China is funding the future of American biotech

Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine. It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this […]

Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine.

It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this year into life science and biotech in the US than they have back home, providing financing for over 300 US-based companies, per Pitchbook. That’s the story at Viela Bio, a Maryland-based company exploring treatments for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which raised a $250 million Series A led by three Chinese firms.

Chinese capital’s newfound appetite also flows into the mainland. Business is booming for Chinese medical startups, who are also seeing the strongest year of venture investment ever, with over one hundred companies receiving $4 billion in investment.

As Chinese investors continue to shift their strategies towards life science and biotech, China is emphatically positioning itself to be a leader in medical investing with a growing influence on the world’s future major health institutions.

Chinese VCs seek healthy returns

We like to talk about things we can interact with or be entertained by. And so as nine-figure checks flow in and out of China with stunning regularity, we fixate on the internet giants, the gaming leaders or the latest media platform backed by Tencent or Alibaba.

However, if we follow the money, it’s clear that the top venture firms in China have actually been turning their focus towards the country’s deficient health system.

A clear leader in China’s strategy shift has been Sequoia Capital China, one of the country’s most heralded venture firms tied to multiple billion-dollar IPOs just this year.

Historically, Sequoia didn’t have much interest in the medical sector.  Health was one of the firm’s smallest investment categories, and it participated in only three health-related deals from 2015-16, making up just 4% of its total investing activity. 

Recently, however, life sciences have piqued Sequoia’s fascination, confirms a spokesperson with the firm.  Sequoia dove into six health-related deals in 2017 and has already participated in 14 in 2018 so far.  The firm now sits among the most active health investors in China and the medical sector has become its second biggest investment area, with life science and biotech companies accounting for nearly 30% of its investing activity in recent years.

Health-related investment data for 2015-18 compiled from Pitchbook, Crunchbase, and SEC Edgar

There’s no shortage of areas in need of transformation within Chinese medical care, and a wide range of strategies are being employed by China’s VCs. While some investors hope to address influenza, others are focused on innovative treatments for hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

For instance, according to the Chinese Journal of Cancer, in 2015, 36% of world’s lung cancer diagnoses came from China, yet the country’s cancer survival rate was 17% below the global average. Sequoia has set its sights on tackling China’s high rate of cancer and its low survival rate, with roughly 70% of its deals in the past two years focusing on cancer detection and treatment.

That is driven in part by investments like the firm’s $90 million Series A investment into Shanghai-based JW Therapeutics, a company developing innovative immunotherapy cancer treatments. The company is a quintessential example of how Chinese VCs are building the country’s next set of health startups using their international footprints and learnings from across the globe.

Founded as a joint-venture offshoot between US-based Juno Therapeutics and China’s WuXi AppTec, JW benefits from Juno’s experience as a top developer of cancer immunotherapy drugs, as well as WuXi’s expertise as one of the world’s leading contract research organizations, focusing on all aspects of the drug R&D and development cycle.

Specifically, JW is focused on the next-generation of cell-based immunotherapy cancer treatments using chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) technologies. (Yeah…I know…) For the WebMD warriors and the rest of us with a medical background that stopped at tenth-grade chemistry, CAR-T essentially looks to attack cancer cells by utilizing the body’s own immune system.

Past waves of biotech startups often focused on other immunologic treatments that used genetically-modified antibodies created in animals.  The antibodies would effectively act as “police,” identifying and attaching to “bad guy” targets in order to turn off or quiet down malignant cells.  CAR-T looks instead to modify the body’s native immune cells to attack and kill the bad guys directly.

Chinese VCs are investing in a wide range of innovative life science and biotech startups. (Photo by Eugeneonline via Getty Images)

The international and interdisciplinary pedigree of China’s new medical leaders not only applies to the organizations themselves but also to those running the show.

At the helm of JW sits James Li.  In a past life, the co-founder and CEO held stints as an executive heading up operations in China for the world’s biggest biopharmaceutical companies including Amgen and Merck.  Li was also once a partner at the Silicon Valley brand-name investor, Kleiner Perkins.

JW embodies the benefits that can come from importing insights and expertise, a practice that will come to define the companies leading the medical future as the country’s smartest capital increasingly finds its way overseas.

GV and Founders Fund look to keep the Valley competitive

Despite heavy investment by China’s leading VCs, Silicon Valley is doubling down in the US health sector.  (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JASON LEE)

Innovation in medicine transcends borders. Sickness and death are unfortunately universal, and groundbreaking discoveries in one country can save lives in the rest.

