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Transsion’s Future Hub and Kenya’s Wapi Capital partner on Africa fund

Transsion’s Future Hub and Kenya’s Wapi Capital partner on Africa fund

August 16, 2019

Transsion Future Hub, a subsidiary of Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion, is teaming up with Kenya’s Wapi Capital to source and fund early-stage African fintech startups.

Headquartered in Shenzhen, Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa that recently confirmed its imminent IPO. In 2019 it opened and financed Future Hub, an incubator and seed fund for African startups.

Wapi Capital is the venture fund of Kenyan fintech startup Wapi Pay — a Nairobi-based company that facilitates digital payments between African and Asia via mobile money or bank accounts.

Starting in September 2019, Transsion Future Hub will work with Wapi Capital to select early-stage African fintech companies for equity-based investments of up to $100,000, Transsion Future Hub Senior Investor Laura Li told TechCrunch via email.

Wapi Capital won’t contribute funds to Future Hub’s Africa investments, but will help determine the viability and scale of the startups, including due diligence and deal flow, according to Wapi Pay co-founder Eddie Ndichu.

Wapi Pay and Transsion Future Hub will consider ventures from all 54 African countries; interested startups can reach out directly to either organization, Ndichu and Li confirmed.

The Wapi Capital fintech partnership is not Transsion’s sole VC activity in Africa. Though an exact fund size hasn’t been disclosed, the Transsion Future Hub will also make startup investments on the continent in adtech, fintech, e-commerce, logistics and media and entertainment, according to Li.

Future Hub’s existing portfolio includes Africa-focused browser company Phoenix, content aggregator Scoop and music service Boomplay.

Wapi Capital adds to the list of African-located and run venture funds — which have been growing in recent years — according to a 2018 study by TechCrunch and Crunchbase. Wapi Capital will …

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Huawei pushes back launch of 5G foldable, the Mate X

Huawei pushes back launch of 5G foldable, the Mate X

August 15, 2019

If you were desperately ripping days off of your calendar until you could get your hands on Huawei’s $2,600 5G foldable, the Mate X — which was originally slated to launch next month — it sounds like you’re going to have to wait a bit longer, per TechRadar which attended a press event at Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters today. 

It reports being told there is no possibility of a September launch. Instead Huawei is now aiming for November. But the company would only profess itself certain its first smartphone that folds out to a (square) tablet will launch before 2020. So it seems Mate X buyers may need to wait until circa Christmas to fondle this foldable.

It’s not clear exactly why the launch is being delayed. But — speculating wildly — we imagine it’s something to do with the fact that the screen, er, folds.

We’ve reached out to Huawei for official comment on the delay.

Huawei’s Mate X date slippage suggests Samsung will still be first to market with its (previously) delayed Galaxy Fold — which was itself delayed after a bunch of review units broke (because, well, did we tell you the screen folds?).

Last we heard, the Galaxy Fold is slated for a September release — Samsung seemingly confident it’s fixed the problem of how to make a foldable phone survive actual use.

Of course survival in the wild very much remains to be seen with any of these foldable. So expect TC’s in house hardware guru, Brian Heater, to put all of these expensively hinged touchscreens through their paces.

Returning to Huawei’s Mate X, potential buyers may not be entirely reassured to learn the company appeared to dangle rather more information about a planned sequel in front of reporters at the press event.

A sequel …

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London edtech startup pi-top sees layoffs after major contract loss

London edtech startup pi-top sees layoffs after major contract loss

August 12, 2019

London-based edtech startup pi-top has cut a number of staff, TechCrunch has learned.

According to our sources, the company has reduced its headcount in recent weeks, with staff being told cuts are a result of restructuring as it seeks to implement a new strategy.

One source told us pi-top recently lost out on a large education contract.

Another source said sales at pi-top have been much lower than predicted — with all major bids being lost.

Pi-top confirmed to TechCrunch that it has let staff go, saying it has reduced headcount from 72 to 60 people across its offices in London, Austin and Shenzhen.

