Echelon Asia Summit 2018: Flying Startups into the Future
Last week, SendBird's APAC team travelled from Seoul to Singapore, a city-state as beautiful as it is humid. I had visited Singapore just over a month earlier, for the Tech in Asia conference. This time, SendBird sponsored a booth at Echelon Asia Summit, with 5000 attendees sprawled throughout Singapore’s massive EXPO Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Echelon was a great way to further establish SendBird’s presence in Southeast Asia, catch up with peers from TIA, and greet even more new faces. While meeting some of SendBird’s biggest customers was a valuable takeaway from Tech in Asia, Echelon helped me realize the vitality of SendBird’s smaller and scrappier customers. We were just as important to the small to medium-sized businesses and budding startups across the world, a fact made tangible by the conversations we had with many of them at Echelon.
Now that the dust has settled, here are my impressions of our visit to Echelon.
Emerging tech from new SEA markets
Roughly 70% of the startups SendBird met at Echelon were based in Singapore. We also met many companies from India, Indonesia, and Thailand, as well as a fair amount from Vietnam. None of this surprised me, because my previous experience at TIA demonstrated that those countries in particular had a verdant market for startup growth. What did excite me was how many startups I met from emerging markets - like Myanmar, Cambodia, and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan, for example, even had their own section at Echelon dedicated to showcasing Kazakh startups.
While making new connections, I also learned about some truly interesting and ambitious projects. People weren’t at Echelon simply to network. They genuinely wanted to learn about other initiatives to figure out ways they could further improve their own product. I spoke with many startups that were already familiar with our solution. Still, they were keen to explore ways it could innovate their own product. Since many were in the developing stage, they wanted to build a prototype or attempt a proof of concept before committing to an annual contract. They knew many of our customers, like Carousell and Tokopedia, were well-established, so they didn't know that we actually have a robust pricing structure to account for all types of businesses.
SendBird powers over 9000 mobile apps and websites, and a significant number of these companies are actually SMBs. In fact, we have a trial tier, designed especially for developing startups and companies to integrate, test, and scale SendBird’s messaging solution.
A quick breakdown of SendBird’s trial tier:
- It supports 1000 Monthly Active Users (MAU) and 25 Peak Connections (PC).
- MAU: Our MAU calculates, within a month, the number of unique chat users in an app or website. If a user simply opens an app, they would not count as an MAU. Only when a user opens the chat function would they be registered as a MAU.
- Peak Connections: the number of devices using the chat function at the same time. Note that this is calculated by devices, not unique users. For example, if I have chat open in my phone as well as my iPad, this would be registered as 2 Peak Connections, although I’m a single user.
- Trial period: As long as you stay within the 1000 MAU/25 PC limit, you’re free to use our trial tier until you’ve tested the proof of concept and want to grow beyond the trial quota.
A common question I got at Echelon (and other conferences) was whether SendBird was a messaging app. We’re not. SendBird can do anything an OTT messaging app can do - but within your own app and using your own brand. We enable your users to communicate with each other within your app or website, bypassing the necessity of leaving your platform to use an external messenger.
Our trial version comes with a set of “core features,” developed to meet consumer expectations for messaging.
Southeast Asia’s Top Startups Pitch to Echelon
Whether you’re unicorn or pre-Series A, any company that’s hunted for funding knows the importance of “The Pitch.” Echelon’s TOP100 pitch competition was one of the reasons why the summit drew so many quality early-stage startups. Echelon’s organizers selected 150 up and coming startups to pitch their idea and compete for one of two $37,000 (US) grants for the Judges’ Choice winner and runner-up.
In particular, Hungry Hub’s pitch stood out and it reinforced the strong impression developed during our meeting with them. From its name alone, Hungry Hub (alliteration at its finest!) caught my interest. Hungry Hub is a restaurant reservation app based in Thailand. It stands out because the reservations made through the app provide exclusive fixed price meals with over 100 participating restaurants. My opinion was seconded by the judges, since they awarded Hungry Hub as the top startup in the e-commerce category. Congratulations to Hungry Hub!
The TOP100 pitch competition recalls SendBird’s growth from an early-stage startup. Just a year and a half ago, we were at Slush, pitching in a competition similar to Echelon. It was an incredible growing experience, where we proudly finished as finalists.
Fast forward to Echelon, just a few weeks ago – where we attended as sponsors, rather than contestants. We had a nice booth, complete with white leather couches and strawberry Kit Kats (a true delicacy). But we’ve never stopped pitching. Any growing company, no matter the size, should be and is constantly ‘pitching’ in the sense that they are constantly demonstrating and delivering value to their customers. Echelon’s TOP100 pitch competition reminded me that each company must perpetually develop their pitch - every single employee of a company must do it, from intern to CEO.
With that in mind, here are some other TOP100 winners, among countless to name, that pitched particularly well:
- Treedots: the Judges’ Choice winner. Based in Singapore, Treedots’ “mission is to minimise the amount of food waste through a self-sustaining ecosystem via its aggregation of F&B businesses on different points of the value chain within the startup.”
- Lecker Labs: based in Hong Kong, and winner of the Hardware and IoT category. Lecker Labs’ first product, Yomee, is a “connected home appliance to make fresh yogurt at home. Yomee cultures milk with patent pending 100 percent eco-friendly pods that dissolve in the milk.”
The Expo’s lights may have been dim, but the massive convention centre was lit up with talent. From students to senior developers, from UX designers to product leads, I met individuals from all walks of the tech life – and, as I mentioned earlier, from all kinds of places.
SendBird’s headquarters are in San Mateo, CA, with the APAC office in Seoul. Both offices combined, we’re currently 54 strong, aiming to hire more by the end of 2018. No matter where you’re from in the world - whether it’s Singapore or Somalia, Korea or Kazakhstan - we would love for you to apply to one of our open positions.
SendBird’s 7th core value is “Global Citizenship”. In my personal interpretation of this value, we, as a company, have both external and internal responsibilities and both dimensions are essential for bringing Global Citizenship to life.
The external dimension describes SendBird’s place in the global technology market. Though our offices are only located in two countries, we have customers throughout the world. Attending conferences like Echelon is one way we maintain a global presence - by meeting people and companies from different places and contributing our technology to businesses in countries abroad.
SendBird, I believe, also has an internal commitment and responsibility to diversity. This means hiring from different backgrounds, no matter how its employees choose to identify. This internal aspect is connected to the external: if we want to truly become a strong global presence, it’s important that our company’s talent is comprised from the diverse and global market we want to succeed in.
This time, SendBird reached from Seoul to Singapore. SendBird’s next destination is Taiwan, where we’ll be attending IDEAS Show 2018. If you’re in the area, come and say hi! If not, wherever SendBird goes next, we hope to see you there - or, maybe you can be the next international SendBird.