MoviePass exposed thousands of unencrypted customer card numbers

Movie ticket subscription service MoviePass has exposed tens of thousands of customer card numbers and personal credit cards because a critical server was not protected with a password.

Mossab Hussein, a security researcher at Dubai-based cybersecurity firm SpiderSilk, found an exposed database on one of the company’s many subdomains. The database was massive, containing 161 million records at the time of writing and growing in real-time. Many of the records were normal computer-generated logging messages used to ensure the running of the service — but many also included sensitive user information, such as MoviePass customer card numbers.

These MoviePass customer cards are like normal debit cards: they’re issued by Mastercard and store a cash balance, which users who sign up to the subscription service can use to pay to watch a catalog of movies. For a monthly subscription fee, MoviePass uses the debit card to load the full cost of the movie, which the customer then uses to pay for the movie at the cinema.

We reviewed a sample of 1,000 records and removed the duplicates. A little over half contained unique MoviePass debit card numbers. Each customer card record had the MoviePass debit card number and its expiry date, the card’s balance, when it was activated.

The database had more than 58,000 records containing card data — and was growing by the minute.

We also found records containing customers’ personal credit card numbers and their expiry date — which included billing information, including names, and postal addresses. Among the records we reviewed, we found records with enough information to make fraudulent card purchases.

Some records, however, contained card numbers that had been masked except for the last four digits.

The database also contained email address and some password data related to failed login attempts. We found hundreds of records containing the user’s email address and presumably incorrectly typed password — which was logged — in the database. We verified this by attempting log into the app with an email address and password that didn’t exist but only we knew. Our dummy email address and password appeared in the database almost immediately.

None of the records in the database were encrypted.

Hussain contacted MoviePass chief executive Mitch Lowe by email — which TechCrunch has seen — over the weekend but did not hear back. It was only after TechCrunch reached out Tuesday when MoviePass took the database offline.

It’s understood that the database may have been exposed for months, according to data collected by cyberthreat intelligence firm RiskIQ, which first detected the system in late June.

We asked MoviePass several questions — including why the initial email disclosing the security lapse was ignored, for how long the server was exposed, and its plans to disclose the incident to customers and state regulators. When reached, a spokesperson did not comment by our deadline.

MoviePass has been on a rollercoaster since it hit mainstream audiences last year. The company quickly grew its customer base from 1.5 million to 2 million customers in less than a month. But MoviePass took a tumble after critics said it grew too fast, forcing the company to cease operating briefly after the company briefly ran out of money. The company later said it was profitable, but then suspended service, supposedly to work on its mobile app. It now says it has “restored [service] to a substantial number of our current subscribers.”

Leaked internal data from April said its customer numbers went from three million subscribers to about 225,000. And just this month MoviePass reportedly changed user passwords to hobble access for customers who use the service extensively.

Hussain said the company was negligent in leaving data unencrypted in an exposed, accessible database.

“We keep on seeing companies of all sizes using dangerous methods to maintain and process private user data,” Hussain told TechCrunch. “In the case of MoviePass, we are questioning the reason why would internal technical teams ever be allowed to see such critical data in plaintext — let alone the fact that the dataset was exposed for public access by anyone,” he said.

The security researcher said he found the exposed database using his company-built web mapping tools, which peeks into non-password protected databases that are connected to the internet, and identifies the owner. The information is privately disclosed to companies, often in exchange for a bug bounty.

Hussain has a history of finding exposed databases. In recent months he found one of Samsung’s development labs exposed on the internet. He also found an exposed backend database belonging to Blind, an anonymity-driven workplace social network, exposing private user data.

Read more:

Disney+ comes to Canada and the Netherlands on Nov. 12, will support nearly all major platforms at launch

Disney+ will have an international launch that begins at the same time as its rollout in the U.S., Disney revealed. The company will be launching its digital streaming service on November 12 in Canada and The Netherlands on November 12, and will be coming to Australia and New Zealand the following week. The streaming service will also support virtually every device and operating system from day one.

Disney+ will be available on iOS, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Android, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Roku, and Xbox One at launch, which is pretty much an exhaustive list of everywhere someone might want to watch it, leaving aside some smaller proprietary smart TV systems. That, combined with the day-and-date global markets, should be a clear indicator that Disney wants its service to be available to as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible.

