Vietnam-based healthcare booking app Docosan gets $1M seed funding led by AppWorks

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, Docosan helps patients avoid long waits by letting them search and book doctors through its app. The company announced today it has raised more than $1 million in seed funding, which is claims is one of the largest seed rounds ever for a Vietnamese healthtech startup. The investment was led by AppWorks, the Taiwan-based early-stage investor and accelerator program, with participation from David Ma and Huat Ventures.

Founded in 2020, the app has been used by about 50,000 patients for bookings and now has more than 300 individual healthcare providers, ranging from small family pediatric clinics to neurosurgeons at large private hospitals, co-founder and chief executive officer Beth Ann Lopez told TechCrunch. Providers are vetted before being added to the platform and have on average 18 years of clinical experience.

Lopez said advance doctor bookings aren’t the norm in Vietnam. Instead, people who use private healthcare providers have to “choose between over 30,000 private hospitals and clinics spread across the hospital with huge variations in price and quality. This is why people use word of mouth recommendations from their family and friends to choose a healthcare provider. Then they show up at a hospital or clinic and wait in line, sometimes for hours.”

Docosan’s users can filter providers with criteria like location and specialty, and see pricing information and verified customer reviews. It recently added online payment features and insurance integrations. The company, which took part in Harvard’s Launch Lab X plans to launch telehealth and pharmacy services as well.

For healthcare providers on the app, Docosan provides software to manage bookings and ease wait times, a key selling point during the COVID-19 pandemic because many people are reluctant to sit in crowded waiting rooms. Lopez said another benefit is reducing the number of marketing and adminstrative tasks doctors have to do, allowing them to spend more time with patients.

The startup plans to expand into other countries. “Docosan is a solution that works well anywhere with a large, fragmented private healthcare system,” said Lopez. “We would all benefit from a world in which it’s as easy to find a great doctor as it is a book a Grab taxi.”

In press statement, AppWorks partner Andy Tsai said, “We noticed Docosan’s potential early on because of its participation in the AppWorks Accelerator. Docosan’s founders demonstrated strong experience and dedication to the healthcare issues in the region. We are proud to be supporting Docosan’s vision of better healthcare access for all.”

#asia, #docosan, #health, #healthcare, #healthtech, #southeast-asia, #tc, #telehealth, #vietnam

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Vietnamese electric motorbike startup Dat Bike raises $2.6M led by Jungle Ventures

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike on one of the startup's motorbikes

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike

Dat Bike, a Vietnamese startup with ambitions to become the top electric motorbike company in Southeast Asia, has raised $2.6 million in pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures. Made in Vietnam with mostly domestic parts, Dat Bike’s selling point is its ability to compete with gas motorbikes in terms of pricing and performance. Its new funding is the first time Jungle Ventures has invested in the mobility sector and included participation from Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund and iSeed Ventures.

Founder and chief executive officer Son Nguyen began learning how to build bikes from scrap parts while working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. In 2018, he moved back to Vietnam and launched Dat Bike. More than 80% of households in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam own two-wheeled vehicles, but the majority are fueled by gas. Nguyen told TechCrunch that many people want to switch to electric motorbikes, but a major obstacle is performance.

Nguyen said that Dat Bike offers three times the performance (5 kW versus 1.5 kW) and 2 times the range (100 km versus 50 km) of most electric motorbikes in the market, at the same price point. The company’s flagship motorbike, called Weaver, was created to compete against gas motorbikes. It seats two people, which Nguyen noted is an important selling point in Southeast Asian countries, and has a 5000W motor that accelerates from 0 to 50 km per hour in three seconds. The Weaver can be fully charged at a standard electric outlet in about three hours, and reach up to 100 km on one charge (the motorbike’s next iteration will go up to 200 km on one charge).

Dat Bike’s opened its first physical store in Ho Chi Minh City last December. Nguyen said the company “has shipped a few hundred motorbikes so far and still have a backlog of orders.” He added that it saw a 35% month-over-month growth in new orders after the Ho Chi Minh City store opened.

At 39.9 million dong, or about $1,700 USD, Weaver’s pricing is also comparable to the median price of gas motorbikes. Dat Bike partners with banks and financial institutions to offer consumers twelve-month payment plans with no interest.

“These guys are competing with each other to put the emerging middle class of Vietnam on the digital financial market for the first time ever and as a result, we get a very favorable rate,” he said.

While Vietnam’s government hasn’t implemented subsidies for electric motorbikes yet, the Ministry of Transportation has proposed new regulations mandating electric infrastructure at parking lots and bike stations, which Nguyen said will increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Other Vietnamese companies making electric two-wheeled vehicles include VinFast and PEGA.

One of Dat Bike’s advantages is that its bikes are developed in house, with locally-sourced parts. Nguyen said the benefits of manufacturing in Vietnam, instead of sourcing from China and other countries, include streamlined logistics and a more efficient supply chain, since most of Dat Bike’s suppliers are also domestic.

“There are also huge tax advantages for being local, as import tax for bikes is 45% and for bike parts ranging from 15% to 30%,” said Nguyen. “Trade within Southeast Asia is tariff-free though, which means that we have a competitive advantage to expand to the region, compare to foreign imported bikes.”

Dat Bike plans to expand by building its supply chain in Southeast Asia over the next two to three years, with the help of investors like Jungle Ventures.

In a statement, Jungle Ventures founding partner Amit Anand said, “The $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia in particular is ripe for reaping benefits of new developments in electric vehicles and automation. We believe that Dat Bike will lead this charge and create a new benchmark not just in the region but potentially globally for what the next generation of two-wheeler electric vehicles will look and perform like.”

#asia, #dat-bike, #electric-motorbike, #electric-vehicles, #fundings-exits, #mobility, #motorbike, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam

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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

0

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

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With Swarms of Ships, Beijing Tightens Its Grip on South China Sea

After building artificial islands, China is using large fleets of ostensibly civilian boats to press other countries’ vessels out of disputed waters.

#china, #duterte-rodrigo, #international-relations, #malaysia, #philippines, #reefs, #south-china-sea, #territorial-disputes, #vietnam, #xi-jinping

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Monk’s Hill Ventures and Glints on how Southeast Asian startups can cope with the region’s talent crunch

A lot has changed since Monk’s Hill Ventures released its first report on tech compensation in Southeast Asia five years ago, with base salaries and competition for top talent jumping dramatically. But one thing has remained the same since 2016: startup compensation data, including information about base pay, bonuses and stock options, is still hard to find. To get more data for its latest Southeast Asia Tech Talent Compensation report, which covers startup hiring in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, Monk’s Hill Ventures teamed up with Glints, one of its portfolio companies.

Glints is a recruitment platform that claims 4 million users each month and is used by 30,000 organizations. The report analyzed more than 1,000 data points from Glints’ proprietary database, including job advertisements and placements made through 2020, and surveyed 175 employees in both technical and non-technical roles. It also includes interviews with more than 20 founders, including from Bot MD, Carousell, Horangi, the Asianparent and Ninja Van. The full report can be downloaded here.

The report focused on Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam because they are three of the fastest-growing markets in Southeast Asia. It found that startups are dealing with several major shifts at the same time. There are more Southeast Asian startups maturing into late stage, but at the same time, large American and Chinese tech companies are setting up regional operations, including TikTok, Tencent, Alibaba and Zoom. This means compensation packages are being driven up and startups face a talent crunch, especially in Singapore. Most of the founders interviewed by Monk’s Hill Ventures and Glints said that base salaries have at least doubled since 2016.

Going remote even before the pandemic

But the range of salaries and talent pool varies widely between Southeast Asian countries, and as a result, tech startups can build strong teams with a regionally distributed strategy. For example, this can look like an engineering team in Vietnam, data science team in Singapore and product management team in Indonesia. Vietnam had the highest salary differences between senior and junior roles, for both tech and non-tech talent, compared to Singapore and Indonesia, which the report said means there is “strong potential for upward salary growth within the Vietnamese tech sector.”

