Cryptocurrency wallet startup Cobo raises $13M Series A to enter the U.S. and Southeast Asia

Cobo, a cryptocurrency wallet startup headquartered in Beijing, has raised a $13 million Series A to enter new international markets. The round was led by DHVC and Wu Capital, a family office based in China. Cobo plans to expand in the United States and Southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam and Indonesia. Cobo is also now taking pre-orders for Cobo Vault, a hardware wallet (pictured above) that it claims is military grade. Cobo’s Series A brings its total funding to $20 million so far.

Cobo Wallet allows users to store both proof-of-stake and proof-of-work coins. One incentive for people to pick the app over its competitors is the ability to pool proof-of-stake assets with other users so they can increase their chances of mining and validating new blocks on the blockchain. Since launching earlier this year, Cobo says its digital wallet has gained more than 500,000 users.

The startup was founded last year by CEO Shixing Mao, who is known as Discus Fish in the crypto community, and CTO Changhao Jiang, a former platform engineer at Facebook and Google who co-founded Bihang, a cryptocurrency wallet acquired by OKCoin in 2013. Discus Fish, meanwhile, is known for launching F2Pool, China’s first mining pool.

Cobo Vault, which will retail for $479, meets the MIL-STD-810G U.S. military standard for equipment, Cobo’s head of hardware Lixin Liu said in an email, adding that it was built with proprietary firmware created especially for the device, a bank-grade encryption chip and military-grade aluminum.

Cobo Vault’s creation was prompted by an August 2017 incident in which F2Pool was hacked and more than 8,000 ETH was stolen from Discus Fish’s account. Fish also refunded customers’ lost ETH from his own assets. “As a result, Discus Fish was resolute on the fact that for crypto to gain mass market adoption, products had to be made to be hacker-resistant and truly safe,” said Liu.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks publicly for the first time about its censored China search engine

Commenting publicly for the first time about Google’s censored search engine for China, CEO Sundar Pichai said onstage at the WIRED 25 summit in San Francisco that the company is taking “a longer-term view” about the country. Codenamed Project Dragonfly, the controversial development has been public knowledge since a report in August by the Intercept, generating significant backlash, with several employees resigning in protest.

Google did not confirm Project Dragonfly’s existence until its chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, spoke at a Senate hearing last month. Even then, Enright did not provide much information about the project, so this means Pichai’s comments at WIRED 25 are the most detailed ones made officially by Google’s leadership so far.

Even before Project Dragonfly was revealed by The Intercept, Google had already been quietly working on a strategy to re-enter China, including launching (or re-launching) apps through third-party Android stores (Google Play is not available in China) and working with partners like Xiaomi and Huawei to introduce its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality there. Pichai said Google has not decided if it will actually launch Project Dragonfly in China, but if it does, the search engine’s biggest competition would be Baidu.

Pichai said that Chinese tech innovations means it’s time for Google to get an understanding of the market from the inside out. “It’s a wonderful, innovative market. We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that’s what we built internally,” adding that “given how important the market is and how many users there are, we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view.”

Even though it follows China’s strict censorship laws, Pichai claimed that Project Dragonfly will still be able to answer “well over 99% of the queries” put to it and that “there are many, many areas where we would provide information better than what’s available.”

Google once operated a censored search engine in China at Google.cn, but pulled out of the country in 2010. At the time, Google said its decision was prompted by a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China” that targeted human rights activists, and the country’s efforts to “further limit free speech on the web in China” by blocking websites like Googe Docs, Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

For its critics, Project Dragonfly’s existence means Google has reneged on the values it avowed nine years ago. While onstage at WIRED 25, however, Pichai said working on a search engine is in line with the company’s mission to “provide information to everyone,” noting that China contains about 20% of the world’s population.

Google only embarked on Project Dragonfly after much deliberation, he said. “People don’t understand fully, but you’re always balancing a set of values” when entering new countries,” adding “but we also follow the rule of law in every country.”

Chinese electric automakers Nio exceeds Q3 delivery target for its ES8 SUV

Nio, the Chinese electric automaker aiming to compete with Tesla, reported that it delivered 3,268 of its new ES8 vehicles in the third quarter, beating its own target by 9%.

The company planned to deliver between 2,900 and 3,000 ES8s in the third quarter, according to Nio CFO Louis T. Hsieh.

