BRCK acquires ISPs EveryLayer and Surf to boost Africa’s public Wi-Fi

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor Africa Roundup: Zimbabwe’s net blackout, Partech’s $143M fund, Andela’s $100M raise, Flutterwave’s pivot Partech is doubling the size of its African venture fund to $143 million Kenyan communications hardware […]

Kenyan communications hardware company BRCK has acquired the assets of Nairobi based internet provider Surf and its U.S. parent EveryLayer in a purchase deal of an undisclosed amount announced Friday.

Based in Nairobi, Surf is a hotspot service provider aimed at offering affordable internet to lower income segments. BRCK is a five year old venture that pairs its rugged WiFi routers to internet service packages designed to bring people online in frontier and emerging markets.

With the acquisition, BRCK gains the assets of San Francisco based EveryLayer and its Surf subsidiary, including 1200 hotspots and 200,000 active customers across 22 cities in Kenya, according to BRCK CEO and founder Erik Hersman. EveryLayer CEO Mark Summer confirmed these details with TechCrunch.

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BRCK built its platform around providing internet solutions primarily in Kenya and Rwanda. In 2017, the company rolled out its SupaBRCK product and paired it to its Moja service, which offers free public WiFi—internet, music, and entertainment—subsidized by commercial partners.

There’s not a requirement to click on or watch advertisements to gain Moja access, though users can gain faster access if they “interact with one of our business partners…by doing a survey, downloading an app, or watching an ad,” said Hersman.

In 2018, BRCK began offering SupaBRCK devices to drivers of Nairobi’s Mutatu buses for Kenyan commuters to access Moja. As of January Moja traffic is racking up 300,000 active uniques and 3.7 million impressions per month, according to Hersman.

The BRCK founder has described Africa’s internet challenges—mainly the lowest penetration rates in the world—as shifting toward more of an affordability than availability problem.

“The demand on internet in Africa is largely driven by the 10 to 15 percent who can afford it. The real massive opportunity is trying to connect the 70 to 80 percent of the people who can’t. That’s where the internet race really is,” Hersman told TechCrunch in 2017.

Speaking on the recent EveryLayer asset acquisition, Hersman explained that improvements over recent years in Africa’s smartphone penetration, internet costs, and broadband capabilities are not necessarily translating to large portions of Africa’s 1.2 billion people.

“Even with penetration improving, even with data prices going down, there’s still not a viable way to get internet to huge swaths of people,” he told TechCrunch. “The real numbers are that about 20 percent in every country can now afford to buy data-bundles, but 80 percent can’t.”

With the recent asset acquisition BRCK hopes to add its experience in delivering internet solutions on transit networks to Surf’s WiFi and IP capabilities toward new partnerships and service countries.

“Surf has a model for fixed WiFi and a team that roll things out in Kenya and new geographies. We can go to big ISPs in other countries and create partnerships…for fixed WiFi followed by transportation connectivity,” said Hersman.

BRCK will maintain the Surf name in the short term, “but over the next three to six months it will all be rebranded and the platform will become Moja WiFi,” Hersman said. Surf’s existing employees have been invited to join BRCK.

As for Surf’s parent company, EveryLayer, “at this point it will be shutdown. One of the founders Andris Bjornson will join BRCK,” CEO Mark Summer told TechCrunch.

In 2018, EveryLayer announced a partnership whereby Surf would also offer Facebook’s Express WiFi hotspots on its network. With the acquisition, that arrangement will continue “only for those existing express WiFi locations” until BRCK transitions “those…nodes to Moja WiFi in the next three to six months, explained BRCK CEO Erik Hersman. “

On data-privacy for BRCK’s Moja users, “BRCK doesn’t capture personally identifying information beyond the MacID of the device connecting…We don’t associate users browsing data with individual users and there are no logins,” Hersman told TechCrunch.

Indonesia-focused Intudo Ventures raises new $50M fund

Intudo Ventures, a VC firm focused on Indonesia, has closed a new $50 million fund. This is Intudo’s second fund to date following its $20 million debut last year. The firm is a relative newcomer to Southeast Asia but a key differentiator is that it is solely focused on Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth most populated country […]

Intudo Ventures, a VC firm focused on Indonesia, has closed a new $50 million fund. This is Intudo’s second fund to date following its $20 million debut last year.

