Philippine conglomerate eyes digital startups with $50m investment arm

Pranav Kiran, writing for Tech in Asia;

Philippine conglormerate JG Summit Holdings said it has allocated a US$50 million fund to invest in digital technology-focused startups based in Southeast Asia through its investment arm, JG Digital Equity Ventures (JG DEV).

The company, whose interests include power and petrochemicals, plans to plunk down US$1 million to US$10 million in series A and series B rounds of startups working with digital technologies.

Hong Kong insurance tech startup OneDegree extends its Series A to a total of $30 million

Catherine Shu, writing for TechCrunch;

OneDegree, an insurance technology startup based in Hong Kong, announced today it has extended its Series A round to $30 million, up from the $25.5 million it announced in September. Its extension, which the company is calling its “A2” round, was led by BitRock Capital, an investment firm that focuses on financial tech. Cyberport Macro Fund, Cathay Venture and investors from its initial Series A also participated.

Gokongwei Group Launches P2.6B Fund To Invest in Digital Startups

Elyssa Christine Lopez, writing for Esquire Magazine Philippines;

In its bid to ride on the growing startup ecosystem in the region, diversified listed conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc. (JGSHI) has launched its own venture capital (VC) firm, Friday, May 10, with fresh funding worth $50 million or more than P2.6 billion.

JG DEV, which stands for JG Digital Equity Ventures, will mainly invest in startups that are part of the industries its mother company is currently involved in, like retail, airlines, and real estate, JGSHI said in its disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on the same day.

Angkas is back: DOTr approves motorcycle taxi operations

Makoi Popioco, reporting for CNN Philippines;

Motorcycle taxis are now legally authorized to operate in the country for a six-month test run beginning the first week of June.

After several months of public clamor, motorcycle riders who are part of ride-hailing company Angkas can start picking up passengers again without fear of apprehension.

Transportation officials have given the green light to implement the pilot run of motorcycle taxis in Metro Manila and Cebu City from June until the end of the year.

This is welcome news to over 27,000 motorcycle units under Angkas, whose operations have been stopped a number of times since 2017.

However, the implementation is just a test run for six months to aid legislators as they finalize pertinent bills on motorcycle taxis.

Bitspark

Bitspark was founded in 2014 to transform how money moves across the world and was the first to utilise cryptocurrency for money transfers without banks. Since then, we have built an end-to-end ecosystem to provide a better alternative to the legacy financial system. By joining Bitspark’s growing network and products you too can access the change of the future.

COMELEC and Grap Philippines launches #OneDestination in time for May 13 National Midterm Elections

Just in time for the election, this was announced by Grab 2 days ago. 🙂

Grab launches the OneDestiNation campaign, which aims to help voter disenfranchisement and misinformation in preparation for the May 13 National Midterm Elections.

Here’s the full text of their announcement.

On the last 10 days leading to the May 13 midterm polls, Grab Philippines together with the Commission on Elections embark on a voter’s education campaign to encourage Filipinos to come out and vote.

Having launched programs through the years that educated both drivers and passengers, and introducing features and functionalities that have made every Grab experience #BetterEveryday, Grab continues its active movement in serving the Filipino people through its #OneDestinationinitiative.

Throughout this initiative, Grab Philippines will have two main goals that will serve the voting public:

  • Re-introduce the need to take part in the midterm elections. True to its O2O brand DNA, Grab harnesses the efficient use of both offline and online media in helping curb disenfranchisement among voters. As a market leader and Philippines’ everyday superapp, Grab acknowledges its unique ability in creating meaningful discussions to debunk voting myths, thus inspiring higher poll turn-out. Select GrabCar units will have car stickers and flyers, and at the same time Grab, its pool of influencers, and its media partners will create social discussions via new media format.
  • Provide socially efficient access to the polls come election day. Grab’s strength is in providing access – whether through transport, on-demand delivery, or payment technology. And in the same spirit, Grab provides transportation access to the Filipino voters without causing traffic congestion around the precincts. This May 13, voters in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu enjoy PhP 50 discount when they go to the polls using the GrabShare discount code ONEDESTINATION.

