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.
Two mainland diplomats attended an event, uninvited, and took offense at symbols of Taiwan — including a flag on a cake. A scuffle ensued.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After months of chaos in the city, something had to be done, and the Chinese government did it.
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.”
People who miss flying are rushing to buy tickets for flights that land in the same place they depart from.
Beijing sent 18 aircraft into the Taiwan Strait as a senior American diplomat held meetings on the island.
The administration is proposing the packages as President Trump’s strategists try to paint him as being tough on China despite soft actions earlier.
The trip by Keith Krach, an economic representative, defies Beijing’s opposition to formal exchanges. China sent two anti-submarine aircraft toward the island in response.
The United States’ technological dominance gives it an immense power. But how long will that last?
Powerful winds swept a 3-year-old into the sky after she became entangled in a kite during a festival in Taiwan. The girl landed safely.
The self-governing democracy is taking steps to bolster its armed forces in order to deter or defeat an invasion from China — with or without American help.
iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV, two of China’s most popular streaming services, may be barred from operating in Taiwan next month as the government prepares to close regulatory loopholes that enabled them to offer local versions of their services through partnerships. But iQiyi and WeTV will still be accessible if subscribers are willing to, for example, use cross-border payment services to pay for subscriptions in China and deal with slower connections.
In an announcement posted this week, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs said Taiwanese companies and individuals will be prohibited from providing services for OTT firms based in mainland China. The proposed regulation will be open to public comment for two weeks before it takes effect on Sept. 3.
Though Taiwan, which has a population of about 24 million people, is self-governed, the Chinese government claims it as a territory. The proposed regulations means Taiwan is joining other countries, including India and the United States, in taking a harsher stance against Chinese tech companies.
iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV set up operations in Taiwan through “illegal” partnerships, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in its announcement, working through their Hong Kong subsidiaries to strike agreements with Taiwanese companies.
In April, the NCC declared that mainland Chinese OTT firms are not allowed to operate in Taiwan under the Act Governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said at the time that Chinese firms and their Taiwanese partners were operating at “the edges of the law.”
But NCC spokesperson Wong Po-Tsung said the proposed regulation isn’t targeted solely at Chinese OTT operators. According to the Taipei Times, he stated “the act was necessary because the cable television service operators have asked that the commission apply across-the-board standards to regulate all audiovisual service platforms, which should include OTT services. It was not stipulated just to address the problems caused by iQiyi and other Chinese OTT operators.”
Wong added that Taiwan is a democratic country and its government would not block people from watching content from iQiyi and other Chinese streaming services.
Once the act is passed, Taiwanese companies that break it will face fines of NTD $50,000 to NTD $5 million [about USD $1,700 to USD $170,000].
In a statement to TechCrunch, a spokeperson from iQiyi International, an iQiyi subsidiary based in Singapore, said it is playing close attention to the draft bill.
“China’s mainland entities have always been allowed to carry out commercial activities in the Taiwan region since the enactment of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area,” she added. “As streaming services are not classified as ‘special industries’ under the Act, such services should not become the specific target of legislation.”
WeTV Hong Kong declined to comment.
iKala, a Taiwanese startup that offers an artificial intelligence-based customer acquisition and engagement platform, will expand into new Southeast Asian markets after raising a $17 million Series B. The round was led by Wistron Digital Technology Holding Company, the investment arm of the electronics manufacturer, with participation from returning investors Hotung Investment Holdings Limited and Pacific Venture Partners. It brings iKala’s total raised so far to $30.3 million.
The new funding will be used to launch in Indonesia and Malaysia, and expand in markets where iKala already operates, including Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. Wistron Digital Technology Holding Company, which also offers big data analytics, will serve as a strategic investor, and this also marks the Taiwanese firm’s entry into Southeast Asia.
iKala’s products are targeted toward e-commerce companies, and include KOL Radar, for influencer marketing, and Shoplus, a social commerce service focused on Southeast Asian markets.
