New Impact, New Inclusion in Equity Crowdfunding

@JoinRepublic

 

We’re launching Republic today, an online platform where everyone can invest in innovative, mission-driven startups curated by our team.

 

It’s a big step forward in the third wave of democratizing startup financing. The first wave began with reward-based crowdfunding portals like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, where people everywhere could help fund product development with a donation.

The next wave, known as Title II crowdfunding, sparked a breakthrough change. Connecting angel investors with founders, the online fundraising platform AngelList has syndicated over $350M into more than 1,000 startups since 2013.

Yet that second wave harnesses only a fraction of equity crowdfunding’s potential. Available to wealthy “accredited investors” only, it leaves out 97% of the US population, thereby limiting the opportunity for a fuller range of startups, founders and investors to engage with one another.

Today, investment in private companies leaves out 97% of the US population as potential investors.

Republic addresses that limitation. On Republic, entrepreneurs can access a vast new source of capital: investments from the general public. And everyone — from Main Street to Wall Street — can share in the potential success of innovative startups they choose to back.

This is a big step and it hasn’t come easily. After years of lobbying effort, angel investing became legally accessible to main street for the first time this year thanks to the approval of Title III legislation. It will take partnership and perseverance to convert this policy shift into a market reality at scale.

From Main Street to Wall Street, now everyone can participate in the journey of a new startup.

Why We’ve Taken on this Challenge

As a team, we believe passionately in the power of entrepreneurship, and that today is only a glimmer of the real opportunity ahead.

It takes money to help grow a kernel of idea into an impactful business. Yet, the flow of venture capital only benefits a selected few. The graphs below paint a startup financing system that is localized, focused on software startups, and biased against women and minority groups.

Who’s Getting VC Money?

Research shows what’s already clear: that traditional startup funding underserves many of the people and ideas that represent our country’s true potential.

 

The saying “talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not” may be true — but that can change. Innovations are gender neutral, and good businesses exist in all parts of our country.

Financing sources, too, should be equally distributed.

Republic’s Vision for Entrepreneurs

Opportunities await in gaps, and this gap is huge. For startups, Republic is a gateway to a vast source of capital, but that’s not all. Investment crowdfunding also presents a tremendous marketing opportunity, through which a startup can convert casual customers and supporters into loyal brand ambassadors. Indeed, angel investing is about building a support network as much as it’s about operating capital.

Imagine if you converted your casual customers and supporters into loyal brand ambassadors?

Republic brings together experienced angels, influencers and industry experts to help mission-driven entrepreneurs plan and execute a crowdfunding campaign. Beyond that, we’re here as a resource and a support network. The Republic team are intent on a single purpose of using our knowledge — ranging from growth hacking to coding to lawyering — toward easing the path for other entrepreneurs.

Republic’s Vision for Investors

For main street investors, investing is a powerful way to join an entrepreneur’s journey. Starting a company is one way to create impact and the potential for high returns, but not everyone can make that leap. With Republic, anyone can invest and share in the success of businesses they find compelling. Our goal is to ensure that Republic investors understand the risks and rewards associated with angel investing, and to present them with innovative companies that meet our criteria.

Starting a company is one way to drive impact you want to see in the world. Being an investor, backing a startup you believe in, is another.

Investing in startups is risky, but it’s more productive than minimal return gambles such as lotteries, which drained some $70 billion from main street America’s pockets in 2014 alone. If Americans directed a portion of the staggering $119 billion in annual gambling losses toward funding entrepreneurship and innovation, what change — and economic value — might be achieved?

This is the opportunity, and hope for the future, that Republic addresses.

 

https://medium.com/equitycrowdfunding/new-impact-new-inclusion-in-equity-crowdfunding-adf9b8873914

How MIT And San Francisco Are Testing A New Approach To Disaster Prep

 

Resilience isn't just about what happens when disaster strikes. It's about what happens in the days—and years—before that.

KELSEY CAMPBELL-DOLLAGHAN 

Suddenly, you wake up. The ground has already stopped shaking, but a small earthquake seems to have knocked out the power. You reach for your phone and realize you don’t have service, either. Just finding out what’s happening is suddenly very hard.

When we think about disaster preparedness, we think of "go-bags" and flares. But what about communication? Without a working phone, you can’t call or text. You can’t download a map. You might not even know what time it is. You certainly won’t be able to get vital information in a crisis situation. Does your block have a crisis plan? Who can you rely on for information? You’ll find yourself asking: What now?