Oswald Yeo, co-founder and chief executive officer of Glints, told TechCrunch that many startups were building regionally distributed engineering hubs before COVID-19 because there was simply not enough talent in Singapore. Now even more founders have become open to remote teams because of the pandemic. But having teams in different countries doesn’t just address the talent crunch. It also lays the groundwork for regional expansion.

“Commercially in Southeast Asia, you can’t stay in a single market unless it’s maybe Indonesia,” said Yeo. “If you stay only in Singapore, Malaysia or even Vietnam, you will not be a large enough business and make the impact you want to make. A lot of startups have to venture out, so they end up having commercial teams in each market anyway and then it’s very normal for them to build product and tech teams in those markets.”

Competing for specialized skills

The report found that tech roles, including product, data science and engineering, earn 54% more than non-technical roles, like marketing, operations or finance. But the base salary between product and data science roles over non-technical roles was one to two times higher than for engineering, suggesting that “while engineering skills are becoming more common across the region, specialized product and data science skills remain hard to come by.”

Founders said that vice presidents of engineering in particular are seen as one of a startup’s most critical hires. Singapore-based startups at Series B and upward paid base monthly salaries ranging from $7,500 to $10,000, with equity compensation from 0.3% to 1.2%. In Indonesia, base salaries for engineering VPs ranged from $2,800 to $7,100 depending on the stage of company, and in Vietnam, early stage companies paid on average $1,000 to $5,000. That amount increased to $5,000 to $6,000 after raising Series A funding, and $8,000 to $10,000 for companies at Series B stage and above.

The competition for top tech talent is also reflected in C-level compensation. The report found that chief executive officers tend to hold more equity in their startups, but chief technology officers consistently have higher median base salaries, “suggesting that CEOs are often willing to take a pay cut in favor of their technical counterparts, who are typically highly valued and considered scarce assets to the company.”

Based on combined data from Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, CEO’s median salary increased from $2,600 a month at the $0 to $10 million funding stage, to $6,000 a month at $5 million to $10 million in funding. In comparison, at the same funding stages, CTO’s median salary increased from $3,300 to $7,550 respectively. CEO at startups with funding up to $5 million owned between 15% to 100% of their company’s equity, while the average ownership of CTOs at that stage is 19%.

Cash versus equity

Another noteworthy finding is that less than 32% of tech talent surveyed by Monk’s Hill Ventures and Glints are being compensated in equity. Founders said employees, especially junior-to-mid level hires, still prefer cash. But this is changing as founders spend more time educating their teams about the benefits of equity, and some startups are now also offering annual wage supplements, bonuses, restricted stock units or employee stock ownership plans.

Some founders reported that executives who have worked in the American or Singaporean startup ecosystems are keener on equity options, but in general, there needs to be more startup exits in Southeast Asia for candidates to become open to equity.

Before co-founding Monk’s Hill Ventures, Peng Ong was a venture partner at GSR Ventures in China. “In 2010, in that time frame, there were the same issues there. People wanted cash. Fast forward to three years later, when the IPOs started to happen, all that changed. People wanted options,” Ong told TechCrunch. He said that the same shift is gradually starting to happen in Southeast Asia, thanks to Sea Group and Razer’s IPOs.

#glints, #indonesia, #monks-hill-ventures, #salaries, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #tech-compensation, #vietnam

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YC-backed Homebase is an alternative to traditional mortgages for home buyers in Vietnam

Homebase co-founders Phillip An and Junyuan Tan

Homebase co-founders Phillip An and Junyuan Tan

The home ownership rate in Vietnam is about 90%, but many millennials are struggling to join that number. Rising property prices in cities, coupled with a lack of financing options, mean more people have to delay buying their first homes unless they have family support.

Part of Y Combinator’s latest batch, Homebase was founded in 2019 to give prospective buyers in Vietnam an alternative to traditional financing. Homebase acts as a co-investor, buying a share of property with customers, who then have the option of purchasing equity from Homebase until they take full ownership, or selling the property for their portion of the proceeds. In the meantime, buyers pay rent to Homebase that corresponds to the company’s stake, and have full usage rights to the home, so they can live in or rent it.

Co-founders Junyuan Tan and Phillip An originally started Homebase in Singapore, but decided to focus on Vietnam because Tan had lived there while working on his previous startups, RePrice Technologies and Atlantis Lab. Tan wanted to buy a home, but found bank mortgages charged high interest rates even on short-term loans.

“If you look at the whole of Southeast Asia, compared to Europe or the U.S., there are really no other solutions, like government schemes or rent-to-own financing solutions,” Homebase chief operating officer Phillip An told TechCrunch.

Its model is similar to Divvy Homes and ZeroDown in the United States and, in fact, leaders from both startups have invested in Homebase (Divvy Homes co-founder Brian Ma and ZeroDown’s former COO Troy Steckenrider). Homebase’s other backers include VinaCapital Ventures, Class 5 Global, Pegasus Technology Ventures, 1982 Ventures, Antler and Darius Cheung, the founder and CEO of 99.co.

Most of Homebase’s transactions are currently in Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon, and it plans to expand into Hanoi and Danang by the end of this year. Ultimately, Homebase’s goal is to enter other Southeast Asian markets where home owners also face a dearth of financing options, like Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

In Vietnam, about 70% of adults are “unbanked,” meaning they don’t have a bank account, which makes it difficult to apply for mortgages. An said some of Homebase’s customers use the service because they are unbanked. Other customers have financial accounts, but see Homebase as a faster, more flexible option to bank loans.

Its contracts range from one to 10 years, and at the end, customers have the option of buying all the equity in the property or selling it with Homebase to get back their investment. The amount of equity customers buy at the start also varies. For example, home buyers who are using Homebase as an alternative to mortgages typically take an initial 20% to 30% stake in the property, while real estate investors often start with a 50% stake.

Homebase finances its stake in properties in part by working with third-party financial institutions, including private high-net worth individuals and family offices who see it as an opportunity to diversify their holdings into a new asset class. An said the company is also talking to different types of funds, including equity, hedge, real estate debt and emerging market debt, from Europe, the United States and Singapore.

To screen applicants, Homebase has an internal checklist and onboarding process, and it also works with real estate agents, developers and other partners in Vietnam.

For those third parties, Homebase serves as a value-add tool that helps them close more deals by providing a way for customers to get financing. Homebase also performs due diligence on potential properties, including examining documentation and permits, and has built an asset valuation model based on existing property data, transaction data and information from developers.

An said this valuation service, which Homebase is expanding, is a key part of the business because it provides assurance to buyers that the company’s incentives are aligned with theirs.

“We stand to risk our investment, too,” he said. “Many customers are also first-time buyers and they want more help to find a good property.”

#asia, #fundings-exits, #homebase, #real-estate, #rent-to-own, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam, #y-combinator

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Jeff raises $1M to build alternative credit scoring and other fintech products for Southeast Asia

According to the World Bank, more than one billion people in South and East Asia lack access to a bank account. For many, this makes it is difficult to secure loans and other services because they don’t have traditional financial records like a credit score. Jeff’s loan brokerage platform was created to make it easier for financial service providers to integrate alternative data scoring, allowing them reach more potential borrowers.

The startup, which launched its app in Vietnam last year, announced today it has raised $1 million, led by the Estonian Business Angels Network (EstBAN). The funding will be used to enter other Southeast Asian markets, including Indonesia and the Philippines, and introduce new products, like free credit score and insurance offers, digital discount coupons and mobile wallet cashbacks. Other participants in the round included Startup Wise Guys; Taavi Tamkivi, the founder of Salv who formerly held lead roles at TransferWise and Skype; and angel investors from European on-demand ride platform Bolt.