The boom in China’s life science industry has left valuations lofty and cross-border investment and import regulations in China have improved.

As such, Chinese venture firms are now increasingly searching for innovation abroad, looking to capitalize on expanding opportunities in the more mature US medical industry that can offer innovative technologies and advanced processes that can be brought back to the East.

In April, Qiming Venture Partners, another Chinese venture titan, closed a $120 million fund focused on early-stage US healthcare. Qiming has been ramping up its participation in the medical space, investing in 24 companies over the 2017-18 period.

New firms diving into the space hasn’t frightened the Bay Area’s notable investors, who have doubled down in the US medical space alongside their Chinese counterparts.

Partner directories for America’s most influential firms are increasingly populated with former doctors and medically-versed VCs who can find the best medical startups and have a growing influence on the flow of venture dollars in the US.

At the top of the list is Krishna Yeshwant, the GV (formerly Google Ventures) general partner leading the firm’s aggressive push into the medical industry.

Krishna Yeshwant (GV) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

A doctor by trade, Yeshwant’s interest runs the gamut of the medical spectrum, leading investments focusing on anything from real-time patient care insights to antibody and therapeutic technologies for cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

Per data from Pitchbook and Crunchbase, Krishna has been GV’s most active partner over the past two years, participating in deals that total over a billion dollars in aggregate funding.

Backed by the efforts of Yeshwant and select others, the medical industry has become one of the most prominent investment areas for Google’s venture capital arm, driving roughly 30% of its investments in 2017 compared to just under 15% in 2015.

GV’s affinity for medical-investing has found renewed life, but life science is also part of the firm’s DNA.  Like many brand-name Valley investors, GV founder Bill Maris has long held a passion for the health startups.  After leaving GV in 2016, Maris launched his own fund, Section 32, focused specifically on biotech, healthcare and life sciences. 

In the same vein, life science and health investing has been part of the lifeblood for some major US funds including Founders Fund, which has consistently dedicated over 25% of its deployed capital to the space since at least 2015.

The tides may be changing, however, as the recent expansion of oversight for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) may severely impact the flow of Chinese capital into areas of the US health sector. 

Under its extended purview, CFIUS will review – and possibly block – any investment or transaction involving a foreign entity related to the production, design or testing of technology that falls under a list of 27 critical industries, including biotech research and development.

The true implications of the expanded rules will depend on how aggressively and how often CFIUS exercises its power.  But a lengthy review process and the threat of regulatory blocks may significantly increase the burden on Chinese investors, effectively shutting off the Chinese money spigot.

Regardless of CFIUS, while China’s active presence in the US health markets hasn’t deterred Valley mainstays, with a severely broken health system and an improved investment environment backed by government support, China’s commitment to medical innovation is only getting stronger.

VCs target a disastrous health system

Deficiencies in China’s health sector has historically led to troublesome outcomes.  Now the government is jump-starting investment through supportive policy. (Photo by Alexander Tessmer / EyeEm via Getty Images)

They say successful startups identify real problems that need solving. Marred with inefficiencies, poor results, and compounding consumer frustration, China’s health industry has many

Outside of a wealthy few, citizens are forced to make often lengthy treks to overcrowded and understaffed hospitals in urban centers.  Reception areas exist only in concept, as any open space is quickly filled by hordes of the concerned, sick, and fearful settling in for wait times that can last multiple days. 

If and when patients are finally seen, they are frequently met by overworked or inexperienced medical staff, rushing to get people in and out in hopes of servicing the endless line behind them. 

Historically, when patients were diagnosed, treatment options were limited and ineffective, as import laws and affordability issues made many globally approved drugs unavailable.

As one would assume, poor detection and treatment have led to problematic outcomes. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and chronic lung disease accounts for 80% of deaths in China, according to a recent report from the World Bank

Recurring issues of misconduct, deception and dishonesty have amplified the population’s mounting frustration.

After past cases of widespread sickness caused by improperly handled vaccinations, China’s vaccine crisis reached a breaking point earlier this year.  It was revealed that 250,000 children had been given defective and fallacious rabies vaccinations, a fact that inspectors had discovered months prior and swept under the rug.

Fracturing public trust around medical treatment has serious, potentially destabilizing effects. And with deficiencies permeating nearly all aspects of China’s health and medical infrastructure, there is a gaping set of opportunities for disruptive change.

