News from around the world – July 8

 

A compilation of important international news from the startup world:

Meet Asia’s first accelerator for AI startups, founded by a Techstars London director
There’s a new startup accelerator in Hong Kong called Zeroth.ai, and it’s accepting applications from artificial intelligence startups throughout Asia.It’s started by Tak Lo, who was a director at Techstars London. Techstars is one of the pioneers of the startup accelerator movement. The accelerator has on its team Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn and Jon Bradford, the former managing director of Techstars London. Zeroth will offer mentorship and US$20,000 in capital to startups for 6 percent equity. The first program will be run from November 7 this year to February 17, 2017. The accelerator is named after zero-based numbering, which is basically a way of numbering that starts from zero (as opposed to one, which we normally use when counting things). Zero-based numbering is commonly used in computer programming. AI, which includes machine learning and deep learning, looks to become the next hot sector in tech. Leading tech companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are racing to build smarter applications that learn by themselves, using neural networks.

Temasek-backed InnoVen Capital India extends $12m debt to 8 startups in Q1

InnoVen Capital India, a venture debt firm backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings Pvt. Ltd, has loaned around $12 million to eight start-ups in the June quarter, said a senior company executive, signalling that venture debt is becoming popular with start-ups looking to meet their working capital requirements. Between March and June this year, InnoVen loaned money to logistics firm Xpressbees (Busybees Logistics Solutions Pvt. Ltd), home services company Housejoy (Sarvaloka Services On Call Pvt. Ltd), mobile payment app Chillr (Backwater Technologies Pvt. Ltd), education

The Top 10 Cities for Tech Startups

Finding the correct location for your startup can be one of the most important decisions you make as a founder. Between potential investors and local customers, your address can be the difference between failed tech startups and most valuable unicorn ever. Fortunately, there is no shortage of information on where starting up is a good idea and which cities you should avoid when looking for an office. According to a study from the Sungard Availability Services, there are ten cities at the top of the list that make for the perfect city when it comes to launching tech startups. As the data showed, Austin took home the crown of most tech startup-friendly city, thanks to their small population, high tech occupation numbers and impressive number of new entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, San Francisco came in at only #6 due to high rent rates and average startup density.

On the highway without a map: building a tech startup in Putin’s Russia
WayRay has everything you might expect from a Silicon Valley start-up: a high tech product it says can change the world and a business plan that foresees growing from zero to a billion dollars, roughly by its founder’s 30th birthday. Its invention sounds so ingenious you’d wish you thought it up: a sleek-looking holographic projector that sits on a car dashboard and beams what look to the driver like 3D arrows glowing over the tarmac, pointing the way to go. In one room of the 19th Century Moscow town house where it has its research center, a laser beam is refracted through lenses, creating the holograms car drivers will see. “In three years we will be for sure a billion-dollar company,” Two-year-old founder Vitaly Ponomarev says with an effortless cockiness that sounds more at home in Northern California than the Russian capital. President Vladimir Putin says cultivating high technology is a central goal for Russia, to diversify the economy away from commodity exports and create world beating companies from the talented workforce that once put the first man in space.

Forget Tech Startups, This is an Entire City Startup
By 2050, two out of three people will live in cities. That is a sizable customer base, to state the least. This is why Y Combinator, one of the most successful tech accelerators in the country, is considering launching an entire, whole new city. In a blog post, Y Combinator partner Adora Cheung, and Sam Altman; Y Combinator’s president, wrote: We want to study building new, better cities. The world is full of people who aren’t realizing their potential in large part because their cities don’t provide the opportunities and living conditions necessary for success. A high-leverage way to improve our world is to unleash this massive potential by making better cities.

Comcast and Netflix put growth ahead of gripes
Netflix boss Reed Hastings and his Comcast counterpart Brian Roberts are putting growth ahead of gripes. The video-streaming service helped scupper the cable provider’s bid for Time Warner Cable. Now Comcast is adding its nemesis to its set-top box. The reason for the détente is pretty simple: Nothing brings out the olive branch like a business opportunity. History between the two companies has often been rocky. It got downright nasty recently, though. Just as Comcast was trying to push through its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable, Netflix accused it of throttling its service. U.S. trustbusters were listening. Comcast abandoned the deal last year.

Israeli tech firms make their exits, stage rich
Israeli hi-tech companies rang the tills with exits adding up to $3.3bn in the first half of 2016. A total of 45 hi-tech firms completed exit deals that averaged $74m, according to a study by IVC Research Center and law firm Meitar Liquornik. Increased difficulties in raising capital, particularly in the United States and China, means that Israeli results for 2016 as a whole may approach but not surpass those of 2015, which witnessed Israeli exits of $7.4bn.

Chinese Tech Disrupters Now Are Working More Closely With the System
Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., long proudly emphasized that his company became an e-commerce giant without getting money from the Chinese government—not even bank loans. The company was funded by venture money from the likes of Yahoo Inc. and SoftBank Group Corp. Indeed, Mr. Ma’s maxim on dealing with the state is famous in China: “Be in love with the government, but don’t marry them.” Three business people, made rich in China’s boom of the past two decades, are now pushing for social and political reform, testing the limits of the Communist Party’s tolerance for criticism. When Alibaba’s financial affiliate, Ant Financial Services Group, announced a $4.5 billion funding round in April, though, its investors were almost all state-owned financial institutions, including units of China Construction Bank Corp., the country’s biggest insurer China Life Insurance Co., China Post Group, China Development Bank and sovereign-wealth fund China Investment Corp. An Alibaba spokeswoman says the reason for bringing in the state-owned financial entities “is not for their money but strategic cooperation,” because the banking and financial sectors in China are dominated by state institutions.

Cybersecurity startup Darktrace intercepts $65M in fresh funding at a valuation of over $400M
Darktrace, the U.K. cybersecurity startup whose backers include Autonomy founder Mike Lynch’s Invoke Capital, has closed $65 million in fresh funding. The new round was led by global investment firm KKR, with participation from existing investor Summit Partners and new investors TenEleven Ventures and SoftBank. I understand the new investment gives the 2013-founded company a valuation of more than $400 million, while in a call Lynch told me the new backing was a typical growth round and will be used for further international expansion and for R&D. In particular, he said Darktrace is developing technology to help companies respond to not only human-written cyberattacks but also the pending threat of machine-learning-based attacks that, in classic sci-fi-comes-true-fashion, will increasingly see AI battling it out with AI on behalf of the good and bad folks, respectively.

Berlin aims to lure British startups fearful over Brexit
When Cornelia Yzer woke to the news that Britain had voted to leave the European Union her initial reaction was disappointed. As an anglophile she was saddened by the thought of Britain leaving the club. Then Berlin’s economy minister reached for the phone and got busy luring companies from Britain to the Germany capital. “The decision (to leave the EU), which I regret, was taken by Britain,” Yzer told The Associated Press. “So there can’t be any surprise that those who see themselves firmly anchored inside the European Union — and that’s the case for Germany and its capital Berlin — now want to make sure that they’re a home for businesses that say ‘we need to be in.'”

 

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