At B Dash Camp 2013 in Osaka, there were a bevy of good companies who deserve to be highlighted. Here’s a lowdown of the eight hottest startups you should check out.
Have you heard about colAR, a freemium smartphone solution which uses augmented reality technology to breathe life on coloring book pages? New Zealand-based parent company Puteko, a PITCH ARENA finalist, was first founded after receiving positive feedback for their technology at the HIT Lab NZ, in order to commercialize their idea.
What is impressive about the technology is that it is able to simulate a real environment with customized images, which is the startup’s key differentiator. For colAR, users can print out a set of images, varying from planes to dolls, color away and hover their iOS and Android devices above the finished artwork. Immediately, a 3D model of the image will appear with all colors and design retained. Premium books can also be bought off the web.
In mid-September, Puteko also joined a business alliance with SourceNext, a Japan-based software publisher, to launch colAR in the Northeast Asian country. CEO Katy Kelly said that they will be working with Dentsu, an advertising agency; DeNA, a mobile and e-commerce provider; and D-Rights, an integrated production company.
While the service might be targeted at entertaining children, it seems that people of all ages are able to relate to it. Currently seeking funding from Japanese venture capitalists, Kelly shared that they are looking at some US$1.5 million for the Series A round and US$4.5 million pre-money valuation.
With 43 percent of their users based in Japan, despite not spending a cent on marketing, checking out Japanese partnerships and investors seem to be the right thing to do.
South Korean startup Buzzpia, which is an online marketplace for themes and home pages on the Android platform, caught our eye with two of their products Buzz Launcher and Homepack Buzz.
Homepack Buzz, a home screen sharing service for Android smartphones, allows users to share new home screens to their devices. On the other hand, Buzz Launcher enables discovery amongst users of the online marketplace.
On the surface, the products are simple sharing and discovery solutions which help users personalize home screens. If Buzzpia ends up working with telecom conglomerates, big corporates and startups to help promote and recommend apps on these home screens, that might be a credible and viable source of revenue for the software company.
No credit card? No problem. At least that is what JazzPay, a Thai-based payment service, claims. As the first runner up of Startup Weekend Bangkok 2013, the business runs on the concept that consumers without a credit card can request to transfer the payment to a friend with a credit card through SMS or within the app.
With a low credit card penetration in Thailand, the company seems to have a ripe market for harvesting. However, it works on the assumption that the users have friends with credit cards. If their friends do not have credit cards, wouldn’t the whole business model be flawed in that those potential users will not choose to use JazzPay?
Co-founder Paul Haberer said that there is a validation check to ensure security measures are taken against fraud. However, while the company might want to scale across countries in Asia, there is a plethora of regulatory boards it has to get through. If the solution gets to hold on to key credit card information, this will also create complexities to payment regulations.
Typographical errors, or better known as typos, are the bane of a writer’s life. Backspaces are enough to frustrate and annoy. Auto-correct is changing the way we type, but is it for the better? Enter Keukey, a South Korean-based startup, has a solution for fat fingers on touch screens.
As a virtual keyboard, it recognizes pattern structure in sentences intelligently, and specific phrases with a database. For example, if users type “How xan I go? can”, it will recognize that “can” should substitute “xan”.
As for specific key phrases or words, if users type, “Let’s meet on Sunday?” and later change your mind, they do not have to backspace. All they have to do is type “Monday” after the sentence and swipe their finger and activate the changes.
While this might be an interesting idea, would it gain traction and revenue by selling to consumers? Probably not. The best case scenario is for Keukey to sell its technology to existing services or complex businesses which have uses for such typing conveniences. Currently, the company does not have a revenue model, but it should settle on one once the product goes live.
5. 886 Food
Taiwanese e-commerce company 886 Food wants to help farmers get a bigger slice. Traditionally, consumers get their groceries from the supermarket or wet market. If they wanted premium or organic supplies, they would have to visit markets or shops with a niche in such items. However, now, they can simply access the Internet and get whatever they want right away.
At the moment, 886 Food have products like Taiwan Kopi Luwak, a premium brand of formosan civet coffee, and Organic I-lan Rice, a premium organic rice from Taiwan as well. By enabling consumers to purchase from the farmers directly, this also increases the profit margin for farmers.
TechCrunch Japan also reported that according to the Director of Business for 886 Food, Yuting Liu, farmers only receive about five percent of a US$62.5 billion market in Taiwan.
Tiffany Wu from 886 Food
BinPress, a US-based marketplace for commercial open-source projects, might be the answer for some startups and developers. With over 1,000 components listed, like an in-app purchase verification module (US$24.99) or a food app template (US$99.99), the solution enables young startups to think further when it comes to development.
Projects are not merely limited to mobile development softwares. Covering 10 computing languages, it seems that project owners can list what they are looking for and pay developers for their solutions.
Earlier in May, TechCrunch reported that BinPress was accepted into 500 Startups, a global accelerator. The company is looking to successfully bootstrap in two years, and achieve US$500,000 by the end of this current year.
While targeting children from ages three to eight, the company has published over 140 iOS and Android apps, which are now available in five languages. But that is not enough; Q.L.L. is looking at publishing 300 apps to help pre-schoolers. As seen on their official website, the product has seen some 300,000 monthly active users on mobile devices.
Under Q.L.L on Google Play, it is visible that children are able to entertain themselves through illustrated and animated fables. The company is also able to monetize through mobile advertising in both paid and sponsored posts.
Given that Q.L.L. won an award at B Dash Camp 2013, does that mean that they will be able to raise a round soon?
As for their most mature product, TopAdmit reaches out to students applying to schools in English-speaking countries. This counts for 80 percent of WritePath’s revenue, says co-founder Stefan Schneider. He adds that they will be targeting the top 10 international markets that send out students to places like US and UK. These markets include China, India, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
The company is also tackling the academic research paper editing service with its Top SCI Edit product. According to Schneider, that constitutes about 10 percent of the company’s revenue. This takes in mind that even if professors have a stellar command of the English language, they would still need a proofreader or technical editor.
The third industry WritePath is looking to ace in is the business editing service with Biz Editors. The market is estimated to be about US$3 billion to US$5 billion.
At the moment, the three-year-old company has seen 100 editors from top global universities join their program, and serviced some 1,500 customers in 20 countries.
Disclaimer: B Dash Ventures is an investor in e27
B Dash VenturesJapan
B Dash Ventures does seed to late stage tech investments in Japan, Asia Pacific, and the U.S. LPs include Japan's largest technology companies and financial institutions including NTT Docomo.