Sunday, September 4, 2016

China wants G20 to avoid 'empty talk'; Untapped potential for VCs, startups in SE Asia; Crowdfunding the classroom

1 China wants G20 to avoid ‘empty talk’ (BBC) China's President Xi Jinping has urged leaders of the world's 20 largest economies to avoid "empty talk" as they look to quicken economic growth. World leaders are at the annual G20 economic summit, which is being hosted in China for the first time.

President Xi said the global economy was at a "crucial juncture" due to volatile markets and feeble trade. Also discussed on the first day of the G20 were the global steel crisis, trade barriers and the UK's Brexit talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G20 leaders had agreed they need to work together to increase economic growth. However, it is unlikely a major deal will be struck, particularly as the most productive discussions are taking place one-on-one.

President Xi urged his counterparts to avoid empty talk in their attempts to boost trade, but his "critics might raise an eyebrow at this: China is often accused of putting up trade barriers, not tearing them down," she added. Ahead of the meeting, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned it was likely to downgrade its forecast for global economic growth again this year.

The IMF has already reduced its global outlook after the Brexit vote, cutting forecasts for world GDP growth to 3.1% for 2016 and 3.4% for 2017. China's continued production of cheap steel was also an issue on the opening day of the summit.

2 Untapped potential for VCs, startups in SE Asia (Chia Yan Min in Straits Times) Vt untapped opportunities await venture capitalists (VCs) and start-ups in South-east Asia, according to a report by venture firm Jungle Ventures.

Investors tend to underestimate the potential of the region, which is seen as a small, non-homogenous market with myriad languages, currencies and cultures, as well as limited merger and acquisition activity, said Jungle Ventures investment analyst Alice Besomi.

South-east Asia's start-up scene is frequently overshadowed by its larger neighbours India and China, the report found. VC funding in the region added up to $1.6 billion last year, less than a quarter of the $6.4 billion start-ups in India received.

This is despite the fact that South-east Asia is doing better than India when it comes to key ingredients for good start-up and VC ecosystems, Jungle Ventures said. These include infrastructure, Internet access, mobile and social media usage, as well as credit and debit card availability.

In addition, all the South-east Asian countries rank higher than India when it comes to ease of doing business, and some do better than China, the report noted. Sectors with strong prospects in the region include travel, retail, financial services and business-to- business commerce and trade, Jungle Ventures said.

Wavemaker Partners managing partner Paul Santos said that talking about South-east Asia's potential in terms of "buzzwords like e-commerce or marketplaces or fintech (would be) selling it short". "We can end up with an ecosystem of start-ups doing the same things," he added.

3 Crowdfunding the classrooms (San Francisco Chronicle)  Paper? Pencils? Laptops? Robots? Teachers are increasingly relying on crowdfunding efforts to stock their classrooms with both the mundane and sometimes big-ticket items.

Contributions to education campaigns have climbed on GoFundMe and DonorsChoose, collectively, from just more than $31.2 million in 2010 to nearly $140 million in 2015, the do-it-yourself fundraising sites report. Both sites are on pace to eclipse that in 2016.

In her first year as an elementary school teacher in Kingman, Arizona, Shannon Raftery raised $340 through crowdfunding to supplement the money she took out of each paycheck to pay for classroom supplies. Now in Philadelphia, she's looking to raise $500 for her new kindergarten classroom at Roosevelt Elementary School.

She has a supportive principal, she said, but there is just not enough money in the notoriously cash-strapped Philadelphia district to equip her classroom the way she'd like. Donors can scroll through all education campaigns listed on the sites, resulting in millions of dollars' worth of supplies and equipment infused into both high-poverty schools and more affluent districts.

Teachers create campaigns by writing a story about their needs, often accompanied by classroom pictures. Post-recession local, state and federal revenue has been unable to keep up with states' needs after deep cuts. Now, other economic factors, like low property taxes and inflation, are preventing them from a full recovery.

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