Ideas

The social imperative for start-ups to grow

Few will argue that a great product or service is one that solves the most pressing problems for consumers at the best value for money and with the highest quality.

A consumer study found that post-pandemic, consumers in Singapore also care deeply about the way brands treat the environment and community, as well as their attitudes towards racial and economic disparities. Sixty percent surveyed expect “brands to be purpose-driven, going beyond profits and transactional relationships, to demonstrate trustworthiness, empathy, shared values, and care for society.”

Against this backdrop, it has become imperative for businesses to consciously and intentionally incorporate social purpose and impact into their business model early on.

Yet, between ensuring product-market fit, addressing the challenges of building a business, and developing the pitch-perfect deck to draw investors, start-up founders often feel that weaving social impact into their company plan is something that can be worked on at a later stage. Founding teams new to purpose-driven business models may also be doubtful if they can integrate social impact in a way that makes business sense.

Social is good for business

Research from the EY Beacon Institute and Harvard Business School shows that companies that lead with purpose are more likely to win customer confidence and be profitable. Today’s consumers and employees demand values that align with their own from brands, and accountability from businesses and employers. We are seeing consumers switch to brands they trust more while employees look to work for socially-minded employers.

Unsurprisingly, companies with strong social missions appeal to talent as revealed in a LinkedIn study. Employees in social impact start-ups enjoy higher work satisfaction, are more engaged, and stay loyal to their companies. The benefits do not stop there.

Social drives innovation and promotes creativity

Weaving social good into a start-up’s business model could also be an impetus for creativity and innovation. Beyond the traditional objective of profitability, having to think about how one’s business can help to address current social challenges forces us to look at the situation through new lenses. This potentially creates imaginative ways of doing things to solve problems.

For example, coffee specialty company Bettr Barista solves systemic issues in the coffee value chain by trading directly with partner farms to optimize commercial benefits to these farmers and their extended communities. In Singapore, they run vocational social programs that nurture both professional and emotional skill sets. Upon graduation, trainees are offered employment opportunities in a workplace that is fair and inclusive. The company also extends micro-enterprise opportunities to marginalized women and youth-at-risk.

This virtuous loop of doing good and reaping bold, inventive ideas in the process also nurtures a more productive and positive work environment for employees, which in turn builds a strong corporate culture and better performance.

Sustainable Impact is attractive to investors

As companies start to incorporate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices into different aspects of their business, investors are also applying ESG factors to identify risks and growth opportunities. More than 450 investors have allocated US$1.3 trillion to impact investing worldwide. Among the fastest-growing regions for such investments are East and Southeast Asia, which grew at 23 percent in 2020.

This trend connotes that investors are placing emphasis on sustainability in pitch decks and exacting ESG compliance. Start-ups with a clear social purpose thus become more attractive to potential organization partners and venture capitalists as they look to expand their reach and sustainable impact.

The burgeoning appetite for impact investments makes this an opportune moment for social impact start-ups to seek funding from venture capitalists who are after the dual goals of profit and social impact. This mutually advantageous partnership drives an effective market-based approach to resolve critical problems faced by communities everywhere – from gender inequality and access to basic human needs to climate change.

Demonstrating social value

In order to appeal to investors, it is crucial for startups to be able to measure and articulate the social impact they create. It validates their potential to do well and do good and facilitates fundraising activities.

To help start-ups and social enterprises in Singapore facing this conundrum, the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise, raiSE, has developed the Social Value Toolkit (SVT) which guides companies to monitor, assess, and articulate their social impact.

This measurement framework is also used in Asia’s first VC-backed Sustainable Impact Accelerator program that we launched recently with raiSE to help start-ups improve their competencies and scale up impact.

Participants in the program will receive financial support and non-financial support, which includes Quest Ventures and raiSE’s combined expertise, networks, and resources in the social impact business arena.

Being socially responsible can create long-term value for start-ups. With the support of investors and partners in the private and public sectors, we can join hands to solve some of the most pressing, complex problems of our times.

This post first appeared on TechNode Global.


Searching for gold in the silver economy: A venture capital perspective

A huge pot of gold can be found in the silver economy globally and in Asia, this article identifies the key opportunities for venture capitals.