This campaign adds to Grab’s long partnership history with the government and non-government organizations, having already taken part in joint efforts with Philippine National Police – Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) , Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and NGO’s like Philippine Red Cross (PRC) in the past.

“Misinformed and disenfranchised voters are one of our top challenges in the Philippines during the election. As Grab, our role goes beyond providing safe, seamless, and reliable services to our customers; but to also cultivate a sense of community and unity among our fellow Filipinos. Starting todayt, select GrabCar units will be more than mere vehicles of transportation, but vehicles for educating our voters on how to be better informed and guided come election day. We will also engage our social media influencers and partners to help disseminate these vital information to the voters and help create an atmosphere of discussion, vigilance, and awareness. Now more than ever, we should work together as one solid unit in ensuring that the flames of democracy remains ablaze. Through our #OneDestination campaign – in tandem with the Commission on Elections, we aim to inspire every voter’s confidence and trust in our election process, and move the Philippines together, forward towards one vibrant destination,” says Brian Cu Grab Philippines President.

Blockchain transfer firm Bitspark to launch Philippine-peso stablecoin

Prisca Akhaya T., writing for e27;

Australia-founded payment transfer firm Bitspark has launched a pilot for a Philippine-peso stablecoin payment service. The deal is in collaboration with Cambodia-based tech startup Okra Solar, as reported in The Blockchainland.

Customers in the Philippines now can pay their energy bills digitally using peg.PHP.

The company said that the test is done to reduce transfer costs and the cash deposits hassle. The peg.PHP also aims to have fees be significantly lower compared to traditional banks or other remittance providers.

The collaboration will provide Okra’s customers in the Philippines with the option to pay their energy bill via the Bitspark app. It will also allow people to use the peg.PHP stablecoin for cash deposits in shops associated with the Bitspark network.

You can read the full text of Bitspark’s announcement here.

Shipping a Linux Kernel with Windows

In reference to a film that I just watched, Microsoft is now looking at Linux as a cure and not as a disease. It’ll be interesting how the Linux community will receive this news.

Jack Hammons, Program Manager, Linux Systems Group;

Beginning with Windows Insiders builds this Summer, we will include an in-house custom-built Linux kernel to underpin the newest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). This marks the first time that the Linux kernel will be included as a component in Windows. This is an exciting day for all of us on the Linux team at Microsoft and we are thrilled to be able to tell you a little bit about it.

Clip sharing with Overcast

If you use Overcast or listen to podcast in general, clip-sharing feature is great to share/promote podcast you’re listening to.

Hopefully, there will be a recommendation engine/social aspect in podcast that will allow users/subscribers to know what are the shows that our friends is listening to.

Marco;

With today’s 2019.4 update1, you can now share audio or video clips, up to a minute each, from any public podcast. Simply tap the share button in the upper-right corner.

You can generate an audio clip, or portrait, landscape, or square video, using your current Overcast theme setting.

In order to help spread podcasts further, I didn’t want to be heavy-handed in the Overcast branding — not everyone wants to advertise for one specific podcast app when promoting their shows. So the “Shared with Overcast” badge is optional, and if you’d like, you can also add an Apple Podcasts badge.

ICYMI: Blackberry to shutdown BBM consumer service on 31 May 2019

Blackberry recently announced that they will shutdown BBM consumer service on May 31, 2019, due to increase in competition and difficulty in gaining new users, which is understandable, because once a user switched messaging gservice the chance of them going back to their old service is very small.

Here’s the full text of Blackberry’s announcement;

Today we’re announcing that we will be closing BBM consumer service on 31 May 2019.

Three years ago, we set out to reinvigorate BBM consumer service, one of the most loved instant messaging applications, as a cross-platform service where users can not only chat and share life experiences, but also consume content and use payment services.

We poured our hearts into making this a reality, and we are proud of what we have built to date.

The technology industry however, is very fluid, and in spite of our substantial efforts, users have moved on to other platforms, while new users proved difficult to sign on.

Though we are sad to say goodbye, the time has come to sunset the BBM consumer service, and for us to move on.

We are grateful for your support and wish to thank everyone, especially our users, partners, and employees, for being part of the BBM consumer service journey.