Jeff currently claims more than 300,000 users in Vietnam. Though it is based in Latvia, Jeff will continue focusing on unbanked people in South and Southeast Asia, said founder and chief executive officer Toms Niparts. Its goal is to build a “super app” that combines personalized loan comparisons with other services like e-commerce, mobile top-ups and online discounts, Niparts told TechCrunch in an email.

Before starting Jeff, Niparts was CEO of Spain for Digital Finance International, a fintech company that is part of the Finstar Financial Group, which has investments in more than 30 countries. This gave Niparts the chance to “learn about the similarities and differences of financial services from the inside in different markets,” he said.

In particular, he saw that in Southeast Asian countries, most loan applicants “were rejected not because of bad credit history, low income or other similar reasons, but because there was not enough data about them.” While some lending companies have developed pilot projects for alternative data scoring, the process is often time-consuming, complicated and expensive.

“This is a massive problem in a big part of the world, and it makes absolute sense to build it as a centralised solution,” Niparts said.

In Vietnam, Jeff currently has between 12 to 15 active partners at a time (the number changes because lenders occasionally turn off demand, a standard industry practice), and is adding another eight to 10. In total, the company now has about 80 to 100 potential partners in its Vietnam pipeline, and part of its new funding will be used to expand its team to speed up the onboarding process.

In Indonesia, Jeff has identified about 40 potential partners, “but so far we have only been scratching the surface,” said Niparts. “The Indonesian market is considerably larger than what we have seen in Vietnam, and the forecast is we will grow the pipeline to 150-200 banks and partners in 2021.”

The company’s selling point hinges on its ability to accurately measure creditworthiness based on alternative data. For lenders, this means more pre-qualified leads and access to a larger customer segment.

“Building a credit score is a never-ending process, and we are at the very early stages of it. What we have right now is mainly around publicly accessible information and client-consented data,” Niparts said. This includes behavioral analytics, smart devices meta data, data from social media and other sources that have open APIs.

As Jeff grows, it also plans to make partnerships with mobile wallets, telecom companies and consumer apps. It is developing a lender toolkit that includes bank portal and lender API to reduce the amount of time needed to integrate with the app.

Loan brokerage app Jeff's onboarding chatbot, shown on a smartphone display

Jeff’s onboarding chatbot

Borrowers sign up for Jeff with the app’s chatbot and can start getting offers once they enter basic information like their name, contact information, the amount they want to borrow and the purpose of the loan. But adding more details and data sources to their profiles, which are screened by multiple lenders at once, increases their chances of approval, and unlocks more offers. This may include uploading documents, connecting social media accounts or consenting to share their smart device metadata.

“As we evolve, new integrations and compatible accounts from other service providers—such as utilities, food delivery, and more—will be regularly added,” said Niparts.

Jeff’s partners currently offer near-prime, peer-to-peer and digital lending services that include unsecured consumer loans, installment loans and motorbike financing. It plans to add more loan products, and is also working on its first insurance collaborations, credit cards and other bank-grade products.

“Our ambition for Jeff is to become a super app, where people can not only get access to financial services that were previously unavailable to them, but also tap in other benefits and discounts,” Niparts said. “This is also a great way to learn more about creditworthiness and what’s on demand. Every new interactions gives us more data and insights to further evolve the accuracy and value added of Jeff’s credit score.”

The number of fintech startups focused on financial inclusion is on the rise across Southeast Asia. Jeff’s competitors fall into two main categories. The first are comparison portals like TopBank, TheBank and GoBear (which recently announced it is closing), that allow users to compare financial providers and banks, but don’t focus on enabling them to access services. The second are companies like CredoLab, Seon and Kalap that provide third-party services like single data-source insights and fraud prevention, but “do not have control over the customer journey,” Nipsart said.

Jeff’s goal is to “be a one-stop shop for both,” he added. “We provide both clients, as well as deeper insights about them for banks and other partners using our platform. At the same time, we are the main point of interaction for the users, which not only solves the main need of comparing financial services and accessing them, but also offers an increasing range of other discounts and benefits.”

#asia, #europe, #financial-inclusion, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #jeff, #latvia, #loan-brokerage, #philippines, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam

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No-code business intelligence service y42 raises $2.9M seed round

Berlin-based y42 (formerly known as Datos Intelligence), a data warehouse-centric business intelligence service that promises to give businesses access to an enterprise-level data stack that’s as simple to use as a spreadsheet, today announced that it has raised a $2.9 million seed funding round led by La Famiglia VC. Additional investors include the co-founders of Foodspring, Personio and Petlab.

The service, which was founded in 2020, integrates with over 100 data sources, covering all the standard B2B SaaS tools from Airtable to Shopify and Zendesk, as well as database services like Google’s BigQuery. Users can then transform and visualize this data, orchestrate their data pipelines and trigger automated workflows based on this data (think sending Slack notifications when revenue drops or emailing customers based on your own custom criteria).

Like similar startups, y42 extends the idea data warehouse, which was traditionally used for analytics, and helps businesses operationalize this data. At the core of the service is a lot of open source and the company, for example, contributes to GitLabs’ Meltano platform for building data pipelines.

y42 founder and CEO Hung Dang

y42 founder and CEO Hung Dang.

“We’re taking the best of breed open-source software. What we really want to accomplish is to create a tool that is so easy to understand and that enables everyone to work with their data effectively,” Y42 founder and CEO Hung Dang told me. “We’re extremely UX obsessed and I would describe us as no-code/low-code BI tool — but with the power of an enterprise-level data stack and the simplicity of Google Sheets.”

Before y42, Vietnam-born Dang co-founded a major events company that operated in over 10 countries and made millions in revenue (but with very thin margins), all while finishing up his studies with a focus on business analytics. And that in turn led him to also found a second company that focused on B2B data analytics.

Image Credits: y42

Even while building his events company, he noted, he was always very product- and data-driven. “I was implementing data pipelines to collect customer feedback and merge it with operational data — and it was really a big pain at that time,” he said. “I was using tools like Tableau and Alteryx, and it was really hard to glue them together — and they were quite expensive. So out of that frustration, I decided to develop an internal tool that was actually quite usable and in 2016, I decided to turn it into an actual company. ”

He then sold this company to a major publicly listed German company. An NDA prevents him from talking about the details of this transaction, but maybe you can draw some conclusions from the fact that he spent time at Eventim before founding y42.

Given his background, it’s maybe no surprise that y42’s focus is on making life easier for data engineers and, at the same time, putting the power of these platforms in the hands of business analysts. Dang noted that y42 typically provides some consulting work when it onboards new clients, but that’s mostly to give them a head start. Given the no-code/low-code nature of the product, most analysts are able to get started pretty quickly  — and for more complex queries, customers can opt to drop down from the graphical interface to y42’s low-code level and write queries in the service’s SQL dialect.

The service itself runs on Google Cloud and the 25-people team manages about 50,000 jobs per day for its clients. the company’s customers include the likes of LifeMD, Petlab and Everdrop.

Until raising this round, Dang self-funded the company and had also raised some money from angel investors. But La Famiglia felt like the right fit for y42, especially due to its focus on connecting startups with more traditional enterprise companies.

“When we first saw the product demo, it struck us how on top of analytical excellence, a lot of product development has gone into the y42 platform,” said Judith Dada, General Partner at LaFamiglia VC. “More and more work with data today means that data silos within organizations multiply, resulting in chaos or incorrect data. y42 is a powerful single source of truth for data experts and non-data experts alike. As former data scientists and analysts, we wish that we had y42 capabilities back then.”

Dang tells me he could have raised more but decided that he didn’t want to dilute the team’s stake too much at this point. “It’s a small round, but this round forces us to set up the right structure. For the series, A, which we plan to be towards the end of this year, we’re talking about a dimension which is 10x,” he told me.

