Thailand Covid Failures Spur Angry New Protests

With more than 12,000 dead, few vaccinated and the economy in shambles, demonstrations against the authorities have become a daily event.

#bangkok-thailand, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #thailand

Bangkok-based insurtech Sunday banks $45M Series B from investors like Tencent

Sunday, an insurtech startup based in Bangkok, announced it has raised a $45 million Series B. Investors include Tencent, SCB 10X, Vertex Growth, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, Quona Capital, Aflac Ventures and Z Venture Capital. The company says the round was oversubscribed, and that it doubled its revenue growth in 2020.

Founded in 2017, Sunday describes itself as a “full-stack” insurtech, which means it handles everything from underwriting to distribution of its policies. Its products currently include motor and travel insurance policies that can be purchased online, and Sunday Health for Business, a healthcare coverage program for employers. Sunday also offers subscription-based smartphone plans through partners.

The company uses AI and machine learning-based technology underwrite its motor insurance and employee health benefits products, and says its data models also allow it to automate pricing and scale its underwriting process for complex risks. Sunday says it currently serves 1.6 million customers.

The new funding will be used to expand in Indonesia and develop new distribution channels, including insurance agents and SMEs.

Insurance penetration is still relatively low in many Southeast Asian markets, including Indonesia, but the industry is gaining traction thanks to increasing consumer awareness. The COVID-19 pandemic also drove interest in financial planning, including investment and insurance, especially health coverage.

Other insurtech startups in Indonesia that have recently raised funding include Lifepal, PasarPolis, Qoala and Fuse.

In a statement, Sunday co-founder and chief executive officer Cindy Kuo said, “Awareness for health insurance will continue to increase and we believe more consumers would be open to shop for insurance online. We plan to expand our platform architecture to offer retail insurance to our health members and partners while we continue to grow our portfolio in Thailand and Indonesia.”

#asia, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #insurance, #insurtech, #southeast-asia, #startups, #sunday, #tc, #thailand

Disney+ beats expectations to reach 116 million subscribers in Q3

Disney’s streaming service is seeing improved growth, after initially seeing slower numbers of subscriber additions in Q2 as COVID lockdowns and mask mandates came to an end. Today, Disney+ beat analyst expectations for subscriber growth in Disney’s blowout third quarter, reaching 116 million paid subscribers — above the 114.5 million Wall Street had expected — and up over 100% year-over-year.

Disney also topped expectations across the board, with $17.02 billion in revenue versus the $16.76 billion expected, and earnings per share of 80 cents, above analysts’ expectations of 55 cents. Even Disney Parks were back in business. 

The pandemic had thrown a wrench in forecasting growth metrics across a number of industries, streaming included. Although Disney+ has well-established itself as one of the few competitors capable of challenging Netflix in an increasingly crowded market, it has seen some ups and downs due to COVID impacts. In the earlier days of the pandemic, streaming was on the rise. This March, Disney+ passed 100 million subscribers after just 16 months of operation. At the time, Disney execs said the service was on track to meet its projections of 260 million subscribers by 2024.

But in Disney’s second-quarter earnings, the economy’s re-opening impacted Disney+ numbers, as people finally had more to do than just sit at home, and vaccinations become more widely available. Then, Disney+ only reached 103.6 million subscribers, when analysts were expecting 109.3 million, and the stock slipped as a result.

Disney wasn’t alone in feeling the impacts of COVID-induced lumpiness in subscriber additions. Netflix had also seen slower subscriber growth earlier in the year due to COVID and its far-reaching effects on things like production delays and release schedules.

But Netflix’s most recent quarter, where it once again topped subscriber estimates, had hinted that Disney+ may see a similar boost. Aiding in that growth was Disney+’s recent market expansions in Asia. Disney+ Hotstar arrived in Malaysia and Thailand in June after prior launches in India and Indonesia last year.

The Hotstar version of Disney+, however, led to lowered average monthly revenue per user (ARPU) in the quarter due to its lower price points. In Q3, ARPU declined from $4.62 to $4.16 due to a higher mix of Disney+ Hotstar subscribers compared with the prior-year quarter, Disney said.

Disney’s other streaming services, Hulu and ESPN+, didn’t see the same trend.

Hulu’s subscription video service jumped from $11.39 to $13.15 year-over-year and its Live TV service (+SVOD) grew from $68.11 to $84.09. ESPN+ also grew from $4.18 to $4.47.

Subscriber growth also increased across the services, with ESPN+ growing 75% year-over-year to reach 14.9 million customers and total Hulu subscribers growing 21% to reach 42.8 million.

“…Our direct-to-consumer business is performing very well, with a total of nearly 174 million subscriptions across Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu at the end of the quarter, and a host of new content coming to the platform,” noted Disney CEO Bob Chapek in a press release.

Across Disney’s direct-to-consumer business, revenues grew 57% to $4.3 billion and its operating loss declined from $0.6 billion to $0.3 billion, thanks to improved results from Hulu, including subscription growth and higher ad revenues.

These gains were offset by a higher loss at Disney+ attributed to programming, production, marketing and technology costs that were somewhat mitigated by increases in subscription revenues and success of the Disney+ Premier Access release of “Cruella.” (Disney’s fiscal quarter ended July 3, so the impacts of the massive haul that “Black Widow” saw following its U.S. opening — nor the resulting lawsuit from star Scarlett Johansson, for that matter — have yet to be included in these figures.)