The firm is a relative newcomer to Southeast Asia but a key differentiator is that it is solely focused on Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth most populated country with over 260 million people and the region’s largest economy.

It is also the dominant market for tech and the internet in the region. According to a much-cited report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Indonesia’s online economy will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $8 billion in 2015. That’s a dominant chunk of the Southeast Asia market, which is predicted to reach $240 billion as a whole.

A Google-Temasek report forecasts significant growth across Southeast Asia, with Indonesia taking the lead

Another factor that separates Intudo from other firms is its approach to working with local partners. Most VC firms in Southeast Asia tend to source their LPs from Singapore, West Asia and China with a smattering of local families or conglomerates who wield influence on the ground in markets. In Indonesia, Intudo claims to have over 20 families among its LP base, as opposed to the conventional approach of two or three.

However, founding partners Eddy Chan and Patrick Yip told TechCrunch that the majority of its capital comes from U.S-based LPs, with no investor providing more than 10 percent of the fund’s capital. Some of its overseas backers include Founders Fund, the family office of former Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson, Japan’s World Innovation Lab and Taiwan’s CTBC Group, according to the partners.

“Indonesia is a market we feel is dominated by about 100 core families, we are back by 20-some of the most influential groups in the market,” Chan said in an interview.

The goal is to help Intudo’s portfolio companies tap into opportunities from those LPs and their business holdings.

“When we sign up LPs, first and foremost we want to be able to engage the network and resources for the startup we invest into. We find a fit and hopefully provide some kind of unfair advantage… a leg up when they want to compete,” Chan explained.

“We’re not biased to any one family, we invest in a purely financially-driven manner,” added Yip.

Intudo Ventures’ founding partners Eddy Chan and Patrick Yip

Yip provides the on-the-ground presence having returned to Indonesia from the U.S. 15 years ago. Chan is in the U.S. for eight months a year, he said, where he spends much of his time seeking out Indonesia talent studying in the U.S. for prospective hiring or incubating new projects.

“We have a long-term view that we either place them in our portfolio, found companies with them or put them in with a Bain, or McKinsey type company,” Chan explained.

Yip formerly operated an investment firm associated with Goldman Sachs and spent time at retail giant CP, Chan, meanwhile has spent time as an investor and co-founded smart light company Leeo before leaving in 2015 following a restructuring.

The fund itself is focused on Series A and pre-A with some Series B with an initial investment of $500,000-$5 million with more for follow-on rounds, the partners explained. But the focus is on doubling down on a few prospects, with the fund slated to do around 12-15 deals through its lifecycle.

Chan said that when it comes to going beyond the fund’s deal range the thesis is to involve its LPs who, he claimed, are keen to invest in Indonesia further down the line. With just a year since Intudo’s debut fund closed that theory has not been tested yet although one early bet, BeliMobilGue just raised a $10 million Series A. Others in the portfolio include co-working venture CoHive, payment gateway company Xendit and fitness startup Ride Jakarta.

For now, at least, Intudo intends to remain laser-focused on Indonesia.

“Down the road will we add other countries? Time will tell,” Chan said. “This is our bread and butter and where we’re strong and what we have committed to for our LPs.”

BeliMobilGue raises $10M for its used-car sales platform in Indonesia

BeliMobilGue, a used car sales platform in Indonesia, has fueled up with a $10 million Series round for the race to dominate the automotive market in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. The company was started in 2017 as a joint venture between Europe’s Frontier Car Group (FCG) and Intudo Ventures, a VC firm focused on Indonesia. BeliMobilGue said […]

BeliMobilGue, a used car sales platform in Indonesia, has fueled up with a $10 million Series round for the race to dominate the automotive market in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The company was started in 2017 as a joint venture between Europe’s Frontier Car Group (FCG) and Intudo Ventures, a VC firm focused on Indonesia. BeliMobilGue said today that the capital came from FCG and new investors, which include Tunas Toyota — the authorized dealership for Toyota cars in Indonesia.

It’s worth noting that FCG itself is a venture which, as the name sounds, develops on automotive ventures in emerging (frontier) markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Its investors include Naspers/OLX, Balderton Capital, TPG Growth and Partech Ventures.

