As you might already know, I have been based in South Korea for about a year now, as we have been preparing Korean language algorithms. We are getting very close to mapping the whole Korean start-up ecosystem and placing it in context with Chinese innovation.

South Korea has deservedly received a lot of positive media for its response to the coronavirus; a combination of well-communicated health measures, the entire population wearing masks and innovations such as showing in real time the stock availability of masks in shops.

Live stock of masks during the first outbreak on Naver map, a local equivalent of google map.

As we have been mapping Korean start-ups, I recently came across Riiid, a Korean EdTech start-up providing AI solutions, which recently secured US$41.8 million in pre-Series D funding.

Riiid is famous for its app “Santa”, which helps student prepare for the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

By observing the user’s learning behaviour, the app provides a tailored approach to learning, to improve the user’s TOEIC scores. The approach is similar to a Chinese company, Songshu AI, which I mentioned in a previous newsletter.

The future of education

Santa is already the top EdTech app in Korea and Japan, and this fundraise will fuel its expansion into other markets such as the US or maybe Europe. For me, the most interesting part of Riiid’s offering is B2B.

Riiid provides AI tutoring to other education companies and institutions; helping them use AI to create efficiencies in their education products and their management processes. Earlier this year, Riiid launched EdNet, which is the world’s largest open database for AI education, to drive the use of AI in education everywhere.

Riiid is not only showing the potential of South Korean innovations, it is also providing a window into what the future of education may look like. We all remember a teacher who through their ability to get us excited about a subject made us keen to learn. AI which understands what makes students "tick" will tailor the learning experience to maximize their ability to understand the subjects.

If you want to go deeper into the AI behind Riiid’s app, here is the latest model published by the Riiid team:

Reading these articles made me think that education might very soon undergo a paradigm shift away from classroom-based learning; one which means that throughout our lives, not just at school age, we remain engaged in learning.

Happy summer holidays

On the subject of education, I have enrolled into Seoul National University for an intensive three-week Korean language course.

Between this course and our updated algorithms, by September, we will be ready to provide you with high quality information on the Korean start-up eco-system.

For the rest of the month, the newsletter will therefore be on holiday, resuming normal service at the beginning of September.

If you are taking a break, I wish you happy holidays. If you aren’t and want to discuss Chinese or Korean start-ups during August, I am available anytime!

Selected Fundraising Activities

Raised 100Mn RMB for its B round from Lightspeed China and Source Code Capital.

Raised 10Mn RMB for its Pre A round from ZSVC.

Raised an estimated 92Mn RMB for its A round.

Raised 8Mn USD for its D round.

Raised 10Mn USD for its A round.

Selected IPO & M&A Events

Raised 2Bn RMB for its IPO round.

Raised 1Bn USD for its IPO round.

Raised 882Mn RMB for its IPO round.

Raised 480Mn RMB for its IPO round.

Raised 380Mn RMB for its IPO round.

Unicorns Outlook

- TikTok, a short video app owned by Bytedance, has added new functions including ticket booking and hotel reservations. Kuaishou, a short video sharing platform, has also launched a "Local Life Service" entry to its homepage, including food and travel-related services

- Ma Weiying, vice president of Bytedance AI, owner of TikTok and numerous online content platforms, left the company to join the Intelligent Industry Research Institute of Tsinghua University

- After the United States crackdown on TikTok, a short video app owned by Bytedance, for data security breaches, the Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) coalition has also proposed to the government to formulate a new policy to restrict TikTok and other Chinese apps

- Wu Liang, former senior technical director of Qihoo 360, an internet security group, and web front-end chief architect, has recently joined Bytedance

- Bytedance investors have reportedly issued an offer for a majority stake of TikTok at a valuation of US$50 Bn

- Qiu Guangyu, COO of Didi's International Business Unit, a ride-hailing platform, is about to leave. Zhu Jingshi, Didi’s senior vice president and head of international business, will lead the overseas teams

- Alipay, Ant Group's mobile payment platform, will reportedly recruit another 200 people in a push to develop service search engine

Significant Developments

International activities

- In the first half of this year, the transaction volume of Alibaba international increased by 80% and the number of orders increased by 98%

- After a high-profile announcement last month that 59 Chinese apps were banned on the grounds of national security, India has reportedly drafted a list of a further 275 Chinese apps