The opportunities in the silver economy are manifesting more visibly globally and in the Asia Pacific region.

By 2025, the ageing population in the Asia Pacific will reach 600 million, potentially accounting for US$4.56 trillion. The markets ageing most rapidly in the Asia Pacific include China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

With the pandemic aggravating the existing ageing issues, there will be great potential for ageing technologies and innovations to grow and scale. We believe there is a huge pot of gold to be found in the silver economy globally and in Asia.

Through intensive research on the silver economy and correspondence with the Quest Ventures team, Zacchaeus Chok, a Quest Ventures Fellow, identified key opportunities for venture capital in the article below.

Zacchaeus Chok was attached to Quest Ventures through the Reactor Venture Scout Program.

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The combination of longevity and a decline in birthrate engenders a pressing economic and social need for innovation. Although population ageing poses a double whammy to public spending and productivity, a technology-driven silver economy ecosystem is poised to meet the unique demands of an ageing population.

The reward for being the first to capture the sunrise marketplace will be huge, with the Asia Pacific’s silver economy potential projected to reach US$4.56 trillion by 2025. Boasting a silver economy potential of over US$500 billion, Singapore, Japan, and Australia are Asia Pacific’s top three markets.

The demographic shift presents two sides: a growing market segment for investors and a potential liability for governments. In turn, public and private sector investments in supporting seniors will increase.

Opportunities in the silver economy

Senior citizens have long been ignored by venture capital money. Yet, seniors will account for over 22 per cent of the population in the Asia Pacific by 2050 and entrepreneurs will be keen to cash in.

Investment opportunities span a wide range of industries, including housing, food, tourism and transport, with healthcare-related products featuring strongly.

Businesses need a strong understanding of the lifestyle aspirations and healthcare goals of seniors in order to successfully court the region’s 600 million senior citizens.

Building-integrated care solutions through telemedicine

The incoming class of senior citizens are likely to be more well educated, affluent and tech-savvy than their parents. For Singaporean residents aged 75 and over, smartphone usage grew from 41 per cent in 2019 to 60 per cent in 2020, along with an increase in internet usage.

At the same time, the adoption of digital services among seniors has sharply risen with COVID-19. Older patients can now book medical appointments online and have their medications delivered to their doorstep, rather than go to the clinic.

With senior citizens demanding greater accessibility, affordability, and personalisation in healthcare, the way healthcare is delivered could benefit from decentralization. Digital technology improves the affordability of previously inefficient care delivery practices, such as home-based urgent care, hospital-at-home model and virtual primary care.

Homage, which recently closed its US$30 million Series C funding in late 2021, uses a matching engine to connect families with caregivers and therapists.

Investor sentiment in healthtech has reached record levels in Southeast Asia, with deal value has grown more than four times since 2017. Deals in the care delivery vertical represent the largest portion of healthtech deal values, with significant growth in digital health solutions, online pharmacies and remote patient support.

Despite the progress made in telemedicine, challenges remain in managing the infrastructure and logistics, defining data collection standards and coordinating medical equipment needs.

IT can play a central role in overcoming the fragmented nature of caregiving

The rapid ageing of the population has resulted in increased pressure on health care delivery arrangements. Even though the value of preventive and promotive care has been given more weight, remarkable fragmentation in patient-centred care for the elderly persists.

For example, the patient referral procedure is locked in archaic data management systems and in some cases, paper-based record cards. When patients move to other facilities, re-evaluations are duplicated, causing healthcare professionals to spend unnecessary time and money.

Volunteer management is another area where the consolidation of services results in significant social impact. For example, SG Assist provides timely and affordable assistance to dependents at home through a digitally crowdsourced Community Responder network.

By streamlining the caregiving and volunteering sector through digital processes, a generation of tech-enabled social enterprises is paving the way for greater efficiency in the care sector.

In addition to mobile and web technology, several Blockchain healthcare start-ups have emerged in Singapore, addressing health analytics, data privacy, and insurance issues.

MediLOT uses blockchain technology to securely store patients’ health records while Hearti Lab uses the same technology for policy agreements, smart contracts and risk management.