We hope you will cherish many fond memories of BBM consumer service that helped shape messenger platforms to become what they are today.

For more details, please visit the FAQ page by clicking the link below: https://help.bbm.com/en/support/solutions/folders/19000163838

honestbee halts local operation in the Philippines

If you’re an honestbee customer and wondering what’s happening to their service. I won’t be surprise if their Philippine business is sold to another company or spin-off as an independent or separate company.

Prisca Akhaya T., reporting for e27;

In an official notice sent out last Friday, the grocery delivery service honestbee Philippines announced that it will temporarily stop its operation locally, as reported by Yugatech.

The company said that it experiences a funding issue with the headquarters, with the email stated below:
“At honestbee Philippines, we value the relationship we have built with you.

As we work with our HeadQuarters towards bringing the total business to a healthy and sustainable level, we, unfortunately, need to temporarily pause our local operations until further notice.

Thank you for understanding, and we apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused…”

The email was also followed by a message shown on its app showing: No other details of the closure are available as of the moment.

In January, the Singapore-originated delivery and concierge company announced that it will “temporarily pause” the partnership it has with FairPrice with no specifications on the period of time.

Nepal bans online game PUBG citing negative impact on children

Reuters via GMA News;

Nepal on Thursday banned the popular online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), saying its violent content had a negative impact on children, an official said.

“We have ordered the ban on PUBG because it is addictive to children and teenagers,” Sandip Adhikari, deputy director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), the nation’s telecoms regulator, told Reuters.

Carousell raises US$56 million at valuation of US$550 million and will acquire OLX Philippines

Kevin McSpadden, writing for e27;

Carousell, the Singaporean P2P e-commerce site, has raised US$56 million from OLX Group, the company announced today. The investment values the company at over US$550 million.

OLX Group is owned by Naspers, one of the world’s leading technology investment firms whose big win is being one of the first investors into a young Tencent.

Furthermore, as part of the deal, Carousell has acquired the the Philippines operations of OLX Group and will integrate it into the Carousell brand over the next six months.

It’s unclear how much Carousell paid to acquire OLX Philippines, we can just assume that it’s part of the US$56 million from OLX Group, which is owned by Naspers.

Startup launches helicopter ride-sharing service

Aika Rey, reporting for Rappler;

On Wednesday, April 3, tech startup Ascent launched a service that offers ride-sharing in choppers, similar to carpooling. It will be run by pioneer operator INAEC Aviation Corporation.

Currently, Ascent offers bookings to and from the following areas:

  • Metro Manila
    • Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) INAEC Manila Hangar, Pasay City
    • St Luke’s Medical Center, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig City
    • V&A Law Center, BGC, Taguig City
    • SM City North EDSA, Quezon City
    • The Peninsula Manila, Makati City
  • Cavite
    • City Track Oval, Tagaytay City
  • Pampanga
    • INAEC Clark Hangar, Clark City

The service, however, is not for the ordinary Filipino commuter.

I doubt that this will fix the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, at least, those who can afford the ride have another option even though its expensive.

WhatsApp launches fact-check service to fight fake news during India polls

Jon Porter, writing for The Verge;

WhatsApp said in a statement it was working with local startup Proto to classify messages sent to the service by users as true, false, misleading or disputed. They will also build a database of such content to better understand misinformation.

The move comes as WhatsApp, with over 200 million users in India, battles criticism of its platform being used for the spread of misinformation, while social media companies across the board work to prevent the phenomenon – particularly during sensitive events such as elections.

Analytics consultant discovers ‘strange’ script with links to China on gov’t websites

Marisse Panaligan, reporting for GMA News;

A data and analytics consultant raised red flags over the security of several government websites after discovering a “strange” script with links to China inserted in their source code.

Dominic Ligot, a founding board member of the Analytics Association of the Philippines (AAP), on Friday posted a series of tweets detailing how he accidentally found the issue while fixing his mother’s website.

Here’s the first tweet of a very long thread Dominic Ligot, you can follow him @docligot

Facebook takes down fake account network of Duterte campaign social media manager

Gelo Gonzales, reporting for Rappler;

Facebook took down 200 pages and accounts organized by President Duterte’s social media manager in his 2016 campaign, Nic Gabunada, the company announced on Friday, March 29.

