#DealMonitor – GoStudent bekommt 300 Millionen – Mostly AI sammelt 25 Millionen ein – Evernest bekommt 13 Millionen


Im #DealMonitor für den 11. Januar werfen wir einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

GoStudent
+++ Prosus, Telekom Innovation Pool, SoftBank, Tencent, Dragoneer, Left Lane Capital und Coatue investieren 300 Millionen Euro in GoStudent. Die Bewertung steigt auf 3 Milliarden Euro. Erst vor sieben Monaten sammelte das Unternehmen 205 Millionenein. Die Bewertung im Sommer 2020 lag bei 1,4 Milliarden. Insgesamt flossen nun schon mehr als 590 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen. Das Startup, das sich als E-Learning-Dienst positioniert und auf kostenpflichtige Einzelkurse setzt, wurde 2017 von Gregor Müller, Felix Ohswald und seinem Bruder Moritz Ohswald gegründet. “Die neue Finanzierung wird die drei zentralen und strategischen Säulen von GoStudent stärken: Internationale Expansion, Produkterweiterung durch Fusionen & Akquisitionen und Ausbau der Marktanteile in bestehenden Regionen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Über 1.300 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken derzeit für das junge Unternehmen. Mehr über GoStudent

Mostly AI
+++ Molten Ventures, Citi Ventures sowie die Altinvestoren Earlybird und 42CAP investieren 25 Millionen US-Dollar in Mostly AI. Das 2017 von Michael Platzer, Klaudius Kalcher und Roland Boubela gegründete Wiener KI-Startup bietet ein Verfahren an, mit dem Infos in synthetische Daten umwandelt werden können. Dabei soll die Aussagekraft der Daten erhalten, gleichzeitig aber die Re-Identifizierung von Personen unmöglich bleiben. “Das Unternehmen wird die Mittel nutzen, um seine Vision einer intelligenteren und gerechteren Zukunft auf der Grundlage von verantwortungsvoller KI umzusetzen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Earlybird, 42 CAP und Push Ventures investierten zuletzt 5 Millionen US-Dollar in das UnternehmenMehr über Mostly AI

Evernest 
+++ Der amerikanische Geldgeber Prudence, Kibo Ventures und Bonsai Partners sowie die Altinvestoren Project A Ventures und APIC investieren 13 Millionen Euro in Evernest. Das junge Hamburger Makler-Startup, das 2019 vom ehemaligen Engel & Völkers-Vorstand Christian Evers und Luisa Haxel, die bei Engel & Völkers für die Digitalstrategie zuständig war, gegründet wurde, verkauft salopp formuliert insbesondere teure Immobilien in Großstädten. Zuvor flossen bereits 6 Millionen Euro in das PropTech. “Das neue Risikokapital soll in den Ausbau der Technologieplattform sowie in die Eröffnung weiterer Standorte fließen. Das PropTech-Unternehmen legt damit das Fundament für seinen Expansionskurs in Europa in diesem Jahr”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Mehr über Evernest

Finanzguru
+++ VR Ventures, Coparion, Venture Stars, HDI, die Deutschen Bank und Business Angel Frank Strauß investieren 8 Millionen Euro in Finanzguru. “Mit dem frischen Kapital will Finanzguru das bestehende Angebot durch Hinzunahme des Finanz- & Versicherungsgeschäfts deutlich erweitern”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Das FinTech aus Frankfurt am Main, das 2015 von den Zwillingen Alexander und Benjamin Michel sowie Sandro Sonntag und Florian Hirsch gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “digitaler und individueller Finanzassistent auf Basis künstlicher Intelligenz”. 40 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten derzeit für das Unternehmen. Bekannt wurde das FinTech durch einen Auftritt in der VOX-Show “Die Höhle der Löwen”, damals investierte Carsten Maschmeyer 1 Million in FinanzguruMehr über Finanzguru

Smartlane 
+++ Jova Direkt Invest, eine Investmentgesellschaft des Vaillant Family Office, investiert gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren 4,5 Millionen Euro in Smartlane. Zudem erhält das Unternehmen eine Förderung durch die EU in Höhe von 1,7 Millionen Euro. Die Jungfirma, die von Mathias Baur, Monja Mühling und Florian Schimandl gegründet wurde, entwickelt und betreibt eine cloudbasierte Software, die Logistikfirmen hilft, ihre Flotten effizienter einzusetzen. Die Technologie der Bayern berücksichtigt dabei unter anderem Lieferzeitfenster, die Wünsche der Kunden sowie die Art und Größe der jeweiligen Flotte. In der Vergangenheit investierte unter anderem Freigeist Capital in das Unternehmen. Mehr über Smartlane

Biorena
+++ Picus Capital investiert nach unseren Informationen in Biorena. Das Münchner Startup positioniert sich als Online-Bio-Supermarkt, der innerhalb von 3 Stunden liefert. “Mit unserem Wertversprechen für lokale, frische und 100 % biologische Produkte sowie unserer #zerowaste-Philosophie sind wir einzigartig positioniert, um die Lebensmittellieferung für hochwertige Lebensmittel neu zu definieren. Biorena – biologisch, regional, nachhaltig”, teilt das junge Unternehmen mit.  Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Plantura
+++ Vorwerk Ventures investiert nach unseren Informationen in Plantura. Das 2017 gegründete Münchner Unternehmen, das von Felix Lill und Dominik Cadmus geführt wird, positioniert sich als Gartenmagazin für Hobbygärtner samt angeschlossenem Online-Shop. Acton Capital Partners, Cavalry Ventures sowie Starstrike Ventures investierten bereits in Plantura. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

LunarX
+++ 468 Capital investiert nach unseren Informationen in LunarX. Das Berliner Unternehmen, das auf den Namen LunarPine hört, setzt auf das “Betreiben von Medienangeboten wie Websites und Social-Media-Kanälen sowie den Verkauf und die Vermarktung von dort gezeigten digitalen und physischen Produkten”. Die Jungfirma wurde von ReachHero-Gründer Philipp John und Lucas Kollmann gegründet. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Hypatos
+++ DN Capital und Framework Ventures investieren nach unseren Informationen in Hypatos. Das Unternehmen aus Potsdam, das 2018 von Uli Erxleben und Janosch Novak als Spin-Off von Smacc gegründet wurde, entwickelt ein System, um Backoffice-Prozesse mit Hilfe von Deep Learning-Technologie zu automatisieren. Blackfin Tech, Grazia Equity, UVC Partners und Plug and Play Ventures investierten zuletzt 10 Millionen Euro in Hypatos. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Kubermatic 
+++ btov Partners investiert nach unseren Informationen in Kubermatic. Das Hamburger Startup, das 2016 von Sebastian Scheele und Julian Hansert gegründet wurde, beschäftigt sich mit Containern und sorgt so für Ordnung auf Computerservern. Nauta Capital investierte zuletzt zusammen mit den Celonis-Gründern Bastian Nominacher und Martin Klenk rund 5 Millionen Euro in Kubermatic, früher als Loodse bekannt. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Dermanostic
+++ Beiersdorf investiert via Oscar&Paul in Dermanostic. Zudem investiert auch Mello aus Wuppertal wieder in das Unternehmen – siehe OMR. Insgesamt sammelt das Startup so 2 Millionen ein. Das Düsseldorfer Startup, das 2020 von Ole Martin, Alice Martin, Estefanía Lang und Patrick Lang gegründet wurde, drängt in den boomenden Telemedizin-Markt. Das junge Startup fokussiert sich dabei auf Hautärzte. Nutzer der App erhalten “örtlich flexibel und ohne Wartezeit eine anonyme Beurteilung Ihrer Hautveränderung durch erfahrene Fachärzte”. Dermanostic war zuletzt auch im Startup-Radar, unserem Pitch-Podcast dabei.

Triviar
+++ Jetzt offiziell: Der Hamburger Geldgeber Hanse Ventures investiert – wie bereits Ende Dezember berichtet – in Triviar. In der Investmentrunde, bei der auch Business Angels wie Stephan Mahlow investieren, fließen 730.000 Euro in das Unternehmen. Beim Hamburger EdTech, das 2020 von Nick Koldehoff und Jonah Schröder gegründet wurde, dreht sich alles um Kurse und Aktivitäten. Jeder kann über die Plattform seine Kurse und Workshops anbieten.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

aWATTar
+++ Das Münchner Unternehmen tado, das alte, als auch neue Heizungssysteme fit für das Internet-Zeitalter macht, übernimmt aWATTar. Das Unternehmen macht durch “zeitvariable Tarife eine Verlagerung des Stromverbrauchs in die grünsten und günstigsten Stunden” möglich. “Die Kombination der Technologien von tado und aWATTar sorgen für mehr erneuerbare Energie auf dem europäischen Energiemarkt – für eine nachhaltigere Zukunft”, teilen die Unternehmen mit. Die Noventic Group, die unter anderem intelligente Lösungen für das Ablesen von Heizungen anbietet, und die Altinvestoren investierten zuletzt 38 Millionen Euro in tado. In den vergangenen Jahren flossen bereits über 100 Millionen Dollar in tado, das 2011 von Christian Deilmann, Johannes Schwarz und Valentin Sawadski gegründet wurde. Mehr über tado