However, many healthcare providers in Southeast Asia are still reluctant to share data or transition to cloud services. Besides Singapore, other governments in the region have been spending less on healthcare.

There remains significant work in integrating real-time patient data, defining standards, ensuring the interoperability of patient record systems and building security infrastructure.

Fortunately, there are signs of a greater governmental push to adopt technology in the near future, with the Philippines and Thailand governments introducing measures to incorporate technology into legacy systems.

Widespread adoption of assisted living devices

Cutting-edge wearable technologies supported by AI and the Internet of Things, alongside fitness monitoring devices, are gaining steam among senior citizens, caregivers and community healthcare providers.

In the inaugural Healthcare Open Innovation Challenge launched by Enterprise Singapore in 2020, several innovative solutions to prevent falls among seniors and promote adherence to prescribed medication regimes were presented.

Singapore-based Longway AI designed a solution to predict and prevent falls while IoT startup EloCare developed a smart pillbox solution to promote medication compliance and traceability.

With more seniors wanting to live autonomous and dignified lives without burdening their caregivers, assisted living devices and the wearable technology markets present major investment opportunities.

Challenges in the silver economy

Social entrepreneurship is an important linkway to developing the silver economy. Early-stage social enterprises are “catalytic innovators” that produce disruptive innovations outside of established corporations and bureaucracies, solving pressing social problems like our ageing population.

Since they carry significantly higher risk, they complement the low-risk appetite of government units. There are numerous examples of how early impact can lead to large scale adoption and system-changing impact, such as Indonesian health tech startup Halodoc whose digital platform services were recently tapped by the Ministry of Health to facilitate coronavirus vaccinations.

Young entrepreneurs are interested in creating products designed for senior citizens with needs unique to them but face numerous barriers to entry pertaining to talent, insight, distribution and capital.

Removing barriers to entry and silver marketplace growth

The silver ecosystem is enabled by the right type of funding and capability building at every stage. Even though there exists significant government funding in the social sector, innovation capital is typically disbursed in limited amounts e.g., philanthropies awarding small start-up grants.

In the earlier stages, philanthropic grants offer capital to seed promising business ideas. Private impact investors and venture philanthropists source, develop and optimise these promising businesses by providing systematic organisation-building support. Successful social programmes with a track record are scaled further by the government and NGOs.

While wealth owners are on the lookout to apply their assets toward more social causes, capability-building support is equally important to support innovation. Like venture capitalists, impact investors contribute their networks and expertise to nurture a new generation of social enterprises.

Social impact has largely focused on leveraging the skills and capabilities of the ICT industry but there is considerable potential to transfer skills, networks, and infrastructure in the venture capital ecosystem to the world of social impact.

No clearly defined playbook for silver economy startups

The term “Silver Tsunami” captures the unique nature of this demographic shift, and investors have only just begun to take notice. Developing active-ageing products aimed at the elderly is not a mainstream idea.

Of the 204 digital health startups registered in Singapore in 2022, only a small fraction develop eldercare-centric products.

Unlike e-commerce start-ups with clearly defined marketing playbooks, many investors still have the perception that seniors are not tech-savvy and that the total addressable market for senior-focused digital technology is limited.

Achieving scalable social impact hinges on a sustainable business model; silver social enterprises have to consider who is their target customer and how will they pay for the product. Overcoming perception challenges, social enterprises also need to consider how to position their technology products as simple as possible.

Golden dividends in a silver economy

The full potential of the silver economy is yet captured by investors and entrepreneurs. Seen differently, longevity is a macro tailwind behind the digitalisation of healthcare, the consolidation of caregiving and the proliferation of emerging technologies like blockchain.

These step changes in senior-centric healthcare are here to stay and investors are already paying attention to hot spots like telemedicine, wearable devices and patient analytics.

Small is beautiful, but the scale is necessary. Early-stage social enterprises are entering a fast-forming tech-enabled silver marketplace in Singapore, where novel ideas can be tested before expanding to larger markets in Japan and China.

Provided the right type of funding at the right stage, start-ups in the silver economy can optimise their business models for a growing consumer class and reap the dividends of a maturing silver market.

This post first appeared on e27.


How is the Russia-Ukraine war changing the talk in ESG investing?

