Allbirds is investing in plant-based leather substitute as it looks to further green its supply chain

The sustainability focused shoe maker Allbirds has taken another step to green its supply chain with a small $2 million investment in a new company called Natural Fiber Welding.

Announced this morning, the investment in Natural Fiber Welding will see Allbirds bring a vegan leather replacement option to customers by December 2021. It’s a natural addition for a company that has always billed itself as focused on environmental impact in other aspects of its apparel manufacturing.

Allbirds these days is far more than a shoe company and Natural Fiber Weldings suite of products that include both a purportedly tougher cotton fiber made using the company’s proprietary processing technology and a plant-based leather substitute.

Those materials could find their way into Allbirds array of socks, shoes, tshirts, underwear, sweaters, jackets, and face masks. Natural Fiber Welding already touts a relationship with Porsche on its website, so Allbirds isn’t the only company that’s warmed to the Peoria, Ill.-based startup’s new materials.

With the addition of Allbirds Natural Fiber Welding has raised roughly $15 million, according to data from Pitchbook. Other investors in the company include Central Illinois Angels, Prairie Crest Capital, Ralph Lauren Corp. and Capital V, an investment firm focused on backing vegan products.

Allbirds is far from the only clothier to make the jump to plant-based materials in the past year. The buzzy clothing company Pangaia invested $2 million into a company called Kintra which is making a bio-based polyester substitute in December.

By the far the biggest startup name in the sustainable fashion space is a company like Bolt Threads, which has inked deals with companies including Stella McCartney, Adidas, and the owner of the Balenciaga fashion house (among others).

Other startups that have raised significant capital for plant-based fabrics and materials are companies like Mycoworks, which raised $45 million last year from backers include John Legend, Natalie Portman along with more traditional investors like WTT Investment Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan), DCVC Bio, Valor Equity Partners, Humboldt Fund, Gruss & Co., Novo Holdings, 8VC, SOSV, AgFunder, Wireframe Ventures and Tony Fadell.

With Natural Fiber Welding’s products Allbirds is boasting about a significantly reduced environmental footprint for its leather-like material. Natural Fiber Welding claims its material reduce the associated carbon footprint by 40 times and uses 17 times less carbon in its manufacturing than synthetic leather made from plastic.

The company does say that the plant leather will use natural rubber, an industry with its own history of human rights abuses, that’s also trying to clean up its act.

“For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment,” says Joey Zwillinger, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, in a statement. “Natural Fiber Welding is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98% reduction in carbon emissions. Our partnership with NFW and planned introduction of Plant Leather based on their technology is an exciting step on our journey to eradicate petroleum from the fashion industry.”

TechCrunch has reached out to Allbirds for additional comment, but had not received a reply at the time of publication.

#adidas, #allbirds, #articles, #bolt-threads, #culture, #illinois, #john-legend, #leather, #manufacturing, #novo-holdings, #porsche, #shoe, #supply-chain, #sustainability, #taipei, #taiwan, #tc, #textiles, #tony-fadell, #valor-equity-partners, #welding


Global Chip Shortage Challenges Biden’s Hope for Manufacturing Revival

A global shortage of a key component for cars and electronics has shuttered American factories and set off fierce competition to secure supplies.

#automobiles, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #computer-chips, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #electronics, #factories-and-manufacturing, #ford-motor-co, #general-motors, #shortages, #taiwan, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government


With Pig Parades and Youth Camps, Taiwan’s Ailing Kuomintang Tries a Revamp

The Beijing-friendly party, which long held an iron grip on the island, is struggling to stay relevant at a time when many residents are wary of China’s ambitions.

#chinese-nationalist-party-taiwan, #communist-party-of-china, #kaohsiung-china, #politics-and-government, #taipei-taiwan, #taiwan, #tsai-ing-wen, #xi-jinping


China Sends Warplanes to Taiwan Strait in a Show of Force to Biden

The exercises, which included 13 warplanes on Saturday and 15 on Sunday, were the biggest so far this year and the first under the new U.S. administration.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #defense-and-military-forces, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #military-aircraft, #taiwan, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #uss-theodore-roosevelt-cvn-71-ship


JustKitchen is using cloud kitchens to create the next generation of restaurant franchising

JustKitchen operates cloud kitchens, but the company goes beyond providing cooking facilities for delivery meals. Instead, it sees food as a content play, with recipes and branding instead of music or shows as the content, and wants to create the next iteration of food franchises. JustKitchen currently operates its “hub and spoke” model in Taiwan, with plans to expand four other Asian markets, including Hong Kong and Singapore, and the United States this year.

Launched last year, JustKitchen currently offers 14 brands in Taiwan, including Smith & Wollensky and TGI Fridays. Ingredients are first prepped in a “hub” kitchen, before being sent to smaller “spokes” for final assembly and pickup by delivery partners, including Uber Eats and FoodPanda. To reduce operational costs, spokes are spread throughout cities for quicker deliveries and the brands each prepares is based on what is ordered most frequently in the area.

In addition to licensing deals, JustKitchen also develops its own brands and performs research and development for its partners. To enable that, chief operating officer Kenneth Wu told TechCrunch that JustKitchen is moving to a more decentralized model, which means its hub kitchens will be used primarily for R&D, and production at some of its spoke kitchens will be outsourced to other food vendors and manufacturers. The company’s long-term plan is to license spoke operation to franchisees, while providing order management software and content (i.e. recipes, packaging and branding) to maintain consistent quality.

Demand for meal and grocery deliveries increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, this means food deliveries made up about 13% of the restaurant market in 2020, compared to the 9% forecast before the pandemic, according to research firm Statista, and may rise to 21% by 2025.

But on-demand food delivery businesses are notoriously expensive to operate, with low margins despite markups and fees. By centralizing food preparation and pickup, cloud kitchens (also called ghost kitchens or dark kitchens) are supposed to increase profitability while ensuring standardized quality. Not surprisingly, companies in the space have received significant attention, including former Uber chief executive officer Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens, Kitchen United and REEF, which recently raised $1 billion led by SoftBank.

Wu, whose food delivery startup Milk and Eggs was acquired by GrubHub in 2019, said one of the main ways JustKitchen differentiates is by focusing on operations and content in addition to kitchen infrastructure. Before partnering with restaurants and other brands, JustKitchen meets with them to design a menu specifically for takeout and delivery. Once a menu is launched, it is produced by JustKitchen instead of the brands, who are paid royalties. For restaurants that operate only one brick-and-mortar location, this gives them an opportunity to expand into multiple neighborhoods and cities (or countries, when JustKitchen begins its international expansion) simultaneously, a new take on the franchising model for the on-demand delivery era.

One of JustKitchen's delivery meals, with roast chicken and vegetables

One of JustKitchen’s delivery meals

Each spoke kitchen puts the final touches on meal before handing them to delivery partners. Spoke kitchens are smaller than hubs, closer to customers, and the goal is to have a high revenue to square footage ratio.

“The thesis in general is how do you get economies of scale or a large volume at the hub, or the central kitchen where you’re making it, and then send it out deep into the community from the spokes, where they can do a short last-mile delivery,” said Wu.

JustKitchen says it can cut industry standard delivery times by half, and that its restaurant partners have seen 40% month on month growth. It also makes it easier for delivery providers like Uber Eats to stack orders, which means having a driver pick up three or four orders at a time for separate addresses. This reduces costs, but is usually only possible at high-volume restaurants, like fast food chain locations. Since JustKitchen offers several brands in one spoke, this gives delivery platforms more opportunities to stack orders from different brands.

In addition to partnerships, JustKitchen also develops its own food brands, using data analytics from several sources to predict demand. The first source is its own platform, since customers can order directly from Just Kitchen. It also gets high-level data from delivery partners that lets them see food preferences and cart sizes in different regions, and uses general demographic data from governments and third-party providers with information about population density, age groups, average income and spending. This allows it to plan what brands to launch in different locations and during different times of the day, since JustKitchen offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.

JustKitchen is incorporated in Canada, but launched in Taiwan first because of its population density and food delivery’s popularity. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery penetration in the U.S. and Europe was below 20%, but in Taiwan, it was already around 30% to 40%, Wu said. The new demand for food delivery in the U.S. “is part of the new norm and we believe that is not going away,” he added. JustKitchen is preparing to launch in Seattle and several Californian cities, where it already has partners and kitchen infrastructure.