In response to these issues, China’s government placed more emphasis on the search for medical innovation by rolling out policies that improve the chances of success for health startups, while reducing costs and risk for investors.

Billions of public investment flooded into the life science sector, and easier approval processes for patents, research grants, and generic drugs, suddenly made the prospect of building a life science or biotech company in China less daunting. 

For Chinese venture capitalists, on top of financial incentives and a higher-growth local medical sector, loosening of drug import laws opened up opportunities to improve China’s medical system through innovation abroad.

Liquidity has also improved due to swelling global interest in healthcare. Plus, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange recently announced changes to allow the listing of pre-revenue biotech companies.

The changes implemented across China’s major institutions have effectively provided Chinese health investors with a much broader opportunity set, faster growth companies, faster liquidity, and increased certainty, all at lower cost.

However, while the structural and regulatory changes in China’s healthcare system has led to more medical startups with more growth, it hasn’t necessarily driven quality.

US and Western investors haven’t taken the same cross-border approach as their peers in Beijing. From talking with those in the industry, the laxity of the Chinese system, and others, have made many US investors weary of investing in life science companies overseas.

And with the Valley similarly stepping up its focus on startups that sprout from the strong American university system, bubbling valuations have started to raise concern.

But with China dedicating more and more billions across the globe, the country is determined to patch the massive holes in its medical system and establish itself as the next leader in international health innovation.

Cryptocurrency wallet startup Cobo raises $13M Series A to enter the U.S. and Southeast Asia

Cobo, a cryptocurrency wallet startup headquartered in Beijing, has raised a $13 million Series A to enter new international markets. The round was led by DHVC and Wu Capital, a family office based in China. Cobo plans to expand in the United States and Southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam and Indonesia. Cobo is also now […]

Cobo, a cryptocurrency wallet startup headquartered in Beijing, has raised a $13 million Series A to enter new international markets. The round was led by DHVC and Wu Capital, a family office based in China. Cobo plans to expand in the United States and Southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam and Indonesia. Cobo is also now taking pre-orders for Cobo Vault, a hardware wallet (pictured above) that it claims is military grade. Cobo’s Series A brings its total funding to $20 million so far.

Cobo Wallet allows users to store both proof-of-stake and proof-of-work coins. One incentive for people to pick the app over its competitors is the ability to pool proof-of-stake assets with other users so they can increase their chances of mining and validating new blocks on the blockchain. Since launching earlier this year, Cobo says its digital wallet has gained more than 500,000 users.

The startup was founded last year by CEO Shixing Mao, who is known as Discus Fish in the crypto community, and CTO Changhao Jiang, a former platform engineer at Facebook and Google who co-founded Bihang, a cryptocurrency wallet acquired by OKCoin in 2013. Discus Fish, meanwhile, is known for launching F2Pool, China’s first mining pool.

Cobo Vault, which will retail for $479, meets the MIL-STD-810G U.S. military standard for equipment, Cobo’s head of hardware Lixin Liu said in an email, adding that it was built with proprietary firmware created especially for the device, a bank-grade encryption chip and military-grade aluminum.

Cobo Vault’s creation was prompted by an August 2017 incident in which F2Pool was hacked and more than 8,000 ETH was stolen from Discus Fish’s account. Fish also refunded customers’ lost ETH from his own assets. “As a result, Discus Fish was resolute on the fact that for crypto to gain mass market adoption, products had to be made to be hacker-resistant and truly safe,” said Liu.

Cryptocurrency wallet startup Cobo raises $13M Series A to enter the U.S. and Southeast Asia

Cobo, a cryptocurrency wallet startup headquartered in Beijing, has raised a $13 million Series A to enter new international markets. The round was led by DHVC and Wu Capital, a family office based in China. Cobo plans to expand in the United States and Southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam and Indonesia. Cobo is also now […]

Cobo, a cryptocurrency wallet startup headquartered in Beijing, has raised a $13 million Series A to enter new international markets. The round was led by DHVC and Wu Capital, a family office based in China. Cobo plans to expand in the United States and Southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam and Indonesia. Cobo is also now taking pre-orders for Cobo Vault, a hardware wallet (pictured above) that it claims is military grade. Cobo’s Series A brings its total funding to $20 million so far.

