Diversifying from the hotel and long-term lodging business, Oyo has acquired Singapore co-working space Innov8, sources said.Oyo, which has more than US$1.1 billion in its balance sheet, reportedly spent between 1.5 billion (US$21.6 million) and 2 billion rupees (US$28.8 million) for the acquisition.The hospitality firm aims to open more than 35 new co-working spaces in major metropolitans over the next year.Taking on a similar concept to its accommodation business, Oyo plans to provide affordable office and workstation spaces.It started two new co-working brands – PowerStation and WorkFlo – which will cater to a variety of startups and companies.Currency converted from Indian rupees.
This article by Sophy Yang originally appeared on China Money Network, the best data intelligence platform tracking China’s tech and venture capital markets (access requires subscription).Chinese fintech conglomerate CreditEase announced on Wednesday that its investment unit, CreditEase FinTech Investment Fund (CEFIF), participated in a $125 million Series B financing round of Berlin-based insurance technology firm Wefox Group.The investment also saw the participation of European Ventures Fund, a newly-launched investment vehicle of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.Founded in 2014, Wefox serves as a digital platform that helps customers, brokers, and insurance companies manage their insurance and financial products and services more efficiently.The company said in the statement that it has grown the revenue to about $40 million, while serving more than 1,500 brokers and over 400,000 customers.“Wefox Group is a proven insurtech innovator with visionary management leadership and strong technology and AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities to provide consumers with more seamless and personalized insurance policy experience,” said Dennis Cong, managing director of CEFIF.
Google’s work in China benefiting China’s military: U.S. general – ReutersWhat happened: The Chinese military is benefiting from Google’s work in the country, according to Joseph Dunford, marine general and chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military advisory committee in the US.He said that the panel is watching with “great concern” as US companies work in China while knowing that the country gains from their presence.Why it’s important: Google has invested in China for years and will continue to do so, according to the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai.News broke last year that Google had been working on a search product for the Chinese market, though research has supposedly been put on hold.The program, dubbed Dragonfly, sparked dissent among Google employees and concern from US lawmakers, who said that for the company to offer the service in China, it would have to comply with the country’s censorship and surveillance policies.
What happened: Huawei’s mobile chief confirmed that it has developed its own operating system for phones, tablets, and computers in the event that escalating tensions between the US and China cut off its use of Google’s Android system.Huawei, the largest smartphone maker in China, began building the Android alternative in 2012, after the US began investigating whether Huawei and ZTE pose threats to national security.“We have prepared our own operating system, if it turns out we can no longer use these systems, we will be ready and have our plan B,” Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer products division, said in an interview with German news outlet Die Welt.Why it’s important: The tension between the smartphone company and the US seems to be escalating amid the months-long US-China trade war.The US has become increasingly wary of Huawei’s network equipment and smartphones over the past year and has been leading a campaign against the use of Huawei products.Earlier this month, Huawei filed a lawsuit against the US government in response to a ban that prohibits federal agencies from using its equipment.
When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg outlined plans to merge Whatsapp, Instagram, and Facebook’s flagship platform into a small group-focused network, it immediately drew comparisons to WeChat.Allen Zhang, the founder of WeChat, built most its multitude of functions out of intuitions about how groups on the platform work.Zhang, a user-experience design obsessive, recently gave a four-hour speech on his design philosophy, in which he talked about cultivating a space as friendly and familiar to users as “an old friend.”WeChat has a misinformation problem of its own: friend-sourced content isn’t necessarily factual, objective, or higher quality.Neither Zhang nor Zuckerberg seems to understand the political and cultural spaces that they’ve created.Neither Facebook nor Tencent are government agencies—but both corporations handle information, data, and decisions that are increasingly political.
Vaguely akin to the Oscars, with the rich and famous showing off their loyalty to the Communist Party of China on the red carpet, China’s Two Sessions, or lianghui, can be bewildering for the uninitiated: lots of bold pronouncements, wacky ideas from celebrities, and a virtual (pun intended) isolation from the rest of the world as the government gets serious about unlicensed VPNs.Previously the realm of economists, policy wonks, and seriously hardcore China watchers, the noises made at the Two Sessions are increasingly relevant for us China tech watchers, as more and more attention is paid to the sector both by entrepreneurs, billionaires, and governments.The annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) kicked off last earlier this month in Beijing.Unlike the National Congress of the Communist Party, the most important political event in China, which is held every five years (usually in October), the Two Sessions is the perfect place for the famous and elite of all stripes to show off their pet projects.With a density of celebrities unavailable at any other time of the year, journalists from China’s state-run media are known for swarming delegates for an interview, soundbite, and even sometimes a selfie.For the eagle-eyed and stalwart China tech watcher, most of the platitudes and policies should come as no surprise.