“Our goal is to focus on software and content, and give franchisees operations so they have a turnkey franchise to launch immediately,” said Wu. “We have the content and they can pick whatever they want. They have software to integrate, recipes and we do the food manufacturing and sourcing to control quality, and ultimately they will operate the single location.”

#asia, #canada, #cloud-kitchen, #food, #food-delivery, #justkitchen, #on-demand, #startups, #taiwan, #tc


Qualcomm-backed chipmaker Kneron nails Foxconn funding, deal

A startup based out of San Diego and Taipei is quietly nailing fundings and deals from some of the biggest names in electronics. Kneron, which specializes in energy-efficient processors for edge artificial intelligence, just raised a strategic funding round from Taiwan’s manufacturing giant Foxconn and integrated circuit producer Winbond.

The deal came a year after Kneron closed a $40 million round led by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures. Amongst its other prominent investors are Alibaba Entrepreneurship Fund, Sequoia Capital, Qualcomm and SparkLabs Taipei.

Kneron declined to disclose the dollar amount of the investment from Foxconn and Winbond due to investor requests but said it was an “eight figures” deal, founder and CEO Albert Liu told TechCrunch in an interview.

Founded in 2015, Kneron’s latest product is a neural processing unit that can enable sophisticated AI applications without relying on the cloud. The startup is directly taking on the chips of Intel and Google, which it claims are more energy-consuming than its offering. The startup recently got a talent boost after hiring Davis Chen, Qualcomm’s former Taipei head of engineering.

Among Kneron’s customers are Chinese air conditioning giant Gree and German’s autonomous driving software provider Teraki, and the new deal is turning the world’s largest electronics manufacturer into a client. As part of the strategic agreement, Kneron will work with Foxconn on the latter’s smart manufacturing and newly introduced open platform for electric vehicles, while its work with Winbond will focus on microcontroller unit (MCU)-based AI and memory computing.

“Low-power AI chips are pretty easy to put into sensors. We all know that in some operation lines, sensors are quite small, so it’s not easy to use a big GPU [graphics processing unit] or CPU [central processing unit], especially when power consumption is a big concern,” said Liu, who held R&D positions at Qualcomm and Samsung before founding Kneron.

Unlike some of its competitors, Kneron designs chips for a wide range of use cases, from manufacturing, smart home, smartphones, robotics, surveillance, payments, to autonomous driving. It doesn’t just make chips but also the AI software embedded in the chips, a strategy that Liu said differentiates his company from China’s AI darlings like SenseTime and Megvii, which enable AI service through the cloud.

Kneron has also been on a less aggressive funding pace than these companies, which fuel their rapid expansion through outsize financing rounds. Six-year-old SenseTime has raised about $2.6 billion to date, while nine-year-old Megvii has banked about $1.4 billion. Kneron, in comparison, has raised just over $70 million from a Series A round.

Like the Chinese AI upstarts, Kneron is weighing an initial public offering. The company is expected to make a profit in 2023, Liu said, and “that will probably be a good time for us to go IPO.”

#albert-liu, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #chips, #electronics, #energy, #foxconn, #google, #gree, #intel, #kneron, #manufacturing, #megvii, #qualcomm, #samsung, #san-diego, #sensetime, #sequoia-capital, #taipei, #taiwan, #tc


Hong Kong Protesters to Seek Asylum in U.S.

The five men fled by boat to Taiwan in July, soon after China imposed Hong Kong’s harsh national security law. This week, they landed in New York.

#asylum-right-of, #china, #hong-kong, #hong-kong-protests-2019, #politics-and-government, #taiwan, #united-states


3Drens helps fleet operators use their vehicles more efficiently

3Drens’ IoT mobility management platform not only lets fleet operators track where their vehicles are, but also produces data that helps them make business decisions. The company began operating in Taiwan, where it is based, before expanding into Southeast Asia. Currently presenting at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena, 3Drens is focused on the increased demand for logistics during COVID-19. For example, its tech can potentially be used to enable smaller e-commerce retailers to rent unused capacity on delivery vehicles from larger platforms.

The company’s clients also come from the vehicle rental, ride-hailing and food delivery sectors. Founded in 2017, one of 3rens’ first clients was a electric scooter company that mostly serves tourists. It installed 3Drens’ IoT box onto scooters to send alerts if scooters were potentially involved in accidents or if a user went over the time they had paid for. It also generated a heat map of where the scooters traveled the most often, so the company was able to make partnerships with popular venues and attractions.

3Drens’ platform can also help logistics services pick the right type of vehicle for a delivery, predict the best routes and assign new tasks for drivers on their way back after an order is fulfilled.

#3drens, #asia, #ces, #ces-2021, #iot, #mobility, #startups, #taiwan, #tc


Origami Labs’ OFLO is a smart walkie talkie for frontline workers

OFLO is a voice communication system designed to replace traditional walkie talkies. Its hardware is more compact and lightweight, with a bone conduction headset, and capable of covering unlimited distances and multiple channels. Created by Origami Labs, OFLO is also connected to software that features auto logging and productivity tools for teams who don’t have access to screens while they are working.

The startup, whose clients include property management company JLL and luxury hotel chain The Peninsula, is currently showcasing OFLO at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena pavilion.

OFLO was created for the millions of frontline workers in health care, hospitality, security, manufacturing and other sectors who can’t sit in front of a computer or look down at mobile screens frequently. The walkie talkies many of them currently use cover only limited distances and have a single channel that is shared by multiple workers. OFLO’s advantages include letting users call specific co-workers and it is also cross-platform, so someone talking on a smartphone can call a person on a OFLO walkie talkie. Its software includes features like live chats, transcriptions, task management and GPS location.

A product shot of OFLO walkie talkie

A product shot of OFLO walkie talkie

OFLO is available on a subscription plan for $6 per user a month. Wong said its monthly recurring revenue is currently increasing 20% a month, with a target of $100,000 a month by the third quarter of 2021.

The system builds on Origami Labs’ other tech, including Orii, a voice-powered ring. Co-founder and chief executive officer Kevin Johan Wong told TechCrunch the company sees OFLO as “almost a screenless smartphone alternative.” One of the reasons Wong became interested in working on voice technology is because his father, Peter Wong, is a visually-impaired programmer who helped develop Microsoft’s accessibility tools.

“Our company’s mantra is to try to create devices that are equalizing, that allow people to interact with computers screenless-ly,” said the younger Wong.

#asia, #ces, #ces-2021, #gadgets, #hong-kong, #origami-labs, #startups, #taiwan, #tc, #voice-communication, #walkie-talkie


YC-backed Blabla raises $1.5M to teach English through short videos

Short, snappy, entertaining videos have become an increasingly common way for young people to receive information. Why not learn English through TikTok-like videos too? That was what prompted Angelo Huang to launch Blabla.

Originally from Taiwan, Huang relocated to Shanghai in 2019 to start Blabla after working in Silicon Valley for over a decade. A year later, Blabla was chosen as part of Y Combinator’s 2020 summer cohort. The coronavirus had begun to spread in the U.S. at the time, keeping millions at home, and interest in remote learning was reviving.

“It was my eighth time applying to YC,” Huang, who founded two companies before Blabla, told TechCrunch during an interview.

This week, Blabla announced it has raised $1.54 million in a seed round led by Amino Capital, Starling Ventures, Y Combinator, and Wayra X, the innovation arm of the Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica. While Y Combinator wasn’t particularly instrumental in Blabla’s expansion in China — one of the biggest English-learning markets — the famed accelerator was of great help introducing investors to the young company, said the founder.

The Blabla app pays native English speakers by the hour to create short, engaging videos tailored to English-learning students around the world. The content creators are aided by Blabla’s proprietary software that can recognize and tag their scenes, as well as third-party translation tools that can subtitle their videos. The students, in turn, pay a subscription fee to receive personalized video recommendations based on their level of proficiency. They can practice through the app’s built-in speech recognition, among other features like speaking contests and pop quizzes.

