Tencent backs fintech firm Voyager to set up battle with Alibaba in the Philippines

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT. The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant […]

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT.

The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant Financial invested in Mynt, a financial venture from Globe Telecom which is a competitor to Voyager.

Following a week of speculation, PLDT announced a deal today that sees Tencent and KKR pay up to $175 million for a minority stake in the Voyager business. There have been reports that PLDT is looking to sell its majority stake, for now that has been retained but the firm did say that it has options to add other investors via the creation of new shares that would reduce its total holdings to less than 50 percent. Still, it plans to retain its position as the largest shareholder whilst bringing in expertise and more capital for growth.

Fintech is rapidly becoming a key focus for startups and larger tech companies in Southeast Asia, where the internet and mobile phone ownership promises to increase digital inclusion and give the region’s collective population of more than 600 million people new ways to save and spend. Microloan startups have raised significant funds from investors this year — Philippines based SME lender First Circle just closed a $26 million investment this week, for example — and the bigger fish in the pond are eying key infrastructure plays such as mobile wallets and payment systems.

That’s where both Voyager and Mynt come into the picture.

Voyager offers a range of digital services which include a prepaid wallet, digital payment option for retails, a remittance network for sending money, a digital lending service and a loyalty and rewards program. Mynt is similar, offering payment, remittance and loans for consumers and businesses.

The Voyager deal is the biggest investment in a Philippines-based startup — though you can debate whether a telco spinout is really a “startup” — and it only goes to reiterate increased attention Southeast Asia is seeing from China, and how fintech is becoming one of the hottest verticals.

Tencent and KKR teamed up together as investors of $5 billion-valued Go-Jek in Indonesia, which is the largest rival to SoftBank-backed ride-hailing startup Grab but also a fintech company itself. Go-Jek offers a mobile payment service which includes loans and remittance payments. Grab, valued at $11 billion, has rolled out competing products across multiple Southeast Asia markets. Indeed, it recently received an e-money license for GrabPay in the Philippines so it’s all set to join the party.

The Philippines is a particularly hot market for fintech for a number of reasons. The country’s large overseas worker base makes it the world’s third-largest remittance market — worth an estimated $28 billion — despite a sharp drop this year. While, as we wrote when covering First Circle’s news this week, SMEs account for 99.6 percent of the country’s business, 65 percent of its workforce and 35 percent of national GDP but there’s few credit options or limited data for assessment.

Fintech is seen as a key driver that enable Southeast Asia to massively increase its digital footprint and reap economic benefits. More broadly, the region’s internet economy to tipped to grow from $49.5 billion in 2017 to over $200 billion by 2025, according to a report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek.

Tencent backs fintech firm Voyager to set up battle with Alibaba in the Philippines

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT. The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant […]

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT.

The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant Financial invested in Mynt, a financial venture from Globe Telecom which is a competitor to Voyager.

Following a week of speculation, PLDT announced a deal today that sees Tencent and KKR pay up to $175 million for a minority stake in the Voyager business. There have been reports that PLDT is looking to sell its majority stake, for now that has been retained but the firm did say that it has options to add other investors via the creation of new shares that would reduce its total holdings to less than 50 percent. Still, it plans to retain its position as the largest shareholder whilst bringing in expertise and more capital for growth.

Fintech is rapidly becoming a key focus for startups and larger tech companies in Southeast Asia, where the internet and mobile phone ownership promises to increase digital inclusion and give the region’s collective population of more than 600 million people new ways to save and spend. Microloan startups have raised significant funds from investors this year — Philippines based SME lender First Circle just closed a $26 million investment this week, for example — and the bigger fish in the pond are eying key infrastructure plays such as mobile wallets and payment systems.

That’s where both Voyager and Mynt come into the picture.

Voyager offers a range of digital services which include a prepaid wallet, digital payment option for retails, a remittance network for sending money, a digital lending service and a loyalty and rewards program. Mynt is similar, offering payment, remittance and loans for consumers and businesses.

The Voyager deal is the biggest investment in a Philippines-based startup — though you can debate whether a telco spinout is really a “startup” — and it only goes to reiterate increased attention Southeast Asia is seeing from China, and how fintech is becoming one of the hottest verticals.

