Binance begins to restrict US users ahead of regulatory-compliant exchange launch

The world’s largest crypto exchange is going legit. Binance, which processes over $1 billion on a daily basis and for so long has embodied crypto’s wild west culture, announced that it will launch a U.S-based service — but, in the meantime, it is implementing restrictions for U.S. passport holders worldwide and those based in the country.

The company has grown to become one of the biggest names in crypto by allowing anyone to use its service to trade a myriad of tokens, many of which are unavailable or limited on other exchanges. But over the past year, Binance has matured and begin to offer more formalized services. Following fiat currency exchange launches in the UK, Uganda and Singapore, so Binance is opening a dedicated U.S. exchange to avoid uncertainty around its legality.

This week, Binance announced it is pairing up with BAM Trading Services — which Coindesk notes is FinCEN registered and has links to Koi Compliance, which counts Binance as an investor — to launch a U.S. exchange “soon.” That will mean, however a level of disruption for some U.S. customers in the meantime.

Chiefly, Binance will no longer permit U.S. passport holders to sign up its global Binance.com service. That’s according to the company’s updated terms and conditions — “Binance is unable to provide services to any U.S. person” — which were confirmed to TechCrunch by a spokesperson.

Existing users have a grace period of 90 days after which they will be unable to deposit funds to the site or make trades. Binance declined to state whether those bans will be administered by a geo-block on U.S. IP addresses, but it did confirm that U.S. customers will retain access to funds held in the service.

That 90-day period ends September 12, so that’s effectively the deadline for Binance to launch its new U.S. exchange if it is to avoid impacting its American user base.

The reality is that the situation is more nuanced.

U.S-based users could continue to use the service by browsing the site with a VPN. Binance allows its users to sign up for a limited account without KYC — i.e. providing verification documents like a passport copy — which allows trading but limits withdrawals to 2 Bitcoin per day. That won’t satisfy more professional traders — most of whom you’d imagine would already have an account on Binance by now — but it does leave a loophole for others.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao insisted that the long-term pay-off will be worth any compromise.

It’s certainly fascinating to watch Binance, which has historically been one of the most aggressive crypto companies, transition into a more regulatory-compliant business. At the same time, those who have been cautious, such as Coinbase, are beginning to add new assets.

In addition to the fiat ramp exchanges, Binance has launched a decentralized exchange and it is adding much-requested features such as margin trading. The company also took an investment from Singapore’s Vertex Ventures, one of a number of sovereign funds in the country, to develop its Binance Singapore service.

It hasn’t been plain sailing — the firm lost $40 million and briefly paused trading last month following a “large scale” hack.

How China’s first autonomous driving unicorn Momenta hunts for data

Cao Xudong turned up on the side of the road in jeans and a black T-shirt printed with the word “Momenta,” the name of his startup.

Before founding the company — which last year topped $1 billion in valuation to become China’s first autonomous driving “unicorn” — he’d already led an enviable life, but he was convinced that autonomous driving would be the real big thing.

Cao isn’t just going for the moonshot of fully autonomous vehicles, which he says could be 20 years away. Instead, he’s taking a two-legged approach of selling semi-automated software while investing in research for next-gen self-driving tech.

Cao, pronounced ‘tsao’, was pursuing his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics when an opportunity came up to work at Microsoft’s fundamental research arm in Asia, putatively the “West Point” for China’s first generation of artificial intelligence experts. He held out there for more than four years before quitting to put his hands on something more practical: a startup.

“Academic research for AI was getting quite mature at the time,” said now 33-year-old Cao in an interview with TechCrunch, reflecting on his decision to quit Microsoft. “But the industry that puts AI into application had just begun. I believed the industrial wave would be even more extensive and intense than the academic wave that lasted from 2012 to 2015.”

In 2015, Cao joined SenseTime, now the world’s highest-valued AI startup, thanks in part to the lucrative face-recognition technology it sells to the government. During his 17-month stint, Cao built the company’s research division from zero staff into a 100-people strong team.

