables grandparents to watch  videos and images of their grandchildren. The US$1,700 box device is designed to be installed to a TV.  When the latest pictures or videos arrive, a notification light turns on to alert users.

The company just raised US$1.3 million from Incubate Fund. This comes after it got US$900 thousand from 500 Startups from a round raised in December 2016. Total funding now is over US$2.5 million.

Kaizen Platform 

Kaizen Platform, which appeared in TIA’s first-ever Tokyo pitch battle, is a Japanese startup that developed Kaizen Ad – a solution for optimizing Facebook video advertisements. The word “kaizen” refers to the philosophy of continuous improvement, and this marketing tool  is designed to track the performance of ads made by Kaizen and improves upon them once KPIs show signs of decline. By simply sharing ideas and concepts, Kaizen Ad will develop a variety of options for ads and continue to monitor and alter them. Customers include several well-known Japanese corporations like Yahoo Japan, JAL, and Rakuten.

Kaizen Platform has just raised US$4.7 million in their series C from Mizuho Capital, YJ Capital, SBI Investment, and Dentsu. With this new infusion, total funding for Kaizen Platform rounds out to about US$23 million.

Candee

Candee, a media startup focused on livestreaming and talent management, just received US$21.5 million from seven investors, including Eight Roads Ventures Japan, YJ Capital, NTT Docomo, Opt Ventures, Gree, Daiichi Shokai, and Mizuho Capital. Candee produces advertisements as well as general video content, but it’s looking to use the raised funds to strengthen and expand its Live Shop! app.

Released in June 2016, Live Shop! is targeted at young women. The app allows popular Instagrammers and other social media influencers to post livestreams with a maximum running time of an hour. Viewers can write comments and send heart emojis as well as  purchase interesting products presented throughout the videos.

Aside from developing media, Candee  has also invested in early-stage Instagram media company LUTE. This puts Candee in a position to be a leader in digital-first marketing and talent management, disrupting the traditional leaders that are lagging behind.

Pear

Fukuoka-based Pear has developed Omni Core, an ecommerce support service site. The service will help users manage sales that are spread over multiple ecommerce sites like  Rakuten, Amazon, and Yahoo Japan, among others.  The startup is in the process of opening the beta version of Omni Core and plans to initially use a freemium model after its official release. Pear is also looking to charge customers who sell over approximately US$270,000 a month for consulting services.

The company has just raised its seed round of approximately US$311 thousand from BEENEXT, Daiwa, and FVentures.

With companies like Hamee and Item Robot sharing the market, Pear is operating in a competitive landscape. But Pear says that its ease of use and understandability will help it edge out rivals.

Rexit

Wedding services company Rexit has secured US$490 thousand from angel investors Shinichiro Sugiyama of Valetudo and Arai Motoki of Happy Elements. Rexit plans to use the money to expand their wedding-location selection platform, Gensen Wedding.

Apart from giving couples options for wedding venues, Gensen Wedding offers counseling and wedding plan ideas. According to Rexit, over 100 couples have used the service since it was rolled out.

This post 6 rising startups in Japan appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/jp-funding-12-20-2017/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 05:09:02 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=449175

Photo credit: walkingsky / 123RF.

Chinese bike-share startup Mobike today got a boost from Japanese social media giant Line.

Line, maker of a messaging app popular in Japan, has invested in Mobike’s Japan subsidiary, taking a less than 20 percent stake for an undisclosed sum, the two firms announced this afternoon.

The move comes four months after Mobike rolled out its dockless bikes into select Japanese cities. The service now covers 200 cities around the world.

Line has 71 million users in Japan.

Mobike Line funding

Line boss Takeshi Idezawa (left) with Mobike founder Hu Weiwei. Photo credit: Mobike.

“Line users in cities where Mobike is present will be able to unlock a Mobike simply by scanning the QR code on the bike with their Line app, and pay using their Line Pay account or other payment methods,” said the Japanese firm in a statement.

Mobike is similarly accessible in China inside WeChat, the messaging app with nearly a billion users.

