Google launches Slack competitor Hangouts Chat [Reuters]

Google released an update to its internet chat tool Hangouts on Wednesday, aiming to make it suitable in workplaces so the Alphabet Inc unit can compete with business software makers including Microsoft and Slack Technologies.

Hangouts Chat supports instant messaging across devices between workers, including group conversations. It also allows users to integrate widgets to access data from other corporate software in a chat window.

India’s NestAway secures US$51M in Series D funding [The Economic Times]

Home rental startup NestAway Technologies has secured US$51 million in Series D financing from a clutch of investors, including global investment bank Goldman Sachs and UC-RNT Fund, a joint venture between Ratan Tata’s RNT Associates and the University of California.

Existing investors IDG India and Tiger Global also participated in the round, with the latter having invested between US$5 million and US$8 million, according to people aware of the transaction details.

The company will use the capital to expand into newer segments, according to Amarendra Sahu, the company’s Co-founder. The deal marks one of the largest rounds of funding led by financial investors in the last one year in the consumer-facing startup space, which has primarily seen large strategics like SoftBank and players like China’s Alibaba and Tencent become big financiers.

Mobike forays into Middle East, rolls out shared-bike services in Israel [YiCai Global]

China’s bike-sharing giant Beijing Mobike steps into the Middle Eastern market by rolling out about 1,000 bicycles in five cities in Israel and providing 24-hour hailing service in the first batch, The Times of Israel reported.

Mobike will offer shared-bike services in central and northern Israeli cities of Rehovot, Rishon LeZion, Kadima-Tzoran, Qiryat Motzkin and Qiryat Bialik next week, said Liran Gilboa, Mobike’s Israel project manager. Users can enjoy free trial after signing up for the service using their credit cards.

The bikes are Mobike’s first generation models, equipped with smart locks and automatic positioning devices. Multi-speed bicycles will also be put into use in the coming weeks, Gilboa confirmed.

Malaysia sets up special taskforce to study blockchain’s potential [New Straits Times]

The government has established a special taskforce to study the implementation of blockchain in the country as well as the shariah compliant component of the technology.

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah said there is a lot of potential that blockchain represents across various industries, especially the Islamic finance sector.

A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.

The system is designed to use nodes agreement to order transactions and could effectively be used to prevent fraud.

LATTICE80, Marvelstone Group backed Global FinTech Hub opens an R&D arm in South Korea [press release]

Marvelstone Group-backed Global FinTech Hub has opened a Research and Development (R&D) arm in South Korea.

Joe Seunghyun Cho, Founding CEO of LATTICE80 and Chairman of Marvelstone Group, said: “South Korea has become one of the most important markets in many areas of fintech. KakaoBank and Bithumb are the best recent examples that prove the market opportunity in South Korea. I believe Seoul is the right place to have an R&D arm to conduct researches on how financial institutions and governments can adopt innovation in technologies such as crypto and blockchain.”

Marvelstone Group signed an MoU with Seoul Metropolitan Government last year to support fintech startups in Seoul to expand globally. In the extension of this partnership, Marvelstone Group has set up LATTICE80 Korea as an R&D arm to support FinTech and Blockchain startups in Korea more closely.

LATTICE80 has recently appointed former Senator Sang Min Kim as an advisor and is planning to start private sales in its own ICO to support global expansion plans.