ZTE hit with 2-year ‘monitoring’ extension after breaking probation terms

Embattled Chinese tech firm ZTE narrowly survived after the U.S. Department of Commerce hit it with a $1 billion fine and forced changes to its business earlier this year, and. Now it is back in the news for negative reasons after it was judged to have broken the probation around a fine that it copped in 2017. The company agreed to pay $892 million last March after pleading guilty to charges of violating U.S.-Iran sanctions — the same issue that triggered the initial ban from the Department of Commerce. A condition of that 2017 deal was that the company would be ‘monitored’ until 2020 to ensure against repeat offenses. That term has been extended by a further two years by a U.S. court — as Reuters reports — it had “falsely disciplined” employees who were part of the Iran trading activities. ZTE had been required to terminate
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Africa Roundup: Paga goes global and 4 startups raise $99M in VC

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for international expansion with a $10 million round led by the Global Innovation Fund. The company is exploring the release of its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch.

Paga looks to go head to head with regional and global payment players, such as PayPal,  Alipay, and Safaricom according to Oviosu.

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he  said of Kenya’s  href="https://crunchbase.com/organization/m-pesa" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://crunchbase.com/organization/m-pesa&source=gmail&ust=1538690131434000&usg=AFQjCNFh9TKfy2mvIHjw_XVc1R63-ggIJg">M-Pesa  mobile money product. “Our goal is to build a global payment ecosystem across many
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Here are the companies that pitched in Startup Battlefield MENA

Today in lovely Beirut, Lebanon TechCrunch held its first Startup Battlefield in the country. Over 700 people watched the show on site, which featured speakers from throughout the Middle East and 15 startups competing in Startup Battlefield. A winner will be chosen at the end of the day and they will walk away with a $25,000 prize. As of this post’s publication, a winner has not been picked. What follows, is each company’s Startup Battlefield pitch in the order that they appeared on stage. [Please note: Videos will be added to this list as they become available]

Startup Battlefield Competition – Flight #1

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Real estate construction firms nowadays are struggling to keep up with the fast-moving pace of technological advancements in order to fulfill the market constantly changing demands. Buildink is offering a revolutionary solution for construction firms, via a scalable and mobile friendly Cable Robot Concrete 3D printer
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We’re kicking off Startup Battlefield MENA, here are the startups and agenda

We’re kicking off Startup Battlefield MENA here in Beirut, where 15 startups will be taking the stage, along with speakers from Facebook (our partner on the event through its FB Start program), Instabug, Eventus, Wuzzuf, Careem and Myki. For those of you who can’t be here in person, check back on TechCrunch later today, where we’ll be sharing videos and other highlights from the event. And of course, announcing the winner! For the first time, TechCrunch is holding Startup Battlefield MENA in partnership with FB Start. After scouring does dozens of countries, sifting through hundreds and hundreds of extremely talented startups, TechCrunch selected 15 elite companies across the region to compete in prestigious global Startup Battlefield competition for $25,000 equity-free prize, a trip for 2 to TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 and the coveted title of “Middle East & North Africa’s Favorite Startup”. After weeks of intense coaching from the
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Philippines SME lending startup First Circle raises $26M ahead of regional expansion

This year has been a breakout one for micro-financing startups in Southeast Asia, which are becoming among the most funded within the region’s fintech space. Next in line to raise capital is First Circle, an SME-lending service that’s based in the Philippines which has pulled in $26 million as it begins to consider regional expansion options. The new financing is led by Venturra Capital with participation from Insignia Ventures Partners, Hong Kong’s Silverhorn Investment Advisors, and Tryb Group. First Circle has previously raised $2.5 million, including a $1.3 million seed round 18 months ago. The company was founded by Irish duo CEO Patrick Lynch, formerly of CompareAsia Group and CTO Tony Ennis, previously with WebSummit, and the goal is to help small businesses scale by offering them short-term loans. The Philippines is an impact market since SMEs account for 99.6 percent of the country’s business
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Benchmark is staying focused, targeting $425M for ninth fund

VC powerhouse Benchmark has filed to raise $425 million for its ninth flagship fund. While other firms close billion-dollar venture funds despite a history of smaller fundraises, Benchmark is sticking to its guns. The firm, known for its early bets on Twitter, Uber, Snap and WeWork, hasn’t fallen victim to the SoftBank effect. Longtime Benchmark general partners Bill Gurley and Peter Fenton are listed on the filing alongside three newer members of the partnership. Benchmark staples Mitch Lasky and Matt Cohler, who joined the firm in 2007 and 2008, respectively, are noticeably absent. Lasky’s departure doesn’t come as a shock. He stepped down from Snap’s board of directors in June just after Recode reported that he was “widely expected to not sign up for another round of deals.” Cohler, for his part, joined Benchmark a decade ago from Facebook where he was a vice president. At Benchmark, he was
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Uber and Grab hit with $9.5M in fines over ‘anti-competitive’ merger