Mobike founder and president Hu Weiwei described Line as the “perfect partner” owing to its huge social media reach.

“Our ambition in Japan is to work with industry-leading Japanese partners like Line, as well as local governments and communities, to bring Mobike to more cities in Japan and to set the global standard for bike-sharing,” she added.

Ofo, Mobike’s archrival, has also expanded to Japan, where its local buddy is telco giant Softbank – though that partnership doesn’t involve financial backing. Ofo is aiming to be in 200 cities globally by the end of the year.

Updated 24 hours after publishing: “20 percent” is now changed to “less than 20 percent.”

Bike-share battle:

This post Line funds Mobike to put bike-sharing in messaging app appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/mobike-line-funding/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017#comments Sun, 17 Dec 2017 15:59:17 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448619 asian startups weekly list
Here’s our newest round-up of the featured startups on our site this week. If you have startup tips or story suggestions, feel free to email us. Enjoy this week’s list!

1. Biofourmis | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Health analytics platform Biofourmis uses AI-driven software to analyze medical data gathered from patients. Data is collected from a range of sources, including wearable health and fitness trackers, hospital databases, and individual lab reports. It claims to have analyzed data from over 100,000 patients.


2. EcoWorth Tech | Singapore (Startup Profile)

EcoWorth Tec has developed a technology for the sustainable treatment of wastewater. Its core product is a material called carbon fibre aerogel (CFA). Highly absorbent, non-toxic, and recyclable, CFA can be used to absorb organic waste materials from wastewater – in other words, contaminated water that typically results as a byproduct of certain industrial processes.


3. Venteny | Philippines (Startup Profile)

Established in 2015, Venteny is a combined human resources and fintech platform. The platform provides an outsourced-employee benefits scheme for local companies, allowing workers to get exclusive perks such as discounts at restaurants, gyms, and hotels that Venteny has partnered with.


4. Oxfordcaps | Singapore (Startup Profile)

Launched this year, Oxfordcaps wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model. It works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living. The startup manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.


Startup lists

5 – 8: 4 rising startups in Japan


Related startup stories


Like RSS? There’s always our Asia startups RSS feed!

This post 8 startups in Asia that caught our eye appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/asian-startup-list-17-december-2017/feed 1 https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:45:21 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448354 WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: WeWork

Co-working dynamo WeWork has been hotly anticipated in Southeast Asia. The local ecosystem was jazzed to see the US company acquire Singapore-based Spacemob in August, preempting its arrival in the region as part of a US$500 million investment that also covers its expansion to Korea.

Five months later, Spacemob founder and CEO Turochas “T” Fuad is WeWork’s managing director for Southeast Asia, and the company’s first space is officially open for business in Singapore’s Beach Center. It also has two more confirmed Singapore spaces in the works.

This is the 200th location for the global co-working company, while Singapore is its 20th country – a nice set of round numbers for Beach Center. “I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment,” Fuad laughs.

The venue has been taking in tenants since the beginning of December. Now it’s almost at full capacity, Fuad tells Tech in Asia. The mix includes freelancers and individual entrepreneurs (what the company terms “creators”), startups and small businesses, and larger multinationals looking for flexible space and networking opportunities.

See: Co-working unicorn WeWork heading to Singapore, Tokyo next

Singaporean startups like Chope, PolicyPal, and StashAway are already housed at Beach Center, as well as larger companies like Twilio and HP. Freelancers include people working in a range of fields, from accounting and finance to animation.

The location is the first of several planned to open in Singapore as well as Southeast Asia. Fuad doesn’t share more details about WeWork’s regional plans at the moment, but the company has already announced its second and third locations in Singapore.

Early next year, a new space will open at 71 Robinson Road, in the heart of Singapore’s central business district (CBD). It will house around 1,000 people. “I think Robinson Road is very classic CBD,” Fuad says. “You have banks and financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that are interested in those spaces.”

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people.