In a statement about the funding, iKala board member Lee-feng Chien, former managing director at Google Taiwan, said, “Taiwan has an excellent reputation for having some of the best high tech talents in both hardware and software around the region. With Wistron as a strategic partner, iKala can become a major driving force for transforming Taiwan into an AI industry and talent hub in Asia.”
While Taiwan’s technology industry is best-known for hardware, especially semiconductor manufacturers like Foxconn and TSMC, a new crop of startups are helping the country establish a reputation for AI prowess.
In addition to iKala, these include Appier, which also provides a customer analytics, and enterprise translation platform WritePath. Big American tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Microsoft, have also set up AI-focused research and development centers in Taiwan, drawing on the country’s engineering talent and government programs.
President Trump prefers a robust relationship with authoritarian China to one with democratic Taiwan. But other American officials aim to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties.
The pandemic has created a bicycle boom — and a shortage. Giant, the Taiwanese juggernaut, is trying to meet demand while navigating the politics of trade.
We will respond to repression by demonstrating our solidarity creatively.
Mozilla today announced a major restructuring of its commercial arm, the Mozilla Corporation that will see about 250 employees lose their jobs and the shuttering of the organization’s operations in Taipei, Taiwan. This move comes after the organization already laid off about 70 employees earlier this year. The most recent numbers from 2018 put Mozilla at about 1,000 employees worldwide.
“Pre-COVID, our plan for 2020 was a year of change: building a better internet by accelerating product value in Firefox, increasing innovation, and adjusting our finances to ensure financial stability over the long term,” Baker writes. “We started with immediate cost-saving measures such as pausing our hiring, reducing our wellness stipend and cancelling our All-Hands. But COVID-19 has accelerated the need and magnified the depth for these changes. Our pre-COVID plan is no longer workable. We have talked about the need for change — including the likelihood of layoffs — since the spring. Today these changes become real.”
Layed off employees will receive severance that is at least equivalent to their full base pay through December 31 and will still receive their individual performance bonuses for the first half of the year, as well as part of their company bonus and the standard COBRA health insurance benefits.
Mozilla promises that its smaller organization will be able to act more “quickly and nimbly” and that it will work more closely with partners that share its goal of an open web ecosystem. At the same time, Baker wants Mozilla to remain a “technical powerhouse of the internet activist movement,” yet she also acknowledges that the organization as a whole must also focus on economics and work on creating sustainable business models that still stay true to its mission.
‘We are also restructuring to put a crisper focus on new product development and go to market activities,” writes Baker. “In the long run, I am confident that the new organizational structure will serve our product and market impact goals well, but we will talk in detail about this in a bit.”
On the product side, Mozilla will continue to focus on Firefox, as well as Pocket, its Hubs virtual reality project, its new VPN service, Web Assembly and other privacy and security products. But it is also launching a new Design and UX team, as well as a new applied machine learning team to help bring machine learning to its products.
CakeResume is a startup creating an alternative for the tech industry to job search platforms like LinkedIn. The Taipei-based company, founded in 2016, announced today that it has raised $900,000 in seed funding from Mynavi, one of the largest staffing and public relations companies in Japan. The round will be used to expand CakeResume’s operations in other countries, including Japan and India.
Founder and chief executive officer Trantor Liu, who was a full-stack web developer at Codementor before launching CakeResume, said the startup’s goal is to have the biggest pool of tech talent in Asia. The platform currently has about 100,000 active resumes, 75% of which were created by job seekers in Taiwan. More than 3,000 employers, ranging from startups like Appier to companies like Amazon Web Services, TSMC, Nvidia and Tesla, use it for recruitment.
The other 25% of resumes come from countries including India, Indonesia and the United States. CakeResume plans to expand in Japan with the help of Mynavi, a strategic investor, and is also seeking partnerships in Southeast and South Asia with recruiters. Liu said CakeResume has a particularly high conversion rate in India, and its goal is to build a pool of at least 100,000 resumes there.
In statement about its decision to invest in CakeResume, a Mynavi represenative said, “The global shortage of IT engineers is becoming more apparent and we are focusing on services related to IT talent in Asia. Among them, CakeResume’s service is excellent in product design, and the service is already used by many talent in the country,” adding that it expects the platform to become “the largest IT talent pool in Asia in the near future.”
