Pirate Studios raises $20M from Talis Capital for its ‘self-service’ tech-enabled music studios

Pirate Studios, the music technology company that operates fully automated and self-service 24 hour music studios, has secured $20 million. The investment was led by Talis Capital, the London-based VC family office. Talis was already an existing backer of Pirate Studios, with Talis’ Matus Maar also named as a co-founder of the startup. Other investors include Eric Archambeau (Spotify investor and ex-partner at Benchmark and Wellington Partners), Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures, and partners of Gaw Capital, the $20 billion Hong Kong-headquartered proptech fund. The new funding will enable Pirate Studios to continue to expand across the U.K., Germany and the U.S., where it has been building what the startup describes as a community of musicians, DJs, producers and podcasters who need access to professional rehearsal, production and recording studios at affordable rates. The company charges as little as £4 per hour, depending on what kind of music studio space and facilities you book. However, what really sets Pirate Studios apart from a lot of existing rehearsal rooms and music production and recording studios, is that the startup is employing a lot of tech to power the logistics around its service and, in theory, make it a lot more scalable. This includes online booking, 24 hour keycode access, and other IoT controls for managing facilities. Perhaps even smarter, Pirate Studios offers “automated recording” and live streaming from many of its studios. This means that bands or DJs rehearsing in one of the company’s rooms can easily record their session via built in room mics and other inputs, and the studio’s cloud software will handle mixing and mastering afterwards. Likewise, rooms are set up to be able to video and audio stream sessions, too. Both options tap into the YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify generation’s unstoppable appetite for more content from their favourite upcoming and established acts, as well as the dreaded music industry’s favourite new metric: how much social media reach an act has, which can in turn make or break a recording contract opportunity or the chance to get booked at larger, more lucrative live events. I say all of the above as someone who was previously in quite a serious band and used to book rehearsal rooms on a regular basis. I’m also still in touch and collaborating with a number of gigging musicians and professional acts. However, during the last ten years, I’ve seen quite a few studios in London go out of business as property owners look to cash in, and even though there is something a little WeWork about Pirate Studios’ model (and being backed by relatively large amounts of VC cash at this stage) which makes me slightly uneasy, overall I’m very bullish on what the company offers. Without a place to practice, hone your craft, in addition to somewhere to perform, rock ‘n’ roll really would be dead. To that end, in just three years, Pirate has grown to 350 studios in 21 locations, including London, New York, and Berlin. Cue statement from David Borrie, co-founder and CEO of Pirate Studios: “When we founded Pirate Studios our dream was to create innovative spaces to support emerging talent. We want to see music thrive and help musicians get their music out to their fans, through whatever route they think is most appropriate. We are building both the physical space to create, as well as the technology to record and share, that puts power back into the hands of musicians in a period when the digitisation of music continues to radically upset the old order of this industry”.

iBanFirst raises $17 million to help companies move money around the world

French startup iBanFirst is raising another $17 million (€15 million) from Serena Capital and Breega Capital, with existing investor Xavier Niel putting in more money, as well. iBanFirst solves a very specific problem. If you operate a company that works with suppliers all over the world, chances are you waste a ton of money exchanging and sending money. iBanFirst wants to make currency conversion as easy as transferring money from your savings account to your current account. You first send money from your corporate bank account to your iBanFirst account. You can then convert and hold money in 28 currencies. iBanFirst shows you the interbank exchange rate and how many fees you’ll pay. But you’ll likely pay way less than using your traditional bank account. With 100 employees and 2,000 clients, iBanFirst now focuses on clients who transfer at least €100,000 per year. “We’ve already done a €50 million transfer,” iBanFirst founder and CEO Pierre-Antoine Dusoulier told me. After that, you can send money to a client, a supplier, a partner, etc. It’ll look like a local transfer and you’ll save money on fees. Many companies already do that. But iBanFirst goes one step further by giving you banking information for each currency. If you’re an iBanFirst customer, you can share a Turkish IBAN, an American account number or Chinese banking details. It’s easier to get paid from all your clients. With your French IBAN, the startup is doing something special. “We realized that some IBANs had a letter here and there,” Dusoulier said. “We called SWIFT, and they told us that we could put whatever we wanted for 10 characters.” iBanFirst took advantage of that to create a sort of domain names for IBANs. If you want, you can put your company name in your banking information. The company wants to add more currencies and more features. Thanks to the upcoming European regulation, you could imagine connecting to your regular corporate account from the iBanFirst interface to initiate a transfer. That would be much more straightforward than transferring money to iBanFirst before using it.