#asia, #bob-chapek, #disney, #disney-plus, #e-commerce, #espn, #hotstar, #hulu, #india, #indonesia, #malaysia, #mass-media, #media, #netflix, #scarlett-johansson, #streaming-services, #thailand, #the-walt-disney-company

A close look at Singapore’s thriving startup ecosystem

Singapore is home to fewer than six million people, making it one of the smallest ASEAN countries, in terms of population. It is a young country as well — having gained independence in 1963 — and resides in a neighborhood with far larger economies, including China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. When the country first became independent, its mandate was to simply survive rather than thrive.

So how does a country evolve from a position of relative uncertainty, with comparatively few resources, to one that leads the ASEAN region in venture capital investment and has been home to 10 unicorns?

Countries around the world examine Singapore’s ecosystem from a distance, hoping to learn from, and emulate, its story. The World Bank Group recently published a report, The Evolution and State of Singapore’s Start-up Ecosystem, documenting the country’s experience in building its startup ecosystem and the challenges facing it.

This article presents an overview of the report’s key findings and offers a few key recommendations on what other countries can learn from Singapore’s experience, as well as what Singapore itself can do to maintain progress.

A glimpse into Singapore’s current startup ecosystem

As of 2019, Singapore had over $19 billion in PE and VC assets under management, more than twice that of neighboring Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand combined. In that same year, the country was home to an estimated 3,600 tech startups and nearly 200 different intermediary and supporting organizations (accelerators, co-working spaces, coding academies, etc.) – some which have a multinational presence, such as Blk71, whose Singapore headquarters has been referred to as “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

While assessing the size and strength of startup ecosystems is an evolving method, Start-up Genome priced Singapore’s ecosystem at over $25 billion, five times the global median.

Arguably, the most eye-catching hallmark of this ecosystem is its population of current and former unicorns. Collectively, Singapore has been home to ten unicorns, three of which have offered an IPO (Nanofilm, Razer and Sea) and two of which have been acquired – one by giant Alibaba (Lazada) and one by Chinese streaming powerhouse YY (Bigo Live). The remaining five are Trax, Acronis, JustCo, PatSnap, and Grab – the ASEAN region’s largest unicorn to date.

 

The education sector is also prominent in Singapore’s ecosystem. Universities like the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are deeply embedded into this ecosystem, helping with R&D commercialization linkages, incubation, talent/knowledge transfer, and other areas.

So, how did Singapore’s startup ecosystem come to be?

Numerous factors have contributed to building Singapore’s startup ecosystem, with government intervention and leadership being the dominant driving forces. The government has spent more than USD60 billion over the past several decades to enhance the country’s R&D infrastructure, create VC funds, and launch accelerators and other support organizations.

#alibaba, #asia, #china, #column, #coworking, #ec-column, #ec-southeast-asia-oceania, #funding, #government, #indonesia, #malaysia, #philippines, #razer, #singapore, #startup-ecosystem, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #unicorn, #vc, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investment, #vietnam, #world-bank

What’s driving the global surge in retail media spending?

Most businesses by now are well versed with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic: Faltering offline sales, flexible work-from-anywhere options, fluctuating foot traffic with lockdown mandates and e-commerce becoming a channel many brands wished they had built infrastructure for earlier.

As a record number of consumers in Southeast Asia move from shopping malls to online platforms like Shopee, Lazada, Tiki and Tokopedia, the advertising dollars are naturally flowing in. Emerging markets are witnessing the advent of retail media right now.

Amazon paved the way in North America in 2018 by launching Amazon Advertising to become the first bid-and-buy marketplace. BCG now estimates retailers have a $100 billion business opportunity to capture, if they can keep up.

The money is where the consumer is

To understand why retailers will capture more ad spend, it’s important to evaluate what modern day marketing has become.

Is it bus stop advertisements? Bidding on Google keywords or a Clubhouse session? Or is it a viral TikTok video? As the world becomes more connected and the lines between offline and online blur even more, modern day marketing is a mix of all the channels tied to key performance metrics.

The main goal of marketing, no matter the medium, is to highlight a business or product to the right consumers to score a potential sale. And like most things, there is a bad, a good and a much better way of doing things.

E-commerce as an advertising channel is unique, because it encapsulates the entire consumer journey from start to finish, especially as marketplaces continue to steal the share of search from search engines.

Traditional marketing channels were primarily linear TV, radio and print, because the mediums were highly popular at the time. However, with the birth of the internet newer platforms emerged such as email, websites and streaming. Then came the rise of social media and apps that shook up the advertising landscape. But regardless of these shifts, there has always been one constant: The business went where the consumer was.

So when sources of traffic and revenue once again change, let’s say due to a pandemic, the marketing mix follows. In the next 12 months alone, many marketers are planning to decrease spending in cinema, print and out of home (OOH), while the majority will increase budgets in social and search, according to Nielsen.

The search for superior advertising channels

So which channels will benefit as money flows out of outdated buckets? A good indicator is ad revenue trends in mature markets like the U.S. While Google and Facebook remain the dominant advertising players, Amazon has eaten into the duopoly’s ad revenue pie in the U.S., growing its share from 7.8% to 10.3% in 2020 alone, according to eMarketer.