 

THE EARTHQUAKE CZAR

Patrick Otellini, who became the first chief resilience officer in 2014, wants to answer that question before any of San Francisco’s 900,000 or so residents ask it. Originally known as the city’s "earthquake czar," Otellini now oversees the city’s overall strategy for crisis scenarios—not only earthquakes but sea level rise and other risks, too. "We can no longer fight one hazard at a time," he says.

But by studying how the city would confront disaster, Otellini’s office is also confronting fractures that have formed in San Francisco’s urban fabric as it has rapidly developed. Resilience, it seems, isn’t just about what happens after a crisis: It’s about what happens in the months, and years, before it. "It started off looking at the hardscape stuff—sea level rise, earthquakes," he says of the office’s new Resilience Strategy, published in April. But "it quickly became about social inequity and affordability, and other issues that San Franciscans are facing every day."

"It quickly became about social inequity and affordability, and other issues that San Franciscans are facing every day."

If you look at how cities recover from disasters, Otellini tells me, about 80% of the population recovers quickly, thanks either to preparedness plans or their financial largesse. The other 20% have more problems, either because of poor housing conditions, issues with money, or just the lack of a strong community upon which to rely during the aftermath. Five percent of those will have what he calls "acute" needs during recovery. "We really want to focus on making sure those people are thought of in the disaster," Otellini says.

Systemic inequality in the way different neighborhoods are treated during the planning process deepens these problems, as we saw both with Hurricane Katrina and Sandy. And the people who attend neighborhood emergency response training tend to be people in neighborhoods with higher rates of homeownership and who have the time to spend dozens of hours at classes, "so we’re also seeing an equity problem there," he adds.

Part of building stronger resilience in cities means building stronger communities, so San Francisco's resilience strategy focuses on community involvement.

 

DESIGNING CRISIS INFRASTRUCTURE

It's a belief that's enforced by the work of a MIT research and design group called Urban Risk Lab, which is designing urban infrastructure that can not only aid in disasters but enhance public spaces and add value to communities on a daily basis. Now, the lab is collaborating with Otellini's office to plan a pilot project for its designs in San Francisco.

It’s called PrepHub: a friendly looking piece of urban furniture that seems like it might be part of a playground. Each hub is designed to embed disaster response tools into public spaces, like a pedal-powered generator that can charge your phone, emergency lighting, or a horn that can amplify informational messages. Other versions might include solar panels, emergency food and water stores, or a neighborhood resource map.

They're not just survival tools. They’re a design experiment in telecommunications.

Urban Risk Lab’s director Miho Mazereeuw explains that the idea is to create disaster preparedness infrastructure that can be used on a daily basis as street furniture or interactive play areas. "I actually started researching the intersection of risk and architecture/urbanism because of the earthquake in Kobe in 1995," writes Mazereeuw, whose parents live in Kobe today. Later, she worked in the office ofShigeru Ban, whose post-disaster design has become an international standard for architects. But at Urban Risk Lab, she and her team are focused on "how to embed preparedness into projects now, before anything happens," she said over email.

Led by project lead David Moses, the Urban Risk Lab is also working with MIT's Lincoln Lab on the PrepHubs. The team is developing telecommunications infrastructure for the hubs, too—like a mesh network that would initially allow first responders to communicate with each other if cell service is down. Survivors could use the network to upload their names and locations to a larger database, Mazereeuw explains, "improving both the quality of the disaster response and also reducing panic for everyone affected." Downloadable maps, which could function independent of Wi-Fi or cell service, are another core functionality.

BUILDING COMMUNITY BEFORE A CRISIS, NOT AFTER

For 99.9% of the life of a PrepHub, these emergency capabilities won’t be immediately obvious. During tests in Cambridge and San Francisco, people flocked to the hubs to play on them: Kids raced using the pedal generators, Mazereeuw writes, while parents lounged or charged their phones.

But there's a link between strong communities and resilience. The hubs are intended to create engaging public spaces in every neighborhood in San Francisco, a city with a dearth of space and an extraordinary divide between rich and poor. Over the next year, Otellini’s office will host community meetings in 29 different library branches around the city to discuss the possibility of placing the hubs in underserved parts of the city—to serve not only as disaster preparedness but as usable public space.

Resilience isn’t just about what happens after a crisis: It’s about what happens in the months, and years, before it.

"I personally think they look like art," says Megan Stephenson, who is a community affairs specialist at the city’s Department of Emergency Management, or DEM. The DEM will help facilitate the pilot project around the city over the next two years. Empty space is tough to come by in San Francisco, and Stephenson imagines partnering with schools to install the hubs in a diverse array of neighborhoods. "We want to make sure that these go in places that are equitable," she says, "making sure that they’re not just in the wealthiest neighborhoods but in places where there’s actual need."

