Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

by Tech in Asia

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

US$100 phones used to be awful. They were made by companies you’d never heard of, the interface looked like it was designed by a raccoon with a paw full of crayons it just found in a trashcan, and there was always the sneaking worry that the thing would explode in your pocket and blow your family jewels to smithereens. Xiaomi changed that in mid-2013 with the first Redmi phone.

Now, nearly two years and two iterations later, we have the Redmi 2, which replaces the Redmi 1S. It’s a bit more powerful and a lot more colorful than previous versions of Xiaomi’s cheapest model. It’s still the same low price – about US$110 in every nation where it’s sold.

When we reviewed the first Redmi in September 2013, we were impressed by how much punch it packed for so few bucks. But the Redmi 2 will find it harder to impress now because rival phone makers have also figured out how to make a decent budget phone. Google has got in on the act too. Late last year Google came out with Android One, an initiative to work with phone brands in emerging markets to ensure that the version of Android stuck into cheap phones is as uncluttered and up-to-date as possible, giving consumers something that they rarely get with cheap phones – major OS updates.

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So now the Redmi 2 has strong challengers such as India’s Micromax Canvas A1 or Indonesia’s Evercoss One X. Outside of China, these are massive and important areas for any phone company where the shift to smartphones is only just under way. They’re also Xiaomi’s second and third most populous markets.

The Redmi 2 is now available in India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, with inevitable roll-outs coming soon to Xiaomi’s other markets across the continent.

This is a very price-sensitive segment, so here are a couple of rivals at a very similar price point:

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

Hardware

Not much has changed in the Redmi hardware since it first launched in 2013. The addition of 4G comes at the right time for emerging nations across Asia. The screen is still a 4.7-inch 720p HD affair, but it looks better on the Redmi 2 than it did in the 2013 model.

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

The most visible change is that the newest Redmi 2 is more colorful, with a choice of white or one of three pastel colors for the rear – green, yellow, or pink. However, markets outside of mainland China only get white for some bizarre and unfathomable reasons, so you get no choice of hue.

Another big change – which you only appreciate when you get your hands on the phone – is that the Redmi 2 now has a more matte and less slippy plastic rear. It looks and feels more premium than shiny plastic. It’s still removable, allowing you to swap out the battery or SIM. There are dual SIM slots.

Underneath all of that is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, 64-bit processor. That’s egged on by a mere 1GB of RAM. That’s normal for US$100 phones, but it feels insufficient to run MIUI.

The camera is 2MP up front and 8MP on the rear. But don’t get too excited about the camera and all those megapixels – I’ll explain why later on.

The Redmi 2 comes with with 8GB of storage, but once you turn it on for the first time you’ll realise that MIUI and all the Google apps preinstalled (as is standard on the non-China versions of the phone) eat up a lot of space. My test unit borrowed from Xiaomi showed just 5.75GB of usable space, of which 4.66GB was available. So that’s half of your storage vanished into thin air before you’ve installed any of your favorite apps or games. But the Redmi 2 comes with a microSD slot, so you can get up to 32GB of extra space by buying your own microSD card and sticking it in.

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

Elsewhere on the Redmi 2 you’ll find three capacitive buttons beneath the screen (which don’t light up, unfortunately), and the usual assortment of power and volume buttons (right side), an earphone jack (up top) and a microUSB port (bottom). The lack of a light under the haptic buttons is a pain and I found myself often missing the back button because I was aiming too far to the right.

The chassis feels solid and doesn’t really twist or creak. The metallic-looking buttons are actually plastic, but they feel OK. While it seems good out of the box, the budget Redmi comes with some long-term quality worries as I’ve heard of numerous people say their Redmi has fallen apart after a year, or had major issues with a specific part, such as the camera failing.