Before long, Cao found himself craving for a new adventure again. The founder said he doesn’t care about the result as much as the chance to “do something.” That tendency was already evident during his time at the prestigious Tsinghua University, where he was a member of the outdoors club. He wasn’t particularly drawn to hiking, he said, but the opportunity to embrace challenges and be with similarly resilient, daring people was enticing enough.

And if making driverless vehicles would allow him to leave a mark in the world, he’s all in for that.

Make the computer, not the car

Cao walked me up to a car outfitted with the cameras and radars you might spot on an autonomous vehicle, with unseen computer codes installed in the trunk. We hopped in. Our driver picked a route from the high-definition map that Momenta had built, and as soon as we approached the highway, the autonomous mode switched on by itself. The sensors then started feeding real-time data about the surroundings into the map, with which the computer could make decisions on the road.

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Momenta staff installing sensors to a testing car. / Photo: Momenta

Momenta won’t make cars or hardware, Cao assured. Rather, it gives cars autonomous features by making their brains, or deep-learning capacities. It’s in effect a so-called Tier 2 supplier, akin to Intel’s Mobileye, that sells to Tier 1 suppliers who actually produce the automotive parts. It also sells directly to original equipment manufacturers (OMEs) that design cars, order parts from suppliers and assemble the final product. Under both circumstances, Momenta works with clients to specify the final piece of software.

Momenta believes this asset-light approach would allow it to develop state-of-the-art driving tech. By selling software to car and parts makers, it not only brings in income but also sources mountains of data, including how and when humans intervene, to train its codes at relatively low costs.

The company declined to share who its clients are but said they include top carmakers and Tier 1 suppliers in China and overseas. There won’t be many of them because a “partnership” in the auto sector demands deep, resource-intensive collaboration, so less is believed to be more. What we do know is Momenta counts Daimler AG as a backer. It’s also the first Chinese startup that the Mercedes-Benz parent had ever invested in, though Cao would not disclose whether Daimler is a client.

“Say you operate 10,000 autonomous cars to reap data. That could easily cost you $1 billion a year. 100,000 cars would cost $10 billion, which is a terrifying number for any tech giant,” Cao said. “If you want to acquire seas of data that have a meaningful reach, you have to build a product for the mass market.”

Highway Pilot, the semi-autonomous solution that was controlling our car, is Momenta’s first mass-produced software. More will launch in the coming seasons, including a fully autonomous parking solution and a self-driving robotaxi package for urban use.

In the long run, the startup said it aims to tackle inefficiencies in China’s $44 billion logistics market. People hear about warehousing robots built by Alibaba and JD.com, but overall, China is still on the lower end of logistics efficiency. In 2018, logistics costs accounted for nearly 15 percent of national gross domestic product. In the same year, the World Bank ranked China 26th in its logistics performance index, a global benchmark for efficiency in the industry.

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Cao Xudong, co-founder and CEO of Momenta / Photo: Momenta

Cao, an unassuming CEO, raised his voice as explained the company’s two-legged strategy. The twin approach forms a “closed loop,” a term that Cao repeatedly summoned to talk about the company’s competitive edge. Instead of picking between the presence and future, as Waymo does with Level 4 — a designation given to cars that can operate under basic situations without human intervention — and Tesla with half-autonomous driving, Momenta works on both. It uses revenue-generating businesses like Highway Pilot to fund research in robotaxis, and the sensor data collected from real-life scenarios to feed models in the lab. Results from the lab, in turn, could soup up what gets deployed on public roads.

Human or machine

During the 40-minute ride in midday traffic, our car was able to change lanes, merge into traffic, create distance from reckless drivers by itself except for one brief moment. Toward the end of the trip, our driver decided to grab the wheel for a lane change as we approached a car dangerously parked in the middle of the exit ramp. Momenta names this an “interactive lane change,” which it claims is designed to be part of its automated system and by its strict definition is not a human “intervention”.

