RISE 2016 – Recap

swapit-blog_riseIt’s been over a week now since RISE – the biggest startup conference in Asia with 12,000 startup folks – has ended. I am starting to get back into my usual daily schedule and have managed to work through almost all of the backlog that had been piling up since the start of RISE.

Exhibiting at RISE

Swapit was selected as BETA startup this year. This means, one of the three days of RISE, we had a booth at the exhibition floor. Having done RISE last year gave us some insight in what to expect. So we prepared a bit for our exhibition day on day 1. It was a pretty simple set up as the RISE folks took care of banner printing and we only needed to bring our own name cards, flyers, and laptop to play our awesome Swapit intro video.

The morning on Day 1 started a bit slow, but it definitely picked up pace at around 10-11am. Suddenly a lot of people came by our booth and even two of us were trying to keep all interested parties … well, interested; and informed of course. There was a good number of people who came by and were interested to talk to us. This includes potential users, partners and especially investors. It was great to see so much interest in Swapit. That was good we now have a lot more contacts, which we still need to work through.

 

Free Mints & Candy – A Failure

We also wanted to attract some more people who wouldn’t come directly to our booth. For that we needed to get them involved somehow, get to talk to them and engage. So we thought it would make sense to give out something to they would need during the conference. In fact, when talking to Casey Lau – the co-host of RISE and co-founder of StartupsHK – quite a while before RISE, he pointed me into that direction. Thanks a lot for that, by the way. We ended getting some mints, candy, gum and other sweets — all in green color (or at least green packaging), which we could hand out. Let’s face it, we all talk a lot during these kinds of events and some refreshment is often needed. Sometimes we also need a sugar shot!

So we had a good amount of different kinds of sweets and our intern Jonathan went around and handed them out. Now, I don’t know what exactly the hold back was, apparently not many people were interested in our free snacks. We had a small box at our exhibition booth, which was used by some folks. However, the main purpose of walking around and offering attendees some sweets, did not work out. We still took the most of it back to the office. Well, we got some sweets in the office now. Feel free to come by if you’re interested 🙂

So in short, giving mints and candy away didn’t work out for us. Perhaps we need to be more standing out from the crowd? Perhaps we need to be more forthcoming? Perhaps we just need a lovely lady to hand them out? I really don’t know what it would take to make this work. We’ll probably try something else next year.

PITCH Pitch

The main PITCH competition was open for all RISE startups to apply to. Out of 600 startups at RISE, 200 applied and 60 were accepted into the quarter finals. Swapit was one of those 60 startups. So I went on stage and gave my best pitch to date – I believe. It was a tough sell, because in my group were great startups like Soundbrenner who made it all the way to the PITCH final the year before. So we didn’t make into the semi-finals, but we were able to tell our story to a great audience. Some of those have actually downloaded Swapit right on the spot. If you’re interested, this was my 4 minute pitch:

In the end a taxi app in India won the PITCH competition. I haven’t seen their pitch, but it must have been damn good if it wins – despite steep, sexy, heavyweight competition like Uber, Grab and DiDi in the region.

BREAKTHROUGH Pitch

As we made it through the BREAKTHROUGH qualifier at the Hive Studios the week before RISE, we were set to pitch again at the main BREAKTHROUGH event on Day 3 of RISE. BREAKTHROUGH was just for local Hong Kong startups, so it was great and very mixed crowd. There was a morning session and an afternoon session. Luckily I was in the morning session, because come afternoon my brain is usually fried from all the talking all day. The winner of the morning session was not Swapit, which of course was a disappointment. This time, I only had 3 minutes to pitch and 2 minutes Q&A, and I believe it was even better than the PITCH pitch two days before. The winner of our morning session and in the end the overall BREAKTHROUGH MedExo – robotics arm that counters the tremor in arms of people who suffer from the Parkinsons disease. It was pretty hard to compete with such a purposeful and life-saving product.

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Events and Sessions

On day 2 and 3 we didn’t have our booth and therefore, we had time to roam around the floors, listen to some great speeches and visit some work shops. In particular, we were invite to attend the Facebook FbStart workshop. Because Swapit is already part of FbStart it was interesting to talk to the people behind it and see what kind of new products they offer through their program. In particular, I found the Facebook AccountKit very interesting. It was just recently released at Facebook’s own f8 developer conference and offers a unified SDK for account creation. As I mentioned before, it’s not that easy to get your app approved on the Apple App Store and that new AccountKit SDK from Facebook helps us taking some more hurdles, Apple is eagerly asking us to pass.

Night Summit

The night summit is always a collection of events after the conference floor closes. There were happy hours in 35 bars all across Hong Kong’s Central & SOHO district, but also smaller open bar events (thanks a lot Brinc and Akamai), which you usually had to reserve a ticket for. More often than not, you get to talk to random people at these night events. It’s great to get a sample of some people’s startup journey, get in though some investors in a more casual setting, and so on. I remember on day 1, I didn’t feel my feet anymore at around noon time, but come night summit they suddenly worked again!

There were also a bunch of other great events after the conference, like the startup ferry organized by the AliveNotDead folks or the OutBlaze/Animoca startup yacht on the last day. All of those were great opportunities to talk to some interesting new friends.

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The Economics

I guess, what most people ask before attending these kinds of events: Was it worth it?

Well, last year we did TechInAsia, Echelon, HK ICT Expo, HKTDC Entrepreneur Day, RISE and some other events. After looking at their results, we decided to only focus on RISE this year. All the events organized by the HKTDC are quite useless. All they care about is selling their booth space and that’s it. The attendees that go to those events, don’t even want to be there. They’re sent by their employers and you can feel that. Echelon and TechInAsia were both better, but they’re both held in Singapore. That means, besides paying for our booth (or how they call it: booth is free, but you got to buy a ticket …) you also need to cover accommodation and travel. Because you have to travel, another 2 days are gone for arrival and departure. For what you get out of it, we decided to skip those this year.

Yes, RISE is expensive. Our BETA booth costs US$ 1,950, which includes 4 tickets. Yes, you get listed on their website and in the RISE app as BETA startup, you can compete in PITCH and get Office Hours and Mentor Hours with investors and industry veterans. But in the end, $2k is a lot of money for small startups. Through our good friends at WHub we got a sweet 25% discount and could lower that cost to $1,450. Thanks a lot!

As an FbStart startup, we also got 2 free tickets for two of our team members. I myself also volunteered as a PubCrawl captain, which should have gotten us a ticket, and we made it to the BREAKTHROUGH final, which also got us a RISE ticket. So we were actually set with free tickets for the events. Now, out of those 4 tickets we got with our booth package, I managed to sell 3 to other folks who really wanted to go, but didn’t have a ticket yet. So in the end, we recovered $1,200 out of those $1,450 we paid for the booth pack. At a final price of $250 for the whole event for us, this was well worth attending.

Given the fact of getting a lot of new contacts and refreshing existing ones, even the $1,950 would have been worth it. So in short: Yes. Attending RISE has paid off.

 

Have you tried the Swapit app yet? You can get it here: http://get.swapit.la

 

Join the RISE PubCrawl – Captaineered by Swapit Co-Founder

swapit-blog_riseRISE is comprised of many sub-summits, one of which is the Night Summit. The conference isn’t over when the exhibition doors close. It just keeps going on!  Even the night before RISE officially starts, the legendary PubCrawl kicks off in Hong Kong’s bar hood in Central & SOHO.

I will be one of tonight’s PubCrawl Captains who will bring attendees around … crawling from one pub to the other. I don’t know which pub I will be stationed at, but keep an eye out for me. I will definitely be sporting our Swapit T-Shirt and would love to tell you more about RISE 2015, my expectations for this year’s RISE, Swapit at RISE / PITCH / BREAKTHROUGH, startups in Hong Kong / Asia, and pretty much anything you’d like to know.

More information about the PubCrawl can be found here: https://riseconf.com/tracks/pub-crawl

 

Also check out the Night Summit info, powered by our fellow HK startup Gormeihttp://www.gormei.com/en/rise/night-summit/

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Visit Swapit at RISE 2016

swapit-blog_riseSwapit was selected BETA startup at RISE 2016. So we will have a booth there. Here are the details:

  • Time: Day 1, Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
  • Booth: B102 (BETA zone)

You can view a map of the venue here: RISE Venue Map

A full schedule of RISE can be viewed here: https://riseconf.com/schedule

Here is how our ALPHA stand looked like last year:

This year, we’re a BETA startup, so our stand is a bit larger and at a perfect location where attendee traffic intersects. Just watch out for the guys in the green Swapit T-Shirts! We might actually have a treat for you 🙂

Recap: 121 Tech Invest 2016 Hong Kong

I went to the 121 Tech Invest 2016 event. It’s an exclusive invite-only event to match (later-stage) startups with potential investors for 1-on-1 meetings. The official description goes like:

121 Tech Investment Hong Kong is designed to connect tech companies from around the world with Hong Kong’s tech investment and finance community.

