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Asia Tech Review: April 15 2019

Welcome back, If you're in Delhi or passing through this week, ATR subscriber and long-time friend Be
April 15 · Issue #110 · View online
Asia Tech Review
Welcome back,
If you’re in Delhi or passing through this week, ATR subscriber and long-time friend Ben Jiang – an editor for Chinese tech publication KrAsia – wants to host an informal meetup. Email if you’re interested.
Sadly I won’t be in Delhi, but I’ll leave you with a quick view from my relaxing nearly-week off for Thai New Year. I’ll see you again next week or perhaps sooner in the ATR Telegram chat.

💼 China's 996 working hours debate opens up 💼
The debate around tough working hours at Chinese startup has bubbled over the past few weeks but it truly lit up on Friday when Alibaba’s Jack Ma waded into the discussion to claim it is was “huge blessing” to be able to work 12 hours days when he was younger.
To recap: My colleague Rita Liao neatly summarized the recent happenings (SCMP has followed the ongoing stories) – last month, a page went up on GitHub protesting the 996 culture in Chinese tech companies and startups.
996 stands for working 9-9 for 6 days a week.
It’s a culture that plenty of pundits will tell you is helping China level up with the US on tech. Kaifu Lee matter-of-factly discusses the effects in his ‘AI Superpowers’ book (good read if you haven’t yet) while, on the fanboy-ish side of the conversations, US VC Michael Moritz marveled at China’s exemplary “work ethic” in a 2018 oped for the FT.
For employees, meanwhile, the ones who actually put the hours in, 996 means their job limits their social life and… well, their entire life. The sacrifice can impact the potential to have a family, or even get married in the first place. The Github page is a .icu domain ( in reference to the fact that working 996 can put you in hospital.
David Heinemeier Hansson, CEO of Basecamp, is one of the loudest voices on Twitter around work quality vs quantity, and he’s weighed in plenty of times around the need for a more equal work-life balance in tech.
I get that I sound like a broken record on a reasonable work week, not discriminating against parents, getting enough sleep, and focusing on making the hours count rather than just spending more of them. You know what? That's okay with me. Progress is a long arc.
The debate is one to watch in China, but it is complicated by a general culture that sees quantity as superior to quality across many parts of life. A basic window to view through is education. Chinese parents cram their children with information from a young age in the hope that it sticks, or that they can at least console themselves later in life with the knowledge that they did all they could to advance their offspring’s potential.
The internet, and access to a global knowledge base, has the potential to reset expectations and goals for the new generation in China, who may increasingly see a different viewpoint on the quality-quantity debate.
Rita found that most companies refused to discuss 996 and employee work balance when asked, while executives who did reply only did so anonymously. What is for certain now is that you can expect the issue to become a major talking point following Jack Ma’s comments.
🚖 Uber's Exitcorns and Go-Jek's Earlycorn 🚖
No issue of Asia Tech Review is complete without a mention of ride-hailing, and this week’s passage is particularly merited. (As are the crapcorn ‘puns’… just about.)
Uber’s S-1 dropped late Thursday Asia time, and with it came a host of interesting information about its exits from Asia. I wrote about the details, but here are the top-line facts:
  • Uber’s stake in Didi grew from $5.97B in 2017 to $7.95 in 2018
  • Uber’s stake in Grab grew from $2.28B in 2018 to $3.22B in 2019
  • If Grab doesn’t IPO by March 25 2023, Uber can sell back its holdings
  • Uber has local non-compete clauses with Didi and Grab
  • Didi breached a global non-compete clause with Uber with launches in Latin America
  • China’s antitrust prove of Didi-Uber deal is STILL ongoing
  • Overall, Uber’s exits from China, Russia and Southeast Asia have netted it over $12.5B in third-party assets
Outside of the S-1 filing, Grab announced plans to raise yet another $2 billion – which would see its ongoing Series H swell to $6.5 billion. The deal is broken down in stark terms by Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan who concluded that Grab’s note, which makes mention of SoftBank’s “unlimited support to power our growth,” is a warning shot to Go-Jek as both continue to burn capital at unholy levels.
Finally, on Go-Jek: a lot of reports congratulated the company for reaching a $10 billion valuation – it’ll happen soon but that time isn’t now.
The ‘news’ of the valuation is a mirage born from Bloomberg’s decision to use information from CB Insights which was interpreted from the media reports that estimated Go-Jek value at $9-$10B when it raised in February. In fact, Go-Jek sources told me last week that the valuation is around $9.5 billion – yes, I can be pedantic!
