A compilation of important news from the startup world:
Singtel’s Future Makers programme to help social impact startups
Singapore-based telco Singtel announced yesterday that it has launched its new social impact initiative the Singtel Future Makers programme, to support young entrepreneurs and start-ups who have the aim of impacting communities with social change. The six month programme promises to give up to seven promising social impact startups cash funding of up to S$20,000. Singtel vice president of group corporate social responsibility, Andrew Buay, said: “Social impact start-ups want to bring about meaningful and impactful change to society.” Singtel will also provide business workshops, mentoring, networking and coaching support from industry experts and investors. “However, roadblocks in funding support, lack of experience in commercialising business ideas sustainability, and missed partnership opportunities can often hamstring even the best idea. Through Singtel Future Makers, we want to play a part to help them turn their ideas into reality,” Buay continued. Pitching for the programme can occur in person or via video conferencing and all successful candidates are required to be physically present in Singapore throughout the entire duration. Singtel will not take any equity and royalty from the startups.
Philippine Startup Makes Unusual Job Offer: Overseas Wages At Home
About 8 million Filipinos are working abroad in places from Canada to Dubai, tolerating odd jobs far from their families to earn more money than they could get at home. There’s cultural isolation and racism. Some people are overworked on fishing vessels to the point of endangering their health. Others suddenly find their contracts suddenly cut and get sent back to the Philippines. Now a startup that bills itself as the Uber for condominium cleaners in Metro Manila is paying workers about what they would earn overseas. It hires mainly people who have returned, jobless, from the travails of pursuing a decent wage in other countries. Brick Tech Cleaning Service launched in January with a website that matches cleaners with clients. It has hired 30 people so far and another 300 applications are pending. The firm more commonly known as CleanHome.ph hires them to clean condominiums around Manila and about 830 clients have ordered services to date. The company founders, CEO James Yabut and CTO Mike Yu, got going because they found existing cleaners unprofessional, sometimes overcharging or requiring that clients provide the supplies. Yabut’s family runs a security company, enabling him to do background checks on workers. Yu had worked before in marketing.
Start-up ESPert caters to the IoT’s maker movement with a tiny $10 Wi-Fi board
A group of female tinkerers in Bangkok, Thailand, have figured a way to do just that. Using a thumb-sized circuit board called the ESPresso Lite V2.0, the members of PINN Creative Space have built a system that lets people use their smartphones to change the colors of tiny LED lights embedded in a T-shirt. The not-so-simple T-shirt is part of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the growing network of everyday objects with internet connectivity, which allows them to interact in the way we take for granted in PCs and smartphones.Cisco, Sony, and more recently, Samsung, are among multinational companies that are investing in IoT. But the start-up behind the ESPresso Lite wants to coexist with the “big boys.” Singapore-based IoT company ESPert, which created the tiny circuit board, wants amateur hobbyists to be able to build their own IoT gadgets at an affordable price. The Thai hobbyists’ “I-o-Tee” is one example of what can be made with the technology. The ESPresso Lite contains a chip that enables devices to “speak” to one another via the cloud, using a Wi-Fi connection. Priced at $10, it retails mostly online in 14 countries across Asia, as well as in Australia, Europe and the U.S. In two months, ESPert has sold about 5,000 units. For CEO William Hooi, who co-founded ESPert in 2015, it is about “democratizing access and production” in the burgeoning IoT space.
In Asia, Don’t Create Copycats, Create Hybrids
Asian “copycats” of American companies get a lot of negative press. But calling Asian startups “copies” isn’t really fair. Adapting existing business models to suit the local environment takes more innovation than most of us realize. Take Southeast Asia (SEA), for instance. When a consumer in SEA orders a car from a ride-sharing service, they’re usually not using Lyft or Uber — but they’re not using perfect clones of those US companies, either. On the surface, Southeast Asian ride-sharing companies like Grab may look like copycats, but their business models are more unique. To conquer the Southeast Asian market, startups have to combine a foreign model with local idiosyncrasies. They are less copycats than they are hybrids. The many hybrid success stories in SEA are all based on locally-inspired innovation. One of the characteristics of SEA that all startups have to adapt to is banking penetration. While almost all Singaporeans have bank accounts, less than a third of Indonesians, Malaysians, and Filipinos have access to banks at all. As a result, credit card usage is limited: with the exception of Singapore, all other countries in the region possess penetration rates of below 20%.
