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Nintendo announces a handheld Nintendo Switch Lite for $199

By Romain Dillet

Nintendo has unveiled a new Nintendo Switch called the Nintendo Switch Lite. As the name suggests, this console is a bit cheaper than the original Nintendo Switch, but it comes with a few drawbacks.

The biggest difference between the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Light is that you can’t connect the Switch Light to a TV. There’s no dock or port designed for TV connection.

That’s not the only compromise you’ll have to make as the Joy-Con controllers aren’t detachable. You can’t put your Switch on a table and keep the controllers in your hand for instance.

Of course, you can buy Joy-Con controllers or the more traditional Nintendo Switch Pro controller separately. You’ll have to find a way to charge your Joy-Con controllers without the Switch — the Charging Grip could do the job for instance.

lite photo 02

But other than that, you’ll be able to play the exact same games that you’ve been playing on the Switch. As long as games support handheld mode, they will work on the Switch Lite.

The Switch Lite is slightly smaller and slightly lighter than the Switch — 0.61 lbs versus 0.88 lbs (277 g versus 399 g). It features a 5.5-inch touch screen instead of a 6.2-inch touch screen.

If you were wondering what would come after the 3DS, it sounds like the Switch Lite is the perfect replacement for a cheap portable console. And the good news is that you should get better battery life. Nintendo says you will be able to play for 3 to 7 hours. In their testings, they could play Zelda: Breath of the Wild during 4 hours.

Nintendo will release the Nintendo Switch Lite on September 20. The device will be available in multiple colors — yellow, gray and turquoise.

lite photo 01

Anvyl, looking to help D2C brands manage their supply chain, raises $9.3M

By Jordan Crook

Growing D2C brands face an interesting challenge. While they’ve eliminated much of the hassle of a physical storefront, they must still deal with all the complications involved in managing inventory and manufacturing and shipping a physical product to suppliers.

Anvyl, with a fresh $9.3 million in Series A funding, is looking to jump in and make a difference for those brands. The company, co-founded by chief executive Rodney Manzo, is today announcing the raise, led by Redpoint Ventures, with participation from existing investors First Round Capital and Company Ventures. Angel investors Kevin Ryan (MongoDB and DoubleClick), Ben Kaufman (Quirky and Camp) and Dan Rose (Facebook) also participated in the round.

Manzo hails from Apple, where with $300 million in spend to manage logistics and supply chain he was still operating in an Excel spreadsheet. He then went to Harry’s, where he shaved $10 million in cash burn in his first month. He says himself that sourcing, procurement and logistics are in his DNA.

Which brings us to Anvyl. Anvyl looks at every step in the logistics process, from manufacture to arrival at the supplier, and visualizes that migration in an easy-to-understand UI.

The difference between Anvyl and other supply chain logistics companies, such as Flexport, is that Anvyl goes all the way to the very beginning of the supply chain: the factories. The company partners with factories to set up cameras and sensors that let brands see their product actually being built.

“When I was at Apple, I traveled for two years at least once a month to China and Japan just to oversee production,” said Manzo. “To oversee production, you essentially have to be boots on the ground and eyes in the factory. None of our brands have traveled to a factory.”

On the other end of the supply chain, Anvyl lets brands manage suppliers, find new suppliers, submit RFQs, see cost breakdowns and accept quotes.

The company also looks at each step in between, including trucks, trains, boats and planes so that brands can see, in real time, their products go from being manufactured to delivery.

Anvyl charges brands a monthly fee using a typical SaaS model. On the other end, Anvyl takes a “tiny percentage” of goods being produced within the Anvyl marketplace. The company declined to share actual numbers around pricing.

This latest round brings Anvyl’s total funding to $11.8 million. The company plans to use the funding toward hiring in engineering and marketing, and grow its consumer goods customer base.

Samsung backs Indus OS, three other startups in first investments for its VC arm in India

By Manish Singh

Samsung Venture, the investment arm of the South Korean technology giant, has invested $8.5 million in Indus OS and three other Indian startups as the company’s VC fund begins its journey in the country.

Indus OS is a popular Android fork that has built a suite of localized applications focused on serving the masses in India. Samsung and Venturest funded the four-year-old startup’s $5.75 million Series B round.