The price points change slightly between the two initial venues – a private office at Robinson Road starts at US$906 per month and a desk starts from US$438 per month. The starting prices at Beach Road are US$817 and US$408, respectively, according to the website.

Together with Singapore-based real estate firm CapitaLand, WeWork also announced that it’s the first tenant of Funan, the upcoming re-imagined version of a tech-oriented shopping mall well known to Singaporeans.

Funan DigitalLife Mall was established in 1985 and closed down in late 2015. Its replacement will be a sizeable complex with shops, office space, and co-living facilities. True to its techie heritage, it will feature smart parking facilities, office entry through facial recognition, and robot-assisted shopping.

WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people and focus more on high-tech startups and multinationals, Fuad says.

New Funan complex

Artist’s impression of the new Funan complex. Image credit: CapitaLand

Room to breathe

Fuad doesn’t reveal what the ratio is between startups, individuals, and big organizations at Beach Center, or how that impacts the company’s revenue. Globally, around 20 percent of WeWork members are larger businesses (or “enterprises” as WeWork calls them).

“Given that Singapore is a gateway city in Southeast Asia, a hub for a lot of financial companies and startups and entrepreneurs right now, we believe that the enterprise segment in Singapore will be an interesting one for us,” he says.

Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from them.

For example, HP decided really quickly they wanted office space at Beach Center. “They came by here, looked at it for less than a day, and decided to become a member,” Fuad says. “I think their whole idea is, they want to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here and they wanted this particular division to be away from where their typical office would be, to have a little more fun and innovative atmosphere.”

There’s no shortage of co-working spaces in Singapore, with independent facilities like the Great Room, Collision 8, and ecosystem staple The Hub, as well as corporate-run spaces like Level3. All these businesses are competing for similar clientele, which raises questions about their viability in a small market like Singapore. Regardless, WeWork appears confident there will be demand for its own offering.

Fuad says that’s because WeWork’s focus on its global network provides extra value for its members – the network effect, essentially. “Beyond just space, [WeWork is] a platform for all types of creators, for different sizes of companies, who come together and collaborate,” he suggests. “Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from [them].”

See: An encounter with WeWork co-founder reveals a tussle between money and mission

The company’s own staff play matchmaker with members. Community managers assess each client to understand their needs and then try to bring the right people together. An online marketplace, meanwhile, makes it easy for members to ply their trade to others in the network anywhere in the world.

WeWork will also offer its co-working-as-a-service product Powered by We. This is basically WeWork applying its know-how and network to large organizations in their own facilities, setting up and managing their working environments for them. According to Wired, the company is already managing offices like Airbnb in Berlin and Amazon in Boston.

“We will actually design, manage, and build it for them, and now their own employees can experience what a WeWork would be at their own real estate,” Fuad says.

This is an additional source of revenue for the company that could prove to be a more efficient path to greater growth. This way, WeWork expects to add more paying clients without having to source new spaces itself, while still getting its brand to more traditional workplaces.

WeWork at Beach Center

Conveniently, one of the pantries can be found at the lobby and common area. Beer on tap included.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

There are all kinds of cozy nooks and crannies where people can have meetings.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

But things can get more professional, too.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The design is partly inspired by Singaporean shophouses and food courts.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This cute nook looks very relaxing.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

The common areas look par for the co-working course.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Office space takes up three floors in Beach Center.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Local treats await new tenants on their desks.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Several private offices are already occupied.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

This classroom-looking area can also be used for game nights and yoga.

WeWork Singapore Beach Center

Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.35.

This post WeWork opens its first Singapore venue but has more co-working spaces coming soon appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/wework-singapore-first-location/feed 2 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017 https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:30:48 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=424853 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, destroying last year’s US$2.6 billion as well as 2015’s US$1.6 billion, the Tech in Asia Database shows.

Indonesia’s Tokopedia contributed a big chunk of that with its US$1.1 billion injection over the summer. Alongside Traveloka’s substantial investment, it was a bumper year for Indonesia’s tech industry.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on September 7, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

Watch: Go-Jek’s Nadiem Makarim on being fearless

This post Indonesia’s 10 best-funded startups this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/indonesia-10-top-funded-startups-thus-far-2017/feed 7 https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans#comments Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:57:08 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448312

Photo credit: Go-Jek.

