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


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


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


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


Thailand’s logistics startup Flash Express raises $200 million

Flash Express, a two-year-old logistics startup that works with e-commerce firms in Thailand, said on Monday it has raised $200 million in a new financing round as it looks to double down on a rapidly growing market spurred by demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding, a Series D, was led by PTT Oil and Retail Business Public Company Limited, the marquee oil and retail businesses of Thai conglomerate PTT. Durbell and Krungsri Finnovate, two other top conglomerates in the Southeast Asian country, also participated in the round, which brings Flash Express’ to-date raise to about $400 million.

Flash Express, which operates door-to-door pickup and delivery service, claims to be the second largest private player to operate in this space. The startup, which also counts Alibaba as an investor, entered the market with delivery fees as low as 60 cents per parcel, a move that allowed it to quickly win a significant market share.

The startup has also expanded aggressively in the past year. Flash Express had about 1,100 delivery points during this time last year. Now it has over 5,000, exceeding those of 138-year-old Thailand Post.

Flash Express currently delivers more than 1 million parcels a day, up from about 50,000 during the same time last year. The startup says it has also invested heavily in technology that has enabled it to handle over 100,000 parcels in a minute by fully automated sorting systems.

Komsan Lee, CEO of Flash Express, said the startup plans to deploy the fresh funds to introduce new services and expand to other Southeast Asian markets (names of which he did not identify). “We are also prepared to create and develop new technologies to achieve even greater delivery and logistics efficiency. More importantly we intend to assist SMEs in lowering their investment costs which we believe will provide long-term benefit for the overall Thai economy in the digital era,” he said.

Retail Business Public Company Limited plans to leverage Flash Express’ logistics network as it looks to meet the rising demand from consumers, said Rajsuda Rangsiyakull, Senior Executive Vice President for Corporate Strategy, Innovation and Sustainability at Retail Business Public Company Limited.

Flash Express competes with Best Express — which, like Flash, is also backed by Alibaba — and Kerry Express, which filed for an initial public offering in late August.

Even as online shopping and delivery has accelerated in recent months, some estimates suggest that the overall logistics market in Thailand will see its first contraction in the history this year. Chumpol Saichuer, president of the Thai Transportation and Logistics Association, said last month Thailand’s logistics business has already been hit hard by the slowing global economy.

#alibaba, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #funding, #logistics, #thailand


Interpol Issues ‘Red Notice’ for Fugitive Red Bull Heir in Thai Hit and Run

The police in Thailand, widely criticized for dropping charges against the wealthy playboy in July, are now seeking the global agency’s help in finding him.

#deaths-fatalities, #fugitives, #hit-and-run-drivers, #interpol-international-criminal-police-organization, #red-bull, #thailand, #yoovidhaya-vorayuth


American Could Face Prison in Thailand Over Negative Reviews of a Resort

The man was arrested under Thailand’s criminal defamation law, which has been used to silence critics and stifle dissent. The hotel that brought charges acknowledges that using the law might be “excessive.”

#consumer-reviews, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #libel-and-slander, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations


Young Women Take a Frontline Role in Thailand’s Protests

Women, many of them students, are speaking out against a patriarchy that controls the military, the monarchy and the Buddhist monkhood, Thailand’s most powerful institutions.

#bangkok-thailand, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #thailand, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights


Left Litter in the Park? Thailand Officials Will Mail It to Your Home

After campers left trash in a national park, park employees tracked them down, mailed the garbage back and reported them to the authorities.

#khao-yai-national-park-thailand, #national-parks-monuments-and-seashores, #parks-and-other-recreation-areas, #thailand, #waste-materials-and-disposal


Protests Shake Bangkok, Challenging Old Guard’s Grip on Thailand

The weekend rally heightened the focus on a once taboo issue: a rich and powerful monarchy that has rarely been challenged or criticized.

#bangkok-thailand, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #national-council-for-peace-and-order-thailand, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #thailand, #thammasat-university, #vajiralongkorn-1952


Freshket lands $3 million Series A led by Openspace to streamline Thailand’s food supply chain

Based in Bangkok, Freshket simplifies the process of getting fresh produce from farms to tables. Launched in 2017, the startup has now raised a $3 million Series A, led by Openspace Ventures.

