Indonesian payments infra startup Xendit raises $64.6M in Accel-led Series B

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation is happening all over the world. And Southeast Asia is no exception.

Indonesia’s Xendit, a startup focused on building digital payments infrastructure for the region, has just raised $64.6 million in a Series B led by Silicon Valley heavyweight Accel. The funding brings the total amount raised by the Jakarta-based company to $88 million since its 2015.

Notably, Y Combinator also participated in the financing. In fact, Xendit is the first Indonesian company to go through Y Combinator’s accelerator program. It also was ranked No. 64 on Y Combinator’s top 100 companies (by valuation and top exits) list in January 2021

Xendit works with businesses of all sizes, processing more than 65 million transactions with $6.5 billion in payment value annually. Its website promises businesses that “with a single integration,” they can accept payments in Indonesia and the Philippines. The company describes itself as building out financial services and digital payments infrastructure “in which the next generation of Southeast Asian SaaS companies can be built on top of,” or put more simply, it aspires to be the Stripe of Southeast Asia.

Xendit has been growing exponentially since its launch — with its CAGR (compound annual growth rate) increasing annually by 700%, according to COO and co-founder Tessa Wijaya. In 2020, the company saw its customer count increase by 540%. Customers include Traveloka, TransferWise, Wish and Grab, among others. Xendit declined to reveal hard revenue figures.

It also declined to reveal its current valuation but we do know that as of October 2019, it was valued at at least $150 million – a pre-requisite for appearing on this Y Combinator liston which it ranked No. 53. 

The idea for Xendit was formed when CEO Moses Lo met his co-founders while studying at University of California, Berkeley. Shortly after, they went through Y Combinator, and launched Xendit in 2015. 

One of the company’s main benefactors was Twitch co-founder Justin Kan. According to Lo, “he happened to have some family in Indonesia, and it was also about the time when Asia was becoming more interesting for YC.”

Xendit was originally launched as a P2P payments platform before evolving into its current model.

Today, the startup aims to help businesses of all sizes seamlessly process online payments, run marketplaces, distribute payroll manage finances and detect fraud via machine learning. It aims for fast and easy integrations so that businesses can more easily accept payments digitally.

The market opportunity is there. One of the world’s most populous countries that is home to more than 270 million people — an estimated 175 million of which are internet users — Indonesia’s digital economy is expected to reach $300 billion by 2025.

Add to that a complex region that is home to 17,000 different islands and a number of regulatory and technological challenges.

“Trying to build the businesses of tomorrow on yesterday’s infrastructure is holding Southeast Asia’s businesses back,” Lo said.

The global shift toward more digital transactions over the past year led to increased demand for Xendit’s infrastructure and services, according to Wijaya. To meet that demand, the company doubled its employee headcount to over 350 currently.

The pandemic also led to Xendit branching out. Prior to 2020, many of the company’s customers were large travel companies. So the first few months of the year, the startup’s business was hit hard. But increased demand paved the way for Xendit to expand into new sectors, such as retail, gaming and other digital products.

Looking ahead, the startup plans to use its new capital to scale its digital payments infrastructure “quickly” with the goal of providing millions of small and medium-sized businesses across Southeast Asia with “an on-ramp to the digital economy.” It is also eyeing other markets. Xendit recently expanded into the Philippines and also is considering other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, according to Wijaya.

Xendit is also similar in scope to San Francisco-based Finix, which aims to make every software company a payments company. Xendit acknowledges the similarities, but notes it is also “looking to tackle broader challenges related to accessibility, security and reliability that are unique to Southeast Asia,” with a deep understanding of the region’s unique geographical and cultural nuances.

To Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, Xendit has “quietly” built a modern digital payments infrastructure that’s transformed how Southeast Asian businesses transact.

“Their team’s combination of deep local expertise and global ambitions means they’re uniquely positioned to do what no other company could do in the region,” he said. “The vision of Xendit is a bold one: they are building the digital payments infrastructure for Southeast Asia, and fits squarely into Accel’s global fintech thesis.”

Other fintechs that Accel has backed include Braintree/Venmo, WorldRemit,GoFundMe and Monzo, and more recently Galileo, TradeRepublic, Lydia, Public.com and Flink.

#accel, #digital-services, #digital-transformation, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #jakarta, #payment-solutions, #payments, #philippines, #recent-funding, #ryan-sweeney, #southeast-asia, #startups, #venture-capital, #xendit, #y-combinator

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ErudiFi raises $5 million Series A to give students in Southeast Asia more education financing options

Based in Singapore, ErudiFi wants to help more students in Southeast Asia stay in school by giving them affordable financing options. The startup announced today it has raised a $5 million Series A, co-led by Monk’s Hill Ventures and Qualgro.

ErudiFi currently works with more than 50 universities and vocational schools in Indonesia and the Philippines. Co-founder and chief executive officer Naga Tan told TechCrunch that students in those countries have limited financing options, and often rely on friends or family, or informal payday lenders that charge high interest rates.

To provide more accessible financing options, ErudiFi partners with accredited universities and schools to offer subsidized installment plans, using tech to scale up while keeping costs down. Interest rates and repayment terms vary between institutions, but can be as low as 0%, with loans payable in 12 to 24 months.

By providing their students with affordable financing plans, ErudiFi can increase retention rates at schools, helping them keep students who would otherwise be forced to drop out because of financial issues.

Tan said ErudiFi’s value proposition for educational institutions is “being able to offer a data-driven financing solution that helps with student recruitment and retention. Students also greatly benefit because our product is one of the few, if not the only, affordable financing option they have access to.”

In a press statement, Peng T. Ong, co-founder and managing partner of Monk’s Hill Ventures, said, “Access to affordable tertiary education remains a huge pain point in Southeast Asia where the cost is nearly double then the average GDP per capita. ErudiFi is tackling an underserved market that is plagued with high-interest rates by traditional financial institutions and limited reach from peer-to-peer lending companies.”

ErudiFi’s Series A will be used on hiring for its product and engineering teams and to expand in Indonesia and the Philippines.

#asia, #education, #erudifi, #finance, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #philippines, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Duterte’s Forces Have a New Target: University Students

The government in the Philippines has announced a decision to end a 32-year agreement barring security forces from a prestigious campus. Students say they won’t be intimidated.