Through Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Apple TV devices, customers will be able to subscribe via in-app purchase. Disney+ will also be fully integrated with Apple’s TV app, which is getting an update in iOS 13 in hopes of becoming even more useful as a central hub for all a user’s video content. The one notable exception on the list of supported devices and platforms is Amazon’s Fire TV, which could change closer to launch depending on negotiations.

In terms of pricing, the service will run $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year in Canada, and €6.99 per month (or €69.99 per year) in the Netherlands. In Australia, it’ll be $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year, and in New Zealand, it’ll be $9.99 and $99.99 per year. All prices are in local currency.

That compares pretty well with the $6.99 per month (or $69.99 yearly) asking price in the U.S., and undercuts the Netflix pricing in those markets, too. This is just the Disney+ service on its own, however, not the combined bundle that includes ESPN Plus and Hulu for $12.99 per month, which is probably more comparable to Netflix in terms of breadth of content offering.

 

China’s Transsion and Kenya’s Wapi Capital partner on Africa fund

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion is teaming up with Kenya’s Wapi Capital to source and fund early-stage African fintech startups.

Headquartered in Shenzhen, Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa that recently confirmed its imminent IPO.

Wapi Capital is the venture fund of Kenyan fintech startup Wapi Pay—a Nairobi based company that facilitates digital payments between African and Asia via mobile money or bank accounts.

Investments for the new partnership will come from Transsion’s Future Hub, an incubator and seed fund for African startups opened by Transsion in 2019.

Starting September 2019, Transsion will work with Wapi Capital to select early-stage African fintech companies for equity-based investments of up to $100,000, Transsion Future Hub Senior Investor Laura Li told TechCrunch via email.

Wapi Capital won’t contribute funds to Transsion’s Africa investments, but will help determine the viability and scale of the startups, including due diligence and deal flow, according to Wapi Pay co-founder Eddie Ndichu.

Wapi Pay and Transsion Future Hub will consider ventures from all 54 African countries and interested startups can reach out directly to either organization, Ndichu and Li confirmed.

The Wapi Capital fintech partnership is not Transsion’s sole VC focus in Africa. Though an exact fund size hasn’t been disclosed, the Transsion Future Hub will also make startup investments on the continent in adtech, fintech, e-commerce, logistics, and media and entertainment, according to Li.

Transsion Future Hub’s existing portfolio includes Africa focused browser company Phoenix, content aggregator Scoop, and music service Boomplay.

Wapi Capital adds to the list of African located and run venture funds—which have been growing in recent years—according to a 2018 study by TechCrunch and Crunchbase. Wapi Capital will also start making its own investments and is looking to raise $1 million this year and $10 million over the next three years, according to Ndichu, who co-founded the fund and Wapi Pay with his twin brother Paul.

Transsion’s commitment to African startup investments comes as the company is on the verge of listing on China’s new Nasdaq-style STAR Market tech exchange. Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch this month the IPO is in process and that it could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market — through its brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel — and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.

Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia.

Transsion’s move into venture investing tracks greater influence from China in African tech.

China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities.

Transsion’s Wapi Pay partnership is the second recent event — after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria — to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walmart Canada rolls out nationwide grocery delivery through Instacart

Walmart’s relationship with Instacart deepened today with an expansion of their partnership across Canada for grocery delivery. Walmart Canada had previously run a 17-store pilot program with Instacart, starting last September, in both the Greater Toronto area and Winnipeg. With the expansion, Walmart Canada will offer same-day grocery delivery from nearly 200 Walmart stores nationwide.

Canadian Walmart shoppers can now shop online via Instacart’s website or mobile app, select their city and store, then add items to a grocery cart, check out, and choose their delivery window. The delivery can arrive in as fast as one hour, or it can be scheduled as much as five days in advance.

The service is currently live in cities and communities throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the retailer says.

Instacart Walmart Canada Check out

Walmart Canada isn’t the only Walmart arm to have a relationship with the same-day delivery service. Last year, Walmart’s Sam’s Club also began working with Instacart to offer same-day delivery from its warehouse stores in parts of the U.S. That partnership expanded last fall, and recently began to power Sam’s Club new alcohol delivery service, as well.