Chaos / Enscape
+++ Die beiden Unternehmen Enscape und Chaos schließen sich –  vorangetrieben durch LEA Partners und TA Associates – zusammen. Enscape, 2017 in Karlsruhe gegründet, liefert eine Technologie, die direkt mit CAD-Software in der AEC-Branche verbunden ist und Design- und Visualisierungs-Workflows integriert. Chaos, 1997 in Sofia gegründet, positioniert sich als “Marktführer im Bereich Visualisierung und Computer Graphics (CG)”. “Durch den Zusammenschluss entsteht ein weltweit führendes Unternehmen für 3D-Visuali-sierung und Design-Workflow-Technologie”, teilen die Geldgeber mit. Der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) investierte in der Vergangenheit in Enscape.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Chapter54
+++ Der bekannte Geldgeber Partech legt mit Chapter54 ein Accelerator-Programm für europäische Scaleups, die in afrikanische Märkte expandieren möchten, auf. “Das Programm wird von Partech Shaker, der Abteilung für Innovationsprogramme von Partech, mit Unterstützung der deutschen Förderbank KfW im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) konzipiert und durchgeführt, um Wachstum und die Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen in Afrika zu fördern”, teilt der Geldgeber mit. Das industrieunabhängige und eigenkapitalfrei Chapter54-Programm läuft bis zu acht Monate und steht allen europäischen Startups offen.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#42cap, #aktuell, #apic, #awattar, #biorena, #bonsai-partners, #chaos, #chapter54, #citi-ventures, #coatue, #coparion, #dermanostic, #dragoneer, #earlybird-venture-capital, #edtech, #enscape, #evernest, #finanzguru, #fintech, #frankfurt-am-main, #freigeist-capital, #gostudent, #hamburg, #hanse-ventures, #hdi, #hypatos, #jova-direkt-invest, #kibo-ventures, #kubermatic, #lea-partners, #left-lane-capital, #lunarx, #molten-ventures, #mostly-ai, #munchen, #plantura, #project-a-ventures, #proptech, #prosus, #prudence, #smartlane, #softbank, #ta-associates, #tado, #telekom-innovation-pool, #tencent, #triviar, #venture-capital, #venture-stars, #vr-ventures, #wien

#DealMonitor – Unicorn Tier sammelt 200 Millionen ein (Bewertung: 2 Milliarden) – Billie bekommt 100 Millionen


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 25. Oktober werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Tier
+++ SoftBank, Mubadala Capital, M&G Investments und Mountain Partners sowie RTP Global, Novator, White Star Capital, Northzone und Speedinvest investieren 200 Millionen US-Dollar (Eigenkapital- und Fremdkapital) in Tier. “Bei einer Bewertung von 2 Milliarden US-Dollar hat Tier bisher insgesamt 660 Millionen US-Dollar an Eigen- und Fremdkapitalfinanzierungen erhalten”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Mit der jetzigen Investmentrunde ist Tier somit nun auch offiziell ein Unicorn, bisher hatte das Unternehmen seine bereits zuvor erreichte Milliardenbewertung niemals bestätigt. Tier, 2018 von Lawrence Leuschner, Matthias Laug und Julian Blessin gegründet, setzt auf  E-Scooter, E-Bikes und E-Mopeds zur Miete. Derzeit ist das Mobility-Unternehmen in 150 Städten in 16 Ländern unterwegs. “Tier plant, die Mittel für Akquisitionen und strategische Investitionen zu verwenden und gleichzeitig seine internationale Präsenz in strategischen Wachstumsmärkten auszubauen”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Mehr über Tier

Billie
+++ Dawn Capital, der chinesische Internetkonzern Tencent, der schwedische Fintech-­Gigant Klarna und Altinvestoren wie Rocket Internet investieren 100 Millionen US-Dollar in Billie – siehe Der Spiegel. Die Bewertung liegt bei rund 640 Millionen Dollar. Bei der letzten Investmentrunden waren es noch rund 230 Millionen. Billie, 2016 von den Zencap-Gründern Christian Grobe und Matthias Knecht gegründet, positioniert sich als Factoring-Startup. “Ob groß oder klein, klassisches Business oder E-Commerce – wir ermöglichen schnelle Liquidität, automatisierte Prozesse und fairen Zugang zu den besten Zahlungslösungen”, teilt das Unternehmen in eigener Sache mit. Hedosophia, Creandum, Rocket Internet, Speedinvest, Avala Capital und Picus Capital statteten das FinTech in den vergangenen Jahren bereits mit rund 43 Millionen Euro aus. “Als Teil der Finanzierungsrunde hat sich Billie eine neue Kreditlinie gesichert, rund 171 Millionen Euro (200 Millionen Dollar laut Billie) stellen die Magerkurth-Volksbank, Raisin und Varengold bereit”, berichtet zudem FinanceFWDMehr über Billie

Build.One
+++ Freigeist Capital, also Frank Thelen und Co., Pitch-Gründer Christian Reber, Xentral-Gründer Benedikt Sauter und Koen Bok, Gründer von Framer, investieren “mehrere Millionen Euro” in Build.One (früher als Akioma bekannt). Mit dem Unternehmen aus Freiberg am Neckar, das 2014 von Mike Liewehr gegründet wurde, “können Unternehmen auch sehr komplexe Business Applikationen wie eigenständige ERP- und CRM-Systeme und viele weitere Anwendungen in deutlich kürzerer Zeit und zu erheblich geringeren Kosten erstellen als mit klassischer Software-Entwicklung”. Über das Interesse von Freigeist Capital an Build.One haben wir bereits Anfang September im Insider-Podcast berichtet.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Designenlassen.de
+++ Freelancermap, eine Projektplattformen für Freiberufler und Unternehmen, übernimmt Designenlassen.de, einen Online-Marktplatz für Designprojekte “Mit dem strategischen Kauf von Designenlassen.de erweitert Freelancermap sein Portfolio im Bereich Kreativität und Design”, teilen die beiden Unternehmen aus Nürnberg mit. designenlassen.de ging bereits 2008 an den Start. Freelancermap gehört zur mittelständischen Unternehmensfamilie Müller Medien.

ProSaldo.net
+++ Die norwegische Softwarefirma Visma übernimmt die Wiener Buchhaltungssoftware-Firma ProSaldo.net. “Die Übernahme durch die Visma-Gruppe nur drei Jahre nach Gründung des Unternehmens ist ein deutliches Zeichen für den Erfolg und Pioniergeist von ProSaldo.net. Die Services sollen nun gemeinsam mit Know-how aus dem internationalen Visma-Netzwerk weiterentwickelt und die Vorreiterrolle ausgebaut werden”, teilen die Unternehmen mit.

STOCK MARKET

Sono Motors
+++ Der Münchner Solarauto-Entwickler Sono Motors plant einen Börsengang in den USA. “Das 2016 in einer Garage in München gegründete Unternehmen könnte dabei mit deutlich mehr als einer Milliarde Dollar bewertet werden, hatten mehrere mit den Plänen vertraute Personen der Nachrichtenagentur Reuters im März gesagt”, schreibt das Handelsblatt. Sono Motors wurde 2016 gegründet.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#akioma, #aktuell, #berlin, #billie, #build-one, #dawn-capital, #designenlassen-de, #e-scooter, #fintech, #freelancermap, #freigeist-capital, #ipo, #klarna, #mg-investments, #mobility, #mountain-partners, #mubadala-capital, #northzone, #novator, #nurnberg, #prosaldo-net, #rtp-global, #softbank, #sono-motors, #speedinvest, #tencent, #unicorn, #venture-capital, #visma, #white-star-capital, #wien

China Roundup: Beijing is tearing down the digital ‘walled gardens’

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

This week, China gets serious about breaking down the walled gardens that its internet giants have formed for decades. Two major funding rounds were announced, from the newly established autonomous driving unicorn Deeproute.ai and fast-growing, cross-border financial service provider XTransfer.

Tear down the walls

The Chinese internet is infamously siloed, with a handful of “super apps” each occupying a cushy, protective territory that tries to lock users in and keep rivals out. On Tencent’s WeChat messenger, for instance, links to Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and ByteDance’s Douyin short video service can’t be viewed or even redirected. That’s unlike WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal that offer friendly URL previews within chats.

E-commerce platforms fend off competition in different ways. Taobao uses Alibaba’s affiliate Alipay as a default payments option, omitting its arch rival WeChat Pay. Tencent-backed JD.com, a rival to Alibaba, encourages its users to pay through its own payments system or WeChat Pay.

But changes are underway. “Ensuring normal access to legal URLs is the basic requirement for developing the internet,” a senior official from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said at a press conference this week. He added that unjustified blockages of web links “affect users’ experience, undermine users’ rights, and disrupt market orders.”

There is some merit in filtering third-party links when it comes to keeping out the likes of pornography, misinformation and violent content. Content distributors in China also strictly abide by censorship rules, silencing politically sensitive discussions. These principles will stay in place, and MIIT’s new order is really to crack anticompetitive practices and wane the power of the bloated internet giants.

The call to end digital walled gardens is part of MIIT’s campaign, started in July, to restore “orders” to the Chinese internet. While crackdowns on internet firms are routine, the spate of new policies announced in recent months — from new data security rules to heightened gaming restrictions — signify Beijing’s resolution to curb the influence of Chinese internet firms of all kinds.

The deadline for online platforms to unblock URLs is September 17, the MIIT said earlier. Virtually all the major internet companies have swiftly issued statements saying they will firmly carry out MIIT’s requirements and help promote the healthy development of the Chinese internet.

Internet users are bound to benefit from the dismantling of the walled gardens. They will be able to browse third-party content smoothly on WeChat without having to switch between apps. They can share product links from Taobao right within the messenger instead of having their friends copy-paste a string of cryptic codes that Taobao automatically generates for WeChat sharing.

