Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural DEMO Asia. DEMO is the launchpad for emerging technology and trends. This is a premier platform for the best and brightest companies throughout the continent seeking to launch their products in front of a global audience. It is also an excellent launchpad 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.
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.
Solver Harder Problems
If your 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 recomendations 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 challengers of multiple platforms to deploy applications. Two of my Favorites 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/, but none that I saw were quite as advanced as the 2 above. The mobdis.com. team mentioned their goal was to make app development as easy as creating a powerpoint deck – this scares me a little! (I have seen too many really bad powerpoint presentations).
Show me the Money
Adeo Ressi of Founders 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, I met with 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.
I 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!
Splaype – an add in for Skype that allows you to engage with young children. I am not sure if its just because I would use the application or because I was meant to be Skyping my son at the very time the pitch was on or because of the many times I have seen him just walk away from whomever he is talking to on Skype because he gets bored? Anyway, all good reasons to have a tool like this to make the conversation more engaging on both sides! I downloaded it duringt he presentation and am looking forward to using it. I will be interested to see how it gets monetised.
SageBy – takes the idea that your time is valuable so if you are spending it waiting, why not use it to….Pay by waiting… aka. complete surveys! The survey market is already quite large with micro payments for your time – by gamifying this process and giving rewards, these guys have made the process that little more interesting. I signed up during their pitch – a sure sign that I liked it!
Sofshell – Think ShamWow for Shock absorbent materials! I just loved the pitch! 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! Wow! Now I just need to think of a reason why I would need Shock Absorbent materials?
Chatworthy – I love the idea of generations from now, my Son, his children or his children’s children could use a tool like this to put together a snapshot of my trip to Singapore in 2012 and any related events. I look at a travel journal my mum kept for her trip to London 40 years ago and its incredibly hard to get a true picture of what it was like, the language used, the clothing worn, the technology available. I foresee more apps that use the masses of online data we are all tracking and turning them into something of value for future generations… I do wonder where they are storing all that data though and privacy issues about doing so…
CairnSmith although only a 90 second pitch I wanted to see more – a way to visualise & interact with 3d designs? Using Augmented reality, this is what the team at Sheer Industries has built! Imagine stepping into an empty room, but seeing it fully furnished with the use of Cairnsmith! Check them out at http://demo.asia/2012/demonstrators/sheer-industries-group/
Transcribe.me Last but not least – the First presentation at Demo Asia from our friends in New Zealand, which I am lucky enough to have a “sample” copy of the app installed on my phone! The app takes dictations and then utilising real humans they deliver a fast transcribed version of your audio to your inbox. These guys were smart, not only did they pitch their great idea well, but they “ate the dogfood” while at Demo Asia for everyone to see. They recorded each session at DemoAsia2012 to showcase the power of their applciation. 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. Clever work guys!
UNKNOWN: Note that there was one more that I really liked, but their demo’d application doesn't match the company names listed in the DemoAsia Presentators list, and it reminds me of a comment by one of the sages that its really important to present a consistent brand – even more so when there are 73 other companies competing to get their messaging across. I am not 100% sure I agree that the app name should match the company name etc as its important to build a business as well as a brand, but there needs to be a better solution – perhaps the DEMOAsia team needed to list both the company & app names?\
Overall, my other highlight was the chance to meet other Microsofties from the region, in particular the BizSpark Champs from New Zealand (Thiago Almeida), Singapore (Eugene Fabian) and Malaysia (Peter Lam). All of whom I have chatted to and emailed many times, but nothing is like meeting face to face! It was awesome to meet such energetic team mates who are all doing great things in their local startup communities! I look forward to meeting up with them again soon and if they are ever in your region be sure to day hi!
Microsoft BizSpark Scholarship Winners
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:
Agate Studio 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.
Appota.com (aka AppStore.vn), is a mobile-application-based and web-based mobile content store, to help Internet mobile users can download mobile content easily with OTA solution, cross-mobile-OS supported, easy to purchase and variety type of content (not only application). Try and enjoy from your mobile:http://appota.com/
Coworkify 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. http://coworkify.com
DocuBuzz 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.
HobbyMash is a web app that helps hobbyists connect with both each other as well as relevant groups and events.
MobiPoint 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.
Rofarez Solutions 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
StyleRocks 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 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.
TranscribeMe converts voice to text, to allow our customers to easily share and search through valuable voice recordings. The voice-to-text conversion of complex audio is done perfectly by our 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.