Rio CEO Says World Must Sacrifice Growth to Meet Climate Goals

Rio CEO Says World Must Sacrifice Growth to Meet Climate Goals(Bloomberg) -- Rio Tinto Group’s chief executive officer said the world must be prepared to sacrifice growth to achieve climate goals as the natural resources industry comes under increasing pressure to curb emissions.“The challenge for the world, and for the resources industry, is to continue the focus on poverty reduction and wealth creation, while delivering climate action,” Jean-Sebastien Jacques told investors on Wednesday. “This will require complex trade-offs.”Jacques said consumers, governments and shareholders must all be willing to make sacrifices -- in the form of lower consumption, growth and returns -- if climate targets are to be met. The mining industry, a key pillar of growth in many developing countries, is facing investor demands to cut the scale of emissions created by its products, from thermal coal to iron ore.“There are no easy answers,” Jacques said. “There is no clear pathway right now for the world to get to net zero emissions by 2050. The ambition is clear but the pathway is not.”Earlier, Rio reiterated its position on refusing to set any targets for reducing the carbon emissions generated by its customers, taking a firm stance on an issue that’s quickly dividing the natural resources industry.Instead, the world’s No. 2 mining company put the focus on its own operations. In a presentation on Wednesday accompanying its full-year earnings, Rio said its own business will be carbon neutral by 2050 and promised to spend $1 billion over the next five years to make that happen.The announcement draws a sharp line between Rio and other extraction companies amid a debate about who bears responsibility for Scope 3 emissions -- the pollution created when customers burn or process a company’s raw materials. The producer can take a different approach on addressing Scope 3 emissions because it sold off coal mines and doesn’t have oil assets, according to Jacques.“People are totally mixing drinks, because Scope 3 for a company like Shell and for a company like Rio Tinto is completely different,” Jacques said. “I’m not selling coal, I’m not selling carbon, and I’m not selling oil and gas -- and therefore we’re not starting from the same point.”Still, Rio has huge iron ore operations that create the vital ingredient for steelmaking, a highly polluting industry that involves adding coking coal to make carbon steel. It was a surge in iron ore prices last year that helped Rio post an 18% increase in underlying earnings to the highest since 2011.Rio argues any targets on its Scope 3 emissions would be impossible to meet because it has no control over how steelmakers use iron ore.It’s a stance that sets Rio at odds with its biggest rival, BHP Group, which has urged the industry to take responsibility. Both BHP and Vale SA have promised to introduce targets on Scope 3 emissions. In the oil industry, BP Plc has vowed to cut almost all its customer emissions by 2050.Yet, no one is providing much detail about their plans and the deadlines are usually decades away.While Rio’s refusal to set targets may draw the ire of some investors who have been pushing for concrete plans, the company may find support elsewhere. Last week, the CEO of Glencore Plc, the biggest coal shipper, criticized BP’s announcement.“2050 is a long way to go, and we don’t want to come out with wishy-washy ideas,” said Glencore boss Ivan Glasenberg. Instead, Glencore said its Scope 3 emissions would fall as coal mines are depleted.Rio has previously said it will work with China’s top steel producer, China Baowu Steel Group, to find methods to lower the sector’s emissions and improve its environmental performance.On Wednesday, the company also said that any future growth projects between now and 2030 would also have to be carbon neutral. It plans to expand the electrification of equipment and use more renewable energy.To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Biesheuvel in London at [email protected];David Stringer in Melbourne at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at [email protected], Dylan Griffiths, Nicholas LarkinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tier Mobility acquires Coup’s electric moped scooters

Tier Mobility operates a scooter service, the kick-scooter-with-a-motor kind. And it has acquired assets from Coup, a now defunct scooter service, the moped kind. Coup shut down late last year, and Tier Mobility plans to take over and start its own shared moped service.

To be clear, Coup is over but its mopeds will stick around. As part of the deal, Tier Mobility now has around 5,000 mopeds and a charging infrastructure. It plans to launch its own moped service in Berlin in May. Both the scooter and moped services will be accessible from the main Tier app.

Coup had a partnership with Gogoro, a Taiwanese electric vehicle company. You can expect to be able to access the same mopeds but with a fresh coat of paint.

“We have gained valuable experience with e-scooters and can now use this effectively in the field of e-mopeds. Many customers want a slightly faster vehicle for medium distances of 4 to 10 kilometres. Now we can now offer these people a very good deal with high-quality vehicles,” Tier Mobility co-founder and CEO Lawrence Leuschner said in a statement.

