Asia news roundup: Ant Financial seeks $10b, Singapore breaks VC record, and more
Ant Financial is seeking a big funding injection in the run-up to a possible IPO, while Kristal.AI, Telepod, and Graventure are among the startups to nab investment today.
Kristal.AI raises US$1.85 million in seed round led by IDG Ventures India (Singapore). A local startup, which uses artificial intelligence to help clients manage their assets digitally, closed a seed round led by IDG Ventures India. Angel investors including Shailesh Rao, senior advisor at TPG and McKinsey, and Amit Gupta, founding partner at Newquest Capital, also joined the round. Kristal.AI said it will use the fresh funds to advance its AI technology, and to expand beyond its current operations in Singapore, India, and Hong Kong, into Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the US. (Kristal.AI)
Telepod closes funding round led by SMRT (Singapore). The local startup, which lets users share e-scooters, raised an undisclosed amount in a funding round led by MomentUM, the corporate venture and incubation platform of the city-state’s public transport operator SMRT. Also participating in the round were Bravio Capital, Quest Ventures, and two undisclosed angel investors. The firm said it will use the money to beef up logistical assets and technology as it plans for a nation-wide expansion this year. (e27
Car-rental startup closes seed round led by Manny Pacquiao (The Philippines). Graventure, a startup that connects car rental agencies to consumers, raised an undisclosed amount in a seed round led by Filipino boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao, who will also become the face of Graventure as part of the deal. The firm did not say how it would use the funding, but its official launch is slated for the third quarter of the year. (e27
Ant Financial in talks to raise US$10 billion, possibly led by Singapore’s Temasek (China). Alibaba’s fintech affiliate, which runs Alipay, is reportedly seeking at least US$9 billion in funding, with the Singaporean sovereign fund slated to lead the round. The Ant Financial IPO, if it goes through, could value the company at US$150 billion, according to the report, making it the world’s largest unicorn. (Bloomberg)
WhatsApp seeks to appoint first India head (India). The chat app is looking to hire to someone with more than 15 years of product and business development experience to head its India team out of Mumbai. The company, which already has employees in the city and Hyderabad, is also looking for a communications manager to be based in Gurugram near the country’s capital. (Quartz)
Media and entertainment
Authorities order shutdown of joke app (China). The country’s State Administration of Radio and Television ordered Jinri Toutiao to permanently close its joke app Neihan Duanzi due to vulgar content. This directive comes a day after the Beijing-based media platform had its news app suspended from China’s app stores for three weeks. The firm has since published an open letter of apology. (Technode)
Investors, incubators, and accelerators
Singapore breaks VC funding record (Singapore). The city-state saw a record US$2.68 billion in VC investment in the first quarter of 2018, most of which came was accounted for by Grab’s US$2.5 billion series G fundraise. The global VC market had a strong start with US$49.3 billion investment raised across 2,661 deals in Q1, almost beating the previous quarterly record. (KPMG)
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