The 200 pages and accounts found on Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook groups were taken down for their proliferation of fake accounts.

These fake accounts pushed political messaging that promoted their candidate or attacked political opponents. The fake accounts behaved as if they were real persons, and majority of the time, those who followed the fake accounts or saw the comments of these fake accounts believed that they were real, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told media at the announcement.

You can read the full text of Facebook’s report here.

New iMacs, AirPods 2, Ipad Mini, Ipad Air now available for Pre-order in Jarir

If you are in Saudi Arabia you can now pre-order the new iMacs, AirPods 2, Ipad Mini, Ipad Air.

In Jarir;

Here are the retail price;
iMacs

  • SAR 6,499.00 – 21.5″ 4K Retina display, Intel Core i5 (9th Gen) CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 580X VRAM (4 GB) GPU, 1 TB (Fusion Drive), 8 GB RAM
  • SAR 7,799.00 – 27″ 5K Retina display, Intel Core i5 (9th Gen) CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 580X VRAM (4 GB) GPU, 1 TB (Fusion Drive), 8 GB RAM
  • SAR 9,999.00 – 27″ 5K Retina display, Intel Core i5 (9th Gen) CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 580X VRAM (8 GB) GPU, 2 TB (Fusion Drive), 8 GB RAM

iPad Air

  • SAR 2,099.00 – 64 GB
  • SAR 2,599.00 – 128 GB
  • SAR 3,299.00 – 256 GB

iPad Mini

  • SAR 1,649.00 – 64 GB, Wifi Only
  • SAR 2,199.00 – 64 GB, Wifi + 4G
  • SAR 2,799.00 – 256 GB, Wifi + 4G

AirPods 2

  • SAR 399.00 – Wireless Charger case
  • SAR 799.00 – Airpods 2 and case
  • SAR 899.00 – Airpods 2 and Wireless Charger case

ECG app and irregular rhythm notification on Apple Watch available today across Europe and Hong Kong

Apple;

The ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4, a direct-to-consumer product that enables customers to take an electrocardiogram right from their wrist, is available in Hong Kong and 19 European countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. In addition to receiving De Novo clearance in the US from the FDA, the ECG app1 and irregular rhythm notification2 are now CE marked and cleared in the European Economic Area.

Part of the free watchOS 5.2 software update, the ECG app can capture heart rhythm on demand in a moment when users experience symptoms such as a rapid or skipped heart beat and help provide clinically important data to physicians. The irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch occasionally checks heart rhythm in the background and sends a notification if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation (AFib) is identified.

To use the new heart feature, first make sure you are using iOS 12.2 and watchOS 5.2;

To enable these new heart features, customers will open the Health app on iPhone where they will be presented with details about who can use these features, what the features can and cannot do, what results users may get, how to interpret those results and clear instructions for what to do if users are feeling symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

AirPods, the world’s most popular wireless headphones, are getting even better

Apple;

Apple today announced new AirPods, the second generation of the world’s most popular wireless headphones. AirPods revolutionized the wireless audio experience with a breakthrough design and the new AirPods build on the magical experience customers love. The new Apple-designed H1 chip, developed specifically for headphones, delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free “Hey Siri.” AirPods come with either a standard charging case or a new Wireless Charging Case for convenient charging at home and on the go. The new AirPods and AirPods with Wireless Charging Case are available to order on apple.com and the Apple Store app starting today, and in Apple Stores beginning next week.

Pricing and availability;

  • AirPods with standard charging case will be available for $159 (US) and are available to order on apple.com and the Apple Store app starting today, and in Apple Stores starting next week.
  • AirPods with Wireless Charging Case will be available for $199 (US) and are available to order on apple.com and the Apple Store app starting today, and in Apple Stores starting next week.
  • Customers can order the standalone Wireless Charging Case for $79 (US) on apple.com and the Apple Store app starting today, and in Apple Stores starting next week.
  • New for AirPods, customers can add a personal engraving to the AirPods with standard charging case and AirPods with Wireless Charging Case for free during checkout on apple.com and the Apple Store app.