Drawing on the Russia-Ukraine war, we observe that ESG framework is not set in stone and will be evolving based on changing global landscape.

The ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) community was flabbergasted and alarmed at talks on labelling weapons as sustainable ESG assets with the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Supporters justified this by claiming weapons maintain peace and “are of key importance to uphold and defend democracy, freedom, stability and human rights”. And this may not be the first time ESG investing is dealing with such controversial debate, with industries and companies moving from outcast to hero status in times of crisis.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as ESG investing achieves the best results when it evolves according to the dynamic world we live in, considering the changing risks and opportunities at different points in time. Even as ESG investing may look different as it develops across time, it is here to stay.

According to Bloomberg, global ESG assets are on track to exceed US$53 trillion by 2025, representing more than a third of the US$140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management.

In Asia, more than two-thirds of institutional investors indicated increased interest in ESG investments in the post-COVID world, and total ESG assets in Asia have grown from a mere US$801 million in 2019 to US$7.9 billion in 2020.

The shift to Social (S) in ESG

In the venture capital (VC) space, there are observations on rising numbers of thematic funds specific to the environmental (E) aspect (e.g., climate change, decarbonisation, and nature-based assets) and a focus on governance (G) aspect (e.g., internal audit, management commitment to ESG, stakeholder engagement).

This exemplified that ESG investing is gaining steam, but it may seem that the “S” in ESG has taken the role of the forgotten middle child.

But not for any longer, as investors realise that people/ social impact forms the basis of ESG investing. Everything does not matter if it de-risk or benefits the people, as sustainability arising from environmental and governance factors would ultimately translate into the social value created for the people.

Just like how weapons are used to be excluded in ESG investing before the Russia-Ukraine war, its social value is now taking the centre stage together with the environmental impact.

The human-centricity of ESG investing will become more apparent, and the social impact investment will take a more proactive form.

Dynamic ESG based on changing landscape to future-proof the firm and portfolio

Drawing back to the Russia-Ukraine war, we observe that the ESG framework is not set in stone and will be evolving based on the changing global or regional landscape. Just like how ESG investors avoided weapons before this war, now there is an ongoing talk about labelling it as a social-positive asset because it has the potential to prevent death and destruction.

From this, the ESG community demonstrates that ESG investing will not be rigid to target outperformance above-market returns. Many investors, including VCs, have acknowledged that ESG does not hamper financial performance but creates long-term value and outsized returns.

More and more started to price in material risks, along with material benefits, effectively de-risking the portfolio while adopting a pro-impact approach. This optimises the future-proofing of the firm and portfolio.

For example, for Quest Ventures‘ portfolio companies like Fefifo, food security and sustainable agriculture could materially influence topline sales. For Flex and GajiGesa, financial inclusion can materially convert non-consumers into a new market that is untapped in emerging Asia.

Building back better towards a resilient and sustainable future for the people

Investors, including VCs, invest in sustainable market-creating innovations that shape all nations and regions’ resilient and sustainable futures.

According to Global Sustainable Investment Review 2020 (GSIR), Sustainable investment assets under management make up 35.9 per cent of total assets under management, up from 33.4 per cent in 2018.

The most common sustainable investment strategy is ESG integration (US$25.2 trillion AUM), followed by negative screening (US$15.9 trillion AUM), corporate engagement, and shareholder action (US$10.5 trillion AUM).

Integrating ESG into the investment process will build more sustainable companies early through incorporating ESG during portfolio engagement/ investment stewardship.

Global growth of sustainable investing strategies 2016-2020 from Global Sustainable Investment Review (GSIR)

However, as Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen mentioned in Prosperity Paradox, “all good theories must be used in context. They are only useful in certain circumstances. Every country in the world is different in size, population, culture, leadership, and capabilities. Those circumstances play a role in their destiny.”

We must note the nuances across regions and markets when doing ESG investing and building a resilient and sustainable future. With the Russia-Ukraine war in the backdrop, it compels us to keep ESG supporting flexible while allowing for comparison when measuring its impacts.

Taking a pragmatist approach to ESG investing (investing in companies with moderate unmanageable ESG risk and high ESG unmanaged manageable risk) would be optimal in Southeast Asia, as the emerging market presents vast opportunities to improve ESG financial performance at higher-risk companies vastly.