How an Ed-Tech Startup Can Rise Above the Noise at ISTE
When I worked as a public radio reporter, I rarely went to conferences or trade shows. It’s not where you found the news. Now that I’ve made the transition to startup CEO, some conferences are must-attend events. One of them is ISTE.This year, more than 16,000 teachers and administrators gathered in Denver, Colo. to share ideas, meet new people and see old friends. Every year ISTE seems to grow, in attendees and in the hype on the exhibit show floor. It’s really like a carnival for adults complete with barkers, games and giveaways. As a small company it’s hard to be heard over the noise (and the smell of popcorn). This year we didn’t exhibit at ISTE, but I attended the event to hold meetings and scope out the landscape. I spoke with several start-ups to see how they were heard over the noise. The center of the exhibit hall has the most valuable real estate and the biggest companies and displays. The large publishing companies (Pearson, McGraw Hill), technology players (Google, Amazon), and more well established ed tech (Edmodo, BrainPOP) all have a lot of real estate, including about a dozen people on the floor, and presentation theaters. They are offering hands-on learning, demos and pens, bags, candy, prizes. The startups are positioned along the sides in much less expensive real estate. But the traffic is still good, says Jenn Kim, of ed-tech startup Plickers. When Kim hands me her card, I see her official title is “Wearer of Many Hats.” Now that’s a true startup.
For tech’s sake, get out of our way [Opinion]
Last October we found out the royal court wanted some major changes to reawaken Jordan’s technology sector.This was no surprise to those of us in the tech startup ecosystem: the sector produced less than a handful of viable businesses recently and those few have started feeling the enormous barriers to growth and relocated elsewhere.We knew the situation sucked.We also knew the king was dissatisfied with the speed of progress over the past five years and that Jordan has taken several steps back relative to other hubs in the region: Beirut, Cairo, obviously Dubai, and even Abu Dhabi.A week later the action began: then-Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour issued sweeping changes to tax laws, affecting companies working in software development, mobile apps, website portals, outsourcing, digital content and electronic games, IT training and e-learning.I’ll assume they just forgot the other emerging tech that will shape the future of our earth: drones, 3D printing, food tech, biotech, and so on. This was aimed at promoting Jordan as the best place to launch and grow a tech business, attract more capital, create more jobs, and reverse the startup drain. The vast majority of tech startups don’t make a single penny in the first year of operation: with Jeeran it took me one year to start up and find a cofounder, followed by two years of figuring out the product, three years to start making money and grow the team.
Scottsdale tech company solving chip and pin compliance for restaurants and retail
A Scottsdale-based financial services company is helping merchants become EMV “chip and pin” compliant with its new technology.MiCamp Solutions LLC created the application MiPoint for the Clover mobile terminal so restaurants and retailers can easily accept new chip-enabled credit cards, said Micah Kinsler, MiCamp’s president. “We created this device because the hardware and the processor were at a standstill as to who should come up with this solution,” Kinsler said. “This is a cheaper way for companies to solve this problem. It’s a gateway and a device that takes EMV (Europay Mastercard Visa).”In October 2015, Visa and Mastercard both put into place a mandate that shifted liability for fraud-induced chargebacks, a term used to describe a dispute between the cardholder and a business, from processing companies to merchants, he said. “The merchants haven’t been able to upgrade their hardware or their software, so they’re losing thousands of dollars of revenue,” Kinsler said. “Before, the bank used to cover it. Now, when people fraudulently use the card, the merchant is 100 percent liable as of Oct. 1, 2015, unless it was done as an EMV transaction.”
How the City of Sydney plans to grow startups and entrepreneurs
The Tech Startups Action Plan was released in draft form last year, with more than 400 people and organisations providing feedback.Now Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has unveiled the final plan which she says will play an instrumental role in driving up the density of startup activity in the heart of Sydney.“As we move away from an economy built on digging up coal, Sydney’s thriving startup scene will play a crucial role in building a sustainable long term economy,” Moore says. Maestrano founder Stehpane Ibos says he is most excited by the plan’s focus on supporting entrepreneurs with access to funding.“Sydney has many assets to become a global spot for innovation, but innovation needs fuel, and in the early days of any entrepreneurial venture capital is this fuel,” Ibos tells StartupSmart.“The objective of the plan is from that point of view spot on.”However, he says there needs to be more clarity on what actions will be taken to actually achieve this.“It is good to help increase the visibility of entrepreneurs to investors, but more needs to be done, and I would hope that as a significant Australian actor, City of Sydney can actively influence federal discussions related to taxes and economic conditions for startups,” he says.
Missouri Tech Corp. dishes $375K to Kansas City startups
Two Kansas City startups are among a dozen firms in Missouri that have received a total of $2.1 million from the Missouri Technology Corporation. Kansas City-based tech firms PopBookings and Moblico both nabbed matching funds — $300,000 and $75,000 respectively — from the MTC that will boost their operations. We are supporting Missouri’s thriving innovation community as well as attracting the talent to match,” MTC executive director Bill Anderson said in a release. “These firms are great examples of how creativity, technology and innovation can come to life and turn into a lucrative business.”Founded in 2014, PopBookings is an event staffing tech firm whose platform enables staffing agencies to hire and manage temporary labor for specific events. In 2015, PopBookings raised $250,000 from local angel investors and few months later the startup snagged $50,000 via the LaunchKC grant competition. Now with more than 21,000 users, PopBookings is feeling the strain of a burgeoning user base, compelling the firm to raise a round of growth capital. PopBookings CEO Erika Klotz said the company is in the midst of raising $1 million to scale efficiently and build a marketplace within its platform. “Being in such a ripe-for-disruption market, we are in a race to scale this company as fast as possible,” Klotz said. “The MTC matching funds allow us to raise a round of growth capital easier so we can focus on growing our business rather than raising money.” Led by CEO Pierre Barbeau, Moblico is a tech firm that creates software for mobile marketers.
