All posts in “Thailand”

Chat app Line injects $182M into its mobile payment business

Japanese messaging app company Line is pumping 20 billion JPY ($182 million) into its mobile payment business as it tries to turn things around following a challenging year in 2018.

The company announced the infusion into Line Pay, a subsidiary that it fully owns, in a filing that stated the new capital is “necessary funds for its future business operation.” No further details were provided.

The investment comes on the heels of Line’s latest financial report which saw it post a 5.79 billion JPY loss as revenue grew by 24 percent to reach 207.18 billion JPY in 2018. Line has long been a top money maker in the App Store, but its efforts to build out content around its messaging platform and games division have turned out to be expensive, with a job service, manga platform and e-commerce business among its ventures.

In addition to more content, payments are also seen as “glue” that can increase engagement within the Line ecosystem and its main messaging app.

The company is going after the cashless opportunity in Japan, where it is the dominant chat app with an estimated 50 million registered users. The country is notable for its continued use of cash, but the government is using the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games as an opportunity to move toward a digital future. Aside from its core Line Pay service, which sits inside the Line chat app, Line is introducing its own credit card with Visa and has gone after Chinese tourists through a tie-in with Tencent, the internet giant behind China’s top messaging app WeChat.

Outside of Japan, Line Pay is also available in Thailand (where it works with the Bangkok metro provider), Taiwan (where it counts two banks as partners) and Indonesia, which Line says are its next three largest markets in terms of user numbers. Together, across those four countries, Line claims it has 165 million monthly active users and 40 million registered Line Pay users. Line said GMV reached 55 billion JPY ($482 million) per month back in November 2017; there’s been no update since.

The service was launched more widely but it has shuttered in other markets, including Singapore where it was ended in February 2018.

Beyond payment, Line is also moving into banking and financial services. It is working to launch a digital bank in Japan and last year it announced plans to investigate the potential to roll out loans, insurance and other services backed by its own cryptocurrency. While it didn’t hold an ICO — its “Link” token is earned or can be bought on exchanges — Line did dive into crypto in a major way, opening its own exchange and starting a crypto investment fund, too. With the bear market in full effect, and token valuations dropping by 90 percent across the board, we haven’t heard too much more from Line regarding its crypto plans.

Facebook removes hundreds of accounts linked to fake news group in Indonesia

Facebook said today it has removed hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts with links to an organization that peddled fake news.

The world’s fourth largest country with a population of more than 260 million, Indonesia is in an election year alongside Southeast Asia neighbors Thailand and the Philippines. Facebook said this week it has set up an “election integrity” team in Singapore, its APAC HQ, as it tries to prevent its social network being misused in the lead-up to voting as happened in the U.S.

This Indonesia bust is the first move announced since that task force was put in place, and it sees 207 Facebook Pages, 800 Facebook accounts, 546 Facebook Groups and 208 Instagram accounts removed for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“About 170,000 people followed at least one of these Facebook Pages, and more than 65,000 followed at least one of these Instagram accounts,” Facebook said of the reach of the removed accounts.

The groups and accounts are linked to Saracen Group, a digital media group that saw three of its members arrested by police in 2016 for spreading “incendiary material,” as Reuters reports.

Facebook isn’t saying too much about the removals other than: “we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.”

In January, the social network banned a fake news group in the Philippines in similar circumstances.

Despite the recent action, the U.S. company has struggled to manage the flow of false information that flows across its services in Asia. The most extreme examples come from Myanmar, where the UN has concluded that Facebook played a key role in escalating religious hatred and fueling violence. Facebook has also been criticized for allowing manipulation in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, among other places.

Enterprise messaging startup Eko Communications raises $20M for its European expansion

After focusing on Asian markets, particularly in Southeast Asia, Bangkok-based Eko Communications is getting ready to take on Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other enterprise messaging apps in Europe. The startup announced today that it has raised a Series B of $20 million and opened offices in London (which will serve as its new commercial headquarters), Amsterdam, and Berlin.

