Timesdelhi.com

December 12, 2018
Category archive

Business

Topica raises $50M for its online learning services in Southeast Asia

in Asia/Business/Delhi/Economy/Education/funding/Fundings & Exits/Google/India/Indonesia/Malaysia/Manila/NorthStar/openspace ventures/Philippines/Politics/Singapore/Southeast Asia/Startup company/startup ecosystem/TC/Thailand/vietnam by

Vietnam’s startup ecosystem is making forward progress. Just a week after 500 Startups’ local entity closed a $14 million fund for early-stage investments, one of the country’s elder statesmen of startups — educational service Topica — has closed its $50 million Series D.

The round — which is one of the highest to date for a Vietnamese tech company — comes from PE firm Northstar Group. Northstar, which manages some $2 billion in assets, is already linked to Topica via Openspace Ventures, the Singapore-based VC firm that is already an investor in the startup and counts Northstar among its LPs. (Openspace rebranded from NSI earlier this year, prior to which it was an arm of Northstar.)

Northstar’s total ownership stake is described as a minority but the exact size, and the valuation of the Topica business, hasn’t been revealed.

Topica was founded a decade ago at a launch event attended by Bill Gates, and since then it claims that it has helped more than one million adults through its online education platform. The business counted Microsoft and Qualcomm among its original sponsors and today it covers the six largest countries in Southeast Asia — Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. It offers a range of different services that include English-language tutoring and university-level courses, but it has expanded to less traditional disciplines including a ‘founders institute’ accelerator program and a 3D ‘technologies’ program.

On the higher education focus, Topica works with 16 universities to offer Batchelor degree qualifications. That program has graduated some 6,200 students, the company claimed. Its dropout rate is above 90 percent, according to its data.

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Head of Microsoft General Embassy Bill Gates and other sponsors’ launching the program in April 2006 [Image via Topica]

More recently, Topica has also opened a marketplace that includes over 2,000 “short skill courses” to help users learn to master Microsoft Office or video editing, for example.

Topica has 1,700 staff and 2,000 teaching instructors across offices in Bangkok, Danang, Hanoi, HCMC, Jakarta, Manila and Singapore. There’s no specific aim for the investment other than to further the company’s ongoing mission of helping reach more students using digital mediums.

“We have been blessed to work with great partners like Northstar and our existing investors, who are all enthusiastic about our vision of investing in the long term to help bring quality education to millions of learners in Southeast Asia and beyond,” Dr. Tuan Pham, Topica chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Topica employees regularly take part in marathons, ironman competitions and more across Southeast Asia

In particular, you can likely expect that Topica will continue to push its business-building initiatives as Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem continues to grow. A recent report co-authored by Google forecast that the digital economy for the region — which houses over 650 million people — will triple over the next seven years. Topica claims that already it is invested in one-third of the startups in Vietnam that raised seed or Series A funding in 2016, so it seems entirely logical it’ll work to expand that to other markets.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Cross-border fintech startup Instarem raises $20M for global expansion

in Asia/Business/Delhi/Finance/funding/Fundings & Exits/India/Indonesia/instarem/latin america/Lithuania/MDI Ventures/Mumbai/Payments/Politics/Prajit Nanu/Singapore/Southeast Asia/TransferWise/unicorn/Vertex Ventures/visa by

Instarem, a Singapore-based startup that helps banks transfer money overseas cheaply, has raised a Series C round of over $20 million for global expansion.

The round is led by MDI Ventures — the VC arm of Indonesian telecom operator Telkom — and Beacon — the fund belonging to Thai bank Kasikorn — as well as existing investors Vertex Ventures, GSR Ventures Rocket Internet and the SBI-FMO Fund.

The money takes four-year-old Instarem to nearly $40 million raised to date, although Instarem co-founder and CEO Prajit Nanu told TechCrunch that the startup plans to expand the Series C to $45 million. The extra capital is expected to be closed by January, with Nanu particularly keen to bring on strategic investors that can help the business grow in new emerging markets in Latin America as well as Europe.

“We are a the stage where the color of the money is very important,” he said in an interview. “It is very key to us that we bring people into the round who can add value to our business.”

Nanu added that the company is speaking to large U.S. funds among other potential investors.

Instarem works with banks to reduce their overseas transfer costs, offering a kind of ‘Transferwise for enterprise’ service. Although, unlike Transferwise which uses a global network of banks to send money across the world, Instarem uses mid-size banks that already trade in overseas currencies. As I previously explained, the process is the financial equivalent of putting a few boxes on a UPS freighter that’s about to head out, thus paying just a sliver of the costs you’d incur if you had to find a boat and ship it yourself.