Uber and Grab have been hit with combined fines of $9.5 million after their merger deal was found to have violated Singapore’s anti-competition laws. Grab acquired (and then merged/closed) Uber’s Southeast Asia business in March, but the Competition Commission of Singapore today declared the deal is “anti-competitive” following a months-long investigation into its impact on Singapore. The CCCS levied an SG$6,582,055 (US$4.8 million) fine on Uber and an SG$6,419,647 (US$4.7 million) fine on Grab, but it won’t unwind the deal, which had been an option. The fines relate only to the businesses in Singapore, which is just one of eight markets where Uber and Grab competed. Grab has raised $6 billion from investors so it shouldn’t have an issue paying that back. Chiefly, the CCCS found that Grab had raised prices by 10-15 percent following the deal, whilst its market share grew to 80 percent. That’s despite Grab
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Meet the startups in the latest Alchemist class

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model. You can watch the livestream at 3pm PST here. Videoflow – Videoflow allows broadcasters to personalize live TV. The founding team is a duo of brothers — one from the creative side of TV as a designer, the other a computer scientist. Their SaaS product delivers personalized and targeted content on top of live video streams to viewers. Completely bootstrapped to date, they’ve landed NBC, ABC, and CBS Sports as paying customers and appear to be growing fast, having booked over $300k in revenue this year. Redbird Health Tech – Redbird is a lab-in-a-box for convenient health monitoring
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Brazilian startup Yellow raises $63M — the largest Series A ever for a Latin American startup

After selling their ridesharing startup, 99, to Didi Chuxing for $1 billion last year, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas didn’t waste any time throwing their hats back in the ring. Months after their big exit, the pair joined forces with Eduardo Musa, who spent two decades in the bicycle industry, to start another São Paulo-based mobility startup. Yellow, a bike- and scooter-sharing service, quickly captured the attention of venture capitalists, raising a $9 million seed round in April and now, the company is announcing the close of a $63 million Series A. The round is the largest Series A financing ever for a startup in Latin America, where tech investment, especially from U.S.-based firms, has historically remained low. 2017, however, was a banner year for Latin American startups; 2018, it seems, is following suit. More than $600 million was invested in the first quarter of 2018, partly
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Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio makes bumpy start following $1B IPO

Nio, the Tesla -wannabe electric vehicle firm from China, enjoyed a mix start to life as a public company after it raised $1 billion through a listing on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The firm went public at $6.26just one cent above the bottom of its pricing range — meaning that it raised a little over $1 billion. That’s some way down on its original goal of $1.8 billion, per an initial filing in August, and for a while it looked like even that price was optimistic. Early trading saw Nio’s stock fall as low as $5.84 before a wave of optimism took it to $6.81. The stock closed its first day at $6.60, up 12 percent overall, to give Nio a total market cap of $7.1 billion. Nio sells in China only, although its tech and design teams
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Ready, Set, Raise is a new accelerator built for women by women

Women in tech are not only significantly under-funded by venture capitalists, but they also often lack access to the early-stage support granted to their male counterparts. To enroll in a startup accelerator like Y Combinator, for example, its expected founders relocate to the Bay Area for three months. Women, who are more often caregivers, might not be able to do that, and even if they can, the program may not cater to their specific needs. Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a relatively new network of female startup founders, has built a free, non-dilutive 5-week accelerator for women by women. Called ‘Ready, Set, Raise,’ its goal is to help more female-founded startups raise VC through workshops, 1-on-1 coaching, legal clinics, communications and speech coaching and more. The accelerator, sponsored by Trilogy Equity Partners, kicked off at the end of August and will culminate with a private demo day with VCs in
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Jack Ma says he isn’t about to retire from Alibaba but is planning a gradual succession

Reports of Jack Ma’s impending retirement are greatly exaggerated, it seems. Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, has pushed back on claims that he is on the cusp of leaving the $420 billion Chinese e-commerce firm. The New York Times first reported that the entrepreneur plans to announce that he will leave the firm to pursue philanthropy in education, a topic he is passionate about — Ma is a former teacher. But that news was quickly rebutted after Ma gave an interview to the South China Morning Postthe media company that Alibaba bought in 2016 — in which he explained that he plans to gradually phase himself out of the company through a succession plan. When reached for comment, Alibaba pointed TechCrunch to the SCMP report which claims Ma’s strategy will “provide [leadership] transition plans over a significant period of time.” In order words, Ma isn’t abruptly leaving
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Eventbrite sets IPO range of $19 to $21, valuing it at $1.8B

Eventbrite has taken its final step toward becoming a publicly traded company. In an updated S-1 filing this morning, the ticketing and events company announced plans to sell 10 million Class A shares on the New York Stock Exchange at a price range of $19 to $21 under the ticker symbol EB. At a midpoint price, Eventbrite will raise $200 million at a $1.8 billion valuation. The company filed its initial IPO paperwork confidentially back in July, then unveiled its S-1 to about two weeks ago. Eventbrite is not profitable and has been losing money since 2016. According to the documents, it posted losses of $40.4 million in 2016 and $38.5 million in 2017. In the first six months of 2018, the company has posted a net loss of $15.6 million. The company is making changes to make up for some of those losses  at
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Is China’s digital silk road going to pave over Silicon Valley?