The startup is in a highly crowded space. In China, the online English-learning market is occupied by established companies like VIPKID, which is backed by Tencent and Sequoia Capital. Compared to VIPKID’s one-on-one tutoring model, Blabla is more affordable with its starting price of 39 yuan ($6) a month, Huang noted.

“The students [on mainstream English learning apps] might have to spend several thousands of RMB before they can have a meaningful conversation with their teachers. We instead recycle our videos and are able to offer lessons at much cheaper prices.”

The app has about 11,000 weekly users and 300-400 paid users at the moment, with 80-90% of its total users coming from China; the goal for this year is to reach 300,000 students. The funding will allow Blabla to expand in Southeast Asia and Latin America while Wayra X can potentially help it scale to Telefónica’s 340 million global users. It will be seeking brand deals with influencers on the likes of TikTok and Youtube. The new capital will also enable BlaBla to add new features, such as pairing up language learners based on their interests and profiles.

Blabla doesn’t limit itself to teaching English and has ambitions to bring in teachers of other languages. “We want to be a global online pay-for-knowledge platform,” said Huang.

#asia, #china, #education, #funding, #latin-america, #shanghai, #taiwan, #tc, #telefonica, #y-combinator, #yc


Winnoz’s vacuum-assisted Haiim makes finger prick blood draws more efficient

Winnoz’s Haiim is designed to make collecting blood from fingertips easier, increasing the volume drawn so it can be used for more types of tests. The New Taipei City, Taiwan-based company’s vacuum-assisted device can collect up to 150 to 500 microliters of blood from a finger prick, depending on the person, in about two minutes.

Winnoz is currently presenting Haiim and eGGi, its molecular detection device that supports isothermal DNA/RNA amplification methods, at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena pavilion, with the goal of finding new partners and investors.

Haiim was inspired by founder and chief executive officer Joses Hsiung’s childhood memories of watching his mother go into clinics for regular blood testing. Since his mother’s veins were hard to see, it often took multiple punctures for phlebotomists to draw enough blood. Eventually, her veins collapsed. Hsiung began working on the device to maximize the amount of blood that can be taken from finger pricks.

While finger blood draws are typically used for tests that require less than 10 microliters of blood, like glucose monitoring or cholesterol panel, Haiim can draw enough for ones that need a larger volume, potentially helping patients avoid venipuncture blood draws.

The device consists of two parts, the main unit and single-use cartridges that stores the blood until it is tested. Since many clinics and hospitals are understaffed, it is designed so personnel can start using it with less training than traditional blood collection methods. Haiim was approved by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration in 2019 and is intended for use by health care organizations, clinics and hospitals.

#asia, #blood-testing, #ces, #ces-2021, #health-care, #medical, #startups, #taiwan, #tc, #winnoz


Yo-Kai Express introduces Takumi, a smart home cooking appliance

Yo-Kai Express is known for autonomous restaurant technology for venues like office campuses, malls and hotels. As people continue staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is introducing a smart home cooking appliance with multiple functions. Called Takumi, it includes a coffee maker, high induction cooktop and a steamer for sanitizing utensils and baby bottles. Takumi is connected by RFID to an app with preprogrammed recipes, which also sends alert when its water container is running low.

The company is currently presenting Takumi at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena.

Yo-Kai Express' smart home cooking appliance Takumi

Yo-Kai Express’ smart home cooking appliance Takumi

If you live in the Bay Area, you might have seen Yo-Kai Express’s Octo-Chef, a vending machine that serves hot noodle dishes (ramen, udon and pho), in venues like the San Francisco International Airport, the Metreon mall in San Francisco and corporate campuses. But the company is adapting as people stay home. In April, it launched a home meal kit delivery service that is now available in all states.

Created for people who want a home-cooked meal but are short on time (and space), the Takumi’s pre-programmed recipes have cooking times of just two to eight minutes. Yo-Kai Express is known for noodle dishes, but the Takumi’s menu will also include rice bowls, dim sum, dumplings and pasta.

#asia, #ces, #ces-2021, #cooking, #gadgets, #smart-home, #startups, #taiwan, #tc, #yo-kai-express


Numbers Protocol’s blockchain camera Capture App safeguards the integrity of photos

The spread of misinformation and fake news online has a dangerous impact on public well-being. Misinformation is difficult to fight, and 73% of Americans surveyed by Pew Research ahead of the presidential election expressed little or no confidence in the ability of major tech companies to keep their platforms from being misused. The open-source Starling Framework for Data Integrity was launched to protect the veracity of online content using blockchain technology, creating “birth certificates” for photos and videos and tracking any changes made to them. Numbers Protocol, a Taipei, Taiwan-based startup, founded by Startling Framework collaborators, is now commercializing its tech to make it more widely available.

Numbers is currently presenting its blockchain camera, Capture App, during CES at the Taiwan Tech Arena pavilion. The app is available for download in the App Store and Google Play.

While journalism, especially citizen journalism, is an obvious use case for Capture App, it can also be used by people who want to prove that they created images that are being shared online. Numbers will add more features to the app, including a video camera.

A screenshot of blockchain camera app Capture App by Taiwan startup Numbers Protocol

A screenshot of blockchain camera app Capture App by Taiwan startup Numbers Protocol

All photos taken by the Capture App have their metadata certified and sealed on the blockchain (users can adjust privacy settings if they, for example, don’t want to share their precise location). Then any changes to the photo, including ones made with editing software, are traced and recorded.

Numbers plans to add a video function to the app and create a channel where people can publish certified content, with the goal of changing the information industry, co-founder Tammy Yang told TechCrunch.

Before launching Numbers, Yang worked with the Starling Framework, an initiative by Stanford University and the USC Shoah Foundation. The Shoah Foundation’s work includes preserving testimonies from survivors of genocide and mass violence and the Starling Framework’s technology was created to help them safeguard photos and videos. The Starling Framework was also used by Reuters journalists to capture, verify and store photos taken during the U.S. presidential primaries in March. (The Starling Framework’s other collaborators include Filechain, Hala Systems and Protocol Labs).

The Starling Framework worked with the Shoah Foundation and Reuters to integrate its technology into their workflows, since many photojournalists use digital SLRs and programs like Adobe Photoshop. Capture App was created to allow wider access to the same technology.

Fake news and misinformation has created more public awareness of the need to preserve photo integrity, said Yang. While there are other companies that use blockchain tech to protect data and content, Numbers focuses on certifying photos at their point of origin, and then continuing to record any alterations.

“We focus very much on the camera itself, so at the time the photo is taken, the integrity is already preserved,” said Yang. “If content is captured on a camera app and then copied to a content platform, it’s already very difficult to verify its origin. If I take a photo from Facebook and register it on the blockchain, it means nothing. It’s very different if I take a photo with Capture App and immediately create a registration on the blockchain.”

#apps, #asia, #blockchain, #blockchain-camera, #capture-app, #ces, #ces-2021, #numbers-protocol, #starling-framework-for-data-integrity, #startups, #taiwan, #tc


Taiwan New Passport Shrinks ‘Republic of China’

Officials said the redesign was an attempt to disassociate Taiwanese citizens from those on the mainland, who faced travel restrictions amid the pandemic.

#china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #names-geographical, #passports, #politics-and-government, #taiwan


State Dept. Moves to Ease Restrictions on Meeting With Taiwan Officials

The decision by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meant to signal a warming of relations with Taipei and a tougher line with Beijing, but the Biden administration could easily reverse the move.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #politics-and-government, #pompeo-mike, #taiwan, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations


Meet the 7 winners of the Taiwan Excellence awards, presented by ShowStoppers and TAITRA

Taiwan is known for being a tech powerhouse, the headquarter of companies like Foxconn, Pegatron, TSMC, Acer and Asus. But while Taiwan’s tech industry is defined by well-established players, it is also home to a growing startup scene. Ahead of the official start of CES, the Taiwan Excellence awards were announced by non-profit trade promotion group Taiwan External Trade Development Council (known as TAITRA) and ShowStoppers, giving a preview of what its startups offer. Awards went to seven startups, while eleven other companies also presented. They cover a wide range of sectors, ranging from fitness and health to industrial monitoring.

More startups will showcase their tech next week at CES’ Taiwan Pavilion, organized by Taiwan Tech Arena.