Ride-hailing service Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first billion-dollar tech startup, has agreed to acquire three local fintech firms as it seeks to expand its grip on the digital payments market.

The deals involve Kartuku, a leading offline payments processing company in Indonesia; Midtrans, said to be the nation’s top online payment gateway; and Mapan, a community-based savings and lending network, Go-Jek announced in a statement today. The company declined to disclose the value of the deals.

Altogether, Go-Jek, which owns the mobile wallet Go-Pay, and the three companies process close to US$5 billion worth of credit and debit card transactions as well as digital payments for users, service providers, and merchants annually. Ecommerce spend in Indonesia this year amounts to over US$7 billion, shows Statista data.

“We are now taking Go-Jek to the next stage,” said its founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim.

The acquisitions – combined – are Go-Jek’s biggest so far, Makarim told Tech in Asia, and marks a significant step in the company’s plan to dominate the payments space, where it’s facing off against Southeast Asia juggernaut Grab.

Going beyond the Go-Jek app

Backed by investors KKR & Co, Warburg Pincus, and China’s Tencent, Go-Jek started out with rides, then later expanded into other on-demand services such as food and medicine deliveries, parcel couriers, cleaners, massages, and ticketing.

Now a household name, Go-Jek has 900,000 drivers, more than 125,000 partner merchants, 15 million weekly active users, and over 100 million transactions processed through its platform per month. That’s a fivefold jump from the 20 million transactions the company reported in June 2016.

While customers use Go-Pay to purchase Go-Jek services, Makarim previously said his goal was to allow people to pay for things outside the app system, like coffee and groceries. Today’s buys help fulfill that goal.

Kartuku claims to serve nearly all the top 100 enterprise retailers in Indonesia with its offline payment processing solutions, including point-of-sale devices. Midtrans, on the other hand, has tied up with more than 3,000 online merchants, processing their transactions through 18 different payment methods with a focus on fraud prevention. Both startups will work on getting Go-Pay accepted into their merchant networks.

Meanwhile, Mapan counts over a million families across 100 cities in Indonesia as members of its community-based savings and loan platform. The startup will help increase Go-Jek’s reach, particularly in rural areas where many of the latter’s services might not be widely available.

Fierce battle with Grab

Because it caters to the unbanked, Go-Pay plays a key role in Go-Jek’s continuous push in its home market and possibly new ones, Makarim had said.

Majority of Indonesia’s 260 million-strong population have no access to credit cards, while 64 percent have had no access to formal banking services for more than 15 years, according to a KPMG report.

Closest competitor Grab – also a unicorn and heavily funded – is betting on this space as well, although it seems to be playing catch-up with Go-Jek in Indonesia.

Go-Jek was the first to introduce non-bank top-up options for its digital wallet by letting users convert their cash into Go-Pay credit through Go-Jek drivers, resulting in a dramatic uptick in adoption. It also secured an e-money license ahead of Grab by snapping up payments startup MVCommerce. Grab got the license just this week (link in Indonesian) and was in fact forced to freeze top-ups back in October. While Grab acquired ecommerce payments startup Kudo in April, Go-Jek’s triple acquisitions will give it a huge boost.

“Grab will face tougher efforts to increase its market share in the platform economy,” which is very much a battle of scale, said IDC Handojo Triyanto, senior research manager at IDC Financial Insights (Asia Pacific & Indonesia). “Grab should take countermeasures.”

It’s too early to say who’s going to win though, he noted, as cash is still largely the preferred payment mode in Indonesia. “The battle is still a long journey […] it will take time to cover Indonesia’s huge market.”

Overseas, where Go-Jek has no presence yet, Grab has made some headway. In Singapore, it made GrabPay available for payment at third-party merchants, starting with hawker stalls. It also recently obtained an e-money license in Malaysia, giving it the green light to launch GrabPay services there. Grab aims to bring the same to other Southeast Asian countries next year.