According to the profiling by Pitchbook, a pragmatist VC may:

  • Conduct pre-investment due diligence on the ESG risks derived from broad industry sustainability.
  • Conduct slightly less-intensive pre- or post-acquisition identification of manageable risk mitigation gaps and opportunities.
  • Evaluate how scale will influence sustainability and ESG.
  • Have proactive implementation of ESG-related policies and procedures and quarterly monitoring.

Concluding, the Russia-Ukraine war, amidst its wide-ranging and devastating impacts on people from both nations, had triggered the ESG community and could be changing the conversation on ESG investing through:

  • There is a shift to social (S) in ESG, with a social impact no longer isolated from environmental and governance aspects.
  • The development of a dynamic ESG based on changing regional and global landscape to future-proof the investment firms and portfolio.
  • Building back better towards a resilient and sustainable future by adopting a pragmatist ESG approach.

If you are curious about my position regarding the war: Echoing Singapore’s statement on the Russia-Ukraine war, I too believe that a country’s “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity must be respected”.

This post first appeared on e27.


S1E10: Questions With GajiGesa’s Vidit Agrawal

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Quest Ventures Podcast Season 1 hosted by Vanessa Ho.


S1E9: Questions With Intelllex’s Chang Zi Qian

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Vietnam Open Innovation Landscape Report 2021

A good ecosystem is built on the five pillars of startups, risk capital, institutes of higher learning, corporations, and public agencies. It is underscored by the community and expanded through internationalization.

Singapore’s past two decades of driving entrepreneurship through a public-private partnership in the form of the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) have seen many unicorns created and anchored in Singapore, funded by top local and international investors, founded and staffed by graduates of IHLs, helped by and helping corporations, and largely aided by friendly rules and regulations.

Strong relationships between Vietnam and Singapore at many levels have seen both countries contribute to the vibrancy of each other’s ecosystem. We look forward to working with Vietnam as it charts its startup and innovation path forward.

Quest Ventures is proud to be a strategic partner of BambuUP.


By BambuUP

According to the annual Report of Do Ventures, Vietnam has ranked the third active startup ecosystem among the 6 largest ASEAN countries, trailing behind only Indonesia and Singapore. Along with the rapid developments of the startup ecosystem, there has been an increasingly urgent need for startups, investors… to comprehensively update information and timely grasp new trends, cooperation and investment opportunities.

Having detected those needs and trends, the BambuUP innovation platform carries out a Project on developing an “Overview Report of the Open Innovation in Vietnam in 2021” (hereinafter referred to as the Report) supported by the National Startup Support Center (NSSC). This is the first report to provide a map of the innovation ecosystem from a comprehensive and multi-dimensional perspective, focusing on 11 typical sectors including: Consumer goods, retails, education, finance, healthcare, Martech & Salestech, Logistics & Supply Chain, Sustainable Development, Agriculture, Travel & Tourism, Blockchain & Crypto. It is expected that the Report will act as an information source to promote and expand potential domestic and international cooperation and investment opportunities among startups, enterprises and investors. Therefore, it will further promote innovation among economic sectors, contributing to the active recovery and growth in the new normal context. The Report is also an initial step to develop a comprehensive database and assessment of the startup and open innovation ecosystem in Vietnam, thus introducing Vietnam’s innovation capacity and advancing Vietnam’s innovation ecosystem on the world map.

With an objective to introduce the Report to nationwide readers in Vietnam as well as in other countries around the world, the Report will be distributed into two formats, i.e digital and physical , in Vietnamese and English. The first version of the Report (abridged version) will be distributed online on 20th October 2021 (in Vietnamese). The official Report will be distributed on 25th December 2021 in 20 countries and is expected to be introduced to more than 25,000 governmental agencies, organizations and individuals.

