Eyeing an entry into China, Roblox enters strategic partnership with Tencent

Kids gaming platform Roblox has its sights set on China with today’s news that it has entered into a strategic relationship with Chinese tech giant, Tencent. The companies announced a strategic partnership that will initially focus on education — specifically, coding fundamentals, game design, digital citizenship, and entrepreneurial skills.

The joint venture — still unnamed — will be based in Shenzhen, Roblox says. And its eventual goal is to bring Roblox to China. This is something Roblox has been steadily working towards ahead of today, most recently by adding support for Chinese languages and making its coding curriculum available for free in Chinese.

The first initiative from the new JV will be a scholarship fund that sponsors 15 young developers, who will fly to the U.S. to attend a week-long creator camp at Stanford University. The camp, taught by iD Tech, will teach the students game design, including how to create 3D worlds, along with programming fundaments using Roblox’s developer tools and Lua code.

Roblox and Tencent, together with the China Association for Educational Technology (CAET), are calling for applications from creators ages 10 through 15. Teachers will be encouraged to nominate their students, who can apply online on Roblox’s website. The submissions close on June 14, and scholarship recipients will be notified on June 28.

The first camp will run the week of July 23, and a second session will run the week of August 18. During camp, students will work, eat and stay at Stanford.

“I’m extremely excited to partner with Roblox,” said Steven Ma, Senior Vice President of Tencent, in a statement. “We believe technological advancement will help Chinese students learn by fueling their creativity and imagination. Our partnership with Roblox provides an engaging way to reach children of all ages across China to develop skills like … Read the rest

TikTok parent Bytedance is reportedly working on its own smartphone

It’s been a busy couple of months for Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups and the operator of globally popular video app TikTok. The Beijing-based company has continued to grow its list of apps to include the likes of work collaboration tool Lark, an instant messenger called Feiliao as well as a music streaming app, and now it appears to be taking a bold step into the hardware realm.

Bytedance is planning to develop its own smartphone, the Financial Times reported (paywalled) citing two sources. A spokesperson from Bytedance declined to comment on the matter, but the rumor is hardly a surprise as smartphone pre-installs have long been a popular way for Chinese internet companies to ramp up user sizes.

There’s also urgency from Bytedance to carve out more user acquisition channels. After a few years of frantic growth, Bytedance failed to hit its revenue target for the first time last year amid slowing ad spending in China, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Some of Bytedance’s predecessors include selfie app maker Meitu, which builds smartphones pre-loaded with its suite of photo editors and recently sold this segment to Xiaomi as the latter tries to capture more female users and newcomers, including Snow-owned camera app B612 and Bytedance’s Faceu, close on Meitu’s heels.

Others have taken a less asset-heavy approach in the early days of the Chinese internet. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent — known collectively as the BAT for their supremacy in China’s tech world — all worked on their own custom Android ROMs, which come with extra features compared to a stock ROM pre-installed by a phone manufacturer.

Alibaba’s ambition also manifested in a $590 million investment in Meizu in 2016 that saw the eommerce giant take up the challenge to develop a tailored operating system … Read the rest

Lime’s founding CEO steps down as his co-founder takes control

In an all-hands meeting this afternoon, the scooter and bike-sharing phenom Lime announced co-founder and chief executive officer Toby Sun would transition out of the C-suite to focus on company culture and R&D. Brad Bao, a Lime co-founder and longtime Tencent executive, will assume chief responsibilities, Lime confirmed to TechCrunch.

“Lime has experienced unprecedented growth in the global marketplace under the joint leadership of our co-founders Brad Bao and Toby Sun,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Fortunately, Lime’s structure allows for our executive leadership to be multipurpose and we are making a few changes to our team today to seize the opportunity ahead of us.”

Sun and Bao launched Lime together in late 2016. The San Francisco-based company had near-immediate success, attracting hundreds of millions in venture capital funding and reaching a valuation of more than $1 billion in only a year and a half. Today, the company is valued at $2.4 billion and is expected to hit the fundraising circuit soon.

