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Big money: A mega crypto hack and a mega billion-dollar funding round
Asia Tech Review: 4 April 2022
Hello folks and welcome back to ATR,
It’s been quite a week in Asia, hasn’t it? A record crypto hack out of Vietnam, a potentially $100 billion company emerging from China, a somewhat inevitable backtrack from big-spending investor SoftBank and, well, a lot lot more is here for you this week.
That’s all for now—see you next time,
In focus: the 5 biggest stories of the week
The story of the week comes from Vietnam where Ronin Network, the blockchain used to power pioneering crypto game Axie Infinity, was found to have lost more than $600 million worth of Ethereum (173,600 ETH) and $25.5 million of US dollar-pegged stablecoin USDC following a hack. One of the largest hacks in the history of crypto DeFi, the perpetrator had stolen the assets using a bridge between chains one week before it was spotted. The issue highlights the tradeoff between designing games to be fully decentralised (secure) and centralising them for performance.
Going forward, Axie developer Sky Mavis plans to reimburse any users who were impacted (it isn’t yet clear what funds were snatched) and the incident has people talking about bridges. Also, it is likely to mean Sky Mavis’ next Axie title is delayed alongside its plans to make Ronin open to third parties.
Bloomberg reports that General Atlantic is among those in talks to put money into a round that could reach $1B, and include existing backers like Sequoia, IDG and Tiger Global. If it can hit the $100B market, Shein would become the world’s third highest-valued technology company excluding public firms. That would be quite a feat considering it kept a low profile until recent years, though it was actually started back in 2008.
This won’t be a huge surprise to most, but India is again the most represented country outside of the United States for the latest Y Combinator accelerator batch. The Winter 2022 cohort sports 32 startups hailing from Gurugram, Bengaluru, Delhi, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Chennai. To date, more than 191 companies in India have been funded through the Y Combinator accelerator, with nearly half of those companies accepted in the last 12 months. Southeast Asia is also a major focus, as I wrote last year.
My old colleague Alex’s tweet—sent while he was watching the 100s of YC demo day pitches—deserves more attention…
SoftBank’s hard knocks. Son made the remarks to his leadership team at a meeting held in March, according to people briefed on the discussions, as the group responds to the massive hit to the value of its holdings in recent months.
Here’s a stark example, SoftBank has liquidated almost all of its positions from its controversial hedge fund, SB Northstar, after it is said to have lost as much as US$7 billion playing the public markets. Indeed, Akshay Naheta—the former Deutsche Bank trader based in Abu Dhabi who ran the unit—left SoftBank on Thursday, according to an FT report.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission and other national regulators are in the process of drafting a framework that will allow most Chinese firms to keep their listings in the US. However, it is accepted that some state-owned enterprises and private companies with sensitive data will be delisted.
Huawei posted its first-ever yearly revenue decline (down 28.5%) as U.S. sanctions continue to bite, but profit surged 76% link (It has also named CFO Meng Wanzhou—yes, that CFO—chairwoman in a rotating role link)
Huawei has been an early winner from the Ukraine war—with sales in Russia up 300%in the first two weeks of March—but experts have warned it and Chinese peers Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo are violating sanctions by shipping phones and telecom gear to Russia without sign-off from the US government link
A look into a lawsuit filed against Binance by users who had massive profits from a major crypto market swing last year invalidated by the crypto exchange firm—and understandably they want their money link
AR glasses maker Nreal was revealed to have raised $200M in the last 12 months, including a $60M Series C extension round led by Alibaba link
Arm is shifting a chunk of its stake in its troubled Arm China united to SoftBank—the move will mean Arm’s stake of the China business is below 20% but it could help it go public via an IPO link
China is planning new curbs on the country’s $30 billion live-streaming industry, including a cap on user tipping, income limit from fans and potentially tighter content censorship link
As Shanghai beings a nine-day lockdown to restrict the movement of 26 million people, gig labourers and factory workers will be the most impacted link
Classplus, which helps teachers and creators sell courses to students, raised $70M at a valuation of $570M led by Alpha Wave Global and Tiger Global—the startup nabbed $65M just eight months ago at half the valuation link
Games24x7, a 15-year-old company offers games like rummy and fantasy sports to over 100M users, raised $75M at a $2.5B valuation—Tiger Global and Raine Group were among the investors link
Netflix is struggling to land subscribers in India, where rivals like Hotstar offer free packages and cheaper options link
Supply chain startup Wiz Freight raised $36M led by Tiger Global link
FarMart, a business-to-business food supply platform, raised $32M from General Catalyst, Matrix Partners India and Omidyar Network India link
OneCode, which provides on-ground resellers to financial firms, raised $13M led by General Catalyst with existing investors including Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, Nexus Venture Partners and Waterbridge Ventures also participating link
Spacetech startup Pixxel raised $25M link
Wealth management startup IndMoney raised $86M at a $650M valuation link
Chalo Mobility Services, which owns a mobile app that helps users track buses across cities and book tickets online, acquired two-wheeler shared-mobility startup Vogo in an undisclosed deal link
Pine Labs would again appear to be headed to IPO after it closed a $50M round from London-based PE firm Vitruvian Partners at a valuation of just over $5B link
Healthtech startup Qure.ai snagged $40M link
Social commerce platform Citymall raised $75M at a $350M valuation link
CCI probe finds Google’s Play Store billing guidelines ‘unfair’ and ‘discriminatory’ link
GrowSari is rapidly putting the Philippines on the startup map—the startup, which provides digital services for SMEs, announced a $77.5M Series C round to take it to $100M from investors to date. Those backers include the International Finance Corporation, KKR, Wavemaker Partners and the Temasek Group’s Pavilion Capital link
Vietnamese automaker VinFast plans to build its first US factory in North Carolina, the 1,976-acre facility will cost some $2B. A first phase of completion slated for July 2024, after which it is said to be capable of producing 150,000 cars per year link
Vietnam’s government forced social media platforms—YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and others—to remove more than 3,200 posts and videos that contained ‘false information’ violating laws in the first quarter of 2022 link
Despite Grab and Uber’s woes, GoTo will raise $1.1B after finalising its IPO at top end of its price range—that’ll give it a valuation of $28B and make it the country’s fourth most valuable public company link
Indonesia plans to charge VAT on crypto asset transactions and an income tax on capital gains from such investments at 0.1% each from May link
A new report shines light on Indonesia’s mobile market, which saw crazy growth during the pandemic including 33% download growth, 38% IAP spending increase and 5.4 hour per day engagement—the joint highest in the world link
Sea is closing down Shopee’s India operations just months after launch due to “global market uncertainties” link
Esports startup Ampverse lands $12M in Series A funding led by Falcon Capital link
Authorities in Busan have embarked on a radical plan to build a smart city from scratch: 45 families have volunteered to share data across their lives, from sleeping habits, to trash volume, food and exercise. The idea is to create “a standard model of a smart city” that can be exported across the country and to the rest of the world link
San Francisco- and Tokyo-headquartered gumi Cryptos Capital closes $110M second fund to back blockchain startups—with $500-$5M cheque size, it aims to back 50 companies via token deals link
Elsewhere in Asia
Hong Kong-based token and equity management startup Sprout raises $3M led by Sequoia link
Apple is exploring new sources of the memory chips that go into iPhones, including its first Chinese producer of the critical component, after a disruption at a key Japanese partner exposed the risks to its global supply link
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