Category: Others

Korean Soft Power launches real-time interpreter app ManTong, translating Korean into 10 different languages

Soft Power, a Korean software engineering company has recently released a real-time interpreting application that translates Korean into 10 different languages based on AI technology.

The application is known as ManTong and users can activate it by simply talking into their mobile phones, and the app utilising Google Translate API, which applies a Neural Machine Learning AI (NMT) technology will translate the sentence instantaneously at the level of a professional interpreter.

The application is also especially useful in noisy environments, which makes it suitable to use when abroad for short conversations. Since the app translates voice messages, one can simply talk into headphones that they are wearing and show the translated content to the other person without much hassle.

Soft Power CEO Kim SuRang said, “Some interpretation or translation applications that exist in the market either cannot handle long sentences or directly translate voice recognized sentences. The users have to press the buttons for every sentence they would like to translate, which is very inconvenient in the situation where you are given instructions or counseling.”

He further explained, “In this way, ManTong app solved the fundamental problem that occurs in existing interpretation and translation app, we created a technology that will tackle the problem at its root, as ManTong guarantees high quality and applicable interpretation and translation that supports a simultaneous two-way interpretation.”​

Software engineering expert Park JinHo, the director for Software Education Research Lab in Soongsil University also commented on the app, saying that “In fact, ManTong did not require a single line of code. It utilized ‘SmartMaker’, a software solution that expands upon language processing AI, and this technology can be used in a variety of other relevant fields such as voice recognition and speech synthesis to easily develop new applications.”

Mantong is free for any personal use and can be downloaded via both the Google PlayStore and Apple AppStore. Hence, with a ManTong application on their smartphone, one is no longer restricted by a language barrier.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

VinaCapital and partners to open US$4 billion Vietnam casino project in 2019

Vietnam-based real estate management firm VinaCapital and its Hong Kong and Macau JV partners have set a timeline for the long-delayed US$4 billion tourism and leisure project Nam Hoi An.

The integrated tourism and leisure destination casino resort is now re-branded as Hoiana, occupying four kilometers of beachfront just outside the UNESCO World Heritage site Hoi An in Quang Nam province.

The project is expected to launch its first phase in Q1, 2019.

Hoiana’s first phase will feature a resort and casino complex including a 445-room hotel, 220 residential apartments for sale on a buy-to-let basis operated by Hong Kong’s New World Hotels.

Besides, the project also includes an extra-luxury Rosewood resort offering 75 guests villas and 25 exclusive residences, as well as a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II.

Hoiana will also comprise a beach club, a hall to host entertainment activities and events, a watersports and diving center, retail promenade as well as a range of new bars and restaurants as it is completed.

VinaCapital acquired the project in 2007 and forged an alliance with Malaysia’s Genting Berhad to develop the township. However, the Malaysian partner soon exited the project in 2012, leaving VinaCapital to scout for new investors

Last year, the Vietnam firm diluted its holding in the mixed-use development as it announced a partnership with Hong Kong Gold Yield Enterprises, a subsidiary of diversified group Chow Tai Fook and Macau-based junket operator Suncity Group.

“Hoiana is poised to become Asia’s most renowned resort destinations, and a new benchmark for high-end tourism in Vietnam,” reportedly said Don Lam, CEO of VinaCapital.

“For enterprises, it’s the land of golden opportunity,” he added, referring to the tourism attractiveness of the central city Hoi An, where the project is located.

The developers also plan further investment for the US$ 4 billion township in the next construction phases, which are due to be completed over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Malaysian YouthsToday gets US$33,719 grant at Korean startup competition

Malaysian startup YouthsToday.com has received MYR 150,000 (about US$ 33,719) in forms of grants and investement at the K-Statup Grand Challenge, an acceleration program initiated by the Korean government for foreign startups.

One of the biggest success stories was the Malaysian startup, YouthsToday.com which is a platform that connects students to corporate sponsors for events. It is also a portfolio company of the venture capital firm, Gobi Partners.

