As part of the MW X EPSON Open innovation programme, EPSON X Investment (EXI) and Momentum Works held a small sharing session with a few startups from SEA in December.
EXI is the key driver of EPSON to build partnerships and create new businesses with startups. Since being established in April 2020, they have been active in accelerating cooperation, innovation, and helping startups grow up and create new values.
Six SEA startups from Edtech, Healthtech and sustainability fields joined the private sharing session – LingoAce, Waste4Change, Honestdocs, Naluri, Gorry Holding, MoBiol Algae Institute Corporation, and TrashLucky.
Together, we spoke about 2020, the respective startup landscape, and how could big corporates help startups.
A few interesting trends and insights, especially with Covid looming over us – that we would like to share with our wider community:
Covid-19 has altered regulations and customers behaviour for health tech
Pre-Covid, telemedicine, and pharma delivery businesses were not encouraged by the regulators in many SEA countries because of the potential for fraud and misuse.
However, that changed quickly with the need to distance socially. Nowadays, startups are seeing more government bodies wanting to work with them to solve the more immediate health needs, and also to support more timely data collection.
Covid has also had an unintended positive effect – more people are getting more conscious about taking care of themselves, and as a result – we are seeing an increase in startups focusing on preventive, lifestyle changes, and mental well-being services.
Overall, the demand for out of pocket healthcare will outdo the supply of good doctors, delivery of drugs, and ultimately – a better, healthier customer. On the flip side, as with any boom, we are seeing a high number of health tech companies coming out of Covid, and companies that have a strong core advantage, and the ability to scale fast will survive to post the Covid era.
Edtech is being misunderstood under Covid-19
Edtech startups on the other hand have seen some unexpected interesting challenges. Whilst the growth is expected as more students are studying at home, there are also many offline education providers (e.g. teachers, schools, tuitions) that have just shifted their offline studies online.
This creates a misconception to parents on how edtech companies would work as well (which is not the case)! Understanding customer’s behaviour is key to a successful edtech startup. Some edtech companies are now assessing how to continue to engage students even post Covid.
Sustainability startups are here for the long run
Quite a number of the sustainability startups’ operations were affected by the mandatory social distancing measures across SEA. However, the waste problem is stark.
There are 8 million tonnes of plastic pollution in our oceans every year. Indonesia alone produces 175,000 tonnes of waste every day. Jakarta alone generates 7000 tons of waste per day.
SEA governments’ effort to promote sustainability is still in the early stages – and startups across SEA are stepping up to join forces with the government to build better value chains, educate customers and encourage recycling through gamification.
One of the one challenges of the sustainability industry is that waste has very little value compared to other products. Return on investment will take a very long time as compared to other industries (e.g. fintech), and startups will need strategic investors that are keen to invest in the future will understand the value.
How corporates can help startups
3 general ways a corporate can support startups (aside from funding)
First – Use the service of the startups
The best thing for a corporation to do is just to use the services of the startups – which may still be far from a developed perfect solution. Early-stage startups are probably still developing their product or service, and they are very open to take in feedback from corporate backers and do all they can to make sure to take, their imperfect product, and improve it through piloting.
Second – Allow a startup to name a corporate client and use it as a use case to springboard more traction. Startups lack credibility and reference, to get a big project with corporates. Any PR from their corporate clients will be a great help to propel the startup further on. In the case of sustainability startups – pilot tests could be an opportunity for the corporate to promote their responsibility or importance about sustainability and like CSR and the startups could coattail on the corporate’s PR.
Third – Build up meaningful partnerships. Startups will always appreciate a strong boost from their corporate partners from sharing of technology, educating consumers to build up channels. An example in health tech is that technology from corporates can support a startup to optimise the existing processes, and also to integrate with hospitals to complete fulfilment.
Why is EXI on the lookout for startups in education, healthcare and sustainability? Where are the synergies?
Takahashi Akiharu, COO of EXI shared his own musing. He shared that EPSON had all along been a technology company – their DNA is to make products that are precise, small, and efficient. They have deployed this technology to many sectors to make lives better.
All in all, the close door session was a good start for EXI and the startups to understand each other better, find synergies and partnerships.
As Mr.Takahashi summed up in his closing “As we look into the future – we are now seeing that regardless of the development level of the country, health care, education, and a clean environment are very important for all people.
EPSON hopes to leverage its technology and corporate strength to improve people’s lives and increase people’s happiness. It is our mission “
And, we at Momentum Works are happy to be able to connect rebels and innovators in our ecosystem, bridge understandings, and build up ventures to change the world!
Talk to us if you find this interesting and if you would like to be part of our wider MW community!