It’s still early days for the project, and since they're still in the design and research phase, it's difficult to put an exact price on the hubs. Many of the specifics of the pilot project are still to come, too, and the planning and approvals process may take months, if not years. Meanwhile, the next hub prototype will debut at this year's Market Street Prototyping Festival in the fall.

At first glance, a collaboration between a lab in Cambridge and the city of San Francisco may seem odd—they're 3,000 miles apart, after all—but underlying each group is the belief that a community that works together before a disaster will be better off after it. Strong social bonds are a crucial part of resilience.

"Our client truly is everyone in a city, from all possible cultural backgrounds and economic strata," Mazereeuw writes. "At the end of the day, if a PrepHub network can foster all these diverse people to come together to have conversations about building resilience before a disaster, and to have those conversations shift in tone from the typical gloom and doom of natural disaster discourse, then as a design and research lab, we'd be very happy."

General Electric will double its procurement from China to $10 billion by around 2018

General Electric will double its procurement from China to $10 billion by around 2018 and deepen cooperation with Chinese partners to implement its comprehensive localization strategy, GE China's CEO told China Daily.

 

"Comprehensive localization, helping Chinese find global partners and digitization will be our strategy in China in the next five years," said Duan Xiaoying, CEO of GE China, in an interview on Monday.

She said GE China has localized its market and sales in China, and it needs to be more localized in procurement, research and development, manufacturing, service and operation.

"Our procurement amount from China totaled $5 billion last year, and the amount will double to $10 billion around 2018," said Duan.

She said aviation, electricity, clean energy and healthcare will be the main areas of GE's comprehensive localization in China.

"We also have very clear strategic programs with Chinese partners to be fully localized, and gas turbines are an example."

GE and Harbin Electric Co Ltd started cooperation on gas turbines in 2003 and the two parties set up a joint-venture company of gas turbine in 2015.

"We are long-term partners and I hope we can really achieve the goals of co-producing, co-developing and co-servicing," she said.

Wu Weizhang, deputy manager of Harbin Electric Co Ltd, said earlier that the two companies had made the F-class gas turbine popular in China and the joint venture company showed GE's huge efforts to localize gas turbine production in the country.

Duan said another example of GE's comprehensive localization in China is the joint venture company with Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Aviage System. It provides various avionics packages for the C919, China's first domestically built large passenger aircraft.

"We hope the joint venture company will cooperate with Boeing and Airbus," said Duan.

By 2020, GE's global digital sales will be $15 billion, $4 billion from industrial platforms, $10 billion from industrial applications and another $1 billion from its own industry and manufacturing chain.

"Although our digital business in China only began this year, we believe we will achieve a good result," said Duan.

GE China will pay attention to investing in big data and will choose 10 to 15 clients for pilot digital programs. It is also seeking partners to set up a platform for digital business development. Last year, GE China and China Telecom became strategic partners on digital business development.

 

Duan Xiaoying, CEO of GE China

DREAMPLEX, A NEW KIND OF WORKING SPACE IN THE CITY

Occupying three spacious floors, DreamPlex is the latest, state-of-the-art coworking space enabling startup entrepreneurs, creatives, consultants and investors to work collaboratively or privately in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. DreamPlex is designed to be a tech community, helping investors and entrepreneurs connect. Doors opened on November 16, 2015, and the coworking space now hosts 145 members and regularly runs workshops and pitching events.

DreamPlex’s interior design and programming facilitate effortless collaboration. On the main floor an entrepreneur can choose from a flexible or fixed desk and has access to a kitchen, private meeting rooms, high-speed Internet, printers and tech support. For a group of entrepreneurs or a small business, there are two floors of studios available for rent. There are several communal lounges scattered around the complex, giving members a place to hang out during breaks and chat about their work. Members can often be found trading technical skills, some even end up working together on a project.

 

Through surveys, DreamPlex staff is able to organise bespoke workshops tailored to the needs of their members. Members most often request workshops that can help them better understand the Vietnamese market. January’s workshops ranged from personal branding strategies to creative collaboration through comics. Members of DreamPlex lead many of the workshops as well.

 

Since DreamPlex’s opening last year, it has hosted a number of pitching events, including the Tech in Asia ‘Road to Singapore’ Tour 2016, an 8-city search in Asia for the best startups to showcase at the Tech in Asia Conference. The tour touches down in Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Bangkok, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta February - March 2016. On February 23 at DreamPlex, five startups from Vietnam pitched to a large audience and judges for Tech In Asia, competing for a place at the conference. A startup called AntBuddy, a communication tool for small businesses won the Ho Chi Minh City contest, receiving free flights and accommodation, conference passes, and a startup booth at Tech in Asia Singapore 2016.