“We could not be happier to make it through to the final phase of the programme,” said YouthsToday Chief Executive Officer, Jazz Tan. “What is next for us, in a word is expansion. We are hoping to bring more South Korean team members on board and continue networking and reaching out to Korean universities and students.”

The startup has now established in 20 Korean university campuses and is valued at more than US$ 1 million as it serves tens of thousands of university students.

YouthsToday is among the top 20 startups, selected from a pool of 2,400 companies that have also applied for the Korean government’s programme. Others include Fingertips Lab, Prekesh, Traversal and Imagga which occupy the top 4 positions in the Korean startup challenge.

Overall, the top 20 teams originated from 10 different countries and represent industries ranging from custom cosmetics and advance online security to biotech and Internet of Things (IoT).

“These startups will receive the support they need to continue their time in Korea, with free office space for another six months, approximately US$ 30,000 each in additional to government grants, and further investments from VCs and other investors,” YouthsToday said.

These benefits follow suit the advantages received by the teams during their initial acceleration period, which included a contribution of monthly stipends at roughly US$ 4,100 for living expenses, office space, as well as mentorship from major Korean tech companies.

“This was our first acceleration programme bringing international startups to Korea and it’s been an incredible success from start to finish,” said Director from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Dr. Chang-Yong Ahn.

Having launched this year, K-Startup Grand Challenge is the first international acceleration programme by the South Korean government. The government’s intent with the programme was to increase diversity in the South Korean startup ecosystem.

“We need more diversity in South Korean startups, and the K-Startup Grand Challenge proves that international startups can succeed in South Korea if they have the right support,” said Shift director Juno Kwon, one of the four South Korea-based accelerators that took charge of mentoring the startups in the programme.

Among local accelerators involved in the programme were Shift, SparkLabs, DEV Korea and ActnerLab. Each took charge of 10 startups, providing professional mentoring, networking and other support.

Commenting on the event, DEV Korea CEO Rock Oh also said, “I truly believe that South Korea will become an international startup hub, especially with government support, directed through smart programmes like the K-Startup Grand Challenge.”

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Indonesian coal producer Bumi Resources to restructure debt, paring down US$ 2 billion via Preemptive Rights offering

Indonesian coal producer PT Bumi Resources Tbk (BUMI) is looking to restructure its finance. The company plans to swap its debts for share, through raising IDR 26.9 trillion (about US$ 2 billion) through a rights offering.

The company will issue up to 29.1 billion new shares which are equivalent to 79.5 percent of its enlarged capital with Preemptive Rights (ER). These 29.1 billion shares will then be sold at about IDR 926 per share.

The transaction is expected to take place in 2017, fetching a total amount of IDR 26.9 trillion – part of the company’s efforts to restructure its US$ 4.2 billion debt.

The debt is intended to be reduced to US$ 1.6 billion, of which US$ 2 billion will be converted into shares, while the remaining will become Mandatory Convertible Bonds (MCB) or mandatory convertible bonds with a seven-years term.

Bumi Resources will use the proceeds to pay off debts to China Investment Corporation (CIC) along with eight other lenders. In an event that shareholders are reluctant to participate, the creditors will absorb all new shares issued, allowing Bumi Resources’ obligations to be converted into shares.

Later, no interests will be converted into shares of the company.

“This way, the old shareholders are given the opportunity to keep their ownership, but at a higher sum than the company’s current stock price. This is already stated in the agreement between the firm and creditors,” said finance director at Bumi Resources, Andrew Beckham, in Jakarta recently.

In the proposal, CIC would control 22.6 percent of Bumi Resources’ shares while 2016 bondholders would get 4.6 percent, and 2017 bondholders would obtain 10.6 percent. Credit Suisse would also get 3.6 percent, UBS 0.8 percent, Axis Bank 0.8 percent, Deutsche Bank 0.7 percent, and Raiffeisen Bank International 1.2 percent.

Bumi Resources primarily exports coal to China, Japan, and India. The Bakrie family-controlled firm supplies 25 percent of its coal to the domestic market and aims to boost coal production up to 100 million tonnes next year following this agreement for a debt-restructuring scheme.

