from Pradodesign Lazada, Alibaba’s Southeast Asia e-commerce business, gets a new CEO
Alibaba has reshuffled the leadership at Lazada, its e-commerce firm in Southeast Asia, after CEO Lucy Peng — an original Alibaba co-founder — stepped down to be replaced by Lazada executive president Pierre Poignant.
Alibaba owns more than 90 percent of Lazada but it has been involved in the business since April 2016 when it bought 51 percent of Lazada for $1 billion from Rocket Internet. It invested a further $1 billion last year to increase its equity to around 83 percent and earlier this year it raised its stake even higher with an additional $2 billion injection.
That last investment saw Peng, formerly executive chairman of Ant Financial, become Lazada CEO in place of Max Bittner, who had been installed by former owner Rocket Internet back in 2012. Poignant also arrived at the company in 2012 and he worked alongside Bittner as Lazada’s COO. Since then, he has been head of its logistics division before a brief five-month stint as executive president prior to this new role.
Lazada operates in six countries across Southeast Asia, but there are very few indicators of how the business is performing.
Alibaba’s own financial reports bundle Lazada with the firm’s other international businesses. Collectively, they grossed RMB 4.5 billion ($650 million) in the last quarter. That’s an impressive 55 percent revenue jump but it accounts for a small portion of Alibaba’s total revenue of RMB 85.15 billion ($12.4 billion) in Q2 2019.
Lazada took part in the recent 11/11 Singles’ Day sale mega day. Alibaba as a whole grossed $31 billion in GMV during the 24-hour period but the company did not break out numbers for Lazada. Lazada itself said it broke records, but the only data it provided was that 20 million shoppers were “browsing and grabbing” deals on its site — you’ll note that statement doesn’t explicitly provide sales. We did ask at the time but Lazada declined to give sales or revenue numbers.
Against that backdrop, it is hard to say whether Peng was brought in as a stop-gap while Lazada searched for a new CEO, or whether her original remit was to preside over a revamp of the business. Lazada has certainly gone about installing new executive teams in many local markets, according to sources within the company, but it isn’t clear whether Peng is being recalled as planned or whether things didn’t work out as expected.
The news follows Alibaba’s second investment in Tokopedia, Indonesia’s leading e-commerce platform, yesterday.
Speaking on the rivalry, Tokopedia CEO William Tanuwijaya told TechCrunch that he sees differences between the two.
“We see Lazada having a different business model than us: Lazada is a hybrid of retail and marketplace model, whereas Tokopedia is a pure marketplace. Lazada is [a] regional player, we are a national player in Indonesia,” he said.
from Pradodesign Pokémon GO trainer battles are now live (for some players)
Last week we did a deep dive on how Pokémon GO’s new (and long overdue) player-versus-player battle system would work. The only thing we didn’t know at the time was when, exactly, it would actually start rolling out.
The answer: tonight.
Just a few days ago, Niantic started shipping an update to the app that contained everything required for PvP, but they’d yet to actually flip the switch to turn it on. According to a tweet that just went live from the Pokémon GO account, it seems said switches have just been flipped:
Calling all level 40 Trainers. Your time has come to #GOBattle Trainers of lower levels, please stand by, as we will be rolling Trainer Battles out to more levels soon. pic.twitter.com/Rf6NmFygE6
— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) December 13, 2018
One catch (but one noted as likely in our initial post) is that it’s not available to everyone right off the bat. As with many of GO’s newer features , it’ll go live for higher level players first. More specifically, only players who’ve hit the level cap of 40 will get access to PvP immediately, with plans to roll it out to others in the coming days. It’s done like this partly to reward the most dedicated players for their efforts… but it’s also an easy way for them to roll things out gradually to double check that nothing explodes.
(If you’re level 40 and for some reason don’t see the PvP stuff, Niantic says a reset of your app should fix it.)
Waiting for it to be rolled out to your level? Want a refresher on how it’ll all work while you wait? Here’s our breakdown.
from Pradodesign Feds like cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech and so should antitrust agencies
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Thibault Schrepel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Economic Law at Utrecht University and a reviewer at the Stanford Journal of Blockchain Law & Policy.
While statements and position papers from most central banks were generally skeptical of cryptocurrencies, the times may be changing.
Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve of Saint Louis published a study that relates the positive effects of cryptocurrencies for privacy protection.
Even with the precipitous decline in value of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other currencies, the Federal Reserve author emphasized the new competitive offering these currencies created exactly because of the way they function, and accordingly, why they are here to stay.
And antitrust authorities should welcome cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies for the same reason.