Cobo Wallet allows users to store both proof-of-stake and proof-of-work coins. One incentive for people to pick the app over its competitors is the ability to pool proof-of-stake assets with other users so they can increase their chances of mining and validating new blocks on the blockchain. Since launching earlier this year, Cobo says its digital wallet has gained more than 500,000 users.

The startup was founded last year by CEO Shixing Mao, who is known as Discus Fish in the crypto community, and CTO Changhao Jiang, a former platform engineer at Facebook and Google who co-founded Bihang, a cryptocurrency wallet acquired by OKCoin in 2013. Discus Fish, meanwhile, is known for launching F2Pool, China’s first mining pool.

Cobo Vault, which will retail for $479, meets the MIL-STD-810G U.S. military standard for equipment, Cobo’s head of hardware Lixin Liu said in an email, adding that it was built with proprietary firmware created especially for the device, a bank-grade encryption chip and military-grade aluminum.

Cobo Vault’s creation was prompted by an August 2017 incident in which F2Pool was hacked and more than 8,000 ETH was stolen from Discus Fish’s account. Fish also refunded customers’ lost ETH from his own assets. “As a result, Discus Fish was resolute on the fact that for crypto to gain mass market adoption, products had to be made to be hacker-resistant and truly safe,” said Liu.

Tesla inks deal for Gigafactory 3 in China

Tesla has secured the rights to about 210 acres of land in Lingang, Shanghai, the site of the electric automaker’s planned factory and its first outside of the U.S.

Tesla has secured the rights to about 210 acres of land in Lingang, Shanghai, the site of the electric automaker’s planned factory and its first outside of the U.S.

Tesla executives and leaders of the Shanghai Economics and Information Committee, Shanghai Lingang Area Development Administration and Shanghai Lingang Group witnessed the agreement-signing ceremony in China on Wednesday.

“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy not only through all-electric vehicles, but also scalable clean energy generation and storage products,” Robin Ren, Tesla’s vice president of Worldwide Sales said in a statement. “Securing this site in Shanghai, Tesla’s first Gigafactory outside of the United States, is an important milestone for what will be our next advanced, sustainably developed manufacturing site.”

The land transfer marks an important step for Tesla, which recently said rising costs had prompted the company to accelerate construction of its so-called Gigafactory 3. Tesla warned in its production and delivery report in early October that tariffs, combined with the cost of shipping its vehicles via ocean carrier and the lack of access to cash incentives available to locally produced electric vehicles, has put the company at a disadvantage in China.

Tesla reasserted those statements Wednesday, noting that it expects the project to be a “capital efficient and rapid buildout, using many lessons learned from the Model 3 ramp in North America.”

Tesla reached a deal in July with the Shanghai government to build a factory that it says will be capable of producing 500,000 electric vehicles a year. Once construction begins, it will take about two years until Tesla can produce vehicles. It will be another “two to three years before the factory is fully ramped up to produce around 500,000 vehicles per year for Chinese customers,” a Tesla spokesman said at the time.

The Shanghai factory deal marks a shift within the Chinese government to allow foreign companies to build and operate wholly owned facilities there. Foreign companies have historically had to form a 50-50 joint venture with a local partner to build a factory in China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the country will phase out joint-venture rules for foreign automakers by 2022. Tesla is one of the first beneficiaries of this rule change.

The agreement allows Tesla to construct and operate a wholly owned factory in Lingang. The new factory will carry out research and development, manufacturing and sales operations.

The Chinese government will still be involved, however. Under a cooperation agreement, the Shanghai government and Tesla will jointly promote electric vehicle technology and industry development. The city of Shanghai said it will provide support for Gigafactory 3, although details are thin as to what that might mean.

Apple apologizes over Apple ID account hacks in China

The iPhone maker has issued an apology to its customers in China over the recent scams which have helped nefarious users hack into Apple ID accounts that weren’t protected with two-factor authentication.

Apple today unexpectedly issued an apology to its customers in the 1.33 billion people market of China who became victims of the scams where nefarious users hacked into some Apple ID accounts that weren’t protected with Apple’s secure two-factor authentication system.... Read the rest of this post here


"Apple apologizes over Apple ID account hacks in China" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks publicly for the first time about its censored China search engine

Commenting publicly for the first time about Google’s censored search engine for China, CEO Sundar Pichai said onstage at the WIRED 25 summit in San Francisco that the company is taking “a longer-term view” about the country. Codenamed Project Dragonfly, the controversial development has been public knowledge since a report in August by the Intercept, […]

Commenting publicly for the first time about Google’s censored search engine for China, CEO Sundar Pichai said onstage at the WIRED 25 summit in San Francisco that the company is taking “a longer-term view” about the country. Codenamed Project Dragonfly, the controversial development has been public knowledge since a report in August by the Intercept, generating significant backlash, with several employees resigning in protest.