Nio began deliveries of the ES8, a 7-seater high performance electric SUV in China on June 28. The company reported that its year-to-date ES8 deliveries, as of September 30, 2018, totaled 3,368 vehicles. The first 100 vehicles were delivered in the last days of the second quarter.

“Growing our monthly deliveries from 381 in July to 1,766 in September demonstrates our steady production ramp, strong demand from users and the initial acceptance of NIO as a premium brand,” William Li, founder, Chairman and CEO of Nio, said in a statement.

The company, which shut down its ES8 production line for 10 days for routine maintenance and to install equipment for its second production line, warned that deliveries in October will be lower.

However, the company said it remains on track to hit its delivery target of 10,000 ES8 vehicles for the second half of 2018.

The company is planning to release the ES6, a 5-seater premium SUV,  in June/July 2019.

Nio, which raised $1 billion when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in September, has operations in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, although it only sells its ES8 vehicle in China. The 7-seater ES8 SUV is priced at 448,000 RMB, or around $65,000.

Baillie Gifford  & Co., the second-biggest shareholder of Tesla stock, owns an 11.44 percent stake in Nio, according to a regulatory filing posted October 9.

U.S. lawmakers warn Canada to keep Huawei out of its 5G plans

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network.

“While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei,” the letter states. The senators warn Canada to “reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.”

The outcry comes after the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security dismissed security concerns regarding Huawei in comments last month. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is Canada’s designated federal agency tasked with cybersecurity.

Next generation 5G networks already pose a number of unique security challenges. Lawmakers caution that by allowing companies linked to the Chinese government to build 5G infrastructure, the U.S. and its close allies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.) would be inviting the fox to guard the henhouse.

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, passed in August, the U.S. government signed off on a law that forbids domestic agencies from using services or hardware made by Huawei and ZTE. A week later, Australia moved to block Huawei and ZTE from its own 5G buildout.

Due to the open nature of intelligence sharing between the U.S. and its closest allies, the Canadian government would be able to obtain knowledge of any specific threats that substantiate the U.S. posture toward the Chinese company. “We urge your government to seek additional information from the U.S. intelligence community,” the letter implores.

Nubank is now worth $4 billion after Tencent’s $180 million investment

Nubank, the Brazilian financial services company, has raised $180 million from the Chinese internet giant, Tencent.

Tencent has long been interested in financial services startups, and with its $90 million direct investment and another $90 million investment in the secondary market, the company now has access to what is arguably the largest digital banking company in the world.

With the $4 billion valuation, it also makes Nubank one of the most highly valued privately held startups in Latin America.

News of the investment was first reported by The Information, which included the $4 billion figure.

For Nubank co-founders David Velez and Cristina Junqueira, the investment from Tencent means the addition of a strategic partner whose financial services products and transaction platform is unmatched by anything in Western Europe or the U.S.

Velez stressed that Nubank, which had raised $150 million in a February financing round led by DST, did not need the additional capital. “We found so much value in partnering with Tencent,” Velez said. “Particularly everything there is to learn about the Chinese financial market.”

Velez hopes to take those lessons and apply them back to the market in Brazil. China is in the forefront of financial services globally because of its technology companies’ ability to offer multi-product platforms. “They have built the playbook of how to use mobile.”

Through the investment, Tencent will gain an understanding of how Nubank has managed to service 5 million credit card holders, and the game plan the company is deploying to develop its own savings accounts and other banking services.

“Over 20 million people have applied for the card,” said Velez. “There are active, engaged, customers that want to get everything from us.”

Junqueira estimates the company will soon be able to serve tens of millions of Brazilians with either a savings account, a checking account or credit.

The opportunity could be even bigger as Brazil’s central bank investigates the possibility of instant payments as well, looking to India’s experiment with demonetization as an example.

Both Junqueira and Velez said the opportunity for financial services startups to achieve significant scale was far higher in emerging markets like Brazil than in developed markets, because the barriers to banking are so much higher.

Financial services, Velez said, has been controlled by massive oligopolies that have erected unfair obstacles to wealth creation for the masses. Nubank and other companies like it are working to change that.

Now the company has the benefit of Tencent’s guidance as it continues to push the envelope.

