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.

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.

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.

Alibaba confirms it raised $3B for its newly consolidated local services business

Alibaba has confirmed that it has raised $3 billion for its new-look local services business after it united its Koubei local services business with Ele.me, the on-demand delivery business it recently acquired. The company said it put the capital into the business alongside SoftBank, according to a note within its financial results that were released today. […]

Alibaba has confirmed that it has raised $3 billion for its new-look local services business after it united its Koubei local services business with Ele.me, the on-demand delivery business it recently acquired.

The company said it put the capital into the business alongside SoftBank, according to a note within its financial results that were released today. TechCrunch understands that the actual amount raised may increase as existing Koubei investors have an option to be a part of the new round, while new backers may also be added. Bloomberg previously reported the consolidation and investment.

From the filing:

We have established a company to hold Ele.me and Koubei as our combined flagship local services vehicle, which we plan to separately capitalize with investments from Alibaba, Ant Financial and third-party investors. As of the time of this announcement, we have received over US$3 billion in new investment commitments, including from Alibaba and SoftBank. As a result of this reorganization, subject to closing conditions, we will consolidate Koubei, which would result in a material one-off revaluation gain when the transaction closes.

Koubei, the company’s local services platform, got a $1.1 billion injection in early 2017 and is predominantly focused on enabling local commerce. Other investors besides Alibaba include Silver Lake, CDH Investments, Yunfeng Capital and Primavera Capital.

Ele.me, meanwhile, first landed an investment from Alibaba two years ago. The e-commerce giant bought it out in April in a deal that valued Ele.me at $9.5 billion. Ele.me is a key piece of Alibaba’s recent partnership with Starbucks — the on-demand service will be used to deliver coffee to Starbucks customers across China as the U.S. coffee giant seeks out new growth opportunities and competes with rival services.

The deal may be a footnote in Alibaba’s Q1 earnings report but it is representative of a new battle that’s taking place to own China’s ‘local services’ market. That is on-demand services such as groceries deliveries, takeouts, movie tickets and other commercial activities within local areas.

Meituan Dianping, a firm backed by Alibaba rival Tencent, has led the charge into local services. The company was formed from a merger deal involving China’s two largest group deals sites in 2015 and it has since raised significant capital, including a $4 billion round two years ago.

Meituan’s next act is an IPO in Hong Kong, and the ambitious firm has expanded into ride-hailing to take on Didi Chuxing, bike-sharing via a $2.7 billion acquisition of Mobike, and even Southeast Asia, where it invested in ride-hailing startup Go-Jek.

Local services — and in particular food delivery — remains its core focus. Alibaba is betting that pairing Koubei with Ele.me, throwing in a couple of billion and adding a dash of SoftBank can give it a strong rival that can compete for China’s ‘online to offline’ market. Another war is brewing.

Alibaba shrugs off China concerns as revenue jumps 61%

Tencent had an unexpected miss this week, but Chinese rival Alibaba experienced no such issue today as it beat analyst expectation after clocking 61 percent annual revenue growth. The Chinese e-commerce giant reported total sales of 80.92 billion RMB ($12.2 billion) for its Q1 2019, fractionally beating Bloomberg’s estimate of 80.88 billion RMB. The firm record […]

Tencent had an unexpected miss this week, but Chinese rival Alibaba experienced no such issue today as it beat analyst expectation after clocking 61 percent annual revenue growth.

The Chinese e-commerce giant reported total sales of 80.92 billion RMB ($12.2 billion) for its Q1 2019, fractionally beating Bloomberg’s estimate of 80.88 billion RMB. The firm record a net profit of 8.7 billion RMB ($1.3 billion) for the period, down 41 percent.

Diluted earnings per share of 3.30 RMB was down 42 percent annually but still ahead of Bloomberg’s project of 2.57 RMB. The market has taken that as good news and shares are trading up three percent in the pre-market.

Alibaba’s core e-commerce business is its most lucrative and revenue in Q1 rose 61 percent annually to hit 69.2 billion RMB ($10.5 billion), while growth for it cloud computing business continues to impressive albeit at a slowing rate as the unit grows up. Alibaba Cloud recorded total sales of 4.7 billion RMB ($710 million) but a year-on-year growth rate of 93 percent is down slightly on 103 percent in the previous quarter.

Also in the last quarter, Alibaba took up an option to acquire one-third of Ant Financial, its financial services business that’s tipped to go public as soon as next year. The deal hasn’t closed yet, but when it does it will mean an end to “royalty and technology service fees” that Alibaba had earned from a previous agreement with Ant. Ant is valued at over $100 billion and some analyst estimates that the quarterly fees paid to Alibaba were in the region of one billion RMB, or roughly $160 million.

Looking at customer numbers, Alibaba said its active customer base in China grew to 576 million — an increase of 100 million per year and 24 million on the last quarter — while monthly active users reached 634 million, up 20 percent year-on-year and three percent sequentially.

The company doesn’t give international user numbers, but it said e-commerce revenue from outside of China grew 64 percent to reach 4.3 billion RMB, or $652 million.

Beyond e-commerce, Alibaba confirmed media reports that it has combined its Koubei local services platform with its newly-acquired Ele.me business. The entity has raised over $3 billion in new financing from Alibaba, Softbank and others, Alibaba confirmed, as it continues to compete with Meituan — the on-demand platform that is preparing to go public in Hong Kong. There’s more on that story at the link below.

