From agriculture to finance to medicine, startups in Asia are taking up the challenge of creating solutions for new (and sometimes age-old) problems across many industries. Here are 27 we think you should keep an eye on.
1. Dot (South Korea)
Affordable and innovative e-Braille reader for the visually impaired people around the globe
This South Korean startup has jumped in on the smartwatch trend and made it accessible for a demographic that has rather been neglected. Dot has developed an active Braille smartwatch that could be used as a communication tool by the visually-impaired. When connected to a mobile phone, the Dot smartwatch can display messages in Braille through columns of dots that pop up to form the Braille cells. The company is also now in the process of designing a DOT pad to accommodate users’ need for access to data such as e-books, shapes, and lengthy communication.
2. AeroLion (Singapore)
Solving complicated problems in complicated environments
AeroLion’s unmanned aerial vehicles are products of years of research; the company developed UAVs that operate using multi-sensor technology instead of GPS, allowing the devices to operate in indoor and even underground environment. This gives the UAVs the capability to take over activities such as radiation measurements, critical infrastructure inspections, and mine inspections, resulting to lowered risk to human life without compromising accurate data gathering. AeroLion has expanded to China and is now looking at expansion to Japan and South East Asia.
3. Gava (Singapore)
Cultivating the virtue of generosity and making it a lifestyle
Singapore-based Gava is a crowdfunding platform that operates in the Philippines. It enables users to create campaigns for various personal events and social causes and to promote these campaigns through social media. Its simple interface allows for smooth navigation, and the availability of several payment options — both online and offline — makes it easier for contributors to support the campaigns that they want. Gava has fulfilled 1,000 causes since its inception in 2015 and has recently launched its app.
4. Horsepower (Philippines)
We empower every type of entrepreneur and changing how benefits works
Cloud-based SaaS platform Horsepower began with the idea to provide freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small and medium enterprises health insurance packages at affordable rates that are typically available only to organisations with a large workforce. It has then expanded to providing human resources and administration assistance, access to legal, tax, and accounting advice, a dashboard with utilities payment facilities, and discounts to partner co-working spaces.
5. LinCor Biosciences (Singapore)
Treating corneal blindness through tissue engineering
Founded in 2011, LinCor Biosciences was primarily created with the express objective of further development of bioengineered corneas. This Singapore-based startup is creating human tissue-compatible engineered corneas that would address the problem of severe shortage of human donor corneas. Using human collagen and bioploymers, LinCor Biosciences is currently in the tail-end of its human clinical trials of bioengineered corneas with a longer shelf life than human donor corneas.
6. Grdient (Singapore)
Skills. Learning. Reimagined.
Equipping students with the necessary skills to match the needs of companies is the driving force behind Grdient. The startup offers students an intensive programme consisting of classes for in-demand skills, live projects using real-world data, and mentoring. Faculty members of Grdient include VCs and startup practitioners who can impart their firsthand knowledge of the fast-paced startup ecosystem to student. Students of Grdient become part of a platform that partner startups, VCs, and recruiters use as an avenue to train, discover, and possibly hire new talents.
7. Beacon Interface (Thailand)
Promoting equal access to financial services
Brand-new Thailand-based Beacon Interface has designed an app that allows the visually-impaired to manage their personal finances. The app uses multi-sensory interaction, voice assistance, and a “one screen one task” interface that minimises errors and increases user confidence in using the app. The startup is one of the winners of the Global Fintech Accelerator competition held in Singapore this year.
8. WOVN.io (Japan)
Welcome the world in one line of code
This Japan-based startup has developed a programme that takes localised content to the global audience. Launched in 2014 and currently used by over 8,000 companies, WOVN.io supports 27 languages and allows users to localise their website in minutes. The company is currently in the process of creating new features such as email and site layout localisation and strategic partnerships to offer multi-currency and global shipping support. WOVN.io has recently announced completion of series B round of financing.
9. PaidUp (Philippines)
Enables small and medium businesses in emerging markets to bypass the banks and crowdfund investment directly from customers
PaidUp is a platform that works in two way: first is that it helps small businesses crowdfund directly from regular customers the money they could use to make their business grow. Second is that it allows customers to buy credit upfront and go cashless in the next visits, as well as to avoid long queues by pre-ordering for pick-up or local delivery. Launched in Quezon City in the Philippines early 2016, the company has since gained over 100 partner establishments and is popular among students and young professionals.