Before shutting down, Coup was operating in Berlin, Paris and Madrid. It’s unclear whether Tier Mobility wants to launch a moped service in those cities as well.

Tier Mobility currently operates in 55 cities across 11 countries. It is currently focused on Europe. The company is based in Berlin.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Tier Mobility charges its customers for the moped service. Unit economics have been the main issue with Coup.

“Even though Coup is a well-known brand in this market with a loyal customer base that regularly uses our services, operating Coup in the long term has become economically unsustainable,” Coup said when it shut down.

B-Social, the UK fintech building a ‘social bank’, raises additional £7.8M ahead of rebrand

B-Social, the London-based fintech building what it calls a “social bank,” is announcing that it has raised a further £7.8 million in seed funding.

Once again the injection of capital comes from “high-net-worth” individuals. They include Rudy Karsan from Karlani Capital, although most of the investors remain undisclosed.

It brings the total capital raised by B-Social to £13.25 million, as the company continues the journey to becoming a fully licensed bank. It also plans to re-brand next month to the new name “Kroo”.

Launched in February last year, B-Social currently exists as a “social finance” app and accompanying debit Mastercard. It enables users to make purchases, share and keep track of expenses with friends and family, and negate the headache of “who owes who”. More broadly, B-Social says it is on a mission to improve the relationship people have with money.

“We recognise that almost all financial transactions are inherently social,” B-Social co-founder and CEO Nazim Valimahomed told me in late 2018. “We want to change the relationship people have with money by helping them overcome the anxiety, awkwardness and wasted time when they engage with their social finances. We are doing that by building a digital bank that truly accommodates the way people live their lives and is dedicated to connecting a person’s finances to their social world”.

To date, B-Social says it has over 8,500 customers who have spent more than £1 million with their B-Social cards and have shared over 36,000 expenses with friends.

Valimahomed tells me the company has also “significantly progressed” the pre-application stage for acquiring a U.K. banking licence. This includes things like submitting a regulatory business plan, capital and liquidity assessments approval, and challenge sessions completed. He expects to submit the full banking application in Q2 2020.

Fifth Wall Ventures’s new $100 million “retail” fund aims to back online brands that need real world space

Fifth Wall Ventures, a four-year-old, the L.A.-based, real-estate focused venture firm, has just closed a $100 million vehicle called that it’s calling its “retail fund.” The vehicle comes hot on the heels of a $212 million debut fund that Fifth Wall closed in 2017, which was itself soon followed by a second, $503 million flagship fund. The firm is also reportedly raising a $200 million carbon impact fund.

So why raise more money via this separate pool? What does the Fifth Wall even mean by “retail”?

We’d talked with firm cofounder Brendan Wallace a couple of weeks ago about the opportunity the firm sees. As Wallace said then, there are growing number of venture-backed e-commerce brands that do — or will — rely heavily on physical real estate at some point. Fifth Wall — which is backed by a long list of real estate heavyweights, including landlord giants like Macerich Co. and Acadia Realty Trust — thinks it can play matchmaker. The idea is to introduce the startups to spaces owned by members of its investor base, while meanwhile enhancing the investors’ properties by ensuring they have the latest and greatest brands as tenants.

Thanks to Fifth Wall, for example, Taft Clothing, a Salt Lake City-based band that makes men’s shoes, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York’s SoHo district late last year. The building is owned by Acadia.

Fifth Wall has similarly helped another portfolio company, the men’s apparel brand UNTUCKit, find some of its many locations across the U.S.

Even further afield, Wallace also pointed to Fifth Wall’s investment in the e-scooter company Lime. While the deal raised questions at the time about how Fifth Wall could rationalize the deal, “[W]hen you look at that business, a huge part of it depends on distribution to where consumers are, which is real estate assets and establishing charging and docking stations at those assets,” Wallace said. “There is a huge real estate dependency to the scooter business [because you need a] network of charging stations, you need to structure relationships and deals with landlords and you also need to be able to deliver these devices in an organized way at these consumer endpoints at malls, office buildings and multi-family buildings.”

Meanwhile, by working with Lime and installing docking stations, those same building owners are navigating around sometimes onerous parking requirements.

Kevin Campos, a partner at Fifth Wall, is the head of its retail fund. In addition to Acadia and Macerich, some of its real estate backers include Cushman & Wakefield and Nuveen Real Estate.

