Today, OYO said it has acquired Weddingz.in, a three-year-old company that claims to be India’s largest wedding planner with 4,000 venues across 15 cities. The company had raised over $1 million from investors, and it says that it handles 1,500 weddings per quarter.
The deal is undisclosed and it is OYO’s third acquisition to date, all of which have come this year. Previously it snapped up a boutique apartment operator and then IOT startup AblePlus, but this transaction marks its first move outside of its core hotels and homes segment. The company said it is making the move because wedding banquets are “a fragmented, low yield, broken customer service business” that OYO believes matches with its experience of digitizing hotels and real estate.
“At OYO, our experience ranges from end-to-end management of homes, villas, small asset to hotels with 100+ rooms while running successful businesses for our asset partners and all these facets will be of utmost importance while operating in the wedding industry that in the dire need of fundamental changes and improvements,” OYO CSO Maninder Gulati said in a statement.
OYO hinted in its announcement today that it has other real estate projects in mind to expand further beyond hotels. That core focus is its affordable hotel network that it says spans 5,500 exclusive hotels in over 160 cities across India, China, Malaysia and Nepal.
PasarPolis started out as an insurance comparison site but today it offers micro- and modular-insurance online. Go-Jek, Tokopedia and Traveloka are three of its major clients through which it offers ‘click box’ policies that are bundled with ride-hailing trips, e-commerce sales and travel deals.
PasarPolis founder and CEO Cleosent Randing told TechCrunch in an interview that the deal was strategic and aimed at developing new products with the three companies, which he estimates provide “access to 100 million insurable hits per month.” He said that the startup could be picky because it is already cash flow positive.
“We were very very selective with this round, it’s something we are keeping quite low profile,” he explained. “It’s more of how we can be the provider of choice for the largest digital companies in Indonesia… we feel it’s a strategic investment and collaboration to advance micro insurance via the internet.
“Do they believe in the vision and can they help make the vision a reality but giving customers much cheaper, more modular insurance which is more relevant in today’s digital economy?” he added.
[Left to right:] Tokopedia COO Melissa Siska Juminto, Go-Jek chief human resources officer Monica Oudang, PasarPolis founder & CEO Cleosent Randing, Minister of Communications and Informatics Rudiantara, and Traveloka SVP of business development Caesar Indra
Beyond obvious consumer-focused products, PasarPolis has developed programs such as life insurance for Go-Jek drivers, and health care initiatives for SMEs that sell product on Tokopedia. In the travel space, he pointed out that growth in insurance revenue for companies like Expedia is outstripping ticket sale growth which bodes well for Traveloka.
PasarPolis is currently waiting on the result of an application for an insurance license which will give it new options for products beyond its current setup of working with insurers on underwriting. That’ll take some time, however, and right now the focus is on developing new insurance products, cementing its position in the market and also expanding into new markets in Southeast Asia — which now has more internet users than the entire population of the U.S., according to a report co-authored by Google.
Its work with Go-Jek will take it into markets like Vietnam and Thailand — where Go-Jek is expanding its ride-hailing business — but Randing said he is also in talks with other companies and insurance providers to offer more modular options for consumers. That could take the form of usage-based car insurance, or cover for public transport-based delays, he explained.
“Our goal is to make insurance less expensive than half of cup of a Starbucks coffee,” Randing said. Adding that the company may look for new funding in early 2019 as it grows its regional footprint.
Interestingly, PasarPolis has already gone overseas by tapping India for talent — which is something Go-Jek and others have also done. Randing said the company has 15-20 engineers in Bangalore, while the core team, partner support and tech integration staff are housed in Indonesia.
“Instant booking” apps that let tourists sign up for activities on very short notice have been in the news a lot lately, partly because of Klook’s new unicorn status, but also because of the proliferation of startups in the space, especially in Asia. With so many instant booking apps, are there any niches left to fill? FunNow thinks so. Instead of targeting tourists, FunNow serves locals who want to find new things to do in their cities. The Taipei, Taiwan-based startup announced today that it has raised a $5 million Series A led by the Alibaba Entrepreneur Fund, with participation from CDIB, a returning investor, Darwin Venture and Accuvest. The capital will be used to expand FunNow into Southeast Asian and Japanese cities.