Several smartphone vendors, including homegrown firms such as Micromax, Gioness, Intex, and Karbonn are customers of Indus OS, integrating many of its features into their handsets. Earlier this year, Samsung partnered with Indus OS to revamp its Galaxy App Store.

Rakesh Deshmukh, co-founder and CEO of Indus OS, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup will use the fresh capital to develop more local solutions and build a software development kit for developers that will enable them to make tweaks to their existing apps and add India-specific features.

Deshmukh said Indus OS, which makes money from monetizing ads, would soon partner with more smartphone vendors to expand its reach in the country. This is crucial to the startup as Indian smartphone vendors, which once controlled the local smartphone market, have lost the smartphone war to Chinese vendors, that now control two-thirds of the space, and Samsung.

The other challenge is of course the rise of KaiOS, which has gained popularity in recent years after striking a deal with Indian telecom operator Reliance Jio. Tens of millions of JioPhone feature handsets today run KaiOS, giving many people fewer reasons to upgrade to a smartphone.

Deshmukh said he does not see KaiOS as a competitor. “It serves as a bridge. It is convincing many people to get online and try a multimedia phone for the first time. They will eventually upgrade to a better experience,” he said.

Indian newspaper Economic Times reported earlier today that Samsung now owns about 20% stakes of Indus OS. Representatives of the startup, which raised $10 million in three tranches of Series A three years ago, refuted the claim. Deshmukh said the company plans to raise more money in the coming future.

Other than Indus OS, Samsung Venture has invested in Gnani.ai, a startup that focuses on speech technology, and an IoT solutions provider Silvan Innovation Labs. The venture arm said it has also invested in an early stage startup that focuses on computer vision, but declined to name it.

Samsung Venture, which has over $2.2 billion in assets under management, said it continues to tract and actively invest in future-oriented businesses that are built on new technologies. Notably, Xiaomi, which surpassed Samsung to become India’s top smartphone vendor two years ago, has also invested in about half a dozen startups in India.

India’s tech startups have raised more than $20 billion in the last two years. The country’s burgeoning ecosystem is increasingly attracting major VC firms in the nation. SoftBank and Tiger Global, two large global VC funds, count India as one of their biggest markets.

In recent years, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook have also begun to infuse money in India’s startup space. Google has invested in delivery startup Dunzo, while Amazon has taken stake in more than half a dozen local companies including Shuttl. Facebook invested in social commerce app Meesho last month.

Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded its M12 corporate venture fund (formerly known as Microsoft Ventures) to India with an investment in Innovaccer, a six-year-old SaaS startup.

Birth control delivery startup Nurx introduces STI home-testing kits

By Kate Clark

Nurx, the “Uber for birth control,” will allow customers to test themselves for many of the most common sexually transmitted infections within the comforts of their own homes with its new STI home-testing kits.

Nurx, a graduate of Y Combinator, has raised about $42 million in venture capital funding from Kleiner Perkins, Union Square Ventures, Lowercase Capital and others to date. It launched in 2015 to facilitate women’s access to birth control across the U.S. with a HIPAA-compliant web platform and mobile application that delivers contraceptives directly to customers’ doorsteps.

Its latest launch is its first since Rao replaced Hans Gangeskar, Nurx’s co-founder and CEO since 2014. Rao told TechCrunch in April that the startup realized they needed talent in the C-suite that had experienced fast growth.

In addition to selling birth control, Nurx provides PrEP, the once-daily pill that reduces the risk of getting HIV, and an HPV testing kit direct to consumer.

Nurx says they will facilitate in-person care for patients who test positive for an STI, if necessary, or will work closely with them to determine next steps including offering oral treatment. Costs for the tests will vary. Each will include a $12 consultation fee, which provides patients with unlimited access to Nurx’s medical team.

  • Full Control Kit: Gonorrhea & Chlamydia (Throat, Rectal, Urine), Syphilis, Hepatitis C & HIV will cost $75 with health insurance, $220 without health insurance.
  • Healthy Women’s Kit: Gonorrhea & Chlamydia (Throat, Vaginal), Trichomoniasis, Syphilis & HIV will cost $75 with health insurance, $190 without health insurance.
  • Covered with the Basics Kit: Gonorrhea & Chlamydia (Urine), Syphilis, HIV will cost $75 with health insurance, $160 without health insurance.