First off, it was great to see Kevin from Aria Ventures speaking in the panel about “Institutional money and tech: Investor appetite for the sector”. The moderator was persistent kept asking everyone about which companies they invested in. So in the end, Swapit got a great shout-out. I got quite a number of people who knew me, coming over, talking to me and congratulated me for that. Oddly enough, I didn’t have anything to with that, but it definitely got quite some conversations going.

The whole event had a quite intimate setting and therefore, it was easy to get to talk a good number of people. Some potential investors were among them, but also other fellow startup founders as well as members of the startup industry.

We weren’t one of the officially exhibiting startups and therefore, we didn’t get these scheduled 1-on-1 meetings. When you look at the kind of startups that exhibited there, it was very clear that they are at a much later stage than Swapit. So perhaps this might be something we could go to next year?

Meeting A Swapit Fan

I saw an investor attendee at the event who was carrying around a green umbrella. I immediately recognized the share and color and looked more closely. Believe it or not, that was one of our very own Swapit umbrellas. Have a look at the photos we took for our OnePlus X give away. The Swapit umbrella snuck itself into those.

Of course, I was curious to find out where he got that umbrella from. So we talked for a little while and as it turns out, that person’s wife is an avid user of Swapit. She is so active, that she even bought something from one of our team. We have this unwritten rule, that we give everyone we deal with on Swapit, two Swapit umbrellas. One for themselves and another (we hope) for a friend of theirs. It’s great to see the effect of that policy in real-life in such a surprising way. Our Swapit umbrellas are unique pieces of art. We only made 200 of those. So if you have one, treat it with care. It’s a collector’s edition!

Have you tried the Swapit app yet? You can download it here: http://get.swapit.la

Swapit at ICT Expo 2016

The Swapit has been invited by the Hong Kong Government’s iStartup@HK initiative to exhibit at their exhibition booth at the International ICT Exp0 2016 on April 13th to 16th. We will be present at a special Swapit section of the iStartup@HK booth. If you’re planning on visiting the ICT Expo, please feel free to drop by.

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The booth number is: Hall G (Booth no. G04) at Level 3.

More information about the International ICT Expo 2016 in Hong Kong can be found on their website: www.hktdc.com

Have you tried Swapit yet? You can download it for free from http://get.swapit.la

Swapit at ASIA BEAT 2016 in Xiamen, China

The Swapit has been invited to join the ASIA BEAT 2016 conference in Xiamen, which takes place March 17th – 19th in Xiamen. We will have our own booth, we’ll also pitch at the Asia Beat Startup Pitch and we’ll be happy to present the latest Swapit innovation to the crowd.

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More information about Asia Beat 2016 in Xiamen can be found on their website: http://www.asiabeat.org

Have you tried Swapit yet? You can download it for free from http://get.swapit.la

Web Summit 2015 – A Personal Recap

Last week I have been in Dublin at the Web Summit. It’s the largest conference for startups in the world! What started 4 years ago with just 400 attendees, was expected to draw 30,000 attendees in this year. Actually, it ended up being 42,000 attendees who flocked into Dublin – a city with a population of 700,000.

At Web Summit 2015 Dublin

Unlike at RISE this year, we didn’t have a booth for Swapit because I didn’t actually plan to attend. I guess, if we had applied for a startup booth at the Web Summit, we would probably have been accepted as well. It’s actually quite a selection process startups have to go through, in order to get a booth there.