Other participants included Thai private equity firm ECG-Research; Innospace; and Pamitra Wineka and Ivan Sustiawan, the co-founders of Indonesian agriculture technology startup TaniHub. French-Singaporean food conglomerate Denis Asia Pacific and Thai family office Seedersclub, who made previous investments in Freshket, also returned for the Series A.

Freshket’s technology includes an e-commerce marketplace that connects farmers and food processors to businesses, like restaurants, and consumers in Thailand. The startup was co-founded by chief executive Ponglada Paniangwet and chief marketing officer Tuangploi Chiwalaksanangkoon, who each worked in marketing before launching Freshket three years ago.

Paniangwet told TechCrunch she wanted to enter agritech because her family has worked in the agriculture business for 25 years. “I grew up learning a lot about what worked and didn’t work in the industry,” Paniangwet said. “Overall, the industry is tedious, messy and highly manual.”

Freshket’s goal is to become “an enabler for the entire food supply chain,” she added.

Before Freshket, Paniangwet started a processing center, which sources, cuts and trims fresh produce at wholesale fresh markets before delivering them to restaurants and other customers. She realized technology could be used to simplify the supply chain, increasing farmers’ incomes and the quality of produce received by customers.

There is also ample market opportunity. According to an April 2019 Euromonitor International report, the food service market in Thailand is worth over $7.7 billion in annual purchases, made by more than 200,000 restaurants (link in Thai).

Chiwalaksanangkoon, who was already good friends with Paniangwet, left her position at one of Thailand’s largest banks to co-found Freshket. The company’s platform pull together Thailand’s fragmented produce supply chain by bringing together processing centers and suppliers, and connecting them directly with farmers, who usually rely on middlemen. Freshket also provides its users with data to help them predict supply and demand for their crops.

The expenses of operating a delivery business, especially for perishable goods, can be very high. To stay cost-efficient, Freshket itself doesn’t stock fresh produce. Instead, Freshket tells its network, including farmers, how much product they will need to provide on a daily basis, so they can plan their supply chains.

Paniangwet also said the B2B food delivery business has high average order values, fortifying its unit economics. Freshket’s order, warehouse and logistics management systems are all linked together and “because of that, we are able to control the flow of goods, limit additional and labor costs and keep our overall cost base manageable,” she said.

Freshket’s main rivals in the B2B space are traditional supply chain businesses; in the consumer space, it is up against include grocery delivery startups. It competes with delivery apps by offering lower retail prices, since Freshket is already tapped into a streamlined supply chain. For B2B customers, Freshket’s selling points include more precise delivery, a wider variety of products and produce gradings.

Freshket’s new funding will be used to upgrade its supply management technology. In the future, Paniangwet said the company plans to add more services, like financing, demand forecasting and price matching.

Freshket is among several startups in Southeast Asia markets focused on streamlining the food supply chain in different countries. Others include TaniHub and Eden Farm in Indonesia, Agribuddy in Cambodia and Singapore-based Glife.

This is the third agritech investment Openspace Ventures, which focuses on early-stage companies in Southeast Asia, has made (the other are TaniHub and Singaporean grocery platform RedMart).

In a press statement about the investment, Openspace Ventures founding partner Hian Goh said, “As Openspace Ventures’ second investment in Thailand this year, Freshket reflects our growing conviction in the potential of the Thai market for high quality and innovative startups.”

#agriculture, #agritech, #asia, #farmers, #food, #freshket, #fundings-exits, #openspace-ventures, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc, #thailand


Once Out, Consort to Thailand’s King Is Back In (and a Major General, Again)

Demoted a year ago after being accused by the palace of upstaging the queen, the former consort to King Maha Vajiralongkorn has regained the titles she was stripped of last year.