Irish tech startups forced to consider UK relocation after Brexit vote
“90pc of our customers are UK-based,” said Rory O’Connor, founder and chief executive of Wexford-based Scurri.com, which employs 25 people.”Obviously we’ll wait to see what happens. But because Britain is such a big ecommerce market and so much of our customers’ activity is within the UK, we need to be on top of any new paperwork, documentation and rules that come out of new trade deal or tariff structure. That means we would have to move people there.”Despite the necessity to move resources into the UK, Mr O’Connor said that he thinks that Britain could now forfeit over €40bn in ecommerce growth because of its decision to leave the EU.”In 2015, £455bn was spent by Europeans consumers online on ecommerce sites and £157bn of this was from the UK alone,” he said. “For 2016, this figure is expected to reach over £510bn for the whole of Europe but the UK’s expected increase of £33.4bn to £173.6bn in 2016 could be lost as a consequence of the Leave vote succeeding.”Some London-based startup founders say that tech and financial companies may leave the UK for Ireland because of Brexit.
The Asian Banker chairman says banks could kill tech startups by funding them
Emmanuel Daniel, chairman of The Asian Banker, a financial services industry intelligence provider in emerging markets, warned Chinese banks they could kill the innovation of fintech startups by investing in them, as the banks themselves were huge IT companies that would suck in and absorb promising startups.Fintechs or financial technology companies are behind the so-called international fintech wave that is poised to disrupt the traditional banking business.Fintech involves new technologies like machine learning, predictive behavioral analytics and data-driven marketing, as well as improved data analytics that help institutional clients further refine investment decisions.Daniel issued his stark warning in an interview with China Daily, on the sidelines of the China International Banking Convention 2016 recently.”Bank funding of fintech startups does not necessarily mean that they will flourish. In fact, the banks might well end up killing the innovation,” he said.Chinese banks’ IT departments are even larger than some of the big IT companies, so they are trying to make sense of the enormous capacity they have, he explained. “When they fund some of the startups, the startups could end up drowning in the black hole of the banks’ own infrastructure.
Kleiner Perkins raises $1.4bn to back tech startups
US venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) has raised over $1bn to support startups.A pair of filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that the company raised $1.4bn for its latest core and growth funds.Of the total amount, $1bn has been raised for the KPCB Digital Growth Fund III for later-stage agreements. The fund will be managed by Mary Meeker, Noah Knauf, Mood Rowghani and Ted Schlein.The company also raised $400m for a new core venture fund, according to another filing.The fund, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers XVII, will be managed by Michael Abbott, Eric Feng, Wen Hsieh, Schlein and Beth Seidenberg.The company’s chairman John Doerr is not investing in both the funds.KPCB states on its website that for more than 45 years, it has supported several entrepreneurs in their quest to bring world changing ideas to market.Bloomberg reported that valuations for several tech startups are cooling and there were fewer acquisitions and only two IPOs in the US.Pensions funds, endowments, and other VC investors however continue to invest money into the asset class.
Tech Startups Looking Elsewhere After Brexit, Venture Capitalist Says
The future of startup technology companies in London is in question following the U.K. referendum to leave the European Union.”Uncertainty” is the word that Julie Sandler, Principal at Madrona Venture Group, used to describe the environment in London, one of the world’s largest technology development cities.”Anyone steeped in startup dynamics will tell you that two of the most important ingredients to a startup community are capital and talent,” Sandler said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “As of exactly one week ago, the perception around both of those issues was called into question.” The question of where up-and-coming European specialists should take their talents has changed. Putting herself in their shoes, Sandler says “I’m thinking, ‘where do I want to build my career in innovative companies?'””Up until last Thursday, almost unquestionably London might have been the top of my list for the capital reasons … [but] that has been called into question,” Sandler noted. Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam are now alternative options according to Sandler, who believes that “the reality is tech companies like to be near their customers.” For the U.K.-based entrepreneur, the question is now how to continue to attract talent to London. Sandler believes there are two questions those business owners must think about for future success.
JPMorgan is revolutionizing the way Wall Street banks work with tech startups
JPMorgan is taking a new approach to working with tech startups. The firm is expected to launch a residency program for financial technology, or fintech, companies on Thursday in an effort to tackle strategic and security-related challenges.The in-residence startups will be tasked with finding innovative solutions to specific challenges, which will be listed on JPMorgan’s website, using technologies like distributed ledger, big data, or machine learning.The program is the latest step by a Wall Street bank to improve its technology and fend of the challenge posed by startups. Some, like Barclays and Deutsche Bank, have responded by launching startup accelerators. Others are making strategic investments in the tech companies.JPMorgan’s residence program is a little different: The corporate and investment bank will house the fintech companies for six months in its offices around the world, and they will work alongside JPMorgan’s own businesses.