Performance

My favorite game these days is Real Racing 3. It’s highly realistic and each car feels different. It’s like having a great console game like Project Cars or Forza on your phone. I’m obsessed with it. The highlight of my week – here comes an incredibly sad statement – is mastering the tricky Melbourne circuit, buzzing by concrete walls with millimeters to spare (but not an ion of paint scratched) as I hustle my throaty Camaro to victory. So the first game I installed on the Redmi 2 was Real Racing 3, but I wasn’t expecting it to work because it won’t work on my (goddamn) Nexus 7. To my surprise, the game works well on the Redmi 2. Notifications that come in while you’re in a race cause a bit of a jitter (before the game auto-pauses) that might cause you to screw up a corner, but apart from that it works great.

With just 1GB of RAM on board, I was expecting an intense game like that to be a no-go, so it’s to the little Redmi’s credit that it’s possible.

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

However, the constraints of 1GB of RAM was more noticeable in day-to-day usage of the phone with occasional instances of sluggishness or total bog-downs in MIUI. Once you have a bunch of apps open, you’ll notice in the multitasking view that you have about 100MB of 1GB RAM available, meaning that the phone is close to maxing out its RAM. Even with nothing open, the thing is using about 70 percent of its RAM, so that can’t be good news.

The Redmi 2’s 2,200mAh battery is just enough to get you through a fairly busy day, which is a bit above average in this sector where most rivals have smaller batteries.

Screen and sound

The Redmi’s 720p HD screen is crisp and produces vibrant colors. 720p is sufficient that you can’t really detect any pixels with the naked eye during normal usage, and it gives Xiaomi’s little phone a spec advantage over the slightly cheaper Android One phones, which come with non-HD screens.

As is usual with Xiaomi’s phones, the sound is loud – a bit too loud. The stentorian racket results in music becoming a bit distorted, but it works well for games.

Software and features

Redmi’s new Android One rivals have learnt Xiaomi’s secret recipe – a strong but affordable phone allied with a clean and crisp UI – and are now ready for the battle. Some would say the Android One phones have the advantage of a stronger emphasis on Google apps as well as faster big-point updates. Indeed, several Android One phones that shipped with Android 4.4 have already been updated to 5.0 or 5.1. Not so with the Redmi 2, which comes with Android 4.4 overlaid with Xiaomi’s MIUI V6.

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

As we saw in our recent review of Xiaomi’s top-end Mi Note, MIUI V6 brings a welcome breath of fresh air and funky flatness to the firm’s Android skin. It looks pretty much the same on the Redmi 2 as it does on the Mi Note, which is good news because it’s an attractive interface. I’m not a huge fan of Android skins, but Xiaomi’s is the best.

MIUI adds in a bunch of useful features absent from stock Android, such as granular control over notifications. That’s especially useful because most app developers are prone to exploiting users with incessant and spammy notifications to get them back into an app. But Xiaomi is slapping them down, and that’s a very good thing. The app-by-app controls – very similar to what’s now in iOS, though Xiaomi had it first in earlier versions of MIUI – let you choose which apps can show you notifications and whether they pop up on the home screen or also show up on the lockscreen. In our tests, this also seemed to prevent apps from starting up and running in the background – something that plagues stock Android – which will have the knock-on effect of lengthening battery life.

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

In addition to that, MIUI has welcome additions such as scheduled “do not disturb” times, a highly configurable LED alert with lots of colors, and an array of full-on Android themes that you can apply (or remove) with just a couple of clicks. The company’s own Mi Cloud works well for backing up photos; it gets the job done quietly and without nagging you, in contrast to the torturous Google+. Xiaomi’s cloud offerings also include a way to find your device from any web browser (pictured above) should the phone be lost or stolen.

The downside, as we’ve said before of MIUI, is that some good stuff from Android is missing. There are no interactive notifications on the pull-down shade for things like “reply” or “delete”; and notifications only show on the lockscreen if you press the (hard to see) number that appears lower down the screen. You also won’t get the new features in Android 5.0 on your Redmi 2, such as multiple users, or a guest mode for your friends to use your phone. Having said that, MIUI already has a bunch of useful features that Google later brought into Android in v5.0, such as pinning apps in the multitasking view and quick access to your mobile data usage. So it’s a case of swings or roundabouts when it comes to the features you’ll get in MIUI versus Android.