Google did not confirm Project Dragonfly’s existence until its chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, spoke at a Senate hearing last month. Even then, Enright did not provide much information about the project, so this means Pichai’s comments at WIRED 25 are the most detailed ones made officially by Google’s leadership so far.

Even before Project Dragonfly was revealed by The Intercept, Google had already been quietly working on a strategy to re-enter China, including launching (or re-launching) apps through third-party Android stores (Google Play is not available in China) and working with partners like Xiaomi and Huawei to introduce its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality there. Pichai said Google has not decided if it will actually launch Project Dragonfly in China, but if it does, the search engine’s biggest competition would be Baidu.

Pichai said that Chinese tech innovations means it’s time for Google to get an understanding of the market from the inside out. “It’s a wonderful, innovative market. We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that’s what we built internally,” adding that “given how important the market is and how many users there are, we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view.”

Even though it follows China’s strict censorship laws, Pichai claimed that Project Dragonfly will still be able to answer “well over 99% of the queries” put to it and that “there are many, many areas where we would provide information better than what’s available.”

Google once operated a censored search engine in China at Google.cn, but pulled out of the country in 2010. At the time, Google said its decision was prompted by a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China” that targeted human rights activists, and the country’s efforts to “further limit free speech on the web in China” by blocking websites like Googe Docs, Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

For its critics, Project Dragonfly’s existence means Google has reneged on the values it avowed nine years ago. While onstage at WIRED 25, however, Pichai said working on a search engine is in line with the company’s mission to “provide information to everyone,” noting that China contains about 20% of the world’s population.

Google only embarked on Project Dragonfly after much deliberation, he said. “People don’t understand fully, but you’re always balancing a set of values” when entering new countries,” adding “but we also follow the rule of law in every country.”

Chinese electric automakers Nio exceeds Q3 delivery target for its ES8 SUV

Nio, the Chinese electric automaker aiming to compete with Tesla, reported that it delivered 3,268 of its new ES8 vehicles in the third quarter, beating its own target by 9%. The company planned to deliver between 2,900 and 3,000 ES8s in the third quarter, according to Nio CFO Louis T. Hsieh. Nio began deliveries of the […]

Nio, the Chinese electric automaker aiming to compete with Tesla, reported that it delivered 3,268 of its new ES8 vehicles in the third quarter, beating its own target by 9%.

The company planned to deliver between 2,900 and 3,000 ES8s in the third quarter, according to Nio CFO Louis T. Hsieh.

Nio began deliveries of the ES8, a 7-seater high performance electric SUV in China on June 28. The company reported that its year-to-date ES8 deliveries, as of September 30, 2018, totaled 3,368 vehicles. The first 100 vehicles were delivered in the last days of the second quarter.

“Growing our monthly deliveries from 381 in July to 1,766 in September demonstrates our steady production ramp, strong demand from users and the initial acceptance of NIO as a premium brand,” William Li, founder, Chairman and CEO of Nio, said in a statement.

The company, which shut down its ES8 production line for 10 days for routine maintenance and to install equipment for its second production line, warned that deliveries in October will be lower.

However, the company said it remains on track to hit its delivery target of 10,000 ES8 vehicles for the second half of 2018.

The company is planning to release the ES6, a 5-seater premium SUV,  in June/July 2019.

Nio, which raised $1 billion when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in September, has operations in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, although it only sells its ES8 vehicle in China. The 7-seater ES8 SUV is priced at 448,000 RMB, or around $65,000.

Baillie Gifford  & Co., the second-biggest shareholder of Tesla stock, owns an 11.44 percent stake in Nio, according to a regulatory filing posted October 9.

Chinese electric automakers Nio exceeds Q3 delivery target for its ES8 SUV

Nio, the Chinese electric automaker aiming to compete with Tesla, reported that it delivered 3,268 of its new ES8 vehicles in the third quarter, beating its own target by 9%. The company planned to deliver between 2,900 and 3,000 ES8s in the third quarter, according to Nio CFO Louis T. Hsieh. Nio began deliveries of the […]

Nio, the Chinese electric automaker aiming to compete with Tesla, reported that it delivered 3,268 of its new ES8 vehicles in the third quarter, beating its own target by 9%.

