TeamWave Spotlight: Zysk Technologies

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This week, we have featured Zysk Technologies, a digital agency based out of Bengaluru, India. Their service portfolio includes web designing, social media marketing, SEO, web and mobile app development. Read on to learn more about their story, as told via founder and CEO, Varun Umesh.

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What is the Focus area of Zysk Technologies? How did your business start?

[VU] At Zysk Technologies, we focus on developing top-notch web and mobile applications. Being brought up in a family of business people, entrepreneurship runs in my blood – I always dreamt of having my own venture. And about an year and a half ago, I knew it was time to turn my dream into reality. So, I took the leap of faith and that’s how Zysk was born.

In your experience, what are the key elements of a successful online marketing strategy?

[VU] I think one of the most important tools for online marketing is a good website. Having a professional and optimized website is a great way to make your first impression and also position your company for global exposure. Along with that, continuous content-generation would definitely fuel your online marketing.

In the recent past, what is the smallest change you’ve made that had the biggest impact?

[VU] Well, switching from writing tasks on Post-Its to using TeamWave has been the biggest positive change for us. TeamWave has brought about transparency and accountability, increasing the productivity of the team.

What are your goals for the company over the next 3-5 years?

[VU] I’d like to see Zysk as a Product company having a couple of successful products in the next 5 years. It may seem ambitious, at the moment, but we are a promising young team with a go-getter attitude, so I believe we can achieve it.

If you could go back in time to the first day that you started your business, what’s the one piece of advice you would give yourself?

[VU] Well, I would spend more time in preparing myself to handle clients who are not very sure about what they want. But I guess some lessons have to be learnt the hard way!

TeamWave Spotlight: Human Creative Group

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This week our spotlight is on Humans Creative Group, a creative agency located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Specialization includes visual communication, branding, user experience, web and mobile app development. That said, they are quite unique in their approach to projects and clearly differ from other agencies. Read on to learn more about their story, as told via co-founder and creative director, Raul Queiroz.

What’s the focus area of Humans Creative Group? How did your business start?

[RQ] We are kind of a digital agency, but not a regular one. We don’t sell a site, app, brand or campaign ordinarily. We are focused in selling three main pillars of work:

  • Innovation: we develop any kind of technology, new way to sell, new positioning for companies.
  • Renovation: we embrace new businesses, we help new entrepreneurs and we help companies to work with a new way or new vision of segment.
  • Transformation: we embrace jobs that are intended to change the world or society in some way.

Our business started in 2013 with 3 others partners of different areas (currently two) who searched for a new vision of creative market in Brazil, mainly in Rio de Janeiro.

In your experience, what are the key elements of modern web design?

[RQ] Modern Web Design must be responsive, index-able and focused on user experience.

In the recent past, what is the smallest change you’ve made that had the biggest impact?

[RQ] We have a project named ‘Música na Estrada’ (Music on the Road) that works on social inclusion of the smallest cities of North Brazil through classical music, in principle. When we started working on that, three years ago, the project had been to 5 cities and reached less than 1,500 people. Since then, it has become a Festival with 24 presentations within 6 states and reached more than 12,000 people.

What are your goals for the company over the next 3-5 years?

[RQ] We don’t have regular goals like other companies and we are not focused on earning a pile of money, awards, or other things like that. Here in Brazil we have a quote, “Money brings happiness” and we don’t know about that. We want to prove that happiness can bring anything, including money.

If you could go back in time to the first day that you started your business, what’s the one piece of advice you would give yourself?

[RQ] Don’t be impulsive and don’t get thrilled with big projects for big companies at the beginning of the business. Always put planning first.

TeamWave Spotlight: Open-Ideas

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This week we’re featuring Open Ideas, a digital marketing agency based out of Spain. They equally weigh implementation of technology and its usage in actually growing the business of their clients. Open-Ideas offers plethora of services ranging from web designing, SEO, PPC, social media, app development to digital strategy formulation. Let’s learn more about them from Director General, Leonard Pera.

Open-ideas

What’s the focus area of Open-Ideas? How did your business start?
[LP] I was leading a commercial department in a big ICT multinational. Then the big crisis arrived and I was fired. I had to re-invent myself; so I created Open-Ideas with my partners so that we could help SMEs in improving their web presence. The idea was to mix technology and marketing.

In your experience, what are the key elements of a successful online marketing strategy?
[LP] Clearly differentiate yourself from competitors, offer something unique and be market oriented. Most of our competitors are technology oriented, while the customers want someone who can help them in improving their business, i.e., the outcome should always be about adding business value to the client.

In the recent past, what is the smallest change you’ve made that had the biggest impact?
[LP] Added Web TV service to our portfolio. Technologically it is nothing too complicated, but the acceptance rate from our customer has been great.