Camera

The camera is the main downside to the Redmi 2. Yes, it’s 8MP, but if you’re reading a tech blog you surely realize that the megapixels are a lie. The Redmi 2 is a great example of this. Although an 8MP rear camera matches the iPhone 6, the images it produces are not comparable.

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

Considering how cheap the Redmi 2 is, I suppose the camera isn’t as awful as I’m making it sound, but there’s no denying that it struggles in a lot of situations – in strong light outdoors, in overcast or polluted outdoor scenes, and it’s color-blind to purple for some reason. The HDR is also excessive, making it look like you’ve opened up Snapseed and gone mental with the HDR effect.

The purple problem that the Redmi 2 camera suffers is one I’ve seen before in the Xiaomi Mi2S and the Mi4 (I’ve never used a Mi3). It’s baffling that it keeps happening. At least the pricey Mi Note has solved the problem. Below, for example, is a pink bucket filled with purple dried flowers, but the flowers always come out blue on the Redmi 2. I’ve made this into a composite image with a photo from my iPhone not to compare the Redmi with the iPhone but to show what the scene actually looks like to my eyes:

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

I had the same issue with a bunch of other purple things, both in daylight and at night under electric light and with the flash. The thing just hates purple.

The camera’s issues with strong sunshine or overcast days can be remedied by twiddling with the white balance, but that’s not a user-friendly task. Focusing on different areas of a scene should force the camera to rethink its white balance, but that doesn’t happen with the Redmi 2. So you’ll only get good pictures in perfect light conditions.

However, even in perfect light conditions the resultant photos never look perfectly sharp. Don’t be fooled by the 8MP – the camera is as weak as the price is low. But you won’t get any better from the cameras on other phones at this price either. On the plus side, the photos it produces tend to look OK when scaled down for use on social media.

Elsewhere in the camera, video mode has the option for fast motion, but there’s no slow motion.

Here’s a bunch of unedited photos straight from the Redmi 2 camera:

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Conclusion

The Redmi 2 is the Skoda Fabia of phones. That’s not a slight – the Fabia and the latest Redmi are both great for the price, but don’t expect them to be better than products that cost multiple times more, as some misinformed smartphone analysts do. The Redmi 2 won’t steal buyers away from the iPhone 6 any more than a potential buyer of an BMW X5 will say to herself, “You know, I think I’ll get the Skoda Fabia instead because it’s cheaper.”

Xiaomi tweaks new Redmi 2 for intense battle against Android One rivals (REVIEW)

Like with any super-cheap phone, it’s meant for people who really cannot stretch beyond US$100 or US$150 for a phone, so don’t pin your hopes on this being some kind of miracle gizmo that’ll out-perform pricier devices. Once you place it firmly in that context, it’s clear the Redmi 2 is still pushing forward this important segment and is a strong challenger to Android One phones, offering slightly beefier specs and a well thought out OS that improves on Android in a number of meaningful ways. It even embarrasses some phones from big-name brands that cost around US$250, like the way overpriced HTC Desire 610. Overall the Redmi 2 provides a satisfactory performance aside from the camera.

But whereas the Redmi was the budget king of 2013, that’s not so clear-cut in 2015. Before committing to the Redmi 2, go play with whatever Android One phones are available in your country (there’s usually a choice of three in each nation where Android One devices are available) and you might find you prefer the software that Google is offering you.

Redmi 2 pros:

  • Solid build quality
  • Handles intense gaming
  • 720p screen is crisp and good quality
  • Feels like it’s good deal for US$110

Redmi 2 cons:

  • The camera
  • Not Android 5.0+
  • 1GB of RAM not enough for MIUI to be smooth all the time
  • You’ll realistically need a microSD card to expand storage

I’ll hold onto this Redmi 2 test unit for another week to answer your questions. Drop them in the comments section.