The overall picture of the innovation ecosystem in Vietnam in the “Overview Report of the Open Innovation in Vietnam in 2021” is introduced as follows:

  1. INNOVATION TRENDS IN THE NEW NORMAL
  2. GLOBAL START-UP ECOSYSTEM OVERVIEW VIETNAM STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
  3. VIETNAM STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
  4. INDUSTRY LANDSCAPE AND KEY INNOVATION TRENDS
  5. VIETNAM STARTUP LANDSCAPE MAP
  6. SURVEY FOR VIETNAMESE START-UPS
  7. MOVING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE

Thanks to that overall picture, the Report is a useful tool to help businesses plan the right business strategy by connecting with the innovative solutions available in the market. This is also the message about the open innovation trend that the execution unit, BambuUP, wants to convey through the Report.

In the past, the innovation ecosystem was a closed ecosystem with the central component being large enterprises. As the digital transformation era settles in, the rapid pace of technological change leads to enterprises not being able to control the scale of technology, and the investment in research and development costs is too large, beyond their capacity. Therefore, using only the creative capacity of internal resources will not be enough for businesses to keep up with the needs of customers and markets. Open innovation is the use of internal and external resources to promote internal innovation and expand markets. The application of open innovation accelerates the creation of commercially viable products, by collaborating with external opportunities.

We hope that with the latest information on trends and innovative solutions, enterprises will make the right choices to take their businesses to the next level!

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Questions With Quest Ventures’ Jaslyn Hooi: Balancing Commitments.

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S1E7: Questions With Gluu’s Lim Shu Fen

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Note: Since this podcast was recorded, Gluu has been acquired and pivoted to B2B. Lim Shu Fen has moved on from her previous role as co-founder, and is now Gluu’s non-executive director.


Industry crossroads: Digital meets creative

Connected fitness, wearables, and sustainable spaces demonstrate the advancements of South Korea’s creative economy.

The digital and creative industries are at a crossroads, with the global COVID-19 pandemic providing an unavoidable backdrop in its trajectory. The creative industry in Southeast Asia thrived even before the pandemic. Singapore is the world’s tenth largest exporter of creative goods—products from areas like film, art, music, and crafts—generating USD 743 billion in profits and 12.7 million jobs. Thailand and the Philippines are also committed to growing their creative economy, establishing the Thailand Creative Economy Agency (CEA) and filing the Philippines Creative Industries Act.

South Korea may be perceived as an undisputed digital and creative powerhouse, with resounding success in their creative industry and exports. The success is supercharged by the developments of creative content exports, as well as Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation (CCEIs) by various ministries and government agencies, such as the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) and Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning.

Many South Korean creatives are looking at Southeast Asia with great interest to target underserved markets. These include the teams of DevUnlimit, R.O.C.K and AppMedia. The top three opportunities they see for their businesses are connected fitness, tech wearables, and sustainable creative spaces.

Connected fitness

Globally, fitness tech startups raised a record-setting USD 2.3 billion in 2020, an increase of over 30% year-over-year. Digital fitness and wellness companies saw a surge in demand from businesses and individuals alike during the pandemic. Peloton, an exercise equipment and media company, saw its Q4 2020 sales nearly triple, while Mirror, which developed an interactive home gym setup, generated USD 170 million in revenue for 2020 and was acquired by Lululemon for USD 500 million.

Fitness is increasingly digitized and gamified, especially during the pandemic, and it motivates individuals trapped in their homes to work out using stimulating presentations and instantaneous engagement. DevUnlimit developed the Sparky platform in South Korea, empowering users to start their workout with a web camera and any screen. Within the comfort of the user’s own home, Sparky creates a stress-free workout environment with a variety of unique sessions and trainers to choose from. These include yoga, Zumba, and even full dance tutorials with real-time instructions and interactions with your favorite trainers.

The AI behind Sparky captures the body movements of users to issue scores. This allows users to gain instant feedback when they work out and provides motivation to reach or maintain a high score. DevUnlimit marketing manager Emilie Saunier highlights “the developments by Sparky in 3D avatars that follow users’ movements in real time is also a huge opportunity for AI in fitness and gaming,” and investors are interested in this metaverse space in the creative economy.

Sparky is erasing physical and geographical boundaries, and fitness creatives can now leverage this platform to reach, manage, and engage with their students or clients at greater scale. The Southeast Asia market is largely underserved in the digital and connected fitness space, and DevUnlimit identified this region as a key component of their global expansion plans. By providing more English-language workout videos, and working with strategic investors that have strong experience in gamification and fitness influencer networks, DevUnlimit expects to reach more consumers in new markets.