Walmart in the U.S. also offers an online grocery service, but has chosen to work with other delivery providers, including Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire, Roadie, and Postmates, after ending relationships with Uber, Lyft, and Deliv. According to reports, Walmart didn’t want to work with Instacart in the U.S. because it only wants to use the provider for last-mile deliveries — and Instacart wanted to list Walmart inventory in its app.

In Canada, however, that arrangement seems to be working out.

With the expansion, Instacart delivery is now available to more than 70% of Canadian households, up from 60% in January of this year. By comparison, Instacart is available in more than 80% of U.S. households.

It’s not the only option for Walmart online grocery in Canada, though.

In addition, Walmart Canada offers grocery pickup at 175 stores, expanding to 190 by the end of January 2020. It also offers pickup at 9 PenguinPickUp locations in the Toronto area and next-day delivery in the Toronto area through Walmart.ca.

“Canadian families are busy. By introducing more online shopping options at Walmart, we’re helping make life easier and more convenient for them,” said Lee Tappenden, President and CEO of Walmart Canada, in a statement released today. “Expanding our relationship with Instacart provides our customers with even more time-saving ways to shop at Walmart in their community.”

To kick off the deal, the code WMTCOAST2COAST can be used at checkout for $10 off a first-time customer’s order of $35 or more.

Walmart tops U.S. online grocery market, with 62% more customers than next nearest rival

Walmart is dominating the U.S. online grocery market, according to new research out this week from the analysts at Second Measure. The nationwide retailer today offers grocery pickup and delivery in nearly every U.S. state, and had 62% more customers in June than its next nearest rival. And no, in this case, that rival is not Amazon — it’s Instacart.

Like Walmart, Instacart also operates across the U.S., offering both pickup and delivery services.

The same is true for Amazon Prime Now and Peapod, while other competitors are limited to delivery only — like Target-owned Shipt and FreshDirect. Meanwhile, AmazonFresh offers delivery, plus pickup in Seattle.

GroceryDelivery chart1 1024x571

While Walmart has been steadily capitalizing on its existing brick-and-mortar footprint and proximity to its customer base, Amazon’s strategy in the online grocery space appears to be one of confusion. The retailer is competing against itself by offering two services — Amazon Prime Now and AmazonFresh. The latter, an older service operated before Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition, is actually one of the few online grocery businesses in decline, the report discovered. Founded over a decade ago, AmazonFresh has only grown to 15 U.S. cities and shut down in others.

This June, AmazonFresh sales were down by 19% year-over-year — the worst sales change in the new research report, the analysts noted.

Prime Now, on the other hand, is booming. Year-over-year sales nearly tripled in June. This is not only due to Whole Foods, whose assortment was added in February 2018, and is now a big driver for orders. Consumers also likely opt for Prime Now because it’s offered as part of their annual Amazon Prime subscription, while AmazonFresh is an additional $14.99 per month.

Prime Now has also been expanding to more U.S. markets, and is on track to reach even more as Amazon invests in building additional Whole Foods locations and possibly other non-Whole Foods stores. 

The new research also notes that Target’s Shipt could be doing better than its estimates indicate.

Since Shipt’s acquisition by Target in December 2017, Shipt’s customer base has grown by 69%. While a membership is required to shop the various grocers and stores offered in the app, Target deliveries don’t require a subscription.

In June, Target launched a dedicated online grocery shopping site on Target.com, powered by Shipt. Second Measure says it cannot distinguish any grocery orders that originate in the Target app or website, so Shipt’s customer counts may be higher than it’s able to determine.

Another question the report answers is to what extent Instacart has been impacted by the loss of Whole Foods.

Following its 2017 acquisition by Amazon, Whole Foods ended its relationship with its first and older delivery partner last year. The company recently claimed, however, that Whole Foods was only 5% of sales. Second Measure seems to back this up, finding that Instacart had 23% more customers in June than it had when the partnership ended in December 2018.  

GroceryDelivery chart2png 1024x631

Meanwhile, one exception to Walmart’s dominance in online grocery is in the unique urban metro that is New York. Here, locally headquartered FreshDirect has 31% of the NYC customer base for online grocery. (Note that Second Measure counts customers at each company they use — so customers who shop from more than one are counted twice.) Walmart only has 2% of the NYC metro, by comparison.