“Nurx is uniquely positioned to address the STI epidemic by breaking down barriers to testing and providing a convenient and affordable ‘all-in-one’ experience for our patients, from testing to guidance to treatment,” Rao said in a statement.

The company’s latest product launch follows a damning report from The New York Times in April that asserted Nurx, which delivers birth control and other medications directly to consumers, employed unorthodox and downright irresponsible business practices, including reshipping returned medications and attempting to revise medical policy.

Rao was announced as Nurx’s new chief executive officer only one week before the NYT report. After being accused of cutting corners, the company said the irresponsible practices highlighted in the story “were in place for a very limited time, impacted a very limited number of patients, and ended nearly a year ago.”

“The story’s depiction of Nurx does not reflect our policies now, but just as importantly, they do not accurately reflect the full picture of how we operated then,” Nurx wrote in a response to the story.

Visa funds $40M for no-password crypto vault Anchorage

By Josh Constine

Visa and Andreessen Horowitz are betting even bigger on cryptocurrency, funding a big round for fellow Facebook Libra Association member Anchorage’s omnimetric blockchain security system. Instead of using passwords that can be stolen, Anchorage requires cryptocurrency withdrawals to be approved by a client’s other employees. Then the company uses both human and AI review of biometrics and more to validate transactions before they’re executed, while offering end-to-end insurance coverage.

This new-age approach to cryptocurrency protection has attracted a $40 million Series B for Anchorage led by Blockchain Capital and joined by Visa and Andreessen Horowitz. The round adds to Anchorage’s $17 million Series A that Andreessen led just six months ago, demonstrating extraordinary momentum for the security startup.

As a custodian, our work is focused on building financial plumbing that other companies depend on for their operations to run smoothly. In this regard we have always looked at Visa as a model” Anchorage co-founder and president Diogo Mónica tells me.

“Visa was ‘fintech’ before the term existed, and has always been on the vanguard of financial infrastructure. Visa’s investment in Anchorage is helpful not only to our company but to our industry, as a validation of the entire ecosystem and a recognition that crypto will play a key role in the future of global finance.”

Anchorage Crypto 1

Cold-storage, where assets are held in computers not connected to the Internet, has become a popular method of securing Bitcoin, Ether, and other tokens. But the problem is that this can prevent owners from participating in governance of certain cryptocurrency where votes are based on their holdings, or earning dividends. Anchorage tells me it’s purposefully designed to permit this kind of participation, helping clients to get the most out of their assets like capturing returns from staking and inflation, or joining in on-chain governance.

As 3 of the 28 founding members of the Libra Association that will govern the new Facebook-incubated cryptocurrency; Anchorage, Visa, and Andreessen Horowitz will be responsible for ensuring the stablecoin stays secure. While Facebook is building its own custodial wallet called Calibra for users, other Association members and companies hoping to dive into the ecosystem will need ways to protect their Libra stockpiles.

“Libra is exactly the kind of asset that Anchorage was created to hold” Mónica wrote the day Libra was revealed. “Our custody solution enables online participation with offline assets, so that asset-holders don’t face a trade-off between security and usability.” The company believes that custodians shouldn’t dictate what coins their clients hold, so it’s working to support all types of digital assets. Anchorage tells me that will include support for securing Libra in the future.

Libra Association Founding Partners

You’ve probably already used technology secured by Anchorage’s founders, who engineered Docker’s containers that are used by Microsoft, and Square’s first encrypted card reader. Mónica was at Square when he met his future Anchorage co-founder Nathan McCauley who’d been working on anti-reverse engineering tech for the U.S. military. When a company that had lost the password to a $1 million cryptocurrency account asked for their help with security, they recognized a recognized the need for a more idiot-proof take on asset protection.

“Anchorage applies the best of modern security engineering for a more advanced approach: we generate and store private keys in secure hardware so they are never exposed at any point in their life cycle, and we eliminate human operations that expose assets to risk” Mónica says. The startup competes with other crypto custody firms like Bitgo, Ledger, Coinbase, and Gemini.

