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Hong Kong Startup News Roundup - 26 April 2020


Hong Kong-based investment app 8 Securities acquired as SoFi goes international

Consumer financial services platform SoFi is making its first expansion outside of the United States with the acquisition of Hong Kong-based investing app 8 Securities.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Targeted to personal investors, 8 Securities will rebrand to SoFi Hong Kong and retain its team, who will began launching services in other markets as well.

SoFi currently has about one million members in the U.S. Last month, it acquired payments and bank account infrastructure company Galileo, with the goal of expanding its products further beyond consumer services.

SoFi Hong Kong gives SoFi its first international foothold. SoFi Hong Kong will retain its social trading features, and add new ones like SoFi membership points and collections that organize stocks and ETFs around themes, including gaming, Chinese e-commerce, “clean tech” and digital payments. It plans to introduce new collections, such as “Work From Home” and “Travel,” to gives insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected different sectors.

Hong Kong’s First Approved Crypto Fund Is Targeting $100 Million

Venture Smart Asia Ltd. has launched Hong Kong’s first approved cryptocurrency fund with a target first-year size of $100 million, offering an officially sanctioned window for institutional investors in Bitcoin.

Arrano Capital, the Hong Kong asset manager’s blockchain arm, announced Monday the rollout of its Bitcoin fund, after clearing licensing conditions to let it deal in virtual assets with the Securities and Futures Commission this month. It’s the first such fund approval since local regulators started to look into ways to exert oversight over the crypto industry about a year ago. The SFC has previously granted licenses to crypto asset managers like Hong Kong’s Diginex, but those haven’t met the full criteria to run pure crypto funds that can be marketed to professional investors only.

“We decided to launch this fund to address market demand from professional investors who are increasingly focused on Bitcoin as an alternative store of value,” said Avaneesh Acquilla,i Arrano Chief Investment Officer. “Ultimately for Bitcoin to be widely accepted and for people to trust it, there needs to be regulation.”

HK-based recruitment platform Talkpush bags funding to expand to Latin America

Talent acquisition tech is gaining a foothold in Latin America, where companies plan to increase automation by up to 45% in areas such as recruitment. Moreover, 54% of organizations look to boost investment in HR tech this year.

That’s according to Hong Kong-based recruitment platform Talkpush, which has announced that it’s secured an undisclosed amount of investment from Colombia-based Latin Leap. With the new funds, Talkpush plans to drive its growth in Latin America, with the intention of introducing its product, Felipe Bot, over the next few months.

Incorporated in Singapore, Latin Leap is a venture capital studio that aims to open up opportunities in Latin America for Asian startups.

Founded in 2014, Talkpush uses robotic process automation technology to optimize traditional recruitment processes. It also employs AI, big data and analytics, cloud computing, and social media for talent acquisition, candidate pipeline management, and recruitment analytics. The company claims its solutions help talent acquisition teams to eliminate 95% of manual tasks.

BloomMe: Spa app’s abrupt closure leaves vendors, customers out of pocket

Well, that got ugly fast. Spa and salon booking app BloomMe has abruptly closed, leaving both vendors and customers confused and out of pocket.

The company emailed its vendors and customers on Tuesday evening to say that they had ceased operations, effective immediately. The app, which allowed users to book and pay for beauty appointments at over 1,300 spas and salons, had a reported customer base of 250,000 people in Hong Kong. BloomMe Pro, the company’s spa management software, has also gone offline, leaving business owners that bought subscriptions high and dry.

A notice on BloomMe’s website says the business “collapsed” due to circumstances beyond their control, “including but not limited to the corona[virus] outbreak”. However, dozens of vendors say they have been chasing the company for payment since the end of last year.

Apple Daily reports that a group of more than 50 people went to the Western Police Station yesterday to file a complaint against the company, claiming that they were owed a total of HKD2 million for treatments that they gave to BloomMe customers. Meanwhile, a former BloomMe employee also told the paper that they were owed wages, and would be contacting the Labor Department for help.

