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Asia’s AnyMind pulls in another $8M and expands into outdoor advertising

Asia’s AnyMind pulls in another M and expands into outdoor advertising

Asia-focused marketing startup AnyMind Group has landed a further $8 million in funding to close out its Series B fundraising.

The company announced a $13.4 million raise back in November, but that has now expanded to $21.4 million thanks to an additional injection from VGI Global Media, a Thailand-based firm that specializes in outdoor media, and Tokyo Century, a financial services firm that has invested in Grab among others. Japanese messaging app Line and Mirai Creation Fund, which is backed by Toyota, are among the original investors in the round, which valued the company at $200 million — though it isn’t clear if that number has increased with this new tranche of investment. The company has now raised close to $36 million to date.

AnyMind, which was formerly known as AdAsia, started out with a focus on internet advertising but it has since expanded to offer HR and marketing services. There are also further vertical expansions following this capital. AnyMind is moving into outdoor advertising in Thailand — through a joint venture with VGI focused on covering commuter routes and public transport — while, also in Thailand, it has acquired YouTube media company Moindy. Both of these moves are likely to come with regional expansions further down the line, according to AnyMind, which has a sizeable office in Thai capital city Bangkok.

Finally, AnyMind is also launching another new service: CastingAsia Creators Network, which is a network of social media influencers to complement its marketing and advertising media units.

Here’s more background on the company from our earlier report on the earlier Series B announcement:

AnyMind was founded in April 2016 by Japanese duo CEO Kosuke Sogo, the former managing director of Japan’s MicroAd in APAC, and COO Otohiko Kozutsumi, who had been with MicroAd Vietnam — and both men are ambitious with their plans to grow.

Indeed, despite being less than three years old, AnyMind says it has been profitable since early 2017. It said total revenue for 2017 was $26 million, up from $12.9 million one year previous. In an interview with TechCrunch, Sogo said he expects revenue for this year to be more than double that of 2017. He added that Southeast Asia, where the firm first set its focus, accounts for the lion’s share of revenue, with its one-year Japan operation pulling the remaining 30 percent.

Today, the company has 12 offices — including a product development center in Vietnam — and its services are present in 11 markets across Asia. It has some 330 staff, up from 90 just 18 months ago, and serves more than 1,000 clients across its three businesses.

Asia’s AnyMind pulls in another M and expands into outdoor advertising
Source: TechCrunch

Razer hooks up with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming

Razer hooks up with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming

Razer is summoning a big gun as it bids to develop its mobile gaming strategy. The Hong Kong-listed company — which sells laptops, smartphones and gaming peripherals — said today it is working with Tencent on a raft of initiatives related to smartphone-based games.

The collaboration will cover hardware, software and services. Some of the objectives include optimizing Tencent games — which include megahit PUBG and Fortnite — for Razer’s smartphones, mobile controllers and its Cortex Android launcher app. The duo also said they may “explore additional monetization opportunities for mobile gaming” which could see Tencent integrate Razer’s services, which include a rewards/loyalty program, in some areas.

The news comes on the same day as Razer’s latest earnings,  which saw annual revenue grow 38 percent to reach $712.4 million. Razer recorded a net loss of $97 million for the year, up from $164 million in 2017.

The big name partnership announcement comes at an opportune time for Razer, which has struggled to convince investors of its business. The company was among a wave of much-championed tech companies to go public in Hong Kong — Razer’s listing raised over $500 million in late 2017 — but its share price has struggled. Razer currently trades at HK$1.44, which is some way down from a HK$3.88 list price and HK$4.58 at the end of its trading day debut. Razer CEO Min Liang Tan has previously lamented a lack of tech savviness within Hong Kong’s public markets despite a flurry of IPOs, which have included names like local services giant Meituan.

Nabbing Tencent, which is one of (if not the) biggest games companies in the world, is a PR coup, but it remains to be seen just what impact the relationship will have at this stage. Subsequent tie-ins, and potentially an investor, would be notable developments and perhaps positive signals that the market is seeking.

Still, Razer CEO Min Liang Tan is bullish about the company’s prospects on mobile.