Robotaxi dream

Autonomous driving startup Deeproute.ai said this week it has closed a $300 million Series B round from investors including Alibaba, Jeneration Capital, and Chinese automaker Geely. The valuation of this round was undisclosed.

We’ve seen a lot of publicity from Pony.ai, WeRide, Momenta and AutoX but not so much Deeproute.ai. That in part is because the company is relatively young, founded only in 2019 by Zhou Guang after he was “fired” by his co-founders at the once-promising Roadstar.ai amid company infighting.

Investors in Roadstar.ai reportedly saw the dismissal of Zhou as detrimental to the startup, which had raised at least $140 million up to that point, and subsequently sought to dissolve the business. It appears that Zhou, formerly the chief scientist at Roadstar, still commands the trust of some investors to support his reborn autonomous driving venture.

Like Pony.ai and WeRide, Deeproute is trying to operate its own robotaxi fleets. While the business model gives it control over reams of driving data, it’s research- and cash-intensive. As such, major Chinese robotaxi startups are all looking at faster commercial deployments, like self-driving buses and trucks, to ease their financial stress.

Cross-border trade boom

The other major funding news this week comes from Shanghai-based XTransfer, which helps small-and-medium Chinese exporters collect payments from overseas. The Series C round, led by D1 Partners, pulled in $138 million and catapulted Xtransfer’s valuation to over $1 billion. The proceeds will go towards product development, hiring and global expansion.

Founded by former executives from Ant Group, XTransfer tries to solve a pain point faced by small and medium exporters: opening and maintaining bank accounts in different countries can be difficult and costly. As such, XTransfer works as a payments gateway between its SME customer, the party that pays it, and their respective banks.

As of July, XTransfer’s customers had surpassed 150,000, most of which are in mainland China. The company of over 1,000 employees is also expanding into Southeast Asia.

While business-to-business export is booming in China, more and more products are also being directly sold from Chinese brands to consumers around the world. Some of the most successful examples, like Shein and Anker, use a different set of payments processors for their direct-to-consumer sales, which tend to be in bigger volume but smaller in average ticket value.

#alibaba, #alibaba-group, #alipay, #ant-group, #asia, #beijing, #bytedance, #china, #china-roundup, #geely, #jack-ma, #jd-com, #momenta, #online-payments, #robotaxi, #shanghai, #shein, #southeast-asia, #taobao, #tc, #tencent, #wechat, #xtransfer

China roundup: Tencent takes on sites trying to circumvent its age limits

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

The enforcement of China’s new gaming regulations is unfolding like a cat-and-mouse game, with the country’s internet giants and young players constantly trying to outsmart each other. Following Didi’s app ban, smaller ride-hailing apps are availing themselves of the potential market vacuum.

Tencent and young gamers

The Chinese saying “Where there is a policy, there is a countermeasure” nicely encapsulates what is happening in the country’s tightening regulatory environment for video games. This month, China enacted the strictest rules to date on playtime among underage users. Players under the age of 18 were startled, scrambling to find methods to overcome the three-hour-per-week quota.

Within days, gaming behemoth Tencent has acted to root out these workarounds. It sued or issued statements to over 20 online services selling or trading adult accounts to underage players, the company’s gaming department said in a notice on Weibo this week.

Children were renting these accounts to play games for two hours at a few dollars without having to go through the usual age verification checks. Such services “are a serious threat to the real-name gaming system and underage protection mechanism,” Tencent said, calling for an end to these practices.

Educational games

China has mainly been targeting games that are addiction-inducing or deemed “physically and mentally harmful” to minors. But what about games that are “good” for kids?

When Tencent and Roblox set up a joint venture in China in 2019, the speculation was that the creator-focused gaming platform would give Tencent a leg up in making educational games to inspire creativity or something that would help it align better with Beijing’s call for using tech to do more social good. As we wrote earlier:

Roblox’s marketing focus on encouraging “creativity” could sit well with Beijing’s call for tech companies to “do good,” an order Tencent has answered. Roblox’s Chinese website suggests it’s touting part of its business as a learning and STEM tool and shows it’s seeking collaborations with local schools and educators.

If Roblox can inspire young Chinese to design globally popular games, the Chinese authorities may start regarding it as a conduit for exporting Chinese culture and soft power. The gaming industry is well aware that aligning with Beijing’s interests is necessary for gaining support from the top. Indeed, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an organ for non-political spheres like the business community to “put forward proposals on major political and social issues,” said in June that video games are “an effective channel for China’s cultural exports.”

The case of Roblox will be interesting to watch for reading Beijing’s evolving attitude toward games for educational and export purposes.

Didi challengers

Didi has had many rivals over the years, but none has managed to threaten its dominance in China’s ride-hailing industry. But recently, some of its rivals are seeing a new opportunity after regulators banned new downloads of Didi’s app, citing cybersecurity concerns. Cao Cao Mobility appears to be one.

Cao Cao, a premium ride-hailing service under Chinese automaker Geely, announced this week a $589 million Series B raise. The round should give Cao Cao ammunition for subsidizing drivers and passengers. But amid the government’s spade of anti-competition crackdowns, internet platforms these days are probably less aggressive than Didi in its capital-infused growth phase around 2015.

The app ban seems to have had a limited effect on Didi so far. The app even saw a 13% increase in orders in July, according to the Ministry of Transport. While people who get new phones will not be able to download Didi, they still are able to access its mini app run on WeChat, which is ubiquitous in China and has a sprawling ecosystem of third-party apps. It’s unclear how many active users Didi has lost, but its rivals will no doubt have to shell out great incentives to lure the giant’s drivers and customers away.

DTC fast fashion

Venture capitalists are pouring money into China’s direct-to-consumer brands in the hope that the country’s supply chain advantage coupled with its pool of savvy marketers will win over Western consumers. July saw PatPat, a baby clothing brand, raise a sizable $510 million raise. This month, news came that up-and-coming DTC brand Cider, which makes Gen Z fast fashion in China and sells them in the U.S., has secured a $130 million Series B round at a valuation of over $1 billion. The news was first reported by Chinese tech news site 36Kr and we’ve independently confirmed it. 

DST Global led Cider’s new round, with participation also from the startup’s existing A16Z, an existing investor and Greenoaks Capital. Investors are clearly encouraged by Shein’s momentum around the world — its new download volume has surpassed that of Amazon in dozens of countries and is often compared side by side with industry behemoth Zara. Unlike a pure internet firm, export-oriented e-commerce has a notoriously long and complex value chain, from design, production, marketing and shipment to after-sales service. Shein’s story might have inspired many followers, but it won’t be easily replicated.

#amazon, #beijing, #china, #didi, #dst-global, #geely, #greenoaks-capital, #roblox, #shein, #tc, #tencent, #wechat

Investors are doubling down on Southeast Asia’s digital economy

Southeast Asian tech companies are drawing the attention of investors around the world. In 2020, startups in the region raised over $8.2 billion, about four times more than they did in 2015. This trend continued in 2021, with regional M&A hitting a record high of $124.8 billion in the first half of 2021, up 83% from a year earlier.

This begs the question: Who exactly is investing in Southeast Asia?

Let’s explore the three key types of investors pouring money into and driving the growth of Southeast Asia’s tech ecosystem.

Over 229 family offices have been registered in Singapore since 2020, with total assets under management of an estimated $20 billion.

Big tech

Southeast Asia has become an attractive market for U.S. and Chinese tech firms. Internet penetration here stands at 70%, higher than the global average, and digital adoption in the region remains nascent — it wasn’t until the pandemic that adoption of digital services such as e-wallets and online shopping took off.

China’s tech giants Tencent and Alibaba were among the first to support early e-commerce growth in Southeast Asia with investments in Sea Limited and Lazada, and have since expanded their footprint into other internet verticals. Alibaba has backed Akulaku, M-Pay (eMonkey), DANA, Wave Money and Mynt (GCash), while Tencent has invested in Voyager Innovations (PayMaya), SHAREit, iflix, Ookbee and Sanook.

U.S. tech firms have also recently entered the scene. In June 2020, Gojek closed a $3 billion Series F round from Google, Facebook, Tencent and Visa. Google, together with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, invested some $350 million in Tokopedia in October. Meanwhile, Microsoft invested an undisclosed amount in Grab in 2018 and has invested $100 million in Indonesian e-commerce firm Bukalapak.

Venture capitalists

In Q1 2021, Southeast Asian startups raised $6 billion, according to DealStreetAsia, positioning 2021 as another record year for VC investment in the region.

The region is also rising in prominence as a destination for investment capital relative to the rest of Asia. Regional VC investment grew 5.2 times to $8.2 billion in 2020 from $1.6 billion in 2015, as we can see in the table below.

Venture capital investment by region 2015-2020

Image Credits: Jungle VC

Southeast Asia also has many opportunities for VC investment relative to its market size. From 2015 to 2020, China saw VC investment of nearly $300 per person; for Southeast Asia — despite a recent investment boom — this metric sits at just $47.50 per person, or just a sixth of that in China. This implies a substantial opportunity for investments to develop the region’s digital economy.

The region’s rising population and growth prospects are higher due to China’s population growth challenges, alongside the latter’s higher digital economy market saturation and maturity.