- Huawei, a telecom equipment manufacturer, has reportedly cut its revenue target in India by as much as 50% in 2020, and plans to lay off 60% - 70% of its Indian staff excluding those in R&D and global service centers

- Wechat, China's most popular social networking super app under Tencent group, its wechat payment has entered the Turkish market and now be used at Istanbul's new airport

- Ehang, a developer of autonomous aerial vehicles, announced that its flagship product, Ehang 216, had obtained a special flight operation license issued by the Ministry of transport of Canada, the first phased operation license for manned autopilot vehicles in North America

Key financial figures

- In the second quarter of this year, Tesla's revenue in China reached US$1.4 Bn, up 102.9% year-on-year

- DAAN Gene, a biomedicine company, saw a year-on-year increase in net profit of 1,159.1% driven by demand for coronavirus nucleic acid detection kits and related consumables

Key milestones

- Gree, an electronic home appliances manufacturer, launched its AI smart voice-control air conditioner "Moon Goddess", equipped with China's first intelligent AI voice module based on domestic IoT operation system

- bilibili, an ACG video streaming platform, has launched a mobile video editing tool

- In the next ten years, Suning Yi Gou, an e-commerce platform under Suning group, plans to reposition itself as a retail service provider

- TSMC, the world's largest semiconductor foundry, has won orders for the Intel 6 nano semiconductor

- TSMC, the world's largest semiconductor foundry, said in a statement that it is committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2050. The company is committed to using renewable energy in 25% of its manufacturing plants and 100% of its other facilities by 2030

- Huawei, a telecom equipment manufacturer, said that with over 1.5 Mn 5G base stations set to be deployed worldwide this year, Huawei needs to strengthen its focus on industry applications

- According to the National Radio and Television Administration, with China's terrestrial digital television network fully in place, wireless analog TV will be a thing of the past by the end of this year in the country

- Wechat, China's most popular social networking super app under Tencent group, its short video feature Channels have drawn 200 Mn users in six months

- Shanghai's first "satellite + smart shipping innovation laboratory" has been established

- Pinduoduo, a social e-commerce platform specializing in group buying deals, is testing a new wholesaling service which connects merchant buyers with manufacturers and wholesalers, as the company increases its rivalry with Alibaba Group

- Tmall, e-commerce platform under Alibaba group, launched a new car maintenance mini-program "Meow Car"

- North Hauler, a mining truck manufacturer, is developing and experimenting with 5G unmanned mining vehicles

- Agricultural Bank of China (or Abchina, one of the biggest commercial banks in China) announced that ABC Financial Technology Co., Ltd. was officially registered. With a registered capital of 600 Mn RMB the business will focus on technological innovation, software development, product operation and technical consultation by means of financial technology

- China's video cloud market reached US$4.62 Bn in 2019, up 46.3 percent year-on-year

- Tesla plans to hire nearly 1,000 factory workers for its Shanghai plant. The company is also hiring an unreported number of designers, the first time the California-based automaker has looked to hire designers in China

- Coolpad, an intelligent terminal manufacturer, has released the first wireless all-in-one AR glasses in China. The initial price of the consumer version is 2,999 RMB. The glasses do not need to be connected to a mobile phone or computer, and can be used alone

- GAC Group, an automobile company, said that its flagship electric vehicle, which will be launched soon, has a range of 503 km to 650 km

- Student Dingtalk, an online coworking tool under Alibaba group, has been launched, principally for primary and secondary school students across the country and focussed on home schooling and online education

- Alibaba Group's intelligent search app Quark launched a knowledge video product "Quark Z video". Quark will incubate tens of thousands of content creators

- Tencent, a tech conglomerate, its Smart Retail has launched a live broadcast tool for merchants in the wechat ecosystem. The product not only enables content distribution, but also covers SKU management, payment and after-sales

- The Ministry of Commerce said that during the first half, the online retail sales of physical goods accounted for 25.2% of the total retail sales of consumer goods in the same period, an increase of 5.6% year-on-year. The number of online shopping users nationwide increased by 100 Mn year-on-year

- The sales of China's game market in the first half of 2020 was 139.493 Bn RMB, a year-on-year increase of 22.34%. During the period, the number of game users in China was nearly 660 Mn, a year-on-year increase of 1.97%