Go-Jek is looking to foray into at least three new markets in the region, with the Philippines likely being first on the list.

Similar to Indonesia, the Philippines has one of the world’s most horrendous traffic conditions, and a large portion of its population remains unbanked.

What lies ahead

Once the deals are finalized, Go-Jek president Andre Soelistyo said the management teams and employees of the three newly acquired firms will “continue to operate as before,” but their CEOs will take senior positions at the parent company. Thomas Husted of Kartuku will become Go-Jek’s CFO, Mapan’s Aldi Haryopratomo will lead Go-Pay, and Midtrans’ Ryu Suliawan will head the group’s merchant platform.

Looking ahead to 2018, Makarim sees payments as a “core priority” and the possibility of Go-Pay’s spin-off.

Grab also plans to double down on GrabPay following its mega funding round in July.

(Update at 4:15 pm: Added more information on the deals, what they mean, and comments from Go-Jek and research firm.)

This post Go-Jek buys 3 fintech firms to conquer Indonesia payments appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/go-jek-acquisition-kartuku-mapan-midtrans/feed 5 https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:45:32 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448223

Photo credit: Xpeng

Online shopping giant Alibaba has invested in an electric car startup, it said today.

Alibaba confirmed the move this evening to Tech in Asia following rumors in Chinese media about it funding Xpeng (also known as Xiaopeng), which last month launched its first vehicle, the all-electric Identy X SUV.

The funding amount isn’t disclosed, but several Chinese media outlets said Alibaba was taking a 10 percent stake in the fledgling carmaker.

“As a clean energy vehicle startup, the investment in Xiaopeng Motors fits with Alibaba’s strategic focus in the automotive sector. Under our open-platform approach, we will continue to work with a range of automotive manufacturing partners to benefit Chinese consumers,” an Alibaba spokesperson said.

The Xpeng Identy X has a lot of tech for a relatively cheap car, including this pop-up camera on the roof.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Inside, it looks a lot like the interior of a Tesla, as noted by Electrek – from the shape of the digital instrument cluster to that massive vertical screen in the center console.

Photo credit: Xpeng

Alibaba makes an Apple CarPlay-style system called AliOS, which it rolled out last year. Jack Ma’s company last week said it’s exploring a partnership with Ford that could see AliOS put onto the screens of Ford’s China-made vehicles.

Archrival Chinese tech giant Tencent has invested in Tesla, paying out around US$2 billion for a 5 percent stake. Tencent has also backed NIO, the Chinese startup that this week launched its electric SUV – though NIO’s will be a lot pricier than Xpeng’s.

See: China’s tech titans take the battle onto the screen in your car

This post Alibaba invests in electric car startup appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-invests-electric-car-startup/feed 0 https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:40:01 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=418874 Southeast Asia’s tech firms saw a record US$8.6 billion in disclosed funding in 2017, obliterating last year’s US$2.6 billion, according to the Tech in Asia Database. The region defied slowdowns in China and India’s tech industry.

Grab’s US$2 billion in July was Southeast Asia’s biggest fresh investment as the Malaysia-born, Singapore-based ride-hailing startup increased its war chest to fight Uber. Sea’s IPO also makes the list.

Here’s the data for 2017’s biggest funding rounds from January to December 7, 2017:

NOTE: This was originally published on August 17, 2017. It’s now updated with the latest data.

2017 in review - BANNER

This post Singapore’s 10 best-funded startups this year appeared first on Tech in Asia.

]]> https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-10-best-funded-startups-in-2017-so-far/feed 11 https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed https://www.techinasia.com/oxfordcaps-seed#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:38:38 +0000 https://www.techinasia.com/?p=448146

Photo credit: rawpixel / 123RF

Singapore’s Oxfordcaps has secured an undisclosed amount of funding in a seed round led by 500 Startups and ReadyVentures. Several unnamed angel investors also participated.