#alibaba, #asia, #asia-pacific, #bridgewater-associates, #china, #column, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-southeast-asia-oceania, #facebook, #ggv-capital, #google, #internet-penetration, #james-dyson, #joseph-phua, #lazada, #lazada-group, #microsoft, #online-shopping, #paul-allen, #private-equity, #ray-dalio, #sergey-brin, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #temasek-holdings, #tencent, #tokopedia, #united-states, #venture-capital

China roundup: Beijing wants tech giants to shoulder more social responsibilities

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

This week, the gaming industry again became a target of Beijing, which imposed arguably the world’s strictest limits on underage players. On the other hand, China’s tech titans are hastily answering Beijing’s call for them to take on more social responsibilities and take a break from unfettered expansion.

Gaming curfew

China dropped a bombshell on the country’s young gamers. As of September 1, users under the age of 18 are limited to only one hour of online gaming time: on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 8-9 p.m.

The stringent rule adds to already tightening gaming policies for minors, as the government blames video games for causing myopia, as well as deteriorating mental and physical health. Remember China recently announced a suite of restrictions on after-school tutoring? The joke going around is that working parents will have an even harder time keeping their kids occupied.

A few aspects of the new regulation are worth unpacking. For one, the new rule was instituted by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), the regulatory body that approves gaming titles in China and that in 2019 froze the approval process for nine months, which led to plunges in gaming stocks like Tencent.

It’s curious that the directive on playtime came from the NPPA, which reviews gaming content and issues publishing licenses. Like other industries in China, video games are subject to regulations by multiple authorities: NPPA; the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet watchdog; and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which oversees the country’s industrial standards and telecommunications infrastructure.

As analysts long observe, the mighty CAC, which sits under the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission chaired by President Xi Jinping, has run into “bureaucratic struggles” with other ministries unwilling to relinquish power. This may well be the case for regulating the lucrative gaming industry.

For Tencent and other major gaming companies, the impact of the new rule on their balance sheet may be trifling. Following the news, several listed Chinese gaming firms, including NetEase and 37 Games, hurried to announce that underage players made up less than 1% of their gaming revenues.

Tencent saw the change coming and disclosed in its Q2 earnings that “under-16-year-olds accounted for only 2.6% of its China-based grossing receipts for games and under-12-year-olds accounted for just 0.3%.”

These numbers may not reflect the reality, as minors have long found ways around gaming restrictions, such as using an adult’s ID for user registration (just as the previous generation borrowed IDs from adult friends to sneak into internet cafes). Tencent and other gaming firms have vowed to clamp down on these workarounds, forcing kids to seek even more sophisticated tricks, including using VPNs to access foreign versions of gaming titles. The cat and mouse game continues. 

Prosper together

While China curtails the power of its tech behemoths, it has also pressured them to take on more social responsibilities, which include respecting the worker’s rights in the gig economy.

Last week, the Supreme People’s Court of China declared the “996” schedule, working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, illegal. The declaration followed years of worker resistance against the tech industry’s burnout culture, which has manifested in actions like a GitHub project listing companies practicing “996.”

Meanwhile, hardworking and compliant employees have often been cited as a competitive advantage of China’s tech industry. It’s in part why some Silicon Valley companies, especially those run by people familiar with China, often set up branches in the country to tap its pool of tech talent.

The days when overworking is glorified and tolerated seem to be drawing to an end. Both ByteDance and its short video rival Kuaishou recently scrapped their weekend overtime policies.

Similarly, Meituan announced that it will introduce compulsory break time for its food delivery riders. The on-demand services giant has been slammed for “inhumane” algorithms that force riders into brutal hours or dangerous driving.

In groundbreaking moves, ride-hailing giant Didi and Alibaba’s e-commerce rival JD.com have set up unions for their staff, though it’s still unclear what tangible impact the organizations will have on safeguarding employee rights.

Tencent and Alibaba have also acted. On August 17, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech calling for “common prosperity,” which caught widespread attention from the country’s ultra-rich.

“As China marches towards its second centenary goal, the focus of promoting people’s well-being should be put on boosting common prosperity to strengthen the foundation for the Party’s long-term governance.”

This week, both Tencent and Alibaba pledged to invest 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) in support of “common prosperity.” The purposes of their funds are similar and align neatly with Beijing’s national development goals, from growing the rural economy to improving the healthcare system.

#alibaba, #asia, #beijing, #bytedance, #china, #china-roundup, #didi, #gaming, #github, #government, #jd-com, #kuaishou, #ministry-of-industry-and-information-technology, #netease, #tc, #tencent, #xi-jinping

China restricts kids’ online gaming to three hours a week

China’s National Press and Publication Administration has released a notice imposing limits on online gaming for minors. On September 1st, video game companies will have to restrict gaming time to three hours a week — from 8 PM to 9 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

With this new set of restrictions, Chinese authorities want to tackle addition to online games. According to the National Press and Publication Administration, online gaming has an impact on both the physical and mental health of minors.

In order to implement those time limits, game companies will have to leverage a real name-based registration system. In 2018, Tencent started using this system to limit playtime on Honor of Kings, a widely popular mobile game.

Back then, limits weren’t as strict though as children up to aged 12 could play one hour per day, and up to two hours per day for children between 13 and 18. At the time, authorities were concerned about worsening myopia among minors.

During the signup flow, users have to go through an ID verification system, which means that you can only have one account associated with your real name. Regulators will regularly check whether gaming companies comply with local regulation.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the new rules affect video games as a whole. Online gaming is mentioned specifically, which could mean that solo games won’t be restricted going forward. Similarly, it’s unclear whether console games and foreign games will have to implement the new real name-based registration system.

Some young gamers will also be tempted to circumvent the restrictions by signing up on a foreign server. It’s also worth noting that adult players will still be able to play 24/7.

Following the news, Tencent has issued a statement. “Tencent expressed its strong support and will make every effort to implement the relevant requirements of the Notice as soon as possible,” the company says.

As Bloomberg noticed, NetEase shares are currently down 8% compared to yesterday’s closing price. NetEase is another popular Chinese game development company and its activities aren’t as diversified as Tencent’s activities.

#asia, #china, #chinese-policy, #gaming, #netease, #online-gaming, #policy, #tencent

China proposes strict control of algorithms

China is not done with curbing the influence local internet services have assumed in the world’s largest populous market. Following a widening series of regulatory crackdowns in recent months, the nation on Friday issued draft guidelines on regulating the algorithms firms run to make recommendations to users.

In a 30-point draft guidelines published on Friday, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) proposed forbidding companies from deploying algorithms that “encourage addiction or high consumption” and endanger national security or disrupt the public order.

The services must abide by business ethics and principles of fairness and their algorithms must not be used to create fake user accounts or create other false impressions, said the guidelines from the internet watchdog, which reports to a central leadership group chaired by President Xi Jinping. The watchdog said it will be taking public feedback on the new guidelines for a month (until September 26).

The guidelines also propose that users should be provided with the ability to easily turn off algorithm recommendations. Algorithm providers who have the power to influence public opinion or mobilize the citizens need to get an approval from the CAC.

Friday’s proposal comes at a time when Beijing is increasingly targeting companies for the way they have handled consumer data and the monopolistic positions they have assumed in the nation.

Earlier this year, Beijing-backed China Consumers Association said local internet companies had been “bullying” users into purchases and promotions and undermining their privacy rights.

Beijing’s recent data-security crackdown and tightening regulations around tutor services have spooked investors and wiped hundreds of billions of dollars.

Friday’s guidelines appear to target ByteDance, Alibaba Group, Tencent, and Didi and other companies whose services are built on top of proprietary algorithms. Shares of Alibaba and Tencent fell slightly on the news.

In recent years, several governments including those in the U.S. and India have attempted — to little to no success — to get better clarity on how these big tech companies’ algorithms work and put checks in place to prevent misuse.

#alibaba, #asia, #bytedance, #china, #didi, #government, #tencent

Brazilian fintech Cora raises $116M Series B as Tiger Global, Tencent sign on as investors alongside Greenoaks

Cora, a Brazilian digital lender to small-and-medium-sized businesses, has raised $116 million in a Series B round led by Greenoaks Capital.

This is a large Series B by any standards, but particularly so for a Latin American startup. It’s also notable that São Paulo-based Cora only raised its $26.7 million Series A round — led by Silicon Valley VC firm Ribbit Capital — in early April. The startup has now raised a total of $152.7 million since its 2019 inception.

The company wasn’t actively in the market, according to CEO and co-founder Igor Senra, but was approached by existing backer Greenoaks and other investors.

In fact, Tiger Global and Tencent are first-time backers in Cora with this latest round, joining existing investors Greenoaks, Kaszek, QED and Ribbit Capital.

“Greenoaks came to us and said they were very impressed, and ready to lead our Series B,” Senra said. “Their main goal was they didn’t want us to spend time on fundraising, but instead stay focused on building the company.”

The pattern is similar to previous ones for Cora, which saw existing backers lead its previous rounds as well, which the company sees as a “strong signal that everything is going in the right direction.” The company declined to comment on valuation.

Last year, Cora got its license approved from the Central Bank of Brazil, making it a 403 bank. The fintech then launched its product in October 2020 and today offers a checking account combined with a software layer that aims to help SMBs manage their financials. It is currently in beta with a limited group of users for a corporate credit card. 

Image Credits: Cora

“Credit limits in general increase as customers use their accounts to receive money and pay their expenses,” he said. “We see this product evolving over time to solve all the financial needs that a small business owner could have.”

Since its launch last October, Cora has been growing its customers 40% per month, according to Senra. During that same period, the company has seen its transaction value/revenue grow by nearly 60% monthly. Today, the startup has more than 120,000 customers.

“It’s nice to see that volume is growing even higher than our customer base,” Senra told TechCrunch. “Our business must gain trust in order to gain volume. Once our customer base believes we are doing a good job serving them, the way to demonstrate that is to give us more volume.”