In Taiwan, CakeResume’s main rivals are LinkedIn and job search site 104.com.tw. It also competes against other job sites like AngelList, Indeed and Glassdoor.
CakeResume differentiates by giving tech professionals more ways to show off their skills, since many tech companies want more in-depth resumes than the traditional one-pagers used in other fields. The startup was named because its resume builder enables job seekers to add more layers of information, like assembling a cake. For example, CakeResume’s template allows engineers to embed projects from GitHub, while designers can add data visualizations, instead of just including links to them.
“We aren’t just providing a form to fill in that you can then download as a formatted PDF resume. We want to allow you to be more creative,” said Liu. “You can easily embed project images and add descriptions, which makes it easier for HR to understand what you can contribute.”
Another difference between CakeResume and its competitors is that most people who create a profile are actively seeking new positions, instead of professional networking opportunities. Since it is also tailored for the tech industry, recruiters have a higher chance of getting responses from interested candidates, Liu said.
“We recently got a review from one of our clients, and they said when they used our platform to contact talent, they got about a 50% reply rate, but on LinkedIn it might be less than 10%,” he added.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many job seekers were willing to relocate, but chief operating officer Wei-Cheng Hsieh said CakeResume is now focusing more on helping people find remote jobs. More tech companies, including Facebook and Google, are extending their work from home policies until at least summer 2021.
Though many job postings still specify a location, Liu said CakeResume’s team anticipates this will change as companies continue adapting to the pandemic. While CakeResume will remain focused on matching applicants to jobs instead of networking, it also also testing some social features to help workers around the world connect with companies and each other.
The visit signals the growing importance of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory, as ties between the United States and China deteriorate.
Taiwan has faced existential conflict with China for its entire existence and has been targeted by China’s state-sponsored hackers for years. But an investigation by one Taiwanese security firm has revealed just how deeply a single group of Chinese hackers was able to penetrate an industry at the core of the Taiwanese economy, pillaging practically its entire semiconductor industry.
At the Black Hat security conference today, researchers from the Taiwanese cybersecurity firm CyCraft plan to present new details of a hacking campaign that compromised at least seven Taiwanese chip firms over the past two years. The series of deep intrusions—called Operation Skeleton Key due to the attackers’ use of a “skeleton key injector” technique—appeared aimed at stealing as much intellectual property as possible, including source code, software development kits, and chip designs. And while CyCraft has previously given this group of hackers the name Chimera, the company’s new findings include evidence that ties them to mainland China and loosely links them to the notorious Chinese state-sponsored hacker group Winnti, also sometimes known as Barium, or Axiom.
A Hong Kong bookseller has recreated his shop in Taipei, and it has become a symbol of Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.
The trip by Alex M. Azar II, a rare high-level U.S. visit, is being billed as an opportunity to highlight Taiwan’s success in battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Intel and Boeing, two of the pillars of American industry.
Intel makes some of the most impressive chips in the world and has for decades, driving high-performance computing to its limits while supporting a company with a market cap today of $200 billion and supporting more than 110,000 employees. Meanwhile, Boeing remains a global leader in aviation despite retiring the 747, with $66 billion in revenue backing a market cap of $90 billion and hosting more than 153,000 workers.
Like pillars of classic Rome though, they exist merely as a shell of their former function. They are weathered, tired, and crumbling, and it doesn’t seem likely that they can hold up the American economy the way they have over the past generation, nor keep the country on the frontier of innovation any longer in their critical industries.
Deindustrialization has swept through the United States for decades of course. It started with the easy stuff — textiles, consumer widgets, appliances — but the sophistication of export-driven economies like Korea, Germany, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Turkey and others has pushed more and more of the manufacturing stack overseas.
Now, even the absolute finest pillars of American exceptionalism in industry are under deep threat. Intel is in the worst position between the two. The company’s bombshell announcement that it is delaying its next-generation 7nm node and would also begin outsourcing some of its manufacturing caused waves on Wall Street, with the stock down nearly 20% in just two weeks. Analysts increasingly believe that Taiwan contract fab TSMC is taking a multi-year lead over Intel’s technology.
