The survival of the fittest — that has always been the credo of capitalist societies and even multiplayer online games, where good players rise to the top while bad ones get blasted into oblivion.
Now, a new, intriguing platform in Vietnam, Geeky.vn, is bringing a literal interpretation of this concept to hiring programming talent. Essentially, it’s a gamified platform for developers to solve puzzles and win prizes.
Free for developers, the site has unveiled its first puzzle this month as well as the top prize of VND 50M (USD 2.4k). While it will start off as a ranking platform, the team has publicized its long-term plan to be a tool for employers to seek out talented developers. Read more
Singapore startup Gametize has launched a new app that focuses entirely on consumers. Called Lifeplay, it adopts all the consumer-focused features that were in the previous version of GameMaki, leaving the new iteration of the latter as a part of the company’s gamification platform for enterprises. Read more
Flocations, a Singapore startup that got a lot of attention for its online service that lets users search plane tickets by price, has quietly changed direction. It is now a meta search engine for tour packages.
The company currently has 1,068 packages from 10 travel agencies on its website, which is more than the 368 listed on inSing.com, one of Singapore’s largest lifestyle portals. The move, while keeping the startup in the travel and tourism space, is certainly a drastic turn.
Flocations raised USD 570k from TNF Ventures and SingTel Innov8 recently. They were also a graduate and investee from seed accelerator JFDI.Asia, which ran its first bootcamp in 2012. Read more
Much has been said about how governments around the world are trying to replicate Silicon Valley in their own backyards. The prevailing view is that having a strong innovation-supportive university is critical to creating a successful startup ecosystem.
In that regard, Singapore is on the right track. According to a new MIT-Skoltech study, which interviewed 61 ‘experts’ from around world in 2012, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is deemed to be among the top ten universities that “created/supported the world’s most successful technology innovation ecosystems.”
How authoritative is this study?
Tempting as it might be to take this study at face value, the methodology deserves further scrutiny.
Experts were picked based on how well-cited they are by academic journals and their active involvement in respective startup ecosystems. Snowball sampling was also used, which means the research team relied on recommendations from fellow expects to select interview candidates.
The study is highly qualitative in nature: interviewers asked open-ended question that were later analysed and collated. As such, answers tend to be highly subjective and may not truly indicate how innovative-supportive universities are, relative to one another.
Some universities may have been left out simply because they are new, low-key, or didn’t do much marketing. I also have my doubts about whether experts are knowledgeable enough about all key universities around the globe to make a truly informed comparison.
At best, this study captures the opinion of the thought leaders in the field of entrepreneurship, opinions which nonetheless carry a lot of weight because they are both actors and experts in their ecosystems. Ultimately, their opinions will shape the health, prestige, and development of startup ecosystems around the world.
So, while the notion that NUS is placed 8th and UC Berkeley 10th is disputable, this study should still be taken seriously.
What does the study actually say?
The study sought to find out which universities most supportive of innovation. Seven factors were identified by experts to contribute to the success of a university ecosystem:
- An institutionalized entrepreneurship and innovation culture.
- Strength of university leadership in establishing an ecosystem.
- University research capability.
- Local or regional quality of life.
- Regional or government support.
- Effective institutional strategy.
- Powerful student-led entrepreneurship drive.
While NUS was picked for the top ten, there’s no indication whether these seven facets were applied uniformly by experts or whether they were weighed the same way by each individual. Most likely not.
However, it isn’t difficult to explain why NUS has made the list. The Singapore government has been pouring money into entrepreneurship and innovation, benefiting NUS in the process.
The university also has a structured and coherent approach towards developing a culture of innovation. It has the NUS Overseas Colleges program, a work and study scheme where students are placed in universities and startups in San Francisco and elsewhere.
It also runs a startup incubator through NUS Enterprise, funding startups with the iJAM scheme as well as providing mentorship and office space.
Asian universities still have a long way to go
Save for NUS, no other university from the Asia-Pacific region made the list. China, however, did emerge as one of the countries that has most benefited from innovation-supportive universities.
So, while no single university in China stood out, their combined force has certainly propped up China’s ecosystem. That said, it does seem that Asian countries are not in position to challenge the likes of Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge anytime soon.
One question which the report doesn’t quite answer (not that it’s attempting to) is the causation between an innovation-supportive university and the strength of a startup ecosystem it resides in.
While a correlation exists when one compares the countries highlighted in this study with the Startup Genome report, what’s less clear is how crucial an innovation-friendly university is in creating a successful startup environment, or whether is it simply the end-product of a well-developed ecosystem.
But I do have a sense that bottom-up innovation, or the notion that entrepreneurs must be the ones driving entrepreneurial initiatives, is the only sustainable approach in the long run.
So it doesn’t matter if a strong innovation-led university is set up in a culture and environment that’s unfriendly to startups.
What matters ten times more is whether the government can bring change in the country or city’s prevailing culture in short order, nurture the next tech millionaires or billionaires, and get them to contribute back to the system.
Update (19 April, 0830 SGT): The campaign has surpassed its goal, raising USD 54k.
Update (23 April): The campaign has raised USD 84k so far, over half of the total legal fees, which amount to USD 150k. The organizers have also clarified that while there’s some overlap, the team does not consist of exactly the same members as the Pink Dot committee.
Gay sex is a crime in Singapore. Yes, in a supposedly cosmopolitan city that is attracting a talented global workforce, the so-called Section 377A, a holdover from Singapore’s colonial era, forbids one male from committing an “act of gross indecency” with another male.