Along with a pre-A round closed last July, its newest funding brings FunNow’s total raised since its launch in November 2015 to $6.5 million. FunNow currently claims 500,000 members and 3,000 vendors, who provide more than 20,000 activities and services daily. Co-founder and CEO T.K. Chen says the startup will focus on building its presence in Hong Kong, Okinawa, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Osaka and Tokyo.
One noteworthy fact about its Series A is the participation of Alibaba, which is beefing up its online-to-offline (or O2O, the business of enabling users to book and pay for offline services) offerings as competitor Meituan-Dianping prepares to go public in Hong Kong. A roster of Alibaba apps, including Koubei for local bookings, food delivery platform Ele.me and travel app Feizhu, compete against Meituan-Dianping, which describes itself as a “one-stop super app” because it offers all those services.
A not-for-profit initiative, the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund supports startups that might eventually contribute to the tech giant’s ecosystem. While Alibaba’s O2O apps are focused on capturing a bigger share away from Meituan-Dianping in China, Chen says future synergies may include listing FunNow’s activities on Koubei so Chinese tourists can continue using the app when they travel. (Chen added that Alibaba wants FunNow to expand in Southeast Asia as soon as possible.)
Even with a backer like Alibaba, however, the obvious question is how does FunNow compare with other instant booking apps? The most notable ones are Klook and KKday, but other players include Headout, Voyagin, GetYourGuide, Culture Trip, Peek and even Airbnb’s new “Experiences” feature.
Chen, who notes Klook’s Series A in 2015 was also $5 million, says FunNow’s deep dive into the local market sets it apart. Its biggest categories are last-minute hotel bookings, like hot spring resorts in Taipei that offer rooms for blocks of several hours in addition to overnight stays; restaurants and bars; massages and other spa services; and events like music festivals and parties.
Chen adds that catering to locals looking for fun stuff to do in their own cities means FunNow’s user engagement is high, with 70% of each month’s gross merchandise volume from repeat customers. The rest comes from first-time users and about 60% of people make another booking within 30 days after their first purchase. FunNow expects to make revenue of $16 million in 2018, three times what it made in 2017.
Most of FunNow’s users are young, in the 25-to-35 age bracket. “We are like Uber, but for booking restaurants, massages, hotels or other kinds of activities around you. We are also targeting spontaneous consumers, because almost all of our bookings are for the next 15 minutes to hour. If you look at our data, 80% of our bookings are for the next hour,” says Chen.
The company tailors its technology platform to local users, too, and relies on a patented algorithm that makes real-time availability calculations to prevent overbookings by syncing with merchant databases. Chen says users can see all available slots based on their location and search perimeters in less than 0.1 seconds and updates in real-time, so people don’t click on something only to find it’s no longer available.
FunNow also screens vendors before adding them to the platform and will delist businesses that rate below 3.5 stars. The convenience is what draws users back to FunNow instead of, say, just reading reviews on Google or asking friends for recommendations and then messaging or calling for a reservation.
Another challenge that potentially arise in the future is if Klook, KKday or other instant booking apps for tourists decide to start serving locals as well. Chen says he believes those startups will continue focusing on the growing tourist market and demand for half-day or all-day tours.
“If they want to cut into our play, they need to first find merchants one by one and also deploy strong systems to the merchant side,” says Chen. “However, once merchants use our system, it’s unlikely for them to use two systems to control availability, because you’d need to update all of them to avoid overbooking.”
Despite its first mover advantage, FunNow is also constantly improving its tech, Chen says. “Even in a minute, a business might have sold the seat to a walk-in customer, causing a overbooking and that’s the worst thing to see.”
VCs around the world are trying to wrap their head around crypto, and the new investment paradigm it brings. Some have made one-off deals but a few have jumped in off the deep end with dedicated crypto funds, with A16z in the U.S. the most prominent example. Now Singapore has its first from the traditional world after prominent firm Golden Gate Ventures announced a spinoff fund called LuneX Ventures.