Tencent and KKR teamed up together as investors of $5 billion-valued Go-Jek in Indonesia, which is the largest rival to SoftBank-backed ride-hailing startup Grab but also a fintech company itself. Go-Jek offers a mobile payment service which includes loans and remittance payments. Grab, valued at $11 billion, has rolled out competing products across multiple Southeast Asia markets. Indeed, it recently received an e-money license for GrabPay in the Philippines so it’s all set to join the party.

The Philippines is a particularly hot market for fintech for a number of reasons. The country’s large overseas worker base makes it the world’s third-largest remittance market — worth an estimated $28 billion — despite a sharp drop this year. While, as we wrote when covering First Circle’s news this week, SMEs account for 99.6 percent of the country’s business, 65 percent of its workforce and 35 percent of national GDP but there’s few credit options or limited data for assessment.

Fintech is seen as a key driver that enable Southeast Asia to massively increase its digital footprint and reap economic benefits. More broadly, the region’s internet economy to tipped to grow from $49.5 billion in 2017 to over $200 billion by 2025, according to a report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek.

Tencent backs fintech firm Voyager to set up battle with Alibaba in the Philippines

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT. The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant […]

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT.

The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant Financial invested in Mynt, a financial venture from Globe Telecom which is a competitor to Voyager.

Following a week of speculation, PLDT announced a deal today that sees Tencent and KKR pay up to $175 million for a minority stake in the Voyager business. There have been reports that PLDT is looking to sell its majority stake, for now that has been retained but the firm did say that it has options to add other investors via the creation of new shares that would reduce its total holdings to less than 50 percent. Still, it plans to retain its position as the largest shareholder whilst bringing in expertise and more capital for growth.

Fintech is rapidly becoming a key focus for startups and larger tech companies in Southeast Asia, where the internet and mobile phone ownership promises to increase digital inclusion and give the region’s collective population of more than 600 million people new ways to save and spend. Microloan startups have raised significant funds from investors this year — Philippines based SME lender First Circle just closed a $26 million investment this week, for example — and the bigger fish in the pond are eying key infrastructure plays such as mobile wallets and payment systems.

That’s where both Voyager and Mynt come into the picture.

Voyager offers a range of digital services which include a prepaid wallet, digital payment option for retails, a remittance network for sending money, a digital lending service and a loyalty and rewards program. Mynt is similar, offering payment, remittance and loans for consumers and businesses.

The Voyager deal is the biggest investment in a Philippines-based startup — though you can debate whether a telco spinout is really a “startup” — and it only goes to reiterate increased attention Southeast Asia is seeing from China, and how fintech is becoming one of the hottest verticals.

Tencent and KKR teamed up together as investors of $5 billion-valued Go-Jek in Indonesia, which is the largest rival to SoftBank-backed ride-hailing startup Grab but also a fintech company itself. Go-Jek offers a mobile payment service which includes loans and remittance payments. Grab, valued at $11 billion, has rolled out competing products across multiple Southeast Asia markets. Indeed, it recently received an e-money license for GrabPay in the Philippines so it’s all set to join the party.

The Philippines is a particularly hot market for fintech for a number of reasons. The country’s large overseas worker base makes it the world’s third-largest remittance market — worth an estimated $28 billion — despite a sharp drop this year. While, as we wrote when covering First Circle’s news this week, SMEs account for 99.6 percent of the country’s business, 65 percent of its workforce and 35 percent of national GDP but there’s few credit options or limited data for assessment.

Fintech is seen as a key driver that enable Southeast Asia to massively increase its digital footprint and reap economic benefits. More broadly, the region’s internet economy to tipped to grow from $49.5 billion in 2017 to over $200 billion by 2025, according to a report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek.

Chinese Tesla rival Nio trims IPO target: now aims to raise up to $1.5B

The U.S. IPO window may be wide open for Chinese tech firms, but electric vehicle maker Nio has conservatively cut the target for its NYSE listing to $1.5 billion after it released a price range for its shares. The company plans to sell 184 million shares between $6.25-$8.25. That range would yield a total raise […]

The U.S. IPO window may be wide open for Chinese tech firms, but electric vehicle maker Nio has conservatively cut the target for its NYSE listing to $1.5 billion after it released a price range for its shares.

The company plans to sell 184 million shares between $6.25-$8.25. That range would yield a total raise of $1.518 billion, which is down from the initial target of $1.8 billion from the firm’s first filing in August. The range is, of course, subject to change and it doesn’t include income from the green shoe option — which allows underwriters to take an additional allocation of shares — but nevertheless, it is a notable development.