The company planned to deliver between 2,900 and 3,000 ES8s in the third quarter, according to Nio CFO Louis T. Hsieh.

Nio began deliveries of the ES8, a 7-seater high performance electric SUV in China on June 28. The company reported that its year-to-date ES8 deliveries, as of September 30, 2018, totaled 3,368 vehicles. The first 100 vehicles were delivered in the last days of the second quarter.

“Growing our monthly deliveries from 381 in July to 1,766 in September demonstrates our steady production ramp, strong demand from users and the initial acceptance of NIO as a premium brand,” William Li, founder, Chairman and CEO of Nio, said in a statement.

The company, which shut down its ES8 production line for 10 days for routine maintenance and to install equipment for its second production line, warned that deliveries in October will be lower.

However, the company said it remains on track to hit its delivery target of 10,000 ES8 vehicles for the second half of 2018.

The company is planning to release the ES6, a 5-seater premium SUV,  in June/July 2019.

Nio, which raised $1 billion when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in September, has operations in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, although it only sells its ES8 vehicle in China. The 7-seater ES8 SUV is priced at 448,000 RMB, or around $65,000.

Baillie Gifford  & Co., the second-biggest shareholder of Tesla stock, owns an 11.44 percent stake in Nio, according to a regulatory filing posted October 9.

U.S. lawmakers warn Canada to keep Huawei out of its 5G plans

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network. “While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that […]

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network.

“While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei,” the letter states. The senators warn Canada to “reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.”

The outcry comes after the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security dismissed security concerns regarding Huawei in comments last month. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is Canada’s designated federal agency tasked with cybersecurity.

Next generation 5G networks already pose a number of unique security challenges. Lawmakers caution that by allowing companies linked to the Chinese government to build 5G infrastructure, the U.S. and its close allies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.) would be inviting the fox to guard the henhouse.

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, passed in August, the U.S. government signed off on a law that forbids domestic agencies from using services or hardware made by Huawei and ZTE. A week later, Australia moved to block Huawei and ZTE from its own 5G buildout.

Due to the open nature of intelligence sharing between the U.S. and its closest allies, the Canadian government would be able to obtain knowledge of any specific threats that substantiate the U.S. posture toward the Chinese company. “We urge your government to seek additional information from the U.S. intelligence community,” the letter implores.

The real-life Emery and Evan from “Fresh off the Boat” launch Batu Capital for cannabis, crypto and big data startups

Restaurateur and raconteur Eddie Huang is the best known of the three “Fresh off the Boat” brothers (it was his memoir that inspired the ABC sitcom), but his younger brothers Emery and Evan remain relatively mysterious even to its most loyal viewers. Though the two’s namesake characters are also prominently featured on the show, their […]

Brothers Evan and Emery Huang, founders of Batu Capital

Restaurateur and raconteur Eddie Huang is the best known of the three “Fresh off the Boat” brothers (it was his memoir that inspired the ABC sitcom), but his younger brothers Emery and Evan remain relatively mysterious even to its most loyal viewers. Though the two’s namesake characters are also prominently featured on the show, their real-life counterparts have kept a much lower public profile, making sporadic appearances on Eddie’s social media.

Emery and Evan, however, have been busy investing in real estate and recently branched into tech startups. Though their multi-family investment office Batu Capital just launched this year, it reached a big milestone this week when one of their first investments, MJ Freeway, an enterprise software developer for the cannabis industry, entered into a merger agreement with MTech that will make it part of a Nasdaq-listed holding company.

The fictionalized versions of Evan and Emery Huang, portrayed on “Fresh off the Boat” by Ian Chen and Forrest Wheeler. (Photo by Vivian Zink/ABC via Getty Images)

In an interview, the two brothers told TechCrunch about moving into the tech sector and the startups they want to fund in the United States, China and Southeast Asia. Batu Capital is focused on finding companies in the cannabis, blockchain and crypto sectors, as well as big data.

In addition to MJ Freeway, which provides enterprise resource planning and compliance tracking software for the cannabis businesses, its portfolio also includes Vidy, a startup building a new approach to video ads on Ethereum, and Sora Ventures, a crypto-backed blockchain and digital currency venture fund. Batu Capital invests in seed or Series A stage companies or Series C and pre-IPO and its typical check size will be about $500,000 to $2 million.

