After being in closed beta for nine months since last June, 5 Rocks, a Korean mobile game analytics startup founded in 2008, launched officially on April 9, 2014. The team has some serious firepower. Changsu Lee, the CEO of 5Rocks, led the tech team at GameON, a Japanese developer and publisher of video games and also worked as a product manager at SK Telecom, Korea’s largest telecom. Chester Roh, one of the co-founders, is an experienced serial entrepreneur. He co-founded 4 startups including INZEN, which went public on KOSDAQ in 2002 and Tatter&Company, a Korean blogging platform, which was the first company in Asia that was acquired by Google in 2008. He worked for Google post-acquisition and left in 2010. Both founders hail from KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) – the MIT of Korea which has yielded a number of top programmers in Korea.
Founded by Yusuke Umeda, Ryosuke Niino, and Yusuke Inagaki in April 2008, Uzabase’s first product is Speeda, a company database information platform built for industry analysts. Two of the three co-founders were bankers at UBS. They teamed up with a systems consultant to form a trio who aim to upend the financial industry. Umeda told media website Tech in Asia: While the salary is great, we didn’t quite enjoy our work. I couldn’t find information efficiently to do my job well. At UBS, I usually had to work until midnight. A lot of needless time was spent on searching for information. It’s really inefficient. Frustrated with data digging, Niino and Umeda left UBS to build Speeda with Inagaki. It serves many of the same functions as Bloomberg Terminal but only better, faster, and sleeker. “Bloomberg Terminal is really difficult to use. Speeda has better UX and speed. We focus on usability,” says Umeda. A genius idea was born after 2 entrepreneurs grew frustrated with corporate processe. While Umeda has extensive experience in the financial industry, Speeda had little reputation back then, so it was really hard to convince content providers to work with them.
Secret and Whisper, the current favouruits of the anonymous messaging market, are all about broadcasting your innermost thoughts or general gossip in a feed format.
But the founders of Truth created an anonymous messaging app that sends private missives to people on your contacts list. It's incognito one-on-one messaging between friends.
When you send a "truth," you are assigned an anonymous username and avatar (one of an assortment of playful owls). If the recipient already has the app, the message will show up in the app's inbox. If they don't, a text message will display part of the "truth" and prompt the recipient to download the app.
From technology to fashion, California is a hub of innovation so it’s no surprise that it’s also startup central. However, only one city can be crowned king (or queen) of entrepreneurship and that title clearly goes to San Francisco. It’s where scores of startups are born and thriving, but there has to be a best of the best. What are the top five SFO startups to keep an eye on in 2014, whether you’re an investor, looking for your next job or need a little inspiration yourself?
Like other countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines’ startup ecosystem is in a growth stage. Tech in Asia earlier revealed how the country’s ecosystem is doing in terms of investors and accelerators’ activities. But for some, questions still remain: Why should we (or should we not) start an internet business in the Philippines? What should we expect? The creation of the World Startup Wiki is centric to this goal: to share information about a specific country to those who are interested in doing business in a specific market. Tech in Asia is dissecting these facts from the World Startup Report team’s discoveries. Grabbing opportunities The Philippines’ English-speaking population is one of the glaring factors that make it easy for any foreign individual or business to enter the market. This is the exact reason why a huge number of foreign companies have decided to put their outsourcing businesses in the country. From a startup’s point-of-view, we’ve also seen a number of businesses such as Rocket Internet and individuals like Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Hose starting businesses here.
Would you like a mentor with that crowdfunding campaign of yours?
If so, crowdfunding site CrowdIt is now providing just that.
The startup is rolling out its “Suits” program, which provides experts ranging from lawyers and accountants to accredited investors and consultants. These experts then act as advisors and resources before, during, and after the fundraising.
Unlike crowdfunding competitors such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which focus on the fundraising part of the launching and growing of a project, CrowdIt believes there should be a community that entrepreneurs can be part of even after they’ve gathered their funds. Suits is a major piece of this bigger vision.
Japanese telco NTT Docomo (NYSE:DCM) held its latest Docomo Innovation Village demo day last week. It’s the second running of its startup incubation program after it was first established in October 2012. After more than four months of incubation, the six graduate teams were given only six minutes to make a presentation at the finale about their progress in the program. The presentation was evaluated and voted on by the judges and the audience through their smartphones. Four prizes were dished out, including the grand prize and the Sony Select Prize that was selected by Sony, the program’s partner this year.
With fresh capital in its coffers, Dropbox appears to be on somewhat of an acquisition spree, albeit a quiet one. Following the cloud storage company’s recent purchase of workplace chat solution Zulip.
Featured Startup Pitch: Brooklyn Workshop’s ‘vulcanized’ Elby shoes are designed for extra durability for longboarders and anyone else with a super-active lifestyle
Elevator Pitch: Brooklyn Workshop has developed the technology and design to produce a longer-lasting vulcanized shoe.
