With $50M in fresh funding, Allbirds will open new stores in the US, UK and Asia

Allbirds’ wool runners have been a VC favorite since the beginning. Now, the company is worth $1.4 billion.

The quintessential venture capitalist’s uniform consists of a pair of designer jeans, a Patagonia fleece vest and $95 wool sneakers.

The company behind the shoes, Allbirds, entered the unicorn club this morning with the announcement of a $50 million Series C from late-stage players T. Rowe Price, which led the round, Tiger Global and Fidelity Investments. The 3-year-old startup founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown has raised $75 million to date, including a $17.5 million Series B last year. Its backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Scooter Braun, Maveron, Lerer Hippeau and Elephant, the venture capital firm led by Warby Parker founder Andrew Hunt.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the round values Allbirds at $1.4 billion. The company would not confirm that figure to TechCrunch.

Like Warby Parker, San Francisco-based Allbirds began as a direct-to-consumer online retailer but has since expanded to brick-and-mortar, opening stores in San Francisco and New York. It currently ships to locations across the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Next week, the company plans to open its first storefront in the U.K. in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. It will begin shipping throughout the U.K. In 2019.

Using its latest investment, Allbirds will double down on its brick-and-mortar business. In addition to the U.K., the company says it will open even more locations in the U.S., as well as open doors in Asia in the coming months. Tiger Global, which has backed Allbirds since its Series B, may be of help. The firm has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as partners across Asia.

Allbirds makes eco-friendly wool shoes for men, women and kids via its kid’s line, aptly named Smallbirds. The shoes are made out of sustainable materials, including merino wool, a fabric made from eucalyptus fiber that the company has dubbed “Tree” and “SweetFoam,” a shoe sole made from sugarcane-based, carbon-negative foam rubber.

“Climate change is the problem of our generation and the private sector has a responsibility to combat it,” Zwillinger, Allbirds’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “This injection of capital will help us bring our sustainable products to more people around the globe, demonstrating that comfort, design and sustainability don’t have to live exclusive of each other.”

It’s been quite the year for venture investment in … shoes. Rothy’s, which makes sustainable ballet flats for women, has raised $7 million and launched a sneaker. Atoms, a maker of minimalist shoes, brought in $560,000 in seed funding from LinkedIn’s ex-head of growth Aatif Awan and Shrug Capital. And GOAT, the operator of an online sneaker marketplace, nabbed a $60 million Series C in February.

Gogoprint raises $7.7M to expand its online printing business in Asia Pacific

Gogoprint, a startup that is aiming to disrupt the traditional printing industry in Southeast Asia, has pulled in a $7.7 million investment as prepares to expand its business in Asia Pacific. We first profiled Gogoprint in 2016 soon after its launch the previous year, and since then the Bangkok-based company has expanded beyond Thailand and […]

Gogoprint, a startup that is aiming to disrupt the traditional printing industry in Southeast Asia, has pulled in a $7.7 million investment as prepares to expand its business in Asia Pacific.

We first profiled Gogoprint in 2016 soon after its launch the previous year, and since then the Bangkok-based company has expanded beyond Thailand and into Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Now, the company is looking to go beyond Southeast Asia and enter Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and other markets over the coming 12 months.

Those moves will be funded by this Series A round, which is led by existing Gogoprint backer OPG (Online Printing Group), an investment firm from Kai Hagenbuch who was an early backer of Brazil-based Printi. Printi previously sold a chunk of its business to printing giant VistaPrint through a 2014 investment and it is generally heralded as a startup success within its space.

Gogoprint claims to have worked with 45,000 companies to date. Its core services include printed business cards, flyers, booklets, posters and more, in addition to marketing collateral such as promotional pens, other stationary and flash drives.

Printing isn’t a particularly sexy space from the outside, but Gogoprint is aiming to upend the industry in Southeast Asia using something known as ‘batching.’ That involves bundling a range of customer orders together for each print run to ensure that each sheet that’s sent to the printer is filled to capacity, or near capacity.

That sounds obvious, but traditional printing batches were almost always below capacity because each customer ordered individually with little option for batching. Gogoprint uses the internet to reach a wider number of customers which, using technology to batch jobs, means that it can handle more orders with fewer printer runs. That translates to cost savings for its business and lower prices for its customers. There are also benefits for the printers themselves since they are guaranteed volume, which is no sure thing in today’s increasingly digital world.

Gogoprint joint managing director David Berghaeuser — who founded the company with fellow co-founder Alexander Suess — told TechCrunch that the company main pivot has been away from the idea it needed to own its printing facility in-house.