The company’s Razer smartphones were never designed to be ‘iPhone-killers’ that sold on volume, but there’s still uncertainty around the unit with recent reports suggesting the third-generation phone may have been canceled following some layoffs. (Tan declined to comment on that.)

Mobile is tough — just ask past giants like LG and HTC about that… — and Razer’s phone and gaming-focus was quickly copied by others, including a fairly brazen clone effort from Xiaomi, to make sales particularly challenging. But Liang maintains that, in doing so, Razer created a mobile gaming phone market that didn’t exist before, and ultimately that is more important than shifting its own smartphones.

“Nobody was talking about gaming smartphones [before the Razer phone], without us doing that, the genre would still be perceived as casual gaming,” Tan told TechCrunch in an interview. “Even from day one, it was about creating this new category… we don’t see others as competition.”

With that in mind, he said that this year is about focusing on the software side of Razer’s mobile gaming business.

Tan said Razer “will never” publish games as Tencent and others do, instead, he said that the focus on helping discovery, creating a more immersive experience and tying in other services, which include its Razer Gold loyalty points.

Outside of gaming, Razer is also making a push into payments through a service that operates in Southeast Asia. Fuelled by the acquisition of MOL one year ago, Razer has moved from allowing people to buy credit over-the-counter to launch an e-wallet in two countries, Malaysia and Singapore, as it goes after a slice Southeast Asia’s fintech boom which has attracted non-traditional players that include AirAsia, Grab and Go-Jek among others.

Razer hooks up with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming
Source: TechCrunch

Tandem Bank launches ‘Autosavings’ account

Tandem Bank launches ‘Autosavings’ account

Tandem Bank, the U.K. challenger bank, is launching a new savings account powered by its “Autosavings” feature designed to make it easier to save.

Paying 0.5 percent interest, the Tandem Autosavings account is effectively a flexible savings bank account built on top of Tandem’s existing bank account aggregation app and the various credit cards it offers. Based on a number of rules, it will automatically put money aside based on your spending habits and what its algorithm deems you can afford.

The first rule, known as “Round Ups,” will move the change from small purchases to your Tandem Autosavings account, enabling you to round-up to the next pound across spending on all of your connected bank accounts.

The second rule, dubbed “Safe To Save,” claims to use machine learning to calculate how much you can save based on the income and outgoings of your connected accounts. Within the Tandem app you can set your saving level using a slider from minimum to maximum savings, which aims to save between 5 and 15 percent of your income.

Outside of these rules, you can also choose to top up your Tandem Autosavings account at anytime. Money moved across to your Tandem Autosavings account is pulled via the debit card you have added to the app and transactions are processed by Stripe, as we previously reported.

“We spend a huge amount of time speaking with our users, understanding the challenges they face with their money, and what we can do to help,” Tandem’s Matt Ford tells me. “A consistent theme which arose for many of our users was the need to save. People either felt like they were unable to save at all (as they battle through to the end of the month), or were trying to save, but spending got in the way and they were unable to reach their goals fast enough”.

Ford says that Autosavings aims to solve these problems by drawing on “behavioural economics principles”. The idea is that by helping customers save small amounts each time they spend, Tandem is initiating a savings behaviour for customers who may have previously felt unable to save.

“Similarly, for those who need an extra boost, we have a rule called ‘safe to save’ which, based on a forecast of upcoming spending and bills, helps sweep any spare cash automatically aside into an interest-bearing Tandem savings account… We’re planning to roll out additional rules over time to find new ways to help customers kickstart and accelerate their savings behaviour”.

Perhaps crucially, Ford says that Tandem doesn’t “sweep” money immediately. Instead, savings are first added to a “virtual pot” that builds throughout the week, before moving across into your Tandem account.

“With a quick swipe, customers can remove any savings items added to the pot before it leaves their current account, and they get a push notification before the money movement occurs so they can ensure that they are comfortable with the saving amount,” he explains. “Also, for people who have aggregated their current account and have the safe to save rule activated, we’re continually monitoring on a day-to-day basis how much a customer can afford to save based on their sending and account balance”.

Meanwhile, Tandem has picked up pace over the last 18 months. Most recently the company launched a credit card for people who find it hard to quality for one. It followed the launch of a competitive fixed savings product, pitting it against a whole host of incumbent and challenger banks, and the original Tandem credit card offering cash-back and low FX rates.