How? Because the most valuable advertising channel is the one that has the most measurable touch points with the consumer.

#amazon, #asia, #brand-management, #column, #covid-19, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #ecommerce, #facebook, #indonesia, #malaysia, #marketing, #media, #shopee, #singapore, #social, #southeast-asia, #thailand, #tiki, #tokopedia, #vietnam

Crypto infra startup Fireblocks raises $310M, triples valuation to $2.2B

Fireblocks, an infrastructure provider for digital assets, has raised $310 million in a Series D round of funding that tripled the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion in just over five months.

Sequoia Capital, Stripes and Spark Capital co-led Fireblocks’ latest round, which also included participation from Coatue, DRW VC  and SCB 10X – the venture arm of Thailand’s oldest bank – and Siam Commercial Bank. The latter is the third global bank to invest in Fireblocks in addition to the Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon and SVB Capital. 

In February, the New York-based startup raised $133 million in a Series C round at a $700 million valuation. The latest financing brings Fireblocks’ total raised since its 2018 inception to $489 million. And as for Fireblocks’ valuation boost, the growth correlates with its increase in customers and ARR this year, according to CEO and co-founder Michael Shaulov. 

Since January, Fireblocks has seen its customer base increase to about 500 compared to 150 in January. Its ARR (annual recurring revenue) is also up – by 350% so far in 2021 compared to 2020. Last year, ARR rose by 450% compared to 2019.

“We expect to end the year up 500%,” Shaulov said. “We’ve already adjusted our revenue predictions for 2021 three times.”

Put simply, Fireblocks aims to offer financial institutions an all-in-one platform to run a digital asset business, providing them with infrastructure to store, transfer and issue digital assets. In particular, Fireblocks provides custody to institutional investors and has secured the transfer of over $1 trillion in digital assets over time. 

Fireblocks launched out of stealth mode in June of 2019 and has since opened offices in the United Kingdom, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore, France and the DACH region. Today, it has over 500 financial institutions as customers – a mix of businesses that already support crypto and digital assets and those that are considering entering the space. Customers include global banks, crypto-native exchanges, lending desks, hedge funds, OTC desks as well as companies such as Revolut, BlockFi, Celsius, PrimeTrust, Galaxy Digital, Genesis Trading, crypto.com and eToro among others. 

Of those 500 institutions, Fireblocks is working with 70 banks that are looking to join the cryptocurrency space, and start platforming their infrastructure, according to Shaulov. Siam Commercial bank, for example, is using the company’s infrastructure to transform into a blockchain-based bank.

“Our platform creates highly secure wallets for cryptocurrencies and digital assets, where institutions can store their funds or their customer funds, and also get security insurance,” he said.

Fireblocks’ issuance and tokenization platform allows for the creation of asset-backed tokens.

“We handle all the security or compliance, all the policies and workflows,” Shaulov said. “Basically all the complicated stuff you need to do as a business when you want to start working with this new technology. So it’s a bit like ‘Shopify for crypto.’ ”

Sequoia Partner Ravi Gupta is naturally bullish on the company, describing Fireblocks as “the leading back-end infrastructure for crypto products.”

“The team has the potential to build a large, enduring business serving crypto-native companies, consumer fintech companies, and traditional financial institutions alike,” he told TechCrunch. “Their growth has been tremendous, and the quality of their product and customer sentiment are remarkable.”

Image Credits: Left to right: Fireblocks co-founders Idan Ofrat, Michael Shaulov and Pavel Berengoltz / Fireblocks

Fireblocks has also started to see businesses outside of what would be identified as fintech or finance show interest in its platform such as e-commerce websites that are looking to create NFTs on the back of their merchandise. 

The Fireblocks platform, Shaulov said, helps spread the expansion of digital asset use cases beyond bitcoin into payments, gaming, NFTs, digital securities and “ultimately allows any business to become a digital asset business.”

What that means is that Fireblocks’ technology can be white labeled for crypto custody offerings, “so that new and established financial institutions can implement direct custody on their own without having to rely on third parties,” the company says.

Shaulov emphasizes Fireblocks’ commitment to staying an independent company after a wave of consolidation in the space. Earlier this year, PayPal announced its plans to acquire Curv, a cryptocurrency startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Then in early May, bitcoin-focused Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd. said it agreed to buy BitGo Inc. for $1.2 billion in cash and stock in the first $1 billion deal in the cryptocurrency industry.

“Consolidation can be painful for clients,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s Important for us that we stay independent and that’s part of the purpose of this round.

The company will also use the funds to increase its engineering and customer success operations, and expand geographically, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.  

“Fireblocks provides the most secure and flexible platform for a wide range of customer needs,” said Sequoia’s Gupta. “It uses world-class multi-party computation technology to secure digital assets in storage and in transit, and has the most flexible platform with controls for product teams to be able to build on and manage Fireblocks effectively.”

#articles, #asia-pacific, #bank, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #blockfi, #celsius, #coatue, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #curv, #decentralization, #digital-currencies, #etoro, #finance, #financial-technology, #fireblocks, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #galaxy-digital, #israel, #money, #new-york, #paypal, #ravi-gupta, #recent-funding, #revolut, #saas, #sequoia, #sequoia-capital, #shopify, #singapore, #spark-capital, #startups, #stripes, #svb-capital, #tel-aviv, #thailand, #united-kingdom, #venture-capital

Indonesia-based grocery app HappyFresh reaps $65M led by Naver Financial and Gafina

HappyFresh, the on-demand grocery app based in Indonesia, announced today it has raised a $65 million Series D. The round was led by Naver Financial Corporation and Gafina B.V., with participation from STIC, LB and Mirae Asset Indonesia and Singapore. It also included returning investors Mirae-Asset Naver Asia Growth Fund and Z Venture Capital.

