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Lightspeed announces new $560 million fund for China

Posted by on Jan 3, 2019 in Airbnb, alibaba, alibaba group, Asia, China, consumer internet, E-Commerce, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, IDG Capital, India, lightspeed, lightspeed venture partners, Meituan, Meituan-Dianping, partner, pinduoduo, social networks, United States | 0 comments

Global investor Lightspeed is starting 2019 with its largest-ever fund for China, where it has backed a number of new internet challengers. The firm announced this week that its fourth China fund has closed with a total capital commitment of $560 million.

The firm had a massive 2018, with no fewer than five of its portfolio holding IPOs including two of China’s up-and-coming startups that are challenging the country’s internet establishment — they are Meituan, the super app firm that specializes in deliveries, and Pinduoduo, a group e-commerce company that is threatening Alibaba’s dominance.

Based on those successes, it is perhaps not a surprise that Lightspeed has pulled in a record new fund. TechCrunch previously reported that the new fund was aimed at $360 million based on filings, but it added more capital to give more options.

Lightspeed said it has $360 million for early-stage deals aimed at Series A and Series B stages, with an additional $200 million set aside for “growth investments.” The new fund dwarfs Lightspeed’s previous vehicles in China — the firm’s previous two China funds each closed at $260 million while it raised $168 million for its debut fund in the country in 2013.

Lightspeed Venture Partners is a well-known investor that is anchored in Silicon Valley with global funds in India, Israeli and — of course — China. Together, those funds manage around $6 billion in capital, according to the firm.

Led by partners Chris Schaepe, Herry Han and James Mi, the China operation has backed a range of unicorns, including the aforementioned Meituan, which raised over $4 billion via a Hong Kong IPO last year, and Pinduoduo, which raised $1.6 billion via a U.S. listing in 2018. Other Lightspeed China IPOs from last year were PPDai, Rong360 and InnoLight while the firm also counts $9 billion-valued Full Truck Alliance, real estate platform Fangdd and Airbnb-like Tujia, both of which are valued in the billions, among the more mature bets in its portfolio.

“We believe there are plenty of new opportunities in China consumer Internet given the depth of China’s mobile payment and social networks. Innovation and entrepreneurship in the next decade will bring more China-based startups to the world stage. This will be China’s first decade of truly global innovation. Chinese entrepreneurs are now developing business plans with global expansion in mind from day one,” said Han, one of the firm’s founding partners, in a statement.

Last year, Lightspeed Venture Partners — the U.S. entity — filed to raise a record $1.8 billion in new capital commitments. In December, it added five new partners to its consumer and enterprise investment teams, including Slack’s former head of growth and Twitter’s former vice president of global business development.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Grab raises fundraising target to $5B as Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing war heats up

Posted by on Dec 28, 2018 in Asia, Automotive, booking holdings, Business, carsharing, China, consumer internet, funding, Fundings & Exits, go-jek, Google, grab, Indonesia, malaysia, Meituan-Dianping, Microsoft, New Years Day, Singapore, Softbank, SoftBank Group, Southeast Asia, Tencent, Thailand, Toyota, transport, Uber, vietnam, yamaha motors | 0 comments

Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm Grab is aiming to start the new year with a bang and an awful load of bucks. The company, which acquired Uber’s local business earlier this year, is planning to raise as much as $5 billion from its ongoing Series H round, up from an original target of $3 billion, a source with knowledge of the plan told TechCrunch.

Grab declined to comment for this story.

That Series H round has been open since June. Already, it has seen participation from the likes of Toyota, Microsoft, Booking Holdings and Yamaha Motors who have pushed it close to the original $3 billion target. Prior to raising $150 million from Yamaha, Grab said the round stood at $2.7 billion. While it is true that the company first announced that it was “on track to raise over $3 billion by the end of 2018,” it is not public knowledge that it has set its sights as high as $5 billion.

A big part of that expansion is a planned investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund which, as TechCrunch reported last week, is aiming to pump up to $1.5 billion into the business. Adding that to the $3 billion total appears to leave a further $500 million allocation for other investors to take up.