Through countless hours of testing, Brooklyn Workshop has proven its design and technology for a longer-lasting vulcanized sneaker. Vulcanized shoes are the kind that customers are familiar with from brands like Converse and Vans. They are great because of how flexible, comfortable, soft and ‘grippy’ the soles are. The problem is that the softness comes at the price of the shoe wearing out very quickly. Anyone that has worn a pair of Converse is familiar with how quickly they wear out.
We use a special compound that retains all the softness, grip, and comfort of a vulcanized shoe, but with the added benefit of lasting much, much longer. To test the shoe, we gave pairs to a bunch of longboarders. Longboard skaters do things like foot-breaking that is essentially pressing your shoe on the pavement to stop. So, like an eraser on a pencil, this tends to destroy most shoes. When feedback came back from the riders, we were ecstatic! We even had a rider that took our shoes on a long-distance skate from New York to California. He wore them for over 2,000 miles and they outlasted both his Nikes and his Vans that he took along with him. After that, we knew we had the ‘special sauce’ and were ready to put out the next generation of shoes. We figured if it can take the abuse that our riders dish out, than anyone, even non-skaters, would be happy to have a great-looking, durable shoe.
Innovation in Vietnam can come from the most interesting places. There’s a startup with motorbike theft prevention hardware. There’s one that crowdsources for tours. There’s another that focuses totally on ecommerce logistics. And don’t get me started on Flappy Bird. The list goes on. This week, Topica, one of Vietnam’s most successful online learning platforms, is doing something a bit different with English education. The company, which was founded in 2008, already offers certification online, coordinates with colleges to offer online learning support, and also runs the Founder’s Institute annual incubator program. Now it’s experimenting with using Google Glass to teach students English. The program is called TopMito. As this video shows, Google Glass is being used to allow a teacher that sits at home to coach students that go to a local coffee shop in Hanoi, Vietnam. The coffee shop is working in coordination with Topica because it has foreign expat waiters who can interact with the students in English, allowing the students to use English in a practical way.
Microstock photography has drawn much ill will from many professional photographers. With its low barrier to entry and even lower payouts, it’s been viewed as undercutting the larger market for photography, and propping up less than talented photographers. But recent months have seen the addition of a new twist to the world of microstock photography, something that some traditionalists also often scorn — the smartphone.
For all the ire microstock photography has generated, as least as much heat goes to the ubiquitous smartphone and its often heavily filtered photos. Yet as some naysayers continue to fight against it, smartphone photography has gained some modicum of respectability in the last year or so, with major magazines and papers using iPhone photographs snapped in warzones as well as sports fields — so what happens when the two worlds combine?
Kids GPS trackers to help worried parents keep track of them is hardly a new thing, however these new tracking watches for nippers are certainly cute. HereO was started by three founders Daniel Ivesha, Gill Mendelson CEO and COO Allon Gladstone, now up to a team of 10 with a common mission to make a product that will keep children safe and within arm's reach. After three years of research & development, they have now completed their first assembly run.
London U.K. accelerator called Wayra is still a relatively new player in the startup market place. Wayra set up shop in May 2012 and took in its first set of startup seedlings. Out of the 17 startups selected last year, they included a lesbian dating service called Dattch and journal app called Narrato. Recently Wayra has listed the current selection of young hopefuls that will be groomed through a nine month training and mentoring course.
Hong Kong — A shop selling the virtual Bitcoin currency opened in Hong Kong last Friday, as fresh concerns grew in Asia over the currency's viability and security.
Touting itself as the world's "first" physical Bitcoin retail store, Hong Kong-based exchange ANXBTC said it could help raise the popularity of the crypto-currency.
It came on the day that Japanese Bitcoin exchange MtGox was forced to file for bankruptcy protection, saying it had lost nearly half a billion dollars' worth of the digital currency in a possible theft.
ANXBTC Chief Executive officer Ken Lo said the MtGox saga was only "a drop in the bucket" and the Bitcoin market remained bullish.
"There is no shortage of demand," Lo told AFP at the opening ceremony of the shop located in the residential district of Sai Ying Pun, where people later queued to open an account or make purchases.
"What we want to do is enable people to have an easier way to purchase Bitcoins," Lo said.
"I'm quite bullish in the long run," Daniel Chan, a 27-year-old blogger who purchased one Bitcoin, which amounts to around HK$5,000 (US$644) from the store, said.
The Bitcoin market would improve as it matures, Chan said.
"I feel virtual currency is a trend. I will save up to buy when the price drops," Charlie Wu, a 22-year-old from Shenzhen in mainland China who travelled to Hong Kong for the opening ceremony, told AFP.
Analysts have warned that the lack of government support and security risks may fuel further uncertainties for the digital currency.
Late last year, the People's Bank of China (PBoC), the nation's central bank, ordered financial institutions not to provide Bitcoin-related services and products while cautioning against its potential use in money-laundering.
Vietnam has also banned its banks from handling Bitcoins, saying the virtual currency is not legal tender in the communist nation.
Japan's finance minister said earlier Friday he had always thought Bitcoin was suspect and that the country might take action following the MtGox debacle.
Photo: Philippe Lopez, AFP