DreamPlex works with six investment groups based in Vietnam, Singapore, Japan and the United States. The co-working space plans to host pitching events for angel investors on a quarterly basis. Last January, it hosted Vietnam's first private Angel Network event, with over 25 investors in attendance.

Its next project, DreamLabs, is a six month incubation programme at the end of which participant organisations are expected to receive investment funding. Five to six startups are geared to participate in the first programme, learning from experts in the technology field and meeting potential mentors and investors.

Co-founders Thao M. Nguyen, Tu Ngo and Nhut Nguyen each run their own startups concurrently to their work on DreamPlex. Thao created Umbala, a video sharing platform which won the first prize at the 2015 Forbes Vietnam Startup Contest. Tu Ngo, an ex-Stanford and INSEAD graduate is a co-founder of ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant), a speech recognition mobile platform that helps English learners improve their pronunciation and speaking ability. Nhut started Rabbat Creative, a communication tool that influences consumer decisions.

World's biggest startup incubation centre to be set up in India

The facility is to cost around $300 million and will incubate 5,000 startups in five years.

By V L Srinivasan | April 5, 2016

In a boost to entrepreneurship in the country, the south Indian state of Telangana on Monday announced in its new IT policy that the government will develop 1 million square feet of infrastructure space in tandem with the private sector, which will be dedicated to startups and entrepreneurship-related activities, over five years.

The new policy -- Telangana IT Policy 2016 -- was unveiled by the state's Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao in the presence of several dignitaries including Governor ESL Narasimhan, IT Minister KT Rama Rao, National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) chairman BVR Mohan Reddy, and Infosys mentor Narayana Murthy.

The policy will also work with international financial institutions to raise and deploy around $300 million (2000 crore rupees) to aid entrepreneurship and accelerate innovation in the coming years. Four sub policies on innovation and startups, rural technology, gaming and animation, electronics, design, and manufacturing were also launched.

"The government aims to build a booming startup ecosystem that will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the youth and in turn aid in job and wealth creation. It will also aim to achieve this by bringing the entire startup community under the state's startup incubator T-Hub," the policy document said.

If the goal to incubate 5,000 startups is realised, India will be ranked second in the world -- after the US -- in the number of startups launched. Presently, the country is placed third after the US and the UK, launching over 4,200 startups in 2015. Currently India has 18,000 startups valued at $75 billion, employing 300,000 people, according to NASSCOM.

"Innovation Policy takes cue from relevant leading ecosystems in Silicon Valley, London, Berlin, Singapore among others. [It] aims to build up on positive response to T-Hub and put Hyderabad and Telangana on global innovation map," the IT minister tweeted. On the occasion, some 28 agreements were signed between the IT companies and the government for developing the startup ecosystem.

Stating that T-Hub was a success with many other states replicating the policy, Rama Rao said that Telangana was poised to become the top state by exploiting its resources and consolidating in the areas of cyber technology, data analytics and electronics, and gaming.

The chief minister called upon the IT companies to invest in Telangana in a big way. "We assure you hassle-free, corruption-free clearances in the stipulated period. We gave approval to 1,691 units after launching the industrial policy last year and of them, 883 have been in various stages of production. We will do so for the IT sector as well, depending upon the merit of their applications," he added.

Hyderabad, which is the capital city of Telangana, has been on the world IT map for the last two decades by not only attracting leading IT companies but also taking IT to the deeper roots of society. It houses over 1,200 IT companies, providing employment to 400,000 professionals directly, besides supporting another 650,000 indirectly.

The total value of software and IT product exports accounted for over $10 billion (68,232 crore rupees) in 2014-15, constituting 11 percent of the total exports from the country. The sector has registered year-on-year growth of 16 percent in 2014-15, which was 3 percent higher than the national average growth.

Leading global software companies such as Microsoft, Google, Deloitte, Facebook, Cognizant, and Oracle have opened their offices in the city for some of their most critical global operations. Microsoft's only R&D centre and Google's largest campus outside the USare located in Hyderabad, while Indian IT major Tata Consultancy Services has its largest development centre also in Hyderabad.

Outlook on Light Manufacturing in China: March 2016

 

Posted on March 4, 2016 by China Briefing

The below is a sample of Cascade Asia Advisor’s monthly report on light manufacturing across emerging Asia, available for purchase through the Asia Briefing bookstore. The report is a 4-5 page executive-ready assessment and outlook designed to help companies anticipate labor risks and dynamics across key manufacturing countries in Asia. Countries of coverage include Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Provincial authorities in Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian have issued new local regulations encouraging their citizens to marry earlier and have more children. Benefits under these local rules may include greater marriage leave and longer maternity and paternity leave entitlements. Employers are encouraged to review their internal policies and procedures related to these matters and to continue monitoring efforts for any further changes.