This Series A round follows a $3.7 million round last year for BeliMobilGue — which means ‘buy my car’ in Indonesia’s Bahasa language.

BeliMobilGue is aimed at making it easy for car owners to sell their vehicle.

The first step is an online price estimation for vehicle. If the owner is happy with the valuation, BeliMobilGue takes the vehicles in and, after a one hour check attended in person by its testers, it arranges a sale to its network of over 1,000 dealers and private buyers. The entire process is targeted at one hour and is free for consumers, BeliMobilGue CEO Rolf Monteiro told TechCrunch.

The company has 30 physical testing points across Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, and with this money in the bank it is targeting expansion to Java. By the end of this year, Monteiro forecasts that the number of physical stations will have passed 100.

Another target for this year is ancillary services. BeliMobilGue is focused on enabling dealers, many of whom are often small businesses rather than nationwide chains, to growth with its service so it is offering financial packages financed by a third-party bank.

“The difference between small and large dealerships is their access to capital,” Monteiro explained in an interview. “We are a little bit more comfortable [than a bank] to extend their finance because we’re not just using data, we’re sitting on that dealer relationship.

“Plus we are sitting on cars, so we are financing cars that come from our platform and [if necessary] we can help offload the car for the dealer,” he added.

BeliMobilGue aims to sell vehicles within an hour, that includes a comprehensive inspection that’s carried out by its staff and covers 300 points.

BeliMobilGue is far from alone in going after Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth most populous country and the cornerstone of most digital strategies for the region. An annual report from Google and Temasek forecasts that Indonesia’s online economy will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $8 billion in 2015. Southeast Asia as a whole is predicted to reach $240 billion, which is telling of the significance of Indonesia.

With that in mind, regional rivals have doubled down on Indonesia.

Carro has raised $78 million to date — including a $60 million Series B last year — while Carsome has $27 million and iCar Asia, from venture builder Catcha, has pulled in $39 million to date.

Each of that trio serves multiple markets across the region, not Indonesia exclusively, which is where Monteiro believes he can find an advantage. While he admitted that BeliMobilGue could have raised more money — it stuck to finding ‘smart money’ over amassing pools of cash, he said — he sees the existance of competition as win-win for the industry.

“Indonesia is a massive market,” he said. “Whether it is us, Carro or Carsome, the competition helps educate the market and it will get us new business. But, as much as I welcome them, I want that dominant position.”

Adding strategic investors like Tunas Toyota is, Monteiro believes another key differentiator.

“An investor like Tunas has 25-30 years of experience, so, for us, this partnership is golden. We’re quite content with the round and how it played out,” he said.

E-commerce startup Zilingo raises $226M to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain

If you’re looking for the next unicorn in Southeast Asia, Zilingo might just be it. The 3.5-year-old e-commerce company announced today that it has raised a Series D round worth $226 million to go after the opportunity to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain. This new round takes Zilingo to $308 million from investors since its […]

If you’re looking for the next unicorn in Southeast Asia, Zilingo might just be it. The 3.5-year-old e-commerce company announced today that it has raised a Series D round worth $226 million to go after the opportunity to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain.

This new round takes Zilingo to $308 million from investors since its 2015 launch. The Series D is provided by existing investors Sequoia India, Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Germany’s Burda and Sofina, a European backer of Flipkart -owned fashion site Myntra. Joining the party for the first time is new investor EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board.

Zilingo isn’t commenting on a valuation for the round, but a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch that it is ‘a rounding error’ away from $1 billion. We had heard in recent months that the startup was getting close to unicorn status, so that is likely to come sooner or later — particularly given that Zilingo has made it to Series D so rapidly.

Raising more than $300 million makes Zilingo one of Southeast Asia’s highest-capitalized startups, but its meteoric growth in the last year has come from expansion from consumer e-commerce into business-to-business services.

CEO Ankiti Bose — formerly with Sequoia India and McKinsey — and CTO Dhruv Kapoor first built a service that capitalized on Southeast Asia’s growing internet connectivity to bring small fashion vendors from the street markets of cities like Bangkok and Jakarta into the e-commerce fold. Zilingo still operates its consumer-facing online retail store, but its key move has been to go after b2b opportunities in the supply chain by digitizing its network to give retailers and brands gain access.

