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India’s crypto space shows promise for take off
Asia Tech Review: 26 April 2022
After some hugely eventful weeks of late, the newsletter has settled down this edition—perhaps the global focus is sucked into Elon Musk’s ongoing effort to buy Twitter—but this week there’s a number of common themes appearing again.
China’s Didi is still struggling to find a public market home, Vietnam has joined China in imposing more stringent censorship on online content and Ant Group, once on a mega M&A spree globally, has got back into the mood with a takeover in Southeast Asia.
Read on for more, as ever, or join the Telegram channel for news as it rolls in.
See you again next week,
In focus: India, ser, wen web3?
This newsletter isn’t focused entirely on crypto, it does pop up here and there. This week, I’m shedding light on an interesting situation that’s emerging in India where web3 is beginning to show signs of breaking out.
Like with “web2” (to use the awkward phrase) the key building blocks are a sign of a potentially blossoming tech ecosystem. That was, in a traditional sense, companies like e-commerce, delivery and payments. These are basic infrastructure plays that investors typically flock to first. Once established, the bones are fleshed out with more adventurous companies that build from those ventures. So, insurance tech, edtech, verticalised e-commerce, etc etc.
We’re seeing that with clarity in the crypto space in India.
CoinDCX, a centralised trading platform that’s the largest in the country to buy and sell crypto, just raised $135M at a valuation of $2.15B—doubling its previous valuation.
Then there’s Rario, an NFT platform linked to cricket—India’s most popular sport—which closed a $120M investment. Rario is following the same playbook as Sorare, the football-themed NFT platform that’s valued at over $4B and includes SoftBank among its investors.
These are just two deals, for sure, but they signal that investors are comfortable with being part of primary crypto platforms in India. What we need next is web3 native—or, in common parlance, crazier startups—that pick up on the more fundamental potential that crypto has beyond buying or selling digital assets. That isn’t coming through enough, yet.
I’ve no doubt it will change. From my own anecdotal experience looking at deals, we’re seeing more crypto projects emanating from India but the true mark of a great crypto company is that the location of the team is not important since these are global services. I’ve personally not seen that, but expect to see it soon. Polygon—which is a global crypto player and Indian—is making moves and there are plenty of early-stage programmes setting up now to help birth, build and guide disruptive web3 companies of the future.
The conflict, however, is that regulatory uncertainties and tax demands are contributing to web3 founders leaving India for new shores (and more crypto-friendly shores?) such as Singapore or more recently Dubai. My former colleague Jaspreet has a good piece on the regulatory madness using a recent example of Coinbase—his newsletter is great, by the way—and to prove the point, Rario is “based” in Singapore. India is a huge talent base for tech and in the last decade it has emerged with startups and founders of its own, its web3 community should be equally as vibrant.
(Shameless plug: If you operate a top web3 startup in India, Singapore or anywhere else, you should contact me)
Didi’s Hong Kong listing has hit a snag after it was told its relisting plan wouldn’t receive a green light until it makes sufficient ‘rectifications’ in accordance with probes conducted by regulators link
Chinese social media will begin to display user locations based on IP address in the latest crackdown against “spreading rumours”—Beijing previously forced users to verify their identity on the back end while its censorship of sensitive topics is already well known link
Alibaba’s aspirations to become a giant in cloud services are increasingly under threat as it loses sight of huge profit potential link
Work automation startup Laiye raises $160M and acquires France’s Mindsay link
China’s quarterly production of semiconductors shrunk for the first time since early 2019 as consumer electronics demand softened and Covid-triggered lockdowns in regions including Shanghai disrupted output link
A look at how niche social network Douban survived Chinese censorship… until now link
Social e-commerce app Xiaohongshu cuts 9% of staff in layoffs, just months after raising $500M at a $20B valuation in November link
Q&A startup Zhihu saw its shares slump nearly 24% following an IPO in Hong Kong link
A look at how Alibaba co-founder and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai represents the NBA’s “uneasy” relationship with China link
Restaurant management platform UrbanPiper raises $24 million in a new financing round from a number of investors including Swiggy and Zomato link
Amazon, Reliance and Sony are among those vying for the rights to the Indian Premier League cricket broadcast link
Video editing SaaS platform VideoVerse raised $46.8M link
Edtech-focused fintech startup Financepeer raised $31M link
“Neo-university” Newton School raised $25M link
Amazon India acquired social commerce startup GlowRoad to make a bigger push into one of its key overseas markets—GlowRoad sells products to customers at wholesale prices and then helps them resell on Facebook and WhatsApp link
India is considering a proposal to have a regulator for the so-called skill gaming industry, following concerns about money laundering link
The saga continues: Reliance says its $3.4 billion deal with Future Group “cannot be implemented” after secured creditors rejected the offer earlier this week link
Vietnam, already a notorious censor of online content, is reportedly preparing new rules requiring social media firms to take down content it deems illegal within 24 hours link
Ant Group is taking over payments firm 2C2P as it sharpens its focus on overseas expansion link
The Ken interviews entrepreneur Brian Cu, who previously led Grab and Zalora in the Philippines but was also a co-founder of Gojek—he is an interesting and understated character for sure link
Binance has recovered $5.8M of the stolen Axie Infinity crypto after North Korean hackers move funds link
Binance is under fire for alleged ties to a Russian FSB-linked agency, although the company denies the finding of the Reuters report link
Indonesian audio content and podcast platform NOICE raised a $22M Series A link
Singapore-based Believe, a ‘house of brands’ focused on Hala-certified beauty and personal products, raised $55M—that’s over $80M to date million in funding led by Venturi link
Ordinary Folk, a Singapore-based telehealth startup dedicated to men and women’s health issues, raised $5M link
Manila-based MadEats raises $1.7 million in seed funding led by JAM Fund, Crystal Towers Capital, Starling Ventures, MAIN and Rebel Fund—it previously graduated Y Combinator link
Financial platform Abhi raised $17 million at a $90M valuation—the deal is emblematic of increased investor interest in Pakistan, which is seen as one of the last large untapped markets with a population of 220M people link
Meanwhile fintech SadaPay, which claims to have 500K customers on its waiting list, is close to raising a $10.7M extension to its seed round having secured a commercial licence from the State Bank of Pakistan, SBP—it began life as a digital wallet but plans to shift into digital banking link
SoftBank Plans to retain a controlling stake in Arm after IPO, which is seeking at least a $60M valuation link
Japanese insurance company Tokio Marine launches $42M fund to back early-stage startups link
Rest of Asia
Remember the VC that invested heavily in now-defunct Honestbee, well it’s just as controversial. Backed by the same source of capital as Honestbee—LG family scion Brian Koo—it has also closed down amid a mess of claims and legal threats link
North Korean hackers are targeting blockchain companies with malicious crypto-stealing apps link
Netflix’s share price tanked after it lost customers, including 600K in North America and 700k from leaving Russia, but it actually added over 1M users across Asia thanks to the Squid Game halo effect link
The solo leadership candidate to run Hong Kong, John Lee, had his YouTube account blocked due to US sanctions against him—he hasn’t lost Facebook access yet but he’s unable to use the platform’s payment service link
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