The company’s previous round of funding was a $20 million Series C announced in April 2019.

Founded in 2014, HappyFresh was the first Instacart-style grocery delivery service to launch in Southeast Asia. It expanded into five markets before shutting down its operations in Taiwan and the Philippines in 2016. It continues to operate in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

In a press release, HappyFresh said it “has been experiencing an unprecedented growth” over the past 18 months as customers turned to grocery deliveries during the pandemic, with traffic growing by 10x to 20x in its three countries.

In a statement, HappyFresh chief executive officer Guillem Segarra said, “We see a big shift in customers’ behavior; retention and frequency rates have significantly increased while the overall basket size has been consistently growing. We attribute this to a major shift in share of wallet from offline to online, which is here to stay.”

The new funding will be used to scale HappyFresh’s operations, including growing its fleet of drivers. The company also plans to add more payment methods, improve user experience and increase its assortment of items.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #grocery-delivery, #happyfresh, #indonesia, #malaysia, #on-demand-groceries, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand

Asia Struggles to Cast Off the Pandemic Despite its Early Lead

While the United States edges toward normalcy, countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia are still facing months of uncertainty and isolation as their vaccination campaigns just start to gain steam.

#australia, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #japan, #quarantines, #shortages, #south-korea, #taiwan, #thailand, #vaccination-and-immunization

Why Asia, the Pandemic Champion, Remains Miles Away From the Finish Line

While the United States edges toward normalcy, countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia are still facing months of uncertainty and isolation as their vaccination campaigns just start to gain steam.

#australia, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #japan, #quarantines, #shortages, #south-korea, #taiwan, #thailand, #vaccination-and-immunization

Automotive marketplace Carro hits unicorn status with $360M Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

Carro, one of the largest automotive marketplaces in Southeast Asia, announced it has hit unicorn valuation after raising a $360 million Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Other participants include insurance giant MSIG and Indonesian-based funds like EV Growth, Provident Growth and Indies Capital. About 90% of vehicles sold through Carro are secondhand, and it offers services that cover the entire lifecycle of a car, from maintenance to when it is broken down and recycled for parts.

Founded in 2015, Carro started as an online marketplace for cars, before expanding into more verticals. Co-founder and chief executive officer Aaron Tan told TechCrunch that, roughly speaking, the company’s operations are divided into three sections: wholesale, retail and fintech. Its wholesale business works with car dealers who want to purchase inventory, while its retail side sells to consumers. Its fintech operation offers products for both, including B2C car loans, auto insurance and B2B working capital loans.

Carro’s last funding announcement was in August 2019, when it said it had extended its Series B to $90 million. The company’s latest funding will be used to fund acquisitions, expand its financial services portfolio and develop its AI capabilities, which Carro uses to showcase cars online, develop pricing models and determine how much to charge insurance policyholders.

It also plans to expand retail services in its main markets: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Carro currently employs about 1,000 people across the four countries and claims its revenue grew more than 2.5x during the financial year ending March 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped Carro’s business because people wanted their own vehicles to avoid public transportation and became more receptive to shopping for cars online. Those factors also helped competitors like OLX Autos and Carsome fare well during the pandemic.

The adoption of electric vehicles across Southeast Asia has resulted in a new tailwind for Carro, because people who buy an EV usually want to sell off their combustion engine vehicles. Carro is currently talking to some of the largest electric vehicle countries in the world that want to launch in Southeast Asia.

“For every car someone typically buys in Southeast Asia, there’s always a trade-in. Where do cars go, right? We are a marketplace, but on a very high level, what we’re doing is reusing and recycling. That’s a big part in the environmental sustainability of the business, and something that sets us apart of other players in the region,” Tan said.

Cars typically stay in Carro’s inventory for less than 60 days. Its platform uses computer vision and sound technology to replicate the experience of inspecting a vehicle in-person. When someone clicks on a Carro listing, an AI bot automatically engages with them, providing more details about the cost of the car and answering questions. They also see a 360-degree view of the vehicle, its interior and can virtually start the engine to see how it sounds. Listings also provide information about defects and inspection reports.

Since many customers still want to get an in-person look before finalizing a purchase, Carro recently launched a beta product called Showroom Anywhere. Currently available in Singapore, it allows people to unlock Carro cars parked throughout the city, using QR codes, so they can inspect it at any time of the day, without a salesperson around. The company plans to add test driving to Showroom Anywhere.

“As a tech company, our job is to make sure we automate everything we can,” said Tan. “That’s the goal of the company and you can only assume that our cost structure and our revenue structure will get better along the years. We expect greater margin improvement and a lot more in cost reduction.”

Pricing is fixed, so shoppers don’t have to engage in haggling. Carro determines prices by using machine-learning models that look at details about a vehicle, including its make, model and mileage, and data from Carro’s transactions as well as market information (for example, how much of a particular vehicle is currently available for sale). Carro’s prices are typically in the middle of the market’s range.