 

Following approval by the National People’s Congress meeting, the final text of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) will be fully released this month. Among other goals, the plan includes an oversight mechanism for an emission permit system and a water management system. The full implications for light manufacturing will be better understood when the text is released this month but should be closely monitored.

On the exchange rate, Chinese monetary authorities say they will abstain from sudden renminbi devaluations as a tool to support the slowing economy and forecasts of a seventh consecutive month of manufacturing contracting.

Guangdong: The province is looking to implement a regulation providing women with 1-2 days off when suffering menstrual pain. The regulations being proposed in Guangdong say that a medical certificate for pain would be required. The certificate would be valid for 6 months.

Zhejiang: Companies sourcing in or near Hangzhou should note the upcoming G20 summit meeting there in September as there may be supply chain implications. Though it is still six months off, the Hangzhou environmental protection bureau, on orders from the central government, is rigorously inspecting the emissions of businesses in the city, mainly in heavy industries. Some 75 dyeing plants in Shaoxing are to be closed and renovated before before the meeting with another 10 to be shut down in the Shaoxing Paojiang Economic and Technology Development Zone. Working in concert with the environmental protection department, the police have vowed to “punish polluters”.

China Market Watch: Scientific & Technology Enterprises and Catering Industry

Posted on March 7, 2016 by China Briefing

China to promote Scientific and Technology Enterprises across the Country

On February 26, the Ministry of Finance along with several other departments jointly issued the “Interim Measures for Equity and Dividend Incentives of State-owned Scientific and Technology Enterprises,” which aims to promote Equity and Dividend Incentives for companies in Zhongguancun National Independent Innovation Demonstration Zone across China. It sets out that eligible state-owned science and technology-based enterprises may provide incentives such as equity sale, equity reward and equity options, or dividend incentives such as project income dividend and post dividend to key technical and managerial personnel.

China Simplifies Licensing Procedures for Catering Enterprises

The State Council has issued the Decision on Integrating and Adjusting the Public Health Permits and Food Operating Permits for Catering Service Places, which abolishes health permits issued by local health departments to public places including restaurants, cafes, pubs and tea houses. The principle content of the Food Safety Permit will be incorporated into the Food Operating Permit issued and subject to uniform approval and supervision by the food and drug supervision department. This reform will affect nearly 2.5 million catering enterprises and nearly 14.5 million practitioners across China, which will result in a significant reduction of burdens on catering enterprises.

The largest in the world, China’s food service market offers many exciting opportunities for foodies and savvy business people alike, but foreigners can be daunted by the often bureaucratic process of establishing a business in China. More details about China’s food and beverage market can be found in our previous article here.

China to Further Regulate Foreign Investment Market

On March 2, a Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) spokesman reported that the ministry was aiming to speed up the revision of the “three laws on foreign investment.” They also added that they would make efforts to formulate a foreign investment law and submit it to the National People’s Congress for consideration within 2016. In reaction to the increasing use of foreign capital, he stated that efforts would be made to remove access restrictions for foreign investment, channeling capital towards the high tech, green and modern service industries.

Earlier in January 2015, the MOFCOM released a draft of the proposed new Foreign Investment Law to solicit public opinions. The proposed law is set to significantly reduce barriers to foreign investment, whilst at the same time increase scrutiny of foreigners trying to evade the regulations on investing in restricted industries. However, the law has yet to be finalized and released by the State Council.

Update on China’s Parallel Import of Automobiles Pilot Program

China’s MOFCOM, Ministry of Industry & Information Technology, Ministry of Transport and General Administration of Customs, among other departments, recently issued the “Opinions on the Pilot Program of Promoting Parallel Import of Automobiles.” It sets out plans to simplify the policy for application management of the automatic import license of automobiles. This means that enterprises enrolled in the pilot program are not required to obtain the authorization of the automobile supplier in order to import automobiles and establish a distribution network, and may apply for the automatic import license of automobile products according to the actual needs of relevant business activities.

White-hot phone startup Xiaomi plans US launch by 'end of 2017

Phones from China-based Xiaomi have already caught on in Asia and Brazil. But can the company succeed in the states, where other Chinese firms have struggled? It intends to find out.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Xiaomi, the Chinese phone maker that has taken Asia and Brazil by storm, has its sights set on the US.

The world's second-most-valuable startup plans to sell its phones in the States by the end of 2017, Hugo Barra, former Googler and Xiaomi's global vice president, said in an interview Wednesday.