Revenue grew by 4X over the past year, with b2b responsible for 75 percent of that total, Bose told TechCrunch. She declined to provide raw figures but did say net income is in “the hundreds of millions” of U.S dollar. The company — which has over 400 staff — isn’t profitable yet, but CEO Bose said the b2b segment gives it “a clear pathway” to break-even by helping offset expensive e-commerce battles.

Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor founded Zilingo in 2015.

The supply chain’s ‘outdated tech’

Moving into the supply chain after building distribution makes sense, but Zilingo has long had its eye on services.

That business-focused push started with a suite of basic products to help Zilingo sellers manage their e-commerce business. Those initially included inventory management and sales tracking, but they have since graduated to deeper services like financing, sourcing and procurement, and a ‘style hunter’ for identifying upcoming fashion trends. Zilingo also widened its target from the long tail of small vendors operating in Southeast Asia, to bigger merchants and brands and even to the fashion industry in Europe, North America and beyond that seeks access to Asia’s producers, who are estimated to account for $1.4 trillion of the $3 billion global fashion manufacturing market.

Zilingo’s goal today is to provide any seller with the features, insight and network that brands such as Zara have built for themselves through years of work.

In Southeast Asia, that means helping small merchants, SMEs and larger retailers to source items for sale online through the Zilingo store. But in Europe and the U.S, where it doesn’t operate an outlet, Zilingo goes straight to the sellers themselves. That could mean retailers seeking wholesale opportunities from Asia or online influencers, such as Instagram personalities, keen to use their presence for e-commerce. Beyond just picking out items to sell, Zilingo wants to help them build their own private labels using its supply chain network.

That rest of the world plan has been on the cards since last year when Zilingo closed a $54 million Series C, but now the next stage of the journey is deeper integration with factories.

“If you think about these factories that make the products, the process isn’t optimized over there,” Bose said in an interview. “The guy or girl running factory likely has no technology, they don’t even use Excel. So we’re going to small and medium factories, increasing capacity utilization, helping to manage payroll, getting loans and other fintech services.”

Kapoor, her co-founder, adds that the fashion supply chain is “is marred by outdated tech.”

“It’s imperative for us to build products that introduce machine learning and data science effectively to SMEs while also being easy to use, get adopted and scale quickly. We’re re-wiring the entire supply chain with that lens so that we can add most value,” he added in a statement.

Zilingo encourages retailers and brands to develop their own private labels by tapping into the supply chain network it has built

AWS for the fashion supply chain

Bose said Zilingo’s early efforts have boosted factory efficiency by some 60 percent and made it possible to develop links to retailers while also enabling factories to develop their own private label colletions, rather than simply churning out unbranded or non-descript products.

A large part of that work with factories is consultancy-based, and Zilingo has hired supply chain experts to help provide quality guidance and perspective alongside the software tools it offers, Bose said.

She compares it, in many ways, to how Amazon conceived AWS. After it built tech to fix its own problems internally, it commercialized the services for third parties. So Zilingo started out offering a consumer-facing e-commerce platform but it is making its sourcing networks open to anyone at a cost — almost like supply chain on an API.

That gives its business a two, if not three, sided focus which spans selling to consumers in Southeast Asia through Zilingo.com — which is present in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia with the Philippines and Australia coming soon — reaching overseas retailers through Zilingo Asia Mall, and developing the b2b play.

In Southeast Asia, its home market, Zilingo doesn’t pressure its merchants to sell on its platform exclusively — “we don’t mind if they go to Instagram, Lazada, Tokopedia and Shopee,” Bose said — but in the U.S. it doesn’t have a go-to consumer outlet. It’s possible that might change with the company considering potential partnerships, although it seems unlikely it will launch its own consumer play.

Zilingo was once destined to compete with the big players like Lazada, which is owned by Alibaba, Shopee, which is operated by NYSE-listed Sea, and Tokopedia, the $7 billion company that’s part of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, but its supply chain focus has shifted its position to that of enabler.