Cars come with a three or seven-day moneyback guarantee and 30-day warranty. Once a customer decides to buy a car, they can opt to apply for loans and insurance through Carro’s fintech platform. Tan said Carro’s loan book is about five years old, almost as old as the startup itself, and is currently about $200 million.

Carro’s insurance is priced based on the policyholders driving behavior as tracked by sensors placed in their cars. This allows Carro to build a profile of how someone drives and the likelihood that they have an accident or other incident. For example, someone will get better pricing if they typically stick to speed limits.

“It sounds a bit futuristic,” said Tan. “But it’s something that’s been done in the United States for many years, like GEICO and a whole bunch of other insurers,” including Root Insurance, which recently went public.

Tan said MSIG’s investment in Carro is a “statement that we are really trying to triple down in insurance, because an insurer has so much linkage with what we do. The reason that MSIG is a good partner is that, like ourselves, they believe a lot in data and the difference in what we call ‘new age’ insurance, or data-driven insurance.”

Carro is also expanding its after-sale services, including Carro Care, in all four of its markets. Its after-sale services reach to the very end of a vehicle’s lifecycle and its customers include workshops around the world. For example, if a Toyota Corolla breaks down in Singapore, but its engine is still usable, it might be extracted and shipped to a repair shop in Nairobi, and the rest of its parts recycled.

“One thing I always ask in management meetings, is tell me where do cars go to die in Indonesia? Where do cars go to die in Thailand? There has to be a way, so if there is no way, we’re going to find a way,” said Tan.

In a statement, SoftBank Investment Advisers managing partner Greg Moon said, “Powered by AI, Carro’s technology platform provides consumers with full-stack services and transparency throughout the car ownership process. We are delighted to partner with Aaron and the Carro team to support their ambition to expand into new markets and use AI-powered technology to make the car buying process smarter, simpler and safer.”

#asia, #automative-marketplace, #car-marketplace, #carro, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #malaysia, #recent-funding, #singapore, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #used-cars

After Lavish Nights of Clubbing in Bangkok, a Covid Outbreak

Thailand went for months without a single confirmed case of local transmission, but the epidemic has now radiated from nightclubs to areas where social distancing is all but impossible.

#bangkok-thailand, #bars-and-nightclubs, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #income-inequality, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #thailand, #vaccination-and-immunization

On the Covid Front Lines, When Not Getting Belly Rubs

In Thailand and around the world, dogs are being trained to sniff out the coronavirus in people. So far, the results have been impressive.

#chulalongkorn-university, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #dogs, #thailand

How Dogs Are on The Covid-19 Front Lines

In Thailand and around the world, dogs are being trained to sniff out the coronavirus in people. So far, the results have been impressive.

#chulalongkorn-university, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #dogs, #innovation, #service-dogs-and-other-animals, #thailand

The 1,000-Year Secret That Made Betta Fish Beautiful

Scientists found that the fish were gradually domesticated like dog breeds into the beautiful shapes and colors that turn up today in pet stores.

#biorxiv, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #genetics-and-heredity, #research, #southeast-asia, #thailand, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Phuket Was Poised for Tourism Comeback. A Covid Surge Dashed Those Hopes.

Phuket, one of Thailand’s top tourist havens, had an ambitious plan to reopen to the world this summer. But with a spike in cases, the island’s desperate situation is unlikely to end anytime soon.

#beaches, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #phuket-thailand, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations, #vaccination-and-immunization

How Generals Plot Together, in Myanmar and Thailand

An unholy alliance between the two military governments will delay a return to democracy in both countries.

#assn-of-southeast-asian-nations, #aung-san-suu-kyi, #constitutions, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #min-aung-hlaing, #myanmar, #national-council-for-peace-and-order-thailand, #national-league-for-democracy-myanmar, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #thailand

Myanmar Coup Puts the Seal on Autocracy’s Rise in Southeast Asia

Not long ago, democracy seemed to be surging in the region. But in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and elsewhere, it is in trouble.

#cambodia, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #defense-and-military-forces, #malaysia, #myanmar, #philippines, #politics-and-government, #thailand, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

Researchers Are Hatching a Low-Cost Coronavirus Vaccine

A new formulation entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam could change how the world fights the pandemic.

#antibodies, #bangkok-thailand, #biology-and-biochemistry, #brazil, #clinical-trials, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #eggs, #factories-and-manufacturing, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #immune-system, #influenza, #mclellan-jason-researcher, #mers-middle-east-respiratory-syndrome, #thailand, #vietnam, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

Researchers Are Hatching a Low-Cost Covid-19 Vaccine

A new formulation entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam could change how the world fights the pandemic.

#antibodies, #bangkok-thailand, #biology-and-biochemistry, #brazil, #clinical-trials, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #eggs, #factories-and-manufacturing, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #immune-system, #influenza, #mclellan-jason-researcher, #mers-middle-east-respiratory-syndrome, #thailand, #vietnam, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

Singapore-based M Capital Management closes $30.85M debut fund to invest in Southeast Asian startups

M Capital Management founding partners Joachim Ackermann (left) and Mayank Parekh (right)

M Capital Management founding partners Joachim Ackermann (left) and Mayank Parekh (right)

M Capital Management, a Singapore-based venture capital firm, announced today it has closed its debut fund, M Venture Partners (MVP), totaling $30.85 million USD. It plans to invest in 40 early-stage startups, primarily seed and pre-Series A, with an average initial check size of about $500,000.