“Human-car interaction will continue to dominate for a long time, perhaps for another 20 years,” Cao noted, adding the setup brings safety to the next level because the car knows exactly what the driver is doing through its inner-cabin cameras.

“For example, if the driver is looking down at their cellphone, the [Momenta] system will alert them to pay attention,” he said.

I wasn’t allowed to film during the ride, so here’s some footage from Momenta to give a sneak peek of its highway solution.

Human beings are already further along the autonomous spectrum than many of us think. Cao, like a lot of other AI scientists, believes robots will eventually take over the wheel. Alphabet-owned Waymo has been running robotaxis in Arizona for several months now, and smaller startups like Drive.ai are also offering a similar service in Texas.

Despite all the hype and boom in the industry, there remains thorny questions around passenger safety, regulatory schema and a host of other issues for the fast-moving tech. Uber’s fatal self-driving crash last year delayed the company’s future projects and prompted a public backlash. As a Shanghai-based venture capitalist recently suggested to me: “I don’t think humanity is ready for self-driving.”

The biggest problem of the industry, he argued, is not tech-related but social. “Self-driving poses challenges to society’s legal system, culture, ethics and justice.”

Cao is well aware of the contention. He acknowledged that as a company with the power to steer future cars, Momenta has to “bear a lot of responsibility for safety.” As such, he required all executives in the company to ride a certain number of autonomous miles so if there’s any loophole in the system, the managers will likely stumble across it before the customers do.

“With this policy in place, the management will pay serious attention to system safety,” Cao asserted.

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Momenta’s new headquarters in Suzhou, China / Photo: Momenta

In terms of actually designing the software to be reliable and to trace accountability, Momenta appoints an “architect of system research and development,” who essentially is in charge of analyzing the black box of autonomous driving algorithms. A deep learning model has to be “explainable,” said Cao, which is key to finding out what went wrong: Is it the sensor, the computer, or the navigation app that’s not working?

Going forward, Cao said the company is in no rush to make a profit as it is still spending heavily on R&D, but he assured that margins of the software it sells “are high.” The startup is also blessed with sizable fundings, which Cao’s resume certainly helped attract, and so did his other co-founders Ren Shaoqing and Xia Yan, who were also alumni of Microsoft Research Asia.

As of last October, Momenta had raised at least $200 million from big-name investors including GGV Capital, Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Capital, Kai-Fu Lee’s Sinovation Ventures, Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital, electric vehicle maker NIO’s investment arm, WeChat operator Tencent and the government of Suzhou, which will house Momenta’s new 4,000 sq-meter headquarters right next to the city’s high-speed trail station.

When a bullet train speeds past Suzhou, passengers are able to see from their windows Momenta’s recognizable M-shape building, which, in the years to come, might become a new landmark of the historic city in eastern China.

Why is Andreessen Horowitz (and everyone else) investing in Latin America now?

Investments by U.S. venture capital firms into Latin America are skyrocketing and one of the firms leading the charge into deals is none other than Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz .

The firm that shook up Silicon Valley with potentially over-generous term sheets and valuations and an overarching thesis that “software is eating the world” has been reluctant to test its core belief… well… pretty much anywhere outside of the United States.

That was true until a few years ago when Andreessen began making investments in Latin America. It’s the only geography outside of the U.S. where the firm has committed significant capital and the pace of its investments is increasing.

Andreessen isn’t the only firm that’s making big bets in companies south of the American border. SoftBank has its $2 billion dollar investment fund, which launched earlier this year, to invest in Latin American deals as well. (Although the most recent SoftBank Innovation Fund investment in GymPass is likely an indicator that the fund, much like SoftBank’s “Vision” fund, has a pretty generous interpretation of what is and is not a Latin American deal.)

“We previously didn’t invest internationally, [because] we weren’t as well set up to help these companies,” says Angela Strange, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “Part of the reason for why LatAm is proximity.”

India plans to have its own space station

India plans to have its own space station in the future and conduct separate missions to study Sun and Venus, it said on Thursday, as the nation moves to bolster its status as a leader in space technologies and inspire the young minds to take an interest in scientific fields.