📰 Briefly: On PR and exclusives 📰
I’m often asked for advice on how companies should do PR, I refrain from involving myself – it’s not my place to provide counsel – but I have started sharing my two-cents.
Companies should avoid exclusive stories – it is more productive to identify a list of core media (better: core journalists) to work with because multiple stories will reach a diverse and wider audience
Media that try to coerce exclusives – “we wouldn’t usually cover such a small story… but we could if you gave it to us first” – are bullies who let everyone down, founders/companies/media.
This grew out of a tweet – it’s not a rant or an expression of anger, just frustration that founders are getting used by some media.
Jon Russell
I never force companies to run exclusives with me because, in all honesty, they should work with a handful of media rather than just @techcrunch. But maybe it’s time to change that given that some of my peers play a more deceitful game.
As I said, I don’t give specific PR advice but I am always happy to share my perspective from the media side – feel free to ping over an email if you want to chat.
Inside Foxconn's seemingly hallow promises to Wisconsin
Yet more on this topic: the New York Times digs into how China’s government is using AI and surveillance to racially profile its Muslim population link
How Chinese smartphone makers have upped their game to beat Apple in China link
China might ban Bitcoin mining link
Microsoft reportedly worked with the Chinese government on AI projects link
A look at how Pinduoduo is cutting into JD and Alibaba in rural areas link
As if to prove the point, JD just laid off 8% of its 150,000 staff link
Alibaba’s efforts to make it in Hollywood link
ByteDance is reportedly planning to launch a Spotify competitor link
A tale of censorship on WeChat link
Remember China’s communist party app? There’s now one for kids, too link
💸Deals 💸 raised $50M from Kunlun (link) Klook (Hong Kong, not China) raised $225M led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund (link) News startup Caixin is reportedly out to raise $200M (link), plastic surgery app So-Young (fitting name) plans to raise $150M in a US IPO (link)
Samsung is losing to Chinese tech giants in India
Ola is reportedly considering an expansion to Dubai, potentially to help raise funds since it has decided against a check from SoftBank’s Vision Fund link
WhatsApp still hasn’t launched payments in India, but it is planning a third-party audit of the service to help with compliance demands link
A tale of two former giants: ShopClues is reportedly seeking a sale to Snapdeal link
Snap – yes, the company that didn’t care about India – is pushing polling information to users in India link
💸Deals 💸 Naspers’ PayU bought Wibmo for $70M (link) mobile engagement startup CleverTap raised $26M (link) Cashfree raised $5.5M (link) Dream11 raised an undisclosed round at a $1B valuation (link) GlowRoad raised $10M (link)
To attract foreign workers, Japan must create a welcoming home
Blackpink’s “Kill This Love” sets new YouTube records, including the biggest Premiere
The battle to own Nexon link
Southeast Asia
Carousell snags $56M from Naspers-owned OLX
A look at the growth of on-demand services in Southeast Asia link
US ride-sharing startup Via entered Indonesia through a partnership link
Thailand’s True is on an acquisition spree to diversify its business link
Scooter company Lime is headed to Southeast Asia with Singapore its regional HQ link
💸Deals 💸 Traveloka reportedly raised $420M led by GIC (link) Shopback closed $45M led by Rakuten and EV Growth (link) iflix pulled in undisclosed funding from Japan’s Yoshimoto Kogyo (link)
Outside of Asia Tech
Uber’s S-1 is this week’s required reading – most people use search to skip to what’s relevant to them rather than reading all 285+ pages link
Julian Assange was arrested in London after Ecuador remove his asylum – a debate is raging over whether he’s a journalist or a criminal link
The first photo of a black hole was released – internet trolls immediately went about undermining the female doctor widely credited for initiating the project link
Photo of the week
Matthew Brennan
"Ride the subway using only your face" China's first subway lines to use facial recognition ticketing systems are here. Article (Chinese):
Matt Brennan’s Twitter is so often a source of tech wow from China
Lambda School, which helps non-coders learn to code and find work, is hiring for a GM to launch its business in India link
Klook, a travel activities platform, is hiring for a head of Vietnam (and a bunch of other roles across Asia and beyond) link
This is a semi-regular feature when I find opportunities that I think are interesting, none of the above are paid for listings
Upcoming events
Splice Beta: May 1-3 in Chiang Mai, Thailand link
Saas Stock Asia: May 14-15 in Hong Kong link
Innovfest Unbound: 27-28 June in Singapore link
Rise: July 8-11 in Hong Kong link
If you run a tech event not listed here or want to recommend an addition, please email me
That's all for now, see you next week!
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