#academic-freedom, #colleges-and-universities, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #duterte-rodrigo, #philippines, #politics-and-government, #school-discipline-students, #security-and-warning-systems

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The Mouse That Survived a Volcanic Apocalypse

Much as small mammals outlived the dinosaur extinction, this rodent beat the odds when Pinatubo blew its top in the Philippines in 1991.

#conservation-of-resources, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #luzon-philippines, #mice, #philippines, #research, #rodents, #volcanoes, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

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How Roblox’s creator accelerator helps the gaming giant build new platform opportunities

As Roblox eyes what could be a historic debut on public markets in the coming months, investors who have valued the company at $29.5 billion are certainly eyeing the gaming company’s dedicated and youthful user base, but it’s the 7 million active creators and developers on the Roblox platform that they are likely most impressed by. 

Since 2015, Roblox has been running an accelerator program focused on enabling the next generation of game developers to be successful on its platform. Over the years, the program has expanded from one annual class to now three, each with now around 40 developers participating. That means over 100 developers per year are working directly with Roblox to gain mentorship, education, and funding opportunities to get their games off the ground.  

As the company’s efforts on this front have grown more formalized, Roblox in 2018 hired a former Accelerator alumni Christian Hunter, a Roblox gamer since age 10 and game developer since 13, to run the program full-time. Having been through the experience himself, Hunter brought to the program an understanding of how the Accelerator could improve, based on a developer’s own perspective. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw the company’s plans to run the program into disarray. Instead of being able to invite developers to spend three months participating in classes hosted at Roblox’s San Mateo office, the company had to revamp the program for remote participation. 

As it turned out, developers who were used to playing and building games taking place in virtual worlds quickly adjusted to the new online experience. 

“Before COVID, everyone was together. It was easier to talk to people. [Developers] could just walk up to someone that was on our product or engineering team if they were running into issues,” explains Roblox Senior Product Manager Rebecca Crose. “But obviously, with COVID-19, we had to switch and think differently.”  

The remote program, though differently structured, offered several benefits. Developers could join the program’s Discord server to talk to both current participants and previous classes, and reach out and ask questions. They could also participate in the Roblox company Slack to ask the team questions, and there were more playtests being scheduled to gain reactions and feedback from Roblox employees.

Meanwhile, to get to know one another when they couldn’t meet in person, developers would have game nights where they’d play each other’s games or others that were popular on Roblox, and bond within the virtual environment instead of in face-to-face meetings and classes. 

The actual Accelerator content, however, remained fairly consistent during the remote experience. Participants had weekly leaders standup, talks on topics like game design and production, and weekly feedback sessions where they asked Roblox engineers questions. 

But by its nature, a remote Accelerator broadend who could attend. Instead of limiting the program to only those who could travel to San Mateo and stay for three months, the program was opened up to a more global and diverse audience. This drove increased demand, too. 

The 2020 program saw Roblox receiving the largest number of applications ever — 5 times the usual number.

As a result, the class included participants from five countries: The Philippines, South Korea, Sweden, Canada, and the U.S. 

The developers at IndieBox Studios saw the program as a chance to double down on their game development side hustles. The young friends spread across the UK and Kentucky spent their time during the accelerator scaling up their photorealistic title called Tank Warfare.

“We’ve actually never once met in real life, like we’ve been friends for going on what nine years now,” Michael Southern tells TechCrunch. “We met on Roblox.”

IndieBox is representative of many of Roblox’s early developer teams, younger gamers that have spent more than a decade learning the ins and outs of the evolving Roblox gaming platform.

“We all joined Roblox way back in 2008,” IndieBox’s Frank Garrison says. “But we only started developing on the platform in 2019. And for us, the decision to choose Roblox was more down to like, well it’s what we know, why not give it a bash?” 

The demographics of the accelerator have been shifting in other ways as the developer base grows more diverse.

“I would say, in the beginning, it was mostly young males. But as we’ve watched the program evolve, we’ve been getting so many new interesting teams,” notes Program Manager Christian Hunter. 

The 2020 program had more women participants than ever, for example, with 12 in a class of 50. And one team was all women. 

The age of participants, who are typically in the 18 to 22 year-old range, also evolved. 

“We’ve seen a lot more older folks,” Hunter says. “With [the COVID-19 pandemic], we actually saw our first 50-year old in the program. We’ve never had anyone older than, I’d say, 24. And in 2020, we had 12 individuals over the age of 30,” he notes. 

Two of the teams were also a combination of a kid and a parent. 

Shannon Clemens learned about the Roblox platform from her son Nathan, learning to code and bringing her husband Jeff in to form a studio called Simple Games. Nathan’s two sisters help the studio part time, as well as his friend Adrian Holgate.

“Seeing [my son’s] experience on Roblox getting involved with the platform, I thought it would be neat to learn how to make our own games,” Shannon Clemens told TechCrunch.

Their title Gods of Glory has received more than 13.5 million visits from Roblox players since launching in September.

“Our whole family is kind of creatively bent towards having fun with games and coming up with things like that,” Jeff Clemens tells us. “Why would we not try this? So, that’s when we applied to the program and said, ‘well, we’ll try and see if we get accepted,’ and we did and it’s been awesome.”

In addition to the changes facilitated by a remote environment, Roblox notes there were other perks enabled by remote learning. For one thing, the developers didn’t have to wake up so early to benefit from the experience.  

“With it being remote, the developers were working their hours,” says Crose. “As a developer, we tend to work later and stay up at night. Having them come in at 9 AM sharp was very difficult. It was hard for them because they’re just like…a zombie. So we definitely saw that by letting them work their own hours, [there is] less burnout and they increase their productivity,” she says. 

Though the COVID-19 crisis may eventually end as the world gets vaccinated, the learnings from the Accelerator and the remote advantages it offers will continue. Developers from the program hope that the growth seen on gaming platforms like Roblox continues as well.

“The pandemic has been great for most game studios,” developer Gustav Linde tells TechCrunch. “Obviously, it’s a very weird time, but the timing was good for us.”

