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India’s Ola takes its Uber rivalry to Australia with launch in Sydney

 Ola, Uber’s key rival in India, has taken its first step overseas after its service officially went live in Australia via a launch in Sydney. The company announced its plans to go Down Under at the end of January and in Sydney, which is its first full launch, Ola said it has signed up over 7,000 registered drivers. Initially, passengers will be able to enjoy free rides for a limited… Read More

Tencent Music, Spotify’s strategic partner in China, is valued at over $12B

 Spotify has finally filed to go public, and in doing so the Swedish company has shed light on another huge music company that has been tipped for IPO — Tencent Music — which is now valued at over $12 billion.
Tencent and Spotify announced a share swap in December that saw each side take an undisclosed slice of the other for strategic purposes going forward. According to… Read More

India-based music streaming service Gaana raises $115M led by Tencent

 Chinese internet giant Tencent is continuing to put its money in India and in music streaming services after it agreed to lead a $115 million investment in India’s Gaana. Gaana is a music streaming service that was started by Times Media, the company behind the Times of India newspaper and tech incubator Times Internet among other things, seven years ago. Gaana didn’t reveal its… Read More

China’s web censors go into overdrive as President Xi Jinping consolidates power

 A week that begins with the repeal of regulation that prevents dictatorship in China is likely to be a busy one for the country’s censorship people, and so it has proven to be. China’s web scrubbers have been busy banning a collection of terms and dropping the hammer on user accounts after the Xi Jinping, the country’s premier, got the all-clear to become ‘President… Read More

Is Uber selling its Southeast Asia business to Grab?

 If you read the tech press, you might have seen reports that Uber is pursuing a sale in Southeast Asia that would see Grab, its Singapore-headquartered rival valued at $6 billion, acquire Uber’s business in the region. Rumors of such a tie-in have been rife for a while. Uber sold its China business in exactly such an arrangement in 2016, and it made a similar exit from Russia last year.… Read More

Chat app Kakao’s games business lands $130M from Tencent and others ahead of IPO

 Korea’s dominant messaging firm Kakao is back raising funds after its games business, a standalone unit that is headed for an IPO, pulled in $130 million (140 billion KRW) from Tencent and a range of other strategic investors. The company, which owns Korea’s top mobile messaging app and one of the country’s largest internet portals, operates a sprawl of business that… Read More

Alibaba invests another $1.3 billion into its offline retail strategy

 Alibaba has furthered its physical retail footprint after it invested another billion dollars into projects to develop its so-called “new retail” strategy which combines online and offline. The Chinese firm, the dominant e-commerce player in its country, gobbled up a 15 percent stake in Beijing Easyhome Furnishing for RMB 5.45 billion, or around $867 million, and pumped $486… Read More

Toyota invests $69M in Japanese Uber rival backed by the taxi industry

 This week isn’t turning out to be great one for Uber in Japan. Two of its investors — Didi and SoftBank — are teaming up to launch a rival service, while one of its existing competitors has just landed a big cash infusion and highly influential backer after Toyota backed JapanTaxi. The auto giant said it will invest 7.5 billion JPY ($69 billion) into JapanTaxi, an… Read More

Kazuo Hirai is standing down as Sony CEO

 Sony is getting a new CEO after it announced that CFO Kenichiro Yoshida will replace Kazuo Hirai as the head of the Japanese firm. The move will happen April 1, with Hirai shifting to the role of Chairman. “I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now, in the third and final year of our current mid-range corporate plan,… Read More

Nintendo is bringing Mario Kart to mobile

 In news that will excite every Nintendo fan on the planet, the Japanese gaming giant just announced that it will bring its hugely popular Mario Kart series to mobile. Nintendo teased the upcoming development of ‘Mario Kart Tour’ which it said will be released sometime before March 2019. A long wait, indeed, and for now we have no additional details. But, for most enthusiasts,… Read More

Google confirms investment in Indonesia’s ride-hailing leader Go-Jek

 Google has confirmed its investment in Go-Jek, the hail-railing service that rivals Uber and Grab in Indonesia. TechCrunch reported the investment last week, which was made alongside China’s Meituan-Dianping and Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek. The trio were part of a final tranche of a $1.2 billion round that Go-Jek began negotiating on last April, with commitments from the likes… Read More

Tryb Group raises $30M to develop fintech platforms for Southeast Asia

 Tryb Group, a Singapore-based organization focused on fintech services in Southeast Asia, has landed a $30 million investment from Makara Capital. The investment comes from Makara’s $770 million joint fund with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), which is focused on finding valuable IP in the tech and startup space. TechCrunch understands that Tryb is talking to a… Read More