That’s helped it avoid tricky times for specialist e-commerce services, which battle tough competition, pricing wars and challenging dynamics, and instead become one of Southeast Asia’s highest-capitalized startups. The company’s U.S. plan is ambitious, and it is taking longer than expected to get off the ground, but that makes it a startup that is worth keeping an eye on in 2019. It’s also an example that the startup journey is not defined since, in some cases, the biggest opportunities aren’t presented immediately.

Chat app Line injects $182M into its mobile payment business

Japanese messaging app company Line is pumping 20 billion JPY ($182 million) into its mobile payment business as it tries to turn things around following a challenging year in 2018. The company announced the infusion into Line Pay, a subsidiary that it fully owns, in a filing which stated that the new capital is “necessary […]

Japanese messaging app company Line is pumping 20 billion JPY ($182 million) into its mobile payment business as it tries to turn things around following a challenging year in 2018.

The company announced the infusion into Line Pay, a subsidiary that it fully owns, in a filing which stated that the new capital is “necessary funds for its future business operation.” No further details were provided.

The investment comes on the heels of Line’s latest financial report which saw it post a 5.79 billion JPY loss as revenue grew by 24 percent to reach 207.18 billion JPY in 2018. Line has long been a top money maker in the App Store, but its efforts to build out content around its messaging platform and games division have turned out to be expensive, with a job service, manga platform and e-commerce business among its ventures.

In addition to additional content, payments are also seen as ‘glue’ that can increase engagement within the Line ecosystem and its main messaging app.

The company is going after the cashless opportunity in Japan, where it is the dominant chat app with an estimated 50 million registered users. The country is notable for its continued use of cash, but the government is using the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games as an opportunity to move towards a digital future. Aside from its core Line Pay service, which sits inside the Line chat app, Line is introducing its own credit card with Visa and it has gone after Chinese tourists through a tie-in with Tencent, the internet giant behind China’s top messaging app WeChat.

Outside of Japan, Line Pay is also available in Thailand (where it works with the Bangkok metro provider), Taiwan (where it counts two banks as partners) and Indonesia, which Line says are its next three largest markets in terms of user numbers. Together, across those four countries, Line claims it has 165 million monthly active users and 40 million registered Line Pay users. Line said GMV reached 55 billion JPY ($482 million) per month back in November 2017, there’s been no update since.

The service was launched more widely but it has shuttered in other markets, including Singapore where it was ended in February 2018.

Beyond payment, Line is also moving into banking and financial services. It is working to launch a digital bank in Japan and last year it announced plans to investigate the potential to roll out loans, insurance and other services backed by its own cryptocurrency. While it didn’t hold an ICO — its ‘Link’ token is earned or can be bought on exchanges — Line did dive into crypto in a major way, opening its own exchange and starting a crypto investment fund, too. With the bear market in full effect, and token valuations dropping by 90 percent across the board, we haven’t heard too much more from Line on its crypto plans.

First China, now Starbucks gets an ambitious VC-funded rival in Indonesia

Asia’s venture capital-backed startups are gunning for Starbucks . In China, the U.S. coffee giant is being pushed by Luckin Coffee, a $2.2 billion challenger surfing China’s on-demand wave, and on the real estate side, where WeWork China has just unveiled an on-demand product that could tempt people who go to Starbucks to kill time or […]

Asia’s venture capital-backed startups are gunning for Starbucks .

In China, the U.S. coffee giant is being pushed by Luckin Coffee, a $2.2 billion challenger surfing China’s on-demand wave, and on the real estate side, where WeWork China has just unveiled an on-demand product that could tempt people who go to Starbucks to kill time or work.

That trend is picking up in Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where an on-demand challenger named Fore Coffee has fuelled up for a fight after it raised $8.5 million.

Fore was started in August 2018 when associates at East Ventures, a prolific early-stage investor in Indonesia, decided to test how robust the country’s new digital infrastructure can be. That means it taps into unicorn companies like Grab, Go-Jek and Tokopedia and their army of scooter-based delivery people to get a hot brew out to customers. Incidentally, the name ‘Fore’ comes from ‘forest’ — “we aim to grow fast, strong, tall and bring life to our surrounding” — rather than in front of… or a shout heard on the golf course.

