Both years I’ve attended Tech in Asia, the startups showed up to impress. They hauled in pallets worth of flashy flyers and tubs of trinkets. They projected Oscar-worthy slideshows and meticulously crafted products to entice me (and other visitors) to stop by their booths. My job requires me to be somewhat of a tech connoisseur (or at least to keep up with the headlines), so the startups that were able to draw me to their booths had to stand out above the rest.
Here’s a list of startups I thought were noteworthy and why I approached them!
This augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) company caught my eye almost instantly when I saw staff giving demos of their VR device. Little did I know that was only half of it. They specialize in educational technology (edtech), creating simulated environments and models for children (adults and kidults) to enjoy.
I tried out their VR headset and AR flashcards. Both were very impressive. In the VR headset you can enter tropical environments with dinosaurs flying around; in the AR app, you can bring to life pictures on flashcards through your phone!
What drew me to them? Besides a quality description on their board, as a hardware company they ditched the traditional flyers or brochures and instead brought the actual products. While it helps to have good copy and flyers at an event like TiA, fanfare and product demos still remain king. (You can always supplement that hype with takeaways for visitors too!).
These guys were a bit of an oddity when I first saw them. Their hardware product looked like something I might see at a lab back in university, putting them at risk of looking too science heavy for an event like TiA. So naturally I decided to approach them and see what this was all about.
They explained to me that a little red dot on their device was monitoring movement in the Suntec Convention Center. In other words, the shaky little red dot was telling me the building itself was moving – which as you can imagine, was a pretty scary thought.
The two-person team reassured me that movement in the building was calculated in the construction and that we were completely fine. Although, the same can’t be said about other older buildings…
What drew me to them? While their gizmo is not the most impressive piece of hardware at the event, it’s almost checkmate the minute you see that shaking red dot. In hindsight, it was such a well thought out method of attack for one’s attention because it immediately invokes feelings of having to get the hell out of the building. The more I think about it, the startup was able to perfectly convey what made their product so damn useful.
And they used words to conceptualize and frame the importance of their hardware, not the most common thing at these conventions.
Malaysian startup Offpeak was one of my favourite startups at the event. They were a part of the batch of startups MaGIC brought over for the event. Once you heard Kent pitch you knew why they earned a seat on the plane. Their app solves the age-old-question of what to eat.
Offpeak takes your preferences and suggests restaurants and deals in your area, tailored to your personal taste. If that wasn’t enough, they were already offering service in two countries, Malaysia and SIngapore.
However, while the app is of definite interest, it was Steve who initially got my attention.
As you can see, Steve is Offpeak’s skeletal mascot. When you approach the booth out of sheer curiosity, Kent immediately lets you know why Steve looks the way he does: Poor Steve had starved waiting for his friends to decide where to eat, an all too common fate that even afflicts us at the G3 office. The story immediately leads the visitor to not only empathize with poor Steve, but also see the value of Offpeak.
What drew me to them? While the obvious answer is Steve, Kent’s ability to put things in perspective helps tie the knot completely. I suspect Kent got more than his share of business cards from VCs and investors because he knows how to frame his startup in the immediate spotlight through a bait and hook strategy.
I confess, the IoTalents team approached me while I was waiting to speak to another entrepreneur. What ensued however was a clear display of mastery in one’s ability to pitch.
Entrepreneur Eric is a second timer, having gone through an M&A for his first startup. He walked up to me and asked if he could tell me about his startup. Note: I do not have an investor band, nor am I a TiA rockstar (in the making!), to him, I could’ve been another random startup just walking around.
The IoTalents platform helps employers and employees connect by issuing scorers to potential employees based on skills and expertise in a field. They’ve created a unique algorithm and platform to provide quality assessment opportunities for new job applicants.
During his pitch, Eric immediately identified the issue IoTalents is trying to solve, how it was done, and why his solution was important. I would no doubt place Eric in the top 3 pitches that day, with his clear and concise answer that was easy to digest. All of this without props, merely a brochure which he did not refer to at all during his pitch.
What drew me to them? You could say here that they came to me. At conventions like these where hundreds – if not thousands – of people are walking by, you have to be able to take initiative and grab onto interest. Eric may not have had a giant neon sign or even a remotely IoT-like device, but he had a well-honed pitch that was more deadly than an Oculus headset.