Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to retire

Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, gestures during the launch of Alibaba’s office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia June 18, 2018. – Reuters

NEW YORK: Jack Ma, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s co-founder and executive chairman, is retiring from the company, the New York Times reported on Friday.

Ma was quoted as telling the paper he would step down on Sept. 10 to pursue philanthropy in education, the report said.

Alibaba was not available for comment outside business hours. – Reuters

Source: The Star Online

Bullet Message has reached 5 million users barely two weeks

Bullet Message has reached 5 million users barely two weeks after its Aug 20 debut. — Bloomberg

This upstart wants a slice of WeChat’s billion users

Call it David versus Goliath – with emojis.

China’s dominant social network, WeChat, faces an upstart competitor that’s not only found a growing numbers of users, but also funding from investors and support from techies.“

Bullet Message has reached 5 million users barely two weeks after its Aug 20 debut. While that’s a rounding error compared to Tencent Holding Ltd’s WeChat, which passed 1 billion users in March, interest in QuickAs Ltd’s month-old app was enough to rank Bullet above WeChat in Apple Store downloads as of Sept 4.

“A lot of my friends and I feel we’ve been kidnapped by WeChat for too long,” said Hu Yutong, a Tsinghua University student in Beijing who downloaded Bullet on the first day. “We are intrigued by this new service, despite there being flaws.”

WeChat has come to rule China’s smartphone world by becoming a one-stop platform with everything from group-video chatting to electronic payments and food delivery to a ride-hailing service. At the outset, Bullet is focusing on a few things it does well, including a voice-to-text option that its operator claims delivers real-time transcriptions in Mandarin with an accuracy rate of 97%.

QuickAs’s initial funding includes 150mil yuan (RM90.89mil) from Gaorong Capital, Chengwei Capital and smartphone maker Smartisan Technology Co. That’s a far cry from Shenzhen-based Tencent, which has a market capitalisation of US$394bil (RM1.63tril), and has long battled Alibaba Group Holding Ltd for the crown as China’s most-valuable company.

“Bullet Message isn’t posing any real threat to WeChat at this stage,” said Shawn Yang, executive director of Blue Lotus Capital Advisors, a financial consulting company. Still, there are some similarities between Bullet and WeChat in its early days, with the upstart focusing on services that spotlight improved technology, such as voice optimisation“ for transcription and translation.

Tencent has alienated some users by pushing too hard to monetize existing services that have gotten outdated, Yang said. WeChat Moments,“ where users post photos and comments about meals, styles and daily activities, have become less intriguing,“ he said.

That somewhat echoes what’s occurred in the US around Facebook Inc and upstart Snapchat Inc, with the former considered stale among some younger users.

Snapchat has about 200 million users worldwide and Facebook’s WhatsApp message service about 1.5 billion. But both are among the many platforms blocked by China’s Great Firewall – which means less competition for Bullet as well as WeChat.

QuickAs didn’t respond to emailed questions sent by Bloomberg. But co-founder Hao Xijie told Jiemian.com that he doesn’t consider Bullet a direct competitor to WeChat.

Perhaps – but Tencent has taken note. Bullet’s original newsfeed relied on the larger company’s service. But that link was soon taken down.

Bullet’s voice-to-transcription offering – developed by speech-recognition specialist Iflytek Co – is among the most-attractive features. It enables users with regional accents to instantly and fluently communicate in Mandarin without the button-pushing needed on WeChat. Although Mandarin is China’s official language, many of its 1.4 billion people speak regional dialects.

Not all Bullet functions are unique or cutting edge.

The platform has been criticised for the amount of available pornography. Others have expressed concerns over privacy terms and the security of user information, as Bullet allows anonymous participation on group chats.

“1st impression is that it’s full of porn and other stuff that’s blocked/too sensitive for WeChat,” Matthew Brennan at China Channel, a Shenzhen-based marketing agency, wrote in a Twitter message.