Fact: crypto-currencies are good for (legitimate) privacy protection
In the July article from Federal Reserve research fellow Charles M. Kahn, cryptocurrencies were held up as an exemplar of a degree of privacy protection that not even the central banks can provide to customers.
Kahn further stressed that “privacy in payments is desired not just for illegal transactions, but also for protection from malfeasance or negligence by counterparties or by the payments system provider itself.”
The act of payment engages the liability of the person who makes it. As a consequence, parties insert numerous contractual clauses to limit their liability. This creates a real issue due to the fact that some “parties to the transaction are no longer able to support the lawyers’ fees necessary to uphold the arrangement.” Smart contracts may address this issue by automating conflict resolution, but for anyone who doesn’t have access to them, crypto-currencies solve the problem differently. They make it possible to make a transaction without revealing your identity.
Above all, crypto-currencies are a reaction to fears of privacy invasion, whether by governments or big companies, according to Kahn. And indeed, following Cambridge Analytica and fake news revelations, we are hearing more and more opinions expressing concerns. The General Data Protection Regulation is set to protect private citizens, but in practice, “more and more individuals will turn to payments technologies for privacy protection in specific transactions.” In this regard, cryptocurrencies provide an alternative solution that competes directly with what the market currently offers.
Consequence: blockchain is good for competition and consumers
Indeed, cryptocurrencies may be the least among many blockchain applications. The diffusion of data among a decentralized network that is independently verified by some or all of the network’s participating stakeholders is precisely the aspect of the technology that provides privacy protection and competes with applications outside the blockchain by offering a different kind of service.
The Fed of St. Louis’ study underlines that “because privacy needs are different in type and degree, we should expect a variety of platforms to emerge for specific purposes, and we should expect continued competition between traditional and start-up providers.”
And how not to love variety? In an era where antitrust authorities are increasingly interested in consumers’ privacy, crypto-currencies (and more generally blockchains) offer a much more effective protection than antitrust law and/or the GDPR combined.
These agencies should be happy about that, but they don’t say a word about it. That silence could lead to flawed judgements, because ignoring the speed of blockchain development — and its increasingly varied use — leads to misjudge the real nature of the competitive field.
And in fact, because they ignore the existence of blockchain (applications), they tend to engage in more and more procedures where privacy is seen as an antitrust concern (see what’s happening in Germany). But blockchain is actually providing an answer to this issue ; it can’t be said accordingly that the market is failing. And without a market failure, antitrust agencies’ intervention is not legitimate.
The roles of the fed and antitrust agencies could change
This new privacy offering from blockchain technologies should also lead to changes in the role of agencies. As the Fed study stressed:
“the future of central banks and payments authorities is no longer in privacy provision but in privacy regulation, in holding the ring as different payments platforms offer solutions appropriate to different niches with different mixes of expenses and safety, and with attention to different parts of the public’s demand for privacy.”
Some constituencies may criticize the expanding role of central banks in enforcing and ensuring privacy online, but those banks would be even harder pressed if they handled the task themselves instead of trying to relinquish it to the network.
The same applies to antitrust authorities. It is not for them to judge what the business model of digital companies should be and what degree of privacy protection they should offer. Their role is to ensure that alternatives exist, here, that blockchain can be deployed without misinformed regulation to slow it down.
Perhaps antitrust agencies should be more vocal about the benefits of cryptocurrencies and blockchain and advise governments not to prevent them.
After all, if even a Fed is now pro-crypto-currencies, antitrust regulators should jump on the wagon without fear. After all, blockchain creates a new alternative by offering real privacy protections, which ultimately put more power in the hands of consumers. If antitrust agencies can’t recognize that, we will soon ask ourselves: who are they really protecting?
from Pradodesign TNB Aura closes $22.7M fund to bring PE-style investing to Southeast Asia’s startups
TNB Aura, a recent arrival to Southeast Asia’s VC scene, announced today that it has closed a maiden fund at SG$31.1million, or around US$22.65 million, to bring a more private equity-like approach to investing in startups in the region.
The fund was launched in 2016 and it is a joint effort between Australia-based venture fund Aura and Singapore’s TNB Ventures, which has a history of corporate innovation work. It reached a final close today, having hit an early close in January. It is a part of the Enterprise Singapore ‘Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering’ scheme which, as you’d expect, means there is a focus on hardware, IO, AI and other future-looking tech like ‘industry 4.0.’
The fund is targeting Series A and B deals and it has the firepower to do 15-20 deals over likely the next two to three years, co-founder and managing partner Vicknesh R Pillay told TechCrunch in an interview. There’s around $500,000-$4 million per company, with the ideal scenario being an initial $1 million check with more saved for follow-on rounds. Already it has backed four companies including TradeGecko, which raised $10 million in a round that saw TNB Aura invest alongside Aura, and AI marketing platform Ematic.