Another crypto exchange goes old school as KuCoin raises $20M from VCs

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: One of the biggest trends in crypto this year is companies raising money the old-fashioned way — through venture capitalists. Hot on the heels of Binance raising money from Singapore’s Vertex Ventures, KuCoin, a relatively new crypto exchange, has pulled in $20 million. The money comes from two big-name investors — IDG Capital and Matrix Partners — and the venture capital arm of Chinese crypto organization Neo, and it’ll be used to expand KuCoin’s global reach, develop technology and launch an investment arm of its own. We’ve confirmed that the deal is based on equity, not a sale of tokens as is often the case with crypto investments. Binance took its investment as part of its plan to introduce a fiat currency exchange in Singapore, and likewise KuCoin — which relocated from Hong Kong to Singapore this year — is turning to investors to help advance its business by tapping into networks and connections. The deal will “open new doors” for the company, KuCoin CEO Michael Gan told TechCrunch in an interview. KuCoin started trading in September 2017 following an ICO that raised 5,500 Bitcoin, then worth around $27.5 million. Still, the company is unlikely to be short of money. The exchange business is the most lucrative perch in the crypto space and, while it hasn’t reached the size of Binance, KuCoin is ranked as the 49th largest exchange according to Coinmarketcap.com, which puts its daily trading at around $25 million. Gan — who previously spent time with Alibaba’s Ant Financial affiliate — said that the capital will go toward hiring, both on new developers and doubling its 50-person support team. In particular, KuCoin is developing features for serious traders, including faster transactions, stop-loss features and more. Decentralized exchanges — which remove the middleman to connect buyer and seller directly — are the big buzzword right now in the exchange world, with figures like Binance making progress on offerings. Gan said that KuCoin will need “a little more time” to develop its “Dex.” He declined to provide a time frame. KuCoin, he explained, is focused on ensuring that it will offer a quality user experience and on a stable platform. Elsewhere, the firm said it plans to offer its service in more languages. It claims that it is working closely with regulators in Europe to gain a license to offer its services in the region, although the company did not comment on whether it plans to adhere to regulations in New York where authorities are investigating a number of other exchanges for doing business unlawfully. First up, KuCoin aims to launch “communities” in Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, Russia and Spanish-speaking countries before the end of this year using online marketing and ads. It aims to grow its reach to 10 markets within the next six months while it is doubling down on in-house research to identify promising projects. Linked to that last point, KuCoin is also getting into the investment game. As I wrote earlier this year, cash-rich crypto companies are turning provider with investments in smaller organizations to build out platforms, establish relationships and more. Binance is perhaps the most notable mover — with a fund that it claims is worth $1 billion and an ambitious early-stage accelerator program. Gan confirmed the plan to launch a “VC arm” but he declined to detail its size or investment strategy at this point. Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

Microsoft to acquire Xoxco as focus on AI and bot developers continues

Microsoft has been all in on AI this year, and in the build versus buy equation, the company has been leaning heavily toward buying. This morning, the company announced its intent to acquire Xoxco, an Austin-based software developer with a focus on bot design, making it the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year. “Today, we are announcing we have signed an agreement to acquire Xoxco, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities,” Lili Cheng, corporate VP for conversational AI at Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. Xoxco, which was founded in 2009 — long before most of us were thinking about conversational bots — has raised $1.5 million. It began working on bots in 2013, and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack to help schedule meetings. The companies did not reveal the price, but it fits nicely with Microsoft’s overall acquisition strategy this year, and an announcement today involving a new bot building tool to help companies build conversational bots more easily. When you call into a call center these days, or even interact on chat, chances are your initial interaction is with a conversational bot, rather than a human. Microsoft is trying to make it easier for developers without AI experience to tap into Microsoft’s expertise on the Azure platform (or by downloading the bot framework from its newly acquired GitHub). “With this acquisition, we are continuing to realize our approach of democratizing AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate,” Cheng wrote. The new Virtual Assistant Accelerator solution announced today also aligns with the Xoxco purchase. Eric Boyd, corporate VP for AI at Microsoft, says the Virtual Assistant Accelerator pulls together some AI tools such as speech-to-text, natural language processing and an action engine into a single place to simplify bot creation. “It’s a tool that makes it much easier for you to go and create a virtual assistant. It orchestrates a number of components that we offer, but we didn’t make them easy to use [together]. And so it’s really simplifying the creation of a virtual assistant,” he explained. Today’s acquisition comes on the heels of a number of AI-related acquisitions. The company bought Semantic Machines in May to give users a more life-like conversation with bots. It snagged Bonsai in June to help simplify AI development. And it grabbed Lobe in September, another tool for making it easier for developers to incorporate AI in their applications.