“When we started, we had this impression that as an online printer eventually we needed to own and operate our own machinery. But over one or two years we had a mindset shift when we realized there’s this option to operate this model as a pure marketplace — we’re definitely a marketplace and do not plan to own any printing machinery” he explained.

A large part of that is because in Southeast Asia it simply isn’t practical to ship products overseas, both in terms of time and also the cost and hassle of importing. So Gogoprint has local partners in each market that it works with. Rather than “disrupting” the system, Berghaeuser argued that his company is making the process more efficient.

Gogoprint staff at the company’s office in Bangkok, Thailand

Gogoprint currently has around 125 staff and there are plans to grow that number by an additional 30. In particular, Berghaeuser said the company is building out an internal structure that will enable it to scale — that includes the recent hiring of a CTO.

Berghaeuser explained that the company focuses on larger clients — such as Honda, Lazada and Lion Air — because of their higher average basket size and a higher chance of repeat custom, which he revealed is 60 percent on average. That’s achieved with a few tricks, which includes no design software on the website. Instead, Gogoprint customers upload their completed designs in any format. While he conceded the formats can be a pain, Berghaeuser clarified that the approach minimizes more hobbyist-type business, although he did say that the company is happy to work with customers of all sizes.

Gogoprint claims it grew its customer numbers by 200 percent over the past year but it declined to provide revenue details. Berghaeuser did say that the company has a path to profitability that’s helped by “healthy” profit margins of 30-80 percent depending on the product.

Hagenbuch, the early backer of Printi in Brazil, is convinced that Gogoprint is on to a good thing in Asia.

“There are a handful of big-name online printers operating in the region. However, each of them has localized operations as they have been unable to truly expand regionally into Southeast Asia due to operational and market form factors,” he said in a statement

“Gogoprint has found the right formula to win more and more customers by creating true value: providing something that’s better at a cheaper price point, and with enhanced speed to market,” Hagenbuch added.

AI accelerator Zeroth bags investment from digital media firm Animoca

Asia-based accelerator program Zeroth is getting a major infusion of capital after digital media company Animoca Brands agreed to invest over $3 million into its businesses. Animoca is listed on the ASX with a market cap of around $40 million. It is best known for its range of mobile games which include the Doraemon and Garfield […]

Asia-based accelerator program Zeroth is getting a major infusion of capital after digital media company Animoca Brands agreed to invest over $3 million into its businesses.

Animoca is listed on the ASX with a market cap of around $40 million. It is best known for its range of mobile games which include the Doraemon and Garfield brands but it has been pushing to broaden its focus into artificial intelligence, blockchain and more.

The relationship is not new. Animoca previously invested US$1 million (A$1.39 million) in Hong Kong-based Zeroth last December, and now it is following up to take a majority stake in Zeroth’s operational business and also joining its fund as an LP.

According to an announcement, Animoca is paying up to US$1.08 million (A$1.5 million) for a 67 percent share of Venture Classic Limited — Zeroth’s operational business — in addition to a $2 million commitment to Zeroth’s fund, which it will join as an LP.

Zeroth founder Tak Lo played down suggestions that the deal constitutes an acquisition, telling TechCrunch that the deal represents an important addition of capital and know-how for the business.

He added that the program will continue to operate independently and there are plans to expand its scope and geographical focus, although he declined to provide more details. He added that the Zeroth fund remains wholly owned.

Zeroth has graduated 33 companies from three batches to date, taking an average of 6 percent equity. Some has gone on to raise from other investors, including Fano Labs (which is now Accosys) which raised from Horizons Ventures, the VC firm founded by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing.

Animoca has also been a part of the program. Its OliveX health and fitness spinout graduated Zeroth before going on to raise funding of its own.

“We were impressed by Zeroth’s rise to one of the most influential AI accelerators in Asia as well as a major investor in blockchain,” Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands said in a statement. “As Animoca Brands continues to expand its AI and blockchain initiatives, Zeroth provides us with an excellent strategic match, invaluable resources, and access to high-potential ventures and technologies.”

It’ll certainly be interesting to observe how Zeroth, which was founded 18 months ago, will continue with a third-party closely involved. Animoca has been a part of the business for some time, and TechCrunch understands that Lo and his team are talking to other prospective LPs who are likely to come on board soon to give more balance and capital.