Nio also revealed in its newest filing that its existing investors have committed to investing $250 million into the IPO which, at the middle of the range, would account for 22 percent of the allocation.

There are plenty of possible explanation as to why Nio has cut its overall fundraise estimate.

The most fundamental may be around sales. The company has only just begun to generate revenue. It opened sales for its ES8 vehicle last year but it only began shipping in June. So, thus far, it has fulfilled just 481 orders but it does claims that there are 17,000 customers who reserved a model and are waiting in the wings to purchase it.

That’s meant that the company has recorded hefty losses — a negative $759 million in 2017 and minus $503 million this year to date — as it went pedal to the metal on R&D and preparation. Just a month of revenue makes it hard to gauge that potential, even though Nio has plans to scale up and open its own manufacturing plants.

Also, however, it may also be related to general concerns around China.

Nio is an international firm which develops technology in Silicon Valley and has design teams in Germany and the UK, but China is the only market it is focused on for sales. That makes a lot of sense since China is the world’s largest market for consumer EV sales, but there is, of course, a disconnect between the country and U.S. IPO investors. While Chinese firms have performed well on U.S. public markets — Alibaba holds the record for the world’s largest IPO and the window is very much open for Chinese tech companies right now — but EVs still remain a new concept, even in the world of technology.

Then there’s also the ongoing issue of politics. In particular, there’s President’s Trump continued trade war with China — the U.S. doubled down with a range of new tariffs last week — and some concern around Beijing’s interference with China’s top technology companies.

Tencent, the $500 billion giant, had a rare earnings miss last quarter on account of government interference in some of its core business, while arch-rival Alibaba has taken criticism about the way it dressed up its latest financials, which were good on paper. Indeed, both companies — which are China’s top tech firms — have seen their share prices drop: Alibaba’s current price is down by 15 percent from what it was on January 1, while Tencent is down by 25 percent.

All those concerns gathered together have likely caused Nio to price more conservatively, but we’ll have to wait for the list price to know for sure. Still, we’re looking at a billion-dollar IPO for the company which is seen by many as the closest competitor to Tesla — even if it currently has no U.S. sale plans.

You can read more about the Nio business from our original story on the IPO filing below.

Alibaba goes big on Russia with joint venture focused on gaming, shopping and more

Alibaba is doubling down on Russia after the Chinese e-commerce giant launched a joint venture with one of the country’s leading internet companies. Russia is said to have over 70 million internet users, around half of its population, with countless more attracted from Russian-speaking neighboring countries. The numbers are projected to rise as, like in […]

Alibaba is doubling down on Russia after the Chinese e-commerce giant launched a joint venture with one of the country’s leading internet companies.

Russia is said to have over 70 million internet users, around half of its population, with countless more attracted from Russian-speaking neighboring countries. The numbers are projected to rise as, like in many parts of the world, the growth of smartphones brings more people online. Now Alibaba is moving in to ensure it is well placed to take advantage.

Mail.ru, the Russia firm that offers a range of internet services including social media, email and food delivery to 100 million registered users, has teamed up with Alibaba to launch AliExpress Russia, a JV that they hope will function as a “one-stop destination” for communication, social media, shopping and games. Mail.ru backer MegaFon, a telecom firm, and the country’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF (Russian Direct Investment Fund) have also invested undisclosed amounts into the newly-formed organization.

To recap: Alibaba — which launched its AliExpress service in Russia some years ago — will hold 48 percent of the business, with 24 percent for MegaFon, 15 percent for Mail.ru and the remaining 13 percent take by RDIF. In addition, MegaFon has agreed to trade its 10 percent stake in Mail.ru to Alibaba in a transaction that (alone) is likely to be worth north of $500 million.

That figure doesn’t include other investments in the venture.

“The parties will inject capital, strategic assets, leadership, resources and expertise into a joint venture that leverages AliExpress’ existing businesses in Russia,” Alibaba explained on its Alizila blog.

Alibaba looks to have picked its horse in Russia’s internet race: Mail.ru [Image via KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images]

The strategy, it seems, is to pair Mail.ru’s consumer services with AliExpress, Alibaba’s international e-commerce marketplace. That’ll allow Russian consumers to buy from AliExpress merchants in China, but also overseas markets like Southeast Asia, India, Turkey (where Alibaba recently backed an e-commerce firm) and other parts of Europe where it has a presence. Likewise, Russian online sellers will gain access to consumers in those markets. Alibaba’s ‘branded mall’ — TMall — is also a part of the AliExpress Russia offering.

