JD.com’s new accelerator focuses on blockchain startups


JD.com, one of China’s largest e-commerce companies, is launching a new Beijing-based accelerator program for artificial intelligence and blockchain startups. Called AI Catapult, its first batch includes six companies: Bankorus, CanYa, Bluezelle, Nuggets, Republic Protocol and Devery.

In an announcement, JD.com said startups will work with its operational teams to “test real-world applications of their technologies at scale.” This includes its logistics unit, which recently raised $2.5 billion and claims to run the largest last-mile logistics network in China.

Though Alibaba Group is probably better known outside of China, JD.com is a formidable rival. In 2016, it recorded 658.2 billion RMB, or about $100 billion, in gross merchandise value (JD.com will announce its full-year results for 2017 next month). JD.com and Tencent frequently partner to take on Alibaba, most recently backing several of the same online and offline retail companies, including Vipshop and Better Life. Walmart and JD.com also signed a strategic partnership in 2016 to combine their resources in China.

JD.com currently operates a sponsored AI research lab called the SAIL JD AI Research Institute with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The company already uses blockchain technology in its supply chain to track products and AI in software it developed to control its logistics drones and automated package sorting centers.

Here are more details about AI Catapult’s inaugural batch:

CanYa—Based in Australia, CanYa is a peer-to-peer marketplace that lets users pay for digital or home services with cryptocurrency. During the program, CanYa will be marketed to JD.com’s customers.

Bluezelle—A Singaporean startup that provides scalable data storage and management services for decentralized apps.

Nuggets—a London-based e-commerce payments and ID platform that stores information on the blockchain to prevent data breaches.

Republic Protocol—a decentralized dark pool, or private exchange, for atomic cross-chain trading between Ether, ERC20 tokens and Bitcoin pairs.

Devery—Another Australian-based company, Devery uses blockchain tech to allow e-commerce companies to verify products through all steps of the supply chain and avoid counterfeits.

Bankorus—Formerly known as MiCai, this Chinese fintech startup claims to be the “world’s first private wealth management platform powered by AI and built on the blockchain.”

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

China’s second largest e-commerce firm just showed Alibaba has serious competition


Alibaba invented China’s biggest shopping day — 11/11 aka Single’s Day — and it dominates the headlines with record sales year-on-year, but another company just stepped out to remind us that others are busy trying to close the gap.

JD.com, the perennial challenger to Alibaba’s e-commerce empire in China, just revealed its 11/11 figures for the first time. While not as high as Alibaba’s 163.8 billion RMB ($25.3 billion) the company did process an impressive 127.1 billion RMB in GMV, which works out to around $19.14 billion.

There’s no direct comparison but the figure is a touch above Alibaba’s 2016 11/11 sales GMV of RMB 120.7 billion. The figure is also higher than the $17.6 billion that JD.com grossed for its own 6/18 sales event — which commemorates the date of its founding — although that bonanza lasts for 18 days rather than just one like Single’s Day.

JD.com was previously fairly guarded over Single’s Day data — instead choosing to talk up percentage growth — but with this announcement today it has reminded people that it is indeed a close challenger to Alibaba.

On consumer e-commerce marketshare, iResearch puts JD.com’s reach at around 25 percent, while Alibaba is said to have just over 55 percent but there’s more to it than that.

The main difference between the two is that Alibaba operate’s a marketplace approach with its e-commerce businesses, whereas JD.com opted for an Amazon-like vertical approach to sales.

There is also a disparity in size.

Alibaba sits on the New York Stock Exchange with a market cap of $477 billion. JD.com, meanwhile, is listed on the NASDAQ and valued at around $57 billion. Still impressive, for sure, but a small fraction of Alibaba.

Nonetheless, long-time Alibaba CEO Jack Ma noticed the potential of the rival early on.

The Information reported this week that back in 2011 Ma wanted JD.com founder Richard Liu to open a store on Alibaba’s platform to avoid the potential of direct competition. Liu rejected the offer has gone about making his company, which was then less established, Alibaba’s chief rival through a different approach to e-commerce, and by embracing technology such as drones and robots faster.

Featured Image: VCG/VCG via Getty Images/Getty Images (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)