Social media girl

Developing a social media platform is relatively simple; it is the scaling and growth that is tricky. Among the deluge of social media startups, Facebook still reigns supreme by far. Indeed, it is difficult market to crack into, even the almighty Google met its Waterloo when it made an attempt with Google+.

So how do you stand out? Well, one way is to target a niche segment and focus all your resources to tackle one market. You may not reach a number anywhere close to Facebook’s, but, hey, at least you will have a steady stream of core users engaging with you. Here are 15 Asia-based startups doing just that.

1. HeHeBuddy

Launched in 2015 by Founder Patrick Chu, the Hong Kong-based startup lists events catering to the growing segment of LGBT users, providing a safe and inclusive space for LGBT members to engage in hobbies such as tennis, dating, and music together.

2. Lunch Kaki

Tired of going to lunch alone, watching happy people converse while your heart turns bitter under the crushing weight of existential anguish?

Well, Singapore-based startup Lunch Kaki (meaning “buddy”) might just have the antidote you need. The app allows you to find lunch companions, new friends, and meet people for fresh job opportunities. Founder Melvin Tan believes that lunchtime presents the best opportunity for casual meet ups and networking purposes.

The service has two tiers. The basic tier allows you to send up to 10 lunch requests and search for up to 10 “lunch kakis” per day. Upgrading to the Premium tier (a one-off US$6.99 fee) entitles you to 20 lunch requests a day and unlimited searches for “lunch kakis”. It also enables you to specify the preferred location of your lunch.

Each month, it also has a featured “lunch kaki” which it selects based on his or her “irresistible personality”.

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3. Gaption

If a social network had a baby with an online marketplace, the result would be Gaption. What is unique about it is how it allows users to monetise their engagement. In Kenneth Ho, a Co-founder at Gaption’s own words – “It has a renumeration system where people can get a little bit of rebate from the things that they recommend in the social network that people can buy.”

A user could potentially earn up to a couple of thousands per month from the commission he or she makes from the sale/recommendation. Gaption then receives two percent of the transaction fee.

It currently sells deals, tickets and digital downloads.

4. Nearcircles

Nearcircles’s Founder Suresh Mylavarapu has a dream for the Singapore-based neighbourhood social networking app – to grow into  “a quora for users in the same neighbourhood to discuss different topics such as neighbourhood shop recommendations, get local crime updates, find new helpers, connect with hobby buddies, sell used items, and look for carpool buddies.”

Mylavarapu came up with the idea because he and his wife often moved to different neighbourhoods whenever their rental contracts were up, and needed a easy way to connect with their neighbourhood and create social circles.

Currently its focus is major cities in India, and Singapore. But it plans to expand globally in the future. According to Mylavarapu, users from 2300 unique neighbourhoods are currently on Nearcircles.

It is targeting to hit 200,000 users by July 2016 and three million by the end of 2017.

5. Hangaroo

Developed by Singapore-based startup Glimpse, the Hangaroo app is an icebreaker app for schools (currently geared towards towards Temasek Polytechnic).

It is still at the developmental stage; no data is available beyond it’s goal to “encourage inter-faculty and intra-faculty mingling and networking.”

Glimpse says that it aims to release its MVP on the iOS platform by March 2016.


India-based startup Chkra describes itself as a social network for social causes. This isn’t Founder Abhinav Chauhan’s first social enterprise either. Last year he started the Peacers Social Commerce. The idea was to sell merchandise and fundraise to help charities.

However, Chauhan found it difficult to reach people through marketing on Facebook or existing networks, which lead him to develop Chkra. On the platform, charities and social causes can connect with users without needing to splurge on costly marketing or advertising campaigns.

Also Read: Is social media a devil on your shoulder or an angel by your side?

Chkra was launched in a private beta form last November and accumulated 2,000 users. It will release its public beta version and mobile app this month.

7. Rappier

Singapore-based startup Rappier wants to tackle everyone’s worst fear – that your unglamorous clubbing photos would be seen by your boss on Facebook.

Therefore, it has created Closrr, a social network specially designed for your close groups of friends or families. Now you can share snippets of your personal life freely with them without the fear of repercussions or embarrassments.

Closrr launched in Oct 2015 on both iOS & Android. According to Rappier, it has recently crossed the 30,000 users mark.

“We would like to tie up with other apps where we can provide our technology that can act as a robust messaging engine for any app. We will also want to interface with third-party service apps and bring more services to our users,” says Ramesh Nistala, CEO and Founder of Rappier.

8. Zcholar

Malaysia-based academic social network Zcholar is targeting only one audience – scholars. Think of it as a online study group where scholars from around the world can connect with each other and share academic materials.

In addition, it is also has a fundraising platform for scholars to raise money for scholarship or research funding. It aims to build an online library filled with academic materials generated by its scholars. Founder Nader Yahay says that part of Zcholar profit will go for yearly full scholarships and building schools in poor countries.

Also Read: Hey brands, turn your social media faux pas into opportunities

Yahay is on the hunt for investors and aims to bring Zcholar into universities in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

9. Novelinked

Book-swap gatherings not only build up your reading repertoire, but it can also lead to lifelong friendships, and, maybe even lifetime partnerships (after all reading books can be an intimate activity!).

Singapore-based startup MakasharCreative wants to help you fulfil those fantasies through its social book-swapping app Novelinked. It provides a set of curated book matches using the catalogued book shelf, reading preferences and location of its users. They can then meet up and do a swap.

Currently its target markets are India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

10. Involver

Singapore-based social enterprise Involver is empowering non profit companies using CSR programmes by leveraging on gamification and Big data technology

The Involver app automates tasks such as volunteer management, event promotion, sponsor reporting, and measuring the social impact of volunteer work; reducing operational and management costs.

Individual volunteers can also discover and register for non-profit events on the app.

Also Read: Social media startup wants users to share critical thinking

11. Clique

Founded in May 2015, Malaysia-based startup Clique helps families stay connected through its Android app.

To start off, the app has a “Family chat” feature, allowing you to connect with your family in a group and communicate through text messaging and voice calls.

Wait, isn’t that basically a dumbed-down Whatsapp? It would be, if it didn’t have other core features including –

  • Location tracking function.
  • A notification when your child reaches the destination.
  • A one touch SOS button that sends out the location of the user and automatically
    dials a family member’s phone number.
  • Family-orientated dining and entertainment deals

12. GeckoLife

Launched in 2014, Geckolife aims to be a platform allowing users to share media files, participate and communicate in various interest groups, and plan activities. It emphasises that its platform is completely secure and confidential for all users.

13. SUP

Singapore-based startup SUP touts itself as a “friend on-demand” service. The app locates friends nearby, allowing you to send out an invite to them if you wish to meet up.

If you have no friends in the vicinity or no friends at all, fret not! You can send out invites to other users on SUP.

Don’t think of it as an alternative to Tinder or Paktor though, because according to its FAQ – “SUP is not a dating app. It helps you to find someone to meet with for an activity. Many of our active members are in relationships.”

Personally, I don’t think that  should stop you, because all is fair in love and war right?

Also Read: Reinventing sales with social media — the Furlenco way


Thailand-based startups wants to cut out the hassle of adding and following other users typically found on conventional social networks.

Instead, it’s like an online chatroom where users can broadcast messages to other users in their immediate vicinity. They can also stay in touch with other users’ activities and through this, discover new events to participate in. Interestingly, users can also send “self destructing personal messages.”

15. Million Dollar Concepts

Taiwan-based startup Million Dollar Concepts is a resource website for entrepreneurs. Like the popular blog publishing platform Medium, users can write stories, but with a focus on business and entrepreneurship articles.

Such stories include “12 Reasons to Build Your Startup in Indonesia” and “Media Training for Executives“.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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