India’s space agency said today that it will begin working on its space station following its first manned mission to space, called Gaganyaan (which means “space vehicle” in Sanskrit), in 2022 — just in time to commemorate 75 years of the country’s independence from Britain. The government has sanctioned Rs 10,000 crores ($1.5 billion) for Gaganyaan mission, it was unveiled today.

“We have to sustain the Gaganyaan program after the launch of the human space mission. In this context, India is planning to have its own space station,” said Dr Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). ISRO is India’s equivalent to NASA.

“While navigation, communication, and earth observation are going to be the bread and butter for us, it is missions such as Chandrayaan (Sanskrit for “moon vehicle”), Mangalyaan (Sanskrit for “Mars vehicle”), and Gaganyaan that excite the youth, unite the nation, and also pave a technological seed for the future.”

“This is our ambition. We want to have a separate space station. We will launch a small module for conducting microgravity experiments,” he said in a press conference. Gaganyaan aims to send a crew of two to three people to space for a period of up to seven days. The spacecraft will be placed in low earth orbit of 300-400 km (186 – 248 miles).

The agency will submit a detailed report on how it intends to set up the space station to the government after the Gaganyaan mission. It currently believes it would take five to seven years to conceptualize the space station.

On the sidelines of the announcement, ISRO also unveiled Aditya-L1, a mission to study the Sun’s corona that impacts the change in climate on Earth, for the first half of next year, and a similar mission aimed at Venus, which it plans to conduct over the next few years. “Not only Sun and moon, we hope to reach other planets, like Venus,” he said.

The ambitious announcements come a day after the space agency said it will launch a lunar mission on July 15 this year in an attempt to become only the fourth nation — after the United States, Russia, and China — to land on the moon.

That mission, dubbed Chandrayaan-2, involves a lander, an orbiter, and a rover that the agency has built itself. India concluded its first mission to the moon in 2008, when it completed more than 3,400 orbits and played an instrumental role in the discovery of water molecules on the moon.

India’s space agency has specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s, when components of rockets were transported by bicycles and assembled by hands. In 2014, it sent a spacecraft to Mars for $74 million, significantly lower than $671 million the U.S. spent for a Mars mission the same year. In early 2017, the nation launched a flock of 104 satellites into space over the course of 18 minutes, setting a new global record.

Facebook backs social commerce startup Meesho in first India investment

As Facebook explores ways to generate revenue from WhatsApp, the company is now turning to a startup that already has a lead. The social juggernaut said today it has invested in social-commerce startup Meesho in what is the first time the firm takes equity in an Indian startup.

Neither Facebook nor Meesho, which prior to this announcement had raised about $65 million from a number of investors including DST Partners, RPS Ventures and Shunwei Capital, shared financial terms of the deal. A source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch the size of the capital was “very significant.”

Meesho, a Y Combinator alumnus, is an online marketplace that connects sellers with customers on social media platforms such as WhatsApp. The four-year-old startup claims to have a network of more than 2 million resellers who largely deal with apparels and electronics items.

These resellers are mostly homemakers, most of whom have purchased a smartphone for the first time in recent years. 80% of Meesho’s user base is female, startup’s co-founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey told TechCrunch.

Meesho also has most of its customers in smaller cities and towns, popularly dubbed as India 2, where most users are still not online. These are two things that attracted Facebook to Meesho, Ajit Mohan, VP and Managing Director of Facebook India, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“A platform that is aimed at India 2 and has such a large user base of women — when most people online in India are predominantly men — is a remarkable achievement,” he said. According to several estimates, males account for more than 80% of India’s internet user base.

Meesho claims that it is helping thousands of resellers earn more than Rs 25,000 ($360) each month. In an interview with TechCrunch last year, Aatrey said the startup, which operates in India currently, planned to enter international markets.

Even as WhatsApp is a crucial play for Meesho, the startup will continue to work with other social media platforms, Facebook’s Mohan said. Last year, Facebook launched its Marketplace, which operates in the same space as Meesho. Mohan said the company does not see Meesho as a vehicle to expand its own family of services.