The fund has a team of 10, including six partners and an operating staff of four. It pitches itself a little differently to most other VCs in the region given that manufacturing and engineering bent. That, Pillay said, means it is focused on “hardware plus software” startups.
“We are very strong fundamentals guys,” Pillay added. We ask what is the valuation and decide what we can get from a deal. It’s almost like PE-style investing in the VC world.”
A selection of the TNB Aura team [left to right]: Samuel Chong (investment manager), Calvin Ng, Vicknesh R Pillay, Charles Wong (partners), Liu Zhihao (investment manager)
Another differentiator, Pillay believes, is the firm’s history in the corporate innovation space. That leads it to be pretty well suited to working in the B2B and enterprise spaces thanks to its existing networks, he said.
“We particularly like B2B saas companies and we believe we can assist them through of our innovation platforms,” Pillay explained.
Outside of Singapore — which is a heavy focus thanks to the relationship with Enterprise Singapore — TNB Aura is focused on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, four of the largest markets that form a large chunk of Southeast Asia’s cumulative 650 million population. With an internet population of over 330 million — higher than the entire U.S. population — the region is set to grow strongly as internet access increases. A recent report from Google and Temasek tipped the region’s digital economy will triple to reach $240 billion by 20205.
The report also found that VC funding in Southeast Asia is developing at a fast clip. Excluding unicorns, which distort the data somewhat, startups raised $2.6 billion in the first half of this year, beating the $2.4 billion tally for the whole of 2017.
There are plenty of other Series A-B funds in the region, including Jungle Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, Openspace Ventures, Monks Hill Ventures, Qualgro and more.
from Pradodesign Revolut gets European banking license in Lithuania
Fintech startup Revolut is now officially a bank. While the startup initially expected to get its European banking license during the first half of 2018, the company has finally come out of the regulatory tunnel with a license in hand.
As expected, Revolut applied for a license through the Bank of Lithuania and is leveraging passporting rules to operate in other European countries. Users will see some changes over the coming months.
First, the company expects to roll out new features in the U.K., France, Germany and Poland. Right now, Revolut is more like an e-wallet that you can top up in many different ways. Users in those countries will get a true current account and a non-prepaid debit card in a few months.
After transferring your money to Revolut’s own infrastructure, funds will be covered up to €100,000 under the European Deposit Insurance Scheme. It should convince more users to switch to Revolut for their salaries and big sums of money.
Eventually, the startup expects to be able to offer overdrafts and loans. All fintech startups end up offering credit at some point as it’s a good way to generate revenue.
There are currently 8,000 to 10,000 people opening a Revolut account per day. Users generate $4 billion in monthly transaction volume.
It’s going to be interesting to see if current accounts will affect growth. It’s currently quite easy to open a Revolut account as users don’t need to go through a lot of KYC processes. This is going to change once the startup starts opening current accounts.
from Pradodesign Watch Rocket Lab launch 10 NASA cubesats into orbit tonight
It’s been just over a month since Rocket Lab’s inaugural (and long-delayed) commercial launch, “It’s Business Time,” and it’s about to take another customer to space: NASA. Tonight’s 8PM scheduled launch will take 10 small satellites to orbit as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) XIX mission.
This is not only Rocket Lab’s first all-NASA launch, but the first launch from NASA under its “Venture Class Launch Services” initiative, which is taking advantage of the new generation of smaller, quick-turnaround launch vehicles.
“The NASA Venture Class Launch Service contract was designed from the ground up to be an innovative way for NASA to work and encourage new launch companies to come to the market and enable a future class of rockets for the growing small satellite market,” said Justin Treptow, ELaNa XIX’s mission manager in a Rocket Lab press release.
Last week our team completed fairing encapsulation in our shiny new clean rooms at LC-1 for this week’s NASA #ELaNa19 mission. All CubeSats are now installed on the kick stage payload plate inside Electron’s fairing & ready for lift-off. Launch window opens 13 Dec UTC. pic.twitter.com/WqB4LfVdMY
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) December 9, 2018
On board tonight’s launch are four satellites from NASA researchers, plus six from various universities and institutions around the country. NASA Spaceflight has a good roundup of the projects, as well as some technical details about the rocket, if you’re curious. They’ll all go their separate ways once the Electron rocket takes them up to the appropriate altitude.
The launch vehicle is named “This One’s For Pickering,” after former JPL head Sir William Pickering, who led the team that created Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite in space. Sir Pickering was born in New Zealand, where Rocket Lab is based and where the launch will take place.