#alteryx, #analytics, #berlin, #big-data, #business-intelligence, #business-software, #ceo, #cloud, #data, #data-analysis, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #enterprise, #general-partner, #information-technology, #judith-dada, #recent-funding, #shopify, #sql, #startups, #vietnam

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Georgia Attacks Prompt a Muted Reaction in Asia

Six of the eight victims were of Asian descent. But in China and South Korea, debate over the violence played out with far less intensity than it did in the United States.

#atlanta-ga, #china, #discrimination, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #singapore, #taiwan, #vietnam

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I Don’t Want My Role Models Erased

This is how women who covered Vietnam were marginalized in the war’s history.

#agence-france-presse, #burns-ken, #fitzgerald-frances, #halberstam-david, #kate-webb, #leroy-catherine, #malcolm-browne, #national-book-awards, #pulitzer-prizes, #sheehan-neil, #united-press-international, #vietnam, #vietnam-war, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

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Countries Tried to Curb Trade in Plastic Waste. The U.S. Is Shipping More.

Data shows that American exporters continue to ship plastic waste overseas, often to poorer countries, even though most of the world has agreed to not accept it.

#basel-action-network, #center-for-international-environmental-law, #corporations, #floods, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #indonesia, #international-trade-and-world-market, #kenya, #malaysia, #plastics, #recycling-of-waste-materials, #ships-and-shipping, #united-states, #vietnam, #waste-materials-and-disposal

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He Writes Unreliable Narrators Because He Is One, Too

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer for his debut, “The Sympathizer,” recognition that was great for his career and bad for his writing. Now he’s back with its subversive sequel, “The Committed.”

#books-and-literature, #content-type-personal-profile, #grove-atlantic, #immigration-and-emigration, #nguyen-viet-thanh-1971, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #the-committed-book, #the-sympathizer-book, #vietnam, #vietnamese-americans, #writing-and-writers

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Vietnam Gives Nguyen Phu Trong a 3rd Term as Communist Chief

Nguyen Phu Trong, 76, was named to a third term in office as party leaders were unable to reach consensus on a successor. The reappointment may have put off a transition to more pragmatic leadership.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #communist-party-of-vietnam, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #internal-storyline-no, #international-relations, #politics-and-government, #term-limits-political-office, #trong-nguyen-phu, #vietnam

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English learning app ELSA lands $15 million Series B for international growth and its B2B platform

Speaking is one of the hardest parts of learning a new language, especially if you don’t have someone to practice with regularly. ELSA is an app that helps by using speech recognition technology to correct pronunciation. Based in San Francisco and Ho Chi Minh City, ELSA announced today it has raised a $15 million Series B, led by VI (Vietnam Investments) Group and SIG. Other participants included returning investors Google’s AI-focused fund Gradient Ventures, SOSV and Monk’s Hill Ventures, along with Endeavor Catalyst and Globant Ventures.

The capital will be used to expand ELSA’s operations in Latin America and build a scalable B2B platform, allowing companies and educational organizations to offers the app’s coaching services to employees or students. Founded in 2015, ELSA, which stands for English Language Speech Assistant, now claims more than 13 million users. Its last round of funding was a $7 million Series A announced in 2019.

In addition to Latin America, ELSA will also focus on expanding in Vietnam, India and Japan, where it saw high demand last year. The company recently formed a partnership with IDP and British Council, which owns the widely-used IELTS English language test and now recommends ELSA to for test preparation. ELSA is also working with language schools in Vietnam like IMAP and Speak Up, online learning platform YOLA and corporate clients including Kimberly Clark, Intel and ATAD.

ELSA co-founder and chief executive officer Vu Van told TechCrunch that many users want to improve their English speaking proficiency for job opportunities and to increase their earning potential. In Vietnam, India and Brazil, people with higher English speaking proficiency can earn about two to three times more than their colleagues, she said.

“This motivation drives a lot of demand for our English learner community in Vietnam, India and Brazil, especially during COVID-19 when we’ve seen enormous interest from the LatAm region as well,” Van added.

Smartphone with English pronunciation app ELSA open on it

ELSA’s English pronunciation feedback

In Vietnam, where Van is from, English learners spend a lot of their disposable income on online or offline English training. “However, the majority of English learners still struggle to improve their speaking skill because other people don’t understand them or they’re afraid to speak it,” she said. ELSA was designed to give them an accessible resource to help improve their pronunciation and confidence when speaking English.

Other apps focused on English pronunciation include FluentU and Say It. Van said one of ELSA’s main advantages is its proprietary voice recognition AI tech.

“What’s unique about our AI is that we’ve collected the largest amount of accented English voice data from millions of users that we have used to train our AI model over the last few years, which gives us a higher accuracy in recognizing and understanding non-native English speakers around the world,” she said. “The other existing voice recognition technologies available, by comparison, might understand native speakers well but have a hard time understanding non-native accented English learner communities.”

Instead of providing feedback about individual words, ELSA’s app also corrects individual sounds and gives users detailed information on how to improve their pronunciation, including “very advanced prosodic speaking features like intonation, rhythm and fluency to help them speak English more naturally, something that our competitors don’t offer,” Van added.

#apps, #asia, #edtech, #elsa, #english-learning, #fundings-exits, #southeast-asia, #speech-recognition, #startups, #tc, #vietnam

0

The World’s Rarest Turtle Has a Shot at Escaping Extinction

Conservationists confirmed that a Swinhoe’s softshell turtle found in Vietnam is female, reigniting hope for saving the species.

#conservation-of-resources, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #hanoi-vietnam, #reproduction-biological, #turtles-and-tortoises, #vietnam, #wildlife-conservation-society, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

A Scoop About the Pentagon Papers, 50 Years Later

A former Times reporter obtained the answer to a major question involving Neil Sheehan’s source, then had to keep it secret until last week.

#classified-information-and-state-secrets, #defense-department, #ellsberg-daniel, #new-york-times, #news-and-news-media, #news-sources-confidential-status-of, #pentagon-papers, #scott-janny, #sheehan-neil, #the-post-movie, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #vietnam

0

Vietnam Imprisons 3 Journalists Amid Broader Attack on Speech

The sentences are the latest crackdown on dissent in the one-party state, as the ruling Communist Party prepares for an important political conclave.

#freedom-of-the-press, #le-huu-minh-tuan, #news-and-news-media, #nguyen-tuong-thuy, #pham-chi-dung, #political-prisoners, #politics-and-government, #sentences-criminal, #vietnam

0

Trump Administration Says Vietnam and Switzerland Manipulated Currency

The decision to label the countries as currency manipulators for the first time is likely to raise tensions with two trading partners.

#currency, #international-trade-and-world-market, #politics-and-government, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vietnam

0

Brittanya Karma, German-Vietnamese Social Media Star, Dies at 29

She used her social media clout to preach and model self-confidence. She died of complications of Covid-19 in a Hamburg hospital.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-obituaries, #germany, #karma-brittanya-1991-2020, #reality-television, #social-media, #vietnam

0

Menaced by Murder Hornets, Bees Decorate Their Hives With Poop

Asian honeybees have exhibited what scientists call a form of tool use to deter attacks by giant predatory wasps.

#animal-behavior, #bees, #biology-and-biochemistry, #feces, #hornets-insects, #insects, #invasive-species, #manure, #mattila-heather-rose, #public-library-of-science-plos, #research, #vietnam, #wasps-insects, #wellesley-college, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Mobile testing platform Kobiton raises $14M, acquires competitor Mobile Labs

Atlanta-based Kobiton, a mobile testing platform that allows developers and QA teams to test their apps on real devices, both on their own desks and through the company’s cloud-based service, today announced that it has acquired Mobile Labs, another Atlanta-based mobile testing service.

To finance the acquisition of its well-funded competitor, Kobiton raised a $14 million extension to its $5.2 million Series A from its existing investor BIP Capital and new investor Fulcrum Equity Partners.