In addition to today’s CEO shake-up, Lime’s chief operating officer and former GV partner Joe Kraus has been promoted to the role of president. Kraus joined Lime full-time late last year after more than a decade at the venture capital arm of Alphabet.

Bao, given his Tencent tenure, seems like a natural choice to lead Lime into a more mature phase of business. Sun, a former investment director at Fosun Kinzon, has less operational experience than his counterpart, who was most recently the vice president of the Chinese conglomerate’s gaming division.

News of Sun’s demotion comes hot off the heels of a fresh new marketing campaign, featured above, in which the Lime co-founders describe the scooter-sharing … Read the rest

Tencent’s latest education push is a nod to new collaborative structure

When Tencent announced it had formed a new education brand this week, the internet giant wasn’t just flexing its muscles to conquer China’s booming online education sector. The new initiative is also an early result of Tencent’s long plan to foster more internal collaboration at a time when its core businesses, the lucrative video gaming segment and the billion-user WeChat, are under attack.

Called “Tencent Education,” the new brand consists of 20 products across all six of the firm’s business groups, announced executive senior vice president Dowson Tong at the company’s annual ecosystem summit on Wednesday. According to Tong, Tencent has over the years served some 15,000 schools and 70,000 educational institutes, giving it a reach of more than 300 million users in the sector.

What this means is when it comes to making education products, there will be more teamwork among Tencent divisions, from the one overseeing WeChat to the entertainment-focused unit operating some of the world’s most played games. The catalog of services ranges from face recognition technology to monitor students during class time (I know, it makes me cringe) to personal development classes for adults.

This level of cross-department cooperation had been rare at Tencent until recently. For years, the Shenzhen-based company fostered a competitive culture it compares to horse races. On the one hand, internal rivalry spawns innovation. The success of WeChat has demonstrated Tencent’s willingness to let a new product eat into its legacy social network QQ. The strategy doesn’t always work, though. To contain TikTok’s rise, Tencent has churned out a dozen short-video apps, but none has reached their rival’s supremacy.

Competition, on the other hand, produces internal silos and hurts collaboration. This is a critique that has often come at Tencent, although Tong refuted the notion in a recent interview with local … Read the rest

A young entrepreneur is building the Amazon of Bangladesh

At just 26, Waiz Rahim is supposed to be involved in the family business, having returned home in 2016 with an engineering degree from the University of Southern California. Instead, the young entrepreneur is plotting to build the Amazon of Bangladesh.

Deligram, Rahim’s vision of what e-commerce looks like in Bangladesh, a country of nearly 180 million, is making progress, having taken inspiration from a range of established tech giants worldwide, including Amazon, Alibaba and Go-Jek in Indonesia.

It’s a far cry from the family business. That’s Rahimafrooz, a 65-year-old conglomerate that is one of the largest companies in Bangladesh. It started out focused on battery manufacturing, but over the years its businesses have branched out to span power and energy and automotive products while it operates a retail superstore called Agora.

During his time at school in the U.S., Rahim worked for the company as a tech consultant whilst figuring out what he wanted to do after graduation. Little could he have imagined that, fast-forward to 2019, he’d be in charge of his own startup that has scaled to two cities and raised $3 million from investors, one of which is Rahimafrooz.

Deligram CEO Waiz Rahim [Image via Deligram]

“My options after college were to stay in U.S. and do product management or analyst roles,” Rahim told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “But I visited rural areas while back in Bangladesh and realized that when you live in a city, it’s easy to exist in a bubble.”

So rather than stay in America or go to the family business, Rahim decided to pursue his vision to build “a technology company on the wave of rising economic growth, digitization and a vibrant young population.”

The youngster’s ambition was shaped by a stint working for Amazon at its Carlsbad … Read the rest