Meanwhile, Boeing had and continues to have that whole 737 MAX debacle since the plane model’s first crash in October 2018. That was debilitating enough, but then you add coronavirus and the global collapse of travel on top of it, and the company’s very prospects are looking quite a bit more endangered than anyone could have anticipated two years ago.
For the United States, the first step in ameliorating these slow-motion train wrecks has been the classic policy crisis tool of the bailout. Intel is maybe the most prominent example of America’s death in semiconductors, but it is hardly alone. So Congress is targeting the industry for heavy incentives to try to bridge the gap. Two weeks ago, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) got widespread bipartisan support for his amendment to this year’s defense budget bill that would appropriate billions of dollars of funding and incentives to propel American chipmaking.
Meanwhile, Boeing sought a $60 billion government bailout, before finding a debt consortium of private investors to fund operations. Yet, Boeing gets a different kind of support from the U.S. government, given that a third of its revenues from defense sales, which is obviously heavily driven by the Pentagon. A government bailout for the manufacturer this year is still not out of the question.
Smothering dollars on these companies isn’t going to change the rot that is spreading within. Both companies have transformed engineering-focused cultures to profit-driven maximization, while facing keen global competition that has chipped away at their advantages. Boeing is again safer than Intel — Airbus hasn’t been much better when it comes to innovation and bad strategic decisions like the A380, and China’s airframe manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China isn’t really ready for primetime although it is certainly progressing.
It’s not that industrial policy fails, it’s that American industrial policy seems flagrantly incompetent.
Taiwan has made semiconductor excellence a critical aspect of its national economy. Korea has made cultural productions like K-pop and K-drama a top government priority, now a massive growing global industry. China has perhaps most notoriously made supporting flagship industries a key bedrock of its economic development, to much success over the past three decades. And the list continues.
What’s the difference? In one word: strategy. In each of these successful cases, governments spurred the creation of new industries through incentives and policy changes, while ensuring that these industries built up differentiated intellectual property that would pay back those incentives in spades.
The United States on the other hand always jumps in with the handouts at precisely the wrong time. Rather than incentivizing the creation of new industries, it runs to the industries in decline and sprays that cash fertilizer across the weeds and deadwood.
While Congress spends billions to try to salvage the chip industry, the Trump Administration announced a $75 million quantum computing initiative aimed at spurring America to the frontiers of advanced computing. While China is investing billions in 5G wireless technologies, America is offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to start rural testbeds.
As an economic superpower, the United States has lived in a world where it was simply, by default, the best at whatever it and its citizens wanted to be. Industries could be fragmented, government policy could be out-of-whack, schools and universities could be horrifically inefficient in training, but none of that mattered since few other countries could compete across such a breadth of industry.
Today, plenty of countries can compete in manufacturing and cultural production. And not only can they compete, but they are willing to go all-in to ensure that they succeed in these endeavors. Taiwan is not great at semiconductors because of a random constellation of factors, it’s great because it pushed its entire economy, education system, and government to prioritize its excellence on top of changes like the opening of the global economy and the rise of China.
Intel and Boeing still have a chance of course, they are still massive companies with cash and talent. Yet, one can’t help look at the history of every other collapsed manufacturing company in the U.S. and not feel a startling sense of déjà vu. We didn’t get it right those times — do we have it in us to do it right this time?
Mr. Lee led the island’s transition away from a police state to one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies. His insistence that Taiwan be treated as a sovereign state angered Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its own territory.
Since launching in 2013, Taipei-based TNL Media Group has grown from an independent news site to a media company with several online publishing verticals and a data analytics business. The company, formerly known as The News Lens, announced today that it has raised $8 million from New York-based investment firm Palm Drive Capital, as part of its Series D round.
TNL Media Group’s last funding announcement was a Series C round announced two years ago. Co-founder and chief executive officer Joey Chung told TechCrunch that its latest infusion of funding will be used to add more media verticals, continue TNL Media Group’s international expansion and finish its current pipeline of data analytics and tech service products.