M Capital Management was founded by Mayank Parekh, whose investment experience includes launching Grange Partners and leadership positions at Southern Capital Group and McKinsey & Company, and Joachim Ackermann, former managing director of Google Asia Pacific. Other senior team members include Dr. Tanuja Rajah, previously Entrepreneur First’s launch manager, and Chethana Ellepola, former research director at Acquity Stockbrokers.

MVP, a sector-agnostic fund, has already invested in 11 companies, including one, 3D Metal Forge, that recently went public on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Other portfolio companies include behavioral health coaching startup Naluri; AI-enabled lending and credit-as-a-service company Impact Credit Solutions; alternative investment fund aggregator XEN Capital; and Cipher Cancer Clinics, which is focused on making oncological care more affordable and accessible in India.

Parekh told TechCrunch that M Capital Management was launched because “we believe that the early-stage investing space in our region has substantial room for growth. A decade ago there were very few unicorns. This has changed substantially more recently, not only because of obvious advancements bringing online previously underserved or untapped populations, but also because they venture system has developed nicely in Singapore and, for that matter, across the region with support from institutional VCs at various stages of funding need, government agency support, the advent of local accelerators and rapidly growing network of angel investing bodies.”

Parekh added that he expects to see more unicorns and “soonicorns” (or companies expected to hit unicorn valuation in the near future) emerge.

As early-stage, sector-agnostic investors, Parekh said MVP’s focus is on founders, specifically those who have “pedigree professional experience and strong academic backgrounds.” For example, Naluri chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani was previously founder of AirAsiaX, guiding it from launch to its 2013 initial public offering in six years.

MVP will focus mostly on Singapore-based startups because it invests primarily in B2B or B2B2C companies. “We need a fertile ground for our chosen startups to launch their business models with leading corporate or business partners,” said Parekh. “Singapore provides just that. It’s the hub for market leading institutions and it’s not uncommon to see them creating opportunities for new technology or disruptive ideas.”

Most of MVP’s portfolio companies have “regional or global aspirations, leveraging Singapore as the core launch platform,” he added. MVP has also already made investments in Malaysia and India, and is actively looking at companies in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #india, #m-capital-management, #m-venture-partners, #malaysia, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #tc, #thailand, #venture-capital

House Hunting in Thailand: An Indoor-Outdoor Sanctuary for $1.6 Million

As the market for midrange properties struggles to regain its footing, Thailand’s high-end sector has remained resilient, with foreign buyers waiting for the chance to return.

#bangkok-thailand, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #thailand

For Planet Earth, No Tourism is a Curse and a Blessing

From the rise in poaching to the waning of noise pollution, travel’s shutdown is having profound effects. Which will remain, and which will vanish?

#air-pollution, #alaska, #carbon-capture-and-sequestration, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cruises, #glacier-bay-national-park-alaska, #global-warming, #noise, #ships-and-shipping, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations, #wales, #whales-and-whaling, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching

Fatal Attack on Thai Man in San Francisco Fuels #StopAsianHate

Among Asian-Americans, many of whom have endured racist taunts, rants and worse during the pandemic, the fatal assault on a defenseless older man became a rallying cry.

#asian-americans, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hate-crimes, #race-and-ethnicity, #san-francisco-calif, #thailand, #vicha-ratanapakdee, #watson-antoine

A Breakout Portrait Artist Invested in Asian Representation

Entirely self-taught, Jiab Prachakul has spent over a decade honing her practice and its purpose. Now, she’s gotten her first big show.

#art, #content-type-personal-profile, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #lyon-france, #prachakul-jiab, #race-and-ethnicity, #thailand

Thailand Targets Pro-Democracy Protesters in Sweeping Legal Dragnet

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in student-led demonstrations last year. Now some face decades behind bars.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #libel-and-slander, #politics-and-government, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #suthida-vajiralongkorn-na-ayudhya-1978, #thailand

Thailand Legalizes Early-Term Abortions but Keeps Other Restrictions

Women who end a pregnancy after 12 weeks could still face prison or fines. Abortion rights advocates say more change is needed.

#abortion, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #southeast-asia, #thailand

Woman Is Sentenced to 43 Years for Criticizing Thai Monarchy

Lawyers said it was the longest sentence yet for violating Thailand’s notoriously harsh lèse-majesté law.

#bangkok-thailand, #bhumibol-adulyadej, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #royal-families, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

Why Medical Tourism Is Drawing Patients, Even in a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated medical tourism, but pent-up demand remains for affordable treatment in foreign lands.

#budget-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #costa-rica, #istanbul-turkey, #medical-tourism, #medicine-and-health, #mexico, #pandemic, #surgery-and-surgeons, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations, #travel-warnings, #united-states

Thai Caves Attract Millions of Bats — and Now Scientists Too

A cave complex at a temple in Thailand has long drawn tourists, pilgrims and guano collectors. Now, scientists have arrived, looking for any potential links to the coronavirus.