The company says it is not yet profitable because it’s focused on growth.

“But we already have a positive unit economics per customer,” Senra added.

Like a number of other fintechs, Cora’s model is that most of its offerings are free for its customers but it mostly makes money off of interchange fees.

For now, the company is focused on growing in Brazil, which is large and complex enough, Senra noted. It may consider going abroad in three to four years, he said.

Currently, Cora has 150 employees, up from 68 at the end of last year and 40 a year ago. About 130 of its employees are “partners” in the company, Senra said.

Looking ahead, the startup plans to use its new capital toward product development, growth, operations and building out a credit offering. It is using the data it is generating “to provide way better credit” for its customers, Senra said, starting with credit cards, then receivables and other kinds of credit such as emergency credit or credit for investments.

 “We’re trying to deeply understand our customers’ needs and trying to create products they love,” Senra told TechCrunch. “We consider ourselves the opposite of traditional banks, which are usually not good at taking care of their customers.”

For now, Cora is focused on the B2B service providers, but Senra expects that by the beginning of next year, it can start exploring “other segments” such as other kinds of SMBs.

“There is a total addressable market of 5 million companies, so there is a lot of room to grow,” he added. “But we are pushing ourselves to expand other verticals.”

For its part, Patrick Backhouse of Greenoaks Capital believes that Brazil has an “enormous” SME economy that has historically been “underserved by incumbent banks.”

“Existing services are expensive and inefficient, creating opportunities for technology enabled service providers to offer better and cheaper services,” he said. “We believe Cora is a once in a generation company building efficient digital finance tools for small businesses. Since investing in the company’s Series A, we’ve seen accelerated momentum and proof that this is an enormous addressable market.”

#brazil, #cora, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenoaks-capital, #igor-senra, #latin-america, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #tencent, #tiger-global, #venture-capital

India’s KhataBook raises $100 million for its bookkeeping platform for merchants

Khatabook, a startup that is helping merchants in India digitize their bookkeeping and accept online payments, said on Tuesday it has raised $100 million in a new financing round as it prepares to launch financial services.

The startup’s new financing round — a Series C — was led by Tribe Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures and valued the two-and-a-half-year-old Bangalore-headquartered startup at “close to $600 million,” its co-founder and chief executive Ravish Naresh told TechCrunch in an interview.

As part of the new round — which was oversubscribed and also saw participation of Balaji Srinivasan and Alkeon Capital as well as many other existing investors including Sriram Krishnan, B Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, Tencent, RTP Ventures, Unilever Ventures, and Better Capital — KhataBook said it is also buying back shares worth $10 million to reward its current and former employees and early investors. The startup said it is also expanding its stock options pool for employees to $50 million

Even as hundreds of millions of Indians came online in the past decade, most merchants in the South Asian nation are still offline. These merchants, who run neighborhood stores, rely on traditional ways for bookkeeping — maintaining ledgers on paper — that are both time-consuming and prone to errors.

KhataBook is attempting to change that by providing these merchants with a suite of products to digitize their bookkeeping and manage their expenses and staff. The startup said it has a user in nearly every zip code in India.

“At Tribe, we believe strongly in the power of the network effect and how it can create moats for businesses. Khatabook has successfully built such a network by empowering this seismic shift among MSME businesses to move from paper to digital, literally. Despite its large early success and fast adoption to date, the company is early in its path to power the segment. We’re thrilled to be a part of its growth as it leverages its network to build additional scale,” said Arjun Sethi, co-founder and partner at Tribe Capital, in a statement.

KhataBook has expanded its product offerings in recent years to try to solve a lot of other challenges merchants face. Later this year, Naresh said, the startup will provide lending to merchants. “We are currently testing the product with both retailers and distributors,” he said.

Online lending has boomed in India in recent years, but very few companies are today attempting to cater to small- and medium-sized businesses. “The unaddressed SME credit demand in India is ~US$300-$350 billion, with more than 90% of current demand being met by banks. A typical digital SME lender focusses on Rs1-5 million ($13,575 to $67,875) ticket size with no collateral, average tenure ~12-18 months, and with some ecosystem anchor,” analysts at Bank of America wrote in a report last year.

As with scores of other firms, the pandemic was not good news for KhataBook, which lost a significant portion of the business last year after Indian states enforced lockdown to restrict mobility. But the startup has since bounced back. The month of July, said Naresh, was its all-time high. “MSMEs have come back very strongly and businesses were not as impacted by the second wave this year as they were by last year’s,” he said.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#asia, #b-capital-group, #balaji-srinivasan, #better-capital, #funding, #india, #khatabook, #moore-strategic-ventures, #rtp-ventures, #sequoia-capital, #sriram-krishnan, #tc, #tencent, #tribe-capital, #unilever-ventures

Equity Monday: Stocks up, cryptos up, regulation up

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here. I also tweet.

Today’s show was good fun to put together. Here’s what we got to:

Woo! And that’s the start to the week. Hugs from here, and we’ll chat you on Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#bytedance, #china, #equity, #equity-monday, #fundings-exits, #india, #shelf-io, #spac, #space, #startups, #tc, #tencent, #virgin, #zetwerk

Tencent in talks to lead funding in India’s Pocket FM

Tencent is in advanced stages of talks to lead an investment round in Gurgaon-headquartered Pocket FM, the latest in the Chinese giant’s push to broaden its consumer internet portfolio in the Indian market.

The Chinese firm, which is already an investor in Pocket FM, is in talks to lead a ~20-25 million round in Pocket FM, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The proposed term values the three-year-old startup between $75 million to $100 million, two people said. Existing investors Times Internet’s Brand Capital and Lightspeed are also participating in the round.

The round hasn’t closed, so the terms may change. Tencent and Pocket FM declined to comment.

Pocket FM operates an eponymous app that offers users podcasts and audiobooks in English and several Indian languages. On its website, the service says its catalog is over 10,000 hours. The startup works with several creators to produce audiobooks.

The app is available in a freemium model. It has a paid subscription as well as an ad-supported free version.

The investment talks come at a time when a range of Indian startups are beginning to launch in — or expand to — audio category. Indian social network ShareChat, for instance, launched a Clubhouse-like feature earlier this year.

Pocket FM will be Tencent’s latest bet in India’s consumer internet space. The Chinese giant is also a major investor in music streaming service Gaana and on-demand video streaming player MX Player.

Tencent slowed its the pace of investments in India last year after New Delhi amended a rule to require Chinese companies to take its approval before backing Indian firms. It has become more active in recent quarters, investing through debt instead of equity with a convertible note.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #gaana, #india, #lightspeed, #mx-player, #social, #tencent, #times-internet

São Paulo’s QuintoAndar real estate platform raises $120M, now valued at $5.1B

Less than three months after announcing a $300 million Series E, Brazilian proptech QuintoAndar has raised an additional $120 million.

New investors Greenoaks Capital and China’s Tencent co-led the round, which included participation from some existing backers as well. São Paulo-based QuintoAndar is now valued at $5.1 billion, up from $4 billion at the time of its last raise in late May. With the extension, the startup has now raised more than $700 million since its 2013 inception. Ribbit Capital led the first tranche of its Series E.

QuintoAndar describes itself as an “end-to-end solution for long-term rentals” that, among other things, connects potential tenants to landlords and vice versa. Last year, it also expanded into connecting home buyers to sellers. Its long-term plan is to ​​evolve into a one-stop real estate shop that also offers mortgage, title insurance and escrow services.

To that end, earlier this month, the startup acquired Atta Franchising, a 7-year-old São Paulo-based independent real estate mortgage broker. Specifically, acquiring Atta is designed speed up its ability to offer mortgage services to its users. QuintoAndar also plans to explore the possibility of offering a product to perform standalone transactions outside of its marketplace in partnership with other brokers, according to CEO and co-founder Gabriel Braga.

This year, QuintoAndar expanded operations into 14 new cities in Brazil. Eventually, QuintoAndar plans to enter the Mexican market as its first expansion outside of its home country but it has not yet set a date for that step. Today, the company has more than 120,000 rentals under management and about 10,000 new rentals per month. Its rental platform is live in 40 cities across Brazil, while its home-buying marketplace is live in four (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre) and seeing more than 10,000 sales in annualized terms.

QuintoAndar, he said, is open to acquiring more companies that it believes can either help it accelerate in a particular way or add something it had not yet thought about.

“We’re receptive to the idea but our core strategy is to focus on organic growth and our own innovation and accelerate that,” Braga said.

Why raise more money so soon?

The Series E was oversubscribed with investors who got in and “some who could not join,” according to Braga.

Greenoaks and Tencent, he said, couldn’t participate because of “timing issues.”

“We kept talking and they came back to us after the round, and wanted to be involved so we found a way to have them on board,” Braga said. “We did not need the money. But we have been constantly overachieving on the forecast that we shared with our investors. And that’s part of the reason why we had this extension.”

Greenoaks’ long-term time horizon was appealing because the firm’s investment was designed to be “perpetual capital with no predefined timeframe,” Braga said.

“We’re doing our best to build an enduring company that will be around for many, many years, so it’s good to have investors who share that vision and are technically aligned,” he added.

Greenoaks Partner Neil Shah said his firm believes that what QuintoAndar is building will “fundamentally reshape real estate transactions, enhancing transparency, expanding options for Brazilians seeking housing, dramatically simplifying the experience for landlords and driving increased investment into real estate across the country.” He also believes there is big potential for the company to take its offering to other parts of Latin America.