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Yelp launches localized site for Taiwan

by Tech in Asia

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Hungry Taiwanese looking for new eateries to check out now have a new service at their disposal.

Yelp, the San Francisco-based directory portal, announced last night that it has officially released a localized version for Taiwanese consumers.

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Users who log on to yelp.com.tw can search for any number of venue categories to browse through listings and reviews. According to local tech blog Technews.tw, the company has been operating in stealth for months, forming relationships with merchants and building a community.

In East Asia, Yelp is also available in Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. In Taiwan, it will compete with several like-minded listings portals. Its most prominent competitor will be iPeen, a food listings site that received two back-to-back investments from CyberAgent Ventures, along with US$5 million from Japan’s NEC in 2013. It later launched a customer relationship management system and a POS system.

Editing by Steven Millward, top image by Miss Meng

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Taiwan’s 91App raises $9M series A round, eyes international expansion

by Tech in Asia

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91App, Taiwan-based startup that builds customized apps for brands and retailers, announced today it has closed a US$9 million series A investment. The round was led by AppWorks with participation from CID group and 91Capital, the investment branch of 91App’s parent company. Two domestic ecommerce moguls also contributed as individual investors – Jan Hung-Tze, founder of PCHome, and Paul Lin, chairman of Chunghwa Telecom ecommerce subsidiary Sennao.

Founder Steven Ho said at a press event in Taipei that the funding will be used to grow the company’s presence in Taiwan, ramp up staffing, and expand internationally.

91App, which Tech in Asia profiled in December, creates standalone online storefronts for vendors of all kinds. Like Ottowa’s Shopify, the company aims to liberate merchants from garden variety ecommerce portals, which can charge high sales commissions and give limited options for marketing. It does this by offering merchants specialized apps, along with mobile web sites. Depending on the service tier, the company monetizes through a combination of subscription fees and commissions.

Today at a press event in Taipei, Ho said that the company has accumulated over 1,000 paying vendors in Taiwan, including Family Mart, Studio A (Taiwan’s authorized Apple reseller). The founder hopes to acquire more than 3,000 paying clients this year.

Many startups, both in the West and in Asia, are attempting to lead the way for the next wave of mobile commerce. 91App stands out for its app-centric approach. Whereas like-minded companies typically center their business around building mobile websites, 91App has always offered customized apps as its basic tier. The reason for this, according to Ho, is that apps offered a faster user experience in the early days of the mobile internet, and also drove higher engagement. 91App has been active since 2012, and introduced a mobile web product just this month.

91App also has ambitions to promote online-to-offline commerce. In addition to online vendors, the company takes brick-and-mortar stores as its clients. Using location tracking and other data, brands can offer coupons and promotions to drive foot traffic.

Taiwan’s ecommerce penetration rate is already relatively high – Ho says that 10 percent of all the retail sales occur online. Ho firmly believes that 91App will help drive a new type of buying behavior in Taiwan, wherein mobile-enabled, online-to-offline purchases drive 50 percent of total retail sales.

Regarding expansion, Ho says that the company has incorporated in the Cayman Islands in anticipation of a global rollout. He adds that 91App is in talks with potential partners in China and elsewhere in Asia, but didn’t provide further information regarding what types of companies could help import its services.

There are already a number of storefront-as-a-service startups (yes, I just made that name up) in Asia – Taiwan itself is home to several. Shopline, while based in Hong Kong, found strong early traction in the island. It recently scored a US$1.2 million investment from Ardent Capital, one of the architects of Southeast Asia’s trans-regional ecommerce network. In Japan, BASE has racked up over 150,000 merchants and is currently building its own payment service. Shopify has feet in Singapore through a partnership with Singtel. The success of these firms as they criss-cross abroad will likely depend on their ability to match the ecommerce habits of consumers.

91App’s funding marks the third in a stream of series A rounds for Taiwan-based startups. Restaurant booking service EZTable disclosed its US$5.5 million round in January. Earlier this week, image recognition startup Viscovery announced it had raised US$5 million from investors in Taiwan, China, and the US.

