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Tiger Global and Ant Financial lead $500M investment in China’s shared housing startup Danke – TechCrunch

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A Chinese startup that’s taking a dorm-like approach to urban housing just raised $500 million as its valuation jumped over $2 billion. Danke Apartment, whose name means “eggshell” in Chinese, closed the Series C round led by returning investor Tiger Global Management and newcomer Ant Financial, Alibaba’s e-payment and financial affiliate controlled by Jack Ma.

Four years ago, Beijing-based Danke set out with a mission to provide more affordable housing for young Chinese working in large urban centers. It applies the coworking concept to housing by renting apartments that come renovated and fully furnished, a model not unlike that of WeWork’s WeLive. The idea is by slicing up a flat designed for a family of three to four — the more common type of urban housing in China — into smaller units, young professionals can afford to live in nicer neighborhoods as Danke takes care of hassles like housekeeping and maintenance. To date, the startup has set foot in ten major Chinese cities.

With the new funds, Danke plans to upgrade its data processing system that deals with rental transactions. Housing prices are set by AI-driven algorithms that take into account market forces such as locations rather than rely on the hunches of a real estate agent. The more data it gleans, the smarter the system becomes. That layout is the engine of the startup, which believes an internet platform play is a win-win for both homeowners and tenants because it provides greater transparency and efficiency while allowing the company to scale faster.

“We are focused on business intelligence from day one,” Danke’s angel investor and chairman Derek Shen told TechCrunch in an interview. Shen was the former president of LinkedIn China and was instrumental in helping the professional networking site enter the country. “By doing so we are eliminating the need to set up offline retail outlets and are able to speed up the decision-making process. What landlords normally care is who will be the first to rent out their property. The model is also copiable because it requires less manpower.”

“We’ve proven that the rental housing business can be decentralized and done online,” added Shen.

Photo: Danke Apartment via Weibo

Danke doesn’t just want to digitize the market it’s after. Half of the company’s core members have hailed from Nuomi, the local services startup that Shen founded and was sold to Baidu for $3.2 billion back in 2015. Having worked for a business of which mission was to let users explore and hire offline services from their connected devices, these executives developed a propensity to digitize all business aspects including Danke’s day-to-day operations, a scheme that will also take up some of the new funds. This will allow Danke to “boost operational efficiency and cut costs” as it “actively works with the government to stabilize rental prices in the housing market,” the company says.

The rest of the proceeds will go towards improving the quality of Danke’s apartment amenities and tenant experiences, a segment that Shen believes will see great revenue potential down the road, akin to how WeWork touts software services to enterprises. The money will also enable Danke, which currently zeroes in on office workers and recent college graduates, to explore the emerging housing market for blue-collar workers.

Other investors from the round include new backer Primavera Capital and existing investors CMC Capital, Gaorong Capital and Joy Capital.

China’s rental housing market has boomed in recent years as Beijing pledges to promote affordable apartments in a country where few have the money to buy property. As President Xi Jinping often stresses, “houses are for living in, not for speculation.” As such, investors and entrepreneurs have been piling into the rental flat market, but that fervor has also created unexpected risks.

One much-criticized byproduct is the development of so-called “rental loans.” It goes like this: Housing operators would obtain loans in tenants’ names from banks or other lending institutions allegedly by obscuring relevant details from contracts. So when a tenant signs an agreement that they think binds them to rents, they have in fact agreed to take on loans and their “rent” payments become monthly loan repayments.

Housing operators are keen to embrace such practices for the loans provide working capital for renovation and their pipeline of properties. On the other hand, the capital allows companies like Danke to lower deposits for cash-strapped young tenants. “There’s nothing wrong with the financial instrument itself,” suggested Shen. “The real issue is when the housing operator struggles to repay, so the key is to make sure the business is well-functioning.”

Danke alongside competitors Ziroom and 5I5J has drawn fire for not fully informing tenants when signing contracts. Shen said his company is actively working to increase transparency. “We will make it clear to customers that what they are signing are loans. As long as we give them enough notice, there should be little risk involved.”

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10 Iconic Movie Cars That Weren’t Even Real

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James Bond and cool cars together are the epitome of cool. The Bond franchise is famous for its car chases, extravagant crashes, and daring escapes. Six actors have portrayed agent 007 since 1963 and they have all driven a variety of cool cars, some of them equipped with space-age spycraft and defensive capabilities. The fifth Bond, Pierce Brosnan, drove one such cool car in The World is Not Enough, a BMW Z8. As an Englishman, Bond had historically driven English cars, like Aston Martin and Lotus, but a product tie-in with BMW in the nineties changed all that.

In this movie, we get to see Bond utilize some of the obligatory gadgets such as rocket launchers but also see a foretelling of things to come with a remote start and summon feature, something unheard of in 1999. However, something also unheard of is a 1999 Z8, because it did not exist until the 2000 model year. According to Top Gear, the production Z8 was not ready during filming, so BMW provided a couple of unfinished pre-production cars and gave producers specs to create other completely fabricated custom cars powered by a Chevy V8 with a Jaguar suspension for filming, particularly the scene where one gets sawed in half. The Z8 gets very little screen time in this movie, likely because they didn’t really have a complete car to work with.

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Halo Infinite’s Campaign Co-Op Beta Kicks Off Soon

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In the past, and in other major co-op games, playing co-op equals advancing the game only for the person who is hosting it. The other players join the game and progress for the host but are unable to retain that progress for their own saves, and they also cannot start up the game without the host being around to do it for them. It seems that with “Halo Infinite,” the developers behind the game wanted to take a different approach by making co-op progress accessible even after the gaming session is over. As Bender said, “One of our core principles is that we don’t want to require you to have an isolated co-op save.”

As a result of that new policy, every player’s progress is going to count toward their main playthrough. Any items, collectibles, achievements, and mission progress earned during a co-op session will carry over to an individual gamer’s save. There’s also a new approach referred to as “No Spartan Left Behind.” When you join a Fireteam and select your save slot, the game will look at mission completion across all the saves and then set up a game world for you and your friends. In that game world, any mission that has been completed will be marked as such, but only as long as every single member of the Fireteam will have it completed. If there’s even one person that hasn’t tackled it just yet, the mission will be incomplete for everyone in the co-op world.

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Satechi USB-C Slim Dock For 24-Inch iMac Review: Fixing Shortcomings

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There are plenty of iMac docks on the market today, especially after the launch of the 2021 M1 models. Part of the tradeoff for the computer’s gorgeously slim design is the dearth of ports, all of which are hidden behind its screen. But while many of these docks and hubs are advertised as compatible with the 24-inch iMac, Satechi’s new dock takes that to the extreme — in fact, the USB-C Slim Dock is designed only for the 24-inch M1 iMac. Sure, you could use it for other computers, but then you lose one of its biggest features.

That feature is actually the wide gap on its bottom that perfectly fits the base of the iMac. This makes the dock look almost like it’s part of the iMac itself, especially if you get matching colors. The dock also creates a wider base that you could put things on if you like. Either way, its exclusivity to the 2021 and 2022 M1 iMacs works in its favor, creating a seamless appearance that fits the machine perfectly.

Whether you match colors or not, the Satechi USB-C dock matches the build quality of the iMac it sits on. Made from durable aluminum, the accessory looks premium and stylish, adding some character to your desk just as much as the iMac does. The material also makes heat dissipation more effective, which comes in handy given its hidden superpower. If there’s one disappointing aspect of the dock, it would be that it’s available only in silver and blue colorways that won’t color match all the available iMac hues.

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