Focused on Southeast Asia primarily, it services over 50 markets with transfers. The company does offer a service for consumers, but financial institutions — which have ongoing demand and higher average spend — are its primary target.

Prajit Nanu founded Instarem in 2014 alongside Michael Bermingham

The company has offices in Singapore, Mumbai and Lithuania and it is opening a presence in Seattle as it begins to look to broaden its business, which already includes three of Southeast Asia’s top ten banks. Nanu said that the company will try to work with banks and financial services such as cross-border services which target users with links to Latin America and Mexico initially. In Asia, it is awaiting payment licenses in Japan and Indonesia which will allow it to offer more services in both countries.

TechCrunch understands that the company is on the cusp of a deal with Visa that will allow its customers to roll out branded prepaid cards, adding another financial service to its offerings. Nanu declined to comment when we asked about a deal with Visa.

TechCrunch has also come to learn that Instarem was subject to an acquisition approach earlier this year from one of Southeast Asia’s unicorns. Nanu declined to name the bidder, but he did tell TechCrunch that the offer “wasn’t the right timing for us.” He is, however, giving increased thought to an exit via IPO.

Last year, when Instarem raised its $13 million Series B, he suggested that it could go public by 2020. Now that target date has shifted back to 2021, with the Instarem CEO telling TechCrunch that the U.S. remained the preferred option for a public listing when the time is right.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Cities that didn’t win HQ2 shouldn’t be counted out

in Amazon/America/austin/baltimore/boston/Brown University/Buffalo/Business/Column/Delhi/denver/Economy/India/Innovation/innovation center/jeff bezos/Mayor/national league of cities/new york city/Philadelphia/pittsburgh/Politics/Private equity/rhode island school of design/Seattle/Startup company/sustainability/tampa/tampa bay/Technology/texas/United States/university of texas/Washington DC by

The more than year-long dance between cities and Amazon for its second headquarters is finally over, with New York City and Washington, DC, capturing the big prize. With one of the largest economic development windfalls in a generation on the line, 238 cities used every tactic in the book to court the company – including offering to rename a city “Amazon” and appointing Jeff Bezos “mayor for life.”

Now that the process, and hysteria, are over, and cities have stopped asking “how can we get Amazon,” we’d like to ask a different question: How can cities build stronger start-up ecosystems for the Amazon yet to be built?

In September 2017, Amazon announced that it would seek a second headquarters. But rather than being the typical site selection process, this would become a highly publicized Hunger Games-esque scenario.

An RFP was proffered on what the company sought, and it included everything any good urbanist would want, with walkability, transportation and cultural characteristics on the docket. But of course, incentives were also high on the list.

Amazon could have been a transformational catalyst for a plethora of cities throughout the US, but instead, it chose two superstar cities: the number one and five metro areas by GDP which, combined, amounts to a nearly $2 trillion GDP. These two metro areas also have some of the highest real estate prices in the country, a swath of high paying jobs and of course power — financial and political — close at hand.

Perhaps the take-away for cities isn’t that we should all be so focused on hooking that big fish from afar, but instead that we should be growing it in our own waters. Amazon itself is a great example of this. It’s worth remembering that over the course of a quarter century, Amazon went from a garage in Seattle’s suburbs to consuming 16 percent — or 81 million square feet — of the city’s downtown. On the other end of the spectrum, the largest global technology company in 1994 (the year of Amazon’s birth) was Netscape, which no longer exists.

The upshot is that cities that rely only on attracting massive technology companies are usually too late.

At the National League of Cities, we think there are ways to expand the pie that don’t reinforce existing spatial inequalities. This is exactly the idea behind the launch of our city innovation ecosystems commitments process. With support from the Schmidt Futures Foundation, fifty cities, ranging from rural townships, college towns, and major metros, have joined with over 200 local partners and leveraged over $100 million in regional and national resources to support young businesses, leverage technology and expand STEM education and workforce training for all.

The investments these cities are making today may in fact be the precursor to some of the largest tech companies of the future.

With that idea in mind, here are eight cities that didn’t win HQ2 bids but are ensuring their cities will be prepared to create the next tranche of high-growth startups. 

Austin

Austin just built a medical school adjacent to a tier one research university, the University of Texas. It’s the first such project to be completed in America in over fifty years. To ensure the addition translates into economic opportunity for the city, Austin’s public, private and civic leaders have come together to create Capital City Innovation to launch the city’s first Innovation District at the new medical school. This will help expand the city’s already world class startup ecosystem into the health and wellness markets.