Editing by Steven Millward

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Taiwan image recognition startup Viscovery nets $5M in funding

by Tech in Asia

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Viscovery, a Singapore- and Taipei-based startup that provides image recognition software for mobile apps, announced today it has closed a US$5 million series A round. The company refuses to publicly disclose its investors, but co-founder Connie Huang tells Tech in Asia that they hail from Taiwan, mainland China, and the US.

Viscovery offers business an out-of-the-box SDK and API that lets customers scan real-life items and learn more information about them on their phones – which hopefully leads to a purchase. For example, customers in Taiwan who download an app from Taaze, one of the island’s online booksellers, can scan books they see in a store using Viscovery-powered visual search. They’ll then see Taaze’s product description, and perhaps an option to buy the title.

Viscovery also provides its clients with analytics. It monetizes by charging clients for the number of images they store in the cloud, which Viscovery powers with AWS, or by taking commissions on purchases.

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Viscovery’s clients include drugstore chain Watsons, Singapore telco Starhub, China’s Uber-esque Yongche, and others. Huang tells Tech in Asia that they will use the funding to ramp up hiring for R&D in its offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and in Taipei, where most of its employees reside.

Image recognition remains in its infancy, with tiny startups competing against tech giants for mastery of all-things-visual. In Asia, one of Viscovery’s competitors is ViSenze, a Singapore-based firm that received US$3.5 million from Rakuten Ventures last year. Baidu has also trumpeted its efforts in image recognition and artificial intelligence. The company introduced an “image to text” search feature in its translation app last year. In the west, companies like Amazon have developed in-house image recognition tech. They’ve also acquired startups – as Google did with Jetpac, Pinterest did with VisualGraph, and Qualcomm with Euvision Technologies.

Top image by Skobo

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Learn business English from real execs with BeNative Pro, which just raised $2.7M

by Tech in Asia

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Seoul-based educational startup Smatoos today announced a KRW 3 billion (US$2.7 million) series B investment for its business English learning service, BeNative Pro, which launched earlier this year. The latest funding comes from Korea Investment Partners, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, and Partners Investment. It will go toward expanding into China and Taiwan, as well as increasing the startup’s existing presence in Japan.

Online English learning platforms are a dime a dozen in Asia, where such services offer a cost-effective alternative to physical tutoring at traditional conversation schools. Hagwon in Korea and eikaiwa in Japan can cost hundreds of dollars a week, but virtual lessons from BeNative Pro (BeNative Premium in Japan) will cost US$100 a month or less depending on the specific package. The business English service spun off from BeNative’s original conversation app, which has been downloaded half a million times since 2013.

BeNative vice president Jonathan Moore tells Tech in Asia that about 80 percent of users are in Korea, with the remainder in Japan.

“We’ve already completed contracts to offer our content to Credu and Meganext, the official online education providers of Samsung and LG, respectively,” he says. “We also just completed a contract with Benefit One, one of the largest ecommerce sites in Japan. We’re currently in talks with Sony and Hitachi as well.”

Schools in Asia tend to focus on grammar and formal English over conversation – in line with what students eventually find on university entrance exams, but with little day-to-day practicality. Private conversation lessons for business people are almost exclusively taught by recent graduates from the West with little to no relevant experience as actual businesspeople.

These flaws in the existing English education system effectively created the startup’s market. As the name implies, BeNative’s focus is on real-world English and learning to speak naturally. Its business English learning service is based on video clips featuring American entrepreneurs and CEOs who’ve spent years managing staff and negotiating deals. Moore explains:

[Videos] are 100 percent unscripted, we just ask basic questions about their business, product, and services. We choose [entrepreneurs and CEOs] based on recommendations, networking, and also when we meet various companies at events. We’ll be an official sponsor at the Edison Awards in New York next month and will be conducting interviews there. In the past, we gave interviews at TechCrunch Disrupt and Red Herring’s event in LA. We are open to give more interviews at future events as well, in both English and Chinese, since we plan to launch BeNative Chinese.

