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YC-backed LemonBox raises $2.5M bringing vitamins to Chinese millennials – TechCrunch

Like many overseas Chinese, Derek Weng gets shopping requests from his family and friends whenever he returns to China. Some of the most wanted imported products are maternity items, cosmetics, and vitamin supplements. Many in China still uphold the belief that “imported products are better.” The demand gave Weng a business idea. In 2018, he […]…

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Like many overseas Chinese, Derek Weng gets shopping requests from his family and friends whenever he returns to China. Some of the most wanted imported products are maternity items, cosmetics, and vitamin supplements. Many in China still uphold the belief that “imported products are better.”

The demand gave Weng a business idea. In 2018, he founded LemonBox to sell American health supplements to Chinese millennials like himself via online channels. The company soon attracted seed funding from Y Combinator and just this week, it announced the completion of a pre-A round of $2.5 million led by Panda Capital and followed by Y Combinator .

LemonBox tries to differentiate itself from other import businesses on two levels — affordability and personalization. Weng, who previously worked at Walmart where he was involved in the retail giant’s China import business, told TechCrunch that he’s acquainted with a lot of American supplement manufacturers and is thus able to cut middleman costs.

“In China, most supplements are sold at a big markup through pharmacies or multi-level marketing companies like Amway,” Weng said. “But vitamins aren’t that expensive to produce. Amway and the likes spend a lot on marketing and sales.”

Inside LemonBox’s fulfillment center

LemonBox designed a WeChat-based lite app, where users receive product recommendations after taking a questionnaire about their health conditions. Instead of selling by the bottle, the company customizes user needs by offering daily packs of various supplements.

“If you are a vegetarian and travel a lot, and the other person smokes a lot, [your demands] are going to be very different. I wanted to customize user prescriptions using big data,” explained Weng, who studied artificial intelligence in business school.

A monthly basket of 30 B-complex tablets, for instance, costs 35 yuan ($5) on LemonBox. Amway’s counterpart product, a bottle of 120 tablets, asks for 229 yuan on JD.com. That’s about 57 yuan ($9) for 30 tablets.

Selling cheaper vitamins is just a means for LemonBox to attract consumers and gather health insights into Chinese millennials, with which the company hopes to widen its product range. Weng declined to disclose the company’s customer size, but claimed that its user conversion rate is “higher than most e-commerce sites.”

With the new proceeds, LemonBox is opening a second fulfillment center in the Shenzhen free trade zone after its Silicon Valley-based one. That’s to provide more stability to its supply chain as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts international flights and cross-border trade. Moreover, the startup will spend the money on securing health-related certificates and adding Japan to its sourcing regions.

Returnees adapt

Screenshot of Lemonbox’s WeChat-based store

In the decade or so when Weng was living in the U.S., the Chinese internet saw drastic changes and gave rise to an industry largely in the grip of Alibaba and Tencent. Weng realized he couldn’t simply replicate America’s direct-to-customer playbook in China.

“In the U.S., you might build a website and maybe an app. You will embed your service into Google, Facebook, or Instagram to market your products. Every continent is connected with one other,” said Weng.

“In China, it’s pretty significantly different. First off, not a lot of people use web browsers, but everyone is on mobile phones. Baidu is not as popular as Google, but everybody is using WeChat, and WeChat is isolated from other major traffic platforms.”

As such, LemonBox is looking to diversify beyond its WeChat store by launching a web version as well as a store through Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace.

“There’s a lot of learning to be done. It’s a very humbling experience,” said Weng.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/03/lemonbox-2-5-million-funding/

yc-backed-lemonbox-raises-$2.5m-bringing-vitamins-to-chinese-millennials-–-techcrunch

Blockchain news

HSBC Prohibits Clients from Trading Bitcoin-Backed MicroStrategy Stock

HSBC has ramped up its anti-crypto policy, banning its clients from trading MicroStrategy stock as the banking institution deems it to be “a virtual currency product.”

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HSBC has ramped up its anti-crypto policy, restricting its clients from trading MicroStrategy stock as the banking institution deems it to be “a virtual currency product.”

