Category: Business

Keeping Media all Online, and Moving Online Retail Offline

Is Internet killing retail? Summit Media, a publisher in the Philippines is stopping its line of printed magazine as it shifts its titles online. That is starting from today, Summit Media, the publisher of popular magazine titles in the Philippines will no longer be producing print editions of magazines in its network and is going fully digital.

This announcement from Summit Media is a transformation long brewing in the midst of the changing publishing landscape. For its full digital transformation, the 450-strong company will be closing down six remaining print editions of brands already thriving online.

The company’s magazine titles still officially in print circulation prior to the announcement were Cosmopolitan, FHM, Preview, Top Gear, Town & Country, and YES! Magazine. These brands are already thriving online as Cosmo.ph, Preview.ph, Pep.ph (for YES!), Topgear.com.ph, FHM.com.ph, and Townandcountry.ph

This thus marks the end of Summit’s 23-year run as a leading publisher of magazine titles.

Summit Media president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng explained that this move is to embrace the preferences of the highly connected audiences which now prefer to consume content.

Currently, the company’s websites that bring its popular magazine brands online boast of over 20 million unique monthly users and 33 million followers on social media platforms. It declares itself as the Philippines’ leading digital lifestyle network as well as belonging to the country’s top two local digital media companies.

Of course, this move is not unique and coincides with Mediacorp’s decision to also axed a number of its lifestyle magazine titles, with the closure of 8 DAYS, i-Weekly and ELLE.

That said, a different story is ongoing for the online retailers as they move from clicks to bricks.

Question is, among all these changes, can media-based business owners still eke out a living?

How Startups are Taking a Bite out of the Food & Beverage Industry in Southeast Asia

After startups in fintech and deep tech, it’s time we talk about food.

As one of the most deep-rooted industries, for food startups, it can be one of the trickiest to navigate and innovate, especially with a plethora of factors to consider such as the taste of the customer and so on.

However, the industry is, of course, one of the most lucrative industries since everyone loves to eat.

In Southeast Asia, the food industry is looking at a trend of food delivery startups and it is one of the hottest sectors right now for both venture capitals and startups.

Currently, online food orders represent 15 percent of a massive US$70 billion market and the digital savvy consumers in Southeast Asia are quickly moving online to do everything, and this includes ordering food.

Nowadays we are expecting more diverse options beyond pizza for delivery. Food startups in Asia know this and you can see that there is an overwhelming focus on the food stand layer, which is establishing new consumer experience on how we eat.

Publics are especially searching for efficiency and drive for more healthy food. This sparked meal prep companies like Malaysia’s DahMakan, Singapore’s Eat Fit Meal Prep, and Jakarta’s Burgreens which provide customers healthy pre-made meals.

This is a solution for busy city folks as these startups provides a convenient way to eat healthier and improve their lifestyle amidst busy schedules. This skips out the research, preparation, and cooking which makes more consumers turn to meal-prep experts to tell them exactly what they need to eat.

It’s not just food startups, the crowded online food delivery market is also joined by logistic food delivery services like Foodpanda, Deliveroo, and UberEats – all of which are incorporating food into their marketing strategy.

Of the bunch, Go-Food, Go-Jek’s food delivery business has been successful in converting customers. The subsidiary claims to be the second busiest on-demand food delivery service in the world, outside of China.

Aside from delivery, startups like Instaburp from the Philippines are also resolving two problems at the same time, aside from connecting hungry foodies to their favorite food establishments, the startup is also helping small and medium food businesses to establish an online presence and reach a new market.

Meanwhile, other startups that are making their way in the industry are startups that want to satisfy instant gratification. Successful startups like Thai-based QueQ and Singapore Chope is catering to this demand, solving customer’s waiting time and streamlining the process in restaurants to enable them to serve more customers.

As the food industry continues to thrive and more startups enter the market – their innovation will change our experience in eating and the future of food.

Race to the Top, Co-Working Space forms alliances to Dominate Asia

The co-working industry, while not as highly discussed as AI or VR, has become the hotbed of deal activity globally, moving from the niche market to the mainstream. And if anything, New York-based WeWork can testify for it.

Right after SpaceX and Palantir, WeWork is the 7th most valuable startup in the world with a most recent US$20 billion valuation. The co-working startup has reinvented dull offices as platforms for creators and is now even moving into homes.