Anchorage CryptocurrencyLast time we spoke, Anchorage was cagey about what I could reveal regarding how its transaction validation system worked. With the new funding, it’s feeling a little more secure about its market position and was willing to share more.

Anchorage ditches usernames, passwords, email addresses, and phone numbers completely. That way a hacker can’t just dump your coins into their account by stealing your private key or SIM-porting your number to their phone. Instead, clients whitelist devices held by their employees, who use the Anchorage app to submit transactions. You’d propose selling $10 million worth of Bitcoin or transferring it to someone else as payment, and a minimum of two-thirds of your designated co-workers would need to concur to form a quorum that approves the transfer.

But first, Anchorage would’s artificial intelligence and human staff would check for any suspicious signals that might indicate a hack in progress. It uses behavioral analysis (do you act like a real human and similar to how you have before), biometric signals (do you look like you), and network signals (is your device what and where it should be) to confirm the transaction is legitimate. The same process goes down if you try to add a new whitelisted device or change who has permission to do what.

The challenge will be scaling security to an ever-broadening range of digital assets, each with their own blockchain quirks and complex smart contracts. Even if Anchorage keeps coins safely in custody, those variables could expose assets to risk while in transit. Now with deeper pockets and the Visa vote of confidence, Anchorage could solve those problems as clients line up.

While most blockchain attention has focused on the cryptocurrencies themselves and the exchanges where you can buy and sell them, a second order of critical infrastructure startups is emerging. Companies like Anchorage could make Bitcoin, Ether, Libra, and more not just objects of speculation or the domain of experts, but safely functioning elements of the new world economy.

Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng says Nio stock swings a ‘good lesson’ for rivals

By Rita Liao

Seeing your competitor undergo dramatic changes in fortune can be unnerving as there’s the fear that the same will happen to you. For electric vehicle maker Xpeng, Nio’s period of stock swings is a wakeup call for China’s EV startup boom.

Xpeng and Nio are Tesla -like Chinese startups competing with more established automakers such as Warren Buffett-backed BYD . Like Tesla, Xpeng and Nio design, manufacture and sell EVs through company-owned online and offline channels.

Both have raised large sums of cash from noted investors. Xpeng itself is backed by Alibaba, Foxconn and Xiaomi founder Lei Jun . As late, it’s seeking to raise at least $500 million in funding.

Nio’s investors include Tencent, Hillhouse Capital and Shunwei Capital, a venture fund co-founded by Lei Jun. Its shares were trading at around $2.50 apiece in June, a big fall from the $11.60 high it achieved shortly after debuting on NYSE in September. 

The reasons for the slump are varied. Sales slowed down in the first quarter against a backdrop of subsidy reduction and macroeconomic headwinds in China. Losses amounted to $390.9 million in the period. To cope with sluggish performance, Nio said it would delay the rollout of its next-gen products to focus on existing models. It also planned to slash costs by cutting R&D spending and its workforce.

Nio’s stock rout “is a good lesson for the rest of us… to try to be more efficient and more sustainable,” said Xpeng president Brian Gu at the Rise conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The five-year-old company aims to do so by building mass-market products rather than a luxury brand, which allows it to have “less capital deployment.”

“Our capital efficiency is also high. We probably use a quarter of the capital to reach the same delivery numbers as Nio, for example,” Gu claimed.

Xpeng began deliveries in December and had shipped 10,000 models by mid-June. Nio sold 11,300 units between June and December last year, according to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (report in Chinese).

In the long run, Xpeng remains optimistic about the Chinese EV industry. The country shipped 1.26 million units of alternative fuel cars last year, representing a 61.7% increase year-over-year, per data from CAAM. Of all the alternative energy passenger cars sold, 75% were all-electric.

Overall, only 4.5% of China’s vehicles sold last year used alternative fuels. The sector is tipped to pick up speed over time. The CAAM forecasts that China will sell more than two million alternative fuel vehicles in 2020.

“Definitely, market sentiment is swayed by stock prices, but I don’t think that really sways people’s long-term enthusiasm for EVs. This is almost a certainty that the [EV] revolution is coming,” Gu added.