Notably, LuneX will be the first crypto fund from a traditional investor in Southeast Asia, although Wavemaker Partners — which is backed by early Bitcoin proponent Tim Draper — does have a U.S.-based fund.
LuneX will be run by founding partner Kenrick Drijkoningen, who was previously head of growth for Golden Gate, with associate Tushar Aggarwal, who hosts the Decrypt Asia podcast. The two are assembling a small support team which will also be assisted by Golden Gate’s back office team.
Drijkoningen told TechCrunch in an interview that he believes the time is right for the fund, even though the price of Bitcoin, Ether and other major tokens is way below the peaks seen in January.
“Despite the fact that public markets are down, the amount of talent that’s moving into this space is exciting. There are young entrepreneurs who are passionate about this space and want to build an ecosystem,” he said, adding that stability on price is a good thing.
“There’s a lot of crypto funds but most of them are hedge funds,” Drijkoningen added. He explained that LuneX intends to take a longer-term approach to investments by helping its portfolio and generally doing more than shorting and quick trades.
Drijkoningen explained the capital will be divided equally for token sales, purchasing existing tokens and equity-based investments in crypto projects. That means getting into private sales and pre-sales for ICOs, and seeing what tokens already on the market have long-term return potential. On the equity investment side, Drijkoningen is looking for what he calls “infrastructure” businesses, such as solutions for token custody, banking and more. The fund’s capital is being raised in fiat, but it is considering allowing Bitcoin, Ether and other tokens.
Although Singapore is seen by many as a ‘crypto haven’ the legal status of crypto and tokens is unclear since the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has deferred on making these decisions. That’s in contrast to places like Malta, Gibraltar and Bermuda, which are actively wooing crypto companies with incentives and legalization frameworks, but Singapore’s status as a global financial hub and a destination for Southeast Asia’s investor capital has helped make it a destination for crypto companies all the same.
MAS is known for engaging with crypto stakeholders, and Drijkoningen said there had been discussions although he did not elaborate further other than to say that the regulator is “quite well informed.” He clarified that the new fund is structured so that it is legally compliant while it is banking with a “crypto-friendly” bank in the U.S. since Singaporean banks to do provide services to crypto companies.
Drijkoningen said the fund’s LP base is comprised of high net worth individuals who understand crypto or are crypto-curious, as well as hedge fund managers and family offices. He said there’s been interest from projects that raised significant capital from ICOs and want to invest in the ecosystem and grow networks, as well as some long-time Golden Gate LPs.
There’s no doubt LuneX is an early mover in Southeast Asia — well, the world — but Drijkoningen believes it won’t be long before others in the traditional VC space follow suit. He revealed that already a number of other funds are “looking into” the opportunities, and expects that some will make a move “this year or next.”
As for LuneX, the plan is very much to scale this initial fund in the same way that Golden Gate has gone from a small seed fund to a $100 million vehicle in less than eight years.
“We want to get up and running, get a good return and raise a larger fund,” Drijkoningen said. He added that the fund is currently looking over half a dozen or so deals that it hopes to wrap up soon as its first investments.
Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.
SenSat, a U.K. startup aiming to use visual and spatial data to “simulate reality” and help computers better understand the physical world, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding — cash it will use to further develop the technology, and invest in its San Francisco office. The round was backed by Force Over Mass, Round Hill Venture Partners, and Zag (the venture arm of global creative agency BBH).
Launched in 2017 by founders James Dean (CEO) and Harry Atkinson (Head of Product), SenSat turns complex visual and spatial data into what is described as “real-time simulated reality” designed to enable computers to solve real world problems.
The idea is to let companies that operate in physical domains — starting with infrastructure construction — use AI to help make better informed decisions based on multiple variables, which are large in number and complexity.
But to do this, first the real world needs to be simulated and those simulations injected with data that computers can understand and interact with. And that starts with using new technology to photograph the real world at a level of detail that goes beyond satellite imagery.
