el producto #113 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

WeChat Product principles, Fintech funding growth, Airbnb to buy HotelTonight, Facebook’s all-apps compatibility, Asian tech leaders (markets), Uber rewards, …

Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.

$55.3B - global fintech funding in 2018, nearly doubled previous year; China accounted for $25.5B, almost half the worldwide total; the largest investment was $14B raised by Ant Financial Services.

$5B - SoftBank to invest over the next 5 years in new Innovation Fund for Latin America; targets startups in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico; will focus on fintech, healthtech, mobility services, and insurtech.

$1.2B - lost by China-based ByteDance last year; follows the global expansion of short-form video app TikTok which is performing well in India but less so in the US; ByteDance is planning to launch its Slack competitor Lark in the US.

$80M - SurveyMonkey ($1.8B market cap) acquires Dutch website and app survey company Usabilla for $80M in cash and stock; Usabilla enables instant site feedback.

15M - drop in Feacebook US since 2017; the largest drop is in 12-to-34-year-olds; the report says~80% of US residents use some form of social media.

$2B - plans to raise Indonesian ride-hailing Go-Jek as part of its ongoing Series F; just raised $100M from Astra, and has brought in $1B so far.

131% - Airbnb guests growth in China last year, and 65% in India; the company says plans “aggressive investments” in both countries; it says China is now its top Asia-Pacific destination market.

Airbnb to acquire hotel booking company HotelTonight; the platforms will continue to operate independently, but HotelTonight’s listings will integrate with Airbnb in the future; Airbnb has raised $4.4B to date; HotelTonight has raised $127M and was last valued at $463M.

Google makes AI-powered reservations tool Duplex available on all Pixel phones in 43 US states; the user tells Assistant to book a table for a number of people at a given restaurant on a given day; Duplex calls the restaurant on behalf of the user, makes arrangements, then gives the user a confirmation notification.

Google launches local AI platform Coral in beta; includes the development board and USB accelerator stick Google announced at last year’s Next conference; both products are now available for purchase.

Google launches rewarded products in open beta; enables developers to monetize non-paying users; e.g. a game can present the user with the option to watch a video ad in exchange for in-game currency or items; no additional SDK integration required.

Google is testing shoppable ads within image search results; currently available to a small set of mobile users, tapping on sponsored ads reveals item tags which link to products.

YouTube starts displaying info panels against certain search results for some users in India; the cards show claims related to the search, along with a “true” or “false” statement; the data comes from trusted fact-checking partners; video results may still feature videos that contain misinformation

Microsoft launches redesigned Skype for Web; includes support for HD video, call recording, chat search, and more; requires Windows 10 or macOS 10.12 or higher; works with Chrome or Microsoft Edge only.

Microsoft releases feature allowing users to convert photos of data tables into Excel spreadsheets; the “Insert Data from Picture” tool will initially be available to Android users; Microsoft says iOS support is coming soon.

Microsoft develops chatbot to match patients with relevant clinical trials; the company plans to work with pharmaceutical firms that could use the Clinical Trials Bot to reach potential participants; the tech is part of Microsoft’s broader health care bot initiative.

Microsoft launches Azure data centers in Cape Town and Johannesburg, making it the first major cloud services provider with live infrastructure in Africa; Huawei plans an African data center later this year and Amazon plans a 2020 launch.

Researcher discovers new Windows IoT Core exploit enabling attackers to gain full control over vulnerable devices’ operating systems; the vulnerability, which affects the Sirep/WPCon communications protocol.

Facebook plans to offer opt-in interoperability between the company’s messaging platforms, end-to-end encryption for all messages, ephemeral Facebook messages.

Facebook launches Dark Mode for Messenger; users can access it by sending another user a crescent moon emoji via the app, then following the prompts to activate Dark Mode on their Messenger profile page.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will begin manufacturing an AR headset in late 2019 or early 2020; Kuo says the device will rely on the iPhone for computing power, location, and internet connectivity.

Tesla will unveil Model Y on March 14; Elon Musk made the announcement via Twitter, noting the vehicle is ~10% larger than Model 3 and will cost ~10% more; also says it will have slightly less battery range; Model Y is expected to share 75% of its parts with Model 3; additionally, Musk says third generation Supercharger will debut March 6.

Bird to launch Bird Platform, through which it enables entrepreneurs to establish scooter-sharing businesses, in Canada, New Zealand, and Latin America; participants buy scooters from Bird at cost, and Bird takes 20% of each ride; also provides consulting and support.

Germany-based transport logistics platform FlixBus acquires competitor Eurolines from Transdev; terms undisclosed; both FlixBus and Eurolines operate bus networks upon which other companies run.

Taxify rebrands as Bolt, the same name as it scooter-sharing unit; CEO Markus Villig says the name-change signifies emerging mobility opportunities in mass public transit; Bolt is in talks with other scooter firms about integrating with its app.

Uber makes its Rewards program available to all US; assigns riders to rewards tiers based on points (earned by purchasing services); rewards include free Uber Eats deliveries, priority airport pickups, more.

Volvo says it’s developing geofencing tech that could be used to limit car speeds near hospitals and schools; the company announces it will limit the top speed of its new vehicles to 112 Mph; Volvo says it’s challenging to keep vehicle passengers safe beyond that speed; it will introduce the caps with 2021 model year vehicles.

Disney may test its upcoming streaming service in the Netherlands before launching in the US; the company is also considering whether to partner with traditional cable companies for the full rollout of Disney+.

Nintendo announces VR Labo cardboard kits for Nintendo Switch; $40 starter kit includes viewing goggles and blaster; $80 kit features additional attachments including a camera module; available April 12.

Podcast: How to get your team to do their best work with John Cutler. John, sharp as always, talks about removing the roadblocks that stop you and your team from being as effective as possible.

How Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb, MailChimp, and other tech companies run design meetings. “I love meetings”, no one ever said. This article shares advice on how to get the best out of this necessary evil.

How mental models can make you a better Product Manager. In this article, explore the power of applying different mental models for e.g. decision making or just being more empathic with your teams.

How do you do user research for a b2b product? By the pure nature of the customer needs and interaction with your business, b2b requires different approaches than b2c. Tim Herbig and the guys from JAM give some advice on how to approach this kind of research.

Spotify Engineering Culture. A brief intro into the “Spotify Model”, which primes autonomy and innovation over plan fulfilment.

5 Asian countries emerging as Tech Leaders. Looking at the selection of news and articles in this newsletter, it is not hard to guess that I am deeply fascinated by the pace of innovation in Asia. This article explores the state of tech in 5 Asian countries with great potential.

4 key Product principles from WeChat creator. For the last eight years WeChat has been at the forefront of social innovation. Recently, Allen Zhang gave a 4-hour speech at the WeChat annual developer conference sharing his product philosophy to the world. The guys at a16z bring us a summary.

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Full-time learner, product stuff, “triathlete” & global traveller. Creating cool products @ Revolut, formerly @ Booking.com and @ Just Eat.