Though Batu isn’t a single family office, instead raising capital from a network of limited partners for each investment, its creation was motivated by Emery and Evan’s desire to protect their family’s assets after several generations of political and social upheaval.

“Long story short, our family has made and lost fortunes more than five times within the past two generations and quite frankly I’ll be damned if we let it happen again in me and Evan’s lifetime,” Emery says.

Before World War II, the Huang brothers’ paternal relatives amassed a railroad fortune, but lost it all during the Japanese invasion of Nanjing. They escaped to Chongqing and began rebuilding their wealth through real estate, but were forced to flee to Taiwan during the Chinese Communist Revolution, losing everything once again. Meanwhile their maternal grandparents had also fled from China to Taiwan to escape the Japanese army. Though they had worked in banking before, they survived in Taipei by selling steamed buns on the street for several years until getting jobs in a textile plant, eventually opening their own curtain and upholstery fabric factory.

Like many who had escaped the Chinese Communist Party, however, the boys’ relatives remained wary of another invasion and though they had rebuilt their lives in Taiwan, both sides eventually left for the U.S. That’s where their parents, Louis and Jessica, met, married, and had their three sons. “Fresh off the Boat,” the first American primetime sitcom in 20 years to star Asian-Americans, is a fictionalized version of the Huang family’s ups-and-downs as Louis and Jessica build a restaurant business in Florida, where the brothers grew up.

Investing in the backbone of new industries

All three brothers gained business experience by working on BaoHaus, the popular restaurant chain Eddie launched on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2009. Emery, who had won the Writers of the Future Grand Prize for science fiction writing, exited early and moved to China. He wanted to work on novels set there, but also look for new investment opportunities. At that time, Emery and Evan were helping their parents prepare for retirement by exiting the restaurant business and they began investing the family’s assets in real estate, brokering deals between Chinese investment groups and New York City property owners before deciding to branch into tech.

Batu Capital is named after Batu Khan, the Mongol ruler and founder of the Golden Horde dynasty, in a nod to their love of Mongolian history (they also recently discovered, thanks to 23andMe tests, that they have some Mongolian heritage through both their parents).

The firm is focusing on cannabis because of its “massive addressable market, both in terms of pain management and medical usage, as well as recreational usage,” Emery says. In particular, the brothers are hopeful that it can replace the $17 billion painkiller market, but without the side effects that have contributed to the opioid epidemic. As for crypto, Emery says the brothers “were really drawn to the applications of blockchain technology, not just for currency, but blockchain in general, and smart ledgers in general, as a way to archive information in terms of data storage and data fidelity.”

In each sector, Evan says Batu looks for companies that want to build solutions for the “overall infrastructure of the industry.”

For example, MJ Freeway helps growers and dispensaries manage their business while making sure they comply with state and federal regulations. Vidy, meanwhile, is using blockchain to reboot the way publishers display ads. Instead of automatic pop-ups or embeds, readers can decide if they want to see a video by placing their finger or cursor over text in an online article (try it in this Esquire Singapore article by hovering over the pink highlighted text).

By allowing readers an easy opt-in to streaming videos, Vidy hopes to give publishers a more nuanced understanding of user engagement. The startup, whose partners include Mediacorp, Mercedes-Benz, and Deliveroo, also created its own ERC20 utility token, called VidyCoin, which advertisers use to purchase ad placements and readers can earn by watching videos. Recording transactions on blockchain enables Vidy to guard against different types of online ad fraud, including click spam.

With their family’s past setbacks in mind, the Huang brothers say one priority is to make sure their portfolio is geographically diverse. In addition to the U.S. and China (Emery is based in Shanghai and Evan is planning to move from the U.S. to Beijing soon), Batu Capital is also looking at growth markets in Southeast Asia, in particular the Philippines and Cambodia. The latter not only benefits from Chinese funding, but also provides more transparency for investors, they say.

“Our number one priority for startups is the executive team. We want to make sure it’s people who have a track record of building up companies in that industry or related industries, or that have experience that can transfer over. They have to have a competitive edge in the market. For example, what’s their niche in the big data space or do they have strategic partnerships?” Emery says. “The same thing with crypto and cannabis. We don’t just invest in the space. We need to make sure they stand out.”