“My background is in satellite remote sensing, the science of understanding an object without coming into contact with it,” SenSat CEO Dean tells me. “This actually gave me the initial idea, ‘if everything we do from satellites can be done 200 miles closer using autonomous drones, then the resolution of the corresponding information must be commercially valuable’”.
Dean says the tech that SenSat has since developed is making it possible for computers to understand the real world through the lens of highly detailed simulated realities in order to “learn how things work and to change the way we make decisions”. The company does this by creating digital replicas of real world locations, then infusing real-time spatial data-sets with a high degree of statistical accuracy from both open and proprietary data sources.
“The resulting simulations are realistic and fully digital, allowing large-scale machine learning and data analysis at an unprecedented scale,” he says.
But why has SenSat chosen to initially target infrastructure construction? “On a technical level it allows us to build simulated realities for medium to small physical areas which we have known variables for,” explains Dean. “This means we can check and quantify our results against the real world, helping us build a foundation that can scale in size and complexity… Construction, whilst remaining a fundamental pillar of world economies, is the second least innovative sector on the planet (beaten only by hunting and fishing). As a sector it has seen a zero percent productivity increase since 1970, meaning there are lots of low hanging fruit opportunities for automation”.
In addition, the time and cost for the design phases of large civil infrastructure construction projects can be up to 40 percent of the entire asset value. Because SenSat digitally re-creates the world and teaches its AI to understand it, the startup can automate many manual design tasks.
For example, Dean says that when building a new railway, it might be stipulated that the track can only have a 5 degree gradient, gantries must be placed every 100 metres and tracks must be laid 1.4 metres apart. Traditionally this would take engineers months to painstakingly measure over large distances, hypothesise and test, but SenSat’s AI can run thousands of options, following the exact same design rules, in a matter of minutes. The startup can then produce a fully validated best option design, often representing millions of dollars in savings.
Meanwhile, beyond infrastructure construction, the startup has a number of research streams looking at how else its technology could evolve and be applied. One area being explored is how autonomous vehicles might use the platform to run millions of hours of driverless simulation.
“Our simulated reality replicates exactly what is happening in the real world, and as such it becomes a sensible place to trial developing technologies within ‘real world’ environments, helping the reinforcement learning feedback loop by providing access to real world scenarios,” adds Dean.
“Based on the world’s highest resolution digital representations, including furniture such as street lamps, lane markings and signage, we can simulate millions of hours of driving in real world conditions to train autonomous agents and prove safety use cases. This will be an important step in convincing regulators to transition to free flow AVs on our streets, especially as the technology begins to reach level 4 autonomy and the integration problem becomes the halting factor”.
Adam Pittenger knows that moving is tough — after all, he said he’s moved eight times in the past seven years.
Pittenger said that there are several reasons why the process can be stressful, like the fact that most people aren’t experts on moving, since they don’t do it as often as him (seriously, eight times is crazy). Plus, there’s just an enormous amount of planning and coordination required, whether it’s hiring movers, buying packing materials or putting your things into storage.
So Pittenger decided to make the whole process a lot easier by founding Moved. Moving, he said, “doesn’t have to be that stressful,” because with Moved, you get “a personal assistant coordinating all the aspects of your move.”
Moved is announcing that it’s raised $3.2 million in seed funding from Lowe’s Ventures (the early-stage investment arm of the home improvement giant), FJ Labs, AngelPad, Real Estate Technology Ventures and others.
To sign up for Moved, you fill out a questionaire about where you’re moving to and from, and what kinds of services you need. Moved (available via desktop web or mobile app) will then reach out to movers and provide you with multiple quotes that you can choose from.
And while, as Pittenger put it, “the immediate thing you need to do is book the movers,” Moved offers a broader range of services, like ordering packing supplies, helping you donate stuff you don’t need anymore, finding a storage unit, updating your address, finding painters and more.
Moving can also be expensive, so the company has also announced a partnership with Affirm, where Affirm’s financing will allow you to break up the moving costs into monthly payments.
