Author: Jon Russell

NSI Ventures hits first close on new $125M fund for Southeast Asia

TECHCRUNCH There’s been pause since Southeast Asia last welcomed fresh venture capital, but one reload is on its way after NSI Ventures, an early investor in Indonesian unicorn and Uber rival Go-Jek, announced a first close of its second fund. The target is $125 million, which represents a significant increase on its first fund of $90 million. The firm said it has pulled in $75 million of committed capital from existing LPs for the new fund. A full close is expected in the first half of 2018. Beyond an early investment in Go-Jek, which is closing in on new investment at...

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Uber doubles down on Indonesia after hiring its first country president

TECHCRUNCH As part of its new approach to Asia, Uber has announced its first president for its business in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country. Monika Rudijono will take up the role in January, joining from advertising and marketing firm Grey where she had been presidential director. She’ll report directly to Brooks Entwistle, who joined Uber in August to lead its Asia Pacific business minus India. Uber previously opted for a presidential management structure in India, which is run separate to the rest of its Asian operations. Indonesia is an interesting market for Uber for...

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Techstars is launching its first accelerator program in Asia in partnership with Rakuten

TECHCRUNCH Techstars is bringing its global accelerator program to Asia for the first time in partnership with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and its chat app Viber. The companies will run a three-month program in Singapore starting in July, according to a joint announcement made today. The focus will be on social messaging and, in particular, technologies and startups that align with Viber, the mobile messaging service that Rakuten acquired for $900 million in 2014. “Areas considered for the program include: AI including chat bot, chat commerce, mobile wallet and crypto currency, ad tech, VR and AR solutions, voice recognition, image recognition, translation, content such as music and sports, chat based IoT, and enterprise integrated messaging,” the companies explained. Techstars will provide mentoring via its network of 10,000 mentors and alumnus, while Rakuten will offer representatives from its business and the opportunity to integrate technologies with Viber. Companies that are selected for the program will also earn financial rewards. The allocation includes $20,000 in equity investment and the option of a $100,000 convertible note. Techstars has an impressive record for enabling funding — the organization claims its graduates go on to raise an average of over $2 million from outside investors. The program will be open to startups from across the world and it will culminate in a demo day held in October. The window for applications is due to open...

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Google opening a China office focused on artificial intelligence

TECHCRUNCH Google has officially announced that it is opening an AI center in Beijing, China. The confirmation comes after months of speculation fueled by a major push to hire AI talent inside the country. Google’s search engine is blocked in China, but the company still has hundreds of staff in China which work on its international services. In reference to that workforce, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt has said the company “never left” China, and it makes sense that Google wouldn’t want to ignore China’s deep and growing AI talent pool, which has been hailed by experts that include former...

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Apple’s App Store now lets you pre-order iOS apps and games before they launch

TECHCRUNCH Apple has quietly allowed developers to make their apps available for pre-order. It’s a basic feature — as Android fanatics will point out — but nevertheless one that has been missing from the App Store. Upcoming apps will now be allowed to list in the App Store as far out as 90 days ahead of their launch and as close two days before. This applies to new apps not updates to existing ones. Once the app is released, it will be automatically downloaded to a user’s device if they hit the pre-order button. In cases where there’s a price for the app, as is common with games, the customer will only be charged once the app is ready for download. Users are free to cancel their pre-orders before the launch date arrives. Most interest is likely to be driven by direct-to-user marketing from companies — Apple is giving developers special branding to help on that front — but apps can also be found under the new “Pre-Orders” section within the Games tab of the App Store. That’s available in the U.S. but it doesn’t appear to have come to the App Store in UK and other global markets just yet. The change comes more than a year after Apple allowed users to register to be notified when a new app is available in the App Store — Super Mario Run...

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Google: Southeast Asia’s internet economy is growing faster than expected

TECHCRUNCH Southeast Asia is now the world’s third largest region for internet users — with more people online than the entire U.S. population — and internet is having a bigger impact on the region than originally thought, according to a new report co-authored by Google. China and India typically dominate the conversation when looking at emerging economies in Asia, but Southeast Asia is rapidly being acknowledged as a market where the internet is changing daily behaviors and creating new opportunities. A lack of data has traditionally made it difficult to pinpoint that potential but Google and Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek today released an update to their highly-referenced 2015 ‘e-Conomy SEA’ report — the main takeaway is that growth has exceeded their initial expectations. The original report forecast Southeast Asia’s internet economy hitting $200 billion per year by 2025, but now it is estimated that it will top that number, reaching $50 billion in 2017 alone. Online travel remains the biggest segment for internet-based spending — jumping to $26.6 billion in 2017 from $19.1 billion in 2015 — but e-commerce and ride-hailing saw the highest growth. E-commerce, and this does not include second-hand/consumer-to-consumer sales, grew at a compound annual rate of 41 percent to cross $10 billion for the first time in 2017. The e-Conomy SEA project expects it will go on to hit $88 billion by 2025 to become the most lucrative segment....

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India’s Vahdam Teas raises $1.4M to bring fresher tea to your door faster

TECHCRUNCH Vahdam Teas, an e-commerce that’s focused on selling the freshest brews on the planet, has closed a Series A funding round worth $1.4 million to grow its business. The funding was led by new backers Fireside Venture, Mumbai Angels, Singapore Angel Network and undisclosed existing investors. The two-year-old company previously raised a $500,000 seed round from angels in January of this year. Vahdam’s biggest rival is Teabox, a five-year-old company that kickstarted the ‘tea-commerce’ model and has picked up $7 million in backing from VCs that include Accel. Business model-wise, Vahdam has a similar approach to Teabox. It...

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MyEtherWallet plans official iOS app after knockoff version is booted from App Store

TECHCRUNCH The organization behind MyEtherWallet is planning to release an official version of its popular cryptocurrency wallet for iOS after Apple removed a knockoff that had been in the App Store for around a week. The unofficial version of the open source software, which is used to hold ETH and other alt coins outside of bitcoin, got as high as number three in the financial section of the App Store thanks to a crypto boom fueled by the continued rise in value of bitcoin, which blew past $17,000 last week. The same wave saw Coinbase hit the top spot...

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