In letter to Congress, Apple sends strongest denial over ‘spy chip’ story

Apple has doubled down on its repudiation of Bloomberg’s report last week that claimed its systems had been compromised by Chinese spies.

The blockbuster story cited more than a dozen sources claiming that China installed tiny chips on motherboards built by Supermicro, which companies across the U.S. tech industry — including Amazon and Apple — have used to power servers in their datacenters. Bloomberg’s report also claimed that the chip can reportedly compromise data on the server, allowing China to spy on some of the world’s most powerful tech companies.

Now, in a letter to Congress, Apple’s vice president of information security George Stathakopoulos sent the company’s strongest denial to date.

“Apple has never found malicious chips, ‘hardware manipulations’ or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server,” he said. “We never alerted the FBI to any security concerns like those described in the article, nor has the FBI ever contacted us about such an investigation.”

It follows a statement by both the U.K. National Cyber Security Center and U.S. Homeland Security stating that they had “no reason to doubt” statements by Apple, Amazon and Supermicro denying the claims.

Stathakopoulos added that Apple “repeatedly asked them to share specific details about the alleged malicious chips that they seemed certain existed, they were unwilling or unable to provide anything more than vague secondhand accounts.”

Apple’s statement is far stronger than its earlier remarks. A key detail missing in the Bloomberg story is that its many sources, albeit anonymous, provided the reporters with a first hand account of the alleged spy chips.

Without any evidence that the chips exist beyond eyewitness accounts and sources, Bloomberg’s story remains on shaky grounds.

The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own.

These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”.

“We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the casual brands,” said Jim Collins, a serial entrepreneur, restauranteur, and the chief executive of the food-service startup, Kitchen United. “In every board room for every major restaurant brand in the country… the number one conversation surrounds the topic of how are we going to address [off-premise diners].”

Collins’ company just raised $10 million in a funding round led by GV, the investment arm of Google parent company, Alphabet. But Alphabet’s investment team is far from the only group investing in the restaurant infrastructure as a service business.

Perhaps the best capitalized company focusing on distributed kitchens is CloudKitchens, one of two subsidiaries owned by the holding company City Storage Solutions.

Cloud Kitchens and its sister company Cloud Retail are the two arms of the new venture from Uber co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, which was formed with a $150 million investment.

As we reported at the time, Travis announced that he would be starting a new fund with the riches he made from Uber shares sold in its most recent major secondary round. Kalanick said his 10100, or “ten one hundred”, fund would be geared toward “large-scale job creation,” with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and “emerging innovation in India and China.”

If anyone is aware of the massive market potential for leveraging on-demand services, it’s Kalanick. Especially since he was one of the architects of the infrastructure that has made it possible.

Other deep pocketed companies have also stepped into the fray. Late last year Acre Venture Partners, the investment arm formed by The Campbell Soup Co., participated in a $13 million investment for Pilotworks, another distributed kitchen operator based in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Kitchen United has been busy putting together a deep bench of executive talent culled from some of the largest and most successful American fast food restaurant chains.

Former Taco Bell Chief Development Officer, Meredith Sandland, joined the company earlier this year as its chief operating officer, while former McDonald’s executive Atul Sood, who oversaw the burger giant’s relationship with online delivery services, has come aboard as Kitchen United’s Chief Business Officer.

The millions of dollars spicing up this new business model investors are serving up could be considered the second iteration of a food startup wave.

An earlier generation of prepared food startups crashed and burned while trying to spin up just this type of vision with investments in their own infrastructure. New York celebrity chef David Chang, the owner and creator of the city’s famous Momofuku restaurants (and Milk Bar, and Ma Peche), was an investor in Maple, a new delivery-only food startup that raised $25 million before it was shut down and its technology was absorbed into the European, delivery service, Deliveroo.

Ando, which Chang founded, was another attempt at creating a business with a single storefront for takeout and a massive reliance on delivery services to do the heavy lifting of entering new neighborhoods and markets. That company wound up getting acquired by UberEats after raising $7 million in venture funding.

Those losses are slight compared to the woes of investors in companies like Munchery, ($125.4 million) Sprig, ($56.7 million) and SpoonRocket ($13 million). Sprig and Spoonrocket are now defunct, and Munchery had to pull back from markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle as it fights for survival. The company also reportedly was looking at recapitalizing earlier in the year at a greatly reduced valuation.

