It was billed as “The Fight of the Century” and “The Battle for Greatness.” Two of history’s most successful boxers – Filipino Manny Pacquiao and American Floyd Mayweather Jr. – finally faced each other in the ring in Las Vegas, after years of hype.
As it turned out, the May 2015 fight was largely seen as a disappointment – not least by the legions of Filipinos who saw their idol Pacquiao handed a defeat as a result of a judges’ decision.
Pacquiao – who currently serves as a senator in the Philippine congress – has become increasingly active on the venture investment scene, backing several Southeast Asian fintech and transport startups in recent years and even plotting his own cryptocurrency.
Not to be outdone by his erstwhile opponent, Mayweather’s brand and investment firm, The Money Team, has made its own Southeast Asia investment – in Manila-based ride-hailing app U-Hop.
What’s even more extraordinary about this funding is how U-Hop plans to use the capital it has raised.
It may sound counterintuitive, given that Uber has just exited the Southeast Asian market, leaving a big gap for local firms to fill. A spokesperson for the startup told Tech in Asia that the firm is aiming to launch its services in the US – Uber’s homeground, where it dominates the market.
With Uber out of the picture following Grab’s takeover of its regional business, a number of Philippine ride-hailing competitors are emerging to challenge the Singapore-based firm’s dominance in the archipelago. The Philippine Competition Commission has said that Grab now controls 93 percent of the domestic market.
Regulators have approved five new firms to begin ride-hailing operations in the country. Homegrown startups Go Lag, Ipara, Micab, and Hype are planning to launch later this month, the latter claiming its fares will be at least 20 percent lower than Grab’s.
The fifth firm, Hirna, is yet to announce a start date. Indonesian ride-hailing and digital payments giant Go-Jek could also launch in the Philippines at some point this year.
While the domestic market is looking increasingly competitive, overseas expansion may be an even bigger ask for U-Hop. Uber is dominant in the North American market, with fierce competition from the likes of Lyft.
China’s Didi Chuxing has tentatively begun exploring foreign markets, launching a service in Mexico and acquiring local player 99 in Brazil. India’s Ola established its first overseas service in Australia earlier this year.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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