Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman announce the name of their stealthy mobile video startup

Called Quibi, short for quick bites, the company is creating content with notable filmmakers Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Antoine Fuqua.

On stage at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Los Angeles, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman unveiled the name of their highly-anticipated mobile video company known until now as NewTV.

The name is Quibi, short for “quick bites,” per a note on its new website: “Something cool is coming from Hollywood and Silicon Valley — quick bites of captivating entertainment, created for mobile by the best talent, designed to fit perfectly into any moment of your day.”

The short-form video service, launching next year, will operate on a two-tiered subscription model similar to Hulu, per Deadline. Quibi is cooking up original content with Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua and Spiderman director Sami Raimi, as well as Get Out producer Jason Blum and Van Toffler, the CEO of digital media production company Gunpowder & Sky.

The Hollywood Reporter says the del Toro project “is a modern zombie story,” the Fuqua project is “a modern version of Dog Day Afternoon” and the Blum project, titled Wolves and Villagers, could be compared to Fatal Attraction.

Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and founder of WndrCo, a consumer tech investment and holding company, has raised $1 billion for Quibi from Disney, 21st Century Fox, Entertainment One, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Alibaba Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Madrone Capital and several others. He hired Meg Whitman as Quibi’s CEO in January.

Quibi, given Katzenberg and Whitman’s entertainment and business acumen, is expected to compete with the biggest players in the space, including Instagram, Netflix and Snap, which today announced Snap Originals. The new effort will have the ephemeral messaging service rolling out 12 new scripted shows on its app from Keeping Up With The Kardashians creator Bunim/Murray, Friday Night Lights writer Carter Harris and more.

Quibi is hiring aggressively, recently bringing on former Viacom executive Doug Herzog, former Instagram product manager Blake Barnes and former Hulu chief technology officer Rob Post, also per THR.

Quibi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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.

India’s new technology infrastructure has created a platform to build domestic tech giants

In the two years since Indian social media app ShareChat raised $4 million in funding from Lightspeed Ventures the converging trends of increasing smartphone use, wireless internet connectivity, and cashless banking have combined to create a new social media juggernaut. Now Lightspeed has confirmed that the company has raised an additional $100 million in financing […]

In the two years since Indian social media app ShareChat raised $4 million in funding from Lightspeed Ventures the converging trends of increasing smartphone use, wireless internet connectivity, and cashless banking have combined to create a new social media juggernaut.

Now Lightspeed has confirmed that the company has raised an additional $100 million in financing at roughly a half billion dollar valuation alongside investment partners including India Quotient, Jesmond Holdings, Morningside, SAIF Partners, Shunwei Ventures, Venture Highway and Xiaomi. 

In the years since that first Lightspeed investment, ShareChat has gone from a company with 1 million monthly active users to 25 million monthly active users — and while the company lags behind the messaging giant WhatsApp (whose app is used by more than 200 million people in India) its growth in India is remarkable.

“ShareChat is really looking to tap into the next billion users in India,” says Ravi Mhatre, a partner at Lightspeed, whose investment dollars helped architect the ShareChat rise.

What’s giving this startup the ability to connect to those next billion users is one strategy of a 9-year-old plan to develop what’s been called the “India Stack” — an entirely new digital infrastructure for a country with a population of 1.32 billion spread across an area of nearly 1.3 million square miles.

The push began in 2009 with the launch of Aadhaar, India’s (recently amended) national biometric recording scheme. Seven years later it took a huge leap forward with the implementation of the nation’s massive demonetization plan and the near-simultaneous rollout of a 4G high speed mobile network across the country.

While the demonetization strategy ate into growth rates across the country, and likely didn’t reduce the amount of money in circulation, according to Indian financial publication LiveMint, the 4G rollout was a huge success.

Since Jio, the telecommunications arm of the giant industrial conglomerate Reliance Group, launched its 4G service in September 2016, adoption rates across the country have skyrocketed.

According to a report from the telecommunications analysis firm, OpenSignal, Jio’s contribution to networking India has been massive.