10. Soft Space (Malaysia)
Simplifying payments through technology
Soft Space is a digital payments company that develops solutions for the e-banking and payment industry. Its centralized EMV payment platform allows anyone to accept card payments using a smart device – a synergy between a mobile application, pocket-sized card readers, web management console, and real-time dashboard. This, coupled with certifications from EMV, MasterCard, and Visa, allows for secure transactions that are recognized globally. Working with existing financial institutions, Soft Space solutions are currently available in 8 countries in Asia.
11. The Project Nomad (Singapore)
Empowering Artisans. Improving Education
The Project Nomad is an e-commerce site that connects artisans from disadvantaged communities to new markets. Founded early 2016, this Singapore-based startup is currently working with artisans from the Roopsi Village of Jaisalmer in India, who market the goods they produce in the website. Project Nomad also uses part of its earning to support local schools providing education for underprivileged children. The company is looking to expand all over Asia; currently in its first initiative in India working with 25 artisans and educating 140 children.
12. Door2Door Doctor (Malaysia)
Healthcare at your doorstep
Door2Door Doctor is a startup that seeks to address the problem of long waiting times in hospitals and clinics through an online platform that connects patients with healthcare professionals and services near them. The platform works with a fleet of doctors, nurses, therapists, and even medical transportation providers to deliver treatment to the patients’ homes, reducing and potentially eliminating the time spent in hospitals and clinics and allowing patients with mobility difficulties to receive expert professional care without the difficulties of transport.
13. BLH Aqua Technology (South Korea)
Development of water treatment technology for improving overall agricultural productivity
BLH Aqua Technology creates products that help plants grow more efficiently. Its product, Aquatonix, is an eco-friendly agricultural water treatment device that adjusts the characteristics of water molecules, resulting to crops’ better absorption of water and nutrients. The company claims that using Aquatonix helps reduce the amount of water farmer needs to use by 20 per cent, reduce the amount of fertilisers and pesticides, and results to higher quality and yield of crops. The company targets to enter countries like the US that are struggling with water shortage as well as countries where agriculture accounts for a large percentage of the GDP like China. Aquatonix will be available in the retail market in 2017.
14. Molcure (Japan)
Providing the best drugs for patients in the quickest time
Molcure is an antibody drug-focused biotech company specialising in biomolecule discovery. Using a proprietary antibody discovery platform that combines biology, bioinformation, and automation, the company has reduced the time and resources needed to develop antibody-based drugs through identification of gene sequences and automation of candidate testing, resulting to less expensive and more viable drugs. Molcure has recently been selected as Pioneers50 Startups at Pioneers Festival recently held in Vienna, Austria.
15. Trail Adventours (Philippines)
Share. Life. Outdoors.
Launched in October 2010 with three adventure guides and two hiking destinations, Trail Adventours is a Philippine-based adventure travel startup that now offers hikes to over 50 mountains around the world. The company works with seasoned adventure guides and local communities to ensure safe hikes that are neither intrusive nor destructive to the environment and the local culture.
16. FarmOn (Philippines)
A community that bridges the gap between virtual farming and real-life farming.
FarmOn is a crowdfunding community that got its idea from the popularity of the game Farmville. Founded in 2014, the company gives people who want to engage in farming but do not have the time or the know-how the opportunity to farm virtually. Virtual farmers will contribute money and choose the specific crops that FarmOn partner farmers will produce. Contributors may earn once the crops have been successfully harvested after the farming season. FarmOn currently owns 96 hectares of farmland property in several provinces in the Philippines, providing jobs to local farmers.
17. GO-JEK (Indonesia)
A socially-minded technology company that aims to improve the welfare of workers in a variety of informal sector in Indonesia
GO-JEK is an on-demand ride service operating in 10 major cities of Indonesia. It currently has a fleet of over 200,000 motorcycle riders that provide various services such as transport and food delivery. Growing past its core offering, the company has a same-day delivery service for various products, as well as a mobile payment service. It has recently announced launching of new services in other fields such as professional cleaning services, event ticketing, and medical needs purchase among others.
18. Pathship (Hongkong)
Provides intelligent learning solutions, empowering employees to achieve business goals today and tomorrow
Pathship is a Hongkong-based online learning system that applies the latest advances in educational research and machine learning to remove the pain points from corporate learning. Powered by artificial intelligence, Pathship is able to collect data and provide insights into the engagement of each learner and the effectiveness of corporate learning programs. In the long-term, Pathship hopes to use technology to provide a hybrid model of education where employees consistently receive recommendations of what and when they need to learn and accelerate the pace of skills development.