SoftBank-backed travel startup Klook to cut staff; co-founders ditch pay

Travel booking startup Klook will be laying off staff, putting some employees on temporary leave and implementing a company-wide reduced work week to cut costs amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The co-founders of the Hong Kong-based firm had also stopped taking a salary since February, and will continue to do so until the crisis is over.

In an e-mail to employees, chief executive and co-founder Ethan Lin said the streamlining of workforce will happen across offices and functions.

As at April last year, the unicorn startup employed more than 1,000 staff across over 20 offices worldwide.

Recipe platform, DayDayCook, serves up US$80m IPO

DayDayCook, operator of an online cooking recipes-sharing platform, is planning to launch a US initial public offering to raise up to US$80 million (HK$624 million), local media reported.

The Hong Kong start-up plans to list in Nasdaq with weighted voting right shares in the third quarter with a valuation of around US$400 million to US$450 million. DayDayCook has hired Citibank and AMTD Group to arrange the flotation.

DayDayCook, with monthly users of more than 400,000, was founded by Norma Chu, a former head of equity research at HSBC Private Bank, in 2012. It raised 100 million yuan (HK$186.28 billion) in venture capital financing in 2017, led by Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund and K11 Investment, backed by Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, executive vice-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016).

The company entered to mainland market in 2015. Chu said the March active monthly user number surged 52 percent from January as more people have been staying at home and cooking meals amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company's sales in the mainland e-commerce platforms also rose more than 42 percent.

Smartsave.Life forms a Joint Venture with Wellchamp Capital

Lee Wilkins, CTO and Co-founder at SmartSave.Life announced on LinkedIn their joint venture with Wellchamp Capital! This brings them a huge leap closer to launching their product with the resources and team they need to do it properly!

They have also been working on a new brand which will be revealed soon. 

Hong Kong VC leads £2 Million funding round for Applied Blockchain

Applied Blockchain, a blockchain solutions development and consulting company, has just brought in £2 million in a funding round, according to a release from the group.

This round was lead by QBN Capital, a venture capital firm based in Hong Kong. An excerpt from the release notes what they’ll be doing with the funds:

“The newly-injected funds will be invested in developing a platform using privacy-enhancing technologies to help companies to collaborate and generate meaningful outcomes together, without having to share any of their data.”

Since starting out, Applied Blockchain has provided over 70 solutions to startups and other groups that have worked with the company. Now, they’re working to expand their offerings even more, protecting their information along the way.

Rocketbots is Now Respond.io

Rocketbots has rebranded itself into Respond.io. 

With the help of Beyond Ventures and KTB Network, they have raised $1.8 Million to fund the ongoing development and innovation of their Business Messaging Platform.

To continue growing their delightful customer base in Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia we’ve opened a brand new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and doubled our team size.

Online retailer Vestiaire Collective nets $64m to expand in Asia

Vestiaire Collective, a Paris-based ecommerce platform, announced that it has landed US$64 million in funding. Investors in the round include new backers Korelya Capital, Vaultier7, Cuir Invest, as well as funds managed by Fidelity International.

Existing shareholders Eurazeo (Eurazeo Growth & Idinvest Venture funds), Bpifrance, Vitruvian Partners, Conde Nast, Luxury Tech Fund, and Vestiaire Collective’s CEO, Lazada founder Max Bittner, also invested.

Launched in 2009, Vestiaire Collective is an online marketplace where users can buy and sell pre-owned luxury fashion items.

It currently has over 9 million members across 90 countries, with offices in Paris, London, New York, Milan, Berlin, and Hong Kong. Over 80% of the company’s transactions are generated cross-border, according to a statement.

Vestiaire said that it will explore expansion in South Korea and Japan this year, with the help of Korelya Capital, which is backed by Korean conglomerate Naver. It also looks to continue to grow in the US market.

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