Smatoos’ series B brings the startup’s total funding to roughly US$6 million. Many of the current round’s investors also invested in Smatoos CEO Alan Moonsoo Kim’s previous company, Etoos, which was sold to SK Communications for US$30 million in 2006.

Earlier this year, BeNative signed contracts with some high-profile companies in Korea and Japan, including Samsung, LG, Sony, and Benefit One. Some universities in those countries are also accepting the startup’s lessons as course credit.

Moore adds that the startup plans to raise a series C round next year, and IPO in 2017.

The BeNative team.

The BeNative team.

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45 startups in Asia that caught our eye

by Tech in Asia

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Here’s our newest round-up of the featured startups on our site this week. If you have startup tips or story suggestions, feel free to email us. Enjoy this week’s list!

1. Oddle | Singapore (Techlist Profile)

Launched in March 2014, Oddle is a subscription service that allows customers to order the restaurant’s food using a highly customizable branded page. The startup also has an order management system for restaurant operators.


2. Frilp | India (Techlist Profile)

India’s Frilp – a combo of friends and help – uses advanced algorithms to suggest the shops or services you need, based on recommendations from friends and family members on your social networks and phone contacts list.


3. Peatix | Japan (Techlist Profile)

Japan-based online ticketing platform Peatix focuses on independent, community event organisers and wants to create a user-friendly, mobile-focused experience for its users. The startup announced that it has raised series B funding, led by DG Incubation, and participated in by Singapore’s SPH Media Fund, Japanese PR firm Sunny Side Up, Fidelity Growth Partners Japan, and Draper Nexus.


4. Haizixue | China (Techlist Profile)

Haizixue is an O2O mobile app for Android and iOS that aims to connect parents, students, and teachers to help foster the extracurricular education of China’s children. The app allows parents to do things like search for extra teachers and classes, and pay any associated signup fees online. Teachers, similarly, can use it to set up classes and recruit students. The company was acquired by Chinese online ratings and deals service Dianping.


5. Go-Jek | Indonesia (Techlist Profile)

Go-Jek is like Indonesia’s Uber for motorcycles with plans to expand its services in the parcel delivery space.Currently, the company is in talks with the Indonesian government to address the city’s increasingly problematic traffic problem.


6. Retty | Japan (Techlist Profile)

Retty helps people navigate Japan’s restaurants. Like Yelp, users rate restaurants and can see which spots are popular with their friends. The startup just announced it has scored series C funding led by Fidelity Growth Partners Japan alongside previous investors Gree Ventures and Mizuho Capital.


7. Tingchebao | China

Shanghai-based Tingchebao, is a location-based app that locates nearby parking spaces. It shows the prices and lets users reserve spots in advance. Monthly subscribers pay a flat fee for unlimited parking.

The startup recently secured series A funding and will be using the funds to roll out its newest service: on-demand valet parking. It works using an Uber-like on-demand model, where the customer pings the nearest valet as he or she nears the destination.


8. Temploy | Singapore (Techlist Profile)

Singapore-based manpower matchmaking service Temploy provides workers a tool to articulate their availability and pay preferences. It was also recently invested by Indonesia’s Walden Global Services (WGS), one of Southeast Asia’s large enterprise tech companies.


9. Pawoon | Indonesia

Pawoon is an Indonesian startup targeting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Indonesia with their point of sale system. With Pawoon, orders or sales can be logged from a smartphone or tablet, and the information is stored online. The startup is currently one of the startups in Jakarta-based Ideabox incubator, launched its beta in February.


10. MoolahSense | Singapore (Techlist Profile)

MoolahSense Singapore-based startup targets the SME market to help them to crowdsource funds. But instead of offering equity to backers, it’s debt-based. Firms who raise money on the platform will need to return the money eventually with interest.


11. wWhere | India (Techlist Profile)

wWhere is a map-based app that aims to solve a range of location-related problems people face everyday. Finding an address or alternative routes to a destination are obvious uses. It also enables locations to be stored for quick access when the time arrives to go to a meeting.