This deal suggests that Alibaba has picked its ‘horse’ in Russia’s internet race, much the same way that it has repeatedly backed Paytm — the company offering payments, e-commerce and digital banking — in India with funding and integrations.

Already, Alibaba said that Russia has been a “vital market for the growth” for its Alipay mobile payment service. It didn’t provide any raw figures to back that up, but you can bet that it will be pushing Alipay hard as it runs AliExpress Russia, alongside Mail.ru’s own offering, which is called Money.Mail.Ru.

“Most Russian consumers are already our users, and this partnership will enable us to significantly increase the access to various segments of the e-commerce offering, including both cross-border and local merchants. The combination of our ecosystems allows us to leverage our distribution through our merchant base and goods as well as product integrations,” said Mail.Ru Group CEO Boris Dobrodeev in a statement.

This is the second strategic alliance that MegaFon has struck this year. It formed a joint venture with Gazprombank in May through a deal that saw it offload five percent of its stake in Mail.ru. MegaFon acquired 15.2 percent of Mail.ru for $740 million in February 2017.

The Russia deal comes a day after Alibaba co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma — the public face of the company — announced plans to step down over the next year. Current CEO Daniel Zhang will replace him as chairman, meaning that the company will also need to appoint a new CEO.

Alibaba announces CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed Jack Ma as chairman next year

Following speculation about Jack Ma’s imminent retirement, Alibaba Group announced today that its CEO, Daniel Zhang, will succeed Ma as chairman next year. After stepping down as chairman on September 10, 2019 (exactly a year from now), Ma will continue serving as a board member until its annual general shareholders’ meeting in 2020. After that, […]

Following speculation about Jack Ma’s imminent retirement, Alibaba Group announced today that its CEO, Daniel Zhang, will succeed Ma as chairman next year. After stepping down as chairman on September 10, 2019 (exactly a year from now), Ma will continue serving as a board member until its annual general shareholders’ meeting in 2020.

After that, Ma will remain a lifetime partner of the Alibaba Partnership, or a group of 36 partners drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates. They hold a considerable amount of sway over the company because they have the right to nominate, or in certain situations, appoint up to a simple majority of its board of directors.

Alibaba’s announcement follows reports that Ma’s retirement from the company he co-founded in 1999 as an online marketplace was imminent, with Ma, a former English teacher, planning to dedicate his time to philanthropy in education. Ma downplayed those reports, however, telling the South China Morning Post (which is owned by Alibaba) that instead he will gradually reduce his role in the company through a succession plan.

Ma stepped down as CEO in 2013, handing the position over to Jonathan Lu. Lu was replaced in 2015 by Zhang, Alibaba’s former COO, after Ma reportedly told employees that it’s time for the company to be run by people born in the 1970s and after (Zhang was born in 1972, three years after Lu).

In a letter sent to media outlets today, Ma wrote that Zhang has “demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership” since taking over as CEO. Under his stewardship, Alibaba has seen consistent and sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters. His analytical mind is unparalleled, he holds dear our mission and vision, he embraces responsibility with passion, and he has the guts to innovate and test creative business models.”

Ma added that “this transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organizational excellence and a culture of talent development.”

Ma also re-emphasized his narrative that his departure from Alibaba Group will be very gradual. “I have put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for 10 years. I am delighted to announce the plan today thanks to the support of the Alibaba Partnership and our board of directors,” he wrote. “I also want to offer special thanks to all Alibaba colleagues and your families, because your trust, support and our joint enterprise over the past 19 years have prepared us for this day with confidence and strength.”

Of his plans after Zhang takes over as chairman next year, Ma said he will continue contributing to the work of the Alibaba Partnership,” before adding “I also want to return to education, which excites me with so much blessing because this is what I love to do. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?! The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

Jack Ma says he isn’t about to retire from Alibaba but is planning a gradual succession

Reports of Jack Ma’s impending retirement are greatly exaggerated, it seems. Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, has pushed back on claims that he is on the cusp of leaving the $420 billion Chinese e-commerce firm. The New York Times first reported that the entrepreneur plans to announce that he will leave the firm to pursue […]

Reports of Jack Ma’s impending retirement are greatly exaggerated, it seems. Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, has pushed back on claims that he is on the cusp of leaving the $420 billion Chinese e-commerce firm.

