ShopBack, a Singapore-based startup that offers cashback and consumer rewards in Asia Pacific, has closed a $45 million round led by new investors Rakuten Capital and EV Growth.
Founded in 2014, the startup had been relatively under-the-radar until late 2017 when it announced a $25 million investment that funded expansion into Australia among other things. Now, it is doubling down with this deal which sees participation from another new backer, EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board. Shopback has now raised close to $85 million from investors, which also include Credit Saison Blue Sky, AppWorks, SoftBank Ventures Korea, Singtel Innov8 and Qualgro.
The investment will see Amit Patel, who leads Rakuten-owned cashback service Ebates, and EV Growth managing partner Willson Cuaca, join the board. Cuaca is a familiar face since his East Ventures firm, which launched EV Growth alongside Yahoo Japan Capital and SMDV last year, was an early investor in Shopback, while the addition of Patel is potentially very significant for the startup. Indeed, when I previously wrote about ShopBack, I compared the startup directly to Ebates, which was bought by Rakuten for $1 billion in 2014.
“Ebates brings operating experience in the cashback space,” Henry Chan, ShopBack co-founder and CEO told TechCrunch in an interview.
“A lot has changed in the last year and a half, Ebates has a very strong focus on the U.S… given that we’re not competing, it makes sense to partner and to learn,” he added.
The obvious question to ask is whether this deal is a precursor to a potential acquisition.
So, is it?
“It is squarely for learning and for growth,” Chan said in response. “It makes sense for us to partner with someone with the know-how.”
ShopBack operates in seven markets in Asia Pacific — Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and Indonesia — with a core rewards service that gives consumers rebates for spending on areas like e-commerce, ride-hailing, food delivery, online travel and more. It has moved offline, too, with a new service for discovering and paying for food which initially launched in Singapore.
ShopBack said it saw a 250 percent growth in sales and orders last year which translated to nearly $1 billion in sales for its merchant partners. The company previously said it handled $400 million in 2017. It added that it typically handles more than 2.5 million transactions for upwards of seven million users.
Chan said that, since the previous funding round, ShopBack has seen its business in emerging markets like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines take off and eclipse its efforts in more developed countries like Singapore. Still, he said, the company benefits from the diversity of the region.
Markets like Singapore and Taiwan, where online spending is more established, allow ShopBack to “learn ahead of time how different industries will develop” as the internet economy matures in Southeast Asia, Chan — who started the company with fellow co-founder Joel Leong — explained.
Outside of Southeast Asia, Chan said that ShopBack’s Australia business — launched nearly one year ago — has been its “most phenomenal market in terms of growth.”
“We’re already superseding incumbents,” he said.
ShopBack claims some 300,000 registered users in Australia, where it said purchases through its platform have grown by 1,300 percent between May 2018 and March 2019. Of course, that’s growth from a tiny initial base and ShopBack didn’t provide raw figures on sales.
For its next expansion, ShopBack is looking closer to home with Vietnam its upcoming target. The country is already home to one of its three R&D centers — the other two are located in Singapore and Taiwan — and Chan said the startup is currently hiring for a general manager to head up the soon-to-launch Vietnam business.
Already, though, the company is beginning to think about reaching beyond Asia Pacific. Chan maintained that the company already has a proven playbook — particularly on the tech side — so it “can enter a Western market” if it chooses, but that isn’t likely to happen in the immediate future.
“We could [expand beyond Asia Pacific] but we have a fair bit on our plate, right now,” said Chan with a laugh.
Orbital Marine Power O2 begins grid-connected power generation
Orbital Marine Power has announced that the world’s most powerful tidal turbine has begun grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Center. O2 is a floating turbine anchored off the Fall of Warness and connected via a subsea cable to the local onshore electricity network. O2 is a 2MW offshore power generation unit.
The power generation device was manufactured and launched in Dundee earlier in 2021 before being towed to Orkney. The device being deployed is the culmination of more than 15 years of development in the UK. The turbine is 74 meters long and is expected to operate in offshore waters for the next 15 years.
Its 2MW of energy production can meet the annual electricity demand for around 2000 UK homes. The power it generates is clean and predictable, thanks to the fast-flowing waters where it is anchored. Public lenders enabled O2’s construction via an ethical investment platform called Abundance Investment. The Scottish government also supported it via the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.