Grab is already the most capitalized startup in Southeast Asia’s history having raised around $6.8 billion to date from investors, according to data from Crunchbase. The company was last valued at $11 billion — when Toyota invested the initial $1 billion in this Series H six months ago — and it is unclear how much that valuation will increase when the round is completed.

The company is also one of the widest reaching consumer internet companies in Southeast Asia, a region of 650 million consumers. Grab claims over 130 million downloads and more than 2.5 billion completed rides to date, while it has expanded into fintech and it is going beyond ride-hailing app to offer Southeast Asia a ‘super app’ in the mold of Meituan in China. On the financial side, Grab is assumed to not yet be profitable. But it has said that it made $1 billion in revenue and that it projects that the figure will double in 2019.

Buying Uber’s business made it the dominant ride-sharing operator in the region — a position that saw it pay fines in Singapore and the Philippines — but Uber’s exit also saw Go-Jek, a rival in Indonesia, step up and expand its business into new markets. Go-Jek — which is backed by the likes of Tencent, Meituan and Google — entered Vietnam in August and it has recently launched in Thailand and Singapore as it bids to step into Uber’s shadow.

With Go-Jek aiming to raise $2 billion of its own, it certainly looks like Grab’s extension of its already-enormous Series H round is aimed at increasing its war chest as the competition intensifies in post-Uber Southeast Asia.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Meituan, China’s ‘everything app’, walks away from bike sharing and ride hailing

Posted by on Nov 23, 2018 in alibaba, Asia, carsharing, China, didi, Didi Chuxing, driver, Ele.me, Food, Meituan, Meituan-Dianping, mobike, Nanjing, ofo, shanghai, Softbank, Tencent, transport, Transportation, Uber | 0 comments

A major player in the race to transport Chinese people around is losing steam. Meituan Dianping, the Tencent-backed all-encompassing platform for local services, continues to put the brakes on bike-sharing and ride-hailing, the company said on its earnings call on Thursday.

The eight-year-old firm is best known for competing with Alibaba-owned Ele.me in food deliveries — the segment that makes up the majority of its sales — and hotel booking, but it’s aggressively branched into various fronts like transportation.

In April, Meituan entered the bike-sharing fray after it scooped up top player Mobike for $2.7 billion to face off Alibaba-backed Ofo. Over the past few years, Mobike and Ofo were burning through large sums of investor money in a bid to win users from subsidized rides, but both have shown signs of softening their stance recently

Mobike is downsizing its fleets to “avoid an oversupply” as the bike-sharing market falters, Meituan’s chief financial officer Chen Shaohui said during the earnings call. Ofo has also scaled back by closing down many of its international operations.

In the meantime, Meituan said it has no plans to expand car-hailing beyond its two piloting cities — Shanghai and Nanjing — after venturing into the field to take on Didi Chuxing last December. The update is consistent with what the firm announced in its prospectus ahead of a blockbuster $4.2 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong this September.

The halt is likely related to changing dynamics in the country’s shared rides. Following two passenger murders on Didi, the Softbank-backed transportation platform that took over Uber China in 2016, Chinese regulators launched their strictest verification requirements for drivers across all ride-hailing apps. The mandate has squeezed driver numbers, making it harder to hire rides on Didi and its competitors.

During its third quarter that ended September 30, Meituan posted a 97.2 percent jump on revenues to 19.1 billion yuan, or $2.75 billion, on the back of strong growth in food delivery transactions. The firm’s investments in new initiatives – including ride-hailing and bike-sharing – took a toll as operating losses nearly tripled to 3.45 billion yuan compared to a year ago. Meituan shares plunged as much as 14 percent on Friday, the most since its spectacular listing.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Cryptocurrency and blockchain bring Asia funds to the forefront of U.S. tech

Posted by on Aug 26, 2018 in Andreessen Horowitz, Asia, Baidu, blockchain, China, Connie Chan, cryptocurrency, decentralization, didi, Finance, Huobi, Meituan-Dianping, sequoia capital, Softbank, Tencent, Uber, Venture Capital, Y Combinator | 0 comments

Since early 2017, there’s been a new trend in the U.S. where a number of Asian funds have been actively involved in early-stage crypto investing. Many folks in traditional tech have not heard of them before, but these funds will only be growing more important as cryptocurrency and blockchain solidify their position in the American tech industry.