12. TheAsianparent | Singapore (Techlist Profile)

Founded in 2009, TheAsianparent, an online publication targeting parents and soon-to-be-parents in Asia, announced it has raised a round of funding from Vertex Venture, the venture capital subsidiary of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek.


13. Vizury | India (Techlist Profile)

Adtech startup Vizury gives enables e-commerce and online travel companies to maximize the value of their digital data. First, it collects and collates data on consumers who visit client websites. Then it uses machine learning based on over 30 parameters to determine who is a warm lead and how to convert her to a hot lead and finally a repeat customer. Thirdly, it targets ads or other media at specific visitors.


14. GandengTangan | Indonesia (Techlist Profile)

GandengTangan is a “crowdlending” site from Indonesia, intended for good-cause businesses owners in need of capital. Unlike traditional crowdfunding, users are reimbursed as the business grows. In this way, donors can see exactly how their funds are being spent, how the company is performing, and even overcome the initial hesitance to give money, as financial payback is guaranteed. The added benefit for lenders is that, in theory, they can continuously enable good causes to thrive without actually risking a financial loss.


15. Tripoto | India (Techlist Profile)

Delhi-based Tripoto crowd-sources travel experiences, itineraries, stories, pictures, maps, and reviews from avid travelers. Each itinerary is linked to the profile of the traveler who wrote it so that a reader can see if he or she could be like-minded. The startup just received a pre-series A round led by IDG Ventures, an early investor in Baidu, Ctrip, and Tencent.


16. GoArchipelago | Indonesia (Techlist Profile)

GoArchipelago is a platform where travelers can book off-the-beaten-track adventures and contribute to social causes at the same time. Both hosts and travellers commit to donate a percentage of the booking fee to one of GoArchipelago’s partner organisations, on top of a fee that goes to the platform.


17. Forrun | Pakistan

Forrun, a startup that promises to deliver anything “instantly”, aims to emulate the model of Postmates and capitalize on the time value proposition by doing users’ errands such as paying bills, picking up groceries, and getting your laundry. The company has already achieved a significant milestone by signing Foodpanda as one of its clients.


18. Pricebook | Indonesia (Techlist Profile)

Indonesia’s price comparison site Pricebook aggregates product specs, reviews, and prices from online and offline shops for consumer electronics items such as mobile phones, cameras, and computers. It recently added mobile phone plans and powerbanks to its product catalog.


Startup lists

19 – 23. 5 Indian startups that took off for a Landing in Manchester

24 – 32. Airbnb for parking spaces Parking Duck wins the Bangkok edition of Tech in Asia Tour

33 – 37. Social app Trigger wins Tech in Asia Tour Taipei

38 – 45. Here’s the winner from Tech in Asia Tour Seoul’s pitch contest, our first event in South Korea


Related startup stories


We’re now gearing up for our 9th edition, Tech in Asia Singapore 2015, to be held this coming 6 and 7 May. For the first time ever at the conference, we will be featuring about 250 startups at the Bootstrap Alley on both days, and startup founders are able to exhibit for free!

Furthermore, we will be having a 10-city search in Asia this coming March, for the best startups to showcase at Tech in Asia Singapore. Winners of each city’s pitch will stand a chance to get free flights and accommodation, startup passes, booths to Startup Asia Singapore, and priority consideration to be one of the 10 finalists at the Arena finale during the conference itself!

Already heading to the conference, here are 10 insider tips on how to prepare for Tech in Asia Singapore 2015!


Like RSS? There’s always our Asia startups RSS feed!

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Social app Trigger wins Tech in Asia Tour Taipei

by Tech in Asia

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On Tuesday, five Taipei startups took the stage at Business Next’s YourSpace to pitch in front of the local startup community.

Investors judging the teams included Kuo-Yi Lim of Monk’s Hill Ventures, Ben Liu of KAMIA, Albert Shyee of Gree Ventures, and angel investor Brian Yang. The winner of the session was selected to receive passes to Tech in Asia Singapore 2014, along with free plane tickets and accommodation.