What gives companies like Kitchen United, Pilotworks and Cloud Kitchens hope is that they’re not required to actually create the next big successful concept in fast food or casual dining. They just have to enable it.

Kitchen United just opened a 12,000 square foot facility in Pasadena for just that purpose — and has plans to open more locations in West Los Angeles; Jersey City, N.J.; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Seattle and Denver. Its competitor, Pilotworks, already has operations in Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, and Providence, R.I.

While the two companies have similar visions, they’re currently pursuing different initial customers. Pilotworks has pitched itself as a recipe for success for new food entrepreneurs. Kitchen United, by comparison is giving successful local, regional, and national brands a way to expand their footprint without investing in real estate.

“One of the directions that the company was thinking of going was toward the restaurant industry and the second was in the food service entrepreneurial sector,” said Collins. “Would it be a company that served restaurants with their expansions? Now, we’re in deep discussions with all kinds of restaurants.”

Smaller national fast food chains like Chick-Fil-A or Shake Shack, or fast casual chains like Dennys and Shoney’s could be customers, said Collins. So could local companies that are trying to expand their regional footprint. Los Angeles’ famous Canter’s Deli is a Kitchen United customer (and an early adopter of a number of new restaurant innovations) and so is The Lost Cuban Kitchen, an Iowa-based Cuban restaurant that’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Kitchen United is looking to create kitchen centers that can house between 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, big box retail and light industrial locations.

Using demographic data and “demand mapping” for specific cuisines, Kitchen United said that it can provide optimal locations and site the right restaurant to meet consumer demand. The company is also pitching labor management, menu management and delivery tools to help streamline the process of getting a new location up and running.

“In all of the facilities, all of the restaurants have their own four-walled space,” says Collins. “There’s shared infrastructure outside of that.”

Some of that infrastructure is taking food deliveries and an ability to serve as a central hub for local supplier, according to Collins. “One of the things that we’re going to be launching relatively soon here in Pasadena, is actually in-service days where local supplier and purveyors can come in and meet with seven restaurants at once.”

It’s also possible that restaurants in the Kitchen United spaces could take advantage of restaurant technologies being developed by one of the startup’s sister companies through Cali Group, a holding company for a number of different e-sports, retail, and food technology startups.

The Pasadena-based kitchen company was founded by Harry Tsao, an investor in food technology (and a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Football Club) through his fund Avista Investments; and John Miller, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Cali Group.

In fact, Kitchen United operates as a Cali Group portfolio company alongside Miso Robotics, the developer of the burger flipping robot, Flippy; Caliburger, an In-n-Out clone first developed by Miller in Shanghai and brought back to the U.S.; and FunWall, a display technology for online gaming in retail settings.

“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, and a new director on the Kitchen United board. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”

GV’s Ghobarah actually sees the investment of a piece with other bets that Alphabet’s venture capital arm has made around the food industry.

The firm is a backer of the fully automated hamburger preparation company, Creator, which has raised roughly $28 million to develop its hamburger making robot (if Securities and Exchange Commission filings can be believed). And it has backed the containerized farming startup, Bowery Farming, with a $20 million investment.

Ghobarah sees an entirely new food distribution ecosystem built up around facilities where Bowery’s farms are colocated with Kitchen United’s restaurants to reduce logistical hurdles and create new hubs.

“As urban farming like Bowery scales up… that becomes more and more realistic,” Ghobarah said. “The other thing that really stands out when you have flexible locations … all of the thousands of people who want to own a restaurant now have access. It’s not really all regional chains and national chains… With a satellite location like this… [a restaurant]… can break even at one third of the order volume.”

 

Study says the US is quickly losing its entrepreneurial edge

Photographer: Daro Sulakauri/Bloomberg

According to a new study conducted by the Center for American Entrepreneurship and NYU’s Shack Institute of Real Estate, the US may be losing its competitive advantage as the dominant nucleus of the startup and venture capital universe. 

The analysis, led by senior Brookings Institution fellow Ian Hathaway and “Rise of the Creative Class” author Richard Florida, examines the flow of venture capital over 100,000 deals from 2005 to 2017 and details how the historically US-centric practice of venture capital has become a global phenomenon.