The New York Times first reported that the entrepreneur plans to announce that he will leave the firm to pursue philanthropy in education, a topic he is passionate about — Ma is a former teacher. But that news was quickly rebutted after Ma gave an interview to the South China Morning Postthe media company that Alibaba bought in 2016 — in which he explained that he plans to gradually phase himself out of the company through a succession plan.

When reached for comment, Alibaba pointed TechCrunch to the SCMP report which claims Ma’s strategy will “provide [leadership] transition plans over a significant period of time.”

In order words, Ma isn’t abruptly leaving the company, but it seems that his role will be gradually reduced over time. Alibaba confirmed he’ll remain a part of the company while the succession plan is carried out. The exact details will be announced on Ma’s birthday, September 10.

That transition isn’t a new development. Ma stepped back from a daily role when he moved from CEO to chairman in 2013. Speaking at the time, he said that he would remain active and that it was “impossible” for him to retire but he did concede that younger people with fresher ideas should lead the business.

That’s exactly what has happened in the preceding years.

13-year Alibaba veteran Jonathan Lu stepped into Ma’s shoes as CEO. He led Alibaba when it went public in a record $25 billion IPO in 2015, but he was replaced in 2015 by Daniel Zhang after reportedly losing Ma’s confidence. Former COO Zhang leads the company today, although Ma’s presence still looms large and he is particularly involved in the political side of the business. That’s included a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, and various activities with national leaders in markets like Southeast Asia, where Alibaba has sought to leverage the colossal size of its business to make inroads in emerging markets and position its business for growth as internet access continues to increase.

“I sat down with our senior executives 10 years ago, and asked what Alibaba would do without me,” Ma told SCMP in an interview. “I’m very proud that Alibaba now has the structure, corporate culture, governance and system for grooming talent that allows me to step away without causing disruption.”

Is China’s digital silk road going to pave over Silicon Valley?

Norman Liang Contributor Share on Twitter Norman Liang is an investor with W.I. Harper. Over the past 20 years, China has now grown into one of the largest consumer technology markets, with thousands of startups and funding rivaling Silicon Valley. In 2018, Chinese entrepreneurs are seeking to expand their businesses beyond borders, establish international operations, […]

Over the past 20 years, China has now grown into one of the largest consumer technology markets, with thousands of startups and funding rivaling Silicon Valley.

In 2018, Chinese entrepreneurs are seeking to expand their businesses beyond borders, establish international operations, and become global companies by listing on exchanges including the NASDAQ and NYSE.

More than ever Chinese entrepreneurs are confident in their ability to create a unicorn thanks to China’s digital transformation and its leading innovations in international markets.

Digital transformation through new native apps and services make scaling easier

Despite the talent war between China and the U.S. and large growing domestic markets, Chinese chief executives dream of successfully entering the U.S. Market. There is now global competition to attract Chinese startups to list on exchanges around the world. With a growing number of unicorns, entrepreneurs have an opportunity to go abroad and become global businesses by listing on foreign stock exchanges.

Today, China’s landscape is fueled by ideas, aspirations, and a desire to succeed at all costs. With slowing growth, many startups have begun to look abroad for growth and opportunities.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have a front seat to the local market as it has evolved over the past 20 years. As host to many Chinese entrepreneurs as friends and partners, I have noticed a single trend — Chinese entrepreneurs are infatuated with the US market, despite being a smaller market with more competition.

To succeed, Chinese entrepreneurs are seeking to list in International markets rather than the local stock market. In the second quarter of this year Chinese startups have attracted 47% of all global venture capital. To win highly competitive deals, China’s newly formed talent networks, a willingness to invest and expand, and eagerness to learn are the key to success for cross-border entrepreneurs who are looking for attention on the global stage.

In 2010, I was fortunate to be part of a room of Chinese entrepreneurs who visited the United States. They were all incredibly appreciative of the opportunities their companies had provided for them and dreamed of an IPO or raising capital in the United States. These companies were humble, hungry, and had products that had reached global scale with hundreds of users.

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Global Aspirations

The Silicon Valley dream rings true for entrepreneurs around the world. Over the past 20 years, Silicon Valley has been a special place where startups were born. But in 2004, I took the first trip to meet with entrepreneurs in China and was fascinated by their technical ability, their focus to solve everyday problems, and ability to build teams and execute. The entrepreneurial dream continues to bring them here to the United States. Their ambitions are out of respect and a desire to play a part on the global stage and participate in the global conversation.