With plans for an initial public offering, Xpeng may not be far off from testing investor sentiments. While it doesn’t yet have a timeline for selling shares to the public, Xpeng’s chief executive officer told CNBC in March that the startup will focus on “business before considering the IPO.”

Amazon expands Transparency anti-counterfeit codes to Europe, India and Canada

By Ingrid Lunden

Amazon is no stranger to the nefarious forces of e-commerce: fake reviews, counterfeit goods and scams have all reared their heads on its marketplace in one place or another, with some even accusing it of turning a blind eye to them since, technically, Amazon profits from any transactions, not just the legit ones. The company has been working to fight that image, though, and today it announced its latest development in that mission: it announced that Transparency — a program to serialize products sold on its platform with a T-shaped QR-style code to identify when an item is counterfeit — is expanding to Europe, India and Canada. (More detail on how it actually works below.)

“Counterfeiting is an industry-wide concern – both online and offline. We find the most effective solutions to prevent counterfeit are based on partnerships that combine Amazon’s technology innovation with the sophisticated knowledge and capabilities of brands,” said Dharmesh Mehta, vice president, Amazon Customer Trust and Partner Support, in a statement. “We created Transparency to provide brands with a simple, scalable solution that empowers brands and Amazon to authenticate products within the supply chain, stopping counterfeit before it reaches a customer.”

The growth of Transparency has been quite slow so far: it has taken more than two years for Amazon to offer the service outside of the US market, where it launched first with Amazon’s own products in March 2017 and then expanded to third-party items. Even today, while Transparency is launching to sellers in more markets, the app for consumers to scan the items themselves is still only available in the US, according to Amazon’s FAQ.

In that time, take-up has been okay but not massive. Amazon says that some 4,000 brands have enrolled in the program, covering 300 million unique codes, leading to Amazon halting more than 250,000 counterfeit sales (these would have been fake versions of legit items and brands enrolled in the Transparency program).

There is some evidence that all this works. Amazon says that 2019, for products fully on-boarded into the Transparency service, there have been zero reports of counterfeit from brands or customers who purchased these products on Amazon.

But how wide ranging that is, though, compared to the bigger problem, is not quite clear. While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison — Amazon doesn’t disclose collectively how many brands are sold on its platform, although Amazon itself accounts for 450 brands itself — there are some 2.5 million sellers on its platform globally, and my guess is that 4,000 is just a small fraction of Amazon’s branded universe.

Recent developments have put an increased focus on what role Amazon has been playing to keep in check rampant activity around counterfeiting and other illegal activity.

The NYT published a damning expose in June that highlighted how one medical publisher found rampant counterfeiting of one of its books, a guide for doctors prescribing medications to help them determine dosages of drugs, an alarming situation considering the subject matter. Regulators like the FCC have also taken action to ask Amazon (among others like eBay) to make a better effort to remove the sale of products in specific categories, such as fake pay-TV boxes.

Coupled with other kinds of dodgy activity on the platform like fake reviews, Amazon has been making more moves of late to get a grip and create more channels for brands and sellers to help themselves, from product launches and expansions, to taking legal measures to go after bad actors.

Transparency is part of former category, and it sits alongside one of the company’s other recent, big initiatives called Project Zero, an AI-based continuous monitoring of products and activities launched four months ago to proactively identify counterfeit sellers and items on the platform.

Screenshot 2019 07 10 at 11.47.45Transparency works by way of a unique code — which looks a bit like a “T” — printed on each manufactured unit. When a customer orders the product, Amazon scans the code to verify that the product it’s shipping is legit. Customers can also scan the code after receiving the item to verify authenticity. Other details that are encoded in the T are manufacturing date, manufacturing place, and other product information like ingredients.

This system also throws some light on some of the strange workings of e-commerce, supply chains, and how marketplaces operate.

On Amazon, an item you buy that might be branded — say, a North Face jacket — may not actually be sold by North Face itself, but a reseller. And those resellers may just as likely never even touch the item: they are working off stock that is distributed from another place altogether, or perhaps manufactured and sent in bulk to Amazon or another fulfilment provider that sends the item when the order is made. All of these tradeoffs within the supply chain create an environment where counterfeit goods might creep in.

