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Main article: Matrix Partners China

All topics: 3

Evolve Foundation launches a $100 million fund to find startups working to relieve human suffering

01:58 | 4 November

It seems there’s nothing but bad news out there lately, but here’s some good news — the nonprofit Evolve Foundation has raised $100 million for a new fund called the Conscious Accelerator to combat loneliness, purposelessness, fear and anger spreading throughout the world though technology.

Co-founder of Matrix Partners China Bo Shao will lead the fund and will be looking for entrepreneurs focusing on tech that can help people become more present and aware.

“I know a lot of very wealthy people and many are very anxious or depressed,” he told TechCrunch. A lot of this he contributes to the way we use technology, especially social media networks.

“It becomes this anxiety-inducing activity where I have to think about what’s the next post I should write to get most people to like me and comment and forward,” he said. “It seems that post has you trapped. Within 10 minutes, you are wondering how many people liked this, how many commented. It was so addicting.”

Teens are especially prone to this anxiety, he points out. It turns out it’s a real mental health condition known as Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD).

“Social media is the new sugar or the new smoking of this generation,” Shao told TechCrunch.

He quit social media in September of 2013 but tells TechCrunch he’s been on a journey to find ways to improve his life and others for the last 10 years.

His new fund, as laid out in a recent Medium post announcement, seeks to maximize the social good, find solutions to the issues now facing us through technology, not just investing in something with good returns.

Shao plans to use his background as a prominent VC in a multi-billion-dollar firm to find those working on the type of technology to make us less anxious and more centered.

The Conscious Accelerator has already funded a meditation app called Inside Timer. It’s also going to launch a parenting app to help parents raise their children to be resilient in an often confusing world.

He’s also not opposed to funding projects like the one two UC Berkeley students put together to identify Russian and politically toxic Twitter bots — something Twitter has been criticized for not getting a handle on internally.

“The hope is we will attract entrepreneurs who are conscious,” Shao said.

Featured Image: Yann Cœuru/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

 


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Klook raises $30M for its Asia-focused travel activity platform

16:47 | 2 March

Klook, a service for finding and booking travel activities, has closed a $30 million Series B funding round led by Sequoia China. Existing backers Matrix Partners and Welight Capital, a firm founded by former Tencent executives, also took part.

This new money takes Hong Kong-based Klook to $36.5 million from investors to date. Last October, it closed a $5 million Series A round led by Matrix. The startups’ advisors include the managing director of Agoda North Asia and the former vice chairman of the planning and financial department of the China National Tourism Administration.

Unlike regular travel startups, Klook doesn’t manage flights or hotels, it looks after the rest. It was founded in September 2014 as means to helping the increasing number of Asia-to-Asia travelers find activities and things to do while they are overseas. The company said that today its service includes details of 10,000 attractions, tours and general activities spanning 80 cities across Asia. It also gave out some pertinent business data for the first time. Last year, Klook helped users book five million trips — it clarified that the figure refers to two-way trips. We did ask about revenue and other financial details, but for now the company isn’t revealing those.

Operationally, Klook’s team has expanded to reach 200 staff while it has eight offices across Asia. Those local teams work with attraction and tour operators to source activities directly, thereby avoiding the hefty premium of booking through an agent to offer users a competitive price. It has also recently introduced services — such as local transfer options and WiFi device rental — that let users pick up travel essentials from inside the app. Klook co-founder and COO Eric Gnock Fah told TechCrunch in an interview that it would soon add options for restaurants, shopping and more.

“We’re moving towards being an in-destination service platform,” he said.

Beyond expanding into new verticals, which will presumably super charge monetization, Fah said Klook geographical extensions are planned. Klook plans to spend the year growing its reach to remaining major markets in Asia before looking to other parts of the world.

“Over the past few years we’ve basically nailed Asia’s supply chain,” he explained. “We will launch in Australia soon and then go full speed into Europe and North America.”

Those expansions are still designed to service Asia’s tourists — of which China is the dominant market — so it is activities that are suited to travelers from Asia. Initially, at least. But with the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon in 2020 — and the Winter Olympics taking place in Seoul next year — Fah anticipates that the company will need to cater to Western tourists visiting Asia sooner rather than later.

He’s also optimistic that the boom in inbound visitors to Asia will put Klook’s business in a good position.

“Some of the markets were are in are already reaching break even or profitable, so it’s just a case of getting into more markets,” he said. “Our IPO is always in the planning… the timeline we are looking at definitely before 2020. That’s mainly because of the Tokyo Olympics and next year’s Winter Olympics — you can imagine the travel trends over the next few years.”

A public listing might take place in the U.S. or Hong Kong, Fah offered, although those details are far from ironed out at this point. For one thing, he still anticipates that there “is likely to be at least one more round” of private funding before a move to the public markets. Still, with few startups exits in Asia — China aside — it is refreshing to hear a company committing its ambition to paper.

Featured Image: ipopba/iStock/Getty Images

 


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Klook, An App For Booking Travel Activities Across Asia, Raises $5M

14:34 | 16 October

Klook, a Hong Kong-based company that sells travel activities across Asia, has announced a $5 million Series A round led by US-Sino investment fund Matrix Partners. China Growth Capital and Francis Leung, chairman of CVC Capital, also took part.

The company was founded in September 2014 with the idea of helping travelers and tourists find things to do across Asia. Klook raised a $1.5 million seed round in April, and co-founder Eric Gnock Fah told TechCrunch that this round was over-subscribed thanks to impressive growth.

Klook currently includes more than 1,200 activities across 24 destinations in Asia, that’s up from around 1,000 earlier this year. The company claims to have grown its userbase — which it counts as the total reach for its website, mobile apps, WeChat and other touch points — from 200,000 to 500,000 over the same period. It didn’t say how many bookings or customers it has, but that it “serves thousands of travelers a day.”

To offer activities at lower prices than traditional travel firms or tour operators, Klook works directly with attraction managers and owners. That way, it doesn’t involve agents or other aggregators who, once adding in their commission, push prices up for travelers.

Fah said that Greater China accounts for around one-third of its user base, with Southeast Asia also around the same figure. While Asia is a popular destination for tourists worldwide, Klook is particularly focused on unlocking the potential of Asian travelers.

“We’re a pan-Asia platform that serves both Asian destinations and Asian travelers,” he explained to TechCrunch in an interview. “The rising middle class in Asia make lots of inter-regional travel.”

This new funding will go towards growing the destinations and activities on the Klook platform, and further developing its technology. The company also plans to begin spending money on marketing, having relied on partnership deals and word-of-mouth for visibility thus far. Part of that focus will see it open an office in Singapore to increase its focus on Southeast Asia. Klook may also expand its physical presence into other local markets further down the line, Fah said.

The startup is also welcoming a pair of new strategy advisors who could help open doors. Wilfred Fan is managing director of Agoda and head of its business operations in North Asia, while Shuren Hu is a former vice chairman of the planning and financial department of the China National Tourism Administration.

If you’re wondering which cities are hot in Asia — Fah said Hong Kong is Klook’s top choice for visitors, followed by Singapore and Bangkok. You can see what they have on offer at Klook.com, or via its Android and iOS apps.

 


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