India-based mobile point-of-sales company Mswipe has raised around 2.2 billion Indian rupees (US$ 31.7 million) in a new round of funding from existing investors.The list includes US-based hedge fund Falcon Edge, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin-promoted B Capital Asia, technology investment firm Epiq Capital, and DSG Consumer Partners.This round came after Mswipe’s series D fundraising in 2017, when UC-RNT Fund and existing investors infused around 2 billion Indian rupees (US$28.8 million) into the company.Currency converted from Indian rupees.
Latest mobile app rankings show that WeChat, Alipay, and QQ were the most used apps in February, according to Chinese mobile internet research firm Trustdata’s latest release (in Chinese).The company posted its February figures for China’s top 200 mobile app rankings on its official WeChat account Thursday.China’s super app, WeChat, maintained its top spot, with monthly active users (MAU) growing 2.25% month-on-month in February to 1.01 billion.Alipay, the most used non-social app, ranked second with 608 million MAU.Tencent’s social networking app crossed the 600 million mark during the month, ranking third overall.Taobao and Jinri Toutiao were the only two apps in the top 10 that declined in February.
After Rajkot ban, police arrest 10 for playing PUBG – The Indian ExpressWhat happened: Police in the western Indian state of Gujarat arrested 10 people for playing Tencent’s hit title, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile” (PUBG Mobile), The Indian Express reported.The arrests took place in the city of Rajkot, where the game has been banned since Mar.Six of those arrested were undergraduate students, who were “so engrossed” in the game that they didn’t notice police approaching them, a police officer told The Indian Express.The six students were granted bail, and the other four are in the process of being released on bail.Why it’s important: This is the first time that people have been arrested for playing “PUBG Mobile” in India, where it faces censure for violent content.
Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has extended the deadline for Ofo to remove its bikes from the country, with the beleaguered bike-sharing firm on the cusp of signing a deal which could see the service resurrected.LTA had originally told Ofo it had until Wednesday this week to remove its bikes from Singapore.However, the agency has granted the Chinese company’s request for an extension, Channel NewsAsia reports.Its decision to do so was influenced in part by Ofo’s success in implementing the country’s new QR-based parking regime, which requires bike-share users to scan a QR code to confirm they have parked their dockless cycle in a designated area.Ofo has also reportedly informed LTA it is in “advanced stages of negotiations” to partner its Singapore unit with a third party.Tech in Asia has reached out to LTA for further details.
Unsecured Database Exposed 33 Million Job Profiles in China – BleepingComputerWhat happened: Using the Shodan search engine, security researcher Sanyam Jain uncovered a large database containing the personal information of 33 million Chinese users with profiles on recruitment websites like 51job, lagou and Zhilian.User home addresses, phone numbers and even marriage statuses were all exposed.While the owner of the database is unknown, Jain thinks “a third-party is aggregating the information from these companies and using them in some way.” After reporting his discovery to CNCERT, the China Cyber emergency response team, the database was secured.Why it’s important: Just since February, researchers have discovered unsecured databases in China that exposed the private data of over 350 million people, with this most recent revelation putting that number closer to 400 million.“We don’t want to be whistle-blowers—we want to fix stuff, not embarrass people,” said Victor Gevers, the GDI Foundation researcher who has disclosed multiple vulnerable Chinese databases.
Reddit Has Become A Battleground Of Alleged Chinese Trolls – Buzzfeed NewsWhat happened: Members of Reddit communities like /r/geopolitics and /r/onguardforthee are worried about what they perceive to be a coordinated effort by pro-China accounts to influence political discussion involving the country.While some accounts banned for China-related comments were found to have originated in the mainland, a Buzzfeed News analysis yielded no evidence of state sponsorship.Reddit, which recently shared its progress “detecting and mitigating content manipulation” on the site, also denied finding proof of coordinated activity.Why it’s important: Since Tencent’s recent $150 million investment in the US social media platform, Reddit users have raised the specter of censorship despite Tencent having little control over decisions about how the site is run.And while Sinocism newsletter publisher Bill Bishop says there has been an “upsurge in [Chinese government accounts] taking the battle overseas to the global internet,” it’s hard to know what is actually coordinated.
Electric vehicle maker Faraday Future (FF) is looking to sell its 900-acre property in the Apex Industrial Park located in north Las Vegas, according to an announcement (in Chinese) posted on the company’s official WeChat account.The listing is a result of FF’s ongoing operations optimization and business strategy to better integrate its China and US businesses and resources, the company said.It is asking $40 million for the partially improved property including 700 fully graded acres, according to the listing by US real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.FF intended to build a manufacturing plant at the Apex site and begin manufacturing vehicles as early as 2017.The company broke ground on the facility in April 2016, but construction stopped in November.In July 2017, the EV carmaker announced that it was going to scrap its original plan and move the location of its manufacturing facility for its flagship FF 91 model to Hanford, California.
