Captain’s Log, Sept 22: Baidu launching US$1.5B fund for autonomous vehicle startups, to shut down

Yon Heong Tung
Baidu brings its autonomous driving tech to Singapore with a new US$200M fund

Also, HelloGold closes Series A round, Thailand planning to build new digital park

Baidu launches US$1.5 billion fund to support self-driving vehicle startups

Chinese internet giant Baidu is launching a new US$1.5 billion fund called the Apollo Fund, which is intended to invest in about 100 autonomous vehicle startups. The investments are expected to take place over the course of three years.

Additionally, Baidu is updating its open-source autonomous driving platform Apollo. Version 1.5 will include five additional core capabilities such as obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, High-Definition (HD) maps and end-to-end deep learning.

Over 1,300 companies have downloaded Apollo. It also has over 7o global and Chinese partners, including Grab, Daimler, Nivida, Grab, and Ford.

E-commerce startup to shut down, a fashion e-commerce portal operated by Indian conglomerate Aditya Birla Group, has announced it will shut down by the end of the year.

Santrupt Misra, HR director at Aditya Birla Group blamed e-c0mmerce’s unsustainable discounts-heavy business model as the chief reason for the shutdown; 70 per cent of’s products were being sold at a discount. was founded in October 2015. Last year, Aditya Birla Group shut down another of its e-commerce portal,, for similar reasons.

 Malaysian fintech startup HelloGold closes Series A round

Malaysian fintech startup HelloGold has closed its Series A round, valued at US$12 million, according to a DealStreetAsia report. Its investors include Dani Sdn. Bhd. It is also running funds through an ICO called the HelloGold Foundation Token Sale.

The startup has raised US$4 million through the ICO sale, to date, and plans to hit US$8 million.

Also Read: Here are the 30 finalists of the Singapore central bank FinTech Awards

HelloGold is an app for people to buy and sell gold at their convenience. It is interesting because it allows people with the bare minimum financials (MYR1 or SG$0.32) to buy gold. It charges a 2 per cent annual management fee. The company sends users the physical gold so they don’t lose that advantage of buying the metal.

The company also advertises that it follows Shariah-compliant business practices.

PayMaya to launch payment tools in Facebook Messenger

Philippines-based mobile payments and e-wallet app PayMaya has signed a partnership with Facebook, allowing filipinos to pay bills, send money to other users, top up their mobile pre-paid cards, all on the Facebook messenger. The service will come in the form of a chatbot called on the @PayMayaOfficial page.

“This integration with Messenger represents an exciting new way to reach the unserved and underserved people and communities in the country by making payments available via social,” said Paolo Azzola, Chief Operating Officer of PayMaya Philippines, said in an official press statement.

“Our mission is to make cashless payments available for all and this new channel via Messenger will help us enable more people.”

Filipino users without bank accounts can use a physical card to top up money in their PayMaya e-wallets.

Also Read: Malaysian startup CapitalBay raises US$477K to speed up business invoice payments

PayaMaya has over 15,000 top up stations nationwide, which include SM Business Centers, Robinsons Department Stores, 7-Eleven with Cliqq Kiosks, Petron stations along NLEX and Ministop outlets with Touchpay Kiosks, Shopwise, Wellcome, 2Go outlets, Smart Padala centers, Palawan Pawnshop branches, UnionBank ATMs, Gaisano Malls, and online banking via BDO and UnionBank.

Thailand plans to build new digital park

The Thailand government has unveiled plans to build a new 100-hectare digital park in the Sri Racha district of Chon Buri, reported the Bangkok Post. The park will develop clusters dedicated to different sectors such as IoT, digital media, healthcare, automotive, data centres, robotics, etc.

The plans were unveiled at the Digital Thailand Big Bang Conference 2017. The park will be developed over the next 10 – 15 years, and aim to serve over 58,000 people; it will have a residential community, hotels, and science and education facilities. Additionally, it will feature a lot greenery, pedestrian and cyclist-friendly paths, and will be connected to transportation areas such as high-speed rail and airports.

The first phase of the digital park’s development will include data centres and an IoT institute.

Image Credit: Baidu

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