It also has small percentages in several other big metros, including San Francisco (2%), Boston (8%) and Los Angeles (9%). Walmart is huge in both Dallas and Phoenix, on the other hand — but both have been early markets for online grocery.

GroceryDelivery chart3 v2

The report additionally found there’s strong loyalty among online grocery shoppers. Unlike with meal delivery services, no grocery delivery company shared more than 9% of another company’s customer base in the second quarter of 2019.

The market still has room to grow, as well. Only 12% of U.S. consumers have tried at least one of the grocery services the report analyzed, up from 9% in June 2018.

Nike launches a subscription service for kids’ shoes, Nike Adventure Club

Just in time for back-to-school shopping, Nike today officially announced its entry into the subscription service market with the launch of a “sneaker club” for kids called Nike Adventure Club. The new program is specifically designed to make shopping easier for parents who struggle to keep up with their quickly growing children’s shoe needs. Instead of taking kids to the store and trying on pair after pair to try to find something the child likes, the new Nike Adventure Club will instead ship anywhere from four pairs to a dozen pairs of shoes per year, depending on which subscription tier parents choose.

The club serves kids from sizes 4C to 7Y — or roughly ages 2 to 10.

Club pricing begins at $20 per month which will ship out new shoes every 90 days. For $30 per month, kids get 6 pairs per year. And for $50 per month, kids will get new shoes every month — a choice that may be excessive except for the most active kids who were their sneakers every day, play sports, or have a tendency to wreck their shoes in short order.

However, even the minimum of four pairs per year may be too frequent for some parents of older kids.

According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, toddlers under 16 months grow more than one-half a foot size every two months. From 16 to 24 months, they grow an average of one-half a foot size every three months. From 24 to 36 months, it’s one-half a foot size every four months. Then things slow down.

Children over three years old grow one-half a foot size every 4 to 6 months. That means some older kids only need to replace their shoes twice per year, outside of excessive wear and tear.

That said, Nike allows parents to upgrade or downgrade their subscription at any time, or even put it on pause.

NikeNews NikeAdventureClub ActivityGuide 1 native 1600

Once signed up, parents will receive an email with a selection of over 100 styles of Nike and Converse shoes to choose from, which they can review with their kids. They then pick which shoes they want to receive, and these are shipped to the home in a box with the child’s name on it. This box also includes an “adventure kit” filled with activities and games for parents to do with their kids, stickers, plus a small gift. The kit is created in partnership with the nonprofit KaBoom, which is focused on encouraging kids to lead healthy lifestyles.

If the shoes are the wrong size, exchanges are free within a week of delivery.

Perhaps the best part of the program is the recycling component.

Twice a year, Nike will ship out a prepaid bag where parents can send back their kids’ worn shoes, which will either be donated to families in need if in good condition or recycled through Nike Grind, a program that separates out the rubber, foam, leather, and textile blends, grinds them into granules, and incorporates those into new products including footwear, apparel, and play surfaces.

“We see Nike Adventure Club sits as having a unique place within Nike, and not just for it being the first sneaker club for kids,” says Dave Cobban, VP of Nike Adventure Club, in a statement about the launch. “It provides a wide range of options for kids, while at the same time, it removes a friction point for parents who are shopping on their behalf.”

Nike has been testing the program since 2017, when it was known as Easy Kicks. The test reached 10,000 members, the company said.

Nike isn’t the first to launch a subscription focused on kids — and big retailers have taken note. This year, Foot Locker took a minority stake in kids’ clothing subscription Rockets of Awesome and Walmart partnered with children’s clothing startup Kidbox.

Stitch Fix also offers a kids’ styling service. And Amazon offers a try-before-you-buy shopping service without a subscription, Prime Wardrobe. Amazon’s variation offers both girls and boys options where parents can fill a box with apparel, shoes, and accessories for home try-on and easy returns.

Nike’s Adventure Club is launching today but is easing in new customers via a waitlist option.

Week in Review: Netflix’s big problem and Apple’s thinnest product yet

Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about the Capital One breach and how Equifax taught us that irresponsible actions only affect companies in the PR department.


Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The big story

Disney is going to eat Netflix’s lunch.

The content giant announced this week that when Disney+ launches, it will be shipping a $12.99 bundle that brings its Disney+ streaming service, ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu together into a single-pay package. That price brings those three services together for the same cost as Netflix and is $5 cheaper that what you would spend on each of the services individually.