“We look forward to being partners for decades to come,” he added. 

Tencent’s experience in China is something QuintoAndar also finds valuable.

“We believe we can learn a lot from them and other Chinese companies doing interesting stuff there,” Braga said.

QuintoAndar isn’t the only Brazilian prop tech firm raising big money: In March, São Paulo digital real estate platform Loft announced it had closed on $425 million in Series D funding led by New York-based D1 Capital Partners. Then, about one month later, it revealed a $100 million extension that valued the company at $2.9 billion.

 

#brazil, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gabriel-braga, #greenoaks-capital, #latin-america, #neil-shah, #proptech, #quintoandar, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startups, #tencent, #venture-capital

Equity Monday: Hacks, IPOs, and the next generation of American tech giants

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here. I also tweet.

It’s a surreal day to talk about technology, but here we are. If you can pull your eyes away from the greater geopolitical tragedy that is our world today, here’s what we talked about:

  • T Mobile may have suffered a material breach. If this bears out, it could be a leading tech story for the week. Vice has confirmed that at least some of the data in the leak appears genuine.
  • Indian travel service ixigo is going public. The company’s IPO follows Zomato’s own domestic debut.
  • And speaking of IPOs, the Tencent Music offering in Hong Kong could be on hold until next year.
  • And a trio of American tech companies raised a raft of capital as last week concluded. Carta put together $500 million in a huge deal, as Chime raised $750 million. And as the week closed, Discord was reported to be hunting up a new round at a $15 billion price tag.

And stocks are set to open lower this morning. That’s the morning report. Equity is back on Wednesday.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#carta, #chime, #china, #data-breach, #discord, #equity, #equity-monday, #fundings-exits, #india, #ixigo, #startups, #t-mobile, #tc, #telecomm, #tencent, #zomato

China roundup: Alibaba’s sexual assault scandal and more delayed IPOs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

A sexual assault case at Alibaba has sparked a new round of #MeToo reckoning in China. Industry observers believe this is a watershed moment for the fight against China’s allegedly misogynist tech industry. Meanwhile, social media operators are still undecided on how to deal with the unprecedented public uproar against the powerful internet giant.

In other news, more Chinese tech companies have delayed plans to go public overseas after Didi’s fallout with Chinese regulators over its rushed IPO, including Tencent’s music streaming empire and one of China’s highest-valued autonomous driving startups.

Call for justice

Just past midnight last Sunday, an Alibaba employee posted on the company’s internal forum a detailed account saying her manager and a client had sexually assaulted her on a business trip. She took the case public after failing to obtain support from her superiors and human resources.

The post quickly made its rounds through China’s social media platforms. People stayed up blasting Alibaba’s ignorance, toxic business drinking, and the pervasive objectification of women in the Chinese “tech industry,” which has grown so far-reaching that it’s just the contemporary corporate world.

A day later, on August 9, Alibaba swiftly fired the alleged perpetrator. Two managers resigned and the firm’s head of HR was given a “disciplinary warning.” Alibaba’s CEO Daniel Zhang said he felt “shocked, angry and ashamed” about the incident and called on the company to work with the police to investigate the case.

This is arguably the most high-profile #MeToo case embroiling a major Chinese tech company by far and one that seems to have beckoned the toughest response from the company involved. Alibaba is formulating company policies to prevent sexual assaults, which surprises many that the global tech behemoth didn’t already have those in place.

The case managed to garner widespread public attention in China thanks to social media. Within the first few hours, it seemed as though discussion around the incident was propagating organically and uncensored on microblogging platform Weibo, in which Alibaba owns a majority stake.

But people soon noticed that despite the severity of the event, it took days before the case climbed to the top of Weibo’s trending chart, a bellwether for the most talked about topic on the Chinese internet. The perceived delay recalls Weibo’s censorship of an extramarital affair involving Alibaba executive Jiang Fan last year.

Talang Qingnian, roughly “Surfing Youth,” a social media column under state paper People’s Daily, blasted in an article:

The slow buildup of discussion again raised suspicion over whether Alibaba has manipulated public discourse.

Ever since the Jiang Fan case, the country’s attitude has been very clear that capital must not control the media.

As the basic infrastructure for truthful news in China, Weibo should not be a tool for any stakeholder to manipulate public opinion.

The article fanned up more public outrage but was soon taken down, likely because its wording was too strong. The Chinese state media apparatus is vast and only a few outlets, such as Xinhua, consistently convey top-level leaders’ official opinions. It’s not uncommon to see the less authoritative state-affiliated publications back down on reports that have cause backlashes. Last week, an article from a state-affiliated economic paper removed a piece calling video games “spiritual opium,” a loaded description that had earlier tanked the stocks of Tencent and NetEase, and republished the article with a softer tone.

Smaller war chests

Regulatory uncertainties have always been flagged as a risk by Chinese companies seeking overseas listings, but it was largely up to foreign investors to decide whether they were worthwhile investments. China’s recent regulatory onslaught on its tech darlings, however, has become a real deterrent for Chinese firms’ IPO dream.

This week, reports arrived that NetEase Music, a popular music streaming service, and Pony.ai, an autonomous vehicle startup last valued at $5.3 billion, have respectively postponed their plans to list in Hong Kong and New York.

Beijing has become warier of its data-rich companies getting scrutinized by U.S. regulators. Last month, the U.S. securities regulator said Chinese companies that want to raise capital in the U.S. must provide information about their legal structure and disclose the risk of Beijing’s interference in their business.

Many Chinese tech firms have learned from Didi’s fallout with the government, which had reportedly told the ride-sharing company to hold off on its listing until it sorted out a data protection framework. Didi went ahead regardless, triggering a government probe into its data practice and tanking its shares, which now stand at $8 apiece compared to $16 around its debut in early July.

Beijing’s crackdown has affected every major player in China’s consumer tech sector, wiping as much as $87 billion off the net worth of the country’s tech billionaires, including Pony Ma of Tencent and Colin Huang of Pinduoduo, according to Financial Times. The government wants “hard tech” like semiconductors and clean energy, so it has made it clear to future entrepreneurs where they should allocate their energy. The new generation of startups is listening now.

#alibaba, #alibaba-group, #asia, #beijing, #china, #daniel-zhang, #netease, #sexual-assault, #sina-weibo, #tc, #tencent, #weibo

Equity Monday: Apple’s privacy flap continues as crypto regulation looms

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and me here.

It’s going to be a busy week, with a Samsung event and a host of earnings reports that we’ll have to pay attention to. But more important there are a few stories still dominating the news cycle:

All that and we also riffed on the Siemens-Sqills deal, Cornerstone OnDemand going private, and Delivery Hero buying a piece of Deliveroo.

And, for added flavor and fun, Canopy Servicing just raised a $15 million Series A, while Siga OT Solutions raised a $8.1 million Series B.

All that, and we got to talk stocks! Hugs and love from the Equity crew — chat Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#apple, #bitcoin, #canopy-servicing, #china, #congress, #cornerstone-ondemand, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #deliveroo, #delivery-hero, #equity, #equity-monday, #fundings-exits, #iphone, #siemens-sqill, #siga-ot-solutions, #startups, #tencent

China roundup: Games are opium, algorithms need scrutiny

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

The question for the tech news cycle in China these days has become: Who is Beijing’s next target? Regulatory clampdowns are common in China’s tech industry but the breadth of the recent moves has been unprecedented. No major tech giant is exempted and everyone is being attacked from a slightly different angle, but Beijing’s message is clear: Tech businesses are to align themselves with the interests and objectives of Beijing.

Education curbs hit tech giants

The government’s motivation isn’t always ideological. It could lead to policies that rein in the unruly private tutoring sector in the hope of easing pressure on students and parents. Recent orders from Beijing have strictly limited after-school tutoring, though they also sparked a wave of sympathy for public school teachers who work at lucrative tutoring centers to compensate for their meager salaries.

The effects of the education crackdown are also trickling down to internet companies. For the past few years, ByteDance had been aggressively building an online education business through a hiring and acquisition spree in part to diversify an ad-based video business. Its plan seems to be in shambles as it reportedly plans to lay off staff in its education department following recent the clampdown.

The restraints are also hitting American companies. Duolingo, the language learning app, was removed from several app stores in China. While it’s not immediately clear whether the action was the result of any policy change, the government recently, along with its restraints on extra-curriculum, barred foreign curricula in schools from K-9.

Games are opium

It could be tricky to read the top leaders’ minds because their messages could come through various government departments or state-affiliated media outlets, carrying different weights.

This week, Tencent is in the authorities’ crosshairs. About $60 billion of its market cap was wiped after the Economic Information Daily, an economic paper supervised by China’s major state news agency Xinhua, published an article (which was taken down shortly) describing video games as “spiritual opium” and cited the major role Tencent plays in the industry. Shares of Tencent’s smaller rival NetEase were also battered.

This certainly isn’t the first time Tencent and the gaming industry overall were slammed by the government for their impact on underage players. Tencent has been working to appease the authorities by introducing protections for young players, for instance, by tightening age checks several times.

Tencent, which has a sprawling online empire of social networks, payments and music on top of games, has also promised to “do [more social] good” through its products. And following the recent op-ed from the state paper, Tencent further restricted the amount of time and money children can spend inside games. But after all, the company still depends largely on addictive game mechanics that lure players to open loot boxes.

Tencent share prices over the past six months. Image Credits: Google Finance

Fix the algorithms

The other camp of tech companies feeling the heat is those dependent on machine learning algorithms to distribute content. The Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party, the country’s watchdog of public expressions, along with several other government organs, issued an advisory to “strengthen the study and guidance of online algorithms and carry out oversight over algorithmic recommendations.”