The company has adopted a similar hybrid approach to Luckin, and Starbucks thanks to its alliance with Alibaba. Fore operates 15 outlets in Jakarta, which range from ‘grab and go’ kiosks for workers in a hurry, to shops with space to sit and delivery-only locations, Fore co-founder Elisa Suteja told TechCrunch. On the digital side, it offers its own app (delivery is handled via Tokopedia’s Go-Send service) and is available via Go-Jek and Grab’s apps.

So far, Fore has jumped to 100,000 deliveries per month and its app is top of the F&B category for iOS and Android in Indonesia — ahead of Starbucks, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut .

It’s early times for the venture — which is not a touch on Starbuck’s $85 billion business; it does break out figures for Indonesia — but it is a sign of where consumption is moving to Indonesia, which has become a coveted beachhead for global companies, and especially Chinese, moving into Southeast Asia. Chinese trio Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com and Singapore’s Grab are among the outsiders who have each spent hundreds of millions to build or invest in services that tap growing internet access among Indonesia’s population of over 260 million.

There’s a lot at stake. A recent Google-Temasek report forecast that Indonesia alone will account for over 40 percent of Southeast Asia’s digital economy by 2025, which is predicted to triple to reach $240 billion.

As one founder recently told TechCrunch anonymously: “There is no such thing as winning Southeast Asia but losing Indonesia. The number one priority for any Southeast Asian business must be to win Indonesia.”

Forecasts from a recent Google-Temasek report suggest that Indonesia is the key market in Southeast Asia

This new money comes from East Ventures — which incubated the project — SMDV, Pavilion Capital, Agaeti Venture Capital and Insignia Ventures Partners with participation from undisclosed angel backers. The plan is to continue to invest in growing the business.

“Fore is our model for ‘super-SME’ — SME done right in leveraging technology and digital ecosystem,” Willson Cuaca, a managing partner at East Ventures, said in a statement.

There’s clearly a long way to go before Fore reaches the size of Luckin, which has said it lost 850 million yuan, or $124 million, inside the first nine months in 2018.

The Chinese coffee challenger recently declared that money is no object for its strategy to dethrone Starbucks. The U.S. firm is currently the largest player in China’s coffee market, with 3,300 stores as of last May and a goal of topping 6,000 outlets by 2022, but Luckin said it will more than double its locations to more than 4,500 by the end of this year.

By comparison, Indonesia’s coffee battle is only just getting started.

Facebook removes hundreds of accounts linked to fake news group in Indonesia

Facebook said today it has removed hundreds of Facebook and Instagram counts with links to an organization that peddled fake news. The world’s fourth largest country with a population of over 260 million, Indonesia is in election year alongside Southeast Asia neighbors Thailand and the Philippines. Facebook said this week it has set up an ‘election […]

Facebook said today it has removed hundreds of Facebook and Instagram counts with links to an organization that peddled fake news.

The world’s fourth largest country with a population of over 260 million, Indonesia is in election year alongside Southeast Asia neighbors Thailand and the Philippines. Facebook said this week it has set up an ‘election integrity’ team in Singapore, its APAC HQ, as it tries to prevent its social network being misused in the lead-up to voting as happened in the U.S.

This Indonesia bust is the first move announced since that task force was put in place, and it sees 207 Facebook Pages, 800 Facebook accounts, 546 Facebook Groups, and 208 Instagram accounts removed for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“About 170,000 people followed at least one of these Facebook Pages, and more than 65,000 followed at least one of these Instagram accounts,” Facebook said of the reach of the removed accounts.

The groups and accounts are linked to Saracen Group, a digital media group that saw three of its members arrested by police in 2016 for spreading “incendiary material,’ as Reuters reports.

Facebook isn’t saying too much about the removals other than: “we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.”

In January, the social network banned a fake news group in the Philippines in similar circumstances.

Despite the recent action, the U.S. company has struggled to manage the flow of false information that flows across its services in Asia. The most extreme examples come from Myanmar, where the UN has concluded that Facebook played a key role in escalating religious hatred and fueling violence. Facebook has also been criticized for allowing manipulation in Sri Lanka and the Philippines among other places.