#bats, #caves-and-caverns, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #research, #thailand

Zipmex, which aspires to build the Asia Pacific region’s largest digital assets exchange, raises $6 million led by Jump Capital

Zipmex, a digital assets exchange headquartered in Singapore, announced today it has raised $6 million in funding led by Jump Capital. The startup, which plans to become a digital assets bank, says the round exceeded its initial target of $4 million. Along with earlier funding, it brings the total Zipmex has raised so far to $10.9 million.

The exchange is regulated in Singapore, Australia and Indonesia, and licensed in Thailand. It focuses on investors new to cryptocurrency with educational features, as well as high net-worth individuals, and says it has transacted over $600 million in gross transaction volume since launching at the end of 2019.

The funding will be used on hiring and to add more product offerings. In addition to its cryptocurrency exchange, Zipmex’s services also include ZipUp, its interest-bearing accounts, and its own ERC-20 token ZMT.

Zipmex’s goal is to become the largest digital exchange in the Asia Pacific, where interest in cryptocurrency investing and blockchain technology is increasing quickly. For example, DBG Group Holdings, Southeast Asia’s largest lender, recently launched a crypto exchange, though it is currently open only to professional investors.

But Zipmex is also up against a roster of competitors, including regional exchanges like BitKub in Thailand and Swyftx in Australia, as well as players like Luno, Coinbase and Binance which are targeting growth in the Asia Pacific region.

Zipmex chief executive officer Marcus Lim said the company’s ambition to become a digital assets bank sets it apart from other exchanges. “We currently offer customers to invest and earn interest on their digital assets,” he told TechCrunch. “In the future, we are planning to roll out payments and lending and the investment into securitized tokens.”

Other cryptocurrency startups that Jump Capital, an American venture capital firm, has invested in include BitGo and TradingView. Its parent company, trading firm Jump Trading, powers Robinhood’s crypto trades.

#apps, #asia, #australia, #cryptocurrency, #digital-assets, #digital-currency-exchange, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #zipmex

Conjuring Up the World Through the Sense of Taste

Housebound because of the pandemic, an international correspondent finds a way to travel the globe in her kitchen.

#bangkok-thailand, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #grandparents, #pickles-and-relishes, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #thailand

‘Box’ or Gem? A Scramble to Save Asia’s Modernist Buildings

Groups across the region are rallying to save buildings that officials consider too new, too ugly or too unimportant to protect from demolition.

#architecture, #cambodia, #design, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #historic-buildings-and-sites, #hong-kong, #hotel-okura-tokyo-japan, #japan, #la-scala-theater-paris-france, #postal-service-and-post-offices, #real-estate-commercial, #singapore, #thailand

After Bars and Beaches, Gibbons Await a New Home in Thailand

The small apes were once widespread across much of Asia. But rampant deforestation and ruthless hunting of the acrobatic animal has greatly reduced its numbers and its habitat.

#animals, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #forests-and-forestry, #monkeys-and-apes, #thailand, #therapy-and-rehabilitation, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching

Covid Infections, and Blame, Rise Along Southeast Asian Borders

The region depends on its porous crossings for economic activity. But countries have been quick to point fingers when the coronavirus has spread along shared frontiers.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #foreign-workers, #illegal-immigration, #labor-and-jobs, #migrant-labor-non-agriculture, #myanmar, #thailand

Used car marketplace Carsome gets $30 million Series D for its Southeast Asia growth plans

Carsome, which bills itself as Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce platform for used cars, announced it has closed a $30 million Series D. The funding was led by Asia Partners, with participation from returning investors Burda Principal Investments and Ondine Capital.

The startup claims that this is one of the largest “all-equity financings to-date in Southeast Asia’s online automotive industry.” Part of the Series D may be used for mergers and acquisitions to consolidate the company’s supply chain.

Founded five years ago in Malaysia, Carsome’s platform serves both C2C and B2C segments, and ensures quality by conducting inspections before vehicles are listed on its platform. It now has 1,000 employees and claims to transact 70,000 cars on an annualized basis, totaling $600 million.

In a press statement, co-founder and group chief executive officer Eric Cheng said that the company, which now also operates in Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore, doubled its monthly revenue over the past six months, compared to pre-pandemic levels. The company claims that this is partly because more people and businesses are buying their own cars for safety reasons.

While sales of new vehicles have plummeted around the world, used car sales, especially through e-commerce platforms, are recovering more quickly, according to Counterpoint Research. This largely because people want to avoid public transportation and ride-hailing, but also want cheaper options.

Other used car platforms in Southeast Asia include Carro, OLX Autos (formerly called BeliMobilGue) and Carmudi.

#asia, #carsome, #ecommerce, #indonesia, #malaysia, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #used-cars, #vehicles

A King Above and Beyond Politics

Why are the people of Thailand rising up against royal power now?

#bangkok-thailand, #bhumibol-adulyadej, #crown-property-bureau-thailand, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #politics-and-government, #royal-families, #sineenat-wongvajirapakdi-1985, #thailand, #ubolratana-1951, #vajiralongkorn-1952

As Refugees, Their Options Were Limited. Others Saw a Profit.

Even after decades in Thailand, Kayan women who fled Myanmar make their living from their traditional neck rings. But that’s changing.