- Meituan-dianping, an on-demand local service platform, has suspended Alipay, Ant Group's mobile payment platform, as a payment option for some users on its app

- Ucloud, a cloud computing infrastructure company, together with strategic partners Haima Cloud, a cloud computing platform, and Pyou, a video cloud solution provider, have released one-stop cloud game solutions. The solution enables: playing on the go, smooth HD, convenient access and cost optimization

- Huawei, a telecom equipment manufacturer, has overtaken Samsung Electronics for the first time in global smartphone shipments, driven by increased demand in China. Huawei shipped 55.8 million Android smartphones in the second quarter, edging out Samsung’s 53.7 million total tally

- Taobao, the e-commerce platform under Alibaba Group, its data showed that since the outbreak of the coronavirus, an average of 40,000 people have opened new stores on Taobao every day. The average age of these shopkeepers is 25 years old

- The Ministry of Transport and Tencent, a tech conglomerate, jointly released a public transport travel big data platform to help the intelligent development of urban public transport

- Baidu, China's largest search engine, and Flex announced that they have jointly developed the world's first mass production automatic driving computing platform. The mass production ACU hardware platform will be used in self parking products jointly developed by Baidu and WELTMEISTER, a new energy smart vehicle maker

Senior management shifts

- Conglin, vice president of 58 Tong Cheng, China's largest online classifieds marketplace, has been appointed an independent director of Renren, a social networking platform

- Zeng Xuezhong, the former vice president of ZTE, one of China's leading telecom equipment manufacturers, has joined Xiaomi Group, a leading IoT & smartphone maker, to become vice president of Xiaomi Group and President of Xiaomi mobile phone department. Zeng will be mainly responsible for the R&D and production of mobile phone products

- Mao Shengbo, partner of Panda Capital, is reportedly about to leave Panda Capital and join MiraclePlus founded by YC China founder and CEO Lu Qi

Strategic partnerships

- Eastone Century, a communication network technology service provider, has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Guoxin Micro, an integrated circuit chips design & development service provider. Eastone Century plans to sell 10 Mn 5G super SIM cards and develop millions of 5G users with the help of super SIM cards. The two sides will deepen cooperation on 5G terminals and the Internet of Things, and jointly promote the application of smart cards

- BMW and Tencent, a tech conglomerate, are working on digital cooperation to provide "Tencent small scene" and "Wechat car version" in the BMW vehicle ecosystem

- Tencent, a tech conglomerate, and 100Tal, an education group, have deepened cooperation, creating an internet plus education application platform

Investment & Investor-related developments

- Midea group, a Chinese electrical appliance manufacturer, plans to start preparatory work for the listing for its subsidiary Meizhi Optoelectronics

- Ctrip, an online travel platfrom, is reportedly considering delisting from the NASDAQ

- DATATOM, an AI and data intelligence service provider, plans to list on the Science and Technology Innovation Board. The artificial intelligence and big data company supports the development of cloud storage and cloud computing business in media, radio and television. The company is currently conducting C-round financing at a valuation of about 2 Bn RMB

- ORVIBO, a smart home solution provider, plans to list on the Science and Technology Innovation Board. The company has built a whole house smart home ecosystem

- Diginex, a cross-border cryptocurrency company, will reportedly be listed on NASDAQ in September through a reverse merger with 8i Enterprises

Technology Advancement and Research and Development

Important milestone events

- Chinese researchers have developed a mobile device that can trace volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a key source of air pollution

- Chinese researchers have developed an AI-based early-warning system for myocardial infarction

- A joint research team from the Shanghai-based Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science, Peking University and the University of California have discovered a signal transduction mechanism of a key signal molecule in T-cell receptors, which can be used to make up for the shortcomings of the CAR-T cell therapy for cancer

Newly proven technologies

- China's AG600 seaplane successfully conducted its first sea-based test flight

- Chinese researchers have developed thin film semiconductors which can be applied to increase photoelectric conversion efficiency by 10 percent

National Innovation Developments

National & regional plan

- Guangzhou has invested 1.27 Bn RMB to create a space for video game software industry

- Xinjiang has begun construction of a provincial smart internet of vehicles platform, which is expected to be completed and put into operation by the end of the year

- From September this year, a python programming course will be added to grade 8 in Zhejiang Province

As ever, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments.