Of all the places in the world, no region is better in-tuned with internet 2.0 (the phenomenon of people getting online for the first time via their smartphone) as Southeast Asia.
According to a We Are Social report the region added 80 million new internet users in 2016 (a 30 per cent growth rate that the report predicts will continue), and a significant portion of those numbers was driven by mobile internet growth.
Which is why now is the best time to start (or invest in) a mobile-only startup.
Enter Mox, a fairly young accelerator started by the accelerator VC firm SOSV and its managing direct William Bao Bean.
“Consumers whose first experience is with the mobile phone. They are different than the rest of us, they have different needs, different requirements and the monetise differently. We help [the startups] with their services and the most important thing is we help with user acquisition,” Bean said during the event.
The companies are often doing quite well when they enter MOX; quite a few of them are generating decent revenue and at least one of them had already achieve profitability.
The startups ranged from price comparison platforms to a homescreen-content creator. Let’s meet the startups!
Screea wants to help merchants attract new customers without discounts or sales events by creating financial incentivises for people to share when they eat, or shop at, certain establishments.
It’s a loyalty point programme that rewards customers for taking pictures of, for example, food and sharing on social media. Restaurants provide a rebate for the customers (say, 5 per cent) as a reward for sharing the story. Screea then takes a commission of that rebate to generate its revenue.
The advantage is it helps drive sales through peer-to-peer sharing, which is a more effective form of marketing than simply buying advertisements on social media.
This startup wants to circumnavigate mobile data by incentivising people to share their mobile hotspots for financial rewards. The idea is to help people who may not be able to afford a mobile data plan to get online.
Users who share their internet using CashFi can redeem the points for gift cards or cash. The more people that use a given hotspot, the more money the person makes.
“Wi-fi application based model has already been proven in China. The largest one has a US$1 billion valuation and 900 million users,” said the CEO of CashFi Heewon Kim during his pitch.
To get access to the wi-fi, and make it worthwhile for corporations, the people who want to use the wifi may have to watch ads or view other content to access the hotspot. This is what incentives the large companies to provide rewards for users.
BigGo is a price comparison mobile app that targets offline buyers — think of a mom or dad that visits an electronics shop and wants to make sure they are getting a decent price for the phone they are about to purchase. The search engine has all sorts of items so people can do a quick search, see how much the item should be and gauge if the offline sale is at a fair price.
The startup clams to have 6 million unique visiters per month in Taiwan and it has over 30 corporate clients who pay for advertising on BigGo. It has been around for a little less than a year and has already generated a bit under US$300,000 in revenue. Furthermore, the company is already profitable.
BigGo is raising US$1 million to help finance its Southeast Asia launch in 2017 (it is already live in Thailand).
Ulike helps people pay for their data plans by watching targetted advertising. The company wants to leverage on the fact that most people check their phones once every 7 minutes. The idea is that when someone checks their phone, they can watch targetted ads, which can then be redeemed later to pay for data, discounts and their phone bills.
The startup is targeting telcos as its partners — which the startup hopes will be its revenue stream. It recently launched a beta version in the Philippines and France and has signed three deals with mobile companies.
The startup is raising US$2 million with US$340,000 committed.
Tomoto wants to help internet celebrities monetise on their brand. The startup builds individual mobile apps for a given celebrity and allows them to make money via sponsorships, subscription content or e-commerce.
“Our celebrities can engage their fans and make money at the same time,” said CEO Jakko Lai.
The company is 5-months old and has signed three of Taiwan’s top-10 internet celebrities to its platform. It says its 30-day retention rate is 40 per cent (20 per cent is considered a reasonable target).
The startup is raising US$500,000 and has US$275,000 committed.
Pixtory is a neat homescreen integration software that automates the process of changing one’s homescreen (although it only works on Android at the moment).
“[Pixtory] gives users a beautiful and personalised experience right on their phone, every time they open their phone, and we do that using wallpapers,” said Founder and CEO Karumbaiah B K during his pitch.
The India-based company has some interesting ideas for monetisation. If a user like the picture, they can use two fingers to tap on the picture, which then reveals a story (Pixtory could offer this as sponsored content). Furthermore, if people swipe left they get a feed of content that is personalised (another opportunity for advertising).
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Karumbaiah said 75 per cent of people engaged with the wallpapers and its test of ‘premium wallpapers’ revealed intriguing results.
The startup is raising US$500,000 and has US$150,000 committed.