Fifth Wall Ventures’s new $100 million “retail” fund aims to back online brands that need real world space

Fifth Wall Ventures, a four-year-old, the L.A.-based, real-estate focused venture firm, has just closed a $100 million vehicle called that it’s calling its “retail fund.” The vehicle comes hot on the heels of a $212 million debut fund that Fifth Wall closed in 2017, which was itself soon followed by a second, $503 million flagship fund. The firm is also reportedly raising a $200 million carbon impact fund.

So why raise more money via this separate pool? What does the Fifth Wall even mean by “retail”?

We’d talked with firm cofounder Brendan Wallace a couple of weeks ago about the opportunity the firm sees. As Wallace said then, there are growing number of venture-backed e-commerce brands that do — or will — rely heavily on physical real estate at some point. Fifth Wall — which is backed by a long list of real estate heavyweights, including landlord giants like Macerich Co. and Acadia Realty Trust — thinks it can play matchmaker. The idea is to introduce the startups to spaces owned by members of its investor base, while meanwhile enhancing the investors’ properties by ensuring they have the latest and greatest brands as tenants.

Thanks to Fifth Wall, for example, Taft Clothing, a Salt Lake City-based band that makes men’s shoes, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York’s SoHo district late last year. The building is owned by Acadia.

Fifth Wall has similarly helped another portfolio company, the men’s apparel brand UNTUCKit, find some of its many locations across the U.S.

Even further afield, Wallace also pointed to Fifth Wall’s investment in the e-scooter company Lime. While the deal raised questions at the time about how Fifth Wall could rationalize the deal, “[W]hen you look at that business, a huge part of it depends on distribution to where consumers are, which is real estate assets and establishing charging and docking stations at those assets,” Wallace said. “There is a huge real estate dependency to the scooter business [because you need a] network of charging stations, you need to structure relationships and deals with landlords and you also need to be able to deliver these devices in an organized way at these consumer endpoints at malls, office buildings and multi-family buildings.”

Meanwhile, by working with Lime and installing docking stations, those same building owners are navigating around sometimes onerous parking requirements.

Kevin Campos, a partner at Fifth Wall, is the head of its retail fund. In addition to Acadia and Macerich, some of its real estate backers include Cushman & Wakefield and Nuveen Real Estate.

Chinese firms rush to bring 5G smartphones to India

India is unlikely to have any substantial coverage of 5G until at least the end of next year, with telecom operators in the country yet to participate in spectrum auction. But that hasn’t stopped Chinese vendors Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi from bringing 5G-enabled smartphones to the world’s second largest handset market.

Xiaomi, Vivo’s sub-brand iQoo, and Oppo’s sub-brand Realme have all moved in tandem to unveil their 5G smartphones in the last one week. While Xiaomi, which has been the top handset vendor in India for more than two years, only showcased its recently unveiled 5G-enabled MiMix Alpha smartphone at several of its physical stores in the country, the other two companies have moved to launch new phones.

Vivo, India’s second largest phone vendor, launched the iQoo 3, which features a 6.44-inch display with screen resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels, 4,440mAh battery (with support for 55W fast charging ), and runs Android 10. It is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, coupled with 8GB of RAM, and 128GB storage. It sports four rear-cameras — 48MP main shooter, 13MP telephoto, 13MP ultra-wide, and 2MP depth-sensor — and a 16MP selfie sensor.

The phone’s prices start at 36,990 Indian rupees ($515), which goes up to 44,990 ($627) Indian rupees for variants with additional storage and memory.

Realme, which is giving the top phone makers a run for their money in India, launched the X50 Pro 5G that features a 6.44-inch display of screen resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels with support for 90Hz refresh rate. It is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, coupled with 12GB of RAM, and 4,200mAh battery with 65W Super Dart charging support.

On the photography front, it houses a 65MP primary shooter, 8MP ultra-wide sensor, 12MP telephoto shooter, and a 2MP portrait sensor. On the front is a setup of duo-selfie sensors of 32MP and 8MP.

The Realme X50 Pro 5G is priced at 37,999 Indian rupees ($530), which goes as high as 44,999 Indian rupees ($627) for variants with additional storage and memory.

Executives at the companies said that the rationale behind launching a 5G phone so ahead of time was to offer future-proof devices. Additionally, Qualcomm also requires phone vendors to use X55 5G modem if they want to use its flagship Snapdragon 865 SoC.

