Once again SearchGuru was part of Echelon 2014, held in Singapore titled: ‘The Pulse of Asia’s Innovation.” This year Echelon had over 50 world-class speakers, including two of our very own past and present clients, Alexis – Horowitz Burdick, Founder and CEO of Luxola and Roger E. Egan III, CEO and Co-founder of Redmart, Singapore’s biggest online grocery.
Apart from that, there was a more familiar face amongst the speakers – one of our own fellow Malaysians, Cheryl Yeoh, CEO of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity (MaGIC). She shared her thoughts on the start-up ecosystem in Malaysia. According to her, the Malaysian government is doing something meaningful for the start-up scene in Malaysia to grow but not enough to complete the entire start-up ecosystem. I somewhat agree with her that if the government only provides seed funding in the beginning stages then there will be a lot of ‘leaky buckets’ in the start-up culture. Cheryl Yeoh spent the past 12 years in the United States and has experience with her company Reclip in Silicon Valley. When asked whether she thought Malaysia would be able to compete with the start-up scene in Silicon Valley, she replied, “yes, maybe even better.’
The event lasted for two days with the intention to bring investors and experienced speakers to share and discuss their ideas, opinions and valuable information with budding entrepreneurs and attendees.
The first day started on June 10th at 8.00 a.m. for registration. Mohan Belani, Co-Founder & CEO of e27, followed by Egar Hardless, CEO of SingTel Innov8, gave an opening speech. Some of the topics discussed that day were ‘How do Technology Companies and Venture Capital Firms Around the World Maximize M&A Exit Value and Where Does Asia Compare’ by Jacob Mullins, CEO of Exitround. Other interesting topics were “Why online Advertising as a Business Model, is not a DIRTY word’ Joe Nguyen, Senior Vice President of APAC, Comscore.Inc which talks about the investor’s lack of faith to invest in a business that is deemed as ‘low potential’ as a source of revenue.
One of the most interesting and fascinating events at Echelon is the start-up pitch also known as Launchpad. The top 10 start-ups from every region is given a chance to compete in the ‘Most Promising Start – Up in Southeast Asia in 2014’ Each start-up is given about 5 minutes to demonstrate the best parts of their business model to the crowd as well as the judges. Judges that day were Stefan Jung – Partner of Monk’s Hill Ventures, Edgar Hardless -CEO of SingTel Innov8, Dave McClure – Founding Partner of 500 Startups, Yashuhiko Yurimoto – President & CEO of Global Brain, Kuanhua Hsu – Principal of GREE Ventures, Vispi Daver – Partner & Co-Founder of Unicorn Venture Capital and Min – Kim Mak – Head of hub:raum. Taamkru was the winner of ‘The Most Promising Startup’ – an app that replaces the physical educational pre-school exercise books with attractive and colorful educational games for children as young as 3 years old. ‘The People’s Choice Award’ went to Ambi Climate a personalized Indoor Climate Control from Hong-Kong and ‘The Global Brain Award’ was won by iChef, Taiwan’s leading restaurant app that improves the restaurant’s efficiency for taking orders.
The second and final day started at 9 a.m. Different topics were held in different rooms and some of the discussion topics included were ‘The Key Ingredient to Building a World Class Startup: Startup DNA, And How to Keep it When You Build Your Company’ by Peiter Kemps, Business Development & Venture Capital, APAC, Amazon Web Services and a panel discussion titled ‘India & Southeast Asia: Can The Two Emerging Startup Hubs Collaborate And Benefit Each Other.’
One other interesting and notable workshop was the ALPHA Startups workshop, lead by Bikesh Lackhimand, Malaysia’s CEO & Co-Founder of 1337 Ventures, titled: ‘Validate Your Idea, Strenghten Your Pitch and Product Development Roadmap – .“ The one-hour workshop is a pre-accelerator programme that is designed for start-ups in their early stages to see whether their ideas will be able to attract the interest of investors for seed funding.
Echelon 2014 in Singapore this year round was less crowded and had very few new speakers. My personal favorite however is ‘3 screw-ups from a Serial Entrepreneur’ by Stephen Wang, Co-Founder and Former CTO of Rotten Tomatoes and Alivenotdead.com. He was really honest in giving his advice, which was to first determine if you should bring in a co-founder, and if you should decide to go ahead with your idea even if you’re co-founder is not on board. He also mentioned that timing plays a huge role in success or failure and was one of the most factors to consider for a startup.
All in all, it was a good and beneficial experience for me and the team. There was breakfast, lunch and tea provided for the two day event and even a designated business lounge for attendees to meet and chat over a cup of coffee. Very well organized event and will definitely consider going again next year.