Launched in July, the startup wants to shake up the student accommodation market by applying the “co-living” model that’s already disrupting rental options for expat professionals in Asia’s biggest cities.

Companies like Singapore-based Hmlet and MetroResidences, itself a recipient of seed capital from 500 Startups, are transforming unused buildings into shared living spaces suited to the needs of modern tech workers and corporate executives.

See: Rakuten invests $2.8m in Singapore-based serviced apartment startup

The main target demographic is lone expatriate workers who prefer short-term rentals, the possibility of saving money by sharing accommodation, and the opportunity to socialize with people in a similar situation to their own.

Oxfordcaps co-founder and CEO Annu Talreja points out that international students who come to cities like Singapore to study have quite similar requirements.

Redesigning student accommodation

There is an undersupply of university-owned accommodation compared to the number of students admitted in each intake, meaning that most will have to seek out private rental options.

Like Hmlet, Oxfordcaps works with landlords and developers to redesign and furnish properties to make them suitable for student living.

“The owner typically has a property which is very good for students in terms of location and price,” Talreja tells Tech in Asia. But they may be skeptical to rent it out themselves because they fear the students couldn’t pay rent on time or might not keep the property in the best condition. Or they simply don’t want to take on the task of managing the rentals themselves.

Interested owners approach Oxfordcaps, which then kits out the property as “no-frills” student accommodation. Each room typically features two single beds, a study table with desk lamp, and a bookcase. There are also common areas where residents can mingle.

Oxfordcaps manages the property, providing services such as cleaning and maintenance. It also handles the rentals process all the way from listing available rooms on its site.

The ability to view the accommodation online and secure somewhere to stay before arriving in a new country is what makes the service particularly attractive to international students, Talreja suggests.

International students

Prior to leaving their home countries, foreign students will typically use property listings sites such as 99.co or PropertyGuru to contact agents and organize viewings after they arrive, which isn’t necessarily the most convenient way for them to get accommodation, says Talreja.

“On our site, we are going to provide 360-degree videos and pictures of every room. Details will be provided for the entire unit, down to what kind of mattress each bed has in each room, so that students can book before they get here.”

That can save them from paying for a costly hotel or Airbnb stay between their arrival in the country and when they eventually sign for a room, she adds.

What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community.

In addition, Oxfordcaps offers accommodation on a bed-by-bed basis, meaning that students don’t have to form houseshare groups themselves – a situation that’s particularly difficult for those coming from abroad with no existing contacts in the country.

The whole arrangement is meant to be conducive to bringing students together to socialize and form new friendship groups. Like Hmlet and other co-living players, Oxfordcaps runs on-site events, which it sees as an opportunity for future revenue generation.

“What we are doing here, apart from providing accommodation, is creating a student community,” explains Talreja. “These are often very fragmented and limited to the school they are going to, but these students are all in a similar demographic. They’re all in the same boat – going to a new country for their education. We want to create this community and monetize it at some point, but right now, the focus is on creating the community and keeping them engaged on a regular basis.”

See: Tech workers need lower rents and more friends. These guys help with both.

She says that Oxfordcaps will use the seed funding to further develop its tech offering and introduce new features on its site, as well as to increase the number of beds and properties under its management.

It has already booked over 1,000 bed-months since July (a bed-month measures the occupancy of one person in one bed for one month, and is a variation on the bed-night metric used in the hospitality industry).

Looking ahead, the startup wants to enhance its presence in Singapore before expanding “into at least one or two more Asian geographies,” with India, Indonesia, and Australia among the likely targets, Talreja shares.

“Within Asia Pacific there are over 100 million mobile students. Singapore is relatively smaller, with only 200,000 to 300,000 international students coming here [each year]. But it’s our Asia gateway market, since it’s the region’s education hub and the real estate regulations are pretty clear compared to a lot of neighbouring markets. But our aim is to be an Asia-Pacific brand.”

This post Oxfordcaps gets 500 Startups backing to bring co-living to Asia’s universities appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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Ding’s ‘smart enough’ doorbell raises $345k+ on Seedrs | Startup World

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