19. Tailslife (India)
A one stop mobile application created to meet pet parents’ needs
Bangalore-based startup Tailslife is an online platform for pet-related information. The platform offers expert-written content that is pet breed and age specific, booking function for pet services, an interactive forum to connect with other users, vaccination reminders, and a social aspect that allows users to share and view pet stories. Having recently secured seed funding, Tailslife is planning to expand to new cities. An online pet store and pet outing features are also in the works.
Also read: Is venture capital going bust in India?
20. Servishero (Malaysia)
Exists to empower local businesses
Launched in 2015, ServisHero is a company that provides local services on-demand through its mobile app. It is a mobile marketplace that connects customers to a network of local service providers such as cleaners, plumbers, electricians, and more. It has since expanded to Singapore and Thailand, gained thousands of service providers, and has reached 50,000 app downloads.
21. Crofarm (India)
Changing the way businesses procure the produce.
With India’s estimated preventable post-harvest loss equivalent to Australia’s total production, Crofarm set out to address one of the country’s biggest problems in agriculture. The company aims to develop a supply chain that lessens transit time, minimises wastage due to handling and storing, and cutting out intermediaries that cause both. Partnering with select farmers for select products, Crofarm launched at the proof-of concept stage in May 2016, processing over 100 tonnes of produce weekly from farms across Haryana, UP, and Uttarakhand.
22. Revv (India)
Providing you with all the privacy, fun, and convenience of your own car, without the hassles of owning one
Delhi-NCR based car rental startup Revv, founded 15 months ago, is not your standard car rental. For one, the company delivers and picks-ups the car to where the user wants. Another differentiating factor is the app that allows users to book anywhere within 2 minutes. Revv caters to drivers’ different needs with a selection of new vehicles that can be rented on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The company has recently raised a US$9 million Series A equity and debt funding round.
23. KKDay (Taiwan)
Bound to create your unique travel experience
Launched in 2014, KKDay is an e-commerce platform for travel experiences that allows users to connect with local tours all over the world. Its online platform contains over 6000 experiences in 174 cities across 53 countries, can be viewed in 4 different languages, and has a contact function for direct-to-provider inquiries. The Taiwan-based startup has recently raised US$7 million in Series A+ funding and has already expanded to Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan.
Enabling the data economy
DataStreamX is an online marketplace for data – the platform provides buyers with access to commercial data sets across industries while enabling vendors to increase revenue. Addressing Asian businesses’ lack of experience in monetising the data that they collect, the company has worked with over 400 businesses to sell their data in the marketplace and gain a new revenue stream using automation tools that reduces time needed to bring data products to the market. Launched in 2015, DataStreamX has recently raised pre Series A funding.
25. Astroscale (Japan)
Raise public awareness about space environment issues and promote safe and sustainable space missions for the next generation.
Astrocale, leading a team of over 20 engineers, researchers, and physicists, has big dreams. The startup is currently working on developing scalable and sustainable on-orbit technology that will allow safe removal of space debris that could be damaging to vital satellites orbiting the Earth. Founder Mitsonuba Okada has announced that a debris tracking satellite will be launched in 2017, while a satellite debris collector will be sent up by 2018. The company also intends to offer de-orbiting services to companies that own satellites.
26. Great Safety Information Laboratory (South Korea)
Watching for danger is the beginning of safety
Great Safety Information Laboratory (GSIL) is a startup providing a data-backed safety management system for safety managers in a construction environment. Using thousands of data collected from environmental sensors and equipment, the company has created an AI-powered safety system and risk metrics that can monitor location of workers real-time and check equipment safety. GSIL also provides a risk assessment system to help workers recognise danger levels and factors.
27. ATEC Biodigester (Cambodia)
Modern cooking without the cost
ATEC Biodigester is a Cambodia-based startup that developed a system that turns organic waste into energy. The product is designed to last for 25 years and approximated to produce, in that timespan, 6.8 million litres of renewable bio-gas and 492 tonnes of fertilizer. The Biodigester addresses three issues in rural Cambodia: sanitation, energy, and crop yield. The startup recently won top spot in the Sankalp Southeast Asia Summit in Jakarta.
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