Friday, April 22, 2011

Echelon 2011 Kuala Lumpur: Startup Ideas

Echelon 2011 Kuala Lumpur is a short and meaningful event; allow me to catch a short glimpse about Malaysia’s startup arena, how to fair in the 5 minutes presentation and what are the common questions from the judges, and what a typical startup look like.

Basically most of the ideas are common buzz nowadays with no spectacular breakthrough, so it depends very much on how you present your idea, how you answer question from judges and how to execute the idea eventually. I think most of the founders are below 30 (2-5 people), some with some sort of financial backing. The usual questions from judges hover around monetization, one particular judge seems interested if you are working on your startup fulltime, and some give good insights into some specific problems. A lot of emphasis is on social and geo-location.

Wootfood by Alphapod is something like foodspotting, find good food through photos. I think food is very important and unique for Malaysian (that's why I develop MMW Food and Foodie Android App), and there should be a good app for it. Their app and idea seems decent enough (funded through the 150K MDEC Grant); but since it’s a UGC platform, how are they going to solve the no contents less users issue (chicken and egg)? Co-founder TJ seems to be a pretty alright entrepreneur having started Ninja Jones before, good at PR stuff.

31Storey by FLOChip is fashion e-commerce site. The sad thing is, they sent a not so proficient designer to present the startup, rather its YCombinator alumni co-founder Ong Teng Siong (perhaps they don’t need the money?). The initial strategy is to persuade the blogshop owners to use their service, by presenting pretty storefront full of product images. There are some opportunities in this space, but their proposal is not very compelling.

FongFeiKei by Motif Channel allows you to sell your ticket away when you can’t make it for the event, overcoming inefficient means through forum, twitter and classifieds. They are some grey area in terms of legality of selling second-hand “black market” tickets and authenticity issue; they are advised to target business instead of individual. They have a pretty good approach to target cinema with their unsold tickets especially during weekdays. At the end, it might end up like a Groupon-clone with a different focus.

FanXT is a fantasy sports platform, I think people buy credit to play these games (they are some avid fantasy players on the floor, the market should be there). Most fantasy sports target US-based sports, so they target International sports like F1, World Cup, Tennis, etc. The judges question the legality of using famous players name in their product without licensing; and the need to buy player’s stats from 3rd party to make the game more realistic.

Second CRM by Soft Solvers Solutions is on demand / cloud / SAAS CRM solution, something like, only cheaper and simpler to use. The approach is “traditional” but I think is solid enough with some potential, but the only problem is Malaysian’s awareness of the need of CRM, even though it’s for free (no time to evaluate). So they need to target medium sized company, and do a lot of awareness workshop.

Tikam by CellKast Games, allow you to get random prizes. You get a fixed number of chances by logging in, or you can buy more chances. They guarantee the prizes will be worth more than the money you put in, by getting deals from sponsors. There is one viral element here: when you win something which you don’t like (winning a Carlsberg but you don’t drink), you can send it as a gift to your friend through Facebook wall posting, and probably you get some credit for sending as a gift as well. Grey area of it might be considered as gambling.

Posttude (sounds like Prostitute), to replace postcode and solve problem of areas without address. Why not use GPS lat/lng? GPS is a specific point, where posttude is an area, broken is 5-4-4 digit. The first 5 digit represent a bigger area (like a country), which can be zoomed in a smaller area (like a state), and the last 4 digit to target the exact location. You can extend the code further to cater for floors or specific unit (private implementation). Supposing you can buy your own name as address like tinyurl (URL shortening and redirection service), for example ###desmond as my address (the downside is need Internet as lookup, can’t be done offline). The question is how to encourage massive adoption and change human behavior? The presenter is an old dude with an attitude, with pretty catchy presentation.

Feed George is a location-based services, show you nearby messages, photos, restaurants, property, etc (something like my prototype, lamb). It won the people’s choice award, so it’s clear people do want more location-based services. I think the expectation is high, but the delivery might be disappointing (the same applies to my idea as well). Location-based twitter are not very useful most of the time, with chatting going on rather than relaying useful information to the general public (a better filter perhaps). Flickr photos might be nice to look at, but it gets bored easily. Foursquare places contains a lot error, and listing places is not enough (we need better review and evaluation how good is this place, what is highly recommended, etc). To deliver better location-based services, perhaps we should think of how to create good quality data, and more local contents.

WorkCrowd by AdExcel Online Networks offers Facebook-clone for the workplace, so that you can separate colleagues from friends, and also as an Intranet platform to increase workplace understanding and knowledge sharing with a social twist (badges), something Intranet forum and wiki failed to deliver over the decade. The app seems pretty solid, thanks to their existing funding and bigger team. Can social element really encourage office participation? Maybe, but certainly a leap forward than existing solutions. You own corporate Facebook? Sounds good to the CEO, maybe not to the works; good news is the CEO who pays the bills :)

MobileApps is an app store with the selling point of giving 95% cut to developer and accept wider payment than the current pitiful Android Market’s Google Checkout. I guess they try to win it through marketing, but I don’t think the proposition is compelling (it will get harder to compete with Android Market eventually).

My pick for the day is WorkCrowd (due to their solid product and potential corporate adoption, disclosure: the CTO is my ex-colleague) and FongFeiKei (nice twist e-commerce and deals, or I ran out of choices).

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