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Chinese online education app Zuoyebang raises $1.6 billion from investors including Alibaba – TechCrunch

The rivalry between China’s top online learning apps has become even more intense this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest company to score a significant funding round is Zuoyebang, which announced today (link in Chinese) that it has raised a $1.6 billion Series E+ from investors including Alibaba Group. Other participants included returning […]

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The rivalry between China’s top online learning apps has become even more intense this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest company to score a significant funding round is Zuoyebang, which announced today (link in Chinese) that it has raised a $1.6 billion Series E+ from investors including Alibaba Group. Other participants included returning investors Tiger Global Management, SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital China and FountainVest Partners.

Zuoyebang’s latest announcement comes just six months after it announced a $750 million Series E led by Tiger Global and FountainVest. The latest financing brings Zuoyebang’s total raised so far to $2.93 billion. The company did not disclose its latest worth, but Reuters reported in September that it was raising at a $10 billion valuation.

One of Zuoyebang’s main competitors is Yuanfudao, which announced in October that it had reached a $15.5 billion valuation after closing a $2.2 billion round led by Tencent. This pushed Yuanfudao ahead of Byju as the world’s most valuable ed-tech company. Another popular online learning app in China is Yiqizuoye, which is backed by Singapore’s Temasek.

Zuoyebang offers online courses, live lessons and homework help for kindergarten to 12th grade students, and claims about 170 million monthly active users, about 50 million of whom use the service each day. In comparison, there were about 200 million K-12 students in 2019 in China, according to the Ministry of Education (link in Chinese).

In fall 2020, the total number of students in Zuoyebang’s paid live-stream classes reached more than 10 million, setting an industry record, the company claims. While a lot of the growth was driven by the pandemic, Zuoyebang founder Hou Jianbin said in the company’s funding announcement that it expects online education to continue growing in the longer term, and will invest in K-12 classes and expand its produt categories.

Zuoyebang offers online courses, live lessons and homework help for kindergarten to 12th grade students, and claims about 170 million monthly active users, about 50 million of whom use the service each day. In comparison, there were about 200 million K-12 students in 2019 in China, according to the Ministry of Education (link in Chinese).

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/28/chinese-online-education-app-zuoyebang-raises-1-6-billion-from-investors-including-alibaba/

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Samsung vice chairman Jay Y. Lee faces nine-year sentence in bribery case – TechCrunch

Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee faces a nine-year prison term in the bribery case that contributed to the downfall of former president Park Guen-hye. Prosecutors argued that the length of the sentence is warranted because of Samsung’s power as the largest chaebol, or family-owned conglomerate, in South Korea. “Samsung is a group with […]

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Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee faces a nine-year prison term in the bribery case that contributed to the downfall of former president Park Guen-hye. Prosecutors argued that the length of the sentence is warranted because of Samsung’s power as the largest chaebol, or family-owned conglomerate, in South Korea.

“Samsung is a group with such overwhelming power that it is said Korean companies are divided into Samsung and non-Samsung,” they said during a final hearing on Wednesday, reports the Korea Herald. The final ruling is scheduled for January 18.

The bribery case is separate from another trial Lee is involved in, over alleged accounting fraud and stock-price manipulation. Hearings in that case began in October.

The bribery case dates back to 2017, when Lee was convicted of bribing Park and her close associate Choi Soon-sil and sentenced to five years in prison. Prosecutors allege the bribes were meant to secure government backing for Lee’s attempt to inherit control of Samsung from his father Lee Kun-hee, then its chairman. The illegal payments were a major part of the corruption scandal that led to Park’s impeachment, arrest and 25-year prison sentence.

Lee was freed in 2018 after the sentence was reduced and suspended on appeal, and returned to work as Samsung’s de facto head, a position he took after his father had a heart attack in 2014.

In August 2019, however, the Supreme Court overturned the appeals court, ruling that it was too lenient, and ordered that the case be retried in Seoul High Court.

The elder Lee, who was reportedly South Korea’s wealthiest citizen, died in October. He was worth an estimated $20.7 billion and under the country’s tax system, and his heirs could be liable for estate taxes of about $10 billion, reported Fortune.