To be clear, Moved isn’t doing the moving itself — instead, it’s basically connecting you to a marketplace of movers and other service providers. Pittenger said the company is “very strict about the suppliers and the vendors” and will remove them if customers aren’t happy with their experience.
Moved is managing all of this through a real, human assistant who can help you figure out what you need, handle the scheduling and serve as a “consumer advocate” who ensures that you’re not getting ripped off.
Pittenger said the service is free for consumers, with a fee charged to vendors at the time of booking. And it’s available throughout the United States.
Back when Dennis Woodside joined Dropbox as its chief operating officer more than four years ago, the company was trying to justify the $10 billion valuation it had hit in its rapid rise as a Web 2.0 darling. Now, Dropbox is a public company with a nearly $14 billion valuation, and it once again showed Wall Street that it’s able to beat expectations with a now more robust enterprise business alongside its consumer roots.
Dropbox’s second quarter results came in ahead of Wall Street’s expectations on both the earnings and revenue front. The company also announced that Dennis Woodside will be leaving the company. Woodside joined at a time when Dropbox was starting to figure out its enterprise business, which it was able to grow and transform into a strong case for Wall Street that it could finally be a successful publicly traded company. The IPO was indeed successful, with the company’s shares soaring more than 40 percent in its debut, so it makes sense that Woodside has essentially accomplished his job by getting it into a business ready for Wall Street.
“I think as a team we accomplished a ton over the last four and a half years,” Woodside said in an interview. “When I joined they were a couple hundred million in revenue and a little under 500 people. [CEO] Drew [Houston] and Arash [Ferdowsi] have built a great business, since then we’ve scaled globally. Close to half our revenue is outside the U.S., we have well over 300,000 teams for our Dropbox business product, which was nascent there. These are accomplishments of the team, and I’m pretty proud.”
The stock initially exploded in extended trading by rising more than 7 percent, though even prior to the market close and the company reporting its earnings, the stock had risen as much as 10 percent. But following that spike, Dropbox shares are now down around 5 percent. Dropbox is one of a number of SaaS companies that have gone public in recent months, including DocuSign, that have seen considerable success. While Dropbox has managed to make its case with a strong enterprise business, the company was born with consumer roots and has tried to carry over that simplicity with the enterprise products it rolls out, like its collaboration tool Dropbox Paper.
Here’s a quick rundown of the numbers:
Q2 Revenue: Up 27 percent year-over-year to $339.2 million, compared to estimates of $331 million in revenue.
Q2 GAAP Gross Margin: 73.6 percent, as compared to 65.4 percent in the same period last year.
Q2 adjusted earnings: 11 cents per share compared, compared to estimates of 7 cents per share.
Paid users: 11.9 million paying users, up from 9.9 million in the same quarter last year.
ARPU: $116.66, compared to $111.19 same quarter last year.
So, not only is Dropbox able to show that it can continue to grow that revenue, the actual value of its users is also going up. That’s important, because Dropbox has to show that it can continue to acquire higher-value customers — meaning it’s gradually moving up the Fortune 100 chain and getting larger and more established companies on board that can offer it bigger and bigger contracts. It also gives it the room to make larger strategic moves, like migrating onto its own architecture late last year, which, in the long run could turn out to drastically improve the margins on its business.
“We did talk earlier in the quarter about our investment over the last couple years in SMR technology, an innovative storage technology that allows us to optimize cost and performance,” Woodside said. “We continue to innovate ways that allow us to drive better performance, and that drives better economics.”
The company is still looking to make significant moves in the form of new hires, including recently announcing that it has a new VP of product and VP of product marketing, Adam Nash and Naman Khan, respectively. Dropbox’s new team under CEO Drew Houston are tasked with continuing the company’s path to cracking into larger enterprises, which can give it a much more predictable and robust business alongside the average consumers that pay to host their files online and access them from pretty much anywhere.
