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If I had a dollar for every minute I’ve spent on Netflix, I’d be rolling in serious cash now. From
Better Call Saul
BoJack Horseman , the video-streaming platform has fed my appetite for dark comedy with its commissioned and original titles – and it has been with me through every high and low.
When the Singtel-backed Hooq went into liquidation in March this year, it was a decision fueled by the impending pandemic – and the losing fight against content producers; as an independent platform, Hooq’s reliance on licensed video content ended up being its Achilles’ heel. After months of keeping silent, the platform’s former CEO Peter Bithos is finally ready to tell his side of the story.
Today we look at:
Why Hooq was edged out
despite its headstart
in the video-streaming space
How Visa and Nexttech Group are capitalizing on Vietnam’s ecommerce space
Other newsy highlights, such as ByteDance’s plans to tap into China’s online literary market and Nintendo’s unexpected gains brought on by the pandemic
At last, Hooq’s former CEO is ready to talk
In March this year, video-streaming platform Hooq made the difficult decision to shut down, and breaking the news to the team was “one of the worst days of [his] life,” recalled Peter Bithos. The former Hooq chief exec and current CEO of Seek Asia shared his thoughts on that experience
for the first time
at this year’s Tech in Asia Conference, and how early talks to revive Hooq in 2020 quickly dissipated as Covid-19 began to descend.
Rapid-fire pivots : At the time of its launch in 2015 Hooq was forging roots in a relatively untapped market: There was no Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney’s Hotstar yet. The video-streaming platform – a joint venture between Singtel, Warner Bros., and Sony Pictures Television – underwent multiple iterations to maintain its edge, and in five years, it scored multiple industry firsts, including being the first to launch offline downloads, the first to commission local originals, and the first to switch its paid subscription service to a freemium model in order to capture its five key markets in Southeast Asia.
A losing fight : Ultimately, content ownership and distribution dynamics did the independent platform in. Given Hooq’s heavy reliance on licensed video content, the company suffered once producers began reclaiming content for their OTT platforms – as in the case of Disney+. This dynamic has equally affected pay TV broadcasters that now have to contend with free-to-air content platforms in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore.
All about the money : The content business is an expensive one. Bithos believes a video-streaming platform should have a minimum investment of US$1 billion from the get-go, a sum whose returns might be seen only after five to 10 years. Disney’s Hotstar may have succeeded due to that reason – and in part by its significant spend across India to get ahead.
Hooq’s CEO shares his side of the story for the first time
Visa and Nexttech Group tap into Vietnam’s ecommerce sector
More small online businesses in Vietnam could soon adopt digital payment methods, thanks to a
between payments major Visa and Vietnam’s Nexttech Group. With the agreement, both companies will work to expand the network of merchants and buyers on social commerce platforms, among other initiatives.
Untapped potential : Nexttech Group was founded in 2001 and today counts almost 20 platforms and over 10 million customers in its ecosystem. Last August, the Nexttech Group of Technopreneurs launched Next100 a US$10 million early-stage startup fund.
Visa’s got game : The partnership comes at an opportune time for Visa. Vietnam’s ecommerce sector is the country’s fastest growing segment, with its valuation of US$5 billion last year expected to burgeon almost 5x by 2025.
Numbers galore : The value of mobile and online transactions in Vietnam has increased by 238%, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Vietnam eCommerce and Digital Economy Agency. Meanwhile, around 71% of the country’s small local merchants have begun adopting new tactics to stay competitive amid the pandemic.
1️⃣ ByteDance wants in on the ebook pie
Chinese tech giant ByteDance has dipped its toes in enterprise software and online education. Now, it is
looking to invest
in one of China’s largest ebook readers and publishers: Zhangyue, which boasts 170 million users. If successful, ByteDance will acquire a 1123% stake in the firm, valued at US$165.6 million.
2️⃣ New horizons for Nintendo
Japanese gaming giant Nintendo recorded its
highest-ever operating profit
of US$2.7 billion from April to September, fueled by high demand for its Switch gaming console and the wildly popular game
Animal Crossing: New Horizons . With these gains, Nintendo now expects its revenue to rise 7% to US$13.4 billion from a year earlier.
3️⃣ Mo’ money for Zhiketong
China’s Zhiketong Technology, a hotel direct marketing specialist on WeChat,
US$50 million in a series D round led by Vision Capital and CYTS Hongqi Fund. The firm has raised a total of US$119 million through seven funding rounds since 2017.
4️⃣ SoftBank-backed firm on track to profitability
Automation Anywhere, a
SoftBank-backed US firm
that helps companies automate office tasks, could reach profitability by end-January next year. The cloud-based software platform uses AI to streamline processes such as responding to customer inquiries, and says demand for its services has been bolstered by the pandemic.
5️⃣ New blood for Dole Ventures
Dole Asia Holdings
Unilever Foundry’s Barbara Guerpillon as the head of its agrifoodtech arm Dole Ventures. Guerpillon, who delivered 120 projects with startups during her time with Unilever, will lead her team through startup-led innovations and establish global entrepreneurial networks.
6️⃣ Hustle Fund keeps on hustlin’
Hustle Fund, a
started by former 500 Startups partners Elizabeth Yin and Eric Bahn, has raised US$30m for a new fund. The Silicon Valley- and Singapore-based firm focuses on investing in pre-seed software companies across the US, Canada, and Southeast Asia.
Hey, Nikhil, thanks for your submission. Your company is our featured startup of the week!
is a blockchain-based health and wellness application that rewards members for adopting healthier habits in real time. Some of the rewards include smoothies, personal training sessions, gym memberships, and insurance.
Story: Based in Vietnam, LivWell’s founder Nikhil Verma is a marathon runner as well as an athlete who participates in the Ironman 70.3 one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation. While he enjoys their intrinsic rewards such as better health and more energy, these runs and endurance sports competitions also tend to be expensive when one factors in the cost of shoes and sports accessories. So Nikhil came up with LivWell to help people adopt healthier habits without having to feel the monetary pain of doing so.
How many years in operation: Four months
Number of users: 9700 members
What’s the monthly revenue? US$1700 to US$2000
Opportunities: The growing importance of health and wellness post-Covid-19 and the low penetration of health insurance in Southeast Asia
Challenges: Building the team, testing the product, and getting funding during the pandemic
Want the spotlight on your startup too? Give your own company a
shout-out here .
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- Disney’s video-streaming platform Hotstar to launch in Singapore in November
- India’s leading video-streaming platform ain’t Disney
- Why OTT players are jostling to capture India’s massive video-streaming market
- Why many of Singtel’s digital bets failed after a decade of trying
- Fado becomes first ecommerce platform in Vietnam to stop trading H&M products
- Vietnamese top region in streaming YouTube on TV
- Online TV battle for post-pandemic market share
- ByteDance launches its edtech brand Dali Education
- Looking for Vietnam’s next big gaming hit