View profile

Asia Tech Review: June 10 2019

June 10 · Issue #117 · View online
Asia Tech Review
Welcome back,
No huge editorial this week but there is a focus is on two significant topics: Huawei – yep, you can’t escape it – and censorship in China, which was in the news following the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.
News aside, the idea of an Asia Tech Review meetup in Bangkok this month around the Techsauce event has been suggested, and I think it would be fun.
If you intend to travel to Bangkok for the week of the event (it runs June 19-20) or are in city already and want to meet, please get in touch via email so I can get an idea of numbers. Stay tuned for more.
See you again next week!

Censorship on Tiananmen's 30th anniversary
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a moment in history that likely saw more than a thousand civilians killed at the hands of the government. Still – three decades later – the incident has not been acknowledged by Beijing.
Given the landmark, this year saw a lot more insight with new photos, videos and inside stories revealed.
As expected, China’s censorship organ went into overdrive blocking a range of international media, including CNN, The Intercept and Toronto Star. Wikipedia’s English site was blocked in the weeks leading up to the date, while, as per annual ‘tradition,’ Chinese internet services reduced features due to “routine maintenance.”
Twitter, too, was involved after it deactivated a large number of Twitter accounts critical of the Chinese government. The company reversed the move following wide-spread outrage, it apologized for what it claimed was an accident and claimed it had not acted on government orders. However, many are not convinced since the Chinese government, and major Chinese firms like Huawei, are significant advertisers on the site.
Interestingly, Twitter also declined a request to create an animated hashtag – hashflag – to mark the occasion, telling a prominent artist who proposed it that it could only use “a limited number of emojis.” In May, it held a marketing event in China, which also speaks volumes.
Here are some notable links beyond what you might already have seen:
  • My colleague Catherine Shu rounded up the censorship here
  • The annual Hong Kong vigil pulled in a huge crowd – video and photo
  • CNN was (predictably) harassed when it filmed around Tiananmen Square link
  • London-based activists put up 30 ‘Tiananmen Square’ street signs near the Chinese embassy link
  • Chinese state media branded Tiananmen as a symbol of China’s progress, and thus it is easily forgotten link
  • Young Chinese people tell of how they first learned of Tiananmen link
Huawei update -- yes, again...
Because this a moving saga, here are the key updates in June so far:
Apple is now restricting Chinese language podcasts in China
iFlytek is raising $350M which it plans to use for investing into AI startups to widen its ecosystem link 🔒
AI startup Megvii wasn’t part of the Chinese government’s surveillance activities in Xinjiang despite previous reports to the contrary link
ByteDance is reportedly working on its own phone link 🔒
Alibaba is reportedly planning a second listing in Hong Kong that could raise $20B link
Meanwhile in Russia, Alibaba’s JV announced last year is off the ground link
LinkedIn is shutting its Chitu social app from users in China link
Didi kicked off its first major expansion in Latin America with launches in Colombia and Chile (it is already in Brazil and Mexico) link
Uber and Ola ordered to make 40% of fleets green by 2026
Twitter is reportedly looking to lead a $100M investment in vernacular social app ShareChat link
Swiggy is reportedly raising up to $500M in new funding led by SoftBank – SoftBank being SoftBank, it has apparently also been in talks with Swiggy rival Zomato over a deal link
True Balance is a stealthy payment startup doing brisk business in rural India link
iOS 13 packs a lot of India-focused features which signals Apple’s increased intent in the country (tough battle, though) link
Google is doing the same, its latest notable update is increased real-time transport features in Google Maps in India link
Tiger Global’s return to India investments bodes well for the country’s B2B startups link 🔒
Walmart will soon sell Flipkart’s Myntra fashion brand in the US link
💸Other deals of note 💸
  • Amazon just loaded $400M into it India business - its first infusion following the country’s controversial new e-commerce regulations went into force link
  • Alibaba put $100M into Vmate, its India-focused video service that’s owned by its UC Web subsidiary
  • Paytm is reportedly Coverfox for up to $120M link
  • BharatPe is reportedly raising $75M link
  • NoBroker, which cuts brokers from the real estate chain, raised $51M link
  • Pratilipi, described as a “YouTube for writers,” raised $15M link
  • Ather Energy, which sells electric scooters, raised $51M link
  • Milkbasket raised $10.5M from Unilever Ventures and others link
  • FreshToHome raised $11M link
SoftBank is struggling to get key investors excited about Vision Fund II
Line and Visa are working together on mobile payments link
Kurly closes upsized $113M Series D round
Southeast Asia
This entrepreneur is donating unwanted bike-sharing cycles to underprivileged students in Myanmar
EV Growth, a growth fund from venerable early-stage firm East Ventures, closed out at $200M with LPs including SoftBank – a follow-up fund is already being planned link
Taxi operator Comfort Del Gro made the first investments from its startup fund, which was announced last year link
Regulation in the Philippines has forced Grab to reduce the size of its fleet – that’s likely to mean longer waits and supply-demand issues link
A new startup is helping Indonesia’s vegetable sellers go digital link
TaniGroup, which helps Indonesia’s farmers get better deals and grow their business, raised $10M link
Vietnam jailed a man for 6 years over Facebook comments that criticized the government link
Elsewhere in Asia
Excellent Economist piece on the growth of mobile and online entertainment in the emerging world, especially India link 🔒
Sri Lanka may introduce laws to regulate social media link
Outside of Asia Tech
Thailand’s junta leader predictably became its new Prime Minister last week following a process that “leaves much to be desired in terms of adherence to democratic norms” link
Photo of the week
Upcoming events
  • PyCon Thailand 2019: June 15-16 in Bangkok, Thailand link
  • Tech Sauce: June 19-20 in Bangkok, Thailand link
  • Ignite: 24-25 June in Manila, Philippines link
  • Innovfest Unbound: 27-28 June in Singapore link
  • Wild Digital: 3-4 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia link
  • Rise: July 8-11 in Hong Kong link
  • Deal Street Asia’s PE-VC Summit: 17-18 September in Singapore link
  • Tech In Asia Conference: 8-9 October in Jakarta, Indonesia 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!
You just finished reading Asia Tech Review, the weekly newsletter for keeping up with the tech industry across Asia.
If someone sent this to you, you can sign up for free at
Follow along on Twitter at @asiatechreview
Join the Telegram community here
You can also subscribe to curated news alerts via Telegram here
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue