These startups are building a variety of solutions, from smart assistants to influencer marketing platforms
In Asia, the rapid take-up of low-cost smartphones has accelerated the pervasiveness of internet usage in developing nations like Indonesia, China and India.
According to statistics provided by ASEAN UP, as of January 2018, about half of Indonesia’s 265.4 million population have gone online and 177.9 million people in the country are mobile users; compare this to 10 years ago, when only 18.6 million Indonesians were hooked up to the world wide web.
Charged by this growth, VCs, angel investors, startups, incubators and accelerators from across the globe have opened up operations in the region to plant their stake in this wellspring of opportunity.
One such enterprising accelerator is MOX, also known as the Mobile Only Accelerator. The Taiwan-based accelerator is a spin-off US-headquartered SOSV: The Accelerator VC, which manages a US$300 million fund and operates seven global accelerators including Shenzhen- and San Francisco-based accelerator HAX. SOSV has over 600 mentors so each startup can receive 1-to-1 coaching.
As its name suggests, MOX invests and works with mobile-focused startups to refine their solutions, business models and teams. It also helps them acquire users by connecting them with 167 million smartphone users on its platform, partnering them with brands and telcos, and also via cross-promotion with other apps (in return for revenue share).
William Bao Bean, General Partner, SOSV, said that MOX helps startups analyse large swaths of market data so they can optimise their localisation and monetisation strategy.
Currently, MOX focuses on India, Indonesian and Philippines-based startups. It is looking to expand to other countries in the region, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, in the near future.
That said, it is also open to companies that hail from other parts of the world — as long as they have an amazing product to share. At its 5th Demo Day in Singapore today, MOX showcased 6 such mobile startups.
Let’s have a look!
New York-based firm escapex has an interesting sell to social media influencers and celebrities. Its eponymous social media tool is a decentralised white label platform that aims to help these influencers get better engagement, reach and even revenue from their social media presence, by having more options and autonomy over their account.
For example, followers can pay to boost their comments so they can get noticed. The influencers or celebrities can also offer paid premium content to their followers; get sponsorships; or help sell affiliated products — all on one social media platform.
CEO and Founder Sephi Shapira claims that it has over 200 tier 1 celebrities on the platform, including actors Jeremy Renner and Amber Rose.
Shapira claims that escapex can generate a 1.5 per cent engagement rate, which is higher than Instagram’s 0.5 per cent rate. Potentially, those who use the former can expect to generate revenues of US$1 per user.
escapex raised US$20 million from investors in Southeast Asia.
Smartphones may be dropping in price but one thing that will never lose its value is the data that is stored inside — precious photographs, messages, phone numbers, etcetera.
Every year in India an estimated 150 million smartphones are stolen or go missing. miFon wants to tackle this problem.
It has developed a software that allows users to track the location of the smartphone and open its photos even when the smartphone is switched off or disconnected from the internet.
All users have to do is log into their account via a browser or send an SMS to the smartphone. It costs US$5 to subscribe to the service.
miFon also offers other utilities such as automated cleaner, backup and malware protection.
The company has partnered with brands such as Panasonic and is seeking partnerships with telcos in Indonesia and Bangladesh. miFon is already installed in 2 million smartphones and has over 500,000 active users.
It is looking to raise US$2 million.
Fleksy wants to bring better intelligence assistance to mobile keyboard typing with its app. According to Founder and CEO, Olivier Plante, it can be trained to “read your mind as you type”.
Essentially, this means that Fleksy can learn about user’s interests, linguistic choices and habits by gathering and analysing their data as they type. It will then fit the user into a profile within its 800 categories.
What this brings is better autocorrection or suggestions for gifs and emoticons. It can even activate other services without leaving the app. For example, in a demo, Plante showed that typing in the word “sushi” in a WhatsApp conversation via Fleksy can bring up a link to a sushi eatery; or typing in ‘Trump’ brings up emoticons like the US flag or an orange-coloured face.
Fleksy has over 950,000 monthly active users and has signed 3 deals that could see it being integrated into 30 million smartphones.
The company is looking to raise US$2 million in funding and has US$1.2 million of it already committed to them.
Advertising is shifting towards influencer marketing campaigns. But while many brands are taking that approach, they face difficulties finding the right influencers or trustworthy influencers who do not misbehave on social media or buy fake followers.
Add to that, influencer marketing campaigns are also difficult to scale.
What Unboxed aims to do is leverage the power of the “crowd” or micro-influencers to tackle this problem. It claims that people tend to trust other ordinary folks for products and services, thus making micro-influencer marketing 5 times more engaging.
Unboxed claims it is able to find the right micro-influencers for their clients with 96 per cent accuracy. By using blockchain, it also ensures that the influencers are verified and secure. These micro-influencers are then ranked according to their performance.
Unboxed has worked with over 100 global brands including Mars, Nestle, and Philips.
It wants to raise US$500,000 to crack into the Asia market.
Many gamers — especially kids — in developing countries like Indonesia do not have bank accounts, so they can’t conduct online transactions. Achiko wants to solve this problem by working with ATMs, shops, and telecom carriers so consumers can use cash to pay for these mobile services.
Achiko currently helps facilitate over 650,000 mobile transactions monthly, which collectively generates over US$500,000 in revenue per month.
It is worth noting that Achiko’s solution isn’t exactly novel though; MOLPay is also another payments solution that helps users pay for mobile services using cash.
Achiko is looking to raise US$1.5 million.
India has a problem with bad eyesight and as a result, it has the highest rate of people going blind in the world.
The issue here is that there aren’t enough optical stores, especially for small towns and villages. There is only 1 per 70,000 people in India, and when they do sell glasses, they cost US$50, which is a little too pricey for some Indians.
ClearDekho is tackling this problem by building stores that sell budget glasses. They go for only US$7 per pair — as long as the wearer’s power is within the range of -3 to +3 (anything above and you will have to top up).
The company also offers an online store where folks can enter their prescription, order the glasses and have them sent to their homes.
ClearDekho currently has 25 stores with revenue growing 40 per cent month on month. It is adding 6 – 7 stores every month with a deal to open up 100 more stores through a partnership with Growthroots. It will focus on Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4 small towns and cities.
The company has accumulated over 45,000 customers, reaping over US$38,000 in revenue.
It wants to raise US$3 million in funding.
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