In Asia, co-working startups are also headlining news with Chinese co-working firm Ucommune recently acquiring rival Woo Space and boosting its valuation to US$1.7 billion. Meanwhile, Second Colony has also reported opening its new luxurious co-working space at KL Eco City worth MYR4.6 million, and that’s just the news published yesterday.

But unlike the co-working sphere in the United State, where VCs have already settled for their favorite spot. The Asian scene is still pretty much open for game with recent trends in the co-working industry seeing startups beginning to form alliances, in an effort to strengthen their foothold in the growing market.

Ucommune, formerly known as UrWork has made two acquisitions in the past three months, one Woo Space and the other was New Space earlier this year, which allowed it to attain the unicorn status with a boost to valuation of US$1.7 billion.

To date, Ucommune has grown to cover more than 100 locations in more than 33 cities, claiming the title of Asia’s biggest co-working space with offices in China, Singapore, London, and New York – servicing over 4,000 enterprises with 50,000 members in total.

However, the co-working space in Asia is still undecided, as the market in the Southeast Asia region still sees a disperse scene of local and regional co-working players making their foray into the market. In Singapore, local coworking pioneers like JustCo are also aiming to dominate the Asia market, while WOTSO still dominates as Australia’s largest coworking space.

There’s little doubt that a co-working startup will continue to grow and one will emerge on the top in Asia, like how WeWork stands in the United States right now.

It’s not just about creating a fun, friendly atmosphere with slides as stairs and an ever-full pantry. At its core, co-working or collaborative sharing spaces is a real-estate sector that has cleverly packaged and positioned itself as a tech play attracting top-tier investors and major developers. The key is in how they can manage the space.

China’s Becoming in the Global Leader of Artificial Intelligence

The competition between China and the United States in Artificial Intelligence (AI) development has always been ongoing and tricky to quantify. While there has been some hard numbers, they have been open to interpretation.

The latest numbers were derived from technology analysts CB Insights, which reports that China has overtaken the United States in the funding of AI startups.

Then again it’s not a straightforward victory for China. In terms of the volume of individual deals, the country only accounts for 9 percent of the total, while the United States leads in both the total number of AI startups and total funding overall. That is to say China is ahead when it comes to the dollar value of AI startup funding, and according to CB Insights, the country accounted for 48 percent of the world’s total AI startup funding in 2017, with the United States comparatively holding 38 percent.

This certainly does not come as a surprise, as truth is China has always been aggressive with its quest to become the global leader in AI. The reason behind China emerging as an AI hotbed is because of its government support and growing venture capital funding.

China’s natural advantages in AI are well-documented. For one, the country has a huge population of 1.4 billion people, which offers a wealth of data and opportunity for companies to scale quickly. Not to mention, China’s thriving mobile Internet ecosystem also provides a test bed for AI researchers to collect and analyze valuable demographics and transactional data.

Besides, its AI sector also has the backing of a central government that’s able to quickly shift resources, and the country’s looser approach to digital regulations means companies can experiment more freely.

The rapid growth of AI in China can also be witnessed in Beijing as they laid out a development plan in July 2017 to become the world leader in AI, with an aim to build a domestic AI industry worth at least 1 trillion yuan (around US$1,5 billion).

Chris Nicholson, a former Bloomberg news editor who co-founded Tencent-backed artificial intelligence firm Skymind told DigiDay, “We saw lots of interests in AI in China, and the sector is moving so fast in the country. Beijing supports AI, while Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are all getting into AI.”

Research firm CB Insights also selected seven Chinese startups – including English teaching app Liulishuo and ByteDance, news aggregator Toutiao and Musical.ly for its AI 100 list.

Meanwhile China also has its own AI unicorn – iCarbonX, a biotech company has achieved its US$1 billion valuation after its Series A. The startup built a digital life ecosystem combining biological, psychological, and behavior data with internet technology and AI.

Bubble Or Not, Cryptocurrency Is Panning Out In Southeast Asia

2017 has ended, but it will always be remembered as the year of the bitcoin.

It can be hard to forget with the rates of cryptocurrency surging more than 400% since January or the amusing name change of the ice tea company inspired by blockchain.

Still, there remain many rhetorics about bitcoin and its backbone technology blockchain. Some experts speculate it as another dot.com bubble, while others are predicting that its value will continue to rise.