Over the past 20 years, China has now grown into one of the largest consumer technology markets, with thousands of startups and funding rivaling Silicon Valley. In 2018, Chinese entrepreneurs are seeking to expand their businesses beyond borders, establish international operations, and become global companies by listing on exchanges including the NASDAQ and NYSE. More than ever Chinese entrepreneurs are confident in their ability to create a unicorn thanks to China’s digital transformation and its leading innovations in international markets.

Digital transformation through new native apps and services make scaling easier

Despite the talent war between China and the U.S. and large growing domestic markets, Chinese chief executives dream of successfully entering the U.S. Market. There is now global competition to attract Chinese startups to list on exchanges around the world. With a growing
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South Africa’s Yoco raises $16 million to boost digital services to small businesses

South African startup Yoco has raised $16 million in a new round of funding to expand its payment management and audit services for small and medium sized businesses as it angles to be one of Africa’s billion dollar businesses.

To get there the company that “builds tools and services to help SMEs get paid and manage their business” plans to tap $20 billion in commercial activity that the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Katlego Maphai estimates is waiting to move from cash payments to digital offerings.

Yoco’s already posted significant numbers for its business connecting small companies to digital

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ShipBob brings in $40M to help e-commerce businesses compete with Amazon

Nowadays, those of us who shop for everyday goods online are accustomed to said goods arriving on our doorstep 24 to 48 hours after we click ‘buy.’ That’s because of Amazon; the e-commerce giant’s next-day delivery feature is a sweet, sweet deal, but for smaller e-commerce businesses that are trying to compete with Jeff Bezos it’s, well, tough. ShipBob is here to help. The Chicago-based startup has raised a $40 million Series C to help small e-commerce businesses streamline the fulfillment process and manage inventory. The company was launched through Y Combinator in 2014 by CEO Dhruv Saxena and Divey Gulati, a pair of engineers that met after college. “Once we graduated, we thought up this e-commerce store and we were able to automate basically everything in the operation except for shipping and logistics,” Saxena told TechCrunch. “We realized none of the existing solutions out there worked. So, we
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Southeast Asia’s Fave raises $20M and adds mystery strategic investor from China

So you thought group-buying was dead?! Not in Southeast Asia where Fave, a company that aims to connect local merchants with customers using discount sales, has closed a $20 million Series B round as it explores expansion opportunities. The startup began as fitness subscription service KFit, but it pivoted group-buying and coupons after it acquired Groupon’s businesses in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. KFit continues to run, but the Groupon deal saw Fave CEO Joel Neoh return to the e-commerce space — Neoh previously started Malaysia-based GroupsMore which Groupon acquired within months of launch. He then went on to lead Groupon’s operations in Asia before leaving to start KFit in 2015. Fellow KFit/Fave co-founder Yeoh Chen Chow also spent time with Groupon as its regional operations director in APAC. Groupon said that its new round was led by existing backers Sequoia India, SIG Asia Investment and Ventura Capital, although Neoh told
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Australia’s Simple lands $17M to grow its marketing intelligence platform worldwide

Simple, an Australia-based business that operates a platform for managing marketing strategies and campaigns, has pulled in $17 million to expand its business in the U.S. and other global markets. The round was led by BBRC Private Equity, the fund from multi-millionaire retailer Bretty Blundy, with participation from existing backer Perle Ventures. Unlike most marketing services out there, Simple doesn’t involve itself in execution. It instead is “upstream planning,” which essentially means it helps teams to manage their campaigns by focuses on areas like planning, budgeting, organization, analysis and more. The primary idea is to increase efficiency and value for money from marketing, particularly across the complexity of large and global organizations. Simple recently tie-up with Microsoft over the launch of its new ‘intelligent market platform’ which, unveiled at Microsoft’s Inspire partners’ conference in Las Vegas, is built on top of the tech giant’s Azure platform. It offers integrations with services like Microsoft
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The lobbying is fast and furious as gig companies seek relief from pro-labor Supreme Court ruling

For four years, Edhuar Arellano has left his house at 7 a.m. on weekdays to drive customers around the Bay Area for Lyft and Uber . Most days, he doesn’t get home to Santa Clara until 11 p.m. On weekends, he delivers pizzas to make ends meet. Like a lot of drivers plugging in to ride-hailing apps for work, he likes the flexibility the gig economy has offered. But given the choice, Arellano says he wishes he could just become an employee. That would get him paid vacation, benefits, overtime, his own health insurance and perhaps more say over his working conditions. “We need to accept whatever they want,” said the 55-year-old father of two grown children. “I can’t control anything.” That quandary is behind a ferocious battle quietly playing out in the Capitol in
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