Go-Jek confirms first close of $2B Series F round at $9.5B valuation

Go-Jek, the Indonesia-based ride-hailing company that is challenging Grab in Southeast Asia, has announced the first close of its Series F round, as TechCrunch reported last week. The company isn’t revealing numbers but sources previously told us it has closed around $920 million. Go-Jek is planning to raise $2 billion for the round, as reported last […]

Go-Jek, the Indonesia-based ride-hailing company that is challenging Grab in Southeast Asia, has announced the first close of its Series F round, as TechCrunch reported last week. The company isn’t revealing numbers but sources previously told us it has closed around $920 million. Go-Jek is planning to raise $2 billion for the round, as reported last year.

Go-Jek said that the first close is led by existing backers Google, JD.com, and Tencent, with participation from Mitsubishi Corporation and Provident Capital. It didn’t provide a valuation but sources told us that week that it is around $9.5 billion.

Starting out with motorbike taxis in 2015, Go-Jek has since expanded to taxis, private car and more. The company said it plans to spend the money deepening its business in Indonesia, its home market, and growing its presence in new market expansions Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand. It is also working to enter the Philippines, where it had a request for an operating license rejected although it did complete a local acquisition after buying fintech startup Coins.ph.

The Go-Jek business in Indonesia includes transportation, food delivery, services on demand, payments and financial services. That’s very much the blueprint for its expansion markets, all of which are in different stages. Go-Viet, its Vietnamese service, offers food delivery and motorbike taxis, Get in Thailand operates motorbike taxis and in Singapore Go-Jek provides four-wheeled car options.

Combined those efforts cover 204 cities, two million drivers and 400,000 merchants, the company said, but the majority of that is in Indonesia.

Grab, meanwhile, became the top dog after buying Uber’s local business, and it operates in eight countries. It recently crossed three billion rides to date and claims 130 million downloads. Grab said revenue for 2018 was $1 billion, it expects that to double this year. It has raised $6.8 billion from investors, according to Crunchbase, and its current Series H round could reach $5 billion.

Go-Jek claims it has 130 million downloads — despite just being in three markets — while it said it reached an annualized transaction volume of two billion in 2018 and $6.7 billion in annualized GMV. Those figures require some explaining as Go-Jek is being a little creative with its efforts to compete with Grab on paper.

Transactions don’t mean revenue — a transaction could be a $1 motorbike ride or a payment via QR code — and GMV is not revenue either, while both are ‘annualized’ which means they are scaled up after measuring a short period. In other words, don’t take these figures too literally, they aren’t comparable to Grab.

Grab raises $200M from Thailand-based retail conglomerate Central Group

Grab’s fundraising push continues unabated after the Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm announced that it has raised $200 million from Central Group, a retail conglomerate based in Thailand. Central’s business covers restaurants, hotels and more than 30 malls in Thailand, while it has operations in markets that include Vietnam and Indonesia. Its public-listed holding companies alone are worth more […]

Grab’s fundraising push continues unabated after the Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm announced that it has raised $200 million from Central Group, a retail conglomerate based in Thailand.

Central’s business covers restaurants, hotels and more than 30 malls in Thailand, while it has operations in markets that include Vietnam and Indonesia. Its public-listed holding companies alone are worth more than $15 billion.

Singapore-based Grab confirmed that this deal is not part of its ongoing Series H fundraising, but is instead an investment into its Thailand-based business. Rumors of the deal were first reported by Reuters last year.

Following this investment, Central said it will work with Grab in a number of areas in Thailand, including bringing its restaurants into the Grab Food service, adding Grab transportation to its physical outlets and bringing Grab’s logistics service into its businesses.

The investment represents the first time an investor has bought into a local Grab country unit, and the goal is to strengthen Grab’s position in Thailand — a market with 70 million consumers and Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Grab is under threat from Go-Jek, which expanded to Thailand at the end of 2018. While Go-Jek’s ‘Get’ service is currently limited to motorbikes on-demand in Thailand, its ambition is to recreate its Indonesia-based business that covers four-wheeled cars, mobile payments, on-demand services and more.

Central is a huge presence in the country, and in recent years it has raised its efforts to translate that offline retail presence into the digital space. Past deals have included the acquisition of Rocket Internet’s Zalora fashion business in 2016, and — more recently — a $500 million joint venture with Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com to create online retail and fintech businesses in Thailand.