This announcement from Disney comes after Netflix stuttered in its most recent earnings, missing big on its subscriber add while actually losing subscribers in the U.S.

Netflix isn’t the aggregator it once was; its library is consistently shifting, with original series taking the dominant position. As much as Netflix is spending on content, there’s simply no way that it can operate on the same plane as Disney, which has been making massive content buys and is circling around to snap up the market by acquiring its way into consumers’ homes.

Disney has slowly amassed control of Hulu through buying out various stakeholders, but now that it shifts the platform’s weight, it’s pretty clear that it will use it as a selling point for its time-honed in-house content, which it is still expanding.

The streaming wars have been raging for years, but as the services seem to become more like what they’ve replaced, Disney seems poised to take control.

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On to the rest of the week’s news.

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Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Apple Card rolls out
    Months after its public debut, Apple has begun rolling out its Apple Card credit card. We got our hands on the new Apple Card app, so check out more about what it’s like here.
  • Amid a struggling smartphone market, Samsung introduces new flagships
    The smartphone market is in a low-key free fall, but there’s not much for hardware makers to do than keep innovating. Samsung announced the release of two new phones for its Note series, with new features including a time-of-flight 3D scanning camera, a larger size and… no headphone jack. Read more here.
  • FedEx ties up ground contract with Amazon
    As Amazon rapidly attempts to build out its own air fleet to compete with FedEx’s planes, FedEx confirmed this week that it’s ending its ground-delivery contract with Amazon. Read more here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook could get fined billions more:
    [Facebook could face billions in potential damages as court rules facial recognition lawsuit can proceed]
  2. Instagram gets its own Cambridge Analytica:
    [Instagram ad partner secretly sucked up and tracked millions of users’ locations and stories]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. My colleague Sarah Buhr had a few great conversations with VCs in the healthtech space and distilled some of their investment theses into a report.

What leading HealthTech VCs are investing in 

Why is tech still aiming for the healthcare industry? It seems full of endless regulatory hurdles or stories of misguided founders with no knowledge of the space, running headlong into it, only to fall on their faces…

It’s easy to shake our fists at fool-hardy founders hoping to cash in on an industry that cannot rely on the old motto “move fast and break things.” But it doesn’t have to be the code tech lives or dies by.

So which startups have the mojo to keep at it and rise to the top? Venture capitalists often get to see a lot before deciding to invest. So we asked a few of our favorite health VC’s to share their insights.

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we talked about how to raise funding in August, a month not typically known for ease of access to VCs, and my colleague Ron dove into the MapR fire sale that took place this week:

We’re excited to ramp up The Station, a new TechCrunch newsletter all about mobility. Each week, in addition to curating the biggest transportation news, Kirsten Korosec will provide analysis, original reporting and insider tips. Sign up here to get The Station in your inbox beginning this month.

Japan’s mobile payments app PayPay reaches 10 million users

Paytm, India’s biggest mobile payments firm, now has 10 million customers in Japan, the company said as it pushes to expand its reach in international markets. Paytm entered Japan last October after forming a joint venture with SoftBank and Yahoo Japan called PayPay.

In addition to 10 million users, PayPay is now supported by 1 million local stores in Japan, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm said Thursday. The mobile payment app has clocked 100 million transactions to date in the nation, he claimed. In June, PayPay had 8 million users.

“Thank you India 🇮🇳 for your inspiration and giving us chance to build world class tech…,” he posted in a tweet.

Like in India, cash also dominates much of the daily transactions in Japan. Large medical clinics and supermarkets often refuse to accept plastic cards and instead ask for cash. This encouraged Paytm, which also has presence in Canada, to explore the Japanese market.

And it has the experience, capital, and tech chops to achieve it. The mobile payments app has amassed more than 250 million registered users in India. Most of these customers signed up after the Indian government invalidated much of the cash in the nation in late 2016.

PayPay competes with a handful of local players in Japan. Its biggest competition is Line, an instant messaging app that like China’s WeChat has attempted to expand its offerings in recent years. Line Pay, the payments service of Line, has north of 30 million users.

Like PayPay, Line also has no shortage of money. Earlier this year, it announced a ¥30 billion ($282 million) reward campaign to boost usage of its payments service.