US-China biotech startup XtalPi lands $15M from Google, Tencent and Sequoia

 Google continues to increase its presence in China after it joined Sequoia China and Tencent in a $15 million investment for XtalPi, a U.S.-China biotech firm that uses artificial intelligence and computing to accelerate the development of new drugs. The search giant remains blocked in China, but that hasn’t stopped it from making a series of moves in recent months. It is opening an… Read More

Japan’s SmartHR raises $13.3M led by 500 Startups

 SmartHR, a startup helping Japanese employers run HR and staffing smarter — because that’s of course its name — has raised a JPY 1.5 billion ($13.3 million) Series B round led by 500 Startups Japan. The startup is perhaps comparable to the likes of Zenefits and Gusto in the U.S. — it aims to drag Japanese HR departments into today’s digital era. “In Japan… Read More

Selfie app Snow, once a Snapchat clone, raises $50M from SoftBank and Sequoia China

 It’s been a while since we heard from Snow, the Snapchat clone app in Asia that Facebook once tried to buy, but today the company behind it has scooped up a $50 million investment from SoftBank and Sequoia China.
Snow was started by Naver, the Korean firm behind popular messaging app Line, and it had proven popular in Japan, Korea, China and other markets in Asia thanks to a focus on… Read More

China’s Kunlun completes full buyout of Grindr

 Nearly two years to the day of its majority investment in Grindr, China-based tech firm Kunlun Group has fully acquired the gay dating app. Grindr is among the, if not the, world’s most popular LBQT dating app with a claimed 3.3 million daily users. Kunlun, which is best known for games but is part of a consortium that acquired Opera’s browser business, bought 60 percent of the… Read More

Mumbrella, a media startup focused on APAC’s marketing industry, gets acquired

 Inside baseball klaxon: media writing about media story incoming:: Mumbrella, the Australia-based media company, has been sold by its founders to U.S./APAC events company Diversified Communications.
Mumbrella operates media and marketing industry-focused websites for Australia and Asia, an events business and a database service called The Source. It has 33 staff across four offices. The… Read More

Uber rival Ola buys Foodpanda India to get into food deliveries

 Ola, the Uber rival in India, is entering the food delivery space after it announced a deal to acquire Foodpanda’s India business from its parent company DeliveryHero. The deal will see Ola scoop up the Foodpanda India business with DeliveryHero taking an undisclosed amount of Ola stock in exchange. Undisclosed all-stock deals are usually indicative of a willingness to sell, and we… Read More

Horizons Ventures backs AI startup Fano Labs in first Hong Kong investment

 Horizons Ventures, the VC firm founded by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing, has made a rare early-stage investment after it backed AI startup Fano Labs.
Horizons has invested in the likes of Facebook, Razer, Slack, Improbable, Spotify and more, and now it is putting undisclosed money into Fano Labs, which recently graduated AI accelerator program Zeroth. This deal also marks the… Read More

Go-Jek buys three startups to advance its mobile payment business

 Go-Jek, the company leading Uber and Grab in Southeast Asia’s largest market, has bagged a hattrick of deals to advance its mobile payment strategy. Indonesia-based Go-Jek revealed it has acquired offline payment firm Kartuku, payment gateway Midtrans and payment and lending network Mapan for undisclosed sums. The company started out in 2015 offering a ride-hailing service for… Read More

China’s CCTV surveillance network took just 7 minutes to capture BBC reporter

 It took Chinese authorities just seven minutes to locate and apprehend BBC reporter John Sudworth using its powerful network of CCTV camera and facial recognition technology. This wasn’t a case of a member of the media being forcibly removed from the country. The chase was a stunt set up to illustrate just how powerful and effective the Chinese government’s surveillance system… Read More

Techstars is launching its first accelerator program in Asia in partnership with Rakuten

 Techstars is bringing its global accelerator program to Asia for the first time in partnership with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and its chat app Viber. The companies will run a three-month program in Singapore starting in July, according to a joint announcement made today. The focus will be on social messaging and, in particular, technologies and startups that align with Viber, the… Read More

India’s Vahdam Teas raises $1.4M to bring fresher tea to your door faster

 Vahdam Teas, an e-commerce that’s focused on selling the freshest brews on the planet, has closed a Series A funding round worth $1.4 million to grow its business.
The funding was led by new backers Fireside Venture, Mumbai Angels, Singapore Angel Network and undisclosed existing investors. The two-year-old company previously raised a $500,000 seed round from angels in January of this… Read More

Uber’s Indian rival Ola begins offering a bicycle-sharing service

 Ola, the company battling Uber in India, has turned to pedal power after it introduced a bike-sharing service. China’s Didi Chuxing and Grab in Southeast Asia have invested in bike-sharing companies, which offered dock-less bikes that users can pick up across a city and leave anywhere they want when they’re done, and now Ola — which recently raised $1.1 billion in fresh… Read More

