VCs are always on the lookout for outstanding startups and entrepreneurs. Although they are a bit more prudent in investing in companies due to the current gloomy economic atmosphere, investors are under enormous pressure to discover and fund exceptional startups using the money raised from big family businesses and their Limited Partners.
But there is a dearth of cool startups across globally, and Southeast Asia is no exception. Oftentimes, VCs who inject massive capital into startups with the hope of making massive returns find the going tough and eventually lose their money. But there are some smart investors who don’t follow the herd mentality — and they invest in only startups that could realise their dreams of making huge exits.
Here are a few startups that we think can make VCs richer by a few million dollars if they invest in 2017:
Payjo (Artificial Intelligence, India)
Based out of Bangalore and Silicon Valley, Payjo is an Artificial Intelligence company that can drive India toward smoother digital banking adoption. It’s an AI-powered banking platform for your everyday banking needs, be it funds transfer, recharge, loan application, or FD creation.
Its intelligent, multilingual bot can be accessed by even laypersons over social messaging platforms, such as Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp. Unlike traditional mobile banking apps, Payjo Bot interactions are utterly natural and highly personalised. It is just like talking to a bank representative.
A few months into its launch, the company has a already partnered with five of the top 10 banks in India. Its aim is to simplify banking experience for the rural population in India by introducing its products in multiple languages.
Haber Water Technologies (Greentech, India)
With half the world’s population living in water-stressed regions, water is emerging as a global mega trend. Water is abundantly available on our planet, but most of it is salt water in the oceans — less than 2.5 per cent is freshwater. Over 70 per cent of this freshwater is frozen in glaciers and ice caps far from human inhabitation.
With rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, many parts of the world are increasingly becoming water stressed, where demand is exceeding availability of fresh water. This is especially so in growing economies like India.
So what if that glass of milk or shirt could be made with significantly less or even no water. This is the challenge that Haber, a startup in India is trying to solve. Haber’s technology collects critical water and process parameters and crunches this data with their proprietary AI-based algorithms, finding patterns and relationships that were previously not known. With this new intelligence, water is recycled in the most economical way or its use is reduced by adjusting process parameters.
In addition to water and energy savings, Haber claims its technology enables their customers to increase throughput and reduce product defects. The startups has already bagged some big clients like ITC and Emami.
FreshToHome (E-commerce, India)
Availability of fresh meat and sea products are have always been huge challenge in India. Majority of the fish that reach your dining table are highly contaminated due to the excessive use of chemicals like ammonia and formalin. Poultry products are even worse, and this poses severe health issues in India.
This is where FreshToHome assumes significance. Based out of Bangalore, FreshToHome, as the name indicates, delivers fresh and chemical-free fish and meat at your doorstep. Started toward the end of 2015, FreshToHome currently lists over 200 products, including chicken, duck, mutton, fresh water fish, marine water fish, shell and ready-to-cook items. The chemical-free produce is delivered to customers’ doorsteps within 24 hours of being caught from the sea.
Erstwhile SeaToHome, the e-commerce venture scaled from just 4,000 customers to 85,000 customers in a matter of 15 months.
PaidUp (Fintech, Philippines)
Globally, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are finding it hard to raise working capital. VCs are not ready to provide them capital as most of them are operating in the unorganised sector and are run by uneducated individuals.
A UK-born TV producer has sniffed an enormous opportunity in this segment, starting with the Philippines. Launched in January 2016 by Asim Haneef, PaidUp is a mobile app that turns your phone into a prepaid digital wallet, enabling you to find, order and instantly pay for food, drinks and services ahead of time as conveniently as sending a text message. On the merchant and SME side, PaidUp enables micro-entrepreneurs and SMEs in developing countries to bypass banks and ‘crowd-fund’ working capital from their regular customers.
As of last week, 100-plus businesses in the food, drinks, coffee, hair & nail salons, beauty & wellness and spas have signed up with PaidUp. Currently, over 5,000 customers use the app.
Averspace (Realty tech, Singapore)
There are umpteen online real-estate platforms across the globe, but nothing like Singapore’s P2P platform Averspace. Unlike other platforms, Averspace facilitates blockchain-enabled house rentals services.
At Averspace, homeowners and prospective tenants can enter into a digital tenancy agreement right on their smartphones, without needing both parties to meet face to face — all communication can be facilitated through the in-app online chat feature.
The official tenancy agreement template is stored digitally through smart contracts and blockchain tech. The homeowner only has to set terms and input fields such as tenure of lease, tenant’s name, address on the Averspace mobile app. An official tenancy agreement will be created immediately with these relevant fields for both parties to sign.