TNL Media Group’s previous investors include North Base Media, the firm co-founded by Washington Post and Wall Street Journal veteran Marcus Brauchli (who is also a member of the startup’s board). The News Lens launched seven years ago as a bilingual site to give millennial readers an alternative to traditional media outlets in Taiwan, where coverage is often sharply divided along political lines and traffic is driven by celebrity gossip and other tabloid fodder.
Since then, it has grown through a series of launches and acquisitions. In addition to its main news site, it also operates separate sites for tech, sports, lifestyle, gadgets and entertainment content. Earlier this year, TNL Media Group acquired Taiwanese mobile ad technology startup Ad2iction, a cloud-based platform for brands to manage and create digital ads.
Since TNL Media Group already has offices in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and also has a media vertical dedicated to covering Southeast Asia, Chung said the company is now looking for opportunities to expand there. At the same time, he added that TNL Media Group has “had numerous very late-stage conversations” about partnerships to launch in Japan.
The company’s media verticals complement its data analytics business because it is able to draw on TNL Media Group’s user base for data, which Chung said is “one of the largest readership pools for digital audiences in the greater China market.”
On average, TNL Media Group’s sites have around 14 million monthly unique users. Its data analytics business, which launched within the past year, currently has about three to five clients per month. “But of course, we are planning for that to be ramped up substantially in the coming months and years and that will gradually grow to become a very important part of our entire business portfolio,” Chung said.
TNL Media Group’s other products include mobile ad tech, digital ticketing services, online events and online classes, and a content management system (CMS) it will start licensing to other companies.
Chung said that by the end of this year, many of these products will be integrated with its readership and data to develop a demand side platform (DSP, a tool that connects ad buyers with publishers) and a data management platform that are already in production.
In a press statement about its investment in TNL Media Group, Palm Drive Capital managing partner Nick Hsu said, “Palm Drive Capital focuses on investing in global technology startups using software to transform traditional industries. This is evident in the media industry, particularly as Taiwan’s online ad expenditure has already reached over one billion U.S. dollars and is estimated to grow to 1.65 billion U.S. dollars by 2021. Having known the TNL Media Group team for years, we see massive potential to leverage data to drive growth, consolidation, and international expansion in the media industry.”
The owners of a laundry shop in central Taiwan have become Instagram stars for posing in garments left behind.
In defense, trade, technology, media and diplomacy, among other areas, the rancor between the Trump administration and China’s ruling Communist Party is worsening.
When big platforms have carved out large swaths of the delivery market, the best thing for an upstart company to do is to specialize.
For Chowbus, that meant building a food-delivery business that finds restaurants whose cuisines specialize in regional cuisines from Northern and Southern China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It’s a strategy that has now netted the company $33 million in financing led by the Silicon Valley-based investment firm Altos Ventures and New York’s Left Lane Capital. Hyde Park Angels, Fika Ventures, FJ Labs and Silicon Valley Bank also participated in the round.
Founded four years ago in Chicago by Suyu Zhang and Linxin Wen, the company said that its goal was to connect people with authentic Asian food that’s not easy to find on delivery apps. Over the past year, the company touted significant growth in its business, a traction that can be reflected in its decision to bring on the former chief operating officer of Jump Bikes, Kenny Tsai, as its chief operating officer, and Jieying Zheng, a former Groupon product leader as its head of product.
“When we say we’re true partners to the restaurants we work with, we mean it. By eliminating hidden fees, helping them showcase their best dishes, and other efforts we make on their behalf, we really go the extra mile to help our restaurant partners succeed,” said Wen, Chowbus’ chief executive, in a statement. “We only succeed if they do.”
And seemingly, Chowbus is succeeding. The company raised $4 million in its first round of institutional funding just last year and its rise has been precipitous since then.
The Chicago-based company said it would use its new funding to expand to more cities across the US and add new products like a “dine-in” feature allowing diners to order and pay for their meals on their phone for a contactless experience at restaurants in cities that have flattened the curve of COVID-19 infections and are now reopening.