Loans marketplace Mintos scores €5M Series A and plans to launch a debit card

Mintos, the Latvian fintech that operates a global loans marketplace to let you invest in loans from various loan originators, has raised €5 million in Series A funding. Backing the startup once again is the Riga-based venture capital firm Grumpy Investments (previously known as Skillion Ventures). More noteworthy, the new capital will be used to launch a Mintos banking account and debit card, significantly expanding the company’s offering. “Both banking account and the card in our opinion is a natural step in our journey of revolutionising financial services through technology and serving our investors and will nicely complement our current offering of investments in loans, and low-fee mid-market rate currency exchange,” Mintos co-founder and CEO Martins Sulte tells me. “This development also means that, theoretically, our investors won’t need their banks anymore”. The Mintos banking account will act like any other IBAN account. You’ll be able to receive a salary into your Mintos account, use it to get paid by companies, or receive money from friends. And of course you’ll be able to transfer money out of your Mintos account, just like a regular bank account. Sulte says the idea behind plans to launch a Mintos banking account, and the reason why the company is applying for a European e-money license, is to improve the overall Mintos experience. This includes making it quicker to access money generated by the loans you have invested in (which is held by Mintos on your behalf) and easier to invest on a regular basis. “The card will allow investors to access the money they hold on the Mintos account instantly by paying at their local grocery shop or online or withdrawing money at ATMs; basically use the card like any other bank card,” he says. “They will no longer need to request a withdrawal from the platform to their bank account and wait up to two days for their money to arrive”. The fintech startup claims a customer base of 87,000 investors from 71 different countries. In addition to launching the Mintos banking account, it will use the additional funding for further geographical expansion, including Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The company will also invest in acquiring more customers, and plans to significantly expand the size of its 60 person team. Notably, Mintos has been profitable since January 2017. To that end, the fintech says it has already facilitated more than €1 billion in investments in loans through its marketplace since launching in 2015. It says investors in total have earned €26.7 million in interest through loans to individuals and businesses and have attained an average net return of nearly 12 percent.

WeWork picks up ANOTHER $3B from SoftBank

WeWork has picked up another $3 billion in financing from SoftBank Corp, not to be confused with SoftBank Vision Fund. The deal comes in the form of a warrant, allowing SoftBank to pay $3 billion for the opportunity to buy shares before September 2019 at a price of $110 or higher, ultimately valuing WeWork at $42 billion minimum. In August, SoftBank Corp invested $1 billion in WeWork in the form of a convertible note. According to the Financial Times, SoftBank will pay WeWork $1.5 billion on January 15, 2019 and another $1.5 billion on April 15. SoftBank is far and away WeWork’s biggest investor, with SoftBank Vision Fund having poured $4.4 billion into the company just last year. The real estate play out of WeWork is just one facet of the company’s strategy. More than physical land, WeWork wants to be the central connective tissue for work in general. The company often strikes deals with major service providers at “whole sale” prices by negotiating on behalf of its 300,000 members. Plus, WeWork has developed enterprise products for large corporations, such as Microsoft, who tend to sign longer, more lucrative leases. In fact, these types of deals make up 29 percent of WeWork’s revenue. The biggest issue is whether or not WeWork can sustain its outrageous growth, which seems to have been the key to its soaring valuation. After all, WeWork hasn’t yet achieved profitability. Can the vision become a reality? SoftBank seems willing to bet on it.