All of Tandem’s products are managed via the Tandem mobile app, which also acts as a Personal Finance Manager (PFM), including letting you aggregate your non-Tandem bank account data from other bank accounts or credit cards you might have.

Like a plethora of fintechs, Tandem’s broader strategy is to become your financial control centre and connect you to and offer various financial services. These are either products of its own or through partnerships with other fintech startups and more established providers.

Tandem Bank launches ‘Autosavings’ account
Source: TechCrunch

Yandex inks deal with Hyundai to build self-driving car tech for its Mobis OEM division

Yandex inks deal with Hyundai to build self-driving car tech for its Mobis OEM division

On the heels of becoming the latest investor in Ola, today Hyundai announced another key deal to further its ambitions in next-generation automotive services. Yandex, the Russian search giant that has been working on self-driving car technology, has inked a partnership with Hyundai to develop software and hardware for autonomous car systems.

This is Yandex’s first partnership with a carmaker, and specifically, Yandex will be working with Hyundai Mobis, the car giant’s OEM parts and service division, where the plan is “to create a self-driving platform that can be used by any car manufacturer or taxi fleet.” Mobis supplies Hyundai as well as its partly-owned Kia and fully-owned Genesis subsidiaries, along with other automakers.

“This is our first partnership, and a clear validation of the intensive development of our self-driving platform. We have already performed thousands of rides in our autonomous taxi service fulfilled without a driver in the driver’s seat,” Dmitry Polishchuk, who heads up Yandex’s self-driving car efforts, said to TechCrunch in an email. “We are excited to combine the experience of Hyundai Mobis in the automotive industry with Yandex’s technological achievements. This should help us to accelerate the pace of self-driving tech development.” In terms of future partnerships, Yandex notes that the agreement is “not exclusive, and we are open to work with other partners.”

The financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, a Yandex spokesperson told TechCrunch. To give some context, Hyundai Motors is the third-largest automotive company in the world, and it describes Mobis as the sixth-largest OEM. In addition to the $300 million stake it announced earlier today in India’s ride-sharing upstart Ola, it’s forged financial and strategic partnerships with a string of other companies building technology for autonomous systems, including WayRaySoundHound, and Aurora.

Yandex, meanwhile, has been working on self-driving car tech since 2017, equipping Toyota models for a series of pilots in closed-campus environments in Russia, Tel Aviv and most recently Las Vegas, Nevada (during the CES show, where cars-as-the-latest-hardware has become a dominant theme). Yandex said that its pilots so far have been so-called “robotaxi” efforts: that is, there are safety engineers sitting in the driver’s seat, but the cars have been operating autonomously otherwise.

Yandex — similar to Baidu in China and Google, well, globally — initially made its name in search but has diversified into a variety of areas over the years, tapping R&D in machine learning and other technologies to move into maps and ride-sharing services, among other related areas.

Yandex.Taxi is now active in 15 countries — Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Israel, the Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Serbia, Uzbekistan, Finland, and Estonia — and that service is one obvious application for this partnership. Similar to Uber (which handed off some operations to Yandex in 2017), Yandex is looking at self-driving technology — which is part of the bigger Yandex.Taxi operation — as one way of expanding its fleet in the years to come.

Although Hyundai, similar to other automakers, has been chipping away at self-driving with multiple partnerships with third parties, this deal is breaking new ground for Yandex, which has been in many ways pigeonholed as “Russia’s Google” but has for years been looking for ways to expand its profile and reach into more countries outside its home market.

“Our self-driving technologies are unique and have already proven their scalability. Yandex’s self-driving cars have been successfully driving on the streets of Moscow, Tel Aviv and Las Vegas, which means that the fleet can be expanded to drive anywhere,” said Arkady Volozh, CEO of Yandex. “It took us just two years to go from the first basic tests to a full-fledged public robotaxi service. Now, thanks to our agreement with Hyundai Mobis, we will be able to move even faster.”

Yandex inks deal with Hyundai to build self-driving car tech for its Mobis OEM division
Source: TechCrunch