An executive with Poco, which recently spun out of Xiaomi, also chimed in:

Minute Media raises $40M more for its user-generated, syndication-based sports publishing platform

When it comes to the internet, content may be king, but in many cases, the emperor has no clothes: that is to say, the masses may click on interesting stories, video, music and other media, but building a lucrative business around that content can be a struggle, with advertising-based models often providing little in the way of margins except for the very biggest properties (and even then, it can a tough balancing act managing costs).

A startup called Minute Media believes that it has found a way through that challenge with a platform that brings in user-generated content across a number of its own mostly-sports-based media properties — built organically and by way of acquisition — which it then syndicates to third-party publishing partners.

Today, the startup is announcing a $40 million round to continue its growth — specifically to continue investing in its publishing platform; to invest in properties that it already owns; and to make more acquisitions.

Led by London’s Dawn Capital with participation from other unnamed previous investors (a list that includes Battery Ventures, Goldman Sachs, ProSieben, Qumra Capital, Vintage Investments, Gemini Ventures, North Base Media, La Maison, Remagine Ventures, Hamilton Lane and Maor Investments) the funding brings the total raised by Minute Media to $160 million.

The startup is not disclosing its valuation, but last year we understood from a source very close to the company to be between $200 million and $300 million. Given that it grew around 100% last year, and currently is on track for revenues this year of $200 million, that likely puts the current valuation closer to $400-$500 million.

Minute Media may not be a name you know very well, but if you are a consumer of sports content online, you may have come across some of its properties or articles. Its holdings currently number seven titles and include names like 90min.com (which focuses on soccer, hence the name: the startup’s founder and CEO Asaf Peled is a football fanatic), as well as FanSided, The Players’ Tribune and Mental Floss. (Others include 12up, DBLTAP and The Big Lead.)

Some of these Minute Media built from scratch, but many have come to it courtesy of the bigger picture of the media industry today: titles are created, gain an audience, and then get passed around in the world of online publishing when the previous owner has not been able to make the business case for the site work.

For example, FanSided came to Minute Media by way of an acquisition just last month: Meredith sold it, reportedly for $15 million, as part of a larger divestment of “non-core” assets it has been making post its Owen acquisition of Time, Inc. in 2018 (FanSided once sat under Sports Illustrated).

The Players Tribune, meanwhile, runs stories written by athletes themselves — some extremely timely, such as this one from Sabrina Ionescu, a rising star in women’s basketball, published just on Monday, in the same week that her name has been making waves because of her speech at the Bryant memorial service, plus her heroic work on the court. The site was founded by baseball legend Derek Jeter, and raised some money from big names, but ultimately couldn’t last as an independent startup. It sold in November last year to Minute Media.

And Mental Floss, something of a cult click-bait title (at one point even Monica thumbed through a printed version at Central Perk!), lost its way after Facebook algorithm changes. Now its home is also at Minute Media.

On the surface, this might look mainly like an aggregator media play, or on an M&A level something based on the private equity model of hoovering up a lot of tired or slow growing brands with the aim of optimising them and moving on. But neither is actually accurate. As Peled describes it (and as VCs apparently believe), there is a technology story, and corresponding interesting business model, underpinning what Minute Media has built that spans, B2C, B2B and C2C publishing and distribution.

For starters, there is the centralised content management system that runs the sites, “an open CMS system that allows any casual fan to create rich content,” Peled told TechCrunch. While this has had as many as 20,000 contributors on it at one time, contributing articles in a variety of languages beyond English, the number of pieces — selected by human editors — published across all its platforms is less than 1,000 per day. Only the most prolific and longstanding contributors get paid; others contribute for free. This forms the basis of the company’s content engine.

That content brings in traffic and advertising on Minute Media’s owned properties, but this is only one piece of how the company makes money. That same platform is also a licensing-based B2B and B2C play: it links up to about a dozen other publishers and media partners, which use it both to syndicate content out and bring in content from other places. The logic here is that bringing in syndicated content from elsewhere can help the other publishers bring down their operating costs while still continuing to expand the content (and thus traffic) on their own sites; hence why they partner with (and pay) Minute Media.

Last summer, Peled told me that the balance between ad and licensing revenues were “around 50/50, but no doubt the B2B open platform is easier to sell and is growing faster.”

Although there is other content beyond sports on Minute Media’s platform, sports is a key focus, and for good reason.

