After two days of boot camp sessions, and 1to1 mentor and investor meetings, the Seedstars Asia Summit happened on November 29th, in Bangkok. The Summit reunited over 300 attendees from more than 29 countries for a showcase of the most promising early-stage tech startups from 15 Asian markets, and a celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship across the region.
Here is what happened during the event:
Pitches by the Seedstars Asia finalists
15 startups from across Asia showcased their businesses, and how they can impact their region’s development by leveraging innovative technologies:
- VdoCipher (India): One stop video streaming solution to prevent piracy and provide smooth delivery of content. Proprietary Encryption & Watermarking technology.
- Finchat Technologies (Singapore): FinChat make messaging ( WhatsApp, WeChat ) compliant with data retention regulations, so bankers can reach out to the billions using these messaging platforms.
- Event Banana (Thailand): An online marketplace that connects venue providers with event hosts looking for the right space for their occasions.
- Kargo (Myanmar): Disrupting logistics in Myanmar by connecting businesses to their fleet of independent truck drivers and trucking companies.
- ServeHappy Jobs (the Philippines): ServeHappy Jobs helps service businesses with their HR painpoints by leveraging smart bots in social media and messaging technologies to reach the 51M Filipinos on Facebook.
- PolicyStreet (Malaysia): PolicyStreet hand picks, curates, and offers best-in value insurance products to groups
- Profound (Korea): Profound connects consultants and industry experts to clients in need of business expertise for spot and project consulting opportunities.
- Ocheng (China): OCheng’s end to end social CRM platform use AI to send personalized message to millions of wechat followers, driving engagement and purchase
- Emotics (Hong Kong): Emotics increases engagement with compliance training in heavily regulated industries using machine learning and facial expression analysis.
- Sayurbox (Indonesia):Sayurbox is a tech-supported fresh produce distribution platform sourcing directly from producers and delivering to customers.
- CMED (Bangladesh): CMED is an IoT enabled cloud based preventive healthcare platform that monitors health parameters, predict health risks, and reduces health costs.
- Neurostics (Pakistan): Neurostic rehabilitates amputees by cutting the cost of prosthetics through innovative, local development and manufacturing.
- Jendo (Sri Lanka): Preventive cardiovascular healthcare that helps people reliably measure their risk by assessing their endothelial functionality.
- Tootle (Nepal): A low cost, convenient, and secure last mile, point to point ride sharing platform for two-wheelers in Nepal. There is a special emphasis on accessibility for the visibly impaired and safety features for women.
- GaraSTEM (Vietnam): Garastem creates learning kits to stimulate curiosity in kids and help develop their STEM skills.
Think tank style workshops
The morning of the Summit day consisted of three think tank style workshops running in parallel. The aim of the workshops, that were invite only, was to get a diverse, interesting mix of stakeholders from ecosystems across Asia sitting in the same room and discussing burning questions.
Digital Health in Asia
The Digital Health Workshop led by Nawal Roy (Holmusk) explored possibilities of leveraging technology for better, more accessible healthcare.
The main challenges in healthcare are the number of requests for doctors far outnumbering the slots for patients, and the low quality of the healthcare available in the region. One solution could be to leverage data for patients to be more proactive and manage themselves. Chatbot technologies can be used to manage triage and chronic diseases’ behavior, and to also filter out cases where patients need more attention. Eventually patients don’t need to go to the hospital to be diagnosed, and the hospital will manage resources and human capital to focus on more serious patients. Another solution closely linked to this, is tools for remote diagnostics.
Moreover, it is vital to democratize information as it is currently kept by the doctor. Medical records should be available to the patient, which would allow them to move freely between hospitals and doctors, better utilizing capacity. Heavily outdated regulations on big data prevent collaboration from happening, but open innovation with the government could be a way to tackle this. For startups the big challenge is to survive in the face of governments’ prolonged decision-making. Startups have to create enough evidence and collect enough data to proactively contribute to changing the laws.
Finally, in Asia there is no ecosystem yet and the systems are not open. Strategic partnerships have to be the key element to make healthcare more affordable.
User acquisition at scale
The User Acquisition at Scale led by Aimen Khan (Google) workshop helped startups to understand paid user acquisition and how machine learning can come into play as a tool to that effect. The challenge is that we collect tons of data, but we need to analyze it in a way that enables us to make decisions. Machine learning enables personalization at scale as, with its help, you can identify behavior of high quality users and target these high quality users only.