China’s Didi Chuxing launches taxi-hailing service in Japan

China’s Didi Chuxing is fighting fires at home around passenger safety, but overseas the ride-hailing giant has moved into another new market after its taxi-booking service began operations in Japan. The service has gone live in Osaka, the city of nearly nine million people, and parts of the surrounding area including Kansai International Airport. The Didi […]

China’s Didi Chuxing is fighting fires at home around passenger safety, but overseas the ride-hailing giant has moved into another new market after its taxi-booking service began operations in Japan.

The service has gone live in Osaka, the city of nearly nine million people, and parts of the surrounding area including Kansai International Airport. The Didi Japan app links passengers up with drivers from 10 local taxi companies, and Didi said it will use an AI-based dispatch and fleet management system for efficiency.

Didi, which is valued at $56 billion, entered Japan in partnership with SoftBank, which is of course one of its investors. The company said it plans to expand the service to major cities including “Kyoto, Fukuoka and Tokyo” in the near future.

The company is going to stick to license taxis and not private cars because the latter is banned in Japan. Still, the traditional taxi industry is big business in Japan . The country is the world’s third largest taxi market based on revenue ($13 billion GMV), and it has some 240,000 licensed vehicles.

Uber, meanwhile, is piloting a similar taxi-based approach across Japan, but there are some far bigger players in the space.

JapanTaxi is a ride-hailing startup operated by Ichiro Kawanabe, who runs Japan’s largest taxi operator Nihon Kotsu and heads up the country’s taxi federation. JapanTaxi also has big-name backers, with Toyota the lead investor of a recent $69 million funding round. Beyond that, popular messaging app Line operates a ride-hailing service while Lyft, Uber’s rival in the U.S. market, is considering entering Japan, too.

Didi is hoping to stick out from the competition by appealing to both travelers and locals. To help snag interest from tourists visiting the country, it has created a ‘roaming passport’ that will allow users of other Didi apps — including China, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan — to use their regular Didi app in Japan.

This Japan launch has been in the offing for some time — SoftBank and Didi announced the joint venture back in February — and this is the fifth expansion that Didi has completed so far this year. The company raised $4 billion at the tail-end of last year and it earmarked that capital for developing AI, core tech and international markets.

Didi hasn’t held back in broadening its business globally. The company has expanded into Mexico and Australia organically, while it acquired Uber rival 99 in Brazil in a $1 billion deal and launched a franchise-based expansion in Taiwan. It global reach also includes investments, and it owns stakes in Uber in the U.S, Ola in India, Grab in Southeast Asia, Careem in the Middle East and Taxify in Europe and Africa.

Australia’s Simple lands $17M to grow its marketing intelligence platform worldwide

Simple, an Australia-based business that operates a platform for managing marketing strategies and campaigns, has pulled in $17 million to expand its business in the U.S. and other global markets. The round was led by BBRC Private Equity, the fund from multi-millionaire retailer Bretty Blundy, with participation from existing backer Perle Ventures. Unlike most marketing services out […]

Simple, an Australia-based business that operates a platform for managing marketing strategies and campaigns, has pulled in $17 million to expand its business in the U.S. and other global markets.

The round was led by BBRC Private Equity, the fund from multi-millionaire retailer Bretty Blundy, with participation from existing backer Perle Ventures.

Unlike most marketing services out there, Simple doesn’t involve itself in execution. It instead is “upstream planning,” which essentially means it helps teams to manage their campaigns by focuses on areas like planning, budgeting, organization, analysis and more. The primary idea is to increase efficiency and value for money from marketing, particularly across the complexity of large and global organizations.

Simple recently tie-up with Microsoft over the launch of its new ‘intelligent market platform’ which, unveiled at Microsoft’s Inspire partners’ conference in Las Vegas, is built on top of the tech giant’s Azure platform. It offers integrations with services like Microsoft Office that are handy for organizations that find themselves working deep in the Microsoft services burrow.

Simple CEO Aden Forrest told TechCrunch in an interview that Simple’s clients span a range of industries, including areas like banking, retail, insurance, gambling. That base is global, but Forrest wants to push on to exploit further opportunities in regional markets.

“This round is about how can we can take what we’ve learned and scale it up and take it global,” he said. “We feel there’s a phenomenal opportunity to take what we’ve learned and push it up through Asia, into the U.S. and across Europe.”

Simple CEO Aden Forrest. Photography by Quentin Jones. 26 Oct 2017.