On the contrary, Facebook is now open to exploring investment in other startups that are building unique solutions for the Indian market. “Wherever we believe there is opportunity beyond the work we do today, we are open to exploring further investment deals,” he said. There is no particular category that Facebook is necessarily looking at, he added.

Even as Facebook has not made any push to make WhatsApp expand beyond a communications service, users in India, the service’s largest market, are increasingly finding ways to incorporate Facebook’s app into their businesses.

Google, Amazon, and Twitter too have made investments in Indian startups. While Twitter has backed social platform ShareChat, Google has invested in hyperlocal concierge app Dunzo.

China opens Nasdaq-style board to lure tech firms back home

China’s much-anticipated Science and Technology Innovation board officially launched in Shanghai today, marking Beijing’s major step in drawing high-potential tech companies to list at home.

The new Star Market, first announced by President Xi Jinping in November, is expected to be a key fundraising avenue for tech companies from an array of stages, given its criteria (link in Chinese) are less stringent than other domestic boards. Beijing has over the past year encouraged local firms to become more self-reliant in producing chips and other core technologies as an escalating trade war threatens to cut China off the U.S. supply chain.

The new startup board began taking applications in late March and have so far received applications from 122 companies, according to information from the Shanghai Stock Exchange .

The tech bourse opened as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange next door got a big boost. China’s ecommerce titan Alibaba has filed confidentially for a second listing in Hong Kong, according to reports from Bloomberg and Reuters on Thursday citing sources. A spokesperson for Alibaba declined to comment.

Rumors of Alibaba’s potential IPO have swirled for months, but the Hangzhou-based firm has recently accelerated its application process as the U.S.-China trade war intensifies, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

Other Chinese firms that want to be closer to home now have another option to raise equity. Through the new tech board, China will allow loss-making companies to list on an exchange for the first time. This will likely draw promising, pre-profit tech firms that would have otherwise chosen to list in New York for more lax regulations.

For example, unprofitable companies with an income of at least 300 million yuan ($43.43 million) from the previous year are allowed to list in Shanghai if they have a minimum market capitalization of 2 billion yuan and generated a cash flow of no less than 100 million yuan over the past three years.

The board will be the first to have adopted a “registration-based” IPO system designed to streamline applications and limit the securities authority’s influence over pricing and timing of a flotation.

Companies with a dual-class shareholding structure, which has proven popular with a range of tech giants including Facebook, Alphabet, Alibaba and JD.com, will be eligible to apply. Alibaba famously snubbed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after the bourse rejected its application over its corporate structure. HKEX recently dropped its dual-class ban and admitted that Alibaba’s decision to list in New York had compelled it to rethink the restriction. 

Applicants that adopt the variable interest entities (VIE) structure, a controversial framework that many Chinese internet firms use to operate as domestic companies controlled by foreign entities, are also welcome to apply.

Telegram faces DDoS attack in China… again

The popular encrypted messaging service Telegram is once again being hit with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in Asia as protestors in Hong Kong take to the streets.

For the last several days, Hong Kong has been overrun with demonstrators protesting a new law that would put the municipality more directly under the control of mainland China’s authoritarian government.

One of the tools that organizers have turned to is the encrypted messaging service, Telegram, and other secure messaging technologies as they look to evade surveillance measures by government officials.

Telegram first commented on the attack via Twitter roughly 17 hours ago in the late afternoon on Wednesday in Hong Kong.

The company went on to describe a distributed denial of service attack as when “your servers get GADZILLIONS of garbage requests which stop them from processing legitimate requests. Imagine that an army of lemmings just jumped the queue at McDonald’s in front of you – and each is ordering a whopper,” according to Telegram. “The server is busy telling the whopper lemmings they came to the wrong place – but there are so many of them that the server can’t even see you to try and take your order.”