Funds with Asian money, primarily from China, have been in Silicon Valley for a long time. However, in the past, they were rarely heard or seen in the press, mostly because their assets under management (AUM) and investment check sizes were smaller in size and fewer in frequency than their American counterparts on average. These funds were often only found investing in later-stage rounds, since they weren’t able to compete against the top venture funds in the early rounds for highly-coveted startups, as many entrepreneurs weren’t familiar with them.

This has changed in the last few years and recent investment stats are very telling of a different trend. In 2017,  Asian investors directed 40% of the record $154bn in global venture financing, versus their American counterparts at 44%, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, deals led by U.S.-based venture capital and tech investment firms, such as Sequoia Capital or Andreessen Horowitz, made up of $67 billion in venture financing, just slightly more than the $61 billion led by Asian investors, including Tencent and SoftBank. Asia’s share is up from less than 5% just ten years ago.

Not only is there more money coming from Asia, but U.S. funds are also coming to realize the growing and massively underinvested tech opportunity in China and the rest of Asia. In a joint study issued by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology affiliate and a Beijing-based consultancy, the 2017 China Unicorn Enterprise Development Report showed that in the same year, China had 164 unicorns, worth a combined US$628.4 billion, while the most recent U.S. figures suggested 132 unicorns. Companies such as Meituan Dianping (the Yelp equivalent of China) and Didi (the Uber equivalent of China) are examples of large disruptive technology companies from China that have garnered massive valuations.

Subsequently, more U.S.-based funds are branching out geographically. In the past, some funds may have had an understanding of China’s large market opportunity and had a China-focused partner, team, or partnership relationships in Asia. But now, there is increasingly more focus on Asia from these funds than ever before, not only driven by the potential investment opportunities, but also by the untapped market opportunity for their portfolio companies.

Several funds have been ahead of the game. For example, Y Combinator recently made a big entrance into China with their announcement of a new China office headed by Qi Lu, the former COO of Baidu. Additionally, Connie Chan, who has been responsible for spearheading Andreessen Horowitz’s China network, was promoted to general partner earlier this year, the first to be promoted from within the company.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain accelerate West-East investment ties

Now, cryptocurrency and blockchain have accelerated this cross-border activity. The global, or rather, the censorship-resistance nature of cryptocurrency and blockchain have brought Asia – and specifically China – to the forefront of the focus. In the blockchain space, Chinese companies make up more than 80% share in mining compute power, while Asia in aggregate makes up a significant market share in cryptocurrency trading. The top Cryptocurrency exchanges, including Binance, OKex and Huobi, are also run by Chinese teams.

The cryptocurrency phenomenon began in Asia and the U.S. around the same time, but Asia got a head start due to a favorable set of regulations compared to the U.S. While certainly not laissez faire, blockchain technology has been hailed by regulators throughout countries such as China, Japan and Korea. Since the start of this year, blockchain has been highlighted as one of the most promising technologies by China’s President Xi Jingping, calling it “a breakthrough technology.” Japan has also placed a spotlight on the technology in an effort for the country to re-invigorate itself and its economy. And last but not least, Korean regulators have started debating the idea of using blockchain technology as part of the democratic process, with advocates calling for the introduction of blockchain-powered voting systems.

As a result, Chinese and Korean cryptocurrency and blockchain funds for the first time have an edge, with access to proprietary information and relationships, along with a massive market that cryptocurrency companies in the U.S. can no longer ignore.