Cognigo raises $8.5M for its AI-driven data protection platform

Cognigo, a startup that aims to use AI and machine learning to help enterprises protect their data and stay in compliance with regulations like GDPR, today announced that it has raised an $8.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, with participation from privacy company Prosegur and State of Mind Ventures. The company promises that it can help businesses protect their critical data assets and prevent personally identifiable information from leaking outside of the company’s network. And it says it can do so without the kind of hands-on management that’s often required in setting up these kinds of systems and managing them over time. Indeed, Cognigo says that it can help businesses achieve GDPR compliance in days instead of months. To do this, the company tells me, it’s using pre-trained language models for data classification. That model has been trained to detect common categories like payslips, patents, NDAs and contracts. Organizations can also provide their own data samples to further train the model and customize it for their own needs. “The only human intervention required is during the systems configuration process, which would take no longer than a single day’s work,” a company spokesperson told me. “Apart from that, the system is completely human-free.” The company tells me that it plans to use the new funding to expand its R&D, marketing and sales teams, all with the goal of expanding its market presence and enhancing awareness of its product. “Our vision is to ensure our customers can use their data to make smart business decisions while making sure that the data is continuously protected and in compliance,” the company tells me.

Mercaux bags $4.5M to help bricks-and-mortar retail tool up to sell more

Retail tech SaaS platform Mercaux has closed a £3.5 million (~$4.5M) Series A funding round led by European VC fund Nauta Capital. The 2013 founded London-based startup sells software for retailers to tap into digital capabilities in their physical retail stores — offering a modular platform that’s intended to support digital transformations at a pace of the retailer’s choosing. “Historically offline retail was just a sales channel. But with the rise of e-commerce, and ability to communicate with clients digitally at any moment of time, offline stores (and in-store employees) have started to play multiple roles,” says founder and CEO Olga Kotsur. Physical stores are “not just a sales channel but also an e-commerce window, marketing channel, customer relationship centre” and much more, she argues. Or, well, they can be — if retailers spend to upgrade legacy IT systems that have not been designed with more expansive digital shopping capabilities in mind. Mercaux’s platform offers a pick n mix of services intended to empower retailers’ employees to sell more — such as by tapping into up-to-the-minute style suggestions — and thereby “improve and personalise the in-store customer journey”. On a practical level this translates into real-time access to inventory levels in-store and online at one end; through merchandising content via cross-sell suggestions and styling ideas (powered by crowdsourcing); digital marketing content; all the way up to customer profiles and preferences, pulling on personal data to better inform and steer the in store shopping experience. At the business end, the platform plugs into retailers’ POS and e-commerce systems to power instant online and checkout sales. On top of that its value-add is assistant tools and analytics for in-store sales people, as well as a channel through which they can communicate with each other and Head Office. By capturing the usage of the app, the platform also provides retailers with an overview of store analytics — serving up insights on shoppers’ behaviour, most popular products, lost sales and so on. The SaaS platform can be deployed on a variety of hardware touchpoints, including in-store kiosks. “Mercaux integrates across all retailers digital touchpoints, making existing data (CRM, Inventory, or Marketing) actionable in-store and enhancing it further,” says Kotsur. “It also follows a ‘lego approach’: modularity in terms of features, flexible configuration and easy integration allow retailers to launch first what they can or need most (for example real-time inventory and recommendations for effective selling), and gradually enhance the platform subject to their new needs (for example customer profiles and preferences for personalised experience).” The company claims its platform drives an up to a 14% increase in direct store sales — achieved via store conversion and basket size uplift as well as new omni-channel sales. It also reckons it can quantify its “sales people efficiency” gains — claiming to eke out up to a fifth more productivity from your humans thanks to digital aids like its mobile sales assistant app. (It offers “help” with initial training of salespeople but Kotsur suggests the app is intuitive enough that sales people “normally adopt it in a matter of days”.) “Conversion increases due to more effective sales people who do not waste time walking away from a customer, can confidently offer alternative if something is not available, or can show all options via catalogue,” she continues. “Basket size increases due to cross-sell and styling suggestions. Omni-channel sales means new online orders directly from stores or e-commerce purchase by a customer after receiving a follow up email post store visit. “Our most recent UK customer Karen Millen, realised +9% store sales increase in less than 3 months.” Deployment time for integrating the platform varies depending on the retailer. Kotsur says it can take up to a month to integrate with systems, plus another couple of weeks for retail prep. So it “normally” takes clients between one to two months to go live, although rolling the platform out across all stores can take “between a month and a year” — depending on the number of stores and infrastructure readiness. Mercaux has more than 15 customers at this stage, across markets including the UK, continental Europe, LatAm and Russia. Other current customers include the likes of French Connection, United Colors of Benetton, Nike and Under Armour, and it says its platform is being used more than 100,000 times per day in more than 250+ stores around the world. Fashion remains the company’s largest segment but Kotsur says the platform can operate in any retail vertical that requires “service selling” (or where sales people are expected to have “at least basic product knowledge”), and is looking to grow usage in other verticals. “Currently we work with Apparel & Fashion, Sports, Department stores, Cosmetics, and even Alcohol segments,” she says, adding: “We are planning to expand to Home & Furniture as well as Electronics over the next few months.” The Series A funding will be used to drive growth in existing and new markets, as well as being put into R&D to further develop the platform. On the competition front, Kotsur names Canada based Tulip Retail and US PredictSpring as also addressing similar challenges around digital transformation but she suggests a modular approach and attention to analytics is helping it stand out. “Mercaux approach is different as not only our in-store solution is modular and easily configurable, which means faster integration and more flexibility for our clients, but we also provide a powerful tool for Head Office teams that allows them to get in-store analytics, control stores performance and execution, and allows real-time connection between stores and retail management teams.” Commenting on the funding in a statement, Carles Ferrer, Nauta Capital’s London-based general partner — who now joins Mercaux’s board — added: “We have been fans of Olga and Mercaux over the past years, as they have achieved a fantastic commercial traction by tackling a large industry in need of a transformative digital disruption. Within our broader software approach, we have developed a very strong thesis around the massive transformation the retail industry is currently facing. “Having led several deals within this space — both in the offline retail tech market and in the online-enabled technology retail vertical — we are building another fundamental block that supports our broader view of the space with Olga and Mercaux’s value proposition.”