This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to take down Telegram at a time when China was experiencing significant unrest. Four years ago, a similar attack struck the company’s service, just as China was initiating a crackdown on human rights lawyers in the country.

An article in the Hong Kong Free Press described the situation on the mainland, where the company’s web version of its app was blocked from servers in Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Shenzhen, and Yunnan.

At the time, a lawyer involved in human rights cases was made to confess on state television about his involvement in the malfeasance and lawyers’ use of Telegram to hide messages from surveillance.

According to the state-run newspaper China Daily, lawyers were using the Telegram app for “attacks on the [Communist] Party and government.”

At the time of the last attack, Telegram and its chief executive, Pavel Durov did not comment on who was to blame for the denial of service attacks.

Now, the outspoken chief executive isn’t mincing any words. “IP addresses coming mostly from China,” Durov tweeted. “Historically, all state actor-sized DDoS (200-400 Gb/s of junk) we experienced coincided in time iwth protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception.”

 

India’s Zomato flies drone to deliver food in successful test

Zomato, one of India’s largest food delivery firms, may have figured out a faster way to crawl through dense populated routes: going air with drones.

The company, which has expanded its restaurant listing and booking service to about two-dozen markets in recent years, said today it has successfully tested a payload delivery from a hybrid drone.

The drone carried a payload of 5 kgs (11 pounds) and covered 5 kms (3.1 miles) in 10 mins, said Deepinder Goyal, CEO of Zomato, which aims to deliver food to customers in under 15 minutes some day. The drone hit a peak speed of 80 kmph (49.7 mph).

“Fifteen minutes is only possible if we take the aerial route – roads are not efficient for very fast delivery. While our biker fleet nowadays delivers in 30.5 minutes on an average (which is the fastest in the industry as far as we know), every incremental minute with our fleet becomes harder as it separates our users from their ordered food,” he said.

For Zomato, the drone test is more than a gimmick. The delivery firm, heavily backed by Ant Financial and Delivery Hero, acquired local drone startup TechEagle last year. Goyal said the company has finalized the design of its drone, which is lightweight and hosts an array of sensors to detect and avoid static and dynamic objects in its journey.

“Although being fully automated, each drone is currently being tested with (remote) pilot supervision to ensure 100% safety. Over time, as we have more data, we might not need remote pilot supervision,” he added.

The announcement comes at a time when Uber too is gearing up to introduce drones for food delivery for its UberEats business. The global giant, which has concluded initial phase of testing at San Diego State University in partnership with McDonald’s, plans to include others Eats restaurant partners later this year. Amazon too plans to begin drone deliveries “within months.”

How soon Zomato would be able to deploy these drones in its delivery fleet remains an open question. The firm said it will form a consortium, in accordance with local government’s direction, to carry out experimental drone operations in the country.

Much like the rest of the world, New Delhi has reserved its concerns over firms that want to operate drones commercially in the nation. Last month, a government body asked (PDF) interested stakeholders to express their interest in experimental use of drones that travel beyond visual line of sight. So far, the local regulation requires them to operate drones only during days and within the line of sight.

Goyal of Zomato, which is locked in an intense battle with heavily-backed Swiggy for tentpole position in India’s food delivery market, remains optimistic. “Food delivery by drones is no longer just a pipe dream. It’s almost here. Regulatory hurdles are not trivial, and the government’s concerns need to be looked at from various (valid) points of view. Having said that, the tech is ready to fly and I am confident that drone delivery will be commonplace sooner rather than later,” he said.

According to a report from Indian outlet Economic Times, Zomato is in talks to raise as much as $1 billion.

Xiaomi’s budget Mi Band wearable now sports a color screen and voice assistant

Xiaomi has refreshed its smart fitness tracker and unveiled a range of other gadgets in China, giving a glimpse at some of its affordable products that it will likely be bringing to other markets in the coming future.

The wearable fitness tracker, called Mi Smart Band 4, sports a bigger AMOLED display (39.9% increase in screen size) than its popular year-old predecessor and features support for XiaoAI, the company’s voice assistant that can be activated with a voice command.

