Editor’s note: Guest authors Gang Lu, Ben Jiang and Jason Lim are the editors of TechNode, a bilingual blog based in China.
ChinaBang conference, an annual two-day event with a focus on local startups, innovation and entrepreneurship, was held last weekend in Beijing. With a mixture of keynote and panel discussions from local startup founders and entrepreneurs, the awards ceremony recognized the best Chinese startups and founders in 2011 and featured a startup launchpad contest. Organized by TechNode, ChinaBang’s Launchpad competition had 16 teams pitch to 14 judges (from GSR Ventures, IDG, Qiming, Matrix Ventures, Atomico, Singtel, Paypal, Innovation Works, CyberAgent, Rovio, Infinity Ventures, Taishan, CSDN) and a live audience. Each team was given 10 minutes to present on stage – five minutes pitch time and five minutes for answering judges’ questions. The judges scored each team on a scale of 10 points. The teams were then ranked by point average to result in the top three, who all would be walking away with prizes including cash and overseas trips.
Here is the rundown of all startups presented on stage in the launchpad.
First Prize: TukeQ – Won RMB10,000 and A Trip to Finland, the home of Angry Birds
Founder Alex Su presented an attractive demo of his social web and mobile travel organizer app, TukeQ. TukeQ has already been recognized for its big potential as a former incubatee of Innovation Works. In his presentation, Alex demonstrated the ability for users to intuitively and quickly drag-and-drop activities or places of interest into an itinerary. Brilliantly, the map automatically populates the route from A to B to C. For example, if you were in Sydney, Australia and wanted to go from Bondi Beach to Circular Quay to Chinatown, your itinerary would show you when and where to go and map out the path. The most compelling thing is its ability to leverage social connections. Meaning, people in my network can recommend places to visit and things to see. You can see the recommendations, and drag them into your own plan. People on TukeQ can connect using Sina Weibo. Kelly Poon of Atomico suggested TukeQ consider creating an English version for foreigners to organize their travel to China, but Alex clearly defined his market as the burgeoning crowd of newly-rich Chinese travelers, looking to explore and experience the world.
As the winner, TukeQ took away the biggest cash prize of RMB10,000 sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank and a trip to Finland, the original land of Angry Birds, co-organized by Rovio and presented by Paul Chen, CEO of Rovio China.
Second Prize: Mugeda – Won RMB5,000
As web and mobile are converging, HTML5 is quickly becoming the bridge between the two. Knowing that everyone will need a web and mobile strategy, Mugeda is a cloud-based animation generator, where you can create, share, and publish organic HTML5 animation content all in your browsers, without any download or installation. The target use cases are for the creation of advertising, games, tutorials and cartoons and can be easily viewed across PC, smartphones and tablet devices. As this is very new, some of the examples on the site look very basic but the potential to create sophisticated animation is big.
Interestingly, although the team is based in China, the site is in English and presumably targeting the foreign market. It is based on a freemium model where advanced users are charged for extra services like cloud-storage and technical support.
Third Prize: Smart Album – Won RMB5,000
Incubated by Shanda, SmartAlbum is an innovative technology which organizes Android smartphone contacts and photo albums by people’s faces rather than just their names. For most people, remembering someone’s face is much easier than their name. For this reason, it makes more sense to be able to just find someone’s face then click to call them. By using face recognition even in your Android smart-phone’s photo album, you can also click to call or message directly there, saving time and effort.
Ever get tired of discerning distorted characters from CAPTCHAs that prevent websites from being cracked by bots, but sometimes drive people to madness? Qingdao city-based startup Yinxiangma smartly solves the issue by transforming CAPTCHAs into advertising. Here’s how it works: when signing into a website, Yinxiangma’s “ImpressionAd” is substituted for the original twisted, barely-recognizable characters. ImpressionAd usually consists of an image or video ad with accompanying text (see example below), the image/video could be any type of product, the text could be any relevant keyword, e.g. price and so on. So instead of typing in CAPTCHA words, web users can now easily input the keyword, such as a smartphone’s price, company slogan, etc., and then get access to whatever he intends to visit, smartly and subtly turning CAPTCHAs into ads.
MadeiraCloud raised an angel investment last June to better organize cloud applications. CEO Dan O’Prey and CTO Zhao Peng call themselves the Microsoft Visio of cloud computing. Their WYSIWYG web GUI enables users to simply drag and drop their cloud resources onto a canvas and connect them visually to configure the ports. Once the architecture has been designed, a template (stack) of the whole setup can be saved for reuse and launched multiple times into live applications, without having to worry about conflicts in configuration. The main business case is leveraging the public cloud to take advantage of on-demand resources to demo proof of concept (PoC) software to potential clients. Madeiracloud’s closest competitor is a small startup called AppCara. However they don’t see them as a big threat as they “believe that we are a lot further down the development cycle and our product has superior usability and functionality.” The business model will work like many other SaaS. There is no initial set up fee, but a free package – limited to two running applications; a pro package – limited up to 10 running applications for $99/month; and an enterprise package – with pricing depending on requirements.
A report estimates the number of mobile video users in China will reach 282 million by 2013. At the same time, online video, mobile Internet and online payment were deemed the three Internet trends with the most potential in the Chinese Internet sector. VKU (or 微酷), taps into these trends with its mobile video sharing tool/community that combines both mobile Internet and online video. Anyone can shoot short clips (no longer than 30 seconds) easily and share them with friends through popular social media platforms like Sina Weibo and so forth. VKU is also a powerhouse for shooting and making short video clips. Underpinned by its strong technical team, VKU supports some unique and awesome features like realtime filtering and editing, video effects, subtitling and dubbing, all on your smartphone. Especially, with its pre-installed effects like LOMO, black and white, old times and so on, you can produce high quality professional footage with just a few clicks.
