Asia Tech Review: 24 February 2020





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February 24 · Issue #145 · View online
Asia Tech Review
Welcome back,
If all you are reading is about the Coronavirus outbreak, then this week’s newsletter is for you.
The past seven days saw a massive uptick in funding in India – with Dunzo, Bharatpee and Swiggy among those banking cash – while OYO’s newest financials are decoded, the lid is lifted on Chinese VCs pouring cash into India and Google reminded us it is still very much a for-profit business.
Over in Southeast Asia, Gojek made an investment, Grab took an investment and Singapore’s ‘fake news’ law descended exactly as many predicted. At The Ken – where I am employed – we showcased a big story on the Philippines’ only unicorn and how its business has gone awry.
Yes, the Coronavirus is eating the tech media, but there’s plenty more to read out there.
Stay safe, I’ll see you next week.
You can get Asia tech news as it happens by subscribing to the ATR Telegram channel. It’s totally free and there’s no catch, just follow 👉🏻

A profile of Xia Peisu, who is credited with seeding computing in China
China expelled three WSJ journalists over a story headline – the New York Times gets inside the incident, including internal pressure to change the headline and issue an apology link
China’s small businesses are suffering badly from the Coronavirus outbreak link 🔒
China is again cracking down on VPNs to prevent its domestic citizens from being able to read international media coverage of the outbreak link 🔒
Apple, meanwhile, became one of the first tech giants to talk publicly about the outbreak’s impact – sluggish demand from China and reduced output from factories. In short: it has cut its revenue projects for the current quarter link
Apps are the big winners, as well as work from home tools link
A judge ruled Huawei cannot sue the US government for limiting its ability to do business with federal agencies and contractors link
AI firm Megvii will reportedly refile for a proposed IPO in Hong Kong after its application lapsed link
China provides record funding for Indian tech startups
Google is ending its free Wi-Fi railway station program – tech companies often try to play non-profit with Asian market initiatives but this shows that Google is very much a for-profit business despite any social benefits its services may bring link
A peek behind OYO’s latest financials – whilst revenue increased, losses grew faster which shows a struggle to make the business sustainable as promised link 🔒
Deepfakes are now a part of India’s elections, in fact any election worldwide link
Swiggy raised $113M more in a round led by existing investor Naspers, which is now known as Prosus link
Meanwhile, Dunzo – a rival in the on-demand space – raised $11M more in debt funding link
Online learning startup Unacademy pulled in $110M from investors including Facebook, General Atlantic, Sequoia and more link
Bharatpee raised $75M from US VCs Coatue and Ribbit link
Blume Ventures announced a new $102M fund link and then a $41M opportunity fund link
Khatabook, which is emerging as the biggest success story from Sequoia’s Surge program (at least based on funding), is in line to raise $70M more at a valuation of $300M link
Sequoia led a $35M investment in Whatfix, another Surge company, which offers a productivity tool for enterprise businesses link
South Korea
Samsung Electronics names non-executive director as board chairman in company first
In a rare legal win for ride-hailing companies, one-year-old Tada was cleared of breaching the transport law for offering its service using chauffeurs link
Southeast Asia
Gojek has reportedly completed a $30M investment in taxi operator Blue Bird
MUFG, Japan’s largest bank, invested $700M into Grab to usher in a ‘new era’ under incoming CEO Hironori Kamezawa, a former digital transformation executive link
It turns out Singapore will use its controversial fake news law to censor media just as we all expected when it was passed last year link
Honestbee still can’t raise money from new investors which mean it’ll likely shutter its Habitat store – makes sense, the project is losing a lot of money was likely only kept on as a project that might get the attention of investors (it hasn’t) link
Korea’s SoCar raised an $18M Series A for its Malaysia unit, its first expansion in Southeast Asia link
Axiata, Malaysia’s top telco, confirms it’ll bid for a digital banking license in Malaysia as had been reported link 🔒
Eureka AI, which claims to bring AI to the customer acquisition and retention process for enterprise companies, raised a $20M Series B link
Singapore plans to promote electric vehicles as part of its 2020 budget link
Outside of Asia tech
A strong read on the economic impact potential of Coronavirus in Southeast Asia (yes, a lot of people have had a stab at this based on various industries/segments) link
A peak at The Ken Southeast Asia
I’m excited for the imminent launch of The Ken’s dedicated Southeast Asia subscription – last week we previewed one of our stories ahead of time. We gave those on the waitlist for our SEA launch access to our story on Revolution Precrafted – a prefab housing startup that got headlines for being the Philippines’ first unicorn but has run into major trouble. If you aren’t on the waitlist but want to read it, details of how to are in the story link above.
I won’t drone on about the story but it is the definitive read on the topic. I can’t promise this type of reporting every time – these kinds of topics don’t walk in every day and we don’t intend our spotlight to solely be critical – but it gives an idea of what we can do with the right materials.
Interestingly, our reporting efforts over the past month appear to have tipped off other media with Deal Street Asia running its own story on the same day. That was behind a paywall, but DSA has since made it free to read for all.
To be clear, we have a rigid paywall and even our free stories require readers to log in or register an account. There’s nothing nefarious at play other than a sustainable business model that allows us to invest in deep reporting and great stories. I can also guarantee that there are no ads 😀
That's all for now, see you next week!
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