Our sources suggest the total number of layoffs could be up to a third. 

In a statement, pi-top told us:

pi-top has become one of the fastest growing ed-tech companies in the market in 4.5 years.  We have a unique vision to increase access to coding and technical education through project based learning to inspire a new generation of makers.

As part of this vision we built up our global team with a view to winning a particularly exciting national project in a developing nation, where we had a previous large scale successful implementation. We were disappointed this tender ultimately fell through due to economic factors in the region and have subsequently made the unfortunate but unavoidable decision to reduce our team size from 72 to 60 people across our offices in London, Austin and Shenzhen.

Moving forward we are focusing on our growth within the USA where we continue to enjoy widespread success. We are rolling out our new learning platform pi-top Further which will enable schools everywhere to access a world of content enhanced by practical hands-on project based learning outcomes. We have recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign and we look forward to

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Africa’s top mobile phone seller Transsion to list in Chinese IPO

Africa’s top mobile phone seller Transsion to list in Chinese IPO

August 8, 2019

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market, Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch.

The company — which has a robust Africa sales network — could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

“The company’s listing-related work is running smoothly. The registration application and issuance process is still underway, with the specific timetable yet to be confirmed by the CSRC and Shanghai Stock Exchange,” a spokesperson for Transsion’s Office of the Secretary to the Chairman told TechCrunch via email.

Transsion’s IPO prospectus is downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public. 

Headquartered in Shenzhen — where African e-commerce unicorn Jumia also has a logistics supply-chain facility — Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand.

The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.

Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise (1.6 billion yuan or $227 million) on building more phone assembly hubs and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development, including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai, a company spokesperson said. 

Transsion recently announced a larger commitment to capturing market share in India, including building an industrial park in the country for manufacture of phones to Africa.

The IPO comes after Transsion announced its intent to go public and filed its first docs with the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April. 

Listing on the STAR Market will put Transsion on the freshly minted exchange seen as an extension of Beijing’s ambition to become a hub for high-potential tech startups to raise

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The scientist behind Juul launches a Juul alternative for China

The scientist behind Juul launches a Juul alternative for China

July 27, 2019

The chemist who helped create the magic sauce behind Juul, Xing Chenyue, unveiled the product of her new startup Myst Labs this week after two years of development: electronic cigarette alternatives designed for China’s 350 million smokers, the world’s biggest smoking population.

This new contender makes for a potentially heated battlefield given that Juul will reportedly enter China soon. TechCrunch has reached out to Juul about its expansion, but has not heard back at the time of writing.

Pax Labs — the company that spun out Juul in 2017 — was a 20-person team when Xing joined as one of its first scientists in 2013. During her nearly three-year post at what would become America’s largest vaping company, Xing helped invent nicotine salts, the compounds that made Juul an instant hit. The patented technology inspired a raft of followers because it allows high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Xing left Juul when the company made a foray into marijuana vaporizers, a move that didn’t particularly interest the scientist, a non-smoker whose ambition is to “help smokers meet their nicotine needs whilst reducing the harmful substances they consume,” Xing told TechCrunch in a phone interview.

Myst says it spends about 20% of its money raised on research and development. / Photo: Myst Labs

The China-born scientist took up a project management role at publicly-traded pharmaceutical company Dermia before eventually returning to cigarettes research by starting Myst Labs, which she co-founded in 2017 with Thomas Yao, a venture capitalist she had met over a decade ago at Fudan University in Shanghai.

As Myst began to take form, Juul was on course to reach its whopping $38 billion valuation even while it was under …

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Lessons from the hardware capital of the world

Lessons from the hardware capital of the world

July 26, 2019

A week is obviously not enough time to truly understand a market as massive and fascinating as China. Hell, it’s not really even enough time to adjust to the 12-hour time difference from New York. That said, each of the three visits I’ve taken to the country in the past two years has yielded some useful insights into my role as hardware editor here at TechCrunch.