Liftoff will take place no sooner than about 8 PM Pacific time, and payload deployment should be just short of an hour after T-0; you can watch the live stream at Rocket Lab’s website.
from Pradodesign Stratim, formerly known as valet startup Zirx, sues co-founder for theft
Stratim, the mobility services company formerly known as Zirx, is suing its co-founder and now-former COO Shmulik Fishman for breach of fiduciary duties, civil conversion, criminal conversion, theft, criminal mischief, deception, unjust enrichment and fraud. The lawsuit’s co-plaintiff is Adesa, a subsidiary of KAR Auction Services, which acquired Stratim earlier this year.
Stratim powers fleet management for more than 50 companies, including BMW (DriveNow), General Motors (Maven), Ford (Chariot) and Toyota, to power their respective mobility services. Through STRATIM’s vendor marketplace, for example, Ford can request gas fill-ups for its Chariot shuttles. The next day, a fuel company will come to fill up the tanks and then send that information back into the system.
Stratim alleges Sean Behr, the company’s CEO, noticed unusual activity in Fishman’s expense reports and notified ADESA. That led to an investigation, which allegedly found Fishman did not properly file his expenses.
“In order to further his embezzlement scheme and avoid having these expenses rejected for failure to attach receipts, Fishman uploaded sham files including indiscernible black, red or blue images, the KAR logo, pictures of trees, images of the Stratim vision statement, a bath towel, and even a Val Pak envelope with a New York City address,” the lawsuit states.
Fishman also, allegedly, reimbursed himself for flights, hotel stays, restaurants, Apple products, Uber and other expenses that were “all unrelated to any legitimate business purpose for Stratim.”
This went unnoticed, the lawsuit states, because Fishman had administrative rights in the expense reports system. In total, Stratim alleges Fishman reimbursed himself $738,942.80 in unauthorized expenses. After a conversation with Fishman, Stratim says it terminated him on Dec. 6, 2018.
Zirx had previously raised over $36.4 million from investors like Bessemer Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, BMW’s iVentures and others. That funding rolled into Stratim’s operations.
I’ve reached out to Stratim and Fishman, and will update this story if I hear back.
from Pradodesign ‘The Mandalorian’ cast includes Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano … and Werner Herzog
Lucasfilm has released an initial cast list for “The Mandalorian,” the live action Star Wars series that Jon Favreau is creating for the upcoming streaming service Disney+.
Pedro Pascal, who had a brief-but-glorious run on “Game of Thrones” as Oberyn Martell, will star in the title role — Lucasfilm describes his character as “a lone Mandalorian gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy.” (In the Star Wars universe, the Mandalorians are a group of warriors that includes Jango and Boba Fett.)
The cast also includes Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Nick Nolte and and legendary director Werner Herzog. Sadly, it appears that Herzog will only be acting in the series, not directing any episodes.
However, there will be some impressive names behind the camera, including Dave Filoni (the creative force behind the recent Star Wars animated series), Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi.
So far, “The Mandalorian” is looking like the marquee title for Disney+ when it launches late next year — a New York Times report over the summer suggested that the series could cost $100 million for a 10-episode season. There will also be at least one other live action Star Wars series about Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) from “Rogue One,” as well as a Marvel series with Tom Hiddleston returning to the role of Loki.
Disney’s new streaming service will be called Disney+
from Pradodesign Scoot unveils new lock to prevent scooter theft
During the first two weeks of Scoot’s operations of shared, electric scooters in San Francisco, more than 200 scooters were either stolen or damaged beyond repair, Scoot CEO Michael Keating wrote in a blog post today. As a temporary fix, Scoot attached cable locks to some of its scooters in San Francisco. Now, the company is unveiling its permanent solution.
The solution still relies on a cable lock, but instead of using a padlock to unlock the scooter, you just use the Scoot app. These locks will be deployed sometime this month.
“This will not prevent all theft and vandalism, but it will reduce the rate to one that is sustainable, both operationally and environmentally,” Keating wrote. “It will also have the benefit of keeping Kicks locked to street infrastructure out of the way of pedestrians. We wish we didn’t need this lock but the reality of operating in San Francisco and many other cities is that assets like shared EVs need to be secured so that they can be used.”
These kick scooters are a valuable asset for Scoot. So far, people use these scooters more than any other type of Scoot vehicle. Scoot also offers mopeds and bikes and certain markets.
Electric scooters are back in SF
from Pradodesign 9 Trumpworld Figures That Should Fear Mueller the Most After Michael Cohen’s sentencing, plenty more people and entities in Trump’s orbit potentially sit in the special counsel’s crosshairs. https://ift.tt/2EtPqOy https://ift.tt/1P9I4xH