Ant's rebuild begins; SoftBank eyes Flipkart; and Thailand gets its first unicorn

Asia Tech Review: 8 June 2021

Welcome back,

It’s been busy this last week: Ant Group’s restructuring is on; SoftBank is investing in Flipkart; Huawei has developed its own smartphone operating system and Thailand has a triple dose of startup news. The country now has its first unicorn, it’ll see Foxconn make EVs and its central bank is developing its own digital currency.

That’s all for this edition—see you next week,

Jon


China

Huawei launched its HarmonyOS software for smartphones—and it also landed on smartwatches. Although it isn’t entirely clear whether it is any more than simply an Android fork

While Alibaba has been hit hard by regulators and Meituan appears to be next, Tencent has gotten off lightly despite wielding significant power and influence. Only regulators know but improved relationships and work with other companies may be contributing factors.

Meanwhile, Ant Group won approval to operate a consumer finance company which it will own 50% of. The move is seen as a first key step to reforming its business. It’s also increasing efforts outside of China in places like Southeast Asia

Autonomous driving startup Zongmu, which is backed by Xiaomi, raised $190M from Denso, Qualcomm, Fosun and others. It is planning an IPO on China’s Star board.

A look at how Bitcoin mining took off in China, and why it is now in conflict with Beijing’s priorities

A researcher found that Alibaba’s UC Browser app on iOS and Android sends information on every website visited to its servers—even in incognito mode

China overtook Taiwan to become Apple’s largest country for suppliers—housing 51 of its top 200 suppliers. Taiwan has 48

Two drone models made by China’s DJI have now reportedly been cleared for use by government entities and armed forces according to a Pentagon audit

Online recruitment startup Kanzhun plans to raise over $900M from a US IPO—its backers include Tencent

“A government-funded artificial intelligence (AI) institute in Beijing unveiled on Monday the world’s most sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) model, surpassing those from Google and OpenAI”

The Biden administration banned US investments in 59 Chinese companies including Huawei


Taiwan

TSMC says has begun construction at its Arizona chip factory site


India

Early-stage investing is booming in India as this TechCrunch story detailing dozens of incoming deals shows

SoftBank is in talks to invest $700M in Flipkart as part of a $1.2B-$1.5B round that would value the company at $28B—this would very much be a pre-IPO round

Tata Digital invested $75M in fitness startup CureFit as had been previously reported

Logistics management startup Locus confirmed its rumoured $50M round led by GIC. The round included Qualcomm Ventures and existing investors Tiger Global and Falcon Edge, and it takes Locus to $79 million to date

Another day, another Tiger Global deal: a $15.6M Series A round for health insurance startup Plum Benefits

Home services marketplace Urban Company raised $255M at a valuation of $2.1B to become another new unicorn in India

Business-to-business e-commerce platform OfBusiness is talking to SoftBank about raising $100M-$150M at a valuation of $1.2B

Japanese PE firm Unison is establishing a $500M fund for India

Singapore’s iGlobe has started a $100M fund for biotech

Online furniture startup Wakefit is reportedly raising $40M-$50M at a valuation of $350M-$400M from L Catterton and others

Southeast Asia

Thailand got its first unicorn as logistics company Flash Express raised $150M. I scooped the deal in February when I wrote about Flash. While it is a milestone for Thailand, Flash has been well-funded since its start in 2017 thanks to Chinese backers. That means it’s not readily repeatable nor is it an immediate sign that startups are breaking out of Thailand, as I said last week.

Nium announced its first acquisition, UK-based Ixaris, as it gets into shape for a US IPO in the next two years. A further two acquisitions are expected this year including one imminent deal in India.

Golden Gate Ventures and INSEAD released its third report on exits in Southeast Asia

Thailand is developing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) and Germany-based Giesecke+Devrient has been hired to make it

Foxconn plans to make EVs in Thailand alongside state-backed oil and gas company PTT

E-commerce in Vietnam is a major target for Alibaba, Sea and others—the market is forecast to reach $52B by 2025, up 29% from 2020

PropertyGuru is buying REA Group’s businesses in Thailand and Malaysia in exchange for a stake in its business. This major piece of consolidation looks like a pre-IPO move for PropertyGuru, which was unsuccessful with a public listing effort in 2019

Line won a digital banking license in Indonesia, following the example of Gojek and Sea. Line was an early front-runner in developing ‘super app’ strategies but it’s fallen behind in recent years.

Direct-to-consumer dental brand Zenyum raised $40M

Indonesian healthcare startup Prixa raised $3M led by MDI Ventures and the Trans-Pacific Technology Fund (TPTF),

A cyber-espionage hacking group reportedly hacked the website of the Myanmar president’s office and planted a backdoor trojan inside a localized Myanmar font package available for download


Japan

KDDI is investing $45M into Menu, which is Japan's third largest food delivery app

One Concern, which models and simulates community resilience and response to earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, raised $45M

South Korea

Coupang launched a trial in Japan


Pakistan

Kleiner Perkins made its first investment in Pakistan by leading a $17M Series A round for B2B marketplace Tajir

Two other fintech deals are proof that startups are on the rise in Pakistan


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