Chowbus pitches its lack of hidden fees and footprint across 20 cities in North America including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, and many other cities across North America. In Los Angeles, the company offers menus in Mandarin and Cantonese and allows its users to bundle dishes from multiple restaurants in a single delivery.
Other companies are experimenting with specialization as a way to differentiate from the major delivery services that are on the market. Black and Mobile, which launched in Philadelphia but is in the process of expanding across the country, is a delivery service focused on Black-owned restaurants and food stores.
Founded by David Cabello, Black and Mobile was started in 2017 by the 22 year-old college dropout. The company launched its first operations outside of Atlanta earlier this month and is available on iOS.
“The market is experiencing a permanent shift from offline to online ordering, a trend that Chowbus is actively driving,” said Harley Miller, Managing Partner at Left Lane Capital . “Focusing on this large and loyal constituency with a vertical-approach to supporting Asian restaurants and food purveyors has allowed Chowbus to differentiate itself on both sides of the marketplace. The capital efficiency with which they have operated, relative to the scale achieved, is extraordinarily impressive, and not something we often see.”
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For two months, the people of Hong Kong waited in suspense after China’s legislature approved a new national security law. The legislation’s details were finally made public yesterday and almost immediately went into effect. As many Hong Kong residents feared, the broadly written new law gives Beijing extensive authority over the Special Administrative Region and has the potential to sharply curtail civil liberties.
In response, the United States began the first measures to end the special status it gives to Hong Kong, with the Commerce and State Departments suspending export license exceptions for sensitive U.S. technology and blocking the export of defense equipment.
Much remains uncertain. Hong Kong had also previously enjoyed many freedoms that do not exist in mainland China, under the “one country, two systems” principle put into place after the United Kingdom returned control to China. After announcing the new policies, the U.S. government said further restrictions are being considered. Under special status, Hong Kong had privileges including lower trade tariffs and a separate customs and immigration designation from mainland China, but now the future of those is unclear.
Equally opaque is how the erosion of special status and the new national security law will impact Hong Kong’s startups in the future. In conversations with TechCrunch, investors and founders said they believe the region’s ecosystem is resilient, partly because many companies offer online services — especially financial services — and have already established operations in other markets. But they are also keeping an eye on further developments and preparing for the possibility that key talent will want to relocate to other countries.
The sweeping new security law in Hong Kong has further eroded what little support there was in Taiwan for unifying with the mainland.
Hundreds joined a march in Taipei, making it one of the few places in the world to proceed with such an event during the coronavirus pandemic.
From the Himalayas to the South China Sea, China is pressing its territorial claims aggressively, raising the possibility of additional deadly clashes.
Deep01, a Taiwanese startup that develops software to help doctors interpret CT brain scans more quickly, announced today that it has raised $2.7 million. The funding was led by PC maker ASUSTek.
Deep01’s product has obtained clearance from both Taiwan and the United States’ Food and Drug Administrations, and the company received its first purchase order, worth about $700,000, in February.
Other investors included the Digital Economy Fund, which is co-funded by Taiwanese research organizations Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the Institute for Information Industry (III), and BE Capital.
Deep01’s software is currently used in two medical centers and four hospitals in Taiwan and has already helped doctors check over 2,000 brain scans.
Created for use by emergency departments, Deep01 says its software can detect acute intracerebral hemorrhage with an accuracy rate of 93% to 95%, within 30 seconds.
The startup was launched in 2016 by a team that includes co-founder and CEO David Chou, who earned his Master’s Degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and was a Harvard University research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2018 and 2019.
In a press statement, Albert Chang, ASUS corporate vice president and co-head of its AIoT Business Group, said “Deep01 is a leading startup in the AI medical area. The collaboration is promising for smart medical applications.”
Rates of coronavirus deaths are far lower in many female-led countries.
The mayor, Han Kuo-yu, had tried to win the presidency just months ago on a Beijing-friendly platform. His removal in a recall vote reflects a stunning reversal and a hardening of Taiwan’s attitude toward China.