While not actively enforced, gay activists are now taking the fight to the courts with a legal challenge, hoping that the judge will strike 377A down as unconstitutional.
However, an unfavorable judgement was passed last week that passed the buck to the Singapore Parliament, which debated the issue years ago and concluded that the law must stand for fear of upsetting conservative Singapore.
The activists are not deterred however. Instead, they have decided to file an appeal, and in an unprecedented move, taken to global crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to defray legal costs. Unlike rival platform Kickstarter, Indiegogo allows users to fund causes of all kinds.
In less than a day, the campaign has raised USD 54k, smashing the USD 50k target. Indiegogo will collect 4 percent of the fees should the goal be reached, with an additional 3 percent deducted for credit card processing. The deadline is still two months away.
Crowdfunding has emerged organically in Singapore in recent months as a viable way for entrepreneurs, artists, and now activists to raise substantial money to fund their projects.
Last year, singer Inch Chua got USD 15,510 to fund the production of her new album, while indie cafe The Pigeonhole secured USD 9,025 to pay their outstanding rentals and move to a new location.
This year saw new highs for Singapore’s crowdfunding scene when Silverline and Bamboobee, both entrepreneurial projects with a social bent, received USD 53k and USD 39k respectively.
The use of crowdfunding for a social initiative is probably the first of its kind in the country.
But regardless of how much is raised, it’s unlikely that the government will capitulate to the campaign’s demands, despite countries like New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam making significant moves recently towards anti-discrimination.
Nonetheless, the activists are showing how the internet has become an effective enabler for anyone pursuing a cause.
The success of this campaign isn’t an accident. For years, its organizers have been building a strong social media platform called Pink Dot to advance LGBT-friendly initiatives. The movement, which has an impactful offline component, has even spread to Utah.
This latest campaign is the culmination of years of organizational work, tapping on a genuine desire for change among a large swath of the population.
The Pink Dollar has truly arrived in Singapore.
News has hit this week that Indonesia has become the new battleground for beauty box companies — a type of subscription service where customers receive a box of cosmetics samples on a monthly basis.
Singapore’s VanityTrove is believed to be the first to enter the country, followed closely behind by Lolabox, started by two former Rocket Internet employees, and BeautyTreats. Both competitors launched officially yesterday to much fanfare from the tech press.
While their entry into Indonesia is good news for consumers who have been clamoring for such services in the country, there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical about their success.
It all starts with the fact that Rocket Internet’s very own GlossyBox has avoided Indonesia and its surrounding countries like a plague. Read more
Nitrous.IO (formerly Action.IO), a Singapore-based startup that makes setting up an Integrated Development Environment a snap, has just announced a USD 1M round led by Silicon Valley based Bessemer Venture Partners.
Draper Associates, CrunchFund, 500 Startups, TIBCO Software, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures, and Peanut Labs co-founder and CTO Prosper Nwankpa also participated in this round. According to Golden Gate Ventures partner Vinnie Lauria, his firm put in less than USD 50k in this round, which was closed third-quarter of last year. Read more
Spotify, a popular music streaming service, has just launched in Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. The service, available in both free and premium versions, enables users to listen to an unlimited amount of music.
The free version is ad-supported and works only on a laptop or desktop while the paid, ad-free version enables offline listening on mobile devices as well. Its mobile app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Users can also create playlists and share it with their friends. They can search for music and follow their favorite artists to find out their latest activities.
Since starting in 2006, Spotify has generated USD 500M in revenue for rights owners, and now has a buffet spread of 20M songs globally. It has 6M paying subscribers in 23 markets.
We first got wind of Spotify’s interest in the region when they began hiring teams in Singapore and Hong Kong. Then, last week, invites were sent to a press event, fueling speculation as to when exactly the service will launch in Singapore.
While Spotify is certainly among the first music streaming services to expand into Asia (StarHub and KKBox’s Music Anywhere beat it to the punch in Singapore), others are expected to follow in rapid fashion.
Apple is reportedly on the brink of launching its own version this year, to be offered through iTunes. It will be made available in UK, France, Germany, Australia and Japan.
Scripps Networks Interactive, an international media company, has announced today the acquisition of the Asian Food Channel (AFC), a Singapore-based food-focused pay television network with about 8 million subscribers in 11 markets. Terms of the acquisition were undisclosed.
Including AFC, Scripps now has three lifestyle television brands that are distributed in the region — Food Network and Travel Channel are the other two.
“Asia and the rapid growth in pay television households throughout the region hold great promise for Scripps Networks Interactive and its international ambitions,” said Kenneth W. Lowe, the company’s chairman, president and CEO.
“Acquiring the Asian Food Channel significantly expands our presence in key growth markets and provides us with a solid foundation on which to build a growing lifestyle media business in the region. The channel aligns perfectly with our lifestyle programming focus.”
The AFC runs 24 hours a day, seven days of week and broadcasts a mix of Asian and international video content. It also has a stable of originally-produced programs. Its main revenue source is advertising and fees from pay television operators.
AFC is founded by Maria Brown and Hian Goh. Maria serves as the CEO of the company while Hian is the managing director.
Derek Chang, the recently appointed managing director of the Asia Pacific region for Scripps Networks, will oversee the management and integration of AFC in addition to managing the expansion of Scripps Networks’ other properties in the region.
CloudyRec, a Singapore-based startup building a backend platform for mobile apps and games, has decided to call it a day. The service will be shutting down on 30 April this year. Current users should retrieve their data before it’s too late. Here’s the official announcement, first published on the CloudyRec blog by its Burmese founder: Read more