The Gang Stockholm, a Swedish game development studio co-founded by Linde, has been building branded experiences for clients exclusively on the Roblox platform. The team of 12 has used the accelerator to slow down development deadlines and dig into some unique areas of the platform.  

“If you look at Steam and the App Store and Google Play, those markets are extremely crowded, and Roblox is a very exciting platform for developers right now.” said Linde. “Roblox is also getting a lot of attention and a lot of big brands are interested in entering the platform.”

Roblox says that going forward, future Accelerator programs will feature a remote element inspired by the COVID experience. The company plans to continue to make its program globally available, with the limitation for now, of English-speaking participants. But it’s looking to expand to reach non-English speakers with future programs.

The fall 2020 Accelerator class graduated in December 2020, and the next Spring class will start in February 2021. The applications are being reviewed now with a decision to be finalized soon. The next class will have some 40 participants, as is now usual, and Roblox will again aim to diversify the group of participants.

#app-store, #canada, #computing, #game-developer, #gaming, #kentucky, #online-games, #philippines, #product-manager, #roblox, #software, #south-korea, #sweden, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #video-gaming

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Philippine Drug Raid Leaves 13 Dead

Officials said 12 suspects and a police officer were killed in the shootout, the bloodiest episode in years in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

#duterte-rodrigo, #maguindanao-philippines, #philippines, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

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Philippines Helicopter Crash Leaves 7 Soldiers Dead

The helicopter had been on a supply run to troops in a remote, mountainous region where a hunt for communist rebels was taking place, the military said.

#aviation-accidents-safety-and-disasters, #defense-and-military-forces, #new-peoples-army, #philippines

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Murders of Journalists Doubled in 2020

At least 30 journalists were killed this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with 21 slain as a direct result of their work.

#afghanistan, #committee-to-protect-journalists, #freedom-of-the-press, #mexico, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #news-and-news-media, #philippines, #syria

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A Brazen Police Shooting Caught on Video Sparks Anger in the Philippines

The video shows a police officer shooting a woman and her son after a dispute over a noisemaker. Some activists linked the killings to a culture of violence in which the police are allowed to act with impunity.

#duterte-rodrigo, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #philippines, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #social-media

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Kenyan Planned 9/11-Style Attack After Training as Pilot, U.S. Says

An operative for the Qaeda branch in East Africa, known as Shabab, is accused of training as a pilot in the Philippines and researching how to hijack planes.

#airport-security, #al-qaeda, #hijacking, #manhattan-nyc, #philippines, #somalia, #terrorism, #united-states

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Court Finds Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in the Philippines

The International Criminal Court has released its latest report on President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

#drug-abuse-and-traffic, #duterte-rodrigo, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #international-criminal-court, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #philippines, #police, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

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Bicycling Surges in Manila Amid Covid-19 Lockdowns

City dwellers around the world turned to bicycles as the pandemic forced urban areas to restrict public transit. In the crowded Philippine capital, that meant weaving through notoriously bad traffic.

#accidents-and-safety, #bicycles-and-bicycling, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #manila-philippines, #philippines, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #roads-and-traffic, #transit-systems

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‘Within Seconds Everything Was Gone’: Devastating Floods Submerge the Philippines

Torrential rains and back-to-back typhoons have ripped through the country in the past two weeks, turning a once picturesque river into a sea of murky brown, killing dozens and setting off deadly landslides.

#duterte-rodrigo, #floods, #levees-and-dams, #philippines, #rescues, #typhoon-goni-2020, #typhoons, #weather

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Resellee wants to become the Pinduoduo of Southeast Asia

Launched in the Philippines, social commerce startup Resellee wants to recreate the success of Pinduoduo, one of China’s fastest-growing e-commerce companies, in Southeast Asia. A major part of Resellee’s business is grocery deliveries, including fresh produce, and it has struck partnerships with the government and farmers’ groups to meet demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The startup announced this week it has raised $1 million in seed funding from Mintech Enterprises and Hofan Capital to build its technology and expand into new countries. Resellee was co-founded last year by chief executive officer Marc Concio, former head of e-commerce at Voyager Innovations, parent company of PayMaya, one of the Philippines’ largest online payment services.

Concio told TechCrunch that there are currently about 40,000 resellers on Resellee’s platform, and each has an average of about 20 buyers. Resellee sellers typically make about P5,000, or US $100, a month.

Like Pinduoduo, India’s Meesho and other social commerce platforms, Reselllee does not require sellers to carry their own inventory. Instead, it maintains a network of suppliers, including manufacturers and farmers, and lists available products on a marketplace. Then sellers chose what they want to add to their stores, which they market to potential buyers through their social media networks.

Resellee offers a wide range of products, including electronics and fashion items, but it currently focuses on grocery deliveries and prepaid credit for mobile phones and online games, which are all in high demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concio’s interest in social commerce was piqued after observing Pinduoduo’s astronomical growth in China, where it became the second-largest e-commerce company in the country less than five years after launching in 2015. Pinduoduo’s group buying model leverages users’ existing social networks, especially on WeChat, to pull together buyers for products at discounted prices, and has done well in smaller cities and rural areas.

“Resellee hopes to learn from this and be the Pinduoduo of Southeast Asia by pioneering social e-commerce and group buying in the Philippines, then expanding to Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia, where social commerce has not started yet or is still in its early stage,” Concio said.

Social commerce is well-positioned to take off in the Philippines for several reasons, he added. One is the enormous amount of time spent of social media platforms there: four hours per day, versus two and a half hours in India, and two hours in China. The Philippines has one of the youngest median ages in Asia, around 23.5 years old, and that is the demographic most likely to use social commerce, Concio said.

Another reason is that many people want to start their own businesses, or need to make side income, especially during the pandemic, but have little access to working capital. Since Resellee’s sellers don’t need to carry their own inventory and can rely on the platform’s supply chain and logistics network, that means they can launch a store without spending any money. Most of the work they need to do is convincing people on their social media networks, like Facebook or Viber, to buy from their Resellee stores.

“We believe the same hypergrowth for social commerce will happen in the Philippines given all of the above, with Resellee pioneering both social e-commerce and group buying here,” Concio said.