Which team took home the prize? It was a tough call, but ultimately the judges went with…

Trigger

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Founded by James Shen, Jimi Wen, and Yiting Lin, Trigger is an anonymous social app that connects users with one another through online media that they consume.

Trigger aggregates content from media outlets and sites like Reddit and Hacker News, and then lets people upvote articles and comment anonymously. Users can connect and chat with one another anonymously as well. Ultimately, the startup hopes to carve out a “content-based social graph” which can later be used for ads and analytics. The app launched in Private Beta earlier this month, and after topping the charts on Product Hunt and Beta List, it racked up 4,000 in one week. It also has obtained seed funding from undisclosed investors.

Unsurprisingly, investors’ foremost concerns were about user acquisition. Shen said that Trigger requires new users to invite three friends upon joining, and adds that he’s targeting early-adopter tech types. Kuo-Yi Lim said that Trigger in its current state would not yet warrant an investment. “What I always say to social apps like this is – show me the traction,” he remarked.

Ultimately, judges picked Trigger as the evening’s winner because they considered it a “moonshot bet.”

The runners up included…

Vectr

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Created by Nick Budden and Emery Denuncio, Vectr is a web-based graphics illustrator. According to Budden, most design applications like Photoshop and Pixelmator are difficult to use and not built for the workflows that design teams require. Budden and Denuncio have built Vectr as a Google Docs-esque illustrator that allows for real-time collaboration, feedback, and sharing. The team also hopes to add a marketplace into its app, where Vectr users can buy and sell image templates. The team intends to monetize by charging users US$25 a month for collaboration, and also by taking a commission on marketplace purchases. Budden said Vectr has secured undisclosed seed funding, but hasn’t yet rolled out its beta version.

When asked about customer acquisition, Budden says the team has been working to meet with influential designers, understand their needs, earn their loyalty as users, and use that credibility to drive organic growth. Kuo-Yi Lim asked if Budden could think of a precedent where a marketplace was tied to a design program, implying that Vectr might be aiming for too much too soon.

QSearch

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QSearch, which Tech in Asia profiled earlier this year, crawls Facebook for keyword usage and then provides its users – most likely businesses – with relevant analytics. The company monetizes by charging clients a subscription fee. Roger Do, CEO of Qsearch, claimed that the company has secured deals with about a dozen Taiwanese companies, and is on track to quadruple its revenue in 2015 to US$250,000.

“What’s going to happen when Facebook starts doing this itself,” asked Shyy. Roger Do, CEO replied that the company doesn’t see Facebook providing an analogous service anytime soon, despite reports of the company ramping up its search technology. Judges also asked about language compatibility. Do admitted that while QSearch was strongest in Chinese and English, it was improving in other languages, and offered its services at a discount when analysis wasn’t at its best.

Docceo

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Led by Marc Nagel, Todd Gordon, Elias Ek, and Arthur Kater, Docceo gives hotels a mobile app that guests can use to operate all the smart gadgetry in their rooms. In addition, hotels can give out deals through the app to encourage guests to go to the property’s restaurant or spa, or attend nearby businesses. Hotels benefit by collecting fees from advertising, and can also gather data about the way guests use their facility. Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel currently deploys the app.

Investors were primarily concerned with the scaleability of the Docceo’s business model. Brian Yang and Lim asked how difficult it would be to adapt the technology to different rooms in different hotels. Ek and Gordon said that the technology in the rooms is generally simple and versatile.

SocialLanguage

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SocialLanguage is a mobile app that connects language learners with one another. Users can find a language exchange partner and converse with one another in their native languages. The team also said they would offer coursework, and monetize by charging for these courses.

Investors were confused about the specifics of the pitch, as well as the numbers the team provided. Roger Liu, who pitched on behalf of Social Language, claimed that the app had racked in 400,000 downloads one month after hitting app stores in the US and China, and was poised to pass 10 million users by April.

 

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