The government’s goal is to assert more control over how algorithmic black boxes affect what information people receive. Shares of Kuaishou, TikTok’s archrival in China, tanked on the news. Since its blockbuster initial public offering in February, Kuaishou’s stock price has tumbled as much as 70%. Meanwhile, the Beijing-based short video firm is shuttering one of its overseas apps called Zynn, which has caused controversy over plagiarism. But its overseas user base is also rapidly growing, crystalizing in one billion monthly users worldwide recently.

End of “two-choose-one”

The week hasn’t ended. On Friday morning, The Wall Street Journal reported that the country’s antitrust regulator is preparing to fine Meituan, China’s major food delivery platform, $1 billion for allegedly abusing its market dominance. In 2020, Meituan earned 114.8 billion yuan or $17.7 billion in revenue.

Until recently, forcing suppliers to pick sides had been a common practice in China’s e-commerce world. Alibaba did so by forbidding sellers to list on rivaling platforms, a practice that resulted in a $2.75 billion antitrust penalty in April. We will see where the government will act next as it continues to curb the power of its tech darlings.

#alibaba, #asia, #beijing, #china, #china-roundup, #chinese-communist-party, #department-of-education, #duolingo, #gaming, #government, #kuaishou, #netease, #online-education, #tc, #tencent

China roundup: Keep down internet upstarts, cultivate hard tech

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

The tech industry in China has had quite a turbulent week. The government is upending its $100 billion private education sector, wiping billions from the market cap of the industry’s most lucrative players. Meanwhile, the assault on Chinese internet giants continued. Tech stocks tumbled after Tencent suspended user registration, sparking fears over who will be the next target of Beijing’s wrath.

Incisive observers point out that the new wave of stringent regulations against China’s internet and education firms has long been on Beijing’s agenda and there’s nothing surprising. Indeed, the central government has been unabashed about its desires to boost manufacturing and contain the unchecked powers of its service industry, which can include everything from internet platforms, film studios to after-school centers.

A few weeks ago I had an informative conversation with a Chinese venture capitalist who has been investing in industrial robots for over a decade, so I’m including it in this issue as it provides useful context for what’s going on in the consumer tech industry this week.

Automate the factories

China is putting robots into factories at an aggressive pace. Huang He, a partner at Northern Light Venture Capital, sees three forces spurring the demand for industrial robots — particularly ones that are made in China.

Over the years, Beijing has advocated for “localization” in a broad range of technology sectors, from enterprise software to production line automation. One may start to see Chinese robots that can rival those of Schneider and Panasonic a few years down the road. CRP, an NLVC-backed industrial robot maker, is already selling across Southeast Asia, Russia and East Europe.

On top of tech localization, it’s also well acknowledged that China is facing a severe demographic crisis. The labor shortage in its manufacturing sector is further compounded by the reluctance of young people to do menial factory work. Factory robots could offer a hand.

“Youngsters these days would rather become food delivery riders than work in a factory. The work that robots replace is the low-skilled type, and those that still can’t be taken up by robots pay well and come with great benefits,” Huang observed.

Large corporations in China still lean toward imported robots due to the products’ proven stability. The problem is that imported robots are not only expensive but also selective about their users.

“Companies need to have deep technical capabilities to be able to operate these [Western] robots, but such companies are rare in China,” said Huang, adding that the overwhelming majority of Chinese enterprises are small and medium size.

With the exceptions of the automotive and semiconductor industries, which still largely rely on sophisticated, imported robots, affordable, easy-to-use Chinese robots can already meet most of the local demand for industrial automation, Huang said.

China currently uses nearly one million six-axis robots a year but only manufactures 20% of them itself. The gap, coupled with a national plan for localization, has led to a frenzy of investments in industrial robotics startups.

The rush isn’t necessarily a good thing, said Huang. “There’s this bizarre phenomenon in China, where the most funded and valuable industrial robotic firms are generating less than 30 million yuan in annual revenue and not really heard of by real users in the industry.”

“This isn’t an industry where giants can be created by burning through cash. It’s not the internet sector.”

Small-and-medium-size businesses are happily welcoming robots onto factory floors. Take welding for example. An average welder costs about 150,000 yuan ($23,200) a year. A typical welding robot, which is sold for 120,000 yuan, can replace up to three workers a year and “doesn’t complain at work,” said the investor. A quality robot can work continuously for six to eight years, so the financial incentive to automate is obvious.

Advanced manufacturing is not just helping local bosses. It will eventually increase foreign enterprises’ dependence on China for its efficiency, making it hard to cut off Chinese supply chains despite efforts to avoid the geopolitical risks of manufacturing in China.

“In electronics, for example, most of the supply chains are in China, so factories outside China end up spending more on logistics to move parts around. Much of the 3C manufacturing is already highly automated, which relies heavily on electricity, but in most emerging economies, the power supply is still quite unstable, which disrupts production,” said Huang.

War on internet titans

The shock of antitrust regulations against Alibaba from last year is still reverberating, but another wave of scrutiny has already begun. Shortly after Didi’s blockbuster IPO in New York, the ride-hailing giant was asked to cease user registration and work on protecting user information critical to national security.

On Tuesday, Tencent stocks fell the most in a decade after it halted user signups on its WeChat messenger as it “upgrades” its security technology to align with relevant laws and regulations. The gaming and social media giant is just the latest in a growing list of companies hit by Beijing’s tightening grip on the internet sector, which had been flourishing for two decades under laissez-faire policies.

Underlying the clampdowns is Beijing’s growing unease with the service industry’s unscrutinized accumulation of wealth and power. China is unequivocally determined to advance its tech sector, but the types of tech that Beijing wants are not so much the video games that bring myopia to children and algorithms that get adults hooked to their screens. China makes it clear in its five-year plan, a series of social and economic initiatives, that it will go all-in on “hard tech” like semiconductors, renewable energy, agritech, biotech and industrial automation like factory robotics.

China has also vowed to fight inequality in education and wealth. In the authorities’ eyes, expensive, for-profit after-schools dotting big cities are hindering education attainment for children from poorer areas, which eventually exacerbates the wealth gap. The new regulatory measures have restricted the hours, content, profits and financing of private tutoring institutions, tanking stocks of the industry’s top companies. Again, there have been clear indications from President Xi Jinping’s writings to bring off-campus tutoring “back on the educational track.” All China-focused investors and analysts are now poring over Xi’s thoughts and directives.

#asia, #beijing, #china, #china-roundup, #enterprise-software, #government, #hardware, #industrial-robot, #made-in-china, #manufacturing, #northern-light-venture-capital, #robot, #semiconductor, #semiconductors, #southeast-asia, #tc, #tencent, #xi-jinping

Edtech’s venture-backed globalization pauses at China

U.S.-based edtech investors are increasingly going global, but recent regulatory crackdowns in China, which instructed local K-12 tutoring startups to go non-profit, have led to a chill among check-writers looking at the country.

When I first started reporting on edtech over a year ago, U.S.-based investors often cited China as validation of the opportunity for direct-to-consumer businesses in the K-12 world. The success of Chinese edtech was used to predict the surge of U.S.-based consumer edtech, which saw parent adoption surge during the pandemic.

On Saturday, however, the Chinese government rolled out legislation aimed at easing the financial burden of education services on families, at the cost of venture-backed startups. The reactions were mixed: One founder told me they doubled their personal stake in every publicly traded Chinese edtech startup, considering the present issues a blip in the timeline, but another told me that they were glad they sold their investments in China just last month.

And everyone seems to be looking to India as the next geographic testing ground.

‘We didn’t think we were smart enough’

Reuters reported last week that China is barring for-profit tutoring platforms on core school subjects. The country has also introduced time caps and tutoring curfews, and notably, forbade the platforms from raising capital through IPOs as well as advertising their programs. The news sent Chinese edtech stocks tumbling — NYSE-listed TAL Education’s shares, for instance, closed at $4.47 per share on Monday, down nearly 80% from $20.52 per share last Thursday before the news broke.

Owl Ventures, which has one of the largest edtech-focused funds at $585 million, has been actively investing globally over the past few years. Investor Ian Chiu said last October that he views K-12 tutoring in China as “the biggest market right now in education”.

#applyboard, #asia, #byjus, #china, #deborah-quazzo, #ec-east-asia, #ec-edtech, #ec-indian-subcontinent, #ec-news-analysis, #edtech, #education, #gsv-ventures, #ian-chiu, #india, #jan-lynn-matern, #jennifer-carolan, #learn-capital, #owl-ventures, #policy, #startups, #tc, #tencent, #tutoring, #venture-capital, #vipkid

Tencent’s WeChat suspends new user registration in China to comply with ‘relevant laws and regulations’

Tencent’s WeChat said on Tuesday it is temporarily suspending registration of new users in China as it works to comply with “relevant laws and regulations,” the latest Chinese firm to face regulatory scrutiny in the world’s largest internet market.

In a social media post, Tencent said it is “upgrading” its security technology to align with all relevant laws and regulations and while this process in underway “registration of new Weixin personal and official accounts has been temporarily suspended.”

“Registration services will be restored after the upgrade is complete, which is expected in early August,” the company, which has amassed over 1 billion monthly active users, said in a statement.