Grab, meanwhile, is pushing on with its $3 billion Series H funding round. That deal is anchored by a $1 billion investment from Toyota but it also includes contributions from the likes of Microsoft, Booking Holdings and Yamaha Motors. More capital is waiting in the wings, however, with existing investor SoftBank in the process of transferring its investment to its Vision Fund with a view to investing a further $1.5 billion. The total fundraising effort is targeted at a lofty goal of $5 billion, sources told TechCrunch.

To date, Grab has raised $6.8 billion from investors, according to data from Crunchbase. That makes it Southeast Asia’s most capitalized tech startup and it was most recently valued at $11 billion. The company recently announced it has completed three billion rides; it claims 130 million downloads across its eight markets.

Go-Jek, meanwhile, closed the first portion of a $2 billion funding round last week, sources told TechCrunch. The new financing is aimed at growing out its presence in new market expansions which, beyond Thailand, include Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Southeast Asia’s Grab is adding Netflix-like video streaming to its ride-hailing app

Grab is Southeast Asia’s top ride-hailing firm thanks to its acquisition of Uber’s local business last year. Its biggest competitor gone, the company is on a push to go beyond transport and become an everyday ‘super app’ and that strategy just embraced video streaming today. That’s because Grab is integrating video-on-demand service HOOQ — a […]

Grab is Southeast Asia’s top ride-hailing firm thanks to its acquisition of Uber’s local business last year. Its biggest competitor gone, the company is on a push to go beyond transport and become an everyday ‘super app’ and that strategy just embraced video streaming today.

That’s because Grab is integrating video-on-demand service HOOQ — a local equivalent to Netflix — into its core ride-hailing app. The company, which is valued at $11 billion and raising a $5 billion round, already offers a range of services including food deliveries, payments, grocery delivery, travel deals and more. But, beyond utility, the focus is now shifting to entertainment, a category where Grab’s app currently sports only basic games.

Grab’s focus on these additional non-transportation services is designed to retain the attention of users and keep them engaged with its app even when they don’t need a ride. In that spirit, Grab announced a partnership platform last summer that’s aimed at helping companies in adjacent industries where it sees a fit to be integrated into its app. The benefit is potential access to Grab’s 130 million registered users which, aside from Western services like Facebook and Google, represents one of the largest digital platforms in Southeast Asia, where Grab is present in eight countries.

The rollout of HOOQ began earlier this month with Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country, the key focus initially.

The HOOQ ‘mini app’ doesn’t require a log-in, but existing HOOQ users can sign-in.

The companies didn’t disclose financial details, but HOOQ CEO Peter Bithos suggested Grab would receive a cut of revenue generated by subscription sign-ups generated by its app.

Leaning on Grab’s presence is certainly the appeal for HOOQ, which was started in 2015 by Singapore telco Singtel, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers. Initially, a play to out-localize Netflix in Southeast Asia, HOOQ has recast its position somewhat in recent times — that’s included a free, advertising-supported tier launched last year and content deals with other on-demand services, including Hotstar in India.

Bithos, the HOOQ CEO, told TechCrunch that he believes Grab can support its growth and pivot from a cheaper but all-subscriber Netflix challenger to a freemium service that requires scale.

“Our strategy is around finding digital partners where we are complementary,” he explained in an interview. “We are building our tech and partnerships so that customers can easily bump into us without having to download an app or sign up to a different service.”

The HOOQ presence in Grab will include its full content library, Bithos confirmed.

“The deal is part of a much broader strategy for us,” he added. “We’re inverting the customer experience and putting HOOQ into other people’s products.”

Video in ride-hailing apps may sound unique but Go-Jek, Grab’s arch-rival headquartered in Indonesia, last year waded into video content, both through partnerships and its own productions. Even Uber has flirted with “in-ride content” to engage users, but it hasn’t delved into video yet.

With Go-Jek making the leap, it figures that Grab has followed with its own solution. Bithos said he is confident that the HOOQ-Grab tie-in is superior.

“Go-Jek hasn’t been able to get to anything like the scale or reach that we’ve got,” he said.

He suggested that the partnership allows Grab to focus on what it does best — rides — rather than other areas; that’s a concern that some sections of Grab’s user base have raised with its foray into other services.

“They don’t have to build video tech or focus on it,” he explained.