More to follow…

Africa’s top mobile phone seller Transsion to list in Chinese IPO

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market,  Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch. 

The company—which has a robust Africa sales network—could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

“The company’s listing-related work is running smoothly. The registration application and issuance process is still underway, with the specific timetable yet to be confirmed by the CSRC and Shanghai Stock Exchange,” a spokesperson for Transsion’s Office of the Secretary to the Chairman told TechCrunch via email.

Transsion’s IPO prospectus was downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public. 

Headquartered in Shenzhen—where African e-commerce unicorn Jumia also has a logistics supply-chain facility—Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand.

The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.

Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise (1.6 billion yuan or $227 million) on building more phone assembly hubs and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development,  including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai—a company spokesperson said. 

Transsion recently announced a larger commitment to capturing market share in India, including building an industrial park in the country for manufacture of phones to Africa.

The IPO comes after Transsion announced its intent to go public and filed its first docs with the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April. 

Listing on the STAR Market will put Transsion on the freshly minted exchange seen as an extension of Beijing’s ambition to become a hub for high-potential tech startups to raise public capital. Chinese regulators lowered profitability requirements, for the exchange, which means pre-profit ventures can list.

Transsion’s IPO process comes when the company is actually in the black. The firm generated 22.6 billion yuan ($3.29 billion) in revenue in 2018, up from 20 billion yuan from a year earlier. Net profit for the year slid to 654 million yuan, down from 677 million yuan in 2017, according to the firm’s prospectus.

Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market—through its brands Tecno, Infinix, and Itel—and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.

Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also attracted attention for being one of the first known device makers to optimize its camera phones for African complexions.

On a recent research trip to Addis Ababa, TechCrunch learned the top entry-level Tecno smartphone was the W3, which lists for 3600 Ethiopian Birr, or roughly $125.

In Africa, Transsion’s ability to build market share and find a sweet spot with consumers on price and features gives it prominence in the continent’s booming tech scene.

Africa already has strong mobile-phone penetration, but continues to undergo a conversion from basic USSD phones, to feature phones, to smartphones.

Smartphone adoption on the continent is low, at 34 percent, but expected to grow to 67 percent by 2025, according to GSMA.

This, added to an improving internet profile, is key to Africa’s tech scene. In top markets for VC and startup origination—such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa—thousands of ventures are building business models around mobile-based products and digital applications.

If Transsion’s IPO enables higher smartphone conversion on the continent that could enable more startups and startup opportunities—from fintech to VOD apps.

Another interesting facet to Transsion’s IPO is its potential to create greater influence from China in African tech, in particular if the Shenzhen company moves strongly toward venture investing.

Comparatively, China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities—further boosted in recent years as Beijing pushes its Belt and Road plan.

Transsion’s IPO move is the second recent event—after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria—to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.

So in coming years, China could be less known for building roads, bridges, and buildings in Africa and more for selling smartphones and providing VC for African startups.

FedEx ends ground-delivery contract with Amazon

FedEx is ending a partnership with Amazon to supply the ecommerce company with ground delivery shipping after its current contract ends this month, the company confirmed to Bloomberg. This is the second contract FedEx has allowed to end without renewal with Amazon, following a similar decision in June that covered only Express air shipments.

The new contract termination is more significant than the earlier one, in that it means FedEx will not be providing any last-mile delivery service for Amazon, the largest online retailer, in addition to its less sizeable Express air freight. FedEx previously said that Amazon actually makes up less than 1.3 percent of the shipper’s total revenue, as measured over the year that ended on December 31, 2018.

Amazon is expanding its own shipping capabilities considerably, adding more aircraft to its fleet, and deploying ground-based wheeled delivery robots for last-mile package transportation. The ecommerce giant also recently began its own Delivery Service Partner program to fund and support delivery startup businesses that can help address its need for logistics. It has increasingly relied on its own contracted last-mile delivery services in recent years, and also allocates more of this business to both UPS and USPS than to FedEx even outside its other offerings.

FedEx did explicitly point out that its Express contract ending had no impact on other aspects of its relationship with Amazon at the time, noting that its international and “other” business units (including ground) weren’t affected. The company also says it’s looking to capitalize on the demand for ecommerce outside of Amazon, and building its network intentionally to “serve thousands of retailers in the e-commerce space.”