As Kobiton CEO Kevin Lee told me, we shouldn’t take that as the acquisition price, but it’s probably a fair guess that the real price isn’t too far off. The companies declined to disclose the exact price, though. Mobile Labs, which was founded in 2011, had raised about $15 million before the acquisition, according to Crunchbase. The last time it raised outside funding was in 2014. Kobiton and Mobile Labs do not share any common investors.

Kobiton CEO Kevin Lee

It’s interesting that Kobiton, which launched in 2017 and which may seem like a smaller player at first glance, was able to acquire Mobile Labs. Lee argues that one of the reasons why Mobile Labs decided to sell is that while his company has long focused on using machine learning to help developers build the tests for their apps — and the open-source Appium testing framework — Mobile Labs had fallen behind in this area.

“They were a little slow to invest in [AI] and I think they realized — and rest of the market, I think will realize it — if you don’t invest heavily and early, you kind of get behind the eight ball,” Lee told me.

He also noted that there are a lot of obvious synergies between the two companies. Mobile Labs has a lot of clients in the gaming and financial services space, for example. A lot of those clients are relatively new to mobile, while Kobiton’s existing customer base is often mobile-first.

“They’ve been around for 10 years and [have] a lot of partners, a lot of stuff outside the US,” Lee noted. “They have mainly have focused on what I would call large established enterprises in regulated industries or industries that are really concerned about IP protection — so behind the firewalls — where they really succeeded well.”

Those Mobile Labs customers, Lee said, were also looking for AI/ML-based testing solutions and the acquisition will now allow the two companies to layers Kobiton’s technology on top of the Mobile Labs solution. There will be an upgrade path for these customers and they’ll be able to do so at their own pace. There’s no plan to sunset Mobile Labs’ existing services for the time being, though some of Mobile Labs’ individual brands may change names.

With this acquisition, Kobiton will more than double the number of its US-based employees, though that’s in part because a good portion of the company’s team is based in Vietnam.

#artificial-intelligence, #atlanta, #automation, #bip-capital, #ceo, #developer, #finance, #fulcrum-equity-partners, #kobiton, #machine-learning, #player, #sauce-labs, #software-engineering, #tc, #united-states, #vietnam

0

Typhoon Molave Slams Into Vietnam, Bringing Death and More Misery

Already battling devastating floods, the country was hit by one of its biggest storms in decades.

#deaths-fatalities, #landslides-and-mudslides, #rescues, #typhoons, #vietnam, #weather

0

She Was in Labor. Floodwaters Were Rising. Then the Boat Tipped Over.

A pregnant woman who drowned in Vietnam was one of at least 114 people killed in record-breaking floods that have pummeled the country’s central coast.

#deaths-fatalities, #floods, #rain, #vietnam

0

Landslide in Vietnam Kills at Least 20 Military Personnel

Search-and-rescue efforts were underway after a landslide in the central province of Quang Tri, resulting in what may be the country’s greatest military loss in peacetime.

#deaths-fatalities, #disasters-and-emergencies, #floods, #landslides-and-mudslides, #rain, #vietnam

0

Is Vietnam the Next ‘Asian Miracle’?

The country is making autocratic capitalism work unusually well.

#foreign-investments, #international-trade-and-world-market, #politics-and-government, #vietnam

0

Henry Golding Drew on His Own Cultural Confusion in ‘Monsoon’

The actor discussed how playing a British-Vietnamese man trying to understand his identity resonated with Golding’s experiences living in Britain and Malaysia.

#golding-henry-1987, #immigration-and-emigration, #movies, #vietnam

0

Trump Administration Opens Investigation Into Vietnam’s Trade Practices

An inquiry will look into the country’s use of illegal timber as well as its currency practices, and could eventually result in tariffs.

#international-trade-and-world-market, #lighthizer-robert-e, #office-of-the-united-states-trade-representative, #vietnam

0

Vietnam Confiscates Over 300,000 Used Condoms for Sale

A raid at a warehouse led to the arrest of a woman who said she had been paid by the pound to recycle the prophylactics.

#condoms, #international-trade-and-world-market, #recycling-of-waste-materials, #sexually-transmitted-diseases, #vietnam

0

Do Ventures launches $50 million fund for Vietnamese startups, backed by Naver, Vertex and other notable LPs

Vy Le and Dzung Nguyen, the founders and general partners of Do Ventures, an investment firm focused on early-stage Vietnamese startups

Vy Le and Dzung Nguyen, the founders and general partners of Do Ventures, an investment firm focused on early-stage Vietnamese startups

New investment firm Do Ventures announced today the first closing of its fund for Vietnamese startups, which is backed by several of Asia’s most notable institutional investors. Called Do Ventures Fund I, the investment vehicle has hit more than half of its $50 million target, with limited partners including Korean internet giant Naver; Sea, whose businesses include Garena and Shopee; Singapore-based venture capital firm Vertex Holdings; and Korean app developer Woowa Brothers.

Do Ventures was founded by general partners Nguyen Manh Dung, former CEO of CyberAgent Ventures Vietnam and Thailand, and Vy Hoang Uyen Le, previously a general partner at ESP Capital. Its first fund will focus on early-stage companies and invest in seed to Series B rounds.

Both of its founders have a long track record of working with Vietnamese startups. Nguyen was an early investor in companies including Tiki.vn, one of Vietnam’s largest online marketplaces; food delivery platform Foody.vn; and digital marketing company CleverAds. Before she became an investor, Le was a serial entrepreneur and served as chief executive officer at fashion e-commerce company Chon.vn and VinEcom, the e-commerce project launched by Vietnamese real estate conglomerate Vingroup.

In an email, Le told TechCrunch that Do Ventures Fund I is industry agnostic, but will structure its investments into two tiers. The first will consist of B2C platforms, including education, healthcare and social commerce, that serve younger users, and are addressing changes in consumer behavior caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The second tier will include B2B platforms that can provide services for companies in the first tier, and allow them to expand regionally with SaaS solutions for data and e-commerce services.

Do Ventures’ founders say that between 2016 and 2019, the amount of startup funding in Vietnam grew eight-fold to $861 million last year. But there are still only a few funds that focus specifically on the country, which means early-stage Vietnamese startups often run into funding gaps.

One of the firm’s goals is to help founders weather the impact of COVID-19, so their companies can continue growing in spite of the pandemic.

“We hope tech startups can enable traditional businesses to digitize faster and better adapt to the new normal,” Le said. “For consumers, we hope tech startups can transform customer experience in all aspects of daily life, and bring more accessibility to consumers in remote areas.”

The firm will take a hands-on approach to its investments, helping companies develop new business models. Do Ventures plans to set up an automatic reporting system that collects data about how its portfolio companies are performing, which its general partners say will enable them support startups’ operations, including product development, business organization, supply chain development, and overseas expansion.

#asia, #do-ventures, #fundings-exits, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #vietnam

0

To Defeat Coronavirus, The U.S. Needs Better Communication

While the United States was creating confusion with its virus messaging, the rest of the world got creative.

#ardern-jacinda, #content-type-service, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #masks, #merkel-angela, #new-zealand, #propaganda, #rwanda, #social-media, #south-korea, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #vietnam

0

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

0

The Untold Story of the Black Marines Charged With Mutiny at Sea

Racial strife aboard a Navy ship left three men facing the threat of the death penalty. They became little more than statistics in the military’s dismal record of race relations in the Vietnam era.

#black-people, #courts-martial, #discrimination, #race-and-ethnicity, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-marine-corps, #united-states-navy, #vietnam, #vietnam-war

0

Google, Nokia, Qualcomm are investors in $230M Series A2 for Finnish phone maker, HMD Global

Mobile device maker HMD Global has announced a $230M Series A2 — its first tranche of external funding since a $100M round back in 2018 when it tipped over into a unicorn valuation. Since late 2016 the startup has exclusively licensed Nokia’s brand for mobile devices, going on to ship some 240M devices to date.