The seven Taiwan Excellence Award winners are:

Advantech’s WISE-2410 vibration sensor

Advantech‘s LoRaWAN solutions are designed to control applications across wide distances and have been used for diverse array of scenarios, including monitoring floods, critical care patients in hospitals and transportation infrastructure. Two of its latest devices include the WISE-6610, a gateway for connecting up to 500 sensors and sending their data to cloud platforms using 3G/LTE or wired Ethernet connections. The other one is the WISE-2410, a vibration sensor for monitoring motor-powered mechanical equipment and identifying potential issues so manufacturers can schedule maintenance before machines malfunction, resulting in expensive downtime.


Cyberlink is the developer of the machine learning-based FaceMe Facial Recognition Engine, which is used in AIoT applications, including security, smart retail and surveillance. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, CyberLink’s new product FaceMe Health can identify faces even without masks on, and send alerts if someone isn’t wearing a mask or has a high temperature. It is meant to assist in pandemic control measures at places like hospitals, airports, retail stores and factories.


Dyaco‘s workout equipment line, called SOLE Fitness, includes its new SOLE CC81 Cardio Climber, which combines features from steppers and climbers into one machine. The SOLE CC81 is designed to be ergonomic, so users can get high-intensity cardio workouts while reducing wear on their joints.


Green Jacket Sports is showcasing its Golface smart system, which helps golf courses monitor and collect data on their operations in real-time, while allowing golfers to track their performance. The smart system’s other features include includes aerial videos and real-time scoring functions.


Maktar is the maker of a smartphone backup device called Qubii. Shaped like a small cube, Qubii automatically backs up phones while they are charging and doesn’t need internet or WiFi connections. Instead, users insert a microSD card into Qubii and connect it to their smartphones with their usual power adapters or chargers. Every time the smartphone is charged, Qubii backs up their photos, videos and contacts. The device also has a patented SD card lock feature to protect data.

MiTAC Digital Technology’s Mio dashcam range produces clear videos even in dark spaces like parking lots. The latest Mio dashcam, called the MiVue 798, uses Sony’s lowlight STARVISTM sensor and an all-glass lens, and produces wide-angle videos with quality of up to 2.8K. The MiVue 798 also has embedded WiFi connectivity for video backups and online sharing through the MiVue Pro App. Other features include GPS tracking, a patented smart alert system with fixed-distance warnings and speed limit alerts, and a driver assistance system that warns of lane departures, driver fatigue and forward collisions.


Winmate will present its M133WK Ultra Rugged Tablet PC, created for vehicle diagnostics. Powered by 8th-gen Intel Core i5-8265U Whiskey Lake processor, for high performance with low power consumption, the M133WK features a 1920 X 1080 PCAP touchscreen that is viewable even in heavy sunlight.

Here are the other 11 startups that TAITRA and ShowStoppers are presenting:

ATrack‘s AK11 Fleet Hub is a 4G LTE device for the real-time management of fleets across different verticals.

ELECLEAN 360 uses what it describes as the “world’s first nano-catalysis electrochemical technology” to turn water into hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals, for cleaning and disinfection.

In Win Development is introducing the SR Pro CPU Cooler, which uses patented twin-turbine pumps running in parallel to optimize water flow and ensure thermal performance. It comes with high-airflow AJF120 fans to cool PCs more quickly.

Innolux makes full range of LCD panels for televisions, monitors, notebooks, industrial, medical, mobile and other applications.

Planet Technology is building a secure network called PLANET Powerful Enterprise VPN Cybersecurity and Firewall Solutions for the “post-COVID-19 era.”

Rice Air makes LUFT Cube, a small filterless nanotech personal air purifier.

Systems & Technology Corp. (Systech)‘s fleet management platform uses intelligent telematics so organizations can track where vehicles are and more efficiently manage their fleets.

Tokuyu Biotech creates smart massage chairs and health care-related products that are connected to apps and sensor technologies.

Winnoz is the maker of Haiim, a portable vacuum-assisted device for collecting blood samples from fingertips.

WiseChip develops transparent OLEDs with touch functions for use in home appliance control panels, automotive, transportation applications (like passenger information display systems) and wearable devices.

Yztek‘s E+ Autoff is an IoT device created to stop people from forgetting to turn off their stoves. In addition to auto turn-off, it also has cooking time adjustment and energy saving features.

#asia, #ces, #ces-2021, #gadgets, #showstoppers, #startups, #taitra, #taiwan, #taiwan-excellence, #tc


Perfect Corp., developer of virtual beauty app YouCam Makeup, closes $50 million Series C led by Goldman Sachs

Spending on cosmetics has usually weathered economic crises, but that changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with stay-at-home orders and masks tempering people’s desire to wear makeup. This forced retailers to accelerate their online strategies, finding new ways to capture shoppers’ attention without in-store samples. Virtual beauty try-on technology, like the ones developed by Perfect Corp., will play an important role in this shift to digital. The company announced today it has raised a Series C of $50 million led by Goldman Sachs.

Based in New Taipei City, Taiwan and led by chief executive officer Alice Chang, Perfect Corp . is probably best known to consumers for its beauty app, YouCam Makeup, which lets users “try on” virtual samples from over 300 global brands, including ones owned by beauty conglomerates Estée Lauder and L’Oreal Paris. Launched in 2014, YouCam Makeup now counts about 40 million to 50 million monthly active users and has expanded from augmented selfies to include live-streams and tutorials from beauty influencers, social features and a “Skin Score” feature.

Perfect Corp.’s technology is also used for in-store retail, e-commerce and social media tools. For example, its tech helped create a new augmented reality-powered try-on tool for Google Search that launched last month (its was previously used for YouTube’s makeup try-on features, too). It also worked with Snap to integrate beauty try-on features into Snapchat.

The new funding brings Perfect Corp.’s total raised so far to about $130 million. Its last funding announcement was a $25 million Series A in October 2017. The Series C will be used to further develop Perfect Corp.’s technology for multichannel retail and open more international offices (it currently has operations in 11 cities).

In a press statement, Xinyi Feng, a managing director in the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs, said, “The integration of technology through artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality into the beauty industry will unlock significant advantages, including amplification of digital sales channels, increased personalization and deeper consumer engagement.”

Perfect Corp. will also be part of the investment firm’s Launch with GS, a $500 million investment initiative to support a diverse, international cohort of entrepreneurs.

The company uses facial landmark tracking technology, which creates a “3D mesh” around users’ faces so beauty try-ons look more realistic. In terms of privacy, chief strategy officer Louis Chen told TechCrunch that no user data, including photos or biometrics, is saved, and all computing is done within the user’s phone.

The vast majority, or about 90%, of Perfect Corp’s clients are cosmetic or skincare brands, while the rest sell haircare, hair coloring or accessories. Chen said the goal of Perfect Corp’s technology is to replicate the experience of trying on makeup in a store as closely as possible. When a user virtually applies lipstick, for example, they don’t just see the color on their lips, but also the texture, like matte, glossy, shimmer or metallic (the company currently offers seven lipstick textures, which Chen said is the most in the industry).

While sales of makeup have dropped during the pandemic, interest in skincare has grown. A September 2020 report from the NPD Group found that American women are buying more types of products than they were last year, and using them more frequently. To help brands capitalize on that, Perfect Corp. recently launched a tool called AI Skin Diagnostic solution, which it says verified by dermatologists and grades facial skin on eight metrics, including moisture, wrinkles and dark circles. The tool can be used on skincare brand websites to recommend products to shoppers.

Before COVID-19, YouCam Makeup and the company’s augmented reality try-on tools appealed to Gen Z shoppers who are comfortable with selfies and filters. But the pandemic is forcing makeup and skincare brands to speed up their adaption of technology for all shoppers. As a McKinsey report about the impact of COVID-19 on the beauty industry put it, “the use of artificial intelligence for testing, discovery and customization will need to accelerate as concerns about safety and hygiene fundamentally disrupt product testing and in-person consultations.”

“Depending on the geography of the brand, in the past probably only 10%, no more than 20%, of their business was direct to consumer, while 80% was going through retail distribution and distribution partnerships, the network they already built over the year,” said Chen. But beauty companies are investing more heavily in e-commerce now, and Perfect Corp. capitalizes on that by offering its technology as a SaaS.