Baltimore

Baltimore is home to over $2 billion in academic research, ranking it third in the nation behind Boston and Philadelphia. In order to ensure everyone participates in the expanding research-based startup ecosystem, the city is transforming community recreation centers into maker and technology training centers to connect disadvantaged youth and families to new skills and careers in technology. The Rec-to-Tech Initiative will begin with community design sessions at four recreation centers, in partnership with the Digital Harbor Foundation, to create a feasibility study and implementation plan to review for further expansion.

Buffalo

The 120-acre Buffalo Niagara Medical Center (BNMC) is home to eight academic institutions and hospitals and over 150 private technology and health companies. To ensure Buffalo’s startups reflect the diversity of its population, the Innovation Center at BNMC has just announced a new program to provide free space and mentorship to 10 high potential minority- and/or women-owned start-ups.

Denver

Like Seattle, real estate development in Denver is growing at a feverish rate. And while the growth is bringing new opportunity, the city is expanding faster than the workforce can keep pace. To ensure a sustainable growth trajectory, Denver has recruited the Next Generation City Builders to train students and retrain existing workers to fill high-demand jobs in architecture, design, construction and transportation. 

Providence

With a population of 180,000, Providence is home to eight higher education institutions – including Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design – making it a hub for both technical and creative talent. The city of Providence, in collaboration with its higher education institutions and two hospital systems, has created a new public-private-university partnership, the Urban Innovation Partnership, to collectively contribute and support the city’s growing innovation economy. 

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh may have once been known as a steel town, but today it is a global mecca for robotics research, with over 4.5 times the national average robotics R&D within its borders. Like Baltimore, Pittsburgh is creating a more inclusive innovation economy through a Rec-to-Tech program that will re-invest in the city’s 10 recreational centers, connecting students and parents to the skills needed to participate in the economy of the future. 

Tampa

Tampa is already home to 30,000 technical and scientific consultant and computer design jobs — and that number is growing. To meet future demand and ensure the region has an inclusive growth strategy, the city of Tampa, with 13 university, civic and private sector partners, has announced “Future Innovators of Tampa Bay.” The new six-year initiative seeks to provide the opportunity for every one of the Tampa Bay Region’s 600,000 K-12 students to be trained in digital creativity, invention and entrepreneurship.

These eight cities help demonstrate the innovation we are seeing on the ground now, all throughout the country. The seeds of success have been planted with people, partnerships and public leadership at the fore. Perhaps they didn’t land HQ2 this time, but when we fast forward to 2038 — and the search for Argo AISparkCognition or Welltok’s new headquarters is well underway — the groundwork will have been laid for cities with strong ecosystems already in place to compete on an even playing field.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Chinese WeWork rival Ucommune raises $200M to go after international growth

in Asia/Beijing/Business/China/Collaborative Consumption/coworking/Delhi/Economy/Europe/India/Japan/mobike/naked hub/New York/ofo/Philippines/Politics/series C/shanghai/Singapore/SoftBank/SoftBank Group/Southeast Asia/taipei/Thailand/ucommune/United States/vietnam/WeWork by

China’s Ucommune, the country’s largest rival to WeWork, has been on a busy acquisition spree to build out its domestic business and now it is looking at overseas opportunities after it closed a $200 million Series D funding round.

The new round was led by Hong Kong-based All-Stars Investment with participation from Chinese investment bank CEC Capital and other investors. Ucommune said in a statement that the deal gives it a valuation of $3 billion, that represents a significant jump on its Series C in August which valued it at $1.8 billion. This new round takes Ucommune to around $650 million from investors to date, according to Crunchbase.

Founded in 2015, Ucommune has emerged as WeWork’s main rival in China since the U.S. firm acquired Naked Hub earlier this year in a deal said to be worth $400 million. Ucommune claims to operate more than 200 co-working spaces, most of those are in China but its overall footprint of 37 cities also includes Singapore, New York, Taipei and Hong Kong. Clients include unicorns ByteDance, Ofo and Mobike, as well as streaming service Kuaishou, according to Ucommune. WeWork China, by contrast, has around 40 locations.

Co-working has been a major buzzword in China following the growth of WeWork but as time went on a mixture of competition and China’s slowing economy saw a number of the field struggle. That presented an opportunity for Ucommune, which has aggressively gone after growth in China with a consolidation strategy that has seen it acquire no fewer than seven companies this year.