Eric Ly, a former CTO and co-founder of LinkedIn, recently started a blockchain based company called Hub. And in our conversation, he has recognized the importance of Asia as a market: “it’s a region that is not to be dismissed, especially in the crypto world in terms of the interest and the activities that’s going on there.” With more funds coming from China and Asia, and many crypto projects coming out of Asia, there will be more cross-border activities on both the investment as well as business development front.

Given the global nature of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, it’s increasingly important for entrepreneurs to raise money from investors who are not just local to where their team is based but also globally useful to one’s success as a cryptocurrency and blockchain company. Not only can overseas investors bring a vastly different point of view to the table, but they can also provide access and market opportunities in the other half of the hemisphere that otherwise would have been difficult.

Strong examples of this fundraising pattern are emerging. Take Messari for instance, a company based out of New York with the mission to create an authoritative data resource for crypto assets. CEO Ryan Selkis has mentioned how he has made a conscious effort to raise from Asian and other global funds when he initially raised the company’s seed round.

Typically, regional investors will have better information and relationship with the local businesses and regulators, and that should prove to be useful as the company scales and grows overseas. Additionally, local investors will likely be more in touch with the policies and the regulators, which is crucial when it comes to treading through the gray areas in cryptocurrency and blockchain space. Having someone who recognizes and can predict regulatory inflection points would be hugely valuable for the company as they map out their global strategy.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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China’s Didi suspends carpooling service after another female passenger is mudered

Posted by on Aug 26, 2018 in alibaba, alibaba group, Asia, carsharing, China, Collaborative Consumption, didi, Didi Chuxing, driver, Ele.me, law enforcement, Meituan, Meituan-Dianping, mobike, transport, Uber, Vice President | 0 comments

Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, the $60 billion-valued company that bought out Uber’s China business, has suspended its carpooling service after the murder of a female passenger. The fatally is the second such incident this year after a passenger was murdered in May.

Police this weekend arrested a man who is accused of raping and killing a 20-year-old female who rode with him via Didi’s Hitch service on Friday in Zhejiang, a province in the east of China. Reuters reports that the woman had messaged her friend earlier in the day asking for help before she disappeared.

Authorities in Zhejiang city Leqing suspended the service before Didi later announced it would suspend Hitch nationwide. Didi’s other (commercial) carpooling and ride-hailing services are not affected by this suspension.

“We are sorry the Hitch service… would be suspended for now because of our disappointing mistakes,” Didi said in a statement.

Hitch is a modern take on hitchhiking that lets a passenger ride for free with a driver headed in their direction. Passengers are encouraged to leave a tip to cover petrol, but the idea is to make each car ride more efficient. Didi doesn’t monetize the service, but it is a strategic way to attract passengers and drivers who may use other services that the firm does draw revenue from.

Didi claims Hitch has handled over a billion trips in the past three years, but there are major safety issues.

This new murder occurred a little over three months after an air stewardess was killed in Henan province by a driver who got on to Didi’s platform using an account belonging to his father, a verified Didi driver. Following that incident, Didi suspended Hitch for six weeks. The service resumed in June with a number of restrictions, in particular, one that only allowed drivers to serve passengers of the same sex during late night hours.

This fatal Zhejiang ride occurred at 1pm, according to police, and there’s plenty to be concerned with.

Didi said in a statement that the alleged murderer, who does not have a criminal record, had been flagged to Didi’s safety team just one day before. A female passenger complained that the driver had requested her to ride in the front seat and then followed her for some time after she left his vehicle.

The Didi safety center representative who handled the complaint had not followed company policy of initiating an investigation within two hours, according to Reuters. That policy was introduced during the suspension period after Didi discovered another passenger had flagged suspicious behavior from the driver who then went on to commit the murder in May.

“The incident shows the many deficiencies with our customer service processes, especially the failure to act swiftly on the previous passenger’s complaint and the cumbersome and rigid process of information sharing with the police. This is too high a cost to pay. We plead for law enforcement and the public to work with us in developing more efficient and practical collaborative solutions to fight criminals and protect user personal and property safety,” Didi said in a statement.

