Facebook Founder Turns To India For 1st Investment In Asia

Zuck-Chan croppedTurning his attention to India in a breakthrough move, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is leading an investment of $50 million in Bangalore-based education tech startup Byju.
The investment, his first in Asia, is through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the impact investment venture that Zuckerberg set up with his wife Priscilla Chan last December. The investment could lead to an upward spiral of attention from other high-profile tech founders and investors in India’s rapidly emerging startup economy. Explaining why he made the investment, Zuckerberg noted that the startup fills a gap in India’s educational system.
Started by teacher and entrepreneur Byju Raveendran, Byju offers video lessons and interactive tools on a mobile app that teaches kids math and science at far less cost than other educational services. The app is being used by 250,000 subscribers for an average of 40 minutes daily. A survey that found nearly 80 percent of parents said the app had improved their children’s learning dramatically.
Participating in the groundbreaking investment were Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Ventures and Times Internet. Vivian Wu, who heads the Chan Zuckerberg initiative, is joining the board of the Indian startup. Byju’s founder said he will use the new funds to expand the business in English-speaking countries. He also is seeking further funds from other well-known groups including Google.

Artificial intelligence startup Mad Street Den in Chennai has raised Series A funding from Sequoia Capital. The startup is working on building tools for retailers that help them predict customer needs. The startup was founded by ex-Silicon Valley veterans and had previously raised $1.5 million.

Innovation Works, the investment firm led by former Google China head  Kai-fu Lee, is teaming up on a private equity investment fund with one of central China’s richest men.
Zall Group of Wuhan, led by billionaire Yan Zhi, and Innovation Works will invest a total of 100 million yuan, or $15 million, in the equity investment fund, provisionally named Zall Innovative Intelligent Trading Industry Fund, according to a Forbes post.  The fund, which aims to raise another 400 million yuan, will invest in unlisted companies with a focus on logistics, supply chains and the Internet of Things.

Qualcomm has invested an estimated $8 million in eye-tracking technology company 7Invensun in Beijing. The startup, founded in 2009 and located in Zhongguancun, is aiming to work with Oculus and HTC to break into consumer VR wearables. Qualcomm has previously invested in the eye tracking startups as part of a mandate in December 2014 to invest $40 million in four Chinese tech companies.

Chinese co-working space Fountown, one of the many WeWork copycats springing up in China, has raised $30 million in a first round from private equity firm CDH Investments. Fountown operates in Shanghai and is planning to expand soon to Beijing. Among the Chinese co-working spaces that have attracted capital are Nash Work and UrWork. Alibaba has stepped in too, by spinning off its KrSpace into a nationwide co-working space outfit. New York-based WeWork too has raised substantial capital in the heated market share race in co-working spaces in leading innovation hubs such as San Francisco and Beijing.

Kai-Fu Lee is debuting a new name for his Beijing-based Innovation Works’ angel investing firm. The new name, Sinovation Ventures, well reflects its mission and focus. The new name also avoids confusion with another Innovation Works in the US — not venture related at all, but a high tech business in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Volkswagen Group has recently signed a major deal with China’s Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Company to mass produce electric vehicles and hybrids in China. VW’s largest market is China.

Southeast Asia
Online fashion marketplace Zilingo, based in Bangkok, has raised $8 million in a Series A investment led by Sequoia Capital India. Venturra Capital joined the deal as dis Singapore-based Wavemaker Partners, Japanese incubator and venture capital firm Digital Garage and existing investor Beenext Ventures. Zilingo offers fashion and lifestyle products from Thailand and Singapore merchants without an online presence. With the new funds, Zilingo intends to expand further into Southeast Asia.

Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter is debuting in Asia, launching in Hong Kong and Singapore, which should be a boost for startups in the region who can now put their projects on the platform to attract bids for funding. Registered companies in both markets can now list directly on Kickstarter rather than find collaborators outside the region to get on one of the world’s leading crowdfunding sites. Kickstarter already has a head start, with more than 100,000 users from the region. Not sure why it took so long for Kickstarter to get started in the booming startup region of Asia.