US-based payments processor Visa is taking a minority stake in BillDesk, making the Mumbai-based company the latest entrant in India’s unicorn club of private technology companies valued at over US$1 billion.While Visa did not disclose details, it is expected to value the 18-year-old company at US$1.8 billion.The transaction involves a primary investment of about US$200 million with a secondary purchase of shares from existing investors and founders of US$80 to 100 million, according to one person briefed on the matter.
Speaking to a crowd at a conference in Tel Aviv recently, the head of one of the world’s largest online travel and related services providers explained why his company selected the city as a site for the group’s artificial intelligence (AI) research & development activities:“If you want to fish, go to a lake that has many fish,” said Booking Holdings’ CEO and president, Glenn Fogel, “In Israel there are many fish.”Booking Holdings, which operates brands such as Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak and Cheapflights and is based in Norwalk, Connecticut, is focused these days on AI.Startup Nation Central, an information and research service, reports that as many as 320 multinationals have an R center in Israel, including Chinese tech giants Huawei and Alibaba.As China continues in its steady march to technological advancement, the paradox in its quest for innovation becomes apparent: Planning for innovation is one thing, but creating it is an elusive and often abstract objective.It requires an ecosystem conducive to such activities, and people with a certain type of talent: Engineers and data scientists with hard technological skills in AI and machine learning, for example, and startup founders with soft leadership skills.
Alipay HK, the Hong Kong affiliate of Alibaba-backed payment platform Alipay, announced that it won the bid to provide a QR payment program for Hong Kong Mass Transit Rail (MTR) from as early as 2020.The announcement, issued November 15, could accelerate Alipay HK’s aggressive moves to provide services to cities outside mainland China.It also underscores the company’s ambition to play a key role in Hong Kong’s smart city plan.According to Alipay HK, once the technology is ready, the scan-and-go payment solution will be available in 91 stations and cover around 5.8 million passenger trips per day on the city’s subway system.Transportation transactions, which only require a quick scan at station gates, can be completed within one second, with or without an internet connection.Hong Kong MTR is still testing the new service.
Beijing is investigating the merger between Didi Chuxing and Uber China regarding potential monopoly charges.This is likely to allow new comers to join the game, and foster legislation progress in the industry.“We are now carefully looking into the case according to related law and regulation… Ride hailing is a new industry…which shows complicated and fast-changing competition,” Wu Zhenguo, head of China’s Anti-monopoly Bureau said during the State Council Information Office’s meeting with media (in Chinese) on November 16.Wu added that China’s Anti-monopoly Law, which has been implemented for ten years, treats all parties equally regardless of nationalities and market status.Criticism on the merger deal’s being monopoly has long been haunting the ride-hailing market in China, but there has been little substantial investigation.On August 1, 2016, Didi formally announced their acquisition of Uber China.
On October 23 & 24, we had our seventh run of Tech in Asia Jakarta.The conference saw 5,227 startups, corporates, investors, industry experts, and tech community gathered for two days of power-packed talks and networking.Some highlights included John Fitzpatrick, head of Google Cloud’s Startup Program in Asia, sharing the four elements startups needed to get to “hyperscale”, and Grab’s CTO, Theo Vassilakis advising data scientists and developers to get behind something they believe in.You can still catch up on our conference coverage, but if you’re into numbers, here’s a nifty infographic of Tech in Asia Jakarta 2018, thanks to our friends at Piktochart.(Click to view enlarged image)Thank you once again to all our attendees, volunteers, speakers, sponsors and partners for contributing to this conference’s success.
Li Jia, Head of Google AI China Center, has left the position for research projects at School of Medicine, Standard University.Li Jia’s resignation is just two months after that of Li Feifei, founder of Google AI China Center, who decided to go back to Stanford University for research purposes.Li Jia was an apprentice to Li Feifei when at Stanford.During her stay in the company, Li Jia co-led Google’s AI China Center’s with Li Feifei, and helped with AI cloud R and developers’ machine learning toolkits.Prior to that, Li Jia led Yahoo’s visual computation and machine learning, and was the research head of Snapchat.“I’m now pursuing the impact of AI for good in healthcare and working full-time at Stanford University’s AIMI (Center for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine & Imaging),” Li said to local AI media Synced Review.
“The most important enjoyment for me,” Li once said, “is to work hard and make more profit.”Here’s how the Hong Kong industrialist built his empire and then made a beeline for the tech industry, including early investments in Facebook, Spotify, and Slack.Aged 12, Li started work at an uncle’s plastic watch-strap company, soon dropping out of school so that his income can support the family.After rising from a salesman to become manager of one of his uncle’s factories, Li used everything he’d learned in the past decade about plastics to start manufacturing plastic toys, before shifting to artificial flowers.Hong Kong in the 1950s was roiled by riots amid a huge influx of refugees from China’s civil war, compounding already terrible, cramped conditions in the British colony.Li leapt on the chance to snap up commercial real estate on the cheap, giving birth to his real estate empire.
