Attending The Bridge Fes 2016


In a turn of events I ended up with the privilege of visiting The Bridge, Asia’s Largest Start-up Festival, on the 19th Feb in Shibuya.

Upon arrival, I found over 100 start-ups occupying their respective booths and an active centre stage with guests speaking into the background. I had already marked the main stage events that I was not going to miss and so, spent the rest of my time wandering from booth to booth enquiring about their business and ideas. Many of the startups focused on Cloud, real-time, AI and e-education which given today’s technology wasn’t very surprising.

At one point, the speaker on stage mentioned that the we were currently in the age of a startup boom as millennials are less and less interested in the types of jobs that satisfied the previous generation. Many are emboldened into taking higher risks as it is easier to start a business today than it was in the past.

Another talk that caught my attention was the acquisition of TicketCamp by Mixi. TicketCamp, an online ticket flea-market, was at a phase of slow growths prior to its acquisition and merely after a year later it is now the largest most successful of its kind. What does this tell us? Having a brilliant idea on its own is not enough. You need to appeal to the masses and gain their trust. This example highlights the importance of SNS in today’s business world.

The key event of the day was the pitches made by 5 foreign and 5 local startups specially selected for their uniqueness and potential.
On the foreign side we had Pawnhero, Wovn, SellinAll, Cropital and Borderpass. On the local side we had Hinative Trek, Favy, Garage Ster and Yasashii Internet.

Here’s a brief outline of what each of them do.

The foreign 5.

Pawnhero (Philippines) – Check it out!

– discovered that in Philippines, 75% of the population has used pawn shops
– existing stigma against those having to resort to pawnshops
– abuse (high interest rates charged) by pawnshops

– Digitalize the whole process, an online pawnshop
– Users send photos of the goods they wish to pawn and will shortly receive a rough estimation of its value
– Goods will be picked up by Pawnhero, further appraised and the money will be banked into the users account
– Pawnhero is to prepare (has prepared perhaps) its own platform for selling goods that are not bought back

Wovn Check it out!

– A growing need for multi-language websites
– A complicated, long process involving, several parties (translators, web developers etc)
– Current methods are costly and at times inefficient

– Provide a simple, fast and cheap means of translating your sites
– Text of websites will be picked up and each word, sentence, block text can be translated with ease.
– Interface is self-explanatory

SellInAll Check it out!

– Growing number of ecommerce platforms, ebay, amazon, etsy, flipkart, facebook etc
– Language barriers(set up) and maintenance (stock controls, price changes) will be difficult

– Provide a service that links all these platforms
– a single dashboard to upload their products to all selected platforms simultaneously
– Stock, prices and essential information will be in sync to keep information up to date at all times.

Cropital (Philippines) Check it out!

– Aging farmers living in increasing debt leading to lower productivity, a downward spiral
– Difficult to get funds, loans to improve living standards

– Links farmers in need with backers (investors who will get a cut of resulting profits made)
– Cropital carry out searches and reach out to those farmers who need help
– Backers can choose who they wish to fund
– Cloud funding

BorderPass Check it out!

– Immigration forms needed when traveling
– Long queues, tedious security checks, thumb scanning, picture taking etc => time consuming

– Creates individual profiles online with all necessary information, flight number, port of departure, arrival, Photo taken with 3D facial recognition technology (very accurate).
– You only need to use their BorderPass automated gate and you are done. no forms, no questions nothing
– simple. seamless. secure.

The local 5.

Hinative Trek Check it out!

– Japanese can read and write English much better than listening and speaking
– Textbook English is at times outdated and unnatural
– Limited opportunities to practice English

– Encourage users to speak
– Users are connected to several native speakers
– Questions, homework etc are mostly done using recorded voice messages
– This will increase confidence, pronunciation and listening skills

Favy Check it out!

– Food and Restaurant industry is very competitive
– Restaurants cannot compete and are forced to close down, a frequent occurrence

– Links diners to restaurants
– Promote small unknown places
– Protect the industry to help keep restaurants afloat
– Shares information on trends etc to all users

Garage Ster Check it out!

– High labour costs
– Lack of necessary skills

– Offshoring introduce foreign engineers to Japanese firms
– Mainly in Vietnam
– Makes it possible to build a team abroad
– Staff can either be sent to Japan or vice versa

Yasashii Internet – This is still in its early stages of planning

– The internet has become too vast, too cold
– Too many haters and trolls online

– Aims to create a closed internet community, one that is warm

What I discovered was that most of the foreign startups were looking outwards whilst the local startups were looking inwards. By this I mean that the foreign startups were looking at global problems, problems that can be found in more than one country. This means that the opportunity to enter the global market is there, whereas the local startups focused mainly in the domestic market. They appealed primarily to the Japanese people and therefore from the get-go was almost inapplicable in elsewhere.

Overall this experience was educational, being able to see how all these startups come up with new ways to solve old and new problems.