Category: Asia

June 10, 2019 Off

Luxembourg to get €100M investment from Chinese payments startup Pingpong

By Jill T Frey

For financial services firms looking to enter Europe, Luxembourg has historically been a popular anchoring point for its political and economic stability as well as a favorable regulatory environment. Another bucketload of capital is coming to the country after Chinese fintech startup Pingpong announced to invest more than €100 million ($113 million) in Luxembourg in the coming years.

Founded in 2014, Pingpong has been celebrated by its home city Hangzhou — also Alibaba’s backyard — as a pioneer in the country’s booming cross-border ecommerce sector. Backed by one of China’s largest investment banks CICC, the startup collects payments for Chinese exporters selling through Amazon, Wish, Shopee, Newegg and some other 14 ecommerce platforms around the world, which means clearing local regulatory hurdles is key to its business.

Its European ambition does not stop with Luxembourg. Luo Yonglong, a partner at Pingpong, said at a Saturday event that within three years, … Read the rest

June 8, 2019 Off

India’s largest video streaming service, owned by Disney, breaks Safari compatibility to fix security flaw

By Jill T Frey

Hotstar, India’s largest video streaming service with more than 300 million users, disabled support for Apple’s Safari web browser on Friday to mitigate a security flaw that allowed unauthorized usage of its platform, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The incident comes at a time when the streaming service — operated by Star India, part of 20th Century Fox that Disney acquired — enjoys peak attention as millions of people watch the ongoing ICC World Cup cricket tournament on its platform.

As users began to complain about not being able to use Hotstar on Safari, the company’s official support account asserted that “technical limitations” on Apple’s part were the bottleneck. “These limitations have been from Safari; there is very little we can do on this,” the account tweeted Friday evening.

Sources at Hotstar told TechCrunch that this was not an accurate description of the event. Instead, company’s engineers … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

Fintech platform Synapse raises $33M to build ‘the AWS of banking’

By Jill T Frey

Synapse, a San Francisco-based startup that operates a platform enabling banks and fintech companies to easily develop financial services, has closed a $33 million Series B to develop new products and go after international expansion.

The investment was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing backers Trinity Ventures and Core Innovation Capital . Synapse — which recently rebranded (slightly) from “SynapseFi” — announced a $17 million Series A back in September 2018, so this deal takes it to $50 million raised to date.

The startup was founded in 2014 by Bryan Keltner and India-born CEO Sankaet Pathak, who came to the U.S. to study but grew frustrated at the difficulty of opening a bank account without U.S. social security history. Inspired by his struggles, Synapse, which operated under the radar prior to that Series A deal, is focused on democratizing financial services.

Its approach to doing that is … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

This entrepreneur is donating unwanted bike-sharing cycles to underprivileged students in Myanmar

By Jill T Frey

What is the world to do with the graveyards of dockless bicycles left over after China’s bike sharing startups retreated from global markets?

One man has come up with the best idea to date: donate them to students who need them.

Entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win has bought 10,000 bikes from bike-sharing companies which he plans to provide to school children across Myanmar, many of who walk miles to school and, more broadly, lack transportation for their families.

“It’s a common sight to see lines and lines of students walking long distances from home to school in rural villages,” Than explained. “Some students can walk up to one hour from home to school and the families can hardly afford a simple form of transport like bicycle or motorcycle… a school bus is almost unheard of to the students in rural villages.”

To bridge the gap, Than — whose companies … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

China grants first 5G licenses amid Huawei global setback

By Jill T Frey

It’s official. After much anticipation, China named the first companies to receive 5G licenses for commercial use on Thursday.

The announcement from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the country’s telecoms authority, came as Huawei, the Chinese company that captured nearly 30% of the world’s telecom gear revenues in 2018, faces mounting scrutiny in the west over potential security concerns.

The greenlight arrived months ahead of the long-expected due date for China’s 5G licenses, which was said to be late 2019. The acceleration clearly demonstrates Beijing’s ambition to race ahead in the global 5G industry where the United States and South Korea already had a head start in commercial deployment.

The MIIT approved three network operators — China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom — and cable network company China Broadcasting Network to run the next-gen cellular connectivity.