With its first power generating unit in place, Orbital is now looking to commercialize this technology via the deployment of multi-MW arrays. The company says UK suppliers delivered about 80 percent of the turbine, and its operation will bring long-term employment to coastal communities. Orbital also says that commercialization costs are expected to decrease significantly compared to the roll-out of the technology, which it says was previously demonstrated with both wind and solar energy.
O2 is designed with twin 1MW power generating nacelles at the end of a retractable leg structure that is designed for low-cost access to all major components for servicing throughout its lifetime. The turbine uses 10-meter blades to give more than 600 square meters of swept area to capture flowing tidal energy. Not only does the device produce enough electricity for about 2000 UK homes, it will offset about 2200 tonnes of carbon dioxide production yearly.
B&O Beoplay EQ wireless earphones feature Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation
Bang & Olufsen has unveiled a new set of wireless earphones that feature something it calls Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation. The noise cancellation feature eliminates surrounding noise and improves immersion with the music the wearer is listening to. The true wireless earphones are called the Beoplay EQ and also support wireless phone calls.
Bang & Olufsen‘s Adaptive Active Noise cancellation combines active noise cancellation with passive cancellation to block external noise. The earphones have a dedicated ANC DSP chip and six microphones to automatically adjust noise cancellation levels to create a more seamless listening experience. The six integrated microphones are also used for directional beamforming technology, providing clearer calls and speech quality.
While the earphones are smaller in-ear style compared to other offerings that Bang & Olufsen sells, they still offer long listening times. Beoplay EQ promises a powerful and authentic listening experience with up to 20 hours of total playtime per charge. The total playtime is expanded to 20 hours thanks to the aluminum charging case that provides an additional 6.5 hours of playtime with active noise cancellation turn on.
Integrated fast charging allows the Beoplay EQ to be charged for 20 minutes to provide two hours of playtime. Two colors are available, including Black Anthracite and Sand Gold Tone. Beoplay EQ was designed to be small, comfortable to wear, and offer a secure fit thanks to an ergonomic shape. They are sweat and water-resistant and ship with interchangeable air tips in different sizes for a custom fit.
Beoplay EQ earphones utilize aptX adaptive, Bluetooth 5.0, and are IP54 rated. In addition, the earphones support any Bluetooth device, have Microsoft Swift Pair technology, and are Made for iPhone. Beoplay EQ will be available to purchase on August 19 for $399.
OnePlus 7 and 7T Widevine DRM fix comes with a caveat
There has been a lot of griping about the quality and pace of OnePlus’ recent software updates, especially when OxygenOS 11 brought about major UI changes and, with it, some nasty bugs. OnePlus 7 and 7T owners, however, seem to have had it worse and have experienced the worst that the release has to offer. After two months since the issue appeared, OnePlus is finally rolling out the fix to a bug that locked users into watching SD quality streaming videos, but many users still aren’t satisfied with how the update is being handled.
Last May, owners of OnePlus 7/7 Pro and 7T/7T Pro phones reported losing access to the ability to watch HD videos on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services. It was traced down to a still-unexplained bug from an OxygenOS 11 update that dropped the phone from Widevine DRM L1, which is required for HD or higher-res streaming, to L3, which only allows for SD content. Unsurprisingly, affected owners were none too happy, especially without an immediate solution.
Two months later, that solution finally comes with the OxygenOS 22.214.171.124 update for the OnePlus 7 and the OnePlus 7T. Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone who has installed the update is actually seeing any change on that front. Some have reported the need to clear the cache of affected apps like Netflix, which potentially means messing up some of the stored data in those apps.
Owners of these phones aren’t just complaining about the questionable quality of the fix. Some have pointed out how the latest update brings Android’s June security patches near the end of July, a week before Google releases the next round of security fixes for August.
It’s all too easy to see these complaints as just whining, but OnePlus 7 and 7T users have really had it bad. In addition to what is considered to be a very buggy OxygenOS 11 rollout, those owners feel let down by the unexplained removal of an always-on display feature that was present in previous betas. OnePlus has remained silent on that matter, but that didn’t stop the company from asking those users about how much they enjoy that non-existent AOD feature.
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