Asia Tech Review: July 30 2019





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July 30 · Issue #124 · View online
Asia Tech Review
Welcome back,
The past week has seen Asia tech news go into overdrive with SoftBank taking the wraps off its planned Vision Fund sequel for the first time.
There’s also more funding for ride-hailing firms Grab (kinda) and Didi, while in India, Netflix and WhatsApp got down to business on their efforts to crack the market. For Netflix, that means rolling out a cheaper subscription option for mobile-only users, while WhatsApp is preparing its long-awaited payment service. It also announced an insane 400M MAUs in India – that’s pretty close to everyone with internet access in the country.
Oh, and ByteDance confirmed it is making a phone… lots is happening.
And, in case you are wondering what I’ve been up to since I joined The Ken, my first story went live this week: Go-Jek and Grab are turning Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem tribal – stay tuned for more soon 😃
Let’s get on to this week’s newsletter.

Vision Fund Part Deux
The Vision Fund 2 was announced last week with a $108 billion target. Early “expected” backers include Microsoft, Apple, Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered and the government of Kazakhstan – which recently raised concern over potential internet monitoring.
The sovereign funds of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which anchored the first fund, are absent. Instead, SoftBank is the leading LP, but the FT reported that talks with the Middle Eastern funds, and others, remain ongoing. So go easy before assuming that SoftBank took a stand following the Khashoggi murder.
SoftBank aims another torpedo at Go-Jek
You have to feel for PR people when Masayoshi Son goes full bluster, telling press that SoftBank is pumping another $2 billion into Grab to finance a rapid expansion of its logistics and business in Indonesia, including a second HQ in Jakarta.
What $2 billion more? So soon?
Grab has closed from investors $7.5 billion to date, and earlier this year it said it would add $2 billion more to its Series H, bringing the never-ending round to $6.5 billion.
It turns out – as best as I can tell – that SoftBank is investing $2 billion into Indonesia for “digital infrastructure,” essentially logistics for improving congesting, healthcare and more. This stands to benefit a number of Vision Fund companies, including Grab – which plans a second HQ in Jakarta – and Tokopedia, but the announcement certainly is confusing.
There are some choice quotes – Grab, under pressure from the government’s support of Go-Jek, calls itself “one of Indonesia’s five tech unicorns” despite being a Singapore company – but this is a major PR play right on Go-Jek’s front lawn.
The Uber exit deal was supposed to give Grab a monopoly, but Go-Jek is irritatingly in the way for Messrs Son, Tan, Maa and co. Grab has already led a funding war against Go-Jek, now it is time for aggressive government relations.
In Hong Kong protests, faces become weapons
This chilling story from the NYT shows the dangers of facial recognition device log-in.
The police officers wrestled with Colin Cheung in an unmarked car. They needed his face.
They grabbed his jaw to force his head in front of his iPhone. They slapped his face. They shouted, “Wake up!” They pried open his eyes. It all failed: Mr. Cheung had disabled his phone’s facial-recognition login with a quick button mash as soon as they grabbed him.
Face ID can be easily deactivated on an iPhone – I, for one, wasn’t aware of that – but the wider story on the need to retain anonymity in Hong Kong is one that seems increasingly important as social media becomes more powerful than the news itself. Truth be damned in many cases.
Austin Ramzy
Our bureau tech manager, who was out last night keeping me and @ezracheungtoto out of harms way, has been identified by the crack squad at Wen Wei Po as a foreign protest commander. Journalism pro tip: if you want to know who someone is, ask them
ByteDance confirms it is making a phone
Trump said Apple won’t get a waiver for Mac Pro parts that are made in China – he of course wants them to be built in the US link
Trump’s action against Huawei killed a potential smart speaker developed with Google, according to The Information link 🔒
A look at Ping An and its use of data and tech in insurance – something that reportedly saves it $750M annually link
Tencent and Qualcomm struck a deal that could be notable link
Didi raised $600M from Toyota – it is reportedly shooting for $2B in fresh capital for global growth link
On that note, Didi plans to enter the Middle East through a joint venture link
Luckin Coffee is another looking to new markets, it announced a JV to expand into the Middle East and India link
Following stories of how Kunlun ran Grindr into the ground, there are now reports that the Chinese company is restarting the startup’s IPO process link
Alibaba released its first core processor IP for uses like edge computing and autonomous driving tech link
Joy Capital raises new $700M fund link
A top scientist behind electronic Juul is bringing a new e-cigarette to China link 🔒
WhatsApp reaches 400M users in India as it prepares maybe service before end of 2019
Netflix introduced cheaper pricing options in India to fuel growth link
Uber, keen to remind you it still does things in India, said it plans to offer electric three-wheelers for rental link
The US firm is still pushing hard to sell Uber Eats Uber, a deal with Swiggy fell through and now Amazon is said to be in talks link
Despite the constant crowing, OYO’s China business appears to be a mess link
Regional languages are fuelling YouTube’s growth in India – to the point that it is a search engine for millions of people link
Chinese investors are spending big on Indian startups link
Brainly, a Polish education startup that’s popular in India, raised $30M to grow in the county link
Auto marketplace Udaan is tipped to raise $500M at a valuation of $2.2B link
BookMyShow is said to be close to reaching a $1B valuation link
Reminder: Chinese smartphone brands dominate in India link
The painful path to curing Japan of its cash addiction
Southeast Asia
Traveloka is raising $500M at a valuation of $4.5 billion
Investigation into the toll the content moderation industry has on workers in the Philippines, who are used extensively by Facebook, Twitter and others but treated with lower standards than US-based peers link
SoftBank’s Vision Fund is tipped to invest in VNPAY in what could be its first deal in Vietnam link
Co-living startup Hmlet raised a $40M Series B link
RedDoorz, a rival to OYO, raised $45M led by China’s Qiming link
Halodoc raised funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Allianz X and Prudential as an extension of a Series B that earlier closed at $60M link
Thailand’s aCommerce raised $10M with plans to add $5M later this year – looks like a bridge round as part of a “path to profitabilitylink
Trax closed its $100M round at a reported valuation of $1.2-$1.3 billion link
Streaming service iflix announced a $50M raise ahead of a planned IPO link (that’s just as Netflix gets its plan for original content in Southeast Asia together link)
Singapore’s StashAway raised $12M from Eight Roads link
Line is getting into Southeast Asia’s super craze with a range of new services in Thailand, one of its four largest markets link
Tokopedia is doubling down on logistics and AI with investments in three undisclosed companies link
B2B marketplace Ralali raised $13M link
SoCash raised $6M link
Vietnam has been pushing back on global internet companies and now there’s a local rival to Facebook link (meanwhile, Supercell has pulled its mobile games from Vietnam link)
State-owned Bank Negara Indonesia is reportedly putting up to $50M into a new fund link
Omise, which held a massive ICO in 2017, raised undisclosed funding from Japan’s Nomura link
Honestbee hired a full-time CEO and let its last remaining co-founder go – is a sale coming soon? link
Outside of Asia Tech
China hinted that it could send troops to ‘restore order’ in Hong Kong, although many believe this step is unlikely link
A longer piece – also from the New York Times – on the protests link
A good read on super apps in Southeast Asia link
Photo of the week
I’m not a TikTok fan but this is something else…
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That's all for now, see you next week!
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