Resellee’s competitors include some of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the region, like Lazada, Shopee and EZBuy, which have added social commerce features. Concio said one of Resellee’s advantages is its focus on helping sellers make money, and partnerships with farmers groups and the Philippine government. This includes a project to build an online platform that will aggregate supply information from farmer’s cooperatives across the country, and match them to Resellee’s sellers and buyers, eliminating middle men in the supply chain.

Resellee initially outsourced its logistics, but Concio said its deliveries were not prioritized by carriers, which led to customer complaints, especially for fresh produce. As a result, Resellee set up its own logistics arm, called Resellee Riders, in Metro Manila, where most of its grocery customers are. This enabled Resellee to launch next-day deliveries in the area this week (orders in other places are still carried out by third-party logistics providers).

While Resellee accepts online payments, including online wallets and bank cards, most buyers prefer to use its cash on delivery option. Sellers make money through commissions, which they can transfer to their online wallets or bank accounts. Resellee’s platform also gives them the option of using the funds to buy discounted mobile or gaming prepaid loads, or top-ups, which they can also offer in their stores. Along with fresh produce, prepaid loads are one of the key parts of Resellee’s business strategy. The platform guarantees the highest commissions and discounts for mobile prepaid loads from some of the Philippines’ top providers, including Smart, Sun and TalknText.

“The mobile prepaid market is a US $4 billion annual market versus total e-commerce in the Philippines of only US $2.3 billion,” Concio said. “This is one of our key strategies to own the mobile prepaid market, other than fruits and vegetables like Pinduoduo.”

#asia, #e-commerce, #fundings-exits, #online-groceries, #philippines, #resellee, #social-commerce, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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How Some Skinks Lost Their Legs and Then Evolved New Ones

The lizards have complicated a rule of thumb that in evolution, once you lose a body part, you don’t regain it.

#evolution-biology, #philippines, #proceedings-of-the-royal-society-b-journal, #reptiles, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

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A Transfixed World Awaits What’s Next in America

As U.S. results trickled in, they were analyzed far and wide with the sort of blanket news coverage most often reserved for elections closer to home.

#australia, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #japan, #philippines, #presidential-election-of-2020, #singapore, #south-korea, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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A Riveted World Waits to See What’s Next in America

As results trickled in, they were analyzed far and wide with the sort of blanket news coverage most often reserved for elections closer to home.

#australia, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #japan, #philippines, #presidential-election-of-2020, #singapore, #south-korea, #trump-donald-j

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A Typhoon Spared the Philippine Capital. Will Manila Be So Lucky Next Time?

With climate change heightening the Philippines’ risk of natural disaster, the country is braced for the next catastrophe.

#abs-cbn-corp, #disasters-and-emergencies, #duterte-rodrigo, #global-warming, #luzon-philippines, #manila-philippines, #philippines, #typhoon-bopha-2012, #typhoon-haiyan-2013, #typhoon-mangkhut-2018, #typhoons

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Philippines Braces for Typhoon Goni, Likely to Be Year’s Strongest Storm

“We are forecasting widespread destruction,” an official said of the typhoon, which was expected to make landfall on Sunday.

#luzon-philippines, #philippines, #typhoons

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Outcry in Philippines Over General’s ‘Warning’ to Female Celebrities

Accusing a women’s rights group of ties to Communist rebels, the general told an actress she could be killed if she associated with the organization.

#defense-and-military-forces, #parlade-antonio, #philippines, #politics-and-government, #soberano-liza-1998, #threats-and-threatening-messages, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

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‘The Real Facebook Oversight Board’ launches to counter Facebook’s ‘Oversight Board’

Today a group of academics, researchers and civil rights leaders go live on with ‘The Real Facebook Oversight Board’ which is designed to criticize and discuss the role of the platform in the upcoming US election. The group includes Facebook’s ex-head of election security, leaders of the #StopHateForProfit campaign and Roger McNamee, early Facebook investor. Facebook launched its own ‘Oversight Board’ last November to deal with thorny issues of content moderation, but Facebook has admitted it will not be overseeing any of Facebook’s content or activity during the course of the US election, and will only adjudicate on issues after the event.

The press conference for the launch is streamed live today, below:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed last November that the Oversight Board was “an incredibly important undertaking” and would “prevent the concentration of too much decision-making within our teams” and promote “accountability and oversight”.

The move was seen as an acknowledgment of the difficulty of decision-making inside Facebook. Decisions on what controversial posts to remove fall on the shoulders of individual executives, hence why the Oversight Board will act like a ‘Supreme Court’ for content moderation.

However, the Oversight Board has admitted it will take up to three months to make a decision and will only make judgments about content that has been removed from the platform, not what stays up. 

Facebook has invested $130 million in this board and announced its first board members in May, including ex-prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the ex-editor-in-chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger.

The activist-led ‘Real Facebook Oversight Board’ includes the ex-President of Estonia, Toomas Henrik Ilves, an outspoken critic of Facebook and Maria Ressa, the journalist currently facing imprisonment in the Philippines for cyberlibel.

Board members also include Shoshana Zuboff, author of Surveillance Capitalism, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, Yael Eisenstat, former head of election integrity at Facebook, Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League .

This issue of how Facebook moderates its content and allows its users to be targetted by campaigns has become ever more pressing as the US election looms closer. It’s already been revealed by Channel 4 News in the UK that 3.5 million Black Americans were profiled and categorized on Facebook, and other social media, as needing to be deterred from voting by the Trump campaign.

#anti-defamation-league, #articles, #author, #ceo, #computing, #denmark, #editor-in-chief, #estonia, #europe, #facebook, #facebook-oversight-board, #inside-facebook, #journalist, #maria-ressa, #mark-zuckerberg, #naacp, #oversight-board, #philippines, #president, #roger-mcnamee, #social-media, #software, #supreme-court, #surveillance-capitalism, #tc, #the-guardian, #trump, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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Duterte Lashes Out at Facebook After It Takes Down Fake Accounts

The Philippine leader, who harnessed the social network as he rose to power, is now making vague threats to shut it down.

#duterte-rodrigo, #facebook-inc, #philippines, #rumors-and-misinformation

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Philippines payment processing startup PayMongo lands $12 million Series A led by Stripe

Stripe has led a $12 million Series A round in Manila-based online payment platform PayMongo, the startup announced today.