The company confirmed that it has fired two executives following the murder: the general manager for Hitch and the company’s vice president of customer services.

Didi said it will launch a “co-supervisory process of our operations” which it invited members of the public and experts to take part in.

Following the murder in May, Didi said it has booked “proactive consultation sessions with relevant authorities and experts” as it sought to shore up its safety processes.

Didi has operated a virtual monopoly on ride-hailing services since it acquired and integrated Uber’s China business in 2016, but this year it has seen increased competition.

In particular, Didi is facing pressure from rival Meituan Dianping, which started out in local services but recently introduced ride-sharing services and moved into dockless bikes with the acquisition of Mobike. Meituan recently filed to go public in Hong Kong, with some reports suggesting it could raise as much as $4 billion.

Meituan is involved in a dogfight with Alibaba to win China’s local services market — Alibaba just amped up its efforts with a $3 billion raise for its Ele.me business unit — but no doubt Meituan will now doubly focus on its own safety and security measures to push its case as a legitimate alternative to Didi.

Didi has gone to great pains to emphasize that Hitch is well used — it hamfistedly shoved a mention of the service’s ride completion numbers into its apology statement — but at this point it seems best to shutter the service if it can’t guarantee the safety of all passengers, no matter how popular or strategic it may be.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Starbucks partners with Alibaba on coffee delivery to boost China business

Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in alibaba, alibaba group, Apps, Asia, Beijing, China, E-Commerce, Ele.me, hema, JD.com, Meituan-Dianping, online marketplaces, Retail, shanghai, starbucks, taobao, Tmall, United States | 0 comments

Starbucks is palling up with Alibaba as it seeks to rediscover growth for its business in China.

China has been a bright spot for some time for the U.S. coffee giant, but lately it has struggled to maintain growth — its China business dragged on its Q3 financials — and it is up against some ambitious new rivals, including billion-dollar startup Luckin Coffee.

One-year-old Luckin recently raised $200 million from investors and it has already built quite a presence. It claims over 500 outlets across China and it taps into the country’s mobile trends, with mobile payments and orders and delivery, too. Then there are some deep discounts aimed at getting new users, as is common with food, cars and other on-demand services.

In response, Starbucks is injecting some of that ‘New Retail’ strategy into its own China presence — and it is doing so with none other than Alibaba, the company that coined the phrase, which signifies a marriage between online and offline commerce.

The partnership between Alibaba and Starbucks is wide-ranging and it will cover delivery, a virtual store and collaboration on Alibaba’s “new retail” Hema stores.

The delivery piece is perhaps most obvious, and it’ll see Starbucks work with Ele.me, the $9.5 billion food delivery platform owned by Alibaba, to allow customers to order and receive coffee without visiting a store. The service will start in September in Beijing and Shanghai, with plans to expand to 30 cities and over 2,000 stores by the end of this year.

Starbucks is also building its app into Alibaba’s array of e-commerce sites, including its Tmall brand e-mall and Taobao marketplace. That’s a move that Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson told CNBC would operate “similar to the mobile app embedded right into that experience” and open Starbucks up to Alibaba’s 500 million-plus users.

Finally, Starbucks is bringing its own “Starbucks Delivery Kitchens” to Alibaba’s Hema stores, which feature robots and mobile-based orders, that will combine Starbucks stores to boost its delivery capacity and speed.

Starbucks, as mentioned, needed a boost in China but the deal is also a major coup for Alibaba, which is battling JD.com on the new retail front as well as ambitious on-demand service Meituan. The latter is reported to have recently filed for an IPO in Hong Kong that could raise it $4 billion.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Go-Jek kicks off Southeast Asia expansion with Vietnam launch

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Asia, carsharing, Collaborative Consumption, ComfortDelGro, Food, go-jek, Google, grab, Indonesia, Meituan-Dianping, online food ordering, Philippines, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Tencent, Thailand, Toyota, transport, Uber, vietnam | 0 comments

Go-Jek, the Indonesia-based ride-sharing company valued at $5 billion, has begun its ambitious plan to increase its rivalry with Grab by expanding into three new markets after it opened shop in Vietnam.