Sports content has shaped up to be an extremely important segment in the world of online media. Done right, it can breed a legion of engaged and very loyal visitors — readers, viewers, listeners — who are willing to do more than just click once and move on. If they like what they see, they will come back again, and again. That has helped some of the more interesting sports properties build paid content models — see The Athletic — and others spin out media empires based on still-evolving mediums like podcasting — see the huge success of The Ringer and its recent sale to Spotify.

Minute Media fits into that bigger picture with its own take on how to build and scale a sports publishing empire. Without some of the overhead that has weighed down other online publishing plays, the startup has built a concept for publishing that appears to have a kind of sustainability to it.

“Minute Media’s best-in-class platform enables publishers to create, distribute and monetize high-quality content,” said Haakon Overli, general partner at Dawn Capital, in a statement. “The company is quickly establishing itself as a major player in the new generation of online publishing, empowering creators and audiences alike. Following explosive revenue growth in 2019, we’re pleased to back the team once again, allowing them to accelerate R&D and commercial efforts further still.”

On-demand tutoring app Snapask gets $35 million to expand in Southeast Asia

Snapask, an on-demand tutoring app, announced today that it has raised $35 million in Series B funding. Earmarked for the startup’s expansion in Southeast Asia, the round was led by Asia Partners and Intervest.

Launched in Hong Kong five years ago, Snapask has now raised a total of $50 million and operates in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. Its other investors have included Kejora Ventures, Ondine Capital and SOSV Chinaccelerator (Snapask participated in its accelerator program).

Founder and CEO Timothy Yu said Snapask will expand into Vietnam and focus on markets in Southeast Asia where there is a high demand for tutoring and other private education services. It will also open a regional headquarter in Singapore and develop video content and analytics products for its platform.

The company now has a total of 3 million students, with 1.3 million who registered over the past twelve months (including a recent surge that Yu attributes to students studying at home after COVID-19 related school cancellations). Over the past year, 100,000 tutors have applied, taking Snapask’s current total to 350,000 applicants.

Yu says that over 2 million questions are asked by students each month on the platform, with each subscriber typically asking about 60 questions a month, during tutoring sessions that last between 15 to 20 minutes. The majority, or about two-thirds, of the questions are about math and science-related topics.

One thing all of Snapask’s markets have in common are highly-competitive public exams to enter top universities, says Yu. The exams have both a positive and negative effect on education, he adds.

“Students have a very clear objective about what topics they need to study, so that is driving a very lucrative market in the tutoring industry. But I think what Snapask focuses on is that exams are important, but you should do it the right way. We’re about self-directed learning. It’s not necessary to go to three-hour classes every day after school. If you need specific help on a question, you can ask for it immediately.”

While at university, Yu worked as a math tutor, and sometimes spent a total of two hours commuting to sessions that lasted the same amount of time. In markets like Malaysia or Indonesia, many educators chose to work in major cities, leaving students in rural areas with less options. The goal of Snapask is to help solve those issues and connect tutors with more students.

Yu says the average time for students to connect with a tutor after asking a question is about 15 to 20 minutes, which it is able to do because of machine learning-based technology that matches them based on educational styles, subject and availability. Snapask’s matching algorithms are also based on how students engage with tutors (for example, if they respond better to concise or longer, more elaborate answers). Students can also pick up to 15 to 20 tutors for their favorites list, who are prioritized when matching.

Yu says Snapask screens tutors by looking at their university transcripts and public exam results. Then they go through a probation period on the platform to assess how they interact with students. The platform also tracks how many messages are sent during a tutoring session and response times to make sure that tutors are explaining students’ questions instead of just giving them the answers.

Tutors can talk to up to 10 students at a time through Snapask’s platform. Yu says Snapask tutors in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea who spend about two hours per day answering questions usually make about $1,200 a month, while those who work about four to five hours a day can make about $4,000 to $5,000 a month. The company uses different pricing models in Southeast Asian markets, and Yu says tutors there can make about 50% to 60% more than they would at traditional tutoring jobs.

Other study apps focused on students some of the same markets as Snapask include ManyTutors and Mathpresso, whose products combine tutoring services with tools that let students upload math questions, which are then scanned with optical character recognition to provide instant answers. Yu says Snapask is focusing on one-on-one tutoring because it wants to differentiate by creating a “holistic experience.”

“A lot of students come to Snapask after using OCR tools, which we know that user surveys, but they can’t get to certain steps. They still need someone to help them understand what is happening,” he says. “So we try not to use technology for every component in teaching, but to make it more efficient and scalable, and we’re creating a holistic experience to differentiate us.”