PayMongo, which offers an online payments API for businesses in the Philippines, was the first Filipino-owned financial tech startup to take part in Y Combinator’s accelerator program. Y Combinator and Global Founders Capital, another previous investor, both returned for the Series A, which also included participation from new backer BedRock Capital.

PayMongo partners with financial institutions, and its products include a payments API that can be integrated into websites and apps, allowing them to accept payments from bank cards and digital wallets like GrabPay and GCash. For social commerce sellers and other people who sell mostly through messaging apps, the startup offers PayMongo Links, which buyers can click on to send money. PayMongo’s platform also includes features like a fraud and risk detection system.

In a statement, Stripe’s APAC business lead Noah Pepper said it invested in PayMongo because “we’ve been impressed with the PayMongo team and the speed at which they’ve made digital payments more accessible to so many businesses across the Philippines.”

The startup launched in June 2019 with $2.7 million in seed funding, which the founders said was one of the largest seed rounds ever raised by a Philippines-based fintech startup. PayMongo has now raised a total of almost $15 million in funding.

Co-founder and chief executive Francis Plaza said PayMongo has processed a total of almost $20 million in payments since launching, and grown at an average of 60% since the start of the year, with a surge after lockdowns began in March.

He added that the company originally planned to start raising its Series A in in the first half of next year, but the growth in demand for its services during COVID-19 prompted it to start the round earlier so it could hire for its product, design and engineering teams and speed up the release of new features. These will include more online payment options; features for invoicing and marketplaces; support for business models like subscriptions; and faster payout cycles.

PayMongo also plans to add more partnerships with financial service providers, improve its fraud and risk detection systems and secure more licenses from the central bank so it can start working on other types of financial products.

The startup is among fintech companies in Southeast Asia that have seen accelerated growth as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many businesses to digitize more of their operations. Plaza said that overall digital transactions in the Philippines grew 42% between January and April because of the country’s lockdowns.

PayMongo is currently the only payments company in the Philippines with an onboarding process that was developed to be completely online, he added, which makes it attractive to merchants who are accepting online payments for the first time. “We have a more efficient review of compliance requirements for the expeditious approval of applications so that our merchants can use our platform right away and we make sure we have a fast payout to our merchants,” said Plaza.

If the momentum continues even as lockdowns are lifted in different cities, that means the Philippine’s central bank is on track to reach its goal of increasing the volume of e-payment transactions to 20% of total transactions in the country this year. The government began setting policies in 2015 to encourage more online payments, in a bid to bolster economic growth and financial inclusion, since smartphone penetration in the Philippines is high, but many people don’t have a traditional bank account, which often charge high fees.

Though lockdown restrictions in the Philippines have eased, Plaza said PayMongo is still seeing strong traction. “We believe the digital shift by Filipino businesses will continue, largely because both merchants and customers continue to practice safety measures such as staying at home and choosing online shopping despite the more lenient quarantine levels. Online will be the new normal for commerce.”

#asia, #financial-tech, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #online-payments, #paymongo, #philippines, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

A Manila Barbershop’s Mirrors Reflect the Pain of the Pandemic

Seven months since the Philippines enacted its first lockdown, Jolog’s Barbershop exemplifies the toll the coronavirus has exacted on the country in lost lives, income and sense of community.

#barbers-and-barbering, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #duterte-rodrigo, #manila-philippines, #philippines, #recession-and-depression

0

Facebook Takes Down Fake Pages Created in China Aimed at Trump, Biden

The social media campaign was small but targeted all sides of the debate. Officials said Beijing had not decided whether to wade more directly in the American presidential race.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #facebook-inc, #philippines, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

He Killed a Transgender Woman in the Philippines. Why Was He Freed?

The pardon of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton by President Rodrigo Duterte is the final chapter in a case that reignited debate over old defense treaties.

#amnesties-commutations-and-pardons, #military-bases-and-installations, #philippines, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-marine-corps, #women-and-girls

0

U.S. Marine Pardoned for Killing Transgender Woman Is Deported From Philippines

Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was formally deported and flown out on a U.S. military plane. His pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte has drawn anger from activists.

#duterte-rodrigo, #laude-jennifer, #pemberton-joseph-scott, #philippines, #transgender-and-transsexuals, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations

0

Duterte Pardons U.S. Marine Who Killed Transgender Woman

The Philippine president made the move, which riled nationalist and gay rights groups, in the interest of maintaining an “independent foreign policy.”

#amnesties-commutations-and-pardons, #duterte-rodrigo, #international-relations, #laude-jennifer, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #pemberton-joseph-scott, #philippines, #transgender-and-transsexuals, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-marine-corps

0

Capsized Cattle Ship: New Zealand Suspends Cow Exports

A second man believed to be a crew member was plucked from the sea, but he later died, the Japanese Coast Guard said. The carcasses of a dozen cows were also spotted at sea.

#animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #cattle, #china, #deaths-fatalities, #east-china-sea, #japan, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #new-zealand, #philippines, #rescues, #ships-and-shipping

0

Missing Livestock Ship Prompts Search Off Japan

The livestock carrier, with dozens of crew members and nearly 6,000 cows, left New Zealand for China last month. It sent a distress signal as a typhoon raged in the region.

#australia, #cattle, #east-china-sea, #japan, #livestock, #new-zealand, #philippines, #rescues, #ships-and-shipping, #typhoons

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US Marine Who Killed Transgender Woman in Philippines is Ordered Released

A court decision to free Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton less than six years into his sentence was criticized by activists.

#laude-jennifer, #pemberton-joseph-scott, #philippines, #transgender-and-transsexuals, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

0

Philippine Network That Clashed With Duterte Ends Local Coverage

ABS-CBN lost its broadcast license, but a dozen regional operations kept covering local news through cable and the internet. On Friday, that stopped.

#abs-cbn-corp, #duterte-rodrigo, #news-and-news-media, #philippines, #shutdowns-institutional, #television

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Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Philippine Critic of Graft and Gambling, Dies at 85

The outspoken archbishop made it his main mission to rid the Philippines of illegal gambling, drawing the ire of officials. He died of complications of the new coronavirus.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cruz-oscar-1934-2020, #deaths-obituaries, #philippines, #religion-and-belief, #roman-catholic-church

0

At Least 10 Dead After 2 Blasts Rip Through Southern Philippines

Soldiers and civilians were among the dead. The explosions occurred in a town plaza and near a cathedral targeted in a suicide bombing last year.