The funding, led by SMD Ventures, with participation from AirAsia’s digital investment arm Redbeat Ventures, Gobi Partners, East Ventures, and returning investors, brings Eko Communication’s total raised to $28.7 million. The company’s Series A was announced in 2015, followed by $2 million in strategic funding from Japanese conglomerate Itochu last year. Eko Communications (not to be confused with Eko, an interactive video startup) has already served clients like Thai mobile operator True, Radisson, and 7-Eleven.

Eko Communications’ Series B is earmarked for its ambitious global expansion plans in the first quarter of 2019. Korawad Chearavanont, the company’s CEO and co-founder, told TechCrunch in an email that it has already localized products for target markets including the UK, Ireland, Benelux, and the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).

Eko Communications wants to expand in the European Union and the United States because their economies are both significantly larger than Southeast Asia’s, said Chearavanont. This, plus the fact that both have larger enterprise IT markets thanks to higher spending on software by companies, means that “for Eko to achieve the necessary scale to become a global player in the mobile enterprise market, continued growth in these markets is critical,” he added.

The company claims that its revenues have more than tripled in the past year and that it now has more than 500,000 recurring paid users. Of course, any enterprise messaging startup has to contend with the specter of Slack and Microsoft Teams. Positioning Eko Communications as a rival to those services, however, isn’t totally accurate because they are aimed at different customers.

Slack and Microsoft Teams are “primarily utilized by ‘knowledge workers’ and these systems are priced for these types of users,” Chearavanont said. “Being a mobile-first company, we target companies that have a large presence of mobile-first staff traditionally in industries like retail and hospitality (the services sector in general).” Many employees in those sectors still rely on messaging apps like WhatsApp or email to communicate, so Eko Communications seeks to make it easy for companies to transition from their ad hoc communication methods to a more secure and efficient system with tools like APIs to help them integrate legacy systems.

Ugh, Elon Musk attacks British diver who called his submarine ‘just a PR stunt’

Image: Kiichiro Sato/AP/REX/Shutterstock

After Vern Unsworth, a British diver who helped rescue the trapped Thai soccer team, called Elon Musk’s attempt at a submarine rescue “just a PR stunt” that had ‘absolutely no chance of working,” Musk has chosen to be angry online. 

Surprise!

In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Musk referred to Unsworth as a “pedo,” requested video of the cave rescue, retracted that request, then promised proof that his submarine could have, in fact, performed the rescue.

It’s a lot.

The tweetstorm was in response to a tweet from professor and New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci, who wrote an op-ed arguing that Musk could learn a lesson about Silicon Valley hubris from the incident. (Her thread on celebrity intervention in rescue efforts is a great read.)

Never has a man so desperately needed to log off.

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Following his Thailand visit, Elon Musk is going to, um, save Flint?

Elon's here to save the daaaay.
Elon’s here to save the daaaay.

Image: Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW

Fresh off saving a soccer team visiting Thailand with a tiny submarine, Elon Musk is embarking on another heroic mission: bringing clean water to Flint, Michigan. 

On Wednesday, Musk was gently needled on Twitter by someone seeking help for the people of Flint, where there’s been a water crisis since 2014. 

Musk replied he was up to the task, pledging water filters for anyone in Flint who needed one. 

Hopefully, he can be a little more effective this time around. (No, he didn’t save a soccer team from a cave in Thailand. The real heroes were Thai Navy SEALs.) Despite the fact Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder ended the city’s free bottled water program in April, Flint still uses lead pipes, and some residents say they don’t trust the water coming out of their taps. 

Back in 2014, the city started bringing in water from the Flint River. The problem? It wasn’t treated properly, and lead leached into the water from the pipes. There were also two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, a bacterial infection that spreads through contaminated water supplies. 

So, how might a Flint resident ask for Musk’s help? He’s setting up an email.

Although, as Musk himself admits, he might not actually have to do much.

Yep, Musk is committing to a weekend in Michigan to install filters. Not a bad way to generate a bunch of “Elon Musk saves Flint” headlines. 

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