Its latest cash injection is notable both for its size (HMD claims it as the third largest funding round in Europe this year); and the profile of the strategic investors ploughing in capital — namely: Google, Nokia and Qualcomm.

Though whether a tech giant (Google) whose OS dominates the world’s smartphone market (Android) becoming a strategic investor in Europe’s last significant mobile OEM (HMD) catches the attention of regional competition enforcers remains to be seen. Er, vertical integration anyone? (To wit: It’s a little over two years since Google was slapped with a $5BN penalty by EU regulators for antitrust violations related to how it operates Android — and the Commission has said it continues to monitor the market ‘remedies’.)

In a further quirk, when we spoke to HMD Global CEO, Florian Seiche, ahead of today’s announcement, he didn’t expect the names of the investors to be disclosed — but we’d already been sent press release material listing them so he duly confirmed the trio are investors in the round. (But wouldn’t be drawn on how much equity Google is grabbing.)

HMD’s smartphones run on Google’s Android platform, which gives the tech giant a firm business reason for supporting the mobile maker in growing the availability of Google-packed hardware in key growth markets around the world.

And while HMD likens its consistent (and consistently updated) flavor of Android to the premium ‘pure’ Android experience you get from Google’s own-brand Pixel smartphones, the difference is the Finnish company offers devices across the range of price points, and targets hardware at mobile users in developing markets.

The upshot is relatively little overlap with Google’s Pixel hardware, and still plenty of business upside for Google should HMD grow the pipeline of Google services users (as it makes money by targeting ads).

Connoisseurs of mobile history may see more than a little irony in Google investing into Nokia branded smartphones (via HMD), given Android’s role in fatally disrupting Nokia’s lucrative smartphone business — knocking the Finnish giant off its perch as the world’s number one mobile maker and ushering in an era of Android-fuelled Asian mobile giants. But wait long enough in tech and what goes around oftentimes comes back around.

“We’re extremely excited,” said Seiche, when we mention Google’s pivotal role in Nokia’s historical downfall in smartphones. “How we are going to write that next chapter on smartphones is a critical strategic pillar for the company and our opportunity to team up so closely with Google around this has been a very, very great partnership from the beginning. And then this investment definitely confirms that — also for the future.”

“It’s a critical time for the industry therefore having a clear strategy — having a clear differentiation and a different point of view to offer, we believe, is a fantastic asset that we have developed for ourselves. And now is a great moment for us to double down on this,” he added.

We also asked Seiche whether HMD has any interest in taking advantage of the European Commission’s Android antitrust enforcement decision — i.e. to fork Android and remove the usual Google services, perhaps swapping them out for some European alternatives, which is at least a possibility for OEMs selling in the region — but Seiche told us: “We have looked at it but we strongly believe that consumers or enterprise customers actually love [Google] services and therefore they choose those services for themselves.” (Millions of dollars of direct investment from Google also, presumably, helps make the Google services business case stack up.)

Nokia, meanwhile, has always had a close relationship with HMD — which was established by former Nokia execs for the sole purpose of licensing its iconic mobile brand. (The backstory there is a clause in the sale terms of Nokia’s mobile device division to Microsoft expired in 2016, paving the way for Nokia’s brand to be returned to the smartphone market without the prior Windows Mobile baggage.)

Its investment into HMD now looks like a vote of confidence in how the company has been executing in the fiercely competitive mobile space to date (HMD doesn’t break out a lot of detail about device sales but Seiche told us it sold in excess of 70M mobiles last year; that’s a combined figure for smartphones and feature phones) — as well as an upbeat assessment of the scope of the growth opportunity ahead of it.

On the latter front US-led geopolitical tensions between the West and China do look poised to generate a tail-wind for HMD’s business.

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm, for example, is facing a loss of business, as US government restrictions threaten its ability to continue selling chips to Huawei; a major Chinese device maker that’s become a key target for US president Trump. Its interest in supporting HMD’s growth, therefore, looks like a way for Qualcomm to hedge against US government disruption aimed at Chinese firms in its mobile device maker portfolio.

While with Trump’s recent threats against the TikTok app it seems safe to assume that no tech company with a Chinese owner is safe.

As a European company, HMD is able to position itself as a safe haven — and Seiche’s sales pitch talks up a focus on security detail and overall quality of experience as key differentiating factors vs the Android hoards.

“We have been very clear and very consistent right from the beginning to pick these core principles that are close to our heart and very closely linked with the Nokia brand itself — and definitely security, quality and trust are key elements,” he told TechCrunch. “This is resonating with our carrier and retail customers around the world and it is definitely also a core fundamental differentiator that those partners that are taking a longer term view clearly see that same opportunity that we see for us going forward.”

HMD does use manufacturing facilities in China, as well as in a number of other locations around the world — including Brazil, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

But asked whether it sees any supply chain risks related to continued use of Chinese manufacturers to build ‘secure’ mobile hardware, Seiche responded by claiming: “The most important [factor] is we do control the software experience fully.” He pointed specifically to HMD’s acquisition of Valona Labs earlier this year. The Finnish security startup carries out all its software audits. “They basically control our software to make sure we can live up to that trusted standard,” Seiche added. 

Landing a major tranche of new funding now — and with geopolitical tension between the West and the Far East shining a spotlight on its value as alternative, European mobile maker — HMD is eyeing expansion in growth markets such as Africa, Brail and India. (Currently, HMD said it’s active in 91 markets across eight regions, with its devices ranged in 250,000 retail outlets around the world.)

It’s also looking to bring 5G to devices at a greater range of price-points, beyond the current flagship Nokia 8.3. Seiche also said it wants to do more on the mobile services side. HMD’s first 5G device, the flagship Nokia 8.3, is due to land in the US and Europe in a matter of weeks. And Seiche suggested a timeframe of the middle of next year for launching a 5G device at a mid tier price point.

“The 5G journey again has started, in terms of market adoption, in China. But now Europe, US are the key next opportunity — not just in the premium tier but also in the mid segment. And to get to that as fast as possible is one of our goals,” he said, noting joint-working with Qualcomm on that.

“We also see great opportunity with Nokia in that 5G transition — because they are also working on a lot of private LTE deployments which is also an interesting area since… we are also very strongly present in that large enterprise segment,” he added.

On mobile services, Seiche highlighted the launch of HMD Connect: A data SIM aimed at travellers — suggesting it could expand into additional connectivity offers in future, forging more partnerships with carriers. 

“We have already launched several services that are close to the hardware business — like insurance for your smartphones — but we are also now looking at connectivity as a great area for us,” he said. “The first pilot of that has been our global roaming but we believe there is a play in the future for consumers or enterprise customers to get their connectivity directly with their device. And we’re partnering also with operators to make that happen.”

“You can see us more as a complement [to carriers],” he added, arguing that business “dynamics” for carriers have also changed substantially — and customer acquisition hasn’t been a linear game for some time.

“In a similar way when we talk about Google Pixel vs us — we have a different footprint. And again if you look at carriers where they get their subscribers from today is already today a mix between their own direct channels and their partner channels. And actually why wouldn’t a smartphone player be a natural good partner of choice also for them? So I think you’ll see that as a trend, potentially, evolving in the next couple of years.”

#africa, #android, #antitrust, #brazil, #china, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #fundings-exits, #google, #hmd-global, #huawei, #india, #indonesia, #microsoft, #mobile, #mobile-device, #mobile-devices, #nokia, #qualcomm, #smartphone, #smartphones, #trump, #united-states, #us-government, #vietnam, #windows-mobile

0

Mysterious Coronavirus Outbreak Catches Vietnam by Surprise

After months without a single coronavirus death, or even a confirmed case of local transmission, a new outbreak has struck Vietnam. And it’s spreading.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #danang-vietnam, #disease-rates, #vietnam

0

Traveloka tops up with $250M amid the coronavirus crisis

Indonesia-based online travel portal, Traveloka, has picked up $250M in fresh funding to beef up its coronavirus-battered balance sheet.