It’s not immediately clear which law WeChat is citing in its announcement but the move comes at a time amid a broad crackdown on tech firms by Chinese regulators. The crackdown has wiped hundreds of billions of dollars in market cap for Chinese firms and many high-profile global investors including SoftBank are impacted.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #china, #didi, #government, #social, #tencent, #wechat

China Roundup: What’s going on with China’s data security clampdown?

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

A tectonic shift is underway in how Beijing regulates and accesses the troves of citizen data collected by its tech giants. More details of China’s new cybersecurity rules have recently come to light as Didi, the SoftBank-backed ride-sharing dominator in China, became the target of the Chinese government’s latest effort to heighten data protection. This week, we look at what this changing landscape means to Chinese tech firms wooing investors in the United States.

Data sovereignty

The new wave of discussion around China’s cybersecurity rules started with the bombshell dropped on Didi. Just two days after its $4 billion IPO in New York, the ride-hailing giant was hit with a probe by China’s Cybersecurity Review Office on July 2. Two days later, the same government agency ordered the Didi app, which has amassed nearly 500 million annual users, to be yanked because it was “illegally collecting user data.”

The Cybersecurity Review Office is an agency within the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator. It has existed for a few years but its roles were only made clear in April 2020 when China put forward its rules on internet security reviews.

Didi appears to be the first target of the department’s enforcement actions. A memo of an “expert meeting” shared among Didi’s investors, which TechCrunch reviewed, said the ride-hailing firm had failed to assure Beijing its data practices were secure before going public in New York. A major concern was that Didi’s data, if unguarded by Chinese laws, could be subject to scrutiny by U.S. regulators. But a Didi executive claimed that the firm stored all its China data locally and it is “absolutely not possible” that it passed data to the U.S.

Before long, the Cybersecurity Review Office was onto other players that could similarly compromise the data security of Chinese users. On July 5, it put SoftBank-backed truck-sharing platform Full Truck Alliance and recruiting site Boss Zhipin — both of which recently IPO’ed in the U.S. — under the same review process as it did with Didi.

The probes were just the beginning. On July 10, the Cybersecurity Review Office unveiled the draft of a revised version of the data security review rules passed last year. One of the major changes is that any business commanding over one million users is subject to security checks if it is seeking an overseas IPO.

Just as the U.S. government frets over Chinese companies commanding Americans’ data, as in the case of TikTok, China is now making sure that its citizen data stays onshore and protected from U.S. authorities. Foreign players operating in China have to comply, too. Giants like Apple and Tesla have pledged and moved to store their Chinese user data within the country.

The new data rule is no doubt a stumbling block for Chinese companies that want to list abroad. TikTok owner ByteDance indefinitely put on hold its plans of a U.S. listing after Chinese officials told it to address data security risks, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. But how about incumbents like Alibaba that have traded their stocks on Wall Street for years? And do the revised rules apply to companies listing in Hong Kong, which is being increasingly integrated with mainland China?

Also in the news

  • Tencent and Alibaba may tear down their “walled gardens.” According to The Wall Street Journal, the archrivals are considering opening their services to each other. This means users may be able to pay via Alipay on the WeChat app, which currently excludes Alibaba-affiliated Alipay. China has recently been working to rein in its tech darlings and already slapped anticompetition penalties on a cohort of tech firms. Jack Ma’s fintech behemoth Ant Group has been put on the spot and forced to restructure into a financial holding company that would potentially curb its profitability and subject it to more regulatory oversight.
  • TikTok tops 3 billion downloads from the App Store and Google Play, according to Sensor Tower. This makes the hit video platform the only app not owned by Facebook to cross the milestone across the two app stores, said the research firm, and it’s only the fifth one after WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook and Instagram to achieve that. TikTok is also generating big bucks for ByteDance. Globally, it has made more than $2.5 billion in consumer spending since its launch.
  • Tencent ups its stake in food delivery giant Meituan to 17.2%The deal cost Tencent, a longtime patron of Meituan, $400 million. The proceeds will allow Meituan to invest further in “cutting edge tech” such as unmanned delivery cars and drones, an area where other tech firms have also made similar promises to automate parcel and food deliveries.
  • The smart vehicle craze continues. These days, hardly a week goes by without a major announcement by an autonomous driving or smart car company in China. The news last week came from Banma, which was set up by Alibaba and state-owned carmaker SAIC Motor to make internet-connected cars. It just raised $460 million from Alibaba and SAIC Motor, among others and claimed its technology now serves three million users. It raised its first round in 2018 with 1.6 billion yuan (around $250 million) and was already valued at over $1 billion at the time.

#alibaba, #alibaba-group, #alipay, #ant-group, #asia, #beijing, #bytedance, #china, #didi, #food-delivery, #jack-ma, #meituan, #saic-motor, #smart-car, #tc, #tencent, #the-wall-street-journal, #tiktok

Equity Monday: Cybersecurity startups see deluge of capital as Microsoft looks to buy RiskIQ

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It was a busy weekend for everyone, regardless of whether you were watching the technology, what Branson was up to, or the footie. I won’t take sides on the match, but I will say that it was gripping unto the very end and a great example of sport. Now, the news:

And don’t forget that earnings season is just around the corner. It’s a pretty important cycle. Why? Because startup valuations are hot, and could take a hit if earnings come up short. And the IPO market is pretty freaking active; poor earnings from major tech companies could crimp exit-prices for mature startups.

Ok! Talk to you on Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#bytedance, #china, #cybersecurity, #equity, #equity-monday, #flipkart, #fundings-exits, #india, #microsoft, #richard-branson, #riskiq, #startups, #tencent, #twitter, #virgin-galactic, #walmart

Dozens of Chinese phone games now require facial scans to play at night

A child on streetside is fascinated by what is on a smartphone.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Tencent, the world’s largest Chinese video game publisher, has taken an extreme step to comply with its nation’s rules about limiting minors’ access to video games. As of this week, the publisher has added a facial recognition system, dubbed “Midnight Patrol,” to over 60 of its China-specific smartphone games, and it will disable gameplay in popular titles like Honor of Kings if users either decline the facial check or fail it.

In all affected games, once a gameplay session during the nation’s official gaming curfew hours (10 pm to 8 am) exceeds an unspecified amount of time, the game in question will be interrupted by a prompt to scan the player’s face. Should an adult fail the test for any reason, Tencent makes its “too bad, so sad” attitude clear in its announcement: users can try to play again the next day.

This week’s change doubles down on a limited facial-scan system implemented by Tencent in the Chinese version of Honor of Kings in 2018. Since that rollout, we’ve yet to hear exactly how the system works. Does it determine a user’s age based on facial highlights? Does it cross-reference existing facial data—and possibly leverage any of its home nation’s public facial-scanning systems? Tencent has not clarified any of Midnight Patrol’s technical details.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#china, #facial-recognition, #gaming-culture, #tencent

Austin-based iFly.vc closes $46M second fund from legendary tech founders

To compete with the myriad venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, iFly.vc has a unique vantage point.

Its founder Han Shen has straddled the United States and China for several decades. He was the first hire on the investment team of Formation 8, the VC firm co-founded by Palantir’s Joe Lonsdale. After iFly.vc backed Weee! in a Series A round in 2018, Shen arranged for the grocery startup to meet with China’s produce delivery leaders — two of which recently went public in the U.S. — to learn what was applicable to the American market.

Weee! has since become the go-to grocery app for America’s Asian communities and raised hundreds of millions of dollars from Lightspeed Venture Partners, DST Global, Blackstone, Tiger Global and other major institutions. IFly.vc is still Weee!’s second-largest shareholder, and its first fund recorded a 10x rate of return, Shen told TechCrunch during an interview.

On the back of its cross-continental experiences and portfolio performance, iFly.vc recently closed its second fund with over $46 million, boosting the firm’s assets under management to more than $95 million.

The limited partners in Fund II include family offices across the U.S. and Asia as well as high-profile entrepreneurs such as Zhang Tao, founder of China’s Yelp counterpart Dianping, Free Wu, a founding member of Tencent who now manages Welight Capital, Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir, and Aayush Phumbhra, co-founder of Chegg.

IFly.vc made another big move during the pandemic, relocating its office from San Francisco to Austin, joining a wave of Californians fleeing the expensive area.

When it comes to investment focus, Shen said he tries to seek out the underdogs in North America’s trillion-dollar consumer market.

“On the one hand, enterprise services are growing very quickly. But on the other hand, the rise of enterprise software is helping consumer tech to grow even more quickly and easily. The consumer market is very diverse and serves an array of minority groups, so there is always a new opportunity.”

With this premise in mind, iFly.vc recently invested in Cheese Financial‘s seed round, a digital bank that started out by serving the underbanked Asian American populations.

IFly.vc prefers backing startups early on and seeing them through by providing hands-on, post-investment support. Rather than spray and pray, iFly.vc has invested in just about a dozen companies five years after its founding.

Shen’s background of growing up in China and working in Silicon Valley, where he eventually became a partner at Formation 8, led him to appreciate entrepreneurs with a similarly international background because they can learn from mistakes and successes on both sides. They also know how to leverage the different fields of talent across the world.

Cheese Financial, for instance, is setting up an engineering force in the founder’s hometown, Shenzhen, to take advantage of the Chinese city’s large pool of engineers at costs much lower than those of Silicon Valley.

It’s not just about hiring cheaper programmers, though. As Shen puts it: “In the past, American companies were simply outsourcing technical tasks to China. Now Chinese engineers actually have valuable lessons to bring to American companies because many have worked at large, successful Chinese tech companies themselves.”

#asia, #blackstone, #chegg, #china, #digital-bank, #dst-global, #formation-8, #funding, #joe-lonsdale