"I think we have to be in the western markets by the end of next year," he said. "It's not something we can wait longer."

His confirmation offers a glimpse into the expansion plans of one of the tech industry's highfliers. Xiaomi has been able to command high levels of customer loyalty by offering premium phones at affordable prices directly through its website, and the company could give US customers a viable alternative to the standard Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S phone. Its move would come as other Chinese companies have struggled to make an impression with consumers in the states.

Xiaomi, however, has slowly expanded beyond its home market, going into Southeast Asia, India and Brazil. The company has yet to move into a Western market though, so it seemed strange that Xiaomi decided to launch its latest flagship phone during a press conference at the Mobile World Congresstrade show in Barcelona, Spain. The Xiaomi Mi 5, which debuted Wednesday, won't be coming to Spain or any nearby countries.

Instead the phone, which features a ceramic rear and costs $415 (£295 or AU$575), will launch in China, followed by India.

When asked what the ideal western market would be for Xiaomi, Barra pointed to the US.

"It's the hardest market to enter, there's so many frequencies, the carrier requirements are so steep, but at the same time, if we manage to launch a phone in the US, from an engineering perspective, we've arrived," Barra said.

Unlike China, where millions of customers buy Xiaomi phones directly from the company's website, US customers tend to buy their phones through the wireless carriers. But carriers dictate which phones they want to sell, and put them through an exhaustive battery of quality assurance tests. It's a tough enough environment that Chinese vendors like ZTE and Huawei have started offering their best phonesdirectly to customers through online retailers or their own sites.

In addition, the US runs on different bands of spectrum than China does, forcing Xiaomi to redesign the internal components to meet the unique needs of the states.

"We don't want to be in a position where we launch a phone that doesn't have all of the LTE requirements, because US consumers are very demanding," Barra said.

Legal challenges

A frequent knock on Xiaomi is that its designs tend to look a lot like Apple's products, and that it would be a target of patent lawsuits if it entered the US. Barra said he wasn't worried about potential issues involving intellectual property, hiring or licensing. Instead he sees the problem as one of engineering.

Patents, however, could still be a minefield for Xiaomi to navigate.

"Channels and patents are probably Xiaomi's biggest challenge," said IDC analyst Bryan Ma, noting that Samsung and Apple have battled in the courts for years.

With a US launch two years away, Xiaomi's main focus is still on its current markets, particularly new ones such as India. Despite some reports that Xiaomi is struggling there, Barra says the company has sold more than 1 million phones per month in India since the fourth quarter. The company plans to build all the phones it sells there in a local factory.

For now, Xiaomi's global plans will be focused on its current markets. But barring anysurprise incidents with US wireless resellers, the company's phones will eventually make their way westward.

Why France's biggest startup accelerator is going global with Cisco

With its aim of fostering rapid growth in startups, Paris-based accelerator NUMA is now applying its expertise in a number of new locations around the world.

By Frances Marcellin for Vive la tech | February 15, 2016

Major French startup accelerator, NUMA, is going international. It believes it has to take advantage of the current momentum in the French startup ecosystem, which it says is at its highest level in the institution's four-year history.

Back in 2008, France's first co-working space, Le Cantine, was launched to nurture collaboration among the self-employed. That helped pave the way for France's first startup accelerator, Le Camping, to emerge in 2011, which was later rebranded as NUMA.

Then in 2015, NUMA changed from being classified in France as an association, a non-profit organisation, to an 'SAS', a private company, and through a crowdfunding campaign and corporate fundraising secured more than €4m ($4.53m) to develop its international strategy.

The new goal is ambitious. First, the NUMA team are taking their expertise and acceleration program into cities with emerging startup ecosystems in all corners of the world, in Central America, West Africa, South-East Asia, Central Europe, and the Middle East.

Secondly, NUMA intends to be the first point of contact for international startups looking to work in Europe. The third of NUMA's goals is to help French startups access these international markets, which have previously been difficult to reach.

NUMA's Romain Amblard: "Emerging ecosystems need structure: innovators, mentors, corporate partners, investors, and startups."

Image: NUMA

"Our international strategy is based on the momentum that happened four years ago in France, and to go into emerging markets that are equal to the French ecosystem back then," NUMA acceleration director Romain Amblard explains.

"These emerging ecosystems need structure: innovators, mentors, corporate partners, investors, and startups. Acceleration is a very precious and dynamic step towards structuring the ecosystem."

Choosing which cities to target has been the result of macro-economic scoring. After analysing the favourable market conditions for startup growth in Paris four years ago, NUMA has rated cities according to a range of comparable factors.

These factors include macroeconomics, such as infrastructure, political stability, the business environment, education, and entrepreneurship. It also uses the number of startups, innovation levels, and investment climate to rate the cities.