As they do there are a few advantages that Chinese entrepreneurs have in the current market.

1 – Mobile Internet adoption

Mobile Internet adoption in China is now at 48%, and is amongst the highest in the world. With 750 million active users and increasing time spent on the mobile screen, the mobile phone is a lifeline that is now as essential as bank accounts. Thanks to this digital transformation, it does not feel like digital wallets are hurting for adoption in China’s major cities where all workers are used to mobile payments with complete strangers for everything from short taxi rides, bike rides, or food from the local street food vendor.

2 – Large Local Market

China’s local Internet market is anchored by local investment that helps companies grow and scale. With competitive rounds, and a growing number of entrepreneurs from around the world, Chinese startups raised $25 billion last year. Many of these startups raise the capital locally since many of their operations and revenues come from the local market. With an increasing concern over regulation over things like capital controls, many entrepreneurs look to international financing options to grow and scale their businesses to other Internet users around the world.

3 – Digital Economy

China’s digital economy is more complex and mature than other parts of the world. More than 75% of China’s smartphone users are active users of mobile payments. The phone has become the center of China’s netizens. Their behavior is changing the way people market, discover, purchase, and deliver products and services. Whether it be classes on the phone to learn English, or buying a In the world of consumer and mobile startups, China is building the infrastructure as we speak. But with existing channels, and supply chains, entrepreneurs are able to build products and services that can scale beyond their borders. In China, there are now over 100billion mobile transactions happening on the phone.

(Photo credit should read JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Where does this leave things?

China is pulling ahead. With the mobile phone now home to 100 apps that people use to connect, communicate, eat, and share, Chinese companies are reaching profit and scale and looking to explore international markets.

Chinese entrepreneurs are just beginning to explore international markets. In the past, entrepreneurs came here to establish small teams to build partnerships. In the past decade, Chinese companies have been some of the leading acquirers of technology companies. Before its IPO, Alibaba acquired 95 startups in Silicon Valley and around the world.

We see Chinese technology startups looking to be global. From publishing world-class research, they are seeking connections to the global market, serving the overseas Chinese population around the world in the US, Europe, and Latin America, and looking for partners who can help them achieve the entrepreneur’s dream of a global IPO.

China’s large consumer market, rapid digital transformation, and its creativity are helping these entrepreneurs become the icons of a new generation in China and the United States. Investors should see their jobs as super-connectors, providing these entrepreneurs with capital, connections, and experience that helps their companies continue to grow and scale beyond China’s borders.

 

Terra is an ambitious crypto project to build a stable coin through e-commerce

Four of the world’s largest crypto exchanges are leading a $32 million investment in an ambitious venture out of Korea that’s aiming to develop a new stable coin using e-commerce as the lynchpin. Global exchanges Binance Labs, OKEx, Huobi Capital, and Dunamu — the firm behind Korea’s Upbit — have all poured capital into Terra, a crypto […]

Four of the world’s largest crypto exchanges are leading a $32 million investment in an ambitious venture out of Korea that’s aiming to develop a new stable coin using e-commerce as the lynchpin.

Global exchanges Binance Labs, OKEx, Huobi Capital, and Dunamu — the firm behind Korea’s Upbit — have all poured capital into Terra, a crypto project whose founding team is headed by Daniel Shin, founder and president of TicketMonster — the $1.7 billion Korean e-commerce firm that was previously owned by both Living Social and Groupon.

This is the first time global exchanges have come together on a deal, and the stellar line-up of investors includes Polychain Capital, China’s FBG Capital, Hashed, 1kx, Kenetic Capital and Arrington XRP — the crypto fund from TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington .

The deal is a token-based investment round, as opposed to equity. Shin told TechCrunch that Terra plans to hold a private sale in a couple of weeks to add additional capital to this “highly strategic” set of investors. The company will eschew a public sale with retail investors, but it plans to hit exchanges — you guess which ones… — in the coming months.

Terra co-founder Daniel Shin also started Korean e-commerce unicorn Ticket Monster

Yet another stable coin

Stable coins, for the uninitiated, are tokens that are designed to remain at the same price… stable, as the name suggests.

They’re typically pegged to the U.S. dollar and are highly sought after in the world of crypto, where stability is hard, nay impossible, to find. Today, stable coins are mostly used for trading and exchange-related purposes and Tether, the controversial project backed by Bitfinex, is probably the best-known. There’s plenty of criticism around Tether, and research has suggested that Bitcoin’s phenomenal rise in late 2017 — when its value it a record high of nearly $20,000 — was fuelled by Tether manipulation.

