Geographies in Depth

These are some of Asia’s most creative start-ups

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Ceri Parker
Previously Commissioning Editor, Agenda, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum on ASEAN

The World Economic Forum has selected 80 winning start-ups to take part in its ASEAN 2018 summit as part of a competition to find the region’s most innovative new companies.

From a Sharia-compliant cryptocurrency to a Filipino algorithm helping protect coral reefs, a slew of bright new ideas from across the region will be recognised at the meeting in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

The start-ups were chosen by a panel of judges from start-up accelerators and venture capital funds, along with technology experts and media leaders. You can see the full list here, and below are some of the highlights.

Antipara Explorations, Philippines: The Philippines lies at the heart of the “Coral Triangle, ” a fragile ecosystem that is a vital linchpin of biodiversity. Antipara has created an algorithm to monitor the ocean, introducing a more scientific approach to fishery management for the country, where many people depend on fish for the protein in their diet. They claim their tech performs the work that used to be done in two to three months in one day.

Image: WWF

CROWDE, Indonesia: Farming is a major industry accounting for 13% of Indonesia’s GDP; but farmers are more than twice as poor as the general population. Without access to capital, they are unable to embrace the technology that would raise their productivity and incomes. CROWDE is a crowd-investing platform that allows people to invest in farmers on a profit-sharing basis.

HelloGold, Malaysia: The fintech company has launched a Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency, GoldX. The currency is backed up by physical gold stored in a vault in Singapore, helping it to meet some of the important criteria in Islamic financial contracts, which include transparency, certainty and immediacy. The firm has also launched an app in Malasia based on Blockchain.

Queenrides, Indonesia: There are 15 million motorbikes in Jakarta alone, and keeping drivers safe is a major issue. Queenrides is the first platform dedicated to helping women to ride and drive cars safely, combining real-world courses with a millennial-friendly social media campaign.

(The tweet below notes Indonesia's high rate of motor accidents and calls for safe driving)


Revolution Pre-crafted, Philippines: Imagine if you could select your home from a catalogue and have it delivered, in the same way you’d choose a sofa from Ikea. That’s the idea behind the first unicorn - a start-up with a $1 billion valuation – to emerge from the Philippines. The prefrabricated homes snap together like lego bricks and could be part of the solution to housing Asia’s booming population.


Hachi, Viet Nam: This agritech startup has built more than 12 ‘smart farms’ in Viet Nam. They use internet-of things-sensors and a hydroponic system, which is a way of drip feeding plants water and nutrients which saves waste. They claim the approach has led to a 300% increase in productivity.

Triip, Singapore: In the age of the backlash against mass tourism, this start-up takes a different approach by linking travellers with local experts who want to introduce them to their area. It also offers the ‘surprise trip’: if you’re overwhelmed by choice, Triip will put together a vacation for you, and you’ll only find out where you’re going when an envelope of local currency arrives a week before departure.

Have you read?

During the World Economic Forum on ASEAN 2018, the start-ups will have their own dedicated programme track to discuss critical issues facing entrepreneurs, from finding finance to achieving regional scale with limited resources. Once the meeting is over, the Forum hopes to establish a permanent community for the start-ups to support their growth and development.

Increasingly, the region boasts start-ups that have made it big: ASEAN’s unicorns include GO-JEK, a ride-hailing app from Indonesia; travel booking site Traveloka, also from Indonesia, and VNG, a Vietnamese internet company.

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Geographies in DepthBusinessFourth Industrial Revolution
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