While the US still appears to produce the largest amount of venture activity in the world, America’s share of the global pie is falling dramatically and doing so quickly.

In the mid-90s, the US accounted for more than 95% of global venture capital investment.  By 2012, this number had fallen to 70%. At the end of 2017, the US share of total venture investment had fallen to just 50%.   

Over the last decade, non-US countries have propelled growth in the global startup and venture economy, which has swelled from $50 billion to over $170 billion in size.  In particular, China, India and the UK now account for a third of global venture deal count and dollars – 2-3x the share held ten years ago.  And with VC dollars increasingly circulating into modernizing Asia-Pac and European cities, the researchers found that the erosion in the US share of venture capital is trending in the wrong direction.

Growth of global startup cities and the myth of the American “rise of the rest”

We’ve spent the summer discussing the notion of Silicon Valley reaching its parabolic peak – Observing the “rise of the rest” across smaller American tech hubs.  In reality, the data reveals a “rise in the rest of the world”, with startup ecosystems outside the US growing at a faster pace than most US hubs.

The Bay Area remains the world’s preeminent beneficiary of VC investment, and New York, Los Angeles, and Boston all find themselves in the top ten cities contributing to global venture growth.  However, only six of the top 20 cities are located in the US, while 14 are in Asia or Europe.  At the individual level, only two American cities crack the top 20 fastest growing startup hubs.  

Still, the authors found the bulk of VC activity remains highly concentrated in a small number of incumbent startup cities. More than 50% of all global venture capital deployed can be attributed to only six cities and half of the growth in VC activity over the last five years can be attributed to just four cities.  Despite the growing number of ecosystems playing a role in venture decisions, the dominant incumbent startup hubs hold a firm grip on the majority of capital deployed.

China and the surge of mega deals

Unsurprisingly, the largest contributor to the globalization of venture capital and the slimming share of the US is the rapid escalation of China’s startup ecosystem.

In the last three years, China has captured nearly a fourth of total VC investment.  Since 2010, Beijing contributed more to VC deployment growth than any other city, while three other Chinese cities (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen) fell in the top 15. 

A major part of China’s ascension can be tied to the idiosyncratic rise of late-stage “mega deals”, which the study defines as $500 million or more in size.  Once an extremely rare occurrence, mega deals now make up a significant portion of all venture dollars deployed.  From 2005-2007, only two mega deals took place.  From 2010-2012, eight of such deals took place.  From 2015-2017, there were 80 global mega deals, representing a fifth of the total venture capital activity.  Chinese cities accounted for half of all mega deal investment over the same period.

The good, the bad, and the uncertain

It’s not all bad for the US, with the study highlighting continued ecosystem growth in established US hubs and leading roles for non-valley markets in NY, LA, and Boston.

And the globalization of the startup and venture economy is by no means a “bad thing”.  In fact, access to capital, the spread of entrepreneurial spirit, and stronger global economic development and prosperity is almost unquestionably a “good thing.”

However, the US’ share of venture-backed startups is falling, and the US losing its competitive advantage in the startup and venture capital market could have major implications for its future as a global economic leader.  Five of the six largest US companies were previously venture-backed startups and now provide a combined value of around $4 trillion. 

The intense competition for talent marks another major challenge for the US who has historically been a huge beneficiary of foreign-born entrepreneurs.  With the rise of local ecosystems across the globe, entrepreneurs no longer have to flock to the US to build their companies or have access to venture capital.  The problem attracting entrepreneurs is compounded by notoriously unfriendly US visa policies – not to mention recent harsh rhetoric and tension over immigration that make the US a less attractive destination for skilled immigrants.  

At a recent speaking event, Florida stated he believed the US’ fading competitive advantage was a greater threat to American economic power than previous collapses seen in the steel and auto industries.  A sentiment echoed by Techstars co-founder Brad Feld, who in the report’s forward states, “government leaders should read this report with alarm.”

It remains to be seen whether the train has left the station or if the US can hold on to its position as the world’s venture leader.  What is clear is that Silicon Valley is no longer the center of the universe and the geography of the startup and venture capital world is changing.

The Rise of the Global Startup City: The New Map of Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital tries to illustrate these tectonic shifts and identifies tiers of global startup cities based on size, growth and balance of VC deals and investments.