The bigger display, which supports 16 million colors and 77 customized themes, will allow users to quickly glance at notifications and fitness stats. The tracker also supports offline payments via AliPay. It is still very affordable, priced at just RMB 169 (roughly $24.5).

Coupled with the long durability that previous generation smart bands have offered, it is no wonder that the Chinese giant has emerged as the second largest wearable maker in the world. According to IDC, Xiaomi shipped 7.5 million wearable units in the waning quarter of last year, second only to Apple, which shipped 16.2 units.

The company has also launched a smart lock, dubbed Mi Smart Door Lock, that offers up to six unlocking modes and allows users to track its status in real time. It also works with the NFC variant of Mi Smart Band 4 that when paired can serve as a key. It is priced at RMB 1699 (roughly $245).

The announcement comes as Xiaomi, which went public last year and is increasingly trying to expand its services business, struggles to meet analysts expectations. The Chinese group, once thought of worth over $100 billion, has a market cap of under $30 billion currently.

Xiaomi also launched a smart washing machine, induction cooker, e-skate hover, digital translator, and pens. The washing machine, called Mi Smart Combo Wash Dryer, sports OLED smart buttons and supports voice controls for activating or halting a washing cycle. It is priced at RMB 2999 (roughly $433).

Shaped like a smartphone, the Mi AI Translator, comes preloaded with Oxford and Collins dictionary as well as Chinese dictionaries. It is aimed at people who are trying to learn a new language and want to improve their pronunciation. It supports real-time translation between 34 languages. It starts at RMB 499 (roughly $72).

Go-Jek doubles down on India with yet another talent acquisition

Go-Jek may be based in Southeast Asia, but the multi-billion-dollar ride-hailing firm continues to tap India for engineering talent. The Indonesia-headquartered firm announced today that it has acquired AirCTO, a recruitment platform based in Gurgaon.

The acquisition, the price of which has not been disclosed, is a talent grab. AirCTO’s platform uses a mix of AI and humans to help companies hire “top” developer talent — that’s of interest to Go-Jek because the company intends to double down on India, which houses a significant number of its R&D workforce already thanks to prior acquisitions.

Indeed, the company said that AirCTO’s entire team will join it to develop “products that accelerate the recruitment of talent” within its ranks.

First up, the deal will see a Gurgaon office opened as part of a wider plan to hire 100 new tech staff this year to increase Go-Jek’s headcount in India to 500. The firm said that some of that hiring could come from other acquisitions — that makes sense given that Go-Jek is the midst of raising a round that it claims has already passed the $1 billion mark at a valuation approaching $10 billion.

It’s challenging to keep up with Go-Jek acquisition spree because many of its deals are not announced at the time, or, indeed, at all.

But we do know there have been many. According to Crunchbase data, AirCTO is its tenth purchase. Three of those came from India — C42 Engineering, Pianta and Leftshift Technologies — to form an offshored R&D division. In addition, the company’s group CTO is Ajey Gore, a hire from India who spends a large chunk of his time at Go-Jek’s Bangalore office.

Go-Jek isn’t alone in setting up R&D centers in India, rival Grab, which is backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund and valued at $14 billion, is present in the country, too.

Aware of the limits of the talent pool in its native Southeast Asia, Grab has long maintained engineering outposts overseas. These include Beijing, Seattle and — as of 2017 — Bangalore, in addition to various countries in Southeast Asia. Grab has also made an acquisition in India.

Back on the battlefield of Southeast Asia, Grab and Go-Jek are competing to become the region’s ‘super app.’ Since Uber exited more than a year ago, the ride-hailing war has developed into a contest to become the daily go-to app for the region’s 600 million consumers. That’s seen Go-Jek and Grab steadily add new features and services. Those range from the obvious like food and grocery deliveries, to messages, haircuts and other services on demand, and now even games, video streaming and other entertainment.

Grab operates in eight countries while Go-Jek, which finally forayed outside of Indonesia last year, is present in four.