Once signed, the agreement for your specific rental transaction will be securely stored on the database.
This was made possible through signed partnership between Averspace and blockchain smart contract company Attores to integrate blockchain technology into its platform.
Additionally, it is environmentally-friendly, as printed real estate contracts and agreements are not required, either.
Horsepower.ph (Cloud, Philippines)
Horsepower is a human resources (HR) products, benefits and services provider company supporting freelancers and entrepreneurs both in the single proprietor space and SMEs. A one-stop shop, Horsepower’s subscription plans replace the complex and traditional HR benefits that one can manage in a single and simple dashboard.
The platform promotes work-life balance among its members by providing them services to enhance the quality of their life and empower them to enjoy it with the different perks and privileges.
As a financial technology startup, it specialises in providing benefits ranging from flexible healthcare products, life and accident insurance including travel and consumer protection, online government postings, bill payments, payroll and accounting services, up to its members’ needs for a working space in jumpstarting their businesses.
Paradigm Shift (Edtech, India)
The startup uses VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies to make education a lot more interactive, engaging, and fun. Paradigm Shift is working on an Android-based VR app which is a key component of its tool.
You download the app on your phone, place the handset inside a Google Cardboard and start learning. Imagine learning Chemistry and Physics or even the planetary system by looking and interacting with the material rather than just reading from books.
The company is already getting interests from different universities such as Christ University in Bangalore. It is also in talks with AltSchool in San Francisco, Stanford University and University of Colorado.
Paradigm Shift was recently selected by noted venture capitalist Tim Draper as the best VR idea. It also won the overall championship at a competition at Draper University in San Francisco. The startup was also picked by Boost VC for its accelerator programme in Silicon Valley and received an undisclosed amount in pre-seed funding.
Smartron (Hardware, India)
Over the last couple of decades, while India focused on ‘IT services’, China focused on both ‘manufacturing’ and ‘product’ ecosystems. As a result, China has become not only the manufacturing hub but also the home for many fast growing global technology brands like Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi, Spreadtrum, Rockchip, Chinasoft, Alibaba, Baidu, and WeChat spanning hardware, software and internet.
China is now a US$10 trillion economy while India is at $2 trillion, even though they were roughly about the same size back in 1990.
India files fewer patents than that of Iran and a fraction of what China files, which is true reflection of product innovation. India has zero companies in the top 100 most valuable companies in the world because we have not been focusing on building high risk high value product companies. So, a robust R&D and innovation driven product ecosystem across hardware, software, internet, e-commerce and social media is the key for sustainable long term growth and value.
Smartron India was founded with a vision to build a global technology product brand by designing, engineering, sourcing, and marketing world class IoT (Internet of Trons) devices and systems with tightly integrated services and care targeting consumer, enterprise, industrial and infrastructure markets.
Smartron aims to become a premier global IoT convergence brand, by uniquely accelerating and aggregating the product ‘Innovation, Design and Engineering’ expertise in India and around the globe to bring range of products for India and the world. Smartron is focused on innovating and disrupting in the areas of smart, sensors, robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud and crowd technologies to bring next generation of devices, services and care offering highly customized, personalised and context aware experience to users.
Aarav Unmanned Systems (Drones, India)
Founded in 2013, Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS) offers solution in the industrial and agricultural asset management space leveraging drone technology. The startup offers faster, cost-effective and highly enriched UAV-based land surveying solutions for the civil engineering, infrastructure and utility industries. Using drone technology, it offers precision agriculture solutions to optimise irrigation, fertilisation, pesticide distribution and early failure warnings.
Its product range includes Nayan, an R&D platform for indoor navigation, and other upcoming application oriented platforms with fully autonomous operations, lightweight and rapid deployment capabilities. The startup is currently providing 3D mapping solutions to mining and urban planning sector, thermal and live aerial inspection solutions to power sector as well as agriculture sector.
Ather Energy (Greentech, India)
Based out of Bangalore, Ather Energy is building smart scooters for the Indian market. Founded in 2013, Ather is building its own chassis, suspensions, lithium ion battery packs, battery management systems and body works.
It is currently working on its first model, the S340, which has a Lithium-Ion battery pack, top speed of 72 Kph and a range of 60 Km. According to the company, the S340 has a few vehicle intelligence features that enable on-board navigation, pre-emptive diagnostics, remote configuration and personalised ride profiles through a touchscreen dashboard and mobile app.
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