Founded in March last year, Gates2Asia (G2A) is a B2B cooperative buying site for international based SME’s to buy directly from low cost Asian suppliers like China. Essentially, it’s like a Groupon for SMEs, meaning when teaming up with other SMEs to buy the same things in bulk, it leads to lower costs and greater competitiveness. The market size is evidently big. In 2009, SMEs imported $124 billion in goods from China alone and 80 percent of SME imports were from wholesalers and non-manufacturing companies. Such a big opportunity was not neglected when Japan-based Infinity Ventures and SOS Ventures, invested $3 million into OrderWithMe.com, the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing in 2011. The process is fairly simple. SMEs can join G2A, state what they want to buy and in what quantities. After sourcing and negotiating with suppliers, they post the details on a board. Other SME buyers can join the co-operative and when there is enough, the purchase order is made. Of course everyone saves money because the total order is large.
Shenbian, the innovator of weibo-based social IM is pushing the frontier of mobile communication further by capitalizing on the social power of Sina Weibo and the real-time fun of ambient communication. Shenbian, differentiates itself from other location-based mobile social networks in the Weibo-binding and group chatting. People who log in with their Sina Weibo credential will be able to find other weibo connections (followed, followers) around them. And you can easily switch between private chatting and group chatting whenever you want. You can imagine its group chatting feature as a location-based Weibo-user-only chat room.
MobileMoMo takes a lightweight approach to mobile social networking in product design by leveraging 3G and your phone book. All your phone book contacts will become your MobileMoMo friends automatically (with privacy concerned, though), and you can send text messages, files and share your location with contacts even though they have no MobileMoMo client installed in their phone. All the information will be displayed on your mobile browser. The receiver could directly reply to your text or download the file from the browser.
Qiyu is a location-based elastic social networking service aiming to help people in the same area get connected. The app also encourages users to transform their connection from online to offline with real-life gatherings, using it is like starting an adventure, you never know what’s gonna happen next, said Gao Cao who designed the product. Qiyu launched the first version early last December, as of now the service has more than 60,000 users while more than 13 percent of them are in Taiwan, which according to Gao Cao is quite an interesting surprise, because there’s nothing similar in Taiwan.
Groupcells claims itself the world’s first group-based sCommerce (social commerce). Every node in its social network is a photo group which is based on users’ location or interests. Every user can share and sell everything to the most precise crowd by uploading photos. All groups can be created automatically and flexibly, there are no group owners and anyone can join and leave multiple groups freely.
Fit of Daily Workout
Fit of Daily Workout is an iOS social application which helps make exercising at home free and fun. You basically hold your cell phone, choose from a collection of body exercises, turn around your body, and the application will use its patent-pending technology to automatically calculate the time of exercise, exercising strength and weight loss. You can share the fun with your friends and family through the Facebook, Twitter, Weibo and Soybean, etc. You can even compete with other users to see who is having better results!
Founded in early July of last year, Beijing-based Yikuair (or 一块儿微集市) is trying to leverage the power of social media to reshape the online marketplace. Being the first, and as of now the only company to build upon Sina Weibo’s virtual currency Sina Weibi (新浪微币), Yikuair has developed a marketplace combining social, local, mobile and commerce in an effort to help connect online/offline merchants and consumers and to offer them special deals through a distinct micro-payment system powered by Sina Weibo, the No. 1 Chinese twitter-like service. As of now Sina Weibo has more than 250 million registered users, a huge user pool that Yikuair could tap into. And besides social media like Weibo, the marketplace is also considering coming up with its own mobile app and weibo app to help merchants reach out to more customers.
Online consumer finance or Peer to Peer (P2P) is a very new concept in China, where cash still dominates most transactions. Founded by Roger Ying, a Stanford Graduate who grew up in South Africa, Pandai.cn delivers next generation online financial services by providing credit loans for borrowers and high fixed-income products for lenders on a safe, transparent and easy-to-use online platform. Moreover, Pandai will be the only company in China that will allow its customers to build tailored credit and price loans.
Duanzumi simply could be described as a Chinese-AirBNB, a website to list rooms for short-term rental. The short-term rental space is starting to get competitive with existing property portals such as Youtx.com from Soufan.com and Mayi.com from Ganji.com (a Chinese classifieds site). Of course, this occurred after AirBNB became one of the hottest start-ups from Silicon Valley and has been valued at over $1 billion. However, many of these sites have been criticized for simply taking existing property from their parent sites and listing them on a per-night basis without the landlords knowledge. Similar to Airbnb, Duanzumi charges a transaction fee to the room owner and it is only collected after the guest has arrived.
Traditional live webcasting is both time and money intensive. You need to buy or rent expensive live broadcasting equipment, hire operational professionals and negotiate with solution providers to make sure all your customized needs are met. Botata, a turn-key live webcasting service provider, has a simple and cost-effective solution to free live webcasters from all these pitfalls. Founded May 2011, the Beijing-based company built a cloud-based live webcasting client device (with the shape and weight of a conventional laptop) that takes the input from a camera-ready Internet-connected device like a smartphone or tablet and outputs it to an Internet-connected device via a cloud-based content distribution system. It currently supports H.264 video coding standard and 1080i, 1080p and 720p image quality.
In addition, ChinaNetCloud sponsored all top seven teams with one year’s free cloud server hosting management.
Although not officially one of the Launchpad finalists, a four-person gaming company, Walnut Company Limited, presented their attractive game production and development skills. Their game, Final Fury, is similar to Gun Bros and impressed Akio Tanaka of Infinity Venture Partners. As a prize, Akio selected Walnut to attend the next Infinity Ventures Summit in Japan with flight and accommodations paid for.
Photo is courtesy of Chris Tow