What are your goals for the company over the next 3-5 years?
[LP]

  • Increase our footprint in Spain by getting into the regions where we don’t have any presence right now.
  • Significant increase in the number of our customer.

If you could go back in time to the first day that you started your business, what’s the one piece of advice you would give yourself
[LP] Be aware of “bad customers”, the ones who have difficulties in paying their debts.

TeamWave Spotlight: YAcademy Asia

 

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We’ve been fortunate to have some remarkable small business customers. We’ll be covering these companies in our spotlight series to celebrate their mission and share their experiences.

A report from CMO council claims that there has been tremendous growth in business volume and adoption of social media in the Southeast Asia, but this region is still lagging in terms of digital marketing maturity. YAcademy Asia, a company based out of Indonesia is trying to solve this problem by bridging the talent gap. Siannita Tjuwita, Senior Digital Marketing Consultant at Ydigital Asia shares her story.

YAcademy Asia
YAcademy – Part of PT. Ydigital Asia Indonesia

What’s the focus area of YAcademy Asia? How did your business start?
[ST] Yacademy is a young startup with a mission is to educate Southeast Asia with digital marketing knowledge. The business started with an insight from our sister company, Ydigital Asia – “there is a big supply and demand gap for talents with this specific skill”. The demand of experts is growing rapidly while there are not enough digital marketers within the area.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in adoption of digital strategy? What would you recommend to eliminate them?
[ST] The biggest challenges in adoption of digital strategy is the mental block of the marketing team of the company that digital strategy is hard to adopt,  while in fact it is not. You eat an elephant one bite at a time!

In the recent past, what is the smallest change you’ve made that had the biggest impact?
[ST] Starting to accept projects that we didn’t think we could manage. Dare to take the challenge, solutions will come along as when you are doing your best.

What are your goals for the company over the next 3-5 years?
[ST] We want to be not only the original, but the most fun and practical institution for learning digital marketing.

If you could go back in time to the first day that you started your business, what’s the one piece of advice you would give yourself?
[ST] You will make mistakes and fail in projects, but then you will learn faster and surpass your competitor.

An Interview with Singapore’s Most Active Accelerator and Investment Firms

Singapore Merlion LandmarkStartups in the Southeast Asia are growing at a healthy rate, as more and more entrepreneurs along with investors are creating a robust ecosystem. Singapore is undoubtedly one of the most prominent places when it comes to startup scene in the SEA region. In order to get more insights on the startup ecosystem of Singapore we got in touch with Hugh Mason (Co-founder & CEO, JFDI – Joyful Frog Digital Incubator), Jeffrey Paine (Founding Partner, Golden Gate Ventures)  and Menka Sajnani (Corporate Development at Jungle Ventures). Before we go ahead, let us first introduce you to JFDI, Golden Gate Ventures and Jungle Ventures.

JFDI (Joyful Frog Digital Incubator):

Established in Singapore by Hugh Mason and Meng Wong in 2010, JFDI creates and invests in new digital ventures, building them systematically from startup to success. JFDI is best known for its Accelerate program, which has until now launched 70 startups with around 50% of the startups securing follow-on investment of more than S$500,000.

Jungle Ventures:

Jungle Ventures is a Singapore based venture capital firm with a focus on early stage investments in the regions across Asia Pacific (specifically in Singapore, India and South East Asia). They also operate a seed fund and incubator in Singapore and India, which is in sync with the concept of angel investments.

Golden Gate Ventures:

Founded in 2011, Golden Gate Ventures invests in early stage companies predominantly in the Southeast Asia. Till now they have invested in more than 25 companies present in more than 7 Asian countries. This VC firm has built strong bond with Valley and currently playing a major role in establishing Singapore as Asia’s hub of technology and innovation.

Hugh Mason Jeffrey Paine Menka Sajnani

Given below are the questions and their respective answers:

Q. What are the hurdles for Singapore to produce a disruptive billion-dollar company? Can such a company emerge in the next 5 years?

Hugh Mason:
Well Grab is apparently a $1.5b company already so for sure it can happen. The barrier is probably in our heads rather than in anything more material.

I wonder if the billion dollar opportunities for Singapore are to build businesses that are about business model innovation, making products and services available to the 600 million people in South East Asia, rather than technology innovations.

I sat next to an Indian guy on a panel at a conference a few months back. He said – you know there are 500 million Indians who just need a toilet. They don’t disruptive toilet technology, they just need a toilet.

I am not suggesting that sanitary-ware is the next frontier for unicorns but I guess his comment makes the point.

Jeffrey Paine:
5-10 years yes.
If its for global markets – need more future tech entrepreneurs who can play at the big leagues.
If its for SE Asia – its timing. The timing will be  there in 5-10 years. SEA is like China in 2003.