The company forecast its production to increase by 5 percent more with the sales target also increasing by 7 percent in the near future, considering the surging demand for coal in the country as a result of the government’s ambitious electricity procurement programme.

Known as the most indebted coal miner in Southeast Asia, Bumi Resources has spent half the decade trying to reduce its debt.

In August, the company sold 50 percent of its stakes in unit Leap Forward Resources Ltd to two investors – Smart Alliance Ltd and Oceanpro Investments – in a US$ 90 million deal. The transaction was used to repay part of the company’s debts to Axis Bank Ltd, according to corporate secretary Dileep Srivastava.

On Friday, Bumi Resources shares increased by 0.68 percent to close at IDR 296 per share, against a 0.08 percent gain in the broader index.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Philippines To Have Its Own Shark Tank Style Funding Show – I’m In

For those who have enjoyed the seven seasons and 142 episodes under the ABC’s Shark Tanks, there is a new show that showcases entrepreneurs and their pitches as well, but with the backdrop set in the Philippines.

All caught on camera, the new show – I’m In – will feature local aspiring entrepreneur as contestants that will make business presentations to a panel of investors, who will later decide whether they are interested in investing or not.

The show will provide the platform and opportunity for entrepreneurs who have a great idea or solution to real-world problems but otherwise do not have the access to venture capital or a place to showcase their talent.

The format of the show is fairly simple, patterned after the United States Shark Tank. That is the entrepreneurs must introduce the investor panel their product, the amount of money they wish to raise and the valuation they demand. Afterward, it depends on the panel members if they wish to invest.

But beforehand, the contestant’s pitch and proposal is commented and questioned by the panel of investors who may ask tough questions about the business model. At times, the investor may even give a counter offer to the entrepreneur which may be lower than the valuation he or she is asking. But in the worst case scenario, where all of the panel members opt out, the entrepreneur will have to leave empty handed.

Despite that, participants of the show will definitely get a chance to market their idea to the world. That is a chance to become the next Breathometer, which since its Shark Tank experience in season 5, has secured an additional US$6.5 million in funding as well as a partnership with the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. But even if they don’t strike a deal with investors, the guidance and feedback received once adopted has seen most startups having a significant upside in valuations.

Additionally, the startup funding show will be hosted by Winston Damarillo, an enterprise transformation expert who is presently PLDT’s Capital Managing Director, and the Founder and CEO of digital and big data solution firms Amihan Global Strategies (AGSX) and Acalep. Winston Damarillo is also one of the co-chairman of OCEAN (Open Collaboration with East Asia New Champions), a biennial gathering of leaders across sectors in the Philippines.

“Our aim for the show is obviously to get this new breed of entrepreneurs to be funded by angel investors who are here because they have a very strong interest in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs for the country,” Winston Damarillo, the host of I’m In said.

But as a whole, “I’m In” is created with the goal to create a funding event for indiepreneurs or people who are in businesses focusing on the creative economy such as those related to food, music, arts, fashion or technology like government transparency among others. Besides funding, the show could also help indiepreneurs get support in terms of mentoring

“At the same time, we are going to connect crowdfunding to venture funding.” Damarillo said. He noted the I’m In show is not about finding the next Facebook, Google, Uber, or Airbnb, but the next mass industry in the Philippines. “The goal is to fund hundreds of creative entrepreneurs which we think are severely underserved. They are industries that if we do well can accelerate and even improve the Philippines’ position as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia,” Damarillo said.

This is not the first time that a production house is launching a show based on the Shark Tank concept. India’s The Vault which aired in September is also based off Shark Tank. Furthermore, Shark Tank origins itself is also derived from a live funding TV show created by Sony Pictures in Japan in 2001 called the Money Tigers which was later renamed to Dragon’s Den.

Nonetheless, Philippines – I’m In is being crafted as a dual-screen show, intended to aired on TV and live stream online so viewers can interact and engage. The TV network that will carry the show has yet to be announced.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

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