Other players in 5G, including network equipment makers, smartphone manufacturers, chip … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

Google offers new treasure trove of air quality data to researchers

By Jill T Frey

Google has employed its network of street-view vehicles to also measure street-level air quality in recent years, through an initiative it calls “Project Air View.” Today, it’s making available to scientists and researcher organizations more of the resulting data from that ongoing initiative. The company is releasing an updated version of its air quality data set that includes information collected with partner Aclima’s environmental sensors gathered between 2017 and 2018.

The combined data cache includes info from the SF Bay and San Joaquin Valley area, originally starting in 2016, along with the additional two years’ worth of data for those areas as well as for other parts of California, and other major cities, including Houston, Salt Lake City, Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam.

All told, Google’s mapping data set for air quality now includes info covering more than 140,000 miles and 7,000 hours of combined driving time spanning 2016 through 2018. … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

Alibaba, Mail.Ru, Megafon form AliExpress Russia JV to double down on e-commerce in CIS

By Jill T Frey

After announcing plans in September 2018 to build a joint venture together, today Russian internet giant Mail.ru,  Megafon and China’s Alibaba announced that the deal has closed. With support also from Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF, the three are forming a new operation called AliExpress Russia JV — which will include business assets and investment from all three — to double down on building e-commerce services to serve consumers and businesses in Russia and neighboring countries. The joint effort is estimated to have a value in the region of $2 billion.

The operation has several moving pieces, which is one reason why it’s taken nearly eight months to bring it all together and close the deal:

  • Alibaba Group will invest $100 million and contribute AliExpress Russia into the joint venture. Alibaba says this includes Alibaba Group’s current Russia-based domestic and cross-border operations of the global retail marketplace business of AliExpress.
Read the rest
June 4, 2019 Off

Apple is now restricting Chinese language podcasts in China

By Jill T Frey

Just as podcasting hits the mainstream in the west, China, which is also experiencing an audio boom, is seeing restrictions tighten around shows as evidenced by new curbs from Apple.

This week, the U.S. tech giant has pulled a handful of Chinese-language podcasts from its Chinese Podcasts store, one of the few remaining channels for people in mainland China to find content immune from scrutiny by the country’s media regulators.

The crackdown seems to be taking an incremental pace so far. Three podcasters, including hosts of NickTalk and Two I.T. Uncles (两个iT大叔), confirmed with TechCrunch on Tuesday that their shows disappeared from Apple’s Chinese Podcasts app this week.

Several other noted shows, including Yitianshijie (一天世界), appear to remain unaffected, while others, such as Suijiya (随机鸭), seem to have suffered from a partial blockade. That’s to say that individual episodes appear in search results, but the podcast homepages are inaccessible, Read the rest

June 3, 2019 Off

With iOS 13, Apple delivers new features to court users in India

By Jill T Frey

Apple has finally listened to its small, but slowly growing user base in India. The iPhone-maker today announced a range of features in iOS 13 that are designed to appease users in the world’s second largest smartphone market.

First up, the company says its Siri voice assistant now offers all new and “more natural” Indian English male and female voices. It has also introduced a bilingual keyboard, featuring support for Hindi and English languages. The keyboard offers typing predictions in Devanagari Hindi that can suggest the next word as a user types and it learns from their typing over time.

Additionally, the keyboard in iOS 13 supports all of 22 Indian languages, with the inclusion of 15 new Indian language keyboards: Assamese, Bodo, Dogri, Kashmiri (Devanagari, Arabic), Konkani (Devanagari), Manipuri (Bangla, Meetei Mayek), Maithili, Nepali, Sanskrit, Santali (Devanagari, Ol Chiki), and Sindhi (Devanagari, Arabic).

The addition of these features comes … Read the rest

June 3, 2019 Off

US/China trade uncertainty adds to global smartphone growth woes

By Jill T Frey

Analyst Canalys has updated its forecast of global smartphone shipments — saying it expects just 1.35 billion units to ship in 2019, a year-on-year decline of 3.1%.

This follows ongoing uncertainty around US-China trade talks and the presidential order signed by Trump last month barring US companies from using kit by Chinese device makers, including Huawei, on national security grounds — which led to reports that Google would withdraw supply of key Android services to Huawei.

“Due to the many uncertainties surrounding the US/China trade talks, the US Executive Order signed on 15 May and subsequent developments, Canalys has lowered its forecasts to reflect an uncertain future,” the analyst writes.

It says its forecast is based on the assumption that restrictions will be stringently applied to Huawei once a 90-day reprieve which was subsequently granted expires — the temporary licence run from May 20, 2019, through August 19, 2019 — … Read the rest