Southeast Asia-focused Taxi booking app GrabTaxi says it’s about to splash the cash, mostly on new hires.
The Singapore-based company said Wednesday it will spend $100 million over the next five years on a new research and development center in the city-state, with a “significant portion” of that sum going to lure talent.
GrabTaxi, which launched in 2012 and operates in 20 cities across six countries, said in December it secured a $250 million investment from Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant SoftBank.
That brought its total funding nearly $340 million, with its valuation as of December reaching $1 billion, according to data from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource.
Among the new hires GrabTaxi says it has recently made are Kevin Lee, who was head of Asia for U.S. data mining software company Palantir Technologies. Another is Arul Kumaravel, who previously held a senior engineering role Amazon.com.
Spending to defend against cyberattacks is picking up speed in Asia, and the growth rate could outpace the global average this year.
The latest development underscoring the trend: the US$810 million acquisition of U.S.-based cybersecurity provider Trustwave Holdings Inc. by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom company by revenue.
The deal, announced Wednesday, follows recent high-profile breaches of companies such as Home Depot Inc., health insurer Anthem Inc. and Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Hackers also targeted Malaysia Airlines’ website in January. In March, South Korean investigators said state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. and its business partners were targeted in cyberattacks aimed at stealing internal data that included plant blueprints and employees’ personal information. Korea Hydro operates South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors.
Executives and analysts in Asia say they are increasingly contemplating their digital defenses in light of more-frequent attacks.
A WSJ review of the documentary begins:
Watching “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” can be a depressing experience, and not just for the two hours in which the HBO documentary runs. The haunting archival imagery—a powerful element here—fades after a few days, and much of what is said has been said before. Yet whether you come away seeing Scientology as a cult that ensnares vulnerable people or as a faith of self-empowerment, the film leaves a terrible taste of too much information. This must be its point, but take heed just the same.
The film is based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.”
I haven’t read that book (yet), but I have read Wright’s long, detailed, fascinating 2011 New Yorker story “The Apostate.”
It centers on longtime Hollywood screenwriter Paul Haggis, who left Scientology and has since become an outspoken critic of the church. It’s an excellent piece of journalism.
It’s been a busy week or so.
Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.
Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):
YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.
Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.
The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.
BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.
“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.
Google declined to comment.
The Economic Times first reported the news.
InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.
NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.
Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.
“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.
That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.
Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.
I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.
Network security company FireEye Inc. is seeing strong demand for its services amid a series of high-profile cyberattacks, and would like to grow more quickly, but is inhibited by a need to satisfy investors, the company’s chief executive said.
“Once you’re public, Wall Street wants to see earnings,” David DeWalt told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Tuesday. The Milpitas, Calif.-based company, which has worked with Sony Pictures and health insurer Anthem Inc. following recent breaches, was founded as NetForts Inc. and went public in 2013.
The company has yet to post a profit, and earlier this month reported a fourth-quarter loss of $105.7 million, despite higher revenue and billings, compared with $2.5 million a year earlier. The company said it has increased spending to expand its customer base. Revenues during the period jumped to $143 million from $57.3 million a year earlier.
“If I had my way, I probably would continue to grow the company much faster than I would produce earnings,” he said. But the company must stay “balanced for cash flow and earnings, reporting and returning to shareholders bottom-line capabilities, as well as top.”
“I liken the analogy to a Maserati that’s got the gas pedal to the floor but it’s in neutral. We’re looking for the gear,” Mr. DeWalt said.
I also wrote a piece re-capping what DeWalt had to say about recent trends in cyber-security:
Nations are fighting for superiority
DeWalt said that “this great domain called cyberspace has created an enormous potential conflict.”
“If you study mankind, it’s had conflict over every new domain that’s been discovered, whether it’s land or ocean or air or space. Whenever there’s a new land discovered we’ve fought wars over it. We’re in a major conflict. It’s been brewing. The gloves have been off a bit the last year or two. We’ve been on the front lines watching it, and it’s probably one of the most interesting times of my career.”
Governments’ goals vary
Each nation has its own reasons for “offensive” cyber activity, DeWalt said.
“It’s well documented that China’s focus has largely been on the enrichment of its own state-owned enterprises. Do we ever watch crime occur for dollars? I’ve never seen a single case of a nation-state attack in China for money. They’re mostly after innovation information. Their modus operandi is to level the playing field through cyber offense.
The U.S. has been very active in monitoring, maybe not for enrichment of commercial operations that are government-owned but for its own geopolitical interests.
Russia has been super money oriented. Do we ever see them sabotage something? Never.
North Korea? Gloves off immediately, try to destroy South Korea as quick as they can. It’s not about money or espionage, just about, kill your neighbor.”
Expect more Sony-like “wipe and release” hacks
The breach of Sony last year marked the “elevation” of cybercrime into “sabotage,” DeWalt said.
“We’ve watched over the last two or three years significant occurrences of just outright destruction. Attempts to really hurt companies or countries with Internet weaponry. You don’t have to wipe out the company. All you have to do is release the information about the company. I think you’ll see a lot more of these wipe and release models, or maybe even just the release model, forget the wipe.”
The Anthem hack shows increasing sophistication
The take-home from the recently announced attack on U.S. health insurer Anthem: cybercriminals are getting seriously sophisticated.
“The layers of cybercrime are reaching new levels. What once was high volume, low dollar amount credit card stealing evolved into the stealing of insider information to gain an advantage in capital markets. And now fraudulent healthcare claims.”
My former Columbia classmate Minsi Chung interviewed me for Covering Business, the Journalism School’s financial reporting-focused site.
You can find the interview here.
We talked about getting exclusives in Southeast Asia, discussed some of my recent stories, touched on wider tech trends and more.
I’m proud to share a documentary produced by Anasuya Sanyal — aka my amazing wife — that recently aired on Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia.
It’s about the struggles faced by the Rohingya people of Myanmar and a controversial government program designed to offer them citizenship.
The show is called “Between Two Worlds,” and is embedded above and on the Channel NewsAsia site here.
Interesting stuff from Melody Joy Kramer and others: What could a home page mean for a news site in 2015?
Last September, I went to Chicago for a conference. On the third day of the conference, I slipped away to my friend Max’s apartment on a mission. The mission was to gather together a lot of very smart people who don’t work in news — and ask them to design a new news homepage.
By news homepage, I mean any way for a user to first encounter content. A push notification could very well be the new news homepage. (Related: Ways to think about push notifications.) An app is a news homepage. An article or a newsletter is a news homepage. If you listen to the news, Overcast or Soundcloud or the iTunes store may be your homepage. Homepage, to me, is simply a shortened version of any of these things. You can substitute any of the words I mentioned for homepage below.
Click through for their 64 ideas.
Facebook Inc. on Tuesday denied being the victim of a hacking attack and said its site and photo-sharing app Instagram had suffered an outage after it introduced a configuration change.
The disruption “was not the result of a third party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems,” a Facebook spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. “We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”
Indonesia leads the world in terms of the percentage of its Facebook users who access the social network on their mobile devices.
That’s according to research firm eMarketer, which said Thursday that some 92.4% of Facebook users in the country — 62.6 million people — tap into the social network via their phones at least once a month. That’s up from 88.1% last year and 77.7% in 2013.
Click through for more.