Retrospective: Echelon Asia Summit 2015

When it comes to embracing the tech startup culture, the e27 team behind last month’s Echelon Asia Summit 2015 showcased not only an assembly of giant resources, but also the determined churn of passion. The conference, which embodied “Tomorrow’s Tech, Today”, took place on 23 and 24 June 2015 at the Singapore Expo. It saw more than 2,500 delegates, 500 startups, and 70 speakers bouncing ideas, pitches, and dreams around the hall.

The first day kicked off with the freelancer’s story from Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer. Already the world’s largest crowdsourcing and freelancing marketplace with 16 million users, one of the beliefs is that a significant amount of a country’s workforce can be powered through online work. Asia is currently a dominant market, and he explained that, “There are global marketplaces for products with the size and scale of Alibaba, Amazon and eBay. I think this is absolutely going to happen in the services industry.”

Influitive followed up with tips on building billion dollar startups outside the “startup city”, usually perceived to be in the United States. Echoing the same emphasis on Asia, the directions overlapped with the topic of “Asian Unicorns” and P2P lending sectors in the next few sessions. Afternoon’s highlights saw last year’s tech crush Vibease sharing insights in a session on the real business, revenue and profitability of the hardware sector — that the hardware ecosystem in Asia required networks, connections and timely investments. While the manufacturing factories are more advantageous outside, they also require extra supervision and dedication towards the final product(s).

The second day focused the spotlight on scaling, especially with the year’s startup story behind HotelQuickly. He shared a few secrets behind their success, mainly the early development of a team’s alignment and internal culture, and most importantly, knowing what type of scaling suits a startup. “There is no one-answer-fits-all,” Tomas Laboutka, CEO, said. “In the product fit stage, you’re trying to figure out who your customers are that will buy your product or service repeatedly. Once you hit a certain level of comfort, you want to define your feedback loop, the metrics you want to measure and your fall-back strategy.”

muru-D Singapore’s Joseph Ziegler delved into an interesting direction on technology hangovers, pertaining to startups who count their front passion and miss the arrow on their backend developers. The technology behind becomes too expensive to run long-term and it becomes a downwards spiral for the business model. “The technology that you pick needs to be focused on what you are trying to achieve,” he said, explaining that the wrong technology can cost up to three times more money to fix at the end of the day.

The buzz grew bigger as the Echelon Top 10 Startup Pitch rolled around at the end of the day. The panel saw familiar faces that lent prominence to the pitching round, including Gree Ventures‘ Khun Hsu, Rakuten Ventures‘ Saemin Ahn, and 500 startups‘ Khailee Ng. The mix of the year’s startups included an all-in-one ecommerce marketplace SellInAll, the popular “smart” power socket EcoSocket and free calling telecom platform nanu. The final winners were Philippines’ PawnHero, South Korea’s myRealTrip, and Malaysia’s ChaseFuture. P.S. Let’s keep an eye (and ear) on nanu.

It is undeniable that the entrepreneurship motion has taken the region in giant waves over the past decade. In the midst of products and services, a few will pop up because of their voices in genres of quirkiness or relevance. Take AirShr, an auditory venture that told anyone who would listen, “Listen differently.” Tapping on the radio sector, their pitch allowed audience to use convenience to their advantage — save, share and buy directly from the medium with their hardware, a subtle black circle that fits into any situation (with previously radio presence).

Another popular figure, CreoPop, came in with 3D-printing pens… reinvented with cool scented inks. By opening up another area of possibility, the demonstration offered became limitless with the crowd’s imagination.

The core concept behind 3D printing is still a fascinating topic, and when you throw in fragrant inks that allowed the final products to pop out, it becomes a vibrant medley of accessibility. Layer after layer of innovation pile up on each other to become part of a bigger picture — this is what Echelon is fundamentally about.