The startup behind made-in-Singapore meditation app MindFi has raised more seed funding, its founder Bjorn Lee told Tech in Asia.MindFi’s existing angel investors doubled down with an additional US$100,000 investment, bringing the total amount raised to US$200,000.These backers include Zopim founders Royston Tay and Kwok Yang Bin, as well as prominent Singapore-based angel investors Wong Poh Kam and Chow Yen Lu.Unlike major players in the space like Calm and Headspace, MindFi takes a more scientific approach to its mindfulness exercises.It worked with Duke-NUS Medical School to develop an app-assisted breathing exercise that can measure your level of mindfulness, or the ability to bring one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.The app also uses a questionnaire to determine your body-clock type and customize mindfulness exercises based on that.
Tech in Asia has been in the media, events, and jobs business for seven years now.In recent months, we have reached an inflection point as we look to build a sustainable business model while serving our mission – building Asia’s tech and startup community – at the same time.With this in mind, we launched Tech in Asia subscription, our media subscription service, as well as Jobs Premium to help companies hire faster and better.Our events business model has been heavily reliant on our signature Tech in Asia conference series in Singapore, Tokyo, and Jakarta.While our conferences which attract thousands of tech stakeholders remain a viable avenue for businesses to expand their reach in the tech ecosystem, in recent years we have seen an increased demand for custom services such as branded events to more effectively reach out to their target audiences.Taking a step back and re-evaluating our current position, we realised we had the potential to add value and connect the ecosystem in other ways, while helping brands achieve their goals.
CashCash, an app that recommends and distributes financial products, recently closed a multi-million dollar series A round, with Creation Partners Capital as lead investor.Zhen Fund, Zero2IPO, and Rong360 were co-investors.Currently the app features products from more than 60 Indonesian online loan platforms.It has up to 700,000 monthly active users.The startup will use the fresh capital to expand into other financial services such as e-wallets.It is also preparing to enter the Philippines, India, and Vietnam.
Ecommerce giant JD is betting big on Indonesia – both in terms of making venture investments, where it has backed local unicorns Go-Jek and Traveloka, and expanding its own brand visibility.The Chinese firm selected the island country to host the first overseas outlet of its line of tech-laden cashierless stores – named JD.id X.It later used Jakarta’s public transport system as the testbed for a new mode of online shopping: virtual “shelves” that allow passers-by to order products while they wait for a train.The company is calling it JD Virtual.This content is exclusive to subscribers.Stay close to innovation in Asia by subscribing at just $0.27 per day.
Aergo [from] Blocko, a Samsung Ventures-funded startup, announces it has secured US$30 million in a venture funding round to allow businesses to share data through trustless blockchain networks.Blocko supports, develops, and subsequently plans to use the Aergo platform to offer a broader set of enterprise-IT solutions and cloud-based application development capabilities to many existing blockchain clients.Aergo is an end-to-end, open source-based platform that features customizable high-scale hybrid-blockchain deployments, a serverless cloud architecture, and data bridging technology.Aergo’s architecture will allow enterprises to transfer data without having to trust an intermediary while also being flexibly governed and integrated seamlessly into existing systems.The South Korea-based startup – which also develops the Coinstack blockchain infrastructure – said it will use the funds to release a new public blockchain protocol, expand its research and development teams, launch new applications on the Aergo platform, and strike more partnerships globally.Investors in the Aergo token sale included Sequoia Capital, Neo, and GBIC, among others.
With a full-fledged bar on one end, complete with exposed pipes and incandescent light bulbs, one can be forgiven for mistaking it for a swanky co-working space or a pub that only PayPal employees are privy to.Tech In Asia was able to catch a glimpse of some of them at PayPal Innovation Lab’s Crawl event.At present, three startups are undergoing PayPal Innovation Lab’s nine-month program.Awan Tunai: making loans easy in IndonesiaAccording to Windy Natriavi, co-founder of Awan Tunai, just 40 percent of Indonesians have bank accounts, and more than 90 percent of merchants are micro-entrepreneurs.This presents a unique problem for the country, since it is difficult for shop owners to obtain working capital from banks, and equally challenging for customers to enjoy financing at the point of sale.