Arguably, Tether is the best example of a stable coin, and since it is propped up by the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars on a routine basis, it would be fair to say that the concept has never worked.

That viewpoint might be a little cynical, and Terra believes it can make the concept work through mass adoption of its token. Its gateway for that is to leverage e-commerce in Asia.

While Terra is marketed as a stable coin in its whitepaper and other documents, it would be fair to see it as more of a fintech platform — think Alibaba’s Alipay on the blockchain. That’s because the project is kicking off by working with a slew of e-commerce firms across Korea and other parts of Asia.

Shin explained that Terra aims to complement existing payment solutions by offering its own Stripe -like payment option that would allow customers to pay using its coin (a name hasn’t been decided on yet). For merchants, that could mean circumventing existing payment networks like Visa, which take a cut of all revenue. On the other side, the project could help offer incentives for consumers to buy using the token, for example, through discounts that don’t add to the e-commerce platform’s cash burn.

Because buying crypto and using wallets still isn’t mainstream — and it is a clunky experience — there’s also the potential for consumers to earn tokens when they use platforms, Shin said. The token would be spendable across all supported e-commerce services.

Already, Terra has secured quite a list of partners. There are 15 e-commerce services signed up — including Woowa Brothers, Qoo10, Carousell, Pomelo, and Tiki — which between them boast a cumulative 40 million customers and some $25 billion in annual transaction volume.

Shin said the project is targeting Asia because it is the world’s most active crypto region. He believes that Terra can take a slice of the payments behind the partner businesses — he’s targeting payment GMV in the region of “tens, if not hundreds, of millions of U.S. dollars” before the end of 2019 — and in doing so set itself up for becoming a stable token by virtue of usage.

Of course, it also has its own stability engine. That features a second token — Luna — which Shin said acts as collateral by accumulating revenue by taking the small transaction fee incurred when spending the Terra token. Shin said an algorithm will use Luna to buy back the Terra token in high season to keep the price stable, while it will burn a portion of tokens to maintain stability during periods of recession. A more detailed explanation of the ‘reserve ratio’ can be found in the Terra whitepaper.

Singapore’s Carousell is among the e-commerce partners slated to work with Terra

Alipay on the blockchain

What makes Terra particularly interesting is that the intention is to build the next Alipay.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, which runs Alipay, may be little known in the U.S. and Europe, but it is dripping with ambition. It is tipped to go public in the next year or two, and already it is valued at over $100 billion following a recent $14 billion funding round.

Alipay is China’s dominant mobile payment service, and it has spawned a digital bank, lending products and more. Ant claims over 500 million users, and it has spent close to $1 billion on a series of aggressive expansions across Asia and beyond as it aims to replicate its formidable Chinese business outside of the country.

Shin explained that he believes Terra could do the same in Asia where, like Alipay, it will try to leverage e-commerce (in this case its partner businesses) to go beyond payments and into financial services.

Shin explained that the plan is to roll out with initial e-commerce partners in Korea during Q4 of this year, before widening to cover Southeast Asia and beyond in 2019. One year later — 2020 — is when he believes Terra will have the required base to welcome developers and third-parties.

“Many projects open up a developer platform prior to adoption,” he explained in an interview. “Once we have tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of users is when we’ll open up.”

Exactly what that platform will look like is unclear at this point. Terra is designing a multi-chain structure in order to accommodate numerous chains with its stable coin concept, but it is yet to decide which will primary and therefore the platform for third-party development. Ethereum has tended to be that canvass, but the project is a challenging phase right now so holding out isn’t necessarily a bad thing at this point.

Terra is a hugely ambitious project in the field of often-impossible ideas that is crypto.

Taking on Alipay head-to-head is tough, developing a stable coin is impossible, but doing both lengthens the odds further still. But yet Shin and his team have won the backing of a collective of top names in the crypto space. That, if nothing else, is a good reason to keep an eye on this project.

The odds may be long but, as Shin explains it, you can readily argue that there is upside to having so many big-name partners on board.

“The worst case scenario with this project is a reverse ICO with over 10 e-commerce companies,” he explained. “But the best possible outcome is that we build a platform that competes with Alipay on the blockchain.”

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

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

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 […]

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.