Forrest, who past stints include a spell as head of enterprise sales at Salesforce Australia/New Zealand, said Australia will remain HQ and tech center for Simple, but the firm plans to deploy local sales and marketing teams in markets were it spies opportunities to go deeper. That’s likely to include the U.S. for sure, although the company already operates a distributed customer service team to cater to its global clientele.

World Bank launches first bond instrument built on a blockchain with the Australian Bank

The World Bank has launched the first bond on a blockchain with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The A$110 million ($87 million) bond-i (blockchain operated new debt instrument) — so named, I’m assuming, because of Australia’s famed Bondi Beach (bankers have the funnies!) — is the first bond to be created, allocated, transferred and managed […]

The World Bank has launched the first bond on a blockchain with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The A$110 million ($87 million) bond-i (blockchain operated new debt instrument) — so named, I’m assuming, because of Australia’s famed Bondi Beach (bankers have the funnies!) — is the first bond to be created, allocated, transferred and managed using distributed ledger technology.

The investment is one small step for Australian finance and one giant leap for blockchains in the world (or not).

Investors in the blockchain bond include CBA, First State Super, NSW Treasury Corporation, Northern Trust, QBE, SAFA and Treasury Corporation of Victoria. It’s a smorgasbord of Australian state financial institutions and makes a ton of sense, because the Australian fintech community is one that’s strong, and blockchain is something that these institutions are definitely interested in exploring.

According to a statement from the World Bank, this will be one of many experiments that the global financial organization will make into blockchain research. Last June, the World Bank launched a Blockchain Innovation Lab to play around with the technology.

“We are particularly impressed with the breath [sic] of interest from official institutions, fund managers, government institutions and banks. We were no doubt successful in moving from concept to reality because these high-quality investors understood the value of leveraging technology for innovation in capital markets,” said World Bank Treasurer Arunma Oteh.

Australia bans Huawei and ZTE from supplying technology for its 5G network

Australia has blocked Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment for its 5G network, which is set to launch commercially next year. In a tweet, Huawei stated that the Australian government told the company that both it and ZTE are banned from supplying 5G technology to the country, despite Huawei’s assurances that it does not pose […]

Australia has blocked Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment for its 5G network, which is set to launch commercially next year. In a tweet, Huawei stated that the Australian government told the company that both it and ZTE are banned from supplying 5G technology to the country, despite Huawei’s assurances that it does not pose a threat to national security.

Earlier today, the Australian government issued new security guidelines for 5G carriers. Although it did not mention Huawei, ZTE or China specifically, it did strongly hint at them by stating “the Government considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorized access or interference.”

Concerns that Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese tech companies will be forced to comply with a new law, passed last year, that obligates all Chinese organizations and citizens to provide information to national intelligence agencies when asked have made several countries wary of using their technology. Earlier this month, the United States banned the use of most Huawei and ZTE technology by government agencies and contractors, six years after a Congressional report first cited the two companies as security threats.

In its new security guidelines, the Australian government stated that differences in the way 5G operates compared to previous network generations introduces new risks to national security. In particular, it noted the diminishing distinctions between the core network, where more sensitive functions like access control and data routing occur, and the edge, or radios that connect customer equipment, like laptops and mobile phones, to the core.

“This new architecture provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network – exploitation which may affect overall network integrity and availability, as well as the confidentiality of customer data. A long history of cyber incidents shows cyber actors target Australia and Australians,” the guidelines stated. “Government has found no combination of technical security controls that sufficiently mitigate the risks.”

Last year, Australia introduced the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR), which takes effect next month and directs carriers and telecommunication service providers to protect their networks and infrastructure from national security threats and also notify the government of any proposed changes that may compromise the security of their network. It also gives the government the power to “intervene and issue directions in cases where there are significant national security concerns that cannot be addressed through other means.”

Huawei’s Australian chairman John Lord said in June that the company had received legal advice that its Australian operations are not bound to Chinese laws and he would refuse to hand over any data to the Chinese government in breach of Australian law. Lord also argued that banning Huawei could hurt local businesses and customers by raising prices and limiting access to technology.

TechCrunch has contacted ZTE and Huawei for comment.

Stealthy Singapore VC firm Qualgro is raising a $100M fund

Southeast Asia’s venture capital space is booming right now. Openspace Ventures just announced the close of its newest $135 million fund, Golden Gate Ventures hit the first close on its upcoming $100 million vehicle, and a third Singapore-based fund is also raising big right now: Qualgro. Unlike others, Qualgro has operated relatively under the radar to […]

Southeast Asia’s venture capital space is booming right now. Openspace Ventures just announced the close of its newest $135 million fund, Golden Gate Ventures hit the first close on its upcoming $100 million vehicle, and a third Singapore-based fund is also raising big right now: Qualgro.