Although HSBC traders will be allowed to hold and sell their MicroStrategy shares, they will not be able to buy or trade new MicroStrategy stocks on HSBC’s investment platform, as MicroStrategy’s underlying valuation is closely tied with Bitcoin. Currently, Bitcoin makes up 80% of MicroStrategy’s reserve.

Per a statement from HSBC shared with Reuters:

“HSBC has no appetite for direct exposure to virtual currencies and limited appetite to facilitate products or securities that derive their value from VCs (virtual currencies).”

In a statement released on March 29, HSBC said that it had revised its policy on virtual currencies. Consequently, clients can no longer purchase or transfer digital assets, but they can continue to hold them or sell them.

HSBC’s announcement comes at a time when major institutions have changed their views regarding Bitcoin. MicroStrategy leads the pack of institutions expressing a growing interest in diversifying their treasury reserve with the mainstream cryptocurrency.

Demand for Bitcoin and Crypto Skyrockets

Other leading institutions have also begun to recognize Bitcoin’s worth as a store of value. Last month, Morgan Stanley announced that its customers will now have access to Bitcoin fund investments. Eligible clients will have access to three Bitcoin funds, two of which originates from Galaxy Digital and one from a joint fund established by FS Investments and NYDIG.

Institutional interest has been the underlying rocket fuel that has catapulted Bitcoin to new heights. From the beginning of 2020 to now, BTC has experienced an incredible growth, increasing by 781%. At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading sideways at $60,610.90, according to data from CoinMarketCap. Currently, Bitcoin appears to be consolidating before moving higher.

With the entire crypto market hitting a valuation of over $2 trillion, market experts are anticipating that this is just the beginning of digital assets entering mainstream finance. Justin Shuh, a senior trader at Wave Financial asset investment management firm, predicts that more and more crypto portfolios will soon emerge, as demand for cryptocurrencies rises. In an email shared with Blockchain.news, Shuh said:

“Now that crypto-assets are becoming more mainstream, large cap coins and tokens are big magnets for investors with direct market access. Investment trusts and funds are announcing additions to their product line up or inclusion in their offerings. Now that the investable base is wider, the sophisticated investor will likely distribute new risk across several blockchain protocols and create diversified or fragmented crypto portfolios similar to equities in the traditional world.”

Image source: Shutterstock

“HSBC has no appetite for direct exposure to virtual currencies and limited appetite to facilitate products or securities that derive their value from VCs (virtual currencies).”

Source: https://blockchain.news/analysis/hsbc-prohibits-clients-trading-bitcoin-backed-microstrategy-shares

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Binance Coin reaches 37% of Ethereum’s market cap: 3 reasons why BNB is soaring

Binance Coin (BNB), the native cryptocurrency of Binance Smart Chain, has been rallying after seeing an uptick in transaction volume.

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Binance Coin, the native cryptocurrency of Binance Smart Chain, has been surging with a massive uptick in transaction volume.

Binance Coin reaches 37% of Ethereum’s market cap: 3 reasons why BNB is soaring

Binance Coin (BNB), the native cryptocurrency of Binance Smart Chain and top digital asset exchange Binance, is starting to close in on Ethereum (ETH) in market capitalization.

As of April 12, BNB is valued at $87 billion at the price of just under $600. The valuation of Ethereum is hovering at around $246 billion, which is 2.8 fold larger than that of Binance Coin.

— Joe Grech (@JoeBGrech) April 12, 2021

The technical momentum of BNB has been so strong that it briefly surpassed the volume of the BTC/USDT pair on Binance.

This trend is significant because USDT is the biggest stablecoin in the global market and the BTC/USDT pair is one of the most liquid trading pairs in crypto.

Why is Binance Coin surging so hard?

Binance Coin has been rising due to the three key reasons: an overall uptick in the popularity of Binance Smart Chain, strong technical momentum, and the gap between BSC and Ethereum projects.

Binance Smart Chain transaction volume. Source: BSCScan.io

In recent weeks, the transaction volume on Binance Smart Chain has tripled the volume of the Ethereum blockchain.