The top 10 startups from Y Combinator’s Demo Day S’18 Day 2

59 startups took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 2  and among the highlights were a company that helps developers manage in-app subscriptions; a service that lets you create animojis from real photos; and a surplus medical equipment reselling platform. Oh… and there was also a company that’s developed an entirely new kind of life […]

59 startups took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 2  and among the highlights were a company that helps developers manage in-app subscriptions; a service that lets you create animojis from real photos; and a surplus medical equipment reselling platform. Oh… and there was also a company that’s developed an entirely new kind of life form using e coli bacteria. So yeah, that’s happening.

Based on some investor buzz and what caught TechCrunch’s eye, these are our picks from the second day of Y Combinator’s presentations.

You can find the full list of companies that presented on Day 1 here, and our top picks from Day 1 here. 

64-x

With a founding team including some of the leading luminaries in the field of biologically inspired engineering (including George Church, Pamela Silver, and Jeffrey Way from Harvard’s Wyss Institute) 64-x is engineering organisms to function in otherwise inaccessible environments. Chief executive Alexis Rovner, herself a post-doctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute, and chief operating officer Ryan Gallagher, a former BCG Consultant, are looking to commercialize research from the Institute around accelerating and expanding the ability to produce functionalized proteins and sequence-defined polymers with diverse chemistries. Basically they’ve engineered a new life form that they want to use for novel kinds of bio-manufacturing.

Why we liked it: These geniuses invented a new life form.

CB Therapeutics

Sher Butt, a former lab directory at Steep Hill, saw that cannabinoids were as close to a miracle cure for pain, epilepsy and other chronic conditions as medicine was going to get. But plant-based cannabinoids were costly and produced inconsistent results. Alongside Jacob Vogan, Butt realized that biosynthesizing cannabinoids would reduce production costs by a factor of ten and boost production 24 times current yields. With a deep experience commercializing drugs for Novartis and as the founder of the cannabis testing company, SB Labs, Butt and his technical co-founder are uniquely positioned to bring this new therapy to market.

Why we liked it: Using manufacturing processes to make industrial quantities of what looks like nature’s best painkiller at scale is not a bad idea.

RevenueCat

RevenueCat founders

RevenueCat helps developers manage their in-app subscriptions. It offers an API that developers can use to support in-app subscriptions on iOS and Android, which means they don’t have to worry about all the nuances, bugs and updates on each platform.

The API also allows developers to bring all the data about their subscription business together in one place. It might be on to something, though it isn’t clear how big that something is quite yet. The nine-month-old company says it’s currently seeing $350,000 in transaction volume every month; it’s making some undisclosed percentage of money off that amount.

Read more about RevenueCat here.

Why we liked it: Write code. Release app. Use RevenueCat. Get paid. That sounds like a good formula for a pretty compelling business.

 

Ajaib

Indonesia is a country in a transition, with a growing class of individuals with assets to invest yet who, financially, don’t meet the bar set by many wealth managers. Enter Ajaib, a newly minted startup with the very bold ambition of becoming the “Ant Financial of wealth management for Indonesia.” Why the comparison? Because China was in the same boat not long ago — a  country whose middle class had little access to wealth management advice. With the founding of Ant Financial nearly four years ago, that changed. In fact, Ant now boasts more than 400 million users.

China is home to nearly 1.4 billion, compared with Indonesia, whose population of 261 million is tiny in comparison. Still, if its plans work out to charge 1.4 percent for every dollar managed, with an estimated $370 billion in savings in the country to chase after, it could be facing a meaningful opportunity in its backyard if it gains some momentum.

Why we liked it: If Ajaib’s wealth management plans (to charge 1.4 percent for every dollar it manages) work out — and with a total market of $370 billion in savings in Indonesia — the company could be facing a meaningful opportunity in its backyard.

 

Grin

The scooter craze is hitting Latin America and Grin is greasing the wheels. The Mexico City-based company was launched by co-founder Sergio Romo after he and his partner realized they weren’t going to be able to get a cut of the big “birds” on the scooter block in the U.S. (as Axios reported). Romo and his co-founder have already lined up a slew of investors for what may be the hottest new deal in Latin America. Backers include Sinai Ventures, Liquid2 Ventures, 500 Startups, Monashees and Base10 Partners.

Why we liked it: Scooters are so 2018. But there’s a lot of money to be made in mobility, and as the challenge from Bird and Lime to Uber and Lyft in hyperlocal transit has revealed, there’s no dominant player that’s taken over the market… yet.

Emojer

Creating animated emojis made from real photos, Emojer just might be the most fun you can have with a camera. The company’s software uses deep learning algorithms to detect body parts and guides users in creating their own avatars with just a simple photo take from a mobile phone. It’s replacing deep Photoshop expertise and animation skills with a super simple interface. The avatars look very similar to Elf Yourself, a popular site that let you paste your friends’ faces on dancing Christmas elves that went viral every year at Christmastime. Founders have PhDs in machine learning and computer vision.

Why we liked it: As the company’s chief executive said, Snap was for sexting, and Facebook was hot o