Zuck Jogs Beijing, How Far Will He Go?
Dubbed a “smog jog” by Chinese netizens, a photo of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg running near the Forbbiden City shows just how far the Zuck will go with his China aims. Zuckerberg was jogging on a day when Beijing’s notoriously high air quality index measured above 300, a level considered “hazardous.”
Tencent has led a $100 million funding round of Douyu TV, an online platform for live videos of game playing, in a deal that values this Chinese version of Twitch at more than $1 billion. Existing investors Sequoia Capital China and Nanshan Capital participated. Founded in 2013 and with 200 million monthly users, Douyu caters to a total China market of more than 400 million gamers and gaming revenues predicted to reach $22 billion this year.
Tencent additionally joined a $77 million Series B funding of Shanghai-based boutique entertainment studio Linmon Pictures, led by Hony Capital along with Mango V Foundation. Tencent had previously invested $15 million in an initial funding of Linmon, which is expanding its TV productions and adding movies and entertainment.
China’s annual Hurun Rich List shows some telling shifts in its ranking of 2188 billionaires from 68 countries: Chinese billionaires overtook the U.S. by 568 to 535 and Beijing replaced New York City as the billionaire capital. But the U.S. held onto title for the most tech billionaires, followed by Mainland China. These new mega-rich from China include billionaire Li Qiong, a partner in gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech, a company to keep an eye on as it makes bold moves in the U.S. This past January, Beijing Kunlun acquired a 60 percent stake in social networking app Grindr and invested $800,000 in robotics company Woobo. It’s also just put $3 million in Kunlun AI, a new Palo Alto-based company, joining Alibaba and Baidu with bets on AI, cloud computing and big data.
Keeping the fast expansion pace after bulking up Ant Financial and obtaining a $3 billion loan for overseas deals, Alibaba-backed logistics firm Cainiao has snagged a reportedly $.1.5 billion- plus from Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and GIC, Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional, and China’s Primavera Capital. Cainiao, started in 2013 to provide a logistics backbone for Alibaba deliveries across China and to overseas markets, claims 180,000 domestic delivery stations, and plans to scale globally within the next five to eight years.
Alibaba is also getting into the red-hot VR business with the recent launch of VR research lab, GnomeMagic Lab, to integrate VR into the shopping experience at Alibaba. Alibaba will additionally push development and sale of its own VR hardware via its online channels.
Alongside Shanghai-based Trustbridge Partners, Sequoia Capital has co-led an undisclosed Series C funding of Molbase, a Chinese B2B e-commerce platform for chemical products. Existing investors Innovation Works, Fosun Kinzon Capital and Vagoo Capital participated. Molbase claims 80,000 active suppliers and buyers of chemicals, with a total transaction value of more than $9 billion yearly.
China’s relatively immature credit rating market is ripe for disruption, contends Shanghai-based financial analyst Zennon Kapron, founder of market research firm Kapronasia. Enter Alibaba, and maybe Tencent too. Alibaba recently launched its Sesame Credit product, which pulls transaction records from the ecommerce giant’s Tmall and Taobao sites to better gauge an individual’s credit worthiness. Tencent, with WeChat, also has a wealth of consumer and individual financial information at its fingertips.
China is getting in on the race to develop self-driving cars as search giant Baidu brings AI research for its driverless cars to its Silicon Valley office led by chief scientist Andrew Ng. Baidu plans to have self-driving shuttles on Chinese roads by 2018.
There’s a lot of controversy around whether China is capable of actually innovating rather than just copying or creating new business models? In his recently published book, China’s Disruptors, Dr. Edward Tse argues the case. He elaborates with these key points in his first Forbes column:
- Chinese entrepreneurs are striving to reclaim their rich history and show what they can do.
- State-owned enterprises are slow to act, leading to market gaps and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
- Hyper competition is spurring transformations.
- Entrepreneurs are innovating to solve increasingly visible societal ills.
- The rise of mobile internet has transformed everyday lives of Chinese consumers.
- The massive scale of the Chinese market helps companies scale quickly and learn quickly.
- Venture capitalists and angel investors, both domestic and global, have driven funding for startups and emerging companies.
Dr. Tse will be speaking at Silicon Dragon’s annual Beijing conference, held April 28.
Cherubic Ventures has launched a $120 million fund to invest seed capital in VR, robotics, machine learning, SaaS and e-commerce companies. Cherubic has opened an office in Shanghai, adding to existing offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Taipei. Founded in 2010 by angel investor Matt Cheng, Cherubic has invested in close to 90 companies in the U.S., China and Southeast Asia, including travel tips site Spottly, tech blog TechNode, India’s online shop Chaldal, and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.
Ping An Ventures, the VC arm of Chinese insurance giant Ping An, has led a $10 million, first round in Hong Kong-based biotech startup Prenetics. Indonesia’s Venturra Capital and 500 Startups participated in the financing. Prenetics’ flagship product is a gene testing technology iGenes that helps physicians prescribe prescriptions and dosages and lets patients directly view their genetic profile through a mobile app.
Cisco plans to invest $100 million in India to support national plans to connect thousands of villages to the Internet, with $40 million of the total planned investment earmarked for early and mid-stage startups. The tech giant plans to work with federal and provincial governments to launch incubation centers for entrepreneurs and to train students. These corporate initiatives are in line with the “Digital India” and “Startup India” programs launched by Prime Minster Narenda Modi.
Altos Ventures has raised an oversubscribed $110 million fund to invest exclusively in Korean startups ─ its second Korea-focused fund after a $60 million effort in 2013. in addition to four for U.S. investments. The quick raise for its second Korean fund represents bullishness by limited partner investors in Korea as an emerging tech hub. With a population of 50 million, Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy, and has produced more than a dozen internet companies worth more than $1 billion in the last ten years. These breakthroughs include news site Naver ($17 million), web search service Daum Kakao ($5.5 billion), and shopping, media and entertainment app Yello Mobile ($4 billion).
Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered Bank have joined forces to put $28 million into Momo, a Vietnam-based startup for handling P2P and online payments through two apps. The 300-person company claims 2.5 million customers and 100 service providers, and is modeled after such leading payment services as China’s Alipay.The significant funding in this rising startup market comes weeks after 500 Startups launched a micro-fund for Vietnam.
Vertex Ventures has led a $5 million Series A financing of Singapore-based InstaRem, an international remittance payments startup. Temasek subsidiary Fullerton Financial Holdings and existing investor Global Founders Capital Joined in. InstaRen focuses on serving Asia, and aims to charge lower fees than banks and traditional remittance services such as MoneyGram and Western Union. The startup works with mid-size banks that already trade in overseas currencies, claiming an average transaction size of $1,800 and a 60 percent repeat trade.
Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners have led an $11.2 million first funding of Alooma, a Tel Aviv-based startup that helps companies process and work with big data. Both investors had previously led the company’s $3.8 million seed financing. Leveraging the cloud, Alooma focuses on connecting to multiple data sources and transforming and loading data quickly.