“Many social networking apps face similar issues, like Snapchat,” said Blue Lotus’ Yang, “Bullet Message may not be the best alternative, but there might be something similar coming out in the near future, which is what WeChat should be worried about.” – Bloomberg

Source: The Star Online

Alibaba to set up Anti-DDoS

Kuala Lumpur: Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, is setting up an Anti-DDoS Scrubbing Centre in Malaysia next month to mitigate risks and offer customers the highest level of protection against stronger distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

DDoS attack is an attack in which multiple compromised computer systems attack a target, such as a server, website or other network resource, and cause a denial of service for users of the targeted resource.

Alibaba Cloud in a statement on Friday said the centre will be its latest investment after it officially launched a second availability zone, Availability Zone B, to expand its cloud footprint and bolster cloud capacity, serving increasing customer demand locally and regionally.

“The launch of our Availability Zone B and Anti-DDoS Scrubbing Centre will enable us to offer even greater security and choice for our customers,” Malaysia General Manager Kenny Tan said.

He said the new availability zone complements Availability Zone A which was launched last year in heightening cloud security and ensuring business continuity through resilient cloud infrastructure.

“In addition to ensuring high availability and resiliency, Availability Zone B offers payment hardware security modules, elastic computing, database, networking and monitoring services,” he said. – Bernama

Source: Daily Express Online

The next big thing: 10 Malaysian startups to watch in 2018

The ASEAN is not only the world’s seventh-largest economy, but it’s also the fastest-growing internet market, and tech companies in the region are racing to scale.

Malaysia is home to several such companies, thanks to support from government agencies, venture capitalists, and accelerators.

A look at Tech in Asia‘s recent funding reveals growing support for players in niche markets, such as flower delivery and student housing. We looked at 10 companies that completed funding rounds in 2017 and 2018, mostly from seed to series B.

1. Carsome

Carsome co-founders Eric Cheng (L) and Teoh Jiun Ee

Total funding amount: $27.4 million

Lead investors: Burda Principal Investments

Latest funding type: Series B

Competitors: iCar Asia, Carro and Carmudi

Launched in 2015, Carsome is a selling platform that also functions like a broker for cars. Anyone who needs to sell a car can get in touch with the company, which will inspect the vehicle for free and assess its value. The platform assures customers that the pricing is totally transparent and free of hidden charges and markups. To prove this, it allows the seller to log in and view live bidding results.

As a bonus, Carsome handles all paperwork, which it promises to complete within five days.

In 2016, the company expanded operations to Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. Carsome faces the challenge of differentiation from its competitors, which have raised larger amount of funding.

2. Iflix

Photo credit: Iflix

Total funding amount: $298 million

Lead investors: Hearst Communications, Jungle Ventures, Malaysia’s Catcha Group, Sky, and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company

Latest funding type: Series D

Competitors: Hooq, Viu, Viki, and Netflix.

Iflix offers video-on-demand (VOD) services in Asia and Africa, where the app is available in 25 countries. The key to achieving this is the app’s availability in 14 languages, including English, Chinese, Burmese, Arabic, and Swahili. Since its founding in 2014, Iflix has managed to ink 230 studio partnerships.

In its latest funding round in 2017, Iflix raised $133 million from 13 investors. While Iflix has found success in partnering with local telecom companies and enabling smartphone downloads, its competitors have emulated this strategy.

This has increased the need for differentiation. In 2017, Iflix joined the live sports streaming business. This year, it announced a free video-streaming service supported by ads.

3. BloomThis

Total funding amount: $800,000

Lead investors: Singapore’s REAPRA and US-based consulting company Venture Builders.

Latest funding type: Seed

Competitors: 50 Gram

Who knew flowers could drive a hot startup? BloomThis is an online shop of “designer flowers and gifts.”

The flowers can be delivered on demand when ordered by 1:00 pm except on Sundays, as the flower supply chain tends to slow down on weekends. BloomThis also offers a weekly subscription service.

In 2017, BloomThis raised seed funding of $600,000 for expansion to Indonesia and Singapore.

