Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural DEMO Asia. DEMO is a popular launchpad event for emerging technology and trends, where companies launch their products in front of a global audience. DEMO Asia was also an excellent event for companies throughout the world hoping to launch in the Asian marketplace.
At DEMO Asia, a hand-selected group of 72 companies from 14 countries made their public debut to global press, savvy investors, corporate acquirers, strategic partners and buyers. Adobe, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Symantec and Yahoo! have all acquired promising DEMO companies that have become household names today. Over the past 22 years there is a long list of success and acquisitions stories from companies that launched at DEMO.
Microsoft BizSpark together with Founders Institute and Startup Weekend selected 10 companies from BizSpark across the Asia Pacific region to pitch in the incredibly short 90 second Alpha pitches – and all of them did amazingly well. Especially the New Zealand startup TranscribeMe who picked up some local press at the event: Kiwi startup impresses at Demo conference. See all the BizSpark company details below.
What is a huge company like Microsoft doing at DEMO? Find out!
Kristine from SGEntrepreneurs interviews Eugene Fabian, BizSpark champ of Microsoft Singapore:
BizSpark Plus Singapore Launch
Microsoft Singapore’s General Manager, Jessica Tan, kicked off the first day by introducing the BizSpark startups and announcing the BizSpark Plus offer in Singapore. This has already generated several pieces of press:
BizSpark Startups Booths
BizSpark startups had booths at the event. Looking good!
Microsoft BizSpark Scholarship Winners
In order of pitching, here are the BizSpark startups that gave their Alpha Pitch. Most if not all of these solutions run on Microsoft’s cloud platform, Windows Azure!
TranscribeMe (New Zealand) converts voice to text, to allow their customers to easily share and search through valuable voice recordings. The voice-to-text conversion of complex audio is done perfectly by their team of crowd-sourced expert transcribers, delivering vastly higher quality results than automated speech recognition, at a fraction of the cost of traditional transcription services. The TranscribeMe smartphone app makes it easy, fast and affordable for our customers to record and transcribe meetings, interviews and dictation.
gate Studio (Indonesia) is a game developer company creating wide range of games in various platform, such as PC, Web Games, Social Games, Console, Feature Phone, and Smart Phone. Established in 2009, the company is growing quickly and became one of the biggest game developers in Indonesia with 60 crews. Now Agate is expanding the business, not only on game development, but also game academy and game publishing. With their spirit, Live the Fun Way, they are having fun in game business to make the world become much more happier world through games.
HobbyMash (Philippines) is a web app that helps hobbyists connect with both each other as well as relevant groups and events.
MobiPoint aka. GIO Software (South Corea) provides an online channel with a database of buyers (which shows who purchased which product) to retailers to increase customer loyalty. When a store joins MobiPoint, their customers get receipts with QR codes to scan using the MobiPoint application to get loyalty points. This eliminates the need to carry membership cards.
StyleRocks (Australia) is a revolutionary, world-first website where you design your own jewellery, exactly as you want it, for between AUD100-AUD400. By changing the traditional way people design and purchase jewellery, it's bringing jewellery customisation to the masses. Partnership with Australia’s largest wholesale jewellery manufacturer means quality is assured, while enabling savings to be passed on to the customer. Purchase from StyleRocks is motivated by either commercial occasions or the personal ones, such as anniversaries or birthdays.
Tapit (Australia) was founded in March 2011 and is headquartered in Sydney, Australia. Our vision is to revolutionize the way people use their mobile phones by simplifying the delivery of content using NFC as the enabler. Tapit works with innovative agencies, brands, handset manufacturers and carriers to bring this vision to life.
Rofarez Solutions (Malaysia) is a web development company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Their mission is to provide custom ‘cloud based’ business solutions to SMEs and leverage the power of cloud computing to help them achieve their business goals via a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) model. Their product DappleWorks, is currently under a BETA release and is scheduled to go into production in 2nd Quarter 2012. Product website: http://www.dappleworks.com
Coworkify (Japan) is a Facebook application that provides job marketplace and management tool for coworking spaces. To users, Coworkify is a tool to sell and buy small tasks from each other while discovering new people with different skill sets. To space owners, Coworkify is a platform that encourages people to explore new work style while accepting new members and helping the owners manage existing members. Coworkify is a Startup Weekend Kyoto 2011 grand prize winner and a DEMO Asia 2012 Alpha Pitch startup
DocuBuzz Pte. Ltd. (Singapore) leverages emerging mobile and cloud-computing technologies to build content-centered-collaboration tools that are dynamic and agile, yet simple enough to be adopted and fully-deployed by non technical end users. Taccto (www.taccto.com), our flagship application, allows users to interact in real time around their digital documents using modern tablet devices. The application also automatically records, indexes and archives all such interactions for easy future reference.
Appota aka AppStore.vn (Vietnam) is a mobile-application-based and web-based mobile content store, to help Internet mobile users download mobile content easily with OTA solution, cross-mobile-OS supported, easy to purchase and variety type of content (not only application).