NUMA is moving fast and has already opened offices in Bangalore, Casablanca, and Moscow.

"We started with a call for action in each city and we started a six-month acceleration program in Moscow in November," Amblard says.

NUMA's acceleration program in Paris is just about to enter its eighth season and has so far helped 104 startups. It lasts four months and offers free office space for the duration, advice, and support from NUMA's corporate partners, such as Google for Entrepreneurs, BNP Paribas, and Cisco. There's also a five percent equity and a €25,000 low-rate loan over 18 months.

The rate of equity was three percent last time, but Amblard says this figure "depends on the maturity of the program". Because 65 percent of NUMA's startups are raising an average of €500,000 within eight months of the program finishing, they decided the amount should be increased for the new program.

For NUMA's international venture, the company adapts the acceleration program and its approach according to the targeted city. Its strategy is flexible depending on the conditions and the resources in each city.

"We're recruiting local startups and partnering with local people who know the local ecosystem, so it's not an expatriation of the French model," Amblard explains. "We want the local ecosystem to grow, and, as a generalist accelerator, one very important thing is to stay open to diversity."

Senior director at Cisco's chief technology and architecture office, Guillaume de St Marc, thinks it is NUMA's flexibility and open approach to diversity that have helped to strengthen the relationship between NUMA and Cisco, now partners on the Paris-based acceleration program.

Cisco's Guillaume de St Marc: "Diversity is a very important word for innovation, any kind of innovation always comes from diversity."

Image: Cisco

"Diversity is a very important word for innovation, any kind of innovation always comes from diversity," de St Marc says.

Having decided to be more active in France and in the French startup ecosystem, Cisco originally planned to set up its own accelerator.

"We realised it wasn't a good idea because the time you need to acquire the maturity of a team capable of organising and advising at that level is not something you can improvise," says de St Marc. They met with some potential partners and quickly realised that NUMA was the right match.

"NUMA has been very successful and they were interested to work with Cisco and transform their agenda," he says.

"They took us very seriously and didn't have a playbook for working with a big corporate sponsor, which is one of the reasons we were interested. We're constantly adapting our processes and NUMA wanted to consider more ambitious and industrial opportunities, so we felt they were a great team to work with."

As a global technology company, Cisco hit media headlines in February 2015 for making a "country digitization" agreement with the French government, committing to help accelerate the digital transformation of France through investments in education, startups, national infrastructure, smart cities, and cyber security.

An investment of $100m followed, along with Cisco's partnership on NUMA Sprint and Data City, an open innovation project for future cities co-ordinated by NUMA, as well as the opening of a new Innovation and Research Center at Cisco's Paris HQs in Paris. A further $100m followed in October.

"One of the reasons France was so high on Cisco's investment agenda is because we realised that we all know about Silicon Valley, the vibrant Tel Aviv Israeli scene and London, but recognised that something was happening in Paris," de St Marc explains.

He thinks it is due to France having strong "creativity, design and engineering skills", and a capital city full of different profiles and diversity.

"At a hackathon we organized at NUMA, we had 120 developers and entrepreneurs and we'd ensured there were materials in French," de St Marc says. "But one-third were from other countries and didn't even speak French. I was really surprised."

This diversity is evident in the submissions NUMA receives for its acceleration and what led NUMA to develop its international ambitions, way before its partnership with Cisco.

NUMA's Amblard says his organization started to see France not only as a market, but as a kind of hub for all these emerging countries and startups to reach Europe in general.

With the NUMA acceleration program in Paris, Cisco is helping in a variety of ways, such as helping to select the startups, making introductions to sales channels, mentoring, and providing equipment. The company's involvement has already led to a natural collaboration at NUMA's new office in Bangalore as Cisco has one of the biggest offices in the world there.

Whether Cisco and NUMA become global partners remains to be seen. De St Marc says it is a "bit too soon to say", but admits that it is "exactly where we could go".

"Anything that produces good results, we will amplify," he says.

Uber's GrubHub killer is finally in the US — here's the inside story on its big bet on food

Ordering food from UberEats used to be a limited experience.

You had seven choices during the lunch hour, not the full restaurant menus you'd see on competitors like Seamless or Postmates. Uber offered just one salad, one sandwich, a juice, a pasta dish, or other entrees depending on the day.

It was a part of the Uber app, but it felt like a small side project of a company that's staked its reputation on transporting humans, not sandwiches.

But that lunch-only, limited-selection UberEats is gone.

In its place is Uber's GrubHub killer.