4. PurelyB

The PurelyB team

Total funding amount: $800,000

Lead investors: 500 Startups, Brunsfield Ventures

Latest funding type: Equity crowdfunding (pre-series A funding round)

PurelyB is a one-stop portal offering everything women need to know about living healthy lifestyles. It offers articles, recipes, and videos in English and Chinese, and sell health programs complete with meal delivery.

In May 2016, PurelyB launched a marketplace, but it was eventually shut down after eight months after the company made a discovery: users treated it more as a source of product recommendations and went shopping elsewhere.

PurelyB has since narrowed their focus to content, adding a subscription model to the free articles and videos on the website.

In 2017, PurelyB launched an equity crowdfunding campaign, which started with a private round for existing members before being offered to the public. Share price was set a $5.35 (RM23) per unit, and the campaign raised a total of $300,000.

After expansion to Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, PurelyB plans to enter Dubai and Australia.

5. Supahands

Total funding amount: Undisclosed

Lead investors: Intres Capital Partners, Axiata, 500 Startups

Latest funding type: Seed round

Competitors: Datarama and Jakarta’s Oxide.

Supahands offers to perform tedious and repetitive machine learning, data management, and content moderation tasks for companies. It’s positioned in the space between freelancer marketplaces and BPOs.

One key differentiation point for Supahands is the combination of software and human involvement. Another unique point for Supahands is that it also offers tools for project management, work automation, and autorouting.

Formed in 2014, it has provided services to a medical technology company, music-streaming app, and telecom service provider, among others. Its other clients include Grab and iCarAsia.

Over the past three years, Supahands has enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of 400 percent.

It plans to scale its workforce across ASEAN this year and hopes to begin expansion to India or China. This larger workforce would enable the startup to serve companies across the region with different cultures and languages.

6. HostelHunting

HostelHunting’s co-founders / Photo credit: HostelHunting

Total funding amount: Undisclosed

Lead investors: Hoop Partners, Accord Ventures and KK Fund

Latest funding type: Series A

Competitors: Gomfy, Student.com and XchangeHousing

Operating in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, the platform acts like an Airbnb for student accommodation. HostelHunting takes a service fee for each successful booking.

It’s looking to expand the platform’s operations to other markets in Southeast Asia.

7. Wobb

Photo credit: Wobb

Total funding amount: $398,300

Lead investors: Cradle Fund

Latest funding type: Venture – series unknown

Competitors: Jobstreet, StartupJobs, Maukerja, and TribeHired

Wobb is a recruitment app focused on attracting young professionals. The platform highlights companies’ work cultures vy showing photos of office interiors and featuring current employees. This enables job seekers to assess culture fit with potential employers even before sending in an application.

With a database of more than 60,000 job seekers, Wobb relies on an advertising model. The company said in 2017 that revenue had surpassed $469,000.

After signing up, job seekers receive an invitation to meet Wobb’s founder, Derek Toh, over coffee. Toh used to be a director at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Malaysia before founding Wobb in 2014.

Wobb raised $398,300 (RM1,700,741) in a venture round via the crowdfunding platform pitchIN in 2017. As many as 76 participants made equity investments. RM800,000 came from Cradle Fund, a Malaysian government agency that invests in the early stage of startups.

8. Kaodim

The Kaodim team / Photo credit: Kaodim

Total funding amount: $11.6 million

Lead investors: Square Peg Capital

Latest funding type: Series B

Competitors: ServisHero, FlagAHero

The Kaodim platform matches service seekers with pre-screened and qualified providers. The services it offers range from pest control, plumbing, and photography to catering, cleaning, and fitness coaching.

Within four months of launching, over $10M worth of sales had reportedly been gained through the platform, and more than 20,000 customers had been matched with service providers.

Kaodim charges $1 to $6 (RM3 to MR20) to suppliers when they post proposals and respond to requests. Customers need not pay to use the platform.

In 2017, Kaodim raised $7 million in a series B round.

The company claims to have the highest revenue among service-hiring platforms across Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.

9. Jirnexu

The Jirnexu team / Photo credit: Jirnexu

Total funding amount: $17 million

Lead investors: SIG China, SBI Group, Cento Ventures, and Celebes Capital.