#chiang-mai-thailand, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #labor-and-jobs, #myanmar, #neck, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #thailand, #women-and-girls

Amid Thailand’s Protests, a Feared Tool to Protect the Monarchy Returns

The country’s lèse-majesté law, which makes insulting the king punishable by years in prison, is being used against the movement’s leadership for the first time.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #libel-and-slander, #politics-and-government, #royal-families, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

‘Now, We Fight Face to Face’: Thailand’s Protests Shatter Taboos

Antigovernment demonstrations have grown bolder, even insulting the king, but reform remains elusive and fears of a crackdown persist.

#constitutional-amendments, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

A biologist decided to investigate a shrimp parade that attracts thousands of tourists in a province of Thailand.

#journal-of-zoology, #research, #shrimp, #thailand, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Hotel in Thailand That Jailed American Gets New Tripadvisor Label

The travel review website has posted a one-of-a-kind notice on the hotel’s page, warning tourists that it was responsible for the jailing of a guest who wrote a harsh review.

#barnes-wesley, #consumer-reviews, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #libel-and-slander, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations, #tripadvisor-inc

Thai Hotel That Put American in Jail Gets New Label on Tripadvisor

The travel review website has posted a one-of-a-kind notice on the hotel’s page, warning tourists that it was responsible for the jailing of a guest after he wrote a harsh review.

#barnes-wesley, #consumer-reviews, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #libel-and-slander, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations, #tripadvisor-inc

The Sovereigns of Thailand and the Skies

Protesters are challenging the monarchy’s legitimacy by co-opting its celestial symbols.

#astrology, #bangkok-thailand, #buddhism, #constitutions, #crown-property-bureau-thailand, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #hong-kong, #monuments-and-memorials-structures, #politics-and-government, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

Bridgefy launches end-to-end encrypted messaging for the app used during protests and disasters

Offline-messaging app Bridgefy — which innovatively uses Bluetooth and Wi-fi — became known as the go-to app by thousands of protesters around the world to keep communications going even when oppressive regimes blocked or shut down the Internet. Recently, activists in Nigeria and Thailand have urged supporters to download the app, as last year, when protesters in Hong Kong downloaded Bridgefy to face the government’s censorship of phone services or data connections. In the last 12 months, the startup says it’s reached 2 million downloads. And since the events of the weekend, when Turkey and Greece were hit by an earthquake, the app is now trending on app stores for those regions.

Bridgefy is now publishing a major new update, with a new, crucial feature for activists: end-to-end encrypted messages. This will allow people to securely send and receive messages when they don’t have access to data and will use the same encryption protocol used by Signal, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger .

Bridgefy launched in 2014 (and appeared on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage in 2017) when the founders identified the problem of not being able to communicate during the earthquakes in Mexico City. It started as a mobile app, and an SDK was added a few years later so other apps could also work without the Internet. The Bridgefy SDK is now licensed to companies on an annual subscription model, based on user volume and is integrated by more than 40 companies across payments, messaging, gaming, social media, dating, and natural disaster apps. Technically-speaking, its competitors include GoTenna and the moth-ball gathering Firechat, although Bridgefy has become better known in the activist space.

The startup is now raising a Seed round and has already raised $800,000 USD, with investors including Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, Alchemist Accelerator and GAN Ventures.

#biz-stone, #bluetooth, #bridgefy, #cofounder, #computing, #europe, #facebook, #firechat, #mesh-networking, #messenger, #mexico-city, #nigeria, #operating-systems, #phone-services, #social-media, #software, #tc, #techcrunch, #thailand, #whatsapp, #wi-fi

Talk of a Military Coup Follows Protests in Thailand

“I see a coup as not a bad thing,” said one prominent royalist who publicly called for a military intervention to quell antigovernment rallies in Bangkok and to protect the monarchy.

#coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #defense-and-military-forces, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #draft-and-recruitment-military, #income-inequality, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

Almost Like Clockwork, Talk of a Military Coup Follows Thai Protests

“I see a coup as not a bad thing,” said one prominent royalist who publicly called for a military intervention to quell antigovernment rallies in Bangkok and to protect the monarchy.

#coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #defense-and-military-forces, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #draft-and-recruitment-military, #income-inequality, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

Bangkok Is Engulfed by Protests. What’s Driving Them?

Rebellious youths. A history of coups. A royal family protected by laws that can punish critics. All are key ingredients in the struggle convulsing Thailand.

#bangkok-thailand, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #royal-families, #thailand

Thailand Steps Up Response as Antigovernment Protests Escalate

Water cannons were used for the first time to clear protesters off the streets, and two demonstrators face charges that could put them in prison for life.

#bangkok-thailand, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #dipangkorn-rasmijoti-prince-of-thailand, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #suthida-vajiralongkorn-na-ayudhya-1978, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

As Motorcade Rolls By, Thai Royal Family Glimpses the People’s Discontent

Pro-democracy protesters have been rallying for months. But the king hasn’t been around to take in the calls for reform firsthand.

#bangkok-thailand, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #maas-heiko-1966, #royal-families, #suthida-vajiralongkorn-na-ayudhya-1978, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952

‘We Were Bulletproof’: As Child Soldiers Grow Up, Legacy of War Lingers

Twin leaders of Myanmar’s God’s Army were once thought to have magical powers. Now adults, they are contending with the trauma of exile, alcohol and loss.

#auckland-new-zealand, #defense-and-military-forces, #foreign-workers, #gods-army, #htoo-johnny, #htoo-luther, #immigration-and-emigration, #karen-national-union, #myanmar, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #sweden, #thailand