During the quarter ending June 2017, total data usage stood at over 4.2 million terabytes, out of which 4G data accounted for 3.9 million TBs, according to TRAI. The growth is most visible when checking the numbers from a year ago, when 4G data usage stood at a mere 8,050 TBs; that’s a 500-fold increase… [And] LTE availability in India is remarkable: users were able to connect to an LTE signal over 84% of the time, a rise of over 10 percentage points from a year earlier. This places India ahead of more established countries in the 4G landscape such as Sweden, Taiwan, Switzerland or the U.K.

Disrupt telco Reliance Jio laid the foundation for India’s phone owners to switch to using mobile data packages (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

For a startup like ShareChat that means tens of millions of daily active users, according to Mhatre.

Those users are drawn to ShareChat’s broadcast chat feature, which allows users on mobile phones to broadcast conversations and commentary about any topic they wish. “It’s a platform where content that is relevant to you is surfaced to you and you engage with it,” Mhatre says.

The company was founded by three Bangalore-based developers. Farid Ahsan, 26, Ankush Sachdeva, 25, and Bhanu Pratap Singh, also 26 — all graduates from India’s famous IIT Kanpur University — had worked up 17 different prototypes for a product before they finally settled on the version that would become ShareChat.

The company’s founders are also taking a page from the popular Chinese app WeChat and hope to turn their broadcast chat service into a platform for micropayments, education, and other types of entertainment.

What started as a niche site for people to communicate in their local dialects could now become the first true domestic social media giant in India.

There are other Chinese corollaries to ShareChat’s business that may be informative. Toutiao, the news aggregation service owned by Bytedance, is perhaps the closest in kind to ShareChat at the moment, but even that is only accurate to a point.

China’s infrastructure is still somewhat based on personal computers and landlines, whereas India’s is wholly mobile-first. For Mhatre, it’s the first country to make the leap to a digital economy based entirely on mobile computing.

At Lightspeed the opportunity that presents is similar to the mid-90s birth of the Internet in the U.S. and the late 2000 technology boom that created billions of dollars in value for companies like Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.

ShareChat is built to support India’s plethora of local languages, as opposed to English-first services like WhatsApp

What makes this feat even more impressive was that until two or three years ago, it looked like India wouldn’t be living up to the expectations that had been set for it and emerging market countries like Russia and Brazil that comprise three-fourths of the BRICs that were supposed to be the foundational building blocks of the 21st century global economy.

“If you look at China — the GDP in China is $12 to $13 trillion… India is about $2.5 trillion [but] infrastructure got developed there earlier than in India,” Mhatre said. India is at the same inflection point now, where the infrastructure boom is contributing to the development of new business models. 

The constraints of that infrastructure have also informed the business ShareChat has built as well. Because while digital penetration rates in the country are high, the download speeds are exceptionally low (due in part to overwhelming demand).

Again, the OpenSignal report is informative.

While LTE availability saw a meteoric rise, the same cannot be said of 4G speeds. In our latest State of LTE report, India occupied the lowest spot among the 77 countries we examined, with average download speeds of 6.1 Mbps, over 10 Mbps lower than the global average.

ShareChat’s focus on messaging and sharing data light images is a platform that’s suited to the current strengths and limitations of India’s infrastructure. “You have half a billion people with a high speed internet terminal in their hand and they want to do things with it,” Mhatre said. And ShareChat isn’t just localized in its tech stack. The company also is localized by language. 

As the investors at Lightspeed noted in their thoughts on the deal.

The “next billion” users in India speak 22 different languages and are spread out over an area the size of Europe. ShareChat’s founders Ankush, Bhanu and Farid blew us away with their insight into this new user base. Their first brush with this user base came in 2015 when they noticed that sharing of photos, videos, poetry, jokes and even good morning messages was at epidemic levels on WhatsApp. Yet there was no easy one-stop shop for finding this content.  ShareChat was born to solve this problem. As they developed the idea, they also saw that this audience hungered for connection and content about their cities and villages of origin. They noticed emergent behavior around users wanting to “look cool” to their friends by finding the best content, solving for loneliness by finding friends in their own language, and even wanting to drive fame and celebrity in their own geographies.  