The travel aggregator dubs the capital injection a “strong vote of confidence” in its strategy to adjust to what it couches as a ‘new normal’ for travel by retooling its focus on domestic and short hop excursions and activities. The funding round is led by an unnamed global financial institution. Traveloka also says “some” existing investors also participated (EV Growth being one it has named).

Prior to this latest raise, Traveloka had pulled in around $950M across five funding rounds since being founded back in 2012, according to Crunchbase. Back in 2017 it passed unicorn valuation after bagging $350 million from Expedia in exchange for a minority stake in the business. But, shortly afterwards, it lost one of its co-founders — who departed citing a clash of goals as the business switched to more of a commercial mindset, as he saw it.

Fast forward a few years and the pandemic is playing havoc with the travel industry as a whole. Since the pandemic landed to decimate ‘business as usual’ in the sector, Traveloka has responded by launching a number of initiatives in a bid to reassure and woo back customers — including flights that bundle COVID-19 tests; flexible open-date vouchers for hotels (aka, ‘Buy Now Stay Later’); online experiences; flash sale livestreams; and a big push around cleanliness with standardized hygiene protocols for vacation accommodation that can be booked via its platform.

Traveloka says the latest capital injection will be used not only to beef up its balance sheet but to boost efforts and deepen offerings in “select priority areas” — including building out what it describes as “a more robust and integrated Travel & Lifestyle portfolio” in key markets.

It also intends to expand financial services solutions it offers to ecosystem partners.

Commenting in a statement, Ferry Unardi, Traveloka co-founder and CEO, said: “Without a doubt, Traveloka has been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have experienced the lowest business rate that we have ever seen since our inception. However, we always believed that the company will prevail by rapidly adjusting our strategy, working with our industry and ecosystem partners, as well as continuing to innovate for our users, our ultimate focus.”

Per Ferry, Traveloka’s business in Vietnam is “approaching” steady pre-COVID-19 levels, while he says its Thailand business is “on its way” to surpassing 50%.

“Indonesia and Malaysia are still in the early stage, but they continue to demonstrate promising momentum with strong week-to-week improvement, especially in accommodation with the emergence of shorter distance staycation behavior,” he added. “We acknowledge that the sector may go through further turbulence as it navigates new waves, but we feel we are prepared to take on the challenge and emerge on the right side of it.”

“The travel industry is facing unprecedented times, including Traveloka,” added Willson Cuaca, managing partner of EV Growth, in another supporting statement. “The leadership team has taken difficult yet commendable measures including restructuring and optimization to minimize financial health risks. We are confident that the company will emerge even stronger after this crisis.”

#asia, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ev-growth, #expedia, #indonesia, #malaysia, #recent-funding, #startups, #staycation, #thailand, #tourism, #travel, #travel-industry, #traveloka, #vietnam, #willson-cuaca

0

Vietnamese Lives, American Imperialist Views, Even in ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Black soldiers finally get their own story, but in one important respect, the film is no different from other Hollywood dramas that came before.

#apocalypse-now-movie, #da-5-bloods-movie, #lee-spike, #movies, #nguyen-viet-thanh-1971, #race-and-ethnicity, #vietnam, #vietnam-war

0

Wildlife Trade Spreads Coronaviruses as Animals Get to Market

DNA tests show an increase in the number of animals with positive tests for some coronaviruses from the time they are trapped until they arrive on someone’s dinner plate.

#bats, #biorxiv, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #olson-sarah-h, #rats, #research, #sars-severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome, #vietnam, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

0

What Have We Learned About Reopening?

Some countries have handled it better than others. Which path will the United States take?

#brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #debatable, #hospitals, #india, #mauritius, #new-zealand, #united-states, #vietnam, #viruses

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Propzy, a Vietnamese offline-to-online real estate platform, raises $25 million Series A

Propzy, a Vietnam-based startup that guides consumers through the entire process of a real estate transaction, announced it has raised a $25 million Series A led by Gaw Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia, the early-stage venture arm of SoftBank Group. Other investors included Next Billion Ventures, RHL Ventures, Breeze, FEBE Ventures, RSquare and Insignia.

Instead of proptech, Propzy founder and CEO John Le prefers the term “firetech” to describe the startup, using “fire” as an acronym for financial, insurance and real estate technology. Founded in 2016, Propzy’s technology covers almost every stage of a real estate transaction, from brick-and-mortar sales centers to an online marketplace for listings, financial products like mortgage lending and, finally, enterprise software for property managers and tenants.

The company’s Series A will be used to grow its product line and provide a balance sheet for its expansion into direct mortgage financing. Most of Propzy’s current operations are in Ho Chi Minh City. It plans to expand into Hanoi through the rest of this year and 2021, before exploring other Southeast Asian markets, including potentially Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Propzy currently has 30 brick-and-mortar sales centers, with a total of 400 sales staff. Over the 18 months, it expects to increase those numbers to 70 sales centers and 1,300 sales staff.

The sales centers complement Propzy’s online marketplace, with tens of thousands of properties pre-screened by its staff before they are entered into listings. Le said Propzy has handled more than $1 billion in property transactions since its launch, making it the largest offline-to-online real estate network in Vietnam.

Le is a serial entrepreneur and his past startups include LoanTrader, a mortgage trading platform that was backed by Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and GE Capital. In 2009, he went to Vietnam to launch an international credit bureau with TransUnion. During that time, he realized how burdensome the process of renting or buying property can be there.

In the United States, consumers benefit from listing platforms like Zillow and Trulia, licensed real estate agents and escrow offices. In Vietnam, however, Le said many listings are on classified sites, similar to Craigslist, and are often not handled by licensed agents. There is also no standardized listing data, which makes comparing multiple properties difficult for consumers.

To replicate the U.S. experience in Vietnam, “you can’t just launch a website and put properties on it,” Le said. “We built an offline agency, but you need to utilize tech to increase its efficiency and performance, so we are an offline-to-online platform. That high-touch customer service needs to go all the way, not just for property matchmaking but to help both parties successfully close and settle transactions.”

Propzy built an automated valuation model using data it has gathered over the last four years to assess homes, help recommend prices and show customers comparable properties. On the financing side, the model is also used by Propzy’s partner banks to help customers get pre-approved for loans based on property value.

After buyers move into an apartment unit, they can use Propzy’s tenant software to report issues or book maintenance services and amenities. If they decide to sell or rent the property, they can also do so through the platform.

The pandemic has put downward pressure on Vietnam’s real estate market, with a 70% reduction in Propzy’s business during the country’s nationwide lockdown in April. On the other hand, more people were doing searches online and inquiring about selling property, Le said.

“We’re carrying an all-time high pipeline of deals, as consumers start to have more confidence and know where the market will be in two to three months,” Le added. “People still need houses, so deals in the pipeline are three times over the fourth-quarter average. We expect them to close quickly, so we are on a good path to hitting our numbers at the end of the year.”

In a press statement about the investment, Gaw Capital managing partner Humbert Pang said, “Given the favorable macroeconomics exhibited by Vietnam and Gaw’s conviction in offline-to-online business models in real estate, we are excited by our investment into Propzy. We see the value proposition and steadfast vision that Propzy and its management team brings to the table and are therefore very optimistic in Propzy’s business and the market within which it operates.”

#asia, #fundings-exits, #proptech, #propzy, #real-estate, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam

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U.S. and Chinese Scientists Trace Evolution of Coronaviruses in Bats

Researchers whose canceled U.S. grant caused an outcry from other scientists urge preventive monitoring of viruses in southwestern China.