China’s Baidu just announced the strangest smart speakers

 Chinese internet Baidu is widely-credited for being one of the first to dive deep into artificial intelligence, hiring Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng (who has since departed) to lead its efforts back in 2014. Surprisingly, then, it has taken the company until today to release its own smart home products. But, far from another identikit contender, they stand out for being quite unlike… Read More

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AWS isn’t exiting China, but Amazon did sell physical assets to comply with Chinese law

aws logo Amazon has denied reports that it is withdrawing its AWS business from China, but the firm did admit that it has been forced to sell some physical assets to its local partner. The U.S. firm appeared to have exited the country after The Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported that Beijing Sinnet, the partner that operates AWS China, had notified investors of its acquisition of the… Read More

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Uber’s new Asia chief wants to work with governments and taxi firms not against them

 New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has been vocal in pledging to reform Uber’s toxic culture to take the business to the next level — and ultimately an IPO — but, over in Asia, another recent arrival is presiding over a revamped approach which includes turning those who were once enemies into friends. Brooks Entwistle, a former Chairman of Goldman Sachs Southeast Asia, joined… Read More

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Alibaba smashes its Single’s Day record once again as sales cross $25 billion

 Alibaba has set another Single’s Day record after the e-commerce giant sold over $25 billion of product on the Chinese biggest online shopping date. The full number comes in at 163.8 billion RMB, that’s roughly $25.4 billion, in GMV — that’s “gross merchandise volume” which is used to measure a dollar value for all sales on a platform. In Alibaba’s… Read More

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Some poor guy had to sit between Trump and South Korea’s president for a ‘casual’ meal


Oh man, imagine having to be this guy.

On Tuesday, U.S. president Donald Trump stopped by military base Camp Humphreys for lunch, during his official visit to South Korea.

For some reason, they sat one single soldier between Trump and South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. So that guy sat awkwardly while Trump and Moon talked across him.

"Why me?"

“Why me?”

Image: weibo

A video clip of the incident has been picked up on South Korean TV, highlighting the poor guy’s stunned expression as he sat between the two world leaders, apparently too terrified to eat. Read more…

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Indonesia wanted to block WhatsApp because people are sending ‘obscene GIFs’


WhatsApp appears to be the latest social media platform to run afoul of Indonesia’s censorship rules.

The populous Southeast Asian nation on Monday vowed to block WhatsApp within 48 hours, if it did not ensure that “obscene” GIFs were removed from the platform.

Indonesia later dropped its threat after Tenor, WhatsApp’s third party GIF provider, appeared to have fixed the issue.

“We see now that they have done what we asked. Therefore we won’t block them,” the director general from Indonesia’s communication and informatics ministry, Semuel Pangerapan told Reuters on Tuesday. Read more…

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Kaodim raises $7M for its home services platform in Southeast Asia

 There’s more funding for Southeast Asia’s growing local services space after Kaodim, a Malaysia-based startup that operates in four countries in the region, raised $7 million.
Founded three years ago, Kaodim is a service for booking for hiring a range of services that include cleaning, moving, gas delivery, appliance care, and even photography.
The round was led by Square Peg… Read More

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Grab, the Uber rival in Southeast Asia, is now officially also a digital payments company

 Grab is best known for rivaling Uber in Southeast Asia, but today the company took a major step into becoming a fintech player, too.
That’s because the ride-sharing firm, which recently raised $2 billion from SoftBank and China’s Didi Chuxing, rolled out support for its GrabPay service among third-party merchants for the first time today.
Grab is present in seven markets across… Read More

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Southeast Asian e-commerce startup Carousell closes $70-$80M Series C round

 Singapore-based startup Carousell is in the money this week after it closed a Series C round of between $70-$80 million, two sources with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch. Started by three graduates from the National University of Singapore in 2012, Carousell operates a mobile-first listings service for second-hand goods and services in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Prior to this… Read More

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Zilingo raises $18M for its fashion e-commerce service in Southeast Asia

 Southeast Asia-based fashion marketplace Zilingo has closed an $18 million Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital India and Burda Principal Investments. Zilingo was founded less than two years ago by ex Sequoia analyst Ankiti Bose (CEO) and former Yahoo engineer Dhruv Kapoor (CTO). The basic vision is to help Southeast Asia’s thriving independent fashion sellers and… Read More

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Chatbot startup founder sees Southeast Asia potential despite slow start worldwide

 Chatbots may have underwhelmed thus far, but the impact of the technology still has bags of potential in international markets where mobile messaging has been mainstream for years. That’s the view of one startup that’s working to bring the benefit of bots to the mainstream in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and the largest economy in the growing region… Read More