The Communist Party was always going to try to tame Hong Kong, but its latest efforts are something else.
Xi Jinping’s China, emboldened by its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, no longer seems constrained by the threat of international rebuke.
M17 Entertainment announced today that it has sold its online dating assets to focus on its core live streaming business in Asia and other markets. Paktor Pte, which operates Paktor dating app and other services, was acquired by Kollective Ventures, a venture capital advisory firm. The value of the deal was undisclosed.
In its announcement, Taipei-based M17 said the sale will allow it to focus on expanding its live streaming business in markets including Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.
Earlier this month, the company said it had raised a $26.5 million Series D that will be used for growth in Japan, where M17 claims a 60% share of the live streaming market, and expansion into new places like the United States and the Middle East. Its live streaming apps include 17LIVE (an English-language version is called Livit), Meme Live and live-streaming e-commerce platforms HandsUP and FBBuy.
In a statement, M17 CFO Shang Koo said, “As our Japan live streaming business has skyrocketed, we found we were unable to devote the same level of internal resources to our dating business in Southeast Asia. Becoming independent will allow Paktor to control its own destiny as M17 focuses heavily on the future of its streaming services in our largest market, Japan.”
Paktor will operate independently of M17 after the sale, but Koo said “we hope to continue working with Paktor on future business cooperation and will always value the synergy and teamwork between M17 and Paktor.”
M17 was formed in April 2017 when Paktor merged with 17 Media. A year later, M17 was supposed to go public, but cancelled its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange on the same day it was supposed to start trading, citing “issues related to the settlement” of shares that CEO Joseph Phua later explained in detail to Tech in Asia.
The Trump administration is challenging Chinese access to Taiwan’s high-tech supply chain — and, by extension, Beijing’s influence over the island it claims as its territory.
In her fiction she depicted “the struggle of Chinese immigrants in American society” — not the “Oriental exoticism” preferred by many publishers in the ’60s.
A new leadership style offers promise for a new era of global threats.
There has been a steady drumbeat of news on the U.S.-China trade front since the start of the Trump administration. President Trump has made decoupling from China’s economy on on-again, off-again proposition. There was the trade conflict with weekly changes in American tariff policy, the threats against ZTE and Huawei, the responses from China against Qualcomm and NXP, and the launch of new restrictions on China investment in U.S. startups and telecom infrastructure.
With COVID-19 and the ensuing global economic collapse, much of that conflict was put on the back burner. A tentative agreement between the U.S. and China — agreed to before the worst of the pandemic — seemed to get even broader support as the economic indicators from the globe’s two superpowers started to trickle out.
Then this week happened, and in almost no time at all, the U.S.-China trade detente has been torn apart.
Overnight, there were three critical stories that are going to reshape U.S.-China trade for the foreseeable future, with plenty more stories lurking beneath the surface.
First, you have the announcement this morning from the Department of Commerce that the Trump administration is going to ban Huawei from using U.S. software and hardware in certain strategic semiconductor processes, a move designed to limit the leading Chinese chip manufacturer from growing its market power and technological capabilities. Earlier yesterday, the administration also announced an extension to the government’s export ban on Huawei and ZTE.
The Trump administration has threatened moves like this since almost the president’s first day in office, and Commerce even couched the language, saying that it is “narrowly and strategically” targeting the Chinese company. Nonetheless, Huawei’s importance as one of China’s leading technology companies can’t be overstated, and the two moves combined is already being perceived as a direct assault on China’s recovering economy.
Second, you have a major announcement overnight from TSMC — the world’s largest chip foundry and one of the only foundries that can handle the manufacturing of the most advanced chips — that the Taiwanese company will invest and launch a major, $12 billion factory in Arizona. The release says that the factory will be capable of producing the world’s most advanced 5-nanometer chips when it launches in a couple of years. The announcement came after weeks of debate in Washington aimed at cutting off TSMC’s ability to build chips for mainland Chinese companies like Huawei — a move that TSMC argued would dramatically hurt its profitability and ability to invest in further R&D.