Another way Perfect Corp. has adapted its offerings during the pandemic is offering remote consultation tools, which means beauty and skincare consultants who usually work in salons or a store like Ulta can demonstrate makeup looks on clients through video calls instead.

“Every single thing we are building now is not a siloed technology,” said Chang. “It’s now always combined with video-streaming.” In addition to one-on-one chats, this also means live-cast shopping, which is extremely popular in China and gradually taking off in other countries, and the kind of AR technology that was integrated into YouTube and Snapchat.

#apps, #asia, #beauty, #e-commerce, #fundings-exits, #perfect-corp, #startups, #taiwan, #tc, #youcam-makeup


Known for 5G mmWave testing solutions, Taiwan’s TMYTEK sets its sights on base stations

TMYTEK recently raised a Series A+ round of about $10 million for products that make it easier to test 5G millimeter wave equipment. So far, the company’s clients include KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and research institutions. But the Taiwanese startup has aspirations to sell its own base stations, too, competing with well-established players like Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei. TMYTEK plans to use its expertise, gleaned from helping other researchers develop 5G infrastructure, to create what its chief executive officer describes as a “complete 5G industrial chain.”

Its latest funding round was led by TMYTEK’s manufacturing partner Inventec, one of the largest OEMs in Taiwan, and brings the startup’s total funding so far to $13.3 million. Other investors included Taisic Materials, ITEQ, Tamagawa Electronics, and Taiwan’s National Development Fund. TMYTEK also recently took part in SparkLabs Taipei’s accelerator program.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Su-Wei Chang told TechCrunch that it plans to raise a Series B next to develop and commercialize its base stations. To get ready for its base station business, TMYTEK recently joined the O-RAN Alliance, founded by some of the world’s biggest telecoms to create more interoperable mobile networks, in a bid to encourage the development of new technology and faster deployment.

Chang said TMYTEK’s base in Taiwan gives it a strategic advantage. 5G manufacturing is an important part of Taiwan’s economy, with exports reaching record highs during the second half of 2020, thanks in part to demand for 5G-related equipment and technology for smartphones, autonomous vehicles and smart devices.

Chang studied at University of Massachusetts Amherst and when TMYTEK was founded six years ago, he was often asked why he didn’t stay in the United States, where it would have been easier to secure startup funding. But being in Taiwan puts the company closer to many important markets, including Japan, where 30% of its current business comes from, and gives TMYTEK a good foundation to expand into the U.S. and European market, he said.

It has also given the company a supply chain advantage. TMYTEK has manufacturing partners across Asia, including Inventec in Taiwan, and factories in Vietnam and Thailand, in addition to China. Chang said this means TMYTEK was not limited by the COVID-19 pandemic or the U.S-China trade war.

Before launching TMYTEK in 2014, Chang and co-founder Ethan Lin both worked at Academia Sinica, one of the top research institutions in Taiwan, where they focused on millimeter waves even though at the time most researchers were more interested in the mid-band spectrum.

But as more devices and applications began to crowd the 4G spectrum, mmWave became less niche. With Qualcomm’s launch of next-generation 5G mmWave hardware and chips, and more carriers launching mmWave coverage, mmWave is poised to become mainstream.

Millimeter waves offer powerful signals with wide bandwidth and low latency, but drawbacks include difficulty traveling through obstacles like buildings. It also has a limited range, which is why millimeter waves need more base stations. Beamforming, which directs signals toward a specific device, and antenna array, or multiple antennas that work like a single antenna, are used to extend its coverage.

Making mmWave development faster

One of the main challenges for the millimeter wave market, however, is the lack of R&D tools to speed up their development and time to market, resulting in higher costs and slower deployment.

To keep up with market opportunities, TMYTEK transitioned from design and manufacturing projects for clients to offering 5G-focused solutions like the BBox, which stands for “beamforming box.” The BBox was created after a professor at National Taiwan University told Chang that his team was working on antenna design, but didn’t have the resources to work on beamforming technology, too. It lets researchers create 16 beams and control the signal’s amplitude and phase with software, so they can test how it works with antennas and other hardware more quickly. TMYTEK claims the BBox can save researchers and engineers up to 80% in time and cost.

Chang said TMYTEK realized that if researchers at NTU, one of Taiwan’s largest research universities, needed a solution, then other labs did, too. So far, it has delivered 30 sets to companies including KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Fujitsu, several Fortune 500 companies and research institutions.

While the BBox was created for antenna designers, the company also began exploring solutions to help other designers, including algorithm developers who want to test beam tracking, communicate with base stations and collect data.

TMYTEK vice president Ethan Lin holds the antenna-in-package for its XBeam millimeter wave testing solution

TMYTEK vice president Ethan Lin holds the antenna-in-package for its XBeam millimeter wave testing solution

For that scenario, TMYTEK created the XBeam, which is describes as a “total solution,” and is meant for the mass production phase, testing modules, smartphones and base stations before they are shipped. Traditional solutions to test modules rely on mechanical rotators, but Chang said this is more suited to the research and development process. The XBeam, which is based on the BBox, electronically scans beams instead. The company claims the XBeam is up to 20 times faster than other testing solutions.

TMYTEK created the XBeam’s prototype in 2019 and launched the commercialized version in November 2020.

The BBox and XBeam will help TMYTEK build its own base station business in two ways, Chang said. First, having its own solutions will allow TMYTEK to test base stations and bring them to market faster. Second, the startup hopes building a reputation on effective research and development tools will help it market its base stations to private and public networks. This is especially important to TMYTEK’s ambitions since their base stations will be up against products from major players like Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei.

“Our advantage at TMYTEK is that we’re doing the design and we have good partners for manufacturing. Inventec, our investor, is a top five manufacturer in Taiwan,” he said. “And TMYTEK also builds our own testing solution, so our value is that we can provide a total solution to our customers.”

#5g, #5g-testing, #asia, #base-station, #fundings-exits, #millimeter-wave, #mmwave, #startups, #taiwan, #tc, #tmytek


Taiwan Vows to Stick to Covid-19 Limits

The island’s success against the coronavirus has created a sinking feeling for many residents: How much longer can their good fortune last?

#chen-shih-chung, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #politics-and-government, #quarantines, #taipei-taiwan, #taiwan, #vaccination-and-immunization


Pound for Pound, Taiwan Is the Most Important Place in the World

Its excellence in the computer chip market puts it at the center of the battle for global technological supremacy.

#china, #computer-chips, #taiwan, #taiwan-semiconductor-manufacturing-company-ltd, #united-states


IonQ plans to launch a rack-mounted quantum computer for data centers in 2023

Quantum computing startup IonQ today announced its road map for the next few years — following a similar move from IBM in September — and it’s quite ambitious, to say the least.

At our Disrupt event earlier this year, IonQ CEO and president Peter Chapman suggested that we were only five years away from having desktop quantum computers. That’s not something you’ll likely hear from the company’s competitors — who also often use a very different kind of quantum technology — but IonQ now says that it will be able to sell modular, rack-mounted quantum computers for the data center in 2023 and that by 2025, its systems will be powerful enough to achieve broad quantum advantage across a wide variety of use cases.

In an interview ahead of today’s announcement, Chapman showed me a prototype of the hardware the company is working on for 2021, which fits on a workbench. The actual quantum chip is currently the size of a half-dollar and the company is now working on essentially putting the core of its technology on a single chip, with all of the optics that make its system work integrated.

Image Credits: IonQ

“That’s the goal,” he said about the chip. “As soon as you get to 2023, then you get to go to scale in a different way, which is, I just tell somebody in Taiwan to start and give me 10,000 of those things. And you get to scale through manufacturing, as well. There’s nothing quantum in any of the things that in any of the hardware we’re doing,” he said, though IonQ co-founder and chief scientist Chris Monroe quickly jumped in and noted that that’s true, “except for the atoms.”

And that’s an important point, because thanks to betting on trapped ion quantum computing as the core technology for its machines, IonQ doesn’t have to contend with the low-temperatures that IBM and others need to run their machines. Some sceptics have argued that IonQ’s technology will be hard to scale, but that’s something Chapman and Monroe easily dismiss, and IonQ’s new road map points at systems with thousands of algorithmic qubits (which are made out of a factor of 10 or 20 more physical qubits for handling error corrections) by 2028.