Amazon’s system, by working directly with brands and not sellers, is trying to provide an over-arching level of monitoring and control into the mix, and it notes in its announcement that its Transparency codes are trackable “regardless of where customers purchased their units.”

Ironically for a service called “Transparency”, Amazon doesn’t seem to list the price for sellers to use this service, but four months ago, when Amazon launched Project Zero, we reported that the serialization service are charged between $0.01 and $0.05 per unit, based on volume. It’s a price that especially smaller brands, which are even less immune to copycats than well-capitalized big brands, are willing to pay:

“Amazon’s proactive approach and investment in tools like Transparency have allowed us to grow consumer confidence in our products and prevent inauthentic product from ending up in the hands of our customers,” said Matt Petersen, Chief Executive Officer at Neato Robotics, a maker of smart robotic vacuum cleaners, in a statement.

“Blocking counterfeits from the source has always been a tough task for us – it’s something all brand owners face through nearly all channels around the world,” said Bill Mei, Chief Executive Officer at Cowin, a manufacturer of noise cancelling audio devices, in his own statement. “After we joined Transparency, our counterfeit problem just disappeared for products protected by the program.”

Dataform scores $2M to build an ‘operating system’ for data warehouses

By Steve O'Hear

Dataform, a U.K. company started by ex-Googlers that wants to make it easier for businesses to manage their data warehouses, has picked up $2 million in funding. Leading the round is LocalGlobe, with participation from a number of unnamed angel investors. The startup is also an alumni of Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator and graduated in late 2018.

Founded by former Google employees Lewis Hemens and Guillaume-Henri Huon, Dataform has set out to help data-rich companies draw insights from the data stored in their data warehouses. Mining data for insights and business intelligence typically requires a team of data engineers and analysts. Dataform wants to simply this task and in turn make it faster and cheaper for organisations to take full advantage of their data assets.

“Businesses are generating more and more data that they are now centralising into cloud data warehouses like Google BigQuery, AWS Redshift or Snowflake. [However,] to exploit this data, such as conducting analytics or using BI tools, they need to convert the vast amount of raw data into a list of clean, reliable and up-to-date datasets,” explains Dataform co-founder Guillaume-Henri Huon. .

“Data teams don’t have the right tools to manage data in the warehouse efficiently. As a result, they have to spend most of their time building custom infrastructure and making sure their data pipelines work”.

Huon says Dataform solves this by offering a complete toolkit to manage data in data warehouses. Data teams can build new datasets and set them to update automatically every day, or more frequently. The entire process is managed via a single interface and setting up a new dataset is said to take as little as 5 minutes. “On top of this, we have an open source framework that helps managing data using engineering best practices, including reusable functions, testing and dependency management.

Meanwhile, Dataform says the seed funding will help the company continue to grow both its sales and engineering teams. It will also be used to further develop its product. The startup generates revenue based on a classic SaaS model: typically charging per number of users.

India’s Byju’s raises $150 million to expand globally

By Manish Singh

Byju’s, India’s most valuable edtech startup, has received new $150 million as it races to expand the reach of its learning app in the country and some international markets.

The unnamed ongoing financing round was led by Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, and included participation from Owl Ventures, a leading investor in education tech startups. This is Owl Venture’s first investment in an Indian startup.

The 11-year-old startup, which has raised about $925 million to date and was valued at nearly $4 billion in December last year, said it would use the fresh capital to aggressively explore and expand in international markets. The startup has previously said it plans to enter the U.S. and UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

It acquired Osmo, a U.S.-based learning startup that is popular among kids aged between five and 12 for $120 million early this year. Osmo recently unveiled new products to serve the pre-schoolers market.

Byju’s helps all school-going children understand complex subjects through its app where tutors use real life objects such as pizza and cake. It has amassed more than 35 million registered users, about 2.4 million of which are paid customers.

“Investment from prominent sovereign and pension funds validates our strong business fundamentals. Indian ed-tech firms attracting interest from eminent investors demonstrates that India is pioneering the digital learning space globally,” Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO of Byju’s said in a statement.

Byju’s generated around $205 million in revenue in the fiscal year that ended in March. It plans to increase that figure to over $430 million this year.

