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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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Amazon Gives Discounted Xbox Series S A $40 Credit For Cyber Monday

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The Xbox Series S is an ideal backup console for a second room in your home (perhaps used with your monitor to complement your gaming PC), or for your young ones who don’t get caught up in pixel peeping and only care about playing the latest games. Even if you have a 4K TV and you intend to use this as your primary console, games can look pretty great with the advanced resolution upscaling available in most of today’s sets, and you still get that smooth 120Hz performance in games that support it.

Sadly, affordable storage space remains a problem for all current-gen consoles. While Microsoft advertises 512GB, you might get less than 400GB after the system OS eats its share. With some games demanding as much as 100-150GB, you can quickly run out of headroom. You might survive with an affordable external hard drive to store games on while you’re not playing them, as moving games from one hard drive to another is much quicker than redownloading them.

It’s also worth noting that older, non-optimized games can be played directly from an external hard drive. If you anticipate needing more storage for current games, your best bet might be to step up to the 1TB Xbox Series X, which costs $260 more than this deal (and is typically harder to find), or add an optional storage expansion card, which is similarly costly, starting at $220 for 1TB.

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ARK: Ultimate Survivor Edition Review For Nintendo Switch: Fight For Your Fun

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Whether you’re playing the standard version of “ARK” or this new all-in-one Switch port, the fundamental game is the same: Your character wakes up in a semi-random spot on your chosen map, then you get to work crafting survival implements and putting together a shelter. Eventually you branch out into bigger and better stuff, and even start to tame dinosaurs to act as mounts, protectors, or specialized material gatherers.

Gather materials and supplies, craft tools and gear, level-up to learn more crafting recipes, gather more materials, craft better stuff, and so on. All while balancing your character’s need for food and water, navigating extreme temperatures, and trying not to get eaten by prehistoric animals. Comparing it to “Minecraft” might seem disingenuous, but the game runs on similar principles.

Some things are a bit more complicated in “ARK,” however, even without the need for terrain manipulation found in “Minecraft.” There are a lot of status effects to consider (get too warm, too cold, poisoned, knocked out, broken bones), and you have to craft everything — including the parts needed to build yourself a home. It’s a satisfying enough feedback loop of steady progression, but it also feels a bit hamstrung by its history.

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The Apple Watch Ultra’s Oceanic+ App Just Landed

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Apple broke the good news in a blog post, talking about the new Oceanic+ app as well as its creation process. Made through a collaboration with Huish Outdoors, the app is meant to turn the Apple Watch Ultra into a proper diving computer fit to serve even serious divers. Prior to the launch of Oceanic+, the watch came equipped with basic software called “Depth.” This allowed divers to check current depth, the temperature of the water, maximum depth reached, and how long they’ve been underwater. The new release expands those options considerably.

Apart from the above, Oceanic+ unlocks a lot of useful trackers. You’ll be able to track no-decompression time, how long it will take you to reach the surface, the gas mix currently in use for scuba divers, haptic feedback, a dive planner, and how fast you’re ascending when it’s time to swim back up to the surface. More importantly, the app comes with color-coded warnings. Moreover, if you use Oceanic+ on the iPhone, it will also provide some extra information about your dive.

The app is available for the Apple Watch Ultra as long as you’re running watchOS 9.1 or later. It also needs to be paired with at least an iPhone 8 (or later) running iOS 16.1 and above. You can access a lot of its features for free, but if you want the premium version, it will cost you $9.99 a month, or $79.99 a year.

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