“As soon as you hit about 40 qubits — algorithmic qubits — in the beginning of 2024, then you’ll start to see quantum advantage probably in machine learning,” Chapman explained. “And then, I think it’s pretty well accepted that at 72 qubits is roughly when you start to do quantum advantage fairly broadly. So that would be in 2025. When you start to get into 2027, you’re now getting into hundreds of qubits if not early 1000s of qubits in [2028]. And now you’re starting to get into full-scale fault tolerance.”

We’ll see slow growth in the number of additional algorithmic qubits — which is what IonQ calls a qubit that can be used in running a quantum algorithm. Others in the industry tend to talk about “logical qubits,” but IonQ’s definition is slightly different.

Talking about how to compare different quantum systems, Chapman noted that “fidelity is not good enough.” It doesn’t matter if you have 72 or 72 million qubits, he said, if only three of those are usable. “When you see a road map that says, ‘I’m going to have umpteen 1000 qubits, it’s kind of like, ‘I don’t care, right?’ On our side, since we’re using individual atoms, I could show you a little vial of gas and say, ‘look, I’ve got a trillion qubits, all ready to be do computation!’ But they’re not particularly useful. So what we tried to do in the road map, was to talk about useful qubits.”

He also argued that quantum volume, a measurement championed by IBM and others in the quantum ecosystem, isn’t particularly useful because at some point, the numbers just get far too high.” But essentially, IonQ is still using quantum volume, but it defines its algorithmic qubits as the log(2, x) of the quantum volume of a given system.

Once IonQ is able to get to 32 of these algorithmic qubits — its current systems have 22 — it’ll be able to achieve a quantum volume of 4.2 billion instead of the 4 million it claims for its current system.

As Monroe noted, the company’s definition of algorithmic qubits also takes variable error correction into account. Error correction remains a major research area in quantum computing, but for the time being, IonQ argues that its ability to keep gate fidelity high means it doesn’t yet have to worry about it and it has already demonstrated the first fault-tolerant error-corrected operations with an overhead of 13:1.

“Because our native errors are so low, we don’t need to do error correction today, with these 22 algorithmic qubits. But to get that [99.99%] of fidelity, we’re going to leak in a little bit of error correction — and we can sort of do it on the fly. It’s almost like a little bit of an adjustment. How much error correction do you want? It’s not all or nothing,” Monroe explained.

IonQ isn’t afraid to say that it believes that “other technologies, because of their poor gate fidelity and qubit connectivity, might need 1,000, 10,000 or even 1,000,000 qubits to create a single error-corrected qubit.”

To put all of this into practice, IonQ today launched an Algorithmic Qubit Calculator that it argues will make it easier to compare system.

For the near future, IonQ expects to use a 16:1 overhead for error correction — that is, it expects to use 16 physical qubits to create a high-fidelity algorithmic qubit. Once it hits about 1,000 logical qubits, it expects to use a 32:1 overhead. “As you add qubits, you need to increase your fidelity,” Chapman explained, and so for its 1,000-qubit machine in 2028, IonQ will need to control 32,000 physical qubits.

IonQ has long argued that scaling its technology doesn’t necessitate any technological breakthroughs. And indeed, the company argues that by packing a lot of its technology on a single chip, its system will become more stable by default (noise, after all, is the archenemy of qubits), in part because the laser beams won’t have to travel very far.

Chapman, who has never been afraid to push for a bit of publicity, even noted that the company wants to fly one of its quantum computers in a small plane one of these days to show how stable it is. It’s worth noting, though, that IonQ is far more bullish about scaling up its systems in the short term than any of its competitors. Monroe acknowledged as much, but argues that it’s basic physics at this point.

“Especially in the solid-state platforms, they’re doing wonderful physics,” Monroe said. “They’re making a little bit of progress every year, but a roadmap in 10 years, based on a solid-state qubit, relies on breakthroughs in material science. And maybe they’ll get there, it’s not clear. But, you know, the physics of the atom is all sewn up and we’re very confident on the engineering path forward because it’s engineering based on proven protocols and proven devices.”

“We don’t have a manufacturing problem. You want a million qubits? No problem. That’s easy,” Chapman quipped.

#computing, #emerging-technologies, #ibm, #ionq, #laser, #machine-learning, #manufacturing, #peter-chapman, #quantum-computers, #quantum-mechanics, #quantum-supremacy, #qubit, #science, #taiwan, #tc


He Broke Out of Quarantine for 8 Seconds, and Got a $3,550 Fine

Around the world, flouting coronavirus regulations can have expensive consequences.

#australia, #belgium, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fines-penalties, #italy, #quarantines, #spain, #taiwan, #united-states


The Most Tender Short Ribs, the Most Satisfying Soup

Left with some spare short ribs, J. Kenji López-Alt made them sing in a Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

#beef, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #gelatin, #soups, #taiwan


Microsoft announces its first Azure data center region in Denmark

Microsoft continues to expand its global Azure data center presence at a rapid clip. After announcing new regions in Austria and Taiwan in October, the company today revealed its plans to launch a new region in Denmark.

As with many of Microsoft’s recent announcements, the company is also attaching a commitment to provide digital skills to 200,000 people in the country (in this case, by 2024).

“With this investment, we’re taking the next step in our longstanding commitment to provide Danish society and businesses with the digital tools, skills and infrastructure needed to drive sustainable growth, innovation, and job creation. We’re investing in Denmark’s digital leap into the future – all in a way that supports the country’s ambitious climate goals and economic recovery,” said Nana Bule, General Manager, Microsoft Denmark.

Azure regions

Image Credits: Microsoft

The new data center, which will be powered by 100% renewable energy and feature multiple availability zones, will feature support for what has now become the standard set of Microsoft cloud products: Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.

As usual, the idea here is to provide low-latency access to Microsoft’s tools and services. It has long been Microsoft’s strategy to blanket the globe with local data centers. Europe is a prime example of this, with regions (both operational and announced) in about a dozen countries already. In the U.S., Azure currently offers 13 regions (including three exclusively for government agencies), with a new region on the West Coast coming soon.

“This is a proud day for Microsoft in Denmark,” said Brad Smith, President, Microsoft. “Building a hyper-scale datacenter in Denmark means we’ll store Danish data in Denmark, make computing more accessible at even faster speeds, secure data with our world-class security, protect data with Danish privacy laws, and do more to provide to the people of Denmark our best digital skills training. This investment reflects our deep appreciation of Denmark’s green and digital leadership globally and our commitment to its future.”

#austria, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #computing, #denmark, #developer, #europe, #microsoft, #microsoft-azure, #renewable-energy, #subscription-services, #taiwan, #united-states, #west-coast


Cooperative Competition Is Possible Between China and the U.S.

A former vice foreign minister of China proposes a way forward for the world’s two leading powers.

#afghanistan, #china, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #international-relations, #iraq, #libya, #national-peoples-congress-china, #politburo-standing-committee-of-the-communist-party-of-china, #taiwan, #territorial-disputes, #tiktok-bytedance, #united-states, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-navy


After Trump, Biden Faces Pressure to Stand Up to China by Embracing Taiwan

In his final days in office, President Trump is trying to undermine Beijing by showing support for Taiwan. President-elect Biden will likely follow a similar path — without the pugnacity.

#defense-and-military-forces, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #international-trade-and-world-market, #politics-and-government, #presidential-transition-us, #taiwan, #trump-donald-j, #tsai-ing-wen, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government


Trump’s EPA Chief, Andrew Wheeler, Plans 2 Foreign Trips Before Leaving Office

Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, looks to squeeze in two overseas trips in the Trump administration’s last days.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #environment, #environmental-protection-agency, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #latin-america, #taiwan, #united-states-politics-and-government, #wheeler-andrew-r


Trump’s E.P.A. Chief Plans 2 Foreign Trips Before Leaving Office

Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, looks to squeeze in two overseas trips in the Trump administration’s last days.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #environment, #environmental-protection-agency, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #latin-america, #taiwan, #united-states-politics-and-government, #wheeler-andrew-r


Why Do Chinese Liberals Embrace American Conservatives?