Unlike others, Qualgro has operated relatively under the radar to date.

That’s been very deliberate, according to managing partner Heang Chhor, who started the firm after leaving McKinsey following a 26-year stint that spanned Europe and Asia. Cambodian by birth, Chhor grew up in France and he rose to become a member of the McKinsey Global Board, whilst also leading the business in Japan.

Prior to McKinsey, Chhor started a number of businesses — of which he says he got a modest exit but plenty of experience — and now he is turning his attention to Southeast Asia, where growing internet access among a cumulative base of 650 million consumers is opening up new opportunities for tech and internet businesses. The region’s digital economy is forecast to pass $200 billion by 2020, up from an estimated $50 billion in 2017, according to a much-cited report from Temasek and Google.

Qualgro — which stands for ‘quality’ and ‘growth,’ in case you wondered — opened its doors in 2015 with a maiden $50 million fund. Alongside Chhor is Jason Edwards, formerly with PE firm Clearwater Capital and Peter Huynh, who joined from the Singtel Innov8 VC arm. To date, Qualgro has made 19 investments, which include IP and data firm Patsnap, e-commerce startup Shopback, and lending platform Funding Societies.

The aim is to super-size that with this new fund, which this week completed a first close of $60 million. The total target is $100 million. Qualgro didn’t comment on the identity of its LPs, but it said the increased capital will see it further its efforts on Series B deals.

The firm has focused on Series A and B deals in Southeast Asia so far with a primary interest in b2b businesses, and those that use data, AI, enterprise and Sass models. Beyond that b2b specialism, the firm looks to distinguish itself by offering international growth opportunities to its portfolio. That’s to say that Chhor uses his networks across the world to help Southeast Asia-based companies expand into new geographical markets — especially on issues like setting up offices and hiring — whilst also tapping his connections within the enterprise and business worlds.

“As a Southeast Asia-based VC, we are looking for talented people that are able to grow their company regionally and potentially become a real global player. It’s a little bit difficult because as a Southeast Asian entrepreneur you need to have certain skills and be on the right business model to access the global world and compete successfully [but] we invest in this type of talent irrespective of their country in Southeast Asia,” Chhor told TechCrunch.

[Left to right] Heang Chhor, Qualgro founder and managing partner, Jason Edwards, co-founder and partner, and Peter Huynh, co-founder and partner

That’s been most visible with its efforts in Australia to date. For example, Qualgro has worked closely with Shopback to expand its service into the country. While Patsnap, too, has leveraged its investor to expand into Europe, where it has a sizeable operation in addition to its Singapore HQ.

But the strategic deals also flow the other way.

Qualgro is looking to back companies that seek the opportunities to move into Southeast Asia. To date that has seen it get active in the Australian market, where it has done more deals that other Southeast Asian VC firm. Those include Data Republic, which has expanded to Singapore with plans to go beyond that, too.

Chhor explained that, beyond its current scope on Southeast Asia and Australia, the firm is open to pursuing deals with companies in markets like Europe and Japan when there are opportunities for Qualgro to come in as a strategic investor help grow businesses and expand networks across Asia.

Indeed, Qualgro’s focus on international is reflected in its team which consists of six people in Singapore with one in Australia and an advisor in Europe.

Apple claims no customer data was exposed or compromised in Aussie hacking incident

Apple assures no customer data was exposed in an unusual breach of its systems involving a 16-year-old schoolboy from the southern city of Melbourne.

Apple Friday denied the details of yesterday’s report that an Australian schoolboy broke into its servers last year, downloaded 90GB of data and accessed customer accounts.... Read the rest of this post here


"Apple claims no customer data was exposed or compromised in Aussie hacking incident" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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Teen broke into Apple’s servers, downloaded secure files & accessed user accounts

After hacking into Apple’s servers, an Aussie schoolboy reportedly downloaded 90GB of secure files, accessed customer accounts and obtained authorized keys.

Apple's command center in Mesa, Arizona is used to oversee and manage all its data centers around the world

When he was just 16 years old, a young Australian boy has managed to repeatedly break into Apple’s servers and download about 90GB of “secure files”. Additionally, he reportedly accessed customer accounts and successfully obtained “authorized keys” as part of his offending.... Read the rest of this post here


"Teen broke into Apple’s servers, downloaded secure files & accessed user accounts" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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