Third, you had the announcement this morning that Foxconn’s profits dived 90% due to COVID-19 and declining smartphone shipments. Foxconn, a Taiwanese hardware assembly company (among many other things), has been caught in the smoldering U.S.-China trade conflict, and even attempted at one point to build its own $10 billion manufacturing facility in Wisconsin with Trump’s felicity only to scuttle that plan entirely in an embarrassing setback.
Meanwhile, the trade deal that had calmed tensions between DC and Beijing appears increasingly in doubt.
And that’s just what happened overnight.
There are so many individual data points on U.S.-China trade that it can be hard to see the patterns. Policies have hardened, policies have softened, but at its core the U.S. and China have attempted to keep the trade flowing, if only to maintain growth in their economies. That’s what coupling has been all about: while there can be massive disagreements between the two sides, each has something the other wants. China wants to build and grow, while America wants to design and buy.
The past few months of COVID-19 have changed that calculus, as has an election year in the United States where wariness of China has hit record, bipartisan highs according to polls. The intense conflagration of the American economy, with tens of millions jobless and growth stalled for the time being, means that even more intense scrutiny is being placed on anything that might be harming the country’s financial math. We are now seeing the fruits of that new normal.
There will be more decoupling maneuvers in the coming weeks. There will also almost certainly be a renegotiation of the U.S.-China trade deal, despite comments that neither side is interested in reopening those discussions.
Yet, the real interesting dynamic to watch is going to be Taiwan, which is home to strategically critical sectors of the chip industry. TSMC’s announcement accepts the reality of decoupling, but attempts to work around it by recoupling the United States to the safety of Taiwan. Taiwanese companies and the island’s politicians have avoided ceding its technology to other countries, creating a dependence that they have hoped would protect the island in the event of a mainland Chinese invasion. After all, if the Pentagon can’t get its chips, it’s going to have to intervene, or so the thinking holds.
In this new world though, TSMC building an American factory doesn’t undermine that narrative, it actually strengthens the bonds between the U.S. and Taiwan. More jobs, more trade, more travel and ultimately, a deeper appreciation of the importance of each other. The question is how far the Trump administration is willing to go here. Taiwan is bidding to rejoin the World Health Organization, where it was an observer up to 2016. How deep are those ties? Will the U.S. go beyond its own diplomatic framework to intensely push for Taiwan’s reentry in spite of Chinese opposition?
That’s what is next, but what is clear today is that the world of semiconductors, of internet infrastructure, of the tech ties that have bound the U.S. and China together for decades — they are frayed and are almost gone. It’s a new era in supply chains and trade, and an open world for new approaches to these huge existing industries.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract semiconductor foundry, said today that it plans to build an advanced chip foundry in Arizona with support from the state and the United States federal government.
The announcement follows a Wall Street Journal report earlier this week that White House officials were in talks with TSMC and Intel to build foundries in the U.S., as part of its effort to reduce reliance on chip factories in Asia. Based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, TSMC provides chip components for many of the world’s largest semiconductor companies and its U.S. clients include Apple and Qualcomm.
The plant, scheduled to start production of chips in 2024, will enable TSMC’s American customers to fabricate their semiconductor products domestically. It will use the company’s 5-nanometer technology and is expected to create 1,600 jobs and have the capacity to produce 20,000 wafers a month.
The U.S.-China trade war, national security concerns, geopolitical unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic have all underscored the shortfalls of relying on foundries located abroad and international supply chains.
The U.S. government has reportedly been in talks with TSMC for months, though one sticking point for the company was the high cost of building a new foundry. TSMC chairman Mark Liu told the New York Times in October that the project would require major subsidies because it is more expensive to operate a factory in the U.S. in Taiwan.
In today’s announcement, TSMC said “U.S. adoption of forward-looking investment policies to enable a globally competitive environment for a leading edge semiconductor technology operation in the U.S. will be crucial to the success of this project.”
The company expects to spend about $12 billion between 2021 and 2029 on the project, with construction slated to begin next year.
TSMC already operates a foundry in Camas, Washington, and has design centers in Austin, Texas and San Jose, California.