It’s less about foreign policy than the culture wars.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #communist-party-of-china, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #hong-kong, #lai-jimmy, #mao-zedong, #ocasio-cortez-alexandria, #political-correctness, #presidential-election-of-2020, #taiwan, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations


John Legend and Natalie Portman want you to try wearing fungus instead of leather

Natalie Portman and John Legend are joining a group of venture capitalists and unnamed fashion brands backing MycoWorks, a company that just raised $45 million to commercialize its technology that makes a fungal-based biomaterial that can replace leather.

The goal is to get consumers to trade in their leather and lizard skin couture for some fungus fashion.

The company said it has inked some deals with big fashion brands as partners as it looks to bring its funky fungus to the masses in shoes, wallets, belts, and other goods that traditionally use cowhide or other animal skins.

“We have been working with a few luxury brands and a major footwear manufacturer in very close collaboration,” said Matt Scullin, the chief executive officer at MycoWorks .

The unnamed fashion brands have already started producing products for stores in a range of items including shoes, ready to wear apparel and bags, according to Scullin.

MycoWorks likes to differentiate itself from other brands that want to bring a fungus among us or plant new plant-based fabrics in fashion — companies like Bolt Threads (mushrooms), Ananas Anam (pineapple fibers), and Desserto (cactus leather) — with its emphasis on the durability of its fabric.

“We’ve had the product tested in a huge range of different applications of various leather-based apparel to upholstery to standard leather goods like handbags and wallets. The key difference between our material and mushroom leather is that the structural components is so high,” Scullin said. “We’re confident in the material’s ability to perform in a really wide range of applications so there’s a wide range of uses for that.”

To that end, MycoWorks is focused on the high-end fo the market. “There’s a misconception that brands are willing to sacrifice performance for sustainability and that’s not true,” Scullin said. “The real adoption occurs in an industry like this when the performance is there.”

Scullin won’t say how much the MycoWorks material costs nor would he talk about which specific companies are working with the company’s product right now. He did say that the company hopes eventually to be price competitive with not just the traditional leather market, but the plastic market for leather replacements, which is worth $70 billion per-year alone.

With the company’s current capacity it can produce tens of thousands of square feet of fungal material per yar, according to Scullin. That means MycoWorks still has a long way to go to catch up to an industry that produces billions of square feet of leather.

The funding for MycoWorks is impressive, but it also has to contend with some competitors that are getting traction of their own in the fashion industry.

In October, Bolt Threads announced the creation of a consortium alongside longtime partners Adidas, Stella McCartney and the fashion house behind brands like Balenciaga to explore mushroom leather-based products.

For MycoWorks investors including WTT Investment Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan), DCVC Bio, Valor Equity Partners, Humboldt Fund, Gruss & Co., Novo Holdings, 8VC, SOSV, AgFunder, Wireframe Ventures, and Tony Faddell, the competition is expected. But they believe that MycoWorks functionality makes it the king (oyster) of the leather substitute world. 

“Fine mycelial leather is customizable to client needs” said DCVC Bio investor Kiersten Stead. “[It’s] customizable in terms of shape, and application. And prices will vary depending on what the application and the criteria from customers is.”

In all, MycoWorks has raised $62 million and the company’s new financing announcement coincides with the opening of a new Emeryville, Calif. production plant that takes its capacity up to its current tens-of-thousands of feet of fungal leather replacement capacity.

Behind all of this push to find replacements for animal skins is a growing awareness of the problems associated with traditional methods for manufacturing leather for clothes and shoes. It’s a terribly toxic and polluting process, both in the tanning and dyeing and in the waste and landfilling associated with both animal leather and its plastic replacements.

“The process of growing the mycelium is carbon negative. Customers will look at [our product] vs. an animal hide and say why wouldn’t I choose [that],” said Sculin. “In addition you have the non-animal aspects and the plastic free aspects that are driving so many decisions right now… what we really are to our brand partners is an advanced manufacturing company. We are motivated by sustainability. We represent a way for them to change their supply chains.”

#adidas, #biology, #bolt-threads, #california, #chief-executive-officer, #john-legend, #kiersten-stead, #king, #leather, #manufacturing, #matt-scullin, #mycelium, #mycoworks, #novo-holdings, #shoe, #taipei, #taiwan, #tc, #valor-equity-partners


Overlooked No More: Anya Phillips, Fashion Influencer in New York’s Punk Scene

She helped give pulse to the movement’s anti-establishment credo, dressing musicians like Debbie Harry of Blondie and James Chance and becoming a downtown “It girl.”

#biographical-information, #chance-james-1953, #design, #fashion-and-apparel, #harry-deborah, #music, #new-york-city, #phillips-anya-1955-81, #pop-and-rock-music, #taiwan


Apple Suspends iPhone Maker Pegatron Over China Labor Abuses

The technology giant said it had suspended future business with the iPhone assembler Pegatron pending corrective actions. The Taiwanese manufacturer broke rules limiting student employee work hours.

#apple-inc, #china, #factories-and-manufacturing, #labor-and-jobs, #pegatron-corp, #taiwan, #wages-and-salaries, #workplace-hazards-and-violations


Apple places supplier Pegatron on probation over labor conditions

Apple has suspended new business with supplier Pegatron after the Taiwan-based original equipment manufacturer misclassified student workers. Apple also said Pegatron broke its Code of Conduct for suppliers.

In a statement provided to Bloomberg, Apple said, “Pegatron misclassified the student workers in their program and falsified paperwork to disguise violations of our Code, including allowing students to work nights and/or overtime and in some cases to perform work unrelated to their major.”

According to Bloomberg, Apple has placed Pegatron on probation until it finishes taking corrective action.

Pegatron competes with Foxconn, another major Apple supplier. Both companies are headquartered in Taiwan, but have factories in China and other countries, and have faced scrutiny over their labor conditions. For example, workers have accused both companies of forcing them to work excessively long hours.

TechCrunch has contacted Apple and Pegatron for comment.

#apple, #asia, #china, #labor-conditions, #pegatron, #taiwan, #tc


Microsoft announces its first Azure data center region in Taiwan

After announcing its latest data center region in Austria earlier this month and an expansion of its footprint in Brazil, Microsoft today unveiled its plans to open a new region in Taiwan. This new region will augment its existing presence in East Asia, where the company already runs data centers in China (operated by 21Vianet), Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. This new region will bring Microsoft’s total presence around the world to 66 cloud regions.

Similar to its recent expansion in Brazil, Microsoft also pledged to provide digital skilling for over 200,000 people in Taiwan by 2024 and it is growing its Taiwan Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure engineering group, too. That’s in addition to investments in its IoT and AI research efforts in Taiwan and the startup accelerator it runs there.

“Our new investment in Taiwan reflects our faith in its strong heritage of hardware and software integration,” said Jean-Phillippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations. “With Taiwan’s expertise in hardware manufacturing and the new datacenter region, we look forward to greater transformation, advancing what is possible with 5G, AI and IoT capabilities spanning the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.”

Image Credits: Microsoft

The new region will offer access to the core Microsoft Azure services. Support for Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. That’s pretty much Microsoft’s playbook for launching all of its new regions these days. Like virtually all of Microsoft’s new data center region, this one will also offer multiple availability zones.

#artificial-intelligence, #austria, #brazil, #china, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-storage, #computing, #internet-of-things, #iot, #japan, #microsoft, #microsoft-365, #microsoft-azure, #taiwan


Trump’s Tech Clampdown Could Hurt Huawei’s New Phones

The battered Chinese giant won’t say how many of its new handsets it can produce. U.S. restrictions may have curtailed access to essential components.

#5g-wireless-communications, #blacklisting, #china, #computer-chips, #huawei-technologies-co-ltd, #smartphones, #taiwan, #taiwan-semiconductor-manufacturing-company-ltd, #wireless-communications


Diplomats from China and Taiwan Scuffle in Fiji

Two mainland diplomats attended an event, uninvited, and took offense at symbols of Taiwan — including a flag on a cake. A scuffle ensued.

#china, #defense-and-military-forces, #fiji, #international-relations, #taipei-taiwan, #taiwan, #united-states-international-relations


Alibaba-affiliated marketplace to leave Taiwan, again

Separated by a strait, the internet in Taiwan and mainland China are two different worlds. Even mainland tech giants Alibaba and Tencent have had little success entering the island, often running into regulatory hurdles.