So this year, I was invited by Hong Kong’s main startup advocate Casey Lau. Casey co-founded StartupsHK, is our point of contact at the SoftLayer Catalyst Program and was the co-host of RISE 2015 and will also be the co-host of RISE 2016! In the end a great group of people from Hong Kong made their way to Dublin as the “Web Summit StartupsHK Entourage”. This included some Hong Kong’s startup industry leaders like Simon from NEST and Yat from Outblaze who were both also speakers, Bay from Brinc.io, Gabriel from Jaarvis, Gene from Citymapper, Nina from NBD Ventures, Mike from Gormei, Kay from Easi-Way, Julien and Mathis from Ambi Climate, Farook from Mark Masons Investments, Ovey from EventXtra, Joey from Shortlist, and many more – including our lovely friends from InvestHK.

Drone photo of HK peeps on Web Summit stage.

Drone shot of Web Summit StartupsHK Entourage – a bit dark due to low light as we had to sneak in after the sessions

It was my first time at Web Summit and like many others, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of startups, companies, investors, speakers and information that was all around you. The Web Summit took place at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) which is just massive. Because there were so many people and startups attending, the whole summit had to be split into two locations on the RDS premises which were a fluffy 10 minute walk apart – with a horse race track, staples and sports arena in between. Just to give you a rough idea about the size. The Centre Stage alone had seats for 6,000 people.

Like usual, the Web Summit started before it actually started. The night before day 1, our great friends at SoftLayer organized a dinner for all SoftLayer Catalyst Startups who were attending Web Summit. Being jet-lagged and roughly 40 hours awake (it’s not easy to get to Dublin!) I made it there on time. Coming from Hong Kong, I didn’t expect much from the dinner as those dinners are here usually a boring event where most people just go for the free food there. Anyway, I was very positively surprise by the SoftLayer Catalyst folks. Besides the fact that the food and drinks were outstanding (note: red wine hits you quickly when you’re in sleep deprivation mode), I met very interesting people. Next to me on the table was Andy from 500 Startups London, in front of me was a guy running an accelerator in Dublin, left to me a great startup from the UK. It was interesting to see how other startups use the SoftLayer infrastructure, but it was even better for me to get to talk to many industry / accelerator / investor folks from Europe.

The actual Web Summit was running for 3 days and divided into 21 sub-summits. So it was easy to follow the summit(s) which you’re interested in. There are a lot of great startups out there and many are working on very interesting businesses. For example, my old friends from the BlackBerry days, Krishna and Teemu, were there for Juno – a mobile payments company. Startup pitch competitions were also taking place over all three days. Besides all the exhibiting and pitching startups, there were constantly talks, interviews and panels at many stages across the venue. For instance, it was great to get some insights from Michael Dell on his journey traveled and ahead – especially with the $67bln takeover of EMC. Or startup unicorn founders like John Collison from Stripe, the co-founder of Slack and many others.

Let’s take Slack for example. While I have been using it with the StartupsHK folks to communicate efficiently, as a result of Slack’s co-founder’s talk, we are now using it internally to communicate about the development and design work on Swapit. It has always reminded me a bit of IRC which it was probably based upon.

Of course, we also needed to have a bit of fun at the Web Summit. There was a proper Lion Dance scheduled to take place at the RISE 2016 booth, but we couldn’t wait any longer and practiced it ourselves first. Still needs some more practice, though.

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The RISE 2016 booth also gave us the opportunity to promote Hong Kong as a startup hub to the (pre-dominantly European) world. Of course, I was happy to help promoting Hong Kong to everyone who wanted to know more about it. There seems to be a lot of interest out there. Many startups know that Asia is a great place to be for a startup and RISE having set up shop in Hong Kong (and not in Singapore), added fuel to our thriving eco-system here.

So all in all, it was a great trip. I could make some great new connections, meet and talk to peers whom I am connected with for years. Often, we just don’t get together because everyone is busy with their own businesses. Web Summit is a great place where the travel routes of many people in the industry intersect. Only at these kinds of events, you run into people like Dave McClure (founding partner of 500 Startups) at night during the Pub Crawl Summit. From a Swapit perspective, we are currently in our seed raising mode. Some of the investors I talked to, are a bit “later stage”, which is fine. It is always good to say “Hi” first, let them know about our product and our roadmap, and when we enter their level of investment size, we already have our credentials established.

As for RISE 2016, we will absolutely apply to exhibit with Swapit in the START level of Startups next year. We are absolutely confident, we will get in there and be able to show our track record and traction gained over the course of the year.

So far, stay tuned, and keep an eye out for the next Swapit update. It’s coming your way soon!