Rent tech-focused RET closes first fund; pours $5M into management platform SmartRent

Today, Real Estate Technology Ventures (RET Ventures) announced the final close of $108 million for its first fund. RET focuses on early-stage investments in companies that are primarily looking to disrupt the North American multifamily rental industry, with the firm boasting a roster of LPs made up of some of the largest property owners and operators in the multifamily space. RET is one of the latest in a rising number of venture firms focused on the real estate sector, which by many accounts has yet to experience significant innovation or technological disruption. The firm was founded in 2017 by managing director John Helm, who possesses an extensive background as an operator and investor in both real estate and real estate technology. Helm’s real estate journey began with a position right out of college and eventually led him to the commercial brokerage giant Marcus & Millichap, where he worked as CFO before leaving to build two venture-backed real estate technology companies. After successfully selling both companies, Helm worked as a venture partner at Germany-based DN Capital, where he invested in companies such as PurpleBricks and Auto1. Speaking with investors and past customers, John realized there was a need for a venture fund specifically focused on the multifamily rental sector. RET points out that while multifamily properties have traditionally fallen under the commercial real estate umbrella, operators are forced to deal with a wide set of idiosyncratic dynamics unique to the vertical. In fact, outside of a select group, most of the companies and real estate investment trusts that invest in multifamily tend to invest strictly within the sector. Now, RET has partnered with leading multifamily owners to help identify innovative startups that can help the LPs better run their portfolios, which account for nearly a million units across the country in aggregate. With its deep sector expertise and its impressive LP list, RET believes it can bring tremendous value to entrepreneurs by providing access to some of the largest property owners in the U.S., effectively shortening a notoriously lengthy sales cycle and making it much easier to scale. Photo: Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock One of the first companies reaping the benefits of RET’s deep ties to the real estate industry is SmartRent, the startup providing a property analytics and automation platform for multifamily property managers and renters. Today, SmartRent announced it had closed $5 million in series A financing, with seed investor RET providing the entire round. SmartRent essentially provides property managers with many of the smart home capabilities that have primarily been offered to consumers to date, making it easier for them to monitor units remotely, avoid costly damages and streamline operations, all while hopefully enhancing the resident experience through all-in-one home controls. By combining connected devices with its web and mobile platform, SmartRent hopes to provide tools that can help identify leaks or faulty equipment, eliminate energy waste and provide remote access control for door locks. The functions provided by SmartRent are particularly valuable when managing vacant units, in which leaks or unnecessary energy consumption can often go unnoticed, leading to multimillion-dollar damage claims or inflated utility bills. SmartRent also attempts to enhance the leasing process for vacant units by pre-screening potential renters that apply online and allowing qualified applicants to view the unit on their own without a third-party sales agent. Just like RET, SmartRent is the brainchild of accomplished real estate industry vets. Founder and CEO Lucas Haldeman was still the CTO of Colony Starwood’s single-family portfolio when he first rolled out an early version of the platform in around 26,000 homes. Haldeman quickly realized how powerful the software was for property managers and decided to leave his C-suite position at the publicly traded REIT to found SmartRent. According to RET, the strong industry pedigree of the founding team was one of the main drivers behind its initial investment in SmartRent and is one of the main differentiators between the company and its competitors. With RET providing access to its leading multifamily owner LPs, SmartRent has been able to execute on a strong growth trajectory so far, with the company on pace to complete 15,000 installations by the end of the year and an additional 35,000 apartments committed for 2019. And SmartRent seems to have a long runway ahead. The platform can be implemented in any type of rental property, from retrofit homes to high rises, and has only penetrated a small portion of the nearly one million units owned by RET’s LPs alone. SmartRent has now raised $10 million to date and hopes to use this latest round of funding to ramp growth by broadening its sales and marketing efforts. Longer-term, SmartRent hopes to permeate throughout the entire multifamily industry while continuing to improve and iterate on its platform. “We’re so early on and we’ve made great progress, but we want to make deep penetration into this industry,” said Haldeman. “There are millions of apartment units and we want to be over 100,000 by year one, and over a million units by year three. At the same time, we’re continuing to enhance our offering and we’re focused on growing and expanding.” As for RET Ventures, the firm hopes the compelling value proposition of its deep LP and industry network can help RET become the go-to venture firm startups looking to disrupt the real estate rental sector.