Latest funding type: Series B

Competitors: iMoney, MoneySmart

Formerly known as Saving Plus, Jirnexu offers financial institutions a full-stack fintech solution. It began with offering financial comparison websites, but it eventually evolved to a streamlined process that allows customers to select and apply for financial products with ease.

Most of the company’s revenue comes from Malaysia. Jirnexu’s revenue grew by 100 percent from 2016 to 2017, and it expects to report the same this year. But while it almost reached profitability in 2017, it’s focusing on growth strategies like launching products, says CEO and founder Yuen Tuck Siew.

Its series B round in May attracted $11 million.

Jirnexu has an edge in that it deals with both back- and front-end work – it provides information to customers, but it also works with financial institutions.

10. iPrice

Photo credit: iPrice

Total funding amount: $9.8 million

Lead investors: Line Corporation

Latest funding type: Series B

Another price comparison platform, iPrice gathers information on product availability and pricing from various e-commerce websites, like Lazada and Shopee. It also aggregates products from clothing e-tailers such as Zalora and ASOS.

By doing so, it aims to be a one-stop shopping destination for shoppers all over Southeast Asia.

The startup says it’s on track to reach more than 150 million visitors this year. Apart from Malaysia and Indonesia, iPrice operates in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Its series B round this year raised $4 million.

Apart from building a large consumer base and leveraging Southeast Asians’ growing adoption of ecommerce, iPrice has formed B2B partnerships, such as with Samsung in Indonesia and Mediacorp in Singapore.

Source: Tech in Asia

WHO Officially Classifies Excessive Gaming As A Mental Health Disorder

There has long been talk about the existence of gaming addiction but now the World Health Organization is seeking to classify it as a mental disorder.

This is not a move that is popular among mental health professionals however, with many wondering whether this is a move that is based more in morality rather than cold, hard scientific fact.

This past Monday the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder” as a diagnosable condition and in the process giving mental health professionals around the globe a basis not only for diagnosing it, but also treating it.

However, a number of mental health organizations are questioning this stance. “There was a fairly widespread concern that this is a diagnosis that doesn’t really have a very solid research foundation,” said Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist and media researcher at Stetson University, and he is not alone.

The Society for Media Psychology and Technology which is a division of the American Psychological Association, has alerady expressing concern about the WHO’s proposal via its own policy statement earlier this year, saying, “the current research base is not sufficient for this disorder.”

The World Health Organization will be publishing the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases later this month and it will be the first time that “gaming disorder” has been included. When it does, the disorder will be described as “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” 

There have unfortunately been a number of deaths worldwide which have been linked to gaming addiction, with the first having been in 2002 when a South Korean man died having played for 86 hours straight.

Source: Redmond Pie

Alibaba opens first national office

Kuala Lumpur: Alibaba Group on Monday opened its first national office here in Bangsar South which will serve as a one-stop solution centre for local businesses to embark on the digital economy.

The office is also Alibaba’s first establishment in the Southeast Asia and outside China.

Alibaba Group Co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma said that the office opening signified the company’s continuous endeavour to bolster Malaysia’s small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) technology capability and push them further in the digital world.

“This is Alibaba’s commitment. We want our Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) to start here, and we are committed to digitalising and empowering small businesses and let them to go global,” he said during the office launching here.

Also present at the event were Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Communications and Multimedia Minister, Gobind Singh Deo and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Chief Executive Officer Datuk Yasmin Mahmood.

The Alibaba office will also provide a helping hand for businesses to identify cross-border trade opportunities, as well as to support the country’s technology innovation through cloud computing service.

Ma also announced that Alibaba will launch “Malaysia Week”, a special online promotion initiative to attract Chinese consumers for a week from July 6-12.

The campaign will showcase more than 50 local brands with an array of “must see, must eat and must experience” Malaysian products and tourism.

“Malaysia Week is the result of a fruitful discussion between Alibaba Group and Malaysia since the launch of eWTP last year,” he said. – Bernama

Source: Daily Express Online