#abu-sayyaf, #bombs-and-explosives, #deaths-fatalities, #philippines, #terrorism

0

Philippine Congress Officially Shuts Down Leading Broadcaster

By voting not to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, lawmakers silenced a major network that had come under fire from President Rodrigo Duterte.

#abs-cbn-corp, #duterte-rodrigo, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #news-and-news-media, #philippines, #television

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Trump’s sudden reversal on student visas will be felt in Silicon Valley

Growing up in the Philippines, Andreia Carrillo always liked the stars. It’s what brought her to the United States to study astronomy, and why she wants others to follow in her footsteps and study the stars.

“Though, we’ll see if that happens now,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo is one of the hundreds of thousands of students affected by a recent rule change, issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to no longer allow international students from staying in the U.S. if their university moves classes fully online.

The rule change, published Monday, lands as the threat of the coronavirus pandemic grows across the country, forcing some universities to shift to digital-only operations for the fall.

News of the rule change caught immigration lawyers by surprise. The Trump administration said nothing more about the policy beyond a tweet from the president: “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!,” a decision over which the federal government has little authority. It’s a sharp reversal from the administration’s position in March — at the height of the pandemic’s spread in the U.S. — allowing students to retain their lawful immigration status even as in-person classes were suspended across the country.

The sudden rule change puts universities in a difficult dynamic: administrators can let campuses stay open to keep international students in the country but run the risk of spreading the virus; or close up, maintain social distancing, and international students be damned.

But the knock-on effect will be felt across the U.S., not just by the students, the universities whose revenue largely depends on higher tuition fees from international students, or even the college towns whose economies rely on schools keeping their doors open. The rule change will also impact the fields that these students pursue, largely engineering, math, and computer science, and the rate of innovation that can be sustained in a country without the core, often invisible, talent behind it.

After all, one of the most popular destinations for international students is the state of California, the heart of Silicon Valley.

Eric Tarczynski, the founder of Contrary Capital, says that he’s seen “scores of entrepreneurial people come to universities from abroad explicitly because it’s their gateway to building a company in the United States.

“To some extent, it’s their Ellis Island, and we’ve funded several companies this way,” he said. He pointed to alternative programs, like Lambda School, will help the same talented students shift online.

New York University president Andrew Hamilton said in response to the government’s rule change that “requiring international students to maintain in person instruction or leave the country, irrespective of their own health issues or even a government mandated shutdown of New York City, is just plain wrong and needlessly rigid.”

“If there were a moment for flexibility in delivering education, this would be it,” he wrote..

NYU will join a chorus of other schools in reaching out to federal officials to ask them to revoke the rule change. Harvard and MIT have gone further by suing ICE to stop the rule change going into effect.

“The coronavirus has become a vehicle for the administration to continue in its advancement of anti-immigrant policies,” Tahmina Watson, an immigration lawyer, told TechCrunch. “With the election looming in a few months, the administration is looking for every possible angle to block immigration.”

“The invisible wall is real and gets higher every day,” said Watson.

One option for schools is going to the hybrid model route where some classes are taught live and others are taught online. Harvard, for example, said it will bring up to only 40% of undergraduates to campus this fall. Universities that go virtual may struggle to justify their traditionally exorbitant tuition fees.

The rule change touches on a nerve that has been agitated throughout the pandemic: how remote education shapes what we can learn, and more importantly, who can have the opportunity to learn. Some have noted that a remote shift might harshly impact international students who have spotty connections in other countries. Others say that higher education’s appeal in the U.S. is largely the network it provides.

In Carrillo’s case, there was no opportunity to study astronomy in the Philippines. She had to come to the U.S. if she wanted to pursue her dream career path.

The rule change is likely to face legal challenges. Watson noted that Monday’s policy has questionable legality. The administration referred to it as a “temporary final rule,” which she says essentially avoids the rule going through a more typical public comment period.

“I am sure schools, among others, would have a lot to say about this policy,” said Watson. “If the administration wants to change long standing policy, the Administrative Procedure Act should be followed at every step.”

The rule, thus, awaits more direction and clarity from the administration. Until then, it is up to colleges and students to figure out how to process the drastic step.

One international student who attends graduate school at University of Washington, who asked to remain anonymous fearing their visa status, said that the rule change puts their research and scholarship at risk if they are forced to go back to their home. If their school opts for a hybrid model, they worry about their health.

“I’ve never felt so disrespected in the United States,” the student said. “If only the international students are required to go back to class, and there is a chance of getting the virus, you’re risking the international students to get infected, they said.

When Carrillo heard the rule change, she said she panicked and emailed her department. To her relief, her current college — the University of Texas, Austin — will take a hybrid approach to classes in the fall. She can stay in the country, for now.

But the news isn’t a complete sigh of relief. International students, like Carrillo, are used to feeling a false sense of security under the Trump administration.

“I feel so shitty for wanting things to be hybrid,” she said. “Morally I want things to be safer and have things online, but then that would also mess up my stay here.”

 

#austin, #california, #contents, #contrary-capital, #donald-trump, #education, #federal-government, #government, #harvard, #new-york-city, #philippines, #president, #startups, #tc, #texas, #trump-administration, #united-states, #university-of-texas

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Duterte Signs Antiterrorism Bill in Philippines Despite Widespread Criticism

Human rights groups say the new law will give the police and military forces more powers to stifle dissent.

#bachelet-michelle, #duterte-rodrigo, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #human-rights-watch, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #muslims-and-islam, #philippines, #terrorism, #torture, #united-nations

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Tonik raises $21 million to launch digital bank in the Philippines

A wave of digital banks, or neo-banks, has flourished in recent years in Western nations as people begin to flee megabanks.

While most of these startups are yet to prove they can turn a profit, entrepreneurs are beginning to replicate similar ideas in South Asian markets, where most people don’t have accounts with traditional banks at all. And for now, venture capitalists are backing this attempt.