Trends across the Event
One of the recurring trends throughout the event was these three pieces of advice from many of the sages:
“We have enough Daily Deal sites” said one Sage – requesting teams to think differently and start to solve some of the bigger problems.
Solve Harder Problems
If you’re a programmer, technologist of engineer the call to action for all attendees was to look at the problems you want to solve and then step it up a notch to solve something harder.
This theme was also recurring, and perhaps because there was more than a couple of solutions all looking to solve the same problems. With so many pitches over the 2 days, and even outside demo Asia, the way to really shake up the market is to be disruptive!
Gamify, Gamify, (social) Gamify!
It seemed that there was some aspect of gamification, badges, awards and social competitiveness in almost all of the apps demoed across the 2 days. the features included virtual dollars and rewards, achievements and competing for badges, rewarding people for providing data on sales, or even helping someone to find a local Sushi shop. Alot of the focus was still on events, food, and social interaction. As the guys from GameMaki declared – Life is a game!
Some examples are Burpple, iKnow, George Mobile, Eyeland, Gamemaki, WildFire, Heyawanna.com, DropIcon, Sage.By, Squiryl. Teamie which applied the gamification for Students, urbancook.me had it for geo location based recipe searching and Tradespark used it to customise search results fro suppliers using your social network and recommendations www.tradesparq.com.
Rapid Application Development platforms
Another trend was the for development tools to allow developers to rapidly create and deploy applications and games for multiple platforms. Its seems that developers worldwide are struggling with the learning curves and challenges of multiple platforms to deploy applications. Two of our favourites were http://www.gocta.io/ (who are looking for beta testers) and http://monaca.mobi/. Both use Cloud based IDE’s to produce runtimes to target multiple platforms.
Further to this there were several simple drag & drop style interfaces to help create mobile applications like http://www.cloudyrec.com/
Show me the Money
Adeo Ressi of The Founder Institute pointed out that is doesn’t matter where you are located if your business idea is good the money will come to you. This was also apparent by the number of investors from outside the region attending the event, including VC’s from Vietnam, the UK, France & Germany as well as many from the US. Trends are showing that the Asia Pacific Region has strong growth and investors are ready to invest in good businesses in the area.
It was also interested to see the transition of both investors, mentors and entrepreneurs to the region with examples like Silicon Valley based VC firm Plug and Play setting up in Singapore as well as Vinnie Lauria of Golden Gate Ventures who has successfully exited several startups and is now teaming up with Singapore Chapter of Founders Institute Director Jeff Paine to establish a new fund based in Singapore.
Glaringly obvious in Singapore is how much the government is driving the success of the Entrepreneur community. The 2 major sponsors of the event were Government, the incubators and test beds that supported the event we also government funded. The government further supports the startups directly by covering 90% of insurance policies for companies that fund small businesses and also help to keep the interest rates low for those who do borrow. This is similar to the way the US government initially helped the Silicon Valley ecosystem get up & running – find some very interesting discussions here on the value of the government supporting a growing Startup ecosystem: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6318.html. I am seeing small scale hints at activities like this in both Queensland with the MIC and in the Illawarra region with StartPad and iAccelerate programs kicking off there. I hope we start to see more of this type of investment in the growing Australian ecosystem soon!
TranscribeMe from New Zealand of course! They had the very first presentation at Demo Asia. Not only their pitch very well and in exactly 90 seconds, they “ate their own dogfood” while at Demo Asia for everyone to see. They recorded all the pitches at DemoAsia2012 to showcase the power of their application. This will get them ongoing brand awareness and as people look to replay their sessions and hear ones they missed, they will further build awareness. They launched an alpha version of their solution at the event, running on the web and also as a Windows Phone app, soon to expand to other platforms.
Tap It from Australia looks very promising. It gets rid of the delays you might have with getting information onto your phone by using Near Field Communication (NFC). Even faster than the very popular QR codes (2D barcodes) being used in solutions nowadays. So much so that within 90 seconds they were able to live demo it not once, but twice! Just touch your phone phone to a restaurant menu and through NFC the whole menu shows up on your mobile in a second. Great solution!
Splaype is an add in for Skype that allows you to engage with young children. If you have children you know how quickly they get bored when talking on the phone or on Skype. This tool makes the conversation more engaging on both sides! It will be interested to see how it gets monetised.
Sofshell was very different from the web/computer applications pitched, the pitch was pretty much a live infomercial for a new shock absorbent material! It was absolutely the most entertaining of all of the pitches across the 2 days. There was smashed watermelons, bowling balls dropped on iPhones and the presenter even hammered his hand!
One interesting company was the BizSpark startup Appota from Vietnam – there is no mobile app store in Vietnam. So they built one themselves!
It was also great to meet Adeo Ressi, CEO of Founder Institute. Founder Institute has a global sponsorship from the BizSpark program. Their interview on the BizSpark site is worth a read. Adeo and I talked about opening a Founder Institute chapter here in New Zealand as they recently launched in Sydney. Basically – if we find the right person to drive it, they’ll open it!
More event photos
Congratulations. You’ve made it to the end.