#sineenat-wongvajirapakdi-1985, #thailand, #vajiralongkorn-1952


Indonesian insurtech startup PasarPolis gets $54 million Series B from investors including LeapFrog and SBI

PasarPolis, the Indonesian-based startup focused on making insurance policies more accessible in Southeast Asia, announced today it has closed a Series B round totaling $54 million. Investors include LeapFrog Investments and SBI Investment, both firms that focus on financial services; AlphaJWC; Intudo Ventures; and Xiaomi.

Gojek’s venture capital arm, Go-Ventures, which participated in PasarPolis’ Series A two years ago, also returned for the new round.

Founded in 2015 by chief executive officer Cleosent Randing and chief operating officer Michael Saputra, PasarPolis operates in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The company says the number of insurance policies it issues monthly has grown 80 times since August 2018, when it closed its Series A, and that it now partners with more than 30 insurance providers.

Randing said the the insurance penetration rate in the ASEAN region is currently just 3.6%, and the startup’s goal is to reach people who have never purchased insurance before through products including inexpensive “micro-policies” that cover broken device screens.

In 2019, the company says PasarPolis issued more than 650 million policies to people buying insurance for the first time, including ride-hailing drivers, delivery couriers, and online merchants. Sales continued to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic because it increased demand for insurance, while also prompting people to make more purchases online (most of PasarPolis’ policies are sold through its mobile apps). In June alone, the company claims it served more than four million new customers, and has now provided policies to more than 35 million customers in total.

Nishant Kumar, PasarPolis’ chief technology officer, told TechCrunch that the new funding will be used on its AI-based claim automation platform, which allows the company to customize insurance products for different industries.

It also plans to invest in PasarPolis Mitra, an onboarding platform for agents. Soft-launched in May 2020, PasarPolis allows people to apply to become Mitra, or insurance agents, for the company. PasarPolis currently has a network of about 10,000 agents in Indonesia, who help customers chose policies and process claims.

“We plan to invest in infrastructure to help our Mitra be able to engage with our customers more,” said Kumar. “We believe it’s important for us to implement both online and offline strategies as an insurtech player.”

Kumar added that even though technology plays a “pivotal role” in making insurance products accessible to more people, PasarPolis does not “see digital as just a medium to sell insurance. We think that technology can be used to segment risk in real-time and provide more affordable insurance to the masses.”

Two of PasarPolis’ main competitors in Southeast Asia include Qoala, another Indonesia-based insurtech startup that recently raised funding, and Grab Financial Group, which launched a new portfolio of consumer financial services last month, including expanded insurance offerings.

Randing told TechCrunch that PasarPolis’ competitive advantage is its “ability to offer highly customized and modular insurance products that are integrated with partners’ systems,” including health and accident coverage for Gojek’s drivers and passengers; insurance for small- to medium-sized businesses that cover damaged products and missing items; and policies that protect e-commerce customers.

An example of the kind of customized insurance products PasarPolis can create is a policy for Gojek drivers that covers stolen vehicles and costs less than USD $4 a year.

The company is also a licensed insurance broker, which is why it was able to operate PasarPolis Mitra. “The platform is so unique to Indonesians, that it enables anyone, from professional insurance Mitra, Gojek drivers, stay-at-home moms, and furloughed employees, to earn additional income, especially during the new normal,” said Randing.

#asia, #financial-services, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #insurance, #insurtech, #pasarpolis, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #vietnam


Douglas A.J. Latchford, Khmer Antiquities Expert, Dies at 88

A leading collector of Cambodian relics, he was credited with helping preserve Khmer culture. He was also charged with trafficking in looted treasures.

#antiques, #archaeology-and-anthropology, #art, #arts-and-antiquities-looting, #cambodia, #collectors-and-collections, #deaths-obituaries, #latchford-douglas-a-j, #thailand


Remember the ‘Travel Bubble’? Here’s How It Burst

To keep tourism afloat during the pandemic, some countries formed travel alliances with their neighbors. At summer’s end, the experiment has had mixed results.

#anguilla, #australia, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #europe, #new-zealand, #quarantines, #thailand, #travel-and-vacations, #united-states


After restricting a group critical of Thailand’s monarchy, Facebook says it will take legal action against the government

After restricting access to a popular group with posts critical of Thailand’s monarchy, Facebook is planning legal action against the Thai government, which the social media giant says forced it to restrict content deemed to be illegal.