What happened: Chinese online used car seller Uxin reported strong revenue growth and reduced losses in 2018 as consumers shifted increasingly to purchasing used rather than new cars.Revenue for the year grew 69.9% year-on-year to RMB 3.31 billion ($483.1 million) and full-year adjusted net losses of RMB 1.67 billion shrank compared with RMB 1.70 billion the prior year.Uxin founder and CEO Dai Kun attributed the results to “robust growth” in its consumer-facing business, with more than 160,000 units sold on its platform in the fourth quarter, with more “strategic initiatives” for its retail business to come in 2019.This optimism was reflected in first quarter 2019 revenue guidance of up to RMB 950 million compared with RMB 649 million in the same period a year ago.Why it’s important: Uxin partnered with Alibaba’s marketplace Taobao to build an online used car shopping mall in December.The company seeks to increase its focus on its 2C, or retail, business to improve lower-tier city penetration.
Nutrition Innovation, a Singapore-based startup that produces a “healthier” version of sugar, has raised US$5 million in funding.VisVires New Protein (VVNP), a foodtech-focused VC firm based in Singapore, led the round.Singaporean commodity trading company Enerfo also invested, along with a family office from the UK.It’s VVNP’s first investment in a Singaporean company, the firm told Tech in Asia.Here’s the problem that Nutrition Innovation is trying to solve: if you want to sweeten your food or drink in a cost-effective way, you typically have to opt for either highly refined sugar or alternative sweeteners.Refined sugar, as we all know, isn’t the healthiest way to go.
Philippine-based insurtech startup Saphron has completed a US$1 million seed funding with Sage Venture and Talino Labs Venture.According to Swiss Re, a reinsurance company, most families in Southeast Asia bear 35 to 75 percent of their total medical expenses.In comparison, families in Japan, the UK, or the US bear only 11 to 15 percent of their total medical expenses.Saphron aims to make “financial inclusion a reality in Southeast Asia” by creating an enterprise solution for its clients, which includes insurance providers.“[We want to provide] a digital experience for our clients’ users like searching for a suitable cover, facilitating payments, and simplifying the claims process,” said Francisco Reyes, Jr., founder and chief technology officer of Saphron, in a statement.The platform will leverage artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics to underwriting and customer service.
UK payments processing company Barclaycard announced a new partnership with Alipay on Thursday that will allow retailers to accept the Chinese payment app in stores across the country.The move will allow more merchants in the UK to tap into the growing number of Chinese tourists and their spending power.Under the agreement, Barclaycard merchants will start accepting in-store Alipay payments without replacing their existing point-of-sale (POS) system.Alipay users will be able to search for retail outlets near their location to find out information such as opening hours, directions, and discount offerings.Barclaycard first launched a pilot with Alipay transactions in 2017, testing the POS payment solution in eight retail stores across the country.The payment services provider processes nearly half of credit and debit card transactions in the UK and has over 110,000 merchants in its network.
Data: China has the most blockchain patents, despite banning cryptocurrency – The Next WebWhat happened: The Next Web analyzed data made available by the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and found that, to date, the majority of patents related to blockchain technologies were approved in China, followed closely by the US.However, Chinese entities were not among the top four institutions holding patents; Alibaba ranked fifth.Americans dominate the top 15 companies whose applications were granted.The total number of approved patents skyrocketed in 2017, when 917 blockchain-related patents were granted.In 2018, during the bitcoin crash, the number of patents continued to increase.
Alibaba announced in February that its e-commerce subsidiary Taobao acquired 24 million shares (an 8% stake) of Chinese online video platform Bilibili.Last October, Tencent increased its own investment in Bilibili to around 12%.Bilibili is renowned for its content in anime, comics, and games, and offers mobile games from third parties.Alibaba and Tencent are both eager to win over emerging Generation Z consumers—those born between 1995 and the early 2000s.According to Bilibili’s third quarter earnings release, the Nasdaq-listed company boasted 92.7 million monthly active users, around 82% of which were born between 1990 and 2009.Alibaba and Tencent have tapped into such video platforms looking to create synergies for their core business.
Former Lazada founder and CEO Max Bittner wants to talk shopping.He’s just bought some new sneakers, a Balenciaga hoodie, and some cashmere sweaters.“I haven’t had a winter wardrobe for seven years,” he says.That’s because of Singapore’s never-ending heat and humidity.Now that he’s moved on from the groundbreaking Southeast Asian startup he launched in 2012, he’s getting used to life in Paris, France.Plus, he needs to buy a lot of clothes.