Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
The writer's posts
Of all of United States’ startup exports, Warby Parker is one that hasn’t really been replicated in Asia. The startup, which sells quality eyewear at a ridiculously low price point, has been a toast of the New York scene by disrupting the eyewear industry and in the process raising USD 50.3M in capital.
Warby’s innovation doesn’t lie in new-fangled technology. Instead, it break the dominance of an industry cartel that has been driving prices artificially high. By fashioning its own supply chain and designing its own glasses, it cuts out the middle men and offers eye wear at a low USD 95 a pop.
Four Eyes in the Philippines is attempting do the same. The company takes many of its cues from Warby Parker, right down to the sparse, white, and minimalist design on the website. Read more
Six months of workshops, mentoring, and sponsored trips to Singapore, Israel, or Boston. For 20 Korean startups, these experiences will be the biggest draw of K-App Global Hub, a startup bootcamp organized by the Korean government.
The program is unique in its global outlook: Held in English, teams can pick one week stints in either Singapore or Israel, with the Boston trip having a separate application process, depending on which markets they’re interested in.
It is forward-looking in how it aims to foster cross-border collaboration for Korean startups, situating itself as part of the trend of increasing porousness in the larger Asia tech ecosystem where startups in disparate parts of the region are increasingly connected to each other via networking events, cross-border partnerships, and tech media. Read more
When I asked SGE Scout Albert Mai to compile a directory of coworking spaces in Sydney (he’s seeking internship opportunities there), he launched into the task with aplomb. Instead of merely giving me what I asked for, he went above and beyond, doing up a map covering the whole of Australia.
That’s dedication and effort. So, without further delay, I present you a handy guide to coworking spaces in Australia — 43 of them (also check out our map of Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). To be clear, a coworking spaces should possess these characteristics:
- A shared work environment with residents that don’t belong to the same organization.
- Social gatherings, shared values and synergies.
- Building of a community through interactions and events. Read more
The last time I met Foodpanda Asia CEO Kiren Tanna, fittingly over lunch, the food delivery service hadn’t raised money and kept a lower profile compared to Zalora and Lazada, which combined have raised over USD 100M in funding.
On all counts, Foodpanda has a smaller footprint: It doesn’t hire as much, is a relatively younger business, and probably makes much less in revenue despite having a presence in eight Asian countries.
But to dismiss it as an inconsequential business would be a mistake: It recently raised USD 26M from Rocket Internet regular Kinnevik, Russia’s Phenomen Ventures, as well as Rocket Internet itself.
Foodpanda Singapore then announced a marketing partnership with RedMart.com, an up-and-coming online grocer, while FoodPanda Vietnam revealed that it will be delivering food for some prominent F&B brands, including Subway, NYDC, Gloria Jean’s Coffee, and Breaktalk.
The coordination of these news releases portray Foodpanda as an up-and-comer. While it’s easy to be cynical, that picture may not be too far from the truth. Read more
The National University of Singapore has been positioning itself as a leader in innovation, and their efforts have been reflected in a recent MIT study that ranks them among the world’s elite.
To further spur its march towards becoming Asia’s Stanford, NUS has today announced the launch of Living Lab, an initiative that will turn the university’s Kent Ridge campus into a giant petri dish for tech startups, researchers, and larger companies. Read more
Among tech startup circles in Singapore, Yuuzoo is not a tech company that’s particularly well-known.
But the social media and e-commerce firm, which even has a Square-like mobile point-of-sales system, recently caused a small blip on the radar by completing a reverse takeover of public-listed but declining hardware company Contel, paving the way for an entry into the Singapore Stock Exchange. The deal gives Yuuzoo majority ownership of Contel, valued at USD 582.3M.
Contel’s share price has remained at USD 0.08 since the announcement.
It isn’t stopping there. Now comes news that Yuuzoo has made another acquisition, this time a cash and share deal with IAHGames, a games distributor and operator in Singapore. Read more
Todd Kurie isn’t just an expert on digital marketing, he’s good at explaining it too. The online marketing veteran, who has traversed five startups (including Singapore’s RedMart.com) and corporations like eBay and American Express, gave five tips on how upstart companies should conduct their digital marketing efforts. Targeted at e-commerce outfits, Todd’s presentation was given at the Echelon Singapore Satellite event.
A startup’s main marketing challenge is to grow as fast as possible. The process of doing so can be broadly summarized as follows: learn as quickly and cheaply as possible about your customers, what they like or don’t about your service, the most effective ways to reach them, and customer acquisition costs. Once these questions are answered, then grow as fast as it makes sense. Read more
YuuZoo, a Singapore-based company that creates customized social networks for clients around the globe, has completed a reverse takeover of Contel, a declined hardware firm listed on the Singapore Exchange. The deal was announced last month. This gives YuuZoo a backdoor into the stock exchange, bypassing the traditional, complex IPO route which could take more than a year.
In a reverse takeover, a public company acquires a private company, only for the shareholders in the private company to become majority owners of the combined entity. The main purpose of a reverse takeover is to gain easier entry into the stock market.
This maneuver, while seemingly rare amongst web and mobile companies, is quite common in the corporate world. Examples have included The New York Stock Exchange, which was acquired by Archipelago Holdings, and Atari, which was bought over by JT Storage. Read more
Travel startups have been unimaginative when it comes to how they want to disrupt the industry. Most of them are consumer-facing apps that help consumers discover, book, or search for deals — essentially variations on the ideal neighborhood travel agent.
In this vein, Tripconomics is doing something entirely different. Rather than targeting the crowded consumer market, this Singapore startup is hoping to uncover what it sees as a hidden gem: the world of corporate travel management.
As I understand from co-founder Keson Lim, a corporate travel veteran, the industry is dominated by large corporate travel agencies that handle global accounts on large retainers.
These companies, which have call centers around the world, typically service corporations with revenue above USD 250 million (think brands like Energizer, HSBC, and Prada), handling flights, hotels, insurance, and visas.
For ‘smaller’ firms with ‘only’ tens of millions in revenue, they usually manage their travel arrangements and expenses in-house. That’s the crowd that the startup is targeting.
In a nutshell, Tripconomics is a web tool for corporates to manage the travel expenses and plans of their employees. The user can manage travel profiles for staff of different seniorities, setting useful details like budget limitations. Read more
The DS3 family. Teik Guan is wearing a yellow shirt. Photo: DS3
For twelve years, Tan Teik Guan has been carrying the weight of the company and its employees on his back, first as DS3‘s CTO and then as CEO in 2006.
One wrong move could affect not just his 50 employees but also their families. It’s a huge burden to bear, especially since a startup lacks the stability of a large company.
“I didn’t just have my own kids to think about — all my employees are like my children,” he said.
But his reprieve finally came. In April this year, the management successfully sold the Singapore-based IT security firm to Gemalto, a multi-national corporation in the same industry. DS3 has been making profit by selling authentication software to banks.
While the specifics of the deal cannot be disclosed, he and the other co-founders, Zvi Efroni and Kelvin Teo, are happy with how it turned out.
For Teik Guan especially, who left his cushy government job to join an unknown company as the first employee post Dot-Com bust, the rewards were especially sweeter.
“Oh my gosh, it was a huge burden off my back,” he said. Read more