Less than a year after Taobao launched on the island through an Alibaba-backed joint venture, the marketplace announced it will cease operations by the end of this year, the platform said in a notice to customers on Thursday.

The decision came two months after the Investment Commission under Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs ruled that Taobao Taiwan is a Chinese-controlled company and required the firm to either leave or re-register under a different corporate structure. Under Taiwanese law, Chinese investors must obtain permission from the government to directly or indirectly acquire a stake of more than 30% in any Taiwanese company.

Taobao Taiwan is owned and operated by British-registered Claddagh Venture Investment, which is 28.77% owned by Alibaba. Nonetheless, the investment regulator ruled that the one with de facto control over Taobao Taiwan is Alibaba, which has “veto power” over Claddagh’s board decisions.

The app is currently the most downloaded shopping app in the Taiwanese Google Play store, according to app tracking firm App Annie. Unexpectedly, the Chinese edition of Taobao comes in sixth in the iOS shopping category, where Shopee tops.

Taobao Taiwan is separate from Alibaba’s main marketplaces, which last boast 874 million mobile monthly users. Most of Alibaba’s shoppers are in mainland China, though customers in Hong Kong and Taiwan have long been able to shop on the Chinese Taobao app and have the goods imported to them with extra fees.

Taobao Taiwan, on the other hand, established to attract local vendors in a market of around 24 million people, competing with popular alternatives like Singapore-headquartered Shopee and the indigenous PChome 24.

This isn’t the first time Taobao has been hit by local law. In 2015, the authority ordered Taobao Taiwan, at the time set up by a Hong Kong entity of Alibaba, to leave because of its Chinese association. Even Shopee wasn’t exempt and was under investigation in 2017 for Tencent owned around 40% of its parent company Sea.

“We respect the decision by Claddagh,” an Alibaba representative said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Alibaba businesses are operating as normal in the Taiwan market, and we will continue to serve local consumers with quality products through our Taobao app.”

It’s unclear how Claddagh came to decide on its retreat rather than restructuring the joint venture. The firm has not responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment.

#alibaba, #asia, #ecommerce, #government, #taiwan, #taobao


Gogoro’s Eeyo 1s e-bike goes on sale in France, its first European market

Gogoro announced today that its Eeyo 1s is now available for sale in France, the smart electric bike’s first European market. Another model, the Eeyo 1, will launch over the next few months in France, Belgium, Monaco, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.

In France, the Eeyo 1s can be purchased through Fnac, Darty or, in Paris, Les Cyclistes Branchés. The Eeyo 1s is priced at €4699 including VAT, while the the Eeyo 1 will be priced at €4599, also including VAT.

The weight of Eeyo bikes is one of their key selling points and Gogoro says they are about half the weight of most other e-bikes. The Eeyo 1s weighs 11.9 kg and the Eeyo 1 clocks in at 12.4 kg.  Both have carbon fiber frames and forks, but the Eeyo 1s’ seat post, handlebars and rims are also carbon fiber, while on the Eeyo 1 they are made with an alloy.

Based in Taiwan, Gogoro first introduced its Eeyo lineup in May, making them available for sale in the U.S. first. The e-bikes are the company’s second type of vehicle after its SmartScooters, electric scooters that are powered by swappable batteries. The Eeyo bike’s key technology is the SmartWheel, a self-contained hub that integrates its motor, battery, sensor and smart connectivity technology so it can be paired with a smartphone app.

In an interview for the Eeyo’s launch, Gogoro co-founder and chief executive Horace Luke said the company began planning for Eeyo’s launch in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. While sale of e-bikes were already growing steadily before COVID-19, the pandemic has accelerated sales of e-bikes as people avoid public transportation and stay closer to home. Several cities have also closed some streets to car traffic, making riders more willing to use bikes for short commutes and exercise.

Founded in 2011 and backed by investors including Temasek, Sumitomo Corporation, Panasonic, the National Development Fund of Taiwan and Generation (the sustainable tech fund led by former vice president Al Gore), Gogoro is best known for its electric scooters, but it is also working on a turnkey solution for energy-efficient vehicles to license to other companies, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions in cities around the world.

#asia, #e-bike, #eeyo, #electric-bike, #fundings-exits, #gogoro, #mobility, #startups, #taiwan, #tc, #transportation


Top China Critic Becomes Its Defender

Robert E. Lighthizer, President Trump’s trade negotiator, has cautioned against actions that could anger Beijing in an attempt to preserve the U.S.-China trade deal.

#china, #customs-tariff, #international-trade-and-world-market, #lighthizer-robert-e, #taiwan, #treasury-department, #trump-donald-j, #tsai-ing-wen, #united-states-international-relations


In U.S.-China Tech Feud, Taiwan Feels Heat From Both Sides

The island’s biggest chip maker has been a coveted partner to both battling giants. But rising nationalism is making it harder to keep the middle ground.

#5g-wireless-communications, #china, #computer-chips, #computers-and-the-internet, #huawei-technologies-co-ltd, #qualcomm-inc, #semiconductor-manufacturing-international-corporation, #taiwan, #taiwan-semiconductor-manufacturing-company-ltd, #tsai-ing-wen, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government


Hong Kong Is China, Like It or Not

After months of chaos in the city, something had to be done, and the Chinese government did it.

#china, #constitutions, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deng-xiaoping, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #extradition, #fugitives, #heritage-foundation, #hong-kong, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #lam-carrie-1957, #law-and-legislation, #macau, #national-peoples-congress-china, #politics-and-government, #secession-and-independence-movements, #taiwan, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government


Travel activities platform KKDay raises $75 million Series C as it focuses on “staycations”

With lockdowns around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the travel industry especially hard. In Asia, however, several startups are adapting by focusing on domestic activities (or “staycations”) instead of international travel. They include Taipei-based KKday, which announced today that it has closed a $75 million Series C led by Cool Japan Fund and the National Development Fund of Taiwan. Existing investors Monk’s Hill Ventures and MindWorks Capital also returned for the round.

Founded in 2014, KKDay will use its new funding on Rezio, a booking management platform it began piloting in March, starting with Japan and Taiwan.

Created for tour operators and activity providers, especially those who previously operated mostly offline, Rezio can help reduce operational costs by allowing its users to set up a booking website that works with different payment gateways and manage availability by tracking bookings from different channels. The latter is especially important during the pandemic because many venues have set up capacity limits.

The company says that Rezio has served over 150,000 customers so far, and will be launched in more Asian markets with its Series C funding. KKDay currently has more than five million users on its platform, and has hosted more than 30,000 tours and other activities so far in 92 countries.

In May 2020, the company began seeing more demand for local travel in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. This parallels Klook, which also saw an increase in demand for “staycations” bookings that helped it recover after its business was hurt during the early stages of the pandemic in Asia.

In a statement, Cool Japan Fund managing director Kazushi Sano said his firm invested in KKDay because “we believe that KKDay’s strong execution and innovative mindset will drive the tourism industry in Japan even under adverse conditions.”

#asia, #bookings, #fundings-exits, #kkday, #startups, #staycations, #taiwan, #tc, #travel


The Flight Goes Nowhere. And It’s Sold Out.

People who miss flying are rushing to buy tickets for flights that land in the same place they depart from.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #antarctic-regions, #australia, #brunei, #eva-airways, #qantas-airways, #starlux, #taiwan, #travel-and-vacations


China Sends Warning to U.S. and Taiwan With Aerial Drill

Beijing sent 18 aircraft into the Taiwan Strait as a senior American diplomat held meetings on the island.

#china, #defense-and-military-forces, #lee-teng-hui, #politics-and-government, #taiwan, #tsai-ing-wen, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations


US Pushes Large Arms Sale to Taiwan, Including Jet Missiles

The administration is proposing the packages as President Trump’s strategists try to paint him as being tough on China despite soft actions earlier.

#arms-trade, #boeing-company, #china, #defense-and-military-forces, #international-relations, #lockheed-martin-corporation, #military-aircraft, #peoples-liberation-army-china, #taiwan, #trump-donald-j, #tsai-ing-wen, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #xi-jinping