China splits the internet while the U.S. dithers

There are few stories as important right now as the internet being ripped asunder by the increasing animosity between the U.S. and China. Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Alphabet, said last week at a private event in San Francisco that “I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a […]

There are few stories as important right now as the internet being ripped asunder by the increasing animosity between the U.S. and China. Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Alphabet, said last week at a private event in San Francisco that “I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America.”

He should know: Alphabet and its Google subsidiary are on the front lines of that split, experiencing a massive furor over the company’s Project Dragonfly to launch a censored search engine in the Middle Kingdom. It’s hardly alone though, with Apple facing militant criticism from Chinese netizens over its iPhone presentation and Facebook finding its application for a corporate entity on the mainland being returned and rejected.

At the heart of this split is the death of the internet as we once knew it: a unified layer for the transfer of human knowledge. As the internet has gained more and more power over society and our everyday lives, the need by governments worldwide to tame its engineering to political and moral ends has increased dramatically.

About four years ago, I wrote a piece called “From internet to internets” in which I argued that this sort of split was obvious. As I wrote at the time: “Across the world, it is becoming abundantly clear that the internet is no longer the independent and self-reliant sphere it once was, immune to the peculiarities of individual countries and their laws. Rather, the internet is firmly under the control of every government, simultaneously.”

Yet, the rules that countries like Spain put in place around media and news didn’t split the internet as I had predicted. The economic power of the U.S. and China did. Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu may have declined in value this year, but their combined market caps is still in the trillions of dollars. WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, has more than a billion users, and while only 10% of its user base is estimated to be outside China, the ties are growing as more countries build economic bridges with the mainland.

Sometimes, those bridges are quite literal. Through the Belt and Road initiative and fledgling institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China has provided massive outlays to other nations primarily around infrastructure, building partnerships and deepening economic ties.

China and the U.S. are increasingly fighting a global battle for tech legitimacy (Photo by Jason Lee / AFP / Getty Images)

That infrastructure is sometimes roads, but it can also be in areas like telecommunications. Huawei has made massive inroads into Africa, both in smartphones and in core infrastructure. Chinese-owned Transsion, which most Westerners have probably never heard of, is the dominant smartphone manufacturer on the continent.

Chinese-made telecom infrastructure. Chinese handsets. Increasingly Chinese apps. For all of the concerns of Congress and national security officials about Huawei and ZTE equipment entering the American or Australian markets, the real fight for the future of the internet is going to be in precisely these developing regions which have no incumbent technology.

That’s what has made the Trump administration’s strategy toward trade negotiations with China so miserable to watch. The focus has been on repeated rounds of tariffs that will ensure that Chinese goods — particularly in high-tech industries — are more expensive to American consumers, allowing domestic manufacturers to better compete. Yet, the policies have done nothing to ensure that American values around the internet are exported to continents like Africa or South America, or that Cisco’s equipment will be chosen over Huawei’s.

That might be changing at long last. The Financial Times reported yesterday that the Trump administration is preparing to double down on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which offers commercial lending facilities to developing countries. It would be merged into another agency and given a much more rich budget (as high as $60 billion) to go and compete with Chinese financing around the world.

Maybe that measure will be successful in closing the strategic distance between the two countries. Maybe rumors that the administration is going to broadly double down on the trade war will lead to a much more comprehensive set of policies.

But along the way, regardless of what happens, these skirmishes will lead to a fracturing of the internet, and along with it, the death of the internet as a bastion and voice of freedom and knowledge for all people everywhere.

Alibaba’s Ant Financial denies stealing from Equifax

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax — the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service. The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame […]

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service.

The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame Credit in China in 2015, and a report this week from The Wall Street Journal suggests that it leaned heavily on Equifax to do so. Ant Financial hired China-born Canadian David Zou from Equifax and the Journal claims that Zou looked up employee information to gauge potential hires and squirreled away confidential documents via his personal email account.

Ant was said to have offered Chinese staff at Equifax lucrative raises — reportedly tripling their salaries — with a focus on those who “provided instructions on specific Equifax information… if they jumped ship.” Apparently, however, only Zou did.

