Asian Venture Deals Stars Didi, Ola, Intel, Renren
Renren Dives Into Fintech Sector Again With $15.5M Lead Investment
Making another in its series of investments designed to disrupt the fintech sector, China’s social networking player Renren has led a $15.5 million, Series A investment in a Los Angeles-based startup that offers investment options geared to the U.S. mass market.
Participating as co-investors were GSV Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, IGSB, and a who’s who of America’s business leaders including David Bonderman, Gordon Crawford, Matthew Dowd, Rick Hess, Bill Lee, Joe Lonsdale, Alexis Maybank, Lenny Mendonca, Steven Rattner, Dan Rosensweig, Matthew Salzberg, Joseph Sanberg, and Frank Yeary.
Andrei Cherny, CEO and co-founder of Aspiration, a former Clinton White House aide, said he started fund-raising in May and closed the deal in July – lucky timing just before market volatility began.
Founded in November 2014, Aspiration, which is growing favor among millennials, creates and curates financial products and offers them directly online, disintermediating traditional advisors and middle-men. Aspiration’s mutual funds have a $500 minimum investment. A high-yield, FDIC-insured checking account with no fees and worldwide ATM access is in the product mix
A unique part of the business model is that customers pay only what they think the company deserves. Aspiration donates 10% of its revenue to charities providing microloans and mentoring for low-income Americans to start businesses.
Intel Capital, the chip giant’s global investment arm, has injected $67 million into eight companies in China, continuing its strategic investment push into the Mainland.
The investee companies span a range of verticals: IoT, smart devices, transportation and big data. One of the more prominent is Ninebot, backed with $80 million from Xiaomi and Sequoia Capital and a global leader in the personal transport market since its acquisition of Segway earlier this year. Of the eight deals, two others funded by Intel Capital were hardware firm Bluebank and cloud solutions provider AWcloud.
Intel has invested nearly $2 billion in more than 140 China-based companies over the past 30 years. Of these, 35 have gone public or been acquired.
Intel Capital has made clear its commitment to fostering China’s domestic tech industry, with this announcement just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the U.S. next week.
Ride-sharing apps continue to attract tons of investor attention in China and India.
Ola, India’s biggest taxi-hailing service, has drawn approximately $225 million in a fresh round of funding led by existing investor Falcon Edge Capital, giving it more ammunition to battle with international rival Uber.
The new round comes just months after Ola raised a $400 million Series E round led by DST Global. The new funding is part of an overall $500 million Ola is looking to raise, at a $5 billion valuation.
This latest investment deal for the Indian taxi hailing app follows rival Uber’s plans to invest $1 billion in India. Ola clocks some 750,000 trips a day, while Uber reportedly averages about 200,000 trips daily in India.
This latest investment will give Ola the resources to continue asserting its local edge on Uber, as the app-based taxi hailing market in India heats up.
Meanwhile, China’s top car hailing app, Didi Kuaidi, has opened a new front in its battle with Uber, by backing Uber’s biggest U.S. rival, Lyft.
Didi Kuaidi reportedly invested alongside China’s top Internet companies, Alibaba and Tencent, in funding of an undisclosed amount this past May.
Didi has had a whirlwind September, closing $3 billion in funding, and rebranding as “Didi Chuxing.” The new name signifies the company’s growing portfolio of services including premium car-hailing, carpooling and bus sharing.
Look for this market sector to continue to stay in the fast line as winners are sorted out.
Meituan Funds Online Chinese Startup While Raising Its Own Cash
At a time when startup financings are getting more challenging to pull off, Zhai.me, a Shanghai-based online convenience store marketing to students, has raised $35 million in a Series B funding led by Meituan.com. The Chinese group buying site itself is looking to pull in well over $1 billion in its next fund raising with a valuation of $10 billion, much lower than expected just two months ago.
Launched in December 2014, Zhai.me smartly completed three quick rounds of financing, including a $10 million Series A+ round in May with investors including Bertelsmann Asia, when times were not so tough
Zhai.me operates a mobile platform that provides on-demand delivery of snacks and consumer goods to students. The company’s services cover 800 colleges and universities in nearly 70 Chinese cities, and 100,000 daily orders. The startup aims to increase its daily orders to 1 million by the end of this year.
Zhai.me is one of several startups focused on on-demand deliveries to students. Competitors include 59store.com, backed by Shenzhen Capital Group, and Imcoming.cn, funded by Greenwoods Investment and Sharing Capital.
Meituan, invested in by Alibaba Group, Banyan Capital, Bertelsmann Asia and several VC firms, was valued at $7 billion in its most recent fund raising in January. It ranks 5th on Silicon Dragon’s list of China’s Unicorn Startups.