Indonesian digital media advertising platform Target Media Nusantara (TMN) has received an undisclosed series A funding from Alpha JWC Ventures.The platform is part of China-based Focus Media Group’s – an interactive digital media network – expansion efforts into Indonesia.TMN started mid-2018 and aims to be a market leader in the country’s indoor digital media advertising sector.By the end of 2018, the company plans to achieve 900 advertising screens installed in 200 greater Jakarta buildings.It has 450 screens installed in 104 buildings thus far.
Sisters and startup founders Race and Rhonda Wong have had an interesting two years.By the time their company turned two in September 2018,, the Ohmyhome app has had more than 200,000 downloads and 52,000 monthly users, as well as 5,000 active and genuine listings on the portal.Tech in Asia spoke to chief operating officer Race and chief executive officer Rhonda about Ohmyhome’s milestones, and what it’s like to raise young children and a fledgling business at the same time.We have identified the problems – a lack of transparency and knowledge, the lengthy time it takes, the stress and the high costs involved – and were inspired to set up Ohmyhome.We wanted to create solutions that could revolutionize the entire housing transaction experience, to provide people with a platform and services that are simple, fast and affordable.The problem can be broken down into three specific areas.
China’s iQiyi Takes Exclusive Online Rights to ‘The Late Late Show With James Corden’ — The Hollywood ReporterWhat happened: iQiyi and CBS Studios International announced Wednesday an exclusive licensing agreement on “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” bringing the series to China for the first time.The show has become known for its “Carpool Karaoke” segment, which generated over 1.95 billion views on YouTube since its inception only a year ago.“Mobile viewing dominates iQiYi’s subscriber base, making it the perfect platform for ‘The Late, Late Show’s’ inventive content and viral moments,” said Armando Nunez, president, and CEO of CBS Global Distribution.Why it’s important: The deal comes nearly two months after China’s film and TV regulator drafted regulations that would limit foreign video content to only 30% of any genre on streaming platforms.The regulations would ban shows that undermine so-called social stability, and stressed that imported content should enrich Chinese people’s spiritual and cultural lives.
Porsche Designed a Sleek Machine for China’s Rich.It’s No Car – BloombergWhat happened: Tetsuro Homma, the head of Panasonic’s appliance department spoke to Bloomberg about the company’s for-China-only high-tech washing machine.The Japanese electronics giant hired Germany’s luxury automaker Porsche to design the machine, called Alpha.“Their appetite for consumption is phenomenal,’’ said the executive referring to Chinese consumers.“We can’t make enough of these washing machines.” Alpha comes with a price tag of $2,900, according to Bloomberg.
China to require detailed user logs from tech companies – Financial TimesWhat happened: Beginning November 30, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced yesterday, all online service providers with “public opinion or social mobilization capacity” should prepare to provide user information to the government.The regulation will apply to blogs, microblogs, forums, news providers, and video streaming platforms.Companies will be required to log the real names of their users, as well as logs of comments, chats, and other user data.They’re also mandated to employ systems to report such information to the government, and comply with any spot checks carried out by regulators.Why it’s important: Chinese regulators have been taking more steps to heighten the state’s access to data collected by private companies.
Weidai prices IPO at $10 midpoint-NasdaqWhat happened: Chinese peer-to-peer lending platform Weidai debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on November 15, raising $45 million by offering 4.5 million shares at $10.Founded in 2011, the firm operates an online marketplace that connects Chinese borrowers—who use their car as collateral—with peer and institutional lenders.The company has recorded net profits of RMB 291 million in 2016 and RMB 474 million in 2017 and RMB 307 in the first six months of 2018.Why it’s important: Weidai’s IPO is one of the latest after China has decided to strictly manage non-qualified peer-to-peer lending finance businesses to stabilize national financial environment since June.As China’s economic growth slows down and domestic sales of vehicles drop compared to those of last year, Weidai might find it hard to sustain the business by improving substantial operation in the near future.
Russian payment platform Yandex.Checkout has integrated WeChat Pay into its services, targeting merchants and providing a familiar payment option to Chinese tourists visiting the country.According to a statement issued by Yandex, the company is one of the first to introduce the payment system to the Russia, which welcomes around 1.5 million Chinese tourists annually.WeChat Pay has already been implemented by the Russian home appliance and digital electronics retail chain Citilink.Sergey Potopnin, the company’s chief financial officer, said Citilink is interested in testing QR code payments in Russia and that he believes they could spread throughout the country.Chinese tourists have been the primary driver for payment platforms expanding abroad with both payments and peripheral services.The two dominant Chinese players in mobile payments, Alipay and WeChat Pay, have been working with tens of thousands of merchants overseas in a bid to become the provider of choice in the global payment market.