For the first time, the company has broken a product out into its own standalone app. On Tuesday, the company launched its long-awaited UberEats app in the US, kicking it off in Los Angeles. Availability will roll out in the rest of the country throughout the month.

While it had been just a lunch service, the new app will allow instant lunch or dinner deliveries for select dishes or full-menu options from restaurants. Once you place your order, a specially trained Uber driver carrying lunch bags to keep the food warm or cold will deliver it while you track their progress on your screen.

Uber might be a latecomer in the race to deliver food, but by watching other companies' stumbles, the UberEats team believes it's learned what it takes to be the winner.

Learning how to deliver food

The confidence goes back to how the company has been testing its food-delivery product for the past few years. It started in Los Angeles more than a year ago as UberFresh. The company wanted to mobilize its fleet of drivers to deliver more than just humans, and fresh food was one of its first tries. It has also experimented with delivering convenience-store items, from cold medicine to toothpaste.

In the past year, Uber expanded its delivery reach to more cities, but kept its options limited. In cities where Uber delivers, a tiny fork icon would show up in the Uber app so people could swap between the two.

The lunch menu guaranteed cheap, fast delivery. Its limited options meant cheaper pricing and delivery fees. But Uber soon realized that building a food-delivery program was different than having someone just hail a ride.

Uber

"As we learned, we realized our ambitions for what UberEats could become was far larger than this app that we'd built for transportation," its product manager, Chetan Narain, told Business Insider.

Most people using the Uber app tended to open it, hail a car, close it, and wait for the ride. Food was much more emotional, and people were willing to spend time scrolling through photos and menus to decide what they wanted, Narain said.

Design researcher Hilary Hoeber flew to different cities and sat at dinner tables as families ordered meals from the app. She found that, while opening an app and seeing cars is great for traveling, it doesn't help hungry people find food. People eat with their eyes, she says.

UberEats now opens to professional pictures of food — a change that it couldn't make when it was bundled into the transit service, Narain said.

Hoeber also observed during her "eat-alongs" that people want to eat differently depending on the time of day. If it's lunch, a quick 10-minute turnaround and limited options can fit the bill. For dinner, people are willing to wait a little longer if they can get the sushi they are craving.

Users not only wanted more variety to the meals, but they also wanted different options for delivery speed and distances, said Allen Narcisse, general manager of UberEats in Los Angeles.

Yet there is a limit to how far a food-delivery person will travel — and keeping this distance small is part of Uber's perceived advantage.

Why it won't deliver from anywhere

While other competitors promise to get you food from anywhere — i.e., to Brooklyn from Manhattan — they are typically supported by high service fees coupled with a delivery fee.

The UberEats team thought that pricing transparency and consistency was more important than making food available 24/7 and more sustainable. The delivery fee is a flat $5, and there's no hidden service charge or surge pricing as part of it.

To keep it a low flat fee, Narcisse believes that entering late into the field was an advantage. After seeing other companies get slammed with complaints from users and the restaurants when a 50-minute cross-town pizza delivery resulted in a lukewarm pie, Uber restricted it so that restaurants show up within a delivery radius that makes it economically possible for Uber to deliver food quickly and in good condition.

Uber

"If you take a pizza from Santa Monica and deliver it to Pasadena, that pizza is going to be in pretty rough shape by the time it gets to Pasadena," Narcisse told Business Insider. "What we found is that even if someone is willing to pay $45, $50, $60 for that delivery, they generally find it unsatisfactory. Restaurants are also unsatisfied with the fact that we're taking a product that they put a lot of love into and delivering it in a way that's just not satisfactory."

To keep it cheap and consistent, Uber narrowed down the time window so its app can be used only from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it changed its rating system. While Uber drivers are rated on a five-star scale, that doesn't work for food, Narain explained. What's a three-star pizza versus a four-star one?

Instead, UberEats customers rate their dishes with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. That makes the feedback easier to understand and more valuable when Uber shared it with the restaurants.

Is it too late for yet another food-delivery app?

Trying to get users to download yet another food-delivery app could be risky for Uber. There's already Postmates, Caviar, Sprig, Munchery, GrubHub, Seamless, DoorDash and more.

But Narain isn't worried. When Uber first launched the UberEats app in Toronto, it found that customers were happy to download another app to get more of a selection, while still keeping the instant deliveries they had been using for lunch.

Narain says that now the "vast majority" of Toronto's UberEats orders come from the standalone app, even when you just look at the number of instant deliveries.

Narain said:

People are very, very willing to [download a new app]. We've done a great job building out a really solid value proposition for people when they do download this new app, which is a much larger service area, a much larger set of restaurants to choose from, and availability at a much, much larger number of hours. The combination of those things has actually made the transition really easy.