Rounding up the end of Echelon 2012, here are a few of my personal key takeways from the event.
Ignore mobile at your own peril
Mobile is huge. For the first time ever in May, Techcrunch reported that more people are surfing Facebook from mobile than from their web app, and earlier this month at the ad:tech Singapore press conference, Loren Shuster, Country Director of Singapore and Emerging Market at Google too revealed the same facts supporting the growth of mobile. Clearly, if a company do not have any mobile strategies, they don’t have any strategies at all. Companies can no longer afford to ignore this, and most speakers at Echelon seemed to agree on this. We will slowly see more exits or M&A from mobile companies and just as the mainstream tech companies are slowing consolidating and merging into bigger forces, we will definitely see the same thing happening with mobile apps where they start to leverage on each others strengths, talent resources, as well as inventories.
Perhaps the highlight of Echelon for me was Brian Wong, founder of Kiip, how he took the stage and stood out. Recently, I’ve been really fascinated about the whole idea of emotions and the human psychological need to be appreciated. Everyday we are doing things in hopes of getting appreciated, and getting rewarded. In my recent article of SnapDish too, where I shared how they cleverly integrated the ‘who viewed you’ feature, thereby motivating users to come back more often just to check out how ‘popular’ there are, shows how important it is to have a cleverly designed user interface.
It’s the same thing as inspiration quotes. If you post motivational or inspirational quotes on your Facebook wall, you tend to get more likes for it, simply because it triggers a reaction emotionally. Startups have to study carefully how users respond to their product, and really think through some of the elements which can engage users more interactively. It is no longer just about a beautiful design, but an interactive design that can engage the users. I think there is no one company that has successfully monetize human emotions digitally yet (I could be wrong), and Kiip seems to be moving in that direction.
Asia is a growing market
Undeniably, Asia will be the next engine to power growth and innovation. It is about time startups founders in the region here focus on building products by Asia, for Asia. Startups need to understand that innovation does not only comes from copying and localizing a proven concept from the west, but increasingly it can also be building a real product that solves real problems in this part of the world. Builk, the Thailand based startup which targets the construction industry who is also the winner at our Echelon pitch demonstrated just that, and gets the vote of confidence from our Echelon Judges.
Another thing I took away from the panel of discussions is that, there are so many incubators around, be it locally in Singapore or regionally. They are also on the constant look out for quality startups to invest in. As one of our speakers on the Japan panel puts it, it’s a matter of pitching it to the correct investor. Often a times we complain about the lack of funding or the lack of seed/Series A investors in the region, but have we ever asked ourselves whether we have the correct product and the right traction to woo these investors? Personally, I think this is one of the best times to start a company because if you have the right team, a good product with a decent traction, something which we don’t see many around, investors will be knocking at your door. It is also important to ask ourselves, are we starting a company to solve a real life problem, so are we doing it to get funded? I certainly hope the majority of the startups here belongs to the former category.