Late last week, I got back from an eight-day trip to Shenzhen in the Guangdong Province of South China and nearby Hong Kong. In some respects, the cities are worlds apart, though a newly opened high-speed rail system has reduced the trip to 30 minutes. Customs issues aside, it’s the height of convenience. Though for political and cultural reasons I’ll not get into here, some have bemoaned the access it’s provided.

This particular visit was sort of a scouting trip. In November, TechCrunch will be hosting its first Hardware Battlefield event in a couple of years. Previous events had been held at CES for reasons of easy access to young startups. This time out, however, we’ve opted to go straight to the source.

The birthplace of hardware

Source link

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Tencent brings cloud service to Japan in global push

Tencent brings cloud service to Japan in global push

July 26, 2019

The world’s largest video game publisher is looking outside its home country for growth. Tencent, the Chinese internet behemoth that operates WeChat and a few blockbuster games, announced on Friday that its cloud service has entered Japan as part of the firm’s international push in 2019.

Tencent Cloud was already serving clients in Japan prior to the announcement, TechCrunch has learned, but this is the first time it has officialized the entry, which might be a sign of Tencent’s ambition to speed up global expansion. The international push comes at a time when Tencent’s domestic business is under pressure following China’s new gaming regulation.

Indeed, Tencent’s cloud computing division is targeting up to five-fold growth in revenue this year and Japan will be a key market, said Da Zhiqian, vice president of Tencent Cloud.

Tencent’s cloud business is the second largest in China with an 11% market share, according to industry researcher IDC. That puts the Shenzhen-based company behind its arch-rival Alibaba, which accounts for 43% of the local cloud market. The cloud computing battle outside China is only more competitive, with the presence of giants AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, which lead with respective shares of 31.7%, 16.8% and 8.5% in 2018, according to research firm Canalys.

But Tencent could be an appealing hosting solution for smaller gaming companies that look to the giant for lessons. The company’s attempt to replicate the success of Honor of Kings outside China fell apart, but it quickly shifted gears by launching Steam-like gaming platform WeGame X, focusing on Chinese games developed for overseas markets. Meanwhile, its mobile version of PlayersUnknown Battleground is making headway globally as revenue surges.

Tencent can also tap into its vast portfolio network around the world. Huya and Douyu, two top game live-streaming …

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White Star Capital eyes Asia growth with new Hong Kong office

White Star Capital eyes Asia growth with new Hong Kong office

July 22, 2019

For western startups looking to enter Asia and Asian startups expanding globally, more funding has become available as investors are increasingly looking to export local tech solutions to overseas markets.

Globally based venture capital firm White Star Capital has set up a new office in Hong Kong this month to capture entrepreneurs in the budding region as well as help its portfolio companies go to Asia. Founded by Eric Martineau-Fortin, who spent years conducting mergers and acquisitions at Merrill Lynch, and Jean-Francois Marcoux, who sold his gaming startup Ludia to FermantleMedia, White Star has over the last decade backed a spectrum of early-stage companies across several continents.

Currently investing with eight partners spread across seven cities, White Star’s portfolio spans from New York-based healthy meal startup Freshly, rewards app Drop out of Toronto, on-demand photo platform Meero from Paris and dog food startup Butternut Box in London.

Beginning in 2017, Martineau-Fortin and his partners began looking eastward. They decided to initially exclude China as the market was already crowded with no shortage of funding available, leading to much larger investment round sizes compared to the U.S. and Europe as well as notoriously high valuations.

The investor also believed “cultural differences in both consumer and enterprise behavior” require different regional strategies. Whilst certain Asian companies specializing in artificial intelligence, fintech, enterprise software and micro-mobility share some commonalities with Western counterparts, others such as e-commerce businesses remain, still, quite distinct in Asia.

“Having said this, there is also a number of fabulously interesting ecosystems and countries outside of Hong Kong and China that are sometimes forgotten by North American and European-based investors, such as Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taipei. Those are also very advanced regions with great schools, great engineers having certainly easy access to capital but not always the ability …

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