In addition, there are a couple executive changes as Woodside transitions out. Yamini Rangan, currently VP of Business Strategy & Operations, will become Chief Customer Officer reporting to Houston, and comms VP Lin-Hua Wu will also report to Houston.
Dropbox had its first quarterly earnings check-in and slid past the expectations that Wall Street had, though its GAAP gross margin slipped a little bit and may have offered a slight negative signal for the company. But since then, Dropbox’s stock hasn’t had any major missteps, giving it more credibility on the public markets — and more resources to attract and retain talent with compensation packages linked to that stock.
“Our retention has been quite strong,” Woodside said. “We see strong retention characteristics across the customer set we have, whether it’s large or small. Obviously larger companies have more opportunity to expand over time, so our expansion metrics are quite strong in customers of over several hundred employees. But even among small businesses, Dropbox is the kind of product that has gravity. Once you start using it and start sharing it, it becomes a place where your business is small or large is managing all its content, it tends to be a sticky experience.”
Goodwater Capital, one of a number of backers that won big when ByteDance acquired Musical.ly last year, has joined forces with Korean duo Softbank Ventures and KB Investment to invest $17 million into Korea’s Spoon Radio. The deal is a Series B for parent company Mykoon, which operates Spoon Radio and previously developed an unsuccessful smartphone battery sharing service.
“We decided to create a service, now known as Spoon Radio, that was inspired by what gave us hope when [previous venture] ‘Plugger’ failed to take off. We wanted to create a service that allowed people to truly connect and share their thoughts with others on everyday, real-life issues like the ups and downs of personal relationships, money, and work.
“Unlike Facebook and Instagram where people pretend to have perfect lives, we wanted to create an accessible space for people to find and interact with influencers that they could relate with on a real and personal level through an audio and pseudo-anonymous format,” Mykoon CEO Neil Choi told TechCrunch via email.
Choi started the company in 2013 with fellow co-founders Choi Hyuk jun and Hee-jae Lee, and today Spoon Radio operates much like an internet radio station.
Users can tune in to talk show or music DJs, and leave comments and make requests in real-time. The service also allows users to broadcast themselves and, like live-streaming, broadcasters — or DJs, as they are called — can monetize by receiving stickers and other virtual gifts from their audience.
Spoon Radio claims 2.5 million downloads and “tens of millions” of audio broadcasts uploaded each day. Most of that userbase is in Korea, but the company said it is seeing growth in markets like Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. In response to that growth — which Choi said is over 1,000 percent year-on-year — this funding will be used to invest in expanding the service in Southeast Asia, the rest of Asia and beyond.
Audio social media isn’t a new concept.
Singapore’s Bubble Motion raised close to $40 million from investors but it was sold in an underwhelming and undisclosed deal in 2014. Reportedly that was after the firm had failed to find a buyer and been ready to liquidate its assets. Altruist, the India-based mobile services company that bought Bubble Motion has done little to the service. Most changes have been bug fixes and the iOS app, for example, has not been updated for nearly a year.
Things have changed in the last four years, with smartphone growth surging across Asia and worldwide. That could mean different fortunes but there are also differences between the two in terms of strategy.
Bubbly was run like a social network — a ‘Twitter for voice’ — whereas Spoon Radio is focused on a consumption-based model that, as the name suggests, mirrors traditional radio.
“This is mobile consumer internet at its best,” Eric Kim, one of Goodwater Capital’s two founding partners, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Spoon Radio is taking an offline experience that exists in classic radio and making it even better.”
Kim admitted that when he first used the service he didn’t see the appeal — he claimed the same was true for Musical.ly — but he said he changed his tune after talking to listeners and using Spoon Radio. He said it reminded him of being a kid growing up in the U.S. and listening to radio shows avidly.
“It’s a really interesting phenomenon taking off in Asia because of smartphone growth and people being keen for content, but not always able to get video content. It was a net new behavior that we’d never seen before… Musical.ly was in the same bracket as net new content for the new generation, we’ve been paying attention to this category broadly,” Kim — whose firm’s other Korean investments include chat app giant Kakao and fintech startup Toss — explained.