#bats, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #daszak-peter, #ebright-richard-h, #ecohealth-alliance, #laos, #myanmar, #national-institutes-of-health, #nature-communications-journal, #research, #rutgers-the-state-university-of-new-jersey, #sars-severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome, #southeast-asia, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vietnam, #your-feed-science

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The ‘Liberal World Order’ Was Built With Blood

As the United States reckons with its decline, it should understand where its power came from in the first place.

#central-america, #central-intelligence-agency, #chile, #civilian-casualties, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #cold-war-era, #communist-party-of-indonesia-pki, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #defense-and-military-forces, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #indonesia, #state-department, #suharto, #sukarno-1901-70, #united-states-international-relations, #vietnam

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JobHopin, a startup that wants to make job hunting in Southeast Asia easier, raises $2.45 million Series A

JobHopin, a Vietnam-based startup building an automated job-recruitment platform for Southeast Asia, announced today that it has closed a $2.45 million Series A. This brings JobHopin’s total raised so far to more than $3 million, from investors including SEMA Translink, KK Fund, Mynavi Corporation, Edulab Capital Partners, NKC Asia and Canaan Capital.

Founded in 2017 by CEO Kevin Tung Nguyen, JobHopin’s matching platform, called Bunny, uses machine learning to pair candidates with jobs. The company says there are about 60 million knowledge economy workers in Southeast Asia, and about 108 million job placements a year, but many positions take more than a month to fill on average, because many companies still do pre-screening work manually.

Bunny standardizes the language used in job descriptions and resumes for better data analysis, which is then used for to find promising candidates for open positions.

JobHopin also has a database of more than 1.4 million job candidates derived from online databases and 2,000 enterprise clients in Vietnam, and provides real-time market data analysis of salaries, talent supply (or the number of people qualified to fill certain roles) and hiring demand. Those features can be integrated into services like online education platforms, testing services and third-party job portals.

In a press statement, EduLab Capital Partners Liam Pisano said, “We are excited to now be part of the JobHopin story and lend our support. This is a company that is connecting the growing Vietnamese economy to a talented workforce, while finding ways to help the jobseeker improve their profile and bridge the skills gap.”

#fundings-exits, #hiring, #job-recruitment, #jobhopin, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam

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How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Like the Vietnam War

Chance rules. Leaders lie. Deaths become statistics. The parallels between the disease and the war are everywhere.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #vietnam, #vietnam-war

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Coronavirus Disrupts Illegal Wildlife Trafficking, for Now

Some conservationists see a chance to do lasting damage to criminal networks in the wake of the pandemic, but poaching may also rise.

#china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #international-trade-and-world-market, #poaching-wildlife, #shutdowns-institutional, #vietnam, #your-feed-science

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A Mother, a Pandemic and Scorched Rice

“You have an American amount of rice,” my mother told me as news of the coronavirus intensified. “Go get the biggest bag you can find.”

#cooking-and-cookbooks, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #families-and-family-life, #kale-vegetable, #meat, #pork, #quarantines, #rice, #vietnam

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Vietnamese online pharmaceutical marketplace BuyMed raises $2.5 million

BuyMed, a Vietnamese startup that wants to fix Southeast Asia’s complex pharmaceutical distribution networks, announced today it has raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding. Investors include Sequoia Capital India’s Surge early-stage accelerator program, and Genesia Ventures. Returning investor Cocoon Capital also participated.

Founded in 2018, BuyMed operates Thuocsi.vn, a pharmaceutical distribution platform in Vietnam. Over the past 12 months, the company says it has tripled its annual revenue, and now plans to add new product lines, including cosmetics, medical devices, supplements and medical services, with the goal of becoming a “one-stop marketplace” for supplies needed by healthcare providers in Southeast Asia.

BuyMed verifies suppliers on its platform, improving safety and reducing the risk of medications making its way into the grey market (or unofficial distribution channels). The startup currently has 700 verified suppliers, distributors and manufacturers on its platform, who serve over 7,000 healthcare providers.

In a press statement, Genesia Ventures general partner Takahiro Suzuki, said, “There is still a tremendous opportunity for growth and improvement in Vietnam’s pharmaceutical supply chain and we believe that BuyMed’s founders have the experience, execution and operational management necessary to tackle this problem.”

BuyMed Co-founder and CEO Peter Nguyen formerly served as a consultant for companies like Eli Lilly, Roche and Siemens, helping them create more efficient operations and supply chains.

Nguyen told TechCrunch that there are no major multi-brand distributors in Vietnam, so most pharmaceutical manufacturers and brands need to set up their own networks. This means the process of getting medications and other pharmaceutical supplies to healthcare providers is highly-fragmented.

There are roughly 200 domestic manufacturers in Vietnam, in addition to imported brands, and their products are handled by over 3,000 distributors. While about 2% of pharmacies in Vietnam are part of a franchise or chain, the vast majority are independent. This means distributors need to serve over 40,000 independent pharmacies and about 5,000 independent clinics.

Nguyen added that fragmentation is similar in many other Southeast Asian markets, giving BuyMed an opportunity to expand across the region.

Thuocsi.vn’s usage has grown over the last 60 days, as more Vietnamese pharmacies source from online channels. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BuyMed has expanded its platform so more of its partners can sell online, and added safety measures like frequent warehouse and office sanitization and a no-contact drop-off and cash collection system.

#asia, #buymed, #fundings-exits, #health, #healthcare, #pharmaceuticals, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thuocsi-vn, #vietnam

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7 Travel Stories to Help You Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Confined to the great indoors on Earth Day? These stories will help remind you of the natural world’s many splendors — and why environmental protections are of crucial importance for the future of the planet.

#alaska, #arctic-national-wildlife-refuge, #bonaire, #caribbean-area, #earth, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #everglades-fla, #fiji, #florida, #global-warming, #great-britain, #reefs, #scotland, #travel-and-vacations, #vietnam

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Facebook agrees to restrict anti-government content in Vietnam after months of throttling

Facebook has agreed to block access to certain anti-government content to users in Vietnam, following months of having its services throttled there, reportedly by state-owned telecoms.

Reuters, citing sources within the company, reported that Vietnam requested earlier in the year that Facebook restrict a variety of content it deemed illegal, such as posts critical of the government. When the social network balked, the country used its control over local internet providers to slow Facebook traffic to unusable levels.

An explanation at the time that the slowdown was owing to maintenance of undersea cables likely did not convince many, since it was specific to Facebook (and related properties Messenger and Instagram).

All things being equal, Facebook has shown in the past that it would prefer to keep discourse open. But all things are not equal and in this case millions of users were unable to access its services — and consequently, it must be said, unable to be advertised to.

The slowdown lasted some 7 weeks, from mid-February to early April, when Facebook conceded to the government’s demands.

One Reuters source said that “once we committed to restricting more content… the servers were turned back online by the telecommunications operators.”

Facebook offered the following statement confirming general, though not specific, aspects of the story reported by Reuters:

The Vietnamese government has instructed us to restrict access to content which it has deemed to be illegal in Vietnam. We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and work hard to protect and defend this important civil liberty around the world. However, we have taken this action to ensure our services remain available and usable for millions of people in Vietnam, who rely on them every day.

Facebook is no stranger to government requests both to restrict and to hand over data. Although the company inspects these requests and sometimes challenges them, it’s Facebook’s stated policy to comply with local law — even if that means (as it often does) complicity with government censorship practices.

The justification usually offered (as here) is that people in a country with such restrictions are better served with an incomplete set of Facebook’s communications tools rather than none at all.

#censorship, #facebook, #government, #social, #vietnam

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China Limited the Mekong’s Flow. Other Countries Suffered a Drought.

New research show that Beijing’s engineers appear to have directly caused the record low levels of water in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

#cambodia, #china, #drought, #hydroelectric-power, #laos, #levees-and-dams, #mekong-river, #politics-and-government, #shortages, #thailand, #vietnam, #water

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