Tech wearables

The first computer mouse was created by Douglas Engelbart in 1964, made from a wooden shell and two metal balls attached below. Since then, the handheld hardware input device has come a long way in terms of product innovation. Now, many tech companies like Logitech, Razer, and Microsoft have produced their own mice with advanced features like wireless connection, multi-device syncing and eight-button setups with customizable commands. However, these are only incremental developments, not radical innovations.

Korean tech startup R.O.C.K has reimagined a uniquely shaped mouse that can be worn and controlled on the user’s finger. The ring-shaped wearable mouse has a tactile and gyro sensor that allows users to control their screen without the mouse needing to be on any surface. This unlocks another level of productivity and creativity, according to the CEO of R.O.C.K, David Kim.

Kim is confident about the future of the ring-shaped wearable mouse, explaining that “wearable ring devices will be one of the game-changers after smartphones.” Kim also emphasized the wearable laser pointer market will be worth more than USD 5 billion next year, doubling the market size of computer mice, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10%, according to a report by the Korea Trade Promotion Corporation, or KOTRA.

The applications of a wearable mouse are multifold and fit different sectors, including gaming, healthcare, and consumer hardware and accessories. R.O.C.K spotted an opportunity in Southeast Asia, a region that is leapfrogging some developed economies in terms of technological developments and adoption. Kim believes that Asia’s gaming market will be R.O.C.K’s strategic focus. With six out of ten Asian gaming markets being in Southeast Asia, this region is currently a priority for the startup. R.O.C.K has also begun overtures into the healthcare industry, and has been in discussions with pharmaceutical and health devices companies to develop a healthcare ring to retrieve real-time patient data, such as blood pressure.

The hardware device that boosted productivity and creativity is now ready for a radical innovation and broad application across sectors.

Sustainable creative spaces

Sustainability in creative industries is a key driver of innovation. Before the pandemic, the creative economy was predicted to account for up to 10% of global GDP by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected creative industries worldwide, shaving off 20%–40% from revenue across different economies, possibly resulting in 10 million job cuts for creative workers globally.

The ability to tap into new revenue streams through digital platforms and outlets allows creatives to build resilience, especially against the pandemic. Digital platforms and outlets reconnect communities even at times when COVID-19 restrictions are imposed. At the same time, by unlocking a globally connected digital market, creatives are now able to share and commercialize their creative assets worldwide in a more sustainable manner.

Accelerated digitization and digitalization of publications, education, and the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) industries has enabled stronger resilience and even boosted the reach and scale of creatives and content creators. AppMedia’s CEO, Julius Park, has his eyes set on this tremendous opportunity to empower creatives and content creators through the Appbook, a tool that gives organizations and individuals the means to develop and deliver multimedia digital content and experiences to their audience.

“AppMedia’s motto is to create a fair education environment. AppBook can be downloaded on mobile devices and is free, and content is continuously created for AppBook. For example, AppMedia’s main appbook, Learn Korean For Thai, is very useful for beginners learning Korean. This appbook will be developed for Vietnam and India,” Park said. Currently, AppMedia is working with Korea’s Ministry of Education, Supreme Court, Board of Audit and Inspection, selected institutes of higher education, and the Korea International Art Fair (KIAF).

Aligned with the promotion of digital education and advancement of United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 4, which states, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” companies such as AppMedia assume a crucial role in empowering creatives and content creators, enabling widespread access to educational, informational, and recreational materials.

More companies such as South Korea’s DevUnlimit, R.O.C.K, and AppMedia will come to shape the ways creative industries operate at a global level.

Connected fitness serves our interests to stay fit and well physically and mentally. Tech wearables will change the way we interact with the digital world, including the metaverse. Sustainable creative spaces will ensure inclusion and resilience in the creative economy. With a globally connected digital economy, the possibilities are endless.

Quest Ventures is a Singapore-based venture capital firm that boasts a portfolio of more than 90 companies based across Asia and have strong relationships with many community partners across Asia’s ecosystem.

This post first appeared on KrASIA.


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