Particularly in Southeast Asia, the usage of Binance Smart Chain has been rising, according to Coin98, the biggest venture capital firm in Vietnam that is building a DeFi ecosystem targeted at Asia.

Considering that the price of BNB was much lower than Ethereum until late March, this discrepancy between BNB and ETH likely made BNB a compelling trade.

There is also a big gap in valuations between the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem and Binance Smart Chain, which has been fueling a large portion of the demand for BSC projects.

This has caused the value of BNB to rapidly rise over the past two weeks while ETH has been relatively stable at just over $2,000.

A journalist who covers crypto in China known as “Wu Blockchain” explained:

“BNB broke through an astonishing $600, but Ethereum’s Fees fell to its lowest point in a month. Although the transaction volume of BSC is 3x that of Ethereum, the two are not in a competitive relationship. The top 10 addresses of BNB hold more than 88%, and Eth is 20%. The future of Ethereum depends on the upgrade of EIP-1559 and 2.0. The only two things Binance needs to worry about are the government suppression and hackers.”

Traders foresee BNB to undergo a more explosive rally in the foreseeable future if it breaks out against Bitcoin.

Kaleo, a pseudonymous cryptocurrency trader, said:

“$BNB breaking above this level on the $BTC pair could lead to the type of explosive momentum needed to actually close in on $1,000.”BSC/BTC 1-day price chart (Binance). Source: TradingView.com, KaleoWill the capital rotate back into Ethereum?

However, Kelvin Koh, the managing partner at Spartan Group, one of the largest DeFi-focused funds in Asia, said that for now, he expects the capital to rotate back into Ethereum as BSC projects near the valuation of ETH equivalents.

He emphasized that there is a huge valuation gap between BSC and ETH projects. This gap could be making BSC projects compelling to the market. He said:

“BSC is having its own DeFi summer….so much alpha to be discovered in BSC ($XVS, $CAKE). If you are wondering why Ethereum DeFi coins are lacklustre, its because of the huge valuation gap that still exists between the BSC coins and ETH equivalents. Until this gap closes, money isn’t rotating back to ETH DeFi coins.”

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/binance-coin-reaches-37-of-ethereum-s-market-cap-3-reasons-why-bnb-is-soaring

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Cruise strikes deal to launch robotaxi service in Dubai – TechCrunch

Cruise has expanded its robotaxi ambitions beyond San Francisco. The autonomous vehicle subsidiary of GM that also has backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft and Honda, has struck a deal to launch a robotaxi service in Dubai in 2023. The robotaxi service in Dubai will use the Cruise Origin, the all-electric shuttle-like vehicle that has […]

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Cruise has expanded its robotaxi ambitions beyond San Francisco. The autonomous vehicle subsidiary of GM that also has backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft and Honda, has struck a deal to launch a robotaxi service in Dubai in 2023.

The robotaxi service in Dubai will use the Cruise Origin, the all-electric shuttle-like vehicle that has no steering wheel or pedals and is designed to travel at highway speeds. The Origin, which was unveiled in January 2020 will be manufactured by GM.

Cruise will establish a new local Dubai-based company which will be responsible for the deployment, operation and maintenance of the fleet.

The service will start with a limited number of vehicles with plans to scale up to 4,000 vehicles by 2030 as part of Dubai’s self-driving transport strategy, according to Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, the director-general and chairman of the board of the RTA. The robotaxis — and eventually the service — will be introduced gradually and limited to specific areas before expanding to other parts of the city.

Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said the agreement with Cruise is a “major step towards realizing Dubai’s Self-Driving Transport Strategy aimed at converting 25% of total trips in Dubai into self-driving transport trips across different modes of transport by 2030.”

Importantly, Cruise has a lock on Dubai for at least a few years. Under the agreement, Cruise is the “exclusive provider” for self-driving taxis and ride-hailing services in Dubai until 2029. Al Tayer said the selection of Cruise was not taken lightly and involved a comprehensive, multi-year process.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/12/cruise-strikes-deal-to-launch-robotaxi-service-in-dubai/

cruise-strikes-deal-to-launch-robotaxi-service-in-dubai-–-techcrunch

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