Volvo’s Polestar brand is assembling prototypes of its first plug-in hybrid sports car

Polestar has started assembling verification prototypes of its upcoming plug-in hybrid sports car as Volvo’s standalone electric performance brand prepares to produce customer cars next year.

Verification prototypes of the Polestar 1 vehicle, which are built largely by hand, mark the first testing phase for production. The vehicles will be crashed and driven through different kinds of weather and on-road conditions — the kinds of tests that help engineers identify problems and tune the car.

The company plans to build 34 of these vehicles at a prototype production facility in Gothenburg, Sweden. Polestar will likely pay particular attention to how the carbon-fiber body of the vehicle holds up under testing. This is the first time that a brand in the Volvo Car Group has explored carbon fiber construction, according to Polestar, which noted that the company had to develop new equipment and use new construction techniques.

Polestar 1 verification prototype

That equipment will be transferred to its new factory in Chengdu, China, where customer cars will be produced.

Polestar plans to start production of the Polestar 1 in mid-2019, according to Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath. The company has said it will produce 200 Polestar 1 vehicles in the first full year of production. All of those $155,000 vehicles, which are destined for North America, have already been sold.

Polestar was once a high-performance brand under Volvo Cars. In 2017, the company was recast as an electric performance brand aimed at producing exciting and fun-to-drive electric vehicles — a niche that Tesla was the first to fill and has dominated ever since. Volvo has said it plans to invest more than $750 million into Polestar.

The Polestar 1 is the first model of the electric brand. However, the Polestar 1 is not a pure electric vehicle; it’s a plug-in hybrid with three electrical motors powered by twin 34 kilowatt-hour battery packs and a turbo and supercharged gas V4 up front.

Ingenlath views this initial model as a “bridge” to pure EVs. The Polestar 2 will be the company first all-electric vehicle and is designed to compete with Tesla Model 3. The Polestar 2 will be revealed early in 2019, with production starting a year later.

VP Pence calls on Google to end work on a search engine for China

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence called for Google to end its development of a search engine custom built to accommodate China’s disposition for censorship.

Pence gave the speech at a conservative think tank in D.C., dipping into a range of anti-Beijing sentiments, from intellectual property concerns to tariffs and the trade war. Pence didn’t mince words, calling on Google to abandon its plans for a China-friendly mobile version of its otherwise ubiquitous search engine.

Pence accused any company with plans to work around Chinese internet restrictions of “abetting Beijing’s oppression” and didn’t hesitate to call the search giant out by name:

More business leaders are thinking beyond the next quarter, and thinking twice before diving into the Chinese market if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression. But more must follow suit. For example, Google should immediately end development of the “Dragonfly” app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers…

More journalists are reporting the truth without fear or favor, and digging deep to find where China is interfering in our society, and why – and we hope that more American, and global, news organizations will join in this effort.

More scholars are speaking out forcefully and defending academic freedom, and more universities and think tanks are mustering the courage to turn away Beijing’s easy money, recognizing that every dollar comes with a corresponding demand. We’re confident that more will join their ranks.

And across the nation, the American people are growing in vigilance, with a newfound appreciation for our administration’s actions to re-set America’s economic and strategic relationship with China, to finally put America First.

Pence’s full remarks are available on the Hudson Institute’s website.

Google’s covert project, known as Dragonfly, is reportedly a version of the search engine that blocks forbidden sites like Facebook and Twitter, censors search terms like the Tiananmen Square massacre and cuts out prominent Western news sources like the BBC and The New York Times. The project, first reported by the Intercept, sparked internal turmoil at the company and a letter of protest from employees who felt too in the dark to make “ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

Google drama aside, Pence’s tough talk on China might be politically expedient bluster, but it’s not without irony: The Trump administration has repeatedly expressed its outright contempt for a free press, a hallmark of an aggressively restrictive government like China. Pence’s derision of China’s “unparalleled surveillance state” is also fairly rich, given domestic policy on warrantless surveillance.

The vice president also took the opportunity to refresh controversial claims that China is “meddling” in the U.S. midterm elections, echoing language often used to describe Russia’s substantiated election interference efforts. President Trump suggested as much last week, claiming that China “has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration.” Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen declined to endorse the president’s unsubstantiated claims, noting that China pursues a “holistic approach” to cultivating a positive image in the U.S.