Nevertheless, cryptocurrency has definitely driven a lot of attention and awareness, from interested investors to head-scratching audiences who are still unclear of the trend.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies – to date some might have used them interchangeably but cryptocurrency at its very core dictates the facilitation of peer-to-peer transaction.

Bitcoin

Source: Lifehack.com

Few people are aware, but cryptocurrencies emerged as a side product of another invention. Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown inventor of Bitcoin, the first and still most important cryptocurrency, never intended to invent a currency.

At first, he was looking to develop a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. It’d be decentralized with no server or central authority but still be able to prevent double spending.

Through this Satoshi came up with the idea of a decentralized network – one where every single entity of the network is to hold the list with all transactions to check.

In other words, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin consists a network of peers. Every peer holds a record of the complete history of all transaction and thus the balance of an account.

If a transaction is confirmed, made permissible by the user public key cryptography, then it’s set in stone and no longer reversible, becoming part of an immutable record of historical transactions of the so-called blockchain.

This makes sending money as easy as sending an email. It doesn’t matter where you are, or where you are sending to but the effect of cryptocurrency is to save money.

It’s Not Just Cryptocurrency Startups

luno bitcoin

Source: Ventureburn

The invention of cryptocurrency didn’t just benefit business transactions, it opened up an industry and also many possibilities.

Of course, one being the financial business we are all so familiar of, which uses cryptocurrencies because of its low or close to none fee, as well as its instant ability to move any amount of money around.

On the other hand, there are those that utilize it for its blockchain technology, the decentralized network that allows every entity on the network to receive the same message at the same time.

Shiraz Malik, a regional expert even foresees it being implemented in the systems of airline companies through blockchain-powered loyalty programs and user-friendly mobile services. According to the expert, the technology would allow for streamlined authentication, data distribution, and security protocol.

“Blockchain can ensure that everyone involved in travel – airline crew, airport staff, ground services crew and passengers – have access to the same, up-to-date, verified information about arrivals, departures, and delays,” said Malik, who is vice president of sales APAC for CellPoint Mobile.

“This can help to avoid situations where airline and airport websites, mobile apps, text messages, passengers and staff members have outdated or conflicting information about flight statuses.”

Southeast Asia is Embracing Cryptocurrency

Despite the speculations surrounding bitcoin, the frenzy, however, is proving to be essential in the developing markets of Southeast Asia.

In fact, most Southeast Asian startups are embracing cryptocurrencies both as investment products, as well as cost-effective methods for offering services.
So much that the remittance economy in the Philippines is the highest in the world – contributing to US$26 billion in a single year alone.

According to Forbes, approximately 10 million Filipinos have employed abroad, and this statistics does not include workers who are taking jobs in the cities, so they can send money home to their families in the more remote area.

That’s an arduous process when overseas domestic workers try to send money back home. They face steep fees relying on traditional cash transfer services. Even then, there are no guarantees that the beneficiary will be able to receive it, nevertheless receiving it immediately.

According to Mikko Perez, the founder, and CEO of Ayannah, it’s also not uncommon for agents to run out of money and force receivers to return the next day. It is generally time-consuming for people who have to travel hours just to pick up their money.

Cryptocurrencies as a Solution

Bitcoin

Source: Business Insider

Stepping in to solve these issues, startups, and services like BloomSolutions Inc or coin.ph are using cryptocurrencies as a solution to reduce remittance fees, in addition to driving financial inclusion.

This is through creating crypto-powered services, accepting bitcoins from overseas and converting them into pesos, dinars or any desire currency, then deliver those funds to the final beneficiary through domestic transfer methods.

There’s no volatility risk and the beneficiary does not even need to know that those funds have been transmitted via bitcoin. Less money is spent doing so, and this makes it both affordable and accessible to a wide range of customers.

This is just the first mile. The service also renders the need for a physical agent or remittance outlets and traveling altogether. In Singapore for instance, migrant workers can use applications like Toast to do a peer-to-peer money transfer through their smartphones.

However, though some may argue that if you put it into the context that it is simply impossible for small bitcoin startups to overthrow the Western Union or Remitly at this stage.

Still, bitcoin and blockchain provide a compelling alternative for a small subsection of their customers, and unarguably startups are always best at focusing to solve the smallest possible problem.

In Southeast Asia, it’s not just remittance. Bitcoin and blockchain open up a world of possibilities from salary payments to business incorporation. This is just the beginning.

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