Tonik Financial, a two-year-old startup in the Philippines, said on Monday it has raised $21 million in a new financing round to launch its digital bank aimed at the Southeast Asian market by September this year.

Sequoia Capital India and Point72 Ventures led Tonik’s Series A round, while existing investors Insignia and Credence participated in it, the startup said, which has raised $27 million to date.

Tonik, which recently received the license to operate a digital bank in the Philippines, said it will commercially launch the digital bank in the third quarter of this year.

Greg Krasnov, the founder and chief executive of Tonik, said according to the his estimates the retail savings market in the Philippines is worth $140 billion and the Southeast Asian nation also presents a $100 billion opportunity in unsecured consumer lending. TechCrunch could not independently corroborate these market estimations.

Krasnov, who has previously incubated four financial services startups in Asia, said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted people to double down on their savings and has made it apparent that the vast majority of people in the Philippines need access to a digital bank.

“In the Philippines, where over 70% of the population remains unbanked, we are observing a rapid jump in consumer demand for digital banking and digital transfers since the start of the year,” he said.

“We are preparing to bring a highly differentiated experience to the Filipino consumer to address these needs and are honored to be supported in this by the regulators who have encouraged innovation and welcomed technology solutions to bolster financial inclusion,” he added.

In several South Asian markets, where like the Philippines, much of the population remains unbanked, startups are racing to fill the void. But interestingly, most of them are serving startups and other small and medium businesses — and not individuals.

In India, for instance, Bangalore-based NiYo Solutions, and Open are two of the heavily-backed startups have amassed over a million businesses on their platforms.

RazorPay, another Bangalore-based startup, last year launched a range of features such as corporate credit cards, and a single dashboard to help businesses manage transactions and provided them with the ability to automate recurring payouts. Some of these features are currently not offered by a traditional bank.

#apps, #asia, #epifi, #finance, #funding, #microfinance, #niyo-solutions, #open, #philippines, #point72-ventures, #razorpay, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india

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Maria Ressa, founder of Filipino independent media site Rappler, found guilty in cyber libel trial

Veteran journalist Maria Ressa, the founder of Filipino independent news site Rappler, was found guilty on Monday of cyber libel charges by a Manila court. She faces up to six years in prison. Critics of the charges, which include prominent human rights and press freedom advocates, say charges filed against Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr, a former Rappler researcher and editor, demonstrate how the government is cracking down on media freedom and the independent press in the Philippines.

After Ressa was arrested in February 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement that said Ressa’s treatment “appears to be the latest element in a pattern of intimidation of a media outlet that has fiercely guarded its independence and its right to conduct in-depth investigations and to criticize the authorities.”

Both Ressa and the journalists of Rappler, which was founded in 2012, have written critically about the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, conducting investigations into corruption charges.

Ressa and Santos were arrested in 2019 on cyber libel security charges related to an article published in 2012 that reported on the alleged ties between Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in 2011, and wealthy businessmen including Wilfredo Keng.

Keng filed the cyber libel complaint against the two journalists in 2017. The five year gap between the article’s publication and Keng’s complaint was much longer than the one-year prescriptive period for ordinary libel in the Philippines’ penal code, and in order to charge Ressa and Santos, the Department of Justice extended that period to 12 years for cyber libel. Rappler’s legal counsel argued this could impact their constitutionally protected rights.

In today’s verdict, issued by Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, Rappler was found to have no liability, but Ressa and Santos were both found guilty and ordered to pay 200,000 pesos (about $3,978 U.S. dollars) in moral damages and another 200,000 pesos fine in exemplary damages. They are entitled to post-conviction bail and an appeal the verdict.

In a statement after the verdict, Amal Clooney, the head of Ressa’s legal defense team, said, “This conviction is an affront to the rule of law, a stark warning to the press, and a blow to democracy in the Philippines. I hope the appeals court will set the record straight in the case.”

Ressa said, “Freedom of the press is the foundation of every single right you hvae as a Filipino citizen. If we can’t hold power to account, we can’t do anything. Are we going to lose freedom of the press? Will it be death by a thousand cuts, or are we going to hold the line so that we protect the rights that are enshrined in our constitution?”

#asia, #independent-media, #journalism, #maria-ressa, #philippines, #press-freedom, #rappler, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Maria Ressa Convicted of Libel

The conviction of Ms. Ressa, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, is the latest blow to press freedoms in the country.

#duterte-rodrigo, #news-and-news-media, #philippines, #politics-and-government, #rappler, #ressa-maria

0

Philippine Dissenters May Face Terrorist Designation

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign legislation defining terrorism so broadly that critics of the government could easily be detained without charge.

#abs-cbn-corp, #bachelet-michelle, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #de-lima-leila-1959, #duterte-rodrigo, #freedom-of-the-press, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #law-and-legislation, #marcos-ferdinand-jr, #martial-law, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #philippines, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #rappler, #social-media, #united-nations-human-rights-council

0

When the Mexican Air Force Went to War Alongside America

In 1945, the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron helped the U.S. Army Air Forces defeat Japan — significantly changing relations between the two allies after the war.

#defense-and-military-forces, #macarthur-douglas, #mexico, #philippines, #world-war-ii-1939-45

0

‘A Lot of Bad News Out There’: Parenting in a Pandemic

A mother balances coverage of tsunamis, plane crashes, bombings and other tragedies with life at home during a coronavirus lockdown.

#bangkok-thailand, #bangladesh, #children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #maine, #myanmar, #philippines, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #quarantines, #rohingya-ethnic-group, #typhoon-haiyan-2013

0

Typhoon Vongfong Takes Aim at Philippine Heartland

The storm was bringing torrential rains to the coast of Luzon, an island that is home to 60 million people. Officials warned that packed evacuation centers could become breeding grounds for coronavirus.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #evacuations-and-evacuees, #luzon-philippines, #manila-philippines, #philippines, #typhoon-haiyan-2013, #typhoons

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Philippines-based home services platform GoodWork gets $1.6 million to expand in Southeast Asia

GoodWork, a Philippines-based booking platform for home services, has raised a $1.6 million seed round it will use to expand into new Southeast Asian markets.