Opera founded startup OPay raises $50M for mobile finance in Nigeria

By Jake Bright

OPay, an Africa focused mobile payments startup founded by Norwegian browser company Opera, has raised $50 million in funding.

Lead investors include Sequoia China, IDG Capital, and Source Code Capital. Opera also joined the round in the payments venture it created.

OPay will use the capital (which wasn’t given a stage designation) primarily to grow its digital finance business in Nigeria—Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.

OPay will also support Opera’s growing commercial network in Nigeria, which includes a motorcycle ride-hail app ORide and OFood delivery service.

Opera founded Opay in 2018 on the popularity of its internet search engine. Opera’s web-browser has ranked number two in usage in Africa, after Chrome, the last four years.

Opera Opay NigeriaOn the payments side, OPay in Nigeria has scaled to 40,000 active agents and $5 million in transaction volume in 10 months.

The $50 million investment in OPay is more than just another big round in Africa. It has significance for the continent’s tech-ecosystem on multiple levels.

To start, OPay’s raise tracks greater influence in African tech from China—whose engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities. OPay founder Opera was acquired in 2016 for $600 million by a consortium of Chinese investors, led by current Opera CEO Yahui Zhou.

The majority of the investment for OPay’s raise comes from Chinese funds and sources, including Source Code Capital, Sequoia China, and GSR Ventures. There’s not a lot of statistical data on the value of Chinese VC investment in Africa, but a large portion of $50 million to a fintech venture stands out.

OPay’s VC haul also has significance vis-a-vis digital-finance in Nigeria. In tandem with other trends, it could support the shift of Nigeria surpassing Kenya as Africa’s digital payments leader. For years Kenya has outpaced Nigeria in P2P digital payments volumes and digital financial inclusion, largely due to the rapid adoption of mobile-money products, such as Safaricom’s M-Pesa.

Some of this is due in part to Nigeria’s Central Bank limiting the ability of non-banks (including telcos) to offer mobile payment services. The CBN eased many of those restrictions earlier this year. This opens the door for mobile-operators like MTN, with the largest phone network in Nigeria, to offer mobile-money products. In addition to fintech regulatory improvements, there’s been a gradual increase in VC flowing to Nigerian payment ventures.

The country’s leading digital payment company, Paga, raised $10 million in 2018 to further expand its customer base that now tallies 13 million. OPay’s $50 million backed commitment to grow mobile money in Nigeria should provide another big boost to digital-finance adoption across the country’s 190 million people.

And not to be overlooked is how OPay’s capital raise moves Opera toward becoming a multi-service commercial internet platform in Africa. Part of the $50 million investment includes diversifying country and product offerings. “Geographic expansion of OPay and other services is a key part of our plans,” Opera CEO Yahui Zhou told TechCrunch via email.

This could place OPay and its Opera supported suite of products on a competitive footing with other ride-hail, food-delivery, and payments startups across the continent. It could also mean competition between Opera and Africa’s largest multi-service internet company, e-commerce unicorn Jumia.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney's The Lion King first reactions are in: 'Worthy of the 1994 original' - CNET

By Jennifer Bisset
Can you feel the love tonight? Yes. Yes, you can, Disney.
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Need more thrilling action and weird monsters to fill your Stranger Things void? These 15 shows will do the trick.
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By Tania González
We're predicting lots of Games of Thrones characters, Spidey and tributes to Marvel superheroes who died in Avengers: Endgame.
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By Steven Musil
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IBM's big deal for Red Hat gives it a chance to reshape open source

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David Attenborough addresses climate change in most eloquent way possible - CNET

By Jennifer Bisset
"To chuck plastic into the ocean is an insult."
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Powerbeats Pro: Master your new wireless earphones - CNET

By Patrick Holland
We show you how to set them up with an iPhone and Android phone, plus a few tips to get the most out of the new Powerbeats Pro wireless earphones.
  • July 10th 2019 at 01:01

Best places to buy prescription glasses online in 2019 - CNET

By David Carnoy
Trying to figure out where to buy prescription glasses online? Here's the quick skinny on the top e-tailers out there.
  • July 10th 2019 at 00:58
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