Menka Sajnani:
Talent is the biggest bottle neck in the region. Getting execution right is a real challenge, and therefore working with the right partners is critical.

With smart capital, the right support framework, and a regional business model, it is possible to create billion-dollar company in Singapore.

Q. Which emerging trend excites you most in 2016, particularly in Southeast Asia?

Hugh Mason:
The rise of the middle class and the opportunities to re-invent the basic infrastructure of an advanced society for the developing population in our region. For example: unbundling healthcare.

Jeffrey Paine:
Anything consumer facing and addressing a real local problem, solving it in a local way.

Menka Sajnani:
Robotics is exciting, the Sharing Economy is also something to watch out for.

Q. What’s your opinion on crazy valuations of some of the startups in recent times? What’s the effect on Singapore based startups?

Hugh Mason:
It feels like we have seen a necessary correction in the US that may still have some way to shake out. Singapore entrepreneurs might wish to re-calibrate their expectations if they want to get funded or to avoid future down rounds.

Jeffrey Paine:
US valuations do affect SEA valuation a little, especially Indonesia but it has started to cool off since Jan 2016.

Menka Sajnani:

We expect the hype to cool down and markets to rationalize over the next 6 to 12 months. We would like large winner-takes-all funding to stop, however it may not.

Q. Where do you see Singapore in the startup space when we compare with Valley, Tel Aviv and London?

Hugh Mason:
I think it has a great future ahead of it that will be different to all those places because the culture and ecosystem of this part of the world are very different.

Jeffrey Paine:
It will stand its ground but it is too early to tell for now. Right now it seems to be a great hub to address SE Asia.

Menka Sajnani:
We believe things are evolving in the right direction to make Singapore a real startup hub, and the support from government initiatives has been tremendous.

Q. As per a report published by e27, Singapore has seen 25 exits since 2013 and 9 exits in 2006 – 2012. Over the next 3 years, how do you think the M&A scenario will take shape?

Hugh Mason:
I guess it all depends on the macroeconomic situation. A real, rather than imagined, downturn could just kill risk-taking for a while.

Assuming that doesn’t happen I think it’s helpful to think of M&A being something that happens at the top of a staircase where startups have to hop up the stairs to become M&A candidates, getting funding rounds and passing milestones along the way. So it makes sense to think of the whole system generating deal-flow on a continuous basis.

Looking at the bottom steps on the staircase, right now some fear has hit angel investors, for whom investment is always discretionary, so they are sticking their money into gold not startups. The fact that founders’ expectations of valuation is overcooked is also a factor IMHO.

So that means that there may be a dearth of strong businesses to make it through to Series A and beyond, a bit further up the staircase, limiting the M&A opportunities a few years’ down the line.

In the meantime there are a few candidates for M&A still making their way towards the acquisition stage, not least some of JFDI’s strongest alumni, so I think we will still see M&A happening so long as the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff.

Jeffrey Paine:
If the overall economy and markets are strong, there will be more acquisitions. Lots of startups are creating value as we speak but it does takes time to fully scale out.

Menka Sajnani:
We expect to see a high level of interest from Chinese companies, in fact it has already started.

Following was asked only to Hugh Mason.

Q. How has been your experience while running JFDI Discover? What’s the success rate of teams taking part in this, in terms of launching prototype or raising fund?

A. Actually JFDI Discover doesn’t aim to help teams launch prototypes or raise funds. It’s a pre-accelerator program that is much more fundamental. It helps teams step up the lowest level of the staircase and aims to help teams discover the following:

1) who is their customer

2) what problem are they solving for that customer

3) do they want to be an entrepreneur

4) what’s it like to work with these team-mates

All in 21 days without having to give up your day job. Only then, if they want to, would making a prototype be a next step with fundraising still a long way off.
By and large the roughly 900-1000 entrepreneurs who have been through it say that they have found it very useful. Many weren’t doing it with the intention of starting a business – they just want to find out what entrepreneurship is like – just as some people go along to a basic drawing course even if they don’t intend to become full time artists. That said of course some have gone on to raise funding – for example QLC and Greyloft, both of which went on from JFDI Discover to JFDI Accelerate, or teams that raised money independently, like Teach!Me.

Following was asked only to Jeffrey Paine.

Q. Golden Gate Ventures started operating in 2011 and by the end of 2015, the total number of investments has crossed 30. How many deals one expect in 2016? Will you look at regions other than Singapore in the SEA?

A. We included Hong Kong and Taiwan in our strategy for fund 2 and will continue to invest in 2016.

Following was asked only to Menka Sajnani.

Q. How many investments can someone expect from Jungle Ventures in 2016?

A. We would prefer not to disclose this. However, we expect to have an active 2 years in terms of deal-making.

Note: TeamWave is an integrated and free software suite for startups. Apps include CRM, Project Management, HRMS and Contact Management. There is more to come!