The funding was led by Chaac Ventures, a firm that backs Princeton alumni (GoodWork co-founder and CEO Andrew Koger earned his bachelor of arts at the university), and includes participation from Elysium Ventures, Kairos K50 and angel investors from Facebook and Snapchat.

Before founding GoodWork, Koger lead Fulfillment by Lazada, the e-commerce company’s logistics arm. He told TechCrunch that GoodWork will focus on launching in more major cities, and plans to expand into Vietnam and Thailand at the end of this year or early 2021.

Founded in 2018, GoodWork currently operates in the Metro Manila region. Its app lets customers book services including home cleaning, laundry pickup, air conditioner cleaning and home repairs, as well as spa services like manicures. Service providers on the platform, who set their own prices, typically get more than 10,000 jobs each month, with 70% daily bookings from repeat customers.

In March and April, GoodWork followed government rulings to suspend operations, after regions throughout the Philippines were put under different levels of community quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Metro Manila under the strictest restrictions. To adapt, the company added new health services, including online medical consultations, to its app.

Now as lockdown measures gradually lift, the company is preparing by adding disinfection cleaning services and implementing new safety guidance for providers, including a body temperature monitoring feature in its app, and additional safety training and protective equipment for cleaners.

Over the last three weeks, Kroger said the startup has already started seeing a strong recovery, with some categories already returning to pre-COVID levels.

“The drivers differ by category, but in general I’m very optimistic that home service demand will actually get a good tailwind in the months ahead,” he added. “For instance, with continued work from home policies, this increases air-conditioning usage, which has led to an increased demand for servicing, and for many people it has increased the need for home cleaning.”

He added there is also more interest in laundry pickup and delivery services, because many people don’t have washing machines at home and rely on laundromats. Beauty services like manicures and pedicures are still not allowed to operate in Manila, but Kroger believes that once they start again, there will be increased demand for them to be performed at home since many people may continue avoiding crowded shopping areas.

#fundings-exits, #goodwork, #home-services, #philippines, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Typhoon Vongfong Makes Landfall in the Philippines

The powerful storm is on a path toward hitting Luzon, the country’s largest and most populous island, on Saturday.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #duterte-rodrigo, #evacuations-and-evacuees, #luzon-philippines, #manila-philippines, #pacific-ocean, #philippines, #typhoon-haiyan-2013, #typhoons, #weather

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Duterte’s Shutdown of ABS-CBN Network Leaves Void in Coronavirus Crisis

Critics of the Philippine president say the move was yet more evidence of an increasingly domineering government using a crisis like the pandemic to crack down on dissent.

#abs-cbn-corp, #committee-to-protect-journalists, #duterte-rodrigo, #human-rights-watch, #news-and-news-media, #philippines, #rappler, #ressa-maria, #television

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Filipino Musicians Drive Hong Kong’s Music Scene, but Gigs Have Dried Up

Battered by the one-two punch of protests and a pandemic, Hong Kong’s music venues have mostly gone silent. No one has felt the pinch more than singers, drummers and guitarists from the Philippines.

#bars-and-nightclubs, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #foreign-workers, #hong-kong, #immigration-and-emigration, #labor-and-jobs, #music, #philippines, #pop-and-rock-music

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ABS-CBN, a Leading Broadcaster in the Philippines and Target of Duterte’s Ire, Signs Off

ABS-CBN has closely documented President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead. Such coverage has made it a target of the administration.

#abs-cbn-corp, #duterte-rodrigo, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #news-and-news-media, #philippines, #television

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Oriente raises $50 million to continue building its infrastructure for digital financial services

Oriente, a Hong Kong-based startup that develops tech infrastructure for digital credit and other online financial services, has raised $50 million for its ongoing Series B round. The funding was led by Peter Lee, co-chairman of Henderson Land, one of Hong Kong’s largest property developers, with participation from investors including website development platform Wix.com.

Launched in 2017 by Geoff Prentice, one of Skype’s co-founders, Hubert Tai and Lawrence Chu, Oriente focuses on markets that are underserved by traditional financial institutions. The new funding will be used for growth in Oriente’s existing markets, the Philippines and Indonesia, and expansion into new countries including Vietnam.

It will also be used to continue building Oriente’s technology, which uses big data analytics to help merchants increase sales conversions and lower risk. Oriente has now raised over $160 million in equity and debt, including a $105 million round in November 2018.

While many large tech companies, including Grab, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Apple and Samsung, are looking at digital payments and other online financial services, they need the tech infrastructure to do so, and partners that can also help them handle regulations in different markets.

Oriente doesn’t compete with payment providers. Instead, it is “innovating credit as a service,” Prentice told TechCrunch, by building technology that allows offline and online merchants to launch digital credit solutions quickly.

Oriente “is the only company that is focusing on building an end-to-end digital financial services infrastructure,” he added, with services created for consumers, online and offline merchants, and enterprise clients.

For consumers, the startup currently offers two apps, Cashalo in the Philippines and Finmas in Indonesia, which it says has a combined 5 million users and over 1,000 merchants. Services include cash loans, online credit and working capital for small- to medium-sized enterprises.

Oriente says that in 2019, it saw a 700% year-over-year growth in transactions and served more than 4 million new users, while merchant partners had a more than 20% increase in sales volume.

Over the next few months, Oriente plans to expand its Pay Later digital credit feature and launch new growth capital solutions for small businesses that need financing. Oriente also has several partnerships in the works to expand its enterprise solutions for larger businesses and corporations.

In Vietnam, Oriente is currently beta testing a consumer platform similar to Cashalo and Finmas. It will offer online credit and financing, as well as other services in partnership with local companies.

Oriente has also started focusing on how to serve businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, since many merchants are coping with revenue declines, loss of users and cash flow issues.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve reprioritized our corporate strategy to focus on the top opportunities within each market. We have also taken various steps to rebuild our organizations for optimized operational and financial efficiency in line with current and forecasted market conditions and our more focused strategy,” Prentice said.

“Our aim is not only to mitigate anticipated headwinds on liquidity but to demonstrate that our business has the potential to overcome and outperform the market in a recession—unlocking value for all stakeholders for years to come.”

#asia, #cashalo, #financial, #finmas, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #indonesia, #oriente, #philippines, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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