On Monday, Reuters reported access to Royalist Marketplace had been blocked within Thailand. Users there who try to visit the group, which has over a million members, now see a message that says access to it has “been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.”

In a media statement emailed to TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson said, “After careful review, Facebook has determined that we are compelled to restrict access to content which the Thai government has deemed to be illegal. Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves. We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”

The spokesperson added, “excessive government actions like this also undermine our ability to reliably invest in Thailand, including maintaining an office, safeguarding our employees, and directly supporting businesses that rely on Facebook.”

The group was started in April by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a dissident living in self-exile in Japan, where he is an associate professor of political science at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Pavin told Reuters that Royalist Marketplace “is part of the democratization process, it is a space for freedom of expression. By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.”

The geo-restriction of Royalist Marketplace comes as thousands of pro-democracy protestors in Bangkok demand reform of the monarchy, including abolition of a strict lese-majeste law that mandates prison sentences of up to 15 years for people who defame members of the monarchy.

Pavin has been openly critical of Thailand’s monarchy. In a piece published on the Council of Foreign Relation’s website earlier this month, Pavin wrote that “for several decades now, the supposedly constitutional monarchy of Thailand has often proven to extend its powers beyond constitutional norms and rules,” intervening in politics as the current king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, established closer ties with the military.

In a 2014 New York Times opinion piece, Pavin described having a warrant issued for his arrest by the military junta that overthrew the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014. He was also attacked by a intruder in his Kyoto apparent, which Pavin believes “was a warning for my continuing to hold, and express, my positions.”

The restriction of Thai users’ access to Royalist Marketplace took place three weeks after Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Puttipong Punnakanta, threatened to take action against Facebook because he said it did not comply quickly enough with the government’s requests to restrict content.

In 2016, Thailand enacted the Computer-Related Crime Act, which the Human Rights Watch warned “gives overly broad powers to the government to restrict free speech, enforce surveillance and censorship, and retaliate against activists.”

Facebook is also under scrutiny in India, its biggest market by number of users, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Ankhi Das, the company’s top public policy executive in India, had opposed applying the platform’s hate-speech rules to a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.

#asia, #facebook, #policy, #royalist-marketplace, #southeast-asia, #tc, #thailand


Thailand Police Arrest Activists, Escalating Protest Crackdown

Rappers, a lawyer and other government critics have been accused of sedition, a crime that can carry a 7-year prison sentence.

#bangkok-thailand, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #thailand


Protests Unlike Any in Thailand’s History

A new generation of activists in Thailand is moving away from coded criticism of the military and the monarchy, and publicly calling for wholesale democratic reform.

#bangkok-thailand, #bhumibol-adulyadej, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #future-forward-party-thailand, #national-council-for-peace-and-order-thailand, #politics-and-government, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #thailand, #thaksin-shinawatra, #thammasat-university, #vajiralongkorn-1952, #yingluck-shinawatra


Protests Take On Thailand’s Monarchy, Despite Laws Banning Such Criticism

The rare questioning of Thailand’s royal family comes as student-led demonstrations have gained momentum, testing the government and the boundaries of strict lèse-majesté laws.

#bangkok-thailand, #chulalongkorn-university, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #libel-and-slander, #national-council-for-peace-and-order-thailand, #prayuth-chan-ocha, #royal-families, #thailand, #thammasat-university, #vajiralongkorn-1952


The Three Abductions of N.: How Corporate Kidnapping Works

When estranged parents take children across borders, a shadowy industry of “recovery agents” can get them back — for a fee.

#australia, #chaloemmeeprasert-atchariya, #chapman-colin-abduction-agent, #child-abduction-recovery-international, #child-custody-and-support, #child-recovery-australia, #children-and-childhood, #dempster-stuart, #families-and-family-life, #frauds-and-swindling, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #stilla-brad, #taylor-michael-private-security-contractor, #thailand, #whittington-adam-abduction-agent