1. What’s the most interesting startup news you’ve covered recently?
I meet interesting startups all the time, but a recent one that sticks out is definitely Exiii. They make 3D printed robotic arms. Since an appearance at SXSW, they’ve also gone open-source to spread their tech globally. They approach prosthetics from a design perspective which is completely unique. Given that people generally want to hide their disability, Exiii’s prosthetics have delivered something that users would be proud of, and show off. Usually medtech is not so sexy – this is sexy.
2. Which type of startup story are you most likely to cover?
I love producing some long-form content- so I really enjoy in-depth interviews. Your story doesn’t need to be a major ‘news item,’ but you need to have something really interesting to tell me. I have a soft spot for medtech and hardware, but of course there are amazing startups in all verticals. Regardless, you need a unique angle.
In Silicon Valley the rockstar entrepreneurs tend to be much younger, there are always stories about dropouts. But a lot of entrepreneurs in Asia have had a successful career elsewhere before running a startup so if this is you, I want to know why you changed gears, and became an entrepreneur.Sometimes the founder’s story is even more interesting than the product or service!
Given that [Tech in Asia] is also a startup, we have to be wise with our time and resources. I cover Japan and Korea, with a freelancer helping cover Korea at the moment. Because of this, we can’t afford to cover anything that isn’t great. Think of it from the perspective of a VC – they only invest in startups that they think will ‘win.’
3. Which is the most impressive Startup PR stunt you’ve seen recently?
The most impressive startup I’ve seen recently has to be Antenna. They do content aggregation for ladies’ lifestyle news. In a recent PR campaign they placed ads all over the subway with Rola (a mixed-race Japanese celebrity) posing with a smartphone. That made the brand seem young, cool, & hip. The fact they used a mixed race model in homogenous Japan was also edgy – it perfectly targeted their demographic.
4. Which Japanese startup has the most potential for overseas expansion?
I think FOVE would be a good example. They make a VR headset, with integrated eye-tracking technology. During gameplay characters are able to recognize whether you are looking at them – pretty cool. The device also has medical applications. A while back a little boy with muscular dystrophy was able to play the piano at his school’s concert simply by using his eyes and the headset. It’s a good international story for a multitude of reasons: they’ve got a Japanese CEO and an Australian CTO, they’re in the VR space, they’re involved in med-tech, and the story about the little boy is heart warming.
Apart from FOVE, I think many Asian hardware startups have a great opportunity, especially with international crowdfunding – Kickstarter and Indiegogo can help you get massive global exposure, and you can earn some money doing it
5. What’s the craziest Asian startup story you’ve been pitched?
I saw this one startup at Maker Faire last year. The event had a lot of VR applications. I approached one of the booths and saw an Oculus Rift hooked up. Once I put on the headset an anime girl appeared, scantily clad and sitting in front of me. Someone put something in my hand and when I lifted my arm a toothbrush appeared?!? Then you brush her teeth, and it had tactile feedback as if I was actually brushing a solid surface. Very Japanese!
6. Which opportunities for overseas startups do see in your location?
Japan is a great market for hardware and O2O. Japan has amazing shopping malls everywhere. Smart O2O applications could really add something to the brick and mortar shopping experience.
But I think the real opportunity is in medtech and robotics. Japan is facing an unprecedented age crisis. The Japanese government is very averse to immigration and so tech may be the only choice for looking after seniors in the near future. Softbank’s Pepper is just the first step in getting people to be comfortable with living with a robot.
Impending crisis is an opportunity and any startups that can speed up medical processes are great acquisition and investment targets.
7. How do you like to receive story pitches from startups?
I don’t like Facebook messages – my account on FB is more for personal use and keeping up with family back in the US.
Send me your pitch deck by email. If it’s really long, send me some bullet points in the email body. Then we can arrange an interview. Also, I love face to face meetings, especially the first time – I want to see your pitch, not just read it. So, suggest a meetup.
8. Where do you get most of your stories from?
I like getting out in the mix and go to events constantly. The best stories are usually from the people I’ve met at events. Find out which event I’ll be at and and come find me! Have a business card ready and give me your best elevator pitch.
Anything else you’d like to share?
TechInAsia just raised investment and we are expanding. We get an average of 2.3M monthly page views and have about 75 team members across Asia. If you’re a startup in Asia, you want to be on TechInAsia. Our top 3 markets for readership are Singapore, USA, and India.
I was born in the US, so I grew up a native English speaker and I feel lucky that I can generally get by in my mother tongue. But, the international language for startups is broken English, so you should have at least 1 person in your team who speaks at least a bit of English.
Some of my articles have helped startups forge relationships with investors. If that startup had not been able to communicate with me – at least in broken English or a combination of basic Japanese and English – they would not have had the chance for that relationship. It’s good motivation: If you can speak good broken English, you open up a lot of doors.
I also love exclusives 🙂
We would like to thank Jeff for his time and insight. If you’re a writer and would like to be featured give us a shout through our contact page!