When it comes to apps and how to get people to download them, it is important to run experiments and to keep iterating to find the optimal user interface. With this data Google’s AI detects patterns, since “The machine knows your users better than you” (Aimen).
It is key to comprehend the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your users. This metric allows you to understand how valuable different users are to your business based on lifetime performance. “As long as LTV > Cost per Install there’s no reason not to scale”. A helpful tool to apply this to your startup is Google’s Lifetime Value calculator: goo.gl/VjSXZd
For campaigns, Aimen Khan gives the following advice: Your campaign budget should be minimum 50x target CPA and you should keep budgets uncapped. Finally, have patience and wait 1-2 weeks to evaluate the results.
The current tech investment landscape in Asia
The tech investment landscape workshop led by Justin Nguyen (Monk’s Hill Ventures) provided an outlook for tech investments across sectors in Asia by aggregating and analyzing different ecosystem players’ insights into trends, pain points, and promising models.
E-commerce used to dominate the investment landscape and it’s still “damn big”. The biggest challenge is that although payment solutions have appeared, consumers are not adapting to them. As for the fintech sector, the biggest challenge remains regulation and the large lending gap.
The travel sector is dominated by Uber and Grab. This type of domination provides for many opportunities, in for example, the integration and distribution of complimentary services. However, such fierce rivalries also make for a complex investment landscape in the travel/mobility sector. On the deep tech table it was discussed that many founders lack skills other than engineering and that this is also accompanied by a disconnect between tech and traditional non-tech investors. It was also criticized that these founders make assumptions without the underlying data. Agtech plays an important role as we need to feed more and more people, but farmers don’t know how to use technology and why to use it. Similarly everyone agreed that edtech is an important industry but here the issue is that investors and startups don’t see many lucrative opportunities in it. After the last wave of investment mainly went to e-commerce, Justin Nguyen of Monks Hill Ventures now sees digital health as the next exciting sector for investors.
Keynotes and panels on burning topics
The Summit also featured keynote speakers from global companies, accelerators, and VC funds: Michael Foley(CEO of Grameenphone) gave an inspiring talk on how working with entrepreneurs, as a telco and corporate in general, is the fun part of the job, that is also key to transformation. He spoke not only of how vital it is to involve startups as a corporate, but also of his respect for startups for “their courage in being judged again, and again, again”.
Alyssa Maharani (Head of Startup Success at Google Launchpad Accelerator) provided valuable insights on how to design digital products for emerging market conditions. The energetic talk was full of actionable insights for all the different sorts of ecosystem players in the room.
Alyssa and Michael were followed by a panel hosted by CP Group on the Future of Food and Feed, and how agri tech can revolutionize food for the billions. The panel was moderated by Pearl Lee from Tech in Asia, and included Abhinav Mehra from ID Capital and Tim Hadsel Mares, of ScanTrust.
Aimen Khan (Mobile Marketing Consultant for Southeast Asia at Google) discussed how machine learning can be applied to increase mobile app users. This session was especially useful for the many startups in the room who use Google services.
Next up, Alan Jiang, Head of Business for Southeast Asia at ofo and Adriana Collini, Associate for Asia at Seedstars, held a fireside chat to discuss lessons learned from scaling Uber across SEA, and the sharing economy outlook.
To finish up the day, Anisha Singh, Founder and CEO of mydala, spoke inspiringly about how for founders, not quitting is a super power and already have the game.
Two-days Invite-Only Bootcamp
Prior to the Conference, Seedstars World hosted a 2-day invite-only Bootcamp, where 25 startups (15 from the Seedstars Asia tour, and 5 from the National Innovation Agency delegation, and 5 from an Omidyar delegation) took part in sessions led by the Seedstars Investment Team, and in over 300 one-to-one meetings with world-class local and international mentors and investors.
The Investor Forum brought together representatives from Monk’s Hill Ventures, Cocoon Capital, NSI Ventures, Gobi Partners, Jungle Ventures, Digital Ventures, Addventures, 500, Bangkok Venture Club, and more.
Many thanks to our partners:
The Seedstars Asia Summit was organized by the Seedstars Asia Team and local Bangkok Ambassador Nichapat Ark.
Further support for the event and for a delegation of startups from Myanmar was provided by the Omidyar Network, CP Group, Amazon Web Services who hosted the Investor & VIP Dinner, Merck Seedstar’s Regional Partner in supporting health tech startups, as well as Techsauce, the Summit’s media partner. Seedstars was also fortunate to count Ananda Development as its venue partner.