China’s NetEase raises $600M for its music streaming business

As Tencent Music, China’s largest streaming firm, reportedly stalls on its proposed U.S. IPO, one of its closest challengers is doubling down. NetEase Cloud Music, a rival operated by games and publishing giant NetEase, just closed a fresh $600 million injection from a bevy of investors that include Baidu and General Atlantic, the company announced this week. NetEase will maintain a majority share in the company following this deal, although it isn’t clear what the valuation is. The business is already valued at over $1 billion; that landmark was reached last year when it raised 750 million RMB — that was around $108 million at the time. Tencent Music operates a constellation of streaming and live-streaming music apps which Tencent claims reach a cumulative audience of 800 million users. That’s quite a generous figure since China’s official stat keeper recognizes that the country has 800 million internet users, and it seems unlikely that any single business would be able to reach every single one of them. (Yes, stats can often lie.) Five-year-old NetEase Cloud Music, meanwhile, says it reaches 600 million users, a figure that it claims has increased by 200 million over the past year. With this new money in the bank, the company said it plans to go after more user growth and develop its platform, which includes over 10 million songs. The company has put focus on independent music, and it claims 1.2 million tracks from around 70,000 indie musicians. Tencent, which has a tie-in with Spotify, submitted documents last month to go public via a U.S. IPO that could raise at least $1 billion. However, The Wall Street Journal reported a week later that the process had been paused amid challenging market conditions which saw stocks sink, including those of Tencent and Alibaba. The plan was to resume the process this month, according to the report, but so far there has been no update from the company. Alibaba’s Xiami music service is widely considered to be another major music streaming contender in China, and it teamed up with NetEase Cloud Music earlier this year to share libraries in order grow their respective repositories of songs. It makes sense that two rivals would team up to increase their rivalry with Tencent, which operates no fewer than four music services: Q Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music and WeSing. Up for grabs is a streaming industry that, while nascent, is showing potential to grow among China’s 800 million internet users. Indeed, iResearch data cited by NetEase forecasts music spending in China to triple between 2017 and 2023. The music industry as a whole is poised to gross 376 billion RMB ($54 billion) in total sales this year with digital the fastest-growing source of income. Tencent Music’s IPO opened the books on the leading contender in the space with some interesting points to note. Unlike Spotify and others, the business is profitable — $199 million on total sales of $1.7 billion last year — while subscriptions, the core source of revenue in the West, is just 30 percent of all sales. Instead, Tencent Music capitalizes on virtual gifts that are sent to live streamers and premium memberships. However, the company’s revenue is well short of Spotify, which grossed $1.5 billion in its most recent quarter alone. Those in China are opting to see that gulf as an opportunity and that goes some way to explaining this new round for NetEase Cloud Music.

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