The service — which is known as Go-Viet — covers an initial 12 districts in Ho Chi Minh City with a motorbike on-demand service. Rival Grab is in five cities in Vietnam and its services include motorbikes, taxis, private cars and food delivery.

The August 1 Vietnam launch as TechCrunch reported in June. The plan is to then expand into Thailand in September, and the Philippines before the end of this year. Singapore remains a market that Go-Jek would like to enter — it has held partnership talks with taxi operator ComfortDelGro — but it remains unclear whether, and when, that might happen.

Go-Jek expansion plan will put some heat on Grab, which has occupied a near-dominant position across Southeast Asia since it acquired Uber’s local business back in March.

Unlike Grab, though, Go-Jek is taking a very local approach to each market. Not only will it use a local name in each country — in Thailand it will be called “Get” — it has hired local ‘founder’ teams who will be responsible for service offerings and other local business aspects. It isn’t clear how closely they will work with the core Go-Jek team in Indonesia.

That may mean anyone traveling between countries will need to download local Go-Jek apps, which is in contrast to Grab, which offers a single app for eight countries in Southeast Asia.

Valued at $10 billion, Grab has raised over $5 billion from investors, including its most recent $1 billion investment from Toyota. Go-Jek has pulled in just over $2 billion. Tencent, Google, Meituan and others participated in its most recent (estimated) $1.4 billion raise which closed earlier this year.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Mobike unveils first initiatives since acquisition by Meituan, including no longer requiring deposits

Posted by on Jul 5, 2018 in bikesharing, China, Meituan-Dianping, mobike, Startups, TC | 0 comments

Mobike made a roster of announcements about its bikesharing program today, including the end of customer deposits and full integration into Meituan Diaping’s app. The developments, its first since its acquisition by Meituan for $2.7 billion in April, are meant to help Mobike become a stronger competitor against Ofo, its biggest rival, and a slew of smaller startups in China’s heated bikesharing wars.

Mobike, which claims 200 million users, will have the chance to reach more customers thanks to its integration into Meituan’s platform. Meituan has ambitious growth plans (filed for an IPO in Hong Kong last month) and describes itself as a “one-stop super app” because of the large range of services, including dining, salon, entertainment and travel bookings, it offers. Meituan’s 310 million users were already able to pay for Mobike on the platform and will now also be able to rent a bike through the app.

Mobike also upped the ante for competitors by announcing that it will stop requiring users in China to pay deposits and will refund all deposits already paid. Mobike says it is getting rid of deposits to “establish a no-threshold, zero-burden and zero-condition deposit-free standard for the entire bikesharing industry.”

Deposits are a contentious issue among bikesharing users. Though Mobike and Ofo claim they do not use customer deposits to fund operations, some bikesharing startups have been accused of spending deposits on operational expenses, with users complaining that it is very difficult to get their money back, even if they stop using a service or it goes out of business. The issue has resulted in Chinese lawmakers drafting regulations that require bikesharing companies to store deposits in a separate bank account so the funds are still available to return to customers even if a company goes out of business.

Another controversial issue is the large number of trashed or abandoned bikes created by bikesharing companies, with photos of “bikesharing graveyards” becoming symbolic of the sector’s excesses and unsustainable growth. To address environmental concerns, Mobike says it is launching a bike components recycling program in partnership with several companies, including Dow, China Recycling Resources and Tianjin Xinneng Recycling Resources. Called Mobike Life Cycle, the program will recycle bike components into new parts or raw materials. Mobike says it has already recycled and reused over 300,000 Mobike tires.

Mobike will also add a new e-bike that can reach a top speed of 20 km/hour and travel up to 70 km on a single charge. The company hopes that the e-bike, which will be available in China and Mobike’s international markets, will increase trip lengths. In its press statement, Mobike says most of its bikes are used for trips up to 3 km, but the e-bikes will hopefully increase that to 5 km.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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