Author: Jon Russell

Global investor SparkLabs launches a consultancy business for corporates

Global investor SparkLabs is adding another business line after it announced a new consultancy division that’s aimed at working with Fortune 500 companies and other global corporates keen to deepen their position in tech. Best known for its funds — which cover global deals, a crypto vehicle and a Korea-based fund — and over half a dozen accelerator programs worldwide, the organization is responding to interest it has fielded from LPs, corporates and other businesses keen to tap into its network and insights, SparksLabs Group co-founder Jimmy Kim told TechCrunch. “We’ll be providing research reports on certain key industries and doing key networking and introductions into startups of their interest,” he said in an interview. “Initially, there will be a handful of staff and then we’ll just scale from there.” SparkLabs Foundry will be headquartered in San Francisco but it will tap into the group’s global reach, including offices in markets like Singapore and Korea, and insight from a portfolio of more than 220 startups across its various activities. Kim explained that, particularly for corporations based in Asia, simply opening an office in Silicon Valley doesn’t guarantee that they walk into the right networks for deal flow or gain key insight. That’s where SparkLabs is hoping to make a difference, and it expects that frontier tech including machine learning, blockchain, security and AI will be major focuses. The new venture will be lead by some...

Read More

Chinese e-commerce challenger Pinduoduo is raising over $1 billion more

The price of competing with e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com is immense. That’s evidenced by challenger Pinduoduo, commonly known as PDD, which is raising more than $1 billion in fresh capital just six months after it went public. The company announced plans to sell 37 million shares in a move that will raise over $1 billion, going potentially as high as $1.25 billion if underwriters exercise their full share purchase option. The secondary event will also see a number of existing backers sell a portion of their stock, those sellers including Sequoia China, Lightspeed China and Banyan, according to a filing....

Read More

Facebook bans four insurgent groups in Myanmar

Facebook is taking action in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country where the social network has been used to incite racial tension and violence, after it banned four armed groups from its service. The U.S. company said in a blog post that it has booted the rebel and insurgent groups — the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Kachin Independence Army (KIO) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) — and that “all related praise, support and representation” will be removed. The groups are four armed factions that exist in Myanmar, which was under military rule until elections...

Read More

Ousted Flipkart founder Binny Bansal aims to help 10,000 Indian founders with new venture

Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal’s next act is aimed at helping the next generation of startup founders in India. Bansal has already etched his name into India’s startup history after U.S. retail giant Walmart paid $16 billion to take a majority stake in its e-commerce business to expand its rivalry with Amazon. Things turned sour, however, when he resigned months after the deal’s completion due to an investigation into “serious personal misconduct.” In 2019, 37-year-old Bansal is focused on his newest endeavor, xto10x Technologies, a startup consultancy that he founded with former colleague Saikiran Krishnamurthy. The goal is to help startup founders on...

Read More

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 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....

Read More

Hulu teams up with that world record Instagram egg to raise awareness of mental health

Remember that egg that became Instagram’s most-liked post? It used its recently-acquired fame to shed light on mental health and the pressures of social media. The account now has 10 million followers — its record photo has over 52 million likes — and it put that audience to use with a 30-second video that aired on Hulu around the Super Bowl. The account had teased a major revealed in recent weeks, and it proved to be the short spot with Hulu that promotes mental health awareness, particularly around the context of using social media. “Recently I’ve started to crack… the pressure of social media is getting to me,” the video reads as the egg’s shell begins to crack before breaking into pieces. “If you’re struggling too, talk to someone,” the egg says before it is resurrected with a full shell once again. The video closes with a link to the Mental Health America website. The video received praise from Mental Health America and many others on Twitter, but plenty of its Instagram followers expected more or don’t have a Hulu account, according to comments. At the same time, the creators of the account — three advertising executives in South London — revealed background on the project, the egg is called “Eugene,” in an interview with the New York Times. The trio — Chris Godfrey, Alissa Khan-Whelan and C.J. Brown — explained that they had been approached...

Read More

Amazon and Flipkart pull 100,000s of products to comply with new Indian law

Amazon has been forced to pull an estimated 400,000 products in India after new regulation limiting e-commerce businesses went into force in the country today. First announced at the end of 2018, the new regulation imposes a ban on exclusive sales, prevents retailers from selling products on platforms they count as investors, and it applies restrictions on discounts and cashback promotions. That’s hugely problematic for Amazon and Flipkart, its rival that’s owned by Walmart following a $16 billion investment last year. After a 2016 ruling prevented it from owning inventory, Amazon restricted its system so that its own products were...

Read More

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 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...

Read More

Right Now in Politics and Business