TechCrunch has contacted Samsung for comment.

In August 2019, however, the Supreme Court overturned the appeals court, ruling that it was too lenient, and ordered that the case be retried in Seoul High Court.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/30/samsung-vice-chairman-jay-y-lee-faces-nine-year-sentence-in-bribery-case/

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From the U.S. to China, Korea, India and Europe, antitrust action against tech is gaining serious momentum – TechCrunch

After decades of global expansion and consolidation in the tech sector, antitrust is now a headline issue for the industry across the world. What has been a slow and sputtering series of disparate actions over the past decade has coalesced in just the past few weeks into a rapid and comprehensive series of actions against […]

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After decades of global expansion and consolidation in the tech sector, antitrust is now a headline issue for the industry across the world.

What has been a slow and sputtering series of disparate actions over the past decade has coalesced in just the past few weeks into a rapid and comprehensive series of actions against the industry, with the United States being a notable laggard worldwide.

Nowhere are these actions more prominent than in China, where the competition authorities have — after many years of a reasonably laissez-faire policy to its internet giants — suddenly decided to take sweeping action against its largest tech companies.

That movement started after Chinese regulators thwarted Ant’s record-shattering IPO in early November. Ant is one of China’s most important tech companies, a fintech company that was looking at a valuation north of $300 billion and that has 1.3 billion active users globally centered on China and the overseas Chinese diaspora.

That regulatory action led to a $60 billion dollar immediate drop in Alibaba’s market cap, given Alibaba’s 33% stake in Ant.

The bad news from Beijing has continued for the tech industry though. Earlier this week, market regulators laid out a “rectification” plan for Ant, including tougher lending standards that are expected to deeply impact the high-flying company’s revenues, margins, and growth. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that China also specifically intends to “shrink” Jack Ma’s own influence over his business empire, with the government itself potentially acquiring larger ownership stakes in tech companies.

Furthermore, Beijing seems ready to force Alibaba and Tencent to play nicer with each other and create breathing space for startups outside of their two inter-locking corporate webs. Earlier this month, authorities fined Alibaba a nominal amount and also reviewed a Tencent acquisition, actions that were perceived by analysts as the opening shots in a new round of antitrust intervention. More action is expected in 2021.

It’s not just China though that has been bringing tech companies to heel. Almost exactly a year ago, Germany-based Delivery Hero announced a $4 billion takeover of Seoul-based Baedal Minjok, a popular food delivery app. Yesterday, South Korean competition authorities ordered Delivery Hero to divest its existing local delivery assets to get approval for the acquisition — a demand that undermined one of the reasons for acquiring Baedal Minjok in the first place. Delivery Hero has said that it will sell its unit to complete the transaction.

Meanwhile this month, Europe and soon-to-be-Brexited Britain announced a spate of new policies and regulations designed to heighten competition in the tech sector, including increasing legal liabilities for illegal content, broadening transparency around services, and mandating open competition on major platforms. Those policies have been a long-time coming, but now that they are starting to gain traction, they portend huge changes on how the highest-scale tech companies can operate on the Old Continent.

While many of these global policies are designed to undo the consolidation and scale of the industry, in India, regulators are working to prevent such scale in the first place. Local competition authorities there announced in November a framework that would prevent any company from owning more than 30% of local payments volume, and also mandating financial interoperability standards. That policy appears to be designed to avoid the kind of fintech duopoly seen in China between Alipay and WeChat Pay.

With all this global antitrust action bubbling, the laggard has actually been the United States, perhaps since the largest tech giants are all headquartered domestically. While Congress, the president, and dozens of state attorneys general have become increasingly strident on the scope of companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, action remains very early against the giants.

The largest and most notable action so far has been a massive lawsuit by 46 states against Facebook that was filed earlier this month. As we reported then, the lawsuit “alleges that the company bought competitors ‘illegally’ and in a ‘predatory manner’ in order to grow and preserve its market power. The suit cites Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp as prominent examples.”