Its most recent addition was Fountown, which operates 27 spaces in Beijing and Shanghai and was acquired last month, while the others include co-working businesses — Wedo, Workingdom, Woo Space and New Space — an interior design company and a workplace collaboration startup.

Now, Ucommune is looking for ambitious international growth that’s aimed at expanding its reach to 350 cities across 40 countries. The ultimate goal, it explained in an announcement today, is to double its capacity from 100,000 workstations today to 200,000 over the next three years.

Ucommune’s space at Suntec is one of two locations it operates in Singapore

Going global is no easy thing, particularly when WeWork is on the case in many parts of the world with buckets of cash. The U.S. firm is currently making a big push in Southeast Asia — the most logical market for Ucommune to target first — with plans to launch locations in Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand in the coming months. That would take WeWork to five countries in Southeast Asia, where it got a head start thanks to its acquisition of Singapore’s SpaceMob.

Ucommune has two locations in Singapore already but next time up is Hong Kong, where it says it is on track to open an inaugural space in December with a second slated for the first quarter of next year.

But WeWork is also strong its U.S. home market, Europe, Japan — where it works with SoftBank — and Korea, where it already has more than a dozen spaces. The firm has raised more than $1 billion for its China business and around $500 million for Korea and Southeast Asia.

Beyond a rivalry in China, Ucommune and WeWork have also engaged in a legal spat. WeWork forced its rival to change its name from UrWork after it took the company to court last year over the similarity.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Nigerian data analytics company Terragon acquires Asian mobile ad firm Bizense

in ad networks/africa/agribusiness/Artificial Intelligence/Asia/Business/ceo/Column/Delhi/dhl/e-commerce/Economy/Ghana/Honeywell/India/Indonesia/kenya/knowledge/Lagos/latin america/machine learning/Naspers/Nigeria/online sales/paga/Politics/Singapore/SMS/South Africa/south east asia/TC/telecommunications/unilever by

Nigerian consumer data analytics firm Terragon Group has acquired Asian mobile marketing company Bizense in a cash and stock deal.

Based in Singapore, with operations in India and Indonesia, Bizense specializes in “mobile ad platform[s] for Telco’s, large publishers, and [e-commerce] ad networks” under its proprietary Adatrix platform—according to its website and a release.

The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

The company lists audience analytics, revenue optimization, and white label SSP services among its client offerings.

Headquartered in Lagos, Terragon’s software services give its clients — primarily telecommunications and financial services companies — data on Africa’s growing consumer markets.

Products allow users to drill down on multiple combinations of behavioral and demographic information and reach consumers through video and SMS  campaigns while connecting to online sales and payments systems.

Terragon clients include local firms, such as Honeywell, and global names including Unilever, DHL, and international agribusiness firm Olam.

The company’s founder and CEO Elo Umeh sees cross-cutting purposes for Terragon services in other markets.

“Most of the problems we seek to solve for our clients in Africa also exist in places like South East Asia and Latin America,” Umeh told TechCrunch.

The Bizense acquisition doesn’t lessen Terragon’s commitment to its home markets, according to Umeh.

“We are…super focused on Africa right now, building out propriety platforms powered by data and artificial intelligence to help Telco’s, SMEs, FMCGsand financial institutions …increase their customer base and drive more transaction volumes,” he said.

Terragon’s CEO would not divulge the acquisition value, saying only that it consisted of  “a combination of cash and stocks, with the actual amount not disclosed.”

In an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year, Umeh confirmed the company was looking into global expansion.

Tarragon already has a team of 100 employees across Nigeria, KenyaGhana and South Africa.

Umeh indicated the company is contemplating further expansion in Asia and the Latin America, where Terragon already has consumer data research and development teams.

With the Bizense acquisition Terragon plans to “build out platforms, tools and machine learning models to help businesses…acquire new customers and get existing customers to do more.”

Bizense founder and CEO Amit Khemchandani will be involved in this process. “We are excited about the next phase of this journey as we innovate for Africa and other emerging markets,” he said.

With the exception of South African media and investment giant Naspers, acquisitions of any kind—intra-continental or international—are a rarity for Sub-Saharan African startups and tech companies.

Terragon’s acquisition in Singapore, and other moves made by several other Nigerian startups this year, could change that. African financial technology companies like Mines and Paga announced their intent to expand in and outside Africa. They would join e-commerce site MallforAfrica, which went global in July in a partnership with DHL.

News Source = techcrunch.com

1 2 3 21
Go to Top