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China has banned ICOs

 It is looking like a new era is coming for ICOs, at least those in China for now. In the U.S., the SEC has issued official warnings around the risks of ICOs, also known as token sales, but the Chinese government looks set to beat it to implementing regulation around the rapidly growing fundraising option. A notice from a committee led by China’s central bank [link in Chinese] today… Read More

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Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank backs cloud accounting startup in first deal for $30M fund

 Thailand’s banks have stepped up to chase the startup dream over the past year. Following on from SCB’s Digital Ventures, which has backed blockchain startup Ripple among others, Kasikorn Bank (KBank) has made the first investment from its $30 million fund — a $1.15 million round for Bangkok-based FlowAccount. KBank announced its Beacon fund this summer. It has made… Read More

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Samsung heir handed 5-year jail sentence for bribery

 Samsung vice chairman and the company’s heir apparent Jay Y. Lee is headed to jail after a court in Korean ruled that he is guilty of bribery, embezzlement, capital flight and perjury charges. Lee, who has been earmarked as the future leader of the company, was handed a five-year jail sentence, although he is expected to appeal the decision. He took a board seat at Samsung last year in… Read More

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Alibaba, Tencent, Didi and other tech firms pour $12B into mobile operator China Unicom

 China is about to take net neutrality to the next level after a group of influential tech companies that includes Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Didi Chuxing and agreed to invest nearly $12 billion into state-run mobile operator China Unicom.
China Unicom is the country’s second largest operator with 269 million mobile customers, which makes it one of the largest in the world. The… Read More

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Uber suspends its service in the Philippines following ban over unregistered drivers

 Uber has suspended its services in Philippines after the national regulator banned it from operating for one month. The country’s Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ordered a cease and desist against the U.S. ride-hailing firm on Monday over its apparent flouting of a ban on new drivers. The company initially lodged an appeal and continued with its service,… Read More

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China’s top social networks face investigation for hosting porn and illicit content

 China continues to crack down on online media after the government announced that it is investigating three of the country’s most influential social networks for hosting illicit content. The Office for Cyberspace Administration is looking into content on chat app WeChat, micro-blogging platform Weibo and web forum Baidu Tieba, each of which stands accused of failing to stamp out… Read More

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Uber knowingly leased recalled vehicles to its drivers in Singapore

 Uber is in the spotlight for shady operations once again after a report revealed that the U.S. ride-hailing giant knowingly leased cars that were subject to a recall to drivers in Singapore. A Wall Street Journal report exposed the events which took place in 2016 and centered around the Honda Vezel, one of a number of vehicles that Uber purchased and then made available for drivers to lease… Read More

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Xiaomi secures $1B loan to expand its international presence and offline retail footprint

 Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has secured a $1 billion loan in order to develop its international focus and build out its offline sales presence. The company revealed today that it has secured a three-year syndicated loan agreement from 18 banks across Europe, Middle East, India, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley served as joint global coordinator, with Bank… Read More

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Samsung posts record quarterly profit despite scandals

 Despite being slammed by scandals, Samsung just recorded a record quarter of business with a net profit of $9.9 billion for Q2 2017. The Korea firm has been rocked by the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 and the prosecution of de facto leader Jay Y. Lee on bribery charges, but that didn’t stop it from pulling in revenue of $54.8 billion during the three-month period. That revenue figure rose… Read More

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Kakao is putting speech recognition tech into cars from Hyundai and Kia

 Less than a month after announcing plans to spin out its transportation and mobility business, Korean tech firm Kakao has inked deals to put hands-free systems inside cars from Korea’s second largest automotive firm Hyundai and its Kia affiliate.
Kakao is best known for operating Korea’s top messaging app, Kakao Talk, which is installed on over 95 percent of the country’s… Read More

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Stripe adds support for Alipay and WeChat Pay, China’s top digital payment services

 Payment enabler Stripe just announced two significant tie-ins that could help its pool of merchants make money from consumers in China. U.S. firm Stripe said today that it has agreed to global deals with Alipay and WeChat Pay, two digital services that dominate consumer spending in China. Alipay, which is managed by Alibaba affiliate firm Ant Financial, counts over 500 million users, while… Read More

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Game studio Mighty Bear rises from the ashes of King’s former Singapore office

 Office closures don’t just mean unemployment and uncertainty, they can lead to new opportunities. That’s the case for Mighty Bear Games, a Singapore-based games studio that grew out of the closure of’s local office. As part of streamlining following its $5.9 billion acquisition by Activision, shut down the Singapore office it picked up when it bought Non… Read More

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Indian messaging app Hike may launch live-streaming following recent acquisition

 Hike, the billion-dollar messaging app chasing WhatsApp in India, may be preparing to enter the live-streaming space following a recent acquisition. The company, which is backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, has acquired India-based live-streaming app Pulse and at least two of its founding team, according to a report from Inc42. Hike declined to respond to our request for comment but,… Read More

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