Of course, as some of us remember from the 1990s with the U.S. government’s case against Microsoft, antitrust lawsuits often take years to full wend their way through the courts — and often don’t even lead to much if any change in the end anyway.

Whether a Biden administration will dramatically change the course of these actions remains unclear, with the transition offering very limited insight as it prepares to take office next month.

Nonetheless, all of these antitrust actions happening simultaneously across the globe within weeks of each other portends huge regulatory fights for tech in 2021.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/29/global-antitrust-gaining-serious-momentum/

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Estonian proptech Rendin raises €1.2M seed for its long-term rental platform – TechCrunch

Rendin, an Estonian proptech startup that wants to improve the home rental experience, including offering a no-deposit feature, has raised €1.2 million in seed funding. Backing the round is Tera Ventures, Iron Wolf Capital, Truesight Ventures, Atomico’s Angel Programme, and Startup Wise Guys. Launched in Estonia in March this year and currently expanding to Poland, […]

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Rendin, an Estonian proptech startup that wants to improve the home rental experience, including offering a no-deposit feature, has raised €1.2 million in seed funding. Backing the round is Tera Ventures, Iron Wolf Capital, Truesight Ventures, Atomico’s Angel Programme, and Startup Wise Guys.

Launched in Estonia in March this year and currently expanding to Poland, Rendin operates a long-term rental platform that promises to smooth out the process between landlords and tenants. Its headline feature is an insurance-backed solution that means no deposit is required from tenants.

The broader premise is that by digitising the rental process and adding an insurance layer, further trust can be generated between parties, therefore increasing occupancy rates.

For landlords, Rendin has created a “letting agreement service” with certain guarantees and has insured those risks via a partnership with ERGO Insurance SE (Munich Re Group). So, for example, if a tenant causes damage or ends up in debt, the property owner is covered. The letting agreement is handled via the startup’s app and platform that plugs into rental marketplaces and real estate CRMs on the backend to provide a fully digital experience.

“We launched publicly in Estonia on March 10th, 2020, two days before the country went into pandemic lockdown,” Rendin co-founder Alain Aun tells me. “It really looked like the world was going to fall apart and a lot of the risks in home renting skyrocketed. We had to reinvent some parts of our product insurance very quickly to adjust to the changes around us.

“Suddenly we had desperate tenants losing their income, expats leaving the country in a hurry, and more. Our learning curve was tremendous. We figured, if we can survive this, we can survive anything. The last eleven months have been constant proof to us that the concept of Rendin can endure”.

Longer term, Rendin is building what Aun describes as “a new standard in home renting”. The first step is to manage the rental process risks to help establish trust between landlords and tenants. This has seen the proptech startup build an “end-to-end value chain,” from contracting, evidence-based handover, preventive insurance flows, loss control, and claim handling.

Aun says Rendin’s insurance product offers landlords more safety than regular deposits, while some risks for tenants are also covered. “The insurance is a tool that helps Rendin to solve real-life, often complicated situations in renting, both for landlords and tenants,” he explains. “Tenants in the Rendin platform don’t have to pay the security deposit, but this is just a feature, not the core product. Trust is the name of the game”.

To generate revenue and cover the insurance costs, Rendin charges a fee of 2.5 percent of the monthly rent. It can be paid by the tenant or by the landlord. “More and more landlords choose to pay the Rendin fee themselves as it helps find new tenants faster,” adds Aun.

On the competition, Rendin isn’t competing with real estate listing sites or letting agencies, and instead can be thought of more as a plugin that can be easily integrated into listing sites and agents’ business processes.

“There are a few no-deposit startups around but their business models, although similar at first glance, are entirely different from ours,” claims the Rendin co-founder. “Most of them are set up to be essentially lending businesses that collect interest from tenants with real estate agencies serving up demand for them, but they don’t really do anything to help mitigate risks for the parties [involved]”.

“We launched publicly in Estonia on March 10th, 2020, two days before the country went into pandemic lockdown,” Rendin co-founder Alain Aun tells me. “It really looked like the world was going to fall apart and a lot of the risks in home renting skyrocketed. We had to reinvent some parts of our product insurance very quickly to adjust to the changes around us.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/29/rendin/

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