Zou, for this part, denies the claims. He said he looked up Equifax team members to help with work on his project in Canada, and forward information to his email account in order to continue his work when he went home.

Ant Financial went a step further with its own denial — from the firm’s statement:

Ant Financial did not use Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets, including code, algorithms or methodology in the development of our credit rating product. Ant Financial has found absolutely no evidence of Equifax software, data or code having been transferred to our systems.

We did not directly or indirectly encourage potential job applicants to obtain Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets. This would be a violation of Ant Financial’s Code of Business Conduct and we would take immediate action against any employee found engaging in this behavior. Further, we have specific agreements with our third-party recruiters that prohibit them from violating intellectual property rights of any parties. If any recruiter is found to have conducted such activities, we will stop accepting candidate referrals from them and may take legal action against them.

Ant said the Journal’s report is “full of innuendo based on disjointed facts and coincidence in timing.”

Beyond Ant, the report claims Equifax firm was also concerned when an unnamed Chinese firm swapped members of its delegation in the run-up to a meeting, a tactic that is apparently common among potential cases of espionage.

The company had been in contact with the FBI, but ultimately Equifax decided against pushing the matter. The Journal’s report also suggested that federal investigators backed down because they sensed that Equifax didn’t believe it had information that Chinese spies would be keen to get hold of. In addition, it hadn’t lost consumer information. Ultimately, of course, that leaked out when the firm was hacked last year.

“The story not only promotes hostility against a specific company, but also paints an overall narrative that maligns Chinese companies as a whole, and further promotes culturally divisive perceptions of ethnic Chinese people in America,” Ant said in its statement, which is attributed to the company’s general counsel, Leiming Chen.

Alibaba’s Ant Financial denies stealing from Equifax

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax — the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service. The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame […]

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service.

The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame Credit in China in 2015, and a report this week from The Wall Street Journal suggests that it leaned heavily on Equifax to do so. Ant Financial hired China-born Canadian David Zou from Equifax and the Journal claims that Zou looked up employee information to gauge potential hires and squirreled away confidential documents via his personal email account.

Ant was said to have offered Chinese staff at Equifax lucrative raises — reportedly tripling their salaries — with a focus on those who “provided instructions on specific Equifax information… if they jumped ship.” Apparently, however, only Zou did.

Zou, for this part, denies the claims. He said he looked up Equifax team members to help with work on his project in Canada, and forward information to his email account in order to continue his work when he went home.

Ant Financial went a step further with its own denial — from the firm’s statement:

Ant Financial did not use Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets, including code, algorithms or methodology in the development of our credit rating product. Ant Financial has found absolutely no evidence of Equifax software, data or code having been transferred to our systems.

We did not directly or indirectly encourage potential job applicants to obtain Equifax intellectual property or trade secrets. This would be a violation of Ant Financial’s Code of Business Conduct and we would take immediate action against any employee found engaging in this behavior. Further, we have specific agreements with our third-party recruiters that prohibit them from violating intellectual property rights of any parties. If any recruiter is found to have conducted such activities, we will stop accepting candidate referrals from them and may take legal action against them.

Ant said the Journal’s report is “full of innuendo based on disjointed facts and coincidence in timing.”

Beyond Ant, the report claims Equifax firm was also concerned when an unnamed Chinese firm swapped members of its delegation in the run-up to a meeting, a tactic that is apparently common among potential cases of espionage.

The company had been in contact with the FBI, but ultimately Equifax decided against pushing the matter. The Journal’s report also suggested that federal investigators backed down because they sensed that Equifax didn’t believe it had information that Chinese spies would be keen to get hold of. In addition, it hadn’t lost consumer information. Ultimately, of course, that leaked out when the firm was hacked last year.

“The story not only promotes hostility against a specific company, but also paints an overall narrative that maligns Chinese companies as a whole, and further promotes culturally divisive perceptions of ethnic Chinese people in America,” Ant said in its statement, which is attributed to the company’s general counsel, Leiming Chen.

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.